Justice, News, Politics

How Middle East Reacting to Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan

Middle Eastern nations offered mixed reactions to President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, a framework negotiated without the participation of Palestinians, who have been engaged in a land dispute with the world’s only majority-Jewish nation since its creation in 1948.

Trump released his “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future” alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday at a White House gathering boycotted by Palestinian officials that have severed ties to the administration over its decision to recognize the contested city of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Trump billed his initiative as the most detailed yet after successive U.S. administrations have tried and failed for years to settle the conflict.

The president’s plan grants Israel control over internationally-unrecognized Jewish settlements and occupied areas bordering Jordan in exchange for a Palestinian path to potential statehood and some desert territories along the Egyptian border should the Palestinians renounce violence and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The strategy would also see up to $50 billion invested in Palestinian-administered territories.

Both Netanyahu and his upcoming elections rival Benny Gantz endorsed the proposal, but it was received less warmly in the Middle East.

Palestinian National Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas roundly rejected the Trump administration’s strategy even before it was released. Following Trump’s reveal on Tuesday, Abbas held a press conference at which he responded to the plan “with a thousand no’s,” especially to the U.S. proposal for an “undivided” Israeli capital in Jerusalem and a separate Palestinian capital somewhere on the eastern outskirts of the holy city.

“Jerusalem is not for sale. Our rights are not for sale. Your conspiracy deal will not pass,” Abbas stated, warning that the Palestinian people will dump his plan “into the dustbin of history.”

Previously on Tuesday, Abbas spoke via telephone with Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of Palestinian Sunni Islamist movement Hamas. The two stressed unity in the face of the U.S. strategy.

“The comprehensive and united resistance is capable of thwarting all the projects to liquidate the Palestinian cause, foremost of which is the ‘deal of the century,'” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qasem said Tuesday in a press statement, stressing “that the occupation will not obtain security through the deal of the century or any other promises as long as it occupies our land and our sanctities.”

Palestinians angrily reject Trump Mideast peace plan

Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces on the outskirts of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El.

Jordan

Jordan is one of only two Arab countries that has a peace agreement with Israel, the other being Egypt. Still, Israel’s planned landgrab across the border is likely to be controversial among the kingdom’s Palestinian-origin majority.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called in a statement Tuesday for a “just and lasting peace that meets all the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people” but stated that a two-state solution would need to respect Palestinian claims to territories occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, including an East Jerusalem capital.

“Jordan must condemn unilateral Israeli measures in violation of international law and provocative actions that push the region toward more tension and escalation,” he said.

“Jordan will continue to work with Arab countries and the international community for realizing peace,” Safadi added, offering support for “every real effort aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace accepted by the peoples.”

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said it had reviewed the U.S. plan and would support any path toward realizing “a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue.”

“The kingdom appreciates the efforts made by the Trump administration to develop a comprehensive peace plan between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and encourages the initiation and direct negotiations of peace between the Palestinian and Israeli sides under the auspices of the United States of America and to address any differences on any aspects of the plan through negotiations,” the ministry said.

Saudi King Salman also called Abbas directly, telling him that “your issue is ours, and the issue of Arabs and Muslims, and we are with you,” according to the Palestine News Agency, the official outlet of the Palestinian National Authority.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu

Iran

Iran has portrayed itself as the premier supporter of the Palestinian cause and actively backs armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas, along with the power Shiite Muslim Hezbollah movement in Lebanon and other friendly forces in Syria and Iraq, where Israel has stepped up a semi-covert campaign against them. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi termed Trump’s plan “the betrayal of the century.”

“The Zionist regime is a usurper and occupation regime, and the only solution to the Palestinian crisis will be to hold a referendum among the main inhabitants of the land of Palestine, and such vicious plans are doomed to failure,” Mousavi said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Trump’s proposal “simply the dream project of a bankruptcy-ridden real estate developer.”

“But it is a nightmare for the region and the world,” Zarif added. “And, hopefully, a wake-up call for all the Muslims who have been barking up the wrong tree #LetsUniteforPalestine.

Turkey

Turkey has often criticized what it saw as harsh and unfair Israeli policies towards Palestinians but was more recently feuding with Israel over disputed maritime territory in the oil-and-gas-rich Mediterranean Sea. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called the U.S. plan “stillborn.”

“This is an annexation plan aiming to destroy the two-state solution and seize the Palestinian territories. The people and the land of Palestine cannot be bought off,” the statement said. “Jerusalem is our red line. We will not allow any step seeking to legitimize Israel’s occupation and atrocities. We will always stand by the brotherly Palestinian people and will continue to work for an independent Palestine on Palestinian land.”

