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US House rebukes Trump for racist remarks against Tlaib, Omar and others
House resolution condemns president for comments that 'legitimised fear of new Americans and people of colour'
MEE staff Tue, 07/16/2019 - 21:43
Trump has refused to back down from racist remarks against US congresswomen (Reuters/File photo)

The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives has passed a symbolic resolution denouncing Donald Trump's racist attacks against progressive women of colour in Congress, including Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

In 240-187 vote largely along party lines on Tuesday, the legislative chamber rebuked the president's "racist comments", which it said "legitimised fear of new Americans and people of colour".

The resolution came as the president continued to defend tweets he posted on Sunday in which he told four Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to the "crime infested" places they came from.

While Trump did not name the lawmakers directly, his comments targeted four progressive representatives: Tlaib of Michigan, Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The remarks - levelled against US citizens, three of whom were born in the United States - echoed a white supremacist trope that considers people of colour un-American.

In a strongly-worded speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged US lawmakers to adopt the resolution on Tuesday, calling the president's remarks "disgraceful and disgusting".

'If he shouted it at a Muslim woman in Wal-Mart he'd be arrested': Trump slammed over racist rant
Read More »

"Every single member of this institution - Democratic and Republican - should join us in condemning the president's racist tweets," said Pelosi, who was earlier criticised for failing to defend the members of her party.

"To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people."

For his part, Trump denounced the resolution, calling on his Republican Party to reject it ahead of the vote.

"Those Tweets were NOT Racist," he wrote on Twitter.

"I don't have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show 'weakness' and fall into their trap."

Trump not backing down

Despite the backlash against the tweets, Trump and his supporters have refused to back down. At a news conference on Monday, Trump falsely accused Omar, who was born in Somalia, of supporting al-Qaeda.

Over the past 48 hours, he has repeatedly invoked Israel to defend his remarks, accusing the congresswoman of antisemitism. 

'His willingness to offend American tradition and sensibilities to rile his base is unacceptable and this resolution says so'

- Steve Cohen, US congressman

Both Omar and Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, have faced political backlash over their criticism of Israel's policies against Palestinians.

Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democrat who introduced the resolution against Trump late on Monday, called Trump's comments "outrageous".

"His willingness to offend American tradition and sensibilities to rile his base is unacceptable and this resolution says so," Cohen said in a statement.

"People need to understand that the President has crossed a red line in his chaotic commentary."

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes large Arab and Muslim communities, welcomed the passage of the resolution, condemning Trump for using "hatred and fear" to divide Americans. 

"Throughout the course of our country’s history, language that is xenophobic, racist, sexist, intolerant, prejudiced, or discriminatory has divided and pitted us against each other," Dingell said in a statement. 

"In my own community of Dearborn, friends and neighbours face this everyday just because of their religion."

Other Democrats warned that the president may be using the controversy as a distraction from the actual issues at hand, including the abuse of immigrants at the southern border and efforts to take away healthcare subsidies and regulations.

"Just because they are racists doesn't mean they aren't trying to take away your health care," Senator Brian Schatz wrote on Twitter. 

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Iran's UN spokesman rejects report Tehran to negotiate over missile programme
Alireza Miryousefi's comments come after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was 'ready' to negotiate
MEE staff Tue, 07/16/2019 - 21:12
Iran's missile programme has been a point of contention with the United States (AFP/File photo)

Iran has ruled out entering into negotiations over its ballistic missile programme, a spokesman for the country's United Nations mission said, directly contradicting earlier statements by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"Iran's missiles ... are absolutely and under no condition negotiable with anyone or any country, period," Alireza Miryousefi wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

That flies in the face of what Pompeo told reporters at a White House meeting earlier in the day.

"For the first time … the Iranians said they are ready to negotiate on their missile programme," Pompeo had said.

Iran's missile programme has long been a contentious issue between the two countries, especially after US President Donald Trump backed out of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord last year.

Under the terms of that agreement, the Iranian government agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

Since that time, the United States has reimposed strict sanctions targeting Iran's oil, metals and financial sectors in what Washington calls a "maximum pressure" campaign against the country.

A timeline of US-Iran tensions + Show - Hide

Tensions have skyrocketed between the Washington and Tehran since US President Donald Trump announced last May that he was pulling out of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Here's a timeline of key events that have led to, and marked, the recent escalation:

8 May 2018: US President Donald Trump announces plans to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Under that agreement, the Iranian government agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

Trump also says Washington will reimpose "the highest levels of economic sanctions" on Tehran.

5 November 2018: The US reimposes sanctions on Iran's oil, banking and transport sectors. At the same time, Trump says he wants to gradually impose sanctions on the Iranian oil industry, citing concerns about upsetting energy markets and causing global price spikes.

8 April: The Trump administration blacklists Iran's elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The move marks the first time Washington has formally labelled another country's military a terrorist group.

