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Islamic World News ( 20 Aug 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Ayodhya Mosque Won’t Be Named After A Ruler, Says Sunni Waqf Board Trust, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 August 2020

 Land decided by government for Mosque at Raunahi village of Ayodhya. (Express photo/File)


• Pakistan On Lookout for New Separatist Voice to Lead The Hurriyat Conference

• China Wants Pakistan To Lead Muslim World as The Only Muslim Nuclear-Armed State

• Almost Half of The Afghan Population Is in Need of Humanitarian Aids

• UAE-Israel Accord: Saudi Arabia Committed to Arab Peace Plan, Says Foreign Minister

• Iranian Jewish MP: UAE, Israel Turned into Trump’s Election Campaign Headquarters

• Man Causes Motorway Accidents in Berlin In 'Islamist' Act: Prosecutors

• ‘Libya At Risk of More Disastrous Blast Than One in Beirut’

• Biden Denounces Anti-Israel Activist, Rejects Her Endorsement At DNC



• Ayodhya Mosque Won’t Be Named After A Ruler, Says Sunni Waqf Board Trust, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation

• Sheikh Hasina Pushes for Infra Projects and Makes A Promise That Dhaka Will Not Be Party to • Anything Inimical to New Delhi’s Interests

• 'It Marked End of Conflict Between Hindus, Muslims': Aligarh BJP Leaders, Ruby Asif Khan & Nargis Mehboob Ali

• Lashkar commander among 3 ultras slain in twin J&K encounter



• Pakistan On Lookout for New Separatist Voice to Lead The Hurriyat Conference

• PM Khan: Pakistan can’t recognize Israel until Palestine gets its rights, state

• Pakistan's PM Khan plays down differences with ally Saudi Arabia

• Coordination body formed for Karachi betterment

• US envoy lauds Pakistan role for regional peace

• Palestine envoy challenges seizure of his vehicle in IHC


Southeast Asia

• China Wants Pakistan To Lead Muslim World as The Only Muslim Nuclear-Armed State

• Indonesia's Muslim clerics decry Israel-UAE deal

• PM Muhyiddin: Spirit Of Maal Hijrah Gives Malaysian Muslims Strength To Face Covid-19

• King, Queen attend Maal Hijrah celebration at National Mosque

• Mujahid: Azeez, Umno stoking racial hatred by implicating Guan Eng as ‘culprit’ who destroyed Tabung Haji


South Asia

• Almost Half of The Afghan Population Is in Need of Humanitarian Aids

• Ghani: With the release of Taliban prisoners, a wave of narcotics may enter Britain

• The Illusion of Inclusivity in Afghan Peace Process

• Taliban Attack in Takhar Killed 14 Afghan Security Forces


Arab world

• UAE-Israel Accord: Saudi Arabia Committed to Arab Peace Plan, Says Foreign Minister

• After UAE-Israel deal, is Bahrain the next Arab state to move toward peace?

• Saudi Arabia issues desperate call for extension of anti-Iran UN arms ban

• Hezbollah shipped explosive chemicals to Lebanon prior to Beirut blast: Reports

• Kenyan domestic worker abandoned in Beirut with belongings in garbage bag

• Number one issue in Iraq is the question of pro-Iran militias: Expert

• Unknown gunmen assassinate Iraqi activist Reham Yacoub in central Basra

• Security fears in Lebanon after reports of Turkish weapons shipments

• US announces new aid to Iraq, but warns that ‘armed groups’ must be controlled



• Iranian Jewish MP: UAE, Israel Turned into Trump’s Election Campaign Headquarters

• Iran’s Mehr agency accused slain Iraq activist Reham Yacoub of working for US

• Iran upholds prison sentences of five Christians

• Israel likely won’t stamp passports of UAE tourists: Israeli foreign ministry

• Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip for 8th consecutive night



• Man Causes Motorway Accidents in Berlin In 'Islamist' Act: Prosecutors

• ‘East Mediterranean to decide future of EU-Turkey ties’

• Turkey issues report on Turkish minority in Greece



• ‘Libya At Risk of More Disastrous Blast Than One in Beirut’

• At least 45 migrants killed after boat capsizes off Libya coast: UN

• UN chief demands immediate release of Mali’s president

• African Union condemns ‘unconstitutional change’ in Mali

• 45 African migrants killed off Libya in worst shipwreck of year

• Militants take hundreds hostage in northeastern Nigeria

• UN Security Council slams Mali 'mutiny,' urges dialogue

• African Union suspends Mali's membership after coup

• Libyan official agrees to meet pro-Haftar leader in Morocco

• Nigeria: 12 civilians reported killed in volatile town


North America

• Biden Denounces Anti-Israel Activist, Rejects Her Endorsement At DNC

• Trump says US to invoke snapback of UN's Iran sanctions

• US senators warn Trump of Saudi covert nuclear program

• US charges two citizens, one Pakistani with moving US currency to Iran, Khamenei

• US to impose UN sanctions ‘snapback’ on Iran: Trump

• US sanctions 3 accused of aiding Iran's Mahan Air

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Ayodhya Mosque Won’t Be Named After A Ruler, Says Sunni Waqf Board Trust, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation

by Avaneesh Mishra

August 20, 2020


Land decided by government for Mosque at Raunahi village of Ayodhya. (Express photo/File)


 TWO DAYS after the district administration in Ayodhya handed over the five-acre plot allotted for the mosque and started the demarcation process, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation Trust formed by the Sunni Waqf Board for construction of the mosque and developing other public facilities in Dhannipur village confirmed on Wednesday that even as a name for the mosque is yet to be agreed upon, it was decided that the “mosque would not be named after [Mughal emperor] Babar or any other king, emperor or ruler.”

On Monday, the Ayodhya district administration started the demarcation of the land for the proposed mosque. With the recent developments, the Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation trust is opening two bank accounts to start collecting money for construction purposes.

Secretary and spokesperson of the trust, Athar Husain, said mutation of the land was done on August 2 and they would get the physical possession once the demarcation was done from all the sides. He added that the demarcation process was under way and it needs to be clarified that the local administration is demarking their land as the five-acre plot is part of a larger state farm that is around 25 acres.

On the proposed name of the mosque, he said so far nothing was decided although there are reports in sections of the media is that the mosque may be called Dhannipur mosque, that was his “personal suggestion.”


Pakistan On Lookout for New Separatist Voice to Lead The Hurriyat Conference

Harinder Baweja

Aug 20, 2020


SAS Geelani, former chairman Hurriyat Conference, at a protest in Srinagar in 2016. (Reuters Archives)


Pakistan is looking hard to find a new separatist voice to lead the Hurriyat Conference, multiple government and security officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The separatist body, first formed in 1993, has played an important part in Kashmir but has been largely defunct since the state’s special status was changed last year on August 5.

“The deep state in Pakistan is looking for younger leaders and has been trying to persuade those who have been a part of militant organizations, including the more battle-hardened groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba,’’ a home ministry official said.

There has been no direction from the Hurriyat leaders to the general masses -- diktats were common before that -- in the past year.

In a surprise move, 91-year-old SAS Geelani who was the separatist group’s “chairman for life” resigned from the faction of the Hurriyat he headed. The parallel body, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been silent for nearly a year.

“Pakistan is looking for fresh faces to take charge and channelize the anger and resentment over the government’s decision to strip the state of its special status, once guaranteed under Article 370,” said another official, adding that “the changes in the domicile law has also led to a lot of disquiet.”

On August 5 last year, the Rajya Sabha passed laws and resolutions effectively abrogating Article 370 and splitting Jammu & Kashmir into two Union territories. The Lok Sabha passed these the following day.

In March this year, the government enacted an executive order where it expanded the definition of domicile to include non-locals who have been living in Jammu & Kashmir for 15 years and the children of Central government employees who have worked in the region for 10 years.

The Hurriyat was at the forefront of several agitations in the past and both Geelani and the faction led by the Mirwaiz were instrumental in issuing protest calendars.

Most separatist leaders were placed under house arrest ahead of the Centre’s move to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories and have not been able to organise protests.

The Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq broke its silence after almost a year, when in July, it held a meeting and called for the Kashmir problem to be resolved through dialogue between India, Pakistan and the people of J&K.

The meeting was held a few days after Geelani resigned and accused his colleagues of inaction and corruption. Soon after the meeting, a statement was issued in which the Mirwaiz faction vowed to work towards “the peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict.”

In his resignation letter, Geelani accused his colleagues of having failed to evolve a strategy to counter the reading down of Article 370.

Many in the Hurriyat are also being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

“Pakistan is now trying its best to create a new team,” said the first official quoted above. Pakistan has provided a base to several terror groups operating in Kashmir and India has maintained that its neighbour exports terror and foments trouble in the Valley.

To mark the first anniversary of the reading down of Article 370, Pakistani Prime Minister released a new, “political map” in which it identified Kashmir as a “disputed territory.”


China Wants Pakistan To Lead Muslim World as The Only Muslim Nuclear-Armed State

August 20, 2020


China has risen to the support of Pakistan and wants the country to lead the Islamic world as the only Muslim nuclear-armed state


ISLAMABAD: China has risen to the support of Pakistan and wants the country to lead the Islamic world as the only Muslim nuclear-armed state, foreign media reported. China seems to be an active force behind shifting of alliances. Beijing is close to finalising a massive 25-year strategic partnership deal with Tehran worth $400 billion in Chinese investment in Iran. China has the opportunity to make inroads in the Muslim world and to expand its influence.

Earlier, under pressure from a Gulf country, Pakistan had pulled out of an international summit of Muslim leaders held in Malaysia. The summit was hosted by Malaysia’s then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur and attended by dozens of world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss current issues in the Muslim world.


Almost Half Of The Afghan Population Is In Need Of Humanitarian Aids

20 Aug 2020


The total number of people in dire need of support becomes 16 million people which forms nearly half of the country's population living under harsh conditions.


UN statistics in the initial months of 2020 showed that 12 million people in Afghanistan were in need of humanitarian aids.

World Food Program announced on Wednesday that in addition to a population of 12 million who were previously announced as humanitarian aid beneficiaries, another 4 million have recently been badly affected by the COVID-19.

The total number of people in dire need of support becomes 16 million people which forms nearly half of the country’s population living under harsh conditions.

WFP specifically called upon oppositions to support the humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan by not obstructing humanitarian activities.

One third of the country may face food shortages in the upcoming times that will negatively affect the livelihood of the public.

Adding to the report, “Current nutrition survey shows that an estimated 2 million children under the age of 5 will suffer life-threatening contour of hunger.”


UAE-Israel accord: Saudi Arabia committed to Arab Peace Plan, says foreign minister

19 August 2020

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that the Kingdom is committed to peace on the basis of the Arab Peace Plan, in the first official comments since the United Arab Emirates reached a normalization deal with Israel.

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also said in an event in Berlin that Israel’s unilateral moves with regards to settlements are hindering the chances for peace, Saudi state TV reported on Wednesday.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told reporters on Wednesday that “peace must be achieved with the Palestinians” on the basis of international agreements as a condition for any normalization of relations with Israel.

“Once that is achieved all things are possible,” he said.


Iranian Jewish MP: UAE, Israel Turned into Trump’s Election Campaign Headquarters

Aug 19, 2020

“The Jewish community of Iran condemns the normalization deal between the UAE and the hated Zionist regime and declares that this worn-out and ridiculous theater will not help the collapsing Zionist and UAE regimes,” Sameh Yah said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The treacherous scenario is merely a propaganda show to serve the two regimes’ master, Trump, to win the US presidential election as if the two regimes have practically turned into Trump’s headquarters for presidential campaign,” he added.

Sameh Yah said that another goal pursued by the deal is implementation of the Deal of the Century plot, sponsored by Trump.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Jewish community in a statement deplored the recent normalization deal between the UAE and Israel, warning Abu Dhabi that the betrayal will yield no result but disgrace for them.

