Shiite News

Najafi report on Model Town tragedy be released: LHC orders

najafi-report-on-model-town-tragedy-be-released-lhc-ordersPublished in: Pakistan

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday decided on a petition seeking the disclosure of a judicial inquiry report on the 2014 Model Town tragedy, ordering the provincial authorities to release Justice Ali Baqar Najafi's report for public review.

Zardari plotted assassination of Benazir, Murtaza Bhutto: Musharraf

zardari-plotted-assassination-of-benazir-murtaza-bhutto-musharrafPublished in: Pakistan

Former president Gen (retd) Musharraf has accused PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari of being directly involved in the assassination of Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto, days after he was accused of being involved in BB’s murder.

On August 31, the ATC in Rawalpindi acquitted five alleged operatives of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for want of evidence over assassination of Benazir in a gun and suicide attack in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.

“The one responsible for all miseries of the Bhutto family as well as the assassination of Benazir and Murtaza Bhutto, is none other but [Asif Ali] Zardari,” Musharraf said in a video message released on Thursday.

“Zardari did nothing to investigate the murder of Murtaza Bhutto as he enjoyed his stay in the presidency for five years.”

Murtaza was shot dead in 1996 on his way home in Karachi. Benazir was prime minister at the time and this event brought down her government shortly after. In 2008, Zardari was acquitted of the charges of ordering the murder.

On Monday, counsel Sardar Latif Khosa filed three separate petitions in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court, challenging the verdict on behalf of Zardari.

The first petition says Musharraf masterminded the conspiracy to kill Benazir. It claims that statement of American journalist Mark Siegel and foreign ministry’s former spokesperson Javed Iqbal Cheema as well as probes by the Scotland Yard and United Nations are ‘concrete evidence’ of Musharraf’s involvement.

It demands that the ATC’s decision to separate Musharraf’s case should be declared void and the trial court should conduct hearing in his absence and award him severe punishment under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

“Why would Zardari investigate Murtaza Bhutto’s murder when he, himself carried out the assassination,” Musharraf asked. “It should always be analysed as to who benefited from a murder,” he said. “I was in total loss following the assassination, while only one man earned the benefits, the one who murdered him.”

He added that Benazir was killed by Beitullah Mehsud and his accomplices, saying “the executor used him to carryout the murder”.

It should be investigated, the former army chief said, as to who killed Khalid Shehenshah, the person who was supposed to provide security to Benazir.

“It also needs to be probed who made a hatch out of the bulletproof vehicle which was carrying Benazir, he said. “Only one person is capable of [plotting the assassination], and that person is Asif Ali Zardari.”

He added: He [Zardari] should be caught and probed,” he said, urging Aseefa, Bilawal and Bakhtawar Bhutto to understand the logic that his statement holds.

A shift in Saudi Foreign Policy?

a-shift-in-saudi-foreign-policyPublished in: Articles

There is increasing indication that a rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia is imminent. Such indications are given credence with the announcement of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif that after Haj (Muslim Pilgrimage) diplomatic visits could possibly be exchanged by both countries. Earlier Iraqi Interior Minister, Qasim al-Araji had claimed that during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Iraq was asked to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Reportedly Saudi Arabia is ready to accept conditions of Iran and the latter has hinted a positive response. However, the tensions between the two parties began to diminish when newly elected Lebanese President Michel Aoun visited Saudi Arabia; after his visit, Saudi Arabia decreased its oil production, much to the benefit of Iran.

One important development in this regard was the announcement of Iranian foreign ministry that a Saudi diplomatic delegation would visit Iran after Eid to assess the progress of work on the restoration of its embassy in Tehran, which was gutted down in response to the execution of famous Shia religious leader, Sheikh Nimr, by Saudi Arabia.

Despite denial by certain quarters from both sides that any positive diplomatic development has taken place between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the flurry of diplomatic activities defies this.

