Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Three UNHCR Employees Kidnapped in West Darfur

The government of the state of West Darfur said that efforts to free employees of the United Nations Refugee Agency are being made. It also promised to announce the fruits of its efforts to release the three UNHCR staff that were kidnapped by an unidentified group whilst returning from a mission outside the town of Geneina.

The government spokesman Abdallah Mustafa Jarelnabi who is also the Minister of Culture and Media told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security authorities are diligently following the case of the kidnapped employees, and promised to announce the efforts that are being made by the authorities and the state’s government to release the abductees.

An unknown group kidnapped the three staff employed by the UNHCR’s offices in Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. The abductees included two foreigners and they were abducted from an area near the UNHCR offices whilst returning from a mission outside Geneina on Sunday afternoon.

In a statement that he made, a spokesman for the state’s government revealed the identities of the abductees and said that two of them were foreign and one of them was Sudanese. He said that they were abducted by an unidentified group after they got out of a car and that the group drove them to a place that remains unknown.

According to Jarelnabi, the government has made the necessary security arrangements to track down and find the kidnappers and set the hostages free as soon as possible. He told the newspaper “We will reveal new information within hours” and indicated that they were close to identifying the kidnappers, based on his government’s experience of dealing with such incidents.

Three UNHCR Employees Kidnapped in West Darfur

Opinion: The ‘New World Dis-Order’

Rumors were rife during the past few days about Moscow’s attempts to influence the outcome of the forthcoming German elections. Marine LePen, the leader of France’s extremist anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ‘National Front’ was ecstatic in commenting that now, following the UK’s exit from the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory in America, her ‘alt-Right’ lot are on their way up. True to form, Bernard-Henri Levy, widely regarded in the Arab world as the ‘Arab Spring philosopher’ expressed his belief that given recent developments in Europe and globally, there was now a good chance that Ms LePen would win the French presidential race!

Contrary to many self-proclaimed ‘Leftists’ and ‘Revolutionaries’, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is a right-wing nationalist who has nothing to do with Soviet legacy except his links with the KGB (the salient symbol of the USSR’s police state) and Moscow’s everlasting ‘Superpower’ ambitions. The latter simply metamorphosed in tactics but not in substance from ‘Tzarist Imperialism’ to the Bolsheviks’ ‘International Scientific Socialism’ and ‘Anti-Colonial Emancipation’.

Technically, Putin is a 2016 model ‘Tzar’! He is a KGB-trained and German-fluent ‘Tzar’ who completed his apprenticeship in the German theatre of intelligence operations; and like many of his generation, is a firm believer that Germany is the source of existential threat to Russia from the west. He also knows that Germany is the pulsating ‘heart’ of Europe, its most populous nation, and the cradle of its notion of ‘unity’. Thus, disrupting Germany from within, after achieving a similar goal in the USA through his unreserved support of Trump’s campaign, will go a long way in strengthening his ‘escape forward’ strategy, which includes exporting Russia’s severe domestic economic, demographic and social problems.

However, what is noteworthy today too is that Putin’s disruptive – indeed, destructive – attempts are not limited to the USA and Germany, but extend to various parts of Europe, including France, where the countdown of its own presidential elections has started.

As for the Muslim world, there isn’t much to say actually, in the light of Russia’s direct involvement, with American acquiescence. Moscow is currently a ‘partner’ with Barack Obama’s administration, and is expected to be even closer to the future Trump administration, in the global fight against Sunni political Islam.

Therefore, Putin’s attempts to weaken and blackmail Western democracies through supporting its most extreme and racist political forces, and joining Moscow and western capitals with ‘security pacts’ against ‘political Sunni Islam’ as a common enemy, would achieve several goals in one go.

The first goal is weakening liberal, democratic and progressive groups in the West against the onslaught of the extreme Right, which would exacerbate internal instability, frighten immigrant communities, alienate minorities, and encourage secessionist movements as we see today in Scotland and Catalonia.

The second is eliminating the issue of ‘human rights’ as a political tool often used by the West against the excesses of the Kremlin, whether inside Russia or in the former satellites of the defunct USSR; since the ‘new’ Western extremist political elites are as intolerant and as abusive. In other words, those who persecute minorities and immigrants, bar asylum seekers, build walls, and discriminate against people based on color, religion and language, are not entitled to lecture others about tolerance.

The third, in connection with two above, leave Moscow to do as it pleases in regions where it claims to have ‘inherited’ or legitimate rights, or strategic core interests. This is exactly what we witness today in the Arab east, the Black Sea region including the Caucasus and the Balkans where two pro-Moscow presidential candidates won in Bulgaria and Moldova.

The fourth and last, is making Russia a full political and security partner in drawing the future Euro-American strategy in a world going through rapid political and demographic changes, to the extent that the White, Christian, European powers (be they Germanic, Latin or Slavic) are not guaranteed future world supremacy. This is the case given the economic, population and educational growth in many parts of the world, especially, in Asia. Another thing, worth mentioning in this context is that the world is returning unannounced to the idea of ‘Clash of Civilizations’ against ‘Islam’; as the major non-Christian religion in Europe’s neighboring regions, without forgetting the presence of Muslim communities in Western Europe, the USA, and Russia.

The four aforementioned goals, and there may be many others, tell us that that all that was said about since the fall of the ‘Berlin Wall’ in 1989, and the emergence of the ‘New World Order’ under America’s unipolar dominance, may have either been premature or incomplete.

Those who have hailed the great victory of Western Liberalism over Socialism – although, some softened their stances – it looks now that there was indeed some kind of a ‘New World Order’ born after the collapse of the USSR, in 1991, but has not been solid and well-defined. Within less than two decades the ‘victorious’ Liberal capitalist West was shaken and devastated by the financial crisis of 2008, which was a proof that if Soviet-style Socialism had failed, capitalism was not doing well either. In fact it has been suffering from debilitating structural problems no denial or political obstinacy can hide.

Furthermore, in addition to denial and obstinacy, and in vain attempts to defend their own ‘legitimacy’, American and European capitalisms, began to look for scapegoats which were soon found to be the following:

1.Globalization, i.e. the freedom of movement of people, goods and services, and the resulting racist and xenophobic hostility towards migrant workers willing to accept lower wages, and less secure working conditions.

2. Technology, whereby technological advances in the fields of computer science, communications and robotics have made several manual jobs redundant and old techniques obsolete.

As a result, it may time we talked about the ‘New World Dis-Order’.

Opinion: The ‘New World Dis-Order’

Opinion: Iran’s Project – Becoming a Big Naval Police Force

After having fought multiple wars in Iraq and Syria directly, and ones in Yemen and Lebanon indirectly, it seems that the Iranian leadership has discovered the magic of military influence and its importance in imposing its foreign policy, both regionally and internationally. This is what has been indicated by recent statements made by Iranian officials. The most recent of these statements was made by the Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran Mohammad Bagheri.

He said: “We have relinquished our nuclear power and we are making up for this by building a naval power that will give us greater value. We will have a military fleet in the Sea of Oman and another in the Indian Ocean, and we will build naval bases on coasts or islands in Yemen and Syria. We will also develop our military intelligence capabilities through drones in our naval extensions”.

Although I do not believe that Iran possesses the military power for such a costly expansion, it is clear that Iran has taken two strategic decisions; to increase its foreign military capability and revive the Shah’s old dream to be the police force of the Gulf. Currently, Iran wants to become the police force of the area from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. This orientation will create more tension in our already troubled region and lead to parties resorting to using military power as a political tool.

The Iranian Chief of Staff’s statement does not correlate with his justification that the objective of the military naval project is to combat piracy in these seas because Iran’s maritime trade is very limited compared to other countries such as India, the Gulf, Egypt and other countries that use these naval corridors outside Gulf waters.

In addition to this, piracy does not exist in the Sea of Oman and in the Mediterranean. Whether this statement is intended to intimidate or reflect the new strategy that Iran is pursuing as an alternative to the nuclear project after it bowed to western pressure and abandoned it in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, the new Iranian way of thinking which followed the signing of the nuclear deal revolves around military superiority and not the opening up of the economy like the American administration thought. This is what the administration marketed when it listed the benefits of the nuclear deal.

Talk of an Iranian military base in the Mediterranean is an exaggeration and I rule out that European powers will allow such a presence in their waters, particularly the presence of a state whose activities they are suspicious of. I would also imagine that Israel would not allow this, and it recently sent back an Iranian ship loaded with Iranian weapons that tried to pass through Bab Al-Mandab. The Israeli navy has also pursued Iranian ships heading to Sudan in the past and bombed one of them.

In the case that Iran succeeded in re-establishing Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, it will no longer need to build military naval bases there because it would then be in control of the regime in Damascus as part of an alliance which will not be easy for Assad to get rid of.

Although Iran gave two reasons for its involvement in the war in Syria; to protect Shiite shrines and repay the Assad regime for standing by it in the war against Iraq in the eighties, these two reasons are not convincing in the calculations of political relations. Tehran considers controlling Syria a necessity to control Iraq so that it can secure its presence, influence and interests in this strategic Arab country.