“The Jewish community of Iran condemns the UAE's shameful agreement to normalize ties with the fake and devil Zionist regime, mediated by the Great Satan (the US), and declares that this betrayal by the ignorant people who are nothing more than milking cows, as said by their masters, will double pressure and oppression on the oppressed people and will yield nothing but disgrace for the conspirators,” the statement said.

It added that the move will further make the freedom-seekers in the world to strengthen struggle against the Zionist regime and defense for the Palestinian people’s rights.

In relevant remarks on Saturday, another Iranian Jewish MP Siamak Mareh Sedq underlined failure of the recent agreement between the UAE and Israel to normalize relations.

“The Persian Gulf Sheikhdoms are after confrontation against Iran’s national interests and the resistance front and therefore, they have stretched their hand towards the main enemy of the resistance front and Iran’s national interests,” Mareh Sedq told FNA.

“Similar to the suppression of the resistance in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon the move started by the Persian Gulf littoral Sheikhdoms will fail,” he added.

Trump on Thursday announced a deal brokered by his government between Isreal and the UAE which he said would lead to full normalization of ties between the two.

Critics see the deal as the latest attempt by Trump to save his presidential campaign against the Democrat Joe Biden.

Palestinians have reacted with shock and dismay after Trump unveiled an agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize ties.

The deal pledges full normalisation of relationships between the two countries in the areas of security, tourism, technology and trade in return for suspending Israel's annexation plans in the West Bank.

Both the Palestinian leadership and public were caught by surprise when the announcement came on Thursday.

"We absolutely had no prior knowledge of this agreement," Ahmed Majdalani, the Palestinian Authority's (PA) minister of social affairs, told Al-Jazeera, adding, "The timing and speed of reaching this agreement were surprising, especially that it came at a critical moment in the Palestinian struggle."

Former PA minister Munib al-Masri noted Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who ruled Abu Dhabi for more than 30 years before his death in 2004, had always been a strong supporter of the Palestinians.

"The late Sheikh Zayed was a dear brother to me, I knew how much he was proud of his support for Palestine… I never imagined that in my lifetime I would see the day in which the UAE would simply sell the Palestinians out for the sake of normalisation," al-Masri said, noting, "It's very shameful. I can't believe it until now."

Other Palestinian officials announced though the news came abruptly, it was not much of a surprise.

"We were not surprised that much because the Emirati army was never on the borders ready to fight Israel," said Mustafa al-Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative and member of the PA parliament.

"We've been seeing recent strange moves by the UAE such as sending direct flights to Israel, and there were leaks of secret accords between the two in terms of scientific and economic cooperation. It is clear that these were preliminary steps to absorb yesterday's shock," he added.

The PA and all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, issued official statements denouncing the UAE-Israel agreement. Palestinian leaders who spoke to Al-Jazeera called it a "stab in the back".

"We already knew that there has been normalisation going under the table, but to formalise and legalise it that way at this critical moment is shocking. It's a stab in our back and the back of all Arab nations," stated Majida al-Masri, former PA minister of social affairs.

Al-Barghouti emphasised the deal "doesn't introduce any change or progress, it's far from being genuine peace".

"This is an attempt to enforce the 'Deal of the Century' that aims to liquidate Palestinian national rights, it represents a denial of Palestinian, Arab and Islamic rights," he continued.

Palestinian leaders stated the deal was "a free gift to Israel" and was made to help the re-election of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The UAE's position, in terms of its timing and essence, can only be understood as giving Israel leverage for free," said Wasel Abu Yousef, member of the PLO's Executive Committee and leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, adding, "There's no reasonable justification for it except that it gives more power to the occupation and increases its crimes against the Palestinians."


Man causes motorway accidents in Berlin in 'Islamist' act: prosecutors

19 Aug 2020

BERLIN: A man has caused a series of motorway accidents in Berlin, injuring six people including three seriously in what German prosecutors on Wednesday (Aug 19) described as an Islamist act.

The man appears to have had an "Islamist motivation according to our current knowledge", prosecutors told AFP.

Local media reported that the man was a 30-year-old Iraqi who had shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) when getting out of his car after hitting several vehicles around 6.30pm (1630GMT) on Tuesday.

Berlin police said the man caused three accidents on the Autobahn 100 in the city's Tempelhof-Schoeneberg district before claiming that a box in his car contained a "dangerous object".

However, when police opened the box using high-pressure water jets it was found to contain nothing but tools.

The driver was arrested and the motorway closed for several hours, causing significant travel disruption.

"Nobody come any closer or you will all die," the Bild daily quoted the suspect as saying after he stopped his car and placed the metal box on the roof of his vehicle, a black Opel Astra.

German media reported that a motorcycle driver was among those injured.

People with ties to Muslim extremism have committed several violent attacks in Germany in recent years.

The worst was a ramming attack at a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016 that killed 12. The Tunisian attacker, a failed asylum seeker, was a supporter of the Islamic State militant group.

More recently, a Muslim man and his wife were convicted of planning a biological bomb attack in Germany in 2018 with the deadly poison ricin.

The pair had ordered castor seeds, explosives and metal ball bearings on the internet to build the toxic bomb.

The man was in March sentenced to 10 years in prison while his wife received an eight-year sentence in June.

Since 2013, the number of Muslim militants considered dangerous in Germany has increased fivefold to 680, according to security services.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has often been accused, particularly by the far right, of having contributed to the threat by opening the country's borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants in 2015.


‘Libya at risk of more disastrous blast than one in Beirut’


The chairman of National Oil Corporation (NOC) has warned in a video that a disastrous explosion worse than the one in Beirut earlier this month is looming at Libya’s Brega port.

According to Mustafa Sanallah, 25,000 tons of ammonia gas is stored at the port, located 750 kilometers (466 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, which 20 days ago witnessed the use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) in clashes between two factions of forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Considering that the gas can explode if exposed to intense heat, Sanallah believes that the port is under high risk of a calamitous explosion.

“It is very likely that the Beirut explosion will be repeated at Brega, Ras Lanuf and Sidra [ports],” cautioned Sanallah, adding the larger quantities of explosive material compared to the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that were stored in Beirut port could create a more catastrophic blast.

The port, which is under Haftar’s control, has been closed since January this year.

The assumption by Sanallah is that if the ignition of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut port caused an explosion that killed more than 170 people and injured more than 6,000 others as well as causing billions of dollars in property losses, the situation in Libya could be much worse.

Sanallah noted that a previous leakage incident of ammonia gas caused the deaths of many workers.

Ammonia gas is as deadly as ammonium nitrate.

The production of ammonium nitrate industrially occurs through the reaction of ammonia gas with concentrated nitric acid. Since ammonia gas or ammonium nitrate can easily explode if subjected to heat, it is important that the material is stored under strict supervision and in safe conditions.

Previously, a number of ammonia gas leaks have claimed the lives of many people and injured others. In August 2013, a liquid ammonia gas leak from a refrigerated warehouse in Shanghai, China killed 15 people and injured 26.

In India, at least six people were killed and more than 150 others injured following an ammonia gas leak from a tanker in June 2015.

Similarly, an explosion at the Uralchem chemical plant in Russia’s city of Berezniki that manufactures ammonia gas killed 3 people in May 2019.

Some 20 million tons of ammonium nitrate is produced annually across the world. While three-quarters of it are used in making fertilizer, the remaining quarter is used in the mining industry as an explosive to blast rock and to move mounds of earth.

Libya narrowly escaped a Beirut-like disaster

In a statement, the NOC said clashes between two factions loyal to Haftar took place near Brega port, where oil tanks are located.

According to Sanallah, besides oil tanks, 25,000 tons of ammonia gas is also stored at the port and the country was lucky to have escaped a disaster that could have been nine times worse than the Beirut explosion.

The NOC condemned Haftar’s militia for "lack of responsibility and lack of military discipline of any kind” which could have easily wiped out surrounding populations.

The concerns by NOC are valid considering that seven oil tanks have been hit by an RPG in clashes at Sidra port – the largest oil port in the country – between rival forces in the country causing losses worth millions of dollars.

However, the Beirut port explosion postulates that ammonium nitrate is much more perilous than the oil tank explosions.

Why does protecting Oil Crescent matter?

The Oil Crescent is a region that stretches from Ras Lanuf in the country’s east to the north-central city of Sirte and down to the southern Jufra district.

The region accounts for more than 60% of Libya’s total oil production and has been a cause of conflict among rival forces battling for control of the country.

Forces loyal to Haftar have prevented the export of oil from this region and have sought the support of the Sudanese Janjaweed and Russian Wagner mercenaries to achieve this.

This move has led to the militarization of this strategic and economically important area turning it into an imminent battlefield since oil represents the main source of hard currency in Libya.

The fact that a major war in the region is impending may lead to devastating human and economic tragedies due to the high possibility of oil tanks being targeted.

Necessary precautions should, therefore, be taken to avoid a scenario similar to the Beirut port explosion as well as ensuring the exportation of oil which is the economic backbone of many Libyans.

So far, international negotiations led by the US, Turkey, and Russia have been ongoing to demilitarize the area extending from Sirte, 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli, to the city of Ajdabiya, 850 kilometers (528 miles) east of Tripoli, which will remove the oil crescent from the equation.

The success of the agreement is expected to pave the way for dialogue between rival factions in order to find a political solution to the crisis and consequently sparing Libya from an imminent tragedy that could be worse than the Beirut port blast.

Haftar forces have already proved that they are reckless and irresponsible by exchanging rocket fire among themselves near oil tanks. Their presence in the oil crescent is therefore undeniably a serious cause of alarm.

Hence, international pressure on Haftar and his forces to withdraw from the region is critical to saving the lives and economy of Libyans.


Biden denounces anti-Israel activist, rejects her endorsement at DNC

20 August 2020

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has denounced and distanced himself from a prominent anti-Israel activist, who voiced support for him in the live stream of the Democratic National Convention.

Linda Sarsour, former Women’s March co-chair, participated in the Democratic National Convention’s Muslim Delegates Assembly on Tuesday.

Biden’s campaign spokesman Andrew Bates immediately reacted to the pro-Palestinian activist’s presence in the convention, saying that she “has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”  

“Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns [Sarsour's] views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform,” Bates said.

Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, has been a vocal supporter of The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) international pro-Palestinian movement that has been campaigning for a boycott of all Israeli goods, and academic and cultural activities for over 15 years.

She responded in a tweet later that she “just came here to remind you that you need a coalition to defeat Donald Trump and that Muslim Americans are an important voter bloc in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania & I know a little something about how to organize them.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reacted to Biden’s campaign’s move, saying that “smearing” Sarsour and other American Muslims as anti-Semitic for supporting Palestinian human rights is “predictable, despicable and unacceptable.”

The political action group, MoveOn, also called Sarsour “a leader in the fight for justice for all of us.”

“Biden can support Israel without implying that critique of Israeli government policy is anti-Semitic or condemning advocates for Palestinian rights,” it added.

The group called on Biden to build “a big tent” that welcomes Muslim Americans and progressives “even where policy disagreements exist."

Sarsour formerly campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders, who was Biden's leading rival for the Biden.

She said in a tweet earlier this month, “It's no secret that I have disagreements with both VP Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, but I know what I need to do: elect the Biden-Harris ticket and prepare to hold them accountable in the White House.”

The pro-Palestinian activist said last year that, “How can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else.”





Sheikh Hasina Pushes For Infra Projects And Makes A Promise That Dhaka Will Not Be Party To Anything Inimical To New Delhi’s Interests

Shishir Gupta

Aug 20, 2020

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told visiting Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla that Dhaka will not be party to anything inimical to New Delhi’s interests and will not allow its territory to be used by terrorists or insurgents targetting India, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be named.

