UAE Rights Group Condemns Asset Freeze of Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani

Dubai– Emirates Association for Human Rights (EHRA) condemned the freeze of assets of Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani saying it is a flagrant violation of human rights that has become a systematic approach of intimidation adopted by Qatari authorities.

EHRA Chairman Mohammed Salem al-Kaabi said that Qatar’s freezing of Sheikh Abdullah’s assets and funds is a blatant infringement of personal and human rights and an illegal, condemned action that corroborates Doha’s insistence to continue its violations of all Arab and international human rights charters and conventions.

The association also condemned Qatari regime’s freezing of the assets of Sheikh Sultan Bin Suhaim and the raid on his palace last week by the Qatari state security forces that wreaked havoc on its holdings and documents.

These actions reveal the fact that Qatar has become a police state that blatantly defies all legal restrictions, WAM News Agency quoted Kaabi as saying.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al Thani, the grandson of Qatar’s founder, tweeted: “The Qatari regime honors me by freezing all of my bank accounts, and I thank them for this honor and I have the honor to present it to the homeland.”

He hoped that Qatar would expel opportunists and friends of interests and return to the Gulf union.

In details, the palace of Sheikh Sultan Bin Suhaim in Doha was raided for six hours by a unit of 15 armed men of the Qatari State Security Forces last Thursday.

The raid resulted in the confiscation of around 137 bags and a number of cabinets containing documents and belongings of Sheikh Sultan, as well as large archives of his father, former Foreign Minister Suhaim Bin Hamad Al Thani.

The archive includes information that accurately records the history of Qatar and its internal events from the sixties until his death in 1985.

Also during the raid, security agents invaded the private room of Sheikh Sultan’s mother, confiscating all her personal and family pictures, her jewelry, valuables and money.

In addition, palace workers were subjected to assault, beatings and arrest.

Oil Edges Higher on Gains as Geopolitical Threats Intensify in Kirkuk, Iran

Oil

London – As a number of geopolitical problems unfold, oil prices maintained gains on Tuesday, while Goldman Sachs said oil production from Iraq’s Kurdistan region was likely to be jeopardized by the standoff with Iraq.

Despite the fears of the Kurdistan region referendum affecting oil output, the banking company said the conflict between the United States and Iran remains a bigger long-term threat to global supplies.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 gained 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, to settle at $57.88 per barrel, while US crude CLc1 gained 1 cent to settle at $51.88. Both contracts traded up nearly 1 percent and down over 1 percent during the day.

“In the case of Iran, there are likely no immediate impacts on oil flows and there remains high uncertainty on potential reintroduction of US secondary sanctions. If they are, we expect that several hundred thousand barrels of Iranian exports would be immediately at risk,” analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a research note published Tuesday.

“In the case of Kurdistan, the 500,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Kirkuk oil field cluster is at risk with initial reports that 350,000 bpd has shut in, although this remains unclear,” Goldman analysts said.

On the other hand, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi announced plans to construct a new refinery in the oil-producing region of Kirkuk, which has become the scene of open conflict between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Iraqi government also plans to increase oil production from the region to more than a million barrels per day, with a foreign oil company to be contracted to implement the plan, according to the minister.

More so, Russia’s TASS news agency had cited Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak on Tuesday as saying that Russian oil companies may continue working in Iraq despite continued tension there.

Iraq is second-largest oil producer at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

After a strong rally in the previous session, geopolitical tensions edged oil prices higher on Tuesday morning. Brent crude rose 0.6 percent to $58.16 a barrel while US oil futures hovered near the $52 level in lunchtime trade.

Portugal’s Interior Minister Resigns Over Wildfires Criticism

Smoke and flames from a forest fire are seen near Lousa, Portugal, October 16, 2017. (REUTERS)

Portugal’s government minister in charge of emergency services resigned Wednesday after more than a hundred people were killed in wildfires in the past months.

Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa tendered her resignation and Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a statement he accepted it, the government announced on its website.

The Interior Ministry is in charge of firefighters, the police and civil protection agency, which have all faced criticism after the fires.

Urbano de Sousa said in her resignation letter published on the website that she wanted to quit after 64 people were killed in a wildfire four months ago, but Costa asked her to stay. She repeated her request after 42 people died in another spate of wildfires last weekend.

She wrote that after last weekend, “though the tragedy was caused by multiple factors, I came to the conclusion that I could not continue for political and personal reasons.”

Hundreds of fires have raged across northern and central Portugal since Sunday after the driest summer in nearly 90 years, overwhelming firefighting and rescue services.

Meanwhile, overnight rain and calmer winds have helped firefighters tame the deadly wildfires that broke out over the weekend, devouring homes and killing 41 people in Portugal and another four in northern Spain.

