NATO launches ratification process for Sweden, Finland membership

Update NATO launches ratification process for Sweden, Finland membership
The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives are to formally approve the decisions of last week’s NATO summit. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2022

NATO launches ratification process for Sweden, Finland membership

NATO launches ratification process for Sweden, Finland membership
  • A NATO summit in Madrid last week endorsed that move by issuing invitations to the two

BRUSSELS: The process to ratify Sweden and Finland as the newest members of NATO was formally launched on Tuesday, the military alliance’s head Jens Stoltenberg said, marking a historic step brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“This is a good day for Finland and Sweden and a good day for NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters in a joint press statement with the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers.

“With 32 nations around the table, we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades,” he added.

The NATO secretary general was speaking ahead of a meeting in which the ambassadors from NATO’s 30 member states were expected to sign the accession protocols for the two Nordic countries, opening a months-long period for alliance countries to ratify their membership.


“We are tremendously grateful for all the strong support that our accession has received from the allies,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

“We are convinced that our membership would strengthen NATO and add to the stability in the Euro Atlantic area,” she added.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Sweden and Finland in parallel announced their intention to drop their military non-alignment status and become part of NATO.

A NATO summit in Madrid last week endorsed that move by issuing invitations to the two, after Turkey won concessions over concerns it had raised and a US promise it would receive new warplanes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had accused Sweden and Finland of being havens for Kurdish militants he has sought to crush, and for promoting “terrorism.”

He also demanded they lift arms embargoes imposed for Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into Syria.

But Erdogan has kept the rest of NATO on tenterhooks by saying he could still block Sweden and Finland’s bids if they fail to follow through on their promises, some of which were undisclosed, such as possible extradition agreements.

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
Updated 10 sec ago

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation

Russia says Ukraine planning ‘provocation’ at nuclear plant; Kyiv dismisses accusation
LONDON: Russia said on Thursday there was a risk of a manmade disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and accused Kyiv and the West of planning “provocation” there on Friday during a visit to Ukraine by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
A Ukrainian official dismissed what he depicted as a cynical assertion by Moscow and said Russian forces should leave the plant they captured soon after invading Ukraine nearly six months ago, demine it and remove any munitions stored there.
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactor complex (ZNPP), the largest in Europe, has come under repeated shelling, with both Moscow and Kyiv trading blame.
Russia says Ukrainian forces are recklessly firing at the plant, but Ukraine says Russia is deliberately using the reactor complex as a base to launch attacks against its population.
Russia’s foreign ministry said at a news briefing that a proposal from Guterres to demilitarise the area around the plant was “unacceptable.”
Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters Moscow was taking measures to ensure safety at the complex and denied it had deployed heavy weapons in and around the plant.
However, the ministry said a shutdown of the plant might be attempted if shelling continued.
Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-installed administration in Zaporizhzhia region, said earlier there was a risk that shelling could damage the cooling system of the reactor complex and was quoted as saying the plant was operating with only one unit.
It is not clear how the plant would be shut down, but the ministry said two of the plant’s six units may be put into “cold reserve.” The plant accounts for one-fifth of Ukraine’s annual electricity production.
Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said shutting down the plant would increase the risk of “a radiation disaster at the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.” Disconnecting the complex’s generators from Ukraine’s power system would prevent them being used to keep nuclear fuel cool, in the event of a power outage at the plant, it said on the Telegram messaging app.

The Russian defense ministry accused Ukraine and what it called its “US handlers” of trying to stage a “minor accident” at the plant in southern Ukraine to blame Russia.
It said the “provocation” was timed to coincide with a visit to Ukraine by UN chief Guterres, who arrived in Lviv or Wednesday and was due to visit the Black Sea port of Odesa on Friday, and that it may involve a radiation leak.
Reuters could not verify Russia’s assertion.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, dismissed the Russian defense ministry’s remarks, saying it “laughs cynically.”
“There is a solution. You just need to take the (munitions)out of the halls, demine the buildings, release the plant’s personnel from cells, stop shelling (the southern city of) Nikopol from (the plant’s) territory and leave the station,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a briefing, Igor Kirillov, head of Russia’s radioactive, chemical and biological defense forces, said the plant’s back-up support systems had been damaged as a result of shelling.
Kirillov presented a slide, showing that in the event of an accident at the plant, radioactive material would cover Germany, Poland and Slovakia.
Guterres, who is set to meet Zelensky later on Thursday, has called for a halt to all fighting near the plant.