30 April: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signs a bill into law that declares all US troops in the Middle East as terrorists, and defines the US as a state-sponsor of terrorism.

2 May: The US stops issuing waivers to countries that import oil from Iran. Those waivers had allowed certain states, including Turkey, China, Japan, India and South Korea, to keep buying Iranian oil, despite American sanctions - and provided a lifeline for Tehran.

6 May: US National Security Adviser John Bolton announces that the Trump administration is deploying an aircraft carrier, as well as ships and bombers, to the Gulf. The move was meant to send a "clear and unmistakable message" to the Iranian government, Bolton said, amid intelligence reports that Tehran was planning attacks against American troops in the region.

7 May: Iran says it plans to withdraw from parts of the 2015 nuclear agreement with major world powers. The move comes one year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.

8 May: The Trump administration announces a new round of economic sanctions that will target Iran's metals trade - iron, steel, aluminium and copper, specifically.

9 May: As the drums of war began to beat louder in certain circles in Washington, Trump tells reporters that he "would like to see them [Iran] call me" - a sign the US president is perhaps seeking to de-escalate the situation.

12 May: The United Arab Emirates says four oil tankers were damaged in "acts of sabotage" off the coast of Fujairah, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. The UAE did not assign blame for the incident, but said it would launch an investigation into what happened.

13 May: Mike Pompeo makes a surprise visit to Brussels, where he seeks to get European leaders on board with Washington's "maximum pressure" strategy against Tehran. The US secretary of state gets a lukewarm reception, however, with the European Union's foreign policy chief instead urging the US to show "maximum restraint".

14 May: Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says the country will not go to war with the US. "Neither we nor they - who know war will not be in their interest - are after war," Khamenei says.

15 May: Anwar Gargash, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs, says the country is committed to "de-escalation" with Iran, while refusing to assign blame for the 12 May "sabotage" of the oil tankers.

That same day, the US orders non-emergency government employees to leave Iraq, citing fears of an imminent attack by Iranian-backed proxies in that country.

19 May: A Katyusha rocket is fired into Baghdad's Green Zone, an area that houses government offices and foreign diplomatic missions, including the US embassy in Iraq.

21 May: A previously unknown Iraqi group claims responsibility for the rocket fired into the Green Zone. The Operations of Martyr Ali Mansour says the attack is retaliation for Trump's decision to pardon a soldier who killed an Iraqi detainee in 2009.

In Washington that same day, US lawmakers are briefed by members of the Trump administration about its claims that Iran poses a threat to the country. Several members of Congress tell reporters they left the meetings unconvinced.

24 May: Washington announces plans to deploy 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter Iranian threats, a decision Iran blasted as "extremely dangerous".

28 May: US National Security Adviser John Bolton says the attack on four vessels off the Emirati coast was caused by "naval mines almost certainly from Iran".

30 May-1 June: Saudi Arabia hosts a summit in Mecca to discuss recent tensions with Iran. On the eve of the talks, Riyadh blasts what it called Iranian "interference" in the region and demanded "firmness" over attacks in the Gulf.

7 June: The US imposes sanctions on Iran's largest petrochemicals holding group, accusing Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company of providing financial support to an engineering firm with ties to the IRGC.

13 June: Two oil tankers suffer damage after an unspecified attack in the Gulf of Oman. Hours after the incident, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo points the finger at Iran, without providing evidence to back up his claim.

Iran immediately denies it was involved in the attacks, accusing Washington of seeking to derail diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation.

14 June: The head of the United Nations calls for an independent investigation into the incidents in the Gulf of Oman.

Earlier in the day, US Central Command releases a video that it says shows Iranian IRGC members removing an unexploded mine from one of the damaged ships. That comes after Trump himself says the incident has Iran "written all over it".

Meanwhile, the owner of the Japanese vessel says crew members reported seeing objects flying towards them - which would appear to refute the US's version of events. "The crew told us something came flying at the ship and they found a hole," the owner says. "Then some crew witnessed the second shot."

17 June: The US will send roughly 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announces.

20 June: Iran says it shot down a US military drone entering Iranian airspace near the Straits of Hormuz. A US official confirms that a drone was shot down but says it was in international airspace.

21 June: US President Donald Trump says he ordered and then aborted a military strike on Iran roughly 10 minutes before the operation took place.

Fighter jets were in the air to strike multiple Iranian military installations in response to Iran's shooting down of an unmanned US drone a day earlier, according to US media reports.

Trump says he called off the strike after US generals reportedly told him the attack would kill 150 Iranians. The US operation was "not proportionate", the US president says.

24 June: The US imposes a new round of sanctions on Iran, this time targeting the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

25 June: Trump threatens Iran with "obliteration" if the country were to strike American targets. His comments come after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the White House "mentally retarded" and vowed that Tehran would not back down from US sanctions. 

