Four killed in Iraq protests
Bel Trew reports in the Independent that security forces in Iraq have shot dead at least four anti-government protesters in central Baghdad, a day after the military said officers were ordered not to use live fire. A further 35 people were also wounded on Baghdad’s Shuhada Bridge, according to police and medical sources, as mass demonstrations continued for a 13th day with thousands rallying to central areas of the capital.
BBC News reports that Iran has cancelled the accreditation of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector who was prevented from entering a nuclear facility last week. It said the woman triggered an alarm at the gate to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, raising fears that she was carrying “suspicious material”. The IAEA disagreed with the account and said the inspector was also temporarily prevented from leaving Iran. It was apparently the first such case since the 2015 nuclear deal was signed.
Catherine Philp writes in The Times that the United States accused Iran of readying for a sprint towards a nuclear weapon after its government reactivated the Fordow underground enrichment facility mothballed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
Richard Spencer writes in The Times that officials working for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia masterminded an operation to buy off Twitter employees and use information gained to persecute dissidents, according to court papers and activists.
The Guardian reports that Lebanese women are demanding new rights amid political turmoil. During the protests that led to the resignation of Saad Hariri, women were among those chanting, blocking roads and debating the future of the country’s politics. In the most visible instance, a woman was caught on video kicking the armed bodyguard of the education minister, Akram Chehayeb, footage which went viral and became a symbol of defiance.
The Guardian and Independent reports that a shallow, 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck north-western Iran early on Friday, the United States Geological Survey has said, killing five people and injuring 120. The quake struck around 60km (35 miles) from the town of Hastrud, in East Azerbaijan Province, shortly before 2.30am (2300 GMT).
Patrick Wintour reports in the Guardian that the Iranian government is under growing domestic pressure to pull out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty next year, the country’s ambassador to the UK has said. Hamid Baeidinejad said it was government policy to remain in the treaty but there were growing calls to pull out next year, when it is due for renewal, as it required Iran to make one-sided commitments. The Independent reports that Iran‘s resumption of uranium enrichment will be followed by similar steps every two months unless European states do more to save the country’s nuclear deal with international powers.
The Guardian reports that a British man, who trained in Iraq to fight alongside Kurdish units against Islamic State, has been jailed in the UK for four years. Following a landmark trial, Aidan James, 29, from Formby, Merseyside, who had repeatedly been turned down for recruitment into the British armed forces on mental health grounds, was found guilty of training in weapons with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) in Iraq.
In the Telegraph Raf Sanchez reports that the West’s Kurdish allies say they have resumed cooperation with US forces against the Islamic State in northern Syria as American officials acknowledged little had changed in policy terms despite Donald Trump’s orders to pull out of the country.
The Economist reports on how Jerusalem is dealing with a grave shortage.
The Economist argues that Saudi Arabia should listen to critics of its reform programme. Reporting on a recent conference the paper says: “This was the third Future Investment Initiative (fii), Saudi Arabia’s flagship business conference. The event, which wrapped up in Riyadh on October 31st, attracted some 6,000 guests. That made Saudi officials feel better. The first fii, in 2017, was a coming-out party for the economic-reform programme of Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince. But the second, last year, was overshadowed by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist, by Saudi agents. Top executives stayed away.”
Will Dunn writes in the New Statesman on how the UK pitched for the IPO of oil giant Saudi Aramco – and lost. On 1 July 2017 Roger Barker, the head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, wrote to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to warn the regulator about its planned changes to rules on state-owned companies that wanted to sell shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
The Independent reports that female human rights campaigners have been forced to endure physical and sexual assault in Bahrain and the British government’s policies embolden such human rights infringements, MPs warned in a damning letter to the prime minister.
The FT reports that bankers for Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering have dangled the possibility of bonus payouts that could take the company’s annual dividend past $100bn in an effort to woo investors for a flotation tipped to be the biggest ever. The banks charged with launching the listing have been told that shareholder payouts could be far greater than the promised minimum annual dividend of $75bn during the next five years.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that a Labour general election candidate has quit after the newspaper exposed her postings in which she likened the actions of Israel to that of a child abuser. Kate Ramsden – the candidate for the Scottish seat of Gordon – stood down as it emerged she had also claimed that Labour’s antisemitism crisis was just ‘smears against Jeremy Corbyn’ that were being “orchestrated by the wealthy establishment.”
Reuters reports that Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met President Michel Aoun on Thursday without announcing progress towards forming a new government, and banking sources said most financial transfers out of the country remained blocked.
Coalition negotiations continue: The Israeli media report that the Blue and White party and Yisrael Beitenu reached agreement on some economic issues yesterday. They agreed in the next budget to increase pensions for the elderly to 70 per cent of the minimum wage and also to increase disability pensions. Despite their joint announcement, Maariv suggests no progress has been made on issues of religion and state and speculates that Blue and White are holding secret parallel negotiations with the ultra-Orthodox parties. The paper says Yisrael Beteinu have three options; to join a narrow right wing coalition, support a minority government or go for a new election. Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party have 12 days left to form a coalition.
Legal imbroglio: The Israel media report the fallout from Justice Minister Ohana’s Knesset speech earlier this week when he broke a court imposed gag order and revealed that the police threatened to disclose an alleged extramarital affair of state witness and former senior adviser to Netanyahu, Nir Hefetz. Hefetz plans to take his own legal action, with his lawyer demanding a criminal investigation against Ohana. His lawyer is quoted saying, “it’s a disgrace that a justice minister in the State of Israel tramples the law and deliberately flouts an explicit gag order issued by the court, on the Knesset podium in a prepared speech, in a shameful attempt to achieve political gain, while gravely harming a person’s right to privacy. This inconceivable act will not pass quietly, and it will be dealt with by employing the appropriate legal means.”
Two enclaves to be returned to Jordan: With the Sunday deadline fast approaching, no deal has been reached between Israel and Jordan to allow Israel to extend the lease on two enclaves used by Israelis since the 1994 bilateral peace treaty. Barring any last minute development, the Israeli media reports Jordan has refused to extend the lease, even for six months. According to Channel 13 News Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat was in Amman this week negotiating with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, no deal was agreed but a compensation agreement for Israeli farmers and businesses could be implemented.