US says will do what is necessary to defend itself after attack in Iraq

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to Defense Department personnel during a visit by US President Joe Biden at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, US, Feb. 10, 2021. (Reuters)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to Defense Department personnel during a visit by US President Joe Biden at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, US, Feb. 10, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 March 2021

US says will do what is necessary to defend itself after attack in Iraq

US says will do what is necessary to defend itself after attack in Iraq
  • He said the US will strike in retaliation for the rocket attack at time of its own choosing
  • US urging Iraq to quickly investigate the incident

WASHINGTON: The United States will do what it sees as necessary to defend its interests after a rocket attack last week against Iraq’s Ain Al-Sada air base, which hosts American, coalition and Iraqi forces, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” program, Austin said the United States is urging Iraq to quickly investigate the incident at the base located in western Anbar province and determine who was responsible. US officials have said the incident fit the profile of a strike by Iran-backed militia.
“We’ll strike, if that’s what we think we need to do, at a time and place of our own choosing. We demand the right to protect our troops,” Austin said.
Asked if Iran had been given a message that US retaliation would not constitute an escalation, Austin said that Iran is fully capable of assessing the strike and USactivities.
“What they should draw from this, again, is that we’re going to defend our troops and our response will be thoughtful. It will be appropriate,” Austin said. “We would hope that they would choose to do the right things.”
There were no reports of injuries among US service personnel after the attack but an American civilian contractor died after suffering a “cardiac episode” while sheltering from the rockets, the Pentagon said.
Iraqi officials said 10 rockets landed at the base but the Pentagon was more guarded, saying there were 10 “impacts.” It said the rockets appeared to have been fired from multiple sites east of the base, which also was targeted last year by a ballistic missile attack directly from Iran.
US forces carried out air strikes against facilities at a border control point in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada in February.


Passenger bus destroyed by explosion in Damascus, Syrian state TV reports

Passenger bus destroyed by explosion in Damascus, Syrian state TV reports
Updated 4 sec ago

Passenger bus destroyed by explosion in Damascus, Syrian state TV reports

Passenger bus destroyed by explosion in Damascus, Syrian state TV reports
  • Pictures on the TV channel’s account on Telegram showed the charred cabin of the bus
DUBAI: A passenger bus was destroyed in an explosion in Damascus, Syrian state TV reported on Wednesday, without indicating if there were casualties.
Pictures on the TV channel’s account on Telegram showed the charred cabin of the bus.

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
Updated 20 October 2021

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
  • Civil society members stage a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show ‘solidarity with the judiciary’

BEIRUT: Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 port explosion, resumed investigations on Tuesday after being notified by the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation of its second decision to reject the request submitted by the defendant in the case of MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Normal service resumed at the Justice Palace in Beirut after a long vacation. The Lebanese army guarding roads leading to the palace and Ain Remaneh, which was the arena of bloody events on Thursday, over protests to dismiss Bitar from the case. The repercussions of these events have affected the political scene, its parties and the people.

Civil society activists under the auspices of the “Lebanese Opposition Front” staged a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show “solidarity with the Judiciary carrying out its national duties and support for Judge Bitar to face the threats.”

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said: “A free and sovereign state cannot exist without a legitimate authority, judiciary and justice.”

Abdel Samad urged “the defendants to appear before Judge Bitar, because the innocent normally show up and defend themselves instead of resorting to threats.”

“We have reached this low point today because of a ruling elite allied with the Hezbollah statelet, protected by illegal arms.

“They want to dismiss Judge Bitar in all arbitrary ways and threats because he has come so close to the truth after they managed to dismiss the former judge, hiding behind their immunities because they know they are involved in the crime.”

Abdel Samad claimed that “those making threats are involved in the crime.”

Regarding the Tayouneh events that took place last week, he said: “They took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, as they claimed, but they almost got us into a new civil war as a result of the hatred and conspiracies against Lebanon.”

Lawyer May Al-Khansa, known for her affiliation with Hezbollah, submitted a report at the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation against the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, Judge Bitar and “all those who appear in the investigation to be involved, accomplices or partners in crimes of terrorism and terrorism funding, undermining the state’s authority, inciting a strife, and other crimes against the law and the Lebanese Constitution.”

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday night waged an unprecedented campaign of accusations and incitement against the Lebanese Forces party and its leader.    

Nasrallah accused them of being “the biggest threat for the presence of Christians in Lebanon” and said they were “forming alliances with Daesh.”

