Middle East & Africa

US Secretary makes his first call to Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts for bilateral talks
Middle East & Africa

US Secretary makes his first call to Iraqi and Jordanian counterparts for bilateral talks

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony John Blinken made the first calls for discussions with Iraq’s foreign minister Fuad Hussein and Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi.

The US senators had voted 78-22 in support of Blinken, a long-term confidant of President Joe Biden, as the country’s 71st US secretary of state.

During the Obama administration, Blinken had served as a deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser. He has promised to be the leading force in the administration’s aim to reframe the U.S. relationship with the world and reverse Trump’s “America First” policy that weakened the international relations.

In his oath ceremony on Tuesday, Blinken said “we have a lot of work to do at home to improve our standing abroad.” The Biden administration would work with both humility and confidence to strengthen our bilateral ties with the world.

In his first call with foreign minister Fuad Hussein, Blinken talked about government issues and bilateral relations. He promised to assist Iraq with its monetary crises and help fight the coronavirus pandemic. He also offered condolences for the terror attacks that took place last week in Baghdad.

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“The secretary encouraged the Iraqi government to proceed with endeavors to address the demands of the Iraqi citizens for building a more just country and showed support for the early elections in 2021”. 

In his talks with Jordan’s FM Ayman Safadi, the US Secretary of State lauded Jordan for promoting regional peace and stability in the nation. Both nations discussed several affairs of mutual interest and reaffirmed the significance of the profound bilateral relations, the Department stated. 

Why America Is Safer Aligned To Moscow About Middle East Future
Middle East & Africa

Why America Is Safer Aligned To Moscow About Middle East Future

The world dynamics are changing. The pandemic has a huge role to play in this. The West is no longer interested in depending on the Middle East to meet its energy requirements. For one, Joe Biden is the leadership of a new world order, where self-reliance is ruling the roost. 

Europe however still is looking towards the Middle East and Russia to meet its energy requirements. It is a matter of time; but according to the French President Emmanuel Macron, America needs to take advice (this time) from Paris.

Historically, America seems to have (invariably) turned to the United Kingdom on advice over relations building with the Middle East. But now is the time to look at a formidable binding force in Europe- France. Macron has a more positive leadership that wants to bring together even notorious players like Russia and China on the same page. This could be advantageous for America of course. 

A lot of countries have been happy about Biden taking office- Germany, France, and even India are one of them. A recent call between Biden and Macron shows how both are taking transatlantic geopolitics extremely seriously. Further, the new changing Middle Eastern power order is shifting greatly towards the East. 

More than the UK that has disintegrated itself after the Brexit, it is France that understands the political dynamics and complexities of power in the Middle East. 

Let’s face it, as a NATO partner too; they have their ears to the ground, while they do not engage in fists fights with the Middle East directly. 

Another good thing about France is that it is not interested in centering the power; instead, it believes in empowering its allies. 

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America has to work out its nuclear deal when it comes to Iran. It cannot afford to make mistakes the way Trump made. France would be of great help at such times. The White House formal statement said, “both leaders agreed on the need for close coordination, including through multilateral organizations, in tackling common challenges such as climate change, Covid-19 and the global economic recovery.”

Biden has made all the right moves; calling and taking Macron into confidence in just one of those right ones.  The Middle East needs united tackling and no one more suited than the one who knows how to play the game.

First-ever Arab nations UAE & Bahrain commemorate the massacre
Middle East & Africa

First-ever Arab nations UAE & Bahrain commemorate the massacre

January 27 every year is observed as the International Holocaust Remembrance Day – a dedicated day when the world remembers and pays tribute to Jewish holocaust victims during the Second World War at the hands of Nazis under Hitler across Europe. The day also marks the liberation of Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camo at Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Soviets in 1945. The day was officially designated by United Nations General Assembly in 2005. 

The day reaffirms world’s commitment to stand against antisemitism, racism and intolerance in other forms that can lead to violence against a targeted group.

