Posts Tagged ‘Bahrain’

Lebanon under ‘total control’ of Hezbollah: Bahrain FM

November 19, 2017

AFP

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© AFP | Bahrain Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa an Arab League meeting called by Riyadh
CAIRO (AFP) – Bahrain’s foreign minister said Sunday that Lebanon is under the “total control” of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, in a speech at an Arab League meeting called by Riyadh.”The Lebanese Republic, in spite of our relations with it as a brotherly Arab nation… is under the total control of this terrorist party,” said Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, referring to the powerful Shiite movement.

“Iran’s biggest arm in the region at the moment is the terrorist Hezbollah arm,” Sheikh Khalid charged.

He called on countries such as Lebanon “where Hezbollah is a partner in government to carry their responsibility”.

Saudi Arabia called the meeting of foreign ministers at the League’s headquarters in Cairo to discuss “violations” committed by Iran after a missile was intercepted near Riyadh in a November 4 attack claimed by Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

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Saudi Arabia, Arab allies in Cairo talks on Iran, Hezbollah

November 19, 2017

By Patrick Markey

CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss ways to confront Iran and its Lebanese Shi‘ite ally Hezbollah, who the Arab allies say are interfering in their internal affairs.

Regional tensions have risen in recent weeks between Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite Islamist Iran over Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s surprise resignation and after an escalation in Yemen’s conflict.

Hariri, a long-time Saudi ally, resigned on Nov. 4 in an announcement made from Riyadh. Hariri cited fear of assassination and accused Iran and Hezbollah of spreading strife in the Arab world.

Hezbollah, both a military force and a political movement, is part of a Lebanese government made up of rival factions, and an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Aoun has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. Senior Lebanese politicians close to Hariri also said he was coerced into resigning. Saudi Arabia and Hariri both deny those accusations.

“What Iran is doing against some Arab countries calls for taking more than one measure to stop these violations, interferences and threats, which are carried out through many various means,” Hossam Zaki, Arab League Assistant Secretary, told Asharq al Awsat newspaper in an interview.

“Stopping them requires a joint Arab policy.”

He said the meeting would send a “strong message” for Iran to step back from its current policies.

Egypt’s state-owned newspaper Al Ahram cited an Arab diplomatic source saying the meeting may refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

The emergency Arab foreign ministers meeting was convened at the request of Saudi Arabia with support from the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to discuss means of confronting Iranian intervention, Egypt’s state news agency MENA said.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir told Reuters last week the kingdom’s actions in the Middle East were only a response to what he called the “aggression” of Iran.

“Unfortunately countries like the Saudi regime are pursuing divisions and creating differences and because of this they don’t see any results other than divisions,” Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iranian state media Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting in Antalya with his Russian and Turkish counterparts about the Syria conflict.

Lebanon’s state-run NNA media said the country’s the foreign minister would not attend the Cairo meeting. Lebanon will be represented by its representative to the Arab League, Antoine Azzam, it said.

After French intervention, Hariri flew to France and met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Saturday.

Speaking in Paris, Hariri said he would clarify his position when he returns to Beirut in the coming days. He said he would take part in Lebanese independence day celebrations, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia also accuses Hezbollah of a role in the launching of a missile at Riyadh from Yemen this month. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Iran’s supply of rockets to Houthi militias was an act of “direct military aggression”.

Yemen’s civil war pits the internationally recognized government, backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, against the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Iran denies charges it supplies Houthi forces.

Additional reporting by Arwa Gaballa in Cairo; Sarah Dadouch and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut; Editing by Mark Potter

The Arab nation is on the retreat — The Iranians have effectively overtaken four Arab capitals; the Russians rule the Syrian coastline

November 19, 2017

Image result for shia crescent, map, pictures

 OPINION
 BY AMOTZ ASA-EL
 NOVEMBER 19, 2017 02:10

 

It’s that time of history again.

FOREIGN MINISTERS Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zari

FOREIGN MINISTERS Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran attend a news conference in Moscow in April.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

It’s that time of history again.

Climb up the road abutting the Golan Heights’ southern ledge, opposite Jordan’s northwestern edge, and admire the Yarmuk River’s cliffy banks, where a bridge blown up by Palmach commandos in 1946 still hangs crippled to this day, disused like the Damascus-Medina railway it once served.

