Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport

Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport
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Updated 07 January 2020

Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport

Iran’s Gen. Soleimani killed in airstrike at Baghdad airport
  • The strike also killed Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces
  • The Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans”

BAGHDAD: The United States killed Iran’s top general and the architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, an attack that threatens to dramatically ratchet up tensions in the region.
The targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, could draw forceful Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region and spiral into a far larger conflict between the US and Iran, endangering US troops in Iraq, Syria and beyond.

Iranian State TV channel Iran Press broadcasts images showing burnt cars purportedly at the site of a US strike which killed Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad:


The Defense Department said it killed Soleimani because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.
An adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani quickly warned US President Donald Trump of retaliation from Tehran.
“Trump through his gamble has dragged the US into the most dangerous situation in the region,” Hessameddin Ashena wrote on the social media app Telegram. “Whoever put his foot beyond the red line should be ready to face its consequences.”
The airport strike also killed Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, and five others, including the PMF’s airport protocol officer, Mohammed Reda, Iraqi officials said.
Trump was vacationing on his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, but sent out a tweet of an American flag.

The dramatic attack comes at the start of a year in which Trump faces both a Senate trial following his impeachment by the US House and a re-election campaign. It marks a potential turning point in the Middle East and represents a drastic change for American policy toward Iran after months of tensions.
Tehran shot down a US military surveillance drone and seized oil tankers. The US also blames Iran for a series of attacks targeting tankers, as well as a September assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that temporarily halved its production.
The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Soleimani was the target of Friday’s US attack, which was conducted by an armed American drone, according to a US official. His vehicle was struck on an access road near the Baghdad airport.
A senior Iraqi security official said the airstrike took place near the cargo area after Soleimani left his plane to be greeted by Al-Muhandis and others. The official said the plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria.
Two officials from the PMF said Suleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack, while they did not find the body of Al-Muhandis. A senior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject and because they were not authorized to give official statements.
It’s unclear what legal authority the US relied on to carry out the attack. American presidents claim broad authority to act without congressional approval when US personnel or interests are facing an imminent threat. The Pentagon did not provide evidence to back up its assertion that Soleimani was planning new attacks against Americans.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Trump owes a full explanation to Congress and the American people. “The present authorizations for use of military force in no way cover starting a possible new war. This step could bring the most consequential military confrontation in decades,” Blumenthal said.
But Trump allies were quick to praise the action. “To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more,” tweeted South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

For Iran, the killing represents more than just the loss of a battlefield commander, but also a cultural icon who represented national pride and resilience while facing US sanctions. While careful to avoid involving himself in politics, Soleimani’s profile rose sharply as US and Israeli officials blamed him for Iranian proxy attacks abroad.
While Iran’s conventional military has suffered under 40 years of American sanctions, the Guard has built up a ballistic missile program. It also can strike asymmetrically in the region through forces like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The US long has blamed Iran for car bombings and kidnappings it never claimed.

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As the head of the Quds, or Jersualem, Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani led all of its expeditionary forces and frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Quds Force members have deployed into Syria’s long war to support President Bashar Assad, as well as into Iraq in the wake of the 2003 US invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of Tehran.
Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Daesh group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of the embattled Assad.
US officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against US troops after the invasion of Iraq. Iran has denied that. Soleimani himself remains popular among many Iranians, who see him as a selfless hero fighting Iran’s enemies abroad.
Soleimani had been rumored dead several times, including in a 2006 airplane crash that killed other military officials in northwestern Iran and following a 2012 bombing in Damascus that killed top aides of Assad. Rumors circulated in November 2015 that Soleimani was killed or seriously wounded leading forces loyal to Assad as they fought around Syria’s Aleppo.
Soleimani’s killing follows the New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the US Embassy in Baghdad. The two-day embassy attack, which ended Wednesday, prompted Trump to order about 750 US soldiers deployed to the Middle East.
It also prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to postpone his trip to Ukraine and four other countries “to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday.
The breach at the embassy followed US airstrikes Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The US military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the US blamed on the militia.
US officials have suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq.
“The game has changed,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq — including the Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed one American — will be met with US military force.

