Posts Tagged ‘Bahrain’

US said seeking to raise $500 million for Gaza from Gulf states

June 18, 2018

Funding would reportedly go toward industrial area in Egypt’s Sinai from where electricity, desalinated water would be pumped to Strip

Times of Israel
June 18, 2018
A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The United States is reportedly seeking to raise over $500 million from Gulf states to fund energy and economic development projects aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as a prelude to revealing President Donald Trump’s plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The funds would be used to develop an industrial area in the northern Sinai region, which abuts Gaza, including a power station and factories to serve the residents of the Palestinian enclave, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

White House special adviser Jared Kushner and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are due in the region for talks this week, are expected to pitch the ideas to leaders in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, the report said.

Washington hopes that improving the situation in Gaza, where electricity and drinking water supplies are meager, will help calm the security situation, which has seen several weeks of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Strip.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

In addition, the US hopes that plans to boost the quality of life in Gaza will create a positive atmosphere ahead of Trump presenting his peace plan, an event for which no date has yet been set, the report said.

Sources told Haartez that a large part of the proposals for Gaza revolve around basing service infrastructure in northern Sinai, including, in addition to a power plant, a seaport, factories to manufacture building supplies, a water desalination plant and a project to construct a solar energy site near the Sinai city of el-Arish.

The projects would be expected to create jobs for Gazans and also improve the security situation in northern Sinai, making it appealing to the Egyptians, who for years have been battling to suppress an Islamist terror campaign in the peninsula.

The report said there are two approaches being looked at — projects that can be quickly implemented and those that will take years to complete. Currently, the White House is reportedly focusing on funding for the more immediate projects with the aim of improving the situation in Gaza “and to also achieve some progress on the ground before the peace plan presentation.”

Yoav Mordechai, who until recently served as the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, presented similar ideas in March at an international summit on Gaza, hosted at the White House, the report said.

Deteriorating living conditions in the Strip have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling the violent clashes on Israel’s border, as well as a debilitating sense of desperation.

According to the report, solving Gaza’s energy crisis is the top priority.

Trump’s son-in-law Kushner and Greenblatt are looking to secure financing –amounting to over $500 million — from Gulf states, and ensure cooperation from Israel and Egypt, the two countries that border the Palestinian enclave, which since 2007 has been under the control of the Hamas terror group, the report said.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt,arrives at a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/POOL/RONEN ZVULUN)

Israel and Egypt both enforce a blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Strip. Currently, goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened and then brought to Gaza on hundreds of trucks a day.

The White House declined to comment on the plans, telling Haaretz only that “we don’t want to discuss specific details before talks are held on the matter.”

Although Kushner and Greenblatt are set to meet with regional leaders to iron out details of the Trump peace plan, they are not scheduled to hold talks with the Palestinians, who have refused to meet with US officials ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and then moved the US embassy to the city last month.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


The Jordanian King’s Roller-coaster Ride Into Syria to Stop Iran

June 16, 2018

The demonstrations in Amman have calmed down, but now King Abdullah must prevent ill-meaning Iranian forces from approaching Jordan via Syria

King Abdullah, left, and his son Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah performing an off-season pilgrimage to Mecca, June 10, 2018.
King Abdullah, left, and his son Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah performing an off-season pilgrimage to Mecca, June 10, 2018. Yousef Allan / Jordanian Royal Palace / AFP

A short video published online by the Fayez family of Jordan reveals the fragile web of relationships King Abdullah must balance to keep his throne. It shows young members of the family blocking the main road from the town of Madaba to Amman.

The filming was done at night, and it’s hard to identify the participants, but the family left no room for doubt. “If Fares Fayez isn’t released from jail, we’ll block the highway to the airport, and that won’t be the last step,” the family threatened on social media.

Fares Fayez is a famous opposition activist known for cursing Queen Rania and calling for the king’s ouster. During last week’s demonstrations against a new tax law, he published insulting posts against the king and his family and urged Abdullah to resign, charging that he is “chiefly responsible for all the corruption in the kingdom.”

Fayez was arrested about a week ago. Now the police will be in conflict not just with his family but with members of the large and influential Bani Sakhr tribe. If not contained, this conflict could drag Jordan into many other internecine battles.

