Category Archives: Middle East News

Middle East News

Saudi Arabia, Egypt Lead Arab States Cutting Ties With Qatar

A  number of Arab nations cut ties with Qatar.  The move escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and accusations it backs the agenda of Iran.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Maldives severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism and opening up the worst rift in years among some of the most powerful states in the Arab world.

Iran — long at odds with Saudi Arabia and a behind-the-scenes target of the move — immediately blamed President Donald Trump for setting the stage during his recent trip to Riyadh.

Gulf Arab states and Egypt have long resented Qatar’s support for Islamists, especially the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a dangerous political enemy.

The coordinated move, with the Maldives and Libya’s eastern-based government joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC.

Announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the three Gulf states gave Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave. Qatar was also expelled from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing militant groups — some backed by regional archrival Iran — and broadcasting their ideology, an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel al Jazeera.

“(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly,” Saudi state news agency SPA said.

It accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed militants in its restive and largely Shi’ite Muslim-populated eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain…

Iran saw America pulling the strings.

“What is happening is the preliminary result of the sword dance,” Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted in a reference to Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. CNBC

Jordan also downgrades ties with Qatar

Jordan will downgrade its diplomatic representation with Qatar, it said on Tuesday, standing with several Arab powers that have cut ties with the tiny Gulf state.

The decision was made after Amman examined the “cause of the crisis” between Doha and the other Arab states, government spokesman Mohammed al Momani said.

He added that Jordan also revoked the TV license for Al Jazeera, Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel. Haaretz

Struggle For Regional Dominance

The decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to punish the Gulf Cooperation Council member over its support for Islamist groups — as well as their key rival, Iran — pits some of the world’s richest nations in a struggle for regional dominance. Qatar’s population is smaller than Houston’s, but it has a sovereign wealth fund with stakes in global companies from Barclays Plc to Credit Suisse Group. It’s also a home to the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s central command in the region. Bloomsberg

FLASHBACK: Obama Sent Taliban Terrorists To Qatar

In May of 2014, then President Barack Obama released five Islamic terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility into Qatar’s custody in exchange for the Taliban’s return of Bowe Bergdahl; the Taliban partly operates its international diplomatic operations via representatives in Qatar…

The New York Post reported that the five Islamic terrorists released to Qatar – dubbed “The Taliban 5” – received a “hero’s welcome” upon arrival in the Islamic Gulf State. DailyWire

Who Were The Ancient Egyptians? Mummy DNA Reveals Ancestry Of Ancient Egypitians

Ancient northern Africans had different genetic roots from people south of the Sahara desert revealed a study by scientists at the Max Planck Institute.

The scientists obtained information about variations in mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from mother to child, from 90 mummies. Because of contamination, the team was able to acquire detailed nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents, from only three mummies.

Both types of genomic material showed that ancient Egyptians shared little DNA with modern sub-Saharan Africans. Instead, their closest relatives were people living during the Neolithic and Bronze ages in an area known as the Levant. Strikingly, the mummies were more closely related to ancient Europeans and Anatolians than to modern Egyptians. Nature

Researchers used modern genetic analysis techniques to study the genomes of 93 mummies that lived between 1300 BC — the late New Kingdom Period — and around 30 BC during the time of the Romans…

“One of the questions that motivated us for our study is trying to find out when Egypt was conquered by the Greeks or Alexander the Great or by the Nubians or by the Romans, and did that actually have an impact on the population?” said archaeogeneticist Professor Johannes Krause, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

It’s a question that is difficult to answer using artefacts and historical records, so Professor Krause and his colleagues decided to look in preserved genetic material.

They took samples of biological material from the bones and teeth of the mummies, and extracted the DNA using sequencing techniques that also allow them to verify the genetic material was indeed ancient, and not the result of modern contamination…

Their results were the opposite of what they were expecting to find, Professor Krause said. “They have these closest genetic links to the fertile crescent and the eastern populations of what’s now Israel.”

And yet, at some point in the past 1,500 years, there has been a major addition of sub-Saharan genetic material – largely West-African Yoruba – into Egypt’s population … There is evidence of an active slave trade that reached its peak in the 19th century, and which was responsible for the transportation of millions of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa to Northern Africa and Egypt. ABC.au

Fertile Crescent

Jerusalem Dig Sheds Light On 2,000-Year-Old Eating Habits

Ancient Jerusalemites from the Second Temple period were kosher and dined primarily on sheep and goat, while cows and chickens came in a distant second and third, Tel Aviv University researchers reported in the most comprehensive study of its kind.

