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  • Caliphate: How the New York Times’ Islamic State scoop unravelled
    by Laila Al-Arian on Jan 15, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Caliphate: How the New York Times’ Islamic State scoop unravelled Laila Al-Arian Fri, 01/15/2021 – 22:21 The Caliphate podcast has revealed again that the paper needs to confront unpleasant truths about how it handles stories at the nexus of Islam, the Middle East and terrorism One of the most consequential US media scandals in recent years ultimately ended with a whimper. After a two-month internal investigation, the New York Times last month acknowledged that its blockbuster podcast, Caliphate, was based on a hoax.  But what should have been an assessment of the deep-seated problems that led to this debacle left major issues unaddressed – perhaps because they required facing too many unpleasant truths about how the paper has handled stories at the nexus of Islam, the Middle East and terrorism. Perhaps also because too many names on the newspaper’s masthead were implicated in Caliphate’s implosion. At the core of the Times’ response were excuses, rather than a recognition of the systemic biases and blind spots in its coverage of Islam and the Middle East that caused the fiasco On 18 December, the Times admitted that key parts of Caliphate fell short of its “standards of accuracy” after it concluded that its key source, Shehroze Chaudhry, a 26-year-old Pakistani Canadian man, had fabricated his account of travelling to Syria and joining the Islamic State (IS). The result of the internal investigation included a podcast episode, an editor’s note that now precedes Caliphate, a roundup by Times media reporters and an in-depth investigation into Chaudhry’s multiple deceptions. The lead reporter on the podcast, Rukmini Callimachi, whose star rose with her coverage of al-Qaeda and IS, was reassigned.  Yet, at the core of the Times’ response were excuses, rather than a recognition of the systemic biases and blind spots in its coverage of Islam and the Middle East that caused the fiasco. While it admitted that the problems with the podcast reflected an “institutional failure”, the Times did not apologise for the damaging role the hugely popular audio series had in shaping policy in Canada.  When the podcast painted a picture of a murderous terrorist roaming the country’s streets, the opposition in Canada was furious. The political fallout effectively ended the debate over the repatriation of former IS members and their families. The lack of reckoning by the Times with the potential harm its false reporting caused raises questions about whether the newspaper’s primary concern was the damage to reputation. The Times concluded that there was not enough scrutiny of the reporting for the podcast because the newspaper was new to audio. But it’s clear the journalistic failings extended beyond the podcast. On the same day it made this statement, the Times appended editor’s notes to two of Callimachi’s articles from 2014 and 2019 after a review found significant problems. Terrorism hoax The downfall of Caliphate began in September, when Canadian authorities charged Chaudhry with perpetrating a terrorism hoax based on interviews he gave to journalists, including the Times. Chaudhry, who went by the name Abu Huzayfah, was the main subject of Caliphate.  After a lengthy investigation, Canadian authorities could not verify key parts of Chaudhry’s story. A Times investigation after his arrest reached the same conclusion. Chaudhry likely never went to Syria, joined IS or killed anyone, authorities say. He was charged on the grounds that his interviews sparked “public safety concerns amongst Canadians”. He is set to appear in an Ontario court later this month. New York Times says Caliphate podcast probably made up by ‘con artist’ Read More » Early on in Caliphate, Callimachi expressed frustration that after interviewing a number of IS fighters over the years, she had never found someone willing to admit to their crimes. In Abu Huzayfah, she thought she had finally found that person.  It turns out that fear is an alluring and irresistible storyline. Caliphate had a narrative, with Callimachi and Abu Huzayfah playing starring roles. It was a narrative about gratuitous Muslim violence, to which Abu Huzayfah would finally give carnal details.  In an interview after the retraction, Times executive editor Dean Baquet acknowledged: “We fell in love with the fact that we had gotten a member of ISIS who would describe his life in the caliphate and would describe his crimes.” Callimachi and her audio producer, Andy Mills, pushed ahead with the podcast, despite knowing that Chaudhry made up key parts of his story. The allure of this narrative led the reporters to miss multiple red flags. Faulty timeline During their reporting, the team found that Chaudhry had lied about the timeline of when he travelled to Syria, but in response, they put together an alternate timeline that satisfied them. Despite discovering these deceptions before releasing Caliphate, they built an entire podcast around him anyway.  They relied on the word of two unnamed American intelligence officials who told them that Chaudhry was on the US no-fly list and had joined IS, but this should not have been used as evidence without further corroboration, as intelligence officials are not infallible.  In an interview about the Caliphate retraction, Baquet said the no-fly list was one of the reasons the Times was duped, explaining that it’s “not so easy to get on”, which is demonstrably untrue, with lawsuits alleging that babies and toddlers have been added to it. Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi speaks in New York in August 2018 (AFP) In an interview with a Canadian outlet a month after Caliphate’s release, Chaudhry denied that he had killed anyone. But Callimachi was convinced that she had caught Chaudhry in a special window of time before Canadian authorities were on to him. Two and a half years later, shortly after Chaudhry’s arrest, Callimachi and the Times tried to claim that they had built “narrative tension” into the podcast, but that response fell flat, since the only doubt they sowed was about the timeline of when he went to Syria, not the substance of his account. Additionally, Callimachi questioned whether Canadian authorities charged Chaudhry with perpetrating a hoax because they were unable to collect the necessary evidence to charge him. Such defensiveness is perhaps understandable from the lead reporter on a big story, but the Times’ period of introspection led to a response with multiple problems. The ‘ISIS Files’ There was a backlash against Callimachi and the Times in 2018 after she took more than 15,000 internal IS documents out of Iraq without permission from Iraqi authorities, which the newspaper later published as the “ISIS Files”. The documents were also featured throughout Caliphate. She and the Times were criticised for not redacting some of the documents to protect Iraqis’ names and personal information, including that of minors.  