Middle East & Africa

Saudi Arabia Pushes For Oil Cuts As Russia Opposes From Other Side
Middle East & Africa

Saudi Arabia Pushes For Oil Cuts As Russia Opposes From Other Side

Russia doesn’t seem to be seeing eye-to-eye with its OPEC counterparts on oil cut issues erupting due to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the world.
Moscow is said to have opposed a Saudi plan that intends to ask OPEC and its allies to make drastic crude-production cuts.
It has been confirmed that the coronavirus outbreak has further eroded demand amid a global oil glut.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies are trying to reach a 23-nation consensus on oil production cuts. This would be decided over a special gathering this week in Vienna where the virus COVID-19 virus’ impact on oil demand worldwide will be a key point of discussion.

Under its position as the de-facto leader, Saudi Arabia has the muscle strength to push all its partners and is now pushing for a reduction in collective output by 1.2 million barrels a day. Industry experts feel that while the cut by OPEC will help normalize oil demands and inventories later, it will lead to the challenge of stockpiles as well.
Further, even additional production cuts of 1 million barrels a day from the group would fall well short of the 2.1 million barrels a day of expected global demand loss in the first half of 2020 from the coronavirus.

But this seems to be the only way to balance out the steep divide between the demand and supply. However, Russia is not willing to side on this settlement. Despite its best efforts, Saudi Arabia has not been able to get Russia on its side and is now considering going ahead with a large portion of the production curbs on its own, possibly with key allies Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Russia is wishing to resist a price cut till the last minute. But technically, this will not work in their favour because the higher price bracket is what helps them finance their military operations abroad, a source confirmed to the media.

Saudi Arabia needs prices at least $10 higher to cover its national spending. It also fears a further reduction if the pandemic hits the big oil consuming centres in Western Europe and the U.S.

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Netanyahu announces election victory
Middle East & Africa

Netanyahu announces election victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his victory in the general election in Israel. According to polls at the exit of polling stations, his party is not much ahead of his main rival Beni Ganz.
Shortly after publishing the first exit poll results, Netanyahu posted a photograph on his Twitter on which he sits at a table surrounded by his supporters. The picture is accompanied by the caption: “A huge victory for Israel.”
He later said that he had agreed with leaders of right-wing and religious parties to meet on March 3 to form a stable and strong government.
“This is a great victory for the right-wing camp led by Likud. We went through several difficult electoral campaigns, and it’s time to end the series of elections and form a government,” Netanyahu said, speaking to his supporters at the party’s campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv.
“Our opponents said that the Netanyahu era is over, but we gathered all our strength and turned the situation around. We turned lemons into lemonade,” he added.

According to the latest data, Likud is gaining 30.9% of the vote, which is equivalent to 36 seats in the Knesset. The opposition bloc Kakhol-Lavan is gaining 23.6% – about 28 seats.

If the results of the polls correctly reflect the results of the vote, Netanyahu lacks one seat for the majority in the Knesset, in which there are only 120 seats.

Likud hopes for the support of other right-wing parties to jointly overcome the threshold of 61 seats necessary for the formation of a coalition government.

Exit polls came as a surprise to many, as public opinion polls on the eve of the election showed equal chances for the two main candidates, another deadlock confrontation and the possibility of another fourth election.
Image caption Netanyahu is sometimes called the “wizard” for his ability to get votes contrary to skeptic forecasts. In the photo, he and his wife Sarah
Kahol-Lavan leader Beni Ganz did not admit defeat, but noted that he was not satisfied with the results of exit polls.

“I understand and share your feelings of frustration and pain, because this is not the result we wanted,” he said.
According to Ganz, Israel “needs unity, reconciliation is needed, it needs a leader who unites people, and this is exactly what we will continue to offer the Israeli people.

The head of the Our Home Israel Party Avigdor Lieberman, in turn, stressed that he still promises not to enter into a coalition with religious parties.

This is the third election in Israel in less than a year. After the previous two, none of the leaders of the two leading parties was able to form a government.

70-year-old Netanyahu, who heads the Likud right-wing party, is trying to take the prime minister’s chair for the record fifth time.

