Netanyahu and Bolton urge Europe to pressure Iran

John Bolton’s talks in Israel focused on Iran and its presence in Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 21 August 2018
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Netanyahu and Bolton urge Europe to pressure Iran

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton met in Jerusalem on Monday and called on European nations to do more to pressure Iran.
Bolton arrived in Israel on Sunday for three days of talks expected to focus mainly on Iran and its presence in Syria.
Netanyahu strongly urged Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal between Israel’s main enemy Iran and world powers, and the US president did so in May, resulting in the reimposition of sanctions.
Israel and the US have been closely aligned on their approach to Iran since Trump took office.
“I frankly believe that all countries who care about peace and security in the Middle East should follow America’s lead and ratchet up the pressure on Iran,” Netanyahu said.
“Because the greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the chance that the regime will roll back its aggression. And everybody should join this effort.”
The comments were a veiled reference to European countries, which are seeking to save the nuclear deal and have vowed to keep providing Iran with the economic benefits it received from the accord.
They argue that the nuclear deal is working as intended in keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for now.
Bolton said “it’s a question of the highest importance for the United States that Iran never get a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.”
“It’s why President Trump withdrew from the wretched Iran nuclear deal,” he said, speaking alongside Netanyahu.
“It’s why we’ve worked with our friends in Europe to convince them of the need to take stronger steps against the Iranian nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.”
The US and Israel argue the deal was too limited in scope and timeframe while also allowing Iran to finance militant activities in the region due to the lifting of sanctions.
Bolton’s trip will also take him later in the week to Ukraine and Geneva, where he will meet with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev on Thursday.
The meeting in Geneva is a follow-up to Trump’s highly controversial July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, according to the White House.
Iran is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war along with Russia and Hezbollah.
Netanyahu has pledged to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, and a series of recent strikes that have killed Iranians there have been attributed to Israel.
He has also pressed Putin to guarantee that Iranian forces in Syria and their allies, such as Hezbollah, will be kept far away from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Slow process
Washington has said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept Trump’s offer to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal. Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected the offer.
“We do not want to revisit that nuclear deal. We want the United States to implement that (2015) nuclear deal” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN on Sunday.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi on Monday urged Europe to speed up efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Europeans and other signatories of the deal have been trying to save the deal ... but the process has been slow. It should be accelerated,” the spokesman said.
“Iran relies mainly on its own capabilities to overcome America’s new sanctions,” he said.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said France’s Total has formally left a contract to develop Iran’s South Pars Gas project. “The process to replace (Total) with another company is underway,” he was quoted as saying by state TV.
Total signed the deal in 2017 with an initial investment of $1 billion.

President Hassan Rouhani is facing a growing domestic backlash since Trump pulled out from the international accord
Iranian lawmakers have launched impeachment proceedings against the finance minister, ramping up pressure on Rouhani who is already facing attacks from hardliners over his handling of the economy in the face of new US sanctions.
A group of 33 MPs signed a motion accusing the minister, Masoud Karbasian, of being unable to manage the economy or form and implement policies.
That was enough votes to force Karbasian to come to Parliament to answer questions on his record in the next 10 days.
If lawmakers are unhappy with his answers, they can vote to impeach and sack him — a move they took two weeks ago against Iran’s then minister of cooperatives, labour and social welfare, Ali Rabiei, after questioning his achievements.


After years of silence, music fills streets of Iraq’s Mosul

Renowned Iraqi maestro and cello player Karim Wasfi performs in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City on November 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 24 sec ago
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After years of silence, music fills streets of Iraq’s Mosul

  • The city even has its own special genre of Arabic ballads, recognized across Iraq and beyond
  • Tahsin Haddad, who heads the local artists’ syndicate, said he is keen to support public arts across the province

MOSUL: For centuries, it was a magnet for artists across the region and churned out Iraq’s best musicians — but recent years saw Mosul suffer a devastating musical purge.
For three years until last summer, the sprawling northern city was under the brutal rule of the Daesh group.
In imposing a city-wide ban on playing or even listening to music, the jihadists smashed and torched instruments.
“It was impossible to bring my instrument with me whenever I left the house,” said city resident Fadel Al-Badri, who hid his precious violin from the rampaging fighters.
Foreshadowing IS’ repression, the 2000s saw Al-Qaeda and other groups impose an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam in several districts of the city.
But with Mosul freed from the grip of IS in July 2017, Iraq’s second city is embarking on a musical comeback.
“After the liberation, songs are back where they truly belong in Mosul,” said Badri, welcoming the return of evening celebrations and festivals.
The 45-year old violinist now has the pleasure of playing in public once more to an audience that claps hands and sings along to traditional local tunes.

Mosul has a rich musical history.
It is the home city of Ziryab, a musician who introduced the oud — the oriental lute popular across the Arab world — to Europe in the 9th century.
One of its more recent musical prodigies is Kazem Al-Saher, the Iraqi crooner-turned-talent judge known around the region.
The city even has its own special genre of Arabic ballads, recognized across Iraq and beyond.
From folkloric shows and philharmonic concerts to weddings and other national holidays, song and dance have traditionally filled the streets and surrounding air.
But that meant nothing to IS, which ravaged Mosul’s heritage — musical and otherwise — when it took the city as part of a lightning offensive across Iraq in 2014.
The jihadists began by destroying the statue of celebrated ballad virtuoso Mulla Uthman Al-Mosuli, and then turned their attention to destroying instruments across the city.
IS also forced musicians in Mosul to sign a pledge that they would never play or sing again, which was then posted in public places like mosques.
Singer Ahmed Al-Saher, 33, said it was humiliating.
“I couldn’t leave Mosul after they made me sign because of my sick mother. I had to stay here under all that pressure and fear of the unknown,” he recalled.
Ordinary residents, as well as musicians, are keen to celebrate the return of artistic freedom.
“Terrorism failed in killing Mosulites’ love for art in all forms. It’s been born again, despite the destruction,” said Amneh Al-Hayyali.
The 38-year-old brought her husband, son, and daughter to watch a late-night concert in a cultural center in east Mosul.
“Today, after the dark era of beheadings, lashings, beards and veils being imposed on us... we sing,” she said.

But bringing Mosul’s artistic scene back to its former heyday will not be easy.
Tahsin Haddad, who heads the local artists’ syndicate, said he is keen to support public arts across the province.
“But we are in huge need of support from the central government in Baghdad, especially because Mosul currently has no stages, movie theaters, or art spaces,” he told AFP.
Without these venues, artists play in local cafes and public squares.
Celebrated Iraqi musician Karim Wasfi recently performed in a Mosul park where IS once infamously trained its child soldiers.
Earlier this month, Iraqi artists from around the country swarmed to the city for a cultural festival at Mosul University.
Performers stomped the dabkeh — a traditional Arabic line dance — and painters brought their works to display on the campus.
Glamorous Iraqi artist Adiba traveled from Baghdad with an entourage of peers.
“I am so happy to be in Mosul, singing here after it was freed from the grip” of IS, she said, moments before stepping on stage.
“Artists — Iraqi, Arab, foreign — should all come play festivals here.”