Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Iraqi President Fouad Masoum during a meeting on Thursday in Amman (Petra News)
Amman– Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Iraqi President Fouad Masoum discussed on Thursday the means to secure border crossings and the establishment of the oil pipeline between the two countries.
During an official meeting at Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, the two leaders touched on historic ties between their countries, developments in Iraq as well as current regional developments.
The meeting was followed by extended talks attended by senior officials from Jordan and Iraq, where discussions focused on the importance of boosting cooperation and coordination, mainly in the political, economic and security fields and activating work of the joint committees on boosting economic cooperation.
King Abdullah noted that both countries have a united stance on the fight against terrorism. He also reiterated Jordan’s keenness on the unity, stability and prosperity of Iraq.
The two leaders underlined the importance of securing border crossings as well as the international highway between the two countries and speeding up the construction of the oil pipeline between the Iraqi city of Basra and the port city of Aqaba.
The Iraqi president, for his part, revealed that work was underway to reopen the international highway with Jordan.
Discussions also tackled progress achieved in the fight against ISIS terrorist group, in addition to efforts aimed at consolidating national reconciliation with the participation of all components of the Iraqi society.
Also on Thursday, King Abdullah received President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani, who arrived in Jordan to participate in the World Economic Forum that will be held at the Dead Sea.
Talks during the meeting focused on means to boost bilateral cooperation mainly on the economic and investment levels.
King Abdullah reaffirmed Jordan’s continued support to efforts that aim at enhancing Iraq’s security and achieving political reconciliation.
Venezuela said it was sending 2,000 soldiers on Wednesday to a border state that is a hotspot of anti-government radicalism after looting that killed a 15-year-old in the latest unrest roiling the nation.
Most shops and businesses in San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state on the Colombian border, were closed and guarded by soldiers on Wednesday, though looting continued in some poorer sectors, residents said.
People made off with items including coffee, diapers, and cooking oil in the OPEC nation where a brutal economic crisis has made basic foods and medicine disappear from shelves.
Barricades of trash, car tires, and sand littered the streets, as daily life broke down in the city that was also a hotspot during the 2014 wave of unrest against leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Hundreds of thousands of people have come onto the streets across Venezuela since early April to demand elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid and autonomy for the opposition-led legislature.
Maduro’s government accuses them of seeking a violent coup and says many of the protesters are no more than “terrorists.” State oil company PDVSA also blamed roadblocks for pockets of gasoline shortages in the country on Wednesday.
In Tachira, teenager Jose Francisco Guerrero was shot dead during the spate of looting, his relatives said.
“My mom sent my brother yesterday to buy flour for dinner and a little while later, we received a call saying he’d been injured by a bullet,” said his sister Maria Contreras, waiting for his body to be brought to a San Cristobal morgue.
The state prosecutor’s office confirmed his death, which pushed the death toll in six weeks of unrest to at least 43, equal to that of the 2014 protests.
Workers walk next to empty shelves in a supermarket after it was looted in San Cristobal, Venezuela May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez
’21ST CENTURY JEWS’
With international pressure against Venezuela’s government mounting, the United Nations Security Council turned its attention to the country’s crisis for the first time on Wednesday.
“The intent of this briefing was to make sure everyone is aware of the situation … we’re not looking for Security Council action,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters after the session.
“The international community needs to say, ‘Respect the human rights of your people or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go’ … We have been down this road with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma.”
Venezuela’s U.N. envoy Rafael Ramirez in turn accused the United States of seeking to topple the Maduro government.
“The U.S. meddling stimulates the action of violent groups in Venezuela,” he said, showing photos of vandalism and violence he said was caused by opposition supporters.
Venezuelans living abroad, many of whom fled the country’s economic chaos, have in recent weeks accosted visiting state officials and their family members.
Maduro on Tuesday likened that harassment to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust under the Nazis.
“We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued,” Maduro said during the cabinet meeting. “We don’t carry the yellow star of David … we carry red hearts that are filled with desire to fight for human dignity. And we are going to defeat them, these 21st century Nazis.”