Two weeks later, however, he is awaiting trial in court on corruption charges. He himself rejects the charges against him, calling them political “witch hunts.”

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Iran is in good health, Judiciary denies she has coronavirus
Middle East & Africa

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Iran is in good health, Judiciary denies she has coronavirus

Jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Iran is in good health, Islamic Republic’s judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, denying the news she had contracted the coronavirus in prison. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, was really concern as Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China, where the virus originated, and so far, there have been 77 deaths and 2,336 people infected according to Iran Health Ministry data. Also, Iranian officials have expressed concerns about a possible outbreak in prisons, but Nazanin Zaghari seems to be in good health. Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said that yesterday, Mrs. Zaghari had contact with her family and told them about her good health.

On Saturday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said campaigners believed she had contracted the coronavirus in Tehran’s Evin prison, where she is being held. “We are concerned by the prison authorities’ refusal to test her, and the wider suppression of coronavirus inside the Iranian prison system,” he said. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit. She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment. The woman could soon be released on furlough from Tehran’s Evin prison due to coronavirus fears, according to unconfirmed reports. A prisoner with a security charge will be released on furlough within the next two days, the Iran’s judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, without naming the prisoner.

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Explosion of coronavirus has seriously affected people’s routine life in the central of Iran
Middle East & Africa

Explosion of coronavirus has seriously affected people’s routine life in the central of Iran

Iran’s civil population has been losing trust in governance over a period of time. The recent escalation in the number of coronavirus cases in Iran has increased people’s mistrust as the existing government does not show promising action to curtail the outbreak.

A lukewarm response to national elections precedes this outbreak too. The intensity of mistrust could be seen when the city did not support the candidature contesting the elections and were instead looking for fresh representation that does not come from the brass.

Meanwhile, the outbreak response has been met with daily movement of trucks filled with disinfectants sprayed down local streets, shrines, public parks, trash bins, public toilets and markets and other areas that have had cases of infection.

Cases of infection have been reported to be the highest in Qom, considered the epicenter of the outbreak. In the last week, numbers of those infected and perished have gone up. As many as 54 people have died and 978 reportedly infected, according to the Health Ministry of Iran. A quarantine and lockdown similar to the one which was imposed in Wuhan city of China can be seen imposed in Iran as well.

Iranians have been instructed by authorities to avoid public places and stay at home, while schools, universities, cultural and sports centres have been temporarily closed across the country.

Religious sentiment still reigns high, over Qom being quarantined where some hardliners are not happy with the holy shrine city being closed off. They believe it is the best resort to the outbreak because of the fact that the place epitomizes healing.

The result has been that some people have been recorded licking the doors and the burial mound inside the Masumeh shrine, defying advice by the Health Ministry to avoid touching or kissing any surfaces in the shrine, a common practice for pilgrims.

The head of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme, Mike Ryan has forewarned that Iran may be dealing with an outbreak that is worse than yet understood. Authorities announced Iran’s first infections and two deaths from the virus on February 19. Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have repeatedly dismissed concerns raised by many Iranians over the handling of the outbreak, saying all the necessary measures to overcome the crisis have been taken.

Iran might just lose everything to its obstinate and irrational governance and would have eventually had to see with a mass wipeout, even before it could go on a full-fledged war with the US.

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New Lebanese individuals and entities on America’s list of terrorists.
Americas, Middle East & Africa

New Lebanese individuals and entities on America’s list of terrorists.

On Wednesday, the United States included Lebanese individuals and entities on the list of terrorism because of their support for Hezbollah, which Washington has designated as terrorist organization since 1997. US officials have been targeted by the “Martyr’s Foundation,” an organization the US Treasury Department says is providing financial support to a number of groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions last August on Jamal Trust Bank and its subsidiaries in Lebanon, for allegedly facilitating the financial activities of the Hezbollah group. The ministry said the bank was transferring money to the families of the suicide bombers.
At that time, a US official, who asked not to be named, said that “Jamal Trust Bank” provided various financial services to Hezbollah, among them the Al-Qard Al-Hassan Foundation that works for the Hezbollah Shura Council, as well as the Al-Shaheed Foundation, which provides support to Hezbollah and the jihad and Hamas movements in Palestine.