Also on Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweets an article written by John Bolton in 2017, which outlines how the US should back out of the nuclear deal and detailing why the Iranians would not want to negotiate once the US withdraws.

28 June: The US Senate votes down an amendment that sought to bar Trump from being able to declare war on Iran without authorisation from Congress.

4 July: A supertanker suspected of carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions is detained in Gibraltar. Senior Iranian officials deny claims the tanker was headed to Syria. 

5 July: A senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander suggests that Iran should seize a British oil tanker if the Iranian vessel detained off Gibraltar is not released immediately.

9 July: General Joseph Dunford, a top US general, announces plans to set up a coalition of allied countries willing to patrol key waterways in the Gulf region. 

Dunford says the US military would provide command ships and surveillance technology, while its allies would escort ships and patrol the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb.

11 July: British officials say three Iranian boats attempted to "impede the passage" of a British oil tanker in Gulf waters, forcing a UK warship to intervene. Iran denies the accusation

Meanwhile, Gibraltar police announce the arrest of the captain and chief officer of the Iranian supertanker on suspicion that the ship had breached EU sanctions on Syria on 4 July. 

Police also seize documents and electronic devices from the ship, which remains in custody. 

The Trump administration says those measures aim to get Iran to limit its missile and nuclear programme, as well as halt its support for various armed groups in the region.

However, experts contend that Washington's Iran policy is designed to impose regime change, a charge the administration denies.

"The idea is to collapse the regime, shock the Iranian system and get people out on the streets," Trita Parsi, an expert on Iran, told Middle East Eye in May.

"The ultimate goal ... is that Iran's economy will be collapsed so severely that Iran's political structure collapses," Kenneth Katzman, a senior US government researcher on Iran, also told MEE in November.

Getting Iran to loosen its support for regional armed groups also won't work, Katzman said.

"There's no observable linkage between sanctions and Iran's economic performance and its regional operations. Iran has been at the same level of regional activity as it was before these sanctions started," he said.

US restricts Iranian FM Zarif's movement to just six blocks in New York
Read More »

Miryousefi's tweet comes days after Iran breached the limits on uranium enrichment set out in the nuclear deal and threatened to go further if the European Union did not take steps to protect Iran from sanctions imposed by the US last year.

The EU, for its part, has set up a financial "special purpose vehicle" designed to evade US sanctions on Iran, particularly in regards to humanitarian trade.

Over the past weeks, tensions have skyrocketed between Washington and Tehran, after senior Trump administration officials accused Iran of being responsible for a series of attacks in the Middle East.

The Iranian government has repeatedly denied those accusations.

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Red Cross chief calls out EU for migrant deaths at Libya detention centre
Dozens killed at Tajura migrant detention facility near Tripoli 'the result of EU policy', says Francesco Rocca
James Reinl Tue, 07/16/2019 - 20:38
Over 50 migrants and refugees were killed in the air strike on 3 July (AFP/File photo)

European Union policies led to the deaths of more than 50 migrants and refugees in an air strike on a detention centre in Libya this month, the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has said.

Speaking to reporters in New York on Tuesday, Francesco Rocca said the EU has put more effort into arms and oil deals than in pushing for the release of detained migrants and refugees.

That includes the scores of people killed at the Tajura detention centre, located in a suburb of Libya's capital Tripoli, on 3 July.

"I think it's very clear who's responsible for their deaths. It's very easy to blame only the Libyan authorities, which of course are treating without dignity human beings," Rocca said.

"But then this is also the result of EU policy for five or six years now, this lack of action or inaction, and only action for oil, for gas, for trade, and not to safeguard the dignity of human beings."

'They were all dead': A survivor's account of the Libyan air strike on detention centre
Read More »

The air strike on the Tajura facility killed dozens of refugees and migrants while injuring some 130 others. The United Nations says it was a possible war crime, but no probe has yet revealed who was responsible.

Despite calls from the UN to empty the compound and other migrant detention centres on the frontlines of Libya's civil war, some 200 migrants and refugees were returned to Tajura as of Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The EU has repeatedly faced criticism for backing a scheme that sees Libya's coast guard intercepting Italy-bound boats and locking up the mainly African refugees and migrants on board.

France and Italy are big investors in Libya's oil fields, and Paris was embarrassed in mid-July when some of its missiles were discovered at a Libyan base seized from the forces of renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar.

The French government has since said those weapons had been purchased from the US and were not intended for sale or purchase by any party in Libya.

On Tuesday, Rocca criticised European countries not reaching a deal with the Libyan authorities on the migrants and refugees.

"No steps forward, while a lot of steps forward were made in oil or gas or in the trade of arms," said the Italian career humanitarian.

Tajura hit amid Haftar's advance

The Tajura centre was hit as forces loyal to Haftar intensified their efforts to wrest control of Tripoli from forces aligned with the country's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which is based in the capital.