The ancient City of David landfill. (photo credit:ASSAF PEREZ, COURTESY OF IAA)

Gadot, a senior lecturer at the university’s department of archeology said on Sunday that the protracted dig took place some 800 meters from the Temple Mount.

“We began digging three years ago in a [ancient] landfill devoted to garbage disposal during the Roman occupation,” he said by phone. “One of the main components found there was food waste, including over 12,000 animal bones, of which we identified 5,000.”

An exhaustive analysis of the bones determined that Jerusalem’s ancient inhabitants strictly adhered to kosher dietary laws and primarily consumed sheep and goat meat.

“We found no pork bones or shellfish whatsoever and that 70 to 80% of the bones were from sheep and goat, with a little cow and chicken bones,” Gadot said.

“What was surprising was that there were no pigeon bones, because we know that they were [breeding] pigeons and that it was quite a big industry,” he said. “In the other landfills closer to the Temple Mount, past researchers found a lot of pigeon bones, and now we understand that they were not bred for food, but rather for cultic activities on the Temple Mount.”

Gadot added that a substantial amount of vegetable and fruit remnants, including figs and dates, were also found in the City of David landfill, although the researchers focused primarily on animal refuse.

“They were definitely eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, wheats and barleys, which we will study in future research,” he said.

Gadot said the cuts of meat from the animals indicates that the inhabitants of the ancient city were decidedly middle class.

“The better parts of the animals were not consumed, which shows us that they were not very rich and not very poor,” he said. “When you go to a restaurant, you see the good cuts of the animal, and we didn’t see that here.”

According to Gadot, the livestock, which were raised in herds nearby, were slaughtered at a facility in the capital.

“You can see by the marks on the bones how they were slaughtered,” he said. “We already had a basic idea of the diet then, but when you conduct research at a garbage dump, you see everything, so this is the most comprehensive study of its kind.”

Apart from the animal bones, Gadot said numerous antiquities, including coins and broken pottery, were discovered during the dig. JPost

Norway Orders Palestinian Authority To Return Funds: No Aid For The Glorification Of Terrorist Attacks

Good for Norway.

Norway has ordered the Palestinian Authority to return funding provided to the entity for a youth center as part of a joint initiative together with the United Nations and the Women’s Technical Affairs Committee, an NGO in the Palestinian Authority.

Norway didn’t realize when it provided funding for the center that it would be named after Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who in 1978 led a group of operatives who hijacked a bus and slaughtered 37 Israelis, including 12 children, in the attack that became known as the Coastal Road Massacre.

The joint cooperation of the Norwegian government with the Palestinian Authority in supporting the Dalal Mughrabi Center is clear in a sign on the building, as shown in news coverage by the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news site, and detailed coverage by the Palestinian Media Watch

The purpose of the center is to “focus especially on the history of the struggle of Martyr Dalal Mughrabi and on presenting it to the youth groups,” according to Ma’an.

Brende said in a statement, “‘The glorification of terrorist attacks is completely unacceptable, and I deplore this decision in the strongest possible terms. Norway will not allow itself to be associated with institutions that take the names of terrorists in this way. We will not accept the use of Norwegian aid funding for such purposes.” JewishPress

Donald Trump Becomes The First Sitting American President To Visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Jerusalem’s Old City was on lockdown as Trump arrived.

Shortly before Donald Trump’s historic visit to Jerusalem’s Old City, the first for a sitting US president, the normally bustling stone alleyways stood deserted and silent, a strange sight for midday on a Monday. From early morning, the only people treading the ancient stones were a few confused tourists, bored shop owners, and hundreds of Israeli police and army forces.

More than 10,000 police officers are taking part in the two-day operation to secure places that Trump will visit, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall in the Old City, according to Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld….

In addition to the security measures that shut down most of the Old City, the Arab-Israeli Higher Follow-Up Committee called a general commercial in the West Bank and Israel for Monday, encouraging the shuttering of all Israeli Arab and Palestinian businesses in solidarity with prisoners hunger striking in Israeli jails.