Here, a short hike away from the Syrian civil war’s antagonists; several miles from Deraa, the town where the anti-Assad revolt erupted, and from the biblical Edrei, where the Israelites faced off with Og the king of Bashan – a vast Arabian army dealt the Byzantine Empire in 636 CE the defeat that broke Islam’s path into the Christian Anatolia that now is Turkey, and the pagan Persia that today is Iran.

Now the great imperial powers of that showdown are back in the field, albeit with their roles reversed. Today the Arab nation is on the retreat, while the Byzantines’ Russian heirs and the Persians’ Iranian descendants are the conquerors on the saddle, their eyes on the horizon, galloping to the unknown.

Like all imperialists, they think of grandeur, of victory, of glory and loot, scorning humility, kindling fires and brandishing swords like battle-hungry cavaliers kicking horse ribs with hobnailed boots.

The Arab defeat by this haphazard pincer movement is colossal.

The Russians have bombed Arab cities, killing thousands and displacing millions; the Iranians have effectively overtaken four Arab capitals; the Russians rule the Syrian coastline; the Iranians are pushing foreign settlers into western Syria, after having unleashed Lebanese Shi’ites, Persian commandos and Afghan mercenaries on Syrian towns.

The Iranians have driven wedges between Arab and Arab in land after land, the Russians have turned the government of Syria into a troupe of puppets, and the Iranians have done the same to the government in Beirut.

Like ancient Judah the morning after its demise, the Arab nation today sprawls dismembered, dispossessed and dishonored, “her enemies are now the masters, her foes are at ease” and “her infants have gone into captivity,” as the Book of Lamentations described Zion in its defeat.

Why the Arab nation tolerates all this is a mystery. How does it not pull its act together in the face of this invasion? Where are its many kings, presidents and sheikhs? Where is the Arab League in the face of the Arab nation’s humiliation, robbery and despair? Can it really do nothing other than pay seasonal lip service to Palestinian suffering, which, Allah knows, dwarfs when compared with what Moscow and Tehran have done to millions of blameless Arabs now trapped between Aleppo’s rubble, Europe’s angry cities and the Mediterranean’s hungry waves? These questions will surely be addressed, sooner or later, one way or another, by Arab literati and thinkers. Until that happens, there is a question to the imperialists, a question that can be answered already now: Why conquer? THE AIMS of Moscow’s and Tehran’s military thrusts are different: Russia wants to restore its imperial prestige, while Iran wants to dominate its neighbors.

Yet both quests, besides being morally evil, are also equal in their political folly, strategic anachronism and economic futility.

Politically, besides the likelihood that the two invaders will in due course clash, both have sowed the Sunni Arabs’ long-term enmity.

Which refugee, driven from Mosul, Raqqa, Sanaa or Homs, will not tell his or her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren just who it was that leveled the home they once inhabited, razed the store they once owned, or scorched the earth they once tilled, and who it was that drove them from the lands where they and their forebears had lived since antiquity? The Russians seem to realize this, and are careful to avoid stationing ground forces in Syria, evidently fearing the kind of guerrilla warfare that drove them from Afghanistan a generation ago. The Iranians are also cleverly limiting their own troops’ imperial expeditions, deploying instead an assortment of non-Iranian militias between Basra and Beirut.

It won’t help them. Measured though they have been, both invasions have landed thousands of Russian and Iranian “advisers” in the thick of a hostile Arab world.

Visible, tempting and easy targets, they arrived in fire and will leave in disgrace.

Strategically, too, both invasions will reap no edible fruit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is inspired by the czarist thirst for a so-called warm sea. Harking back to Peter the Great, this urge was informed by European colonialism’s conquest of the high seas and the New World. That setting, however, is long gone. What should Ivan, Igor, Olga or Katya gain from their leader’s bloodily won Mediterranean toehold? Indian spices? American bullion? African slaves? The Iranian thrust is even more misguided. History shows that Persian attempts to expand to non-Persian realms always ended in defeat – in the Middle Ages by the Byzantines, and before that by the ancient Greeks.

The current Persians not only don’t belong where they are inserting themselves, they can’t afford their imperial project economically, and neither can the Russians.

As happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan, they will ultimately learn that for the arms to punch, the stomach must be fed.

