Fri. Jun 9th, 2023
DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum met with Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense during his official visit to the country.
The leaders discussed bilateral ties and areas of potential cooperation with Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob in two separate meetings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, reported state news agency (WAM).
They also reviewed issues of mutual interest.
TEHRAN: A member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was shot dead outside his house in Tehran, state media reported Wednesday, adding that he may have been killed during a burglary.
Qassam Fathollahi of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was shot “four times in front of his house” in southern Tehran late Tuesday by “unknown persons,” the official IRNA news agency said.
Police had noted “signs of theft from the apartments around the scene” of the shooting, the report added.
Iran has been rocked by protests since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s female dress code.
Iranian officials describe the protests as “riots” and say hundreds of people have been killed in the nationwide unrest, including members of the security forces, and thousands arrested.
On Saturday, a member of the Basij, the IRGC’s paramilitary force, was shot dead by “armed criminals” in the central city of Semirom where protesters had gathered, state media reported.
Tehran has accused hostile foreign powers and opposition groups of stoking the unrest.
Last month, Tehran executed two men, both 23, who had been convicted of attacks against security forces in connection with the protests.
The judiciary has issued 11 other death sentences, four of which have been upheld by the Supreme Court following appeals.
AL-MUKALLA: Three well-known Yemeni YouTubers have been kidnapped by Houthis in Sanaa, as the militia steps up its crackdown on online influencers who expose its leaders’ flaws.
Activists reported that Houthis have abducted Mustafa Al-Mumari, Hamoud Al-Mesbahi, and Ahmed Elaw for posting videos on social media which support prominent YouTuber Ahmed Hajar, who was seized from a Sanaa street more than 10 days ago.
The social media posts also criticized widespread corruption and the failure to address famine.
Al-Mumari is a popular social media personality in Yemen with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers and tens of thousands of Facebook fans.
He had earlier appeared in a video in which he sharply criticized the Houthis for kidnapping his friend, Hajar.
He urged the Houthis to combat rampant institutional corruption, and named some “corrupt” Houthi leaders.
He added: “If you are trustworthy and searching for the corrupt, I will provide you with evidence.
“If my claims are untrue, put me to death; if they are genuine, hold those (corrupt officials) responsible.”
Al-Mumari and Al-Mesbahi were kidnapped from a street in Sanaa and taken to a security facility shortly after the video was posted.
Elaw had made a video on his channel three days ago demanding the release of his detained friends, and warning the Houthis against ignoring corruption or popular unrest.
He said: “We shall not forget our imprisoned brethren and will continue to advocate for their release.”
The Houthis quickly stormed his home and kidnapped him.
The abductions came as a Yemeni attorney in Sanaa said on Tuesday that Houthi intelligence, security personnel and prosecutors had begun interrogating Hajar in preparation for his trial.
Lawyer Abdul Majeed Sabra told Arab News: “The specialized criminal prosecution is now interrogating Ahmed Hajar at the Shamlan building of the Security and Intelligence Service.”
The Houthis have not yet claimed responsibility for the abduction of the recent set of YouTubers, but their supporters claimed their social media posts had been backed by the militia’s adversaries.
Abdulsalam Jahaf, a member of the Houthi Shoura Council, said: “Anyone who serves the enemy is an enemy, and the security services are tasked with apprehending anyone who attempts to compromise our security.”
Yemeni officials and analysts believe that the campaign by the Houthis against social media influencers is aimed at silencing prominent figures who can reach millions of Yemenis.
Yemen’s Minister of Information Muammar Al-Eryani said the Houthis fear an uprising owing to their repressive rule, inability to pay public wages, and failure to provide services.
He added: “These frantic campaigns serve as confirmation of the hysteria that has engulfed the Houthi militia’s leaders following calls for a popular uprising to remove this scourge.”
He condemned the Houthi policy of “poverty and starvation against residents” in the areas it controlled “that destroyed everything lovely in Yemen in order to further the goals of its Iranian overlords.”
ANKARA: Tehran announced its uneasiness about being sidelined from the recent meeting between Syrian and Turkish defense ministers and intelligence chiefs in Moscow with the mediation of Russia.
