Biden, Xi discuss how to ‘align’ stances on Iran nuclear issue

Biden, Xi discuss how to ‘align’ stances on Iran nuclear issue
A screen shows Chinese President Xi Jinping attending a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden via video link on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 November 2021

Biden, Xi discuss how to ‘align’ stances on Iran nuclear issue

Biden, Xi discuss how to ‘align’ stances on Iran nuclear issue
  • Officials from Iran and 6 nations will meet in Vienna to see if Tehran and Washington can agree to resume compliance with the deal under
  • China favors reviving the agreement, it has tended to place the onus on the US, rather than Iran

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked about how they might harmonize their positions ahead of the Nov. 29 resumption of indirect US-Iranian talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a top US official said on Tuesday.
Officials from Iran and the six nations that struck the pact — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — will meet in Vienna to see if Tehran and Washington can agree to resume compliance with the deal under which Iran curbed its nuclear program to gain relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.
In 2018 then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the pact among the major powers known as the P5+1 and Iran and restored harsh US sanctions, prompting Tehran to begin violating its nuclear restrictions about a year later.
“The two presidents had the chance to talk about how we can align our perspectives heading into that (Nov. 29) meeting so that the P5+1 is united in dealing with Iran and trying to pave the way for a return to the (deal),” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a virtual think tank appearance.
The US-Iranian talks are indirect, with officials from the other nations shuttling between them, because Iran refuses direct contact with US officials.
While China favors reviving the agreement, it has tended to place the onus on the United States, rather than Iran, blaming Washington for having abandoned the deal and giving Tehran an economic lifeline by buying Iranian oil despite US sanctions.


Iran using pandemic to ‘further geopolitical objectives, exert domestic control’: Report

The Iranian regime’s response to the coronavirus has contributed to the sky-high toll it has taken on the Iranian people, a new report said. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Iranian regime’s response to the coronavirus has contributed to the sky-high toll it has taken on the Iranian people, a new report said. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2022

Iran using pandemic to ‘further geopolitical objectives, exert domestic control’: Report

The Iranian regime’s response to the coronavirus has contributed to the sky-high toll it has taken on the Iranian people, a new report said. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Tehran ‘will almost certainly seek to maintain repressive domestic measures,’ expert tells Arab News
  • Country accounts for 40% of COVID-19 cases in Middle East, North Africa

LONDON: Despite being the “epicentre” of COVID-19 infections in the Middle East and North Africa, the Iranian regime “has repeatedly utilised the pandemic to further geopolitical objectives and exert domestic control,” according to a new report by London-based political risk advisory firm Sibylline.

The report said Iranian cases accounts for 40 percent of the region’s 15 million cases, and with an official death toll of 132,000, the country also dominates the region’s 250,000 fatalities.

Despite the toll that the virus has taken on Iran, it lags behind other regional states — such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE — in vaccination rates. 

Tehran’s response to the virus has contributed to the sky-high toll it has taken on the Iranian people, the report said.

“Mismanagement and false information have been symbolic of the country’s strategic response to the health crisis, with skewed medical advice and inconsistent figures severely underestimating the true epidemiological landscape of the country,” it added.

“Furthermore, Iran’s hard lined and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi has exploited the health crisis to bolster anti-Western sentiments, spread conspiracy theories and state-sponsored media campaigns.”

Throughout the pandemic, Iran has been rocked by protests in many regions and the capital. In response, Tehran has enhanced domestic repression and cracked down on platforms used to organize protests or spread messages that counter regime narratives.

It “blocked Signal, a messaging app which gained popularity following concerns surrounding the state surveillance of WhatsApp, on 25 January 2021,” said the report.

Rhiannon Phillips, associate analyst for MENA at Sibylline, told Arab News: “Whilst the rest of the Middle Eastern region, and world, are increasingly adopting a strategy which promotes gradually easing measures and ‘learning how to live with COVID-19,’ the Iranian government will almost certainly seek to maintain repressive domestic measures, despite the trajectory of infection rate.”

This trajectory, she added, can be attributed to the country’s “anti-Western ideology.” This is exemplified “by their refusal to import Western vaccines until urged during their fifth wave of the pandemic in late 2021,” she said.

There is little hope that Tehran will change its trajectory to address the crisis, she added. Instead, “the Iranian population will continue to suffer under worsening socio-economic conditions amid US sanctions and the ongoing health crisis.

“Such conditions will inevitably drive an increase in protest activity which are met with heavy state repression.”


Britain’s Prince William to visit Dubai next month

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, delivering a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards in London on November 22. (Reuters/File Photo)
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, delivering a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards in London on November 22. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2022

Britain’s Prince William to visit Dubai next month

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, delivering a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards in London on November 22. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The prince will travel to the UAE on Feb. 10 at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William will visit Dubai next month as part of Expo 2020’s UK National Day, Kensington Palace has announced.