“We will not support any plan that does not have the support of Palestine,” it added. “There will not be any peace in the Middle East without ending Israel’s occupation policies.”

Egypt

Egypt was once the primary military backer of Palestinian commandos battling Israel but the countries’ 1979 peace treaty, facilitated by President Jimmy Carter, helped pave the way for plans for Palestinian autonomy. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country “appreciates the continued efforts made by the American administration to reach a comprehensive and just peace for the Palestinian cause, thus contributing to supporting stability and security in the Middle East, and ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Cairo called on both sides “to carefully study the American vision for achieving peace, find out all its dimensions, and open channels of dialogue to resume negotiations under American auspices, to put forward the vision of the Palestinian and Israeli parties towards it, in order to reach an agreement that meets the aspirations and hopes of the two peoples in achieving a comprehensive and just peace between them.”

A solution, the statement said, should grant Palestinians their “full legitimate rights through the establishment of their independent sovereign state over the occupied Palestinian territories, in accordance with international legitimacy.”

United Arab Emirates

The ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman to the U.S. all attended Trump’s talk Tuesday in an apparent sign of support for his Israeli-Palestinian initiative. Emirati envoy Yousef al-Otaiba said Abu Dhabi “appreciates continued US efforts to reach a Palestine-Israel peace agreement. This plan is a serious initiative that addresses many issues raised over the years.”

“The only way to guarantee a lasting solution is to reach an agreement between all concerned parties,” he added. “The UAE believes that Palestinians and Israelis can achieve lasting peace and genuine coexistence with the support of the international community.

The plan announced today offers an important starting point for a return to negotiations within a US-led international framework.”

Influential movements opposed to Israel also expressed their criticism of Trump’s plan. Lebanon’s Hezbollah “expressed its condemnation and strong rejection of the shameful deal launched by the savage Trump administration at the expense of the Palestinian people, their land, sanctities and their legitimate natural rights,” according to the group’s affiliated Al Manar outlet.

“The deal is a very dangerous step that will have very bad repercussions on the future of the region and its people,” the group added.

Yemen

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, spokesperson for the Zaidi Shiite Muslim movement known as Ansar Allah, or the Houthi movement, said the “deal of the century will remain an illusion, and will not change the reality of Arab and Islamic awareness of the centrality of the Palestinian cause,” using language that mirrored the group’s stance toward Kushner’s economic proposal first revealed last June.

A day before Trump’s announcement, Islamic State militant group (ISIS) spokesperson Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi also blasted the anticipated plan during a 37-minute audio message. He called on “Muslims in Palestine and all countries” to “be a spearhead in the war against the Jews and in thwarting their plans and their deal of the century,” also criticizing Iran and Hamas.

News

US official: Iran launches missiles into US air bases in Iraq

Multiple missiles have been launched into Iraq from Iran targeting American bases.

“This morning, courageous fighters of the IRGC’s Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code ‘Oh Zahra’ by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive US forces,” the country’s state-run news outlet ISNA reported.

A U.S. official confirms to ABC News that ballistic missiles have been fired from inside Iran at multiple U.S. military facilities inside Iraq on Wednesday morning local time. The facilities include Erbil in northern Iraq and Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq, the official said.

The attack comes days after the U.S. killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a drone attack in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a briefing at the Pentagon Tuesday said the U.S. was ready to retaliate for any attack launched by Iran.

“Thirdly, to our partners and allies and to the Iran regime, I would like to say we are not looking to start a war with Iran. But we are prepared to finish one,” Esper said. “As I’ve told my many colleagues, as I spoke to them over the last few days, what we like to see is the situation be escalated and for Iran to sit down with us to begin a discussion about a better way ahead.”

Iran launches missiles into US air bases in Iraq: US official

The attack comes days after the U.S. killed Iran Gen. Qassam Soleimani. Multiple missiles have been launched into Iraq from Iran targeting American bases. “This morning, courageous fighters of the IRGC’s Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code ‘Oh Zahra’ by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive US forces,” the country’s state-run news outlet ISNA reported.

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News, Politics

US decided how they will tackle Iran: Mike Pence held a press conference to explain

Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, will announce the Donald Trump administration’s policy on Iran next month, says a Presidency official quoted by the Reuters news agency.

Mike Pence will speak at the National Security Summit organized by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

US policy toward Iran will focus on disagreements between Iranian citizens and Tehran regime leaders, a White House official said on condition of anonymity.

Iran has threatened the United States to respond to the assassination in Baghdad of General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

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News, Politics

Iranian General Qassim Suleimani Is Killed on Trump’s Orders

The New York Times : The commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.

The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran were killed when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.

The killing of General Suleimani was a staggering blow for Iran’s military and national pride, and was a serious escalation of Mr. Trump’s growing confrontation with Tehran, one that began with the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.

