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Islamic World News ( 1 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim schoolgirl from Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, learns Bhagavad Gita: Religion is no barrier in attainment of spiritual knowledge

New Age Islam News Bureau

01 March 2021

 Mushariff Khan with her mother Zeenat Khan. (Photo | Special Arrangement)


• Qaeda offshoot accuses Pakistan of ‘backstabbing Kashmiris’ with ceasefire pact

• Al-Qaida linked Turkish group expanding its network in Nepal: Report

• After apex court ruling on Selangor religious enactment, PAS says will strive to ‘harmonise’ civil and shariah law

• US forces transfer new batch of Daesh terrorists to Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr: SANA

• Iran says time not ‘suitable’ for nuclear deal meeting with EU, US

• German NGO Sea Watch rescues 147 migrants off Libyan coast

• Biden's Syria strike unmasks US' two-faced policy, promises no fundamental change

• Over 400 EU lawmakers urge leaders to stop Israeli annexation



• Beyond religion: Muslim schoolgirl from Chhindwara learns Bhagavad Gita

• Much to Pakistan's dismay and India's delight, Saudi Arabia maintains neutrality over Kashmir issue

• JeM terror associate arrested by security forces in J-K's Pulwama

• Eatery owner’s son dies after being shot by terrorists in J&K



• Qaeda offshoot accuses Pakistan of ‘backstabbing Kashmiris’ with ceasefire pact

• Operation Raddul Fasaad a testimony to Pak struggle against terrorism: PUC

• Some international forces trying to destabilise Pakistan, says FM

• Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl cleric, two others killed in attack in Pakistan

• PM to oversee PTI Senate election campaign himself

• PPP repairs cracks with JUI-F; joint candidates agreed upon

• Strike observed in Balochistan over ANP leader’s killing

• JI rally demands fresh census in Karachi, abolition of quota system


South Asia

• Al-Qaida linked Turkish group expanding its network in Nepal: Report

• Is Bangladesh moving to normalize relations with Israel?

• US-Taliban talks: India concerned as Pak wishes Taliban to lead Afghanistan govt

• India versus Bangladesh over new Rohingya crisis ahead of PM Modi's Dhaka tour

• Taliban calls for departure of all troops 1 year after Doha deal

• Afghan forces inflict heavy casualties on Al-Qaeda in Kapisa

• Taliban keeps ties with ‘international terrorism’, Peace hopes shattered

• Khalilzad embarks on another trip to Afghanistan and regional countries

• Taliban’s deputy head of military commission killed: MoD

• US wasted billions on cars, buildings in Afghanistan: Report


Southeast Asia

• After apex court ruling on Selangor religious enactment, PAS says will strive to ‘harmonise’ civil and shariah law

• Citizens must be allowed to test laws deemed unlawful, says lawyer

• Indonesia finds weapons on impounded Iranian tanker


Arab World

• US forces transfer new batch of Daesh terrorists to Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr: SANA

• Khashoggi's fiancée says Saudi crown prince should be punished 'without delay'

• Iraqi warplanes, Hashd al-Sha'abi fighters take on Daesh remnants in Diyala

• Fire kills 3 children in Syrian camp housing ISIS families

• Israel to provide COVID-19 vaccines to peacekeepers in Egypt’s Sinai, official says

• UNICEF calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

• Syria intercepts Israeli missiles over Damascus: State media

• Oman supports Saudi Arabia’s response on Khashoggi report

• In Iraq, Pope Francis to visit Mosul churches desecrated by ISIS

• Iraq’s PMU says US raid hit Iraqi-Syrian border, warns of ‘dangerous incident'



• Iran says time not ‘suitable’ for nuclear deal meeting with EU, US

• Iran Strongly Rejects Netanyahu’s Allegations

• Turkey summons Iran envoy to Ankara in ongoing row over involvement in Iraq

• Iran Stresses Cessation of Hostilities, Respect for Territorial Integrity in Karabakh Region

• Tehran, Baghdad Discuss Transfer of Iran's Frozen Assets

• Attacks on Saudi targets to continue until aggression stops: Yemen’s Ansarullah

• Israeli forces severally beat up, detain Palestinian teenager over alleged stabbing attack

• Israel’s Gantz held secret meeting with Jordanian monarch: Report



• German NGO Sea Watch rescues 147 migrants off Libyan coast

• 59 Algerian pro-democracy activists released from jail: Justice ministry

• Libya speaker Aguila Saleh flags March 8 for government confidence vote

• 9 al-Shabaab terrorists dead in SW Somalia


North America

• Biden's Syria strike unmasks US' two-faced policy, promises no fundamental change

• US says ready to reengage in ‘meaningful diplomacy’ with Iran

• US disappointed by Iran's latest move on nuclear deal, remains ready to re-engage: WH

• Diplomat says US report on Khashoggi murder is ‘manipulation’ for ‘political gain’

• US condemns Yemen’s Houthis ‘egregious’ attack on Saudi Arabia

• Three names mysteriously rubbed from US report on Khashoggi murder

• US has never been asked to be in Syria, says analyst



• Over 400 EU lawmakers urge leaders to stop Israeli annexation

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Muslim schoolgirl from Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh, learns Bhagavad Gita: Religion is no barrier in attainment of spiritual knowledge

01st March 2021


Mushariff Khan with her mother Zeenat Khan. (Photo | Special Arrangement)


BHOPAL: Religion is no barrier in attainment of spiritual knowledge. Mushariff Khan from Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district is a perfect example of this. The Class VIII student can recite shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita with élan, much to the delight of her parents and teachers.

Mushariff started learning the holy Hindu scripture as part of memory retention training, and now she and her parents are proud that she has imbibed the best tenets of another religion.

The talented girl has learnt by heart 500 out of the total 701 shlokas in the Bhagavad Gita, using the memory retention technique taught by her Abacus and Vedic Mathematics teacher Rohini Menon.

“Mushariff is one of my best students. I gave her three options to showcase her memory retention technique: memorising the entire dictionary, the entire Constitution of India or the Bhagavad Gita. To the surprise of us all, she opted for learning the Bhagavad Gita. She started learning when she was in Class VI and has so far memorised 500 Sanskrit sholkas,” Menon told this newspaper.

Menon said many of her other students, too, have tried to learn the shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita, but only Mushariff has succeeded in memorising 500 shlokas till now and is determined to learn and understand the remaining ones, too.

Mushariff, whose father is a Mathematics teacher and mother a housewife, had joined the short course of Memory Retention under Menon two years back.

“After doing the short course, I wanted to do something unique and different. I chose to memorise the Bhagavad Gita because my mother has always taught me that ‘out of your house, you are a just a human being and not an individual following a particular religion’. My parents permitted me to learn the Bhagavad Gita as they wanted me to gain knowledge of every religion,” said Musharraf.

Proud of Mushariff’s achievement, her mother Zeenat Khan said, “Yes, we are Muslims. But we want to bring up our daughter in a manner that she grows up to be a noble human being ingrained with the best tenets of every religion.”


Qaeda offshoot accuses Pakistan of ‘backstabbing Kashmiris’ with ceasefire pact

Feb 28, 2021

SRINAGAR: The Islamic Emirate of Kashmir Mujahideen Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a jihadi offshoot of the Al Qaeda cell in Kashmir Valley, has expressed its anguish over the revival of ceasefire truce between India and Pakistan agreed on by the two sides last Thursday.

Khalid, a commander of the Islamist terrorist organization, in a statement, castigated Pakistan and said it is akin to “backstabbing the cause of Kashmir’s independence”.

“Whether we like it or not, both Pakistan and India have mutually degraded the resistance movement in Kashmir. Pakistan has for long been trying to settle for status quo, hence backstabbing the cause of Kashmir’s independence,” his statement reads.

Ghazwat-ul-Hind was formerly led by Zakir Rashid Bhat, also known as Zakir Musa, who was later killed in an encounter in south Kashmir in October 2019.

Khalid’s statement said, “We strongly condemn the recent meetings between the Indian and Pakistani armies and castigate their resolve on ceasefire and unholy agreements.”

The group reaffirmed its “resolve of jihad in Kashmir valley” and asserted that “no LoC, no agreements, no ceasefire will stop us from waging a war against occupying Indian army in Kashmir” in the statement.


Al-Qaida linked Turkish group expanding its network in Nepal: Report

Feb 28, 2021

 STOCKHOLM(SWEDEN): An al-Qaida linked-charity group from Turkey has been working with Islamai Sangh Nepal (ISN), which is under the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies for allegedly providing sanctuary to terrorists, to expand its logistical hub for jihadist networks, according to an investigation by Nordic Monitor.

The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief or IHH has been running multiple projects in Nepal, especially in areas close to the Indian border, to broaden the support base among the country's minority Muslim community and expand logistical operations in support of global jihadist networks.

The main facilitator for the IHH gaining a foothold in the Himalayan country was the ISN, which has received funding directly from Turkey to finance various projects.

The IHH has been named in the UN Security Council documents and was investigated for running a line of support to armed terrorist groups in Syria.

The IHH is known as a tool of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT and has been supported by the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which granted the organization special privileges for raising funds.

The activities of the IHH focus on several provinces of Nepal, especially in Province No. 1, Province No. 2 and Lumbini province. It has established mosques, madrasas, orphanages and Islamic centers in several cities including the capital city Kathmandu. It seems the IHH has taken a special interest in places like Sunsari that are close to the Indian border.

The Islami Sangh Nepal (ISN), a Kathmandu-based organisation, came under the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies for allegedly providing sanctuary to fugitive Indian terrorists in 2018.

The ISN's connection to Turkey's radical Islamists is not only limited to the IHH. It was also listed as a member of an organization called the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (Islam Dunyasi Sivil Toplum Kuruluslari Birligi, or IDSB), a front outfit for Turkish paramilitary group SADAT.

Turkish government's development agency TIKA is also one of the sponsors of ISN activities in Nepal.

Ali Fuat Yilmazer, former head of the Turkish police intelligence section that specializes in radical religious groups, testified in court on August 16, 2016 that "the IHH campaigns are designed to provide aid for jihadists engaged in terrorism around the world and supply medical aid, funding, logistics and human resources for jihadists."


After apex court ruling on Selangor religious enactment, PAS says will strive to ‘harmonise’ civil and shariah law

28 Feb 2021


 PAS will continue to uphold shariah law and maintain its effort to ‘harmonise’ Islam with civil jurisprudence, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa


KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 — PAS will continue to uphold shariah law and maintain its effort to “harmonise” Islam with civil jurisprudence, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said in a statement last night amid growing conservative dissent against a recent Federal Court ruling that voided a Selangor religious law on unnatural sex unconstitutional.

Takiyuddin, who is PAS secretary-general, made no direct comment about the ruling itself but suggested any challenge against state religious laws would be unwarranted as it threatens “unity” and “social harmony”.

“Seeing that Malaysia is among the many countries with a Muslim-majority population, PAS will continue its effort to harmonise shariah with civil law that is built upon common law,” he said.

“PAS is convinced, based on the recognition of shariah law even by the country’s British courts in the pre-independence era, the principles of such a law will be able to create a new face and dynamic to the national legal system,” he added.

The Federal Court’s nine-judge panel unanimously declared on February 25 that a Selangor state law’s provision that made unnatural sex a shariah offence was invalid and against the Federal Constitution, as such offences fall under Parliament’s powers to make laws and not under state legislatures’ law-making powers.

The state enactment had made it a shariah offence for “any person” performing “sexual intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, with the punishment being a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a maximum three-year jail term or a maximum whipping of six strokes or any combination.

The court had granted a declaration sought by a 35-year-old man that enactment is invalid on grounds that it made provision with respect to a matter that the Selangor state legislature was not empowered to make laws and was therefore null and void. Pro LGBT groups had hailed it as a landmark verdict.

Takiyuddin suggested that the court could have been pressured to make such a ruling.

“PAS is worried that decisions by the judiciary made out of inappropriate pressure will yield no benefit for the country nor its people,” he said.


US forces transfer new batch of Daesh terrorists to Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr: SANA

28 February 2021


A file photo of a US helicopter in Syria


The US military has airlifted members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group from Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah to bases illegally occupied by its forces in Dayr al-Zawr province, say local reports.

Syria's official news agency SANA, citing local sources, said on Sunday that US helicopters conducted the operation in al-Shadadi, a suburban of  Hasakah, taking at least ten Daesh terrorists towards al-Badia in Dayr al-Zawr province.  

The US forces have until recently been airlifting Daesh terrorists from one place in Syria to another, under the cover of darkness, in order to save them in the face of advancement and territorial gains by Syrian government forces.

The US military forces have also transferred to safe sanctuaries hundreds of Daesh terrorists and their relatives from Syrian territories to neighboring Iraq in a number of batches.

There have been many reports showing Washington's direct or indirect support through its regional allies for the terrorist group in the past years.

Numerous accounts have emerged alleging airlifts, weapon airdrops and aerial support for the Takfiri outfit, especially as its strength diminished in Syria and Iraq.

Moreover, hundreds of Daesh terrorists escaped from Syrian jails, as Kurdish prison guards were focused on fighting back the Turkish military that has been engaged in an operation against Kurds in northeastern Syria.

The Turkish incursion officially started in October 2019 after former US President Donald Trump gave his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan the green light to proceed with his long-planned move against the Kurdish fighters.

Kurdish officials at the time said that nearly 800 Daesh prisoners had managed to escape from a prisoner camp after the Turkish offensive.

Daesh has already been driven out of all its urban bastions both in Iraq and Syria, but its remnants carry out sporadic terror attacks in both Arab countries.

The US and its allies have also been conducting airstrikes against what they claim are Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

US military convoy enters Syria's oil-rich Hasakah from Iraq

Syrian media said that a new convoy of US trucks carrying military and logistical equipment have crossed through the al-Walid border crossing point between Iraq and Syria and been deployed in bases in north and northeast Syria.

The convoy of at least 23 vehicles, including trucks and oil tankers, headed towards their bases in Syria’s Hasakah Province.

Since late October 2019, the United States has been redeploying troops to the oil fields controlled by Kurdish forces in eastern Syria.

The Pentagon alleges that the move aims to “protect” the fields and facilities from possible attacks by Daesh, ignoring the fact that Trump had suggested that Washington sought economic interests in controlling the oil fields.

The Lebanon-based and Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network reported earlier this month that the so-called US-led military coalition was reportedly building a new base in Syria.

The military site was being built in the town of Ayn Dewar, which lies just north of the small Syrian city of al-Malikiyah.