The Saudi visit of Iraqi foreign minister and prime minister was followed by Muqtada al-Sadr meeting Saudi high officials and the warm meeting between Saudi foreign minister Adil Jubeir and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, which a Turkish media outlet attributed to an initiative on the part of Adul Jabir; all these developments indicate that these are planned meetings arranged by diplomats of both countries.

It is important to remember that Adil Jubeir visited Iraq in February this year, the first by any Saudi government high official since 1990. Moreover, in August both countries opened their borders after a long period of nearly 27 years. Russian foreign minister, too, has called for a conference under its aegis to help in the restoration of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is also reported in certain quarters that America clearly sees the failure of its Middle East policy generally and its Syrian policy specifically and grudgingly recognizes the increasing clout of the new budding alliance between Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, which goes by many names: Russian Alliance, Resistance Bloc, etc.

The realization has dawned on America that negotiations and rapprochement with its rivals would accrue much benefit and further its national security interests than just extending greater support to its allies. This paradigm shift in American policy is visible vis-à-vis issues like Turkey, Syria, Palestine and nuclear negotiations with Iran. Even Trump administration seems to be continuing the same policies and there are less chances of any dramatic shift of policy under his watch. American administration is pursuing a likewise course on the issue of North Korea. It is evident that improving relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, both holding considerable influence in Middle East, is in the interest of both Russia and America. There have also been speculations and whispers that America and Russia would act as guarantors in talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, making sure their respective allies abide by any prospective agreement.

May be it is one of the factors driving a significant change in Saudi policies towards Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Syria. On the other hand, no can deny the simmering unease and restlessness within Saudi Arabia; and its foreign policy fiascos, which have been continuing ever since King Salman took over. It is obvious Saudi Arabia has been keen to restore its relations with Iran, which makes sense since it was Saudi Arabia that severed its diplomatic ties with latter.

Iran had successful nuclear negotiations with P5+1 powers. It is cognizant of its great position in the region. It has a growing missile programme and holds considerable influence in Yemen, Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. Moreover, it has strong ties with China, Central Asian Republics and Balkan. The successful gains in both Syria and Iraq against rebel forces and ISIS respectively make Iranian position stronger in the region. Most importantly, Syria’s eastern campaign along with Shia militias against ISIS for the first time since Syrian uprising promises the prospect of Iran having a direct geographical link from Tehran to Beirut via Baghdad and Damascus. Whereas, Saudi Arabia seems to be losing in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Among them the most important was Syrian front, where Saudi Arabia tried to foment a violent insurrection against Assad regime rather than facilitating a negotiated settlement between parties. It would not be wrong to assert that the case of Syria can be used as a yardstick to judge the success or otherwise of foreign policies of different regional and international actors.

When a state wants to introduce a radical political and strategic shift in its policy, it issues ambiguous and ambivalent statements to assess public opinion and the response of its rival. This is clearly reflected in Saudi Arabia’s Syrian policy. According to reports, in one of recent meetings between Saudi foreign minister and Syrian rebel forces, the former unequivocally told them that Bashir al-Assad’s rule would perpetuate and it was high time Syrian opposition forces realized this and changed their strategy according to the changing ground realities. Writing on this significant development, Economist had this to say:

Indeed, the Saudis have shifted on Syria, too. Saudi clerics used to urge on Sunni mujahideen against the supposedly heretical Alawite clan ruling Syria with their Iranian allies. Now they have toned it down, lest they be accused of abetting terrorism. Prince Muhammad is said to have stopped backing Syria’s Sunni rebels and urged their leaders in exile in Riyadh to compromise with President Bashar al-Assad’s ghastly regime.

The Saudis are still bombing northern Yemen. But there, too, they are sounding more conciliatory and keener to make a deal. Unusually, they apologized for an air-raid on Sana’a on August 25th which killed 14 civilians. A Saudi spokesman suggested reopening Sana’a’s airport and Yemen’s largest port, Hodeida, under UN auspices.