According to diplomats based in Dhaka and New Delhi, the Bangladesh PM emphasized the importance of completing bilateral infrastructure and connectivity projects in time. In this context, it has been decided that a high level project monitoring committee headed by the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka and the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary will be set up immediately.

The people cited in the first instance added that the two countries have also decided that the meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers will be scheduled soon so that all bilateral projects are brought to speed.

In the year when Bangladesh is celebrating 100 years of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman aka Bangabandhu and 50 years of India-Bangladesh bilateral relations, Shringla, during his 90 minute meeting with PM Hasina told her that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken about strengthening relations with the neighbours in his Independence Day speech.

That India remains top on Bangladesh PM’s agenda was evident from the fact that FS Shringla was the first foreign visitor that she met since the outbreak of coronavirus four months ago, the people cited above said, adding that the meeting was characterised by warmth.

FS Shringla briefed the leader of Bangladesh about the work happening on a Covid-19 vaccine in India and promised her (in response to a question) that because India manufactures 60% of the world’s vaccines, it will ensure that Dhaka’s requirements are addressed, the people said. The visiting FS also discussed the prospect of starting an air bubble between New Delhi and Dhaka so that medical, technical and business professionals are allowed to travel by air in the coming days. FS Shringla also spoke to the Bangladesh Army Chief and General Secretary of Awami League party as well as senior ministers through video conference, the people added.

PM Hasina also raised the Rohingya issue with FS Shringla and requested that India facilitate the return of the displaced refugees to Myanmar. The people said, she was very clear that Bangladesh will not allow its territory to be used either by terrorists or insurgents. The two sides also discussed the security scenario in the region as well as forces opposing the growth of India-Bangladesh bilateral ties.


'It Marked End Of Conflict Between Hindus, Muslims': Aligarh BJP Leaders, Ruby Asif Khan & Nargis Mehboob Ali

Amir Haque

Aug 19, 2020

Aligarh: Ruby Asif Khan & Nargis Mehboob Ali - both women's wing leader of the BJP in Aligarh have been threatened with physical harm & expulsion from Islam for conducting puja of Lord Ram at their home on 5th August, the day bhoomi poojan of Ram temple was conducted in Ayodhya by PM Modi.

Videos of the women conducting the puja at their home in Shah Jamal area of Aligarh alongside the bhumi pujan at Ayodhya had gone viral eliciting angry response from Muslim hardliners.

The Muslim women said they conducted the puja to celebrate the occasion of bhoomi pujan since it marked the beginning of construction of the long-awaited temple at Lord Ram's birth site. Ruby Asif Khan said this also signified the end of a long-standing acrimonious conflict between Hindus & Muslims which needed to be marked.

The BJP's Women's wing leaders & workers had also sent Rakhi to Ramlala & prime minister Modi ahead of Ram temple bhoomi pujan on 30th July. A contribution of Rs. 5100 for the Ram Temple Teerth Kshetra Trust was also sent by the women around the same time.

This act of the BJP's Women's wing leaders, however, did not go down well with the local Muslim hardliners. They allegedly stuck posters across the old Aligarh city threatening to expel the women from Islam for conducting Ram puja.

Handouts with published pictures of these Muslim women leaders conducting puja at their home were also being distributed. The idea, Ruby & Nargis say, is to instigate people from the community against them and get them ostracised.

The women also complained that they were constantly being hounded and threatened with physical harm by certain elements. Some even threatening acid attack or burning them alive for siding with Hindus & working for BJP.

Ruby & Nargis have approached the Delhi gate police station in Aligarh for registration of an FIR against those who have threatened them. Ruby's husband Asif Khan said they have also identified some of those involved with the police.

The women complainants were flanked by other BJP leaders & workers. Circle Officer Sudesh Gupta said the police is registering a case and will take prompt action in the matter.


Lashkar commander among 3 ultras slain in twin J&K encounter

Aug 19, 2020

SRINAGAR: A Lashkar-e-Taiba commander was among three terrorists killed in two encounters across Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday. Both anti-terror operations continued till the filing of this report.

Lashkar commander Naseer-u-Din Lone and an unidentified aide were killed during a cordon-and-search operation by a joint team of Army’s 32RR, CRPF and J&K Police in the orchards of Ganipora Kralgund area of Handwara in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Confirming Lone’s killing, IGP (Kashmir Range) Vijay Kumar tweeted, “Handwara encounter update: LeT commander Naseer-u-Din Lone, who was involved in the killing of three CRPF jawans at Sopore on May 4 this year, got killed.”

Giving details of the ongoing encounter, Srinagar-based defence spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said, “Cordon was laid and contact established. Firefight ensued. Two terrorists were killed in the gunfight, joint operation in progress.”

Earlier in the day, a terrorist was killed in Molu Chitragam area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district during a similar cordon-and-search operation by a joint team of Army’s 44RR, CRPF and J&K Police, official sources said. The identity and affiliation of the slain ultra were yet to be ascertained.





PM Khan: Pakistan can’t recognize Israel until Palestine gets its rights, state

19 August 2020

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says his country will never recognize Israel until the issue of Palestine is resolved days after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a normalization deal with Israel.

In an interview with the private Dunya News television network on Tuesday, Khan said Islamabad will not follow suit in recognizing Israel, in a reference to Abu Dhabi, which has reached a highly controversial deal with Tel Aviv to establish full diplomatic ties.

“Our stance is very clear from day one and Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had said Pakistan can never accept Israel until the people of Palestine get rights and state,” Khan said.

The Pakistani prime minister further noted that recognition of Israel equals to abandoning Pakistan’s stance on the Muslim-majority Kashmir region.

“The case of Palestinians is similar to people of Kashmir and their [Palestinians] rights have been snatched and they have been suffering from Israeli atrocities. Both issues have a similar background,” Khan pointed out.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. The countries have fought three wars over the territory.

The Indian-administered part of the region, known as Jammu and Kashmir, enjoyed autonomy until August 2019, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government revoked that status.

On 13 August, US President Donald Trump announced the peace deal between the UAE and Israel brokered by Washington.

The UAE claims the deal — which the Palestinians have rejected as backstabbing — was designed to stave off Tel Aviv’s planned annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Supporters of the Palestinian cause, however, reject that claim, saying normalization attempts have been in the offing for a long time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also reaffirmed that the regime’s annexation has been delayed but is not off the table.

Anger is boiling in the Middle East and the entire Muslim world over the agreement.

In Pakistan, tens of thousands of people joined protests organized by political and religious activists in various cities on the weekend to condemn the UAE.

The protesters voiced strong support for Palestine and the liberation of Jerusalem al-Quds, stressing that compromise with the occupiers is a great betrayal of Palestine and the entire Islamic world.


Pakistan's PM Khan plays down differences with ally Saudi Arabia

Aug 20, 2020

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has played down differences with longtime ally Saudi Arabia after his army chief visited Riyadh in a bid to ease a dispute over policy towards the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The dispute, brought on by Pakistani demands for Saudi Arabia to take a firmer line against India for what Pakistan says is its human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir, has threatened Riyadh's financial support for Islamabad.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had no differences, Khan said in a late Tuesday interview, backing away from criticism by his foreign minister this month who suggested Saudi Arabia was indifferent on Kashmir.

"The rumours that our relations with Saudi Arabia have soured are totally false," Khan said in the interview with the Dunya News television channel.

"Our relations are very good. We are constantly in touch."

Army chief visits Riyadh

Pakistan's army chief travelled to Saudi Arabia on Monday for a one-day visit that was "primarily military-affairs oriented", the army said.

But top military and government officials said the visit was aimed at calming the simmering standoff that could badly hurt cash-strapped Pakistan's foreign reserves.

Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan a $3bn loan and $3.2bn oil credit facility to help its balance of payments crisis in late 2018.

Pakistan's demands for Saudi Arabia to support it against India over Kashmir led to Saudi Arabia forcing Pakistan to pay back $1bn early, military and finance ministry officials have told the Reuters news agency.

Saudi Arabia is also demanding repayment of another $1bn of the loan and has not responded to Pakistani requests to extend the oil facility, they said.

Saudi anger

The Saudi government has not commented on the matter.

The Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has only held low-level meetings on Kashmir, to the frustration of some who want to see a more robust position.

"On the Kashmir issue, there is a view that OIC should have stepped forward," Khan said.

"Saudi has its own foreign policy. We shouldn't think that because we want something Saudi will do just that," he added.

Earlier, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi sought a meeting of the OIC.

"If you cannot convene it, then I'll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris."

Qureshi's remarks revived Riyadh's anger, one of the Pakistani military officials and a government adviser earlier told Reuters.

Analysts say Saudi Arabia does not want to risk its business interests in India by supporting Pakistan over Kashmir.

Pakistan and India both claim the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir in full but rule it in part.


Coordination body formed for Karachi betterment

Aamir Yasin | Azfar-ul-Ashfaque

20 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan on Wednesday met for the third time in a short span of one week and decided to form a coordination committee for collaboration between the federal and Sindh governments in six areas for the betterment of Karachi.

However, the PPP-led Sindh government claimed that the coordination committee was for the entire province and not for Karachi alone.

First two meetings between the three parties were held in Islamabad and Karachi, respectively, in the presence of a senior member of the security establishment, which is very much concerned over the state of affairs in the provincial metropolis and wanted all stakeholders to find out a solution to the problems of Pakistan’s commercial hub.

“We have serious political difference with the Sindh government but we will work together with it for the development of the city which generates most of the revenue of the country,” Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar told a press conference in Islamabad after meeting Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and his team.

Mr Umar said a six-member committee had been formed and it would not be headed by anyone and both sides would work on a mutual understanding. The committee would start its work from Thursday (tomorrow) and next meeting would be held in Karachi on Saturday, he added.

He said the federal and Sindh governments reached a consensus for the development of Karachi and identified six areas for collaboration.

Accompanied by federal ministers Aminul Haque of the MQM-P and Ali Zaidi of the PTI, Mr Umar said: “The areas of collaboration include solid waste management, clean drinking water projects and anti-encroachment drive, infrastructure development, road construction and transport management in the port city.”

He said it was decided in the meeting that all bottlenecks in the long-standing projects such as Karachi Circular Railway, K-IV water project and Greater Karachi Sewerage Project S-III would be removed through mutual consultations.

“The projects list will be shortlisted and it would be decided which projects are to be led by the Sindh government and which projects are the responsibility of the federal government,” he said, adding that financial and legislative matters of the projects would also be finalised within the given time.

The planning minister made it clear that there would be no compromise on the accountability process in the country in the name of development.

Earlier in the day, the Sindh chief minister along with provincial ministers Nasir Shah and Saeed Ghani flew to Islamabad to hold a meeting with PTI and MQM ministers Asad Umar, Ali Zaidi and Aminul Haque.

A spokesperson for the Sindh CM said National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal — who was present in the Karachi huddle — also participated in the meeting. He said the meeting had decided to form a coordination committee. “The committee between the federal and provincial governments would coordinate on [development] projects in Sindh,” he said, without even mentioning Karachi.

Sources said that in Wednesday’s meeting, the PPP side was of the view that it would be better for it if the people viewed the committee as apolitical and purely a government body. The PPP, the sources said, also wanted the committee to cover the whole province instead of Karachi as its voters would consider a body only for Karachi as a federal move to encroach upon provincial government’s powers and as a step to separate Karachi from the rest of Sindh.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the three parties met in Karachi on Aug 15 in the presence of a senior member of the security establishment. After that meeting, provincial government’s spokesperson Murtaza Wahab told the media that a committee to be headed by Chief Minister Shah was being formed on Karachi, with federal ministers Asad Umar and Ali Zaidi of the PTI, Aminul Haque of the MQM-P and provincial ministers Nasir Shah and Saeed Ghani as its members.