Iran’s wide – ranging military operations in Iraq and Syria confirm that fighting wars has become Iran’s new policy and that strengthening its military capabilities is a key pillar of its foreign policy. Since breaking free from the western siege, becoming capable of taking part in international trade and using the dollar, Iran has been trying to become a dominating power by expanding geographically, on land and by sea. This may mean that we are facing a decade of a regional arms race and more military adventures in the region.

Opinion: Iran’s Project – Becoming a Big Naval Police Force

U.N.: Mosul's Poor Struggling to Get food, ISIS Killing Civilians who Don't Cooperate

The United Nations said on Tuesday there were indications that poorer families in Mosul are struggling to feed themselves as a result of rising food prices amid disturbing claims that ISIS is killing civilians for refusing to cooperate with the jihadists in the northern Iraqi city.

“Key informants are telling us that poor families are struggling to put sufficient food on their tables,” U.N Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, told Reuters. “This is very worrying.”

“In a worst case, we envision that families who are already in trouble in Mosul will find themselves in even more acute need.” Grande said. “The longer it takes to liberate Mosul, the harder conditions become for families.”

Six weeks after the launch of the offensive on Mosul, Iraqi forces moving from the east have captured about a quarter of the city, trying to advance to the Tigris river that runs through its center. A U.S.-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the operation that started on Oct. 17.

A U.N. human rights spokeswoman also said on Tuesday that ISIS militants have killed civilians who refuse to allow rockets and snipers to be sited in their houses or whom they suspect of leaking information or trying to flee.

“On Nov. 11, ISIS reportedly shot and killed 12 civilians in Bakir neighborhood of eastern Mosul city for allegedly refusing to let it install rockets on the rooftops of their houses,” Ravina Shamdasani told a regular U.N. briefing.

Information received by the U.N. also showed that militants publicly shot to death 27 civilians in Muhandiseen Park in northern Mosul on Nov. 25, and on Nov. 22 an ISIS sniper killed a seven-year-old running towards the Iraqi Security Forces in Adan neighborhood in eastern Mosul.

U.N.: Mosul's Poor Struggling to Get food, ISIS Killing Civilians who Don't Cooperate

Samsung Electronics Eyes Separation as Investor Pressure Builds

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, under pressure from shareholders to improve investor returns, said on Tuesday it was considering splitting the tech giant into two in what would be the biggest shake-up in its 47-year history.

The move and a plan to raise dividends come after U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management in October called for the South Korean firm to split itself into a holding vehicle and an operating company.

However, the world’s top maker of smartphones, memory chips and televisions, said it was “absolutely neutral” about whether to proceed and provided little detail on the potential restructuring, underwhelming investors.

“The review does not indicate the management or the board’s intention one way or another,” the company said in a statement, adding it had hired external advisers for a review expected to take at least six months.

Shares in Samsung, worth $224 billion combined, finished unchanged on the day at 1.677 million won ($1,434) each. The 2016 dividend boost fell short of some expectations, while uncertainty over the restructuring kept investors at bay, analysts said.

“There is some disappointment that the dividend wasn’t even higher or possibly a special dividend and this is the reason for a flat share price today,” said Sat Duhra, asset manager at Henderson Global Investors.

Samsung did not directly mention Elliott in its statement, but the South Korean firm promised to respond to the fund’s ideas by the end of November.

Samsung pledged to return 50 percent of free cash flow to shareholders for 2016 and 2017, falling short of Elliott’s call for 75 percent to be returned and to pay a $26 billion special dividend.

Samsung rejected another Elliott proposal by saying that even if it adopts a holding company, it has no plans at present to merge that with Samsung C&T Corp, the group’s current de facto holding company.

“I don’t think Samsung said much that was surprising or beyond what investors already had in mind,” said HDC Asset Management fund manager Park Jung-hoon.

Tuesday’s announcement came as the electronics giant is seeking to ensure a smooth succession to Lee Jae-Yong, the firm’s vice chairman and scion of the parent Samsung group’s founding Lee family.

It is also struggling to contain the fallout from a global recall of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone caused by exploding batteries as well as a snowballing political scandal in South Korea.

Samsung Electronics Eyes Separation as Investor Pressure Builds

Ohio Campus Attacker Identified, 11 Injured

A car and knife attack by an Ohio State University student of Somali origin is being investigated as a possible terror attack, a U.S. congressman and another government source said.

The suspect, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was shot and killed by a police officer with less than two years on the force after driving into a group of people and then jumping out of the vehicle and stabbing people with a butcher knife at the school’s Columbus campus, said Monica Moll, director of public safety for Ohio State University.

The assailant injured 11 people.

He was an 18-year-old immigrant from Somalia and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, two U.S. government sources said. Ohio State University Police Chief Craig Stone told a news conference that Artan might have been as old as 20.

Officials in the northern U.S. state said he appeared to have acted alone.

He also appears to have made an anti-U.S. posting on Facebook minutes before the attack, on a page that was quickly disabled or taken down by authorities, U.S. media said.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said intelligence agencies were assisting in the investigation.

“It bears all of the hallmarks of a terror attack carried out by someone who may have been self-radicalized,” Schiff said in a statement.

Another U.S. official, who asked not to be named because of the ongoing investigation, told Reuters that U.S. agencies are investigating the Columbus attacker’s background and motivations, but cannot clearly say yet whether he had any ties to suspected militant cells or groups.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident by Lisa Monaco, his homeland security adviser, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

A spokesman for Columbus’ Somali community spoke out against the attack.

“I want everyone to know that we the Somali-American community stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our fellow Americans in condemning the sickening violence that took place in our city earlier today,” Abdi Dini, a member of the Somali community, said at a news conference in Ohio.

Officials said 11 people were being treated at local hospitals for stabbing wounds and injuries from the motor vehicle. None of their injuries were life-threatening.

The rampage comes two months after a Somali immigrant stabbed 10 people at a mall in Minnesota, before he was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer.

The Minnesota assailant, 20-year-old Dahir Ahmed Adan, was described as “radicalized” and ISIS claimed the attack as the work of an ISIS “soldier.”

Ohio Campus Attacker Identified, 11 Injured

Monday, 28 November 2016

Regime Advances in Aleppo, Kurds Expand at Opposition's Expense

Beirut, Ankara: The Syrian regime and its allies have gained a significant ground in their offensive on Monday in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, with reports saying they had controlled its northern part including al-Sakhour area.

However, the opposition denied that Assad’s forces had completely controlled al-Sakhour, saying the regime “would not make any additional advance in the area.”

Amid conflicting reports listing the reasons that allowed the regime to advance in Aleppo, the opposition said there is exaggeration when speaking about “a victory of Assad forces and their allied militias there.”

The opposition also said that the battles were now centered in the Douar district with a new frontline that stretches from the Scientific Research Faculty in al-Sakhour to Karm al-Jabal.

Reports about the size of the advance made by Syrian forces in eastern Aleppo remained unclear.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the northern portion of eastern Aleppo lost by the rebels amounted to more than a third of the territory they had held, calling it the biggest defeat for the opposition in Aleppo since 2012.

Zakaria Malahifji, a politburo member of the Fastaqim rebel group in Aleppo, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Reports about a big and strategic military advance made by the regime in the eastern parts of Aleppo that could lead to the fall of the city are exaggerated.”

Malahifji said that after the regime controlled the Hanano housing complex area, rebels decided to hand over the Halak and Haydariya neighborhoods to Kurdish fighters already present in the Sheikh Saeed to save civilians from the shelling of regime forces.

The Syrian Observatory reported that Kurdish fighters benefited from the ongoing battles between the regime and opposition factions to attack the neighborhoods of rebel-held Bustan al-Basha, Halak al-Tahtani and Sheikh Fares.

But, a Kurdish official denied that Kurdish forces had participated in the attack on the eastern neighborhoods. The official told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have never been allied with the regime. We took from the opposition factions the areas close to the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood to protect the civilians there.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the fighting has forced thousands of residents of eastern Aleppo to flee. It said the Syrian Arab Red Crescent registered 4,000 people in the regime-held Jibreen district of western Aleppo after they fled the rebel-held east in recent days

In Ankara, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Russia and President Vladimir Putin have confirmed that there were no Russian aircraft involved in an airstrike on Turkish army positions near Syria’s Al Bab, which killed three Turkish soldiers last week.

“Recordings and testimony are being studied attentively. As soon as all data relating to the incident are examined, a relevant response will be given,” Kurtulmus said on Monday.

Regime Advances in Aleppo, Kurds Expand at Opposition's Expense

Obama Expands War with Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia

Washington — The escalating American military engagement in Somalia has led the Obama administration to expand the legal scope of the war against Al Qaeda, a move that will strengthen President-elect Donald J. Trump’s authority to combat thousands of militants in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

The administration has decided to deem the Shabab, the militant group in Somalia, to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials. The move is intended to shore up the legal basis for an intensifying campaign of airstrikes and other counterterrorism operations, carried out largely in support of African Union and Somali government forces.