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
Updated 9 min 6 sec ago

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly

Former CIA station chief urges Biden to block Iran leader from attending UN General Assembly
  • Rogue nation attacks Saudi Arabia and US, says Norman Roule
  • Salman Rushdie assault ‘part of Tehran’s global terror’ plans

CHICAGO: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi should be prevented from attending next month’s UN General Assembly because Tehran is complicit in the attack on novelist Salman Rushdie in New York on Aug. 12, and continues to foment violence and terrorism across the world.

This is the view of Norman Roule, the CIA’s former national intelligence manager for Iran, who said that President Joe Biden and the UN must send a strong message that Tehran’s actions will not be tolerated in an interview with Arab News’ Ray Hanania Show.

Roule said the attack on Rushdie by 24-year-old Hadi Matar, a Lebanese American from Fairview, New Jersey, was a “clear act of terrorism” that reflects a wider campaign of Iranian-sponsored violence that demands a forceful response from the US, its European allies and the UN.

“But I think because of the actions against the United States at this very sensitive time we need to send a message to the Iranian government that this will not be tolerated,” Roule told Arab News.

“It (banning Raisi from the UNGA) would also send a message to other adversaries and rogue states that there is a consequence to actions. And if you undertake these sorts of actions this is how you will have to endure diplomatic isolation. If Raisi comes to the United States (for the UNGA) it sends the reverse message. It sends the message that you can conduct these sorts of actions. You’ll get a statement by the state department spokesman. Maybe a tweet from a US official. Maybe a sanction against an organization that has no financial assets in the United States. But otherwise it is pretty much cost free. I think we really want to avoid that.”

If this had been an act of Al-Qaeda, Roule said, the reaction from the US and other European allies “would be different.” In the past, Roule noted, the US had a “robust program” to punish any action by Al-Qaeda for its terrorism, especially in the US.

If Biden does not ban Raisi from entering the US to attend the UNGA meeting in mid-September, then the next option would be to boycott Raisi’s speech, argued Roule, who is a non-resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“It is a campaign of violence throughout the world by Iran. There have been actions in Argentina recently. There have been missiles fired, Iranian missiles fired from Yemen against the international population of Saudi Arabia. One other aspect that could happen is that when President Raisi speaks, representatives from those countries who are partners and allies could walk out of the room. That has been done also in the past,” said Roule who served in his post at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2008 until 2017.

“We cannot allow them to get away with this cost-free or it encourages further violence.”

Roule argued that past administrations have taken very decisive actions in response to terrorism including when former President Ronald Reagan launched an attack against Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi after American personnel were targeted in Germany.

“We have had a series of Iranian actions almost always involving other nationals beyond Iranian officials because it allows Iran to conduct actions that are attributable to Iran so it gets its message (across) but in a sense it is deniable,” Roule said.

“What the United States and also Europe have done is I think a dangerous strategy. They are following a dangerous strategy. In essence we pursue the local actor under law enforcement aspects and then we make public statements ascribing the action to Iran and threatening privately or publicly severe consequences if someone succeeds. In most cases, Iran’s actions fail.

“But in essence we are sending a message that they are swinging the bat at killing Americans and we have had a number of attempts by Iran this year that have been frustrated per press reports. But we don’t punish them for the effort, which in essence encourages them to continue to try these actions. But also to put out propaganda on Twitter, (and on) the Supreme Leader’s account and other places, which encourage people to undertake actions that in essence satisfy Iran’s political goal.”

Roule said that Iran clearly is not only behind the attack on Rushdie, but also attempted to harm others including former UN Ambassador and US National Security Adviser John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and leaders in other countries including Adel Al-Jubeir, the former Saudi foreign minister, who is currently the minister of state for foreign affairs and the Kingdom’s new climate envoy.



“Certainly Iran is responsible for creating a worldwide atmosphere, propagating an atmosphere that encouraged this action. Iran not only put out a fatwa which has been reaffirmed, not recently but not often but it has been reaffirmed. But Iran has actually increased the money in the pot it would pay for the violence against Salman Rushdie,” Roule said, noting that the passage of 33 years does not undermine the original death fatwa which was issued in 1989 but has never been revoked by Iran’s leaders.

“Iran is responsible for creating this sense that this (Rushdie attack) is a necessary action. I think we have got something that is identical to what Al-Qaeda did with its worldwide propaganda campaign instigating other acts of violence. So maybe Al-Qaeda didn’t undertake the specific act but actions were undertaken because people were informed on social media by a specific line of propaganda.”

Roule noted that Biden has threatened to pursue other actions to stop Iran’s terrorism but “hasn’t provided a lot of details” on this policy.

“It even underscores that when Iran makes a threat, that threat may eventually be achieved over time. There is a lesson there that the United States and the international community should have dealt with this fatwa differently, should not have tolerated the fact that the fatwa remained (intact), should not have tolerated the fact that Iran did not withdraw this. But we did, hoping that it sort of would drift into obscurity whereas there are plenty of people who follow the propaganda that Iran puts in social media and this individual acted accordingly,” Roule said.