Even stores in areas that were open to pedestrians, such as the Arab market leading to Damascus Gate, had their gates drawn close and locked, due to the strike and lack of foot traffic. A few tourists filed through the dead streets, their footsteps echoing in the quiet.

TimesOfIsrael

Video: President Trump visits the Western Wall

President Trump Delivers Powerful Speech To Arab Leaders

Great speech and an important message!

Before President Trump delivered his first big international speech, an address in Saudi Arabia to dozens of Arab leaders, reports swirled that he would not utter the words “radical Islamic terror.”

Of course he said the words — repeatedly — and much more. He lectured the Saudis on human rights, including the nation’s long repression of women. And most of all, he laid out — in simple black and white terms — the real battle that is has been raging for two decades.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations,” Trump told some 50 Muslim leaders gathered in an ornate conference center in Riyadh. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.”

And Trump said the Muslim world has an obligation — even a moral imperative — to squelch terror emanating from the Muslim faith. “Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith,” Trump said. “That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.”

And Trump appeared to give the Muslim leaders a direct order about the terrorists who declare their Muslim faith demands they kill infidels.

“Drive them out!” Trump said. “Drive them out of your places of worship, drive them out of your communities, drive them out of your Holy Land, and drive them out of this Earth!”

Read full article at DailyWire

Full transcript President Trump’s speech on terrorism in Riyadh (The Washington Post)

Full Video

President Trump Signs $110 Billion Arms Deal With Saudi Arabia

Jobs!

President Trump on Saturday signed a $110 billion arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

The arms transaction is intended to bolster national security in Saudi Arabia as well as the country’s ability to combat terrorism. The White House says the agreement will provide fighter jets, tanks, radar, combat ships and anti-missile defense systems to Saudi Arabia and will create defense-related jobs in the U.S.

The defense cooperation agreements signed Saturday offer the Saudis $110 billion immediately, and ultimately worth $350 billion over the next decade. WashingtonExaminer

The agreement will provide fighter jets, tanks, combat ships and anti-missile defense systems and create defense-sector jobs in the U.S., according to the White House. The deal includes additional private-sector agreements and a joint vision statement with Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers.

“That was a tremendous day,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “Tremendous investments in the United States.”

“Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.” he continued.

The agreement signals a strengthening relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and distances the U.S. from Iran, Saudi Arabia’s adversary. KtVA

UN Official Condemns Israeli for Defending Himself

Mob vs 1 man trapped in his car.  The UN official implies the mob was the victim not the man that could have been killed by them.

A resident of Samaria who was attacked by an Arab lynch mob on his way home from grocery shopping was forced to open fire to defend himself Thursday, killing one of his attackers and wounding another.

The man, a social worker and father of eight from the town of Itamar in Samaria, was on his way home from the Rami Levy supermarket in Shaar Binyamin, when he found himself under attack by an angry mob of some 200 Arabs. INN

On Friday, the IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Internal Security) arrested the driver who used his ambulance to cut off the escape of a Jew being attacked by an angry mob of Arabs in Huwara. The Jew was forced to exit his car and open fire, killing one attacker and injuring an Associated Press reporter.

Arabs were rioting in Huwara near Nablus (Shechem) for three days. On Thursday, a Jew travelling in a car on Route 60, a major thoroughfare that passes through Huwara, was surrounded by a mob of about 200 Arabs. A Red Crescent Ambulance drove in front of his car, preventing the Jewish motorist from escaping. Approximately 20 Arabs attacked the car, smashing the front and rear windshields and causing serious damage to the vehicle. The driver exited his car and shot one attacker, killing him, and wounding a reporter who was in the crowd.

Overnight Thursday, Israeli security forces arrested at least two of the suspected attackers and impounded a bus believed to have transported rioters to the scene.The ambulance used to aid the attack was also impounded. BreakingNewsIsrael

Nickolay  Mladenov, the United Nations Special
Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.  

Turkey Slams U.S. Plan To Arm Syrian Kurdish Fighters, Demands Decision Reversed

The Kurds have proven to be the most effective force in fighting ISIS.

President Trump has approved a plan to arm Syrian Kurds so they can participate in the battle to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State, a strategy that has drawn deep opposition from Turkey, a NATO ally.