The executive branch’s stretching of the 2001 war authorization against the original Al Qaeda to cover other groups in countries far from Afghanistan — even ones, like the Shabab, that did not exist at the time — has prompted recurring objections from some legal and foreign policy experts.

The Shabab decision is expected to be publicly disclosed next month in a letter to Congress listing global deployments. It is part of the Obama administration’s pattern of relaxing various self-imposed rules for airstrikes against terrorist militants as it tries to help its partner forces in several conflicts.

In June, the administration quietly broadened the military’s authority to carry out airstrikes in Afghanistan to encompass operations intended “to achieve strategic effects,” meaning targeting people impeding the work of Afghan government forces, officials said. Previously, strikes in Afghanistan were permitted only in self-defense, for counterterrorism operations targeting Qaeda or ISIS forces, or to “prevent a strategic defeat” of Afghan forces.

Later in the summer, the administration deemed Surt, Libya, an “area of active hostilities,” after the Libyan prime minister asked for assistance in dislodging ISIS militants from that city. The move exempted the area from 2013 rules that restrict drone strikes and other counterterrorism operations away from battlefield zones, which President Obama had announced in a major speech that year that sought to turn a page in the long-running war against Al Qaeda.

As of last week, the Pentagon had carried out 420 airstrikes against militants in Surt since August.

In Somalia, the 2013 rules limiting airstrikes away from “areas of active hostilities” still apply for now. But in practice, restrictions are being eased there in another way: Over the past year, the military has routinely invoked a built-in exception to those rules for airstrikes taken in “self-defense,” which can include strikes to help foreign partners even when Americans are not at direct risk.

The Shabab grew up as an insurgency after 2007, when Ethiopia, with American support, invaded Somalia to overthrow an extremist council that had briefly taken control of much of the long-chaotic country.

The officials familiar with the internal deliberations spoke on the condition of anonymity. In a statement, Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, emphasized that the terrorist threat “is constantly evolving and requires an adaptable response.”

The administration’s strategy, Ms. Monaco said, “recognizes that we must more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks take hold, enabling and empowering these partners to share the burden of combating these threats to our mutual interests.”

“Because the threats and enemies we face evolve and adapt,” she continued, “we must be flexible in confronting them where they are — always doing so consistent with our laws and our values.”

But some experts criticized the administration for using a 15-year-old congressional authorization as a justification to go to war with the Shabab.

“It’s crazy that a piece of legislation that was grounded specifically in the experience of 9/11 is now being repurposed for close air support for regional security forces in Somalia,” said Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Under the 2001 authorization, the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with a specific organization, not every extremist militant in the world. But that authority has proved elastic.

In 2014, for example, Mr. Obama declared that the 2001 law authorized him to battle the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. An Army captain rejected that claim and argued that the ISIS war was illegal because Congress had never explicitly approved it. Last week, a judge dismissed that lawsuit, without ruling on its merits.

In Somalia, the United States had long taken the position that a handful of Shabab leaders, as individuals, had sufficient ties to Al Qaeda to make them wartime targets. But it has debated internally for years whether the Shabab as a whole, including their thousands of foot soldiers, can or should be declared part of the enemy.

To qualify as an “associated force,” a group must be an organized armed body that has aligned with Al Qaeda and entered the fight against the United States or its partners. Officials declined to discuss whether there were specific new reasons to justify declaring that the Shabab could meet that standard.

The New York Times

Obama Expands War with Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia

Iraq Could Split if PMF Militias Enter Mosul

Increasingly and at an alarming rate Iraq is more prone to civil war for the post-ISIS liberation of Mosul. If Shi’ite paramilitary units get involved in the fight against ISIS for Mosul there is a high risk of partition and the worst sectarian bloodletting since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion , a senior Sunni Iraqi politician said on Monday.

Iran-backed, Popular Mobilization Forces want to play a bigger role in the offensive to regain ISIS’ last major city stronghold in Iraq.

But Khamis Khanjar, also a businessman who financed a 3,000 strong predominately Turkish-trained force known as the Nineveh Guards Force, says it should lead the offensive – alongside the Iraqi army – and take control of the city after the militants are driven out.

“Everyone is looking for salvation from ISIS…but after ISIS is defeated a new dangerous phase will begin if the United States and the government do not address Sunni grievances. This could threaten the future of the Iraqi state,” Khanjar said in an interview in Amman.

“The fear for the future of the country, the threat, is more than any other time.”

The city of Mosul is already ringed to the north, south and east by Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraq’s U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service breached Islamic State defenses in east Mosul at the end of October.

Khanjar, who has close ties with regional powers Turkey, the Gulf and Jordan and aspirations to lead the Sunni community, said the consequences of PMF units entering the city would be catastrophic

“The fear is the repeat of the same massacres and ugly violations committed by the PMF,” Khanjar said.

International human rights groups and the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner have accused PMF units of abuses against civilians in towns and villages retaken from ISIS.

“They are present in the thousands,” said Khanjar who met the forces and their commanders recently adding their presence would assuage widespread fears of revenge.

Iraq Could Split if PMF Militias Enter Mosul

Yemen Putschists Block Aid from Entering War-Torn Country

Jeddah- Coup militiamen in Yemen stopped two medical cargoes from entering the war-torn country, sending them back to Djibouti, sources said.

Two jets packed with humanitarian relief were also denied access despite that the Saudi-led coalition granting them the green light for landing in Sanaa. The denial of access of relief and medical aid exacerbated the humanitarian conditions for civilians trapped in Yemen’s warzones.

Coup militants, namely composed of Iran-allied Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh supporters, have laid siege to many Yemen cities in their aim to push forward with their plans to overtake government and topple the constitutionally elected authority.

Saleh loyalists and Houthis insurgents have shown no responsiveness or cooperation towards humanitarian shipments, flown cargoes or land convoys. In the aftermath, many Yemenis now face starvation, spread of disease and high risks of mortality.

Putschists have been using civilians as a pressure card to advance their political and military agenda.

Insurgency sources confirmed that Houthis gunmen have intentionally zeroed in and locked their grip on humanitarian missions sent to lockdown areas—the coup chooses to be selective with granting access to humanitarian aid, allowing only a few governments to send aid, such as chief ally, Iran.

Iran-aligned Houthis impose full control over aid as an extension to the insurgency’s domination over the country.

More so, coup militias control incoming aid as a smuggling mechanism to regulate receiving Iran-sent arms support.

The turndown of aid comes only days after the earthshattering expository United Nations report on the humanitarian situation in Yemen resting on an alarming low, that warns also the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Houthi-controlled areas such as Hajjah, Saada and Taiz.

The coup has led to a civil war now responsible for the death of over a thousand children, and leaving over a million facing death with no basic survival essentials.

Yemen Putschists Block Aid from Entering War-Torn Country

Manila Police Defuse Bomb near U.S. Embassy

Police defused an improvised bomb in a trash bin near the U.S. embassy in the Philippine capital Monday, with militants who had declared allegiance to ISIS likely behind the attempted terrorist attack, authorities said.

A taxi passenger dropped the mortar bomb with a mobile phone detonator in the bin about 200 meters from the embassy along one of Manila’s busiest roads, but a street sweeper found it and alerted authorities, police said.

“This is an attempted act of terrorism,” national police chief Ronald dela Rosa told reporters, adding he believed the Maute militant group currently facing a military offensive in the southern Philippines was the prime suspect.

“Because of an ongoing police/military operation there, (the militants) have many casualties. We can theorize that this is a diversion to loosen our operations.”

Police said they detonated the bomb just over an hour after it was discovered.

The bomb has the same design as one used by Maute in a Sept. 2 bomb attack that killed 15 people in southern Davao city. the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine police chief said.

The bombing prompted Duterte to put the nation under a “state of emergency” which allowed the military to do law enforcement with police.

His office said security measures would be increased further after the attempted bombing at the U.S. embassy, particularly at airports, seaports and other transport terminals.

The military has since Thursday been battling dozens of Maute gang members holed up in an abandoned government building in the mainly rural town of Butig on Mindanao island, about 800 kilometers south of Manila.

Thirteen soldiers have been injured in the fighting, military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told reporters.

He said 19 militants had been killed, although none of those bodies had been recovered and the death toll could not be verified. Fighting continued on Monday.

The Maute gang is one of several to have declared allegiance to ISIS. The Abu Sayyaf, infamous for kidnappings for ransoms, is another.

Leaders of the main rebel organizations have repeatedly warned that the failure of previous peace efforts, including with Duterte’s predecessor, could lead to disaffected youth joining more extreme groups such as the Maute gang.

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict also said last month that deepening cooperation among the Maute gang, the Abu Sayyaf and other pro-ISIS groups meant more deadly violence was “a matter of when, not if”.