Callimachi’s decision to take these documents out of the country raised legal questions about the ethics of removing important historical documents from a war-torn country. But the problems went beyond Caliphate and some of Callimachi’s colleagues have said that their attempts to warn their managers were futile. The Caliphate podcast overemphasises religious ideology, while stripping the group’s founding and rise from the geopolitical context of Iraq A Syrian journalist who helped to report a story for Callimachi that was published in 2014 (one of the articles recently corrected) said his warnings about the credibility of a source she relied on were dismissed. “With Rukmini, it felt like the story was pre-reported in her head and she was looking for someone to tell her what she already believed, what she thought would be a great story,” Karam Shoumali told the Times. As the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported, another colleague reportedly told editors at a meeting to discuss the Caliphate retraction: “You discouraged people from using the fire alarm, and when some of us did use the fire alarm anyhow, we found the alarm was not connected to anything.” For her part, Callimachi released a statement on the day of Caliphate’s retraction saying: “I am fiercely proud of the stories I have broken on ISIS and its crimes against humanity,” and apologised for “what we missed and what we got wrong.”  I am fiercely proud of the stories I have broken on the ISIS beat. But as journalists, we demand transparency from our sources, so we should expect it from ourselves. Please see my full statement below regarding our Caliphate podcast: pic.twitter.com/FBUFsrnbsa— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) December 18, 2020 The Caliphate implosion and Callimachi’s track record draw attention to a double standard in journalistic rigour and professionalism when it comes to covering the Middle East and the terrorism beat. After the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, Callimachi recklessly speculated, based on unverified claims in IS publications, about the possibility that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, had converted to Islam and carried out the shooting at the behest of IS. That she was allowed to baselessly speculate on social media demonstrates that professional standards often don’t apply when it comes to the terrorism beat. Lazy stereotyping In a revealing answer for a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in which Mills and Callimachi participated after the release of the podcast, Mills was asked to name the biggest misconception concerning IS. He responded that in the West, it was “that belief and religion play no role”.  Has the New York Times declared war on Iran? Read More » I’m not sure what “West” he was referring to. Has there not been extensive public discussion of the various “problems” with Islam, Muslims and the Muslim world since 9/11? One of the two great US parties has made massive political hay for years by repeating ad nauseum, publicly and provocatively, that “we” need to name the problem: “radical Islamic terrorism”. Callimachi’s reporting on IS fed and fed off of this prurient fascination with “Islam and violence”. The Caliphate podcast overemphasises religious ideology, while stripping the group’s founding and rise from the geopolitical context of Iraq, a country that was destroyed by the 2003 US invasion and occupation, which destabilised the entire region.  A leitmotif of Callimachi’s work is that IS and other jihadist groups are a legitimate – and perhaps revealing – manifestation of Islam. By Callimachi’s count, 40,000 Muslim foreigners joined IS, which in a religion of 1.8 billion is a statistically insignificant number. Yet, she devotes much of her reporting on the group to describing, explaining and at times acting as a borderline stenographer for what amounts to a murderous cult’s theological beliefs and justifications. The lazy stereotyping allowed when reporting on “the region”, identified decades ago by Edward Said, rears its head in Callimachi’s analysis (as well as those of too many other major reporters). In an interview with NPR in 2015, she said that parents supporting their daughters who were raped was unusual in the Middle East, or “this part of the world”. What evidence is there of this? Maybe she could speak to the Iraqi families whose daughters were raped by American soldiers to see whether they support their daughters.  Sensationalistic reporting about the Middle East “often confirms readers’ worst biases” (AA) Even if Callimachi wanted to, however, she would not be able to. Although much of her most high-profile work is based on Arabic-language documents, Callimachi does not speak or read Arabic.  This dismissive attitude towards the region is typical: wringing hands over its cultural backwardness and placing its majority religion at the centre of discussions on violence, instead of asking what happens to people subjected to decades of sanctions, oppression, occupation and the destructive power of the US military. This trope in journalism is so ingrained that most people don’t even notice it. A study in contrasts In the editor’s note preceding the Caliphate podcast, there’s no mention of the word “retract”. Given how much Abu Huzayfah’s story figured into the podcast, it is a strange decision not to use this word when the tainted character is mentioned in all but one episode (the ninth chapter, which itself raises ethical questions, as when Callimachi asked a Yazidi girl to participate in a call with her alleged rapist to confirm his voice. Would this tactic be acceptable in the US on such a sensitive story involving minors?)  We’ve been here before. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the Times laundered unverified propaganda from Iraqi opposition members and US intelligence and placed it prominently on the front page The lack of a clear retraction stands in stark contrast to other journalistic case studies, including the Atlantic’s recent retraction of a long read about wealthy Connecticut parents trying to ensure their kids’ admission into elite universities through niche sports. After the Atlantic discovered that the author, who had a history of plagiarism two decades earlier, had fabricated key details or made mistakes that needed correcting, the magazine retracted the piece and said it could not stand by it.  In contrast, the Times called Callimachi a “powerful reporter”, though the damage her podcast caused is undeniably greater than any fallout from the Atlantic article.  The most the Times seems willing to do is reassign Callimachi, even though she had already begun reporting on stories beyond the terror beat before the podcast’s implosion, including a high-profile deep dive into Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville during a police raid in March 2020.  In the fallout over the Caliphate saga, the Times returned the Peabody Award it won for the podcast and withdrew its entry for the Pulitzer Prize from consideration (it had been given a “finalist” citation). Will it happen again? Reporting about Arabs, Muslims and the Middle East, especially sensationalistic stories, is believed because it often confirms readers’ worst biases and pre-existing beliefs. We have become so inured to framing that pathologises Arabs and Muslims that we don’t even notice it. But there’s also a fear to publicly critique a reporter from a hallowed institution, which explains why the Times not only gets away with such framing time and again, but seems to encourage it from its biggest stars. New York Times sends a simplistic message on regional uprisings: Blame Iran Read More » We’ve been here before. In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the Times laundered unverified propaganda from Iraqi opposition members and US intelligence and placed it prominently on the front page of the newspaper, helping to sway public opinion in favour of the war.  In its tepid apology for such reporting in May 2004, the Times wrote: “But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged – or failed to emerge.”  It seems like the Times has once again failed to take away the right lessons from this debacle, which means it can – and likely will – happen again. The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. Media The Big Story Post Date Override 0 Update Date Mon, 05/04/2020 – 21:28 Update Date Override 0

