Bahrain recalls Iraq ambassador over embassy attack


200 demonstrators break into courtyard of Bahrain’s embassy in Baghdad

Baghdad: More than 200 demonstrators broke into the courtyard of Bahrain’s Embassy in Baghdad and took down the kingdom’s flag on Thursday night to protest a US-led meeting in Bahrain on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Police used live rounds to disperse the crowd, police sources told Reuters, with no injuries reported.
“We used our vehicle loudspeakers to encourage protesters to leave the compound,” a police officer stationed near the embassy said. “After they refused, police had to fire into the air.”
One protester, who identified himself as a member of the Islamic Resistance Groups, a term usually used by Iranian-backed militias, said they wanted to send a strong statement.
“We took down the Bahraini flag to send a clear message to all those who participated in the Bahrain conference, that we strongly reject normalising relations with the Zionist occupiers and will never abandon our support of Palestinians,” said the protester, who identified himself as Abu Murtadha Al Moussawi.
“We are ready to fight for this.” Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iraq for consultations on Thursday after the protests.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain condemns the attack on the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Republic of Iraq by the demonstrators (which) led to sabotage in the embassy building,” a statement on the ministry’s website said.

UAE condemns storming of embassy

The UAE strongly condemned the storming of the embassy compound.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) labelled the storming as a blatant violation of diplomatic norms and conventions, and called on the Iraqi government to live up to its responsibility towards international obligations and conventions which guarantee diplomatic security and immunity.
The ministry underlined the necessity of protecting the premises of diplomatic missions and ensuring their safety under international law and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
“The UAE re-affirms its categorical support for the Kingdom of Bahrain vis-a-vis all menacing threats to its security and the safety of its diplomatic missions,” added the statement.
While denouncing all attempts to spark protests by some parties against Bahrain, the Ministry expressed concern over the security of diplomatic missions in Iraq.
The Iraqi government also condemned the protesters, and expressed “its deep regret” over the security breach at the embassy.
“The government of Iraq affirms its absolute rejection of any acts which threaten diplomatic missions, their safety and the security of their personnel,” said in a statement. On his part, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said: "The attack on the Embassy of the brotherly Kingdom of Bahrain in Baghdad is unacceptable and reprehensible and a dangerous escalation at the legal and political level, and we call on the Iraqi government to fulfill its responsibilities and legal obligations to protect diplomatic work and the mission headquarters in the capital and Iraqi cities."


Saudi Arabia: Women use pre-wedding contracts to stipulate driving, working rights after marriage


A breach of wedding conditions in the contract can be used by women as grounds for divorce.

DAMMAM: Saudi salesman Majd had just begun his wedding preparations when his fiancee sought to enshrine in their marriage contract a condition already guaranteed by law — her right to drive.
Such legally binding contracts typically codify anything from the woman's right to have her own house, hire a maid, or to study or work.
But after the kingdom last year lifted a ban on female motorists, a popular new condition in the contracts is the right to own and drive a car, according to documents seen by AFP and interviews with wedding clerics.

“Why not?”

Majd, 29, who is due to marry this month in his native Dammam in eastern Saudi Arabia, signed off on two demands from his 21-year-old fiancee — the right to drive and to work after marriage, according to the contract he shared with AFP.
"She said she (would) like to be independent," explained Majd, who requested his last name be withheld as the discussion was a private family matter.
"I replied: 'sure, why not?'"

A promise

"Some women prefer to include the driving condition in their contract to avoid any 'marital conflicts' over the issue," said Abdulmohsen Al-Ajemi, a Riyadh wedding cleric who received his first such enquiry from the family of an engaged woman last week.
"It's a way to guarantee the husband will keep his promise."
A breach of wedding conditions can be used by women as grounds for divorce, clerics say.

'I don't want you'

There are no official statistics on the number of such contracts. But Munirah Al-Sinani, a 72-year-old housewife in Dhahran, a city in the kingdom's east, said she had come across two such cases recently among her acquaintances.
"If you don't let me drive, if you say 'no', then khallas (finished) — I don't want you," Sinani quoted one of the women as telling her potential spouse.
The trend underscores how women appear to be using the contracts to assert their newfound rights — and the conditions appear to be getting bolder.
A man in eastern Al-Ahsa city told AFP that during a marriage within his extended family, the bride demanded that her husband-to-be give up smoking.
Another woman asked that her husband have no access to her salary and another stipulated that she should not fall pregnant in the first year of marriage, according to cleric Ajemi.
A Saudi woman took social media by storm recently when she posted her wedding contract online. The document prohibited her husband from taking a second wife. Angry online trolls rebuked her husband as "unmanly" for accepting the condition.

