Hady Amr appointment ‘unlikely to bring genuine change,’ say Palestinian officials

Special Hady Amr appointment ‘unlikely to bring genuine change,’ say Palestinian officials
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland and US Special representative for Palestinian affairs Hady Amr. (Twitter Photo)
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Updated 24 November 2022

Hady Amr appointment ‘unlikely to bring genuine change,’ say Palestinian officials

Hady Amr appointment ‘unlikely to bring genuine change,’ say Palestinian officials
  • Officials in Ramallah said that Hady Amr’s appointment will not have any practical impact on the impasse between Israel and Palestinians
  • Former US congressman Jim Moran: ‘Amr has fought very hard to give the Palestinians representation and a voice in Washington’

WASHINGTON: Palestinian officials in Ramallah said that US President Joe Biden’s recent promotion of US State Department official Hady Amr as special US representative for Palestinian affairs falls short of their expectations of a more comprehensive engagement by the administration.

Amr, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, will now focus on Palestinian issues as part of the State Department’s Bureau of Near East Affairs.

Palestinian leaders said the move is not enough to show the US is serious about its declared objectives of reopening the US consulate general in Jerusalem, which historically was considered as the de facto US embassy to the Palestinians, but was closed by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Officials in Ramallah said that Amr’s appointment will not have any practical impact on the impasse between Israel and Palestinians, especially since Israel has shown no interest in engaging in meaningful peace talks.

Amr is unlikely to have an influence on the day-to-day situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, they added.

Palestinian leaders argued that the Biden administration is not following through with its own declared objectives of largely ending Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

However, a US State Department spokesperson told Arab News that the Washington-based Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs, which Amr now heads, will engage closely with the Palestinians and their leadership and, together with US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and his team, continue to engage with Israel on Palestinian-related issues.

The spokesperson added that Amr’s appointment reflects the Washington administration’s “commitment to strengthening US engagement with the Palestinians.”

“The president reiterated that in Israel and the West Bank, we remain committed to reopening our consulate general in Jerusalem and to the vision of a two-state solution.”

Jibril Al-Rjoub, secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, the governing party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Arab News that it is important to know what Amr will do to advance the Palestinian issue in Washington, especially considering the current right-wing Israeli political environment.

“The real question for us as Palestinians is to know what Mr. Amr’s mandate will be in this new position, as Israel is moving toward more extremist policies against the Palestinians,” he said.

“Is Amr going to oversee and implement Mr. Biden’s stated policy objectives, or just give us yet another two years of running around in circles without any real results on the ground?”

Wasel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, praised Amr and told Arab News that he is someone Palestinians can trust.

However, Abu Yousef argued that while Amr’s appointment may have symbolic meaning for the US administration, it changes little on the ground as far as Palestinians are concerned.

The Biden administration’s reluctance to make “tangible steps” toward Palestinians shows that it is interested only in “conflict management,” not a solution.

Jim Moran, a former US congressman from Virginia, said that he understands Palestinian frustration with the Biden administration and lack of enthusiasm for Amr’s appointment, but added “that’s because they simply don’t know how hard Amr has fought to get them representation in Washington.”

Moran said: “Amr has fought very hard to give the Palestinians representation and a voice in Washington.”

Amr had to overcome “insurmountable objections and obstacles by people in Washington who opposed this move,” he said.

“Amr is a genuine hero, and one who cares about the Palestinians and the Palestinian cause.”

A Palestinian Authority official who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity said that part of the problem the PA has with the Biden administration is that it has refused to take real action to undo steps taken by the Trump administration as part of his so-called “deal of the century.”

“The lack of action on part of the Biden administration tells Palestinians that Trump’s deal of century is still in force under the Biden administration.

“While Amr is highly respected within the Palestinian leadership, this appointment is not enough to make us think the Biden administration is serious about its commitment to the two-state solution.”

In 2017, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — an illegal move under international law — and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as part of the proposed deal.

The agreement envisioned granting Palestinians economic incentives and privileges inside a disjointed patchwork of territories within the occupied West Bank.