  • Iraq: Bird flu blamed for deaths of tens of thousands of chickens
    by Alex MacDonald on Jan 15, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Iraq: Bird flu blamed for deaths of tens of thousands of chickens Local authorities said a buffer zone was being imposed on the infected region Alex MacDonald Fri, 01/15/2021 – 16:04 Iraqi vets check chickens that entered Iraq from Turkey at a market in the southern port city of Basra (AFP) An outbreak of bird flu was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of chickens in central Iraq, officials said on Friday. A spokesperson for the governor of Salahuddin province told reporters that laboratory tests had confirmed that the mass death of poultry in a field in Samarra district was due to bird flu. “The governor of Salahuddin calls on poultry owners and citizens in Samarra to take the highest degree of caution against bird flu, and affirms imposing a health buffer zone around poultry fields,” said the spokesperson. Local media outlets had previously broadcast footage showing the mass burials of chickens in the province. Chicken run: Lebanese boy risks life and limb to rescue runaway fowl from Israel Read More » In a statement to the Nas News site, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture said “all measures will be taken to cordon off the infections and strive not to spread this virus”. “The ministry, through the teams and the quarries of the Veterinary Department, has previous experience in dealing with such cases,” said Hamid al-Nayef. This is not the first outbreak of bird flu in Iraq. In May 2020, a number of cases of the H5H8 strain were discovered in northern Baghdad leading to the sealing off of a number of neighbourhood and the destruction of 60,000 birds. A case was also discovered in northern Ninevah province. Various strains of bird flu have been responsible for hundreds of human deaths worldwide in recent decades. Iraq’s creaking healthcare system has been struggling to cope with the much deadlier Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed around 13,000 people in the country so far. Inside Iraq News