Men too

Men also sometimes use wedding contracts to stipulate that the "wife will never work" or that she must agree to live with his mother, senior cleric Adel Al-Kalbani told AFP.
These conditions could also cause strains in marriages in a society where such conditions may be deemed insulting or signify a lack of trust in the husband, typically the head of a household.
"In the past, society did not listen to women. Husbands would turn around and firmly say 'No'," cleric Ajemi said.
"But now they are listening to the aspirations of women."


'Slightly illusory': Low expectations for US-led Bahrain workshop


Conference where the US will present part of the 'deal of the century' has little to do with peace, analysts say.



Trump approved strikes on Iran but pulled back: Reports


US military made preparations to strike Iranian targets in retaliation for downing of drone, media reports say.

US President Donald Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching attacks, US media reports said on Friday.
Citing senior White House officials, The New York Times reported an operation sanctioned by Trump to launch attacks on a "handful of Iranian targets" - including radar and missile batteries - was "in its early stages" on Thursday evening when the US leader changed tack and called it off.
Planes were in the air and ships were in position when the order to stand down came, the Times cited one unidentified administration official as saying.
The Washington Post and the ABC News also reported the developments, citing unnamed White House officials and other sources said to be familiar with the matter.
The White House declined to comment on the reports.
Reuters news agency on Friday quoted Iranian officials as saying that Tehran received a message from Trump through Oman warning an attack on Iran was imminent, and he urgently wanted to discuss the situation.
"In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues... He gave a short period of time to get our response," one official said on condition of anonymity.
Iran later denied the Reuters story.  

Drone shot down

The developments came just hours after Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it shot down an unmanned US aircraft after it flew into Iranian airspace.
The IRGC said the unit was downed by a surface-to-air missile, marking the first direct Iranian-claimed attack on US assets amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran, unleashed by Trump's decision last year to withdraw from an international accord that curbed Tehran's nuclear programme.
Since then, the United States has deployed more military assets to the Gulf along with thousands of additional troops. 
US officials said the drone was in the international territory at the time it was brought down. Trump separately told reporters "Iran made a big mistake" and his "country will not stand for it", before later suggesting the move may have been unintentional.
When asked if he would respond militarily, Trump said, "You'll soon find out."
On Friday, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tehran had "indisputable" evidence that the aircraft violated its airspace.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner, whose country represents US interests in Iran, of the evidence on Thursday night, the ministry said in a statement.
"Even some parts of the drone's wreckage has been retrieved from Iran's territorial waters," Araghchi told Leitner.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave the exact coordinates where he said the drone was shot down, adding Iran has retrieved sections of the unmanned aerial vehicle from its territorial waters.
Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, sent a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday denouncing the incident as a "blatant violation of international law".
"While the Islamic Republic of Iran does not seek war, it reserves its inherent right ... to take all appropriate necessary measures against any hostile act violating its territory, and is determined to vigorously defend its land, sea and air," Ravanchi said.
The US is trying to create "Iran phobia", Iran's Defence Minister Amir Hatami said on Friday.
"Very complicated and suspicious conditions exist in the region," Hatami was quoted as saying by the Iranian Labour News Agency. "It seems that all of this is in line with an overall policy for creating Iran phobia and creating a consensus against the Islamic Republic."

FAA bars Gulf flights

The downing of the $130m drone was also the latest in an escalating series of incidents in the Gulf since mid-May, including unexplained explosions on six tankers that the US blamed on Iran.
Tehran vehemently denied involvement and suggested the US may be responsible as a casus belli to launch a war on the Islamic Republic. 
The escalation of words and actions has raised fears that a miscalculation or a further rise in friction could push the US and Iran into open conflict.
The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency notice barring US airlines from flying in airspace over parts of the Gulf because of the "heightened military activities and increased political tensions". 
Several airlines said they would fly alternative routes to skirt the Gulf region. 
Analysts, meanwhile, warned the downing of the drone and its subsequent fallout could result in a major conflict erupting in the region.
"This is a 1914 moment in the region - a single incident can result into a catastrophic clash in the region," Ali Vaez, Iran project director for the Belgium-based International Crisis Group, told Al Jazeera.
"That would not just involve the Iranians and the Americans, but the entire region would be put on fire," Vaez added.

