Baghdad: Presence of PKK in Kirkuk is Declaration of War

Baghdad, Irbil- Baghdad accused Irbil on Sunday of bringing members from the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to Kirkuk, while it sent reinforcement from the army and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to the southern part of the disputed city, in an attempt to remove the oil-rich region from Kurdish control. 

Iraq’s National Security Council headed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement Sunday that the presence of armed men is a “dangerous escalation” and a declaration of war, also warning from the presence of armed militias “not belonging to the regular security forces in Kirkuk, including some PKK fighters.”

Meanwhile, Muhammad Haj Mahmoud, a Kurdish Peshmerga commander and leader of the Kurdish Socialist Party, told Asharq Al-Awsat that a meeting was held between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces on Saturday in Kirkuk in hopes of reaching a solution to the military crisis in the disputed areas.

Haj Mahmoud, however, denied being informed about the deployment of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards at the borderline between the two sides.

He said: “Peshmerga forces have fortified their positions in preparation for any incident. In Kurdistan, we confirm that we will not wage war. However, we will defend ourselves in case of an attack.”

Meanwhile in Irbil, Kurdish officials denied the presence of the PKK in Kirkuk.

“There are no PKK forces in Kirkuk, but there are some volunteers who sympathize with the PKK,” General Jabar Yawer, secretary general of the Peshmerga ministry, told AFP.

A meeting of Kurdish leaders attended by Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani was held in the town of Dukan in the Suleimaniya province on Sunday. 

The meeting ended with an agreement on five items, mainly to reject a demand from Baghdad to cancel the outcome of the independence referendum held last month as a precondition for talks on the dispute.

Following the meeting, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who is also the KDP deputy head, said “the outcome of the referendum will not be nullified.”

Boom of Electric Cars in Norway Causes Problem

Oslo- The Norwegian capital is suffering from a problem, which may be raising discontent and dissatisfaction in other environmentally-aware cities. The problem is that Oslo’s residents are buying a lot of electric cars, so that the local government can hardly cope with them.

In fact, the Association of Electric Vehicles is seeking to discourage drivers from buying electric cars, if they do not have the capacities of charging them at home.

Peter Hogniland, a spokesman for the Electric Vehicles Association, said the local authorities did not deploy a sufficient number of charging stations to keep up with the number of the sold electric cars.

He added that the rate of newly registered electric and hybrid vehicles reached 35 percent, noting that one in three cars sold in Norway is electric. This rate hits 40 percent in Oslo. The Greater Oslo Region has witnessed the registration of over 50,000 electric cars, and 30,000 hybrid car, according to an official from the capital’s Urban Environment Agency.

Meanwhile, there are only 1,300 domestic charging stations for electric vehicles. The official said: “we are doing our best. Every year, charging stations grow to more than 26 percent, however, the number of electric vehicles has increased by more than 100 percent, and the gap is getting wider.

The Norwegian news agency explained that the main reason behind the boom of electric cars is the financial privileges provided by the government, including the suspension of the value added tax (VAT) and customs fees on the exported cars and engines. This means that the electric version of many cars is cheaper than the traditional ones with internal combustion engine (ICE).

Hogniland says: “In Norway, you pay over 250,000 Norwegian krone ($31,475) for an electric Golf car, and over 300,000 krone for a gasoline-powered Golf, and here is the difference.”

All these privileges aim at fulfilling the ambitious commitment that by 2025, all newly registered vehicles in Norway must be zero-emission vehicles.

This goal can be achieved by using the “carrot and stick” approach: the carrot takes the form of tax exemptions for those who drive electric vehicles, while the stick is the taxes and high gasoline prices for those who stick to fossil fuels.

King Salman Center for Relief Provides Yemeni Governorate with 12 Tons of Medical Aid

Taiz, Shabwa – King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works provided Shabwa and Hadramout Valley, in Yemen, with 12 tons of medical aid to combat Dengue Fever, in the framework of Dengue fever combat project, funded by the center.

The shipment consisted of as many as 1328 cans of medicines, including vein solvents, pharmaceutics and medical appliances to be delivered to hospitals and other medical units, in the two mentioned governorates.

Salem Al-Ahmadi, assistant Undersecretary of Shabwa Governorate, and Dr. Hani Al-Amoudi expressed their thanks to the King Salman Relief Center for this donation, pointing out that the shipment of medicines will contribute to improving the efficiency of hospitals and health facilities in the mentioned districts to combat dengue fever.

They also stressed the impact which the project’s programs have had on improving the health situation in the targeted districts.

King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works continued to deliver extra meals for displaced Yemeni students, in the Directorate of Al-Qahirah, in the Governorate of Taiz, to mitigate the suffering of them as well as their families.