In a clear threat to Geagea and his party, Nasrallah bragged in his speech of having “100,000 trained fighters,” calling on Christians to “stand against this murderer.”

Nasrallah accused Bitar of “carrying out a foreign agenda targeting Hezbollah in the Beirut port crime” and of “being supported by embassies and authorities, turning him into a dictator.”

During the parliamentary session on Tuesday, no contact was made between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces. However, a handshake was spotted between the Lebanese Forces’ MP Pierre Abu Assi and the Amal Movement’s MP Hani Kobeissi.

Minister of Culture Mohammed Mortada, who represents Hezbollah, said “Hezbollah’s ministers will attend the ministerial session if Prime Minister Najib Mikati calls for one, but the justice minister and the judiciary must find a solution to the issue of lack of trust in Bitar.”

Several calls were made on Monday night between different political groups to prevent escalation and calm the situation.

Efforts are being made to reach a settlement that allows Bitar to keep his position and for defendants in the Beirut port case — who are former ministers and MPs — to be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council for prosecution.

Elsewhere, parliament dropped the proposal of a women’s quota ensuring female participation through  a minimum of 26 seats.

It passed a move to allow expats to vote for the 128 MPs and dropped the decision to allocate six additional seats representing them.

The parliament’s decision angered Gebran Bassil, who heads the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc. Following the parliamentary session, Bassil referred to “a political game in the matter of expats’ right to vote, which we will not allow to happen.”


European court raps Turkey over presidential ‘insults’ law

European court raps Turkey over presidential ‘insults’ law
Updated 20 October 2021

European court raps Turkey over presidential ‘insults’ law

European court raps Turkey over presidential ‘insults’ law
  • Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting President Erdogan in 7 years

STRASBOURG, France: Europe’s top human rights court on Tuesday called on Turkey to change a law regarding insulting the president under which tens of thousands have been prosecuted, after ruling that a man’s detention under the law violated his freedom of expression.

Vedat Sorli was given a suspended 11-month jail sentence in 2017 over a caricature and a photograph of President Tayyip Erdogan that he shared on Facebook, along with satirical and critical comments.

There was no justification for Sorli’s detention and pre-trial arrest or the imposition of a criminal sanction, the European Court of Human Rights court said.

“Such a sanction, by its very nature, inevitably had a chilling effect on the willingness of the person concerned to express his or her views on matters of public interest,” it said.

The criminal proceedings against Sorli were “incompatible with freedom of expression,” the court added.

Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he moved from being prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigations were launched in relation to the charge, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 resulted in convictions, according to Justice Ministry data. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations were launched over insulting the president, 35,507 cases were filed and there were 12,881 convictions.

In a prominent case earlier this year, a court sentenced pro-Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas to 3-1/2 years for insulting Erdogan, one of the longest sentences over the crime, according to Demirtas’ lawyer.

The court said Turkey’s law on insulting the president affords the head of state a privileged status over conveying information and opinion about them.

It said the law should be changed to ensure people have the freedom to hold opinions and impart ideas without interference by authorities in order to put an end to the violation it found in Sorli’s case.

10 diplomat summoned

Separately, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of the US and nine other countries to protest a statement they issued that called for the release of imprisoned philanthropist and civil rights activist Osman Kavala.

Kavala, 64, has been kept behind bars for four years, accused of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government through the 2013 nationwide demonstrations that started at Istanbul’s Gezi Park. He has also been charged with espionage and attempting to overthrow the government in connection with a failed military coup in 2016.

The ministry said the ambassadors were told that “the impertinent statement via social media regarding a legal proceeding conducted by independent judiciary was unacceptable.” Turkey rejects the attempt to “politicize judicial proceedings and put pressure on (the) Turkish judiciary,” it continued.

“Turkey is a democratic country governed by the rule of law that respects human rights, and it was reminded that the Turkish judiciary will not be influenced by such irresponsible statements,” the ministry added.


Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told
Updated 20 October 2021

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told

Israel violates international law ‘because it can,’ UN Security Council told
  • US/Middle East Project called for the Palestinian leadership to stop repressing ‘their own people’
  • Israel PR slammed the security council meetings on the Middle East and said the focus should be on Iran instead

NEW YORK: Israel pursues policies in violation of international law and of UN resolutions “Because it can — no tangible cost or consequence is attached,” the UN Security Council heard on Tuesday. 

