UN agency report says Iran has further increased its uranium stockpile

UN agency report says Iran has further increased its uranium stockpile
The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency flies in front of its headquarters during an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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UN agency report says Iran has further increased its uranium stockpile

UN agency report says Iran has further increased its uranium stockpile
  • IAEA’s director-general has warned Tehran has enough enriched uranium for ‘several’ nuclear bombs if it chose to build them
  • Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and continues to insist that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes

VIENNA: Iran has further increased its stockpile of uranium enriched to nearly weapons-grade levels, according to a report by the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog seen by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency also said that Iran has pushed back against the agency’s objections to Tehran’s ban on some of its inspectors designated to monitor the country’s nuclear program.
In its confidential quarterly report distributed to member states, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that according to its assessment, as of Oct. 28, Iran has an estimated 128.3 kilograms (282.9 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 60 percent purity, which represents an increase of 6.7 kilograms since its September report.
Uranium enriched at 60 percent purity is just a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
The IAEA report also estimated that as of Oct. 28, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was at 4,486.8 kilograms, an increase of 691.3 kilograms since the last quarterly report in September 2023.
In an effort to ensure Iran could not develop nuclear weapons, world powers struck a deal with Tehran in 2015 under which it agreed to limit enrichment of uranium to levels necessary for nuclear power in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. UN inspectors were tasked with monitoring the program.
Then-President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the accord in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the terms a year later. Those included provisions that Iran was allowed to enrich uranium only up to 3.67 percent purity and maintain a stockpile of uranium of 300 kilograms.
US President Joe Biden has said he’d be willing to re-enter a nuclear deal with Iran, but formal talks to try to find a roadmap to restart the deal collapsed in August 2022.
Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and continues to insist that its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. But the IAEA’s director-general has warned Tehran has enough enriched uranium for “several” nuclear bombs if it chose to build them.
In a second confidential report distributed to member states, the watchdog said that no progress has been made on its request that Iran explain the origin and current location of manmade uranium particles found at two locations that Tehran has failed to declare as potential nuclear sites, which the IAEA named as Varamin and Turquzabad.
The report also says that there is no progress thus far in getting more monitoring equipment, including cameras, re-installed that had been removed by Iran in June 2022. Iran responded to criticism by the US, Britain, France and Germany on that issue by barring several of the IAEA’s most experienced inspectors from monitoring its nuclear program.
IAEA director general Rafael Grossi has sought to persuade Iran to relent.
But according to the latest report, Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear program, reasserted in a letter received Wednesday by the IAEA that it was “within its rights to de-designate the Agency inspectors” and stated that the watchdog’s “assertion” of the potential risks of impeding the conduct of inspections ‘is not compelling and lacks any legal basis.”
Eslami added, however, that he was “exploring possibilities to address the request” to reconsider the ban on the inspectors.
The IAEA has said it views as “extreme and unjustified” Iran’s decision to withdraw inspectors who come from three European countries that Eslami has reportedly said “regularly demonstrated harsh political behaviors.”
The latest IAEA reports come as tensions in the Middle East escalate.


Defiant Netanyahu to face US Congress amid Gaza tensions

Defiant Netanyahu to face US Congress amid Gaza tensions
Updated 21 July 2024
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Defiant Netanyahu to face US Congress amid Gaza tensions

Defiant Netanyahu to face US Congress amid Gaza tensions
  • Israel’s longest-serving premier will become the first foreign leader to address a joint meeting of the two chambers four times
  • Hamas has accused Netanyahu of seeking to block a deal being hammered out by Qatar, Egyptian and US mediators to end the Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to deliver a landmark speech to the US Congress on Wednesday as he fights off intense pressure to quickly cut a Gaza war ceasefire deal with Hamas.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, will become the first foreign leader to address a joint meeting of the two chambers four times — pulling ahead of Britain’s Winston Churchill on three.
But analysts say the Gaza war since the October 7 Hamas attacks has created worrying tensions between Israel and the United States, its main military and diplomatic backer.
Washington fears a backlash from the mounting civilian toll in the Gaza Strip, while protests in Israel by families of hostages taken by Hamas are also causing headaches for Netanyahu.
Biden and some Israeli ministers say a deal negotiated through Qatar, Egyptian and US mediators is possible. A plan outlined in May proposed a six-week ceasefire when some Israeli hostages would be swapped for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that negotiators were “inside the 10 yard line and driving toward the goal line.”
Hamas has accused Netanyahu of seeking to block a deal however and Blinken said he wants to “bring the agreement over the finish line” when Netanyahu is in Washington.
An expected meeting between Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden is still not confirmed.