The critically worded comment came from Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasseer Kanaani, who said during a press briefing on Monday: “Iran has always insisted on a political solution and not a military solution, and it insists on this position regarding Syria.
“Syria, Russia and Turkiye have recognized the crucial role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in fighting terrorism in Syria, supporting the government and people of the country, supporting the territorial integrity of this country and the process of resolving the Syrian crisis,” he added.
Iranian officials were absent at the Moscow meeting, but it is still unknown whether they will be invited to the next meeting that is scheduled to take place in the second half of January, most likely in Moscow, and this time involve foreign ministers.
Iranian officials were absent at the Moscow meeting, but it is still unknown whether they will be invited to the next meeting that is scheduled to take place in the second half of January, most likely in Moscow, and this time involve foreign ministers.
Turkiye, Iran and Russia launched together the Astana Process in 2017 in a bid to restore stability in Syria. But the war-torn country has been a source of competition between Tehran and Ankara since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, as Turkiye and Iran support opposing sides.
Iran considers the Syrian regime as key to confronting Israel, while Turkiye supported opposition groups fighting Bashar Assad’s regime.
Iran also attaches importance to the Shiite towns of Nabal and Al-Zahra in northern Syria and tries to keep them under its sphere of influence. However, a possible Turkish operation against Tal Rifaat to unite Turkish-controlled Afrin and Al-Bab regions would put these Shiite towns at risk of attack because of their proximity.
A possible Turkish military operation in northern Syria could also bring Turkish and Iranian proxies to the brink of clashes as Iranian-affiliated rebels and Kurdish units in Syria are cooperating against a possible Turkish offensive.
“Throughout the Syrian civil war, Iran’s official discourse always reiterated the necessity of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict and the futility of a military solution, despite its presence as the military mastermind of Assad’s ground war,” Dr. Gulriz Sen, an expert on Turkiye-Iran relations from the TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Ankara, told Arab News.
“Iran also expressed its desire to mediate between Turkiye and Syria several times and even hinted at hosting a meeting in Tehran to foster reconciliation. Tehran sees that this role resides with Russia, with President Vladimir Putin now acting as the major powerbroker,” she added.
According to Dr. Sen, Tehran also sees that the dynamics in the northern parts of Syria have been largely negotiated between Turkiye and Russia in the last few years, while Tehran’s position was to maintain close links to the Assad regime and coordinate with the Syrian government.
“Tehran would be content and relieved so long as the burgeoning talks between Turkiye and Syria serve its interests, which are keeping the Assad regime in power and Syria’s territorial integrity intact as well as curbing, and possibly ending, Turkiye’s military presence in the country,” she added.
Hamidreza Azizi, visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, thinks that Russian mediation between Syria and Turkiye without the involvement of Iran is proof of Russian political leverage on the Assad regime and its role as a powerbroker in Syria’s conflict by organizing a series of talks to negotiate an end to the war.
“Since March 2020, Russian-Turkish bilateral cooperation began replacing the three-way framework that involves Iran as part of the Astana Process. But Iran still welcomes any initiative that prevents Turkiye’s military operation in the region,” he told Arab News.
In March 2020, Russia and Turkiye agreed upon a ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, with a three-point agreement that was brokered by the Turkish and Russian presidents and that included the creation of a safety corridor.
“In the past, Iran itself offered mediation between Damascus and Ankara, but it proved unsuccessful. Although Russian mediation for Syria and Turkiye marginalized Iran to a certain extent, it is still in line with Tehran’s interests for the region,” Azizi said.
However, experts do not expect that an invitation will be extended to Iran for the upcoming trilateral meeting.
“Tehran may not be invited to the foreign ministers’ meetings in late January, and possibly it does not expect to be, as the process goes through Russian mediation, but Iran will be following the talks closely and making sure that its strategic calculations are duly reflected in the outcomes of the meetings,” Dr. Sen said.
In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave further details about the upcoming meeting during an interview with CNN Turk on Tuesday.
“All decisions about Syria cannot be taken in just one meeting. All these steps (are) aimed at building trust and preparing the ground for further cooperation over sensible points in the coming period,” he said, adding that the Syrian regime is eager to cooperate on the repatriation of Syrians.
