UAE Trying To Become Second ‘Israel’: Zarif

By Staff, Agencies

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Tuesday that the United Arab Emirates [UAE] is trying to “turn into another ‘Israel’” by spending billions of dollars on importing weapons.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Araby TV on Tuesday, Zarif rebuked the excessive arms imports of certain regional countries, saying, “The United Arab Emirates is spending billions of dollars on armaments and wants to be a second ‘Israel’ in the region,” Press TV reported.

“Three countries in the region believe they can maintain their security through their relations with the United States,” Zarif said.

However, he added, they are wrong to think they can import their security from America because these weapons will be used to achieve the goals of the ‘Israeli’ regime.

According to Press TV, studies show the UAE has increased its arms imports by 63% between 2012 and 2016. Its military expenditures are projected to grow to $31.8 billion by 2021 from $23.6 billion in 2016.

The country has led an increasingly interventionist foreign policy in hot spots like Libya, Syria and, most recently, Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and a number of their allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah revolutionary movement.

Thousands of Yemenis have lost their lives since the Saudi-led aggression. The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

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Report: Saudi Arabia Tightens Grip on Palestinians, Hampers Remittances to Gaza

Report: Saudi Arabia Tightens Grip on Palestinians, Hampers Remittances to Gaza

TEHRAN (FNA)- Less than a week after Saudi authorities arrested more than 60 people, including Palestinian expatriates and Saudi nationals, on charges of supporting the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement, they have now blocked money transfers between the kingdom and the Gaza Strip.

The new step taken by the Riyadh regime against Palestinians involves official and non-official money transfers as the procedure has witnessed a marked decline over the past week and during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, Al-Khaleej Online news website reported.

The report described residents of the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip as the main victims of the move.

Most of the bank transfers that used to be carried out normally in the past, were frozen just a few days before the start of the holiday.

Remittance transactions are taking much longer time than usual – something that used to be done in a matter of few hours.

Many Palestinians have complained of the move, and termed it as “unprecedented”. They argue that the process of transferring money between Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip has become extraordinarily difficult.

Abu Fuad, a resident of the Gaza Strip who refused to give his last name for fear that his family could be persecuted in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, stated that he has experienced difficulty receiving money from his family.

“It is three days since the remittance has been made, but I have not received anything. Financial transfers used to be done in a few hours and without any obstacles in the past. But since the week before the Eid, the procedures have become complex and most of the transfers are frozen without any obvious reason,” he added.

Abu Fuad considered the measure as a “new crackdown on the Palestinian community living in Saudi Arabia”, stressing that it would aggravate their sufferings as students rely heavily on money transferred from their families living outside the kingdom.

He called upon the Palestinian Embassy in Riyadh to intervene immediately, and try to work out a quick and practical solution to the crisis, which has negatively affected the Palestinian community in Saudi Arabia.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas resistance movement financially, politically or through social networking sites.

The Riyadh regime has imposed strict control over Palestinian funds in Saudi Arabia since the end of 2017.

All remittances of Palestinian expatriates are being tightly controlled, fearing that these funds could be diverted indirectly and through other countries to Hamas.

Money transfer offices are asking the Palestinians to bring forward strong arguments for conversion, and do not allow the ceiling of one’s money transfer to exceed $3,000.

Qatar: Saudi-Led Bans Worsening Human Rights Situation

By Staff, Agencies

A high-ranking Qatari official says the continuation of a dispute initiated by a Saudi-led quartet of Arab states with her country would heighten the risk of human rights violations, and undermine the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC].

“Ever since the Gulf crisis started, the countries of embargo – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates [UAE] – have sought to put the status quo on a normal footing through a series of unfair measures against Qatari citizens, and in violation of humanitarian principles and international law. Among the objectives of normalization of the crisis by the countries of blockade was to damage the economy of state of Qatar. Nevertheless, these states have failed despite their diligent attempts. The continuation of the crisis will undermine the GCC and exacerbate violation of human rights,” the spokeswoman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry Lolwah Rashid al-Khater said in an exclusive interview with London-based and pan-Arab media outlet al-Araby al-Jadeed on Wednesday.

“When it comes to meetings at military and security levels within the framework of Arab, Islamic, international and even GCC summits, the State of Qatar is committed to cooperation,” Khater pointed out.

She went on to say that her country “follows the policy of open doors on dialogue and political understanding and convergence of views.”

