France says US and Iran have a month to do a deal
Reuters reports that French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned that Iran and the US have one month to get to the negotiating table. President Macron attempted, but failed to broker talks between US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York. “We consider that these initiatives, which didn’t succeed, are still on the table and it is up to Iran and the United States to seize (them) in a relatively short amount of time because Iran has announced new measures to reduce its commitments to the Vienna accord in November.”
BBC News, the Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Sky News and Reuters report that Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said he accepted the “rightful demands” of protesters as he called for calm after three days of unrest. In a rare televised address, Mahdi stuck a conciliatory tone as protesters demanded his resignation, saying he would respond to their concerns, but warned there was no “magic solution” to Iraq’s problems. At least 20 people have died in the unrest as anger at unemployment and corruption boiled over. A head-on confrontation with institutionalised corruption among Iraqi politicians is the only way to address the protests, a senior adviser to Abdul-Mahdi has warned.
The Economist examines whether US road-building in Iraq led to more violence: “a new study suggests that America’s aid had unintended consequences”.
The Times, Independent and Reuters report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that he might hold an internal election to “shatter the illusion of a ‘Likud rebellion’, which other parties say is preventing them from joining a unity government”. A leadership vote would give Netanyahu a new mandate from his party after being weakened after failing to secure a majority in national elections in April and September. Gideon Saar, a popular former education minister, tweeted: “I’m ready.”
In the Economist, Anshel Pfeffer examines whether Prime Minister Netanyahu’s allies will abandon him if he is indicted: “The first ten days of the Jewish new year, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are known as the days of atonement […] That Israel’s attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, a deeply devout man, decided to hold the country’s most important legal proceeding during this period hardly seems coincidental”.
The Financial Times reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted a proposal that he should be stripped of his powers as prime minister if indicted for criminal misconduct while in office. The acceptance of the proposal, first mooted by President Rivlin, came as Netanyahu’s lawyers attempted to ward off prosecution on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Reuters reports that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has claimed that Turkey does not think its efforts with the US to form a “safe zone” in northeast Syria will yield the results it wants and is ready to take unilateral action. Ankara and Washington have agreed to establish a zone on the Syrian border that Turkey says should stretch 30 km into Syria and be cleared of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
Reuters reports that Gulf military leaders have condemned the use of their countries’ airspace to carry out attacks last month against a Saudi crude processing plant, a statement that indicated backing for the US/Saudi account blaming Iran for the attack.
BBC News reports that Egyptian parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal has sparked outrage after praising Adolf Hitler’s infrastructure projects. Aal made the comments while defending President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi development plans. “Hitler had his mistakes, but what allowed him to expand eastward and westward was that he created a strong infrastructure,” the speaker said. Aal has since said his words were taken “out of context”.
In the Independent, Alessandra Bajec argues that “a revolution is brewing in Egypt – and this time it will spread far beyond Tahrir Square”: “Draconian political repression and austerity programmes are driving the recent small-scale protests. Unless their causes are addressed, they will only multiply”.
The Times reports that the UK used a third country to avoid US sanctions as it paid an Iranian bank a settlement in a £1.25bn damages case. Bank Mellat, in which the Iranian government owns a 17 per cent stake, sued the government over British sanctions imposed in 2009 that prevented it from doing business with the UK financial sector. The Supreme Court ruled that the sanctions were illegal and a five-week hearing of the bank’s claim for damages covering its loss of business had been scheduled for June. Bank Mellat had sought £3.2bn but this fell to £1.25bn with interest.
Reuters reports that a senior Iranian official has claimed that Tehran had foiled a plot by Israeli and Arab agencies to assassinate Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force.
The Independent reports that Iran has approved a law allowing Iranian mothers married to foreigners to pass on their citizenship to their children. The hard-line Council of Guardians, a constitutional panel made up of senior conservative Shia clerics, surprised some Iran watchers on Wednesday by approving the law passed by parliament earlier this year.
The Guardian reports that the US is the biggest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia, with about 70% of the market between 2014 and 2018, with the UK the second biggest, accounting for about a tenth of total Saudi purchases.
The Financial Times the EU’s top migration official has warned of an “urgent need” to tackle a rise in irregular crossings from Turkey to Greece, highlighting the uneasy relations between the bloc and Ankara over efforts to curb the flow of people to Europe.
Reuters reports that Cyprus has claimed that Turkey’s action in sending a drill ship to an area Nicosia has licensed for offshore hydrocarbons exploration was a ‘severe escalation’ of what it called Ankara’s violations of its sovereign rights.
Reuters reports that Marta Ziakova who is running to head the UN nuclear agency says the JCPOA can be saved but Iran must return to the full implementation of its commitments and in return be offered some goodwill instead of sanctions.
The Financial Times reports that the stock market of Iran ranks among the world’s best performing over the past 12 months, as domestic investors seek refuge from rampant inflation.
Reuters reports that the Bank of Israel is expected to leave short-term interest rates unchanged next week, but analysts believe a rate reduction remains possible this year. Twelve of 13 economists polled by Reuters said policymakers would keep the Bank of Israel’s benchmark rate ILINR=ECI at 0.25% when it announces its decision on Monday. Economists largely believe a strong economy and tight labour market will keep the central bank on hold this month.
The Independent interviews brothers Jawad and Yazan in Idlib province. The two boys, aged eight and 15, are gravediggers. “I help my father when someone comes needing to bury someone, so we dig the grave with him then we fill it with earth, clean it and everything. We water the trees and flowers and everything that dad asks us to do,” says Jawad, the youngest of the two.
In the Guardian, Mohamad Bazzi maintains that the US is likely complicit in war crimes in Yemen: “Saudi-led forces have deliberately targeted civilians since the war’s early days – and US officials have done little to stop it”.
In BBC News, Sylvia Smith reports that a team of researchers is carrying out the first in-depth archaeological survey of part of Saudi Arabia, in a bid to shed light on a mysterious civilisation that once lived there. The Nabataean culture left behind sophisticated stone monuments, but many sites remain unexplored.
In the Guardian, Miriam Berger examines Arab wineries in Israel: “Restaurants that want to avoid the drink made on controversial settlements are the main clients”.
The Economist reports that a long-feared currency crisis has begun to bite in Lebanon: “In the lobby of a Beirut bank, three customers stuff wads of $100 bills into plastic bags. Each note has its serial number recorded on a receipt, as local law requires. One man’s receipt was so long it trailed on the ground as he left the branch”.
Iran claims they prevented ‘Israel-Arab’ plot to assassinate IRGC Commander
The Israeli media report a story from Iranian media that Hosseim Taeb, the head of Intelligence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) revealed they foiled a plot to assassinate General Qasam Soleimani. According to the IRGC, three suspects were arrested yesterday and they planned to buy a property adjacent to the grave of Soleimani’s father, to dig underground and plant 500kg of explosives which would have been detonated when Soleimani attended a memorial ceremony.
Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing continues
Kan News reports that one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyers believes they have persuaded the Attorney General that one of the cases requires further investigation before Netanyahu can be indicted. The hearings will continue on Sunday.
20,000 attend Arab Israeli protest against gun crime
All the Israeli media report on yesterday’s strike by Arab Israelis against violent crime. Last night 20,000 people attended a rally in the northern town of Majd al-Krum.
Gazans criticise Hamas
A report on Ynet highlights examples of growing criticism of Hamas in Gaza. There is increasing resentment of Hamas for encouraging young men to protest at the border fence every week, but then fail to look after them if they get injured. There are also extensive accusations of corruption among Hamas leaders who are accused of not sharing cash handouts from Qatar that have been delivered to the Gaza strip.