Ayn Dewar is located in the most northeastern point of Syria, and sits on the border with Iraq and Turkey.

Syria, which has not authorized the presence of the US military in its territory, says Washington is “plundering” the country’s oil.

The presence of US forces in eastern Syria has particularly irked the civilians, and local residents have on several occasions stopped American military convoys entering the region.


Iran says time not ‘suitable’ for nuclear deal meeting with EU, US

28 February ,2021

Tuqa Khalid

Iran said on Sunday it does not consider the time to be "suitable" for an informal meeting on reviving the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal, proposed by European powers and involving the US.

"Considering the recent positions and actions of the United States and the three European countries, [Iran] does not consider the time suitable to hold the informal meeting proposed by the European coordinator [of the deal],” state news agency IRNA cited Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled to Iran its willingness to return to talks to revive the nuclear deal Former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Biden reversed Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored. And the State Department eased stringent restrictions on the domestic travel of Iranian diplomats in New York.

Yet, Tehran demanded that all Trump-era sanctions on Iran be lifted before taking any real action to return to the deal.

"There has still been no change in US positions and behaviour yet," Khatibzadeh added, saying the Biden administration has continued "Trump's failed policy of maximum pressure".

The Iranian regime is trying to get more concessions from Washington before taking any real action, especially in light of growing pressure at home due to economic hardship worsened by the US sanctions.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week Iran might enrich uranium up to 60 percent purity if needed, while repeating a denial of any Iranian intent to seek nuclear weapons, for which 90 percent enrichment would be required.

The UN's atomic watchdog IAEA reported last week that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium was more than 14 times over the limit set down in its 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran also restricted site inspections by the IAEA after a US refusal to lift existing sanctions, a step Britain, France and Germany condemned as “dangerous.”

Biden's administration said it had no plans to take additional steps on Iran before diplomatic conversation, all the while facing mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers to not "give up leverage" and "appease" Tehran by lifting sanctions.


German NGO Sea Watch rescues 147 migrants off Libyan coast

27 February ,2021

German charity Sea-Watch said Saturday it had saved nearly 150 migrants off the Libyan coast in two operations.

Its Sea-Watch 3 rescue ship picked up 102 migrants on Saturday morning from a rubber dinghy in trouble, the organization said on Twitter.

The previous day the vessel had rescued 45 migrants, including 15 minors.

The Sea Watch 3 has rescued over 3,000 migrants in distress in the Mediterranean Sea since 2017, the NGO said.

The central Mediterranean migration route is known as one of the world’s deadliest.

UN agencies say about 160 migrants and refugees have died so far this year trying to reach Europe from North Africa.

Despite unabated violence in Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, the country remains an important transit point for migrants fleeing instability in other parts of Africa and the Middle East and seeking to reach Europe.

International agencies frequently denounce the return to Libya of migrants intercepted at sea due to the chaotic situation in the country and poor conditions in detention centers.

More than 1,200 migrants and asylum-seekers died while crossing the Mediterranean in 2020, according to the International Organization for Migration.


Biden's Syria strike unmasks US' two-faced policy, promises no fundamental change

27 February 2021

Syria is a sovereign country, said at least one current member of Joe Biden's administration when former US President Donald Trump authorized attacks against Syria in 2017, a country that has neither attacked the United States’ territory nor its regional positions.

The remarks, made in a tweet on April 7, 2017, were those of Jen Psaki, who currently serves as the White House press secretary.

“Also what is the legal authority for strikes?” Psaki asked in that tweet, which came after the US launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Syria for a suspected chemical attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province, which Washington blamed on Damascus.

Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.

— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) April 7, 2017

The tweet resurfaced right after the US – this time under President Biden – attacked facilities belonging to anti-terror resistance fighters at a border point in Syria’s eastern Day al-Zawr Province on Thursday. The attack killed one and wounded four others.

Thousands of Twitter users replied to Psaki’s old tweet, so as to point out the hypocrisy of the new White House dwellers. It was as if they were expecting to see when – not if – the Biden administration begins to conduct new illegal strikes against Syria.

Progressive Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brought up the tweet in response to the strike. “Great question,” Omar wrote.

Great question.

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 26, 2021

Republican Senator Rand Paul also responded. He condemned meddling in Syria and “attacking a sovereign nation.” Paul also questioned what authority the US president has to strike Syria, saying, “Perhaps someone should ask his @PressSec today?”

I condemn meddling in Syria’s civil war. I also condemn attacking a sovereign nation without authority.

What authority does @POTUS have to strike Syria?

Perhaps someone should ask his @PressSec today?

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) February 26, 2021

With the Thursday attack, Biden officially became the third consecutive US president that waged war against Syria, a country that has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since 2011. Trump, who was attacked by the Democrats for his reckless adventures in Syria and Afghanistan, waited three months to launch his illegal strikes on Syria, compared to Biden who did the same just after a month into his presidency.

In another tweet on the same day Trump attacked Syria, Psaki asked, “The big question now is what is next--is this a long term military commitment? Is there a diplomatic plan to follow? What is our objective?”

The big question now is what is next--is this a long term military commitment? Is there a diplomatic plan to follow? What is our objective?

— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) April 7, 2017

She was also quick to write an opinion piece for CNN later that day to question Trump’s action, pointing out again that “Syria is a sovereign country” with powerful friends, including Russia and Iran.

In that article, she rightly argued that “we know from all too recent history that military engagement can be a slippery slope,” asserting that the attack risked retaliation from the Syrian military, or even Russia or Iran.

Interestingly, all the issues she raised at the time, including the illegality of the attack, remain legitimate questions to pose at the Biden administration. Syria continues to be a sovereign state – whether the White House is occupied by Obama, Trump or Biden – and the United States’ attacks against the Arab country remain illegal and reckless under each and every US administration.

Meanwhile, Psaki was not the only Biden administration official who received a strong backlash for earlier remarks about Trump’s military actions in Syria. Vice President Kamala Harris, who voiced deep concerns about the “legal rationale” of Trump’s  April 14, 2018 strikes against Syria, faced the same criticisms.

I strongly support our men and women in uniform and believe we must hold Assad accountable for his unconscionable use of chemical weapons. But I am deeply concerned about the legal rationale of last night’s strikes.

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 14, 2018

Biden himself was a staunch critic of Trump’s military actions in Syria. In a tweet on October 16, 2019, he pointed to Trump's actions in Syria as “erratic” and “impulsive” decisions that “endanger our troops and make us all less safe.”

This afternoon, I'll be discussing Donald Trump's recent actions in Syria and how his erratic, impulsive decisions endanger our troops and make us all less safe. Tune in at 5PM ET to watch live:

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 16, 2019


The two neighboring countries of Iraq and Syria are illegally occupied by US forces.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to oust former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but it has continued to keep its forces in Iraq in spite of growing anti-American sentiments in the Arab country.

Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the US has conducted several rounds of strikes against the positions of Syria’s legitimate government. The US has sent its troops to Syria as well.

Several terrorist groups such as the infamous Daesh (ISIS) have emerged in Iraq and Syria since the US occupation of the two states.

In reaction to the development, Iran, Iraq, Syria and regional resistance forces joined hands with the aim of ridding the two countries of the terrorists. As a result of their efforts, resistance forces were unified into groups such as Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Now, while illegally occupying Iraq and Syria, the United States illegally attacked the PMU’s facilities near Syria’s border with Iraq on Thursday, after a suspected attack that killed a US military contractor in Iraq, for which Washington put the blame on the PMU.

Under Trump, the US conducted a high-profile drone strike that killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the PMU. The attack, directly ordered by Trump, was conducted on January 3, 2020, near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, with its main target being Iran’s top anti-terror general Qassem Soleimani, who was on an official visit to the neighboring country.

The assassination was strongly criticized by Democrats, including Biden, who said at the time that it “almost certainly will have the opposite effect” of the Trump administration’s declared goal of deterring “future attacks by Iran.” Yet, Biden himself launched the Thursday attack on the PMU with the same anti-Iran rhetoric.

Two days after the assassination of General Soleimani and his companions, the Iraqi parliament, which recognizes the PMU as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army, passed a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the US from the country, a move that further shed light on the illegality of the US presence in the region.


Over 400 EU lawmakers urge leaders to stop Israeli annexation

01 March 2021

More than 400 European lawmakers have urged leaders to stop Israel's "de-facto annexation" of the occupied West Bank.

The parliamentarians said in a letter addressed to European foreign ministers and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that the administration of former US President Donald Trump had left the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “farther away from peace than ever”.

"The Biden administration presents a chance to correct course," the politicians, including members of national legislatures and senates, as well as members of the European parliament said in the letter, cited by Agence France-Presse.

Trump adopted a pro-Israel policy during his presidency.

He sparked controversy by officially recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli "capital" in December 2017, before moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv in May 2018.

Israel lays claim to the entire Jerusalem al-Quds, but the international community views the city’s eastern sector as occupied territory and Palestinians consider it the capital of their future state.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted on August 20, 1980, prohibits countries from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians, who seek an independent state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital, have condemned the US pro-Israel agenda.

Emboldened by the anti-Palestine policies of Trump, Israel stepped up its settlement expansion in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which pronounces settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year allegedly agreed to pause West Bank annexation plans in exchange for normalization with the United Arab Emirates.

"However, developments on the ground clearly point to a reality of rapidly progressing de facto annexation, especially through accelerated settlement expansion and demolitions of Palestinian structures," the letter said.

"Europe must work with the Biden administration, countries in the region and the parties on the ground to prevent unilateral action undermining the possibility of peace, advance the rights and security of all people under Israel’s effective control," it added.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

The former leader of Britain's Labor party, Jeremy Corbyn, and France's Jean-Luc Melenchon were among the signatories of the letter. 

Biden, who indicated his administration will restore US opposition against settlement expansion in the West Bank, does not intend to order the return of the US embassy to Tel Aviv.





Much to Pakistan's dismay and India's delight, Saudi Arabia maintains neutrality over Kashmir issue

Feb 28, 2021

NEW DELHI: Much to Pakistan's dismay and India's delight, Saudi Arabia maintained neutrality over the Kashmir issue, even when Islamabad is making all efforts to mend its relations with the Gulf country and is wooing it to change its stance.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, his government has had good relations with Saudi Arabia. After the Indian Prime Minister's visit to Riyadh in October 2019, Saudi Arabia has maintained neutrality over Kashmir and backed India on cross-border terrorism, said Abhinav Pandya, a strategic analyst and the CEO of Usanas Foundation, an India based think tank, told The Epoch Times.

The Saudis have had ambiguous stands on Kashmir on various global diplomatic forums--many times they supported Pakistan's stance before they recently took to neutrality in India's favour.

"Three events of 1979 had a direct impact on Kashmir [seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Islamic Revolution of Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan]," said Pandya.

"After 1979, the Saudis sponsored Wahhabism across the globe." Muslim majority Kashmir became a "natural choice for Wahhabi proselytization" because of the deep penetration of Pakistan, which had historically close relations with the Saudis, added Pandya.

The rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia started when Riyadh didn't heed Pakistan's demand to call a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, which Saudi Arabia leads) to discuss the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's original political status by the Modi government.

"Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi asked Saudis to show "leadership" and threatened that if Saudi doesn't call a meeting of the foreign ministers of the OIC over Kashmir, Pakistan will be forced to go to Iran, Malaysia, and Turkey for support," said Madiha Afzal, in an analysis for the Brookings Institute.

Meanwhile, the Saudis also denied permission to the Pakistan embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah to organise Kashmir black day programs on October 27 last year.

The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India on October 27, 1947, and Pakistan observes that date as the Kashmir Black Day every year.

In recent years, India's relationships with the Arab countries have significantly improved, particularly with Saudi Arabia because India is an emerging economy and a key global market.

"Riyadh, like many countries, sees India as an important player, as a key market and a country that it doesn't want to antagonize. Obviously, if you refrain from supporting the Kashmir cause publicly that certainly will help your cause with India," said Michael Kugelman, the Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

There are multiple geopolitical reasons vis-a-vis Pakistan that have influenced the Saudi stance over Kashmir.

Afzal said that Saudis didn't take kindly to Pakistan's "overt pressure" last year and immediately recalled a USD 1 billion loan it gave to Pakistan in 2018 as part of a USD 3 billion loan.

Hamid Bahrami, author and an independent Middle East analyst based in Glasgow, told The Epoch Times over a chat platform that new and asymmetric blocks are emerging in the geopolitical arena, and the Saudis have lost some interest in its relationship with Pakistan, which is impacting the Saudi stance over Kashmir as well.

"Since Pakistan has disappointed Saudi regarding the war in Yemen, and Pakistan took neutrality between Saudi and Iran, MBS (Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman) has been convinced that the current Pakistani approach is not favouring him," said Bahrami.

"Moreover, Pakistan political establishment has a positive view of MBS' political rival inside the Saudi royal family."

Bahrami said the close relations of Saudis with the United States and Pakistan's close ties with US rival China also add to the dynamics of foreign policies in Kashmir.

"The main threat is China, and unfortunately, Pakistan is paving Beijing's way to access the Middle East through the port of Gwadar. This is a serious threat to the Saudi-US camp. I consider Iran-Pakistan-Turkey-China-Russia as an asymmetric camp with different interests but the same rivals," said Bahrami. The United States and Saudis are moving closer to India than to Pakistan to control China and the emerging asymmetric camp, he said.

"If we want to get deeper, MBS' view about geopolitics and protecting Saudi interests is not based on a religious agenda of supporting Wahhabism. MBS' seeks economic development under 'Vision 2030' and Pakistan does not have enough capacity for a profitable bilateral relation with Saudi," said Bahrami.

Moreover, the Chinese equation with Pakistan has complicated the situation, and MBS, according to Bahrami, is sending a warning to Pakistan.


JeM terror associate arrested by security forces in J-K's Pulwama

01st March 2021

AWANTIPORA: One terror associate Muzamil Qadir Bhat, who was in touch with terrorist commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammad, was arrested in a joint operation by security forces from Lorow Jagir Tral village in Pulwama on Sunday.

The operation was carried out by Jammu and Kashmir Police, 42 Rashtriya Rifles and 180 battalions of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

During questioning, the forces seized incriminating material of Jaish-e-Mohammad and one hand grenade was recovered from him that he has kept concealed in the compound of his home.

A case under relevant sections of the law has been registered in Police Station in Tral.

Further investigation is going on.


Eatery owner’s son dies after being shot by terrorists in J&K

By Ashiq Hussain

MAR 01, 2021

The son of the owner of popular eatery who was shot by suspected terrorists on February 17 near his shop, succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in Srinagar in the wee hours on Sunday.

