News 0 comments on Putin offers Biden public talks after U.S. president says he thinks he is a killer

Putin offers Biden public talks after U.S. president says he thinks he is a killer

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he and U.S. President Joe Biden should hold live online talks in coming days after Biden said he thought the Russian leader was a killer and diplomatic ties sank to a new post-Cold War low.

Putin, speaking on television, cited a Russian children’s playground chant to scathingly respond to Biden’s accusation with the comment that “he who said it, did it.”

In an ABC News interview broadcast on Wednesday that prompted Russia to recall its Washington ambassador for consultations, Biden said “I do” when asked if he believed Putin was a killer.

Biden was quick to extend a nuclear arms pact with Russia after he took office. But his administration has said it will take a tougher line with Moscow than Washington did during Donald Trump’s term in office, and engage only when there is a tangible benefit for the United States.

Putin said he had last spoken to Biden by phone at the U.S. president’s request and that he now proposed they had another conversation, on Friday or Monday, to be held by video-link and broadcast live.

“I want to offer President Biden that we continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it live, online, without any delays,” Putin said, when asked in a television interview about Biden’s comments. The two leaders last spoke by telephone on Jan. 26 days after Biden took office.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday said Biden had no regrets about calling Putin a killer and swatted away a question about Putin’s request for an immediate call in public.

“I would say the president already had a conversation with President Putin, even as there are more world leaders that he has not yet engaged with,” Psaki said. “The president will of course be in Georgia tomorrow and quite busy.”

Putin said he was ready to discuss Russia’s relations with the United States and other issues such as regional conflicts “tomorrow or, say, on Monday,” adding that he would be having a weekend break in a remote part of Russia.

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony launching the Talas Gold Mining Plant at Kyrgyzstan’s Jerooy gold deposit via a video link in Moscow, Russia March 17, 2021. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

In his ABC comments, Biden also described Putin as having no soul, and said he would pay a price for alleged Russian meddling in the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, something the Kremlin denies.

Russia is preparing to be hit by a new round of U.S. sanctions in the coming days over the U.S. allegations of election interference and hacking.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington was tracking efforts to complete Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and evaluating information on entities that appear to be involved.

In a highly unusual move following Biden’s interview, Moscow recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations.

Suggesting Biden was hypocritical in his remarks, Putin said that every state had to contend with “bloody events” and added Biden was accusing the Russian leader of something he was guilty of himself.

“I remember in my childhood, when we argued in the courtyard with each other we used to say: he who said it, did it. And that’s not a coincidence, not just a children’s saying or joke. The psychological meaning here is very deep,” Putin said.

“We always see our own traits in other people and think they are like how we really are. And as a result we assess (a person’s) activities and give assessments,” he said.

Putin then spoke about U.S. history, talking about what he called the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and the ill treatment of Black people, and the U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Japan at the end of World War Two.

“They think that we are like them, but we are different, we have a different genetic and cultural-moral code,” said Putin.

“We will work with them in the areas in which we are interested on terms that we consider advantageous to ourselves. They will have to deal with that regardless of all their attempts to stop us developing, regardless of the sanctions, and regardless of the insults”.

Reporting by Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth, Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Dmitry Antonov, Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

News 0 comments on Doomed to Failure: Ankara, Riyadh Show Signs for Alliance in Yemen

Doomed to Failure: Ankara, Riyadh Show Signs for Alliance in Yemen

The neo-Ottomanism in Turkish foreign policy which is based on the “strategic depth” doctrine of Erdogan’s old ally and current rival Ahmet Davutoglu has pitted Turkey against other regional and international powers over the past decade in a wide range of crises and cases, particularly in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, one of the most important regional cases in which Turkey has been preparing the ground for a more active role for itself over the past year is the Yemeni crisis. One of Turkey’s most important steps in this regard has been the acceptance of hosting the leaders of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood, such as Abdul Majid al-Zandani and Mohammad al-Yadumi. To be more precise, Istanbul in the recent years has become a favorite destination for most of Yemen’s Islah Party leaders.

In mid-June last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring organization in London, released a document stating that the Turkish intelligence service in the Syrian town of Afrin had set up an operations room to transfer Syrian mercenaries to take part in the Yemeni war. Turkey has previously been accused of transporting Syrian terrorists to the wars in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.