But in a matter of a few hours, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Shah came up with a statement declaring that no decision was taken regarding the formation of any committee and that development works in the city was the responsibility of the provincial government.

Later, CM Shah also repeated the same thing, but added that the formation of the committee came under discussion during the meeting.

On Tuesday, CM Shah told reporters in Sukkur that only representatives of the federal and provincial governments, and not leaders of any political party, would be part of the committee to sort out the issues of Karachi and it would work for the removal of all hurdles in the way of development works.

PPP holds protests

The PPP on Wednesday staged protest demonstrations in Karachi and Islamabad against the PTI-led government’s ‘intention’ to separate Karachi from Sindh and warned that it could launch an MRD-like movement if conspiracies were not stopped.

The protests were held outside the Karachi Press Club and the National Press Club, Islamabad, in which senior party leaders and scores of workers participated.

Dr Nafisa Shah, Ajiz Dhamra, Hasan Murtaza and Faisal Karim Kundi led the protest in Islamabad and Nisar Khuhro, Saeed Ghani, Waqar Mehdi and Rashid Rabbani in Karachi.

They said the “Niazi government” could not blackmail the PPP as neither the federal government nor anyone else had the authority to divide Sindh.

They said Sindh was the province which passed the resolution for Pakistan first and only it could save Pakistan. No effort to divide Sindh would be tolerated. The federal government was conspiring to dismember the country, the PPP leaders alleged.

Similar protest rallies were also held in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shikarpur, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Naushahro Feroze, Nawabshah and Mithi in Sindh.


US envoy lauds Pakistan role for regional peace

20 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: Top US diplomat in Islamabad Paul Jones on Wednesday paid a farewell call on Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.

“Ambassador Paul W. Jones, US Charge d’Affairs to Pakistan, met General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), on his farewell visit today,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

Amb Jones held temporary ambassadorial charge for two years. The US government has not even appointed a full time ambassador to Afghanistan either, where a chargé d’affaires is leading the embassy in Kabul.

“COAS thanked ambassador for his services and contributions in Pakistan,” ISPR said.

“Visiting dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s positive role for Afghan peace & reconciliation process and ensuring peace and stability in the region,” it added.


Palestine envoy challenges seizure of his vehicle in IHC

Malik Asad

20 Aug 2020

ISLAMABAD: Palestine Ambassa­dor Ahmed Jawad A. Rabei has challenged the seizure of his vehicle imported to Pakistan under diplomatic immunity.

Mr Rabei also challenged the show-cause notice issued to him by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Advocate Sikandar Naeem Qazi filed the petition on behalf of the ambassador on Wednesday. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah will hear the petition on Thursday (today).

According to the petition, the ambassador enjoyed immunity under the Vienna Convention, but the FBR had on Aug 4 served him a show-cause notice for selling the vehicle imported to Pakistan under the diplomatic immunity.

The FBR’s Aug 4 show-cause notice was also served on businessman Basil Ahmed Affendi, informing him that the vehicle might be permanently confiscated and they might also face penalties of up to 10 times of the value of the vehicle.

Rabei questions show-cause notice issued to him by FBR

“The Ambassador, Embassy of the State of Palestine, Islamabad, and Basil Ahmed Affendi are called upon to show cause as to why the seized vehicle should not be confiscated and why penal action should not be taken against them under Section 156 for violations of the Customs Act,” said the notice.

On Tuesday, PML-N Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed raised the matter in the Senate and said the FBR had tendered an apology to the ambassador, but it was not acceptable as it had happened at a time when there were talks about recognition of Israel by Muslim countries.

He said the diplomat was not only served the notice over the import of two cars, but was also asked to appear before the FBR, which was a violation of the Vienna Convention and other international laws.

Moreover, he said, his cars were confiscated which was an “excess” committed with the ambassador of a friendly country.

The Senate chairman referred the matter to the committee on foreign affairs, headed by Mr Sayed, asking him to present a report in the house.

Leader of the House Shahzad Waseem, however, regretted the PML-N senator’s act of linking the FBR notice to the Palestine issue, terming it “inappropriate”.

However, the counsel for the ambassador told Dawn that so far the Palestine embassy had not received anything in black and white from the FBR and, therefore, the petition had been filed in the IHC.



Southeast Asia


Indonesia's Muslim clerics decry Israel-UAE deal

Pizaro Gozali Idrus 



Indonesia’s top Muslim clerics on Wednesday denounced the recent normalization deal between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.

Muhyiddin Junaidi, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, said UAE’s move was a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

“This was a painful event for Muslims,” Junaidi said in an online discussion in Jakarta.

He said the UAE has to remember that the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had agreed to impose an embargo on Israel during its emergency meeting in Jakarta in March 2016.

“Did the UAE leaders read the OIC’s decisions?” the cleric said.

He said Indonesia owes Palestine for being one of the first to acknowledge its independence from colonial rule in 1945, vowing that Jakarta will stand with the Palestinians until they achieve liberation.

“Palestine is the first country to recognize Indonesia's independence, we will never forget their kindness,” Junaidi said.

He urged organizations in the country to continue unified efforts to help free Palestine from Israeli occupation, saying that the Palestine cause was not just a problem for Muslims and Arabs but the entire world.

“This is a problem of oppression and injustice and needs to be resolved thoroughly,” he added.

The UAE-Israel normalization deal was announced by US President Donald Trump announced last week between Israel and the UAE to normalize relations.

The UAE is the first Gulf state and third Arab nation to have full diplomatic relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

Despite reports that the deal halted Israel’s controversial plan to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government would go ahead with the annexation.

Palestinian groups have denounced the deal, saying it does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause and ignores the rights of Palestinians.


PM Muhyiddin: Spirit of Maal Hijrah gives Malaysian Muslims strength to face Covid-19

19 Aug 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 ― Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the spirit of Maal Hijrah and the valuable lessons from the Hijrah event have provided strength to Malaysians in facing the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to revive the country’s economy.

The prime minister shared the words of encouragement in a post on his official Facebook page today.

“This year, we celebrate Maal Hijrah during the recovery movement control order (RMCO), which is expected to end on Aug 31, 2020.

“This year’s celebration may not be the same as previous years, but the spirit and lessons still give us strength, especially in facing the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic which is not over yet and efforts to revive the country’s economy,” he said.

Hijrah refers to the migration of Prophet Muhammad and his friends from Mekah to Yathrib (Madinah) in the year 622 AD.

The national Maal Hijrah 1442H celebration, themed Ummah Rabbani Negara Harmoni is being held at the National Mosque tonight.

Muhyiddin said the theme emphasised the development of the country in line with the concept of Baldatun Toyyibatun Wa Rabbun Ghafur (prosperous country under the protection of Allah).

“This approach emphasises the intention to seek the blessings of Allah SWT as the main goal in maintaining our country as a developed, peaceful and harmonious country,” he said.

Muhyiddin also thanked those who have given ideas and contributions to the development of Islam and the country.

Meanwhile, he congratulated Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and Syeikh Al-Azhar Al-Syarif, Syeikh Prof Dr Ahmad Tayyib who were named this year’s Tokoh Maal Hijrah. ― Bernama


King, Queen attend Maal Hijrah celebration at National Mosque

19 Aug 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 ― The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and the Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah tonight attended the national-level Maal Hijrah celebrations at Masjid Negara here.

Their Majesties were greeted upon arrival at 6.30pm by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Senator Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Also present were prime minister’s wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman and Zulkifli’s wife Datin Dr Shereen Mohd Yunos.

The event began with the recitation of the Quran by Ustaz Syukri Ali followed by the recitation of the “yasin, tahlil, doa selamat” as well as year-end and new year prayers by the Grand Imam of the mosque Ehsan Mohd Hosni.

Their Majesties and the congregation then performed Maghrib prayer.

Zulkifli in his speech at the event said the theme for this year’s Maal Hijrah celebrations, ”Ummah Rabbani Negara Harmoni” carries an important message that should be appreciated by all especially Muslims in facing the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Hopefully, we can embody the spirit of Hijrah in the days ahead in the new norm,” he said. ― Bernama


Mujahid: Azeez, Umno stoking racial hatred by implicating Guan Eng as ‘culprit’ who destroyed Tabung Haji


14 Aug 2020

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — Parit Buntar MP Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa has slammed former Tabung Haji chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim for turning the Muslim pilgrimage fund’s mismanagement debacle into a racial matter.

In a dialogue between the two held by Sinar Harian tonight, Mujahid took issue with the Umno Baling MP for blaming former finance minister Lim Guan Eng for purportedly interfering in TH’s financial affairs during Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) 22-month administration.

“These are all lies by Azeez to fool you,” said Mujahid, who was formerly minister in charge of religious affairs.

“He wants the narrative to be that Lim being a Chinese is taking over the TH as he is signing off on the documents.”

Azeez has been claiming that TH under the PH administration had sold four of the fund’s hotels to a company, Urusharta Jemaah Sdn Bhd (UJSB) and the undertaking was signed by Lim as finance minister.

Azeez also claimed there was no government guarantees under the PH government for TH shares.

Mujahid explained that the hotels and other assets were sold as they were not making a profit — with the four hotels making only 1.7 per cent in profits and bleeding TH funds.

He added that there were three ministries involved in restructuring TH’s finances which were the Prime Minister’s Office, Economic Affairs Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

“Not surprisingly, Azeez never brought up Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s name, who was economic affairs minister who was also involved in TH affairs. Not to mention the prime minister's offices.

“Why? Because both are Malay-Muslims while Lim is a Chinese so let’s blame him right?

“Let me remind everyone that Lim wasn’t the one who made the final decision, it's the Cabinet which the majority of are Malay-Muslims. So stop these political games,” he added.

Last month, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said in a written Parliamentary reply yesterday that assets of Lembaga Tabung Haji have not been sold off to non-Muslim companies and the fund is not being controlled by non-Muslims.

In Muhyiddin’s reply to Mujahid, he added that in line with the Recovery and Restructuring Plan, uncompetitive Tabung Haji’s assets had been transferred to a special purpose vehicle — UJSB — under Ministry of Finance Incorporated.

The government was forced into a bailout of TH last year that will cost an estimated RM17 billion after discovering that the fund had been in deficit, owing to financial decisions made during the Barisan Nasional administration.



South Asia


Ghani: With the release of Taliban prisoners, a wave of narcotics may enter Britain

20 Aug 2020

Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani warned about the negative consequences of the remaining Taliban prisoners who are said to be involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping and mass murders.

“If the remaining prisoners of Taliban get released, a wave of narcotics may enter Britain”, Ghani warned speaking in an exclusive interview with the UK Times.

Ghani said that incase of an increase of narcotics trade in the United Kingdom and Europe, the responsibility would go to the United States and other members of NATO.

“If amphetamines reach the shores of the United States, we must know that it is a consequence of the release of these prisoners, and if these people commit crimes, they will have a joint international responsibility,” Ghani said.

This comes as President Ghani signed a decree ordering the release of 400 remaining Taliban detainees following the approval of the Ground Council (Loya Jirga).

The process of releasing these prisoners halted after some countries including Australia and France objected saying the murderers of their soldiers and citizens must not get released.

On the other hand, the Afghan government announced that the remaining Taliban prisoners will not get released until they do not free those Afghan commandos who are in Taliban custody.


The Illusion of Inclusivity in Afghan Peace Process

19 Aug 2020

When it comes to the peace process, young Afghans are frequently seen as less experienced, less educated, somehow emotional, and trouble-makers. This is both unfair and dangerous. The Afghan youth can play a positive role in the country’s peace process; both in the impeding intra-Afghan talks and in supporting Afghanistan’s perilous journey to reconciliation.