Suspected terrorists had opened fire on Aakash Mehra,25, outside Krishan Dhaba on February 17.

“He died early morning, “ SSP Srinagar Haseeb Mughal told HT. Mehra was being treated at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar where he was on ventilator. “He lost his life at around 3 am. He had bullet injuries in his chest,”said medical superintendent of SMHS Hospital, Nazir Choudhary. Police have already arrested three persons suspected to be involved in the attack.

IG Kashmir Vijay Kumar on February 19 had said that they have also recovered the bike and pistol used in the attack. He said that the three were “newly recruited” terrorists.

Srinagar Mayor Junaid Mattoo said expressed his condolences. “Woke up to extremely distressing news. Young Akash Mehra who was shot at by terrorists at Krishna Dhaba has succumbed to his injuries at SMHS Hospital. I share the pain and grief of his family and stand by them as they mourn this inconsolable loss. May his soul rest in peace, “ he said.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti also expressed her condolences. “Shocked & saddened to know that Akash Mehra who ran Krishna Dhaba in Srinagar succumbed to his injuries after being shot at by Terrorists. May his soul rest in peace & deepest condolences to the bereaved family, “ she tweeted.

Expressing grief over the death, BJP leader Kavinder Gupta on Sunday said, “We heard the sad news about the death of Krishna Dhaba’s owner’s son. This type of targeted attack is proof that there are still ongoing attempts to oust the minorities from the region. We will not tolerate such activities... It is very important to stop such attacks.”





Operation Raddul Fasaad a testimony to Pak struggle against terrorism: PUC

Sher Ali Khalti

March 1, 2021

LAHORE: The success of Operation Raddul Fasaad is an explicit testimony to the struggle of the Pakistani nation and the security forces against terrorism.

This was crux of the speeches delivered at the Ulema-Mashaikh Convention, held here on Sunday at Alhamra under the aegis of the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC).

“We salute the martyrs and Ghazis of Operation Raddul Fasaad,” said speakers.

The ulema said the National Action Plan (NAP) should be fully implemented. The security, stability and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was very dear to the Muslim Ummah and Pakistan was against foreign interference in all Islamic Arab countries, added the speakers.

They said Saudi Arabia had ensured all legal requirements of justice on the issue of Khashoggi murder.

Praising Prime Minister Imran Khan, they said that being a great leader of the Muslim Ummah, the PM won the hearts of Muslims across the Islamic world by raising voice on the issues of Namoos-e-Risalat, belief in the finality of prophethood and burial of Sri Lankan Muslims.

The ulema said that solution to problems of the Muslim Ummah lied in unity and stability of the Islamic world.

They said the rights of minorities living in Pakistan would be protected at all levels. Forced conversions and forcible marriages had nothing to do with Islam and those who do so bring Islam and Muslims into disrepute.

“No person, party or group can be allowed to make hateful speech and the decision of the new examination boards for Madaris-e-Arabia is a step in the right direction,” they said.

The ulema of different schools of thought, while speaking at the Ulema-Mashaikh Convention, said reservations of ulema regarding Evacuee Properties Amendment Bill would be addressed.

The convention was attended by more than 1,000 leading religious scholars and clerics from across the country. The event was presided over by central chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special aide to prime minister on religious harmony and Middle East.

A resolution adopted at the convention thanked the Sri Lankan government and Prime Minister Imran Khan for allowing the Sri Lankan Muslims to bury the bodies of Muslims who die of coronavirus. The ulema and mashaikhs would continue supporting every good deed of the government and hold it accountable in case of the Sharia laws.

In another resolution, adopted at the convention, the representatives of different religious and political organisations announced endorsement of stance of the government of Pakistan and the Foreign Ministry of Saudi Arabia and rejected the US intelligence report regarding Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi murder.

The convention said that Saudi Arabia had met all requirements of justice in the case of Khashoggi. Peace, security and stability of Saudi Arabia were dear to every Muslim. Pakistan and the Muslim Ummah would not accept any step against Saudi Arabia, the resolution said. The resolution also called for an immediate meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to address the growing problems of the Muslim Ummah.

Another resolution said Masajid-o-Madaris were serving Islam, Muslims and the country at large. The affiliation of Madaris with the Ministry of Education and the establishment of new examination boards for seminaries was a right decision of the government and would lead to further improvement in religious and conventional education.

Yet another resolution, adopted on the issue of Evacuee Properties Act, demanded the government address the reservations of Masajid-o-Madaris and constitute a committee, headed by speaker of the National Assembly, to play an active role in that regard.

Another resolution welcomed the decision on ceasefire at the Line of Control as a result of talks between the military leaderships of Pakistan and India.

Expressing full solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people, another resolution said that Kashmir and Palestine were the most important issues of the Muslim Ummah. The United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the world must play an effective and immediate role in resolving the Kashmir and Palestine issues.

An edict was also presented at the Ulema and Mashaikh Convention, approved from Darul Afta Pakistan regarding the coronavirus vaccine, which said that it is legal to administer corona vaccine and no baseless propaganda should be made against it.

PUC told the participants that on the direction of the Prime Minister, efforts were being made at all levels to solve the problems of ulema and mashaikh. In this regard, coordinators are being appointed to resolve issues of ulema, mashaikh and imams.

Ashrafi said the PTI government wanted to take Pakistan towards the state of Madina, adding that everyone had to work hard for a state on the pattern of Medina. He said that all issues of seminaries relating to registration, bank accounts and others would be resolved before the new academic year.

"We want to make it clear to the world that the blasphemy law is protector of human lives," he said. The blasphemy law is not being misused, and we assure all minorities that their rights under the Constitution of Pakistan will be protected. All Pakistanis have a role to play in the development and stability of Pakistan, Ashrafi said.

He said that Masajid-o-Madaris had nothing to do with any movement spreading chaos in the country. The opposition should work with the government to solve the problems of people. “We invite the political and religious parties of the opposition to come forward and play a role in transforming the country on the pattern of the state of Madina, the PUC chairman said.

“We are the protectors of Masajid-o-Madaris and we will soon give good news to ulema and mashaikh regarding the Evacuee Properties Act,” Ashrafi added.

He said a 30-member Central Committee of Interfaith Harmony Councils would be announced soon.

The convention announced that from March 1 to March 30, the country-wide ‘stability Pakistan conventions, conferences and congregations will be held on the theme of "One Nation One Destiny" with respective topics of peace, brotherhood and moderation.

Among key note clerics and religious scholars who spoke at the event were: Maulana Asad Zakaria, Allama Abdul Haq Mujahid, Qazi Matiullah Saeedi, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Haq Nawaz Khalid, Maulana Obaidullah Gormani, Allama Tahirul Hassan, Maulana Muhammad, etc.

Others were: Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Hanif Usmani, Pir Asad Habib Shah Jamali, Maulana Muhammad Asghar Khosa, Maulana Noman Hashir, Maulana Tahir Aqeel Awan, Maulana Abubakar Sabri, Maulana Anwarul Haq Mujahid, Shabbir Yusuf Gujjar, Maulana Abdul Malik Asif, Maulana Aslam Siddiqui, Maulana Aseedur Rehman Saeed, Maulana Abdul Hakim Athar, Qari Zubair Zahid, Maulana Islamuddin, Qari Muhammad Aslam Qadri, Qari Shamsul Haq, Maulana Hassan Ahmad Hussaini, Maulana Muhammad Khurshid Nomani, Maulana Fahimul Hassan Farooqi, Maulana Abdullah Haqqani, Maulana Abdullah Rashidi, Mian Rashid Munir, Maulana Asim Shad, Maulana Abdul Waheed Farooqi, Maulana Abubakar Hamza, Maulana Habibur Rehman Abid, Maulana Izharul Haq Khalid, Sahibzada Hamza Tahirul Hassan, Maulana Saadullah Ludhianvi, Maulana Anisur Rehman Baloch, Maulana Abdul Al-Rashid, Maulana Muhammad Shakeel Qasmi, Mufti Mohammad Omar Farooq, Maulana Abdul Ghaffar Shah Hijazi, Maulana Tanveer Ahmed, Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Makki, Maulana Mohammad Ashfaq Potafi, Maulana Kaleemullah Muawiyah, Maulana Azizur Rehman Muawiyah, Maulana Aziz Akbar Qasmi, Maulana Saadullah Shafiq, Hafiz Mohammad Tayyab Qasmi, Maulana Hussain Ahmad Darkhasti, Mufti Iqbal Usmani, Maulana Yasir Alvi, Qari Abdul Rauf, Maulana Matool Mahar, Hafiz Muhammad Talha Farooqi, Maulana Zubair Khatana, Maulana Aqeel Zubair, Qari Azizur Rehman, Maulana Atif Iqbal, who addressed the event participants.


Some international forces trying to destabilise Pakistan, says FM

March 01, 2021

MULTAN - Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Sunday that some international forces were trying to destabilise Pakistan by creating chaos in the country.

“These powers wanted to weaken Pakistan internally by pushing it towards extremism,” Qureshi said while talking to Chief of Pakistan Sunni Tehreek Maulana Sarwat Ejaz Qadri here in Multan.

According to a press release issued after the meeting, the foreign minister said these powers wanted to harm peaceful environment in the country. "We will have to keep ourselves safe and secure and also foil nefarious designs of such forces," he added. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan emerged as great leader of Islamic world. As head of state, Prime Minister Imran Khan for the first time in last 74 years raised effective voice for Islam at different international forums.

The incumbent government raised voice against publication of blasphemous images. Similarly, it was also for the first time that Prime Minister Imran Khan talked about Islamophobia. He stated that Pakistan would continue to raise voice for Islam. Qureshi mentioned that the role of Ulema and Mashaikh was very important in the international hybrid war against the country.


Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl cleric, two others killed in attack in Pakistan

Feb 28, 2021

A prominent local Pakistani cleric associated with Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl has been shot dead along with his son and a seminary student by unknown gunmen on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad, police said on Sunday.

The incident took place late Saturday night in the Bhara Kahu area when Mufti Ikramur Rehman was going towards his car and came under the attack. His 13-year-old son Samiullah and the student were also killed.

At least three gunmen fired at them and fled after the attack, local police officer Shahzad Khan told the media, adding that the victims succumbed to multiple bullet injuries at a hospital.

So far, no one has taken responsibility for the attack which appears to be a targeted killing.

The local cleric was politically active and was associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) whose chief Fazlur Rehman is leading the Pakistan Democratic Alliance, the Opposition's anti-government alliance seeking Prime Minister Imran Khan's resignation.

Rehman condemned the killing and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits. He said the killing of the cleric showed "complete failure on the part of the government to maintain law and order in the country?.''

The JUI-F supporters staged a protest against the killing of the cleric and blocked the Murree Road (N-75 highway) on Sunday. However, they dispersed after negotiation with the administration of the city, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat said.

"Murree Road has been reopened to traffic after talks with the administration and police," Shafqaat wrote on Twitter.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in violence in recent weeks. Though the organised presence of rebels has been destroyed, their remnants are still active to incite violence, the Pakistan Army said in a statement.


PM to oversee PTI Senate election campaign himself

Syed Irfan Raza

March 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As the Senate election is being held on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan has cancelled all his official engagements and decided to directly supervise the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) campaign for the upper house’s polls.

Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh, PTI candidate for a seat from Islamabad, on Sunday started canvassing for the election and went door to door to meet members of National Assembly in Parliament Lodges.

The government has again levelled allegations of corruption and misuse of authority against former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the joint candidate of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) for the Islamabad seat.

“From tomorrow (Monday) Prime Minister Khan will only focus on the Senate election and will not attend any official meeting,” a source told Dawn on Sunday.

The source said the prime minister would directly supervise the PTI’s campaign for the Senate polls and meet MNAs of allied parties.

A tough contest between Mr Gilani and Mr Shaikh is expected on a Senate seat for Islamabad. The National Assembly is the electoral college for the seat and an interesting session of the house will be held on March 3 in which voting for the two candidates will take place.

Meanwhile, the MQM-P’s absence from an important PTI reception in Karachi has raised eyebrows of many, particularly after Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed that the MQM-P would support PDM candidate in the Senate polls.

When contacted, MQM-P leader and federal Minster for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haq said his party did not attend the reception due to its own engagements. He, however, categorically said the MQM-P would support the PTI and allied parties in the polls.

He said the coordination committee of the MQM-P met on Sunday and discussed Senate elections. “The details of the meeting will be shared with the media later,” he said.

Federal Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz said the nation knew well who stood on which side of history on the issue of transparency in the electoral system.

In a series of tweets, the minister said the opposition was supporter of the system based on rigging and a hurdle in the way of transparency, while Mr Khan stood firm with his unwavering commitment to transparency in the electoral process.

He said the opponents of open balloting in the Senate elections wanted continuation of a corrupt system.

The PTI, he continued, was the party which had led the struggle for transparency in the system and eradication of corruption.

Mr Faraz said the prime minister would never step back from his struggle to achieve these objectives.

Later, in a press conference, federal Communication Minister Murad Saeed reiterated allegations against Mr Gilani and his family.

Showing different news clips, the minister said Mr Gilani was involved in gifting official vehicles to former president Asif Ali Zardari, illegally keeping a necklace gifted by the Turkish first lady to help flood victims in Pakistan and defaulting on a bank loan.

He said the assets of Mr Gilani’s son, Abdul Qadir Gilani, had swelled more than 10 times in one year. “His (Abdul Qadir) assets in 2008 were Rs8.5 million and the next year they amounted to Rs72m,” the minister said.

He claimed that there was no match between Mr Gilani and Mr Shaikh as the former had remained involved in corruption and sought an NRO while the latter was a technocrat and educated man.

Mr Saeed claimed that the PTI would not only win Senate polls but would also form its government in Sindh for the first time.


PPP repairs cracks with JUI-F; joint candidates agreed upon

March 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday acted timely to repair some cracks that had appeared in the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) by appeasing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on the issue of distribution of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) for the upcoming Senate elections on March 3.

Insiders told Dawn that the JUI-F chief had some reservations over distribution of tickets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa following which the PPP leadership held a meeting late on Saturday night and finalised candidates in consultation with Maulana Fazl.

The JUI-F chief later agreed on the final list of PDM candidates, and on Sunday Mr Bhutto-Zardari visited Maulana Fazl’s house in Islamabad to express his gratitude to him.

Accompanied by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a joint PDM candidate from Islamabad, and PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, Mr Bhutto-Zardari discussed with the Maulana the Senate election strategy.