Some Saudi officials say they want to woo back Iran’s Arab allies, putting ethnicity above religion, in order to push back Iranian influence. “The more you engage with Iraqis, the less the Iranians will come,” says one. “Iraq belongs to the Arab world.”

The Economist concludes its article with this insightful observation:

Some Saudi officials say they want to woo back Iran’s Arab allies, putting ethnicity above religion, in order to push back Iranian influence. “The more you engage with Iraqis, the less the Iranians will come,” says one. “Iraq belongs to the Arab world.”

Some observers foresee a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, talking of a grand bargain whereby the Saudis might recognize Iran’s pre-eminence in the north of the Middle East, including Syria, in exchange for a Saudi free hand in the Gulf states and the Arabian peninsula.

But Mr Jubeir dismisses such talk as “laughable”. “When you hear honeyed words from [President Hassan] Rouhani’s government [in Iran], we see the aggressive actions of its Revolutionary Guard,” says a Saudi official, alleging Iranian-inspired terrorist plots in Kuwait and Bahrain and lamenting Iran’s meddling in Yemen.

Any progress will be difficult. The kingdom is wary of being seen to appease Iran. For Shia-dominated Iraq’s leaders to embrace the Saudis will not be easy either. Mr Sadr was lambasted at home for meeting Prince Muhammad, just when Saudi forces were levelling Awamiya, a Shia town in eastern Saudi Arabia outraged by Mr Nimr’s execution. Some Saudis, for their part, were aghast when the prince congratulated Mr Abadi for defeating Islamic State in Mosul—and clobbering the old part of one of Sunni Islam’s greatest and most beautiful cities.

Though important, no doubt, these diplomatic and political developments between Saudi and Iran and other efforts to ease tensions between regionals potentates is good news and has the potential to lead to greater stability in Middle East, but some circles take all this with a pinch of salt and raise important questions: Why would Saudi Arabia for mediation with Iran choose Iraq, where Iran has held great influence since American invasion, and not Kuwait, a member of GCC, which has maintained a delicate balance in its relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia and has in the past offered its good offices for this purpose? The severing of diplomatic relations with Qatar by Saudi-led bloc was partly attributed to Qatar’s independent foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran, and they still seem to hold this line, clearly manifested in their rhetoric in a recently-concluded Arab League meeting in Cairo. This only shows Saudi intransigence to open up to Iran.

Be that as it may. The Middle East always presents a complex security and political mosaic. The regional rivalry becomes more intricate with the involvement of great powers and shifting alliances. So despite this skepticism shown in certain circles, it is not unlikely that the estranged rivals of yesterday become the bedfellows of tomorrow.

By Hussain Abid & Sajid Ali

Both authors are associated with IPI’s research team. Their work focuses on Middle East.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis mark 3rd anniversary of revolution

hundreds-of-thousands-of-yemenis-mark-3rd-anniversary-of-revolutionPublished in: Yemen

Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, to mark the third anniversary of the country’s September 21 Revolution and condemn the bloody Saudi war against the nation.

The demonstrators in Thursday's mass rally reaffirmed their commitment to the government in Sana’a and the Yemeni forces defending the country against an ongoing Saudi war.

Large crowds from across the country have been flocking to Sana’a since Thursday morning to celebrate the occasion.

A convoy of UAE military forces captured by Yemeni forces during their operations was also displayed at the rally. The military equipment was being used by Saudi-led troops and pro-Riyadh militia fighting on the ground against the Yemeni army, which is backed by the Houthi Ansarullah fighters and popular groups.

In September 2014, the Ansarullah fighters took state matters in their hands in Sana’a amid the absence of an efficient government there.

Before gaining control of the capital, the Houthis had set a deadline for the political parties to put aside differences and fill the power vacuum, but the deadline was missed without any change in the impoverished country’s political scene.