Israel has intensified its air strikes on Gaza in recent weeks and Netanyahu has insisted that only piling on military pressure can free the hostages and beat Hamas.
“This double pressure is not delaying the deal — it is advancing it,” Netanyahu told troops in Gaza on Thursday.
The October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures. Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 38,919 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Publicly, Biden has voiced strong support for Israel. But he expressed concern over an offensive on the southern city of Rafah in May and for a while suspended deliveries of heavy bombs to Israel. Supplies of 2,000-pound bombs remain embargoed.
“Never before has the atmosphere been so fraught,” said Council on Foreign Relations Middle East specialist Steven Cook.
“There is clearly tension in the relationship, especially between the White House and the Israeli prime minister,” Cook said in a commentary.

While US Republicans pressed to invite Netanyahu to address Congress, he has lost support among Democrats.
One Jewish senator, Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii, announced he would boycott Wednesday’s speech, saying he would not listen to “political rhetoric that will do nothing to bring peace in the region.”
Netanyahu said after being invited to Congress again that he would “present the truth about our just war against those who seek to destroy us.”
Cook said that Netanyahu has two aims for his Washington trip.
First, to show that he has not “undermined” Israel’s relations with the United States.
Netanyahu also “will endeavour to shift the conversation away from the conflict in Gaza toward the threat that Iran and its proxies pose” to Israel and the United States, Cook added.
Much attention will be focused on whether Netanyahu meets with Donald Trump or a figure close to the Republican presidential candidate.
Despite the tensions, the United States has defended Israeli interests while taking a key role in mediation efforts, and the military relationship remains strong, according to officials.
Washington’s support could prove crucial as Israel faces increasing international criticism over the growing humanitarian toll from nearly 300 days of war.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor in May asked judges to issue arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Warrants for three Hamas leaders have also been requested.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has called for sanctions against the ICC.
The International Court of Justice found Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories illegal on July 19 and in February called for the country to prevent any acts of genocide in its Gaza offensive.
 


Saudi Arabia says no involvement with strikes targetting Hodeidah

Saudi Arabia says no involvement with strikes targetting Hodeidah
Updated 21 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia says no involvement with strikes targetting Hodeidah

Saudi Arabia says no involvement with strikes targetting Hodeidah
  • Ministry of Defense spokesman says the Kingdom will not allow any entity to use its airspace for offensive action
  • Israeli warplanes struck targets in Houthi-controlled Hodeidah following a Houthi drone attack on Tel Aviv

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it had nothing to do with the Israeli air strikes on Yemen's city of Hodeidah and that it will not allow anyone to use the Kingdom's airspace for offensive purposes.

“The Kingdom has no relation or involvement in the targeting of Hodeidah, and the Kingdom will not allow any entity to violate its airspace,” Brigadier General Turki Al-Malki, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Defense, said in a statement on the X social media app.

Israeli warplanes struck the Houthi-held western Yemeni city on Saturday in an apparent reprisal for the Houthi drone strike on a Tel Aviv apartment building before dawn Friday, killing one civilian.

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the airstrike was meant to send a message to the Houthis that their attacks would not be left unanswered.

The Iran-backed Houthi militia, which controls a large part of Yemen, had been attacking commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea and the Bab-Al-Mandab straight in a sympathy action for the Palestinians in Gaza amid Israeli attacks.

The Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that the Israeli strikes hit a power plant and a gasoline storage facility, killing three and wounding 87 people.

Unfazed by the swift Israeli response, Houthi officials threatened to continue attacking ships doing commerce with Israel and on Israel itself.

“We emphasize that this brutal aggression will only strengthen the determination and steadfastness of the Yemeni people and their valiant armed forces in their support for Gaza,” Mohammed Abdul Sallam, the Houthi chief negotiator based in Muscat, posted on X.

Houthi Shura Council member Abdul Sallam Jahaf said: “We will respond more violently and harshly to this Zionist-American orgy.” 

 


Israeli defense minister says Yemen strike sends a message

Israeli defense minister says Yemen strike sends a message
Updated 21 July 2024
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Israeli defense minister says Yemen strike sends a message

Israeli defense minister says Yemen strike sends a message
  • Gallant: The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them

JERUSALEM: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Saturday that Israel struck the Houthis in Yemen in order to send a message after they harmed an Israeli citizen.
“The fire that is currently burning in Hodeidah, is seen across the Middle East and the significance is clear,” Gallant said in a statement. “The Houthis attacked us over 200 times. The first time that they harmed an Israeli citizen, we struck them. And we will do this in any place where it may be required.”
On Friday, a long-range Iranian-made drone hit the center of Tel Aviv in an attack claimed by the Houthi militia and which killed one man and wounded four others.


