Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its “firm support and full solidarity” with the Palestinian people at the UN on Thursday.The address at the UN was delivered by Manal Hassan Radwan, political coordinator of Saudi Arabia’s permanent delegation to the UN. She called for “the establishment of an independent and sovereign state (on) all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967”. She highlighted the “destruction of Palestinian land, the destruction of thousands of houses, buildings and infrastructure, all the human and material damage inflicted on the Palestinian people for more than 70 years.” She said the half-century of occupation and decade of the Gaza blockade will not be forgotten for generations.“Saudi Arabia calls for the Palestinian cause and its legal, political and humanitarian rights… to be at the forefront of the international community’s concerns, with a view to the immediate implementation of all UN resolutions in this regard”. She called for immediate international protection for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
On Wednesday, Qatari al-Samarmad, a commander at Anbar’s mobilization forces, was quoted by IkhNews saying that iraqi army fighter jets pounded an Islamic State hideout in Wadi Hawran, west of the province, and killed 27 Islamic State members, including foreign nationals, in an air raid. He also added that during the airstrikes a number of vehicles belonging to the militants were destroyed. During a weekly press briefing at the cabinet’s building in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that security forces had cleared “14,000 square kilometers” of al-Jazirah, a desert region surrounded by Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces, from Islamic State vestiges. “At a military level, Islamic State in Iraq is over,” Abadi announced, declaring the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in Iraq with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq. He also had said that final victory over IS would be proclaimed after al-Jazirah total cleaning.
On Tuesday, Iraq’s Migration and Displacement Ministry under-secretary Jassem al-Attiya said to Radio Sawa that refugees could not be forced to return to their home areas recaptured from Islamic State militants. “The government will not force anyone to return at present”, the official said, adding that “remains committed to the federal government’s decision which prevents the forced repatriation of refugees”. However, Jassem al-Attiya expressed his “astonishment” over the determination of some refugees to remain in camps despite the liberation of their regions. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights and the U.S. embassy in Iraq have recently recommended the Iraqi government to ensure that repatriation be run based on the refugees’ will, warning against forcing them to return to Anbar and other regions. Iraqi authorities had revealed plans to repatriate all refugees before this year’s end. According to the United Nations at least five million people have been displaced since Islamic State militant imposed their control over large areas of Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate”.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has vowed that extremists will no longer “tarnish our beautiful religion.” He was speaking at the opening of the inaugural meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Ministers of Defense Council in Riyadh on Sunday. The crown prince said Sunday’s meeting sends “a strong signal that we are going to work together and coordinate together to support each other.” The crown prince also offered his condolences to Egypt, which suffered an attack on Friday by militants on a mosque in northern Sinai that killed 305 people. The IMCTC encompasses an integrated approach to coordinate and unite on the four key domains of ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing, and military, in order to fight all forms of terrorism and extremism and to effectively join other international security and peacekeeping efforts. The coalition will develop, collect, shop and disseminate a wide range of information on counterterrorism programs and best techniques embarked on by member nations and international organizations.
The introduction of value-added tax (VAT) next year will directly impact the prices of commodities and services, analysts said. Al-Zaidi, a Financial ablyst, said “The price increase will reduce the demand for goods, and this will have a negative effect on companies, most of which will likely take several measures to keep their business”. He hoped the price rise would not affect the quality of goods and services. “If it happened, it is a negative indication. However, the price hike will push consumers to find ways to save money”, he said. Businesses must register for VAT by the deadline of Dec. 20, and the official introduction starts on Jan 1. He anticipated that companies will be keen to improve their services at competitive prices, especially with the opening of international markets through e-commerce. He stressed that the best service-providers with the lowest costs will succeed in the market, while other businesses will fail. Al-Zaidi, who is also the director of the Jeddah-based Al-Zaidi Financial Education Center, said that it is possible that the government will impose additional taxes on other products or increase VAT from 5 percent. Al-Zaidi anticipated that small and medium-sized companies will find it difficult to adapt to VAT, making it difficult to significantly reduce their expenses to survive. As for imposing VAT on private education, Al-Zaidi said that investors in this sector would reduce fees to retain their market share. “Otherwise, their investment would be severely affected”, he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called the Supreme Leader of Iran “the new Hitler of the Middle East”. In an interview with the New York Times published on Thursday, Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister, suggested the Islamic Republic’s alleged expansion under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei needed to be confronted. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East”, the paper quoted him as saying. It’s “ludicrous”, he said, to suggest that this anticorruption campaign was a power grab. He pointed out that many prominent members of the Ritz crowd had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms, and that “a majority of the royal family” is already behind him, the New York Times article said. “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement”, which means signing over cash or shares of their business to the Saudi state treasury. According to him, the public prosecutor says it could eventually “be around $100 billion in settlements”. Mohammed bin Salman insisted that the Saudi-backed war in Yemen was tilting in the direction of the legitimate government there, which, he said is now in control of 85 percent of the country. According to him, given the fact that pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, who hold the rest, launched a missile at Riyadh airport, anything less than 100 percent is still problematic. He praised President Trump as “the right person at the right time” and added that with his support the Saudis and their Arab allies were slowly building a coalition to stand up to Iran.