“Qatar does not want to break up ties with anyone, because there are stronger ties in the Gulf region that cannot be cut despite the continuation of the crisis over the past two years,” the Qatari foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

“We are already evaluating our strategies and would not rely on the embargo countries, even if relations are restored,” she highlighted.

“We are aware that the continuation of the Gulf crisis will open up cracks in the GCC, which is supposed to be the first player concerning the treatment of crises and convergence of views among member states. We have always welcomed a constructive dialogue based on respect for sovereignty,” Khater said.

She stressed that Kuwait’s Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah is still exerting intensive efforts to mediate between the disputing parties.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, after officially accusing it of “sponsoring terrorism”.

The administration of the Saudi-backed and former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Libya, the Maldives, Djibouti, Senegal and the Comoros later joined the camp in ending diplomatic ties with Doha. Jordan downgraded its diplomatic relations as well.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry later announced that the decision to cut diplomatic ties was unjustified and based on false claims and assumptions.

On June 9, 2017, Qatar strongly dismissed allegations of supporting terrorism after the Saudi regime and its allies blacklisted dozens of individuals and entities purportedly associated with Doha.

Later that month, Saudi Arabia and its allies released a 13-point list of demands, including the closure of al-Jazeera television network and downgrade of relations with Iran, in return for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Doha.

The document also asked Qatar to sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement.

Qatar rejected the demands as “unreasonable.”

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Deal of the Century: US Invites «Israel» to Bahrain Summit on Palestine

By Staff, Agencies

Washington has invited the “Israeli” entity to participate in an American-led so-called Mideast “peace” conference expected to take place in late June in Bahrain, Channel 13 reported Monday, citing a senior “Israeli” official.

The official told the network the invitation was sent as a hardcopy, which is en route to “Israeli” entity in diplomatic mail channels.

The entity was expected to accept the invitation, the official added.

The “Israeli” entity’s so-called Finance Ministry had earlier told the Associated Press that it had not been invited.

The White House announced Sunday it will unveil the first phase of its long-awaited so-called Mideast “peace” plan at the conference, saying it will focus on economic benefits that could be reaped if the “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

The plan envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work, much of it funded by wealthy Arab countries, in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But officials say the June 25-26 conference will not include the core political issues of the conflict: final borders, the status of al-Quds [Jerusalem], the fate of Palestinian refugees or “Israeli” security demands.

The Palestinian Authority prime minister said Monday that any American “peace” plan that ignores the Palestinian people’s aspirations for an independent state is doomed to fail.

Mohammad Shtayyeh’s comments immediately cast a cloud over the summit.

“Any solution to the conflict in Palestine must be political… and based on ending the occupation,” he said at a Palestinian cabinet meeting. “The current financial crisis is a result of a financial war waged against us and we will not succumb to blackmailing and extortion and will not trade our national rights for money.”

US President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said it was “difficult to understand why the Palestinian Authority would reject a workshop designed to discuss a vision with the potential to radically transform lives and put people on a path toward a brighter future.

“History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today,” Greenblatt said.

In another setback, Bashar Masri, a Palestinian industrialist with vast business holdings throughout the West Bank, said he had turned down an invitation to the conference.

“I will not participate in this conference, and none of the representatives of our companies will participate,” he wrote on Facebook. “We reaffirm our clear position: We will not deal with any event outside the Palestinian national consensus.”

The Palestinians severed ties with the US over a year ago over Trump’s recognition of al-Quds as the so-called “capital” of the “Israeli” entity. They have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House will try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They believe the US is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to bully them into accepting a plan that would legitimize “Israeli” control of the occupied West Bank.

In a joint statement with Bahrain, the White House said the gathering will give government, civil and business leaders a chance to rally support for economic initiatives that could be possible with a “peace” agreement.

“The Palestinian people, along with all people in the Middle East, deserve a future with dignity and the opportunity to better their lives,” Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said in a statement Sunday.

“Economic progress can only be achieved with a solid economic vision and if the core political issues are resolved.”

The tiny island nation of Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia, has signaled its willingness to open relations with the “Israeli” entity. Prominent rabbis in 2017 said King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa had told them that he hoped the Arab boycott of “Israel” would end.

Bahrain hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are widely believed to be seeking closer ties to the “Israeli” entity, viewing it as a potential ally against Iran, a shared enemy.

Kushner and Greenblatt have been leading efforts to draft the plan, but after more than two years of work, they have not released any details.

