British Intelligence Investigates Over 500 Cases of Terrorism

MI5 Director General Parker speech in London

London- The United Kingdom’s intelligence services are facing an “intense” challenge from terrorism, the head of MI5 has warned.

He noted that Britain is running more than 500 live operations targeting 3,000 individuals involved in extremist activity in some way with 20,000 more, who have been on the counter-terrorism radar and others who are not even known to law agencies.

Director General of MI5 Andrew Parker said there was currently “more terrorist activity coming at us, more quickly” and that it can also be “harder to detect”.

Speaking in London, Parker said the tempo of counter-terrorism operations was the highest he had seen in his 34-year career at MI5.

The UK has suffered five terror attacks this year, and he said MI5 staff had been “deeply affected” by them.

Twenty attacks had been foiled in the last four years, including seven in the last seven months, Parker revealed, adding that all were related to what he called Islamist extremism.

Britain has experienced five attacks using knives, cars and bombs since the beginning of 2017, four in London and one in Manchester.

Twenty major acts have been detected in the past four years and 379 suspects have been arrested in the first six months of this year, Parker stressed.

Parker recalled that he had said in a speech two years ago that despite a string of successful operations he feared “that we had not yet reached the high-water mark”.

He said Tuesday: “Sadly that has proved to be the case. Islamist terrorism is an acute and enduring challenge that requires a sustained and comprehensive approach.”

The internet has provided terrorists with access and immediacy. “They can go online to get explosives and learn how to build a bomb”, said the director general.

As a result, they can “accelerate from inception to planning to action in just a handful of days, exploiting safe space online which can make it harder to detect and gives us a smaller window to intervene”.

MI5 is under pressure to demonstrate its effectiveness after four Islamist terrorist attacks escaped its detection this year.

Parker’s speech to specialist security journalists on Tuesday was his chance to frame the debate about Britain’s battle against Islamist terrorism at a time when the agency’s staff numbers are already expanding from 4,000 to 5,000, according to The Guardian.

This month the government will receive reports on whether chances to thwart the atrocities were missed and what lessons could be learned.

Ministers and the National Security Council wanted independent oversight of the review, in essence not allowing MI5 or counter-terrorism police to assess themselves.

Oversight is being provided by the barrister David Anderson QC, a former government appointment as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

Duchess of Cambridge Dances with Paddington Bear

Kate Middleton dancing with the giant bear at Paddington station before a crowd of impressed onlookers.

London- The Duchess of Cambridge joined Paddington for a dance on a station platform during a surprise visit to a charity event.

On Monday, the 35-year-old joined her husband and his brother Prince Harry at London’s Paddington station to meet a group of children who have been helped by their charities.

Kate, wife of Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince William, last week made her first public appearance since it was announced in September she was expecting the couple’s third child but suffering from morning sickness hyperemesis gravidarum.

They met children from charities they support who were heading off on a special trip in the sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient- Express for a ride through the English countryside.

London Calls on UN to Avoid Misleading Information on Yemen

Alistair Burt MP, Britain's Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Riyadh- Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt called on Monday United Nations’ agencies operating in Yemen to gather all accessible information in order to avoid being misled.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper during his visit to Riyadh, Burt encouraged assisting those UN agencies that have a difficult mission in Yemen.

Asked about the latest UN Secretary General’s annual Children and armed conflict report (CAAC) that drove dispute for including inaccurate information, Burt said: “I believe this is an issue related to the UN. And, it is important that the UN receives all available resources as some issues might be purely disputed and therefore, certain people could offer misleading information.”

He added that the UK cooperates with the UN. “They are trying to realize a hard mission, but in my opinion, what is more important is to remove the motives of strife in order to avoid similar reports in the future,” he explained.

The British minister said that his visit to Saudi Arabia comes in the framework of coordination concerning the Yemeni file, adding that the UK would place all its efforts in coordination with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States to politically end the Yemeni crisis.

“I met Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in New York and we spoke on the phone. I am pleased to meet him again. We currently have a specific issue to discuss, which is Yemen,” Burt said, adding that the two countries would work together to end the strife and support UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his mission.

Burt described the Saudi-British relationship as “very important,” particularly in the fields of security and commerce.

“My visit also aims to enhance those relations, and I was offered the chance to meet with the British consular officers working in the Kingdom to tackle opportunities in the tourism sectors and to share our experiences in the fields of museums and heritage,” he said.

European Countries Will Remain Committed to Nuclear Deal

Trump, Nuclear deal

London– Reactions to the announcement of US President on Iran’s nuclear deal are still surfacing, and despite Germany and UK’s confirmation that they will stand committed to the nuclear deal, both countries stated they are “concerned by the possible implications” of Trump’s refusal to certify it and reiterated the importance of thwarting Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.