No security incident in city of Eilat: Israeli military

An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.
An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.
Updated 21 July 2024
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No security incident in city of Eilat: Israeli military

An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said on Saturday there was no indication of a security incident in the Red Sea port city of Eilat after reports of explosions were heard there.
“A short while ago, reports were received regarding explosions heard in the area of Eilat. It was found that no projectiles were fired toward the area of the city and no interceptor was launched. There is no indication of a security incident,” the military said. 

 


What is driving the rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?

What is driving the rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?
Updated 21 July 2024
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What is driving the rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?

What is driving the rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?
  • More than a decade of war, displacement, hardship and uncertainty has chipped away at Syrian women’s sense of security
  • Many of these women agree to marry locals to avoid the harsh reality of being a single woman alone in a war-devastated country

LONDON: Informal advertisements for “affordable Syrian brides” have been circulating on Iraqi social media platforms in recent months, several of them perpetuating tropes about Syrian women with lines like: “Marry a Syrian woman for $100 and enjoy delectable dishes and an endearing dialect.”

The controversial posts, which have drawn local media attention, are captioned as though they are advertising chattel. One reads: “You can hear to’borni (a Syrian term of endearment) at home for as little as 500,000 dinars” — the equivalent of $380.

Men promoting the trend lament the exorbitant mahrs requested by Iraqi women, often ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, locals told Arab News. On top of this, they say, prospective Iraqi brides will also often request property, expensive jewelry and cars.

Mahr is a mandatory gift from a groom to his bride in Muslim societies as a form of security and respect, often with legal significance in marriage contracts.

Grooms and Syrian Kurdish brides during a mass wedding ceremony organized by the Barzani Charity Foundation in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. File photo for illustrative purpose only. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The sheer volume of online posts, especially on the video platform TikTok, suggests the trend is genuine. Commentators have expressed outrage at the posts, finding the rhetoric demeaning to both Syrian and Iraqi women.

More than a decade of violence, displacement, economic hardship and uncertainty has already chipped away at Syrian women’s dignity. Now, in neighboring countries where they have sought safety and economic security, they endure a form of commodification.

Many Syrian women, finding themselves as the sole breadwinners for their families, have sought employment in neighboring states, including Iraq, as the economic situation worsens in their home country.

Faced with the harsh reality of being a single woman alone in a conservative society and in countries where the law offers limited protection, some have agreed to marry locals for meager mahrs, if any at all.

Sattam Jadaan Al-Dandah, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, revealed in January that in 2023 alone, some 5,000 marriages between Syrian women and Iraqi men had been documented.

Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Sattam Jadaan Al-Dandah, has confirmed the trend about Syrian refugee women being married to Iraqis. (Supplied)

According to the UN Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index for 2024, Iraq is the fifth worst country in the world for women and girls despite many recent efforts to address gender inequality.

“Syrian women in countries like Iraq, where the law does not provide adequate protection, often find themselves exposed to harassment, exploitation and even trafficking,” Mouna Khaity, a UK-based Syrian feminist and researcher, told Arab News.

“The main reasons Syrian women are agreeing to such arrangements — many even seeking them — in almost all neighboring host countries are the need for protection and the desire to escape a deteriorating economic situation.”

Thirteen years of conflict and economic sanctions have plunged 90 percent of Syria’s population below the poverty line, creating a new social norm where families struggle to survive without women’s labor.

Many Syrian women have found themselves as the sole breadwinners for their families after years of war in their country. (AFP)

“Under relatively normal circumstances women and girls’ communities and families would provide a level of protection, even though this sometimes entails unwanted intervention or even control,” said Khaity.

The erosion of this protection due to displacement has left Syrian women and girls more vulnerable.

About 5.4 million Syrians live in five countries across the region — Turkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt — with more than 70 percent of them being women, according to UN figures.

After 13 years of civil conflict, lack of international funding has severely undercut the provision of basic services such as water, waste disposal and sanitation in displacement camps in northwest Syria, according to the United Nations. (AFP)

“Women in need of protection will accept a lower mahr compared to women who live within the protection of their families in their home countries,” said Khaity.

However, a woman’s decision to pursue marriage for economic reasons “is often not a personal choice but a collective family decision, with women — even girls — being persuaded this is an opportunity for a better life.

“This is often seen in displacement camps, where women don’t even have the option to choose, and marriage to a local can be perceived as a convenient way to transform from a charity recipient to a dignified and protected woman.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council in 2016 reported an alarming increase in occurence of child marriages within Syrian refugee communities, with girls as young as 13 being married off.

