The Takeaway: Does Iran want to scuttle nuclear deal talks with militia attacks in Iraq?

Timin武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛have launched five drone and rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq this week, injuring two in the most recent, as Ali Mamouri reports. The attacks by groups aligned with Iran put at risk the yet-to-be scheduled seventh and perhaps final round of talks in Vienna among the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the so-called Iran nuclear deal that, if successful, would bring both the US back in the deal and provide Tehran urgently needed sanctions relief.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which overseas Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, announced Iran is enriching uranium at 20% and proceeding with further production of uranium metal, steps toward development of a nuclear w武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛eapon. That’s a clear violation of previous JCPOA restrictions.

Three possible reasons why Iran is doing this now:

The illusion of leverage. Tehran may believe Washington is on defense in the region because the United States is scaling down and repositioning US Patriot missile defense batteries from the Gulf, and withdrawing from Afghanistan. Iran this week convened its own meeting of Afghan political parties.

Signaling on Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been committed to reining in those militias outside of Iraqi government control, and keeping Iraq from becoming a battlefield for US and Iran hostilities. The spokesman of the Iraqi commande武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛r in chief, Yahya Rasool, Wednesday referred to the attacks on US bases as terrorism and the militias launching attacks as “enemies of Iraq.” With Kadhimi expected in Washington later this month, Tehran may be signaling Washington that it can influence events in Iraq, for better or worse.

Getting hot in Iran. Conflict is a well-worn diversion to domestic unrest. Iranians are dealing with an unprecedented electricity crisis as summer heat levels rise, leading to anti-government protests, as we report here. And despite the bravado, Iran may be worried about the apathy, low voter turnout and even blank ballots (see below) in the presidential election won by Ebrahim Raisi, who will take office Aug. 3.

Our take. Iran, it seems, can’t stick to script for what could otherwise be the diplomatic home stretch on a revived nuclear deal, which could be a windfall for its economy and a domestic political win for both outgoing President Hassan Rouhani and Raisi. This week State Department Spokesman Ned Price said the US window for diplomacy is not indefinite, and Iran should expect no leverage for its continued violation of IAEA safeguards per the JCPOA. Iran may be misreading the Joe Biden administration if it believes the United States is negotiating with Iran out of weakness rather than s武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛trength, and if it believes provocative moves might buy it some leverage at the nuclear talks in Vienna. To the contrary: Iran’s behavior could push even US advocates of reentering the Iran nuclear deal to think again.

Iran’s blank ballots: a sign of protest that can’t be ignored

Sarbas Nazari has the story on how an unprecedented number of blank or invalid votes in Iran’s recent presidential election caught the ruling establishment off guard. The heavy favorite to win, Ebrahim Raisi, took home 62% of the vote. But coming in second at 13% were ballots that were left blank. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was forced to acknowledge what many observers have called protest votes but what he described as a contribution to the electoral process. “Those ballots were too many to be simply ignored,” writes Nazari.

Iraq’s hot summer may be worst ever

Iran is not the only country experiencing an electricity breakdown. Iraq’s electricity sector could experience its worst summer in years, which is saying something, given how bad these breakdowns have been previously. The electricity minister resigned last week amid pressure over repeated power outages across the country. Joe Snell explains how high temperatures, attacks on power transmission towers and supply cuts from Iran have led to power shortages across Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi military is calling on citizens to “be brave” and report individua武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛ls who are sabotaging the country’s transmission towers. As Mustafa Saadoun reports, the Islamic State is seen as the likely culprit, though the government is officially blaming “terrorist and subversive groups.”

Gaza: Hamas, Islamic Jihad offer ‘summer camps’ for kids

Across the impoverished Gaza Strip, children are attending summer camps run by the militant group Hamas. Entsar Abu Jahal writes that the annual military training camps are organized by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, and are aimed at “mobilizing a generation of young people capable of fighting wars against Israel to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories.” A militant leader told Jahal that the camps are intended to send a message to Israel that Hamas is always preparing for the next battle.

Hamas isn’t the only Gaza-based militant group training children to fight. Rasha Abou Jalal spoke with children who attended a camp organized by the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad. Their training reportedly included learning to use firearms and how to conduct raids on Israeli military sites.