In other evidence of Turkey’s desire to play a greater role in the developments in Yemen, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Erdogan and one of his closest associates, wrote an article for the ruling party Justice and Development Party’s newspaper Yeni Sefak in November last year wondering if Turkey will take action to “save Yemen from the decisive storm” in a reference to the codename of the Saudi-led operation against Yemen. The article was published by all websites supporting the Turkish government.

Although the above-mentioned evidence indicates that Turkey is trying to play a role in the developments in Yemen in competition with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in a completely opposite trend in recent days, the media reported that Riyadh asked Ankara to participate in the Yemeni developments against Sana’a which is held by the revolutionary forces represented by Ansarullah Movement.

Now the question is what is the Saudi motivation to incorporate Turkey in Yemen developments? How will Ankara respond to the Saudi demand? Can the two, as bitter rivals in the regional developments, have a sustainable alliance in Yemen?

Erdogan’s economic and geopolitical goals

Despite supporting the anti-Yemeni Arab coalition in 2015, Turkey refrained from direct involvement in the military operations. As the Ankara-Riyadh differences grew over the past year, the Turkish leaders stepped up their criticism against the Arab coalition for causing a huge humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

However, things have been changing lately and now Turkey has economic and geopolitical reasons to change its mind.

First, such factors as the regional competition which led to Western sanctions and also boycott of the Turkish products in some Arab countries, along with the coronavirus outbreak, dealt hard blows to the Turkish economy. In municipality elections in 2019, the AKP lost Istanbul after long years, in a signal of the popular discontent with the economic conditions and policies of the ruling party. Erdogan and his party know that they are standing on a shaky foundation in the next elections. So, one reason for helping the Saudis in Yemen is to pave the way for end of the Turkish goods boycott in the Persian Gulf Arab states.

Second, by boosting the Yemeni branch of Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey intends to open a new front against the Saudi-Emirati coalition. Such a front would efficiently serve the aim to damage them due to its geographic closeness to the two Arab monarchies. At the same time, it will increase Ankara’s bargaining power in other regional cases in which it stands against the two Arab actors.

Maintaining the Brotherhood’s weight in the developments is important for Turkey. Of the two important Brotherhood bases in Yemen, Socotra and Ma’rib, Socotra is now in the hands of forces close to the UAE, and Ma’rib is on the verge of being liberated by Ansarullah. The Muslim Brotherhood is also seeking Turkey’s support for fear of losing control of southern Yemen regions like Shabwa province that is rich with oil and gas reserves.

Although the Islah party, like other groups allied to the resigned President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, sees Saudi Arabia the main backer in Yemen war, it seems that Islah Party sees it unavoidable to pick a new supporter as it sees the Saudi defeats and Ansarullah advances. Therefore, military intervention by Turkey is regarded as the key option to restore Islah’s place in the equations.

Turkish secret logistical support against anti-Sana’a

Turkey’s direct involvement in the Yemeni crisis has so far been in the form of logistical support to the Brotherhood and providing information on the military movements of rivals under the auspices of humanitarian and relief work like the activities led by the Turkish Red Crescent. Earlier, Saudi-affiliated media reported that Ankara, with the help of Qatar, was sending drones and military advisers to help Islah’s militias in the war against the southerners in Shabwa.

On the other hand, Turkey plans growth in its drone sales to Saudi Arabia. Reports say that after the US said it stopped its support to the Saudi aggression in Yemen, Turkey began providing the kingdom with Karayel surveillance and Bayraktar assault drones.

Also, it is also not unexpected that in the behind-the-scenes agreements between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Ankara’s experience in the mass transfer of terrorists involved in the Syrian war to other parts, this time in the Yemeni war, will be ordered by President Recept Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Undoubtedly, given the strong international stance against the Saudis and the previous US government as the cause of the great humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Turkey’s political support for the Saudis will not be due to its many consequences. If Turkey decides to step in the Yemeni war against Sana’a, it will mainly focus on covert military cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the fugitive Mansour Hadi.