'Maximum pressure'

Amid the rising friction, an official from Saudi Arabiasaid on Friday that Riyadh supported the US's "maximum pressure campaign on Iran".
Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister, said in a tweet that he had discussed the latest "Iranian attacks" with US envoy for Iran Brian Hook during a meeting between the pair.
"We affirmed the kingdom's support  ...  which came as a result of continuing Iranian hostility and terrorism," he said. The pair had explored "the latest efforts to counter hostile Iranian acts and continuous escalation that threaten the region’s security and stability", he added.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, told reporters she didn't think Trump would engage the US in war, saying there was "no appetite" for it among Americans.
"It's a dangerous situation. The high-tension wires are up in the region. We have to be strong and strategic about how we protect our interests. We also cannot be reckless in what we do," Pelosi said.


US senators vote to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia


Senate deals a blow to Trump who had approved the sales in an emergency declaration

20 June 2019

The US Senate has voted to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, dealing a blow to Donald Trump who had approved the deals in anemergency declaration without congressional oversight.
In three separate votes, senators approved 22 resolutions on Thursday in an attempt to stop the transfer of more than $8bn in weapons to the two Gulf countries amid the ongoing war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The vote was 53-45 on two resolutions to block the sales of precision-guided munitions, some of which would be produced in Saudi Arabia. Twenty other resolutions passed in a single 51-45 vote.
Trump drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers late last month when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the administration's plans to bypass Congress and force the arms sales to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, citing tensions with Iran.
Lawmakers quickly introduced the bills to disapprove the sales. After clearing the Senate, the resolutions still need to be approved by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives before reaching the president's desk.
Trump is likely to veto the measures, but Congress can override his objection with a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, said Saudi leaders are disrespecting the US president with their erratic behaviour.
"I'm trying to deliver the strongest message I know how to deliver: Don't take this relationship for granted, and obviously you have," Graham said.  
The vote comes a day after a UN rapporteur urged Washington to determine the responsibility of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, increasing pressure on Trump to hold Riyadh accountable for the killing.
The report also confirmed gruesome details about the dismembering of Khashoggi's body in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Saudi government agents had referred to the slain journalist as "the sacrificial animal" before he arrived to the building, the investigation revealed.
"You cannot kill somebody in the most brutal fashion in the consulate of another country, which violates every norm known to the international community because they wrote a bad article about you," Graham said.
"What happens next cannot be business as usual," he added.
Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, also decried the "gross" and "cruel" assassination of Khashoggi.
"They're an ally," he said of Saudi Arabia. "Everyone knows that. It doesn't mean you let allies do the most horrible things and just treat it as if nothing happened."

Yemen war

For his part, Senator Bob Menendez, a key Democrat who had held the sales that were forced through by the administration, questioned the legitimacy of Pompeo's emergency declaration, saying that it doesn't meet the "basic requirements" laid out by the law.
Menendez also denounced the US role in the conflict in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the country's Houthi rebels.
The war has killed tens of thousands, caused an outbreak of preventable diseases and brought the already impoverished nation to the verge of starvation.
"It is our bombs that are dropping on those civilians. We cannot morally continue to support such sales," Menendez said.
Earlier this year Congress passed a resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but it was vetoed by Trump and lawmakers failed to override his objection.
"In general, unconditional and indefinite US support has contributed to fuelling the conflict and extending the world's largest human crisis," Scott Paul, a senior humanitarian policy advisor at Oxfam America, told MEE on Thursday.
"Congress needs to demonstrate that it's focused on the survival and welfare of people in Yemen, rather than the relationship with Gulf allies and profits for the arms industry."
Republican Senator Tom Cotton, however, blamed Iran and the Houthis for Yemen's misery, dismissing his fellow lawmakers' concerns about overreach by the Trump administration.
"They're saying in effect, let's block arms sales to our allies in an emergency because the secretary of state hurt the feelings of a few senators," Cotton said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

House Democrats call for investigation

Hours after the passage of the resolutions in the Senate, Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for an investigation into Pompeo's emergency declaration.
In a letter to Inspector General Steven Linick, a top oversight official in the Justice Department, more than two dozen members on the committee led by chairman Eliot Engel, urged a probe into they called the "phony emergency".
"The investigation should address the origins of the idea to invoke an emergency, the extent to which dissenting views were expressed and addressed, and the degree to which intelligence and other analysis was considered and incorporated," the letter said.
It added that it is "critical" to look into possible "conflicts of interest among officials" engaged in the decision, including ties to defence industrial firms.