The most important element of the Afghan peace process, the intra-Afghan negotiations between the government and the Taliban, is yet to begin. It is expected that a group of men and women representing the diverse political and ethnic spectrum of Afghan society will soon engage informal conversations with the representatives of the Taliban.

However, and from the very outset, young Afghans, the country’s future leaders, have been largely excluded from this peace process. This is not only counter-intuitive; it also goes against the U.N. Security Council resolution 2513 in March 2020 when it emphasizes on the “importance of the effective and meaningful participation of youth in the peace process” and states that “any political settlement must respond to the strong desire of Afghans to sustain gains achieved since 2001.”

In Afghanistan, this lack of inclusion matters even more than in most countries. The Afghan youth, defined as aged 18–35 years old by the country’s National Youth Policy, constitutes more than 67% of the population, with a national average age of 18.4 years old, making Afghanistan one of the world’s youngest countries.

Since the beginning of the peace talks – between the United States, led by the U.S. special envoy, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Taliban’s representatives in Qatar – young Afghans have been making efforts to raise awareness of the peace process among the younger generation and to engage them in this process as committed stakeholders. Yet so far, the Afghan government has turned a deaf ear to this public plea.

Afghan youths are often perceived as volatile, less experienced, emotional, and often regarded as nuisances when involved in significant decision-making processes. As a result, the default thinking about youth and peacebuilding in the country tends to be overwhelmingly negative. And to add insult to injury, they are also viewed as vulnerable, powerless and in need of protection, especially those who live in rural areas.

Despite Afghan youth’s role to strengthen Afghanistan’s fragile democracy, they still face a protracted lack of space for meaningful political engagement with the government in Afghanistan.

With the right tools and space young Afghans – whom again, form the vast majority of the population – would have the ability to transform the country by affecting positive change into their communities, and by extension, into Afghanistan as a whole.

Afghan youths are an essential source of creativity and an engine of forward-looking social change. Recognizing and including their perspective and needs should not be neglected, as it is now, but made a central piece of the ongoing peace process and the country’s future.

If down the road Afghanistan descents into renewed chaos and intensified bloodshed, it will be argued that one of the contributing factors was the absence of young voices into the ‘peace equation.’ We are still on time to avoid writing on the wall.

As victims of an imposed war we, young Afghans, are understandably worried about our future. Many of the achievements accomplished over the last nineteen years – such as the respect of democratic values, the establishment of a constitution, the upholding of civil rights, and the consolidation of a vibrant free media – have been gained with the sacrifice of the country’s young citizens.

These hard-gained successes cannot be deserted – whatever the result of the current peace process is. Underpinning these institutions into the country’s future is the only way to ensure a harmonious, rule-based, and stable future for Afghanistan.

Considering the absence of Afghan youth’s meaningful participation in the peace process, a group of around 240 youth organizations and civil society activists from all the 34 provinces of Afghanistan formed the “National Youth Consensus for Peace.” A two-fold mechanism aiming to: 1) raise awareness about the barriers to bring about peace in Afghanistan while voicing the demands of young Afghans in the run-up to the intra-Afghan peace talks; and to 2) present a mechanism, containing a set of constructive guidelines, to the government of Afghanistan and international community for engagement of youth in Afghan peace process.

Afghan youth are aware of their responsibilities and they are awakened to the undeniable reality of embracing a new era in Afghanistan’s history; therefore, they are determined to collectively call for their voices to be heard and their meaningful participation to be recognized in all peace building efforts.

The ultimate purpose of the peace process, the peace talks, in particular, is specifically defined as being to advance the welfare of society, which requires the substantive inclusion of society, hence a sustainable peace would only be realized by the active and meaningful inclusion of Afghan youth in the peace process.


Taliban attack in Takhar killed 14 Afghan security forces

20 Aug 2020

Taliban attacked Khwaja Bahauddin district in the Northern Takhar province of Afghanistan last night, killing at last 13 members of public uprising forces and 1 border police, a local source said.

According to the reports, Taliban attacked public uprising forces in Khwaja Bahauddin district of Takhar last night that led to long hours clashes.

Both the government officals and the Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.



Arab world


After UAE-Israel deal, is Bahrain the next Arab state to move toward peace?

Lauren Holtmeier

20 August 2020

Bahrain was the first country to publicly welcome the new UAE-Israel peace deal, and phone calls between officials and comments from unnamed Israeli officials in Hebrew media have stirred speculation that Bahrain may be the second Gulf country to normalize relations with Israel.

Israel and the UAE reached a historic peace deal last week that will lead to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern nations in an agreement that US President Donald Trump helped broker. Already some business and communication agreements have passed including collaboration on a coronavirus vaccine and restoration of phone lines between the two nations.

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“It looks like Bahrain and Israel could be moving in the same direction as the UAE and Israel,” Varsha Koduvayur, senior research analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Al Arabiya English in an email exchange.

Following the news of the peace agreement, Bahrain was one of the first countries to congratulate the UAE, with a phone call between King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan taking place. Israel’s Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Bahrain’s Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa also reportedly spoke in a phone call following news of the deal.

The new UAE-Israel peace deal, the Abraham Accord, is a watershed moment in the region and is only the third such agreement with Israel by an Arab nation, a first from a Gulf country, and the first since the mid-1990s.

Egypt and Jordan, which have previously signed peace deals with Israel welcomed the move.

In the US, White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said that he believed other Arab nations would soon follow.

“I do think that we have other countries that are very interested in moving forward,” Kushner told the American news outlet CNBC.

Israel has been vocal in its hope that other countries will follow suit.

“In the wake of this agreement will come additional agreements, both with more Gulf countries and with Muslim countries in Africa,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israel-based radio station Army Radio, Reuters reported.

In other Israeli media, one Hebrew outlet, the Kan channel, quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Bahrain is expected to be the next country to normalize ties with Israel.

But Bahrain has so far been silent on whether or not it will take the step toward peace.

“There might need to be some more details or clarifications forthcoming on the contours of the UAE-Israel deal before Bahrain also formalizes ties,” Koduvayur said. “The question of whether the agreement stops or only suspends annexation remains as a difference in messaging between the US and Israel on one hand the Gulf states on the other.”

Koduvayur said that Bahrain, however, has made several pro-Israel moves over the last few years, including sending a Bahraini delegation to Jerusalem in 2017. And, in 2019, a small Israeli delegation was present in Bahrain when the Trump administration rolled out its Peace to Prosperity plan for economic development.

“But with the UAE having blazed the trail, the political cost for Bahrain to normalize is lower, with the UAE deal giving other Gulf allies political cover,” Koduvayur concluded.


Saudi Arabia issues desperate call for extension of anti-Iran UN arms ban

19 August 2020

The Saudi regime has issued a desperate call for the extension of a UN arms embargo against Iran only days after the UN Security Council said a resounding ‘No’ to a US resolution seeking an illegal extension of the embargo.

The cabinet, chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Tuesday, demanded the extension of the arms embargo on Iran, alleging that the removal of the sanctions will lead to “more destruction” and further fuel conflicts in the Middle East region.

It also pledged the kingdom’s support for all international measures that contribute to stopping Iran’s regional clout.

The Security Council on Friday rejected a US resolution to extend the arms embargo on Iran that is due to expire in October under a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and six other world countries.

Besides the US, only one of the Council’s 15 members — the Dominican Republic — voted in favor of the US-drafted resolution, which had the support of the Saudi regime and its allies at the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The vote highlighted the division between Washington and its European allies since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear accord, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and has been endorsed by Security Council Resolution 2231, in May 2018.

Prior to the session, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the UN Abdul Aziz al-Wasel had called for the extension of the arms embargo on Iran, claiming that Tehran funnels weapons to certain groups to disturb the peace in the Middle East.

The allegations come despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is known to be actively supporting and aiding the Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc across the region.

Moreover, the oil-rich conservative kingdom has been engaged in a bloody campaign against neighboring Yemen since March 2015 with the aim of reinstating a Riyadh-friendly former government there.

The Riyadh regime has not been alone in the atrocious campaign. It has been flanked by regional allies and enjoys arms supplies from its Western backers.

Over 100,000 people have been killed, according to some semi-official figures.

The war has also destroyed and shut down Yemen’s infrastructure. The Yemeni population has been subjected to large-scale hunger and diseases aggravated by the naval blockade imposed on the country by the coalition of aggressors.


Hezbollah shipped explosive chemicals to Lebanon prior to Beirut blast: Reports

20 August 2020

Iran’s elite Quds Force shipped ammonium nitrate to Hezbollah in Beirut around the same time a Moldovan-flagged tanker arrived carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – the same chemical substance that would later cause an enormous explosion and engulf Beirut’s port and surrounding area, German media outlet WELT reported Wednesday.

Previous reports have found that Hezbollah had stock of the substance in northwest London and Cyprus, while other reports also indicate that stockpiles were present in Germany and Kuwait, WELT reported.

WELT, citing Western security sources, reported that Iran-backed Hezbollah had received large deliveries of ammonium nitrate from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force – a US-designated terror organization.

Ammonium nitrate, commonly used in fertilizer, can also be used in weapon production.

On July 16, 2013, a total of 270 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was delivered from Iran to Lebanon, costing roughly 180,000 euros ($213,200, at today’s exchange rate). Months later, on October 23, another 270 tonnes of the chemical were delivered, costing around 141,000 euros, WELT reported. The article added that a third shipment was made, but the amount delivered was uncertain.

“A total of one billion Iranian rials was calculated for the delivery on April 4, 2014 (around 61,438 euros). Measured against the values of the other two deliveries, this could have been 90 to 130 tons. In total, the three deliveries are for a quantity of 630 to 670 tons of ammonium nitrate,” the WELT article conjectured.

The cargo arriving in October 2013 was transported via plane, presumably on an Iranian airline, such as Mahan Air, which is sanctioned by the United States. The other deliveries were made via land or sea, the article alleged.

The explosion at the Port of Beirut has left at least 178 dead, more than 6,000 injured and destroyed vast swaths of the city.

However, there is no evidence that links Hezbollah’s shipments to the ammonium nitrate stored at the port responsible for the explosion.

Hezbollah has strongly denied that it was storing arms at the blast site.

“We have nothing in the port: not an arms depot, nor a missile depot nor missiles nor rifles nor bombs nor bullets nor ammonium nitrate,” he added. However, it has long been assumed that Hezbollah controls at least some aspects of port operations.

“The fact that a massive amount of explosive material was just sitting in the Port of Beirut – long suspected to be exploited by Hezbollah for illicit trade and smuggling – raises troubling questions about whether the Iran-backed terror group, which is the political glue that holds together Lebanon’s current government, had any intentions of deploying that material in an attack,” wrote Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president at Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Obtaining ammonium nitrate

WELT places Hezbollah operative Mohammed Qasir as heading the purchasing operation. Qasir was designated by the US Treasury in 2018 for acting as a “critical conduit for financial disbursements” from the Quds Force to Hezbollah.

Qasir, based in Damascus, Syria, worked closely with a Quds Force unit that was under the supervision of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani, who himself was assassinated in January 2020, Washington Institute analyst Matthew Levitt wrote in March 2019.

Hezbollah has been heavily involved in neighboring Syria’s war, and teaming up with the Quds Force meant that the Lebanon group could “develop integrated and efficient weapons procurement and logistics pipelines through Syria and into Lebanon that can be leveraged to greatly expand Hezbollah’s international weapons procurement capabilities,” Levitt wrote.

There is still no explicit evidence linking Hezbollah to the nitrate stored at the port of Beirut, but many have pointed the finger at the Iran-backed group’s regional behavior and past track record as indication that the group was likely linked to the chemicals stored at the port.


Kenyan domestic worker abandoned in Beirut with belongings in garbage bag

Ismaeel Naar and Omar Elkatouri

20 August 2020

The impact of Lebanon’s dire economic situation and the aftermath of the devastating Beirut explosion on domestic workers is being amplified after a video of a woman abandoning her maid near the Kenyan embassy in the capital went viral.