According to Rocca, EU members should base their cooperation with Tripoli or Haftar's forces based on which better promotes the "very basic rights of human beings".

"I'm exhausted of repeating always the same thing … and we only have increased the suffering and loss of life with no action, only this ping pong between different parts of politics in Europe," Rocca said.

'We only have increased the suffering and loss of life with no action, only this ping pong between different parts of politics in Europe'

- Francesco Rocca, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

The EU has spent hundreds of millions of Euros in Libya, both equipping and training the Libyan coast guard and in efforts to improve the shabby conditions at detention centres, where beatings, torture and forced labour are rife.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have also accused the EU of contributing to the abuse of migrants in Libya.

In a statement, an EU spokesperson told Middle East Eye that the 28-nation bloc supported Libya's coast guard in a bid to "end to the cruel and inhumane business" of people trafficking on the Mediterranean Sea.

"We have also pushed Libyan authorities to put in place mechanisms improving the treatment of the migrants," said the spokesperson, adding that the EU has backed schemes to repatriate tens of thousands of migrants and resettle refugees in third countries.

Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) launched the offensive on Tripoli in early April, which quickly ground to a halt.

The fighting has left more than 1,000 dead, including more than 100 civilians, according to the UN's World Health Organization.

United Nations
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BBC accepts Iran reporting restrictions in exchange for access: Report
Broadcaster agreed to not translate English-language reports for Persian service
MEE and agencies Tue, 07/16/2019 - 15:49
The BBC had previously agreed to not translate reports from other services from BBC Arabic onto BBC Persian for access to the country (Reuters)

The BBC agreed to not translate or publicise any of its English reporting from Iran through its Persian service in exchange for access to the country, a new report has revealed. 

Internal emails leaked to the Huffington Post, sent to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, showed the BBC had agreed to the restrictions demanded by the Iranian government on how the service reported and used its social media platforms.

BBC Persian broadcasts to an audience of approximately 100 million Persian speakers around the world. Its staff in London and their families have been targeted by the Iranian government and the Shah, who ruled the country before the Iranian revolution in 1979.

It remains unclear who inside the BBC agreed to the restrictions but the reports mark the corporation's English-speaking presence in the country for the first time in five years.  

Iran regularly imposes restrictions on foreign media companies when they report from inside the country, often assigning a minder to oversee their operations.

The country ranks 170 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders. The NGO notes that at least 860 journalists and citizen journalists have been imprisoned or executed since the 1979 revolution. 

The BBC for its part has signposted and stated clearly in its reports that a minder had been present during its reporting from Iran. In a statement, the BBC admitted to agreeing to the restrictions in exchange for access to the country at a "pivotal time" as tensions continue to escalate between Tehran and Washington. 

"We accepted some limitations on this occasion in order to provide our audiences with rare insights from inside the country and this is signposted in our coverage," the BBC said in a statement to the Huffington Post.

"As ever, the BBC maintains full editorial control over what we broadcast. These reports - our first from inside Iran in 5 years - do not change our unwavering commitment to our BBC Persian staff and their families, who have suffered completely unacceptable harassment from the Iranian authorities since 2009." 

Other emails obtained by the Huffington Post also showed the BBC agreeing to similar reporting restrictions in 2017 after it agreed to not publicise any reports on BBC Persian from a BBC Arabic journalist inside Iran. 

Last year, the BBC said it had appealed to the United Nations in Geneva to protect the human rights of its journalists and their families. 

BBC director-general Tony Hall made the UN call after it had failed to persuade the Iranian authorities to end the harassment of its BBC Persian staff. 

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Wrong Direction: Former One Direction singer under fire for Saudi Arabia concert
British singer Liam Payne has been scrutinised by social media users for going ahead with a concert in Saudi Arabia despite concerns over human rights
Nadda Osman Tue, 07/16/2019 - 16:55

British singer Liam Payne has been criticised on social media for his planned performance in Saudi Arabia next week.

Activists, social media users and rights groups are calling on him to use his global influence and platform to cancel the 18 July performance and stand in solidarity with people in Saudi Arabia.

The former One Direction singer is coming under mounting pressure to rethink his performance, as the latest artist to be criticised for performing in the kingdom despite its record of human rights violations.

Payne will be performing at the Jeddah World Fest, which is funded and authorised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS.

Human Rights Foundation, a non-profit organisation, issued a letter addressed to Payne, urging him to cancel his performance and highlighting several cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is also among the worst violators of basic individual rights, and in particular the right to freedom of opinion and expression…for decades the Saudi government has harassed, arrested and sentenced dissidents violating their freedom of expression, opinion and assembly,” the letter read.

“If you move forward with this performance for a festival sponsored by the crown prince, you will be in league with the people who respond to freedom of expression and thought with murder.”

@LiamPayne Saudi Arabia is slaughtering ppl in Yemen with American money.