A senior administration official in Washington told reporters Sunday that invitations to the conference are being sent to individuals in the United States, Europe, the Gulf, the wider Arab world and “some” Palestinian business leaders.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

There were no details on who might attend, or whether the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank was invited.

In the absence of direct talks with Palestinian leaders, US officials often talk of engaging Palestinians in the private sector and “civil society” groups.

It is unclear how any large-scale projects would be carried out in the Gaza Strip. The US and Israel consider Gaza’s Hamas rulers to be a terrorist group and have no direct contacts with them.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza — territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War — for an independent state. Breaking from the policies of its predecessors, the Trump administration has refused to endorse a two-state solution.

Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, and subsequently moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US has also cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid for the Palestinians and closed the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.

The Palestinians have already said they would reject any peace plan offered by the US, saying Trump is unfairly biased toward Israel.

Kushner said it has been disheartening that the Palestinian leadership has attacked the plan before it is unveiled.

Earlier this month, Kushner insisted that the plan he has helped craft is a detailed, fresh approach that he hopes will stimulate discussion and lead to a breakthrough in solving the decades-old conflict. At a think tank in Washington, Kushner described it as an “in-depth operational document” not anchored to previous, failed negotiations, high-level political concepts or stale arguments.

Trump Defends His Team: Pompeo, Bolton Doing Great Job

By Staff, Agencies

US President Donald Trump on Friday pushed back against reports of conflict between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton amid tensions between the United States and Iran — calling sourcing cited by reporters “bull—-“.

“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job. Bolton is doing a great job. They make it sound like it’s a conflict,” the president said in a speech to the National Association of Realtors.

The president took issue with the “confidential sources” cited in news articles.

“They say confidential sources. You ever notice they don’t write the names of the people anymore. Everything is ‘a source says’ … The person doesn’t exist, the person is not alive. It’s bull—-,” the president said.

Ahead of his remarks, Trump, on Twitter, described reporting about his administration handling of Iran as “fraudulent.”

“At least Iran doesn’t know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!” Trump said in a tweet.

He furtherrepeated his complaint during his speech.

“They put out so many false messages and Iran is totally confused. I don’t know that might be a good thing,” Trump said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump’s tweet, arguing “it is apparently the US that “doesn’t know what to think.” We in Iran have actually known what to think for millennia — and about the U.S., since 1953.”

Iran All Set For US Escalations With Missiles Ready In Gulf – US Official

By Staff, Agencies

A US official claimed Thursday that Iranian missiles loaded on small boats in the Gulf were among the “threats” that have triggered a beefed-up military deployment in the region.

“The missiles on civilian boats are a concern. What the military and the intelligence are concerned about is the intent,” the US official told AFP.

Washington fears an Iranian ‘attack’ against US personnel.

Iran, for its part, accused the US of being behind an “unacceptable” escalation after Washington sent its USS Abraham Lincoln carrier to the Gulf, citing “imminent” threats from Iran.

Meanwhile, Swiss President Ueli Maurer met with US President Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday in an attempt to ease tensions between the US and Iran.

When asked about a possible armed conflict with Iran, Trump said he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

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The Guardian: Soleimani Tells Iraqi Groups to Prepare for War

By Staff, The Guardian

The Guardian British daily revealed on Friday that Iran’s head of Al-Quds Forces has recently met Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces in Baghdad and told them to “prepare for proxy war”.

Two senior intelligence sources told the Guardian that Qassem Soleimani met the Iraqi leaders three weeks ago, amid a heightened state of tension in the region.

This comes as the UK raised its threat levels for British troops in Iraq on Thursday.

While Soleimani has met regularly with leaders of Iraq’s Shia groups over the past five years, the nature and tone of this gathering was different. “It wasn’t quite a call to arms, but it wasn’t far off,” one source said.

Meanwhile, a US decision was taken to evacuate non-essential diplomatic staff from the US embassy in Baghdad and Erbil.

One senior figure who learned about the meeting had since met with western officials to express concerns.

The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appeared to align the UK on Thursday with US claims that Tehran’s threat posture had changed. “We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran,” he said on Twitter. “As always we work closely with the USA.”

Earlier this week, a British general challenged the Trump administration’s claims that an imminent threat had emerged from Iran, creating a rare public schism between the two countries whose alliance has at times been tested by the erratic nature of Trump’s regional policy.

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