Adolf Hitler led the German Nazi regime targeted European Jews among many other groups from 1933 to 1945. Hitler’s agenda was cleansing the race as he considered them as ‘inferior’. Under the pretext, Hitler killed at least 6 million Jews under cover of World War II. His belief of Jews being an ‘alien threat’ to racial purity in Germany led to ‘final solution’ of their killing, known as the Holocaust. Jews mass killings, including those of over a million children, were blatantly carried out at many concentration camps, including the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-dominated Poland. 

This year the day, for the first time will be organized jointly by the United Nations and UNESCO. Various evens will be held virtually due to coronavirus pandemic. 

Furthermore, for the first time in history, Arab nations are participating in the commemoration of the massacre. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have become the first Arab countries to reaffirm the stand against antisemitism and promote Holocaust awareness. 

Sharaka, an interfaith group that means ‘partnership’ in Arabic, brought the first-ever delegation to Israel of UAE and Bahrain leaders in December 2020. The group was formed in wake of the Abraham Accords last year. The delegation visited Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel. The delegates have pledged to raise Holocaust awareness and combat antisemitism. It will be done by educating young minds with historically accurate material regarding the holocaust, promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue, thereby rejecting the stereotypes and misinformation. 

As a part of this, first ever joint Middle East International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony was held virtually through initiative of UAE and Bahrain. 

In October 2020, UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited the Berlin Holocaust Memorial with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi. Sheikh Abdullah shares that his visit to the memorial underlined the importance of the “noble human values of co-existence, tolerance, acceptance of others and respect of all religions and beliefs”. He concluded his message in the memorial guest book with “Never Again”. 

Houda Nonoo of Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, “We remember the six million lives taken from us too soon. We must be vigilant combating all forms of hate and antisemitism by promoting education and tolerance. Bahrain is committed to this.” 

Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League has called for interreligious harmony through dialogues between Muslims and Jews. He said that Muslims will stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Jews. He said, “We in the Muslim World League are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters to build understanding, respect, love and interreligious harmony.” 

The day of remembering those who suffered in the holocaust massacre comes along with a pledge to stand against antisemitism and violence and to ensure it happens “Never Again.”

Ex-principal wanted by Australia over sex abuse counts extradited by Israel
Middle East & Africa

Ex-principal wanted by Australia over sex abuse counts extradited by Israel

Six-year legal battle routed to the extradition of ex-principal Malka Leifer by Israel. The Israeli citizen was wanted by Australia over multiple charges of sex abuse at a Melbourne school. 

Leifer is wanted by Australia over 74 charges of sexually assaulting girls while she was working in a Melbourne school. She later went to Israel, her native, in 2008 after the abuse allegations went public. She has since fought her extradition over mental instability, claiming that she isn’t fit to stand trial. Her appeal was finally rejected by Israeli Supreme Court last December. 

The former principal, currently in her 50s, was charged with child rape and abuse while she was employed as headmistress at Adass Israel School for ultra-Orthodox Jewish girls. 

Early Monday Ms. Leifer was transported to Australia on flight via Ben Gurion airport by the prison officials, as shown in circulating media photographs. She was met onboard by the Australian officials while her ankles and wrists were in shackles. Leifer is flying to Melbourne via Frankfurt, Germany. 

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Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter’s spokesperson said that the Australian government “does not comment on logistics involving extradition arrangements against individuals until the extradition process has been concluded.”

Australian organization that is representing the abuse victims, Voice against Child Sex Abuse (VoiCSA) released a statement saying, “So many people have been involved to ensure this day would finally arrive. Regrettably, many have also been involved in trying to ensure this day would never arrive – despite their significant efforts, they have failed. We can now truly look forward to Leifer facing justice in Australia on the 74 charges she is facing.”