But hey, a paycheck is a paycheck right? Who needs principle and a conscience when you have tons of money? 🤷🏻‍♂️

— Mark Belmares (@markbelmares) July 15, 2019

Popstar Nicki Minaj, who was set to perform at the festival, cancelled her performance earlier this month due to concerns over human rights.

The US rapper told the Associated Press in a statement that she came to the decision "after careful reflection".

"While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression," Minaj said.

.@LiamPayne, please follow the lead of @NICKIMINAJ and cancel your upcoming performance in #SaudiArabia.

Whatever the Saudi regime is offering you isn't worth it. Don't allow yourself to become #MBS's tool. Use your influence to stand up for #HumanRights, not betray them. https://t.co/jyPBTMjEvY

— Women's March Global (@WM_Global) July 15, 2019

Social media users have urged Payne to reconsider his performance.

@LiamPayne please dont perform in Saudi Arabia. They kill those who speak up, treat women poorly, and punish LGBTQ people by death. Think about your platform and what you support

— Samantha Peters (@FloralGarden_) July 15, 2019

On Sunday, Korean superband BTS also announced their upcoming performance in Saudi Arabia, similarly raising concerns from people online.

Adam Coogle, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Middle East Eye that Saudi Arabia was attempting to build an entertainment industry in a bid to improve its international reputation.  

"Saudi Arabia is attempting to change the country’s image in part by developing an entertainment industry and hosting concerts by well-known artists, but no public concert can paper over the dramatic decrease of space for free expression in Saudi Arabia since Mohammad bin Salman became crown prince," said Coogle.

Super disappointed you’re still playing a concert for the prince of Saudi Arabia. Not only did he kill Jamal Khashoggi, but he is a dictator and murderer of his own people. I’ve been a fan since I was 15, but I am ashamed of you. https://t.co/uMV2h3A8FW

— lainy (@toxicbritspears) July 10, 2019

Efforts to “modernise” the kingdom led by MBS have been criticised, as rights groups have said that they help conceal abuses by the kingdom’s rulers.

Bin Salman has come under increasing scrutiny since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as well as the torture of women’s rights defenders.

Last month, a UN report found that there was "credible evidence" that MBS was behind Khashoggi's murder.

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Jordan appoints new ambassador to Qatar two years after downgrading ties
Kingdom had withdrawn its envoy in 2017 in line with Gulf Arab allies who severed ties with Doha
MEE and agencies Tue, 07/16/2019 - 16:00
Jordan's King Abdullah II, right, met with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in April (AFP)

Jordan appointed a new ambassador to Qatar on Tuesday, a step toward restoring normal relations two years after it withdrew its ambassador in line with Gulf Arab allies who severed ties with Doha. 

Amman downgraded its diplomatic representation in June 2017, days after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed all ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism - a claim Doha has denied.

Zeid al-Lawzi, a senior career diplomat and secretary general of Jordan's foreign ministry, was named as the new envoy, a royal decree said.

After 20 years of rule, Jordan's King Abdullah stands on shaky ground
Read More »

Qatar last summer extended a $500m aid package to Jordan only days after its Gulf adversaries pledged $2.5bn to help Jordan overcome an economic crisis after a wave of anti-government protests.

Doha has in recent months opened more jobs for Jordanians as part of the aid package, which includes project finance and job-generating investments.

Qatar already hosts tens of thousands of skilled Jordanian workers whose salaries help the economy back home.

The package was seen as part of Qatar's soft power diplomacy in the region in a bid to woo Jordan away from its Gulf rivals.

Jordan's foreign policy has had to tread a difficult path between competing regional powers.

Jordanian officials have privately expressed dismay that aid extended by Saudi Arabia, among its main donors, had in recent years fallen short of the levels it once delivered to the cash-strapped Jordanian economy.

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US House endorses bill sanctioning individuals linked to Khashoggi murder
The act, which would sanction officials involved in the journalist's murder, still requires the approval of the Senate
MEE and agencies Tue, 07/16/2019 - 13:00
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's killing or its botched cover-up (AFP)

Members of the US House of Representatives have voted heavily in favour of a bill that seeks to impose sanctions on officials involved in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Legislators approved the Saudi Arabia Human Rights and Accountability Act by 405-7 votes on Monday.

The act requires the director of National Intelligence to publicly identify the persons involved in the murder of Khashoggi and impose visa and travel sanctions on them.

Another bill passed by the Democratic-controlled lower house of Congress condemned Saudi Arabia's detention and alleged abuse of women's rights advocates.

Under that bill, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is required to report on the extent to which Riyadh's security forces and military are involved in human rights violations.

Although the measures easily cleared the House, they face a far harder test in the Republican-controlled Senate.

'State act'

Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washingon Post and Middle East Eye, was killed on 2 October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

US President Donald Trump has strongly defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA believes ordered the murder of Khashoggi.