 


Egypt denies Turkish claims over Mediterranean talks

Egypt denies Turkish claims over Mediterranean talks
Turkey’s position on the eastern Mediterranean issue has caused concern among its neighboring countries. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 March 2021

Egypt denies Turkish claims over Mediterranean talks

Egypt denies Turkish claims over Mediterranean talks
  • President El-Sisi praises strength of Egyptian-Greek ties in phone talks with PM Mitsotakis
  • The Egyptian side is sticking to its position rejecting the maritime agreement signed between the Libyan Government of National Accord and Ankara

CAIRO: Egyptian diplomatic sources have denied rumors that Cairo discussed the eastern Mediterranean issue with Turkey.

Egypt is committed to Cyprus and Greece being part of any negotiations with Turkey, the sources added.
Cairo also has “no intentions” of negotiating with Turkey over the issue, they said.
Turkish claims that a resolution is close to being reached are false, the sources said.
“The Egyptian side is sticking to its position rejecting the maritime agreement signed between the Libyan Government of National Accord and Ankara,” they said.
“Egypt’s respect for the maritime borders of the Mediterranean countries is not new and Turkey’s attempts to claim that the two countries have negotiated is incorrect.”
The comments follow claims by Turkey’s foreign minister, who said that Ankara would finalize an agreement with Egypt in line with the maritime authority agreement concluded with Libya and registered with the UN.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi recently discussed by phone areas of cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Egyptian presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said that the two discussed close bilateral relations, especially cooperation in the field of energy and the eastern Mediterranean.
During the call, El-Sisi praised the strength of Egyptian-Greek relations.
He mentioned Egypt’s pride in cooperative relations with Greece and positive developments between the two countries over common interests.
The claims by Turkey’s foreign minister follow attempts by Ankara to gather Egyptian support over its claims to parts of the eastern Mediterranean.
Last year, the spokesman for the Turkish presidency, Ibrahim Kalin, also expressed Ankara’s desire to restore relations with Egypt.
Turkish activity has intensified relations with neighboring countries — especially Greece and Cyprus — as Ankara seeks to control regional waters that are likely to contain significant quantities of natural gas.
While Egypt has demarcated its borders with Greece, El-Sisi last October ratified an agreement with Greece on the designation of an exclusive economic zone between the two countries.
In 2019, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories held the EastMed Gas Forum, which did not include Turkey.
Turkish gas exploration in marine areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus has also led to a breakdown of relations between the countries.


Lebanese judiciary pursues currency speculators amid protests

Lebanese judiciary pursues currency speculators amid protests
Lebanese pound banknotes are seen at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon June 15, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 March 2021

Lebanese judiciary pursues currency speculators amid protests

Lebanese judiciary pursues currency speculators amid protests
  • Hundreds of people protested on Sunday night on motorcycles, roaming near the suburbs inhabited by a majority of Christians, which prompted the mobilization of security forces