Later, at a press conference with the JUI-F chief, the PPP chairman said the PDM was ready to contest the Senate polls under both open and secret ballot modes, adding that the treasury MNAs were not bound to support the government candidates.

The PDM is contesting the Senate polls on five of the 11 seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The three candidates it has fielded on the general seats are Abbas Afridi (PML-N), Hidayatullah (ANP) and one candidate from the JUI-F. Farhatullah Babar is contesting on a technocrat seat.

The development comes a day before the Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the presidential reference seeking the court’s guidance on holding Senate elections through open vote.

The PPP chairman said he hoped the apex court’s opinion would be “in accordance with law and the Constitution”, adding that secret ballot enjoyed “constitutional protection” whether it were elections for the Senate or the assemblies.

He said in the upcoming polls, the opposition alliance wanted to show that “even members of the parliament were not with the government but with the PDM”, expressing the hope that the opposition’s candidates would be elected with “good and surprising results”.

“[This] will give power to every movement, march and move of ours and we will be successful in our goal and mission of sending this puppet government and prime minister [back] home,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said.

He said the PDM hoped to establish a national government which represented the people and solved their problems while institutions worked within their spheres and the parliament took decisions about the country’s future and fate.

Responding to a question about an alliance with Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Mr Bhutto-Zardari said he hoped the party “will be with us”.

He pointed out that MQM-P — an ally of the PTI government — had been elected from Karachi which was ‘abandoned’ by the federal government.

“We think that they are asking the government for Karachi’s rights [but] there will be more power in that demand [if raised] from the PDM or the opposition’s platform,” the PPP chairman said.

He admitted that the opposition alliance had been in contact with MQM-P as well as other members of the treasury benches, adding that they had a free vote and there was “no limitation on government MNAs or allies to support [only] the government in the Senate elections”.

Speaking on the occasion, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl endorsed the PPP chairman’s views and said disappointment was visible in the ranks of the government. “Hopefully good results will come out,” he added.

The Maulana said the PDM’s unity in the four provinces was “good news for the nation” and the alliance would be contesting the Senate elections under a mutually agreed plan of action.

“The different parties of the PDM did not break each other’s votes as the government had hoped. We are united for the Senate elections and will achieve positive results,” he added.

The JUI-F chief clarified that the PDM was a movement and not an electoral alliance even though they “personally try not to damage each other’s votes and contest the elections together”.

He, however, said the PDM members could contest elections separately under ‘special circumstances’ — referring to the Awami National Party fielding its own candidate in the PK-63 Nowshera by-poll.


Strike observed in Balochistan over ANP leader’s killing

Saleem Shahid

March 1, 2021

QUETTA: A strike was observed in the provincial capital and several other cities and towns of the province on Sunday in protest against the killing of provincial information secretary of the Awami National Party (ANP) Asad Khan Achakzai.

All business centres and shops remained closed in Quetta, Chaman, Loralai, Zhob, Qila Saifullah, Sibi, Qila Abdullah, Pishin, Ziarat, Harnai, Mastung and several other areas of the province and traffic remained thin on the roads because of the strike call.

Mr Achakzai went missing on Sept 25 last year while coming to Quetta from Chaman to attend a party meeting.

His mutilated and bullet-riddled body was found on Saturday when police arrested a member of the Levies’ Force who confessed to the killing and pointed out the place where he had thrown his body.

Meanwhile, funeral prayers of Mr Achakzai were offered in his village near Chaman amid tight security and he was later buried there.

The funeral prayers were attended by a large number of people and central and provincial leaders of the ANP.

A heavy contingent of police, Levies Force, ATF and Frontier Crops was deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.


JI rally demands fresh census in Karachi, abolition of quota system

Imtiaz Ali

March 1, 2021

KARACHI: The Jamaat-i-Islami on Sunday stage a protest rally on New M.A. Jinnah Road as part of its ongoing campaign for the rights of Karachi.

The rally was largely attended by party leaders and workers.

Addressing the protesters, JI-Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman said they were protesting for a ‘correct’ population census and resolution of basic civic issues being faced by the people of Karachi.

He said that the JI movement was not for point-scoring, but it was aimed at provision of water and power, reversal of price hike, end to unemployment, repair of damaged roads, streets and sewerage system.

Hafiz Naeem announces a rally from Quaidabad to Governor House on March 14

He said that Balochistan was considered to be the most deprived province, but actually Karachi was the most deprived city in the country.

He accused the provincial governments and ruling parties of having pushed the city of 30 million people into a quagmire of problems.

PPP, PTI & MQM slammed

The JI leader said that it was right to say that Balochistan, rural areas of Sindh and districts of south Punjab had been subjected to injustices and these injustices should be ended “but the city which generates 70 per cent of the country’s revenue and 90pc budget of Sindh has been subjected to continuous injustice and deprivation of rights”.

He said the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement did nothing for the betterment of Karachi.

“The ruling parties are on the same page against the interests of Karachi,” he said, adding: “The PPP, PTI and MQM have established an alliance against the rights of Karachi as they all want to deprive the people of the local government system.”

Hafiz Naeem strongly slammed the PPP government in Sindh and said that the party had been ruling the province for the past 12 years but it had done nothing for Karachi, rather looted its resources.

He said the PPP was not willing to give rights to the city and was demonstrating a biased attitude.

He said the PPP was also against JI’s ongoing Karachi rights movement and was trying to give it a colour of ethnicity.

The JI leader also criticised the PTI government and said that the federal government had first announced a Rs162 billion package for the city’s uplift but without giving any project, and later it announced a Rs1.1 trillion package for the metropolis.

He pointed out that metro buses were being plied in Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Multan but no such facility had so far completed for the people of Karachi.

Fresh census in Karachi demanded

Hafiz Naeem demanded that a new census be conducted in Karachi to ascertain the actual population of the country’s largest city.

He said an ‘injustice’ was meted out to the citizens of Karachi by the then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in the population census.

He said the PPP had raised objections over the census results but in practice it was not doing anything.

He said the PTI and MQM-P had also declared that the population of Karachi was not shown correctly in the census, but they were the ones who approved the results of the census at a meeting of the federal cabinet.

The JI leader also demanded abolishing of the job quota system, provision of employment to youths in Karachi, an empowered LG system, 15-year audit of the K-Electric, uninterrupted gas supply to citizens, early completion of the Green Line bus service and an effective solid waste management system for the city.

He announced that his party would take out a ‘Karachi rights’ rally on March 14 from Quaidabad to Governor House, where the party’s future line of action would be decided.

JI leader Dr Osama Razi said no one was willing to talk about the basic issues of the city. He demanded an empowered local government for Karachi.



South Asia


Is Bangladesh moving to normalize relations with Israel?

Arafat Kabir

March 1, 2021

Israel turns out to be on a diplomatic spree of late. After mending fences with erstwhile foes in the Gulf and North Africa, a new door seems to have opened to a country far away from its familiar turf: Bangladesh.

Yes, you read that right. According to an investigative report by Al-Jazeera in February, the two countries seem to have been on friendly terms for the past few years, in secret, of course, since Muslim Bangladesh does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens from visiting there.

Bangladesh vehemently denied the allegations, and Israel declined to comment on the story. Still, the evidence points to the fact that the two countries might have been exploring diplomatic avenues to normalize relations. The question is, what are the odds?

Surprisingly, Bangladesh would gain more than a few things by developing a working relationship with Israel. If Al-Jazeera's report is accurate, the country's military intelligence is already using the passive cellphone monitoring and interception systems developed by the Israeli cyber-surveillance company PicSix. Whether it is being used to monitor the opposition parties' movements or the myriad security threats that the South Asian country faces due to its geographic location, Israeli technology can meet Dhaka's strategic needs.

While Bangladesh has denied its association with Israel, it did not rebuff suggestions that it possessed the P6 Interception tool, which is essentially an international mobile subscriber identity-catcher, or IMSI-catcher, and which is, again, made by the said Israeli company based in Even Yehuda. How and why Dhaka uses this surveillance system can only be answered by the Bangladeshi government, but it does not minimize the significance of the fact that Bangladesh felt compelled to resort to a technology domain that Israel is arguably the world leader.

Aside from this, Dhaka has genuine interests in learning more about Israel's arms trade with Myanmar because that country poses the principal threat to Bangladesh's physical security. According to a U.N. fact-finding mission, Israel was among the seven countries that supplied Myanmar's military with launched a series of attacks in 2017 against the Rohingya Muslims, forcing around 800,000 refugees to flee across the border into Bangladesh. State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries delivered two attack frigates to Myanmar shortly after Bangladesh purchased and commissioned two Chinese-made submarines.

That puts Dhaka in the awkward position of gathering intelligence about Israeli activities in Myanmar while furnishing counteroffers to dissuade Tel Aviv from engaging with the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar's armed forces are known.

One way to accomplish this is through backchannel diplomacy with Israel. After all, Bangladesh's recognition of Israel would constitute a major diplomatic victory for the country that is actively recruiting support from other Muslim-majority countries. Following recent gains according to various economic and social indexes, Bangladesh is emerging as a leader in the Muslim world and must be an increasingly attractive partner for Israel.

An easier path toward greater bilateral cooperation might be in the agriculture sector, where Israel has established itself as a leading exporter of irrigation, desalination and water treatment technology. The pernicious effects of climate change, compounded by a population of over 160 million people crammed inside a landmass smaller than New York state has taken a significant toll on Bangladesh's food security. In collaboration with Israel, Bangladesh can develop solutions to problems created by its unique topography.

Despite this, the irony of international politics is such that two countries can remain estranged due to the inertia caused by the burden of carrying out historical obligations. Bangladesh is a staunch supporter of an independent Palestine and is likely to stay committed to that cause indefinitely. Aside from the ethereal ties that exist between the two Muslim peoples, Bangladesh itself is a country born out of immeasurable sacrifice with most Bangladeshis sharing the Palestinian desire for statehood. Israel thus presents more than a sentimental dilemma for Bangladesh that will be very difficult to reconcile.

Moreover, it is not clear how other Muslim countries would react in the event of Bangladesh's recognition of Israel. The Middle East remains the biggest source of remittance income for Bangladesh, second only to the ready-made garment industry which is looking at an uncertain future in the post-pandemic world. Therefore, it is in the country's best interests to not disrupt current diplomatic and economic relationships with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, even though key partners, including Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have recently normalized the relations with Israel.

Ultimately, Bangladeshis themselves will be the judge of whether to embrace Israel. And many Muslims in Bangladesh, although largely moderate, are not there yet. Israel does not occupy that big a place in the nation's collective consciousness, rendering moot the discussion of possible diplomatic relationship with the country. Furthermore, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be loath to trigger passionate sentiments among religious factions that might incur political costs to her.

Domestic opposition will likely be the primary reason why Bangladesh might refrain from pursuing a public rapprochement with Israel. That does not mean the two countries will continue a clandestine but mutually beneficial working relationship. In fact, that might be the best arrangement for now.


US-Taliban talks: India concerned as Pak wishes Taliban to lead Afghanistan govt

MAR 01, 2021

US State Department has announced the resumption of talks with Taliban as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is set to visit Kabul, Doha and other regional capitals for a durable political settlement in Afghanistan.

"Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and his team will travel to Kabul, Doha and additional regional capitals," the US State Department said in a statement on Sunday (local time).

"He (Khalilzad) will resume discussions on the way ahead with the Islamic Republic and Aghan leaders, Taliban representatives and regional countries whose interests are best served by the achievement of just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire," the release added.

This will be Khalilzad's first trip since US President Joe Biden took office. He is also expected to visit Islamabad and New Delhi as indicated in the release.

The resumption of dialogue with the Taliban under Joe Biden clearly shows that the US is continuing its Afghan policy on the lines of Donald Trump's administration.

India, which has completed huge developmental and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, will be watching the US move closely.

According to informed sources, Pakistan is fully backing the Taliban and wants to install them in Kabul, this can pose a major threat to India's efforts in building democratic and development institutions in the war-torn country

India's position is clear that any government formation in Kabul should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.


India versus Bangladesh over new Rohingya crisis ahead of PM Modi's Dhaka tour

Prabhash K Dutta

New Delhi

March 1, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to tour Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on March 26. During his three-day tour, PM Modi will join Bangladesh's celebrations of 50 years of independence. Right before PM Modi's Bangladesh visit, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar too will travel to Dhaka as the two countries aim look to sign a comprehensive treaty for economic cooperation.

This is PM Modi's first foreign visit since the coronavirus pandemic began, and it shows how much importance India attaches to Bangladesh with China rooting itself aggressively in the country.

However, just ahead of PM Modi's Bangladesh visit, a fresh Rohingya crisis has brought India and Bangladesh on opposing ends. More than 80 Rohingya refugees are facing an uncertain future in the Andaman Sea as Bangladesh has refused to take them back.

Rohingya Crisis In Andaman Sea

These Rohingya refugees were floating in a boat that malfunctioned in the Adaman Sea where the Indian Coast Guard found the refugees exhausted out of hunger and thirst last month. The refugees had set sail from Bangladesh for Malaysia on February 11. The engine of their boat failed mid-journey leaving the occupants adrift in the Indian Ocean.

When they left the massive camp of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh's district bordering Myanmar, there were 90 Rohingya refugees onboard -- 56 women, 21 men, eight girls and five boys. Four days later, the boat's engine failed.

At least eight persons died before the Indian Coast Guard found their fishing boat. They were hungry and thirsty and were suffering from extreme dehydration.

India is feeding the survivors and providing medical treatment to them but it is not planning, at least yet, to take them ashore. India has communicated informed Bangladesh about the Rohingya survivors.

But Bangladesh has refused to take them back. Its foreign minister AK Abdul Momen last week told news agencies that Bangladesh has "no obligation" to take Rohingya refugees back. India has kept the channel of communication with Bangladesh open for the return of Rohingya survivors.

Why Bangladesh refused to take back Rohingya survivors?

Rohingya are residents of the Rakhine province of Myanmar but during a military crackdown in and after 2017, thousands of them fled their homes. Rohingya had been fleeing Myanmar for several years but rioting and military crackdown in 2017-18 saw a sudden exodus in larger numbers.

Bangladesh has been a destination for Rohingya refugees for long. After the latest of spate of exodus, Bangladesh is estimated to have up to 5 lakh Rohingya refugees.

Bangladesh has set up a massive refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is involved in their management. The UNHCR has issued ID cards to Rohingya refugees so that their human rights abuse is minimised.

