US imposes fresh sanctions on Iran in final days of Trump presidency

Pompeo said Washington blacklisted seven entities and two individuals in sanctions related to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Iranian shipping entities. (File/AFP)
Pompeo said Washington blacklisted seven entities and two individuals in sanctions related to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Iranian shipping entities. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 January 2021

US imposes fresh sanctions on Iran in final days of Trump presidency

Pompeo said Washington blacklisted seven entities and two individuals in sanctions related to Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Iranian shipping entities. (File/AFP)
  • Iran's IGRC conducted a drill that saw “suicide drones” crash into targets and explode,
  • The arms in the Revolutionary Guards' drill mirror those used in attacks on Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The US on Friday imposed sanctions on companies in Iran and China for doing business with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and on three Iranian entities over conventional arms proliferation.

They are the latest in a series of measures aimed at stepping up pressure on Tehran in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s administration, which ends on Jan. 20.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington had sanctioned seven companies, including Chinese-based Jiangyin Mascot Special Steel Co. and two people for shipping steel to or from Iran.

He said Iran’s Marine Industries Organization, Aerospace Industries Organization and the Iran Aviation Industries Organization had also been blacklisted over conventional arms proliferation.

Meanwhile, Tehran’s saber rattling continued on Friday as its Islami Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted a drill that saw “suicide drones” crash into targets and explode, triangle-shaped aircraft that strongly resembled those used in a 2019 attacks on the sites of Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia.

FASTFACT

The triangle-shape drone appeared to have two fins on either side. This strongly resembles the so-called ‘Delta’ drones used both in the Abqaiq and Khurais assault in September 2019, as well as a May 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s East-West pipeline.

Looking at the footage frame by frame, the triangle-shape drone appeared to have two fins on either side. This strongly resembles the so-called “Delta” drones used both in the Abqaiq and Khurais assault in September 2019, as well as a May 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s crucial East-West pipeline. Saudi Arabia showed damaged drones to journalists after the attacks, while UN experts included images of the drone in a report.

Meanwhile, the Arab coalition intercepted and destroyed three drones launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia toward Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The drones were detected and launched by the Houthis from Yemen’s Hodeidah province, Arab coalition spokesperson, Col. Turki Al-Malki, said.

He added that the Houthis continued to violate the Stockholm Agreement and the cease-fire in Hodeidah.

He said the Houthis continued to use Hodeidah province as a place for undertaking terrorist operations by firing ballistic missiles and launching drones.

He added that the militants also use the province as a place for launching remotely piloted boat attacks, which constitute a regional and international security threat.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry “strongly condemned and denounced” the attack on Saudi territory and the Houthi militia’s “continuation of cowardly terrorist acts that endanger the safety and security of civilians.”

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Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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“Bahrain stands in one line with Saudi Arabia against anyone who tries to undermine its security and stability,” the ministry said.

In another blow to the militia, the US has rejected a UN plea to reverse the designation of Houthis as a terrorist organization.

The UN chief and top officials urged the US to reverse its decision to prevent massive famine and death in the Arab nation.

The US deputy ambassador, Richard Mills, told the Security Council the US has listened to warnings of the terrorist designation’s humanitarian impact and will take measures to reduce the impact on aid deliveries and commercial imports.

“But we do believe that this step is the right move forward to send the right signal if we want the political process to move forward,” he said.

(With Reuters)


Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 13 sec ago

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
  • Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers

ANKARA: Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu began an official two-day visit to the Kingdom on Monday in a bid to improve relations seriously undermined since 2018 by the Jamal Khashoggi case.

The visit followed a recent phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on May 4.

In a Reuters interview last month, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey, trying to bring about a positive agenda and a change of discourse regarding the Kingdom, respects the outcome of the Saudi trial about the journalist’s killing.

During the visit, bilateral relations, trade and regional issues, including Libya, are expected to be discussed, especially during Cavusoglu’s meeting with Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.

“Since the fall of 2020, Turkey has been concertedly working to repair its relationships with regional powers in the Middle East,” Samuel Ramani, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, told Arab News.

“Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers, such as Russia, the United States, Europe and China,” he said.