However, the former Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi, later stepped down, refusing a call by the Houthi movement to reconsider the move.

Hadi then fled to Saudi Arabia, which launched a military campaign against Yemen along with a number of its allies in March 2015 to reinstall Hadi and crush the Houthi movement.

In a speech aired on al-Masirah TV on Wednesday on the anniversary of the revolution, leader of the Ansarullah movement Abdul-Malik al-Houthi slammed the Saudi-led war against the country.

He praised the existing diversity in Yemen’s social fabric and warned that the enemy, including the US, Israel and the Saudi-led coalition, seeks to use such differences to create divisions in the country and disintegrate Yemen.

More than 12,000 people have been killed since the onset of the Saudi military campaign more than two and a half years ago. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

Ayatollah Khamenei censures Trump’s ‘ugly’ remarks against Iran at UN

ayatollah-khamenei-censures-trump-s-ugly-remarks-against-iran-at-unPublished in: Iran

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has censured US President Donald Trump’s latest hostile comments against the Iranian nation at the UN as “ugly”, "foolish” and “sheer lies.”

Ayatollah Khamenei made the comments in a meeting with members of Iran’s Assembly of Experts in Tehran on Thursday.

The statements by the US president did not bring any pride to the American nation, said Ayatollah Khamenei. “The American elite should be ashamed of having such a president.”

“That foolish, extremely ugly and hideous speech by the US president, with its gangster and cowboy language fraught with sheer lies, stems from their fury, frustration and light-headedness,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that Washington’s anger is also rooted in its failure to advance its agenda in the West Asia region, where Iran has played an influential, dignified and successful role.

“The presence and influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran caused the plots and intentions of the US and the Zionist regime [of Israel] to fail in the region, and that is the reason for their anger,” the Leader added.

The Americans have over the past many years pursued a so-called “New Middle East” and “Greater Middle East” plan for West Asia, with its focus on Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Ayatollah Khamenei said.

“But they faced defeat in all the three countries,” emphasized the Leader.

During his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump accused Iran of engaging in “destabilizing activities” in the region. He claimed that Iran’s “support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.”

Trump also denounced Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with the world powers as “an embarrassment” that Washington may abandon.

However, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, during his own UN speech, fired back at the US president for his “ignorant and spiteful” comments against his nation.

Rouhani said the “ignorant, ugly, spiteful literature of the US president, which was full of false information and groundless allegations, against the Iranian nation” were beneath the dignity of the United Nations.


Russia says 850 Takfiri militants killed in Syria’s Idlib

russia-says-850-takfiri-militants-killed-in-syria-s-idlibPublished in: Middle East

Russia’s General Staff says about 850 Takfiri militants have been killed as the Syrian forces, backed by Russian warplanes, repelled an attack by militants in a "de-escalation zone" in the Syrian province of Idlib.

The Russian General Staff said in a statement on Wednesday that the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham – previously known as al-Nusra Front – Takfiri militant group and its allies launched an offensive on the positions of government forces stationed to the north and northeast of Hama city on Tuesday morning.

General Sergei Rudskoy, the spokesman for the Russian General Staff, said some 850 militants were killed as the Russian command in Syria ordered an operation, including air raids and a ground offensive conducted by the military and special operations forces, to thwart the terrorist attack.

The statement added that the militants suffered heavy losses as 11 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, 46 armed pickup trucks, five mortars, 20 freighter trucks and 38 ammo supply points were destroyed in the operation.

He noted that three Russian troops from the special operations forces were also wounded in the operation.

The Russian military said that the militants' offensive was meant to derail the successful operation of the government forces east of Dayr al-Zawr.

Russia, Iran and Turkey, which together act as guarantor states in peace talks for Syria, agreed on the details of a “de-escalation zone” in Idlib province during resolution talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana earlier this month.