Shaky and unsustainable alliance

The Saudi-Turkish partnership in Yemen is a fruit of short-term motivations like the Turkish need to de-escalate with the Saudis and the Riyadh’s need to save Ma’rib province, rather than being driven by a strategic logic.

The cooperation with Turkey will have an increasingly negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s relations with the UAE in the Yemeni war. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, no doubt, see Turkey’s presence in Yemen as a threat to their geopolitical interests in the Peninsula after Syria and Libya conflicts experiences. Turkey’s strategic goal behind entry to Yemen war is not just to save Islah Party from defeat in the north but also stand as a backrest for the party instead of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The Yemen war is different from all the proxy battles Turkey has ever engaged in over the past years in Syria, Libya, and freshly Karabakh. The Yemenis have successfully passed toughest six years under unceasing bombardment by the armed-to-the-teeth Saudi military which also enjoys arms and logistics backing of the Western powers and battleground assistance from African mercenaries.

Therefore, both in terms of bilateral strategic goals and also the possible partnership, an Ankara-Riyadh coalition is doomed to collapse. Meanwhile, the party incurring the biggest detriments would be Ankara, and that is because Erdogan— after losing his credit in the Muslim world for normalization of ties with Israelis just contrary to his claims of support to the Palestinian cause— would sacrifice the relatively good relations with the Iran-led Axis of Resistance to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s passing efforts to escape the defeat in Yemen.

News 0 comments on Libye: La milice de Haftar refuse d’ouvrir la route de Syrte au passage des parlementaires

Libye: La milice de Haftar refuse d’ouvrir la route de Syrte au passage des parlementaires

-En préparation de la tenue d’une séance parlementaire, lundi, pour discuter de l’octroi de la confiance au gouvernement de Dbaiba.


L’armée libyenne a accusé, dimanche, la milice du général putschiste Khalifa Haftar d’avoir refusé d’ouvrir la route côtière Misrata-Syrte (ouest), pour le passage des députés, en vue de la tenue d’une séance parlementaire consacrée au vote de confiance au gouvernement.

Une session de la Chambre des représentants se tiendra à Syrte, lundi, pour discuter de l’octroi de la confiance à la formation gouvernementale de 27 portefeuilles ministériels, dévoilé vendredi soir par le Premier ministre désigné, Abdelhamid Dbaiba.

Dans une déclaration à l’Agence Anadolu, le porte-parole de la salle des opérations de libération de Syrte et al-Jofra, affiliée à l’armée libyenne, le général de brigade Abdul Hadi Dara a affirmé que la milice de Haftar a refusé d’appliquer les termes de l’accord du Comité militaire conjoint (5 + 5) pour un cessez-le-feu et l’ouverture des routes.

“Aujourd’hui, nous avons préparé les conditions favorables au passage des députés, en essayant d’ouvrir le portail de séparation avec la milice de Haftar. Cependant, cette dernière a refusé catégoriquement de l’ouvrir prétendant qu’elle n’avait pas reçu l’ordre de le faire”, a déclaré le porte-parole militaire.

Plus tôt dans la journée dimanche, 40 députés de la Chambre des représentants de la capitale, Tripoli (ouest), sont arrivés à Syrte par avion, en préparation de la session, a affirmé le député Mohamed Al-Raeed à l’Agence Anadolu.

Il a indiqué que Aguila Saleh, président du Parlement de Tobrouk (est), accompagné d’autres députés, est arrivé à Syrte pour la tenue d’une séance parlementaire consacrée au vote de confiance au gouvernement.

Al-Raeed s’attend à ce que 120 députés sur un total d’environ 175, qui sont toujours en vie et n’ont pas présenté leur démission, soient présents à cette session.

«Demain (lundi), 20 députés de la Chambre des représentants de Tripoli se joindront à nous à Syrte», a-t-il ajouté.

Il convient de noter que la totalité du nombre des députés, selon le texte de la Déclaration constitutionnelle, s’élève à 200, mais 12 sièges représentatifs de la ville de Derna n’ont pas été élus, en 2014, époque où la ville était contrôlée par les groupes extrémistes. En outre, 10 députés ont péri, soit dans des accidents de circulation ou à cause de kidnappings ou d’assassinats, ou encore des suites de la Covid-19. De même, au moins un député a présenté sa démission.