Regional analysts said Iran’s leaders were likely to treat General Suleimani’s killing as an act of war. United States officials were braced for potential Iranian retaliatory attacks, possibly including cyberattacks and terrorism, on American interests and allies.

United States officials consider General Suleimani responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq war, when he provided Iraqi insurgents with advanced bomb-making equipment and training. They also say he has masterminded destabilizing Iranian activities that continue throughout the Middle East and are aimed at the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “General Suleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

It did not elaborate on the specific intelligence to led them to carry out General Suleimani’s killing. The highly classified mission was set in motion after the American contractor’s death on Dec. 27 during a rocket attack by an Iranian-backed militia, a senior American official said.

While many Republicans said that the president had been justified in the attack, Mr. Trump’s most significant use of military force to date, critics of his Iran policy called the strike a reckless unilateral escalation that could have drastic and unforeseen consequences that could ripple violently throughout the Middle East.

In killing General Suleimani, President Trump took an action that previous presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected, fearing it could end in catastrophe, destabilizing the region further and perhaps leading to all out war between the United States and Iran.

“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question,” Representative Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, wrote on Twitter, using an alternate spelling of the Iranian’s name. “The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, called the killing of Mr. Suleimani an act of “international terrorism” and warned it was “extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.”

“The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” Mr. Zarif tweeted.

Speaking to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night, hours after an assault on the American Embassy in Baghdad that United States officials said was orchestrated by Iran, Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly vowed to end American entanglements in the Middle East, insisted that he did not want war.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea for Iran. It wouldn’t last very long,” Mr. Trump said. “Do I want to? No. I want to have peace. I like peace.”

The strikes followed a warning on Thursday afternoon from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who said the United States military would pre-emptively strike Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria if there were signs the paramilitary groups were planning more attacks against American bases and personnel in the region.

“If we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” Mr. Esper said. “The game has changed.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

In Iran, state television interrupted its programing to announce General Suleimani’s death.

Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned on Friday the US airstrike on Baghdad

The news anchor recited the Islamic prayer for the dead — “From God we came and to God we return” — beside a picture of General Suleimani.

Hawkish Trump administration allies cheered the strike. “This is devastating for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime and Khamenei’s regional ambitions,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, referring to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“For 23 years, he has been the equivalent of the J.S.O.C. commander, the C.I.A. director and Iran’s real foreign minister,” Mr. Dubowitz said, using an acronym for the United States Joint Special Operations Command. “He is irreplaceable and indispensable” to Iran’s military establishment.

For those same reasons, other regional analysts warned, Iran is likely to respond with a intensity of dangerous proportions.

General Suleimani was long a figure of intense interest to people in and out of Iran.

He was not only in charge of Iranian intelligence gathering and covert military operations, he was regarded as one of Iran’s most cunning and autonomous military figures. He was also believed to be very close to the country’s supreme leader, Mr. Khamenei, and was seen as a potential future leader of Iran.

The United States and Iran have long been involved in a shadow war in battlegrounds across the Middle East — from Iraq to Yemen to Syria. The tactics have generally involved using proxies to carry out the fighting, providing a buffer from a direct confrontation between Washington and Tehran that could draw America into yet other ground conflict with no discernible endgame.

The potential for a regional conflagration was a basis of the Obama administration’s push for a 2015 agreement that froze Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, saying that Mr. Obama’s agreement had emboldened Iran, giving it economic breathing room to plow hundreds of millions of dollars into a campaign of violence around the region. Mr. Trump responded with a campaign of “maximum pressure” that began with punishing new economic sanctions, which began a new era of brinkmanship and uncertainly, with neither side knowing just how far the other was willing to escalate violence and risk a wider war. In recent days it has spilled into the military arena.

General Qassim Suleimani

The killing of General Suleimani is also likely to further strain a coalition that the Trump administration had tried to build to blunt Iranian aggression. The coalition, made up primarily of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, in recent months has begun to fracture amid concerns among the Arab nations that rising tensions might lead to more direct attacks on the Arab nations.

His presence in Iraq would not have been surprising.

General Suleimani led the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force, a special forces unit responsible for Iranian operations outside Iran’s borders. He once described himself to a senior Iraqi intelligence official as the “sole authority for Iranian actions in Iraq,” the official later told American officials in Baghdad.

In his speech denouncing Mr. Trump, he was even less discreet — and openly mocking.

“We are near you, where you can’t even imagine,” he said. “We are ready. We are the man of this arena.”

Top Iranian General Qassim Suleimani Is Killed on Trump’s Orders, Officials Say

The New York Times 6 hrs ago By Falih Hassan, Alissa J. Rubin, Michael Crowley and Eric Schmitt Video by Reuters WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.