Britain and Germany agreed on Sunday they remained committed to the nuclear deal with Iran even after US’ decision to decertify the agreement.

“They agreed the UK and Germany both remained firmly committed to the deal,” spokeswoman of UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement after a call between the PM and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The spokeswoman stated that the two officials also agreed that the international community needed to continue to come together to “push back against Iran’s destabilizing regional activity, and to explore ways of addressing concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the US is trying to stay in the Iran nuclear deal while hoping to achieve more from it.

During an interview with CNN, Tillerson said the US is open to the possibility of seeking another agreement.
“We’re going to work with our European partners and allies to see if we can’t address these concerns,” he added.

Tillerson said Iran had committed technical violations of the deal, but that the agreement was structured in a way to give Iran significant time to remedy its violations.

Tillerson explained that Trump demanded a broader strategy on Iran, adding that the US was focused on more issues than simply Iran’s potential nuclear ambitions, citing the nation’s ballistic missile program and support for groups adversarial to the US throughout the Middle East.

“What the President wants is a more comprehensive strategy,” Tillerson confirmed.

He said the US was working to address issues it had with the multilateral agreement and anticipated that might require a new deal.

During several occasions, Tehran confirmed it refuses re-negotiations on its nuclear programs.

Earlier last week, Head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Mohamad Ali Jafari announced that Iran believes that many issues in the region can be solved outside the negotiations’ table.

When asked if he agrees with Defense Minister James Matis, Tillerson said he agrees with the minister that they shouldn’t rush the Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the US will stay in for now, as it looks for ways to help the American people “feel safer” by going to Congress.

“I think what you’re going to see is the president’s going to work very closely with Congress to try and come up with something that is more proportionate, something that does make sense for the US to agree to,” Haley told NBC.

Haley said that Iran should not become the next North Korea.

“So what this says to North Korea is, ‘Don’t expect us to engage in a bad deal. And also, if at any point we do come up with something, expect us to follow through with it. Expect us to hold you accountable. You’re not just going to have a free-for-all,” she stated.

For his part, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that nobody else will trust any US administration to engage in any long-term negotiation.

During an interview with CBS, Zarif reiterated that this is not a bilateral treaty between Iran and the United States, adding that the US is a permanent member of the Security Council and if it’s not going to uphold a resolution, that not only it voted for but it sponsored, then the credibility of the institution that the United States considers to be very important would be at stake.

Zarif warned that this administration is withdrawing from everything and people cannot trust anymore the word of the US.

“I believe the Trump administration is closing its eyes on the realities of our region. We believe it would be important for the United States for the Trump administration to exercise a reset in its cognitive disorder with regard to our region,” Zarif told CBS.

Speaking in an interview with state TV late Saturday, Zarif also said, “Trump’s last night remarks on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are inconsistent with articles 26, 28 and 29 of the treaty.

“The action plan bans the US administration officials from making negative comments on JCPOA,” he said.

The deal is required to be implemented “in good faith” and the US should “refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing” sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Zarif said he lodged nine complaints to the Joint Commission and will write a new one concerning Trump’s statements.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump’s statements saying no president could single-handedly revoke an international document backed by UN. He added that Trump’s decision made the US more isolated than ever.

The future of the agreement is at stake, now that the Congress has 60 days to decide whether it will re-impose sanctions on Iran or not.

Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi declared that the country would no longer abide by the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty if the nuclear deal fell apart.

“Without the nuclear agreement its application is meaningless,” Salehi told state television.

He warned that Iran could very quickly return to the production of highly enriched uranium if the US reimposed sanctions.

“If one day, the leaders of the country conclude that the nuclear agreement is no longer to the benefit of the country and decide to resume 20 percent enrichment we can do so within four days,” he said.

UK Reaffirms Commitment to Iran Nuclear Deal

London- British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson met on Thursday with the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akhbar Salehi, after UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump discussed during a phone conversation Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Johnson held talks with Salehi, who is also Iran’s vice president, in London “to press for Iran’s continued compliance with the JCPoA,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement published on its website.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) signed in 2015 by Tehran and the P5+1 has sought to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most Western economic sanctions.

Johnson had held phone calls with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to reiterate “Britain’s support for the Iran nuclear deal ahead of a US deadline to recertify Iranian compliance,” the Foreign Office said.

“The UK, France and Germany are clear that while Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region are unacceptable, the regime has upheld its nuclear commitments,” the statement said.

“The nuclear deal was a crucial agreement that neutralized Iran’s nuclear threat. The UK supports the deal and stresses the importance of all parties continuing to uphold their commitments,” it quoted Johnson as saying.

“We have made no bones about our deep concern at Iran’s destabilizing regional activity, including its ballistic missile program, but I remain steadfast in my view that the nuclear deal was an historic achievement that has undoubtedly made the world a safer place,” the minister added.