Leifer was tried to be extradited between 2014 and 2016 but couldn’t be after she was found mentally unfit to face the trial. She was re-arrested by Israeli authorities in 2018 after private investigators filmed her depositing a cheque and shopping. 

Last year in December, the Jerusalem district court judge found Leifer to be impersonating to be mentally unfit to avid extradition to Australia. Her appeal was rejected by Supreme Court with a unanimous ruling by judges “All who seek to evade justice shall know that they will not find a place of refuge in Israel.”

British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast
Middle East & Africa

British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast

On Friday, Two senior British parliamentarians called for a probe on a British-registered company likely connected to the Beirut blast last year. 

A lady listed as Savaro’s proprietor and sole head at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, informed Reuters that she was posing as an agent on account of another beneficial proprietor, whose name she couldn’t reveal.

“The individual who was and has consistently been the UBO’s proprietor of the organization was consistently the same, and we can’t reveal his name,” she added. She didn’t state why she was unable to tell his name. 

Savaro Ltd. is listed at a London address, and all British firms are required to register their owner’s name with Companies House. 

Global corporate administration rules characterize a UBO as someone who gets the advantages of an entity’s transactions that is at least 25% of its capital. 

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Margaret Hodge, a British official, who headed parliament’s public affairs advisory group from 2010-2015, called the failure to list Savaro’s definitive beneficiary outrageous. 

“The UK officials ought to examine this, given wrong data seems to have been documented. We need to challenge development specialists where it appears they may have acted improperly.”

John Mann, Britain’s House of Lords member who has probed the utilization of UK-enlisted companies in the illegal movement, stated the case indicated the requirement for more grounded authorization of Britain’s company disclosure laws. 

Last year’s report of Reuters on the Beirut explosion found that the huge shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that detonated in Lebanon was held in Beirut while on the way to Mozambique. The Mozambican purchaser, FEM, recognized the company name as Savaro.

Investigating the shipment will help find out who is behind the Savaro company, stated Ben Cowdock, investigator of international corruption cases for Transparency International in London.

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan
Middle East & Africa

World Bank Extends Financial Help To Lebanon Covid-19 Vaccine Plan

One of the poorer nations of the world, Lebanon is now getting a medical financial stimulus from the World Bank, official reports have confirmed. The World Bank has approved $34million to back the Lebanese Covid-19 vaccination drive. 

This is the first such huge outlay of funds by the bank. Previously, Lebanon has taken several loans from the bank to keep its economy from sinking. Since the pandemic broke out, the country has been struggling with the constant outbreaks and an unfortunate burn of a strategic port that led to a major scare and distrust amongst common people over the administration of the government. 

Funds have been reallocated from an existing Lebanon Health Resilient Project.  The Lebanese government has signed up for receiving the American Pfizer vaccine for 2.1 million doses. Lebanon already has a fractured medical system that has been losing its back over a surge in infection rates. 

According to the Lebanon Health Ministry, the vaccines will arrive by February.  These doses will be priced at $18 looking at Lebanon’s financial condition and the whole cost is covered under the World Bank financial assistance. 

Additionally, Lebanon would also receive another 2.7 million doses from the UN-led Covax program that caters to poorer countries like Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Libya. These doses are expected to arrive no sooner than the mid of the year. These work on the mechanism of richer countries donating a percentage of their doses stocks to the poorer nations, once their own people are inoculated. 

Once known for its advanced medical services in the Middle East, Lebanon today stands to manage its falling bricks. There is a convergence of stresses on the health care system. There are many reasons for this. But the major reasons that stand out include lack of up-to-date infrastructure; lack of medical personnel due to high emigration rates among doctors; and difficulties in obtaining medical supplies due to the devaluation of the Lebanese currency and reduced imports. 

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?
Middle East & Africa

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?

With the exit of ‘tyrant’ Trump, as called by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran is taking a big but careful sigh of relief. Rouhani has called on the incoming president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, to return to JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal formulated under former US President Barack Obama. 

