Iran regime’s saber rattling a ‘threatening message to GCC’: analyst

shows IRGC commander-in-chief Major General Hossein Salami alongside navy commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri unveiling an underground base for anti-ship missiles at an undisclosed Gulf location. (AFP PHOTO / IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS via SEPAH NEWS)
shows IRGC commander-in-chief Major General Hossein Salami alongside navy commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri unveiling an underground base for anti-ship missiles at an undisclosed Gulf location. (AFP PHOTO / IRAN'S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS via SEPAH NEWS)
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Updated 09 January 2021

Iran regime’s saber rattling a ‘threatening message to GCC’: analyst

Iran regime’s saber rattling a ‘threatening message to GCC’: analyst
  • Regime unveils underground missile base as tension with US runs high

JEDDAH: Saudi political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri has strongly criticized the Iranian regime’s unveiling of an underground missile base on Friday.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards revealed the base, without disclosing its location, at a time of heightened tension between Washington and Tehran.

“The base is one of several housing the Guards’ Navy’s strategic missiles,” Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Guards, was quoted as saying by state media.

Its revelation is a “threatening” message to the Gulf Cooperation Council, Al-Shehri told Arab News, adding that it could be seen as a warning that the GCC could be affected “if a war were to break out between the US and Iran.”

“It is meant to provoke, but it is also a testament to the threat Iran poses — from secret bases, secret missions — to the region’s stability,” Al-Shehri, who is also an international relations scholar, said.

Last year, the Guards said Iran had built underground “missile cities” along the Gulf coastline, warning of a “nightmare for Iran’s enemies.”

“These missiles have ranges of hundreds of kilometers, enjoy pinpoint accuracy and huge destructive power, and can overcome the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment,” Maj. Gen. Salami said on Friday.

Recent years have seen periodic confrontations break out in the Gulf between the Guards and the US military, which has accused Tehran’s regime of sending speedboats to harass US warships as they pass the Strait of Hormuz.

Also on Friday, Iran’s supreme leader made a televised speech in which he said that his country is in no hurry for the US to return to the 2015 nuclear deal after Joe Biden is sworn in as president later this month.

“We are in no rush and we are not insisting on their return. Our demand, which is both logical and rational, is the lifting of sanctions,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, referring to sanctions imposed by outgoing US President Trump when he quit the deal — to which several major powers are signatories — in 2018, a decision that escalated decades-old tensions between the two nations.

Al-Shehri pointed out that sanctions would not be lifted “unless the two countries come to an agreement and sign some memorandums where both parties get what they want, just like the $150 billion deal with Obama in 2015.”

President-elect Biden, who is set to replace Trump on Jan. 20, has signaled a willingness for the US to rejoin the deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

Biden has indicated that he wants to negotiate more broadly with Tehran after Washington returns to the deal, notably over its missiles and regional influence.

Since 2019, Iran has gradually suspended the implementation of most of its key obligations under the JCPOA, which set strict limits on its activities in return for the lifting of sanctions.

The supreme leader reiterated Iran’s position that the missile program was developed to “defend” the country against any external threats.
Khamenei also said that he has banned Iran from importing COVID-19 vaccines from the US and Britain, labeling the Western powers “untrustworthy,” as the infection spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country, according to Reuters.

He raised the prospect of the two countries — long-time adversaries of Iran — possibly seeking to spread infection in other countries.

“Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are forbidden ... They’re completely untrustworthy. It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” Khamenei said.

“Given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either,” he added, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.

However, he added that Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places.”


Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
Updated 55 min 6 sec ago

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
  • Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations

DUBAI: Kuwaiti people are looking forward to the scheduled visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to take place on Wednesday.

The crown prince will hold talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as well as Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during his visit, a report from state news agency KUNA said quoting Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Naser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations. 

On Tuesday evening, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the UAE for the second leg of his official tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations. 

He was welcomed by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, marking his first visit to the UAE since November 2019. 

This came after Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s overnight visit in Muscat earlier, where he met with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the ruler of Oman, as well as other senior Omani officials.


US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
Updated 08 December 2021

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
  • The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran"

DUBAI: The US seized two large caches of Iranian arms, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, intended for the Houthi militia in Yemen. 
The US justice department on Tuesday said navy troops seized the weapons from two vessels in the Arabian Sea while conducting routine maritime security operations. 
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, orchestrated the arms shipments, which were destined for Houthi militants in Yemen,” the statement added. 
Approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products were also seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela, the justice department said. 
“The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The seized petroleum products were sold for over $26 million, pursuant to a court order, with the proceeds directed, “in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.” 
The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” the statement noted.


French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
Updated 08 December 2021

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
  • Judiciary challenges political pressures, returns Beirut blast file to judicial investigator

BEIRUT: On Tuesday, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Griot briefed Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Macron’s Gulf tour, especially his visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which “expressed its commitment to helping Lebanon, pointing out the need to implement the commitments that have been undertaken,” as stated by the media office of the Lebanese presidency.

During the meeting, Griot stressed that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are ready to undertake the required steps, and that for its part, Lebanon should undertake what is required from it and prove its credibility in its commitment to reforms, especially the structural reforms that require new work tools to confront the deep crisis.”

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the “need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.”

The two sides also stressed the “need to limit possession of arms to legitimate state institutions,” and that “Lebanon should not serve as a base for terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a base for drug trafficking,” further stressing “the importance of strengthening the role of the Lebanese Army in maintaining the security and stability of Lebanon.”