Le 5 février, le Forum pour le dialogue politique a élu une autorité exécutive unifiée dont la tâche principale est de préparer la tenue d’élections parlementaires et présidentielle, le 24 décembre.

Les Libyens espèrent que cette étape mettra fin à des années de conflit armé, alors que la milice de Haftar qui dispute l’autorité et la légitimité au gouvernement libyen internationalement reconnu, dans ce pays riche en pétrole.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Iran Denies Morocco’s Claim of Links with Polisario Front Separatists

Iran Denies Morocco’s Claim of Links with Polisario Front Separatists

Iran has vehemently rejected Morocco’s claims of alleged links between Tehran’s Embassy in Algeria and the Polisario Front, a Western Sahara separatist movement.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Wednesday that there is no cooperation between the Iranian diplomatic mission in Algiers and the Polisario Front.

On Tuesday, Morocco cut its diplomatic relations with Iran, with its Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita accusing Tehran and Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah of training and arming Polisario members via the Iranian Embassy in Algeria.

He also claimed that severing ties with Iran came “in response to Iran’s involvement, through Hezbollah, in allying itself with the Polisario over the past two years in order to target the security and higher interests of Morocco.”

Qassemi described Bourita’s accusations as “completely baseless, far from reality and wrong.”

“We need to clearly emphasize once again that one of the most fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy in its relations with other governments and countries in the world has been and will continue to be deep respect for their sovereignty and security as well as non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states.”

Hezbollah also quickly rejected Rabat’s accusations, blaming the decision on foreign “pressure” while the Saudi regime said it “stood by” Rabat’s decision to sever ties with Tehran.

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara, also known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front demands a referendum on self-determination.

 As many as 15 of the African Union, AU, 54 member nations, including continental bigwigs Algeria and South Africa, longtime supporters of SADR’s claim of independence.

The SADR has been a member of the AU since 1984 and Morocco withdrew from Pan-African body in protest, until rejoining in 2017.

News 0 comments on Iraqi Fury As Trump Pardons Blackwater War Criminals

Iraqi Fury As Trump Pardons Blackwater War Criminals

Trump’s measures in the closing days of his presidency are still controversial.

Recently, he issued pardons to some of Blackwater military contractors who committed crimes during the Iraq campaign.

The pardoned military personnel had hands stained in killing of 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007, including Nicholas Slatton who was given by court a life sentence. This personnel were convicted for opening fire at Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad on September 16, 2007.

Contractors of Blackwater Security Consulting (now Academi), a private military company contracted by the US government to provide security services in Iraq, shot at Iraqi civilians, in Nisour Square, while escorting a US embassy convoy. Sued by the Iraqis and some rights groups, the criminals were given life sentences. But now they are pardoned by the outgoing president.

Iraqis’ fury

In Iraq, the reactions to the Trump measure were massive. Hezbollah Brigades published a statement saying that the “evil American government keeps humiliating the dignity of our people. Pardoning the members of Blackwater who committed Nisour Square crime is an act of oppression.”

“This pardon displays the scale of the US enmity to our people and also its bullying policies. The US lives in illusion to think that we will forget its crimes or quit our right for revenge against the murderers.”

The movement called on all political parties, people, and also the government institutions to confront the US action. “Judicial actions must be taken to bring the US to justice for all its crimes,” the statement read.

Iraq’s foreign ministry also released a statement, lashing out at Trump’s decision to pardon four apparently criminal members of the notorious American security company, adding that the move runs counter to the human rights principles.

The statement said that the decision taken by the US leader did not consider the danger of the crimes committed. It also asserted that the move did not comply with the American stated commitment to principles of human rights, justice, and rule of law. “Lamentably, it disregards the dignity of the victims and the rights of their relatives,” the statement held.

Next in the line came the Iraqi parliament’s Foreign Relations Commission that strongly blasted the move. “We will closely watch the actions taken by the foreign ministry in this regard,” it emphasized.

“Iraq should stop and review contracts with American security companies in response,” the commission urged.

Fatah, Saerun, Sadeqoun, Nasr, State of Law, and Iraqioun Parliamentary blocs separately condemned the move and called it a betrayal of the Iraqi blood.