The demonstration that resulted in Fayez’s jailing forced Abdullah to raise more money from his neighbors to finance the government’s operations, fund its $40 billion debt and, above all, substitute for the revenue the tax law was supposed to raise. Thanks to the demonstrations, this law is now in the deep freeze. “The previous government didn’t properly examine the law before approving it,” said the new prime minister, Omar Razzaz.

This is an uphill battle because Abdullah has once again discovered that aid from the Gulf states, and especially Saudi Arabia, comes with a diplomatic price tag that Jordan isn’t eager to pay. This price tag contributed significantly to the economic crisis that led to the tax law and the ensuing demonstrations.

When the protests began, the only country that expressed a willingness to help Jordan was Kuwait. It sent a special envoy to Amman to offer $1 billion in aid, half in grants and half in low-interest loans. The next to volunteer was Qatar, which is being boycotted by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

But accepting Qatari aid was problematic because it would put Jordan under obligation to Qatar and increase Qatari influence in the kingdom at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Thus Abdullah was in an impossible situation.

Riyadh didn’t rush to offer financial help, sufficing with supportive statements. Qatar came with a check that Jordan couldn’t accept until it knew what the Gulf states boycotting Qatar would offer. Meanwhile, the streets were seething and the people were threatening not to make do with Prime Minister Hani Mulki’s dismissal and appointment of a new government under Razzaz.

King Abdullah of Jordan flanked by Saudi King Salman, left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mecca, June 11, 2018.
King Abdullah of Jordan flanked by Saudi King Salman, left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Mecca, June 11, 2018. Bandar Al-Jaloud / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP

Mainly due to the “danger” that Qatar would become Jordan’s benefactor, Riyadh eventually woke up. It convened a summit with the UAE and Kuwait.

Meager aid

But the results were disappointing. The Gulf states offered only $2.5 billion, including the $1 billion Kuwait had already pledged. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were offering only $750 million each over five years – some in the form of a deposit Jordan could draw on, some as loans and some as guarantees that would help Jordan obtain loans from international institutions.

Jordan had hoped for $5 billion. But even that wouldn’t have been enough to stabilize the economy without painful reforms.

After receiving this offer, Abdullah told Qatar he would happily accept the $500 million it offered, which was accompanied by a pledge to employ  tens of thousands more Jordanians in Qatar. The Qatari loan will arrive all at once, in cash, which will be extremely useful. In exchange, Jordan agreed to accept a new Qatari ambassador in Amman, after having downgraded relations about 18 months earlier under Saudi and UAE pressure, as part of their boycott of Qatar.

Razzaz, the new prime minister, couldn’t hide his disappointment with the Gulf states. Speaking in Jordan while Abdullah was in Kuwait, he said Jordan was under heavy diplomatic pressure, “but we won’t let anyone extort us.”

The newly appointed Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz (C) meets with member of Union leaders in Amman, on June 7, 2018.
The newly appointed Jordanian Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz (C) meets with member of Union leaders in Amman, on June 7, 2018. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP

The extortion in question relates first of all to Jordan’s refusal to accept Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” as long as Jerusalem, as Trump himself has said, is off the table. Amman also rejects Riyadh’s plan to deprive Jordan of its special status at Jerusalem’s holy sites as stipulated in the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. Finally, Jordan isn’t willing to take part in the Saudi war in Yemen. In the past, it also refused Saudi demands that it either attack Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces or let an Arab coalition attack from Jordan.

It remains to be seen how Saudi Arabia and the UAE will respond to Jordan’s renewed friendship with Qatar. But this isn’t the only front where Jordan faces problems. The agreements Russia is making with Iran, Turkey and Syria about Syria’s future also worry Amman, mainly because of the proximity to the Jordanian border of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces.

Earlier this month, Jordan was supposed to host a conference of senior American, Russian and Jordanian officials to discuss arrangements for supervising the de-escalation zone in southern Syria. Under the earlier agreement that established this zone, Iranian forces are supposed to withdraw to a distance of 25 to 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Jordanian border, with Syrian army troops replacing them.

Israeli-Jordanian interests

But the meeting was canceled, apparently at Jordan’s request. This is mainly because Jordan (like Israel) opposes letting the Syrian army deploy in southern Syria, for fear that pro-Iranian forces will enter the area disguised as Syrian soldiers. Jordan wants guarantees that only Syrian soldiers, and no foreign forces, will control this zone. On this issue Jordan is aligned with Israel.

