‘Full speed ahead’ on new Iranian nuclear deal

Parties to the Iran nuclear deal — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and Iran – are shown attending a meeting at the Grand Hotel of Vienna as they try to restore the Iran nuclear deal. (AFP)
Parties to the Iran nuclear deal — Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and Iran – are shown attending a meeting at the Grand Hotel of Vienna as they try to restore the Iran nuclear deal. (AFP)
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Updated 18 April 2021

‘Full speed ahead’ on new Iranian nuclear deal

‘Full speed ahead’ on new Iranian nuclear deal
  • China’s envoy to the talks said all participants had agreed to accelerate work on issues including which sanctions on Iran the US would lift

JEDDAH: Talks on reviving the nuclear deal with Iran will pick up speed after a second round of negotiations ended in Vienna, delegates said on Saturday.

China’s envoy to the talks said all participants — China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and Iran — had agreed to accelerate work on issues including which sanctions on Iran the US would lift.

“All parties have agreed to further pick up their pace in subsequent days by engaging in more extensive, substantive work on sanctions-lifting as well as other relevant issues,” Wang Qun said.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out. Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by enriching fissile uranium to levels of purity banned under the deal.

New US President Joe Biden has offered to lift sanctions if Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA, but so far Iran has insisted that sanctions must be eased first. Talks to break the deadlock began in Vienna last week, involving a group of signatories to the deal known as the Joint Commission.

The US is not present as Iran has declined face-to-face negotiation, but EU officials chairing the talks are carrying out shuttle diplomacy with a US delegation in a nearby hotel.

Wang said: “In the next few days we hope the Joint Commission will immediately start negotiating the specific formula of sanction-lifting.”

EU envoy Enrique Mora said: “Progress has been made in a far from easy task. Now we need more detailed work.”

Tehran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said the Iranian delegation had submitted proposed texts on nuclear issues and the lifting of sanctions, and that work on a common text, “at least in areas where there are common views,” could begin. While serious disagreements remained, “a new understanding appears to be emerging and there is now a common final goal among all,” he said.

The talks have been complicated by an Israeli sabotage attack last week, causing an explosion that crippled Iran’s flagship nuclear development plant at Natanz. Iran on Saturday named a man it wants to arrest in connection with the blast.

“Reza Karimi, the perpetrator of this sabotage ... has been identified” by Iran’s intelligence ministry, but had fled the country before the explosion, state TV said. “Necessary steps are underway for his arrest and return to the country through legal channels,” it said.

State TV also broadcast footage of rows of what it said were uranium enrichment centrifuges that had replaced the ones damaged in the blast at Natanz.


US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad
Updated 09 December 2021

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad

US-led anti-Daesh coalition ends Iraq combat mission: Baghdad
  • Daesh established a so-called caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq from 2014 but was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by the multinational coalition

BAGHDAD: The US-led coalition against Daesh group jihadists has finished its combat mission in Iraq and will shift to a training and advisory role, Iraq’s national security adviser said Thursday.
The change of the mission for around 2,500 US troops stationed in the war-battered country by the end of the year was first announced in July by President Joe Biden, during a Washington visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi.
The Iraqi government has been under pressure from powerful pro-Iranian political groups with armed wings that have vehemently demanded all US troops leave the country.
“We are officially announcing the end of the coalition forces’ combat mission,” national security adviser Qassem Al-Aaraji wrote on Twitter.
“The relationship with the international coalition continues in the areas of training, advising and capacity building” of Iraqi forces, he added.
Aaraji was speaking after a meeting between the coalition and the Joint Operations commanders of the Iraqi security forces.
In effect, the about 2,500 US and 1,000 coalition troops deployed in Iraq will remain there. They have been acting as advisers and trainers since mid-2020.
Daesh established a so-called caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq from 2014 but was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by the multinational coalition.
Iraqi interior ministry media official General Saad Maan told a news conference on Thursday that “the coalition will have completely finished the transition to a non-combat mission before the end of the year.”
He was quoting what the coalition commander, Major General John W. Brennan Jr., said during the meeting.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi, a former coalition of Iraqi paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular forces, an influential political player and ally of Tehran, is particularly virulent about the departure of American troops.
On social networks, groups close to pro-Iranian factions have been issuing threats and reminding Washington of a December 31 deadline set to demand a full US withdrawal.
In recent months, dozens of rocket and drone attacks have targeted American troops and interests in Iraq. Never claimed, these attacks are systematically blamed by the United States on pro-Iranian Iraqi factions.


Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker
Updated 09 December 2021

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker

Israel closes probe of police who shot Palestinian attacker
  • Video footage showed a paramilitary Border Police officer shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground
  • The incident came amid an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank

TEL AVIV: Israel’s Justice Ministry said Thursday it was closing an investigation into two police officers who shot dead a Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground, accepting the officers’ assertion that they acted in self-defense.
A Palestinian attacker on Saturday stabbed and wounded an ultra-Orthodox Jew outside Jerusalem’s Old City. He then tried to stab the officers before being shot and falling to the ground. Video footage showed a paramilitary Border Police officer shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground.
The shooting prompted calls for an investigation and drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.
The Justice Ministry said it made its decision to close the case following the questioning of the two officers, who said they acted in self-defense.
“It was an incident that took place over mere seconds, in circumstances in which there was a real and concrete threat to the lives of the fighters and the civilians in the area,” it said in a statement. “It was found to be legally justified to use a weapon.”
The incident came amid an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, an Israeli woman was stabbed and lightly wounded in a tense neighborhood in east Jerusalem. The suspect, a Palestinian female minor, fled the scene and was later arrested inside a nearby school, police said.
Last month, a Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one Israeli and wounding four others before being fatally shot by police.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, to include the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say Israeli security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected assailants who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.
Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.
Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.
In the widely publicized 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.
His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the nationalist right, defended his actions.


Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021
Updated 09 December 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021

Multinational coalition reports record drugs seizure near Arabian Gulf in 2021
  • Value of the drugs seized by the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150 exceeded the past four years combined

MANAMA/DUBAI: A multinational naval coalition said it seized over 67 tons of drugs worth more than $189 million in operations near the Arabian Gulf in 2021, a record for the task force.

The value of the drugs seized by the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150 exceeded the past four years combined, said Tim Hawkins, spokesman for the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) that oversees the task force.

The haul including 6,550 kilograms of heroin, 4,052 kilograms of methamphetamine and 56,834 kilograms of hashish was all destroyed, he said.

Commander of CTF 150, Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Brendon Clark, said the drugs came from a number of countries around the region, without specifying.

“It’s all about maritime security operations ... preventing illicit activity from non-state actors in the region,” he said.

“We do that so that we can have legitimate commercial shipping, legitimate commercial fishing, can transit and operate in the region free from these non state threats.”

CTF 150 is part of the CMF naval partnership in which 34 nations patrol 3.2 million square miles of international waters. The New Zealand navy took command of CTF 150 in July.

Meanwhile, 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.


Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
Updated 09 December 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
  • The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement

DUBAI: The Arab coalition launched a series of attacks against Houthi targets overnight, destroying a communication system in the Al-Bani district and a weapons depot in Sanaa. 
The coalition said the communication system was being used to launch cross-border drone attacks. 
Coalition forces earlier intercepted and destroyed two drones in Yemeni airspace, one of which was monitored and launched from Sanaa airport.
Clashes between the Iran-backed Houthis and the coalition have intensified in recent months, specifically in Marib where it destroyed a Houthi missile defense system.
On Wednesday, the coalition carried out 16 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib in the past 24 hours. It said 95 militants were killed and 11 Houthi military vehicles were destroyed during the operation.
The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement.


UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
Updated 09 December 2021

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
  • Two incidents in the past week, one in Basra and the other in the north of the country, left dozens of people dead or injured
  • Council members pledged their continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and in opposing Daesh in particular

The UN Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned recent terrorist attacks in Iraq that killed or injured dozens of people. Daesh has claimed responsibility.

At least four people were killed and 20 injured in an explosion in Basra on Dec. 7, and at least 13 died in an attack in the north of the country on Dec. 3.

The members of the Security Council offered their condolences to the families of the dead and wished the injured a speedy recovery. They also reiterated their support for the “independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, democratic process and prosperity of Iraq.”

They urged all states to “actively” cooperate with Iraqi authorities to bring to justice the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism.” Such cooperation, they stressed, is in line with obligations under international law and Security Council resolutions.

Council members “reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

Pledging its continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and particularly Daesh, the council “reaffirmed the need for all states to combat by all means — in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law — threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”