It is reported that the United States has put Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations since 1997, and says it threatens peace and stability in the Middle East. Jamal Trust is a 50-year-old commercial bank with branches across Lebanon, according to its website.

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Israel restores fishing zone near Gaza and opens border checkpoint
Middle East & Africa

Israel restores fishing zone near Gaza and opens border checkpoint

Israeli authorities decided on Wednesday to open the Erez and Kerem Shalom checkpoints on the border with the Gaza Strip on February 27, and also restore up to 15 nautical miles (about 28 km) a fishing zone for Palestinian sailors off the coast of this coastal enclave.

The publication notes that the fishing zone was canceled, and the border checkpoints were closed by Israel on February 24 in response to rocket attacks on the territory of the Jewish state from Gaza. According to the army press service, on February 23 and 24, radicals from the Islamic Jihad group fired at least 80 missiles into Israel, more than 70 of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. No casualties were reported as a result of the shelling, Israeli state-owned Kan radio station said.

In response to the shelling on Monday night, the Israeli Air Force attacked military targets of the Islamic Jihad group south of Damascus in Syria, as well as dozens of objects of this group throughout the Gaza Strip during the day.

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Initial results: Gnassingbe re-elected by an overwhelming majority.
Middle East & Africa

Initial results: Gnassingbe re-elected by an overwhelming majority.

Initial results announced by the Togolese Electoral Commission indicated that President Fourier Gnassingbe was re-elected after receiving 72 percent of the votes, extending his 15-year rule and his family’s rule that began 50 years ago when his father took power in A coup in 1967.

Despite widespread discontent and protests calling for his resignation, the divided opposition has struggled to mount a convincing campaign to topple Gnassingbe in this small West African country of eight million people.
His closest rival, former Prime Minister Gabriel Maysan Ajbumi Kudjou, received 18 percent of the vote, and longtime opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre got 4 percent.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce the final results in the coming days. If confirmed, this result would give Gnassingbe five more years in power in a blow to opposition protesters who have demonstrated in recent years to demand his resignation.
In response to political pressure, Gnassingbe enacted a law last year restricting presidential terms to two terms of five years each. However, this law is not applied retroactively, taking into account the three terms that Gnassingbe spent in the presidency, and therefore he can remain in power until 2030.

Some political observers feared that the Gnassingbe victory would spark new protests. When Gnassingbe came to power in 2005 after the death of his father, huge protests erupted, which were met with violent repression by the police, during which at least 500 people were killed. Gnassingbe has long promised to boost economic growth and the country has witnessed economic growth of about five percent in recent years, driven by investments in Energy and transportation sectors.

But extreme poverty and labor strikes are constantly reminiscent of the challenges facing the country.

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US State Department warns again Iran backed militias  from attacking Americans in Iraq
Middle East & Africa

US State Department warns again Iran backed militias from attacking Americans in Iraq

On Monday Morgan Ortagus, spokesperson of the US State Department, reaffirmed speaking to Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya correspondent in Washington that the USA are still going to do everything they can to deter the Shia militias from attacking USA in Iraq as it started with the attacks that were sponsored by Iranian militias to the US embassy earlier this year. “We’re starting to see and continue to see more of this activity start to creep up again,” stated Ortagus adding that Washington will hold the Iranian regime accountable for any actions by the Shia militias in Iraq against US interests, reminding also the killing of the top Iranian general Qassim Soleimani on January 3, in Baghdad.

“We put real pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran. We will continue to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable wherever we find their malign activity and we will make sure we have the resources to do so.” Previously affirmed US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, commenting the death of Soleimani.

Ortagus reaffirmed that USA are deeply concern for the killing of innocent protesters in Iraq. “You know, we have seen a lot of protests around Iraq, and we understand that people are frustrated with their government. It’s one of the reasons that you’ve seen a change in leadership and that we saw the last prime minister resign.” The spokesperson said to Al Arabiya, stressing the necessity that the newly-designated prime minister form a representative government comprising all political groups, included Sunni, Shia, Kurds, and everyone. “We need a unifying presence in the central government in Iraq, and so we think the stability and security of Iraq, and especially the central government, is important. We will continue to work on that relationship quite closely”.