American military commanders have long argued that arming the Y.P.G., a Kurdish militia fighting alongside Syrian Arab forces against the Islamic State, is the fastest way to seize Raqqa, the capital of the militants’ self-proclaimed caliphate. NYTimes

The United States must support its NATO ally Turkey and reverse its decision to arm Syrian Kurds in the battle against the Islamic State, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday. USA Today

Turkey slammed the Trump administration’s decision to supply Syrian Kurdish fighters with weapons against the Islamic State group and demanded Wednesday that it be reversed, heightening tensions between the NATO allies days before the Turkish leader heads to Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the fight against terrorism “should not be led with another terror organization” — a reference to the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, which Turkey considers an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast. “We want to know that our allies will side with us and not with terror organizations,” he said.

Turkey, which has sent troops to northern Syrian in an effort to curtail Kurdish expansion along its borders, has for months tried to lobby Washington to cut off ties with the Kurds and work instead with Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the fight for Raqqa.

But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, of SDF, which has driven IS from much of northern Syria over the past two years with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes, are among the most effective ground forces battling the extremists. In announcing the decision on Tuesday to arm the Kurds, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, Dana W. White, called the militia “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

On Wednesday, the SDF said it captured the country’s largest dam from the Islamic State group. The fighters, which are Kurdish-led but also include some Arab fighters, said they expelled the extremists from the Tabqa Dam and a nearby town, also called Tabqa.

It was the latest IS stronghold to fall to the Kurdish-led fighters as they advance toward Raqqa — the seat of the militants’ so-called caliphate along the Euphrates River. The fall of Tabqa leaves no other major urban settlements on the road to Raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. NYDailyNews

Iran’s Potential Role In Enforcing Zones Along Israeli Border Raises Concerns

Russia, Turkey and Iran are to map out the specific zones by June 4th.

Netanyahu:  “With the framework of these arrangements, and also without them, there is an Iranian effort to become firmly established on a permanent basis in Syria, either through the presence of ground forces, or naval forces,” Netanyahu said. He also said the Syrians are involved in a “gradual attempt to open up a front against us on the Golan Heights.” JPost

Iran’s potential role in enforcing a security zone in southern Syria has raised concerns for Israel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said Tuesday.

Under the terms of an agreement signed last week in Astana, Turkey, several large areas of western and southern Syria would become protected areas where the use of weapons, including airstrikes, would be prohibited. Russia, Iran and Turkey would be empowered to “take all necessary measures” to enforce the peace in these zones, including attacks inside those areas against Nusra Front, al-Qaida or ISIS.

One of the zones would be in southern Syria in rebel-held territory along the Israeli-Syrian border by the Golan Heights.

Dunford, who was traveling in Israel this week to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top defense officials, said Israel is concerned about the possibility of having Iranian or Iranian-backed forces, such as Hezbollah, so close to its border….

Israel has supported the rebel presence along its border, providing field hospitals to maintain a buffer between it and the Iranian and Hezbollah-backed Assad regime, said Anthony Cordesman, a senior Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Cordesman said that Israel may endorse security zones to bring stability to Syria, but it’s unlikely to agree to any limits that would keep it from protecting interests in southern Syria or striking shipments.

Cordesman questioned whether the agreement would move forward.  Stars & Stripes

Saudi Arabia Relaxes Rules For Women

“If you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the top.”
-Bill Gates said of Saudi Arabia in 2007 World Economic Forum meeting

“The Saudi government’s denial of basic rights to women is not only wrong, it hurts Saudi Arabia’s economic development, modernization, and prosperity.”
-Barbara Boxer

It’s about the economy. A need for increased female labor participation and being attractive to Western investment.

Saudi Arabia can not remain a strictly oil-driven economy.  Its “Vision 2030” plan seeks to increase Saudi Arabia’s non-oil revenue as it faces growing deficits and depletion of financial assets within five years.

On May 4, the King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a decree concerning opportunities for women in his country.

This decree has two parts. The first part orders government agencies to list services that women can seek from the government without permission from a male guardian (usually a father or husband). Until now women could not obtain government services without the presence and permission of a male guardian. The second part of the decree directs organizations to provide transportation for female employees, in a country in which women are not permitted to drive…

These changes are not drastic liberalizations. However, they could present significant improvement in the lives of many women. It is not clear yet which government services will become available to women now, but there is a hope that this can lead to greater economic and even social autonomy. Some in the country believe that this decree means that women will no longer need a guardian’s consent to obtain a passport, work outside the home and receive medical care. Forbes