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News - MENA News

Amwal Al Ghad - 2014-11-24 09:45:28
The United States plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds to help bolster the battle against Islamic State militants in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress. The plan to spend $24.1 million represents a small fraction of the larger, $1.6 billion spending request to Congress focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish Islamic State, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to assist them. "Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-ISIL tribes reluctant to actively counter ISIL," the document said, using another acronym for the group which has seized control of large parts of Syrian and Iraq and is gaining territory in Anbar despite three months of U.S.-led air strikes. A U.S. official said on Saturday that the document was posted this week. It said all U.S. support was directed "with, by and through" Iraq's government, suggesting any weapons would be supplied through Baghdad, in line with existing policy. It noted Iraqi security forces were not "not particularly welcome in Anbar and other majority Sunni areas," citing their poor combat performance and sectarian divisions. Iraq's army has been burdened by a legacy of sectarianism in Anbar, whose dominant Sunni population resented former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite majority government and were incensed when he ordered troops to clear a protest camp in Ramadi in December 2013. The ensuing Sunni tribal revolt prompted the entrance of Islamic State into Falluja and Ramadi, where U.S. troops had met fierce resistance from Sunni insurgents including al Qaeda during their occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein. The United States, which has deployed a small number of military advisors to Anbar province, hopes the Sunni tribesmen can later form part of a more formal Iraqi National Guard. The Pentagon document also detailed $1.24 billion to be spent on Iraqi forces and $354.8 million on Kurdish troops. "While the trend on the battlefield has been promising in stemming ISIL gains, Iraq lacks the training expertise and equipment to field the forces needed to liberate territory," the document said. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-24 08:42:12
Kurdish forces in northern Iraq are drawing up plans to break Islamic State's siege of Sinjar mountain, where hundreds of minority Yazidis remain stranded months after fleeing their homes. Seeking to regain territory and repair pride in his military forces, Masoud Barzani, president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, is overseeing efforts to retake the mountain, senior party members said. Islamic State attacked the Sinjar area in August, sending thousands of Yazidis fleeing up the mountain, a craggy strip some 40 miles (65 km) long.Hundreds of Yazidis were executed, Iraqi officials and witnesses said, by Islamic State militants who see the adherents of an ancient faith derived from Zoroastrianism as devil-worshippers. A senior U.N. rights official said the onslaught looked like “attempted genocide”. Kurdish peshmerga forces have regained between 65 and 75 percent of the ground lost to Islamic State in the area since the U.S. began a campaign of air strikes in August, said Halgurd Hikmat, spokesman for the Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry. But Sinjar's awkward geography -- out on a limb to the west, has made it difficult to penetrate. "Our priority now is Sinjar," said Hikmat. "A plan will be in place within the coming days." More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-19 09:15:22
Gulf Arab states have shelved a bitter row among themselves, hoping to repair an alliance that has been sorely tested by chaos in the Middle East and the prospect of an Iranian nuclear deal that could tilt the regional balance of power toward their old foe Tehran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain agreed at a meeting on Sunday to return their ambassadors to Qatar, signaling an end to an eight-month dispute over Doha's backing of Islamist militants in Syria and elsewhere and its promotion of Arab Spring revolts. An official photograph showed Qatar's youthful emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, kissing the head of Saudi King Abdullah, who is over 90, in reconciliation at the meeting of Gulf Arab rulers in Riyadh. The king was the driving force behind the closing of ranks, analysts and a diplomat said.Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their envoys in March. They accused Qatar of failing to abide by an agreement not to interfere in one another's internal affairs and not to support the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, seen as a terrorist group by some Gulf Arab states. Qatar denies that charge. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-09 08:56:24
On mountains close to the Syrian border, members of Lebanon's minority Druze sect say they are ready to defend their towns and villages with arms if the civil war next raging door gets much nearer. "Here in the east, the danger has become very close to us, it is right in our faces and in our lives," said Ali Fayik, a regional official speaking in the predominantly Druze town of Rashaya, set in steep mountains with a panorama over the region. The town is in a sensitive area close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and home to various religious communities which fought one another in Lebanon's own 1975-90 civil war. On the other side of the mountain range, Sunni Islamist fighters linked to al Qaeda and hostile to groups including the Druze, are battling Syria's army as well as other insurgents. Fresh battles over the border late last week killed at least 31 members of pro-government forces and around 14 insurgents, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Saturday. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-08 07:43:42
