Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

Trump made the comments to reporters on Air Force One. (AP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Trump: Middle East peace plan likely rolled out in days

  • Said his administration talked briefly to the Palestinians
  • Plan is expected to strongly favor Israel

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he’ll likely release the long-awaited White House Mideast peace plan before his meeting early next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.
“It’s a great plan. It’s a plan that really would work,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One en route to a Republican Party meeting in Florida.
He said he was surprised that both Netanyahu and Gantz were willing to take a break from campaigning for the March 2 elections to join him Tuesday in Washington.
“They both would like to do the deal. They want to see peace,” Trump said. “Look, Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace. They all want peace. Not everyone wants to say it.”
He said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who have rejected the administration’s peace plan before it even comes out.
“We’ve spoken to them briefly. But we will speak to them in a period of time,” Trump said. “And they have a lot of incentive to do it. I’m sure they maybe will react negatively at first, but it’s actually very positive to them.”
Vice President Mike Pence announced the invitation for Netanyahu and Gantz to visit during at a meeting with the prime minister in Jerusalem after addressing an international forum Thursday on the Holocaust. He said that at Netanyahu’s request, the invitation was also issued to Gantz, a former army chief.
The plan is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.
“We have had no better friend than President Trump,” Netanyahu said. “With this invitation, I think that the president is seeking to give Israel the peace and security that it deserves.”
The Palestinians rejected Trump’s peace efforts after he recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in May 2018. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war and annexed, to be their capital.
“If this deal is announced with these rejected formulas, the leadership will announce a series of measures in which we safeguard our legitimate rights, and we will demand Israel assume its full responsibilities as an occupying power,” said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He appeared to be referring to oft-repeated threats to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That would force Israel to resume responsibility for providing basic services to millions of Palestinians.
“We warn Israel and the US administration from crossing the red lines,” Abu Rdeneh said.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing Israeli officials, said the plan is expected to be extremely favorable toward Israel and offer it control over large parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians seek the entire territory, which was also captured by Israel in 1967, as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the international community supports the Palestinian position.
Netanyahu has said he plans to annex the Jordan Valley as well as Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which would all but extinguish any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has tried to make that the cornerstone of his campaign for reelection following unprecedented back-to-back elections last year that left him in a virtual tie with Gantz, with neither able to cobble together a ruling coalition.
The deadlock was deepened by Netanyahu’s indictment last year on serious charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption investigations. Netanyahu has asked Israel’s parliament to grant him immunity.
Next week’s meeting could produce an awkward scene. Gantz has made Netanyahu’s indictment the focus of his campaign to oust the prime minister. And his Blue and White party is leading an effort in parliament to block Netanyahu’s immunity request before the election. At the same time, they will be joined by an impeached president who is being tried in the Senate.
The US was believed to be holding back on releasing the peace plan until Israel had a permanent government. Those calculations may have changed as the deadlock in Israeli politics looks to be further prolonged.
Trump may also be looking for a boost from evangelical and pro-Israel supporters as the Senate weighs whether to remove him from office after he was impeached last month, and as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
Pence was among dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem on Thursday for the World Holocaust Forum. Many of the participants, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, also paid visits to the Palestinians in the West Bank.
A Palestinian official said Abbas asked the visiting French and Russian presidents to support the Palestinian position when the plan is published.
“He asked them to refuse and act against any Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing closed meetings.
While the plan is expected to be friendly to Israel, it could still face opposition from Netanyahu’s hard-line partners.
Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the ultranationalist Yamina party, called Trump a “true friend” of Israel and said the country likely stands before a “historic opportunity.” But he said his party would not allow the transfer of any land to Palestinian control or for a Palestinian state to be established.


Saudi Aramco attack drone components linked to Iran and Houthis in Yemen

Updated 19 February 2020

Saudi Aramco attack drone components linked to Iran and Houthis in Yemen

  • Report: Iranian components make militia’s attacks more lethal
  • Research found matching components either originated in Iran or are linked to Tehran supply network

LONDON: A report by Conflict Armament Research (CAR) has linked the drones that targeted Saudi oilfields in September and Houthi drones in Yemen to Iranian drones recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Analysis from CAR linked the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) through a small instrument found in both devices.

The report, titled “Evolution of UAVs employed by Houthi forces in Yemen,” is based on field investigations by CAR teams that carried out physical analysis on nine UAVs and one engine recovered by the UAE’s Presidential Guard forces.

They were compared with Houthi bombs seized from the Iran-backed militia in Yemen and militants in Bahrain, as well as two varieties of Iranian UAVs.

By comparing the recovered items, CAR discovered that a significant number of Houthi UAV components were identical or similar to improvised explosive device (IED) parts recovered in Yemen.

The report finds that matching components either originated in Iran or are linked to Tehran-backed supply networks active in the region.

Investigators also found that Houthi UAVs had components that were identical to Iranian-manufactured equipment.

CAR found a gyroscope in a Houthi drone that shared an almost-exact serial number to a gyroscope recovered from an Iranian-made UAV picked up by Daesh militants.

In this February 2017 photograph provided by Conflict Armament Research, a gyroscope recovered from a Qasef-1 drone is displayed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Such gyroscopes, a small instrument within drones that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry and those in the arsenal of Yemen's Houthi rebels, match components recovered in downed Iranian drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, two reports said. (AP/ File photo)

The gyroscopes are believed to be the same make as those found on drones that attacked Saudi Aramco oilfields.

A UN Security Council resolution prohibits arms transfers to the Houthis. Arab News contacted Iran’s mission to the UN for comment, but it did not respond.

A materiel and personnel exploitation expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arab News that CAR’s findings make it “almost certain that Iran was involved in the attack on Saudi oilfields.”

The expert added: “CAR’s work is similar to counterterror bomb analysis. Governments use these techniques to find the source of a threat and neutralize it. It’s highly reliable and very rarely produces false links.”

Jonah Leff, CAR’s director of operations, said the increased sophistication of drones deployed by the Houthis allowed them to use UAVs “over longer distances and with greater explosive payloads.”

He added that analysis of Houthi drone components and other lethal items points to Iran as the “likely benefactor in their supply.”

UN: Houthis impeding humanitarian aid

Meanwhile, the US has threatened to cut aid to Houthi-held areas in Yemen amid UN claims that the militia is impeding the supply of medicines and food.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal that the Houthis are only granting access to the UN on condition of a range of measures that aid agencies are rejecting because it would give the militia the ability to choose who gives aid, which could be exploited for terrorism.

A senior UN official said on condition of anonymity that the Houthis’ obstruction has hindered several programs that feed the near-starving population and protect displaced Yemenis.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have blocked half of the United Nations’ aid delivery programs in the war-torn country — a strong-arm tactic to force the agency to give them greater control over the massive humanitarian campaign, along with a cut of billions of dollars in foreign assistance. (AP)

Nutritional supplements have been denied to nearly 300,000 pregnant and nursing mothers and children aged 5 or under for six months.

Another UN official said this was because the Houthis “held beneficiaries hostage” to a demand that the UN gives the militia a 2 percent cut of its aid package.

On Tuesday, Washington’s envoy to the UN said the Houthis’ attempt to tax the UN and hinder aid projects could see the US cancel its funding to Sanaa and northern areas under the militia’s control.

Washington is “extremely concerned by mounting Houthi interference with the work of aid partners in northern Yemen, which limits the ability of the UN and other humanitarian organizations to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable Yemenis,” Kelly Craft said.