HRW lauds Iraqi arrest of alleged members of Iran-backed force

HRW lauds Iraqi arrest of alleged members of Iran-backed force
Demonstrators clash with riot police during anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq, November 7, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 February 2021

HRW lauds Iraqi arrest of alleged members of Iran-backed force

HRW lauds Iraqi arrest of alleged members of Iran-backed force
  • 4 men under investigation for killing of civilians during anti-govt protests
  • Attacks by Popular Mobilization Forces against civilians continue

LONDON: Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday welcomed the arrest in Iraq of four alleged members of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

The four men are under investigation for the killing of at least four civilians during anti-government demonstrations in the city of Basra in January 2020. One of the men holds a senior Iraqi police position.

“These arrests in Basra may represent a real change in the government’s willingness to hold its own forces accountable for perpetrating serious crimes, and will help deter such abuses in the future,” said Belkis Wille, a senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW.

“The government should also ensure that the trials of the men are fair and devoid of any political influence.”

Anti-government protests in Iraq were sparked in October 2019 and quickly turned violent, with excessive force from the police and other Iraqi forces leading to 487 civilian deaths.

Various armed groups were found to be carrying out forced disappearances, illegal detentions and excessive force against protestors.

The Basra PMF unit is alleged to have ties with the Iran-backed PMF Hezbollah Brigades. Investigations continue regarding possible ties with other PMF units.

The four civilians in question are Jinan Madi, a paramedic who was treating injured protestors when she was killed; journalist Ahmed Abdessamad and camera operator Safaa Ghali, who were reporting from the demonstrations; and protestor Mojtaba Ahmed Al-Skini, 14. 

HRW said a source close to the Iraqi government had said the authorities had identified 16 men implicated in the killings, but most had already fled the country.

Despite recent arrests and the government’s commitment to holding people accountable for the killing of protestors, PMF attacks on civilians have continued, and justice has yet to be given to the families of many of those killed during the demonstrations in 2019.


Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’
Updated 11 min 14 sec ago

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’

Palestinian voters’ attitudes impacted by ‘16 years of failure’
  • Palestinians, by virtue of the Israeli occupation, are traditionally affiliated to parties or large segments of them with political tendencies that often decide their choice at the ballot box
  • In election 2021, independent lists are betting on a change in voters’ moods due to what they call ‘years of wandering and political failure’

GAZA CITY: In the last legislative elections, Muhammad Al-Astal voted for Muhammad Dahlan, a Fatah candidate in the city of Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip, against his own relative Yunus Al-Astal, a candidate for Hamas.

This time, Muhammad will again vote for Fatah in the elections scheduled for May 22, despite the presence of his relatives standing for other factions.

Now, long since the last elections in early 2006, 36 lists — seven party lists and the rest independents — are standing this time, but voters are exhausted by years of internal division.

Palestinians, by virtue of the Israeli occupation, are traditionally affiliated to parties or large segments of them with political tendencies that often decide their choice at the ballot box. 

However, independent lists are betting on a change in voters’ moods due to what they call “years of wandering and political failure.”

Muhammad is one of those. He inherited an affiliation to Fatah from his father and brothers, and he believes that the party is “the most capable of leading the Palestinian people.” 

The internal differences in Fatah, with the presence of three lists competing in the legislative elections, did not affect his position. He supports the official Fatah list formed by President Mahmoud Abbas.

“We should not be distracted, either in voting for candidates based on kinship, or for other lists. We need Fatah unity to complete the march of struggle and liberation from occupation,” Muhammad told Arab News.

With the factions at the Cairo Dialogue agreeing to adopt full proportional representation in the upcoming elections, instead of a mixed system (lists and individuals), a candidate’s personality is no longer a central factor in attracting voters.

Experts call voters such as Muhammad the “solid bloc,” which is made up of those who belong to political parties and whose votes are settled in favor of their party lists, and are not influenced by their tribe or geographical region. They do not pay attention to the electoral campaign.

Muhammad did not heed, in the last elections, any criticism of Dahlan, who has been leading the democratic reform movement since the decision to dismiss him from Fatah in 2018. This time, he has formed an independent electoral list, but Muhammad will not vote for him.

The Vision Center for Political Development polled experts and academics about voter priorities for a particular list, asking how do social upbringing, and the factors of belonging to social spaces such as family and tribe, or geographical space such as city and village, affect attitudes. 

The poll concluded that “tribalism will not matter in these elections, and the priority will not be for the political program.” The decisive factor will be party affiliation, in addition to a list’s chances to provide on an economic level.

Samer Najm Al-Din, law professor at Hebron University in the West Bank, said: “Political affiliation will be the most prominent player in guiding the voter, and there is no Palestinian who is not intellectually framed.

“Unfortunately, the detailed electoral programs of the candidate blocs will not have a major role in influencing the voter. What may affect the voter’s orientation is the clear or broad headings of the electoral program, such as the adoption of resistance or economic prosperity, without paying attention to details. The electoral program that is based on clear, simplified ideas, appealing to the Palestinian with bright headlines, is the program that attracts the general electorate.”

Sania Al-Husseini, professor of political science and international relations at the Arab American University in Ramallah, said: “There is no doubt that the Palestinian scene is complex, especially at the current stage, and its priorities in voting for a list differ, depending on the economic and social situation, and so on.”