In a joint statement on September 15, the three countries said they had agreed "to allocate" their forces to patrol the zone covering Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Latakia, Hama and Aleppo regions.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday observers from the three countries would be deployed around the de-escalation zone to prevent "clashes between the government and the opposition forces and any violations of the truce."

The northwestern province of Idlib borders Turkey and is largely under the control of al-Nusra Front Takfiri militants.

The original agreement on the creation of the four zones, which came about in May, has been one of the substantive results of the talks, many rounds of which have taken place since January.

So far, agreements had been reached on the demarcation of three of the zones in Idlib’s neighboring provinces of Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since 2011.

In Idlib, militants from the al-Nusra Front group are fighting the Syrian government.

The militants suffered their biggest blow since the onset of the militancy last year, when Syria recaptured Aleppo’s provincial capital.

The mediating states then joined efforts late last year to bring about a ceasefire over the city, which was then extended to the entire Syria.

Bahraini Regime Seeking to Disrupt Muharram Mourning Ceremonies: Sheikh Mohammad Hassan

bahraini-regime-seeking-to-disrupt-muharram-mourning-ceremonies-sheikh-mohammad-hassanPublished in: Bahrain

A member of the presiding board of Bahrain’s Ulema (scholars) Council said Al Khalifa regime forces are taking down banners and flags about Ashura which marks the 10th day of Muharram to disrupt mourning ceremonies in the Persian Gulf Arab state.

In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency, Sheikh Mohammad Hassan Khojasteh denounced the Bahraini regime forces’ removal of banners and flags, which have been set up for mourning events and Ashura, the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram, as “offensive”.

He added that the regime has so far arrested dozens of people across the country protesting the move by the regime forces ahead of Muharram, noting that prisons in Bahrain are filled with innocent people.

The cleric further called on global human rights organizations to oversee jail’s conditions in Bahrain and reflect Manama regime’s repressive moves against Shiite Muslims in the kingdom.

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, with Manama using heavy-handed measures in an attempt to crush the demonstrations.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.

Israel behind emergence of Takfiri groups: Sheikh Naim Qassem

israel-behind-emergence-of-takfiri-groups-sheikh-naim-qassemPublished in: Lebonan

Hezbollah Resistance Movement's second-in-command, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said the Israeli regime has created the Takfiri groups, like ISIS, to advance its “expansionist plots” in the Middle East region.

In a speech released on Wednesday, Sheikh Qassem pointed to the recent victories of Hezbollah fighters against Takfiri groups and said the resistance movement campaigned against Israel in 2006 and since 2011, it has been fighting against Takfiris, managing to defeat both of the enemies.

He further emphasized that the victories over the Zionists and Takfiris are strategic because they will determine the future of Lebanon and the region.

The cleric also said the Tel Aviv regime is the factor behind the emergence of the Takfiri groups, adding that it “uses them to advance its expansionist plots and destroy the region”.

In recent years, the Middle East region has been plagued with Takfiri terrorist groups which are believed to have been created and supported by the West and some regional Arab countries.

The terrorist groups, which claim to be Islamic but whose actions are anything but, have been committing heinous crimes not only against non-Muslims, but mostly against Muslims in the region.

Iraq and Syria have been gripped by insurgency with various terrorist groups, including ISIS, currently controlling parts of their territories.

Lavrov: Trump Stance on Iran Nuclear Deal “Extremely Worrying”

lavrov-trump-stance-on-iran-nuclear-deal-extremely-worryingPublished in: Rest of World

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described US President Donald Trump’s stance on Iran nuclear deal as “extremely worrying”, stressing that Moscow would defend the landmark agreement.

In his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was “an embarrassment” to Washington.

“It’s extremely worrying,” said Lavrov, whose country is a signatory to the deal besides the US, the UK, France, China and Germany.

“We will defend this document, this consensus, which was met with relief by the entire international community and genuinely strengthened both regional and international security.”

In his speech, the Republican president described the agreement as “the worst and most one-sided transaction the US has ever entered into,” a characterization he often used during his presidential campaign.