  • Israel turns its back on French-Egyptian Mideast initiative
    by Rina Bassist on Jan 15, 2021 at 3:59 pm

    Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi rejected the invitation for meeting French, German, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers in Cairo, citing the nationwide lockdown in Israel as an excuse.

  • BBC chair donated to Quilliam because he was ‘impressed’ by Maajid Nawaz
    by MEE staff on Jan 15, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    BBC chair donated to Quilliam because he was ‘impressed’ by Maajid Nawaz Richard Sharp told parliamentary committee he wanted to support controversial radio host’s ‘personal efforts to combat radicalism and extremism’ MEE staff Fri, 01/15/2021 – 14:31 Sharp said he donated to Quilliam after he was left impressed by Maajid Nawaz after hearing him on LBC radio (AFP) The incoming chair of the BBC has told a parliamentary committee that he donated thousands of pounds to the controversial Quilliam counter-extremism think tank because he was impressed by its founder, Maajid Naawaz. Richard Sharp was quizzed by Kevin Brennan, a Labour member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, about the donations on Thursday, after Middle East Eye columnist Peter Oborne wrote that they raised questions about the former banker’s suitability to lead the public broadcaster. Richard Sharp’s donations to Quilliam raise questions about his BBC chairmanship Read More » Sharp, whose appointment at the BBC was announced by the government last week, did not respond to Oborne’s requests for comment about the donations. But he told Brennan he had been impressed by the work of Nawaz, Quilliam’s founder, who also hosts a regular show on the UK’s LBC talk radio station. “I heard Maajid Nawaz on LBC and I was impressed at his personal efforts to combat radicalism and extremism, and I felt that it was appropriate to support his efforts in trying to bring the community as a whole together,” Sharp said.  Asked whether he was aware of controversy surrounding the organisation in British Muslim communities, he said: “Well I was concerned on its merits to see what I can do to help fight radicalism and that was the purpose of my involvement.” Public records show that Sharp donated £25,000 to Quilliam in 2017 and a further £10,000 in 2019 via his Sharp Foundation charity. Quilliam was founded in 2008 and describes itself as “the world’s first anti-extremism organisation.” It initially received funding from the British government and has worked with right-wing organisations that promote anti-Muslim views, according to the Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University project researching Islamophobia. It has faced recent criticism over a report into so-called “grooming gangs”, which said that Asian men made up 84 percent of convicted child sex exploitation offenders. In late 2020, a Home Office report said there was no evidence to suggest that any ethnic group is over-represented among child sexual exploitation offenders.  Quilliam was also criticised for its attempt seven years ago to rehabilitate Tommy Robinson, founder of the far-right and Islamophobic English Defence League, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.  Robinson later distanced himself from Nawaz, but said he was paid thousands of pounds by Quilliam to leave the EDL. Media News

