In Michigan, Arab Americans courted by Biden angered by his Gaza policy

In Michigan, Arab Americans courted by Biden angered by his Gaza policy
US President Joe Biden speaks with Representative Rashida Taib (D-Mich), and Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich)(R), as he arrives at Detroit, Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Detroit, Michigan on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2021

In Michigan, Arab Americans courted by Biden angered by his Gaza policy

In Michigan, Arab Americans courted by Biden angered by his Gaza policy
  • Reuters/Ipsos polling showed that Biden won Muslim voters by 8 percentage points in his 2020 race against Republican President Donald Trump, who had been a stalwart defender of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on all fronts

DEARBORN, Michigan: When Joe Biden returned on Tuesday to one of the battleground states that handed him the presidential election, he was met with rage over how his administration has handled the sudden escalation of violence in the Middle East.
Biden, on a visit to a Ford Motor Co. facility in Dearborn, Michigan, to promote electric vehicles, faced protest over his administration’s approach to Israel as it attacks Gaza in response to rockets launched by Palestinian militants there eight days ago.
At a rally in Dearborn, the heart of Michigan’s Arab-American community, over 1,000 people gathered a few miles away from Biden’s event and booed at mentions of the Democratic president’s name.
Israeli air strikes have pounded densely populated Gaza day and night since the conflict flared on May 10, while residents in Israeli cities race for shelters or safe rooms, if they have them, every few hours or minutes to flee militant rockets.
Biden has privately pressed for a cease-fire in the more than week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group in the Palestinian territories. His aides have said they are aggressively pursuing behind-the-scenes diplomacy to bring the conflict to an end.
That is not enough for some Democrats, who want Biden to denounce the disproportionate casualties suffered in the Palestinian territories during the conflict and to reconsider the weapons and other assistance it provides Israel, Washington’s closest ally in the turbulent region.
“He should not be supporting them,” said Dawood Ali, 21, at the demonstration.
Ali, who voted for Biden, said he regrets doing so.
Speakers on the stage shared similar sentiments, saying they felt courted — and then disrespected — by Biden.
Reuters/Ipsos polling showed that Biden won Muslim voters by 8 percentage points in his 2020 race against Republican President Donald Trump, who had been a stalwart defender of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on all fronts.
Turnout among those voters in Michigan rose 6 percentage points to 71 percent in 2020 from 65 percent in the 2016 presidential race, according to Emgage, a Muslim-American voting group.
Biden’s presidential campaign eagerly sought their support, given their sizeable numbers in swing states, like Michigan, which are closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

MEETINGS WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS
In recent days, the administration has worked to tamp down outrage in Arab-American and Muslim communities over its handling of the crisis.
On Monday, a senior aide to Biden, Cedric Richmond, met with Arab-American, Palestinian-American and Muslim community leaders.
Over the weekend, the White House scrapped its original lighthearted plan for an event celebrating the Muslim Eid holiday and instead offered somber wishes for peace and an update on the administration’s diplomatic efforts.
“Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said at the event, which was boycotted by several Muslim groups.
On his trip to Michigan, Biden was met by US Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress and a leading voice in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
She told the president that “Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated,” according to an account provided by a Tlaib ally.
“I pray that your grandmom and family are well,” Biden said to Tlaib at a public event later. “I promise you, I’m going to do everything to see that they are, on the West Bank. You’re a fighter, and God, thank you for being a fighter.”


Algeria’s FLN narrowly wins local polls

Algeria’s FLN narrowly wins local polls
Updated 28 min 50 sec ago

Algeria’s FLN narrowly wins local polls

Algeria’s FLN narrowly wins local polls
  • FNL, which led the country's war of independence from France and was for decades its only party, won 5,978 seats nationwide
  • Saturday's vote was an important test for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

ALGIERS: Algeria’s long-dominant National Liberation Front has narrowly won local elections, preliminary results showed Tuesday, in a vote seen as key in efforts to turn the page on late president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s rule.
The FNL, which led the country’s war of independence from France and was for decades its only party, won 5,978 seats nationwide, followed by its traditional ally the Democratic National Rally (RND) with 4,584, electoral board chief Mohamed Charfi said.
Independents came third with 4,430 seats, Charfi told journalists.
Saturday’s vote was an important test for President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, elected in a contentious, widely boycotted 2019 ballot months after Bouteflika stepped down under pressure from the army and the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement.
Bouteflika died in September, aged 84.
In November last year, less than 24 percent of the electorate approved amendments to the constitution, while at parliamentary elections in June, voter participation hit a record low of 23 percent.
Saturday saw 36.6 percent turnout for the local elections and 34.8 percent for regional polls, Cherfi said.
He had previously rejected any comparison with local ballots under Bouteflika, which were marked by widespread fraud.
The FLN won absolute majorities in 124 out of the country’s 1,541 municipalities, but lost majorities in 479 of the 603 it had controlled.
In 552 municipalities it will have to govern alongside its allies, including the RND, which won absolute majorities in 58 city councils.
Opposition veterans the Front of Socialist forces (FFS) won an absolute majority in 47 municipalities, many of them in the restive Kabylie region.