Lebanese activists have been sharing a video of a woman in her luxury car abandoning her maid on the street in front of the Kenyan consulate in the capital Beirut while other Kenyan women shout their anger at what they were seeing.

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“She brought her here and the girl is sick and she refused to pay her, and she brought her here. How can you drop a person into the street? It is haram [forbidden]. The girl is complaining ‘I am sick’ and the woman came and dropped her here in the streets,” one woman said.

The viral video showed the abandoned domestic worker can be seen in distress holding her personal belongings in a garbage bag.

The video, taken by a passerby has been widely spread showing the domestic worker crying because she was unable to do anything as she found herself both without work or shelter.

Foreign domestic workers have been paying the price for the economic crisis in Lebanon due to the shortage of the dollar caused by an economic slowdown. Many domestic workers are demanding their salaries at a time when many Lebanese who recruit them are unable to pay salaries in dollars themselves.

According to Reuters, thousands of foreign workers in Lebanon, some without legal documentation, are out of work and left stranded by border closures due to the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Their plight has been compounded by the deadly explosion at Beirut port on August 4.


Number one issue in Iraq is the question of pro-Iran militias: Expert

Ismaeel Naar

Aug 20, 2020 

The number one issue surrounding Iraq is the question of pro-Iranian militias operating outside government control, says former US Army intelligence soldier Michael Pregent ahead of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi's visit to the White House.

“Everything else will only happen after Prime Minister Kadhimi tells the United States what his plan is to take on the militias. If he has no plan, then I can understand that because he has no power,” Pregent, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Al Arabiya.

The Iraqi prime minister prepared to make his first visit to the White House on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United States called for Iraq to dismantle non-government "armed groups" that have "undermined national sovereignty" ahead of Kadhimi’s visit.

“Kadhimi is here, he can't do anything without the approval of Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri. And the United States needs to realize that and I think it's gotten so bad in Iraq, that the Americans understand that now. And it will dominate the conversations over the next two days. What are you going to do about Abu Fadak and Kataeb Hezbollah?” Pregent said.

During his meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington’s calls for the dismantling of militias but did not specify which groups he was referring to.

(With inputs from AFP)

Kadhimi, who took office in May, faces challenges from factions of the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militias, also known as Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups with close ties to Iran.


Unknown gunmen assassinate Iraqi activist Reham Yacoub in central Basra

Ismaeel Naar

19 August 2020

Unknown gunmen have assassinated Iraqi activist Dr. Reham Yacoub in central Basra, activists confirmed.

Yacoub was an Iraqi activist, nutritionist and media personality in Basra who took part in the recent popular protests that rocked Iraq.

Yacoub was one of four activists who were targeted and killed in Basra on Wednesday night while one other activist was assassinated in the capital Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya's Baghdad correspondent Majid Hamid.

The assassination of Yacoub comes a month after Iraqi security and extremism researcher Hisham al-Hashemi was killed after three gunmen on two motorcycles fired at him from meters away near his home in the capital Baghdad.


Security fears in Lebanon after reports of Turkish weapons shipments

Joseph Haboush

Aug 20, 2020

Fears over a security incident in Lebanon have grown in recent days with Turkey allegedly flooding parts of the country with weapons, officials said, using the northern border with Syria.

Three diplomats confirmed to Al Arabiya English hearing about the Turkish-backed movement of arms.

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Two Lebanese army intelligence sources also voiced their concern over the matter. One of the intelligence sources spoke to Al Arabiya English following a surveillance operation by a branch of the army in north Lebanon, earlier this week.

“We are pretty worried about what’s going on. The Turks are sending an incredible amount of weapons into the north,” the intelligence source said.

Asked about the flow of Turkish weapons, a senior Lebanese diplomat said there were no specific details, but “we know they’re active.”

“We are keeping an eye on it and staying in contact with the United States administration,” the diplomat said.

The US State Department referred questions to the governments of Lebanon and Turkey and said that it does not comment on foreign intelligence reports.

Turkey had long been influential in Lebanon - most recently with two Turkish power barges docking off Lebanon’s coasts to help with the neglected electricity sector.

Politically, it backs members of Lebanon’s small, but active, Muslim Brotherhood branch.

Three days after the Aug. 4 explosions in Beirut, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency published an article titled “Turkey rushes to help Lebanon amid deadly explosion.”

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu jetted to Beirut days after and said that Ankara was willing to rebuild the port.

From Beirut, Cavusoglu said Turkey stood with its “kin, the Turks and Turkmens in Lebanon and around the world.”

He added: “We will grant Turkish citizenship to our brothers who say ‘I am Turkish, I am Turkmen,’ and express their desire to become a citizen. These are our [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s instructions.”

A diplomat in the region said that more weapons in Lebanon were the last thing needed. Iran-backed Hezbollah has flaunted its arms and has repeatedly boasted about its arsenal of missiles and rockets. Several other non-state groups and militias, including the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, who hold annual parades in Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU), also possess weapons.

Efforts to push back against EU diplomacy

Turkey is also locked in a dispute with much of Europe and the Arab world over its interference in Libya and Iraq as well as its offshore digging in the Eastern Mediterranean waters of Cyprus and Greece.

France, Turkey’s NATO ally, has been an outspoken critic of Ankara’s “unacceptable” behavior in recent months.

Cavusoglu hit out at Germany over its disagreement over the Libya crisis. On Aug. 6, the Turkish foreign minister accused Germany of taking part in a “biased” EU initiative, which calls for a UN arms embargo to Libya’s fighting sides.

As for Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with France, Erdogan was reportedly frustrated with the outpouring of support for French President Emmanuel Macron during the latter’s Beirut visit.

The Turkish Embassy in Beirut did not respond to a request for comment. The French Foreign Ministry was also unable to be reached for comment.

Firas Maksad, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said Lebanon was a disputed territory. “There might be growing Turkish involvement in Lebanon and perhaps it is an inexpensive arena for the Turks to play in. It’s readily available and doesn’t cost much,” Maksad told Al Arabiya English.


US announces new aid to Iraq, but warns that ‘armed groups’ must be controlled

19 August 2020

The United States Wednesday announced more than $200 million in additional humanitarian aid to Iraq but called for “armed groups” to be replaced by local police.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the additional aid announcement as he met his Iraqi counterpart in Washington, DC.

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Nearly $204 million in additional humanitarian assistance for “the people of Iraq, Iraqi refugees in the region, and to generous communities hosting them” will be given.

Pompeo welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s call for early parliamentary elections next year.

Kadhimi, last month, proposed early elections following monthslong protests by the Iraqi people.

The Iraqi premier is set to meet US President Donald Trump this week and will be the first Iraqi PM to visit the White House in three years. Washington did not extend any invites to Kadhimi’s predecessor, who was seen as close to Iran.

On Wednesday, Pompeo warned Iraqi that it needed to get armed groups under control.

“Armed groups not under the full control of the prime minister have impeded our progress. Those groups need to be replaced by local police as soon as possible,” Pompeo said at a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart.

The top US diplomat said the pair discussed ways Washington could “help preserve Iraq’s rich cultural heritage and religious diversity, and support education in Iraq as well.”

For his part, Iraqi FM Fuad Hussein said Baghdad saw the US an ally, “and a strong ally for Iraq. And we will continue to protect this alliance and to deepen it and expand it.”





Iran’s Mehr agency accused slain Iraq activist Reham Yacoub of working for US

Yaghoub Fazeli

20 August 2020

An Iranian state news agency had accused slain Iraqi activist Dr. Reham Yacoub of working for the US and against Iranian interests in Iraq.

Yacoub, an Iraqi activist, nutritionist and media personality was assassinated by unknown gunmen in central Basra on Wednesday.

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Yacoub took part in Iraq’s anti-government protests and had led several women’s marches.

An article by Iran’s Mehr news agency from September 2018 had accused the slain activist of cooperating with the US consulate in Basra and giving women in the city “riot-related training.”

“Under the guise of exercise and jogging, [Yacoub] gives [Basra]’s women riot-related training so they can be an important element of future demonstrations,” the article said.

Yacoub herself received “training” from US diplomats, the article said.

The article claims the US consulate recruited Yacoub and other Basra-based activists in 2017-2018 to advance US interests in Iraq.

The article concluded that Yacoub and other activists in Basra are part of a US plot to harm relations between Baghdad and Tehran and to “destroy the image” of Iran-backed militias in Iraq and the region.

Yacoub was one of four activists who were targeted and killed in Basra on Wednesday night while one other activist was assassinated in Baghdad, according to Al Arabiya's correspondent in the Iraqi capital.

The assassination of Yacoub comes a month after Iraqi security and extremism researcher Hisham al-Hashemi was shot dead near his home in Baghdad.


Iran upholds prison sentences of five Christians

Yaghoub Fazeli

19 August 2020

Iran has upheld the prison sentences of five Christian citizens who had been sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison, non-profit Christian watchdog Article 18 reported on Wednesday.

An Iranian appeals court recently upheld the sentences of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi who were sentenced to 10 and five years in prison respectively, according to Article 18.

Last week, Issavi was officially summoned to report to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison within five days to begin her five-year prison sentence, but she managed to flee the country with her husband hours before she was due to begin her sentence, Article 18 reported.

Bet-Tamraz and Issavi, both in their sixties, were charged with spreading Christianity and acting against national security by organizing and running house churches.

Iran considers the spreading of the Christian faith a criminal act. Every year, dozens of Christian citizens and Christian converts are arrested and given long prison terms.

The couple’s current whereabouts are unknown, but they are “safe and well” and “determined to continue their legal battle against their combined 15-year prison sentence,” their daughter Dabrina told Article 18.

The appeals court has also upheld the prison sentences of three Christian converts. They are Hadi Asgari, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi and Amin Afshar-Naderi. Asgari and Fallah-Mohammadi were each sentenced to 10 years in prison and Afshar-Naderi was sentenced to 15 years.

Bet-Tamraz, Fallah-Mohammadi and Afshar-Naderi were arrested at a Christmas celebration in 2014 and sentenced alongside Asgari in 2017. Issavi received her prison sentence half a year later, in January 2018.

Bet-Tamraz, Afshar-Naderi and Fallah-Mohammadi were at some point held in solitary confinement for 65 days, according to Article 18.

Iran’s constitution only recognizes followers of the three religions of Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity as religious minorities, but neither this group of Iranians, nor even Sunni Muslims, can perform their rites with complete freedom.

Christians, Sunni Muslims, Jews, Baha’i’s, and others are frequently subject to harassment, detention, and even execution.


Israel likely won’t stamp passports of UAE tourists: Israeli foreign ministry

Emily Judd

19 August 2020

Israel will likely not stamp passports of tourists traveling to the country from the UAE, according to Israel’s foreign ministry.

Israel and the UAE announced a historic agreement to normalize relations on Thursday, with plans to open up tourism and direct flights between the countries.

“In general, tourists arriving to Israel are not required to have their passports stamped at border control, but rather receive a paper note which can then be used to enter Israel,” Israeli foreign ministry deputy spokesman Nizar Amer told Al Arabiya English when asked about whether Israel will stamp UAE passports.

“The topic is expected to be raised in discussions between the two countries,” he added.

Israel stamping a UAE passport would be significant as certain Arab countries, such as Lebanon, place entry restrictions on people with Israeli stamps in their passports.

As Amer clarified, Israel has typically not stamped passports of foreign tourists and instead provides a small slip of paper at the airport upon arrival that works as an entry card into the country.

The United Arab Emirates has previously allowed entry to tourists with Israeli stamps in their passports and Israeli citizens have been allowed to enter the UAE if using a non-Israeli passport.

That is expected to change as relations normalize.