Venezuela’s main Jewish group, the Confederation of Israeli Associations in Venezuela, responded with a statement expressing its “absolute rejection” of “banal” comparisons with the Holocaust that killed six million Jews.
Social media has for weeks buzzed with videos of Venezuelan emigres in countries from Australia to the United States shouting insults at public officials and in some cases family members in public places.
Maduro’s critics say it is outrageous for officials to spend money on foreign travel when people are struggling to obtain food and children are dying for lack of basic medicines.
But some opposition sympathizers say such mob-like harassment is the wrong way to confront the government.
As night fell on Wednesday, thousands of opposition supporters poured onto the streets of different cities for rallies and vigils in honor of the fatalities during protests.
Many carried flags and candles.
“We’ve been in the street for more than 40 days because this government has broken every law, every human right, and we cannot bear it anymore,” said one demonstrator, Eugenia, who asked that her last name not be used.
“This rally is important because we have to retake the streets, we have been scared for too long,” she added, referring to the rampant violent crime that normally stops people from going out after dark.
For a graphic on Venezuela’s economic woes click here
(Reporting by Anggy Polanco, additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Brian Ellsworth, Girish Gupta, Euridice Bandres and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations in New York; Writing by Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Hay)
“The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom. Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times. The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year. …… The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials……..”
[Blackwater founder Eric Prince is the intermediary between the American President and the Gulf royals. His linking of the manpower of poverty-stricken Colombia with the “Arab NATO” reflects the will of the sitting American President, no matter which one. Trump/Prince’s actions indicate an imminent sabotaging of the Colombian peace treaty, in order to bring the US military into play in Colombia and Venezuela.]
The Sunni Saudis and the Gulf kings possess immense wealth, the only religion that Trump really respects, and they want to destroy Shia Iran, Syria, the Hezbollah and the Houthis – which is a simple ‘anti-terrorist’ story for the Americans
Donald Trump sets off on Friday to create the fantasy of an Arab Nato. There will be dictators aplenty to greet him in Riyadh, corrupt autocrats and thugs and torturers and head choppers. There will be at least one zombie president – the comatose, undead Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria who neither speaks nor, apparently, hears any more – and, of course, one totally insane president, Donald Trump. The aim, however, is simple: to prepare the Sunni Muslims of the Middle East for war against the Shia Muslims. With help from Israel, of course.
Even for those used to the insanity of Arab leadership – not to mention those Westerners who have still to grasp that the US President is himself completely off his rocker – the Arab-Muslim (Sunni) summit in Saudi Arabia is almost beyond comprehension. From Pakistan and Jordan and Turkey and Egypt and Morocco and 42 other minareted capitals, they are to come so that the effete and ambitious Saudis can lead their Islamic crusade against “terrorism” and Shiism. The fact that most of the Middle East’s “terrorism” – Isis and al-Qaeda, aka the Nusrah Front – have their fountainhead in the very nation to which Trump is travelling, must and will be ignored. Never before in Middle Eastern history has such a “kumidia alakhta” – quite literally “comedy of errors” in Arabic – been staged.
On top of all this, they have to listen to Trump’s ravings on peace and Islamic “extremism”, surely the most preposterous speech to be uttered by a US president since he is going to have to pretend that Iran is extremist – when it is Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Isis clones who are destroying Islam’s reputation throughout the world. All this while he is fostering war.
For Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (henceforth MbS) wants to lead his Sunni tribes – plus Iraq if possible, which is why Shia Prime Minister Abadi has been invited from Baghdad – against the serpent of “terrorist” Shia Iran, the dark (Shia) “terrorist” Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, the “terrorist” Shia Lebanese Hezbollah and the aggressive “terrorist” Shia Houthis of Yemen. As for the Gulf states’ own Shia minorities and other recalcitrants, well, off with their heads.