Portugal’s civil protection agency said Tuesday that the 15 biggest fires, which had raged through the center and the north of the country, had been brought under control, but that the death toll had risen.

“We’ve gone from 37 dead to 41,” civil protection agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar told AFP.

As the country began three days of mourning for the victims, the agency said 71 people had been injured in the fires, 16 of them seriously. And one person was still missing.

Among the dead was a one-month-old baby.

“Most of the victims were killed in their cars, but we also found them inside their houses,” said Jose Carlos Alexandrino, mayor of Oliveira do Hospital near Coimbra, speaking to broadcaster RTP.

“The whole city looked like a ball of fire, surrounded by flames on all sides.”

Portugal’s conservative President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called on the socialist government to “bear all the consequences of this tragedy”.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa on Monday reaffirmed his pledge to prevent new tragedies by carrying out “fundamental reforms” in forest management and firefighting.

Since the start of the year, more than 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) of vegetation have been consumed across Portugal — four times the annual average over the past decade — according to an estimate from the European Forest Fire Information System.

Portugal is covered with fast-burning eucalyptus trees which are used to supply the country’s paper industry, and it is also vulnerable to strong winds coming off the Atlantic.

Yemen’s Legitimacy Consolidates its Presence in Besieged Taiz

Taiz– Yemen’s legitimacy has continued to improve its services in Taiz despite the siege enforced by Houthi and Saleh militias.

In that regard, deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Civil Service Abdulaziz Jubari inaugurated the local automated passport issuance center in the district and monitored the issuance of the first passport after a nearly three-year shutdown.

“The re-inauguration of passport issuance is a significant step in the process of rendering state institutions in Taiz functional,” State news agency quoted Jubari as saying.

The Deputy PM stated that there has been a distinguished pace in re-normalizing life ever since the Central Bank’s branch, executive offices, schools and universities, and security and military apparatus premises have been re-opened.

Jubari believed that a larger number of services will help overcome all adversities and bring the situation back to normal in Taiz.

Furthermore, the minister allocated over 22 million Yemeni riyal to 55 amputees in Taiz.

Jubari also chaired a meeting with the local authority in Taiz to oversee the re-normalization of life and resolve the issue of the largely unpaid salaries of civil servants.

He also directed the renovation of the governorate’s main offices, and ordered work to be continued from temporary offices.

Jubari lauded the sacrifices of people of Taiz for “enduring the devastation of war and blockade,” adding they taught the militias valuable lessons that can’t be forgotten throughout history.

Meanwhile, Houthi and Saleh militias continued to target residential areas in Taiz, mainly its eastern neighborhoods.

Local activist Mokhtar Ahmed told Asharq Al-Awsat that militias are still committing crimes in Taiz amid an international silence. He stated that shelling on a residential area killed a man, and a woman who had already lost two of her children in previous Houthi attacks.

Ahmed also indicated that at least two civilians were killed by shelling on General Thawra Hospital.

In other news, Minister of Social Affairs Ibtihaj al-Kamal warned that the future of children in the militia-controlled areas is in great danger because the insurgents have disrupted their school life.

In a statement to Saba News Agency, Kamal said insurgents are the biggest violator of children’s rights in Yemen with the “suspension of education” in many schools, because of the militias’ failure to pay salaries to teachers, and their infusion of school textbooks with “a racist sectarian ideology.”

“The coup militias have worked to destroy 1,700 schools, deprive 2.5 million children of education and print 11,000 textbooks having a racist sectarian ideology,” she indicated, adding that about 9,000 children under the legal age were denied their education rights and were forced into battlefields.

The minister appealed to human rights organizations to force the radical militia to stop implicating children in their lost war and to comply with international laws concerning children’s rights. She called on the UN’s agencies to blacklist the militia as a violator of children’s rights.

Kamal pointed out that King Salman Center for Relief (KSrelief) is working on rehabilitating children formerly recruited as militia fighters to be integrated again into the society through a number of programs in Maerib and al-Jouf districts. 

King Salman Calls on Iraqi Parties to Address Crisis through Dialogue

Saudi

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz held a telephone call Monday evening with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, in which he stressed the Kingdom’s support for the unity of Iraq, its security and stability and the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi constitution.

King Salman renewed the Kingdom’s call on all parties to exercise restraint and deal with the crisis through dialogue to spare Iraq more internal conflicts.

For his part, the Iraqi Prime Minister praised the Saudi King’s stance and his interest in the security and stability of Iraq.

He emphasized the keenness of the Iraqi government to avoid any military escalation and to ensure security in all Iraqi territories.