Turkish opposition politician arrested for alleged espionage

Turkish opposition politician arrested for alleged espionage
Updated 15 sec ago

Turkish opposition politician arrested for alleged espionage

Turkish opposition politician arrested for alleged espionage

ANKARA: Turkish authorities have arrested a prominent member of an opposition party over accusations that he engaged in “political and military espionage,” Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.
Anadolu Agency said late Monday that a court in Ankara ordered Metin Gurcan, a retired army officer and founding member of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party, or DEVA, jailed pending the outcome of a trial.
Gurcan, who wrote articles on Turkish foreign policy and defense issues, last year founded the DEVA party together with its leader, Ali Babacan — a former deputy prime minister who broke away from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party.
The politician and defense analyst is accused of selling alleged secret information to foreign diplomats, according to Hurriyet newspaper and other media reports. Gurcan rejected the accusations during his questioning, the reports said.
A trial date is expected to be set after the court approves a prosecutors’ indictment against Gurcan.
Babacan defended Gurcan in a late night television interview saying the analyst had “no means of accessing confidential information considered to be a state secret because he does not work for the state.”
“(Gurcan’s) studies consist of information compiled from open sources,” Babacan said.


Macron urges Raisi to respect nuclear obligations ‘without delay’

Macron urges Raisi to respect nuclear obligations ‘without delay’
Updated 45 min 50 sec ago

Macron urges Raisi to respect nuclear obligations ‘without delay’

Macron urges Raisi to respect nuclear obligations ‘without delay’
  • Tehran’s top nuclear negotiator takes a hard-line approach after just one day of talks in Vienna

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to return to fulfilling Tehran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal “without delay,” Macron’s office said, as negotiators seek to revive the accord through talks in Vienna.

During telephone conversations on Monday, Macron urged Raisi to engage in a “constructive manner” with the talks, which resumed this week after a suspension of almost half a year following the election of the hardliner to the Iranian presidency.

European powers are seeking to revive the nuclear deal, more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It has been moribund since the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018, prompting Tehran to ramp up nuclear activities as Washington reimposed sanctions.

France’s objective is “to see Iran return to full respect for all of its commitments under the JCPOA and that the United States returns to the agreement,” the French presidency said.

Macron also “underscored the need for Iran to engage constructively in this direction so that the exchanges allow a swift return to the agreement,” it added.

“Iran must return without delay to compliance with all its commitments and obligations … and quickly resume cooperation that allows the (UN atomic energy) agency to fully carry out its mission,” it said.

Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, adopted a hard-line approach after just one day of the resumed talks, suggesting that everything discussed during previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated.

Speaking to Iranian state television, he described all that has been discussed so far as merely a “draft.”

He added: “Drafts are subject to negotiation. Therefore nothing is agreed on unless everything has been agreed on.

“On that basis, all discussions that took place in the (previous) six rounds (of talks) are summarized and are subject to negotiations. This was admitted by all parties in today’s meeting as well.”

Bagheri’s remarks directly contradicted comments on Monday by EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who is leading the talks.

“The Iranian delegation represents a new administration in Tehran with new, understandable political sensibilities, but they have accepted that the work done over the six first rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead, so no point in going back,” he said.

Another state TV report highlighted Bagheri in Vienna saying that Iran demands a “guarantee by America not to impose new sanctions” or reimpose previously lifted sanctions.

Mohammed Eslami, Iran’s civilian nuclear chief, reiterated this demand in comments to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

“The talks (in Vienna) are about the return of the US to the deal and they have to lift all sanctions and this should be in practice and verifiable,” he said.

Raisi’s office said that he urged Macron “to strive with other parties in Vienna to conclude the negotiations and lift the sanctions against Iran.”

Raisi said: “Sending a full team to the talks shows Iran’s serious will in these talks.”

Referring to the US, he added: “Those who have started to violate the nuclear deal must gain the confidence of the other party for the negotiations to proceed in a real and fruitful manner.”


UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces funding crisis

UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces funding crisis
Updated 1 min 47 sec ago

UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces funding crisis

UN agency for Palestinian refugees faces funding crisis

AMMAN:The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Tuesday it was unable to pay its 28,000 employees on time this month because of a major funding crisis, warning of potential cuts in vital services to millions of people amid a global pandemic.
UNRWA runs schools, clinics and food distribution programs for millions of registered Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, mainly the descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.
The 5.7 million refugees mostly live in camps that have been transformed into built-up but often impoverished residential areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini told reporters in Jordan that the resumption of US support for the agency this year — which had been halted by the Trump administration — was offset by a reduction in funding by other donors.
The agency also went through a management crisis in 2019, when its previous head resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and other abuses of authority at the agency.
Staff went on strike Monday after being informed last week that salaries would be delayed, but halted the action following mediation, Lazzarini said.
“If UNRWA health services are compromised in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rollout will come to an end. Maternal and childcare will stop, half a million girls and boys not knowing if they can continue learning, and over two million of the poorest Palestinian refugees will not get cash and food assistance,” he said.
“The humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees keep increasing while funding to the agency has stagnated since 2013.”
Lazzarini said the agency raised enough donations at a recent conference in Brussels to cover up to 48 percent of its budget in 2022 and 2023. It also generated $60 million toward a $100 million shortfall until the end of the year to keep services running.
“I’m still not yet in a position to say when the November salaries will be paid,” he said.
Critics of UNRWA, including Israel, accuse it of perpetuating the 73-year refugee crisis and say host nations should shoulder the burden of absorbing them.
The Palestinians say the refugees and their descendants have a “right of return” to their homes in what is now Israel, a position supported by host countries. Israel rejects that, noting that if such a right were fully implemented it would leave the country with a Palestinian majority.


Yemen’s Marib will not fall to Houthis, says Hadi

Yemen’s Marib will not fall to Houthis, says Hadi
Updated 30 November 2021

Yemen’s Marib will not fall to Houthis, says Hadi

Yemen’s Marib will not fall to Houthis, says Hadi
  • President blasted the Houthis for launching a parallel economic war that has led to devaluation of Yemeni riyal
  • On Tuesday, the Yemeni riyal broke a record low, reaching 1600 riyals against a US dollar

AL-MUKALLA: Marib will not surrender to Iran-backed Houthi militias, Yemen's president said on Monday.

Speaking to the nation on the eve of the 54th anniversary of Yemen’s independence, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said the Houthis, with the aid of Tehran, have mounted aggressive assaults on Marib city for months and rejected all international peace initiatives to end the war in Yemen.

“Yemen is facing a purely Iranian project that targets faith, religion and the homeland, and aims to strike … our Arab nation using … Houthi militias that have agreed to be a cheap tool to tear the nation apart,” Hadi said, stressing that government troops and local tribes would “bury” Houthi fighters in the deserts of Marib and not allow them to seize control of the strategic city.

“Marib, the gateway to the defense of the Arabian Peninsula, will not fall, and their project will fall in front of the solidity of our heroes, and its deserts will bury the dreams of their (Iranian) masters.”

The Yemeni leader has long accused the Iranian regime of supporting the Houthis with weapons and funds that fuel the militia’s expansion in the face of heavy attacks from the government forces and the Arab coalition.

The president blasted the Houthis for launching a parallel economic war that has led to the rapid devaluation of the Yemeni riyal and an aggravating economic meltdown.

“The militia launches a fierce economic attack to influence the national currency by all dirty methods, and (has created) a parallel economy that feeds on the people’s livelihoods, aids looting, smuggling and black market trade,” he said, referring to the Houthi ban on the use of new banknotes printed by the internationally-recognized government in Aden, and the rebels’ reluctance to deposit state revenues into the country’s central bank.

“We will continue our struggle until we restore the state, end the coup, and these militias submit to peace and national consensus.”

On Tuesday, the Yemeni riyal broke a record low, reaching 1600 riyals against a US dollar. The riyal traded at nearly 700 against the dollar in January.

Hadi’s pledges to face political, economic and military challenges came as the Arab coalition announced on Tuesday it was carrying out a new wave of airstrikes targeting military sites in Houthi-held Sanaa and other locations.

The coalition’s warplanes struck several military locations in Sanaa, including a site overrun by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the coalition said in a statement carried by the Saudi News Agency.

In a separate statement, the coalition announced on Tuesday afternoon it carried out an airstrike on a military training camp for the Houthis in Mahliyah district, south of Marib, killing more than 60 combatants.

Local media sites such as Al-Sahil Al-Gharbi reported that a hospital in the Houthi-controlled Radaa city, Al-Bayda province, received the bodies of 34 dead Houthis killed in airstrikes in the same district, adding that other airstrikes destroyed military reinforcements heading to battlefields south of Marib.

Maj. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Tuesday that Houthi missile and drone strikes on areas in Marib have been reduced since the beginning of the coalition’s intensive airstrikes against missile depots and drone workshops in Sanaa.

“The successful strikes destroyed ballistic missile and drone stores and workshops, and led to a reduction in the firing of ballistic missiles at populated areas,” Majili said.