DUBAI: For much of the past year, climate change had been high on the global policy agenda as extreme weather events, including floods, dust storms, heatwaves, droughts and blizzards, were reported from different parts of the world.
At the same time, governments pledged to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, move toward cleaner, renewable sources of energy, take steps to increase resilience and advance the cause of environmental justice. But are these commitments bold enough or too little too late?
Over the holiday period, the UK Met Office warned that the coming year would likely be the hottest on record, indicating that not nearly enough was being done to prevent average global temperatures rising beyond 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels.
In fact, Met Office research suggests that 2023 will be the tenth consecutive year in which global temperatures are at least 1 C above pre-industrial levels.
For many countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where temperatures are rising at almost double the rate of the rest of the world, the threat posed by an even hotter year cannot be overstated.
Climate-related issues will continue to place a huge financial burden on Arab countries, with some estimates suggesting that adapting to climate change could cost developing countries up to $340 billion annually by 2030.
To help developing countries, particularly those vulnerable to climate change, a decision was taken at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheik in November to establish a “loss and damage” fund.
The fund aims to encourage wealthy, industrialized nations to compensate developing, low-emission countries when they suffer climate-related disasters.
Addressing COP27 delegates, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, appealed for more ambitious with their emissions-cutting targets in line with the 1.5 C goal agreed in Paris in 2015.

“Our planet is still in the emergency room,” Guterres said, highlighting the need to “massively invest in renewables and end our addiction to fossil fuels.” With too many countries falling short of their targets, “the world still needs a giant leap on climate ambition,” he added.
Climate scientists say weather events of the past 12 months, including record temperatures in the UK, wildfires in Europe and Australia, flooding in Pakistan, dust storms across the Middle East, and the “bomb cyclone” in North America, have proved that far more concerted climate action is needed.
Zoltan Rendes, a European Climate Pact ambassador and chief marketing officer at SunMoney Solar Group, says the impact of rising temperatures is expected to be “magnified” in 2023, especially in hotter countries in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.
A recent study published by the Review of Geophysics found that average temperatures in countries including Egypt, Greece, and Saudi Arabia are projected to rise by approximately 5 C by the end of the century. Climate adaptation, among other measures, is therefore critical for these nations.
“Temperatures could reach dangerous levels that would be near impossible for people to work in,” Rendes told Arab News. “This would lead to decreased productivity and the potential for humanitarian crises due to heat-related illnesses.”
He says daptation strategies, such as increased spending on renewable energy sources and cooling infrastructure, should be implemented immediately.
Using climate-smart agriculture techniques, such as crop diversification, energy optimization through smart power grids, and water conservation measures will also be crucial to the region’s development in the coming decades.
“This rise in temperature can lead to a variety of extreme weather phenomena, such as sandstorms, heavy rains and floods, drought, and heat waves … . These conditions can put tremendous strain on vital infrastructure and resources essential to sustaining life in the region,” Rendes told Arab News.

While dust storms are not uncommon in the Middle East, an increase in wind speeds due to higher temperatures may mean that these storms become more frequent and intense.
Similarly, areas prone to flooding during heavy rainfall could experience an increased risk owing to a potential rise in precipitation, said Rendes.
To compound the problem, according to Dr. John A. Burt, associate professor of biology and head of environmental studies at New York University Abu Dhabi, rising temperatures will lead to more evaporation in the water-scarce Middle East region, adversely affecting ecosystems and agriculture.
“As our seas are a major sink for thermal energy, we can also expect an influence on marine heat waves, and consequent effects on sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs,” he told Arab News.
“If we look back at August 2017, low winds for a period of just several weeks resulted in a marine heat wave that killed off almost three-quarters of all coral reef areas in the Arabian Gulf.”
This is in part due to the already hostile environment found in most Middle Eastern nations. Even modest changes in temperature and wind speed can have a staggering impact on ecosystems and human health.
“While climate change represents a long-term trend, climate variability — where we can experience much stronger extremes — can have more acute, short-term impacts,” Burt told Arab News.
It is also important to consider that global temperatures are also influenced by El Nino and La Nina events, which cause warmer or cooler periods, respectively, based on changes in ocean temperature.