  • Arabic press review: Egypt moguls hope Covid-19 donations will burnish their image
    by Mohammad Ayesh on Jan 15, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    Arabic press review: Egypt moguls hope Covid-19 donations will burnish their image Meanwhile, Kuwait allows in travellers with Israel-stamped passports, Lebanon TV ties Beirut explosion to Syrian firm, and Iraq uncovers nationality fraud Mohammad Ayesh Fri, 01/15/2021 – 14:15 The Great pyramids lit up with a laser projection the message ‘Stay Home’ on the Giza plateau outside the Egyptian capital of Cairo on 18 April 2020 (AFP) Kuwait allows in Gulf visitors with Israeli visas Well-informed security sources in Kuwait have told newspaper Al-Anbaa that state authorities have allowed citizens of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain who have visited Israel or whose passports include Israeli stamps to enter Kuwait – a change from usual regulations. The source stated that an agreement has been reached between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states guaranteeing the circulation of these countries’ citizens in the Gulf region, while noting that Kuwait was not involved in the normalisation agreements of its neighbours with Israel. “According to the Gulf agreement, every Gulf citizen has the right to enter Kuwait with the passport of his/her country of residence, even if the passport includes an entry and exit stamp” from Israel, al-Anbaa quoted the source as saying. The source pointed out that many US and European citizens enter Kuwait with passports used previously to visit Israel. Kuwaiti officials had previously stated that the holders of passports with Israeli stamps or visas were automatically banned from entering the country. For Egyptian businessmen, Covid-19 is an opportunity to fix their reputation A number of Egyptian businessmen have recently made donations to support efforts to confront the coronavirus pandemic, moves which some have viewed as a strategy to improve their public image, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The Egyptian Ministry of Health revealed a list of donors that included the names of eight businessmen who have donated funds to buy vaccines and fight the pandemic in recent months. The list included well-known Egyptian businessman Hisham Talaat, who pledged to provide the coronavirus vaccine for about two million citizens who cannot afford it. Talaat was convicted of murdering a Lebanese singer in Dubai in 2008, and was tried and imprisoned, until Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi recently issued a special pardon. A businessman accused of collaborating with Israel took part in the charitable initiative, according to the newspaper, while another, Ramy Lakah, had fled Egypt before the 2011 uprising after embezzling funds from banks, returning to the country under a special agreement with authorities to return the stolen money. Lakah reportedly donated 30 million Egyptian pounds ($1.9 million) to confront the pandemic. Syrian businessmen tied to Beirut port ammonium nitrate A television investigation aired by Lebanese news channel Al Jadeed has alleged that Syrian businessmen close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were tied to a large shipment of ammonium nitrate stored in the Beirut Port, which led to a deadly explosion on 4 August. The investigation claimed a connection between Syrian engineering and construction company Hesco and British company Savoro. The latter purchased in 2013 large quantities of ammonium nitrate that were confiscated by Lebanese authorities, until the explosion that devastated entire neighbourhoods of the Lebanese capital. The investigation revealed that some companies managed by Syrian businessmen, including Hesco, shared addresses with Savoro. Al Jadeed added that the three Syrian businessmen it investigated were previously on the US sanctions list for supporting the Assad government, and that Hesco was dissolved three months after the Beirut explosion. However, other Lebanese journalists have cast doubts on the conclusions drawn by Al Jadeed’s investigation. While results of a full official investigation into the blast have yet to be unveiled, it is widely believed that corruption among Lebanese authorities and poor storage conditions in the Beirut port were the main conditions that led to the explosion happening. Foreigners acquire Iraqi citizenship through fraud An investigation by the Iraqi Integrity Commission has revealed that hundreds of foreigners acquired Iraqi nationality with falsified documents, according to Al-Araby al-Jadeed. The commission did not reveal the nationality of the foreigners who were granted citizenship, but said that the investigation had unveiled 1,360 falsified transactions on the basis of which Iraqi citizenship was granted to foreigners in the Diyala governorate, which borders Iran. One of the employees accused of forgery was arrested. Iraqi legal expert Tarek Harb told Al-Araby that what happened in Diyala was a recurring issue, but that only some cases had been discovered, explaining that similar incidents took place in different regions of Iraq. *Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye Media News