Manila Police Defuse Bomb near U.S. Embassy

King Salman to Inaugurate World’s Largest Petrochemical Project

Dammam-Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is to inaugurate on Tuesday, during his visit to Jubail, the SR80 billion world’s largest petrochemical project, “Sadara Petrochemical Complex.”

The Saudi Aramco joint venture with Dow Chemical Co. and is located at the Persian Gulf port of Jubail in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Saudi Minister of Energy, Industrial and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih said that the value of Aramco investment in oil projects, which will be inaugurated by King Salman on Thursday, amounts up to SR160 billion ($42.7 billion).

Al-Falih said that these investments represent the sustainability, and high economic and investment activeness.

Al-Falih announced on Sunday that King Salman will inaugurate Sadara project, which is considered an important hub to achieve Saudi Aramco’s strategy aiming at building upon the strength of the petroleum industry in the Kingdom, its technical development and vertical integration opportunities among fields of production, chemical industries and refining to attain highest levels of petroleum asset’s added-value.

Sadara will use ethane refined by Aramco nearby to make a petrochemical called butadiene to ship worldwide to facilities, likely including its Dutch plant.

Sadara represents a courageous commitment for Saudi Aramco and Dow Chemical as it pushes “us at Aramco to achieve our goals aiming at increasing integration and added-value. It also reflects the Kingdom’s distinct and integrative vision,” he added.

In a press conference held on Sunday at the headquarters of national oil giant Saudi Aramco, al-Falih said that inaugurating Saudi Aramco’s projects, which include increasing the production capacity in Manifa, Sahaybah and Khurais oil fields in addition to other mega projects will take place on Thursday after it was delayed from Friday on November 25 due to bad weather conditions.

Regarding the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), AL-Falih said that Saudi Arabia was sticking to its position on the Algiers agreement that everyone should cooperate.

“We expect the level of demand to be encouraging in 2017, and the market will reach balance in 2017 even if there is no intervention by OPEC. But OPEC intervention aims to expedite this balance and the market recovery at a faster pace,” he said.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia was keeping its output high in November at around 10.6 million barrels per day, however, Falih said: “The level of demand for Saudi crude is still high and very healthy.”

“Regardless of Saudi and its market share, I think if we look at it as an indication of the health and recovery of the oil market.

“I don’t think that we have one path only in OPEC meetings, which is cutting production – I think maintaining production at current levels is justifiable, taking into consideration the recovery of consumption and growth in developing markets and the United States,” he added.

King Salman to Inaugurate World’s Largest Petrochemical Project

Sunday, 27 November 2016

U.S. Expands Elite Military Unit’s Powers to Hunt Terrorists Globally

Washington- The Obama administration is giving the elite Joint Special Operations Command — the organization that helped kill Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs — expanded power to track, plan and potentially launch attacks on terrorist cells around the globe, a move driven by concerns of a dispersed terrorist threat as ISIS militants are driven from strongholds in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials said.

The missions could occur well beyond the battlefields of places like Iraq, Syria and Libya where Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has carried out clandestine operations in the past. When finalized, it will elevate JSOC from being a highly-valued strike tool used by regional military commands to leading a new multiagency intelligence and action force. Known as the “Counter-External Operations Task Force,” the group will be designed to take JSOC’s targeting model — honed over the last 15 years of conflict — and export it globally to go after terrorist networks plotting attacks against the West.

The creation of a new JSOC entity this late in the Obama’s tenure is the “codification” of best practices in targeting terrorists outside of conventional conflict zones, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss administration deliberations. It is unclear, however, if the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will keep this and other structures set up by Obama. They include guidelines for counterterrorism operations such as approval by several agencies before a drone strike and “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed. This series of presidential orders is known as the “playbook.”

The new JSOC task force could also offer intelligence, strike recommendations and advice to the militaries and security forces of traditional Western allies, or conduct joint operations, officials said. In other parts of the world, with weak or no governments, JSOC could act unilaterally.

The global focus is reminiscent of when U.S. forces first went after al-Qaeda in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. As approaching U.S. troops forced militants to flee their safe havens in Afghanistan and scatter across the globe, the United States followed in pursuit, using CIA assets to grab suspected al-Qaeda operatives in dozens of countries, sometimes capturing and imprisoning them under murky legal authorities and using interrogation techniques widely seen as torture.

Some in the Pentagon hope to see the new task force working in tandem with the CIA, elevating a sometimes distant relationship to one of constant coordination to track and go after suspected terrorists outside of traditional war zones.

In recent years the agency’s involvement in global paramilitary operations has waned — with fewer strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and its armed drones in Syria transferred to the Pentagon. It’s still unclear how much the CIA may be willing to cooperate with JSOC and more broadly with the Pentagon following the White House’s decision.

The agency, with its broad contacts overseas, espionage networks and long experience in covert operations still has much greater reach than JSOC.

The CIA declined to comment.

The new JSOC task force will report to the Pentagon through the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, according to U.S. military officials, creating a hybrid command system that can sidestep regional commanders–with their coordination–for the sake of speed.

In the past, units such as the Army’s Delta Force — which is part of SOCOM and its subordinate command JSOC — were usually deployed under those regional commanders, known as geographic combatant commands. The new task force, however, will alter that process by turning SOCOM’s chief, Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, into a decision-maker when it comes to going after threats under the task force’s purview. While Thomas will help guide certain decisions, the operations will ultimately have to be approved by the White House and the Pentagon.

The task force will essentially turn Thomas into the leading authority when it comes to sending Special Operations units after threats.

“Now [Thomas] can request whatever he wants and … unless there’s some other higher competing priority, the combatant commanders have to cough it up,” said a former senior defense official.

Turning SOCOM into a command with a global reach has been on the table for the last 15 years. In 2001, Air Force Gen. Charles Holland, then SOCOM’s commander, was hesitant to create a command structure that would effectively put SOCOM on the same level as the geographic combatant commanders. He believed it would cause too much friction with regional commanders. Instead, he decided that only in rare instances would SOCOM actually direct Special Operations forces.

It remains to be seen if the new organization will generate tensions between Special Operations Command and the generals in charge of U.S. forces in places such as the Middle East or Europe. In his March congressional confirmation testimony, Thomas suggested that assigning more authorities to SOCOM would allow for “synchronized operations” against nonstate threats that span geographic boundaries. But regional commanders, all four star generals, guard their turf carefully.

Officials hope the task force, known throughout the Pentagon as “Ex-Ops,” will be a clearinghouse for intelligence coordinating and targeting against groups or individuals attempting to plot attacks in places like the United States and Europe.

According to officials familiar with plans for the task force, it will initially draw on an existing multinational intelligence operation in the Middle East that tracks foreign fighters, called Gallant Phoenix, and one of JSOC’s intelligence centers in Northern Virginia.

While in the past the smaller task forces, such as Gallant Phoenix, were staffed by representatives from different intelligence agencies, the new task force aims to have decision-makers present, ensuring that the targeting process happens in one place and quickly.

“Layers have been stripped away for the purposes of stopping external networks,” said a defense official. “There has never been an ex-ops command team that works trans-regionally to stop attacks.”

The defense official said U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies will support JSOC personnel as they synthesize information and offer recommendations on how to handle specific threats.

Over the past decade JSOC has also built strong relations with police agencies in Germany, Britain, France and Turkey, as they have moved to combat the flow of foreign fighters returning to their home countries.

The number of participating intelligence agencies, both internationally and U.S.-based within the task force is in flux, the official added, as intelligence-sharing laws and internal friction have kept some on the periphery of the organization.

JSOC — rarely mentioned by name by U.S. officials due to the clandestine nature of its work — was cited specifically by Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter last month in Paris after he and Thomas met with defense ministers involved in the fight against ISIS. The command “has been put in the lead” of countering ISIS’ external operations outside conflict zones, Carter said, surprising some defense officials in Washington.

A senior administration official, asked to comment on the plan, issued a statement that did not use JSOC’s name, but acknowledged the role Special Operations forces play in tracking foreign fighters away from the battlefield.

“These forces on the ground, operating in close concert with our partners, have gathered critical intelligence off the battlefield, and have shared that information with our coalition partners and allies,” the statement said. “This information is helping us ramp up actions against [ISIS] leaders and operatives planning attacks, track foreign fighters returning to their home countries and improve law enforcement actions aimed at interdicting potential plotters.”

The Washington Post

U.S. Expands Elite Military Unit’s Powers to Hunt Terrorists Globally

Ould Cheikh to Aden amid Deadline for Talks on Yemen Deal

Riyadh, Aden- U.N. envoy for Yemen Ould Cheikh Ahmed is expected to head in the next few hours to the temporary Yemeni capital Aden, where he will meet with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who arrived at the southern city two days ago.

Informed sources said on Sunday that the U.N. envoy will hold discussions to find solutions to the Yemeni crisis.

Ould Cheikh will travel to Aden from Riyadh, where he arrived on Sunday coming from Muscat as part of his regional tour to reach an agreement between Yemen’s warring parties.