Regarding the conditions of social upbringing, and the factors of belonging to a family or tribe, Al-Husseini believes both will have an impact on the attitudes of voters, but the nature of the existing system limits these effects, because of the proportional voting system.

Political development researcher Thamer Sabaana believes that, based on opinion polls, factionalism will continue to play a key role in the results.

Hussam Al-Dajani, professor of political science at the Ummah University in Gaza, agreed that “belonging to the party is stronger than belonging to a tribe or geographical region,” but added that 

“16 years of failure and political wandering will have a clear impact on the attitudes of the voters.”


UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog
Updated 4 min 29 sec ago

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

UN has inspected Iran's Natanz plant after explosion: Nuclear watchdog

VIENNA: Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have visited the Natanz plant in Iran, where an explosion took place on Sunday, the nuclear watchdog said Wednesday.
"IAEA inspectors are continuing their verification and monitoring activities in Iran, and today have been at the Natanz enrichment site," the UN agency said in a statement sent to AFP.


US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
Updated 14 April 2021

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse

US urges Lebanese leaders to break political impasse
  • U.S. official said America and the international community can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner
  • Current crisis was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and leaders’ failure to put the country’s interests first, said Hale

BEIRUT: A senior US official on Wednesday berated Lebanese politicians for fighting over the formation of a new government for months while millions endure mounting economic hardship.
David Hale, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, said America and the international community are ready to help, “but we can do nothing meaningful without a Lebanese partner.”
Hale spoke on a two-day visit to Lebanon amid a months-long political deadlock and dangerous rift between the president and prime minister-designate. The split has prevented the formation of a new Cabinet tasked with halting the country’s rapid economic collapse.
The outgoing government resigned last August, following a massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods in the capital.
The blast hastened the country’s economic and financial decline, which began in late 2019 and has emerged as the gravest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
The local currency has been in free fall since late 2019, losing around 90 percent of its value. The government defaulted on its foreign debt last year and nearly half the population has been pushed into poverty and unemployment.
“America and its international partners are gravely concerned with the failure here to advance the critical reform agenda long demanded by the Lebanese people,” Hale told reporters Wednesday after meeting Lebanon’s longtime Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri.
The current crisis, he said, was the culmination of decades of mismanagement, corruption and the failure of Lebanese leaders to put the interests of the country first.
“It is time now to call on Lebanese leaders to show sufficient flexibility to form a government that is willing and capable of true and fundamental reform,” Hale added, calling it the only path out of this crisis.
“It’s also only a first step. Sustained cooperation will be needed if we’re going to see transparent reforms adopted and implemented.”


Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
Updated 59 min 31 sec ago

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons

Saudi Arabia: Iran must be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons
  • Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program

DUBAI: The international community must take measure to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned on Wednesday.

Iran’s increase of uranium enrichment to 60 percent cannot be considered as part of a peaceful program, the ministry said in a statement reported by state TV Al-Ekhbariya.

The world should take into account the concerns of the countries in the region about the escalation of Iran, the statement said.

The international community must reach an agreement with Iran, the statement added, urging for “stronger parameters of a longer duration.”

Saudi Arabia said it was following with concern the current developments of the Iranian nuclear program and called on Iran to avoid escalation and not to expose the security and stability of the region to further tension.

The kingdom also called on Iran to seriously engage in the negotiations currently underway.

Meanwhile, the European powers party to the Iran nuclear deal told Tehran on Wednesday that its decision to enrich uranium at 60 percent purity and install a further 1,000 centrifuges at its Natanz site were contrary to efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Talks between world powers, Iran and the United States are due to resume in Vienna on Thursday, but in a joint statement Britain, France and Germany said Tehran’s decision to enrich at 60 percent was not based on credible civilian reasons and constituted an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon.
“Iran’s announcements are particularly regrettable given they come at a time when all JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) participants and the United States have started substantive discussions, with the objective of finding a rapid diplomatic solution to revitalise and restore the JCPoA,” the three countries said.
“Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions.”
Tehran has said its decisions came after arch-foe Israel sabotaged its key Natanz nuclear site on Sunday.
“In light of recent developments, we reject all escalatory measures by any actor, and we call upon Iran not to further complicate the diplomatic process,” the E3 said.

Iran's president said his country’s decision to dramatically increase its uranium enrichment after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site “an answer to your evilness,” saying Israel hoped to derail ongoing talks aimed at reviving Tehran's tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
This weekend's sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility appears to be part of an escalating shadow war between the two countries. Israeli authorities have not commented on the attack, but are widely suspected of having carried it out.


Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
Updated 14 April 2021

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county

Jordan begins investigation on those who attempted to destabilize the county
  • At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case

CAIRO: Jordan’s state public prosecutor has proceeded with an investigation of all those involved in an alleged plot to destabilize the country. 

Local state media, Al-Mamlaka TV, reported the news on Wednesday citing an unnamed source.

Jordanian officials announced on April 3 the arrest of citizens Al-Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, Bassem Awad Allah, a former head of the Jordanian Royal Court, for security reasons. 

At least 16 detentions have been made in relation to the case. 

Authorities at the time said those were being held as part of “joint comprehensive investigation undertaken by security forces,” according to state-run Petra news agency.  

Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said previously that investigations found links between Bassem Awadallah and external parties, and the so-called foreign opposition.