Iran convicts three people for spying for the US
BBC News, the Guardian, Independent, Sky News and Daily Mail report that Iran has convicted three people of spying for the US, sentencing one of them to death, and another person of spying for the UK. It was not clear if any of those convicted were among 17 people who Iran’s intelligence ministry said had been arrested for spying for the CIA earlier this year.
BBC News presents profiles of individuals with dual nationality or foreign permanent residency currently detained in Iran.
The Guardian reports that defence lawyers representing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are due to begin their arguments against bribery, fraud and breach of trust indictments as a long-awaited pre-trial hearing begins. Netanyahu has denied all allegations as a politically orchestrated “witch-hunt” to oust him from office.
Reuters reports that talks to form a national unity government in Israel broke down on Tuesday after Blue and White called off a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said on Sunday he would make a final effort this week to reach an agreement and would likely meet with Benny Gantz on Wednesday after further negotiations between their parties. On Tuesday, Blue and White said conditions were not ripe yet to hold effective negotiations.
Reuters reports that Palestinians protested in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Tuesday after a detainee suspected of killing an Israeli teenager in a bomb attack was hospitalised during interrogation by Israeli forces. In Ramallah, 300 protesters burned tyres and hurled stones at Israeli troops who took up positions in fields nearby.
BBC News reports that the Houthi movement has unilaterally released 290 detainees as part of a UN peace initiative. Those freed include 42 survivors of an air strike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on a prison this month that killed more than 100 people. The UN special envoy for Yemen said he hoped the Houthis’ step would lead to further releases by both sides. A prisoner swap was one of three elements of an agreement between the warring parties that was brokered by the UN in Stockholm in December.
The Financial Times argues that the Yemen conflict underlines that governments must reassess their approach to arms exports.
The Telegraph, Independent and Reuters report that at least two people were killed and 200 wounded in clashes in Iraq on Tuesday as security forces used tear gas, water cannon and live fire to disperse demonstrations over unemployment, corruption and poor public services. Injuries were mainly from tear gas inhalation and some by rubber bullets.
Reuters reports that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has stated that Turkey has no choice but to act alone given too little progress has been made with the US forming a “safe zone” in north-eastern Syria. Since agreeing to set up the zone in northern Syria, Turkey has repeatedly warned of unilateral military action if efforts do not meet its expectations, saying it would not tolerate any attempts by Washington to stall the process.
The Times, Independent and Reuters report that US President Trump phoned his Iranian counterpart during the UN summit in New York, but President Hassan Rouhani refused to take the call, a French diplomatic source said last night. Trump made the call on 24 September after French President Emmanuel Macron had shuttled between the US and Iranian leaders trying to arrange a encounter to reduce the risk of war in the Middle East.
Reuters reports that Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir has said that Iran’s statement that Saudi Arabia sent messages to its president through other countries was “not accurate”.
Reuters reports that the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command visited Riyadh over the weekend to discuss with the head of Saudi Arabia’s naval forces reinforcing defences against Iranian threats.
The Telegraph reports that the fiancée of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hatice Cengi,z told the Telegraph that she was unimpressed by Mohammed bin Salman’s recent round of interviews in which he accepted responsibility but denied ordering Khashoggi’s murder. “The crown prince’s comments are a general tactic to silence the case, and quieten the media,” she said.
In the Guardian, Martin Chulov maintains that the repercussions of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder continue to reverberate in the Middle East: “In a region largely inured to savagery, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a year ago has left an extraordinary impact. Rarely in modern history has the death of one man been so consequential”.
In the Independent, Bel Trew interviews Saudi activists marking the anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
In the Times, Richard Spencer argues that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman emerged stronger from Jamal Khashoggi killing: “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince may have increased his personal power as the West looked the other way after the murder, but his country could suffer in the long term”.
In the Independent, Borzou Daragahi writes that “journalists [are] increasingly the targets of violent crimes, but in this era of surging authoritarianism and right-wing nationalism, more often than not the perpetrators are getting away with it. And that is the biggest threat to press freedom”.