UN forces overlooking the Israeli-Syrian border, this month
UN forces overlooking the Israeli-Syrian border, this month BAZ RATNER/Reuters

Jerusalem seeks a deeper withdrawal of Iranian forces, to a distance of 50 to 75 kilometers from the Israeli-Syrian border. Both Israel and Jordan are now apparently waiting to see what the other achieves before finalizing its own position.

Russia would like Iranian forces to leave all of Syria – not just because Israel demands it, but to further its own plans. It has even said so publicly. But Iran refuses, as does Hezbollah, whose leader, Hassan Nasrallah, recently declared that Russia can’t force Iran (much less Hezbollah) to withdraw.

>> Syria signals willingness to pull Hezbollah back from border with Israel, report says <<

In a media interview earlier this week, Assad said Iranian and Hezbollah troops would leave Syria only when they decided that the war on terror – that is, against the Syrian rebels – had ended. He said Iran, Hezbollah and Russia were all in Syria legitimately, having arrived at his invitation.

Russia doesn’t accept Assad’s view and is trying to pressure Iran and Hezbollah to at least quit certain areas if they won’t leave entirely. It has sent blunt military signals. For instance, Russian forces entered the Al-Qusayr region and other sites in the Qalamoun Mountains, near the Syrian-Lebanese border, without coordinating with Hezbollah, which controls these areas. Hezbollah harshly denounced the Russian move.

Admittedly, the Russian troops withdrew less than a day later, but the message was clear: If Russia decides that Hezbollah is in its way, it won’t hesitate to take military action against it.

This conflict recalls Russia’s actions during the evacuation of rebel forces from Aleppo: It created facts on the ground without consulting Iran. Only after Iranian and Hezbollah forces refused to let the buses full of evacuees pass did Russia include Iran in the discussions.

Though Jordan and Israel expect Russia to use its leverage against Iran, Moscow has moved delicately so as not to upset Iran. But now Russia may have a new and unexpected source of leverage.

The United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, the new sanctions it has already imposed and the additional ones it may impose,  together with Europe’s hesitant response to these sanctions, will increase Iran’s dependence on China and Russia. But whereas China doesn’t demand anything for its extensive economic ties with Iran, Russia has already proved that it knows how to exact a diplomatic price – sometimes a high one – from countries dependent on it.

Granted, Russia denounced Trump for withdrawing from the nuclear deal. But it isn’t blind to the benefits it might reap from this decision.

Still, just as in the story of Jordan’s relations with Qatar and Saudi Arabia in which Jordan’s economic dependence didn’t produce political capitulation, it would be unrealistic, at least for now, to think Vladimir Putin can just pull a string and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will nod like a puppet.

Saudi-led coalition ‘frees’ Yemen’s Hodeidah airport, begins de-mining operations

June 16, 2018

Image result for Houthi, photos

Forces from the Arab Coalition entered the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Saturday, the coalition-backed Yemeni military said, in the biggest offensive of the coalition’s war against the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Victory for the coalition in their first attempt to capture a strategic part of a well-defended city could put the Houthis in their weakest position since the conflict erupted three years ago.

A defeat would also cut off supply lines to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, and possibly force the movement to negotiate.

“Army forces backed by the resistance and the Arab coalition freed Hodeidah international airport from the grip of the Houthi militia,” the media office of the pro-alliance Yemeni military said on Twitter on Saturday.

Troops have surrounded the main airport compound but have not seized it, a Yemeni military source and residents said.

“We need some time to make sure there are no gunmen, mines or explosive in the building,” the military source said. The military’s media office said technical teams were de-mining the surrounding area.

Fighting in the airport area led to the closure of the northern entrance of Hodeidah, which leads to Sanaa, residents said.

That has blocked a key exit out of the city and made it more difficult to transport goods from the port, the country’s largest, to mountainous regions.

UN envoy lands in Hodeidah

The UN envoy for Yemen arrived in the militia-held capital Sanaa for talks on the key aid port.

Martin Griffiths is expected to propose to militia leaders that they cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee to avoid further fighting with advancing government troops which are backed by the Arab coalition.