Idlib: Syrian rebels quit Salafi Ahrar al-Sham group

It was six years ago that some in Washington were calling for the Obama Administration to engage the Salafi group Ahrar al-Sham, a progeny of al-Qaeda which aligned with the Nusra Front, a designated Al-Qaeda linked group. Defections are now crippling Ahrar al-Sham, writes Sultan al-Kanj. A well-known Twitter account believed to that of a former jihadi leader in Syria reported last month that about 1,000 fighters, mostly commando and special forces, have abandoned the rebel group. Sources within the Turkish-backed Ahrar al-Sham have downplayed the numbers of dropouts and pushed back on rumors the group could dissolve.

Gulf: High oil prices threaten reforms

As Brent crude’s price inches steadily upward, Sebastian Castelier takes a look at what higher oil prices might mean for post-pandemic Gulf economies that rely on oil exports. Could the improving fiscal situation provide a false sense of economic security? “The austerity push launched during the COVID-19 pandemic is still a hot topic of conversation for families in the Gul武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛 as reforms start to weigh on the budget of households often accustomed to the government’s largesse, tax-free high wages and generous subsidies,” Castelier writes.

One Cool Thing: Tackling termites in Egypt

Salwa Samir writes about Egyptian researcher who developed an organic substance to kill the termites that are eating away at the country’s ancient landmarks. Zien Eldin developed her termite treatment after visiting the medieval town of el-Qasr, only to find many of the 12th-century buildings had been damaged by termites. Eldin later tested her termite-killing product on affected areas at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula after receiving a special request from the monks who run the UNESCO World Heritage site. The substance, which is free of toxic chemicals that harm the environment, will be available countrywide later this month.

ICYMI: ‘UAE momentum’ on rise in the Middle East

Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the United Arab Emirates, explains what’s behind the rise of the United Arab Emirate’s “soft and smart influence.” Plus, why he’s cautiously optimistic for Libya’s political future and how he rates the Gulf region’s handling of the pandemic. Listen to Abdulla’s wide-ranging podcast with Andrew Parasiliti here.

What We’re Reading: The Middle East’s post-COVID economy

The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated many of the existing development 武汉夜生活论坛g is everything. Pro-Iran武汉品茶网 militias 武汉夜网论坛challenges facing the Middle East and North Africa, leaving much of the region gripped by rising rates of poverty, soaring debts and a lack of trust in the state. The World Bank Group’s MENA strategy suggests a two-prong approach for countries that involves addressing the immediate threats of COVID-19 while implementing structural reforms that promote job growth, advance gender equity, restore trust and encourage green growth. Learn more about the bank’s strategy here.


Several dead following Houthi missile attack on Yemen’s Marib

Three people 武汉品茶网died on Tuesday武汉夜生活论坛 following a missile strike on Yemen’s embattled city of Marib. The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels disagree on the details.

Houthi rebels fired two missiles that landed in the Rawdha neighborhood of Marib. Three people were killed, including a child. An additional 10 people, among them two children, were injured, The Associated Press reported, citing a local Yemeni government official.

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sare’e disputed the account, saying missiles hit the Sahn al-Jin military base in Marib, killing and injuring “dozens of Saudi-backed forces & mercenaries,” he tweeted.

“The media’s promotion 武汉品茶网died on Tuesday武汉夜生活论坛of targeting civilian sites is false and baseless. Our rocket and drone strikes target clear and well-known military positions, and we take all necessary operational measures to protect civilians and civilian objects,” he added.

Yemen has been embroiled in a brutal civil war between the government backed by a Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi rebels supported by Iran since 2014. Both sides have been accused of committing crimes against civilians and the situation there is often called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Marib in particular has been the site of some of the worst violence in the country recently. The city is located in government territory in western Yemen, close to the border with Houthi areas. Earlier in June, a missile strike killed 21 people at a Marib gas station. The Saudi coalition blamed the Houthis, who denied targ武汉品茶网died on Tuesday武汉夜生活论坛g civilians. Last week, the United Nations warned about repeated targeting of civilians as part of the Houthi advance on Marib.

The fighting is not showing any signs of relenting this year, despite efforts by the United States. In March, Houthi forces said a Saudi-proposed cease-fire did not meet their demands.


Human Rights Watch speaks out for Yemeni model in Houthi custody

are subjecting 武汉品茶网a detained Yemeni 武汉夜生活论坛model to an “unfair trial” and have threatened her with a forced virginity test in a case “marred with irregularities and abuse,” Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The lawyer for Entisar al-Hammadi told the rights organization that the model has been brought before a Sanaa court twice this month on charges of committing an indecent act and drug possession. Hammadi was reportedly denied access to her court-appointed lawyer, who in May was suspended in what he said was retaliation for his speaking to the press.