At the same time, Bangladesh is facing pressure from within to ease the Rohingya refugee situation. It has been trying to de-congest Cox's Bazar camp. It recently moved thousands of Rohingya refugees to a new and remote island called Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal.

This explains Bangladesh's reluctance in taking back the Rohingya survivors who left the country's shores last month. On the other hand, India has been cautious about accepting Rohingya refugees due to its own domestic compulsions.

What Next?

Commenting on the Rohingya survivors crisis, external affairs ministry's spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava said, "We understand that around 47 of the occupants of the boat are in possession of ID cards issued to them by the UNHCR office in Bangladesh stating that they are displaced Myanmar nationals and person of concern to UNHCR registered by the government of Bangladesh."

For record, both India and Bangladesh are not signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention that spells out refugee rights and makes it a responsibility of the camp country to protect them. Given the stand taken both India and Bangladesh, the future of stranded Rohingya refugees looks unsure.

However, both the countries would want to resolve the issue before PM Modi joins the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bangladesh's independence. PM Modi's last planned visit to Bangladesh for celebrating the centenary birth anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was put off -- officially due to Covid-19 pandemic but against the backdrop of the row over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that provides for speedier granting of India citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Taliban calls for departure of all troops 1 year after Doha deal

FEB 28, 2021

The Taliban on Sunday called for the withdrawal of all international forces from Afghanistan within the timeline specified in the Doha agreement.

The militant group issued a statement to mark the first anniversary of the peace deal it signed with the United States in Qatar on Feb. 29 last year.

The Taliban is also demanding the release of more prisoners and the removal of their names from blacklists.

Following the Doha deal, the Taliban stopped attacking the U.S.-led NATO forces in the country but continued their attacks against the internationally backed Afghan government.

According to the agreement, all international forces would gradually leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban committed to renounce violence and enter into peace talks with the government.

The intra-Afghan talks started in mid-September, but there has been no tangible progress yet.

All sides accuse each other of violating the provisions of the agreement.

Currently, the new U.S. administration under President Joe Biden is reviewing the agreement. NATO allies are weighing a possible extension amid fears that the Taliban could seize power if troops withdraw too soon.

The Taliban has warned of a "never seen before" war and is rejecting a possible extension of the troops' withdrawal timeline.


Afghan forces inflict heavy casualties on Al-Qaeda in Kapisa

01 Mar 2021

Ministry of Defense in a released statement on Monday said, at least 30 Taliban including 16 Al-Qaeda members were killed in an operation conducted by Afghan national defense and security forces in Kapisa on Sunday evening.

The mission to target militants was launched in various parts of Afghania valley in the Nijbrab district the operations were facilitated with commando units and Afghan Air Forces, the statement added.

According to the statement 30 Taliban fighters including 16 Pakistani Al-Qaeda affiliated members were killed during the skirmish

Hjiyan, Khalifagan, Badakhel, and Zakirkhel Kochan villages were clear of militant’s influence.

This comes as Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for the National Security council posted on his Facebook page that the US-Taliban agreement inked last year has failed Afghanistan and only ensured a ceasefire between the United States and the Taliban.

He added that the Doha agreement did not meet the expectations of the Afghans, the deal only ensured the safety of US military personnel and the Afghan public remained limited to “killings, horror, and terror”.

According to Andar, the Doha Agreement has done More Harm than Good, It was a time-wasting procedure for peace and inflict heavy life casualties and financial losses on the Afghan people.

As the review of the agreement was welcomed by the Afghan government, US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie few said “I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,” McKenzie said.


Taliban keeps ties with ‘international terrorism’, Peace hopes shattered

28 Feb 2021

Masoud Andarabi, Interior Minister says the Taliban have kept up a close relationship with “international terrorists” despite having promised to cut ties with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda.

Interior Minister Masoud Andarabi on Sunday said that the Taliban have not yet severed ties with “international terrorism” despite the US-Taliban agreement in Doha.

During his visit to Kandahar province where clashes have escalated in the recent months, Andarabi said that the Taliban have not fulfilled their promise and kept relation with Al-Qaeda and other “terrorist groups”.

He also added that foreign fighters affiliated with the Taliban are fighting in the battlefields, in an operation in Arghandab of Kandahar commandos have witnessed foreign fighters alongside the Taliban, and observed the tactics the Taliban used in digging tunnels, planting mines all indicate their relations with international terrorism.

This comes as parliament speaker, Mir Rahman Rahmani on his three-day visit to Tajikistan on Sunday said that extreme level of violence and Taliban arrangements and provisions for the battle in the upcoming warm seasons shattered hopes for peace.

Taliban’s disinterest for peace will never allow the collapse of the government system nor will allow gains of two decades to be wasted.

While maintaining the republic system the government is ready for any type of negotiations as Afghans are waiting for peace but unfortunately are sure when it will be ensured, Rahmani said.

Rahmani noted that violence is increasing and the Taliban are not having plans for peace while Afghan negotiators await the group to come to the table, it has been one and a half months that they are running away from the talks.

Afghan ambassador during the conference said terrorism is not the product of Afghanistan and the Taliban’s continued violence is against the demands of Muslim countries.

He expressed that Afghanistan will never again allow unknown individuals to set directions for it and take it towards division.


Khalilzad embarks on another trip to Afghanistan and regional countries

28 Feb 2021

Zalmay Khalilzad to Afghanistan reconciliation has reportedly embarked on another trip to countries involved in the Afghan peace process, the visits are aimed at strengthening the peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

Khalilzad who currently is in German will travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE, and other regional countries, sources told media.

According to reports, the Afghan State Ministry for Peace Affairs is hopeful of the US envoy’s upcoming regional visits.

Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, State Minister for Peace has welcomed Khalilzad’s trip and hoped that his upcoming trip will be more effective in supporting the peace process in Afghanistan.

Earlier, in a released statement on Sunday Taliban marked the first anniversary of the Doha agreement and said that the group has done its part in the deal and that is a practical way towards peace.

Taliban added that any attempt to look for an alternative will result in failure in the peace process.

Taliban group in the statement urged the United States to be committed to the Doha agreement, demanded the release of remaining Taliban prisoners, and asked for the removal of their names from the UN blacklist.

While blaming the United States for their continuous bombing operations on the group, the Taliban said they have fulfilled their commitments and did not violate the Doha deal.

Despite efforts for peace violence in country remains extremely high and horrible.


Taliban’s deputy head of military commission killed: MoD

28 Feb 2021

Afghan Ministry of Defense stated Sunday, that security forces have killed the deputy head of the Taliban’s military commission and two other Taliban fighters in Baghlan province.

Security and defense forces conducted an operation in Nahrain district of Baghlan province yesterday, in which the deputy head of Taliban’s military commission and head of regional customs was killed along with two other Taliban members.

Mod added, 3 insurgents including Qari Zahidullah, the deputy head of the Taliban’s military commission were among the dead and further four Taliban militants are wounded during the skirmish.

Some weapons and ammunition belonging to the group were also destroyed, Afghan Defense Ministry reported.

This comes as the war in Afghanistan has intensified and besides many civilian and military casualties, Taliban casualties are also on the rise.

Despite peace efforts, the battle across the country has raged and humans in Afghanistan are suffering heavily.


US wasted billions on cars, buildings in Afghanistan: Report

Mar 1, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The United States wasted billions of dollars in war-torn Afghanistan on buildings and vehicles that were either abandoned or destroyed, according to a report released Monday by a US government watchdog.

The agency said it reviewed $7.8 billion spent since 2008 on buildings and vehicles. Only $343.2 million worth of buildings and vehicles “were maintained in good condition,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the protracted conflict.

The report said that just $1.2 billion of the $7.8 billion went to pay for buildings and vehicles that were used as intended.

“The fact that so many capital assets wound up not used, deteriorated or abandoned should have been a major cause of concern for the agencies financing these projects," John F. Sopko, the special inspector general, said in his report.

The US public is weary of the nearly 20-year-old war and President Joe Biden is reviewing a peace deal his predecessor, Donald Trump, signed with the Taliban a year ago. He must decide whether to withdraw all troops by May 1, as promised in the deal, or stay and possibly prolong the war. Officials say no decision has been made.

Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents and the Afghan government have been holding on-again-off-again talks in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar but a deal that could bring peace to Afghanistan after 40 years of relentless war seems far off.

Analyst Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal said the findings by SIGAR are not surprising. The reasons for the financial losses include Taliban attacks, corruption and “throwing money at the problem without considering the implications,” he said.

“It is one thing to build a clinic and school, it is another to operate, maintain, and in many cases defend this infrastructure from Taliban attacks,” said Roggio. "Additionally, the West has wildly underestimated the impact of Afghan corruption and in many cases incompetence. It was always a recipe for failure.”

US agencies responsible for construction didn't even ask the Afghans if they wanted or needed the buildings they ordered built, or if they had the technical ability to keep them running, Sopko said in his report.

The waste occurred in violation of “multiple laws stating that US agencies should not construct or procure capital assets until they can show that the benefiting country has the financial and technical resources and capability to use and maintain those assets effectively,” he said.

Torek Farhadi, a former adviser to the Afghan government, said a "donor-knows-best” mentality often prevailed and it routinely meant little to no consultation with the Afghan government on projects.

He said a lack of coordination among the many international donors aided the wastefulness. For example, he said schools were on occasion built alongside other newly constructed schools financed by other donors. The construction went ahead because once the decision was made — contract awarded and money allocated — the school was built regardless of the need, said Farhadi.

The injection of billions of dollars, largely unmonitored, fueled runaway corruption among both Afghans and international contractors. But experts say that despite the waste, the need for assistance is real, given the Afghan governments heavy dependence on international money.

The worsening security situation in Afghanistan also greatly impeded the monitoring of projects, with shoddy construction going undetected, said Farhadi, the former Afghan government adviser.

“Consult with the locals about their needs and sustainability of the project once the project is complete,” he urged US funding agencies looking to future projects. “Supervise, supervise, supervise project progress and implementation and audit every single layer of expenditure.”

Going forward, Roggio said smaller, more manageable projects should be the order of the day. To build big unmanageable projects that Afghanistan has neither the capacity nor technical expertise for after 40 years of relentless war “feeds into the Taliban narrative that the government is corrupt, incompetent, and incapable of providing for the Afghan people,” he said.



Southeast Asia


Citizens must be allowed to test laws deemed unlawful, says lawyer

March 1, 2021

PETALING JAYA: It is not up to the law minister to deter challenges to unconstitutional shariah laws, a lawyer said, amid an apex court ruling which declared last week that the Selangor legislature is incompetent to pass a law which criminalises unnatural sex.

Syed Iskandar Syed-Jaafar-al-Mahdzar said every citizen has a constitutionally-guaranteed right of access to justice.

“As a lawyer, the minister should know that any attempt to deter access to justice is a serious contempt of court. The House of Lords in Raymond v Honey laid this down,” he said.

Instead, of trying to interfere with the justice system, Syed Iskandar said Takiyuddin Hassan should ensure that no unconstitutional laws were passed by state legislators.

He said this in response to Takiyuddin who called for no further challenges to be made against state laws.

Takiyuddin, who is also PAS secretary-general, said the party would continue its efforts to harmonise civil law, based on English common law, with Islamic law.

However, he said, the party was worried that “if the judiciary decides a case because of public pressure, this will lead to future implications that do not benefit the country”.

Last Thursday, a nine-member Federal Court bench declared Section 28 of the Shariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) as null and void, as the primary power to enact criminal laws lies with Parliament.

The ruling was made on a petition by a 35-year old man who had been charged in the shariah court for “attempting to commit sexual intercourse against the order of nature” with other men.

Meanwhile, lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said the apex court did not label the offence as unIslamic, instead choosing to focus on the constitutionality of the enactment.

“Only that Selangor or state legislatures cannot enact unnatural sex as an offence as it comes under Federal list,” he said.

Rafique said there already existed offences like sodomy and buggery under the Penal Code which applied to Muslim and non-Muslims.

Those found guilty could be jailed up to 20 years, fined or whipped up to 24 times if the male offender is 50 years and below.

He said this in response to Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan’s statement on Saturday that the Federal Court’s decision has raised more confusion following its verdict.

Mohamad said the highest court’s ruling had also drawn questions over the implications on harmonisation of the civil and shariah courts.


Indonesia finds weapons on impounded Iranian tanker

February 26, 2021

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities said on Friday that firearms and ammunition have been found on an Iranian supertanker, one of the two vessels seized in the country’s waters over a suspected illegal oil transfer last month.

The Iranian-flagged MT Horse and the Panamanian-flagged MT Freya were impounded by the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) in waters bordering the South China Sea off Pontianak, West Kalimantan province, on Jan. 24, over suspicions of illegal fuel transfer between ships, polluting the water with oil, violation of the right of innocent passage, turning off their identification systems, illegal anchorage, and not flying their national flags.

On Friday, authorities said they had also found weapons on the Iranian tanker. “Investigators found a sniper rifle, three assault rifles, two pistols, and ammunition on the Iranian-flagged tanker MT Horse,” Bakamla spokesperson Col. Wisnu Pramandita told Arab News.

Earlier on Friday, Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Mahfud MD said during a joint press conference with Bakamla that all other suspicions had also been confirmed.

“We concluded they deliberately did all those violations, and they were caught doing them in tandem,” he said, as Bakamla chief Vice Admiral Aan Kurnia told reporters that the two tankers had trespassed 25 nautical miles into Indonesia’s territorial waters when the agency caught them.

The tankers were impounded after a patrol ship detected an idle signal indicating that the automatic identification system of the vessels was turned off. When Bakamala personnel arrived at the location they caught the tankers conducting a ship-to-ship fuel transfer from MT Horse to MT Freya, with their hulls covered to conceal their identities.

The vessels have been anchored at Bakamla’s base in Batam, Riau Islands province near Singapore, since their seizure.

Investigators are still questioning 25 crew from the MT Horse and 36 Chinese crew members of the MT Freya, which is managed by a Shanghai-based company.

Deputy Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Sugeng Purnomo said the inter-departmental task force investigating the case will soon press charges against the suspects.

In the wake of the incident, Transport Minister Budi Karya Sumadi has ordered stricter law enforcement in the country’s waters, ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati told Arab News.

“We are committed to enforcing the law on Indonesia’s territorial waters, in accordance also with the international law as enforced by the International Maritime Organization,” Irawati said.



Arab World


Khashoggi's fiancée says Saudi crown prince should be punished 'without delay'

March 1, 2021

The fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi called on Monday for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be punished after a US intelligence report found he had approved the killing.

Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post criticising Saudi policies, was killed and dismembered by a team linked to the crown prince in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

A US intelligence report on Friday found the prince had approved the killing, and Washington imposed sanctions on some of those involved — but not Prince Mohammed himself. The Saudi government, which has denied any involvement by the crown prince, rejected the report’s findings.

“It is essential that the crown prince [...] should be punished without delay,” Hatice Cengiz said on Twitter. “If the crown prince is not punished, it will forever signal that the main culprit can get away with murder which will endanger us all and be a stain on our humanity.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday imposed a visa ban on some Saudis believed to be involved in the Khashoggi killing and placed sanctions on others that would freeze their US assets and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.

Asked about criticism of Washington for not sanctioning Prince Mohammed directly, Biden said an announcement would be made on Monday, but did not provide details, while a White House official suggested no new steps were expected.

“Starting with the Biden administration, it is vital for all world leaders to ask themselves if they are prepared to shake hands with a person whose culpability as a murderer has been proven,” Cengiz said.


Iraqi warplanes, Hashd al-Sha'abi fighters take on Daesh remnants in Diyala

28 February 2021

Iraqi warplanes and fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha'abi, have embarked on sweeping operations to clear the western border province of Diyala of remnants of the Takfiri terrorist group of Daesh.

As part of the operations, the terrorists’ important positions and headquarters have been heavily bombed over the past three days, especially in the province’s Sheikh Baba village and the mountainous Hamrin area, Abdulkhaliq al-Azzawi, a member of Iraq's parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, was quoted as saying by al-Maloumah news agency on Sunday.

The operations, he added, have destroyed Daesh’s underground facilities in the areas, many of which contained explosive materials and ammunition.

“Daesh has lost some of its elements during the recent aerial attacks,” he also reported, but said the inaccessible terrain was preventing people on the ground from keeping track of the exact death toll.

Sadiq al-Husseini, the spokesman for the PMU’s division in Diyala, said the airstrikes had killed a Daesh operations officer, who used to function as one of the group’s notable ringleaders and had led attacks against security forces over the past months.

Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network, meanwhile, cited the PMU’s Media Directorate as reporting that the joint security operations had resulted in “cleansing” of “villages in [Diyala’s] Khanaqin District,” saying as a result of the victory, “Nisimiyah roads were opened.”

According to al-Maloumah, the operations are recruiting the Iraqi Army’s air force and army aviation as well as Hashd’s fifth division.

Separately, the PMU released a statement announcing the start of a similar joint operation in Qaratappa in Diyala that lies to the southwest of the western oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Daesh unleashed a campaign of bloodshed and destruction in the Arab country in 2014 amid the chaos and violence that had resulted from more than a decade of military intervention by the United States and its allies.

Iraq rooted out the outfit following three years of uphill struggle. The anti-terror battle benefited from the assistance of Baghdad’s allies, including Iran that lent it military advisory support, and resistance fighters.

The terror group has, however, been maintaining sleeper cells in parts of Iraq, and has escalated its sporadic attacks, especially in Diyala and western provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin, and al-Anbar, over the past two months.

Observers believe that the intensified terror activities by Daesh – which has received foreign assistance throughout its existence -- could be designed to create the impression that Iraq’s indigenous forces are incapable of securing the country on their own.

Such a perception would, in turn, help Washington and its allies justify their continued military intervention in Iraq, they note.


Fire kills 3 children in Syrian camp housing ISIS families

28 February ,2021

A fire in a camp housing families of members of ISIS killed three children and injured 15 others in northeast Syria, the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said Sunday.

UNICEF called for the safe reintegration and repatriation of all children in al-Hol Camp and across the northeast of Syria following the fire the day before. It was not immediately clear what caused the fire that burnt several tents in the sprawling al-Hol camp, which has witnessed a sharp increase in crimes in recent weeks.

Al-Hol houses the wives, widows, children and other family members of ISIS militants — more than 80 percent of its 62,000 residents are women and children. The majority are Iraqis and Syrians, but it includes some 10,000 people from 57 other countries, housed in a highly secured separate area known as the Annex. Many of them remain die-hard ISIS supporters.

Hundreds of other teenagers are held in prisons for former membership in ISIS, which once controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq. It lost its last sliver of territory, in eastern Syria, in March 2019.

“Children in al-Hol are faced not only with the stigma they are living with but also with very difficult living conditions where basic services are scarce or in some cases unavailable,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Ted Chaiban.

More than 22,000 non-Syrian children are stranded in al-Hol, in addition to thousands of Syrian children. On January 30, UN counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov urged home countries to repatriate the children, warning that they are at risk of radicalization.

Although some countries have returned children and women from the camp, many others, including Iraq, have so far abstained from doing so.

Chaiban, the UNICEF official said that the detention of children “is a measure of last resort and should be for the shortest time possible.” He added that children should not be detained based solely on suspected family ties with armed groups or the membership of family members in armed groups.


Israel to provide COVID-19 vaccines to peacekeepers in Egypt’s Sinai, official says

01 March ,2021

Israel will provide the US-led Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula with COVID-19 vaccines for its personnel, an Israeli official said on Sunday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 2,400 doses would be provided but did not elaborate on the terms or the timing of the handover.

An MFO official said the force had requested vaccines for 1,200 personnel and was willing to pay for them but was still awaiting a response from Israel.

The MFO, which draws personnel from 13 countries, was installed to monitor the demilitarization of the Sinai under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord.

Israel has been importing Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and administered two shots to more than a third of its population and one shot to more than half.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this month that Israel was giving surplus COVID-19 vaccines to friendly foreign countries, but the initiative has faced legal challenges from within his own coalition government.


UNICEF calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

28 February ,2021

The UN children’s agency called Sunday for all minors held in displacement camps or jails in northeast Syria to be allowed home.

UNICEF made its plea a day after three children died in a fire at the overcrowded camp of al-Hol, for people displaced in the fight against ISIS terrorist group.

After years of leading the US-backed fight against ISIS, Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of alleged extremist fighters in jails and tens of thousands of their family members in camps in northeast Syria.

They hail from Syria, neighboring Iraq and dozens of other foreign countries. Many are children.

“In the northeast of Syria, there are more than 22,000 foreign children from at least 60 nationalities who languish in camps and prisons, in addition to many thousands of Syrian children,” UNICEF regional director Ted Chaiban said in a statement, without giving a number of children held in jails.

He urged authorities in the northeast of Syria and UN member states to “do everything possible to bring children currently in the northeast of Syria back home.”

They should do this “through integrating Syrian children in their local communities and the repatriation of foreign children,” he added.

The Kurdish authorities have started sending thousands of displaced Syrians home from the camps.

But repeated calls for Western countries to repatriate their nationals have largely fallen on deaf ears, with just a handful of children and even fewer women being brought home.

Three children and a woman died on Saturday after a stove exploded in the al-Hol camp, starting a fire, a Kurdish official said.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 26 were injured.

Al-Hol is home to more than 62,000 people, displaced family members and relatives of alleged ISIS fighters, more than half of them children, it says.

A spate of killings, including decapitations, has rocked the camp since the start of the year, and humanitarian actors have repeatedly deplored living conditions there.

On February 1, the Save the Children charity also urged Iraq and Western countries to repatriate children from northeast Syria faster.

ISIS overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Kurdish-led forces backed air strikes by a US-led coalition expelled ISIS from their last patch of territory in Syria in March 2019, in a battle that displaced tens of thousands.


Syria intercepts Israeli missiles over Damascus: State media

01 March ,2021

Tuqa Khalid

Syrian air defenses intercepted and destroyed "most" of the missiles launched by Israel from the direction of the Golan Heights toward Damascus on Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Explosions were heard in Syria’s capital Damascus, state TV reported earlier.

Syrian state media broadcast footage of what it said were the air defenses firing, with bright lights seen shooting across the night sky.

Israel's military did not immediately comment on the latest strike.

Israel routinely carries out raids in Syria, mostly against targets affiliated with Iran in what it says is a bid to prevent its archfoe from securing further foothold along its borders.

Last month, Israel said it had hit about 50 targets in the neighboring country in 2020.


Oman supports Saudi Arabia’s response on Khashoggi report

Reem Krimly

28 February ,2021

Oman on Saturday said it stands in solidarity with Saudi Arabia in its position regarding the report by the United States Congress on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, according to the official Oman News Agency.

The Saudi government completely rejects the negative, false, and unacceptable assessment of the US intel report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership regarding the murder of the late Jamal Khashoggi, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses the Sultanate’s solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its position regarding the report that was provided to the US Congress on the murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi, may God have mercy on him,” Oman News Agency reported.

Oman’s foreign ministry added that it appreciates “the efforts and actions of the competent judicial authorities in the Kingdom regarding the case and its circumstances.”

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait also support Saudi Arabia’s position on the US intelligence report on the killing of Khashoggi.

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation (GCC) Council Nayef al-Hajraf expressed his support for the statements made by Saudi Arabia on the United States’ intel report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership regarding the murder of the late Jamal Khashoggi, the council said in a statement on Saturday.

The assessment on the Saudi Arabian leadership’s involvement in the murder of Khashoggi is not based on conclusive evidence, al-Hajraf said.


In Iraq, Pope Francis to visit Mosul churches desecrated by ISIS

28 February ,2021

In Mosul, adjacent to the Biblical city of Nineveh, four churches representing different denominations occupy a small square surrounded by low-rise houses, testament to the role Iraq’s once flourishing Christian community played.

Today, all four churches are either damaged or destroyed after ISIS terrorist group occupied the city from 2014-2017, desecrated many of the buildings and used them to run its administration, including as a jail and a court.

Airstrikes as Iraqi forces tried to dislodge the extremist group in fierce fighting did the rest. Those walls still standing are scarred with bullet and shrapnel holes.

“It used to be a bit like the Jerusalem of the Nineveh plains,” said Mosul and Akra’s Chaldean Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa of “Church Square,” the name given to the site that Pope Francis will visit on March 7 during his historic trip to Iraq.

Mikhael fondly recalled how, before the US invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians from different denominations would attend each other’s services on religious festivals.

Those days are gone. Today just one of Mosul’s surviving churches offers a weekly Sunday service to a Christian population that has dwindled to just a few dozen families from about 50,000 people.

Tolerated by former President Saddam Hussein but persecuted by al-Qaeda and then ISIS, Iraq’s Christians number around 300,000, one fifth of the total before 2003.

Some are trickling back after ISISI’s defeat, but others still see little prospect in staying in Iraq and are looking to settle overseas.

Mines and memories

A Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic church are situated cheek-by-jowl in and around the dusty square. Now the area lies in ruins, as do other parts of the city.

The pope is due to hold prayers for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa, known as Church Square in English, as part of a four-day trip starting on March 5, a visit Archbishop Mikhael described as highly symbolic and a message of hope.

“Where stones fell because of violence, there will always be life,” he said.

Workmen have been busy cleaning up the site before Pope Francis arrives.

Funded by the United Arab Emirates, the restoration of the Syriac Catholic church of Al-Tahera is being carried out by UNESCO in collaboration with local partners and began in 2020.

Holding pictures of the church before its destruction, assistant site coordinator for UNESCO in Iraq, Anas Zeyad, pointed to delicate Syriac carvings on pieces of greyish alabaster stone referred to locally as “Mosul marble.”

Damaged by ISIS before its roof was shredded by air strikes, the church was used as a tribunal by the extremist movement’s religious police, Zeyad said.

The adjacent Armenian Orthodox church, distinguishable by its dome, remains closed off to the public.

“It has not been de-mined yet,” Zeyad explained, pointing to the sealed door leading to the church that ISIS commandeered as a prison.

“Nearly all churches in Mosul were used by ISIS,” Archbishop Mikhael said.

Standing next to a damaged piece of sculpted alabaster representing the Virgin Mary, Ali Salem, from Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, said his team was reviewing many such artefacts to determine which could be repaired and used again.

“As a Muslim I am proud to help rebuild these churches,” Zeyad said, adding that he hoped “we see Christians come back to these places, so that we live together again as we have for centuries.”


Iraq’s PMU says US raid hit Iraqi-Syrian border, warns of ‘dangerous incident'

01 March 2021

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) says the recent US raid against its forces was conducted on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and not on the Syrian soil as claimed.

In a statement released on Sunday, the PMU warned that the US aggression is a harbinger of “dangerous incidents” in the future.

“Given the seriousness of this issue and its implications for the sovereignty, security and stability of our beloved country of Iraq, Hashd al-Sha’abi waited for a while for the full narrative of this attack to be completed, and to be confirmed that our fighters were not deep in Syria, in contrast to the narrative provided by US aggressive forces,” said the PMU, which is known in Iraq as Hashd al-Sha’abi.

It added that the PMU forces had been present at the Iraqi-Syrian border in order to protect the Iraqi soil from acts of terrorism.

The statement came days after the US administration of Joe Biden conducted its first illegal military action on the Iraqi-Syrian border to target the facilities of PMU fighters.

Observers compared Biden’s militaristic approach to that of his hawkish predecessor, Donald Trump. The attack killed one and wounded four others.

“Glory and honor belong to that great martyr of ours and all the martyrs of Iraq who bravely stood against terrorism,” said the PMU, which has been fighting the remnants of Daesh terrorist group.

Nujaba: Resistance forces have justified reasons to attack US targets

A spokesman of al-Nujaba movement, which is part of the PMU, said the Iraqi resistance forces from now will have justified reasons to attack US targets in the country, as a result of the US military’s Thursday attack.

“All previous agreements [with the Iraqi government] have been annulled and the resistance now has the right to set its own goals,” Nasr al-Shammari told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television news network on Sunday.

Al-Shammari explained that while the resistance considered the US embassy in Iraq as the “den of spies”, it had agreed not to target the embassy.

He criticized the Iraqi government for not providing any explanation about the attack, warning that if the government refuses to introduce the mercenary elements who passed on intelligence about the PMU’s position to the US, the resistance will reserve the right to directly take action.

Earlier, al-Nujaba movement warned that the new US crime that targeted the PMU forces would not go unanswered.

In a statement issued after the US assault, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the raid, authorized by Biden, had been “deliberate” and meant to “de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”

Kirby also thanked Baghdad for helping with what he called intelligence input, prompting the Iraqi Defense Ministry to deny any role in the US assault.

Iraqi MP urges government to take US to ICC

Meanwhile, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee has asked the country’s foreign ministry to file a complaint against the US at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The US aggression and repeated attacks on Hashd al-Sha’abi forces have led to international condemnation of the US, and Iraq can launch cases against the US at the international arena,” Mukhtar al-Musawi, who is also a former PMU commander, told al-Maalomah news agency on Sunday.