The Duke of Cambridge will travel to the UAE on Feb. 10 at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

His trip, which coincides with the UAE marking its 50th year, will be his first to the emirates and his first major overseas visit since a 2019 tour of the Middle East.

“The bond between the UK and the UAE is deep and strong and Prince William’s visit will highlight and build upon these links as he has the opportunity to engage with young Emiratis, leaders from government and committed conservationists,” the palace statement said.

During the UK National Day at Expo 2020, the Commonwealth Games 2022 baton relay, launched by Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace last October, will parade through the site while stopping at the national pavilions of Commonwealth nations.


UAE envoy hails Security Council censure of Houthis as crucial step toward justice

Lana Nusseibeh was speaking on Friday after a Security Council meeting, convened at the UAE’s request, to discuss the attack on the country’s capital. (UN/File Photo)
Lana Nusseibeh was speaking on Friday after a Security Council meeting, convened at the UAE’s request, to discuss the attack on the country’s capital. (UN/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2022

UAE envoy hails Security Council censure of Houthis as crucial step toward justice

Lana Nusseibeh was speaking on Friday after a Security Council meeting, convened at the UAE’s request, to discuss the attack on the country’s capital. (UN/File Photo)
  • Council members unanimously condemned deadly attack on Abu Dhabi this week and called for perpetrators to be held accountable
  • Emirati representative to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said her country has a ‘sovereign right to defend itself, our people and our way of life’

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council’s unanimous condemnation of the deadly terrorist attack on Abu Dhabi this week is “a really important step” in efforts to hold the Houthi militia in Yemen accountable for its crimes and prevent future atrocities, according to the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN.

Lana Nusseibeh added that her country has a “sovereign right to defend itself, our people and our way of life, as any nation in same situation would do.”

She was speaking on Friday after a Security Council meeting, convened at the UAE’s request, to discuss the attack on the country’s capital.

Following the closed-door discussions, held under the title Threats to International Peace and Security, the 15 council members unanimously condemned the “heinous, terrorist” attack on Abu Dhabi and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“The members of the Security Council condemn in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attacks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Jan. 17, as well as in other sites in Saudi Arabia,” they said.

They stressed the need to hold the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable” and urged all UN member states to cooperate with the UAE in achieving this.

Three people were killed and six injured in a drone assault on a key oil facility in the Emirati capital, and a separate fire was sparked at Abu Dhabi’s international airport. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, which immediately drew condemnation worldwide.

The council members offered their condolences to the families of the victims, two of whom were Indian nationals and one a Pakistani, and to the governments of their countries.

They reiterated that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security” and that any acts of terrorism are “criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

The Security Council also 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.”

Nusseibeh said that “the council has spoken with one voice that this egregious aggression by the Houthis, as well as the proliferation of missiles and other technology that enabled the terrorist attack, is a clear threat to the entire international community.”

Her country is strongly encouraged that the council joined more 100 nations and international organizations in strongly condemning the attack, she added.

“The UAE cares deeply about our citizens and about millions of citizens from around the world who have made our country their home,” Nusseibeh said.

“This meeting and this statement are clear indication of the concern that the international community takes at this attack. More than 200 nationalities call the UAE home and more than 60,000 passengers transit through Abu Dhabi International Airport every day.”

In the letter requesting the special session of the Security Council, addressed to the Norwegian delegation, which holds the presidency of the council this month, Nusseibeh described the latest escalation of violence as “a further step in the Houthis’ efforts to spread terrorism and chaos in our region. It is another attempt by the Houthis, using the capabilities they have unlawfully acquired in defiance of UN sanctions, to threaten peace and security.”

Many of the nations that sit on the council, including permanent members France, Russia, China, the US and the UK, had already issued statements condemning the Houthi assault on Abu Dhabi, with the US and the UK calling it a “terrorist attack.”

In response to a request by the UAE, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that his administration is considering reinstating the designation of the Houthis as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The attack on Monday was the second high-profile incident this month involving the Houthis and the UAE. The militia seized an Emirati-flagged cargo ship, the Rwabee, in the Red Sea off Yemen’s western coast on Jan. 3.

The Security Council previously unanimously condemned the seizure of the ship and the detention of its crew. In a statement drafted by the UK, members demanded the immediate release of the vessel and those on board, and urged the Houthis to guarantee the safety and well-being of the crew.

They also called on all sides to resolve the issue quickly and highlighted the importance of preserving freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea, in accordance with international law.

The hijacking of the Rwabee was the latest Houthi assault in the Red Sea, which is a crucial route for international trade and energy shipments.