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
Updated 14 sec ago

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate

Israeli President arrives in UAE for Abu Dhabi Space Debate
  • The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities attending the Abu Dhabi event

DUBAI: Israeli president Isaac Herzog has arrived in the UAE Monday to attend the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, state news agency (WAM) reported.

Herzog was welcomed by the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Israeli president will be among 300 high-ranking personalities and decision makers attending the first edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, which opened on Monday.

The two-day event will discuss the space industry’s most pressing challenges and factors to drive the new space economy.

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
  • Espionage group linked to IRGC gains access to emails of 3 victims

LONDON: Iran-backed hackers have staged a targeted campaign against more than a dozen high-profile human rights activists, journalists, academics and government officials, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization found that a coordinated phishing attack had been launched by an Iran-linked hacking entity known as APT42, believed to be a cyberespionage group.

The HRW report said that two of its employees were targeted, alongside 18 other people, resulting in the hacking of emails belonging to three individuals.

APT42 gained access to the emails, cloud storage, calendars and contacts of a US newspaper correspondent based in the Middle East, a Gulf-based women’s rights activist as well as a refugee advocate in Lebanon.

HRW said that the phishing attack was launched via WhatsApp, with 15 of the targets receiving suspicious messages between September and November this year.

The message, disguised as a conference invitation, allowed APT42 to gain access to the Google accounts of the three victims after they were invited to enter their two-factor authentication details on false pretenses.

Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy.

Since 2010, hackers and espionage groups linked to the regime in Tehran have successfully hacked and leaked the data of government, military and business targets around the world.

In September, APT42 members were sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

Google as well as cybersecurity businesses Recorded Future and Proofpoint have said that APT42 operates on behalf of Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Mandiant said that the group’s activities were directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

APT42 uses sophisticated social engineering strategies in disguising phishing attempts, HRW said.

In gaining the trust of victims, APT42 members use the real information of conference organizers to create fake accounts and contact high-profile activists and officials.

Previous attacks have seen the group impersonate members of the Munich Security Conference and the G20 Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia to contact targets and launch phishing attacks.

Abir Ghattas, information security director at HRW, said: “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups.

“This significantly increases the risks that journalists and human rights defenders face in Iran and elsewhere in the region.”

She added: “In a Middle East region rife with surveillance threats for activists, it’s essential for digital security researchers to not only publish and promote findings, but also prioritize the protection of the region’s embattled activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
Updated 05 December 2022

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment
  • Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri earlier said the morality police ‘had been closed’

CAIRO: An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down.
The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, came under scrutiny after a detainee, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, died in its custody in mid-September. Amini had been held for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes. Her death unleashed a wave of unrest that has grown into calls for the downfall of Iran’s clerical rulers.
Iran’s chief prosecutor Mohamed Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday the morality police “had been closed,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. The agency did not provide details, and state media hasn’t reported such a purported decision.
In a report carried by ISNA on Sunday, lawmaker Nezamoddin Mousavi signaled a less confrontational approach toward the protests.
“Both the administration and parliament insisted that paying attention to the people’s demand that is mainly economic is the best way for achieving stability and confronting the riots,” he said, following a closed meeting with several senior Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi.
Mousavi did not address the reported closure of the morality police.
The Associated Press has been unable to confirm the current status of the force, established in 2005 with the task of arresting people who violate the country’s Islamic dress code.
Since September, there has been a reported decline in the number of morality police officers across Iranian cities and an increase in women walking in public without headscarves, contrary to Iranian law.
Montazeri, the chief prosecutor, provided no further details about the future of the morality police or if its closure was nationwide and permanent. However he added that Iran’s judiciary will ‘‘continue to monitor behavior at the community level.’’
In a report by ISNA on Friday, Montazeri was quoted as saying that the government was reviewing the mandatory hijab law. “We are working fast on the issue of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” said Montazeri, without offering details.
Saturday’s announcement could signal an attempt to appease the public and find a way to end the protests in which, according to rights groups, at least 470 people were killed. More than 18,000 people have been arrested in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the demonstrations.
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said Montazeri’s statement about closing the morality police could be an attempt to pacify domestic unrest without making real concessions to protesters.
‘‘The secular middle class loathes the organization (morality police) for restricting personal freedoms,” said Alfoneh. On the other hand, the “underprivileged and socially conservative class resents how they conveniently keep away from enforcing the hijab legislation” in wealthier areas of Iran’s cities.
When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. ‘‘Be sure that in Iran, within the framework of democracy and freedom, which very clearly exists in Iran, everything is going very well,’’ Amirabdollahian said, speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.
The anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.
After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.
But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
Updated 23 min 49 sec ago