Seized entrance

Yemeni forces backed by Arab states seized the entrance to the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Friday, in an offensive against the Houthi militia.


The swift advance was an important early success for the Yemeni forces, which launched the operation in Hodeidah four days ago and says it can liberate the city quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions facing starvation.

“We saw the resistance forces in the square at the northwestern entrance to the airport,” said a Hodeidah resident, referring to Yemeni allies of the coalition. Two Yemeni military officials allied to the coalition confirmed it.

Yemeni forces tweeted that they had also seized the airport’s southern entrance, advancing down a main road toward the seaport.

Residents in the city, controlled by the Houthis, said battles had been fought in the Manzar neighborhood, which abuts the wall surrounding the airport.

“There have been terrifying bombing runs since the morning when they struck Houthi positions near the airport,” said fish vendor Ammar Ahmed.

Apache attack helicopters hovered over Manzar, firing at Houthi snipers and fighters in schools and other buildings, said another Hodeidah resident, who asked not to be identified.

Houthi militia had entered homes overlooking the main road to go onto the roofs. Dozens of Manzar residents fled to the city center on motorcycles, the resident said.

Streets elsewhere in the city were empty despite the Eid holiday.

“We are at the edges of the airport and are working to secure it now,” the Arab coalition said in a statement.

“Operational priority is to avoid civilian casualties, maintain the flow of humanitarian aid, and allow for the UN to press the Houthis to evacuate the city.”

“I urge all parties to the conflict to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and take active steps to respect international humanitarian law,” said David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Programme.

Liberating Hodeidah would give the Arab coalition the upper hand in the war, which it has fought since 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But a successful operation would require swiftly liberating a city of 600,000 people, without inflicting damage that would destroy the port.


French special forces on the ground in Yemen

June 16, 2018

French special forces are present on the ground in Yemen with forces from the United Arab Emirates, French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Saturday, citing two military sources.

The newspaper gave no further information about their activities. The Defence Ministry was not immediately available for comment, but its usual policy is not to comment on special forces’ operations.

A French parliamentary source recently told Reuters French special forces were in Yemen.

Forces from an Arab alliance entered the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Saturday, in the biggest battle of the coalition’s war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

Image result for France, special forces, photos
File Photo

The French Defence Ministry said on Friday that France was studying the possibility of carrying out a mine-sweeping operation to provide access to the port of Hodeidah once the coalition had wrapped up its military operations.

The ministry stressed that France at this stage had no military operations in the Hodeidah region and was not part of the Saudi-led coalition.

France, along with the United States and Britain, backs the Arab coalition in the Yemen conflict and provides weapons to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas and John Irish; Editing by Adrian Croft



Saudi-led coalition claim control of airport in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah

June 16, 2018

Forces from an Arab alliance have seized control of the airport in Yemen’s vital port city of Hodeidah, the media office of the Yemeni military allied with the Saudi-led coalition said Saturday.

© AFPTV / AFP | Image grab taken AFPTV shows Yemeni pro-government forces firing a heavy machine gun at the south of Hodeida airport on June 15, 2018.

“Army forces backed by the resistance and the Arab alliance freed Hodeidah international airport from the grip of the Houthi militia,” the media office said on Twitter on Saturday.

It said technical teams were now de-mining the area.

The Saudi-Emirati coalition began an offensive to capture Hodeidah from the control of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi militia on Wednesday amid mounting international concerns over the humanitarian situation in the world’s poorest Arab nation.

Yemeni officials said dozens of pro-government fighters have been killed since the assault began, mainly from land mines and roadside bombs disguised as rocks or sacks of wheat. On the rebel side, bodies of Houthi fighters were strewn across the front lines.

‘Mouth of Yemen’

Aid workers have warned the assault on Hodieda’s port, known as the “mouth of Yemen,” could shut down the vital route for some 70 percent of Yemen’s food and humanitarian aid. Two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.



Why can’t we save her life?

Hospitals, doctors, and nurses are

The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and missiles from Iran. The rebels have been raining ballistic missiles down on Saudi cities from across the border. The port is also a lucrative source of revenue for the Houthis, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014.

The United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that the battle over Hodeida is essential to break a stalemate in the civil war, which otherwise could drag on for years.