After all, that’s what the Saudis did to the prominent Saudi Shia leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr last year: they cut his head from his body, Isis-style, in a classic bit of Wahhabi decapitation, along with 47 other “terrorists”. And any powerful Shias in neighbouring Gulf countries will be cut down, too – which is what happened to Bahrain’s Shia majority when the Saudi army moved in to occupy the island in 2011 at the “request” of its Sunni ruler.
And you can see why America’s disgraceful President, a man who truly falls into the regional pantheon of raving loonies – he surely ranks among the Gaddafis and Ahmadinejads of the Middle East – goes along with this. The fact that Isis – Trump’s mortal enemy and the strategic adversary of his defence chiefs – is a creature of the same Salafist cult as Saudi Arabia, is neither here nor there. The Sunni Saudis and the Gulf kings and princes possess immense wealth, the only religion that Trump really respects, and they want to destroy Shia Iran and Syria and the Hezbollah and the Houthis – which is a simple “anti-terrorist” story for the Americans – and this means that Trump can give MbS and his chums $100bn (£77bn) of US missiles, planes, ships and ammo for the war-to-come. America will be happy. And Israel will be happy.
I guess Crown Prince Jared Kushner thinks he can handle this end of the Arab-Nato alliance, though the Israelis themselves will be perfectly happy to watch the Sunnis and Shia fight each other, just as they did during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war when the US supported Sunni Saddam – albeit that his army was mostly Shia – and the Israelis furnished US missiles to the Shia Iranians. Already, the Israelis have distinguished themselves by bombing the Syrian army, the Hezbollah and the Iranians in the Syrian war – while leaving Isis untouched and giving medical assistance to al-Qaeda (Nusrah) on Golan.
Much has been made (rightly) of MbS’s threat to ensure that the battle is “in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia”. But, typically, few bothered to listen to Iran’s ferocious reply to the Saudi threat. It came promptly from the Iranian defence minister, Hossein Dehghan. “We warn them [the Saudis] against doing anything ignorant,” he said, “but if they do something ignorant, we will leave nowhere untouched apart from Mecca and Medina.” In other words, it’s time to start building air raid shelters in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Aramco headquarters and all those other locations dear to American hearts.
Indeed, it’s difficult not to recall an almost identical Sunni hubris – almost four decades ago – to that of MbS today. The latter boasts of his country’s wealth and his intention to diversify, enrich and broaden its economic base. In 1980, Saddam was determined to do the same. He used Iraq’s oil wealth to cover the country in super-highways, modern technology, state-of-the-art healthcare and hospitals and modern communications. Then he kicked off his “lightning war” with Iran. It impoverished his oil-rich nation, humiliated him in the eyes of his fellow Arabs – who had to cough up the cash for his disastrous eight-year adventure – led to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, sanctions and the ultimate Anglo-US invasion of 2003 and, for Saddam, the hangman’s noose.
Donald Trump to announce $350bn arms deal to Saudi Arabia
Yet this leaves out the Syrian dimension. Sharmine Narwani, a former senior associate of St Antony’s College – and an antidote for all those sickened by the mountebank think-tank “experts” of Washington – pointed out this week that US support for Kurdish forces fighting under the dishonest label of “Syrian Democratic Forces” are, by advancing on Raqqa, helping to cut Syria off from Iraq. And that Kurdish forces are now reported as “retaking” Christian or Muslim Arab towns in the Nineveh province of Iraq, which were never Kurdish in the first place. Kurds now regard Qamishleh, and Hassakeh province in Syria as part of “Kurdistan”, although they represent a minority in many of these areas. Thus US support for these Kurdish groups – to the fury of Sultan Erdogan and the few Turkish generals still loyal to him – is helping to both divide Syria and divide Iraq.
This cannot and will not last. Not just because the Kurds are born to be betrayed – and will be betrayed by the Americans even if the present maniac-in-charge is impeached, just as they were betrayed to Saddam in the days of Kissinger – but because Turkey’s importance (with or without its own demented leader) will always outweigh Kurdish claims to statehood. Both are Sunnis, and therefore “safe” allies until one of them – inevitably the Kurds – must be abandoned.