US must 'unlock the secrecy' surrounding Khashoggi's killing: UN expert
Read More »

Bin Salman has denied any knowledge of the killing or its botched cover-up, which Riyadh has described as a "rogue operation".

In a detailed report into the murder released last month, UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused Saudi Arabia of being responsible for the crime, calling it a "state act" in violation of international law.

The document also put forward several recommendations for the US, including determining the possible involvement of bin Salman in the murder.  

It also called for an FBI investigation into the killing and the declassification and release of relevant information in possession of US intelligence agencies.

Congress previously passed legislation mandating that Trump identify and sanction those responsible for the murder, but he never complied.

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'They felt victorious': How Sudan's militiamen filmed their deadly assault on protesters
The restoration of the internet has brought a flood of new footage, much of it shot by Sudan's dreaded paramilitary
Kaamil Ahmed Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:45
Fighters from Sudan's Rapid Support Forces filmed themselves as they tore through the Khartoum sit-in on 3 June (MEE)

Tents burn and bullets crackle in the background as fighters from Sudan's feared Rapid Support Forces giddily round up protesters, bringing canes down on their backs, pressing boots onto their throats and then skipping, apparently in delight, as they move on to new victims. 

These images were captured by the fighters themselves as they tore through the site of a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum on 3 June, where more than 100 protesters were killed. Some of their bodies were thrown into the nearby Nile by Sudanese forces, according to reports received by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.

Most of the images emerged as part of a deluge of footage last week that flooded social media when an internet blackout imposed after the attack ended. 

'It was as if they won a war'
- Sudan Ombudsman

Much of that footage was shakily shot by terrified protesters trying to document the violence while also running from the bullets and usually showed advancing RSF fighters or police in the distance. The footage from the RSF themselves, fighters mostly drawn from the notorious Janjaweed militias of Darfur, is very different.

Filmed from a first-person perspective as they walk through the dispersed campsite, turning on the protesters they have captured, the footage is more stable and often clearly shows the faces of the fighters involved.

"They weren’t afraid or ashamed. They felt victorious for some odd reason and wanted to get it on tape," Azaz Elshami, a Sudanese human rights advocate, told Middle East Eye. 

"They filmed all their actions - including raping women, according to sexual abuse victims. They know they are not accepted and not seen as part of this revolution and it was their chance to take revenge."


The attack started at 5 am on 3 June. The lights were cut the night before, according to eyewitnesses. Protester videos showed pick-up trucks carrying heavily armed fighter trucks building up on the edges of the sit-in and on the perimeter of the military headquarters where protesters were camping outside. 

Another video reportedly from the morning of the attack, apparently shot from a similar pick-up truck and behind a group of uniformed officers, showed hundreds of fighters marching towards the sit-in. 

'The martyr at the barricades': The life and death of one Sudanese protester
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A voice from behind the camera yells encouragement, yelping excitedly and shouting "forward", at the fighters who were all dressed in the RSF's desert fatigues, wearing helmets and carrying canes but not carrying guns. It was these fighters who later spread through the sit-in. 

MEE geo-located the location of the video to the northern side of the Blue Nile Bridge, which crosses the river and leads directly from Bahri, Khartoum's sister city, into the area outside military headquarters. 

'Civilian or Military?'

Unlike the images shot by the protesters when the sit-in was first besieged, most of the footage shot by RSF fighters released in the past week appears to have been taken after the initial raid was completed, when protesters were being rounded up. 

There is less footage from the protesters themselves of this period, when the military had taken full control of the area and when continued abuses allegedly happened, including rape, tent burning and the disposal of bodies in the Nile. 

The triumphant fighters roamed the deserted sit-in demanding the remaining protesters shout "military" instead of the "civilian [rule]" slogan they would have been roaring only hours earlier, recordings show.

One of those fighters filmed an eight-minute clip, starting on the northern side of the sit-in, near where troops entered from the Blue Nile bridge, before walking south towards the University Mosque. He then turns left, near the Technical School where a group of artists had been based and where Sky News later reported the smell of decaying bodies. 

In one video shot near the centre of the sit-in, near the University Mosque, a soldier holds the neck of a woman who has been separated from a larger group of detained women. Other soldiers encircle her, hounding her to shout "military". She initially resists but her face betrays growing fear as more men gather and, eventually, she screams the response they demand. 

"What struck me the most was the fact that the soldiers doing the dirty work are mostly young. Led by more senior officers and they attacked the protesters as if they were enemies of the state. They were shooting to kill," said the person behind the Twitter account Sudan Ombudsman, which has organised hundreds of videos and images of violence against protesters. 

"What is even more striking is how jovial they were after breaking the sit-in. It was as if they won a war."