The Ortagus’ statement confirms the US strategy in the area and sounds like a new warning for Tehran that will always be held accountable for any malign activity. According to the US State Department spokesperson, the United States were serious at the beginning of the year when they warned Iran on this before Qassim Soleimani was killed and they’re serious about it now. Iran need to take those warnings seriously.

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Iran Blames Virus Outbreak For Low Election Turnout
Middle East & Africa

Iran Blames Virus Outbreak For Low Election Turnout

Bitten by the unpopularity bug, Iran has faced a poor turnout in its 2020 parliamentary election attempt. The poll turnout showed at 42percent. Authorities are still averting the responsibility of poor governance due to which the civilian population is refusing to vote for any of the nominations standing for the election.

The population is not happy with the way Tehran has dealt with mounting crises, one after the other. Iran has been faced with growing isolation from the west and Europe. The result has been that the economy has had to suffer set back. Iran is an essentially import dependent country. Threats of conflict over its nuclear standoff with the United States had led to an increase in gasoline prices, burning a hole in the pocket of the civilian population.

Undeniably, there is a pronounced increase in discontent at home. The turnout has been therefore seen as a referendum on the popularity of the Islamic republic’s rulers.

In comparison to the recent turnout, the previous years have been much healthier. Turnout was 62% in the 2016 parliamentary vote and 66% of voters cast ballots in 2012.

The results have been tilted towards hardline loyalists close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all state matters. Strangely, however, Khamenei, who on Friday said that voting was “a religious duty”, blamed the low turnout on the “negative propaganda” about the new coronavirus by Iran’s enemies.

“This negative propaganda about the virus began a couple of months ago and grew larger ahead of the election,” said Khamenei, according to his official website Khamenei.ir.

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American Universities  Compelled To Support Big Donators Like Qatar
Americas, Middle East & Africa

American Universities Compelled To Support Big Donators Like Qatar

Prestigious universities like Yale and Harvard might have failed to report the hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts as required by law. This has been shared by the US Justice Department Of Education. According to the department, the Yale University in Connecticut received hefty amounts as foreign money. But it has failed to report at least $375 million of such gifts over the last four years.

The worms are out of the can since last week when Yale received a request from the Education department for records of certain gifts and contracts from foreign sources under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965, said university spokeswoman Karen Peart.

But by doing so and not declaring the same, the university might land up favoring admission to those who can grease their palms than to those who genuinely deserved admission. It has been reported in the past, that countries like Qatar have tried to swindle their way into such prestigious universities by giving in large amounts of aid to professors and research scholars. There have been connections found between the money gifts given by Qatar and the sudden presence and favored admission to pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses.

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) has conducted a study called ‘Follow the Money’ that reveals how universities were crossing the line when not disclosing actual amounts of donations given to them by foreign parties. Through the research it was discovered that actually, a total of $3billion Qatari donation remained undisclosed.

Media resources confirm that Qatar has used bought over PR as its trusted tool to buy favorable opinion. Qatar continues to provide anti-American terrorists such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban with “safe haven, diplomatic mediation, financial aid and, in certain instances, weapons.” Because these American universities have professors’ salaries, fellowships, or think-tanks funded in part by Qatar, their allegiance is obviously a ‘said’ thing.

According to Federal law, most colleges and universities need to report gifts from and contracts with foreign sources that are more than $250,000 twice a year. But both the top universities seemed to have failed to do so, raising a red flag. Speaking over the matter, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said, “This is about transparency. If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom.”

Further, danger lies in the anti-Jewish activities that are also getting focus in a university environment. There is a correlation seen between the funding of universities by Qatar and the Gulf States with the presence of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and a deteriorating environment that fosters an antisemitic and aggressive atmosphere. This has been confirmed by a report by ISGAP. Also, the Anti-Defamation League has confirmed that often members of Students for Justice in Palestine “demonize Jewish students who identify as Zionists.”


The fact that universities are being exploited by rich Arab countries to meet their political agendas is not only unfair but scary and defeats the whole purpose of education.

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