In a televised cabinet meeting aired on Wednesday, Rouhani said, “the ball was in the US court now.” 

Rouhani added, “If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact. A tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign.”  

The outlook of Trump towards Tehran is no secret. Trump withdrew US from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on May 8, 2018. This was followed by series of sanctions slapped on Tehran, crippling it economically. In fact, many in the Gulf region anticipated that Donald Trump might act on his earlier plan of launching military strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, during the last days of his presidency. At one point in November, Trump was reportedly talked out by his advisers from launching a military strike on Iran to create “maximum pressure”

But incoming president Joe Biden has made his intensions of rejoining the nuclear deal pretty clear, provided Tehran assures of complete compliance and following of the deal pacts. This would mean reversal of sanctions and economic support to Tehran. 

But does this mean that now Iran’s nuclear facilities are safe from any attack? Definitely no! 

Iran is concerned over its ambitious plans of creating ballistic missiles arsenal as well as civilian nuclear activities. Israel, the hard-core enemy of the Islamic Republic, sees Iran’s nuclear programme a threat to its existence and has repeatedly urged global leaders to take action against Tehran. In response, Iran has maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. But its recent uranium enrichment boost has set up red flags. 

Iran is a tough target to track – geographically, accessibility, and strategic location of its nuclear plants. It is a high possibility that over the years Iran has made its underground nuclear facilities practically impenetrable. But experts suggest that its not impossible. 

An expert on arms control, and associate fellow at International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Mark Fitzpatrick says, “Iran’s facilities are not impregnable. The one at Natanz is vulnerable to precise bunker-busting bombing, maybe taking two precise hits: one to dig a crater and the other to burst through it or at least to shake the delicate machines enough to put them out of commission.”

Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, godfather of Iran’s nuclear programme, by US, is enough to dent ego and development of its nuclear programme. Furthermore, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been active in Iran and has been carrying out operations to impact and neutralize its nuclear programme. 

As long as Iran is under suspicion of carrying out secret development of nuclear warheads, there will always be a possibility of it being under attack. 

UN Security Council urged members to improve collaboration with the Arab League
Middle East & Africa

UN Security Council urged members to improve collaboration with the Arab League

On Monday, in the UN Security Council meeting, top priority was given to discuss the problems that continue to plague the Arab world and members tried to find out ways to improve cooperation with the League of Arab states.

The Council members discussed the extended conflict in Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Syria, just as the Middle East harmony measure, as they concurred that cooperation and multilateralism are key necessities for sustaining harmony. Earlier, they had also discussed the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and global warming, and in 2019 a liaison office was set up by the Council in Cairo. 

Both the UN and the Arab League were set up in 1945 to ensure worldwide peace and security. Cooperation between them has grown over time in finding resolutions, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, humanitarian aid, human rights, countering terrorism, refugees, and sustaining harmony and demilitarization.

The secretary-general of the Arab League Ahmed Abul Gheit told the council that the double whammy of pandemic and continuing conflicts has negatively affected the region. He likewise added that a two-state solution for the contention between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

“We are anticipating that the new US administration will rectify policies and engage in a productive political solution with the support of regional and global parties,” he added. 

“This would provide a new hope to the Palestinian public if the international community will stand by in its respectable yearning to accomplish freedom and independence.” 

In Syria, five nations are meddling militarily and the situation precarious, mainly in the south, northwest, and northeast, Gheit added.

In Yemen the support Arab league and its member states are vital. There is a need to implement aid operations and find a solution to the threat of famine in Yemen.” 

The under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs Rosemary DiCarlo stated that the pandemic has “intensified tensions on the multilateral framework, as well as the need for cooperation, has been important”. 

She expressed gratitude toward the Arab League for its commitment to peacekeeping endeavors in various widespread conflicts. This incorporates support for the UN’s ambassador to Syria and the Syrian Constitutional Committee, and tries to maintain the worldwide agreement on the two-state solution.

