Washington disrupts Tehran-Moscow network sending oil to Assad regime

Syrian opposition fighters from the National Liberation Front take position on the frontline facing regime forces in Al-Rashedeen, west of Aleppo. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2018
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Washington disrupts Tehran-Moscow network sending oil to Assad regime

  • Multi-faceted strategy needed to lessen Iranian influence in Syria, expert tells Arab News
  • The US authorities alleged that since 2014, vessels carrying Iranian oil have switched off transponders to conceal deliveries to Syria

JEDDAH: The US has moved to disrupt an Iranian-Russian network that it said had sent millions of barrels of oil to Syria and hundreds of millions of dollars to indirectly fund militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

The complicated arrangement, described by the US Treasury in a statement on Tuesday, involved a Syrian citizen allegedly using his Russia-based company to ship Iranian oil to Syria with the aid of a Russian state-owned company.

Syria then helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Hezbollah, which functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a militia, as well as to Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules the Gaza Strip.

The US authorities alleged that since 2014, vessels carrying Iranian oil have switched off transponders to conceal deliveries to Syria.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Majid Rafizadeh described the move as a step in the right direction.

“This move is the first correct step toward reducing Russia’s, and specifically, Iran’s increasing influence in Syria,” he told Arab News. “Tehran’s political opportunism in Syria is serving the Iranian regime ideologically, economically, geopolitically and strategically.”

According to him, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is also establishing a permanent military base in the south of Damascus and has significant control over some Syrian airports.

“A multi-faceted strategy is required to lessen Iran’s military, political and economic influence in Syria,” said Rafizadeh. “Governments around the world must act now to reduce Iran’s influence across Syria before it is too late.”

Russia will continue supplying oil to Syria in line with its agreement with Damascus despite pressure from the US, said Oleg Morozov, a member of the Russian Federation Council.

“The political defeat in Syria apparently prompts the United States to return to the idea of regime change in Damascus. Therefore, economic pressure through oil supply shutdown becomes a tool of the new economic war with (Syrian President) Bashar Assad and indirectly with Moscow and Iran,” he said.

“We have an agreement with Syria and therefore it’s up to us to decide what we supply and to whom. This will be our answer, (it is) much more effective than counter-sanctions,” he added.

 


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.