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Justice, News, Politics

Protesters Attack Iranian Consulate in Iraqi City

Iraqi protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the city of Karbala, in the latest sign of mounting anger against Tehran’s involvement in the country’s affairs.

They climbed the walls of the consulate late on Sunday while hauling an Iraqi flag. Security forces fired rubber bullets to disperse they who were throwing Molotov cocktails over the wall, video footage witnesses provided to The Wall Street Journal showed.

The attack on the consulate came days after Iraq’s top cleric warned foreign powers, including Iran, not to interfere in Iraq. It also followed weeks of accusations by protesters and human-rights organizations against Iranian-backed militias for alleged violence against protesters.

The protests, which began in October, are rooted in grievances about government services, but have expanded into demands for the toppling of the entire political class.

Over the weekend, thousands of protesters blocked access to the vital Umm Qasr port near the southern city of Basra, in an apparent attempt to impose an economic toll on the government. They also blocked roads and shut offices and schools in Baghdad.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s pledge last week to resign once a successor is found failed to quell the demonstrations, largely because it was seen as an attempt to buy time while the main political blocs agree on a candidate.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi on Sunday called on protesters to allow the country to return to normal, without mentioning his offer to resign. “Threatening the oil interests and blocking roads leading to Iraq’s ports is causing big losses exceeding billions of dollars,” he said.

Anger against Iran has escalated, particularly in the southern provinces where Tehran has the most influence. Karbala—one of the world’s main Shiite pilgrimage sites—holds enormous importance for Iran.

Iraqi protesters last year torched the Iranian consulate in Basra in a similar attack, although the protests that triggered it were smaller.The rage against Iran has been fueled by allegations by human-rights groups that paramilitary groups backed by Tehran have killed and abducted protesters as part of a crackdown by security forces that has killed more than 250 people since the protests started.

Protesters in Karbala last week carried banners reading, “Iran is the reason for the catastrophe.”

In his weekly Friday sermon in Najaf, Iraq’s top Shiite authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who was born in Iran and disagrees with Iran’s Supreme Leader on religious issues, warned that “no international or regional party” should interfere with the will of the Iraqi people, referring to Iran.

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News

Iran tanker row: Released ship wanted by US ‘seen off Syria

The Iranian oil tanker at the center of an international incident has been sailing just off the Syrian coast, satellite images appear to show. The Adrian Darya-1 was seized by Gibraltar in July with the aid of British forces over fears it was bound for Syria, violating EU sanctions. It was eventually released after assurances were given that it would not head for the war-ravaged country.

But images released on Saturday seemed to show it two nautical miles offshore. The images, from US company Maxar Technologies, appeared to place the tanker very close to the Syrian port of Tartus on 6 September. US National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted that anyone who believed the ship was no longer headed for Syria was “in denial”.

“Tehran thinks it’s more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its own people,” he said, alongside another satellite picture. “We can talk, but #Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!” There is however no confirmation that the ship is unloading its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil.

Neither Iran nor Syria have commented. In a statement, the UK’s Foreign Office called the reports “deeply troubling”. A spokesperson said that if Iran had broken its assurances, it would be “a violation of international norms and a morally bankrupt course of action”.

Satellite images from Maxar technologies are composited to show the location of the vessel in the same satellite image as the port city of Tartus, Syria

The ship, originally known as Grace 1 when it was detained off the British territory in July, has caused a major diplomatic spat between Washington and Tehran. British marines had helped Gibraltar authorities detain the vessel, partly drawing the UK into the row. The United States made an official request to seize the ship in August, but the courts in Gibraltar denied it.

Media captionGrace 1: Inside the seized supertanker

The US last year withdrew from the international 2015 deal to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, and reinstated sanctions. In response, Iran stopped abiding by some commitments in the deal.

The EU has sought to salvage the accord but the Iranian tanker was seized because it was suspected of heading to Syria, which would breach EU sanctions on that country. The Gibraltar authorities freed the vessel on 15 August after receiving assurances from Iran that it would not discharge its cargo in Syria.

The US has been seeking to seize the tanker since it was released by Gibraltar. It issued a warrant and blacklisted the vessel, threatening sanctions on any country which offered it aid. The ship has since been sailing east across the Mediterranean.

Earlier this week it was revealed that a US official had even offered the captain of the ship millions of dollars to change course and sail the tanker to somewhere the US might be able to seize it. A British-flagged tanker was seized by Iran in July, in what was widely seen as retaliation for Britain’s role in helping to seize the Iranian vessel – a link Tehran denies. The Stena Impero was passing through the Strait of Hormuz when it was seized. It remains in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.