Yet both Russia’s and Iran’s economies are embattled, beset by industrial backwardness, cracking infrastructure, addiction to mining, plunging oil prices, weak currencies and demographic decline.

Both are in no position to sustain an imperial adventure in a region whose only treasures are the same oil and gas they already have in abundance.

Yes, Vladimir Putin and Ali Khamenei have sent today’s Arabs on a grand retreat. But tomorrow’s Arabs will emerge with a vengeance – the way yesterday’s marched on Byzantium and Persia, from the Yarmuk.

http://www.MiddleIsrael.net

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/The-great-Arab-retreat-514490

Lebanon FM to skip Arab League summit on Iran

November 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will not attend an extraordinary Arab League meeting in Cairo called by Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT (AFP) – Lebanon’s foreign minister will not attend an extraordinary Arab League meeting on Sunday called by Saudi Arabia to discuss “violations” committed by Iran, a ministry source told AFP.Arab foreign ministers will gather in Cairo on Sunday at the request of Riyadh, whose simmering regional rivalry with Tehran has escalated in recent weeks.

But Lebanon’s top diplomat Gebran Bassil will not be among them, a foreign ministry source said.

“This morning, a decision was taken that Lebanon would be presented by Antoine Azzam, the permanent representative to the Arab League,” the source said.

“Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will not be present.”

For more than a decade, Lebanon’s political class has been largely split between Iran-backed movement Hezbollah and its allies, and a Saudi-supported coalition led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Hariri stepped down from his post on November 4 in a televised address from Riyadh, sparking fears Lebanon would be caught up in the spiralling tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

Sunni Muslim powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, are long-standing rivals based as much in geostrategic interests as religious differences.

According to a memo seen last week by AFP, the Saudi request for an Arab League meeting was based on a missile it says its air defences intercepted near Riyadh after being fired from Yemen on November 4.

A Saudi-led coalition has been battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, and it has accused the Iran-backed rebels of firing the missile.

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman later accused Iran of “direct military aggression” against the kingdom by supplying the rebels with ballistic missiles.

Related:

We founded Qatar, we will purge it and get it back, says Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim

November 19, 2017

Qatar’s Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim speaks during a tribal meeting of Saudis at Jouf Bani Hajjer in the east of Saudi Arabia.

RIYADH: We established Qatar and must purge the country and “rescue it before it plunges into chaos and is manipulated by corrupt people,” Qatar’s Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim has told a tribal meeting of Saudis at Jouf Bani Hajjer in the east of the country.

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The country is not in the hands of its true people but “we will get it back,” he said. “We haven’t changed our position nor changed our ethics or disavowed our values, and we will never waver. We all carry the task of rescuing Qatar on our shoulders … We kept silent in the past,” Suhaim added, “not out of weakness or vulnerability, but rather out of hope that our brothers come back to their senses and abandon prejudice, but patience has limits.”
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Tens of thousands of Saudis from the Bani Hajjer and Qahtan tribes had gathered to honor Shafi bin Nasser Al-Hajjeri, chief of the Bani Hajjer tribe, after he and family members had been stripped of their Qatari nationality and driven out of Qatar following the escalation of the Saudi-Qatari crisis.
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Suhaim, who is from the Qahtan tribe and also attended the event, told them: “I’m pleased to stand with you and proud to see that this celebration extends over a large area with a lot of loud cheering. I’m not here to sympathize with Sheikh Shafi because the (stripping him from) his nationality does not harm him nor even decrease his worth.
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“We are responsible in front of King Salman, the crown prince, and leaders of brotherly countries to make sure that Qatar does not remain a refuge for terrorism and corruption,” Suhaim continued. “I say to the authority in Doha that action speaks louder than words … Qatar is not at the hands of its true people, but we will get it back.
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“We would be traitors to our country and history if we allow its puppet leaders to mess around and betray its neighbors and take away all its resources. I’m with you, and together we will write our history one way or another, and we can do it.”
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Saudi Arabia and Arab Allies Call Emergency Meeting in Cairo on Sunday To Discuss Iran, Hezbollah

November 19, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, sky and outdoor

Iran — A Revolutionary Guard missile, the Shahab-3, under a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. Credit Hasan Sarbakhshian, AP
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BY REUTERS
 NOVEMBER 19, 2017 10:23

 

Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss confronting Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite ally Hezbollah.