“These phenomena refer to large scale wind patterns that occur in the southern Pacific Ocean, which have the capacity to affect weather patterns globally as our atmosphere and seas are one large and complex interconnected system,” he said.
Over the last three years, La Nina has cooled down the average global temperature, an effect that is expected to come to an end in 2023 — bringing about warmer weather conditions.

“It is important to recognize the potential impacts of these climate events as they can lead to significant human and economic costs,” Rendes told Arab News.
For example, an increase in precipitation during an El Nino could mean flooding risks for some countries, while a decrease in rainfall during a La Nina could result in water shortages.
Rendes added that areas of the Middle East suffering from drought might are likely to experience reduced rainfall, resulting in severe water scarcity.
Consequently, heat waves could become far more frequent and potentially longer lasting as temperatures in the region scale unprecedented highs.
In turn, this could lead to an increased risk of heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, sunstroke, and heat exhaustion, according to Rendes.
“It is essential that governments work together to implement policies that address both climate change mitigation efforts as well as adaptation strategies,” he told Arab News.
The UN Environment Programme’s recently published Emissions Gap Report 2022 shares the same conclusions.
It shows the world is not on track to reach the 2015 Paris Agreement goals. Instead, global temperatures are set to reach 2.8 C by the end of the century, while temperatures in 2023 are on course to reach between 1.08 C and 1.32 C above the pre-industrial average.
The report also says that the world must cut emissions by 45 percent to avoid global catastrophe and that multilateral action is needed to tackle the crisis.
Several Arab countries are taking steps to mitigate climate change. For instance, Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. The Kingdom is investing in renewable energy sources like solar and wind to achieve this goal.

The Saudi government is also planning to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and establish an exchange platform for carbon offsets and credits for the MENA region.
“By 2023, Saudi Arabia aims to complete 840 MW of solar photovoltaic projects, and is currently in the process of constructing an additional 13 renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 11 GW,” Rendes told Arab News.
The Kingdom has announced one of the world’s most significant carbon capture and storage hubs on the east coast of Jubail that will be up and running by 2027.
Concurrently, ambitious projects such as the Saudi Green and Middle East Green Initiatives, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021, aim to boost emissions reductions, carbon capture and green-energy transition throughout the region.
Similarly, the UAE is taking action to reduce emissions from power generation and transportation to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
“The UAE government and leadership have wholeheartedly invested in solar energy projects, setting the stage for them to be the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region with a national pathway towards net zero emissions,” Rendes told Arab News.
He cautions that as with any significant undertaking, cooperation among the governments of the Arab region is a prerequisite for meaningful progress.
“The time to act is now — let’s make sure that 2023 isn’t too late,” Rendes told Arab News. “Make no mistake, the planet will survive. But let’s make sure that we survive with it too.”

JERUSALEM: When Israel struck an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to open diplomatic ties in 2020, it brought an electrifying sense of achievement to a country long ostracized in the Middle East.
Officials insisted that Israel’s new ties with the UAE, and soon after with Bahrain, would go beyond governments and become society-wide pacts, stoking mass tourism and friendly exchanges between people long at odds.
But over two years since the breakthrough accords, the expected flood of Gulf Arab tourists to Israel has been little more than a trickle. Although more than half a million Israelis have flocked to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and skyscraper-studded Dubai, just 1,600 Emirati citizens have visited Israel since it lifted coronavirus travel restrictions last year, the Israeli Tourism Ministry told The Associated Press.
The ministry does not know how many Bahrainis have visited Israel because, it said, “the numbers are too small.”
“It’s still a very weird and sensitive situation,” said Mursi Hija, head of the forum for Arabic-speaking tour guides in Israel. “The Emiratis feel like they’ve done something wrong in coming here.”
The lack of Emirati and Bahraini tourists reflects Israel’s long-standing image problem in the Arab world and reveals the limits of the Abraham Accords, experts say.
Even as bilateral trade between Israel and the UAE has exploded from $11.2 million in 2019 to $1.2 billion last year, the popularity of the agreements in the UAE and Bahrain has plummeted since the deals were signed, according to a survey by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an American think tank.
In the UAE, support fell to 25 percent from 47 percent in the last two years. In Bahrain, just 20 percent of the population supports the deal, down from 45 percent in 2020. In that time, Israel and Gaza militants fought a devastating war and violence in the occupied West Bank surged to its highest levels in years.