He told reporters on Wednesday that he had made his decision about staying in the agreement but declined to reveal it.

Tehran rebuked Trump’s rhetoric, with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif describing it as an “ignorant hate speech” that was “unworthy of a reply.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also reiterated their commitment to the nuclear agreement.

85% of Dayr al-Zawr back in Syria hands: Russia

85-of-dayr-al-zawr-back-in-syria-hands-russiaPublished in: Middle East

Russia says the Syrian military has liberated more than 85 percent of the strategic eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr from Daesh terrorists.

The Russian Defense Ministry speculated Thursday that the city would be completely liberated in a week’s time amid the Syrian army’s ongoing gains against the terrorists holed up there.

The Syrian army also freed two suburbs on the outskirts of Dayr al-Zawr and 16 square kilometers of the city from the control of Takfiri Daesh terrorists, said the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov.

The Russian ministry also said the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militants, has attacked Syrian military positions in the western-central province of Hama, a move in stark contradiction with the terms of the agreement on de-escalation zones in Syria.

The deal has been reached during the Syria peace process underway between the Syrian warring sides in Astana, Kazakhstan, with the mediation of Iran, Russia and Turkey.

The Syrian army’s liberation operation in Dayr al-Zawr is facing strong resistance and massive fire from areas where militant groups and US-backed forces are stationed, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier this week.

Daesh overran large parts of Dayr al-Zawr province, including its oil fields, in mid-2014 as it seized swathes of land in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

By early 2015, the Takfiri terrorists were in control of some parts of Dayr al-Zawr and besieged the remaining parts, which were under government control.

The blockade was lifted in early September by Syrian government forces, which brought relief to tens of thousands of people trapped in the city. It is estimated that 100,000 people remain in the government-held parts of the city.

However, the partial liberation of Dayr al-Zawr also intensified the race between legitimate Syrian government forces and the US-backed SDF umbrella groups for control of the oil-rich Dayr al-Zawr province.

Following Damascus’ strategic victory, and while its forces continue to clean up pockets of Daesh activity in the west of the city, the US-backed SDF announced a separate offensive east of Dayr al-Zawr.

SDF forces raced to Dayr al-Zawr, which lies only 140 kilometers southeast of Raqqah, where the US-led coalition is conducting its main offensive against Daesh.

Planned Kurdish referendum to open door to bloodshed: Iraqi premier

planned-kurdish-referendum-to-open-door-to-bloodshed-iraqi-premierPublished in: Iraq

Iran, Iraq and Turkey have voiced concerns over a planned secession referendum in the northern Iraqi Kurdistan region, warning that the unconstitutional vote could fan the flames of tensions in the Middle East.

Foreign ministers of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, namely Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ibrahim al-Ja’afari and Mevlut Cavusoglu made the remarks in a joint statement issued Thursday following a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.

The statement expressed opposition to the planned referendum, warning that the move will jeopardize Iraq’s campaign against Daesh Takfiri terrorists and will lead to new conflicts across the already troubled region.

The three neighboring states also called on the Iraqi Kurdish leaders to refrain from holding the vote and underlined the need for dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil to resolve the issue.

The statement also called for efforts to protect Iraq’s sovereignty and national unity.

PM Abadi: Vote to ‘open door for bloodshed’

On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned against catastrophic ramifications of a planned independence referendum in the country’s northern Kurdistan region, calling for dialog to resolve the issue.

“This referendum is against the constitution, it divides the country, and it weakens the country. I call for dialogue on the unity of Iraq, we are in one country,” Abadi said during a speech in Baghdad on Wednesday.

“Now if people’s lives are dependent on the borders, we can deal with this through negotiations. Let there be dialog. But for one side and with this use of force, this will open the door for bloodshed,” he added.