However the UAE already made an exception last December when it announced it would allow Israelis to enter the country using their Israeli passports for the 2020 World Expo, which has since been delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This week has seen major developments in UAE-Israel relations. On Tuesday, UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's foreign intelligence, the Mossad.

The two discussed bilateral cooperation in several fields, according to state news agency WAM.

On Monday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin invited Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Jerusalem.

Rivlin expressed the invitation in a letter, written in Arabic.

“I'm full of hope that this step will contribute to building and strengthening the mutual trust between us and the region's nations,” said Rivlin in the letter.

The UAE confirmed on Sunday that a phone link had been set up with Israel, unblocking phone calls between the countries.

UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi “inaugurated a phone link between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel following the historic Peace Accord,” said UAE Director of Strategic Communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hend Al Otaiba in a post on Twitter on Sunday.


Israeli airstrikes on Gaza Strip for 8th consecutive night

19 August 2020

Israeli aircraft have conducted airstrikes on the Gaza Strip for the 8th consecutive night.

Israel claims the raid was in response to a rocket that was fired from the besieged enclave.





‘East Mediterranean to decide future of EU-Turkey ties’

Muhammet Ikbal Arslan  


Developments in the Eastern Mediterranean will determine the future of relations between the European Union and Turkey, Greece and Southern Cyprus said Tuesday.

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias paid a visit to Southern Cyprus and met with his counterpart Nikos Christodoulides and President Nikos Anastasiadis.

Both sides decided the next step to take before the EU Foreign Ministers meeting to be held in Berlin on Aug. 27-28.

Claiming that Turkey’s activities in the region are directed against the EU, Dendias called on the bloc to respond to counter it.

He said Turkey is ignoring international and maritime law as well as European values.

Greece, Southern Cyprus and France have demanded that the EU impose sanctions on Turkey due to its activities in region.

Turkey last week resumed energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal.

The agreement came days after Ankara said it would postpone its oil and gas exploration as a goodwill gesture.

But after declaring the Greek-Egyptian deal "null and void," Turkey authorized the Oruc Reis seismic research vessel to continue its activities in an area within the country's continental shelf.

The ship will continue its two-week mission until Aug. 23 along with the vessels Cengiz Han and Ataman.

Turkey has consistently opposed Greece's efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.

Turkey has also said that energy resources near Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has issued Turkish Petroleum a license, and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the only solution to the dispute was through dialogue and negotiation and urged Athens to respect Turkey’s rights.


Turkey issues report on Turkish minority in Greece

Emin Avundukluoglu  


The Turkish parliament on Tuesday issued a report elaborating on religious and cultural problems faced by the Turkish minority in Greece.

The report by the Department of Research Services also examined the difficulties in protecting joint heritage sites in the southeastern European country, such as a 600-year-old Ottoman-era mosque in Didymoteicho.

Built in 1420, the Celebi Sultan Mehmet Mosque was severely damaged in a 2017 fire.

Turkey repeatedly offered cooperation to restore the mosque but to no avail.

“Despite the positive steps taken by the Greek authorities, the joint cultural heritage in Greece has not been protected as required," it said.

The research argued that some restoration works by Greek authorities have destroyed the real character and architectural aspects of structures.

It said that Turkish groups in Western Thrace and the Dodecanese Islands did not have control over their religious foundations, which negatively impacts the struggle to protect historical sites.

"Absence of any mosque in the Greek capital Athens, and the country's second-biggest city of Thessaloniki draws a reaction from the Turkish minority. Athens is the only European capital that has no mosque."

Greece's Western Thrace region – in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border – is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000.

Decades of Greek mistreatment towards the group has been ignored by the European Union, even as it violates international treaties, high court rulings, and the 27-member bloc’s own rules.





At least 45 migrants killed after boat capsizes off Libya coast: UN

19 August 2020

A boat carrying dozens of migrants bound for Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya and at least 45 people drowned or were missing and presumed dead, the UN said Wednesday.

The capsizing, which marked the largest number of fatalities in a single shipwreck off the coast of the North African country this year, happened Monday when the engine exploded, UN officials said. The boat, carrying at least 82 migrants, then capsized.

Thirty-seven survivors, mainly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen and later detained by Libyan officials onshore, according to a joint statement by the International Organization for Migration and the UN refugee agency.

The survivors reported 45 people, including five children, had drowned off the coast of the western town of Zuwara, the statement said.

Alarm Phone, an independent support group for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, said it received a call Saturday from someone on a migrant vessel “panicking and screaming” that passengers were about to die.

The migrants, among them five women, two of them pregnant, said the boat engine had stopped working and they did not have any food or water, the group said. Alarm Phone said it alerted Libyan, Maltese, Italian and Tunisian authorities and provided them with relevant details on the boat.

It was not immediately clear that this was the same vessel that capsized off Zuwara.

Alarm Phone said the last time it was in contact with the boat was late Saturday.

“We urge states to swiftly respond to these incidents,” the UN agencies said. “Delays recorded in recent months, and failure to assist, are unacceptable and put lives at avoidable risk.”

The shipwreck was the latest maritime disaster involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

In June, a dozen people were missing and feared drowned off the coastal town of Zawiya, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital, Tripoli.

Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.

Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. The IOM said in March that its estimated death toll among migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean passed the “grim milestone” of 20,000 deaths since 2014.

In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coast guard and other Libyan forces to stop the flow of migrants.


UN Security Council slams Mali 'mutiny,' urges dialogue

Michael Gabriel Hernandez 


The UN Security Council strongly condemned a military "mutiny" Wednesday in Mali that has led to the detention of senior government officials and their families.

The council's members "urged those mutineers to release safely and immediately all the officials detained and to return to their barracks without delay," and called on Mali's stakeholders to exercise restraint and prioritize dialogue to end the ongoing crisis.

The African Union suspended Mali’s membership Wednesday after soldiers ousted the president and his government the previous day. The decision to oust Mali will remain in effect until the restoration of constitutional order in the West African nation, it said.

It also demanded President Boubacar Keita and other senior officials be released.

Local heavyweight Nigeria condemned the coup and demanded an immediate “restoration of constitutional order.”

Keita announced his resignation Tuesday after being detained by soldiers. Prime Minister Boubou Cisse was also detained.

Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked militant groups to take control of the northern half of the country.

Keita, 75, came to power in 2013 but has been criticized by some who say he has failed to protect them from terrorist attacks mostly in the northern and central part of the country.

Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, suffers from the presence of several terror groups, despite the presence of French, Malian and UN peacekeepers who carry out counter-terrorism operations.

A 2015 peace agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel groups could not be implemented.


African Union condemns ‘unconstitutional change’ in Mali

19 August 2020

Chairman of the African Union and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday condemned the ‘unconstitutional change of government’ in Mali and demanded the release of its leaders.

In his first official reaction since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was forced out on Tuesday, Ramaphosa issued a statement demanding "the Malian military release from detention the president, the prime minister, ministers and other Government executives."

Keita said Wednesday he had stepped down to avoid "bloodshed" after he was detained in a coup, whose leaders pledged new elections. 

Ramaphosa called for the "immediate return to civilian rule and for the military to return to their barracks".

He also urged other leaders in Africa and beyond to "denounce and reject" the military-led government.

Separately, Angolan leader Joao Lourenco tweeted that despite the reasons behind Keita's ouster, "we repudiate and discourage this way of forcing the alternation of power." 

The development came hours after soldiers at the base in Kati, a town 15 kilometres from the capital of Bamako, staged a mutiny, detaining an unspecified number of high-ranking military and political figures, including the foreign and finance ministers and the parliament speaker.

The soldiers later arrested the president, along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, at their residences.

EU calls for ‘immediate’ release of detained Mali leaders

Separately, EU leaders also called for the immediate release of prisoners held after the coup in Mali, who include the country’s president and prime minister.

“We call for the immediate freeing of prisoners, and for a return to the state of law,” said EU Council chief Charles Michel after a video summit of the bloc’s 27 leaders.

“We believe that the stability of the region and of Mali, and the fight against terrorism should be an absolute priority,” he added.

The EU has operated a mission training the armed forces in Mali since 2013 and in July announced a joint EU special ops force to back Mali’s fight against jihadist groups.

Militants and inter-ethnic violence in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso killed at least 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations.

The entire Sahel region is seeing ever more brazen attacks by Islamist groups despite the beefing up of national armies and the deployment of 5,100 French anti-terrorism troops.

Michel said Europe would work in “close cooperation” with international and African institutions involved “so that we can come to a solution that is directly linked to the aspirations of the Mali people.”

Mali’s military promises civilian transition

In a statement broadcast on state-owned television early on Wednesday, a spokesman for the mutineers calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People said they had decided to act to prevent Mali from falling further into chaos.

Flanked by soldiers, committee spokesman Colonel Ismael Wague invited Mali’s civil society and political movements to join them to create conditions for a political transition that would lead to elections.

“Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy, and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny,” he said.


45 African migrants killed off Libya in worst shipwreck of year

19 August 2020

At least 45 African migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast in the largest recorded shipwreck this year, UN agencies said on Wednesday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration issued a statement disclosing the accident on Monday, and called for an increase of search and rescue capacity.

The statement reported that 45 migrants, including five children, lost their lives when the engine of the vessel exploded off the coast of Zwara.

"Some 37 survivors, mainly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen and later detained upon disembarkation," the statement said.

Libya is a major migration route for those seeking to reach Europe, with an estimated 654,000 migrants, often living in cramped conditions with little access to health care.

The latest shipwreck brings the death toll to at least 302 on the route so far this year, the UN agencies' statement said.

In recent months, hundreds of migrants have been stopped at sea and their vessels sent back to Libya despite the risk of violence there.

With Libyan state vessels taking responsibility for rescues in the absence of a European Union program, more than 7,000 people have been returned to Libya this year, the statement said.

The IOM and UNHCR say Libya should not be classified as a safe port for migrants and that they should not have to disembark there, wanting an alternative scheme to be created to take people rescued or intercepted at sea to safe ports.


Militants take hundreds hostage in northeastern Nigeria

20 August 2020

Daesh-linked militants have taken hundreds of hostages after overrunning a town in northeastern Nigeria.

Vigilante militia leader Babakura Kolo said on Wednesday that militants from the so-called West Africa Province (ISWAP) raided the town of Kukawa in Borno State late on Tuesday, seizing the residents, who had just returned to their homes after spending nearly two years in displacement camps in the regional capital, Maiduguri.

“The terrorists attacked the town in 22 trucks around 4:00 pm (16:00 GMT) yesterday and engaged soldiers guarding the town in a fierce battle,” he said.

The residents had returned to the town in early August under military escort on the orders of Borno State authorities. They had fled their homes following a bloody attack in November 2018.

A local chief who accompanied the residents to the town said the people had returned with the hope of cultivating their farmlands but had now ended up in the hands of the terrorists.

“We don’t know what they would do to them but I hope they don’t harm them,” said the chief, who spoke to AFP anonymously.

An unnamed security source who confirmed the incident to AFP said fighter jets were deployed from Maiduguri on Wednesday to “tackle the situation,” without giving any further details.

In the last two years, local authorities have been encouraging the displaced people who have fled due to an upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria to return home.

Residents have been returned to five major towns since 2018, where they are confined under military protection, with trenches dug around to try to fend off terrorist attacks.

Despite the fortifications, terrorist have continued to launch attacks.

ISWAP is a splinter group of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

The two groups have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more in the northeastern areas of Nigeria.

The violence has spilled over into the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, which have created a joint military force to fight the terrorists.


UN Security Council slams Mali 'mutiny,' urges dialogue

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  


The UN Security Council strongly condemned a military "mutiny" Wednesday in Mali that has led to the detention of senior government officials and their families.