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’

Iranian city shops shut after strike call, judiciary blames ‘rioters’
  • 1500tasvir Twitter account shared videos of shut stores in key commercial areas like Tehran’s Bazaar
  • Amusement park in Tehran was earlier closed because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly

DUBAI:  Iranian shops shut their doors in several cities on Monday, following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters seeking the fall of clerical rulers, with the head of the judiciary blaming “rioters” for threatening shopkeepers.
Iran has been rocked by nationwide unrest following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 in police custody, posing one of the strongest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for flouting the strict hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarfs.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that an amusement park at a Tehran shopping center was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.
The reformist-leaning Hammihan newspaper said that morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran, where the force has been less active over recent weeks.
Iran’s public prosecutor on Saturday was cited by the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency as saying that the morality police had been disbanded. But there was no confirmation from the Interior Ministry and state media said the public prosecutor was not responsible for overseeing the force.
Last week, Vice President for Women’s Affairs Ensieh Khazali said that the hijab was part of the Islamic Republic’s general law and that it guaranteed women’s social movement and security.
In the shop protests, 1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos on Monday of shut stores in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Shiraz.
Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said that “rioters” were threatening shopkeepers to close their businesses and added they would be swiftly dealt with by the judiciary and security bodies. Ejei added that protesters condemned to death would soon be executed.
The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement praising the judiciary and calling on it to swiftly and decisively issue a judgment against “defendants accused of crimes against the security of the nation and Islam.”
Security forces would show no mercy toward “rioters, thugs, terrorists,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the guards as saying.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency confirmed that a jewelry shop belonging to former Iranian football legend Ali Daei was sealed by authorities, following its decision to close down for the three days of the general strike.
Similar footage by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts was shared of closed shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil and Lahijan.
Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw also reported that 19 cities had joined the general strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock
Updated 05 December 2022

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock

Sudan military, civilians sign framework agreement to resolve political deadlock
  • Framework agreement to adopt a ‘balanced’ foreign policy

CAIRO: Sudanese political parties signed a framework deal on Monday that provides for a two-year civilian-led transition towards elections and would end a standoff triggered by a coup in October 2021.

The deal — the first of at least two planned accords — was signed by Sudan’s ruling generals, Abdel-Fattah el-Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and the leaders from Sudan’s largest pro-democracy group, Forces of Freedom and Change, at the Khartoum’s Republican Palace.

The framework agreement puts an emphasis on a unified professional national army and will be committed to criminalize military coups, the parties said at the ceremony. 

The framework agreement will also adopt a “balanced” foreign policy that serves the interests of Sudan. 

It also set the transitional period at two years from the moment a prime minister is appointed. The agreement will expand the powers of the prime minister during the transitional period. 

Sudan has been gripped in a deep political crisis since a coup a year ago. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power in October 2021, derailing a rocky transition to civilian rule that had started after the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The past year has seen near-weekly protests and street clashes that have claimed 120 lives, a spiralling economic crisis and a rise in ethnic violence in several remote regions.

Divisions among civilian groups have deepened since the coup, with some urging a deal with the military while others insist on "no partnership, no negotiation".

The announced deal was negotiated in the presence of officials from the United Nations, African Union, the regional IGAD bloc and Western diplomats.

It is based on a proposal by the Sudanese Bar Association, said a statement by the main civilian bloc, the Forces for Freedom and Change, which was ousted in the coup.

In a first phase, "the framework agreement lays the groundwork for establishing a transitional civilian authority," said the FFC.

– with AFP and AP