They held that pardoning criminals condemned by internal and international courts is ignorance of these courts and their stance against the operations that massacred the civilians.

American capitulation

The American president has offered legal cover to the Blackwater criminals, one of whom the jury convicted f murder and three others of shooting and carrying arms. According to the court rulings, Slatton was given a life sentence for “first-class murder” and the three others were sentenced to 30 years in prison.

But what does it mean to forgive criminals who are apparently convicted even by the American courts? Why does the US president pardon them while they are serving their terms?

Trump seems to have a promotional goal behind the act. The rightist and racist groups in the US have always been accused of humiliation and mistreatment of other nations of the world. With this pardon, Trump intended to give green light to the rightist and white supremacist groups in the US. Very likely, he wanted to send them a message telling them his time is not over and he may seek power in the upcoming years.

From another aspect, releasing the war criminals carries hallmarks for the implementation of American capitulation in Iraq. When American war criminals are easily forgiven by the US officials, this means capitulation. The capitulation grants legal immunity to a foreign country’s political and military personnel against prosecutions in the subject country.

Also, the step by the American leader leaves no doubt for many Iraqis that not only the US does not respect their dignity but also it is not afraid to do whatever it can against them.

This approach is not peculiar to a specific American party or person. Rather, the humiliation of their nations is a trait of the American policy. While Iraq burst into massive anger at the Trump measure, in the US there was no reaction. Even the Democrats who look for the smallest pretext against Trump, declined to show the least reactions. Their silence may disclose their relative happiness with the pardons.

Experts assert that it is simple-mindedness to assess the behavior of the Democratic and Republican officials towards Iraq are of great difference. The conclusion is that the US occupation and crimes in Iraq are not specific to a single American party. Rather, the totality of the US political system is not afraid to commit war crimes in other countries.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Iran’s Fourth Oil Tanker carrying Enters Venezuelan Waters

Iran’s Fourth Oil Tanker carrying Enters Venezuelan Waters

Iran’s fourth oil tanker of a five-vessel flotilla has entered Venezuelan waters. The Faxon will be escorted by the Venezuelan armed forces en route to its destination, as in the case of its three predecessors.

The five-tanker Iranian-flagged flotilla is carrying up to 1.53 million barrels of gasoline and components to help the country ease an acute scarcity that has forced Venezuelans to wait for hours in lines at service stations.

As Foxon was navigating through the Caribbean Sea, the third vessel of the flotilla, the Petunia, was approaching El Palito refinery, where the first vessel, the Fortune, has been docked since Monday.

The second cargo, on the vessel Forest, has been discharging at the Cardon refinery since Tuesday, according to Refinitive Eikon data.

As the Iranian tankers deliver their cargos one by one, the Venezuelan government has started preparations to distribute the imported fuel among desperate citizens stranded in long gas station queues.

Venezuela has the world’s cheapest gasoline after over two decades of frozen prices at the pump, but insufficient distribution has created a black market where a liter is offered for at least $2.

This perhaps explains why the hashtag #GraciasIran (Thank You Iran) has become the number-one Twitter trend in Venezuela as Iranian tankers start delivering their cargos.

Upon the arrival of the Iranian tankers, Venezuelans stormed Twitter to express gratitude towards Tehran for the shipments.

The fifth and final Iranian vessel is also on its way through the Atlantic Ocean to deliver fuel to the country under US sanctions.

The shipments have stirred the wrath of the US administration in Washington as both Iran and Venezuela are under illegal sanctions imposed by the White House.

The administration of President Donald Trump, which has returned US sanctions against Iran after leaving a historic nuclear accord between the Islamic Republic and world powers, said earlier this month that it was considering “measures” to take in response to the shipments.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Los Angeles Times Suggests Biden to Get Out of Trump Mess on Iran

Los Angeles Times Suggests Biden to Get Out of Trump Mess on Iran

Los Angeles Times said Iran will be among the thorniest issues that President-elect Joe Biden will face when he takes office next month, advising him to lift sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Since then, Trump has imposed ever more economic sanctions on Iran, but they haven’t caused Iran to bend to his will, the paper said in an opinion piece.

“It seems as if Biden’s path should be simple: Reverse the Trump sanctions and agree once again to the 2015 deal,” it said.