It might seem hard to believe but, according to psychological science, even the most hardened jihadists can be de-radicalized.To understand how it is done involves appreciating how radicalization happens in the first place. The term is defined as holding and acting on radical attitudes that deviate from accepted norms. Attitudes, however, are malleable and susceptible to change. Individuals can be radicalized, de-radicalized and even re-radicalized.It is one thing to observe that de-radicalization can occur, and quite another to understand how it came about. Simply put, de-radicalization depends on three Ns: need, narrative and network.The first step toward de-radicalization involves recognizing the needs of jihadists, which shape their motives, beliefs and reality. Often we only see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe. Valid arguments, however strong, are can be utterly unpersuasive if they run counter to our needs.The second step is to devise a narrative that acknowledges a person’s need for relevance and respect and provides a nonviolent means to address that need. That is why current de-radicalization programs in Muslim countries, or countries with significant Muslim populations, employ much more than theological arguments against violence. Programs in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Iraq address detainees’ need for significance by providing them with vocational education, finding them jobs and, in some cases, even wives. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-08 07:41:56
At the Qalandia checkpoint separating Ramallah from Jerusalem, troops fired rubber bullets as several hundred protesters marched, some throwing rocks and petrol bombs. In East Jerusalem, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters hurling firecrackers and burning tires that sent up huge clouds of black smoke in Shoafat refugee camp. Palestinian and regional anger, still simmering over Israel's war with Gaza's Hamas movement in July and August, has focused in the last two weeks on Jerusalem's holiest site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount. For decades, Israel has maintained a ban on Jews praying at the site, which houses the Dome of the Rock and the 8th-century al-Aqsa mosque and was also the site of ancient Jewish temples. But in recent weeks, protests have gathered momentum against a campaign by far-right Jewish nationalists to be allowed to pray there. Israeli security forces have clashed at the compound with Muslim worshippers angry at what they see as an assault on the shrine, which is administered by Islamic authorities, and last week Israel shut down all access to the site for the first time in more than a decade, after a Palestinian gunman shot an Israeli ultranationalist. Palestinian drivers have rammed into Israeli pedestrians in the city, killing four people. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-03 15:19:38
Islamic State fighters in Syria said on Monday they had taken control of a gas field in the central province of Homs, the second gas field seized in a week after battles with government forces. The hardline Sunni Islamist group posted 18 photos on social media showing the Islamic State flag raised in the Jahar gas field as well as seized vehicles and weaponry, according to the SITE jihadist website monitoring service. Reuters could not independently confirm the events due to security restrictions. Islamic State fighters, who now hold up to a third of Syria as well as swathes of Iraq and have declared a 'Caliphate' on the territories they control, took the larger Sha'ar gas field on Oct. 30. "So after the (Sha'ar) company and the (positions) surrounding it became part of the land of the Caliphate, the soldiers advanced, conquering new areas, and all praise is due to Allah," Islamic State said in the message. "Yesterday they tightened control over Jahar village and the Mahr gas pumping company, and nearly nine (positions) supported by heavy weaponry such as tanks, armoured vehicles, and heavy machine guns of various calibres," it added. The report said Islamic State had seized two tanks, seven four-wheel drive cars and several heavy machine guns. A U.S.-led coalition has conducted air strikes against Islamic State since September. The United States says it is not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces to combat the Islamist group. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-11-03 09:05:40
After forcing concessions from Yemen’s government last month, Shiite Muslim rebels ignored pleas to pull out of the capital, flaunting an ascendancy that has alarmed the country’s Gulf Arab neighbors. The Houthi fighters, with scimitars hanging from their waists, now guard key ministries and the central bank in Sana’a. Outside the capital, they have fought their way into Yemen’s second-largest port on the Red Sea and seized a crossing post on the Saudi border. For Saudi Arabia, it’s the perception of an Iranian hand that makes the advance a threat. The Houthis, who follow a branch of Shiite Islam called Zaidi, have pushed aside a government installed three years ago as part of a peace plan backed by the Saudis and their Sunni allies. Yemen, which shares a 1,100-mile border with the world’s biggest oil exporter, threatens to become another arena for the Saudi-Iranian antagonism that underlies many of the region’s crises. “Gulf states have put a great deal of importance on areas that may be prone to Iranian influence,” James Fallon, senior Middle East analyst at Control Risks in Dubai, said by phone. “Iran has voiced support for the Houthis, though it’s hard to say if Iran has been a primary driver for the group’s rise.” The Houthis, named after the group’s founder Hussein al-Houthi, have said in the past that they face discrimination from Yemen’s central authorities, and accuse Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States of meddling in the country’s internal affairs. Gulf governments and the U.S. use sectarianism to foment conflict in the region, according to Abdulmalik al-Ejri, a Houthi official. Sunni University The group targeted a Saudi-backed Salafi school in Damaj in north Yemen last year, forcing it to close after a bloody gunfight, and it took control of the conservative Sunni Muslim al-Eman University in Sana’a after moving into the capital. “We aren’t a tool in the hands of Iran,” Hasan al-Saadi, a senior Houthi leader, said in phone interview on Oct. 17. “We respect Iranian resistance and the movement of Ayatollah Khomeini, but we don’t follow their religious thought.” The rebels fought a six-year war with the central government from 2004, and the conflict spread briefly into Saudi Arabia five years ago when the Houthis seized territory across the border. More than 100 Saudi soldiers were killed while driving them out. After the latest Houthi gains, Saudi authorities boosted security and warned that any breach would be met with force. Saudi Concern “What is happening in Yemen should worry Saudi Arabia,” Faris al-Saqqaf, an adviser to the Gulf-backed President Abdurabu Mansur Hadi, said in a phone interview on Oct. 17. “Iranian ambition will not stop at Yemen.” Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council are alert to what they see as Iranian influence on the Arabian peninsula. They blamed Iran for the unrest among Shiites in Bahrain in 2011. A Saudi-led GCC force helped the ruling Al Khalifa family suppress those protests in a violent crackdown. Iran is interfering “most recently and dramatically” in Yemen with its “inherently sectarian” policies, Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Oct. 19. A week earlier, his Saudi counterpart Saud al-Faisal said that Iran should “withdraw its forces fighting in Syria, Yemen and Iraq” to ease regional tensions, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. ‘Iranian Support’ “It’s reasonable to assume that there’s definitely some level of Iranian support and influence and guidance” for the Houthis, said Danya Greenfield, a Yemen specialist at the Atlantic Council in Washington. Meanwhile the Saudis, as well as conventional diplomacy, are sending money and collaborating with tribal leaders to counter the Houthis, she said. Saudi-Iranian rivalry intensified after the Islamic revolution of 1979, which mobilized the masses in a form of street politics that’s anathema to Saudi Arabia’s monarchy. Saudi Arabia backs Sunni rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally. In areas of Yemen controlled by the Houthis, the words “Death to America, Death to Israel” can be seen painted on buildings or cars. It’s a slogan used in Iran and by Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon. ‘Righteous Fight’ Iran has expressed support for the Houthis. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Oct. 18 the rebels are engaged in a “righteous fight.” Velayati said he hoped that the Houthis play the same role in Yemen as Hezbollah does in Lebanon. Al-Saqqaf, the Yemeni presidential adviser, also makes that comparison, as a warning to the Saudis. The Houthis have used the “weakness and division” of the government and army to strengthen its position in Yemen, much as Hezbollah did in Lebanon, he said. After fighting their way into Sana’a in September, the Houthis have become the most powerful group in the capital. They rejected Hadi’s first nominee for prime minister, then welcomed the appointment of Khaled Bahah, previously the country’s UN ambassador, who’s in the process of forming a government. The rebels gave President Hadi a 10-day ultimatum to form the government on Oct. 31, saying they would appoint a council themselves to establish a government. A day later, political groups signed an agreement authorizing president and prime minister to form a so-called competence government, UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. Sectarian Tensions Sectarian tensions have escalated as the Houthis cemented gains. A group of Sunni tribes in central Yemen are now fighting with militants against the Houthis, while an al-Qaeda bomb attack on a gathering of Houthis in Sana’a killed 50 people earlier this month. “If the Houthis’ expansion continues, this will drive the country into an all-out civil war,” Muhssein Khasroof, a retired Yemeni military officer, said by phone. The Houthi advance in recent weeks has been driven by a desire to stabilize the country, not to maximize their own influence, said al-Saadi, the senior leader. “People have lost faith in the government and the army,” he said. “Had we done nothing the country would have collapsed. The weakness of Yemen’s central government had already seen the country used by al-Qaeda as a base for attacks, including some against Saudi targets. Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister, was almost killed by a suicide attack in 2009 that al-Qaeda said was planned in Yemen. The conflict in Yemen was not sectarian in nature to begin with, the Atlantic Council’s Greenfield said. Yet, Saudi and Iranian involvement means that ‘‘local actors will be able to utilize sectarian tensions as a way to mobilize supporters,” she said. “Once it’s out of the bottle how do you put it back?” More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-13 07:36:36
In his speech during the Cairo conference on Gaza aid, Qatari foreign minister Khaled Al-Attiya announced Doha's donation of $1billion for the reconstruction of the destructed Gaza Strip. More»
Amwal Al Ghad English - 2014-10-12 07:57:18
Kurdish forces defending Kobani urged a U.S.-led coalition to escalate air strikes on Islamic State fighters who tightened their grip on the Syrian town at the border with Turkey on Saturday. A group that monitors the Syrian civil war said the Kurdish forces faced inevitable defeat in Kobani if Turkey did not open its border to let through arms, something Ankara has appeared reluctant to do. The U.S.-led coalition escalated air strikes on Islamic State in and around Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, some four days ago. The main Kurdish armed group, the YPG, said in a statement the air strikes had inflicted heavy losses on Islamic State, but had been less effective in the last two days. A Kurdish military official, speaking to Reuters from Kobani, said street fighting was making it harder for the warplanes to target Islamic State positions. "We have a problem, which is the war between houses," said Esmat Al-Sheikh, head of the Kobani defense council. "The air strikes are benefiting us, but Islamic State is bringing tanks and artillery from the east. We didn't see them with tanks, but yesterday we saw T-57 tanks," he added. More»