The Guardian reports that foreign IS fighters held in overcrowded prisons and refugee camps in north-east Syria should be put on trial there as part of an international effort to de-radicalise the region, according to senior local officials. Politicians and soldiers from the Kurdish-led region said they needed western help to deal with the prisoners locally, including setting up a recognised war crimes tribunal, amid warnings that IS could rebuild.
The Telegraph and Daily Mail report that a Welsh man who left the UK at 17 as one of the first British recruits to join IS has been found in a secret prison in northern Syria. He told interviewers he had been lured to Syria by false IS propaganda. “We came when [Isil] propaganda and [Isil] media was all about helping the poor, helping the Syrian people.”
The Times and Independent report that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has claimed that British IS fighters detained in Syria should not be brought back to the UK for prosecution because they are dangerous “diehards” and the chances of convicting them are low. Wallace said that IS fighters “don’t want to come here” and warned that if they were brought back the government would be accused of rendition, making any prosecution impossible.
Reuters reports that tens of thousands of Jordanian teachers on Tuesday defied a government call to end their four-week nationwide strike over pay, in a deepening crisis that threatens to further strain the heavily indebted country’s state finances.
Reuters reports that a Taliban delegation will visit Pakistan on Wednesday, the latest stop on a tour of regional powers after the Afghanistan peace process broke down.
Reuters reports that the Taliban killed at least 11 police officers in Afghanistan’s northern Balkh province before burning their headquarters.
In the Financial Times, Andrew England assesses the current state of the Muslim Brotherhood which he says is struggling for relevance: “Cairo blames the Islamist group for inciting protests across Egypt, but few believe the divided movement still wields such influence”.
In the Financial Times, Simone Tagliapietra examines the importance of economic diversification in the Middle East: “Financial sector reform is essential for SMEs to develop in the region”.
Blue and White call off unity talks with Likud: The Blue and White party have called off unity talks with Likud planned for today, including another meeting between party leaders Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli media reported. Blue and White said in a statement last night that: “The threshold conditions for holding an additional effective meeting between the negotiating teams haven’t been met.” The party has been demanding negotiations solely with the Likud and not the entire 55-seat right wing/religious bloc that the Likud has been representing, in addition to discussing who of the two leaders would serve first in any premiership rotation agreement (Likud has demanded Netanyahu go first). Likud, for its part, said it was “stunned” by the decision and blamed Blue and White number two Yair Lapid for sabotaging the possibility of a unity government and leading the country to another election. Substantive differences aside, Blue and White sources also tied the cancellation to the start of Netanyahu’s pre-trial hearing in front of judicial authorities today, saying they did not want to help the Prime Minister divert public and media attention away from his legal troubles. Blue and White did hold open the possibility for the resumption of talks “later this week or next” if its conditions were met.
Likud activists protest in front of Attorney General’s home: 300 Likud activists demonstrated last night in front of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in the central Israeli town of Petach Tikva, Israeli media reported. According to Ynet News, the protestors said they were defending Israeli democracy, slammed the “witch hunt” directed at Prime Minister Netanyahu, and called for the Attorney General not to “succumb to left wing pressure.” For several years left-wing activists have held weekly demonstrations in front of the Attorney General’s home, demanding faster action in Netanyahu’s various corruption investigations. Likud officials have consistently portrayed these protests as a pressure tool against the Attorney General.
PFLP leader in critical condition after Shin Bet interrogation: A leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) remains in hospital in critical condition after being interrogated by the Shin Bet internal security agency, Israeli media reported. The suspect, Samer Mina Salim Arbid, 44, is, according to Israeli authorities, the ringleader of the cell responsible for the August 23 bombing near a West Bank natural spring that killed an Israeli teenager. In addition to Arbid, two additional members of the cell were reported to have been arrested. Haaretz reported that Arbid was interrogated according to a “ticking bomb” protocol, which allows for more robust techniques to be deployed in cases of imminent threat. According to Arbid’s lawyers, he was healthy when arrested. The Shin Bet admitted that the suspect was hospitalised after “feeling unwell.”