Daniel Levy, president of US/Middle East Project, told council members of the need to address what he called “an accountability deficit when it comes to Israel’s action” as it is one of the core understandings that should guide the peace process forward.

“If the unlawful and peace negating politics of Israel continue to be met with impunity, there should be no expectation of positive change.

Also to be considered is “a legitimacy deficit in Palestinian politics,” Levy said.

“The Palestinian Liberation Organization must become fully representative, inclusive and by extension better able to demonstrate strategic agency and to negotiate. 

“Palestinians have a right to elect representatives to their national institutions. That requires a Palestinian leadership decision, as well as supportive, not preventive, steps by Israel and the International community.

Israeli activists of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization help Palestinian farmers harvest their olive trees in Burin village in the occupied West Bank, on Oct.19 2021. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP) 

“We also cannot ignore or condone when existing Palestinian self-governing authorities on the ground with their limited mandate repress their own people.”

Palestinian politician, activist, and scholar Hanan Ashrawi told the ambassadors that everything must be viewed in the context of occupation. 

The security council’s inability to assert its authority, Ashrawi said, has allowed “this injustice to become a perpetual tragic, human modern political and legal travesty.”

She discounted talk of confidence-building between Israel and the Palestinians as “there can be very little confidence under occupation. 

“The policy of confidence-building measures is misguided because occupation brings only contempt, distrust, resentment, and resistance. The oppressed cannot be brought to trust or accept handouts from their oppressor as an alternative to their right to freedom.”

Another attempt at spreading misconception is the constant call for “balance in an unbalanced situation,” Ashrawi said. 

“The mindless refrain that Israel has a right to defend itself while the Palestinian people are denied such a right is perverse, and that the occupier’s violence is justified as self-defense while the occupied are stigmatized as a terrorist. 

“Peace is not achieved by normalizing the occupation, sidelining the Palestinian question, or rewarding it by repositioning Israel as a regional superpower. 

“Such an approach maintains in place the causes of regional instability while enabling Israel as a colonial apartheid to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.” 

Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan strongly criticized Ashrawi’s presence at the security council meeting.

“A spokesperson for Palestinian leadership was invited to represent civil society,” giving a platform to what he called “Palestinian rejectionism.”

Erdan slammed security council meetings on the Middle East for what he called disregarding “the real threat to regional and global security: Iran. 

“Iran has assembled six armies of terrorist proxies in the region and by allowing the Ayatollah regime to continue with the severe violation of their international commitments, these six terror armies will soon have an Iranian nuclear umbrella.”

Before the meeting began, Erdan told reporters in New York that such meetings have the sole aim to “bash Israel” and are a “waste of everyone’s time.

“The security council members help dig the ditch of conflict deeper,” he said.

Erdan called on council members to “stand up to Iran and demand that Palestinian leadership abandon their culture of hate. This is the only way to transform the region into a paradise of progress, prosperity, and peace.”

 


UK, Arab League concerned over Iran’s nuclear program

UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
Updated 20 October 2021

UK, Arab League concerned over Iran’s nuclear program

UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office James Cleverly meets with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League. (Twitter/@JamesCleverly)
  • UK minister for Middle East and North Africa met separately with Arab League secretary-general and Egyptian foreign minister
  • All sides also affirmed their countries support the Libyan political process

LONDON: The UK shares concerns over Iran’s nuclear program with Arab countries, a government official said on Tuesday.
Tehran has stopped honoring some of its commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal and has been holding up negotiations aimed at reviving the landmark accord that scales back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, sparking concern from the UN nuclear watchdog agency.
The comments were made during a meeting in London between the UK Minister for Middle East and North Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, James Cleverly, and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League.
The meeting dealt with developments in the region, including Iran, Syria and Libya, where Cleverly affirmed his country supports the Libyan political process.

Earlier on Tuesday, Cleverly met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, where he praised Egypt’s role as “a key mediator in regional conflicts, and a leading partner on climate” change.
He also congratulated Shoukry on Egypt’s nomination to host the next UN climate change conference (COP27), adding he looked forward to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi attendance at the upcoming COP26 conference in Glasgow next month, and his meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“I also thanked Shoukry for Egypt’s ongoing engagement in Hamas-Israeli talks,” which “played a leading role in securing the cease-fire,” Cleverly said.
The UK and Egypt also agreed on the importance of Libya sticking to its elections timetable, he added.

(With AFP)