The political coordinator for the US mission to the UN Rodney Hunter stated that Iran continues to be the main threat to spoil the regional peace and security. Iran-backed local armies in Iraq “regularly involve in a statewide theft of Iraqi state assets, lead and spread sectarian violence,” Hunter added. 

The Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel as of late and called for other nations to follow the move, stated Hunter.

Tehran urges UN Watchdogs Not to Write Redundant Nuclear Details
Middle East & Africa

Tehran urges UN Watchdogs Not to Write Redundant Nuclear Details

Tehran urges UN: On Sunday, Iran asked the United Nations’ atomic watchdog to abstain from writing redundant details on Tehran’s atomic program, a day after France, Germany, and Britain declared that Tehran has “no tenable civilian use” for its advancement of uranium, the state TV reported. 

The report cited that Iran’s atomic department had requested the International Atomic Energy Agency to try not to give away details on Iran’s atomic program that may confuse the global community.

It is vital that the global nuclear energy agency abstains from giving out pointless details and forestall misunderstanding in the population, the statement added. 

On Saturday, Germany, France, and Britain pushed Iran to ease off its programs to produce uranium metal, pronouncing it “the most recent planned infringement” of the 2015 atomic agreement with international leaders. 

On Thursday, the IAEA stated that Iran had informed them about installing machines for the manufacturing of uranium metal. Tehran maintains its arrangements to direct innovative work on the uranium metal program to continue research and development on uranium metal making as a part of its plans to design an enhanced type of fuel.

The statement added that the uranium metal is a common product in the production of uranium silicide, a fuel utilized in atomic reactors that is more secure and has more power than uranium oxide-based fuel, which Iran is producing. 

Iran’s FM Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday discarded the allegations by France that Tehran was currently developing its atomic weapons, calling it an absurdity. French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that Iran was developing its atomic weapons and it was dire that Tehran and Washington rethink the 2015 atomic deal, Journal du Dimanche published in an interview on Saturday.

Zarif censured France, Germany, and Britain for failing to fortify the agreement since 2018 when the Trump administration withdrew from the atomic deal and began imposing economic sanctions on Iran.

However, the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has ensured that if Iran strictly adheres to the rules of the agreement, then the US will think about returning to the atomic deal.

Ethiopia Plays Double Game Sudan Protests
Middle East & Africa

Ethiopia Plays Double Game Sudan Protests

Sudan Protests: Sudan is up and arms against Ethiopia over the latter sending its military planes into Sudanese airspace. 

It is being considered an ‘unjustified and dangerous’ escalation between the nations that had recently been subsided. Further armed Ethiopian gangs have also taken lives in the Sudanese area. 

Sudanese military, Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan said that Ethiopians have been attacking in their last for close to two decades. 

This is with regards to the disputed al-Fashaga area.

In December, both sides had formed a committee to come on a common ground over the Al-Fashaga area, but the fresh attack seems to show that the Ethiopian side does not solicit the agreement at all. 

 In fact, it seems that the Ethiopian military has taken advantage of the internal strife that has broken out in the Tigray region and attacked the disputed land. This was communicated by the Ethiopian ambassador in Khartoum, Mulugeta Zewde.

In response, the Ambassador to Ethiopia, Yibeltal Aemero has shifted the blame on Sudan instead, saying that “Very recently, in the first week of November 2020, we witnessed unprecedented military incursion by the Sudan while the joint special committee was still in progress and when the Ethiopian National Defense forces moved to Tigray region on November, 4, 2020 for the law enforcement majors, the Sudanese army took the advantage and entered deep inside Ethiopian territory, looted properties, burned camps, detained, attacked and killed the Ethiopians while displacing thousands.”

The recent attacks have led to displacements in more than 34 Sudanese villages. The reality is explicit and could lead to another major confrontation between Sudan and Ethiopian sides. 

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