The paper, however, touched on “a deep store of animosity and mistrust” between Tehran and Washington, reminding that negotiations between the United States and Iran have never been smooth.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government was willing to return to the Obama-era nuclear limits if the US lifted sanctions. If the new Biden administration “returns to the situation as it was in 2017, then so will we,” he said.

“But that’s where the rub will come. Negotiating a step-by-step agreement about which nuclear limits will be reimposed first, which sanctions will be released when, and how Iran’s compliance will be verified will take some delicate diplomacy,” the LA Times said.

According to the paper, Biden may also have trouble building consensus for a new deal.

The 2015 agreement was opposed not only by most Republicans, but by several pro-Israel Democrats, including Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, it said.

Even Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a close Biden ally and advisor, has made clear he opposes lifting all of the sanctions Trump imposed, arguing that they give the United States leverage over Iran, the paper added.

“We’ve built up this presumed leverage,” Michael Singh of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative critic of the pact, warned at a conference last week. “We’d be giving it away for nothing in return.”

However, the LA Times reasoned why opponents of lifting nuclear sanctions on Iran are wrong,

First, for all their purported power as “leverage,” Trump’s sanctions haven’t worked, the paper said. Their goal was to compel Iran to change its behavior, and that didn’t happen, it added.

Second, lifting Trump’s sanctions against Iran’s nuclear activities won’t deprive the United States of all its leverage, the paper went on to say.

Trump and earlier presidents also imposed sanctions on Iran over nonnuclear issues, including its ballistic missile program, its support for resistance groups and human rights and Biden hasn’t offered to relinquish those, the LA Times explained.

Iranian officials have strongly asserted that the missile capability is among the country’s red lines, related to its national security on which no one can compromise. They have also dismissed demands about Iran’s regional role and claims about its human rights record.

The bigger problem, the paper said, is that even if the sanctions are removed, a return to the 2015 deal may be impossible.

“Perhaps the distrust between the two sides is too wide to bridge,” it cited Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as saying recently.

The paper suggested that for improving his chance of success with Iran, Biden should begin by announcing that his administration will make sure Iran can buy COVID-19 vaccines on the international market without running afoul of US sanctions.

The Trump administration said its sanctions did not apply to humanitarian or medical shipments — but it has also imposed cumbersome bureaucratic requirements on banks, suppliers and shipping companies requesting permits for such exports.

“Biden could streamline that process to demonstrate his interest in a better relationship,” the LA Times said.

Interviews, News, Perspectives 0 comments on The assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist raises the stakes for Biden .. By Ishaan Tharoor

The assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist raises the stakes for Biden .. By Ishaan Tharoor

We don’t know who exactly gunned down a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist on Friday. But there’s already an expert consensus — confirmed by a senior U.S. official to my colleagues — that Israel was behind the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, slain in a roadside ambush outside the Iranian capital Tehran. If true, it adds to a long record of alleged clandestine Israeli activity within Iran, including previous assassinations and recent sabotage attempts on the country’s nuclear program.

Iranian authorities view Fakhrizadeh’s killing as an act of terrorism and have vowed retaliation at the “right time,” potentially through proxies elsewhere in the Middle East. A statement from the European Union labeled the incident a “criminal act” and urged all parties in the region to “exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest.” The Trump administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained circumspect in their silence through the weekend.

“Fakhrizadeh was widely regarded as the brains behind Iran’s nuclear program, including Tehran’s clandestine efforts to develop a nuclear bomb in the early 2000s,” my colleagues reported. “The physics professor, believed to be about 60 years old, has been identified by intelligence officials as the head of the Amad Plan, the secret nuclear weapons research program that sought to develop as many as six nuclear bombs before Iranian leaders ordered a halt to the program in 2003.”

That Israel would want to target such an official is not surprising. Nor is — as critics of both Trump and Netanyahu’s hawkish approach to Iran quickly noted — the timing of this strike. The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden hopes to restore the framework of the nuclear deal that Trump violated when he imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, which in turn compelled the Iranian regime to resume nuclear activities that had been curtailed under the terms of the deal.