US Central Command Raids ISIS Training Camps in Yemen

US- Yemen

Aden, London – US forces killed dozens of ISIS militants in a strike on two ISIS training camps, Oct. 16, in al-Bayda governorate, center of Yemen. However, security officials and locals said the strike targeted militants belonging to al-Qaeda and not ISIS terrorist group.

US Central Command announced that its forces raided two ISIS camps used to train militants to conduct terror attacks using AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and endurance training which resulted in disrupting the organization’s attempts to train new fighters.

Strikes against ISIS targets disrupt and destroy militants’ attack-plotting efforts, leadership networks, and freedom of maneuver within the region, according to Central Command.

“In coordination with the government of Yemen, US forces are supporting ongoing counter-terrorism operations in Yemen against ISIS and AQAP to degrade the groups’ ability to coordinate external terror attacks and limit their ability to hold territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen,” reiterated the Command.

Local eyewitnesses told Reuters that tribal leaders were not allowed near the area in Bayda out of fear of another strike.

Locals reported that the two camps were named after two ISIS leaders who were killed during a US airstrike last summer: ISIS leader in Yemen Abu Bilal al-Harbi and ISIS spokesperson Abu Mohamemd al-Adnani.

A Yemeni security official stated that five al-Qaeda militants were killed in an airstrike believed to be done by the US forces. He explained that 12 raids targeted Qaeda sites in al-Abal and Yekla areas in Ould Rabieh district of Bayda governorate which is considered the organization’s stronghold in the country.

Locals told Asharq al-Awsat that the raid happened after three days of intense drones= hovering above the area, adding that it still wasn’t clear how many militants were killed or injured because people were afraid to approach the area as US aircraft hovered over for hours.

US drones continue to target militants suspected of belonging to terrorist organizations in Yemen’s center. On October 8, US drones killed five ISIS militants northwest of Maerib.

Since January, US intensified its raids on Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) with over 100 strikes on Bayda, Shabwa, Maerib, Hadramout, and Abyen.

According to statistics, over 120 militants were killed during those raids including senior commanders.

King Salman Asserts Saudi Support for Trump’s Firm Iran Policy

Saudi

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia said it supports and welcomes the recently announced United States strategy towards Iran, its hostile behavior, and funding of international and regional terror, said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz when chairing a cabinet session on Tuesday.

He also confirmed Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to collaborating with US partners in an effort to achieve objectives announced by US President Donald Trump.

At the outset of the cabinet session, King Salman briefed ministers on the telephone call he had with Trump during which the monarch emphasized Riyadh’s support of his firm strategy towards Iran, its aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and worldwide.

He also stressed the Kingdom’s full commitment to continue working with its partners in the US to achieve the desired goals announced by Trump.

The King also briefed the cabinet on the results of his meeting with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, during which they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed overall regional events.

The cabinet was briefed on the telephone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the Palestinian leader reviewed with King Salman the recently signed Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement.

King Salman gave great emphasis to “unity” in paving the way ahead for the Palestinian Authority to further serve its citizens. He said that the Kingdom is looking forward to this important reconciliation, which realizes the hopes and aspirations of all Palestinians.

The King briefed the cabinet on a telephone call with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi during which he stressed Riyadh’s support for Iraq’s unity, security and stability. He underlined the adherence of all parties to the Iraqi constitution for the interest of Iraq and its people.

The Cabinet also reviewed a number of regional and international developments, including outcomes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual and the World Bank (WB) meetings in Washington.

Meetings focused on the development of the Kingdom’s economy and its efforts in implementing its transformation Vision 2030, affiliated operational programs and initiatives.

Syrian Democratic Forces: US-Backed Kurdish-Arab Alliance

Raqqa

London – Kurdish fighters represent the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which seized on Tuesday control of the city of Raqqa from the ISIS terrorist group after a four-month offensive.

Comprised of Arab and Kurdish fighters, the SDF was formed in October 2015 in order to confront the extremist organization.

Backed by the US, it is considered the international coalition’s key ally in its war against ISIS. Washington has helped the SDF with airstrikes, weapons and expertise, which bolstered its ability to fight the extremists.

According to AFP, the alliance between the SDF and US has sparked major tensions with Ankara, which has not hesitated in the past in targeting the forces.

However, despite the various war fronts, all warring parties share ISIS as their common enemy.

The SDF was formed after US-backed Kurdish units achieved several victories against the extremists, most notably expelling them from the city of Kobane (Ain Arab) and Tal Abyad in 2015.

The advance has however created tensions with opposition factions that have accused the Kurds of forced displacement against Arab residents. It also raised fears in Ankara that the Kurds would seek autonomous rule in territories along the Turkish border.