Other scenes shot by a different fighter from the same site, where tents that had housed protesters who had travelled in from outside Khartoum were now burning, showed elderly men among others having the same demanded of them; a man in a ripped shirt desperately conceding their demand and then sprinting away; and a doctor being marched away by the scruff of his neck. Earlier the same RSF fighter had asked passing protesters whether they were Muslims. 

In another location, a clearing behind the sit-in, a group of soldiers catch a man trying to run away and force him to lie down. 

They beat him with their canes and a broad tree branch, then press their boots on his throat, demanding he shout "military". 


After the gunfire that mowed down the crowds at the sit-in's iconic barricades and the following raid of hundreds of fighters on foot, the protesters who could not escape were rounded up. 

At least initially, some of them were kept in groups in different parts of the sit-in, with some singled out, including an injured man who had his hands bound and his hair cut off by an RSF fighter, a common tactic used during previous months to humiliate protests. 

Many of them were marched to an area under the Blue Nile bridge, where the attack had started and where protesters were held before being trucked off. It was very close to the location of this video that volunteers later recovered a man's body from the Nile

There, the soldiers made the same demand that protesters shout "military" while others mocked the protester chant "fall or no fall, we're staying here".

The footage shows the protesters sat on the ground surrounded by RSF fighters, some of them bound and lying face down.


At least two of the fighters who filmed the raid on the sit-in turned their cameras onto their own faces, one of them even pulling down his face mask to reveal it in full. 

The Sudanese social media users who saw these videos after they emerged on 9 July initially expressed shock at how these fighters seemed to be revelling in the moment, but then immediately decided to use the footage to their own advantage. 

They pulled screenshots of those "selfies" taken by the cameramen as well of other fighters pictured in the videos and spread the images on social media, asking people to help identify them. Very little of the documentation captured by the protesters had been shot close enough to clearly identify individuals. 

"The celebratory filming by the perpetrators themselves and the accompanying commentary confirms the callous nature of the attack and the premeditated mindset of the perpetrators," a legal activist, who did not want to be named because of security concerns, told MEE.  

"Second, the identification of specific participants in these crimes renders them witnesses that can be interrogated if a credible investigation is permitted in the future."

Future evidence

After months of protesting that began with a call for three-decade ruler Omar al-Bashir to step down in December, then turned on the military rulers who replaced him in April, the opposition announced a power-sharing agreement with the military at the beginning of July, a month after the sit-in dispersal. 

That agreement has still not been signed, however, and a major point of contention could be the demand for an independent investigation into the 3 June attack, which the military council has admitted it ordered, though it later denied making that admission. The military has been requesting a clause that grants immunity to its members. 

The council's deputy leader and RSF commander General Hamdan Dagolo, known as Hemeti, has claimed his troops were not responsible for the violence despite the visible presence of their uniforms, claiming imposters bought RSF fatigues from the markets. 

For many, this is why the documentation of the attack has been so important. Its very earliest moments were livestreamed but the internet was quickly interrupted before being cut off almost entirely, limiting the amount of footage that could come out. When the internet was finally restored, more than a month later, a social media campaign to "document the military headquarters massacre" could begin.

An RSF fighter mocks a protester chant as fires burn in the background: "We're going to show them what their solution is tonight."

"The timing couldn’t be better - our pain aside," said Elshami. "Because the TMC [Transitional Military Council] leadership have been trying to deflect and come up with excuses that the massacres were not ordered by them, which is hard to believe when you see the amount of force."

A formal request has also been filed with the International Criminal Court a week after the attack, asking the court's prosecutor to "investigate apparent crimes against humanity".

"I think all this footage will be treated as evidence someday soon when we have a civilian government," said Sudan Ombudsman.

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Ilhan Omar calls for Trump to be impeached after racist comments
US President invoked support for Israel to defend his remarks, in which he called for congresswomen to 'go back' to their countries of origin
MEE staff Mon, 07/15/2019 - 17:21
Ilhan Omar (second right) addresses a press conference, flanked by Ayanna Pressley (L-R), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib (Reuters)

US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar hit back at US President Donald Trump's "white nationalist" agenda on Monday after he called on several Democratic Representatives of colour to "go back" to their "crime-infested" countries.

Omar was joined by three other US representatives - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib - to condemn Trump for his racist tweets and demand the president be impeached for his actions.   

“This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms, or it is happening on national TV, and now it is reached the White House garden,” said Omar.

During the press conference Omar also listed previous comments made by Trump both publicly and privately about African nations, people of colour and women.

"It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery of our constitution...it is time to impeach the president," said Omar.

In previous comments to Middle East Eye, Omar described Trump's election as unearthing a "lot of ills that we have decided to not speak [about] in our society, in the ugliest way".

"And there are a lot of people who want to whitewash [that] and I think we have to be very consistent in calling them out, regardless of whether it makes people uncomfortable or not." 

Trump meanwhile has invoked his support for Israel as a means to defend himself against accusations of racism and xenophobia, doubling down on comments made this weekend against a group of progressive Democratic Party congresswomen.