Seizing the port “means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun,” he said in a post on Twitter. “If they keep Hodeida and its revenues and its strategic location, the war will last a long time and (add to) the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

د. أنور قرقاش


Depriving the Houthis of their control of Hodeida port, at the Yemeni government’s request, means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun.

Hodeida, home to nearly 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, which is under Houthi control.

Red Cross warnings

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed an air, sea, and land embargo on Yemen since March 2015, aiming to dislodge the Houthis from the territory they control, paralysing trade and access to the country. The coalition air campaign and Houthi bombardment have left more than 10,000 people dead and 2 million displaced, and devastated the country’s already fragile infrastructure, including the health sector, which has helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

In a series of tweets, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the people in Hodeida were “bracing for the worst,” and tens of thousands were expected to flee in the coming days, some for a second time.

“People live in slums in the outskirts surviving on bread crumbs they find in the garbage. With the little money they do have, they buy cooking oil in plastic bags – just enough to cook one meal a day,” the group said, citing the accounts of staffers.

France contemplates demining effort

Meanwhile, the US, which has backed the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, logistical support and aerial refueling of fighter jets, has not publicly opposed the assault but has urged the coalition to ensure that humanitarian aid deliveries to the port continue.

Washington however rejected three requests by the UAE to increase its support to the coalition with logistics, intelligence, and mine-sweeping operations.

Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US has continued to provide aerial refueling for coalition aircraft and intelligence assistance. That aid includes information on key civilian sites that should not be targeted in order to avoid civilian casualties.

“We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeida,” Rankine-Galloway said. “The United States does not command, accompany or participate in counter-Houthi operations or any hostilities other than those authorized” against al Qaida and Islamic State (IS) group militants in Yemen.

The request for mine sweepers was diverted to France, which said it was considering minesweeping in Hodeida after the end of military operations there.

“Its purpose would be to facilitate the safe transport of humanitarian aid to the city’s population,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The rebels have planted thousands of land mines and roadside bombs on the outskirts of the airport that have killed dozens of coalition-backed fighters, Yemeni officials said.

“Nearly 95 percent of the causalities are because of land mines and roadside bombs,” said a medical official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press.  He shared pictures of land mines and roadside bombs that were disguised as rocks and sacks of wheat.

The Conflict Armament Research Center said earlier that the bombs are similar to those used by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and by insurgents in Iraq and Bahrain.

Human Rights Watch urged the UN Security Council on Friday to warn the warring parties that they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid.

In the face of international concerns over the humanitarian situation, the UAE said on Friday that it would begin sending aid by air and sea to Hodeida, the state-run WAM news agency said. At least 10 UAE ships carrying 13,500 tons of food and aid, as well as three flights, were planned for Hodeida, it said.

Jordan Government Experiences Pressure From The Street

June 6, 2018

The recent crisis in Jordan, sparked by protests over IMF-backed austerity measures, may be economic. But there’s also a diplomatic twist, with Gulf rivalries and US foreign policy maneuvers, adding fuel to the fire.

Protests have erupted in Amman and other Jordanian cities in recent days over rising prices and IMF-backed austerity measures including a new tax bill aimed at reducing the country’s chronic deficits. The crisis has already seen the replacement of the country’s prime minister and a call by Jordan’s King Abdullah for a review of the controversial draft tax law.

© Yousef Allan, Jordanian royal palace, AFP (archives) | Jordan’s King Abdullah succeeded his father Hussein in 1999.

For several decades, the resource-poor economy of the tiny Arab kingdom has relied heavily on international aid and the kindness of its traditional allies. These include the US — which provides primarily military and security assistance — and funds from the Gulf monarchies, mainly oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

The assistance is critical, especially since Jordan is home to more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees, according to the UN. Local authorities however put the figure at more than a million. Home also to an older influx of Palestinian refugees, Jordan today is struggling to cope, with the official unemployment rate rising above 18 percent while growth has remained stagnant amid regional turmoil.

While the Sunni Gulf monarchies have been a traditional source of economic assistance to Jordan — considered one of the only havens of stability in the region – relations have turned soured in recent years over geopolitical issues. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait and Oman — has not yet renewed its assistance programme to Jordan, worth $3.6 billion, which expired in 2017.