The increasing occurrence of child marriages within Syrian refugee communities has alarmed child protection advocates. Photo for illustration purposes only. (Getty Images)

A 2023 report by American Near East Refugee Aid, an NGO that addresses the needs of refugees and vulnerable communities in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, found that 41 percent of Syrian refugee women aged 20 to 24 in Lebanon were married before turning 18.

Stressing that the situation has been created by “layers of discrimination and injustices,” Khaity said the blame for such marriages should not be placed solely on individuals or families, but on “entire systems” that have normalized the exploitation of Syrian women through a lack of accountability.

“Neighboring countries have not been seeking to integrate Syrian refugees, who are being excluded by local communities and exploited by politicians for economic benefits,” she said.

Deeply rooted gender-related economic inequalities have long disadvantaged women, and the war has only widened this gap, despite increasing the proportion of women who earn an income.

Many Syrian women have found themselves as the sole breadwinners for their families after years of war in their country. (AFP)

“Middle Eastern societies have historically accumulated wealth in men’s hands, forcing women to be largely dependent on men,” said Khaity, adding that this has been achieved through “political systems, social norms and religious institutions.”

“Obedience to husbands has often been linked to men’s financial superiority and dominance, and consequently women’s reliance on them. There are financial resources that women cannot access.”

She added: “The war has deepened inequities, impoverished the majority of the population, heightened women’s vulnerability and displaced millions — all of which has devastated Syrian society.

“Therefore, many Syrian women have sought marriages with locals in host countries as a means to protect themselves, and often their families too, from all kinds of indignities — particularly in societies that have shown them hostility.”

The erosion of this protection due to displacement has left Syrian women and girls more vulnerable. (AFP)

Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, which forced millions to flee abroad, Syrians in Lebanon, Turkiye and Jordan have repeatedly encountered waves of violence and threats of deportation.

Douna Haj Ahmed, a UK-based Syrian human rights activist, believes this new status quo “has created a form of modern slavery where Syrian women are commodified and traded under the guise of marriage.”

She told Arab News that the marriage arrangements promoted on Iraqi social media “reduce women to mere objects for sale,” calling the phenomenon “a stark reminder of how conflict and poverty can lead to the resurgence of exploitative systems akin to slavery.”

She added: “Such exploitation is not only unethical but also profoundly inhumane. Marriage should be grounded in mutual respect and genuine affection, not in exploiting the more vulnerable party’s needs.”

Thirteen years of conflict and displacement have placed Syrian women in “a class of their own,” said Khaity. “There is tolerance for the dehumanization of Syrian women, who are now perceived as having fewer rights.”

Grooms and Syrian Kurdish brides during a mass wedding ceremony organized by the Barzani Charity Foundation in Irbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. File photo for illustrative purpose only. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Both activists also believe Syrian women have been commodified by deceptive TV dramas. Iraqi TikTok posts promoting marriage to Syrian women even feature clips from controversial Syrian programs portraying Damascene women as part of an obedient, attentive harem.

Khaity says the drama genre known in Syria as “Al-Bi’a Al-Shamiyeh” — or Damascene culture — has propagated an “untrue, historically inaccurate, and unfair image of Syrian women and their role in society.”

Since the 1990s, numerous Syrian dramas have portrayed Damascene women as ravishing beauties with an innate talent for cooking, household management and seduction. They scurry to attend to their husbands’ needs, rub their feet, shower them with affection, and even hand feed them.

Syrian women had been portrayed in a popular drama series as the obedient servants to their husband, doing only domestic chores such as cooking and cleaning by day, and providing pleasuring by night. (AFP/File)

The popularity of Syrian drama series across the Arabic-speaking world has played a significant role in creating and reinforcing such harmful stereotypes.

“For decades, Syrian drama has perpetuated an image of the Syrian woman as the obedient servant to her husband, whose life revolves around meeting his needs through cooking and cleaning by day, and pampering and pleasuring by night,” said Haj Ahmed.

“This negative portrayal has reinforced outdated and misleading ideas about women’s roles in Syrian society.”

Syria's long-running war has rendered hundreds of thousands of women and children vulnerable to abuses. (AFP/File)

Haj Ahmed said that amid harsh economic circumstances, “many young men in Arab countries have seen the war in Syria as an opportunity to fulfill unhealthy desires for marriage.

“They have exploited the vulnerability of Syrian girls caused by war and poverty, forcing some Syrian families to make harsh compromises and accept any suitor for their daughters in a desperate bid to alleviate the family’s financial burden.”

She added that the social media trend promoting Syrian brides for $100 “goes beyond discrimination and hate speech” to “reflect the patriarchal mentality that objectifies women, particularly in times of war and disaster.

“This narrative confirms that women are among the first to suffer in such situations. What Syrian women are experiencing is a recurring scenario for women in all conflict zones.”