‘Credible evidence’ Saudi crown prince liable for Khashoggi killing – UN report


Mohammed bin Salman should be investigated over journalist’s murder, says report

The crown prince of Saudi Arabia should be investigated over the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi because there is “credible evidence” that he and other senior officials are liable for the killing, according to a damning and forensic UN report.
In an excoriating 100-page analysis published on Wednesday of what happened to Khashoggi last October, Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur, says the death of the journalist was “an international crime”.
“It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” she says.
Using recordings of conversations from inside the Istanbul consulate where Khashoggi was killed, her report pieces together his last moments, and how he was confronted by Saudi officials, one of whom said: “We are coming to get you.”
When Khashoggi refused to cooperate, a struggle can be heard, including heavy panting. The special rapporteur’s report concludes: “Assessments of the recordings by intelligence officers in Turkey and other countries suggest that Mr Khashoggi could have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated using a plastic bag.”
Saudi Arabia dismissed the report. The minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, tweeted it was “nothing new … the report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations.”
The report highlights how critics of the kingdom are deliberately targeted, and comes amid a number of claims that Saudi Arabia has been using sophisticated surveillance spyware to hack the phones of journalists and academics.
The Guardian can now reveal it has been warned that its journalists have been targeted by a hacking unit inside Saudi Arabia.
Despite repeated requests to the Saudi authorities to address the claims, and to provide reassurance that no such operation is under way, the kingdom has refused to do so.
The UN report’s findings will heap pressure on the kingdom, particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has repeatedly been urged to explain what he knew about the murder of Khashoggi.
The kingdom initially denied any involvement, and then described it as a rogue operation that the heir to the throne knew nothing about.
That is not the view of the special rapporteur’s report. Its main findings include:
 There is credible evidence, warranting further investigation, of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s.
 Khashoggi’s death was an extrajudicial killing. His attempted kidnapping would constitute a violation under international human rights law … and may constitute an act of torture under the terms of the convention against torture.
 The investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.
 The Saudi investigation into the murder was not conducted in good faith, and might amount to obstructing justice.
The report demands that the trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia be suspended amid concerns about secrecy over the proceedings and lack of credibility.
It states: “Some eight months after the execution of Mr Khashoggi, the determination and assignment of individual responsibilities remain clouded in secrecy and lack of due process.”
It adds: “To date the Saudi state has failed to offer public recognition of its responsibility for the killing of Mr Khashoggi, and it has failed to offer an apology to Mr Khashoggi’s family, friends and colleagues for his death and for the manner in which he was killed.
“The special rapporteur obtained information regarding a financial package offered to the children of Mr Jamal Khashoggi but it is questionable whether such a package amounts to compensation under international human rights law.”
Khashoggi, 59, was killed when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October last year. One of the Middle East’s most important voices, he considered journalism within, about and for the region to be vital, the special rapporteur states.

Has 'The Sacrificial Lamb' Arrived?: UN Cites New Recordings in Khashoggi Murder


New UN report calls for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated over their liability for Khashoggi's death


Evidence suggests Saudi Crown Prince is liable for Khashoggi murder, says UN expert

Moments before Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered last October, two of his suspected murderers laying in wait at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate fretted about the task at hand, according to a UN report published on Wednesday.
Will it "be possible to put the trunk in a bag?" asked Maher Mutreb, a Saudi intelligence officer who worked for a senior advisor to Saudi crown prince, according to a report from the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions.
"No. Too heavy," responded Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensics doctor from the Interior Ministry who would dismember and dispose of the body. He expressed hope his task would "be easy".
Tubaiqy continued: "Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them."
Mutreb and 10 others are now standing trial in closed hearings in Saudi Arabia for their role in the crime.
Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, rejected the investigator's report as "nothing new".
He added in a tweet: "The report of the rapporteur in the human rights council contains clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility."
The report, which calls for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated over their liability for Khashoggi's death, relies on recordings and forensic work conducted by Turkish investigators and information from the trials of the suspects in Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the consulate where he was to receive papers ahead of his wedding.
The report concludes that his murder was deliberate and premeditated. The CIA and some Western countries believe the crown prince ordered the killing, which Saudi officials deny.
Media reports have published the contents of some recordings obtained from inside the consulate, but the U.N. report discloses chilling new details.
At the end of the exchange with Tobaigy, Mutreb asks if "the sacrificial lamb" has arrived. At no point is Khashoggi's name mentioned, but two minutes later he enters the building.
Khashoggi is ushered to the consul general's office on the second floor where he meets Mutreb, whom he knew from when they worked together at the Saudi Embassy in London years earlier.
Mutreb tells Khashoggi to send his son a mobile text message.
"What should I say? See you soon? I can't say kidnapping," Khashoggi responds.
"Cut it short," comes the reply. "Take off your jacket."
"How could this happen in an embassy?" Khashoggi says. "I will not write anything."
"Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don't help us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end," Mutreb says.
The report says the rest of the recordings contain sounds of movement, heavy panting and plastic sheets being wrapped, which Turkish intelligence concluded came after Khashoggi's death as Saudi officials dismembered his body.