For their part, the directors of these schools hailed the center role in alleviating the plight of students, in the governorate.

The project falls within an integrated world provided by the center to brethren Yemenis, to lessen their daily suffering, due to the ongoing crisis.

After 23 Years in Prison, Wrongly Convicted US Man Freed

Washington – Washington – Local US news outlets reported, Friday, the release of a man who was imprisoned for 23 years after being wrongly convicted of a double murder in Kansas city.

Lamonte McIntyre was 17 when he was first arrested.

He later stood for trial when he was 18 where he was given two life terms for the double murders of two individuals who were shot while sitting in a blue Cadillac in Kansas, according to ‘The Kansas City Star newspaper’.

The newspaper also stated that McIntyre was convicted despite lack of physical evidence, and despite alibis from family members that he was at home at the time the murder took place.

Modest Share for MENA in Global Economic Recovery


Cairo – The global economic recovery that has started mid-2016 is gaining mounting power with the accelerating growth in Europe, Japan, China and the US, a by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revealed.

IMF warned of possible discontinuity of the global recovery given that some states are not part of it.

Growth in all MENA countries was expected to drop significantly from 5.1 percent last year to 2.2 percent in 2017.

MENA’s economic growth is expected to rebound to 3.2 percent in 2018, according to the IMF.

In its report, IMF pointed that political tension is one of the prominent factors behind some states’ delay in economic recovery, and this tension is centered in several regions including MENA.

It added that if nearly 75% of world economies are growing, more than 25% are not, and this represents a burden on the global growth and a potential source of destabilizing political shocks.

Notwithstanding Libya, because its economic data is unreliable meanwhile, Djibouti is the highest growing since 2017 with up to 7 percent, followed by Morocco, Egypt, Mauritania, and Sudan.

IMF forecast that Kuwait, Yemen, and Iraq will undergo a recession in the annual growth, which reflects the impact of political tension in such countries and the effect of oil prices’ drop in Gulf markets.

Although inflation is usually a phenomenon that accompanies economic recovery, it is not the case in the MENA.

Despite its modest share in growth, it tops the list of high inflation regions according to IMF forecasts (an estimate of 7.1 percent of inflation in that region).

Qatar Freezes Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali al-Thani’s Bank Accounts


Dammam – Qatar has reportedly frozen all assets belonging to Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani, one of the most Qatari prominent figures to speak out against the government in the ongoing crisis involving Doha.

Sheikh Al Thani revealed on Saturday on his Twitter account that all his accounts were frozen in Qatari banks.

“It is an honor the the Qatari regime froze my bank accounts in Qatar, and I would like to thank them for this reward. I dedicate this to my country,” Al Thani tweeted.

He hoped that Qatar can expell those exploiting the country for money and other benefits, and to return to the embrace of sister countries that we cherish, because only they can help Doha.

“May God save Qatar and its people,” he concluded.

Earlier last month, Sheikh Abdullah called for a meeting for all royal members to contain the problem.

“I call on the wise sons of the family, and the prestigious Qatari people to sit in a brotherly, familial and national meeting to discuss the crisis, and what we would be able to do in order to get everything back on track, and enforce the Gulf cooperation” he said.

A political science professor at University of Qatar Mohammed al-Misfer made threatening statements during an interview with the official Qatari Television on Monday.

“The war of Dahis and Ghabra is over, and the Basus war is over (too), and the tribal gathering will not do anything,” Misfer said, adding that neither swords, nor horses, nor personal heroism is counted as it was in the Basus war.

He concluded that other weapons like “tanks, long-range missiles, aircraft and chemical weapons have now taken over and I think, in this case, all massive weapons, God forbid, will be used if something of that sort happened.”

Advocates for Americans Held in Iran Worried by Trump’s Hard Line

London — Advocates for Americans imprisoned by Iranian authorities said on Friday they were concerned the Trump administration’s hard line on Iran would close off the chance for talks to secure the prisoners’ release.

In a major shift in US policy, President Donald Trump announced he would not certify that Iran is complying with a 2015 nuclear deal and warned that he might ultimately terminate the agreement.

The administration also designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the dominant player in the country’s security, economy and politics, as a terrorist group, a move one expert said would make the group less willing to negotiate over the prisoners.

Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter who was detained by Iran for 18 months, said on Twitter that Trump’s Iran strategy “will only hurt American hostages being held in Iran,” Reuters reported.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. A State Department official said the United States calls for the “immediate release” of US citizens held “unjustly” in Iran.

The American citizens who have been detained in the last two years in Iran are seven and hold a US permanent residency.