Unnamed sources told Human Rights Watch that the authorities forced her to sign documents while blindfolded during interrogations. She was reportedly told she could walk free if she “if sh武汉品茶网a detained Yemeni 武汉夜生活论坛e would help them entrap their enemies with ‘sex and drugs.’”

In May, Amnesty International urged the Houthis to call off their threat to conduct a “virginity test,” which is considered a form of sexual violence and torture under international law. The World Health Organization has condemned the examination as having no scientific merit.

“The Houthi authorities’ unfair trial against Entisar al-Hammadi, on top of the arbitrary arrest and abuse against her in detention, is a stark reminder of the abuse that women face at the hands of authorities throughout Yemen,” said Michael Page, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director.

The Iran-aligned Houthis 武汉品茶网a detained Yemeni 武汉夜生活论坛have been fighting Yemen’s Saudi-backed internationally recognized government since 2014 and control large swaths of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

Page called on the Houthi authorities to ensure Hammadi has the right to a fair trial and to drop the charges against her “that are so broad and vague that they are arbitrary.”

In February, security forces arrested Hammadi and three others at a checkpoint in Sanaa. Authorities said cannabis was found in the car, but activists say Hammadi was arrested because her modeling work flouted social norms in the conservative country. Hammadi, whose mother is Ethiopian and father is Yemeni, acted in two Yemeni television series last year and often appeared on social media without a headscarf.

Hammadi’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that his client is detained with five other w武汉品茶网a detained Yemeni 武汉夜生活论坛omen who are jailed on similar charges. They have chosen to stay silent due to the social stigma and potential harm to their families’ reputations, he said.

“In addition to suffering the indignities and agony of abusive prison conditions, women detainees in Yemen also face social stigma by society that can follow them for the rest of their lives,” said Page. “Al-Hammadi is just one of an unknown number of Yemeni 武汉品茶网a detained Yemeni 武汉夜生活论坛ale detainees who are arbitrarily detained and require immediate protection and justice.”


Will high oil prices setback Gulf reforms?

Just a year武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网s top commodity traders predict that Brent crude could return to $100 a barrel for the first time since the 2014-2016 collapse in oil prices. The impulsive oil rally is a real bonanza for the Gulf petro-states that still rely heavily on oil exports to fund a large chunk of their annual budget — over 80% in Kuwait.

With oil breakeven prices needed to balance their budgets within reach, Gulf states can slack off the debt-raising spree they have embarked on to counterbalance low oil prices since 2014. Total annual debt issuance by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states will “average about $50 billion over 2021-2024,” S&P Global forecasted, compared to close to $100 billion in 2017.

Qatar expects a budget surplus and will tap the debt market only on an “opportunistic” basis.

However, the austerity push launched during the COVID-19 pandemic is still a hot topic of conversation for families in the Gulf as reforms start to weigh on the budget of households often accustomed to the government’s largesse, tax-free high wages and generous subsidies.

Omani jobseekers took to the streets of major cities to demand jobs just a month after the introduction of a repeatedly delayed 5% value-added tax (VAT). The Omani ruler announced the creation of武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网 32,000 full- and part-time government jobs to ease public discontent, in contradiction with a push to streamline the country’s bloated administration. A source close to Omani officials also told Al-Monitor “there are some discussions regarding the timing and extent of introduction” of an income tax on high earners that was initially expected in 2022.

In Saudi Arabia, the tripling in July 2020 of the VAT rate to 15% is a hard thing to swallow, but the decision will only be “temporary,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said. “It will continue for a year, maximum five years, and then things will go back to what they were.”

The improving fiscal situation might be a welcomed short-term relief for Gulf economies, but it also risks giving a false sense of economic security. “Higher oil prices derailed GCC governments’ fiscal consolidation plans in the past,” the S&P Global May report warned.

Reform has its price

Reforming Gulf economies away from oil requires some measure of dislocation 武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网and loss of subsidies, and a great deal of uncertainty, among populations accustomed to generous public sector benefits.

People “underestimate the threshold of pain” that populations can put up with before social cohesion cracks, argued Ali Shihabi. The Saudi analyst close to the royal court told Al-Monitor, “Saudi is a very long distance away from such a (break) threshold today, so do not see an urgency to pour more money into society.”