Al-Musawi said the attack must be followed by a measure by the Iraqi government at the highest level to prevent such illegal acts and also activate the expulsion of the US forces from Iraq.

“There has been no move by the government or a real stance on these violations,” he lamented.

US giving pathway to Daesh to infiltrate Iraq

The spokesman of al-Anbar Province’s nomads said Sunday the US is trying to bring the terrorists from Syria to Iraq.

“A recent US airstrike on Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi facilities at the Iraqi-Syrian border was aimed at opening a pathway for Daesh elements to enter Iraq,” Rabah al-Karbouli told al-Maalomah news agency.

Al-Karbouli also called on the Iraqi government to take a decisive stance with regard to the US assault.

Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its military involvement in Syria, which has been gripped by foreign-backed terrorists since 2011, several terrorist groups such as the infamous Daesh have emerged in the two Arab states.

In reaction to the development, regional resistance forces were unified into groups such as Iraq’s PMU, which has been recognized by the Iraqi parliament as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army.

The resistance groups defeated Daesh in 2017. They have been regularly targeted by the US military since then.





Iran Strongly Rejects Netanyahu’s Allegations


“The occupying regime is the root cause of all insecurities and instabilities, and these projections are fully goal-oriented. The Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman are our immediate area of security and we will not allow them to intimidate others by these statements. The Prime Minister of the Zionist regime is suffering from a mental illness. This regime knows that in our security sphere, our response has been precise and strong,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

“These allegations are being made by the Quds occupying regime, and we not only strongly reject them, but we have also been monitoring all the actions made by the regime in security zone of Iran in the past few months, and we will give a response where it happens,” he added.

Khatibzadeh also strongly dismissed Netanyahu’s allegations that Iran seeks to acquire nuclear weapons, and said, “This morbid obsessive-compulsive disorder of the Israeli Prime Minister towards Iran is nothing new. All this indicates a strange turmoil in the occupied territories and is the result of the adventurous behavior in and outside the occupied territories.”

“The Zionist regime is the root cause of many troubles, insecurities and problems in the West Asian region, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is closely monitoring developments, and these blame-games are only meant to benefit the corrupt Zionist prime minister,” he added.

“Nuclear weapons have never had a place in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s doctrine for various reasons, and unfortunately, it is the West and the US which have turned a blind eye to the stockpiled weapons and nuclear bombs of the Zionist regime,” Khatibzadeh said.

His comments came as new satellite photos showed a clearer view of a secretive nuclear arms factory of the Israeli regime, which is the only possessor of atomic bombs in the Middle East, revealing that the site is undergoing what appears to be the biggest construction project in decades.

According to the AP, a dig about the size of a soccer field now sits only meters from the aging reactor at the Shimon Peres Negev nuclear factory, whose purpose is believed to be the production of nuclear materials for Israel’s nuclear bomb program. The nuclear facility is located near the city of Dimona.

What Tel Aviv "is doing at this secret nuclear weapons plant is something for the Israeli regime to come clean about”, the AP quoted Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, as saying.

Kimball indicated that Israel may want to produce more tritium, a relatively faster-decaying radioactive byproduct used to boost the explosive yield of some nuclear warheads.

It also could want fresh plutonium “to replace or extend the life of warheads already in the Israeli nuclear arsenal”, he added.

Last week, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group of independent nuclear experts from 17 countries, noted it had seen “significant new construction” at the nuclear site through satellite photos.

The construction had “expanded and appears to be actively underway with multiple construction vehicles present”, the IPFM reported, adding, however, that the purpose of the construction was not known.

New satellite images attained by the AP through Planet Labs Inc. provide a clearer view of the site, which shows that in the Southwest of the reactor, workers have dug a hole about 150 meters long and 60 meters wide. Some 2 kilometers West of the reactor, boxes are stacked in two rectangular holes that appear to have concrete bases.

Under its policy of nuclear ambiguity, the Israeli regime neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons. However, the regime is widely believed to be one of only nine nuclear-armed countries in the world.

Israel is among the four regimes that have never joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which aims to stop the spread of nuclear arms.

At the same time, Tel Aviv has repeatedly called for international action against Iran’s nuclear program, which has been consistently verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be of peaceful nature, unlike that of Israel which is not under the IAEA’s inspection.

Jeffrey Lewis, a professor teaching nonproliferation issues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, hinted that Israel could be trying to divert attention from its nuclear activity at Dimona by raising the alarm over Iran’s nuclear program.

“If you’re Israel and you are going to have to undertake a major construction project at Dimona that will draw attention, that’s probably the time that you would scream the most about the Iranians,” Lewis said.


Turkey summons Iran envoy to Ankara in ongoing row over involvement in Iraq

Tuqa Khalid

28 February ,2021

Turkey summoned on Sunday Iran's ambassador to Ankara to demand support in the fight against “terrorism” and protest Tehran’s remarks that Turkey violated Iraq’s sovereignty, state news agency Anadolu reported citing diplomatic sources.

Ankara rejected “the accusations leveled by Iran’s envoy in Baghdad” and stressed that it was fighting the Kurdish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militias in Iraq.

Turkey has launched multiple air strikes targeting PKK bases in northern Iraq including the areas of Kandil and Sinjar.

The PKK, which has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies.

“This was known by all parties, including the Iraqi authorities… Ankara also told [the Iranian envoy] that it expects Iran to support, not oppose, Turkey’s fight against terrorism,” Anadolu reported.

Iran and Turkey are rivals in several parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, but both have carried out operations against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Earlier this month, Turkey accused Kurdish militants of killing 12 Turks and an Iraqi who were being held hostage in northern Iraq,

The incident prompted Iranian envoy to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi to warn that Turkish forces should not "pose a threat or violate Iraqi soil".

"We do not accept at all, be it Turkey or any other country, to intervene in Iraq militarily or advance or have a military presence in Iraq," Masjedi was quoted as saying in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

Turkey's Baghdad envoy Fatih Yildiz quickly hit back, writing on Twitter that Iran's ambassador was "the last person to lecture Turkey" about respecting Iraq's borders.


Iran Stresses Cessation of Hostilities, Respect for Territorial Integrity in Karabakh Region


“The cessation of hostilities, the return of the occupied territories to Azerbaijan and the establishment of transit routes between the countries of the region and the establishment of human communication routes were among the most important axes of Iran’s plan [for Karabakh conflict]”, Araqchi said during the international conference on Karabakh conflict on Monday in the city of Qom.

 "We believe that our good neighborliness with Azerbaijan has created good capacities for broad communication," he said.

The Iranian diplomat also said that Iran has always been against any threat posed to countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The deputy Foreign Minister stated that while the international community, including the Minsk Group, has failed to resolve decades of the territorial dispute between Baku and Yerevan, Iran has a very good capacity in relation to the countries of the region and can help address the issue.

Araqchi said that Iran prepared a plan to resolve the conflict and presented it to the officials of the two countries.

 “The signing of the Khoda-Afarin Dam by Iran and Azerbaijan showed Iran's serious opposition to the Armenian occupation of Karabakh," he further said.

"There was a concern about the presence of Takfiri groups in the region, and the Azeri officials assured us that these groups have no place among the people and officials of Azerbaijan,” Araqchi stated.

The international conference on Karabakh conflict kicked off in the holy city of Qom, Central Iran, on Monday morning. Senior religious and political figures have attended the event, including Head of Iran's Islamic Seminaries Ayatollah Alireza Arafi, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, Secretary of Expediency Council Mohsen Rezayee and Senior Advisor to Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali-Akbar Velayati.

Iranian and international experts will touch upon the event from different aspects, including the humanitarian responsibilities over the issue that have been highlighted in the remarks of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Among other topics mention can be made to the necessity for freedom of the lands belonging to Azerbaijan, ensuring the safety of the Armenians residing in those regions and the need for mutual respect for the territorial integrity of both sides.

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been held by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992, when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

The conflict re-erupted in late September 2020, becoming the worst fighting in the region in decades.

After weeks of fighting in and around Karabakh, the separatist government of the region finally acknowledged in November 2020 that it had lost control of the mountain enclave’s second-largest city of Shusha and that Azerbaijani forces were closing in on the main city of Khankendi, which Armenians call Stepanakert after a Bolshevik militant in the early 20th century.

Armenia and Azerbaijan eventually agreed to end hostilities in early November under a deal that secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan in Karabakh and seven surrounding districts.


Tehran, Baghdad Discuss Transfer of Iran's Frozen Assets


Hemmati and Chalabi conferred on methods of transferring and using Iran's resources and frozen assets in Iraq.

The Iraqi official further referred to recent payments to Tehran from its frozen assets in Iraq, underlining that efforts are made to create financial channels to facilitate the process.

In a relevant development in mid-October, Hemmati announced that the volume of Iran's blocked assets in Iraqi banks stood at five billion dollars.

"Tens of billions of dollars of our assets are frozen in foreign banks and even countries that have good relations with Iran cannot cooperate with us due to the US pressure," he said at the time on the sideline of the Cabinet meeting.'s-Frzen-Asses


Attacks on Saudi targets to continue until aggression stops: Yemen’s Ansarullah

28 February 2021

A senior official of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement says attacks on Saudi targets will continue until the years-long Saudi war and siege come to an end.

In an interview with Lebanon-based and Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network on Sunday, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of Yemen's Supreme Political Council, made the remarks, saying the new US administration asks Yemenis to halt their attacks while it does not ask the Saudi invaders to lift the crippling siege imposed on Yemen.

“We call on Saudis to keep away from Saudi military bases and we have the right to target them,” he said, adding that Yemen’s operations against Saudi targets would continue until the cessation of the aggression and the removal of the siege, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported.

He stressed that Yemenis were ready to discuss a political solution to the conflict after the end of the aggression and the crippling siege. “The blockade on Yemen is more dangerous than direct military aggression.”

Bukhaiti also said that Riyadh had already realized that it could not eliminate Yemen’s missile defense capabilities.  

He went on to say that Yemen’s military operation deep in Saudi territory was different from previous operations. “In the latest missile operation, important targets were hit with precision.”

Earlier in the day, Armed Forces’ spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree said that a Yemeni ballistic missile and as many as nine combat drones targeted “sensitive” spots in the Saudi capital.

The latest operation was codenamed “the 5th Operation of Balanced Deterrence,” which began on Saturday and lasted until early Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 to bring Hadi back to power and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The popular movement, backed by the Yemeni armed forces and allied popular groups, has gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and successfully defended Yemen, leaving Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the county.

At least 80 percent of the population of 28 million is reliant on aid to survive in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this month, the UN agencies warned that about 400,000 Yemeni children aged under five are in danger of losing life this year due to acute malnutrition.

The war has destroyed or closed half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics, leaving the people helpless particularly at a time when they are in desperate need of medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.


Israeli forces severally beat up, detain Palestinian teenager over alleged stabbing attack

28 February 2021

Israeli forces have severally beaten up and arrested a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank after claiming he attempted to stab an Israeli settler.

The15-year-old boy, identified as Majd Baida, was detained on Sunday in the village of Jayyus, close to Qalqilya city in the occupied West Bank, Palestine’s official Wafa news agency reported, citing local sources.

The Israeli occupation forces claimed that the unidentified youth tried to stab an Israeli settler who was waiting at a bus stop near the illegal settlement and fled the scene, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

The Hebrew-language Maariv daily quoted a military source as saying that the regime forces chased the young man and detained him in the village of Salem near the occupied northern West Bank city of Jenin.

Every year, between 500 and 700 Palestinian children aged between 12-17 are arrested and tried in Israeli military courts, the Defense for Children International says.

Nearly three out of four Palestinian children detained by the Israeli forces experience some form of physical violence, according to documentation collected by the NGO.

Israel holds more than 7,000 Palestinians in its jails. Most of the prisoners are being held without any charge, indictment or trial, under a controversial policy known as "administrative detention."

Many Palestinians have sustained injuries or lost their lives in similar incidents due to allegations that they attempted stabbing or car-ramming attacks.

Israeli troops have on numerous occasions been caught on camera brutally killing Palestinians, with the videos going viral online and sparking international condemnation.

Tel Aviv has been criticized for its extensive use of lethal force and extrajudicial killing of Palestinians who do not pose an immediate threat to the occupation forces or to the Israeli illegal settlers.

Israel has built more than 230 illegal settlements on the occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 that have come to house some 600,000 settlers.

According to B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, Israel has clearly allowed its settlers to assault Palestinians for years and inflict damage on their property as one of its policies.

This has included provision of military protection for the attackers, and in some cases soldiers’ active participation in the assault.


Israel’s Gantz held secret meeting with Jordanian monarch: Report

28 February 2021

Israel's minister of military affairs Benny Gantz and Jordanian King Abdullah II held a secret meeting in Jordan on Friday, an Israeli report says.

Ynet news website reported on Sunday that the meeting between Gantz and the monarch took place on Jordanian soil.

On Friday, Gantz hinted at his contacts with Jordanian officials, and criticized prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneasy relationship with the Arab country.

“I think Jordan is a great asset to Israel, and I think that our relationship with Jordan could be 1,000 times better. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is an unwanted figure in Jordan, and his presence harms” relations between Tel Aviv and Amman, Gantz said.

“I have a continuous and ongoing connection with the Jordanian king and other senior Jordanian officials, and I know we can have great achievements,” he said.

Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi has also reportedly met at least twice with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in recent months.

Jordan and Israel share strong security ties, but political relations have soured recently over the Israeli regime’s policies toward Jerusalem al-Quds, because King Abdullah's Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the city.

Last May, Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned Britain and the United States against the “unprecedented danger” posed by the Israeli scheme to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley.

Back in October 2019, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv for consultation to protest against Israel’s months-long detention of two citizens for unknown reasons.

The two Jordanians were freed and transferred to Jordan later that month. They were held after entering the occupied West Bank in August and September 2019.

Until recently, Jordan was one of only two Arab states with a peace accord with Israel.

Many Jordanians, however, are opposed to normalized ties with Israel and have called on the government to scrap the peace treaty. Many citizens in Jordan are of Palestinian origin.





59 Algerian pro-democracy activists released from jail: Justice ministry

28 February ,2021

Algerian authorities have released a total of 59 pro-democracy activists from jail under presidential pardons issued earlier this month, the justice ministry said on Saturday.

The Hirak protest movement, which swept strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019, marked its second anniversary on Monday, with thousands marching in the capital Algiers and other cities.