The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to close eight out of 26 Turkish schools by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year drew anger from Ankara, which claimed that 2,256 Turkish students would face challenges in education elsewhere as they are not fluent in Arabic.

Ankara will also raise the issue of lifting the Saudi unofficial boycott of Turkish goods since 2019, which has resulted in a significant fall in Turkish exports to the Kingdom.

Experts consider this decision a signal that Saudi Arabia has some prerequisites for launching normalization with Turkey, particularly on its policies toward the Arab world — especially ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its military presence in Libya, Somalia, Qatar, Iraq and Syria.

In the meantime, Turkish exporters have allegedly removed “Made in Turkey” tags on their products to bypass the blockade.

Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia dropped by 94 percent year-on-year and stood at about $75 million in the first three months of this year, while during the same period imports from Saudi Arabia rose from $430 million to some $600 million.

Cavusoglu will also pay a visit to Egypt after his meeting in the Kingdom to normalize ties with another regional actor after a long period of enmity.

“Turkey has reached out to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and even the UAE to de-escalate tensions. These outcomes have had mixed results, as these powers still remain on opposite sides of the Eastern Mediterranean dispute, but Turkey has succeeded in de-escalating tensions with Egypt on Libya and this is seen in Ankara as an encouraging sign that could be replicated in Saudi Arabia,” Ramani said.

According to Ramani, the main issues that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will discuss are regional ones.

“The first is the eastern Mediterranean, but Saudi Arabia won’t budge from its alignment with Greece or accept Turkey’s 2019 energy deal with Libya. The second is Israel-Palestine, where both Turkey and Saudi Arabia will likely criticize Israel’s recent conduct in Al-Aqsa,” he said.

Experts note that this latest normalization drive by Turkey with the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries may be linked to an adjustment strategy with the new Biden administration in the US.

Galip Dalay, CATS fellow at SWP and non-resident fellow at Brookings Doha, expects a partial normalization of relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

“There is no meaningful conflict of interest between the parties and they are likely to take steps to partially de-escalate the tensions in the medium term,” he told Arab News.

“During the Arab Spring, Turkey and the Kingdom had ideological divergences as they took opposing sides. But they did not have any significant conflict in geopolitical terms. Turkey even supported to a certain extent Saudi Arabia’s policy choices in Yemen. However, with the Qatar crisis and Khashoggi case, the tensions escalated,” Dalay said.

Dalay anticipates rising tension between Turkey and Iran as they clash on geopolitical interests.

“Therefore Turkey wants to mend ties with the Arab camp to consolidate its position and adjust to the new reality in the region,” he said.


Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem
Updated 56 min 20 sec ago

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem

Arab League Council holds urgent session to discuss attack on Jerusalem
  • The session aimed to discuss the Israeli attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem

CAIRO: The League of Arab States held an urgent session of the League Council among Arab foreign ministers on Monday, at the request of Palestine, which was supported by a number of Arab countries.

The session aimed to discuss the Israeli attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem, the Islamic and Christian holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, and plans to force Palestinian families out of their homes, particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said that it was decided to upgrade the meeting to the ministerial level from that of the permanent delegates level.

Diab Al-Louh, Palestinian ambassador to Cairo and Palestine’s permanent representative to the Arab League, said that the urgent meeting was to discuss the seriousness of the brutal attacks on worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Louh said a request for an urgent meeting was submitted based on the directives of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the directives of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad Al-Maliki.


Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl
Updated 10 May 2021

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl

Medical profession protests ‘unfair’ Lebanon court ruling in favor of girl
  • Doctors and private hospitals refuse to receive patients due to court ruling in favor of a child who had her limbs amputated
  • Parent Hassan Tannous praises ‘honest judiciary’

BEIRUT: All Lebanese doctors have stopped working from Monday until the end of the week in protest against a court verdict.

The medical profession in Lebanon is protesting against the judicial decision to pay high compensation to Ella Tannous, who had her limbs amputated due to a medical error six years ago.

The protesting doctors have been joined by private hospitals, which have stopped receiving patients, except in emergency cases.

The girl’s father Hassan Tannous, however, praised the “honest judiciary.”