At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck

At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck
Updated 21 January 2022

At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck

At least 11 migrants drown off Tunisia in shipwreck
  • He added the coast guard had recovered five bodies, while the search was still under way for six more drowned

TUNIS: At least 11 migrants drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, while 21 others were rescued by the coast guard, the army spokesman said on Friday.
He added the coast guard had recovered five bodies, while the search was still under way for six more drowned.


Daesh attacks Syria jail, military base in Iraq in deadly escalation

Daesh attacks Syria jail, military base in Iraq in deadly escalation
Updated 21 January 2022

Daesh attacks Syria jail, military base in Iraq in deadly escalation

Daesh attacks Syria jail, military base in Iraq in deadly escalation
  • The brazen Daesh operation sewed chaos in Hasakah, forcing people to flee the area around Ghwayran prison
  • The attack marked the jihadists’ deadliest operation in Iraq this year

HASAKEH, Syria: Daesh group on Friday attacked a Syria prison housing fellow jihadists and a military base in Iraq in near simultaneous deadly operations that revived fears of a Daesh resurgence.
The jihadist group has yet to comment on the attacks and there is no indication that they are coordinated but, according to analysts, they strongly suggest Daesh is trying to boost its ranks and arsenal in an attempt to reorganize across both countries.
In Syria, an ongoing Daesh attack on a northeast Syria detention facility holding the largest number of Daesh suspects killed at least 20 Kurdish security forces and set several Daesh fighters free, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The prison break that began late Thursday was one of the group’s most significant attacks since its “caliphate” was declared defeated in the war-torn country nearly three years ago.
As Daesh operatives launched their bid to free some of the estimated 3,500 fellow fighters jailed at Ghwayran prison in the Syrian city of Hasakah, the jihadists killed 11 soldiers in an attack on an army base in the east of neighboring Iraq.
The attack marked the jihadists’ deadliest operation in Iraq this year.
While the Iraq operation quickly came under wraps, Kurdish forces in Syria continued to battle jihadists in Hasakah, hours after the prison attack began with a Daesh car bomb late Thursday, the Observatory said.
“The number of those killed among Kurdish internal security forces and prison guards stands at 20,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
The war monitor, providing figures that were not immediately confirmed by the authorities of the autonomous Kurdish region, also said at least 16 jihadists were killed in the ongoing fighting.
The brazen Daesh operation sewed chaos in Hasakah, forcing people to flee the area around Ghwayran prison.
Daesh fighters hunkered down in homes around the facility, sometimes using residents as human shields, as Kurdish forces fought to retake full control of the neighborhood and hunt down prisoners on the loose.
Daesh has carried out regular attacks against Kurdish and regime targets in Syria since the last rump of its once-sprawling proto-state was defeated on the banks of the Euphrates in March 2019.
Most of their guerrilla attacks have been against military targets and oil installations in remote areas but the Hasakah prison break could mark a new phase in the group’s resurgence.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurds’ de-facto army in northeast Syria, said it had recaptured 89 Daesh detainees in its sweep of the area.
“Clashes continue in the vicinity of the prison,” the SDF said in a statement.
The US-led international coalition formed to battle Daesh acknowledged the attack and added that the SDF had suffered casualties but did not say how many.
Daesh “remains an existential threat in Syria and cannot be allowed to regenerate,” the coalition said.
The Kurdish authorities have long warned they did not have the capacity to hold, let alone put on trial, the thousands of Daesh fighters captured in years of operations.
According to Kurdish authorities, more than 50 nationalities are represented in a number of Kurdish-run prisons where more than 12,000 Daesh suspects are now held.
From France to Tunisia, many of the Daesh prisoners’ countries of origins have been reluctant to repatriate them, fearing a public backlash at home.
A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 Daesh fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria, many of them in Kurdish-controlled areas.
Prison breaks have been a recurring part of jihadist groups’ strategy in both Iraq and Syria for over a decade.
Before becoming the world’s most wanted man, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of what was later to become known as the “Islamic State,” had launched a campaign in 2012 focused on releasing prisoners.
His proclamation of Daesh’s so-called caliphate in 2014 across swathes of Iraq and Syria came a wave of operations in Iraq during which several hundred fighters were freed, including from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
“Jailbreaks and prison riots were a central component of Daesh’s resurgence in Iraq and is a serious threat in Syria today,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst at International Crisis Group.
She pointed out that many of the prisons in the Kurdish-run areas of Syria where much of the Daesh caliphate’s former “army” is being held were converted schools ill-suited to holding high-risk detainees for long periods.
Since Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition flushed out the last die-hard jihadists holding out in the village of Baghuz in 2019, Daesh has been patiently rebuilding.
The confusion and corruption that are rife in the vast desert expanses on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border have allowed Daesh remnants to lie low and plot their next moves.