A Houthi militant shouts slogans as he stands next a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

A Houthi militant shouts slogans as he stands next a poster of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah during a rally against US support to Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa. (photo credit:REUTERS)

CAIRO, November 19 – Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss confronting Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite ally Hezbollah, who the Arab allies say are interfering in their internal affairs.

Regional tensions have risen between Sunni monarchy Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Islamist Iran over Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s surprise resignation and after an escalation in Yemen’s conflict.

Hariri, a long-time Saudi ally, resigned on Nov. 4 in an announcement made from Riyadh. Hariri cited fear of assassination and accused Iran and Hezbollah of spreading strife in the Arab world.

Hezbollah, both a military force and a political movement, is part of a Lebanese government made up of rival factions, and an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Aoun has accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri hostage. Senior Lebanese politicians close to Hariri also said he was coerced into resigning. Saudi Arabia and Hariri both deny those accusations.

The emergency Arab foreign ministers meeting was convened at the request of Saudi Arabia with support from the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to discuss means of confronting Iranian intervention, Egypt’s state news agency MENA said.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir told Reuters last week the kingdom’s actions in the Middle East were only a response to what he called the “aggression” of Iran.

“What Iran is doing against some Arab countries calls for taking more than one measure to stop these violations, interferences and threats, which are carried out through many various means,” Hossam Zaki, Arab League Assistant Secretary, told Asharq al Awsat newspaper in an interview.

“Stopping them requires a joint Arab policy.”

He said the meeting would send a “strong message” for Iran to step back from its current policies.

Egypt’s state-owned newspaper Al Ahram cited an Arab diplomatic source saying the meeting may refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.

Saudi Arabia accuses Hezbollah of a role in the launching of a missile at Riyadh from Yemen this month. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Iran’s supply of rockets to Houthi militias was an act of “direct military aggression”.

Yemen’s civil war pits the internationally recognized government, backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, against the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Iran denies charges it supplies Houthi forces.

Anticipating confrontation at the Cairo meeting, Lebanon’s foreign minister may not attend, though a final decision will be taken on Sunday morning, a senior Lebanese official told Reuters on Saturday.

After French intervention, Hariri flew to France and met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Saturday.

Speaking in Paris, Hariri said he would clarify his position when he returns to Beirut in the coming days. He said he would take part in Lebanese independence day celebrations, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals

November 18, 2017
  • 18 November 2017
Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. REUTERS/EPA

Saudi Arabia and Iran are at loggerheads. They have long been rivals, but it’s all recently got a lot more tense. Here’s why.

How come Saudi Arabia and Iran don’t get along?

Saudi Arabia and Iran – two powerful neighbours – are locked in a fierce struggle for regional dominance.

The decades-old feud between them is exacerbated by religious differences. They each follow one of the two main sects in Islam – Iran is largely Shia Muslim, while Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power.

Map showing Sunni distribution in Middle East

This religious schism is reflected in the wider map of the Middle East, where other countries have Sunni or Shia majorities, some of whom look towards Iran or Saudi Arabia for support or guidance.

Historically Saudi Arabia, a monarchy and home to the birthplace of Islam, saw itself as the leader of the Muslim world. However this was challenged in 1979 by the Islamic revolution in Iran which created a new type of state in the region – a kind of theocracy – that had an explicit goal of exporting this model beyond its own borders.

Map showing Shia distribution in Middle East

In the past 15 years in particular, the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been sharpened by a series of events.

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq overthrew Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who had been a major Iranian adversary. This removed a crucial military counter-weight to Iranian influence in Iraq, which has been rising since then.

Graphic

Fast-forward to 2011 and uprisings across the Arab world caused political instability throughout the region. Iran and Saudi Arabia exploited these upheavals to expand their influence, notably in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, further heightening mutual suspicions.

Iran’s critics say it is intent on establishing itself or its proxies across the region, and achieve control of a land corridor stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean.

How have things suddenly got worse?

The strategic rivalry is heating up because Iran is in many ways winning the regional struggle.

In Syria, Iranian (and Russian) support for President Bashar al-Assad has largely routed rebel group groups backed by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is trying desperately to contain rising Iranian influence and the militaristic adventurism of the kingdom’s young and impulsive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country’s de facto ruler – is exacerbating regional tensions.