Trump and his allies have made plain their desire to inflict greater pain on Iran in the final weeks of the presidency. And they seem keen to test Iran’s apparent willingness to soak up such targeted attacks while they wait for the winds to change in Washington. “The operation reflects thinking of those in the Netanyahu government — and/or the Trump administration — who see these next few weeks as their last chance to make relations with Iran as bad as possible, in an effort to spoil the Biden administration’s efforts to return to diplomacy with Tehran,” said Paul Pillar, a former CIA official and a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, to my colleagues.

Over the weekend, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government would wait out Trump’s waning “maximum pressure” campaign, which was backed by Israel and a handful of Arab monarchies that found common cause over their antipathy to the Iranian regime. “Their pressure era is coming to an end and the global conditions are changing,” Rouhani said.

But within Iran, hard line pressure is also mounting. Fakhrizadeh’s assassination comes in a year that began with the United States killing Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a leading Iranian commander, and then saw a series of unexplained explosions at sensitive Iranian sites, including a centrifuge research and development center at Natanz. The strikes have exposed the failures of Iran’s security apparatus and weakness at the heart of the regime.

“For Iran’s adversaries to pull off so many operations so quickly means there is a significant scale of local recruitment and management of cutouts,” wrote Kamran Bokhari of the Center for Global Policy. “In many ways growing public anger against the regime in the last decade or so—including last year’s protests and brutal crackdown—has provided a recruitment-rich environment for foreign intelligence services.”

That sense of humiliation and apprehension in Tehran may complicate Biden’s efforts to calm tensions. In remarks delivered last week, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s designated national security adviser and a former Obama-era negotiator with Iran, said the path forward was “really up to Iran” and seemed to suggest that Tehran may have to take the first concrete step. “If Iran returns to compliance, for its obligations that it has been violating, and is prepared to advance good-faith negotiations on these follow-on agreements,” then a Biden administration would follow suit, Sullivan said.

Both in Washington and Tehran, the room for maneuver won’t be particularly great. In that context, experts in Europe see an opportunity — perhaps, even a responsibility — to help shepherd the rapprochement along. “European countries must move fast to contain Iran’s expanding nuclear program, and to urge the incoming Biden administration to take advantage of the political momentum following his inauguration to actively engage Iran and reverse the current dangerous escalatory trajectory,” wrote a group of senior former European diplomats in an open letter shown to Today’s WorldView ahead of its Monday publication by the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The letter outlined a number of ambitious steps that Britain, France and Germany — the “E3” countries directly involved in the brokering of the nuclear deal with Iran — ought to take in the coming weeks. That involves urging the incoming Biden administration to formally announce its intent to return to the deal, collaborating with the incoming administration on a wider road map for “regional de-escalation” that also includes Iran’s adversaries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, and building up a direct European channel to Iran in order to set out a realistic path for diplomacy.

“This process should involve an extensive discussion with Iran on technical steps to roll back its nuclear program, the realistic contours of sanctions relief under a Biden administration, and European measures to support Iran’s economy,” stated the letter, whose signatories include former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, former German ambassador to the United States Wolfgang Ischinger and former NATO secretary general Javier Solana.

Without such steps, the coming weeks could prove dangerous. The killing of Fakhrizadeh “should be a wake up call for Europe and the incoming administration,” Ellie Geranmayeh, senior fellow at ECFR, told Today’s WorldView. “The longer Iran continues to expand its nuclear program absent political talks, the more likely such covert operations will take place and the higher the risk of broader regional military escalation.”

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Iran to Respond to Scientist’s assassination in Due Time: President

Iran to Respond to Scientist’s assassination in Due Time: President

President Hassan Rouhani vowed Iran will respond to the assassination of prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh at the proper time, warning of a plot hatched by Israel to incite chaos in the region.

“Our people are wiser than to fall in the trap of the Zionists’ conspiracy. They are thinking of creating chaos and unrest, but they should know that we have already read their hands and that they will not succeed in achieving their evil objectives,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting on Saturday.

The remarks came a day after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a professor of physics at Imam Hussein University who headed the Iranian Defense Ministry’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), was assassinated while travelling near Absard city in Tehran Province’s eastern Damavand county in an attack that also involved a car bombing.