Donald Trump to deliver speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia
Meanwhile, you can forget justice, civil rights, sickness and death. Cholera has quite a grip on Yemen now, courtesy of the criminal bombing attacks of the Saudis – ably assisted by their American allies long before Trump took over – and scarcely any of the Muslim leaders whom Trump meets in Riyadh do not have torturers at work back home to ensure that some of their citizens wish they had never been born. It will be a relief for the fruitcake president to leave Israel for the Vatican, albeit given only a brief visitation to – and short shrift by – a real peacemaker.
That only leaves one nation out of the loop of this glorious charivari: Russia. But be sure Vladimir Putin comprehends all too well what is going on in Riyadh. He will watch the Arab Nato fall apart. His foreign minister Lavrov understands Syria and Iran better than the feckless Tillerson. And his security officers are deep inside Syria. Besides, if he needs any more intelligence information, he has only to ask Trump.
The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday against militia supported by the Syrian government that posed a threat to U.S. and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in the country’s south, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday.
The militia, who numbered in the dozens and drove a tank and a small number of construction vehicles, ignored warning shots from U.S. aircraft and, according to a U.S.-led coalition statement, even “apparent Russian attempts to dissuade” their advance.
One of the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, speculated that the group might have been trying to establish a position near the garrison in Syria used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces around the town of At Tanf.
“They were potentially probing to see how close they could get to At Tanf,” the official said.
A member of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces told Reuters the convoy comprised Syrian and Iranian-backed militias and was headed toward the Tanf base when they clashed with some rebel forces.
The militia were struck after they had advanced to about 17 miles (27 km) from the base.
“We notified the coalition that we were being attacked by the Syrian army and Iranians in this point, and the coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy,” said Muzahem al Saloum of the Maghawir al Thwra group.
Since they appeared defensive in nature, Thursday’s strikes did not suggest a shift in the U.S. military’s focus in Syria, which has been on battling Islamic State militants.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said America’s role in Syria’s conflict was unchanged.
“No. We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war. But we will defend our troops,” Mattis said, when asked about the strikes.
But the latest move showed that the area around the Tanf garrison in southern Syria could be under pressure.
Tanf is part of a region known as the Badia, which consists of vast, sparsely populated desert territory that stretches all the way to the Jordanian and Iraqi borders and was declared a military priority by Syria’s foreign minister earlier in May.
Two months of U.S.-backed rebel advances against Islamic State militants have allowed them to secure swaths of territory in the Badia, alarming the Syrian government and its allies.
But rebel sources had warned last week that the Syrian army and Iranian-backed militia moved hundreds of troops with tanks to the town of Sabaa Biyar, which is in the Badia, and is near the strategic Damascus-Baghdad highway.
That highway was once a major weapons supply route for Iranian weapons into Syria.
A Western intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strike sent a strong message to Iranian-backed militias that have been spearheading the advance that they would not be allowed to reach the Iraq border from Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition did not signal it would cede ground around Tanf.
“Coalition forces have been operating in the At Tanf area for many months training and advising vetted partner forces engaged in the fight against ISIS,” according to a statement by the U.S.-led coalition, using an acronym for Islamic State.
U.S. officials said an agreement existed with Russia on a so-called “deconfliction” area around Tanf garrison, meant to avoid an accidental clash of forces.
The statement by the U.S.-led coalition acknowledged a zone but did not offer any details about it, other than to say it was still active.
“The agreed upon deconfliction zone agreement remains in effect,” the statement said.
A commander in the alliance fighting in support of Assad called the strike a “warning raid,” adding it was not aimed at causing casualties but instead stopping the advance.
Still, the strikes would be the first against fighters aligned with Syria’s government since the United States launched cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base in April.
The April strikes were ordered in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Damascus, and were described as a one-off measure to deter any future chemical weapons use.
(Additional reporting by Ellen Francis in Beirut; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)