Five things about Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

He is waging a war against rebels in Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour, Yemen, in part to stem perceived Iranian influence there, but after nearly three years this is proving a costly gamble.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, many observers believe the Saudis put pressure on the prime minister to resign in order to destabilise a country where Iran’s ally, Shia militia group Hezbollah, leads a politically powerful bloc and controls a huge, heavily armed fighting force.

There are also external forces at play. Saudi Arabia has been emboldened by support from the Trump administration while Israel, which sees Iran as a mortal threat, is in a sense “backing” the Saudi effort to contain Iran.

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (left), Salman bin Adbulaziz (centre) and Donald Trump put their hands on an illuminated globe, Riyadh (21/05/17)

The Jewish state is fearful of the encroachment of pro-Iranian fighters in Syria ever closer to its border. EPA photo

Israel and Saudi Arabia were the two countries most resolutely opposed to the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear programme, insisting that it did not go far enough to roll back any chance of Iran obtaining the bomb.

Who are their regional allies?

Broadly speaking the strategic map of the Middle East reflects the Shia-Sunni divide.

Map showing who supports whom

In the pro-Saudi camp are the other major Sunni actors in the Gulf – the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, as well as Egypt and Jordan.

In the Iranian camp is Syria’s government, which has been strongly backed by Iran, and where pro-Iranian Shia militia groups, including the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, have played a prominent role in fighting predominantly Sunni rebel groups.

The Shia-dominated Iraqi government is also a close ally of Iran, though paradoxically it also retains a close relationship with Washington on whom it has depended for help in the struggle against so-called Islamic State.

How is the Saudi-Iranian rivalry being played out?

This is in many ways a regional equivalent of the Cold War, which pitted the US against the Soviet Union in a tense military standoff for many years.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are not directly fighting but they are engaged in a variety of proxy wars around the region.

Syria is an obvious example while in Yemen Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying ballistic missiles fired at Saudi territory by the Shia Houthi rebel movement – an incident which heightened the war of words between the two countries.

Houthi rebels in Sanaa (file photo)
Yemen is one of a number of battlegrounds fuelling Iranian-Saudi tensions. Reuters photo

But having become bogged down in Yemen and essentially defeated in Syria, Saudi Arabia seems to have its eye on Lebanon as the next proxy battlefield.

Lebanon risks being tipped into Syria-like chaos but few analysts see Saudi interests prevailing there.

Conflict in Lebanon could so easily draw in Israel in opposition to Hezbollah and this could lead to a third Israel-Lebanon war far more devastating than any of the previous encounters.

Some cynics wonder if the Saudi crown prince’s game plan is to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah and deliver a heavy blow to the group this way!

Are we heading towards a direct war between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

So far Tehran and Riyadh have fought via proxies. Neither is really geared up for a direct war with the other but one successful rocket attack on the Saudi capital from Yemen could upset the apple cart.

Will Saudi Arabia go to war with Iran?

One obvious area where they could come into direct conflict is in the waters of the Gulf, where they face each other across a maritime border.

But here too fighting could risk a much broader conflict. For the US and other Western powers, freedom of navigation in the Gulf is essential and any conflict that sought to block the waterway – vital for international shipping and oil transportation – could easily draw in US naval and air forces.

Graphic showing military balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran

For a long time the US and its allies have seen Iran as a destabilising force in the Middle East. The Saudi leadership increasingly sees Iran as an existential threat and the crown prince seems willing to take whatever action he sees necessary, wherever he deems it necessary, to confront Tehran’s rising influence.

The danger is that Saudi Arabia’s new activism is fast making it a further source of volatility in the region.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42008809

Hezbollah holding Lebanon hostage: Saudi FM

November 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, left, with his Spanish counterpart Alfonso Dastis in Madrid on Friday

MADRID (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Friday accused Hezbollah, which Riyadh blames for the shock resignation of Lebanese premier Saad Hariri, of holding Lebanon hostage and using its banks to launder money.Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Madrid that the Shiite group was destabilising Lebanon by maintaining its arsenal and fighters in the Mediterranean nation.

“You cannnot have a militia with a military force that operates outside the scope of the government,” he told reporters after talks with Spanish counterpart Alfonso Dastis.

