Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup Final football match between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia at the Khalifa International Stadium in the Qatari capital Doha. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 July 2020

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup

Emir’s brothers raise red flags as Qatar prepares to host 2022 FIFA World Cup
  • Al-Thani declared as his mission to promote sports and healthy living among Qatari’s
  • The Emir is busy sorting out the violent mischief of several of his 24 siblings

CHICAGO: When Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was named Emir of Qatar in 2013 by his father, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who took power in a coup in 1995, his biggest controversy was his eagerness to continue his father’s policy of building ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Emir Tamim Al-Thani declared as his mission to promote sports and healthy living among Qatari’s and rebuild Qatar’s image abroad as he leads Qatar’s plans to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Today, the Emir is busy sorting out the violent mischief of several of his 24 siblings from his fathers’ three wives, while distancing himself, at least publicly, from Qatar’s involvement in the killing and maiming of at least 10 Americans during his father’s reign.
But his worst public scandals involve the antics of two younger brothers, playboy racing driver and accused murderer Sheikh Khaled Al-Thani and the until now obscure Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, who is the cornerstone of an exposé published in the Los Angeles Times this week.
Sheikh Khaled has been accused in a federal lawsuit filed in June by six former employees of murdering an Indian driver who worked for his wife, and threatening to murder a dozen others, from racing car industry rivals to friends he suspected of leaking information about his personal life.
On June 16, 2020, Florida Attorney Rebecca Castaneda asserted KHK’s brother, Sheikh Khaled, “created an environment of hostility, falsely imprisoned employees, caused personal injury, assaulted and battered employees, inflicted emotional distress, engaged in retaliation, and intentionally interfered in business relationships,” and was involved in at least one murder.
Sheikh Khaled first made a name for himself when he recklessly drove his $3.4 million yellow McLaren P1 GTR Ferrari at speeds of 100 mph through Beverly Hills, California, in a 2015 rampage caught on video. Confronted by police, Sheikh Khaled declared “diplomatic immunity.”
Although hard to steal the headlines from his racing “bad boy” brother, Sheikh Khalifa is on his way to “Qatari fame,” the focus of a detailed profile published in the Los Angeles Times. Sheikh Khalifa, a head of Qatar’s internal security apparatus, the notorious “Lekhwiya” – derived from a Qatari word for brother — has been exposed as a part of the growing college admissions scandal that has resulted in charges being filed against more than 50 Hollywood and sports celebrities, mostly in California.
Sheikh Khalifa, better known as “KHK,” has a bachelor’s in public policy with distinction and master’s in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California (USC), sources claim as a result of a pattern of bribes, bullying, and broken rules by the Qatari royal family.
Sources claim KHK skipped classes claiming “security” concerns and got his degrees without stepping foot on the campus, allowed to study remotely while living at the posh Beverly Wilshire hotel. A professor said KHK submitted his finals in a bag that included a Rolex valued at more than $12,500.
KHK’s education was bought by his family through huge donations to California universities. Before “graduating” from USC, KHK attended with two cousins the LA Mission College, a community college 25 miles from Beverly Hills. He then made a failed attempt to transfer to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
A hotel executive identified in the story allegedly promised “a substantial donation” if UCLA would admit KHK.
When UCLA officials refused to meet to discuss KHK’s enrolment, his mother Mozah bint Nasser traveled to California to lobby for her son’s admission. She personally oversaw $1 billion in donations to American universities, according to the LA Times.
When the push for UCLA failed, the family turned to USC, where they targeted influential people around the university, including friends, business associates and several of USC’s wealthy trustees. One of these was the billionaire Thomas J. Barrack Jr, an LA investor and founder of Colony Capital, who oversaw the construction of the Al-Thani family’s $300-million hilltop Bel-Air California compound.
Four months later, KHK was a certified USC student, although the Qatar Foundation and Mozah insisted that the prince had “already been admitted.”
Members of the Qatari royal family and employees were sent to Los Angeles to care for KHK, and found themselves, allegedly, concealing inflated expenses from the family back home, according to the LA Times. These included airline ticket reimbursements ($200 became $8,700), and nonexistent legal fees of $73,000.
The slush fund of inflated payments from the Emir went to cover KHK’s luxurious lifestyle in Los Angeles.
Like his playboy racing older brother Sheikh Khaled, KHK loved fast cars, too, and was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in 2014 for racing down the 10 Freeway at 130 mph in a white Maybach Ferrari which rivals for cost Sheikh Khaled’s McLaren P1 GTR. KHK was charged but never showed up for the arraignment.
Their Ferraris achieved their own fame as car enthusiasts shot videos of them parked outside the Beverly Wilshire. One included a photo of Scott Disick, the ex-boyfriend of Kourtney Kardashian who posed on the hood of Al-Thani’s car. “Thanks for the ride @KHK,” Disick captioned the photo on Instagram.
After KHK received his bachelor’s degree, he received a “special dispensation” to study remotely for his master’s because “family duties” prevented him from attending classes. Nonetheless, KHK was praised by USC for turning in papers of a “high standard” that were “potentially publishable.”
KHK’s exploits and controversies only add weight to the searing issues Emir Tamim must weigh as Qatar turns the corner to hosting the FIFA World Cup.
On June 10, relatives of 10 Americans who were killed or seriously injured during terrorist attacks in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank filed a “wrongful death” lawsuit against Qatar’s Royal family. The Al-Thanis are accused of financing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which are both designated as “terrorist organizations” by the US government.
According to the lawsuit, Qatar sought to evade US sanctions by channeling money through three entities, the Qatar Charity, and two Middle East banks that Qatar’s royal family controls, Masraf Al-Rayan and Qatar National.


Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
Updated 7 min 17 sec ago

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
  • That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490
  • 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141

DUBAI: Iran reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, the highest daily toll since early December.
That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141.
“Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours 258 people have died from the virus,” Lari said. State TV said it was the country’s highest daily death toll since Dec. 10.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a televised news conference, warned about more fatalities in the coming week if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols. On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
Businesses, schools, theaters and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.


‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
Updated 11 April 2021

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
  • Behrouz Kamalvandi said there were no injuries nor pollution caused by the incident
  • Iran later called the incident sabotage

TEHRAN: Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers.
State TV quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's civilian nuclear program, announcing the incident.
Kamalvandi said there were no injuries or pollution cause by the incident.
The word state television used in its report attributed to Kamalvandi in Farsi can be used for both “accident” and “incident.” It didn't immediately clarify the report, which ran at the bottom of its screen on its live broadcast. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the civilian arm of its nuclear program, did not immediately issue a formal statement about the incident on its website.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion in July that authorities later described as sabotage. Israel, Iran's regional archenemy, has been suspected of carrying out an attack there, as well as launching other assaults, as world powers now negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over its nuclear deal.
On Saturday, Iran announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant, injecting them with the uranium gas and beginning their rapid spinning. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran's first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1. The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.
Since then-President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all the limits of its uranium stockpile. It now enriches up to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran maintains its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but fears about Tehran having the ability to make a bomb saw world powers reach the deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015.
The deal lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its program and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to keep a close watch on its work.


Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
Updated 11 April 2021

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
  • The country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence
  • Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot

TRIPOLI: Libya's new unity government launched a long-delayed COVID-19 vaccination programme on Saturday after receiving some 160,000 vaccine doses over the past week, with the prime minister receiving his jab on live television.
While Libya is richer than its neighbours due to oil exports, the country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence, and it has struggled to cope during the pandemic.
Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot, without saying which vaccine he had been given. At least 100,000 of the doses that arrived this week were Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Dbeibeh's interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month after emerging through a UN-facilitated process with a mandate to unify the country, improve state services and oversee the run-up to a national election in December.
Dbeibeh's government has framed the delivery of vaccines and the national roll-out as evidence that it is improving the lives of ordinary Libyans after replacing two warring administrations that ruled in the east and west of the country.
"Through the political consultations and the efforts of the prime minister, the vaccine is available," said Health Minister Ali Al-Zanati, who has said previously the government had so far ordered enough doses to inoculate 1.4 million of the country's more than six million people.
Libya's National Centre for Disease Control has said more than 400,000 people have registered for vaccination in more than 400 centres around the country.
Libya has recorded more than 166,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, though UN envoys have said the true figures are likely far higher.
"I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never," said Ali al-Hadi, a shop owner, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.
Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.
"We hope the Health Ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients," said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33. 


Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger
A file photo shows a dredger trying to free the Panama-flagged MV Ever Given long vessel across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2021

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger
  • Its maximum drilling depth is 35 m and the dredger has control, safety and security systems matching the latest standards of international supervisory bodies

CAIRO: Egypt has welcomed the largest dredger of its kind in the Middle East, the “Mohab Mamish,” on board the heavy transport vessel Xiang Rui Kou.

Dredgers are advanced drilling equipment used by the Suez Canal to cleanse the waterway of sand and mud deposits, contributing to its expansion and deepening.

The Suez Canal showed its reliance on dredgers in the rescue and re-float operation of the giant container ship “Ever Given,” which ran aground in the shipping course on March 23. The incident caused the canal’s closure for six days.

Sources said that the dredger, inaugurated by the Dutch IHC Shipyard, would begin its new duties within the Suez Canal fleet soon.

The “Mohab Mamish” has a length of 147.4 meters, a width of 23 m, a depth of 7.7 m, and a draft of 5.5 m. It has a productivity of 3,600 cubic meters of sand per hour over a length of 4 km.

Its maximum drilling depth is 35 m and the dredger has control, safety and security systems matching the latest standards of international supervisory bodies.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, said the “Mohab Mamish” was one of the vessels used to boost the canal’s development and that the dredging fleet was the main pillar in the strategy for developing the canal’s shipping course.

It provided the best guarantee to maintain the canal’s 24-meter depth, allowing the crossing of giant ships with large submersibles.

Rabie added that the canal’s dredging fleet had recently expanded its work, joining in with the development of Egypt’s ports and the disinfection of lakes.

IHC is working on launching another dredger for the Suez Canal called “Hussein Tantawi.” The two dredgers have a combined value of €300 million ($357.06 million).

Rabie also said the authority’s machines would be developed and the tensile strength would be adjusted to carry 250,000 tons, in comparison to the current 160,000 tons to match the tonnage and size of ships crossing the shipping course.


Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US
Updated 11 April 2021

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US
  • President Hassan Rouhani inaugurates cascades of 164 IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 devices at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant
  • The new move is a direct challenge to the US, after talks began last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal

TEHRAN/JEDDAH: Iran on Saturday started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in breach of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to curb its nuclear program.

The new move is a direct challenge to the US, after talks began last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington said it had offered “very serious” ideas on rescuing the agreement, which collapsed in 2018 when the US withdrew, but was waiting for Tehran to reciprocate.

Tehran’s response came on Saturday, when President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6S devices at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.

Rouhani also launched tests on the “mechanical stability” of its latest-generation IR-9 centrifuges, and remotely opened a centrifuge assembly factory to replace a plant that was badly damaged in a July 2020 explosion widely attributed to Israel.

Rouhani again underlined at the ceremony, which coincided with Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, that Tehran’s nuclear program is solely for “peaceful” purposes.

Under the 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran is permitted to use only “first-generation” IR-1 centrifuges for production, and to test a limited number of IR-4 and IR-5 devices.

When the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, Donald Trump reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, which responded by stepping up its nuclear enrichment to levels prohibited under the JCPOA.

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Iran’s latest move follows an opening round of talks in Vienna Tuesday with representatives of the remaining parties to the deal on bringing the US back into it.

All sides said the talks, in which Washington is not participating directly but is relying on the EU as an intermediary, got off to a good start.

However, US allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, believe any revived deal should also cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.

Iran has demanded that the US lift all sanctions imposed by Trump before it resumes compliance with the JCPOA. The US insists that Iran must act first.

“The United States team put forward a very serious idea and demonstrated a seriousness of purpose on coming back into compliance if Iran comes back into compliance,” a US official said.

But the official said the US was waiting for its efforts to be reciprocated by Iran.

Iran is also demanding an end to all US restrictions, but the JCPOA covers only nuclear sanctions and not US measures taken in response to human rights and terrorism issues.

(With AFP)