The envoy’s new round of discussions will last up to 10 days for the purpose of reaching a final peace agreement.

Envoy Ould Chiekh said: “I am heading tomorrow (Monday) to Riyadh and Kuwait to discuss a new tour, and I am ready to visit President Hadi in Aden if there is a need to. The new round of talks should be short, not exceeding 7-10 days before signing a final agreement.”

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi said the U.N. envoy is expected to meet Hadi in Aden to receive the government’s response to his peace proposals.

Sources at the Yemeni government confirmed that the Yemeni side would offer “strict” recommendations stipulating that no talks would resume before Ould Cheikh amends his roadmap for ending the conflict in Yemen.

Yemen’s Deputy Minister for Human Rights Mohammed Mohsen Askar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the government will present to Ould Cheikh a letter including a list of remarks linked mainly to the envoy’s roadmap that abolishes the Gulf initiative, which limits the authorities and terms of the consensual transitional president.

Askar said that the envoy’s roadmap contradicts previous U.N. resolutions on Yemen which stipulate that rebels withdraw from all cities after handing over their weapons to the state. However, he added, the roadmap of Ould Cheikh speaks about handing the rebels’ arms to an unknown third part that lacks any national, regional or international characteristic.

While Yemeni sources confirmed that Ould Chiekh “had not met with any Yemeni government official during his visit to Riyadh,” a western diplomatic source told Agence France Press that the U.N. envoy hold talks with western diplomats in the Saudi capital.

Ould Cheikh to Aden amid Deadline for Talks on Yemen Deal

Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch: ‘People say bad Things to Me about the North-East but I Don’t Know Why’

Lynden Gooch sometimes struggles to comprehend just how rapidly his life has changed. “A couple of months ago I don’t think many people knew who I was,” he says, breaking into a high-wattage smile capable of powering a set of floodlights. “No one knew anything much about me but David Moyes has altered everything.”

It takes a brave manager to hurl an untested youngster into a floundering team yet Moyes’s faith in the midfielder from California has been rewarded by some heavy hints that Sunderland’s future may not be as bleak as advertised.

After enduring the worst start in Premier League history it was a trip to Bournemouth a fortnight ago that brought Sunderland their first league victory and a player overlooked by Sam Allardyce is displaying persistent promise.

Baptisms rarely prove more testing but Gooch’s potential has ensured the veteran of 11 appearances has rejoined Sunderland’s preparations for Saturday’s home game against fellow strugglers Hull City after returning from duty with the USA. Having sat on the bench throughout the febrile, politically charged, defeat by Mexico in Ohio, the 20-year-old won his second cap during the World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica on Tuesday. That chastening 4-0 thrashing prompted an inquest into Jürgen Klinsmann’s future as the USA coach but also reminded Gooch how swiftly things can change.

A month ago everything was very different when, after joining Klinsmann’s squad for the first time, he helped make history in Havana. “The locals were all cheering, treating us like superstars, everyone seemed quite excited to speak to us – it wasn’t a normal game,” he says, reliving a groundbreaking friendly against Cuba.

After sitting out the 2-0 win as a substitute he made his debut during a 1-1 draw with New Zealand in Washington DC, earning praise from Klinsmann.

Considering his first cap had been prefaced by an “absolutely amazing” tour of the White House’s West Wing, returning to Wearside might have seemed an anticlimax. In reality Gooch suspects he could hardly be in a better place. After all Moyes acquired a reputation for offering young players, Wayne Rooney included, first-team chances at Everton. Moreover, in many respects, the Californian’s elevation serves as a template for the manner in which the former Manchester United and Real Sociedad manager hopes to revolutionise Sunderland.

For far too many years there has been no discernible pathway from the academy to the first team but Gooch is proving a trailblazer. Equally importantly, his pace and technical ability – statistics indicate he is quicker than Jamie Vardy – makes him ideally suited to the possession-based passing game Moyes is attempting to introduce.

“Results haven’t gone the way we’d hoped but the manager has put a lot of belief into us and we still feel that, little by little, we’re improving, gradually moving in the right direction,” Gooch says.

“The manager wants us to keep the ball, pass it and play good football and that’s my game. That’s how I’ve been taught to play all the way through the academy and it’s helping me now. I feel that, under David Moyes, I can keep progressing.”

It does not hurt he is two-footed and has an eye for goal. He is also unafraid to tackle, with such ball-winning attributes swiftly winning him the respect of senior professionals, most notably John O’Shea and Jermain Defoe.

Gooch has travelled a long way since joining Sunderland as a 10-year-old, swapping Santa Cruz for the club’s Cleadon training base during school holidays before emigrating at 16.

Although both his homes are adjacent to the ocean, the Pacific breakers crashing on to America’s west coast are rather more conducive to surfing than the unruly North Sea waves awaiting visitors to Roker Beach.

“My oldest brother [he is the youngest of four boys] is a professional surfer and I used to surf a lot in Santa Cruz,” Gooch says. “I haven’t tried here, though – it’s not warm enough.”

Hostile temperatures have not stopped him falling in love with the north-east and becoming increasingly irritated by those who depict the region as some sort of post-industrial wilderness where no one who is anyone would contemplate living. “A lot of people say bad things about it to me but I don’t understand why; the north-east’s very underrated. For a start it’s so beautiful – you’ve got great countryside and great beaches. And great shops in Newcastle. I’d love to stay a Sunderland player for a very long time. I’ve been here since I was 10 and this club has given me an awful lot. I’ve made friendships I’ll have forever.”

Now he wants to give something back. “We know it’s hard for the people of Sunderland to be bottom of the Premier League – and especially when Newcastle are doing so well in the Championship,” he says. “This is a massive club with a massive fanbase and we’re not doing well enough. We’ve got amazing facilities, an amazing stadium and we’ve got to do better for the city. Our home crowds are averaging well over 40,000 but the fans aren’t getting what they deserve.”

Born in California to Anglo-Irish parents – his father, a soccer coach, is from Colchester and his mother a Dubliner – Gooch never expected to be a full USA international by now. Or that his first call-up would coincide with the country’s first game on Cuban soil since 1947. Coming only a year after the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, touching down in Cuba felt like landing in a parallel universe.

“You flew for just over an hour, it’s so close to Florida, but it was weird. It was a completely different world, arriving felt like being transported into a different age. Almost everything was behind the times. The cars are amazing, they’re all old, all out of the 1950s. It was something really exciting to be part of.”

He has never doubted his decision to represent the stars and stripes rather than wait for a call from England or the Republic of Ireland. “It was a difficult choice – part of me feels English,” Gooch says. “But I was born and raised in California and I’m proud to be American.”

After Havana came Washington, the West Wing and his debut against New Zealand, with his nerves calmed by a familiar face. “When I was in the under-18s here I used to clean Jozy Altidore’s boots and suddenly I was playing alongside him. Jozy’s a really nice guy. When I did his boots he treated me very well – I think he almost felt bad about having things done for him – and since leaving for Toronto FC Jozy’s messaged me a few times. He’s really welcomed me into the US squad. Hopefully we’ll get to the World Cup together.”

Whereas Moyes has variously deployed Gooch wide on the left and deep in central midfield, Klinsmann fields the former junior sprint champion further forward. “A No10 role behind the main striker is my best position,” he says, approvingly. “Ideally, I’d always be there but, right now, I’ll play anywhere.”

Considerably tougher than his slender, 5ft 8in frame suggests, he has impressed Klinsmann. “Lynden’s fearless,” said the USA coach who sees something of Landon Donovan (the LA Galaxy forward and Gooch’s hero) in Gooch’s rapid dribbling ability and possibly regrets not starting him against Mexico and Costa Rica. “He takes people on and he’s very physical. Lynden doesn’t shy away from anything.”

Gooch certainly seems up for Sunderland’s relegation battle. “The spirit is still good in our squad. We’re all fighting to win games, trying everything we can. When you’re down at the bottom you’ve got to stick together – and we’re doing exactly that.”

The Guardian Sport

Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch: ‘People say bad Things to Me about the North-East but I Don’t Know Why’

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Iran Seeks Naval Bases in the Region, Flirts with Turkey

London- Iran seeks to establish naval bases in Syria and Yemen, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hussain Baqari uncovered on Saturday.

In an address to a gathering of senior Navy commanders in Tehran, Baqari said: “Having naval bases in remote distances is not less valuable than nuclear power. It is ten times more important and creates deterrence.”

The chief of staff said Iran’s navy should have a fleet in the Indian Ocean similar to the one stationed in the Sea of Oman. “At some point we will need bases on the shores of Yemen and Syria,” he said.

Baqari called on supporting the budget of the military forces to enhance Iran’s navy. “There is no balance between Iran and other states at the level of naval forces,” he said.

Baqari’s comments coincided with assertions launched by Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan who confirmed a Russian report saying Moscow and Tehran were in talks over arms deals worth $10 billion.

Dehghan hinted that Tehran was interested to buy Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter planes.