Many doctors, including the head of Lebanese Order of Physicians, Dr. Sharaf Abu Sharaf, and the head of the Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners, Suleiman Haroun, staged a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut, calling the ruling “unfair.”

The Tannous case goes back to February 2015, when she was admitted to Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil due to her high temperature.​

Ella was diagnosed with a cold at the time, but her condition deteriorated and the child suffered septic shock, which led to gangrene that caused the amputation of her limbs.

The girl’s father had taken her to the Hotel Dieu Hospital, which refused to receive her.

He transferred her to the American University of Beirut Medical Center, where doctors decided to save her life by amputating her four limbs.

The tragedy led her parents to file a complaint in March 2015 before the Lebanese Order of Physicians against the doctor who examined her and Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil, on charges of neglecting the child’s health and not providing her with the necessary care.

More than one doctor was arrested and released on bail.

Those involved in the case exchanged accusations for years. The girl’s family objected to a medical report issued by the medical committee of the Lebanese Order of Physicians two months after the incident, calling it a “distortion of the facts.”

The final ruling, issued unanimously at the end of last week, by the Beirut Appeals Court, headed by Tarek Bitar, gave the girl’s family a positive surprise, while the Lebanese medical profession reacted to the ruling in a state of amazement and condemnation.

The ruling obligated the American University of Beirut Medical Center in Beirut, Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil and the two doctors — Essam M. and Rana Sh. — “to pay in joint and several liabilities to the child Tannous an amount of LBP 9 billion ($5.9 million) for damages, in addition to a monthly income for life estimated at four times the minimum wage.”

The ruling also stipulated “obliging the convicts to pay in joint and several liabilities an amount of LBP 500 million to the father of the child and LBP 500 million to her mother in exchange for damages.”

Medical errors committed against patients have often resulted in settlements. Some cases are still pending in the courts.

The head of the National Health Authority, Dr. Ismail Sukkarieh, told Arab News that the judicial ruling “is based more on emotions than wisdom, justice and scientific facts.”

Sukkarieh added: “The judiciary focused on the tragedy of the child’s condition, which cannot be compensated with money, without checking the stages of the disease and the accumulation of its causes.”

He said: “Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil was not equipped with intensive care for children. As for the doctors who saved the child through the amputation, they were spiritually affected.”

Hassan Tannous said that although the ruling “does not compensate for the loss of Ella to her limbs, it is a moral compensation.”

The father said the ruling “is a very strong message in the face of the perpetrators of medical errors, that there is an honest judiciary capable of restoring the rights of the owners.”

The girl’s family moved to France for her rehabilitation but continued to pursue the lawsuit until the end.

“It is a public rights issue to protect all Lebanese children from medical neglect,” said Hassan.

During the sit-in at the Palace of Justice on Monday, Dr. Abu Sharaf said: “There are complications that occur as a result of the medicines, and mistakes happen sometimes, but the doctors have no criminal intent. After today, no doctor will dare to work on difficult and rare cases.”

Dr. Ashraf called for “work to remove the effect of the judicial decision, and to establish a body specialized in medical matters in the judiciary to study medical problems.”

Hotel Dieu Hospital de France announced that it would stop receiving patients in all its departments and private clinics.

“It is unacceptable for doctors to pay the price for a health policy that does not exist in the first place,” said Elias Shallal, head of the hospital’s medical committee.

“It is unacceptable to applaud doctors for their role in the fight against coronavirus and after the Beirut Port explosion, and then attack them because of a medical error.”

The administration of Hôpital Notre Dame des Secours in Jbeil described the ruling as “unfair.”

It stopped receiving patients except in emergency cases.

The American University Medical Center in Beirut closed its clinics until further notice and stopped receiving patients, except for emergency cases.


Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues

Palestinian medics evacuate wounded protesters as Israeli security forces fire tear gas in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (AFP)
Palestinian medics evacuate wounded protesters as Israeli security forces fire tear gas in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2021

Israel defies international community as conflict with Palestinians continues

Palestinian medics evacuate wounded protesters as Israeli security forces fire tear gas in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021. (AFP)
  • Outrage prompted over targeting of civilians, holy sites, and use excessive force
  • Former PLO committee member challenges Americans, Europeans to ‘grow a backbone’

AMMAN: Despite calls from the international community for an end to the hostilities between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, clashes continued in Jerusalem on Monday, with violence erupting at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, for the second day in a row.