A statement from May’s office following the call with Trump on Tuesday evening said: “The (prime minister) reaffirmed the UK’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security.”

May “stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced.”

In contrast, a White House statement on the phone call said Trump “underscored the need to work together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its malign and destabilizing activities, especially its sponsorship of terrorism and its development of threatening missiles.”

May and Trump also discussed the need for Britain, the United States and others to work together to counter destabilizing Iranian activity in the region, May’s office said.

China, Russia and the European states have already expressed their continued support for the nuclear deal, while Iran has said Trump would not be able to undermine the pact.

GCC-British Seminar on Strategic Partnership

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani during the seminar on the strategic partnership between GCC and UK

Riyadh– Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif bin Rashid al-Zayani confirmed that cooperation between Gulf countries and UK is not new, especially in security and defense.

Zayani pointed out that there are several plans that are being constantly updated to counter terrorism and fight Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

The Sec-Gen stated that the cooperation is ongoing, which was reiterated during the summit held in Bahrain.

Zayani was speaking during the inauguration of a seminar on the strategic partnership between the GCC and the United Kingdom in the framework of efforts exerted by the Gulf and British sides to promote the outcomes of the GCC-British Summit which was held in Bahrain in December 2016.

The seminar was held at the Prince Saud al-Faisal Center for Conferences.

Zayani stressed that this forum aims at reviewing the achievements of GCC-British relations and cooperation. He added that during last year’s summit, Gulf countries and the UK agreed on forming a joint group to counter terrorism, secure borders, and enhance societies’ abilities to recover and stabilize.

They also agreed to increase joint military drills and training including maritime drills, border security, and establish stronger economic and trade relations.

The Sec-Gen reviewed the most important outcomes of the first summit between the GCC and the UK.

British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Simon Collis confirmed that UK-Gulf friendship goes back ages, adding that trade between London and Gulf countries reached 30 million pounds over the past year.

The ambassador said that his country is adamant on establishing new partnerships while maintaining their old relations, stating that these partnerships will help the UK face all the challenges, establish security and stability.

Collis said that British Prime Minister Theresa May was clear when she said: “Gulf security is our security and Gulf prosperity is our prosperity. ”

When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat about the free trade negotiations with Gulf countries, Collis reported that this issue hadn’t been established officially. He explained that foreign trade is part of the European Commission, and it is impossible to discuss this matter before Brexit negotiations are over.

The ambassador confirmed that the relations with Gulf countries are not competitive but rather complementary. He added that there is a possibility to discuss and negotiate the general idea of free trade and he doesn’t expect to face any difficulties especially that the Gulf is the most important market following Europe and North America.

Monarch Airlines Goes Bankrupt

Monarach

London- Britain’s Monarch Airlines collapsed on Monday, causing the cancellation of all its activities and around 300,000 flights. It marooned more than 100,000 tourists abroad, prompting what was billed as the country’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort.

The British authorities will allocate three airplanes to be sent to thirty airports in order to face this unprecedented situation without imposing any additional costs on passengers. All other bookings were canceled without the authorities or company presenting any clarifications about the future of Monarch.

Andrew Haines, CEO of the CAA, said that this has absolutely been a tough decision on customers and employees but talks are ongoing with officials in the aviation sector to recruit the employees in Monarch as soon as possible.

“Monarch has really been a victim of a price war in the Mediterranean,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said.

KPMG has been appointed for administering the company that has a total of 2,100 employees given that it is an airline and travel company.

Monarch, established in 1968, witnesses huge turnout from British people wishing to spend their vacation in warm and sunny destinations, but it is facing challenges due to the severe competition.

UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) posted on Twitter and on Monarch websites that starting from Oct. 2 all flights were canceled and are no more valid in an unprecedented situation in which there are more than 110,000 passengers abroad.

The British government asked CAA to coordinate for the sake of bringing back Monarch customers to the country. New flights will be provided for them without any additional costs.

King Salman Receives Somali President

Jeddah– Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz discussed regional issues at al-Salam Palace with visiting President of Somalia Mohammed Abdullah Farmajo.

During the meeting, King Salman and Farmajo reviewed relations between the two countries and various fields of cooperation and discussed latest developments in the region.

The talks were attended by Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region Prince Khaled al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Member of the Cabinet and Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Minister of the State Prince Mansour bin Meteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State Ibrahim Abdulaziz al-Assaf, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Finance Mohammed bin Abdallah al-Jadaan, and Saudi Ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Abdulghani Khayat, Somali Foreign Minister Yousef Garaad Omar, Somali Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dahir Mohamed Geelem, and President of Somalia’s Adviser Bilal Othman Mohammed.

Earlier, King Salman held a luncheon in honor of the visiting president and his accompanying delegation.

In other news, King Salman received at al-Salam Palace UK Member of Parliament of the Conservative Party Leo Docherty accompanied by a number of members of the Parliament.