Two weeks ago, Russian media outlets had quoted Russian Federal Council’s defense committee chairman, Viktor Ozerov as saying that Iran had presented an order book to receive a $10 billion worth of weapons and hardware.

The arms in question include T-90 tanks, artillery systems, and various aircraft, but Ozerov noted that until 2020, deliveries could only be made with the consent of the U.N. Security Council.

Commenting for the first time on Ozerov’s statements, Dehghan said Iran would provide the needs of its military forces from any party, excluding the U.S. and Israel.

In Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday called for greater cooperation between Iran and Turkey to help establish stability in Syria and Iraq.

After receiving visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Rouhani said: “If major regional powers stand together, problems in Iraq and Syria will be resolved without the need for foreign powers.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry denied reports saying that the U.S. and European countries had exerted pressure to convince Tehran reduce its heavy water storage.

Iran Seeks Naval Bases in the Region, Flirts with Turkey

Trump Plans Doing All He Can to Help Cuban People

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Saturday that his administration would “do all it can” once it takes office on Jan. 20 to help boost freedom and prosperity for Cuban people after the death of Fidel Castro.

Trump had threatened late in his upstart campaign for the White House that concerns about religious freedom in Cuba could prompt him to reverse President Barack Obama’s moves to open relations with the Cold War adversary after more than a half-century’s estrangement.

Obama said this was an emotional moment for Cubans and Cuban-Americans and offered condolences to Castro’s family.

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people,” he said in a statement, noting his administration had “worked hard to put the past behind us.”

Republicans closely await what Trump – a billionaire businessman known for his unconventional approach to politics and policy – will do on Cuba once he takes office.

“Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty,” Trump said in a statement issued from his West Palm Beach, Florida, resort where he and his family are spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve,” he added.

At a Miami rally in September, Trump said he would roll back Obama’s Cuban policy reforms unless Cuban leaders allowed religious freedom and freed political prisoners.

“The next president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands,” Trump told supporters.

A bloc of mostly Republican Cuban-American lawmakers has worked to keep tight restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba for years. Some Republican lawmakers broke with party orthodoxy to back Obama’s reforms, drawn by the economic benefits of restoring ties.

But many have chafed against the changes, saying Cuba’s government was still too repressive to ease restrictions.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who ran against Trump to be the Republican presidential candidate, said Castro turned Cuba into “an impoverished island prison” where dissidents were routinely jailed and killed.

“The dictator has died, but the dictatorship has not,” Rubio said in a statement. “The future of Cuba ultimately remains in the hands of the Cuban people, and now more than ever Congress and the new administration must stand with them against their brutal rulers and support their struggle for freedom and basic human rights.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a senior Republican House lawmaker from Florida who fled Cuba as a child, said on CNN that Castro’s death changes nothing.

“We lost our native homeland to communism,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “They just rule over Cuba with an iron fist.”

Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hoped Raul Castro would “turn the page” on oppression. “Freedom and democracy are long overdue in Cuba,” he said in a statement.

Trump Plans Doing All He Can to Help Cuban People

Yemen’s FM: We Demand Peace a Roadmap Based on Outcomes of National Dialogue

Malabo-Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi reiterated the internationally-backed government’s acceptance for any proposed ceasefire based on three regulated references which are the Gulf initiative, outcome on national dialogue, and United Nations Resolution 2216.

Mekhlafi confirmed that a comprehensive settlement for the Yemen crisis is chiefly conditioned by coup militias withdrawing from fronts and turning in illegal arms.

The U.N. Special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will soon be returning to the region for a new round of Riyadh-Muscat sponsored negotiations on Yemen, Mekhlafi said in his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.

More so, the FM noted that his government has presented its overview of the peace roadmap presented by the U.N. envoy, after rejecting the proposal for failing to fulfill the three abovementioned conditions.

Mekhlafi gave an alarming remark on the Houthi-led coup being an extension to Iran’s expansionist goals. “The coup is directed by Iran to compromise and target the safety and security of neighboring Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Responding to the recent remarks made by United States Secretary of State John Kerry on finding peace in Yemen, Mekhlafi said that his government will be negotiating and reacting positively to any provided settlement so long the Gulf initiative, outcome of national dialogue and U.N. Resolution 2216 are taken into consideration.

Mekhlafi added that the elected government led by Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is open to all political settlements abiding to the restoration of full control to the legitimate government and national army, and aligned with the pre-set conditions.

He said that a political settlement can only be reached after order is restored to the country, and not the other way around.

When asked on an exact timing during which the U.N. envoy would resume his undertakings in Yemen, Mekhlafi said that he would soon be visiting political parties based in Riyadh and Muscat, in hopes of restarting the peace process.

Commenting on chances for a temporary ceasefire that could lead to a permanent cessation of hostilities, Mekhlafi highlighted that during previous truces coup militias committed countless violations projecting ill will and no desire for military peace. More so, coup forces inhibited the empowering of a U.N.-sponsored ceasefire monitor. Within a simple 48 hours of truce, coup militias failed to deliver commitment and intentions for a settlement whatsoever, next to a large number of field transgressions and a wide hate media campaign.

The insurgency led by Iran-aligned Houthi militants and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh loyalists has disbanded Yemen and propelled the Gulf country into a vicious civil war in an attempt to overturn Hadi’s authority.

Mekhlafi, however, explains that the coup-alliance is based on logistics and interests and will break up as soon as one of the two reaches its ends. “A love affair among snakes,” labeled it Mekhlafi in reference to the lack of trust.

As for foreign support delivered to coup militiamen, Mekhlafi says that there is no publicly declared support for the insurgency, save for Iran’s sounded recognition of the coup as legitimate.

Yemen’s FM: We Demand Peace a Roadmap Based on Outcomes of National Dialogue

White Helmets Warn from Aleppo Starvation

Beirut- The Syria Civil Defense, or White Helmets, has warned that the people living in the besieged eastern part of Aleppo are facing starvation and death if much needed humanitarian aid and medical supplies are not delivered within 10 days.

The warning came as Syria’s regime presses the fierce assault on opposition-held eastern Aleppo. The siege has made life harder for civilians who are being forced to sift through garbage for food and scavenge firewood from bombed-out buildings.

With winter setting in, shortages of food, medicine and fuel coupled with intense air strikes and artillery bombardment are testing the limits of endurance among a population the United Nations estimates at 275,000 people.

Ammar Salmo, the head of the White Helmets’ operations in Aleppo, said that the civil defense’s warning over famine came after people began to fear dying of hunger rather than getting killed in a military offensive.

Salmo said that a civil defense center was hit in an air strike on Friday and the last maternity hospital went out of service after it was fully destroyed.

All other hospitals are no longer functioning except for a few medical centers that help the wounded.

Salmo said the condition of the injured is much worse. “They are neither receiving the necessary treatment, nor have enough food.”

“Water is contaminated and groceries are almost nonexistent,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“You cannot imagine how the situation is,” the head of the Syria Civil Defense, Raed Al Saleh, told Reuters through a translator. Saleh was in Stockholm to receive the Right Livelihood Award, known as Sweden’s “alternative Nobel prize.”

“Doctors and the rescue workers in Aleppo are just using what’s left of the equipment after bombardments to do whatever they can do,” Saleh said.

Saleh said the White Helmets had lost 50 percent of their equipment in the last two months.

“We have consumed all the stock of first aid kits in our centers and we have consumed all our stock of gas masks.

We are concerned that within ten days we may consume all our remaining stock of diesel which is required for the ambulances and the trucks to move,” he said.

The White Helmets director said his workers had responded to approximately ten chlorine attacks in Aleppo in the last ten days – the last being on Wednesday.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict, said the Observatory had documented two incidents of chlorine attacks in the past fortnight.

A Red Cross official also told DPA news agency on Friday that the humanitarian situation inside eastern Aleppo “is worsening by the day.”

Food stocks are running low, causing the prices of basic food items such as bread, flour, lentils and milk to skyrocket, said Ingy Sedky, spokeswoman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Damascus.

Sedky added that fuel is running critically low in most neighborhoods in the city, and many people are completely deprived of electricity and heating in the current winter season.

“Bakeries, hospitals and homes are reliant on generators and in some cases communal generators have been shut down, leaving civilians in multiple neighborhoods without access to any form of electricity,” Sedky said.

White Helmets Warn from Aleppo Starvation

Dispute on Lebanon’s ‘Electoral Services’ Ministry

Beirut- The dispute among Lebanese parties on the Public Works Ministry reflects the importance of the portfolio for different parliamentary blocs, mainly ahead of next May’s legislative elections.

The ministry that is headed by Caretaker Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, who is close to Speaker Nabih Berri, remains one of the last obstacles to the formation of the new government.

Berri refuses to give up the ministry – which has been largely taken advantage of during parliamentary elections – as part of his share in the cabinet while the Lebanese Forces and the Marada Movement are bickering over it.

Zoaiter stressed in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat that Berri’s request to keep the ministry is in no way linked to electoral campaigns. “This is an insult to the Lebanese people,” he said.