Unlike the VAT, other reforms might not be temporary, and Shihabi said raising utility and energy prices aims not only to slash government expenditures but also to change behaviors. “Saudis used more water per capita than Europeans, and massive waste was taking place, also in electricity and petrol usage, so I do not expect any changes in those steps,” he said.

Higher oil prices could, however, revive capital expenditures. Last year, the government slashed operational and capital spending by $26.6 billion, including in some reform projects.

Saudi Arabia’s reform plan leaves Capital Intelligence Ratings’ senior sovereign analyst Yesenn El-Radhi doubtful: “The core Vision 2030 non-oil development strategy is very much insp武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网ired by the non-oil development experience of Dubai.” After Dubai’s oil production peaked in 1991, the sheikhdom reinvented itself into a top-notch business hub, a global logistics hub and a touristic destination that hosted 16.7 million overnight visitors in 2019.”

“I am somewhat skeptical that this ‘Dubai on steroids’ strategy will reduce the reliance on hydrocarbon revenues markedly,” El-Radhi told Al-Monitor. He said non-oil strategies pursued by Gulf states are too similar and could cause “significant cannibalization effects.”

On June 30, 2021, Saudi Arabia announced a plan to launch a second national airline — 武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网the state-owned airline Saudia suffered losses for years — to target an already crowded Gulf aviation sector dominated by giant airlines Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

“Doing something you love is way more meaningful”

The current oil price super-cycle is likely to be the last before a sharp reduction in global oil consumption, making the economic transformation of oil producers “imperative,” noted the International Monetary Fund’s journal Summer 2021 edition. “To jettison their hidebound economies, which have led to low productivity and waste, oil-rich economies should commit to reforms that lessen obstacles to innovation and entrepreneurship,” the authors wrote.

Indeed, the crux of the issue for the Gulf states is less imposing a slew of new taxes than sending a shockwave through their societies to trigger a change of attitude as decades of oil rentierism is likely to gradually give room to private sectors-driven productive economies.

The economy of Saudi Arabia had been built “as a petroleum economy,” acknowledged Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih in a Vision 2030 promotional documentary released in June 2021. “We became dependent — a fact we should recognize and not deny,” he said.

“Such a huge economic transformation requires some big-push approach and will not be achieved by piecemeal reforms,” commented El-Radhi. Young Emirati entrepreneurs agree and believe beha武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网viors should change from the grassroots. For example, the lack of solutions to mental health challenges convinced Khawla Hammad to create the solution from scratch.

After years working for Abu Dhabi-based government entities, the Emirati national launched Takalam in early 2020, an online counseling platform that supports mental well-being. “I have always wanted to do something that makes a difference,” Hammad told Al-Monitor, adding, “Doing something you love is way more meaningful than a traditional career path.”

Although she was born in “a very traditional family,” the young entrepreneur found support from relatives, as well as from an ecosystem that has moved from favoring big brick-and-mortar businesses to increasingly supporting creative, tech-oriented young entrepreneurs.

“Now entrepreneurship is being highlighted as a career choice to make it popular,” Hammad said. She viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as a life-changing event. “It showed us that if we need to shift and change, it is really doable. That is just a matter of making it happen.”

The addiction to oil revenues is sticky, though. The share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix remained unchanged between 2009 and 2019 at 80%, and rating agency Moody’s said Gulf petro-states th武汉三镇夜生活论坛导航 after oil prices tumbled, the world’武汉品茶网at have made limited progress in diversifying their economies since 2014 could remain heavily dependent on hydrocarbon production for at least the next 10 years.


Saudi Arabia plans second national airline in tourism push

Saudi Crown武汉夜生活网 Prince Mohammed武汉桑拿论坛 Bin Salman has announced plans for a second national airline as part of his push to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy and transform the kingdom into a global logistics hub.

With the addition of a second airline, travelers in Saudi Arabia will be able to reach more than 250 destinations and the country will double its air cargo capacity to more than 4.5 million tons, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

“The comprehensive strategy aims to position Saudi Arabia as a global logistics hub connecting the three continents,” said the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia’s de facto r武汉夜生活网 Prince Mohammed武汉桑拿论坛uler offered no details on the planned airline, but said it will “help other sectors like tourism, hajj and umrah to achieve their national targets.”

Along with building a new airline, the news agency reported the kingdom is looking to expand Saudi Arabia’s rail network and increase the transportation sector’s contribution to the GDP from 6% to 10%.