Trump’s anti-Iran speech proves US failed policies in Middle East: IRGC commander

trump-s-anti-iran-speech-proves-us-failed-policies-in-middle-east-irgc-commanderPublished in: Iran

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says US President Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations shows Washington is enraged by its back-to-back crushing defeats in the Middle East region.

"With the successive crushing defeats the Americans have suffered in the region especially in the face of Iran, it is natural that their nervous system and coherence of thought have been upset," Major General Mohammad Ali Ja’afari said on Wednesday.

The senior Iranian commander’s remarks came in reaction to Trump’s UN speech on Tuesday, during which he accused Iran of engaging in “destabilizing activities” in the region.

Trump claimed that Iran's "support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its financing.”

Ja’afari condemned Trump’s anti-Iran rhetoric as baseless and outrageous, adding that there was nothing new in the US president’s speech, except the fact "the US showed its true colors to the world."

"Today the world sees the American image that Iran has been trying to unmask for years,” the IRGC commander said.

He called on the Iranian government to use all its options to safeguard the interests of the nation.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said Trump’s UN speech revealed the “weakness and desperation of an administration suffering from melancholia in its dream of being a superpower."

Jazayeri also called Washington's threat to scrap Iran's nuclear agreement with the P5+1 group of countries “a bluff,” stressing that pressures would fail to intimidate Iran into making compromises with the US.

‘All parties to JCPOA must abide by it’

Meanwhile, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani (seen below) reacted to Trump’s remarks about the nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

During his UN speech, Trump denounced the nuclear agreement with Iran as “an embarrassment” that the US may abandon.

He said the Iran deal was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

Shamkhani said Trump’s remarks betrayed his ignorance of international agreements and their legal nature.

“No signatory to the JCPOA can balk at the accepted mechanisms of this international agreement under false or illegal pretexts,” he said.

Since the implementation of the JCPOA, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s commitment to the deal, Shamkhani said, warning that any media hype or propaganda campaign against the agreement was devoid of any value or credibility.

The Iranian official went on to say that the anti-Iran remarks by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the warmongering and hostile attitudes of Washington and Tel Aviv.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Netanyahu praised Trump’s stance on the Iranian nuclear deal and called for crippling sanctions against Tehran to make it forgo its nuclear capability.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the JCPOA on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the JCPOA, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.

Israel and the administration of Trump have on numerous occasions criticized the deal, calling it a mistake.

Backed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the JCPOA is an international agreement, which makes it impossible for any party to the deal to withdraw from it.

Bahrain’s Al Khalifah regime steps up crackdown ahead of landmark Shia event

bahrain-s-al-khalifah-regime-steps-up-crackdown-ahead-of-landmark-shia-eventPublished in: Bahrain

Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifah regime has ramped up its repressive measures ahead of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar of Muharram, the tenth day of which is known as Ashura that marks the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam.

On Wednesday, the Manama regime’s mercenaries, escorted by security forces, raided the villages of Shahrakan, Jid Ali, Malkiya and Karzakan, taking down Ashura banners and flags and removing black cloths that had draped walls in the areas, Arabic-language Lualua television network reported.

Earlier on Monday, Bahraini regime forces had removed stalls set up to provide food and drinks to mourners in the northern villages of Abu Saiba and Shakhura, and removed Ashura signs in Eker area and in the island of Sitra, located five kilometers south of the capital Manama.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

On March 5, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Bahraini monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3.

Israel holding 58 Palestinian women 'under dire conditions'

israel-holding-58-palestinian-women-under-dire-conditionsPublished in: Palestine

The Israeli regime is holding at least 58 Palestinian women, including 10 minors, "under dire conditions" in its jails, the Prisoners and Freed Prisoners Committee says.

The committee recently said the female prisoners were being held in HaSharon and Damon jails. It said the Palestinian women suffered physical and emotional abuse by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS).

The basic rights of the inmates, the committee said, are violated as they have no access to essential needs such as medical care. Several of the jailed women were under 18 when they were sentenced and they have turned 18 behind Israeli bars.