In January 2016, the Obama administration secured the release of five Americans imprisoned in Iran by agreeing to a much-criticized prisoner swap after protracted direct talks with Iran.

Palestinian Authority to Take Control of Gaza Crossings in November


Leading member of the Hamas movement, Saleh al-Arouri, announced on Saturday that the Palestinian Authority will be handed control of the Gaza Strip crossings in early November.

Arouri was part of the delegation that signed the reconciliation with the Fatah group in Cairo on Thursday.

The Gaza crossings was a thorny issues at the talks because Hamas has had control of them for the past ten years.

Arouri told al-Quds newspaper that Hamas and Fatah agreed to hold “deep and detailed” discussions in Gaza between security officials from both factions.

The security forces in Gaza will remain as they are until an agreement is reached over a mechanism to merge them, he explained. This will help avoid any “security vacuum.”

The reconciliation called for the merger of the security and police forces in Gaza and the West Bank in a manner that would ensure their unity and that they adhere to the Interior Ministry.

Asked if the agreement means that Hamas will abandon its armed resistance, Arouri replied: “Partnership means partnership in decisions of war and peace.”

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip after bloody clashes with Fatah in 2007.

On September 17, Hamas dissolved the administrative committee that had taken over the role of the government in Gaza to pave the way for the return of the Palestinian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah, to the coastal strip.

The Cairo-sponsored reconciliation, signed on October 12, is expected to end the ten-year divide between the two factions.

The agreement calls for forming a national unity government and preparing for holding legislative and presidential elections. It also calls for establishing joint committees to take in the 45,000 civil and military employees Hamas hired at public institutions.

US, Egypt Urge Israel against ‘Sabotaging’ Palestinian Reconciliation


Tel Aviv, Washington – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received firm messages from the United States and Egypt leaderships, demanding him against “sabotaging” the Palestinian reconciliation deal, political sources in Tel Aviv revealed.

Chances should be given to allow the deal to be a success, they said.

They noted that at first glance, it appears that the PM’s reaction to the reconciliation is negative because he has been demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

He has also been demanding that Hamas be stripped of its weapons and sever ties with Iran.

The sources said that this response is in fact a “moderate” one.

In his first reaction, Netanyahu had said that “we will not accept a fake reconciliation where Palestinians will reach an agreement at the expense of our existence.”

He later added however: “Israel will study the developments on the ground and work accordingly.”

An official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry underlined the premier’s “remarkable” diplomatic rhetoric, while the political sources attributed his position to his desire against harming ties with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

He is also aware that the US administration of President Donald Trump welcomed Cairo’s sponsoring of the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

Furthermore, Netanyahu realizes that the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza, even partially, will serve Israel’s security interest.

Observers believe that Netanyahu was forced to take a more lenient stand, but he is still “unconvinced” of the inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The premier and other officials in his government are concerned with the reconciliation possible longevity because the Palestinian division had greatly benefited Israel.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett went so far as to describe the government that will be established through the agreement as a “terrorism unity cabinet.”

Other observers said that the reconciliation will be short-lived due to ongoing Palestinian and Arab differences.

Alex Fishman of Yedioth Ahronoth said: “The Cairo talks left Hamas with its tunnels, labs, weapons factories, drones and with the Ezzeddine al-Qassam Brigades and their naval commandos. In fact, Hamas’s military wing remains as it were—under the direct and exclusive command of Hamas.

“This is why Israel views the agreement signed on Thursday as one that has no chance of being realized, so there’s no reason to even waste energy on trying to sabotage it. Especially as both the American administration and the Egyptians have asked Israel not to interfere,” he noted in an oped on Friday.

$1 Trillion Bad Loan Mountain Casts Shadow over Europe

Berlin- German and French banks have together amassed almost 230 billion euros ($272 billion) of bad loans, according to regulators’ data, underscoring the scale of a problem often linked solely to Italy that is now causing worry across the region.

The tally puts the combined total of problem loans in the euro zone’s largest economies, France and Germany, close to that of Italy’s 260 billion euro bad debt pile.

It lays bare the extent of the pan-European problem although it is far easier for banks in France and Germany to cope with because bad debts there account for a smaller proportion of overall credit.

After Italy, which had bad loans of 262 billion euros at the end of March, the biggest pockets of debt not repaid over roughly three months are found consecutively in France, Spain, Greece, Germany and the Netherlands.

France has 160 billion euros, while Spain has 139 billion euros and Germany 69 billion euros.

The European Central Bank has encountered stiff resistance in the European Parliament not only from Italian but also German lawmakers to its attempts to clean up Europe’s $1 trillion bad loans mountain.