  • Iran tests ‘bomber drones’ and missiles in third military exercise this month
    by MEE and agencies on Jan 15, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Iran tests ‘bomber drones’ and missiles in third military exercise this month Operations come at a time of heightened tensions with the US in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency MEE and agencies Fri, 01/15/2021 – 14:12 Iranian drones are seen during a large-scale drone combat exercise in Semnan earlier this month (AFP) Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a drone and missile drill in central Iran on Friday, its official website reported, in the country’s third military exercise in less than two weeks. The moves come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States in the final days of US President Donald Trump’s administration. Dubbed the Great Prophet 15, Friday’s drill featured a “new generation” of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, according to the Sepahnews website. Iranian press review: Iran increases range of suicide drones to 4,000km Read More » The exercise involved a drone attack on a missile defence system followed by “a barrage of Zolfaghar, Zelzal and Dezful-class ballistic missiles,” the site said. According to the Guards, the missiles were “equipped with detachable warheads and capable of being controlled outside the atmosphere”. “The bomber drones struck the hypothetical enemy missile shield from all directions, completely destroying the targets,” a state TV broadcast said of Friday’s drill. “Also, an abundant number of a new generation of ballistic missiles were fired at selected targets, inflicting deadly blows to the hypothetical enemy bases.” Reverse engineering Iran, which routinely boasts of technological advances in its armed forces, has one of the biggest missile programmes in the Middle East, regarding them as a deterrent and retaliatory force against US and other adversaries in the event of war. Iran has been quietly building up an arsenal of locally-produced drones that it is exporting to its allies in the region and testing against enemies in Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia, accroding to a report in The Hill, a US news webite. Several missiles are seen being being launched in a desert area in Iran on Friday (AFP) On 10 July 2019, Iranian drones were were used to attack a Kurdish dissident group in northern Iraq, after Iran accused the group of killing members of the Revolutionary Guard.  Iranian media said that a new IRGC drone unit was used during the attack, which came three weeks after Iran downed a sophisticated US drone over the Gulf of Oman. Although Iran has sought to build up a force of locally produced drones since the 1980s, it made major strides after it was effectively able to reverse-engineer copies of US drones, The Hill reported. The Iranian Saegheh and Shahed 171 are essentially copies of the Sentinel RQ-170 Iran captured in 2011. ‘Enemies of Islam’ A video released by state television on Friday showed several missiles being launched in a desert area with Guard commander Major General Hossein Salami and the force’s aerospace chief Amirali Hajizadeh present. “The message of this drill was our power and determined will to defend our sovereignty, our sacred system and our values against the enemies of Islam and Iran,” Salami was quoted as saying. Hajizadeh said the operation demonstrated the Guard’s “new power” and capabilities. Pompeo says Iran is al-Qaeda’s ‘new home base’, offers no solid evidence Read More » The drill follows an Iranian navy exercise held on Wednesday and Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, and an army drone drill on the fifth and sixth of January, AFP reported. The exercises started two days after Iran marked the first anniversary of the assassination of its revered commander Qassem Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike in Iraq in January last year. There have been periodic confrontations between Iran’s military and US forces in the Gulf since 2018, when Trump abandoned Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reinstated harsh sanctions against Tehran. The US said it plans to announce additional Iran sanctions on Friday related to conventional arms and to the metals industry, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The State and Treasury Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the announcement. US President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on 20 January, has said Washington will rejoin the nuclear deal “if Iran resumes strict compliance” with the agreement that imposed tight curbs on its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions. Iran Tensions News

  • ‘Dear Tayyip’: Erdogan and Macron exchanged letters to repair ties
    by Ragip Soylu on Jan 15, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    ‘Dear Tayyip’: Erdogan and Macron exchanged letters to repair ties Turkish president made the first move, with the two leaders seeking to meet in person soon Ragip Soylu Fri, 01/15/2021 – 14:01 France’s President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (AFP) The presidents of Turkey and France have exchanged letters to address their personal and regional differences, helping to create a roadmap to improve relations, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu told a group of journalists on Friday. Cavusoglu said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first sent a letter to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to wish him a happy new year and convey his sadness over recent terror attacks. Following the letter, the French government proposed four areas of collaboration: bilateral consultations, counterrorism, regional issues such as Syria and Libya, and a partnership on education, Cavusoglu added. “Earlier this week we received Macron’s letter. Very positive. Macron started his letter with a Turkish salutation, handwritten, ‘Dear Tayyip’,” Cavusoglu said. “Macron expressed his willingness to meet the president to deepen relations and discuss European [affairs].” Biden cold shoulders Erdogan as request for call left unanswered Read More » Erdogan, according to Cavusoglu, would like to meet Macron in person but first the two leaders are expected to talk soon via videoconference. The move itself is a stark change for both sides, considering the personal attacks they levied on each other throughout the last year. Erdogan just last month said that France needs to immediately get rid of Macron. He twice suggested the French president needed to undergo a mental health check because he was getting France involved in regional conflicts in which it had no interests. And Macron over and over called for sanctions against Turkey’s actions in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean, where Turkish ships last year conducted seismic research in disputed seawaters. The dispute intensified in October with Erdogan’s call for a boycott of French products, following Macron’s apparent support for Charlie Hebdo magazine’s caricatures about the Prophet Muhammad. Turkish officials would like to improve their ties with France due to the incoming Biden administration in the US, which is expected to have friendlier relations with Paris. Erdogan has already made a series of overtures towards Israel, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and Greece to make room for manoeuvre, ahead of Biden’s swearing in on Wednesday. This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition. Diplomacy Ankara News