The council's members "urged those mutineers to release safely and immediately all the officials detained and to return to their barracks without delay," and called on Mali's stakeholders to exercise restraint and prioritize dialogue to end the ongoing crisis.

The African Union suspended Mali’s membership Wednesday after soldiers ousted the president and his government the previous day. The decision to oust Mali will remain in effect until the restoration of constitutional order in the West African nation, it said.

It also demanded President Boubacar Keita and other senior officials be released.

Local heavyweight Nigeria condemned the coup and demanded an immediate “restoration of constitutional order.”

Keita announced his resignation Tuesday after being detained by soldiers. Prime Minister Boubou Cisse was also detained.

Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked militant groups to take control of the northern half of the country.

Keita, 75, came to power in 2013 but has been criticized by some who say he has failed to protect them from terrorist attacks mostly in the northern and central part of the country.

Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, suffers from the presence of several terror groups, despite the presence of French, Malian and UN peacekeepers who carry out counter-terrorism operations.

A 2015 peace agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel groups could not be implemented.


African Union suspends Mali's membership after coup

Addis Getachew  


The African Union has suspended Mali’s membership after soldiers on Tuesday ousted the nation’s president and his government.

The Pan-African body’s Peace and Security Council said Wednesday the suspension would remain in effect until the restoration of constitutional order in the West African nation.

It also demanded that President Boubacar Keita and other senior officials be released.

In a related development, local heavyweight Nigeria condemned the coup in Mali, demanding an immediate “restoration of constitutional order”.

“The Nigerian Government unequivocally condemns the coup d'état that took place in Mali yesterday and demands the immediate and unconditional restoration of constitutional order,” Nigeria’s Foreign Minister tweeted Wednesday.

“We welcome the urgent activation of the ECOWAS Standby force,” it added, referring to the Economic Community of West African States, an influential 15-member political and economic bloc.

Keita announced his resignation Tuesday after being detained by soldiers. Prime Minister Boubou Cisse was also detained.

Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a rebellion by Tuareg separatists that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked militant groups to take control of the northern half of the country.

Keita, 75, came to power in 2013 but has been criticized by some who say he has failed to protect them from terrorist attacks mostly in the northern and central part of the country.

Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, suffers from the presence of several terror groups, despite the presence of French, Malian, and UN peacekeepers who carry out counter-terrorism operations.

A 2015 peace agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel groups could not be implemented.


Libyan official agrees to meet pro-Haftar leader in Morocco



Khalid al-Mishri, head of Libya’s High State Council, has agreed to meet Aguila Saleh, speaker of the pro-Haftar Libyan parliament, in Morocco.

The meeting is part of Rabat’s efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis, al-Mishri said on Wednesday.

“There are efforts being made by Morocco under the supervision of King Mohammed VI to advance diplomatic efforts to solve the Libyan crisis,” he was quoted as saying by Moroccan news channel Medi1 TV.

“In this regard, we visited Morocco [in July], coinciding with the presence of Aguila Saleh in the kingdom. We said we are ready to meet with him in public, but on the condition of international guarantees and the presence of our Moroccan brothers.”

The top official said he was ready to meet all parties to the Libyan conflict on the same conditions.

On Morocco’s role in finding a solution to the Libyan crisis, al-Mishri said: “We trust the Moroccan leadership wants to reach a [just] solution and not secure the interests of one party at the expense of the other.”

Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Government of National Accord (GNA) was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar.

The UN recognizes the government headed by premier Fayez al-Sarraj as the country's legitimate authority, as Tripoli has battled Haftar's militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

Turkey continues to support the internationally recognized government, while Haftar has been backed by Russia, France, Egypt, and the UAE.


Nigeria: 12 civilians reported killed in volatile town




By Olarewaju Kola

LAGOS, Nigeria (AA) - Roughly a dozen civilians have been killed by Boko Haram terrorists during an attack on a volatile town in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, according to locals.

The terrorists invaded Kukawa, a restive town on the Nigerian border with Chad and Niger at about 4 pm local time (1500GMT) on Tuesday, shooting sporadically, community leader Mustapha Lawan told Anadolu Agency in Maiduguri, Borno’s provincial capital.

The incident was not immediately known until Wednesday afternoon due to the breakdown of telecommunication facilities in the area.

The town is located on the Lake Chad shore and processes fish to send it to various parts of the country and neighboring African nations for sale.

Ahmad Sajo, a member of a state-backed irregular security force, said some military personnel were abducted by the terrorists.

No one has claimed responsibility for the incident, but the town was attacked and captured by Boko Haram in 2014, liberated by the military in 2016, and attacked again in December 2018.

The military has not also responded to the incident.

The attack came barely two weeks after the convoy of Borno’s governor, Babagana Zulum, was ambushed in the area by suspected Boko Haram terrorists.

Over 50,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed and about 3 million people displaced in over a decade of Boko Haram terror attacks in the country's northeast.



North America


Trump says US to invoke snapback of UN's Iran sanctions

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  



President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform the UN Security Council that the US intends to "snap back" international sanctions on Iran lifted as part of a 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump told reporters at the White House the action is "a snapback, not uncommon," even as it has been met with uniform opposition from the pact's signatories.

The US president decided in 2018 to unilaterally withdraw Washington from the multilateral nuclear accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was chiefly led by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

In so doing, Trump ignored the objections from all of the pact's other participants, who now openly question the US's standing to invoke snapback, as it is no longer a party to the JCPOA. All of the other signatories -- the EU, UK, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and China -- remain participants to the pact.

The EU's foreign policy chief said Sunday that the US lacks standing to invoke snapback due to Trump's May 2018 decision to leave the agreement and Washington's subsequent lack of participation in any of the accord's mechanisms.

"We therefore consider that the US is not in a position to resort to mechanisms reserved for JCPOA participants (such as the so-called snapback)," Josep Borrell’s spokesman said, according to Germany's DPA news agency.

The "snapback" mechanism allows a deal participant to restore UN sanctions lifted as part of the agreement if it deems Iran to be in violation of the pact.

Trump continued to rail against the agreement, saying it "funneled tens of billions of dollars to Iran," repeating his assertion that it is a "total disaster" and maintaining that the US still has a right to re-invoke UN sanctions despite its withdrawal.

"When we entered into the Iran deal, it was clear that the United States would always have the right to restore the UN sanctions that will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," he said.

Trump's decision comes after the US was dealt an embarrassing blow when it failed to gain the necessary support to pass a Security Council resolution that would have extended an international arms embargo on Iran that sunset on Oct. 18 under the JCPOA.

Only one other nation in the 15-member chamber voted with the US in approval, with all others either opposed or abstaining from the vote.

The US effort to invoke snapback could occur as soon as Thursday, when Pompeo travels to New York on a two-day trip to formally notify the Security Council that the US will begin the snapback process.

That would start a 30-day countdown for the sanctions to be re-imposed and for the arms embargo to be extended.

"Secretary Pompeo’s notification to the Council follows its inexcusable failure last week to extend the arms embargo on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism. Secretary Pompeo will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss Iran and other issues of shared concern," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The Trump administration is rushing to do so before Russia assumes the Security Council presidency in October.


US senators warn Trump of Saudi covert nuclear program

Michael Gabriel Hernandez  



A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to US President Donald Trump warning him of the dangers of Saudi Arabia's undeclared nuclear and ballistic missiles program, according to a report published Wednesday.

“Saudi Arabia is positioning itself to develop the front-end of the [nuclear] fuel cycle. These technologies, if unchecked, would give Riyadh a latent capacity to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen wrote in the letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

He was joined by two other Democrat and three Republican senators. They include Susan Collins, Tim Kaine, Jeff Merkley, Jerry Moran and Rand Paul.

The letter follows a publication of an exclusive report in the newspaper that Riyadh is secretly expanding its nuclear program with Beijing's help. Citing western officials, the report said it has constructed a facility to process uranium into the key yellowcake concentrated powder needed for enrichment.

The manufacture of yellowcake alone is not enough to establish a nuclear weapons program, but it is a key early step in that direction or to develop a civilian nuclear program.

The letter additionally draws attention to reports Saudi Arabia is secretly developing a ballistic missile program with China's aid.

“The Saudis appear to be hiding significant parts of their nuclear program, which calls into question their intentions,” Van Hollen told the newspaper. “China is exploiting the situation.”


US charges two citizens, one Pakistani with moving US currency to Iran, Khamenei

Ismaeel Naar

20 August 2020

Two American citizens and one Pakistani national have been charged with federal crimes by the US Justice Department on Wednesday for moving US currency to Iran on behalf of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader in 2018 and 2019.

Muzzamil Zaidi, 36, a US citizen who resides in Qom, Iran, was charged with acting in the United States as an agent of the government of Iran without first notifying the Attorney General. Zaidi, Asim Naqvi, 36, another US citizen who lives in Houston, Texas, and Ali Chawla, 36, a Pakistani national who lives in Qom, Iran, were all charged with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

“The complaint alleges that both charges stem from the defendants’ campaign to transport US currency from the United States to Iran on behalf of the Supreme Leader of Iran in 2018 and 2019. Both Zaidi and Naqvi were arrested in Houston,” according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

According to an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against the defendants, Zaidi offered his services to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in or around July 2015 and said that he could serve the “Islamic Republic in the socio-political or another field.”

Zaidi is reported to have traveled to Syria sometime in June 2018 and then flew to an “active war zone” in an armed Iranian military or intelligence aircraft.

“This case is significant on many levels. To begin, as alleged in the criminal complaint, the defendants have considerable operational links to the IRGC, which has conducted multiple terrorist operations throughout the world over the past several years. The life-blood of these terrorist operations is cash – and the defendants played a key role in facilitating that critical component,” said Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The criminal complaint alleges that a letter Zaidi also received permission Khamenei to spend khums (religious tax) money in Yemen. Prior to his move to the United States beginning June 2020, Zaidi also spent time at an IRGC Quds Force base.


US to impose UN sanctions ‘snapback’ on Iran: Trump

20 August 2020

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he is directing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to notify the United Nations Security Council that the United States intends to restore virtually all previously suspended UN sanctions on Iran.

"Today I'm directing the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to notify the UN Security Council that the United States intends to restore virtually all of the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran," Trump told reporters.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Pompeo will likely travel to New York on Thursday to seek a return of all UN sanctions on Iran and meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, diplomats and a UN official said.

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The United States is expecting to trigger snapback – a return of all US sanctions on Iran – soon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, after the UN Security Council rejected Washington’s bid to extend an arms embargo on the country.

To trigger a return of the sanctions, the United States will submit a complaint to the 15-member UN Security Council about Iran’s non-compliance with the nuclear deal, even though Washington quit the accord in 2018.


US sanctions 3 accused of aiding Iran's Mahan Air

Michael Hernandez  



The US slapped sanctions on two companies and one individual Wednesday on allegations they procured parts and provided logistic services for Iran's Mahan Air.

The airliner was designated by the US in 2001 for providing support to the external operations branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The two companies sanctioned Wednesday are United Arab Emirates-based Parthia Cargo and Delta Parts, as well as Iranian national Amin Mahdavi who the Treasury Department says is the owner of Parthia Cargo.

“The Iranian regime uses Mahan Air as a tool to spread its destabilizing agenda around the world, including to the corrupt regimes in Syria and Venezuela, as well as terrorist groups throughout the Middle East,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States will continue to take action against those supporting this airline.”

The services provided by Parthia Cargo and Delta Parts have allowed Mahan Air to maintain its fleet of American, French and British-manufactured aircraft.

While Mahan Air is primarily a civilian airliner, the US accuses it of being used by Iran's military to ferry fighters and cargo to Syria to prop up the Assad regime, as well as sending aid to US rival Venezuela.

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Parthia Cargo and Mahdavi related to the unlicensed re-export of US manufactured aircraft parts, the Treasury said.



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