During the meeting, they reviewed the relations between the two countries and prospects of bilateral cooperation, especially in the parliamentary field.

The audience was attended by Speaker of the Shura Council Abdullah bin Mohammed Al al-Sheikh, Minister of State and Cabinet Member Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban, Minister of State and Cabinet Member Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, and British Ambassador to the Kingdom Simon Collis.

Amnesty International Exposes Illicit $46m South Sudan Arms Deal

People walk along a street in Juba

London- Amnesty International exposed in a recent research how a shell company in the heart of London’s West End acted as an intermediary in huge prospective arms deals to war-torn South Sudan and other countries, thanks to regulatory gaps which are making the UK a hotspot for companies involved in illicit arms transfers.

Commercial documents name S-Profit Ltd, a tiny UK-registered company, as the ‘supplier’ in a 2014 deal to provide at least US$46m worth of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition to the South Sudanese government. The report, From London to Juba: a UK-registered company’s role in one of the largest arms deals to South Sudan, also reveals that the UK government has been aware of similar practices taking place on British soil for more than eight years, without taking effective regulatory action.

“South Sudan is awash with weapons that have been used to kill and maim thousands of civilians, causing Africa’s biggest refugee crisis. The UK government has been a vocal proponent of a UN arms embargo on South Sudan, yet is turning a blind eye to illegal deals taking place right under its nose,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights.

“Glaring gaps in UK company regulation mean a dealer of illicit arms can go online and set up a UK company to front its activities with fewer checks than joining a gym or hiring a car. The UK must urgently review its company registration procedures – right now it provides the perfect conditions to become a hotspot for the kind of irresponsible arms transfers that have devastated South Sudan.”

The weapons in question form part of a previously undisclosed 2014 contract between a Ukrainian state arms company and a UAE-based company to procure US$169m of weapons on behalf of South Sudan. These include thousands of machine guns, mortars, RPGs and millions of rounds of ammunition.

If fulfilled, the total deal would constitute one of the largest publicly disclosed arms transfers to South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013.

Amnesty International has not been able to determine whether some or all of the weapons listed in these documents have yet been delivered to South Sudan. However, a UK company may violate UK export control laws even by being involved in the negotiation of an arms deal to South Sudan. The involvement of the Ukrainian state-owned arms company and a UAE private company in weapons supplies to South Sudan also potentially contravenes the Ukraine and UAE’s obligations as signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty.

S-Profit’s director –a Ukrainian national based outside the UK – denied to Amnesty International that the firm had supplied military products to South Sudan, but has not responded to further questions, including whether it played an intermediary role.

Amnesty International affirmed that it has provided UK authorities with the documents and information it has obtained. The report also reveals that the UK government has, for more than eight years, been aware of UK shell companies being used unlawfully as contract vehicles for weapons dealers to supply arms to human rights violators and embargoed destinations including Syria, Eritrea and South Sudan. Yet, the UK has made no regulatory changes to address these gaps.

Meanwhile, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit said he was not happy about the ongoing civil war and suffering of citizens in the country.

“I am not really happy. I can be seen to be happy but hurting inside. How can I be happy when I see my people suffering? People are starving and dying in criminal actions and battles.” Kiir said in an interview with SSBC on Friday.

“Being the leader I must put a brave face where I can be seen to be happy but I am not happy,” he added.

Kiir pointed out that the national dialogue is a hope that will reunite the people of South Sudan address grievances which were not tackled by the 2015 peace accord.

The world’s youngest nation has been embroiled in a violent conflict since 2013, when a split between President Salva Kiir and his former vice president, Riek Machar, escalated into outright civil war.

The devastating conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

British Actor Colin Firth Receives Italian Citizenship

Cast member Colin Firth arrives with his wife Livia Giuggioli for the world premiere of "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" in London

Rome- British actor Colin Firth, who has often played the role of a quintessential Englishman in his many films, has become an Italian citizen, Italy’s Interior Ministry said.

“The very famous actor, who won an Oscar for the film ‘The King’s Speech’, is married to a citizen from our country and has often declared his love for our land,” the ministry said in a statement.
The 57-year-old showed a loud opposition to Britain’s plans to leave the EU, and said in May he intends to request the Italian citizenship.

Firth said he would remain a dual national, adding that his Italian-born wife would also be seeking British nationality.

“We never really thought much about our different passports,” the actor said in a statement.

“But now, with some of the uncertainty around, we thought it sensible that we should all get the same,” he added, in an apparent reference to last year’s British vote to leave the European Union.

Firth has been married to Italian film producer Livia Giuggioli since 1997 and the couple live with their two sons in Britain. Unlike some other EU countries, Italy and Britain both allow dual nationality.

“My wife and I are both extremely proud of our own countries,” Firth said.