The movement has gathered momentum in recent days after a year-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, thousands of anti-government protesters were back on the streets across Algeria. Rights groups said 700 were detained but later released.

On the eve of the Hirak’s anniversary, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced he would pardon dozens of detainees held over acts linked to “the use of social media networks.”

In line with that decision, “the number of detainees released following the completion of legal procedures had by Thursday reached 59,” the justice ministry said on Saturday.

Among those pardoned was prominent journalist Khaled Drareni, a correspondent for French-language TV5 and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

He was jailed for his coverage of the Hirak protests and, like many other detainees, was accused of incitement.

Following his release, he told AFP: “I hope that my time in prison will contribute to strengthening press freedom in Algeria and making it a sacred, untouchable freedom.”

Tebboune, who was elected in December 2019 on a very low turnout in a poll boycotted by the protest movement, has made several bids to head off renewed anti-government rallies.

Announcing the pardons on February 18, he has also signed a decree dissolving parliament to clear the way for early elections and said there would be a limited government reshuffle.


Libya speaker Aguila Saleh flags March 8 for government confidence vote

27 February ,2021

The Libyan parliament will discuss holding a vote of confidence on a new unified government for the divided country on March 8, its powerful speaker Aguila Saleh said.

Oil-rich Libya has been mired in chaos since dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a popular uprising backed by a NATO air campaign a decade ago.

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The Government of National Accord (GNA) is based in Tripoli, while General Khalifa Haftar supports a parallel administration based in the east.

“Parliament will convene to discuss a vote of confidence on the government on Monday, March 8, at 11 am in Sirte if the 5+5 Joint Military Commission guarantees the security of the meeting,” Saleh said in a statement late Friday, referring to a city halfway between east and west.

The military commission is a forum bringing together five representatives from each side.

“If that proves impossible, the session will be held in the temporary seat of parliament in Tobruk at the same date and time,” he said, adding that the military committee would need to advise the parliament in advance.

It was unclear whether the vote itself would take place on March 8 or whether the meeting would be limited to talks.

Interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah on Thursday said he faced a Friday deadline to form his government according to a UN road map.

He said he had submitted to Saleh a “vision” for a cabinet line-up that would help steer Libya to elections in December, and that the names of proposed ministers would be disclosed in parliament during the confidence vote.

Parliament has 21 days to vote on the line-up, according to the road map.

Dbeibah was selected early this month in a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue, the latest internationally-backed bid to salvage the country from a decade of conflict and fragmented political fiefdoms.

Saleh said Friday that Dbeibah should choose “competent people with integrity, from across the country, in order to achieve (national) consensus” for his government.

“Everyone should be represented so that (Libya) can emerge from the tunnel,” Saleh said.

If approved, a new cabinet would replace the Tripoli-based GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and the parallel administration in the east.

The premier will then face the giant task of unifying Libya’s proliferating institutions and leading the transition up to December 24 polls.


9 al-Shabaab terrorists dead in SW Somalia

Mohammed Dhaysane  



At least nine al-Shabaab terrorists were killed in Somalia Sunday when the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group mounted an attack Sunday morning on an army base in the country's southwest.

Mohamed Mukhtar, the district deputy commissioner in the town of Qasahdhere in the Bay region, told local media that the army, backed by Ethiopian forces serving under the African Union peacekeeping mission forces in the Horn of Africa country (AMISOM) killed at least nine terrorists during the attack.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency over the phone, Qasahdhere district commissioner Abdirisaq Abdi Ibrahim said his administration, along with the regional paramilitary forces and AMISOM were aware that the attack was coming and ambushed the terrorists.

"We received intelligence about the imminent attack and our forces managed to repulse the attack," Ibrahim said.

He added that more than 11 terrorist fighters were also wounded in the attack and their weapons seized.

Qasahdhere is an agriculture town located some 346 kilometers (214 miles) southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu and 90 km west of Baidoa, Bay’s capital.



North America


US says ready to reengage in ‘meaningful diplomacy’ with Iran

01 March 2021

The United States says it is disappointed that Iran has ruled out an informal meeting on the 2015 nuclear deal, but it remains ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy on the issue.

In comments on Sunday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the present juncture is not a suitable time for holding an unofficial meeting with European Union and American officials on the landmark nuclear deal that Iran clinched with world powers in 2015, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A few hours later, a White House spokeswoman said, “While we are disappointed at Iran’s response, we remain ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments.”

She said Washington would be consulting with its P5+1 partners, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom – plus Germany, on the best way forward.

The remarks followed an earlier report by The Wall Street Journal, which quoted senior diplomats as saying that Iran has rejected a European Union offer to arrange direct nuclear talks with the US.

According to The Wall Street Journal, two senior Western diplomats said Iran has ruled out attending a meeting in Europe for now, saying it wanted a guarantee first that the US would lift some sanctions after the meeting.

‘Biden admin must consider good faith actions’

Kelsey Davenport, the Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, says delaying the talks increases the risk of the JCPOA collapsing.

“Both the US and Iran need to show restraint in the coming weeks to preserve the chance for diplomacy,” she tweeted on Sunday.

“The Biden administration should also consider good faith actions, such as waivers for nuclear cooperation activities,” she added.

“This would keep JCPOA required projects on track, provide civil nuclear benefits to Iran, help facilitate a future return to compliance, benefit US non-proliferation interests, and send a signal of US good faith toward restoring the deal,” Davenport said.

However, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh says the “implementation of commitments by all parties [to the JCPOA] is not a matter of negotiation and give-and-take, because all options for give-and-take were exhausted five years ago.”

“The way forward is quite clear. The US must end its illegal and unilateral sanctions and return to its JCPOA commitments. This issue neither needs negotiation, nor a resolution by the Board of Governors [of the International Atomic Energy Agency],” he added in his Sunday comments.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to actions with action and just in the same way that it will return to its JCPOA commitments as sanctions are removed, it will also answer in kind to all hostile measures and behaviors,” he emphasized.

Back in May 2018, former US President Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the JCPOA, calling it the “worst deal ever”, and vowing to press Tehran into negotiating a new deal through a “maximum pressure” campaign that included tough economic sanctions and military provocations.

Tehran, which has verifiably asserted that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, adopted what it called the “maximum resistance” policy and successfully weathered the US pressure, while pushing the other parties to the deal to honor their commitments and stand up to US bullying.

Iran maintains that the three European parties to the deal, also known as the E3, have paid only lip service to Tehran’s calls to safeguard its interests against the United States’ illegal sanctions.


US disappointed by Iran's latest move on nuclear deal, remains ready to re-engage: WH

Tuqa Khalid

01 March ,2021

The United States is disappointed that Iran said the time was not “suitable” for an informal meeting on reviving the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal, but remained “ready to re-engage” in meaningful diplomacy, a White House spokeswoman said.

“While we are disappointed at Iran’s response, we remain ready to reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments,” the spokeswoman said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal.

She added that Washington would be consulting with its P5+1 partners, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, United Kingdom - plus Germany on the best way forward.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier on Sunday: “Considering the recent positions and actions of the United States and the three European countries, [Iran] does not consider the time suitable to hold the informal meeting proposed by the European coordinator [of the deal].”


Washington and Tehran are locked in a standoff over reviving nuclear talks.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled to Iran its willingness to return to talks to revive the nuclear deal Former President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Biden reversed Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored. And the State Department eased stringent restrictions on the domestic travel of Iranian diplomats in New York.

Yet, Tehran demanded that all Trump-era sanctions on Iran be lifted before taking any real action to return to the deal.

"There has still been no change in US positions and behaviour yet," Khatibzadeh added, saying the Biden administration has continued "Trump's failed policy of maximum pressure".

The Iranian regime is trying to get more concessions from Washington before taking any real action, especially in light of growing pressure at home due to economic hardship worsened by the US sanctions.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week Iran might enrich uranium up to 60 percent purity if needed, while repeating a denial of any Iranian intent to seek nuclear weapons, for which 90 percent enrichment would be required.

The UN's atomic watchdog IAEA reported last week that Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium was more than 14 times over the limit set down in its 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran also restricted site inspections by the IAEA after a US refusal to lift existing sanctions, a step Britain, France and Germany condemned as “dangerous.”

Biden's administration said it had no plans to take additional steps on Iran before diplomatic conversation, all the while facing mounting pressure from Republican lawmakers to not "give up leverage" and "appease" Tehran by lifting sanctions.


Diplomat says US report on Khashoggi murder is ‘manipulation’ for ‘political gain’

01 March ,2021

The latest report released by the Biden Administration on the murder of late journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “manipulation of intelligence for political gain,” according to former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.

“There is nothing new in the repackaged Khashoggi report released by the Biden team. It was a gratuitous repackaging of intel and therefore a manipulation of intelligence for political gain,” Grenell said in a tweet on Monday.

The report declassified by US President Joe Biden alleged that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 operation that led to the murder of Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate, allegations that Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry denied following the report’s publication.

Saudi Arabia’s government last week released a statement saying it completely rejects the negative, false, and unacceptable assessment made by the US.

“The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions,” the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Khashoggi was murdered on October 20, 2018, after a fistfight broke out at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor had said at the time. He was visiting the consulate to complete paperwork related to his divorce.

At the time, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested 18 Saudis for investigation in connection with events surrounding Khashoggi’s murder.

The Crown Prince told CBS “60 Minutes” in 2019 that he takes “full responsibility” for the grisly murder of Khashoggi but denied allegations that he ordered it.

“When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials, working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future,” he said at the time.


US condemns Yemen’s Houthis ‘egregious’ attack on Saudi Arabia

Tuqa Khalid

01 March ,2021

The United States condemned the latest attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militias, stressing its commitment to the “longstanding partnership” with the Kingdom, the State Department said on Sunday.

“The United States strongly condemns the Houthis’ attacks on population centers in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, February 27. These attacks threaten not only innocent civilians but also prospects for peace and stability in Yemen,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“We call on the Houthis to end these egregious… The United States remains committed to its longstanding partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups,” he added.

The Arab Coalition said on Saturday it intercepted a ballistic missile that targeted the Saudi Capital Riyadh launched by the Houthis.

Fragments of the missile scattered over several Riyadh neighborhoods, damaging at least one home but no casualties were reported, Saudi's state-run al-Ekhbariya television said.

Separately, the coalition said it had intercepted six Houthi drones targeting the Kingdom, including the southern cities of Khamis Mushait and Jizan.

US President Joe Biden’s administration revoked a terrorist designation of the Houthis introduced by former President Donald Trump in January.

Saudi Arabia maintained that it will continue to treat the Houthis as a terrorist organization regardless of whether the United States decided to designate the group as such, according to the Kingdom's permanent representative to the UN.

Biden also announced in February ending US support for the offensive operations of the Arab Coalition which intervened in Yemen 2015.

The Arab Coalition supports the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against the Houthis.

Yemen’s Houthis have recently escalated aerial attacks on civilian areas in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh said a Houthi drone attack caused a fire in a civilian aircraft at an airport in Abha last week.


Three names mysteriously rubbed from US report on Khashoggi murder

01 March 2021

The US intelligence community has replaced its long-awaited report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi with another version that saw the names of three men it had initially identified as complicit removed.

CNN reported on Monday that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) switched the report several hours after it was published on Friday afternoon.

The first link to the report that was sent out by ODNI stopped working and was replaced with a second version, whose file name on the ODNI website includes "v2", that removed three of the men it had just announced had "participated in, ordered, or were otherwise complicit in or responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi".

CNN said the change went largely unnoticed amid outrage over the failure of Joe Biden's administration to impose sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the report confirmed that he had directly approved the assassination.

Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic, was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to collect documents for his planned wedding to his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi was killed and his body was cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate.

The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November the same year that the CIA had concluded that bin Salman had personally ordered the murder.

During his election campaign, Biden pledged to treat Riyadh as a “pariah”.

The ODNI declined to clarify why the names were originally inscribed on the list and what roles, if any, they may have had in the crime.

"We put a revised document on the website because the original one erroneously contained three names which should not have been included," an ODNI spokesperson told CNN.

A top administration official had argued on Friday afternoon before the change was noticed that the report contained no new information.

"This [is] information that has been known to the US government and briefed to select committees and members of Congress over one year ago," the official said.

Yet three of the names that ODNI had first listed had not previously been mentioned in reports on Khashoggi's killing.

The three names that disappeared are Yasir Khalid Alsalem, Ibrahim al-Salim and Abdulla Mohammed Alhoeriny.

CNN cited a person familiar with the inner workings of Saudi intelligence as saying that Alhoeriny is the brother of General Abdulaziz bin Mohammed al-Howraini, a minister who is in charge of the powerful Presidency of State Security which oversees multiple intelligence and counterterrorism agencies. Abdulla appears in Saudi reports as the assistant chief of state security for counterterrorism.

A House Intelligence Committee official said ODNI has been asked for clarification of the discrepancy between the two lists of names.

The revised report concludes with a list of 18 names who US intelligence has "high confidence" were involved in the brutal murder.

The 18 have also been sanctioned by the US for Khashoggi's murder.

Washington, however, cited national interests to justify why Biden has let bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, off the hook.

The report assessed that “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.

Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, said in a statement posted on her official Twitter account on Monday, “It is essential that the Crown Prince, who ordered the brutal murder of a blameless and innocent person, be punished without delay."


US has never been asked to be in Syria, says analyst

28 February 2021

A political analyst notes that the United States has never been asked to have a presence in war-ravaged Syria.

Myles Hoenig made the comments in an interview with Press TV on Saturday after the US flagrant aggression against Syria under the administration of President Joe Biden.

“The latest Biden attack on Iraqi forces in Syria just shows that foreign policy in the United States is fairly consistent, regardless of who is the commander-in-chief or what party is in office. As an imperialist power with an exceptionalist complex, it feels it can do whatever it wants to do, whenever, and wherever,” he said.

Biden’s first military engagement since taking office could determine the strategy the administration has adopted in dealing with US nemeses.

“He has always been a warmonger and this was his opportunity to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats, knowing full well that he would have most of their backings,” said the political commentator.

A US-led military coalition has been active inside Syria under the pretext of fighting Daesh since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The US military strikes in the Arab country have on many occasions resulted in civilian casualties and failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism.

The Syrian ministry emphasized that this act of aggression contradicts the supposed role of the US, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which is tasked with safeguarding global peace and security.

“The US has never been asked to be there to fight Daesh. That has been left to Iran, Iraq and Russia. Claiming self-defense is patently ridiculous.”



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