“The various successive [Jordanian] governments in recent years and the endemic corruption [both] share responsibility for the current economic crisis. But Jordan, which depends on international aid, was dumped by its allies,” said Hassan Barari, professor of political science at the Amman-based University of Jordan, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “The kingdom is paying the price for its regional diplomatic positions, which are opposed to those in [the Saudi capital] Riyadh. In return, the Saudis are trying to put pressure on Amman by suspending their aid.”

Paying the price for Yemen, Muslim Brotherhood positions

It’s an opinion shared by Antoine Basbous, director of the Paris-based Observatoire des Pays Arabes. “The Gulf countries, which financially supported Jordan, have abandoned it to its fate because they are quite unhappy that Amman did not align with their [foreign policy] positions.”

The war in Yemen, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian crisis and the status of Jerusalem are some of the many disagreements between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. “By refusing to fully engage the Jordanian army in the Yemeni conflict, the [Jordanian] king has upset Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Barari, referring to the powerful Saudi crown prince who is widely known by his initials, MBS. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since MBS took over all the levers of power in the world’s largest oil-producing nation, according to Barari.

Jordan, however, has supported the GCC on the Qatar crisis and reduced its diplomatic representation in Doha, without cutting ties with Doha. But it has refused to classify the Muslim Brotherhood – reviled and viewed as a threat by the House of Saud — as a terrorist organisation.

While Jordan’s Hashemite royal family has sometimes had thorny relations with the Islamist group — which was founded in Egypt in the 1920s — Jordan remains one of the few cases where an Arab government and Islamist movement have pursued a non-confrontational political strategy over an extended period. Members of the political arm of the Islamist opposition movement currently hold seats in the Jordanian parliament as well as in a few municipalities.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is part of the Jordanian political landscape, Amman cannot go against its interests to please Saudi Arabia or Egypt,” explained Barari.

US-Saudi-Israeli nexus edges out Jordan

Jordan has also strongly criticised the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there, a move which Amman believes jeopardises the two-state solution for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. On the other hand, Saudi authorities, who have been enjoying a honeymoon of sorts with the Trump administration, merely expressed regret over the US position.

“Donald Trump boasts of being able to impose a miracle solution to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of Saudi Arabia and the Jewish state, to which it has drawn closer,” explained Barari.

With its nearly 150-kilometer border with the West Bank and a 300-kilometer frontier with Israel, Jordan views the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a critical geostrategic issue. Jerusalem is a particularly vital issue for Jordan’s Hashemite royal family, which manages the Muslim holy sites in the city. Jordan also supports the Palestinian right of return, which is recognised by the international community, but ignored by the Israelis. The issue is particularly important in a country where nearly 65 percent of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin.

“Some people wonder if the era of the Hashemite monarchy is not coming to an end – which will actually benefit the Palestinians in Jordan, to enable them to install a Palestinian state there,” explained Basbous. “It’s premature now, but on a scale of 10 years, it’s plausible.”

Once an essential, Western-allied negotiation partner in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jordan is now marginalised, belonging neither to the Iran-Syria-Russia axis, nor to the one emerging between Saudi Arabia, Israel and the US.

“The top priority, from Mohammed bin Salman’s point of view, remains the Iranian threat, while for Jordan, which was nevertheless one of the first countries to warn against the expansionism of the Iranians, the existential threat comes from its Israeli neighbor,” explains Barari. “The Saudi crown prince wants the Arab world to submit to his own geopolitical agenda, even if it threatens Jordan’s stability.”

It remains to be seen whether Jordan will be able to withstand such regional and international pressure for a long time. With the economy caught between rampant corruption and strict IMF demands on the one hand, and on the other, the fallout of the Syrian conflict — including the refugee burden and an increasing bill to secure the country’s border with Syria — Jordan is trapped between a rock and a very hard place indeed.

(This is an adapt of the original piece, which appeared in French)



Qatar says ‘stronger’ despite year-long Gulf dispute

June 5, 2018

On the first anniversary of a bitter Gulf diplomatic rift, Qatar’s foreign minister on Tuesday declared his country stronger than ever and said it was open to dialogue with its regional rivals.

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani also rebuked Qatar’s foes for “imaginary victories” against the small Gulf state, the target of a Saudi-led boycott.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

FILE PHOTO: Buildings are seen from across the water in Doha, Qatar June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

“One year on and Qatar and its people are stronger,” Al-Thani, one of the most prominent voices in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis for years, wrote on Twitter.