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have ordered a crackdown on illicit foreign currency speculation as protests continue in Beirut.
The Attorney General Judge Ghassan Oweidat directed the Lebanese security services, including the Military Intelligence, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security, the State Security and the customs officials, to pursue money-changers who tamper with the national currency and are involved in illicit foreign currency speculation.
This move, not the first of its kind, is an attempt to dampen the widespread indignation that has continued for six days and intensified in street protests on Saturday and Sunday, which broke out after the dollar exchange rate hit 11,000 Lebanese pounds.
The protesters set up road blocks with rocks and burning tires on all major streets in Beirut and on the highways linking the regions. The Lebanese army reopened the blocked roads.
Hundreds of people protested on Sunday night on motorcycles, roaming near the suburbs inhabited by a majority of Christians, which prompted the mobilization of security forces. A clash took place in Choueifat between the protesters and a driver who drove through a blocked road, injuring seven protesters. The security forces arrested him.
The protests have moved from one area to the next without any visible leadership.
During the weekend, they went into areas that were not usually affected by protests, including the southern suburbs, the southern road, which Hezbollah deems forbidden to be blocked, and the city of Hermel in northern Bekaa, where people staged a sit-in and burned tires to protest over the poor living conditions.
Activists in Baalbek carried out a protest march opposite the city’s Roman citadel.
Political analyst Hanna Saleh said: “There is no explanation for the rise in the dollar exchange rate on Saturday night and the motorcycle protests except that it is an attempt to provoke a sectarian atmosphere to undermine the civil protests against the corrupt ruling authority.
“The goal is to resurrect President Michel Aoun, who, according to polls conducted by Hezbollah, is in a difficult situation and is no longer accepted by his public.”
Saleh added: “Every formula that provides cover for Hezbollah deepens the wounds of Lebanon. Hezbollah wants to run the game from behind the scenes. It has established a parallel economy. How can reforms take place in the presence of this parallel economy?”


Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar
Updated 08 March 2021

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar

Yemeni government says restores ties with Qatar
  • Both sides agreed to unify diplomatic positions on Yemen

LONDON: Yemen’s internationally recognized government on Sunday restored diplomatic ties with Qatar, the foreign ministry announced.
Both sides agreed to resume bilateral relations and coordinate positions regarding political regional and international developments.
They also said they would unify diplomatic positions on Yemen, and work to achieve peace and stability in the region.
The announcement came following talks in Doha, between Yemen’s foreign minister, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman.
Bin Mubarak delivered a message from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, thanking Doha for its humanitarian and development support for Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt ended a three-year rift with Qatar following a Gulf summit in the historic Saudi city of AlUla in January.
During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed underlined the need for a political solution to end the six-year war in Yemen.
He renewed Qatar’s support for unity, security and territorial integrity of Yemen, including supporting the efforts of UN envoy Martin Griffiths to bring peace and stability.
Kuwait last month hosted bilateral talks with Qatar and Egypt, and with Qatar and the UAE, aimed at resolving individual issues.

(With Reuters)


The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative
Updated 08 March 2021

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative

The Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa initiative
  • El-Amin chose Kenya to launch the initiative because she had already formed a community of volunteers there to serve the society

CAIRO: Sarah El-Amin, the Egyptian woman behind the Happy Africa Organization, previously worked in philanthropy through a charitable institution, and as an investigative journalist. 

El-Amin was doing well as a journalist, but after the sudden death of her mother she decided to travel to Kenya to study. It was during this time that the idea of the organization came to her.

She started working to convey the true image of Egypt across the African continent through her community work with tribes in remote areas, which took eight hours to reach from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

“My focus in my work abroad was serving the neediest areas in Africa, and I carried out many successful projects in Kenya,” El-Amin told Arab News.

“I was cited as an example of an Egyptian girl who overcame obstacles. During my trip abroad, I succeeded and was able to establish the organization with the support of a number of Egyptians abroad,” she said.

During her stay abroad and following the implementation of many projects, a number of Egyptian expatriates shared their experiences with El-Amin and together they came up with a plan.

“I could not do anything on my own without the collective effort of all the members of the Egyptian community in Kenya supporting me,” she said.

El-Amin chose Kenya to launch the initiative because she had already formed a community of volunteers there to serve the society.

She volunteered to work in a center for treating AIDS patients in Kenya, with the help of Italian experts and volunteers. 

She said that she named the foundation Happy Africa Organization because it aimed to ensure the happiness of African people with the support of Egyptians, financially and through other initiatives in different sectors.

El-Amin recently returned to Egypt, where the country’s Emigration and Expatriates Affair Minister Nabila Makram, and Maya Mursi, chairman of the National Council for Women, presented her with the Al Ta’ Marbouta Shield for her services to humanity.