On Tuesday, a medical source said to Al-Ghad Press that a booby-trapped vehicle exploded near an overcrowded market at the Military District in Tuz Khurmatu region in Salahuddin province. Because of the explosion twenty people were killed and 70 others were wounded, but according to the medical source the number of casualties is expected to rise. The source also said that the targets of the attack were checkpoints for PMFs in al-Bu Eissa village, on borders between Salahuddin and located adjacent to Mutaibija. During this year, Salahuddin province was repeatedly rocked by several suicide bombings: only last week Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), assisted by Federal Police, succeeded in preventing an attack by IS members right near Salahuddin province. Tuz Khurmatu was also one of the areas disputed by Iraq and Kurdistan Region: in October Iraqi forces liberated the area as part of a government push to impose control over disputed territories, responding to Kurdistan’s independence referendum held in September. Recently with the liberation of Anbar’s town of Rawa, the last Islamic State’s stronghold, Iraq announced the end of the Islamic State’s territorial presence in Iraq.
Israel and Saudi Arabia may seem unlikely allies in regional politics but recent developments have pushed Riyadh and Tel Aviv closer together, setting the stage for the Middle East’s strangest bedfellows. The covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, based on an alliance against the “common threat” of Iran, are part of a new regional paradigm, analysts say. The inclusion of Israel as a potential partner reflects a break from the fragmented order in the Middle East, where since the early 2000s the United States has sought to create a hegemonic system to dominate West-friendly states, brought about by either elections or deposition. Saudi Arabia, capitalising on its religious standing in the Arab world, broke through the ranks to establish its own order, one that included seeking ties with Israel on the basis of land for peace. In tandem, it worked on the preservation of its Sunni identity and alliances to counterbalance Shia Iran’s influence.
On Monday, the Supreme Federal Court issued a verdict about Kurdistan’s independence referendum considering it “unconstitutional”. In fact on September 25, Kurds held a referendum voting to break away from Iraq and defying the central government in Baghdad as well as neighboring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities. The court had already decreed on November 6 that no region or province could secede. The Court’s verdict of today declared the unconstitutionality of the referendum and the court also cancelled all results of the controversial vote, sparking outrage between Erbil and Baghdad. “The Federal Court issued the verdict to consider the Kurdish region’s referendum unconstitutional and this ruling is final” and “the power of this ruling should now cancel all the results of the referendum”, as a court spokesman said. The court is responsible for settling disputes between Iraq’s central government and regions including Kurdistan. Last week the Kurdistan Regional Government said it would respect the verdict that cannot be appealed.
After some French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments in an interview with the United Arab Emirates-based al-Ittihad newspaper in which he urged inflexibility with Iran regarding its missile program and influence in the Middle East, top Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati criticized and strongly rejected these remarks against Iran. Velayati warned that such acts of interference would discredit the French government in the eyes of Iranians and he stressed that Tehran will never ask for permission from anyone to enhance its missile program. “As an Iranian person familiar with the foreign policy issues and the French history, I recommend the president of that country (France) to try to follow General de Gaulle’s path during his term for foreign policy”, as he added. Even the senior adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in an interview with IRIB said that “It is not in the interests of Macron and the French government to interfere in issues pertaining to Iran’s missile program and strategic affairs, about which the Islamic Republic is very sensitive”. In denouncing Macron’s comments, Velayati also exhorted the French government not to fall under the influence of the wrong anti-Iran claims and to persuade its Persian Gulf allies to implement rational policies.