“We see Hezbollah hijacking the Lebanese banking system to launder money, we see Hezbollah hijacking Lebanese ports in order to smuggle drugs, we see Hezbollah engaging in terrorist activities and interfering in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen,” he added.

“Unless Hezbollah disarms and becomes a (solely) political party, Lebanon will be held hostage by Hezbollah and by extension Iran,” he said.

“This is not acceptable to us and is not acceptable to the Lebanese.”

Lebanon, long abused by regional powers seeking to exert influence, was plunged into uncertainty this month after Hariri’s shock resignation, announced on television from Riyadh.

Hariri said he was stepping down because of Hezbollah and Iran’s “grip” over his country.

The resignation — which caught even some of Hariri’s closest advisers off guard — comes at a time of mounting tension between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are backing opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

His subsequent failure to return home to officially quit in person fuelled claims that he was acting under orders from his Saudi patrons.

But both Hariri and Riyadh have denied allegations he was being held against his will, with the Lebanese leader on Friday dismissing all speculation about his situation as “rumours”.

“We are supportive of Prime Minister Saad Hariri but we are against Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon,” Jubeir said.

Hariri was expected to leave Saudi Arabia for France later Friday, a move aimed at defusing political turmoil sparked by his resignation.

Egypt tries to avoid a fight as allies escalate against Iran

November 16, 2017

The Associated Press

By HAMZA HENDAWI

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt faces high expectations from Saudi Arabia and its other Gulf Arab benefactors that it will have their back as tensions rise with their rival Iran, including throwing the weight of its military — the largest standing Arab army — into the crisis if needed.

But Egypt clearly has no desire to be dragged into a military conflict or to see the tensions spiral into another Saudi-Iran proxy battle like the many that are already tearing up the Middle East.

Its reluctance could lead to frictions between Cairo and Riyadh.

Egypt’s leadership has been striking a balancing act, giving nods of support to its Gulf allies while trying to defuse their escalations against Iran.

Last week, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi proclaimed that any threat to Gulf security “is a threat to our own national security,” warning Iran to stop meddling. But he also said the region “has enough instability and challenges as it is” and doesn’t need a crisis with Iran or Hezbollah, and he called for dialogue to resolve tensions.

Other Egyptian officials sharpened their rhetoric against non-Arab, Shiite Iran, but have not embraced the sectarian or ethnic slant used by their Sunni-led Gulf friends.

In the past month, Saudi Arabia has twice accused Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of acts of war against it. A direct war between the two regional powerhouses still seems unlikely; but the heightened rhetoric raised fears that it wasn’t out of the question or that a new proxy fight could erupt in Lebanon.

Egyptian commentators have bluntly warned against getting mired into a military conflict initiated by the Saudis.

“Egypt’s real national duty is to tell our brothers … that we are with them to defend the security of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and the entire region … But that does not mean that we get dragged by them into wars and conflicts that are essentially sectarian and benefit no one except the enemies of the (Arab) nation,” the editor of the newspaper Al-Shorouk, Imad Hussein, wrote this week.

Hussein, who is close to the government, made sure to praise Saudi Arabia’s regional role, its financial support for Egypt and its custodianship of Islam’s holiest shrines. He also avoided naming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne behind the kingdom’s more hawkish anti-Iran stance. He has driven aggressive regional policies, including military intervention in Yemen and the ostracizing of Qatar — a move that Egypt fell in line with.

Another prominent commentator, veteran opposition figure Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, counselled the government to stay out of any potential Saudi-Iran conflict, arguing that Egypt’s army was needed to fight an insurgency by Islamic militants and protect the porous borders.

“Coming close to that dangerous (Gulf) region is a horrifying prospect. It’s neither wise nor sound to even talk about that,” he wrote in Tuesday’s edition of the Cairo daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Saudi Arabia has bolstered el-Sissi with massive financial backing as the general-turned-president struggles to overhaul Egypt’s dilapidated economy. The kingdom is estimated to have given Egypt more than $10 billion in grants and soft loans since 2013 in addition to numerous free shipments of fuel worth tens of millions of dollars.