The Ministry of Immigration has launched an official initiative, “The Power of Egyptian Women Abroad,” with El-Amin as its ambassador.

“The initiative aims to involve Egyptian women abroad in supporting the project to develop Egyptian villages to improve the lives of Egyptians,” El-Amin said.


Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
Zainab Al-Eqabi was picked to star in The Body Shop's Self-Love Uprising campaign. (Instagram)
Updated 08 March 2021

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere

Meet the Iraqi para-athlete inspiring confidence in women everywhere
  • There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society
  • Zainab Al-Eqabi, 30, is a beacon of body positivity and source of motivation

DUBAI: When Iraqi sports enthusiast Zainab Al-Eqabi was seven years old, a bomb went off near her Baghdad home. Al-Eqabi, now 30, lost one of her legs as a result of the explosion.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey,” the pharmacist-turned-athlete told Arab News. It was the support of family and friends, as well as her own inner strength, that got her through. And despite the odds stacked against her, Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and has gone on to compete in several sports competitions in the UAE.

However, the 30-year-old admits that she has not always been an athlete — it was not until a doctor recommended that she should start swimming to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg, that she took up sports.

Al-Eqabi says that it “was a turning point” in her life.

“Swimming was not as difficult and scary as I thought at all, and it kind of opened up the doors to other sports,” she said. She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE, and in 2020 joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

On top of an intense training schedule, a full-time job as a pharmacist and giving motivational speeches, Al-Eqabi makes a point of posting inspiring photographs of herself on Instagram — where she has accrued 1.5 million followers — with the aim of breaking stereotypes, combatting prejudices and contributing to a more confident society.

FASTFACTS

• Zainab Al-Eqabi lost her leg in a bomb blast in Baghdad when she was seven.

• She started swimming on her doctor’s advice to ease her back pain, which was induced by her prosthetic leg.

• On top of an intense training schedule, she works full-time as a pharmacist and gives motivational speeches.

• She competed in two triathlons as a cyclist in the UAE.

• In 2020, she joined the Dubai Fitness Challenge, during which she hauled a 2,000kg Jeep.

• Al-Eqabi has taken her athleticism to a new level and participated in several sports competitions in the UAE.

“In the Middle East, there’s this stigma on people with special needs or any kind of disability,” she said. “When I used to tell people that I have a prosthetic leg, they wouldn’t understand. They didn’t understand that I have an amputation. So, I decided to create a Facebook page called ‘Disabled and Proud’ and just started to note down stories from my daily life,” she said.

She recalled one instance when a woman confided in her that her disabled son had become more social and confident since he started following Al-Eqabi on social media.

“There are so many people with disabilities who feel shy or embarrassed, or they just choose not to integrate into society. They limit their activity and involvement, just because of what they’re going through,” she said. “I hated that. So that’s what made me start posting on social media.”

Naturally, Al-Eqabi was the perfect fit when The Body Shop was searching for regional faces to represent its new Global Self Love Movement campaign, which promotes self-esteem and body positivity.

“I can really relate to this campaign. Self-love is a treasure that we all need to keep developing so that we can have the best relationship with our own self. I’m honestly so proud to be a part of this campaign,” she said.

When it comes to her own beauty routine, she follows a diligent skin care regimen because she believes that taking care of our bodies is important. Most days, she goes bare-faced, simply applying moisturizer and sunscreen and using a face mask once a week. On the days that she is not swimming, she will swipe a few coats of mascara on her lashes.

Ultimately though, Al-Eqabi’s secret to feeling her best is getting plenty of sleep and exercise. “Working out just makes you really feel good,” she said.

Al-Eqabi has had to put many of her plans on hold due to the pandemic. However, she continues to be a beacon of body positivity.

“I want to tell the person with a disability, don’t let it stop you, because at the end of the day you need to live your life. It doesn’t make sense to be excluded and to go through that by yourself. This is your life. You deserve to live it and enjoy it.”