The president stressed that “the Iranian nation and the officials of the country are more courageous and zealous than to leave this criminal act unanswered, and that the relevant officials will respond to the crime in due time.”

“Both the Zionist regime and those who are against Iran should know that the country’s path of development and research will continue rapidly, and that with the loss of our beloved Fakhrizadeh, many Fakhrizadehs will strive to make up for his absence,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani issued a message, expressing sympathy with Fakhrizadeh’s family and offering condolences to the scientific community as well as the revolutionary people of Iran over the martyrdom of the prominent scientist.

“Once again, the wicked hands of the global arrogance, with the usurper Zionist regime as the mercenary, were stained with the blood of a son of this country, causing deep grief among the nation over the loss of a hard-working scientist,” the message read.

“Undoubtedly, this terrorist and desperate incident emanates from the weakness and inability of the sworn enemies of the Iranian people amid the scientific capabilities and honors of the great nation and their successive defeats in the region and other political arenas.”

The Iranian president also noted that the assassination operation showed to the world “the depth of malice and resentment” by Tehran’s enemies.

“However, the enemies of our nation should know that the martyrdom of figures like Mohsen Fakhrizadeh will not disrupt the will of the Iranian youth and scientists to pursue the path of accelerated scientific growth and conquer the peaks of honor, but rather makes them more determined to continue the way followed by the martyr,” Rouhani said.

The New York Times reported that an American official and two other intelligence officials confirmed Israel was behind the targeted killing.

In a post on his Twitter account, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the UN shared an excerpt from the article, which quoted the US officials as claiming that the assassination would send “a chilling message” to other Iranian scientists.

“That’s a telling analysis from @nytimes reflecting readiness of US establishment to give green light to political extra territorial assassinations. Not a thing to boast for a democratic country!” Dmitry Polyanskiy wrote.


News, Perspectives 0 comments on Tunisia debates the death penalty

Tunisia debates the death penalty

The debate over capital punishment in Tunisia has entered a new phase after a series of violent crimes in Tunis

The debate over the reintroduction of capital punishment in Tunisia has reached a new urgency after a succession of murders and rapes in the capital Tunis shocked the country’s public opinion.

Thirty-year-old Rahma Lahmar was attacked and murdered on her way home in the Tunis suburbs in September, and the murder of this young woman recalled other similar crimes that have taken place in the country in recent years, with the victims being mainly women and children.

Many people in Tunisia are demanding that the death penalty be reintroduced for such crimes, while the country’s human-rights organisations are strongly resisting such calls. There have been demands for Tunisian President Kais Saied to bring back the death penalty, with some claiming that its abolition has led to an increase in violent crimes.

Human rights campaigners warn that reinstating capital punishment would be a huge step backwards and a slap in the face for the progress the country has made so far, however. In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Tunisian professor of sociology Fathia Al-Saeedi said that the rise in such crimes had nothing to do with the end of capital punishment.

Violence and crime rise whenever a society goes through an economic or political crisis, she said, adding that this had been confirmed by sociological studies.

Tunisian political analyst Kamal Ben Younes said that some young people in the country might be drawn to crime because they did not have opportunities, being trapped in desperate solutions as a result.

Psychiatrists and sociologists consider the causes of violence and crime to be complex, often pointing to social, economic and other issues. Therefore, they say, the best way to deal with crime is to deal with its causes, rather than to rush into introducing stricter punishments.

Al-Saeedi said that Tunisian public opinion on the death penalty differed on whether it would really reduce crime or whether it was simply “a form of revenge.”

She said that many Tunisians believed it would be better to spread a culture of non-violence in society, along with a culture of human rights in schools and changes to criminal policy, rather than simply introduce harsher punishments.

Traditional ideas that such punishments deter crime were unlikely to be true, and they did not address matters of penal policy, she said. They also did not address the concerns of human-rights activists and the opposition in Tunisia, which fears that the death sentence could be used as a populist gambit by politicians.

The reintroduction of the death penalty could constitute a setback for human rights in Tunisia and could even open the door to the execution of political opponents under future regimes, she said.

Despite the pressure on head of state Kais Saied to introduce changes to the law on capital punishment in Tunisia, it is likely that there will be no immediate change, many say, despite public revulsion at the brutal killing of Rahma Lahmar.