Still, Egypt has been willing to resist Saudi demands. In 2015, it came under heavy Saudi and Gulf pressure to send ground troops to fight alongside a Saudi-led coalition against Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Instead, Egypt restricted its involvement to deploying warships and aircraft on patrol and reconnaissance missions in the southern reaches of the Red Sea. Egypt has bad memories from its intervention Yemen’s civil war in the 1960s, when it backed republicans against a Saudi-backed monarchy in an ill-fated and costly military adventure.

Egypt has also stayed out of Riyadh’s campaign to oust President Bashar Assad, supported Russia’s military intervention there on Assad’s side and negotiated local cease-fires between the government and rebels.

Those differences angered Riyadh, prompting a temporary suspension of aid to Egypt earlier this year.

In the end, Saudi Arabia “did not get the foreign policy changes it wanted (from Egypt) in return for its generous support,” said Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The Saudis have learned to live with limited Egyptian involvement in Yemen,” he added.

The Saudis and Egypt have somewhat patched up the ill-feelings. Now Cairo wants to avoid a new falling-out over Iran.

Tension has been running high between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The kingdom charged that a missile fired by Yemeni rebels toward Riyadh this month could be considered “an act of war” by Iran, which it accused of providing the missile.

Things further heated up when Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, resigned in a pre-recorded message aired from Saudi Arabia, blaming Hezbollah. Riyadh swiftly criticized Hezbollah, saying its aggressions could be considered a “declaration of war.”

Still, Egypt seems determined to avert any slide toward armed conflict.

El-Sissi dispatched his foreign minister to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain. In Riyadh, the minister met with the Saudi crown prince and, it appears, counselled backing off an escalation with Iran.

“The foreign minister was at pains to convey Egypt’s concern to see the region spared any tensions that would deepen the instability and polarization it’s already seeing,” the minister’s spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said of the Tuesday meeting.

Egypt’s track record under el-Sissi shows his reluctance toward military action unless its own territory is directly threatened or if the Gulf is subjected to a clear-cut aggression.

“Egypt adopts a deeply entrenched position against military solutions,” presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said in published comments this week.

Michael W. Hanna, a Mideast expert at the Century Foundation in New York, said Egypt does have concerns “about what the Iranians are doing in Syria and Yemen.”

“But Iran is not a high-level priority for Egypt. It does not worry about Iran the same way the Saudis do.”

Bahrain says deadly bus attack engineered by Iran

November 15, 2017

Emergency and rescue workers are seen blocking the road leading to a fire in at oil pipeline in Buri village south of Manama, Bahrain, November 10, 2017. (Reuters)
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DUBAI: Bahrain said on Wednesday a bomb attack on a police bus which killed an officer and wounded nine last month was carried out by a militant cell trained by its arch-foe Iran.
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Iran denies any role in Bahrain’s unrest.
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There was no immediate Iranian reaction to Wednesday’s Bahraini interior ministry statement, which added that authorities had arrested one member of the cell while others were fugitives in Iran.
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“The terrorist cell received extensive training in Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps on the use and manufacture of explosives and firearms, as well as material and logistical support,” the ministry said.
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Bahrain said earlier this week that an explosion at its main oil pipeline on Friday was caused by “terrorist” sabotage, linking the unprecedented attack to Iran.
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DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain said on Wednesday a bomb attack on a police bus which killed an officer and wounded nine last month was carried out by a militant cell trained by its arch-foe Iran.

After authorities quashed Shi‘ite Muslim-led ”Arab Spring” protests on the Sunni-ruled island in 2011, militants have launched deadly bombing and shooting attacks against security forces that Bahrain blames on Tehran’s Shi‘ite theocracy.

Iran denies any role in Bahrain’s unrest.

There was no immediate Iranian reaction to Wednesday’s Bahraini interior ministry statement, which added that authorities had arrested one member of the cell while others were fugitives in Iran.

“The terrorist cell received extensive training in Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps on the use and manufacture of explosives and firearms, as well as material and logistical support,” the ministry said.

Bahrain said earlier this week that an explosion at its main oil pipeline on Friday was caused by “terrorist” sabotage, linking the unprecedented attack to Iran.

A key Western ally and host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Gulf Arab monarchy Bahrain has for years grappled with protests and sporadic violence coming from its Shi‘ite majority.

Reporting By Ali Abdelaty and Noah Browning, Editing by William Maclean