Rabih Haber, the Managing Director of Statistics Lebanon Ltd, said however that the public works ministry is dubbed the ministry of “asphalt” for being active in paving roads in the areas of influence of the person heading the ministry and the party backing him ahead of general elections.

Economist Sami Nader also said that the services provided by the Public Works Ministry largely contribute to the results of the polls.

In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Zoaiter acknowledged that his ministry has not implemented all the projects it intended to do during its tenure. The main reason lies in the political situation and the limited budget, he said.

The situation would not change for the new cabinet because its main mission would be to agree on a new electoral law ahead of the elections next spring, he added.

Zoaiter has come under severe criticism for allegedly not being fair in carrying out projects across Lebanon.

Several politicians and media outlets have accused him of implementing projects in Baalbek, Hermel and the Bekaa where he has wide popular support.

But the minister has rejected such criticism, saying the works carried out by his ministry are distributed fairly among different areas.

He also said that he will soon release a detailed report on the projects implemented by the Public Works Ministry and their geographic distribution.

Dispute on Lebanon’s ‘Electoral Services’ Ministry

Kuwaitis Head to Polls in a “Uniting” Parliamentary Election

Kuwait- Polls opened in Kuwait Saturday for its general election of its 15th parliament, since its 1961 independence. Turnout is expected to reach 65 to 60 percent – which is considered a high compared to the 2013 elections when only 53 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

Turnout rate is expected to hike even more as former election boycotters return for their right to vote.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Rumaihi, political and media senior analyst says that the elections are unique in the sense of coalescing all nationals and overcoming popular differences. Al-Rumaihi highlighted that all political parties are partaking this election season, in addition to the massing numbers of millennials willing to vote this year.

More so, Al-Rumaihi labeled the general elections as “uniting.

Ballots registered over 483,186 electors casting their vote. Voting is taking place at 100 polling stations set up in schools, with separate centers for men and women. A swooping 293 candidates, among which are 15 women, will be competing for the 50 seats at the National Assembly.

The National Assembly is the unicameral legislature of Kuwait. Members are chosen through direct election; the country is divided into five electoral districts with ten members representing each district. There are no official political parties in Kuwait, therefore candidates run as independents during elections.

The process starts with the registration of the candidates that stretches from October 19 until October 28. Candidates have to be at least 30 years old and are required to be fluent in written and spoken Arabic, and with no criminal history.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am and are scheduled to close 12 hours later, with first results expected after midnight as ballot papers in Kuwait are still counted manually.

OPEC member Kuwait sits on about seven percent of global crude reserves and pumps around 3.0 million barrels of oil a day. It has amassed around $600 billion in reserves from when oil prices were high.

Kuwaitis Head to Polls in a “Uniting” Parliamentary Election

Friday, 25 November 2016

One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed

Washington- In the summer of 2015, armed American drones over eastern Syria stalked Junaid Hussain, an influential hacker and recruiter for ISIS.

For weeks, Mr. Hussain was careful to keep his young stepson by his side, and the drones held their fire. But late one night, Mr. Hussain left an internet cafe alone, and minutes later a Hellfire missile killed him as he walked between two buildings in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS’ de facto capital.

Mr. Hussain, a 21-year-old from Birmingham, England, was a leader of a band of English-speaking computer specialists who had given a far-reaching megaphone to ISIS propaganda and exhorted online followers to carry out attacks in the West.

One by one, American and allied forces have killed the most important of roughly a dozen members of the cell, which the FBI calls “the Legion,” as part of a secretive campaign that has largely silenced a powerful voice that led to a surge of counterterrorism activity across the United States in 2015 as young men and women came under the influence of its propaganda.

Carrying out one strike after the next, American and British forces set out to destroy the Legion. Reyaad Khan was also killed in a drone strike.

An Australian, Neil Prakash, was targeted in a strike around the same time. A senior American official said that Mr. Prakash was wounded but survived. In the last few weeks, however, a Middle Eastern government arrested Mr. Prakash, another senior American military official said.

American military, intelligence and law enforcement officials acknowledge that ISIS still retains a sophisticated social media arm that could still inspire attacks like those in San Bernardino, Calif., and in Orlando, Fla., and remains a potent foe suspected of maintaining clandestine cells in Europe. But they point to the coordinated effort against the Legion as evidence of the success the United States has had in reducing ISIS’ ability to direct, enable or inspire attacks against the West.

Initially the threat posed by the Legion was primarily seen as a problem for law enforcement officials. But as the threat worsened last year, and the FBI stepped up the monitoring of terrorism suspects around the country, the bureau pressed the military to focus on the group, according to current and former American officials.

While American and British forces conducted a series of drone strikes on members of the group, the FBI sifted through thousands of the Legion’s followers on social media to figure out who had actually been inspired to take action. In the last two years, it has arrested nearly 100 people in cases involving the terrorist group.

Several of the arrests were of people who had direct contact with the Legion. Many of the others involved were “folks who first came on our radar because we became aware of them” through their connections with Hussain and Reyaad Khan, also a British citizen, who was another leader of the group, according to Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI.

Mr. Hussain wore a number of hats, including that of a hacker. He was linked to the release of personal information on more than 1,300 American military and government employees. In March 2015, his group posted the names and addresses of service members with instructions: “Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking they are safe.”

More important were Mr. Hussain’s efforts as an online recruiter.

According to court records, Mr. Hussain communicated with at least four men in four states, imploring them to initiate attacks or help spread ISIS’ message. Mr. Hussain was behind a plot to behead Pamela Geller, the author of a conservative blog. In early 2015, Mr. Hussain began communicating with Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26, and gave him instructions to kill Ms. Geller.

Mr. Rahim abruptly abandoned the plan and decided instead to kill a police officer in the Boston area. The bureau was monitoring him, and Mr. Rahim was shot and killed in June 2015 after he confronted an FBI surveillance team with a knife. The FBI also arrested two of Mr. Rahim’s associates, whom prosecutors say were involved in the plot.

Mr. Hussain’s associates were also busy. Another Briton, named Raphael Hostey, was in touch with Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, of Bolingbrook, Ill. Mr. Khan tried to travel to Syria with his two younger siblings before he was arrested by the FBI.

In another plot that the FBI disrupted, Mr. Hussain instructed an Ohio college student named Munir Abdulkader to kidnap a member of the military and record his killing on video. Mr. Hussain then asked Mr. Abdulkader to attack a police station in the Cincinnati area. As Mr. Abdulkader prepared for the suicide operation, he told Mr. Hussain about his prowess on the shooting range.

Mr. Hussain responded: “Next time ul be shooting kuffar in their face and stomach.”

Mr. Abdulkader, 22, who was born in Eritrea, was arrested and pleaded guilty in July to material support for terrorism and plotting to kill a member of the military and police officers. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed

Mosul's Civilians Fret over Security,Supplies

Iraqi forces have pushed the hardline organization ISIS out of the street where Yaqdhan Abdelnabi lives in Mosul, but the former sales manager is moving his five children to another part of the city because it is still dangerous.

Women hang laundry on balconies and men chat at the few shops that have reopened in the Zahra district of eastern Mosul since it was retaken more than a week ago by Iraqi forces.

But ISIS still holds other parts of the northern city, carries out suicide bombings and fires rockets from positions nearby. With food and water in short supply, life remains far from normal in Zahra, even if ISIS is on the back foot in Mosul after more than two years of brutal rule.

“The (Iraqi) army is advancing, but (ISIS) rockets land every day in our district. It’s non-stop,” said Abdulnabi, who worked for a Turkish food firm before ISIS made Mosul their biggest urban stronghold in Iraq.

“I decided to move my children to my brother’s house after a suicide bombing struck close to my house,” he said.

Abdulnabi has packed a bag with clothing for his children, aged between three and 10. His brother lives in another part of Zahra which Abdulnabi says is quieter.

Minutes after he spoke, a group of people chatting in front of their houses ducked when they heard a gun being fired, apparently by a sniper. No one was hurt though many people on the streets already have bandaged wounds.

Many houses are packed with 20 to 30 people because families are sheltering relatives or other people who have fled from other parts of Mosul. Some homes still fly the white flags they raised to signal surrender to the advancing Iraqi forces.

Black Humvees bring in reinforcements and pickup trucks head in the opposite direction, carrying elderly people or families who are leaving. One family goes through the district on foot, with a small girl carrying a white flag.

“We haven’t had water for one week, no electricity,” said Ahmed Youssef, a baker. “I am not going to open my bakery unless there is security … I have some flour left but it makes no sense to resume work now.”

Trucks deliver basic food items every day at a square next to a military headquarters. Soldiers fired in the air to keep order .

“There is not enough food, no support at all,” said 41-year old Haris Ibrahim who fled with his five-strong family and now lives with 22 other displaced in a small cubicle house. “We need more food.”