Over 300 people have reportedly been injured, with the Red Crescent saying half a dozen Palestinians are in a critical condition.

On Friday, May 7, US State Department spokesman Ned Price called on both sides to show restraint, saying Washington was “extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah,” condemning an attack on Israeli soldiers and “reciprocal attacks on Palestinians.”

US-based outlet Axios, meanwhile, said the White House had pressed Israel to restrain Monday’s planned Jerusalem Day celebrations, marking the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, so as not to stoke further tension in the city, but that Israel had rebuffed these advances.

Former Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi challenged the US and European leaders to “grow a backbone” and “translate their words into action,” over restraining Israel against Palestinian worshippers.

She said: “Americans must learn to grow a backbone and work hard to enforce their position and to use their financial and political power. This is not a big deal to ask to ensure freedom of religion.

“This is the language that the Israelis understand; if they are being rewarded, nothing will happen,” she continued. “There has to be a cost and this is a test of the Biden administration. Americans must say enough is enough.”

Ashrawi added that what is happening is a “crime” and a clear case of multiple human rights violations, including targeting civilians, vandalizing holy sites, and using excessive power against worshipers.

Protests at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, meanwhile, drew the presence of right-wing Israeli members of the Knesset and a large number of Palestinians and their supporters.

The UN secretary-general and senior world leaders were among those to condemn the violence, and express their concerns over the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Jordan summoned the Israeli chargé d’affaires in Amman, and threatened to recall its ambassador in Tel Aviv. There were also loud demonstrations outside the Embassy of Israel in Jordan calling for its closure.

Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Arab News that Jerusalem is the symbol of the Palestinian cause.

“The reunification of the homeland and its national institutions requires the full (cooperation) of all Palestinians regardless of where they are,” said Fayad.

“Such reaction is the strongest response to the Israeli aggression and the terror of its army and settlers against our holy places and our people in Jerusalem,” he added.

Fayyad continued that the basic right of people to live in their homes and homeland was fundamental “to allow our people to extract their right to self-determination.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a Jerusalem civil society activist, told Arab News that what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah was the continuation of the last 70 years of evictions of Palestinians from their homes and land across the country.

“Trying to evict 28 families from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah is a clear case that (shows) the Israeli apartheid regime and transfer policy to implement their ‘Judaizing’ of the city, emptying it of its indigenous Palestinian population,” Kawasmi said.

“Not surprisingly, the international community are watching and doing nothing to stop the rogue state of Israel from practicing its ethnic cleansing policies.”

There are fears that Israel’s actions in Jerusalem could also provoke wider problems beyond the city. Senior Hamas figure Salah Aruri warned that “by playing with fire in Jerusalem, the occupiers (Israel) will witness a burning response on their heads.”


US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats
Updated 42 min 34 sec ago

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

US ship fires warning shots in encounter with Iranian boats

WASHINGTON:  A US Coast Guard cutter fired two volleys of warning shots Monday as a group of 13 Iranian fast boats sped toward US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz in what the Pentagon called “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers by the naval arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the Iranian vessels maneuvered at high speed toward six Navy ships that were escorting the guided missile submarine USS Georgia through the Strait. After the Coast Guard cutter Maui unleashed a second volley of warning shots, the Iranian boats backed off, Kirby said.
“They were acting very aggressively,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon. He said they got within 150 yards of the US ships, which included the guided missile cruiser USS Monterey. A day earlier, the Monterey had intercepted an arms shipment aboard a dhow in the Arabian Sea apparently headed for Yemen, whose Houthi rebels are supported by Iran.
Kirby said the Maui fired two rounds of warning shots from its .50-caliber machine gun — the first round when the Iranian boats got to within 300 yards of the US ships, and the second when they got within 150 yards.
“After the second round of warning shots the 13 fast attack craft from the IRGC-N broke contact,” he said, ending the encounter.