To counter these tensions, the SDF was formed to include 30,000 fighters, among them 5,000 Arabs. Kurds however assume the command of the forces.

After the US-led coalition launched its first air strikes against ISIS in Syria in September 2014, Washington struggled to find a reliable partner on the ground.

A much-touted $500-million program to build a rebel army to fight ISIS collapsed. The SDF was the next best choice, especially after the Kurds proved to be fierce fighters.

After the SDF was formed, the White House announced the first sustained deployment of US special forces to Syria, reversing a longstanding refusal to put boots on the ground.

Around 50 special operations personnel were deployed in northern Syria, and the number has now grown to around 500 US troops. Senior US commanders and Washington’s envoy to the coalition Brett McGurk have met top SDF chiefs during visits to northern Syria.

Washington said in June it would supply weapons directly to the People’s Protection Units, the main Kurdish backbone of the SDF, despite objections from ally Turkey.

In November 2016, the SDF announced its operation “Wrath of the Euphrates” aimed at ousting ISIS from Raqqa province, including the group’s de facto Syrian capital Raqqa.

In the months that followed, the alliance gradually closed in on the city, first sweeping into territory to the north before closing in from the east and west.

In early June, SDF forces entered Raqqa for the first time, penetrating its Old City a month later after airstrikes by the US-led coalition smashed two holes in the ramparts.

By late September, SDF forces had taken control of 90 percent of the city, cornering ISIS fighters in Raqqa’s stadium, a few surrounding buildings and a major hospital.

On October 17, SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP the US-backed fighters finally had “taken full control of Raqqa” from ISIS.

Save the Children: Liberation of Raqqa Does not Signal End of Humanitarian Crisis

Raqqa

Beirut – The liberation of the Syrian city of Raqqa from the ISIS terrorist group does not mean the end of humanitarian suffering in the region, warned Save the Children on Tuesday.

It instead said that the situation is in fact escalating.

“The military offensive in Raqqa may be coming to an end, but the humanitarian crisis is greater than ever,” the aid group’s Syria director Sonia Khush said in a statement.

The Syrian Democratic Forces announced on Tuesday that the city has been liberated from ISIS after a four-month military campaign.

Save the Children warned that “some 270,000 people who have fled the Raqqa fighting are still in critical need of aid, and camps are bursting at the seams.”

It said that most Raqqa families had no homes to go back to and that thousands of civilians were still being displaced in the eastern Deir al-Zour province, where fighting was still raging.

The aid group said that the reconstruction effort would require massive investment and that funding would also be needed to bring children back to school.

“Many are plagued by nightmares from witnessing horrific violence and will need extensive psychological support,” the aid group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile announced that 3,250 people, including some 1,130 civilians, were killed in the campaign to liberate Raqqa that began in June.

Director of the rights group, Rami Abdul Rahman, stressed that there are hundreds of people missing and they are likely stuck under the rubble in the city that has witnessed heavy destruction in the months-long offensive.

Abadi Says Referendum is Over, Calls for Dialogue ‘Under the Constitution’

Riyadh, Baghdad, Irbil- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz briefed the Cabinet Tuesday on a telephone conversation he held with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during which the King stressed Riyadh’s support for Iraq’s unity, security, stability, and the adherence of all parties to the country’s constitution for the interest of Iraq and its people.

The King chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces continued to gradually withdraw from the disputed areas between Baghdad and Irbil, Abadi announced that the Kurdistan region’s referendum on independence is over.

“The referendum is finished and has become a thing of the past,” Abadi said in a press conference on Tuesday.

He called for a dialogue with the Kurdish leadership “under the Constitution.”

For his part, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said that after the withdrawal, the new borders between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces would be as they were before the Mosul operation launched on Oct. 17, 2016.

However, Barzani said: “The loud voices you raised for the independence of Kurdistan that you sent to all nations and world countries will not be wasted now or ever.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum held the Kurdistan Region president, without naming him, responsible for what happened in Kirkuk.

In a statement, Massoum said that he had exerted immense efforts to reach a solution between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region government, but said the “latter insisted to hold the referendum.”

The president also called on all parties to engage in urgent dialogue to prevent a worsening of the crisis in Iraq and he reminded everyone that they should resort to the constitution to solve the crisis in Kirkuk.

On Tuesday, the Peshmerga forces withdrew from the disputed area of Khanaqin, near the border with Iran.

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted oil officials in Baghdad as saying that all the fields near Kirkuk were working normally on Tuesday after coming under the central government’s control.

Reuters said Iraq’s dollar-denominated bonds jumped nearly one cent on Tuesday, more than making up for Monday’s losses.