On Twitter on Monday, the US president called on "radical left congresswomen" to apologise not only to himself and the United States, but also to the people of Israel "for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said".

"If Democrats want to unite around the foul language and racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular and unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out," Trump said.

"I can tell you that they have made Israel feel abandoned by the US."

'If he shouted it at a Muslim woman in Wal-Mart he'd be arrested': Trump slammed over racist rant
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The president's tweets follow against the same congresswomen, who all come from immigrant backgrounds, calling on them to "go back" to the "crime-infested places from which they came".

Democrats and international allies widely condemned Trump's recent comments as racist, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday accusing Trump of wanting to make "America white again".

Outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May condemned Trump's comments and called them "completely unacceptable", her spokesperson said.

While Trump did not name anyone directly, his comments were interpreted to refer to a group of women elected to the US House of Representatives last year who have been some of his most prominent critics.

The group includes the first two Muslim women ever elected to the US Congress - Somali-American Omar and Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American - as well as  Ocasio-Cortez, whose parents are from Puerto Rico, and Pressley, an African-American congresswoman representing a district in Massachusetts.

"We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of Communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own Country," Trump tweeted on Monday, using a nickname for Ocasio-Cortez.

Israel defence

Omar and Tlaib, in particular, have been the most critical of Trump's relationship with Israel, and as such, have come under a litany of attacks and accusations of antisemitism since they took office.

But Trump has touted his pro-Israel positions as a way to give himself cover amid accusations he is racist or courting white nationalists.

He has also used Israel as a way to heap pressure on the Democratic Party, as some progressive members are moving away from unconditionally backing the Israeli government.

"The Democrats have very much proven to be anti-Israel," Trump told reporters in March. 

"There's no question about that. And it’s a disgrace. I mean, I don't know what's happened to them. But they are totally anti-Israel. Frankly, I think they're anti-Jewish."

Why Saudi Arabia is waging a war on Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar
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Some major pro-Israel groups in the US have remained mum when the president has made xenophobic statements - instead, calling him a great friend of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However, on Monday, others criticised the president's invocation of Israel, saying it is meant to "distract from his lying and racism".

"The fact that Trump thinks all he has to do is shout 'Israel' to distract from his lying and racism speaks volumes about how he and the right-wing regard it as little more than a political tool to be used for partisan purposes," tweeted Dylan Williams, senior vice president of government affairs at the pro-Israel lobby group J Street. 

Trump's tactic, however, is not uncommon in American politics, where an official's support for Israel is often used as a way to deny racist comments or views.

Republican Representative Steve King, for example, has come under fire for promoting white nationalist and Islamophobic policies since he was elected in 2003.

Last year, he was accused of sharing the ideology of the man who shot and killed nearly a dozen Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

'The fact that Trump thinks all he has to do is shout 'Israel' to distract from his lying and racism speaks volumes about how he and the right-wing regard it as little more than a political tool to be used for partisan purposes'

- Dylan Williams, J Street

To defend himself, King said it was "not tolerable" to be accused of such a thing because he has been "a person who has supported Israel since the beginning".

On Monday, Michael Koplow, policy director at the Israel Policy Forum, a Jewish-American organisation that supports a two-state solution to end the conflict, said Trump's use of Israel to defend racist rhetoric was dangerous.

"Any responsible Jewish leader will vigorously denounce Trump's attempt to link his own vile racism with some sort of defence of Israel," Koplow said on Twitter. 

"Not only is it disgusting on the merits, it is the most surefire way to cause support for Israel to plummet in the US as quickly as possible."

Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T'ruah, a left-leaning rabbis' human rights group, said Trump's series of tweets "has nothing to do with Israel".

"It's about your behaviour toward American citizens and congresspeople," she wrote. "Please don't try to cover up your racism by making Israel a wedge."

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At least five dead in suicide blasts near Baghdad mosque
Fourteen people also wounded in twin explosions near a Shia mosque in the southwest of the Iraqi capital
MEE and agencies Tue, 07/16/2019 - 10:55
Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Abu al-Fadhel al-Abbas mosque in the al-Turath district (AFP)

At least five people were killed in twin suicide blasts near a Shia mosque in southwest Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi security and medical sources said.

Doctors at the capital's al-Yarmuk hospital gave a casualty toll of five dead and 14 wounded.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Abu al-Fadhel al-Abbas mosque in the capital's  al-Turath district, a police officer told the AFP news agency, on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Eight people were killed in a suicide bombing at a market in eastern Baghdad on 9 May, while two others died in a similar attack in late June, both also targeting Shia Muslims.

Iraq in 2017 declared victory over the Islamic State after a gruelling months-long campaign to dismantle the self-declared "caliphate".

But sleeper cells of the group have remained active, attacking civilians and security forces across the country.

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