Failure to respond to Iran over the Rushdie attack, and the other attacks, sends a “dangerous message,” Roule argued.



“In essence what we got is a situation in which we punish people we capture under law enforcement. We tell Iran privately and publicly we will respond to a successful attack,” Roule said.

“But failed attacks seem to provoke no response from not only the United States but also friends and our European partners. And I think this encourages individuals in Iran to think that there is no penalty for their efforts to conduct terrorism in the United States and elsewhere.”

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
Updated 50 min 7 sec ago

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained

Wildfires in Portugal, Spain contained
  • The fires in both countries followed punishing heatwaves and long dry spells, leaving forests parched and primed to burn
  • With more hot weather forecast, however, there were fears it could flare up again

LISBON: Massive wildfires in Portugal and Spain were largely under control Thursday after forcing thousands from their homes and destroying large swathes of land.
The fires in both countries followed punishing heatwaves and long dry spells, leaving forests parched and primed to burn.
In Portugal, over 1,000 firefighters were still deployed in the Serra da Estrela national park, but the blaze was mostly contained after days of burning out of control.
With more hot weather forecast, however, there were fears it could flare up again.
“The fire is under control, but it is not extinguished. Consolidation work will continue in the coming days,” civil protection commander Miguel Oliveira told TSF radio.
“It is always possible, and very likely, that there will be new reactivations, but we hope that they do not take on worrying proportions,” he said.
The huge fire in central Portugal was brought under control last week, only to restart again Monday.
More than 25,000 hectares (nearly 61,800 acres) of land is estimated to have been scorched by the fire in the UNESCO-listed park, home to diverse wildlife species including wildcats and lizards.
Forecasts are predicting a fresh heatwave on Saturday, the latest in a string of hot spells in Portugal this year. July was the hottest on record in nearly a century.
Interior Minister Jose Luis Carneiro said Wednesday “we will experience increased risks” of fires in the coming days due to hot and dry conditions.
In neighboring Spain, rain and lower temperatures eased pressure on firefighters who for days have been battling two major fires in the eastern Valencia region, officials said Thursday.
“Finally, some good news: the rain and the drop in temperatures have helped to contain the fire in Vall d’Ebo,” regional leader Ximo Puig tweeted late Wednesday.
He hoped the conditions would also “help stabilize the fire in Bejis” further north.
By Thursday morning, there were “few visible flames left,” Puig told Cadena Ser radio, as the emergency services said the rain had almost completely put out the fires.
The two wildfires had forced the evacuation of 3,000 people and burnt their way through some 25,000 hectares.
So far this year, Spain has been hit by 391 wildfires, which have destroyed over 283,000 hectares of land in total, the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System show.
This year’s fires in Spain have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in the whole of 2021, which totalled over 84,000 hectares, the figures show.
In Portugal, some 92,000 hectares have burned this year, according to the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, in the worst fires since 2017 when around 100 people were killed.
Experts say climate change driven by human activity is boosting the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, droughts and wildfires.

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations
Updated 18 August 2022

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

Senior UAE and Japan ministers vow to strengthen ties beyond 50th year of relations

TOKYO: Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology for the United Arab Emirates and Special Envoy to Japan, talked with Japan’s Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Thursday with the two ministers resolving to use the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries to enhance cooperation even further.

Al Jaber and Hayashi said they would continue to work together under the Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Initiative (CSPI) to further strengthen cooperation in various fields and elevate the strategic partnership to the next level looking toward the next 50 years, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

Minister Al Jaber once again offered his condolences on the passing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

This article was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
Updated 18 August 2022

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations

UK, Pakistan reach deal over criminal deportations
  • Reciprocal agreement to expedite return of offenders from both countries

LONDON: The UK has signed a deal with Pakistan to expedite the deportation of criminals and rejected asylum seekers, The Times reported on Thursday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel pushed for the reciprocal deal, which encourages both countries to accept the return of deported criminals, including those who violate immigration law.
The UK has struggled in the past in dealing with the Pakistani government on matters related to criminal deportations. Among foreign criminals in Britain, Pakistanis make up the seventh-largest nationality.
The deal with the South Asian country follows similar agreements with Serbia, Nigeria, Albania and India.
Patel reportedly has plans to create a performance table of countries based on their willingness to cooperate over the return of foreign criminals from Britain.
The table aims to ease the burden on the UK immigration system, with “uncooperative” countries set to face increased bureaucracy and costs for travelers entering Britain.