“(There’s) a lot of talk about imaginary victories and isolating Qatar, but after one year, the reality proved the opposite as Qatar emerged as an international partner that can be trusted.”

On June 5, 2017, an alliance of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran.

Qatar soon found its only land border closed by Saudi Arabia, its state-owned airline barred from using neighbours’ airspace, and residents expelled from the quartet’s countries.

Despite hopes that the rancorous rift between the former allies — which include some of the richest countries on earth — would be resolved quickly, the crisis has endured.

Qatar claims the dispute is an attack on its sovereignty and punishment for pursuing an independent foreign policy.

Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and the United States have so far stalled.

Al-Thani said the “door is still open for dialogue” between the Gulf rivals.

However, he also told Qatar state-funded broadcaster Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Doha would continue with its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defence missile system.

Saudi leaders have asked French President Emmanuel Macron intervene to prevent the deal going ahead, raising fears of military action in the dispute.

– ‘Smear campaign’ –

Despite the impact of the crisis, many in Qatar view the past year’s events as a victory for Doha.

Qatari papers were jubilant on Tuesday, with headlines such as “Triumphant Qatar stays United” and “Qatar shines as smear campaign against it fails”.

Taxi companies offered free rides to customers to mark the anniversary and some in Qatar have even called for June 5 to be made a national holiday.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) released a report on the eve of the anniversary claiming more than 4,000 human rights abuses had been committed against Qataris by the Saudi-led alliance over the past year.

Qataris have been exposed to arbitrary arrest and routinely denied freedom of movement, according to the report by the government-appointed body detailing alleged abuses including one case of forced disappearance.

“From the beginning, all the blockading countries have tried to use the people to achieve their political goals,” NHRC chairman Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Saudi-led bloc.

In August, Saudi Arabia will welcome millions of Muslim faithful for the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.

The Saudi government on Tuesday confirmed Qataris wishing to undertake the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca were welcome, but accused the Qatari authorities of a “negative attitude”.

The umrah is a lesser pilgrimage that takes place outside of hajj.

Since the start of the crisis, Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of politicising religious pilgrimages to Mecca, including the annual hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars, which every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey is obliged to undertake at least once.

by David HARDING

Qatar Bans Goods From UAE Year After Boycott By Gulf Nation

May 28, 2018

Imports into Qatar plunged about 40 percent from a year earlier in the initial weeks of the boycott

Payback Time? Qatar Bans Goods From UAE Year After Boycott By Gulf Nation

Four countries cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar last June

DUBAI:  Qatar said it was banning products originating from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain, almost a year after those states imposed an embargo on Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

“Products originating from the blockading states, which as a result of the blockade cannot pass the Gulf Cooperation Council Customs Territory, have to undergo proper import inspections and customs procedures,” a government statement said late on Saturday.

“To protect the safety of consumers in the State of Qatar and to combat improper trafficking of goods, the government issued a directive to find new suppliers of the variety of goods impacted.”

The national Al Watan newspaper quoted a circular from the Ministry of Economy and Commerce telling traders and shops to stop dealing in products imported from the four countries. It said inspectors would monitor compliance with the policy.

The four states cut diplomatic and transport ties last June. Qatar, which had many of its imports trans-shipped from the UAE and received the bulk of its fresh food across the Saudi border, denied the accusations against it.

Imports into Qatar plunged about 40 percent from a year earlier in the initial weeks of the boycott, but they have since mostly returned to normal as Doha has found new sources of products in countries such as Turkey, and developed new shipping routes through places such as Oman. Qatar has also launched a drive to produce more things locally, including foods.

Since last June, some foods and other products from the embargo states have continued to find their way into Qatar through third countries.

A spokesman for Qatar’s government declined to give details but said any imports coming to the country must go through proper import inspections.

He was not immediately able to give the value of the goods affected by the new measures, and whether the ban would cover all products trans-shipped through the embargo states in addition to goods produced there.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told Alsharq Alawsat newspaper on Sunday he saw no resolution to the diplomatic row in sight.


Bahrain Sees ‘No Glimmer of Hope’ for Ending Qatar Crisis Soon

May 27, 2018

Bahrain sees no resolution in sight to a diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighbors, which cut diplomatic and trade ties with the tiny Gulf Arab state nearly a year ago.