The number of female prisoners in Israeli jails has increased in the past several months. The Palestinian women are serving sentences of eight months to 16 years, and some of them are held without charge or trial under the so-called administrative detention policy.

Many Palestinian prisoners have gone on hunger strike in recent months to protest the administrative detention. In 2015, the Israeli regime passed a controversial bill allowing the force-feeding of hunger-striking inmates.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, 536 of them arbitrarily, according to figures provided by the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer. Palestinian inmates complain that they have been subjected to assault and torture at Israeli prisons.

'Israel has detained 110,000 Palestinians since Oslo Accords'

The committee also said the Israeli regime had arrested 110,000 Palestinians since signing the Oslo Accords in 1993; the detainees included 16,000 children and 1,700 women and girls. It said 103 Palestinian prisoners had died or were killed inside Israeli jails during this time.

An overwhelming majority of Palestinian prisoners are civilians and they have been arrested in areas under full control of the Palestinian Authority, the committee said.

Oslo: 24 years of Palestinian losses

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo Peace Accords on September 13, 1993, under American and Russian sponsorship. It stipulated the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 1999 in Palestinian territory occupied in 1967. However, Israel did not commit to the terms of the accords and instead expanded its settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, the capital of a future Palestinian state.

University in Saudi Arabia announces plan to dismiss dissenting voices

university-in-saudi-arabia-announces-plan-to-dismiss-dissenting-voicesPublished in: Saudi Arab

Amid a crackdown by the regime in Riyadh on opposing views, a university in Saudi Arabia has said it will sack employees suspected of dissenting the absolute monarchy in the kingdom.

The Al-Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University, which is based in Riyadh, made the announcement in a statement posted online on Tuesday, without specifying the number of those employees.

Recently, human rights activists said Saudi security forces had arrested about 30 people, including clerics and intellectuals, in a time span of 10 days. Human Rights Watch condemned the arrests as a "coordinated crackdown on dissent."

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reportedly plans to renounce power in favor of his son Crown Prince Mohammed.

According to the statement, the governing council of the university warned against renewing contracts with some Saudi and foreign employees it said were "influenced by the ideology of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organization." The statement did not name the employees, adding that the decision "aims to protect the minds of students and university employees from those deviant, partisan ideas and dangerous, destructive trends."

In 2014, Saudi Arabia listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The decision came after Egypt blacklisted the group as a terrorist organization in a bid to prevent its affiliates from running in elections. Egypt’s move came amid a crackdown on the group following the July 2013 military coup that ousted the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi. The Brotherhood, however, founded in Egypt nearly a century ago, maintains that its activities are peaceful.

Palestinian president calls on UN to halt Israeli settlement activities

palestinian-president-calls-on-un-to-halt-israeli-settlement-activitiesPublished in: Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called on the UN to end Israel’s "apartheid" regime in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine," said Abbas while addressing the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

He further condemned Israel’s settlement activities, stressing that they are "everywhere" and are jeopardizing the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The two-state solution is today in jeopardy. We cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this ongoing threat that is targeting our national, political and social existence on our land, and endangering regional and international peace and security. We will have to take steps or look for alternatives to preserve our national existence and to keep open the horizons for peace and security. However, all the alternatives we are looking into will be non-violent alternatives, non-violent, non-violent," he said.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

A UN Security Council resolution passed last year condemned all Israeli settlement construction on the occupied Palestinian territories. The landmark Resolution 2334, passed on December 23, 2016, called the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds a “flagrant violation of international law.” The resolution also called on Israel to stop all such construction.

"If the United Nations does not want to implement its resolutions or to attempt to implement them, then who will implement them? Israel does not have the will... This is your responsibility as well," the Palestinian president stated.

"To save the peace process and the two-state solution, I urge this organization and your honorable states to... actively pursue efforts to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of the State of Palestine within a set timeframe," Abbas added.