Mosul's Civilians Fret over Security,Supplies

Passenger Trains Collide in Iran, 40 Killed

An Iranian passenger train collided with another at a station about 250 km east of the capital Tehran,killing at least 40 people and injuring 100. More so, the death toll is likely to rise, state television reported.

A local official told state TV that the remote location of the crash had slowed rescue efforts. “So far only one helicopter has reached the scene because of access difficulties,” said local Red Crescent chief Hasan Shokrollahi.

Video footage showed four derailed carriages, two of them on fire. A spokesman for Iran’s Red Crescent, Mostafa Mortazavi, told the semi-official Fars news agency that firefighters were trying to control the blaze.

“I was sleeping when the crash happened. I thought it was an air strike … When I opened my eyes, there was blood everywhere,” a hospitalized passenger said.

Fars quoted Semnan provincial governor Mohammad Reza Khabbaz as saying the death toll was expected to increase. The governor of Tabriz told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that the moving train had 400 passengers on board. It was not clear how many passengers had been on the second train. Fars had earlier said 100 had been rescued.

“Out of the 400 passengers … 48 are missing. They might be hospitalize or left the area… but there is a high possibility that they were killed,” Rahim Shohratifar told Tasnim.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said four of the dead were railway employees aboard the trains.

Khabbaz told Iranian television it appeared that a train entering the Haft-Khan station on the outskirts of Shahroud ploughed into another that had broken down there.

“The initial investigation suggests that a mechanical failure, possibly caused by cold weather, forced the express train, operating between the cities of Tabriz and Mashhad to stop (at Haft-Khan),” Khabbaz said.

Passenger Trains Collide in Iran, 40 Killed

Britain's Biggest Carmaker Plans Building Electric Cars

Britain’s biggest carmarker Jaguar Land Rover announced plans on building electric cars in Britain, just two days after the government promised $484 million worth endowment to support greener technologies.

Green technologies are those aspiring to mitigate or reverse the effects of human activity on the environment, and perhaps help with the climate challenge facing the world.

“We want to build our EVs (electric vehicles) in the West Midlands, in the home of our design and engineering,” Chief Executive Ralf Speth told an industry meeting on Thursday evening according to a spokeswoman.

Speth told Reuters in September it made sense to build electric batteries and cars in Britain if the conditions, including pilot testing and support from science, were right.

Any new production would be seen as a further boost to the automotive sector following the Brexit vote after Japanese carmaker Nissan said it would build two new models at the country’s biggest car plant.

Jaguar Land Rover wants half of its cars to be available in an electric version by the end of the decade, after showcasing its first electric car at the Los Angeles Auto Show earlier this month.

Britain's Biggest Carmaker Plans Building Electric Cars

Semi-Annual Shot Lowers 'Bad' LDL

In a promising development , a drug injection is expected to replace the daily pill for controlling “bad” LDL cholesterol. The Inclisiran shot will be taken at the doctor’s office two or three times a year.

Researchers found that Inclisiran dramatically cuts LDL cholesterol levels by half or more. early trials show that the drug’s effect lasts a range of four to six months.

Such long-lasting effects could provide a major advance in preventing heart disease, heart attack and stroke, by helping reduce hardening of the arteries, the researchers said.

The trial results were presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in New Orleans. Another phase of research is needed before Inclisiran can receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Statin pills like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin) are the current gold standard for treating high cholesterol, but have their limits, heart doctors say.

When paired with a statin, a PCSK9 inhibitor called Repatha (evolocumab) reduced LDL cholesterol levels by nearly 60 percent more than statins alone, said lead researcher Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The Repatha study involved 846 patients with coronary artery disease. Half received statins alone, and others received the PCSK9 inhibitor and statins. About 81 percent of patients taking Repatha and statins showed a reduction in arterial plaque volume, the results showed.

Drugs such as Repatha and Inclisiran spur the liver to flush more LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream by blocking a protein called PCSK9.

Inclisiran is a next-level PCSK9 inhibitor, after Repatha, which works on a genetic level to prevent cells from producing PCSK9 in the first place, Ray said.

The Inclisiran clinical trial involved 500 people who were assigned to either a “control” group or one of four groups that received different doses of the drug.

One dose of Inclisiran at 300 milligrams or greater caused a 51 percent drop in LDL cholesterol that lasted at least 90 days, while two doses caused a 57 percent reduction that lasted up to six months, Ray reported.

Based on these results, Ray and his colleagues estimate patients would only need an Inclisiran injection two or three times a year to control their cholesterol.

Both trials are funded by the drug’s manufacturers, The Medicines Company for Inclisiran and Amgen Inc. for Repatha.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Semi-Annual Shot Lowers 'Bad' LDL

€102 Million Loan from EBRD to Jordan

Amman- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) granted a €102 million loan to the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) as the continuing influx of refugees from Syria is putting a massive strain on Jordan’s resources.

The loan will be provided in two tranches and will include the refinancing of existing debt as well as financing for the most pressing investment needs, given the rapidly increasing volume of waste.

A £5 million investment grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) will co-finance the first committed tranche, worth €50 million.

The second uncommitted instalment of up to €50 million is expected to be supplemented by an additional amount of up to €50 million co-financed by several donors including DFID, the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development and others.

Jordan hosts around 1.3 million Syrian refugees, of whom more than 400,000 are living in Amman alone. This is creating enormous pressure on municipal services in the Jordanian capital.

The EBRD financing will increase the capacity of the city and the municipality to address the most urgent needs as well as to strengthen long-term resilience.

Development of solid waste infrastructure is urgently required to address a 25 per cent increase in the levels of waste generation. This modernisation will lead to improved services and reduce the environmental and social impact of a sharp rise in the number of people living in and around Amman.

The financing is linked to a comprehensive programme to reform the solid waste sector in the city, with a focus on increasing its operational and financial sustainability and its efficiency. The project will be complemented by a comprehensive technical cooperation package to support GAM in further enhancing its financial management capacity and auditing skills and ensuring successful procurement and implementation of the investment components.

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said: “We are very pleased to partner once again with the city authorities of Amman. Our target is to strengthen the city in the face of a serious challenge. Jordan is highly exposed to a huge humanitarian crisis, which has an impact on the country. In this situation it is imperative that the international community supports Jordan as it deals with the consequences of the crisis.”

Akel Biltaji, Mayor of Greater Amman Municipality, also said: “We are planning to develop with the EBRD a sustainable and eco-friendly plan to enhance our response to the refugee crisis. This will also include the creation of jobs for the whole population and make Amman an inclusive city that cares about the environment.”

In 2015, the EBRD provided a US$ 18 million loan to the Greater Amman Municipality to help manage solid waste, generate electricity and reduce CO2 emissions, all of which have substantial environmental impacts.

Jordan became an EBRD shareholder in 2012.

€102 Million Loan from EBRD to Jordan

South Sudan FM: President Kiir to Visit Gulf Countries, Relations with Riyadh Are Strong

Malabo- The Republic of South Sudan Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol revealed challenges facing the implementation of peace in South Sudan and the latest developments on the insurgency being led by the former vice president, Riek Machar.

South Sudan is a landlocked country with its capital being Juba in East-Central Africa and has gained its independence from Sudan in 2011.

In his Thursday interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Kuol said that the United States’ support has been cut short to humanitarian relief. No U.S. economic or military aid was given to the South Sudan government. Given that the peace was not reached under U.S. conditioning, there have been high reservations on international aid presented.

More so, South Sudan confirmed its backing of the resolution reached by the Arab African summit on condemning the highly controversial U.S. Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA,) saying that the war against terror must only target militias and nonconformist terror organizations not sovereign countries, said Kuol.

The Foreign Minister reaffirmed that relations shared with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are strong, also revealing a soon anticipated visit by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit to Gulf countries– namely Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and hopefully Saudi Arabia. Concerning Kiir’s visit to the kingdom, it remains open given that Saudi Arabia has not been contacted for preparations.

Matters in South Sudan are on steady progress after Taban Deng Gai was appointed Vice President, earlier this year, replacing coup leader Machar. More so, state of affairs on both political and economic scopes are enhancing significantly, Kuol said.

The return to oil production will heal South Sudan’s economy- but with recent security tensions suffered by the coup, production rates have taken a steep decline. Production was at 400,000 bpd before the break of civil conflict, and now has been reduced to 170,000 bpd. However, government efforts are directed towards propping up production to 350,000 bpd.

After oil production’s complete healing, some of the economic crises can be overcome, Kuol highlighted.

On speeding up the peace process, Kuol said that the prolonged Machar and President Kiir negotiations had played into escalating street battle, making it more difficult to guarantee an overall peace standing. The coup is still rooted for in some tropical areas.

Pro-Machar forces work independently, even though Machar might have arrived to a peace agreement, the paramilitary forces have not yet been merged and put under the accord’s influence. The militias continue to stage armed operations, Kuol said.

When asked on the foreign support received by Machar forces, Kuol’s response was alarming and short, “unknown.”

South Sudan FM: President Kiir to Visit Gulf Countries, Relations with Riyadh Are Strong