The pair had made a joint phone call during the meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

During her talks with Aoun, Griot stressed the importance placed by the international community and France in the legislative, municipal, and presidential elections due next year.

In response to the Saudi-French statement, on behalf of Hezbollah, former minister Mohammed Fneish said on Tuesday that the group “will not … substitute the symbol of our dignity and freedom with bare essentials of living conditions.

“The attempts to make us relinquish the resistance and its arms in return of resolving the economic crisis is something unacceptable to us,” he added.

BACKGROUND

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the ‘need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.’

Cabinet sessions have been suspended since Oct. 12 over Hezbollah’s stubbornness over the  investigation into the Port of Beirut explosion. Judicial investigator Tariq Bitar is accused by the group of being biased against it, according to its chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

On Tuesday, the Civil Court of Appeal of Beirut, headed by Judge Randa Harrouq, rejected a lawsuit submitted by former minister Youssef Fenianos against Bitar “for lack of qualitative jurisdiction.”

Harrouq decided to “fine the plaintiff an amount of 800,000 Lebanese pounds ($530) and inform Judge Bitar of the content of the decision, which entails that he continues his investigations related to the file of the Port of Beirut explosion.”

A judicial source told Arab News that the defendants have exhausted all the steps that could be undertaken at the Court of Appeal, and that they might resort to the Court of Cassation to obstruct the interrogation of 4 former ministers in addition to former Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Bitar has not yet undertaken any indictments despite the fact that nearly 16 months have passed since the disaster.

According to another judicial source, Bitar has rejected all attempts to remove the brief from him and to refer the ministers and the prime minister to a court that would be formed by Parliament to try presidents and ministers, a request made by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.


Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz
Updated 08 December 2021

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

THE HAGUE: A Dutch appeals court on Tuesday upheld  a lower court’s decision to throw out a civil case against Israel’s defense minister and another former senior military officer over their roles in a deadly 2014 airstrike.

The Hague District Court ruled in January 2020 that the case against Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and former air force commander Amir Eshel couldn’t proceed because the men have “functional immunity from jurisdiction.”

The Hague Court of Appeal said on Tuesday that the lower court was right to rule that Gantz, who was military chief of staff at the time of the airstrike, and Eshel had immunity because they were carrying out Israeli government policies.

The case was brought by Ismail Ziada, who lost six members of his family in the airstrike that lawyers for the men argued was part of an Israeli military operation during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

A military slaughter in Gaza. A legal slaughter in The Hague. That’s how it feels.

Ismail Ziada

He wanted the Dutch court to order Gantz and Eshel to pay damages and his lawyers argued that the men didn’t have immunity because their actions amounted to war crimes.

Ziada said Tuesday’s ruling was “in contradiction with any sense of justice” and branded the judges “cowards” for their decision.

“A military slaughter in Gaza. A legal slaughter in The Hague. That’s how it feels,” he said.

Responding to the Dutch court decision while on a tour of the Gaza border, Gantz said he was proud of his command of the Israeli military, which he said “adheres to values and human rights” and observes international law ”with a real goal to protect the citizens of Israel and allow them to live in peace and calm.”

Roy Schondorf, a deputy Israeli attorney general, welcomed the ruling.

“The appeals court recognized their immunity from civil prosecution for anti-terror activities in the framework of operation ‘protective edge.’ This is a very important legal precedent that protects all IDF (Israeli military) commanders from similar attempts,” Schondorf tweeted.

The lower court also said Ziada was free to sue the men in Israel. At hearings in 2019, Ziada rejected the idea that he has access to justice in Israel as “farcical as well as vicious.”

Ziada told an earlier hearing that he lost his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a 12-year-old nephew in the airstrike.

Israel’s Justice Ministry told the court before the 2020 decision that an internal Israeli military investigation determined the airstrike had killed four militants hiding in the house.

It said the attack was permissible under international law. Gaza’s Hamas rulers themselves have said that two militants were in the building.

Ziada’s lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the judges had taken a conservative interpretation of the law.

“They had the ... legal space to decide differently in our favor, legally speaking, but then there’s no precedent,” Zegveld said. “So they had to do something not so much new, but something that hadn’t happened before.”

The ruling can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court.

 


Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp
Updated 08 December 2021

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

GENEVA: Two Swiss half-sisters whose mother took them out of the country with her when she joined the Daesh militant group in the Middle East in 2016 have been repatriated from a desert camp in northeastern Syria, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The older girl, now 15, had suffered a severe shrapnel wound to her leg, requiring three operations, while the younger was said to be in poor health.

The ministry confirmed that it had repatriated the two minors from the Al-Roj camp in northeast Syria.

“The children arrived on Swiss soil on Dec. 6 at Geneva airport, having passed through Iraq,” it said in a statement.

FASTFACT

The Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps hold nationals from some 60 countries who fled from Daesh’s last enclaves.

The repatriation, believed to be the first of its kind to Switzerland, was carried out with the consent of their mother.

The government has previously said she was still in the camp and has several nationalities, although her Swiss citizenship had been withdrawn for security reasons. The girls have different fathers in Geneva.

The case had been raised by UN  human rights experts in April.

The experts said then that the girls had been allegedly abducted in 2016 by their mother who joined Daesh. A senior Swiss official said at the time that it was working hard to have the girls sent home.

More than 60,000 people, two-thirds of them children, are held in camps for families associated with Daesh. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits the camps, has described them as a “tragedy in plain sight.”