Israeli officials say Gulf Arab tourism to Israel is a missing piece that would move the agreements beyond security and diplomatic ties. Tourist visits from Egypt and Jordan, the first two countries to reach peace with Israel, also are virtually nonexistent.
“We need to encourage (Emiratis) to come for the first time. It’s an important mission,” Amir Hayek, Israeli ambassador to the UAE, told the AP. “We need to promote tourism so people will know each other and understand each other.”
Israeli tourism officials flew to the UAE last month in a marketing push to spread the word that Israel is a safe and attractive destination. The ministry said it’s now pitching Tel Aviv — Israel’s commercial and entertainment hub — as a big draw for Emiratis.
Tour agents say that so far, betting on Jerusalem has backfired. The turmoil of the contested city has turned off Emiratis and Bahrainis, some of whom have faced backlash from Palestinians who see normalization as a betrayal of their cause. The Palestinian struggle for independence from Israel enjoys broad support across the Arab world.
“There’s still a lot of hesitation coming from the Arab world,” said Dan Feferman, director of Sharaka, a group that promotes people-to-people exchanges between Israel and the Arab world. “They expect (Israel) to be a conflict zone, they expect to be discriminated against.” After leading two trips of Bahrainis and Emiratis to Israel, Sharaka struggled to find more Gulf Arab citizens interested in visiting, he said.
When a group of Emirati and Bahraini social media influencers in 2020 visited the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, they were spat on and pelted with shoes in Jerusalem’s Old City, said Hija, their tour guide.
When another group of Emirati officials visited the flashpoint site accompanied by Israeli police, they drew the ire of the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who issued a religious edict against Emiratis visiting the mosque under Israeli supervision.
Most Emiratis and Bahrainis who have visited Israel say they forgo their national dress and headscarves in order not to attract attention.
The Islamic Waqf, which administers the mosque, declined to answer questions about the number of Emirati and Bahraini visitors and their treatment at the compound.
Palestinian rage against Emiratis is not confined to the sacred esplanade. Emirati citizens visiting and studying in Israel say they face frequent death threats and online attacks.
“Not everyone can handle the pressure,” said Sumaiiah Almehiri, a 31-year-old Emirati from Dubai studying to be a nurse at the University of Haifa. “I didn’t give into the threats, but fear is preventing a lot of Emiratis from going.”
The fear of anti-Arab racism in Israel can also drive Gulf Arabs away. Israeli police mistakenly arrested two Emirati tourists in Tel Aviv last summer while hunting for a criminal who carried out a drive-by shooting. Some Emiratis have complained on social media about drawing unwanted scrutiny from security officials at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.
“If you bring them here and don’t treat them in a sensitive way, they’ll never come back and tell all their friends to stay away,” Hija said.
Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned for a sixth term as prime minister last week, has pledged to strengthen agreements with Bahrain, Morocco, the UAE and Sudan. Formal ties with Sudan remain elusive in the wake of a military coup and in the absence of a parliament to ratify its US-brokered normalization deal with Israel.
As a chief architect of the accords, Netanyahu also hopes to expand the circle of countries and reach a similar deal with Saudi Arabia.
Yet experts fear his new government — the most ultranationalist and religiously conservative in Israel’s history — could further deter Gulf Arab tourists and even jeopardize the agreements. His government has vowed to expand West Bank settlements and pledged to annex the entire territory, a step that was put on hold as a condition of the initial agreement with the UAE.
“We have a reason to be worried about any deterioration in relations,” said Moran Zaga, an expert in Gulf Arab states at the University of Haifa in Israel.
So far, Gulf Arab governments have offered no reason for concern.
The Emirati ambassador was photographed warmly embracing Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the coalition’s most radical members, at a national day celebration last month. And over the weekend, the UAE’s leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, called Netanyahu to congratulate him and invite him to visit.
It’s a different story among those who are not in the officialdom.
“I hope that Netanyahu and those with him will not set foot on the land of the Emirates,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a prominent Emirati political scientist, wrote on Twitter. “I think it is appropriate to freeze the Abraham Accords temporarily.”


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