“The information in our hands today does not indicate any glimmer of hope for a solution now, as the matter does not happen suddenly,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa told Alsharq Alawsat newspaper on Sunday.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

FILE PHOTO: Buildings are seen from across the water in Doha, Qatar June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt severed travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, alleging it was backing Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies this and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty and rein in its support for reform.

After initially disrupting Qatar’s imports and triggering the withdrawal of billions of dollars from its banks by depositors from the four states, the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas quickly developed new trade routes and deployed tens of billions of dollars from its sovereign wealth fund to protect its domestic lenders.

The dispute has evaded mediation attempts by Kuwait and Washington, which has strong alliances with both sides and fears the split among Sunni Muslim U.S. allies could benefit Iran in a decades-old tussle for influence in the Middle East.

Bahrain’s foreign minister said Qatar was prolonging the crisis by taking its case to Western allies, instead of dealing with it inside the Gulf Arab bloc.

“We were expecting from the beginning of the crisis with Qatar that the emir of Qatar would go to Saudi (Arabia) but this did not happen,” he told the pan-Arab newspaper.

Saudi and UAE officials have said that Doha has yet to meet 13 demands made by the four states, including closing the state-funded Al Jazeera television station and reducing ties to Iran.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said last week on Twitter that Qatar had not dealt wisely with those demands: “Perhaps the passing of a year of the boycott will produce a new thought and a wiser approach from Doha”.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Alexander Smith)


Trump fundraiser expands U.S. lawsuit accusing Qatar of hacking his emails

May 25, 2018

A fundraiser for U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday added several defendants to a lawsuit claiming the Persian Gulf state of Qatar hacked his email accounts and shared the contents with news organizations.

Elliott Broidy, whose access to Trump has been the subject of press coverage in the United States in recent months, sued Qatar in federal court in Los Angeles in March.

Image result for Elliott Broidy, photos

Elliott Broidy and Donald Trump

On Thursday, he filed an amended complaint adding as defendants the brother of the Qatari ruler and Ahmed al-Rumaihi, a former head of investments at the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. In the complaint, Broidy said he was targeted over his vocal opposition to Qatar as part of efforts orchestrated by Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and al-Rumaihi to shift U.S. policy toward the Gulf nation.

Khalifa Al Thani could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Sports Trinity, a company in which al-Rumaihi is a principal, called the allegations by Broidy meritless, noting that al-Rumaihi was not an employee of the Qatar government during the time covered in the lawsuit.

“The complaint promotes false and misleading descriptions of Mr. Al-Rumaihi,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The United Arab Emirates, a regional rival of Qatar, has contracts with Broidy’s private security businesses worth more than $200 million, Broidy disclosed in his lawsuit.

Last year, Broidy sought to set up an informal meeting between Trump and senior UAE official Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Reuters has reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Image result for Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, photos

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

In his lawsuit, Broidy said Qatar has sought to use the hacked emails to generate negative press coverage and stop him from speaking out against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of backing their arch-rival Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the charges and says the boycott is an attempt to impinge on its sovereignty and rein in its support for reform.

Broidy’s lawsuit faces an uphill battle because Qatar has sovereign immunity and some of the people involved also may claim immunity, legal experts have said.

Jassim Al-Thani, a spokesman at Qatar’s embassy in Washington, said on Thursday the lawsuit was an attempt by Broidy to divert attention from media scrutiny of his activities.

“The facts show it was Mr. Broidy who conspired in the shadows against Qatar – not the other way around,” al-Thani said in an email.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for Sport Trinity, a company owned by former Qatari official al-Rumaihi, confirmed that Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen requested a $1 million fee from Qatar to advise Qatar on investments in U.S. infrastructure.

Cohen, who is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for his business dealings, also has represented Broidy, for whom he arranged a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy model to keep secret a relationship, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.

In Broidy’s amended complaint, he also accuses a New York-based former CIA agent, Kevin Chalker, and a former British intelligence operative, David Mark Powell, of helping to coordinate the hacks of his and his wife’s emails.

Chalker, the founder of Global Risk Advisors, and Powell, who runs the company’s Qatar operations, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Nathan Layne; Editing by Anthony Lin and Grant McCool