  • Covid-19: Israeli man arrested for tricking ex into quarantine four times
    by MEE staff on Jan 15, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    Covid-19: Israeli man arrested for tricking ex into quarantine four times Police said the suspect, a health ministry employee, sent messages on four separate occasions to his ex-girlfriend telling her she needed to isolate MEE staff Fri, 01/15/2021 – 13:48 An Israeli woman wearing a protective mask due to the Covid-19 pandemic sits on a park bench by feeding pigeons in Jerusalem on 16 April 2020 (2020) An Israeli man has been arrested on suspicion of tricking his ex-girlfriend into quarantining for Covid-19 despite it being medically unnecessary for her to do so. Police said the 35-year-old, only identified as working for the health ministry and a resident of northern Israel, is suspected of various offences committed over several months, including misuse of power of office, fraud, violation of privacy and false imprisonment. The case has again raised concerns about rising cases of domestic abuse in Israel during the country’s pandemic-induced lockdowns. Police said the suspect “sent on four separate occasions messages to his ex-girlfriend’s phone about her immediate need to enter isolation due to exposure to a confirmed coronavirus patient, without her actually being exposed to such a person”. They said the evidence had been handed to the justice ministry ahead of a possible indictment for the suspect, who they described as “an external employee working at one of the health ministry’s call centres.” Rise in domestic abuse Israeli currently has over 180,000 citizens in isolation due to feared exposure to Covid-19, while almost two million having faced a two-week confinement since the beginning of the pandemic, which has so far claimed 3,800 lives in the country. Campaigners have noted a huge rise in cases of domestic abuse since the beginning of the pandemic in March. Domestic violence hotlines have reported three- and four-fold increases in calls in contrast to the same time period last year, while emergency shelters for battered women are full. Huge rise in violence against women in Israel met by poor response by government Read More » According to Ynet news, 20 women were murdered by their spouses or family members in 2020 as of November, up from 13 in 2019. Israeli women’s organisation Na’amat estimates that some 200,000 women face violence from their spouses or intimate partners in Israel, a crisis spanning the country and affecting all segments of society. “We were seeing normative families reporting violence for the first time, as well as a worsening of the situation in families that have long been in the cycle of violence,” Rivka Neuman, head of the women’s advancement division at the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (Wizo), which operates two shelters and a hotline in Israel, told Middle East Eye in November. The government has been criticised for its slow response to the rise in domestic abuse. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu further stoked the controversy in November when he told the Israeli Knesset that if society understood that animals should be protected from violence, it should understand the same about women. “Women aren’t animals that you can beat, and today we say you don’t hit animals either,” Netanyahu said. “We understand that animals, too, have understanding and intelligence and cognition and feelings. We rightly have compassion for animals. Well, women are animals, children are animals – animals with rights…” Netanyahu’s remarks led to a flood of comments in the mainstream press, as well as on social media. MK Ofer Shelah from the Yesh Atid party quipped: “The prime minister is an animal too. He has intelligence and cognition and rights – such as the right to utter such nonsense.” Covid-19 News

  • Re: US envoy ‘addicted’ to strengthening Israel occupation, settlement – Middle East Monitor
    by Justnfree on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Did they ever stop or decreased the aids since then?! Did Biden have the authority to stop it? Begin was quite sure of aids from authority above Biden.