In 2016 the crown prince announced Vision 2030, an ambitious series of socioeconomic reforms aimed at modernizing Saudi Arabia and making Gulf monarchy more attractive to investors and tourists. Under the plan, Saudi Arabia is seeking to attract 100 million yearly tourists by 2030 — six times the number of visitors in 2019.

Earlier this year, local media outlets reported Saudi Arabia was considering building a new airport in Riyadh as part of the tourism push. Bloomberg reported last week that the proposed airline will be used mainly by tourists and business travelers and the state-owned carrier based in the Red Sea city of Jeddah would cater to religious tourism.

The kingdom’s biggest airline, the state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, has st武汉夜生活网 Prince Mohammed武汉桑拿论坛uggled financially amid a decrease in air travel caused by the pandemic. In May, its chief executive officer said the airline could reach profitability by 2024.


Etihad, El Al to offer joint flight booking

The national武汉夜生活 airlines of the United 武汉桑拿论坛Arab Emirates and Israel launched a joint codeshare network today.

Starting Thursday for flights from July 18 onward, travelers can purchase Etihad Airways flights between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv using El Al’s code. Relatedly, the two airlines launched a reciprocal loyalty agreement for their frequent flyers programs, Etihad Airways said a in a press release.

Codeshare agreements allow customers to purchase the same flight via two airlines. It is beneficial for people who have earned frequent flyer miles or other discounts via a specific airline.

The agreement was made possible by the UAE and Israel establishing relations last September as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. The Emirates became only the third country in the Arab world to recognize Israel, and its decision led to Bahrain and Morocco also normalizing their ties with Israel.

Following the historic agreement, El Al and Etihad signed a memorandum of understa武汉夜生活 airlines of the United 武汉桑拿论坛nding in November where they pledged to establish a joint codeshare network.

Air travel is an important part of the agreement. Israeli airlines cannot fly through many Arab states due to them not recognizing Israel. Now El Al, Etihad and flydubai offer flights between the two countries.

Etihad plans to add its flight code to El Al flights to 14 destinations in Middle East, Europe, Asia and the United States, according to the release.


UN reports severe human rights abuses in Western Sahara

alleged huma武汉品茶网 rights abuses in Western 武汉夜生活Sahara.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said that those who document human rights in Morocco and the disputed North African territory are subject to state repression.

“Not only do human rights defenders working on issues related to human rights in Morocco and Western Sahara continue to be wrongfully criminalised for their legitimate activities, they receive disproportionately long prison sentences,” said Mary Lawlor in a press release. “And whilst imprisoned, they are subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture.”

The United Nations considers Western Sahara a non-self-governing territory. Morocco secured control over most of the territory following the end of Spanish colonial rule in 1975. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic also claims the territory, and is led by the Polisario F武汉品茶网 rights abuses in Western 武汉夜生活ront. The self-proclaimed state only controls part of Western Sahara. Morocco’s neighbor Algeria is supportive of the Polisario Front, and there is a large Sahrawi refugee population in the country.

In 2020, the United States under President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, thus reversing years of US policy. Current President Joe Biden has said he is reviewing the recognition, but has yet to definitively comment on it.

Lawlor spoke of a “systematic and relentless targeting” of people working to highlight human rights issues in Western Sahara, including some who武汉品茶网 rights abuses in Western 武汉夜生活engage with the UN. As evidence, she pointed to the case of Sultana Khaya, who has allegedly been prevented since November of last year from leaving her home in the Western Saharan city Laayoune. Khaya is president of the League for the Defense of Human Rights and Protection of Natural Resources, which works for Western Saharan self-determination.

“For the last seven months, police and security vehicles have blocked access to the house, preventing the family from leaving, and relatives have frequently been unable to deliver vital provisions,” said Lawlor.

The rapporteur added that Khaya and her sister Luara were sexually assaulted by Moroccan officers during a raid in May, among other transgressions. Lawlor further alleged that members of the Saharawi Organ against the Moroccan Occupation organization, founded in September 2020, have been attacked and tortured, as well as subjected to an investigation by public prosecutors in Laayoune.

Lawlor is not alone in he武汉品茶网 rights abuses in Western 武汉夜生活r assessment. Human Rights Watch has also reported a crackdown on dissent in Western Sahara.

The Moroccan government is determined in its position that the territory is theirs. In May, Morocco recalled its ambassador from Germany due to the European country’s “negative stance” on Western Sahara.