  • Re: Syria calls on UN to take ‘immediate’ action against Israeli air strikes – Middle East Monitor
    by Helen4Yemen on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    Fool: in 1973, Egypt almost sent the Ashkenazi packingand the reason why the US is paying Egypt billions is notto threaten the alien Jews. Why do you think the alien Jew agreed to return the Sinai to Egypt? Because he feltscared after 1973. The US offered this white Jew dozensof fighter jets and even US pilots to do the fighting for them.https://www.cia.Gov/library/readingroom/docs/2012-12-10E.pdf

  • Re: Syria calls on UN to take ‘immediate’ action against Israeli air strikes – Middle East Monitor
    by Helen4Yemen on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    Why do you not tell us why the French, the British, the Italiansleft colonized Arab land but another white man, the Ashkenazi,is still there? This white man said he was no white man butIsraelite. To their humiliation, DNA has confirmed the Ashkenaziis as European as the Germans. You must tell us what we owethis white man more than we other other white Europeans.

  • Re: US ignores famine in Yemen as it designates Houthis as ‘terrorists’
    by JustMe on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    Just how calling a spade a spade, or a terrorist group a terrorist group, is going to tip Yemen into a famine? Are humanitarian groups already supplying a large flow of humanitarian aid into Yemen going to stop the flow of humanitarian aid? Although things are already fragile in Yemen, things are worse in Syria millions of Syrians are displaced and in Gaza 80 – 85% of the population is dependent on humanitarian relief? The designation of Hamas and PIJ has not prevented the ongoing flow of goods and food to Gaza.Is the concern calling the Houthis what they are will lead the Houthis to interdict the aid that is already coming to Yemen? Certainly the Houthis already engage in indiscriminate attacks upon civilians in Yemen as well as firing rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia and attacking shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis even launched a missile at Aden’s international airport in southern Yemen without regard for civilian safety in order to target the new legitimately formed government of Yemen. It is important to put pressure on the Houthis to confirm to international rules of war. It is also important to hold the Houthi responsible for permitting relief supplies to get through to the civilian population.The Iranian backed Houthi have no problem in attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure in and outside of Yemen. The Houthi have threatened to send suicide drones to hit Israeli cities. These are terrorists who need to be treated like terrorists.

  • Re: Muslim scholars call for Al-Aqsa Mosque to be protected from Israeli Judaisation
    by Helen4Yemen on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:12 pm

    In 1944, British and the US were scheming to make the Middle East the dumping place of the Jews they wantedto get rid of and they shipped 25,000 of them to Egypt.Egypt is a Muslim country. Why send them to a Muslimcountry?

  • Re: Syria calls on UN to take ‘immediate’ action against Israeli air strikes – Middle East Monitor
    by tzatz on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    He gave it to me ‘derech ha gav’ … reach out to him … 😉

  • Re: PA to pay full salaries to more than 900 prisoners
    by tzatz on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Shabbat ShalomStay Safe

  • Re: Muslim scholars call for Al-Aqsa Mosque to be protected from Israeli Judaisation
    by Helen4Yemen on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Did those Jews he killed looked as alien to the regionas Bernie Sanders? A white man “returning” to the Arab region where he stands out as alien was not a bright idea, was it?https://i.imgur.Com/PrtL7uW.jpg

  • Re: Istanbul: municipality to build water tanks to overcome drought
    by Pounce on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    I did a six month tour of Ascension island, Middle of the Atlantic between Brazil and Africa. Volcanic island very little water, so the Brits concreted over a huge area at the top of Green mountain in 1875 with a catchment pond at the bottom (known as the dew pond) planted 40 different types of trees in which act as a magnet for the clouds and mist and that provided enough water for the Island and visiting ships. Which would send parties on a long trek to fill u barrels with water. Today there is a race from Georgetown to the the dew pond once a year, Damn its hard work,google Green Mountain Ascension to see the scale of the run google:Ascension: The island where nothing makes senseThe photo was taken at lizard rock just before the turn off for the golf club and the road to Dead Mans Beach and English Beach.

  • Re: PA to pay full salaries to more than 900 prisoners
    by Anti-liberal on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    I like that book and it’s interesting how the author exposed the fakestinians are a mix of many arabs, many wich never even lived in that place but migrated in the last 100 years. Anyway I need to go, it’s almost sunset; Shabbat Shalom my friend.

  • Re: Muslim scholars call for Al-Aqsa Mosque to be protected from Israeli Judaisation
    by Helen4Yemen on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Yea, the shameless white man, the Ashkenazi, was returning home and then to the people of theregion, he looked as alien to them as the Britishdid to the Kenyans. Just parasitic aliens leechingof Arab resources.

  • Re: Kurdish militants fire on Syrian children while trying to recruit them forcibly
    by T.E.D.S on Jan 15, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    kurds = terrorists

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