ISIS leaders sister captured in Syria
Sky News, BBC News, ITV News, The Times and Daily Mail reports that just days after Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was killed in Syria, his older sister has reportedly been captured alive. Turkey said it had arrested 65-year-old Rasmiya Awad in northwest Syria, with an official describing it as an intelligence “gold mine”. She was detained in a raid on a trailer container where she was living with her family. Sky News also reported that yesterday Britain’s terror threat level has been lowered from “severe” to “substantial” for the first time in five years.
BBC News reports that protesters in Lebanon have blocked major roads for the first time in days after politicians failed to quell anti-government demonstrations. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned last week, which was a key demand of the protesters, but President Michel Aoun has not yet started consulting parliamentary blocs about a successor. Mr Aoun has said there are some “complications” to resolve. Reporting from Beirut for the BBC, Raffi Berg writes: “A calm atmosphere hangs over Martyrs’ Square, where clusters of young people sit around among a jumble of tents. While there’s a lighter presence by day, they have been coming by their thousands at night, calling for total political change.”
The Times runs a series of articles on the public offering by Saudi oil company Aramco. Simon Duke reports that Saudi Arabia’s giant state oil company merits a more generous valuation than the likes of Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell, a leading Wall Street broker has claimed. In the first independent analysis since Saudi Aramco on Sunday set out its plans to go public, Bernstein dubbed the company “Monster Oil” and said that its shares should trade at a premium of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent to western oil giants. The investment house argued that Aramco’s “resilience” to volatile oil prices and its “profitable portfolio growth” meant that it should get a higher rating on the stock market than other large producers. Bernstein, which is not among the 27 investment banks advising on the flotation, has pegged Aramco’s valuation at between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion, falling short of the $2 billion target set by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler. In analysis Richard Spencer writes that “copying China’s modernising model is not going to be as easy as it seems.” And in business commentary, Alistair Oborne argues that “Aramco investment has ethical costs.”
Patrick Bishop reviews Elliot Ackerman’s new book “Places and Names” for the Telegraph. In the review Bishop asks why America was so divided by Vietnam, but is so apathetic about the Middle East. “Whereas Vietnam riveted and fractured the nation, public interest in the wars waged since 9/11 has been intermittent and limited. No one seems to care too much about what the men and women in uniform get up to. After a brief spurt of curiosity as to what might motivate America’s enemies, the insurgents and jihadists have been categorised as a motley collection of nut jobs, beyond comprehension. As for the civilian populations who are overwhelmingly the victims of the violence, they are invisible.”
Josie Ensor reports for the Telegraph that protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the Iraqi Shia holy city of Karbala on Sunday, as demonstrations continued to grow against Tehran’s influence in the country. Crowds scaled the building’s concrete barriers and tried to take down the Iranian flag and replace it with the Iraqi one before three were shot dead by security forces. Many demonstrators have accused Iran of propping up the “corrupt, inefficient” government they want to overthrow, as they have taken to the streets in the biggest mass protests since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. Protests in Iraq and Lebanon have rattled Iran, analysts say, threatening the latter’s hard-won influence on both countries. The Independent reports that Iraqi security forces shot dead at least three protestors.
Chloe Cornish writes in the Financial Times that “Protesters seek end of sectarian power-sharing in Iraq and Lebanon.”
The Guardian reports that Iran has announced a tenfold increase in enriched uranium production as Tehran backs away from its nuclear deal with the west. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, said enriched uranium production was now at 5kg per day, up from 450g two months ago. The announcement coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Iranian takeover of the US embassy. The production increases were made possible by the introduction of two new advanced centrifuges, one of which is undergoing testing. Salehi said Iran was now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges, a violation of the deal. From the Guardian archive the paper publishes reporting from when Iranian students occupied the US embassy in central Tehran, taking up to 100 hostages in 1979.
The Financial Times reports that Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has announced that the Islamic republic will take further steps in violation of parts of the nuclear accord by injecting gas into centrifuges as of Wednesday in defiance of European countries’ calls for restraint. The FT also reports that the Trump administration has issued fresh sanctions on top aides and advisers to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, as Washington continues to apply economic pressure on Tehran. Senior administration officials announced Monday’s sanctions on nine members of the ayatollah’s inner circle — including his chief of staff, the head of Iran’s judiciary and senior military figures — as the US marked the 40th anniversary of the US embassy takeover in Tehran, in which more than 50 US diplomats were taken hostage.
The Guardian reports that arrests of dissidents and torture allegations continue in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Bin Salman has overseen the relaxing of a number of the kingdom’s restrictive social laws since assuming a leadership position in the Saudi government four years ago, most recently allowing women over 21 to obtain passports and travel abroad without the permission of a male guardian. But these reforms have belied a “darker reality”, according to a report released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, including the mass arrests of women’s rights activists, a number of whom have allegedly been sexually assaulted and suffered torture including whipping and electric shocks.
The Independent reports that a bus driver in Istanbul rammed his vehicle into a crowd waiting by a stop, stabbed several people and jumped into the sea.
The Jewish News reports that Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir posted photos of Israel that she took from space. “My father’s globe spanning journey as a surgeon from the Middle East, to Europe, and eventually to the U.S. was an inspiration to many in my immediate and extended family. #TheJourney,” Meir tweeted on Friday.
Hamas leader threatens Israel: Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza, threatened Israel in a fiery speech yesterday, saying that Hamas could rocket Tel Aviv and other Israeli population centres for six months and turn them into “ghost towns,” Israeli media reported. In a rare occurrence Sinwar laid out Hamas’s military assets, including 70,000 fighters, hundreds of kilometres of tunnels, thousands of anti-tank missiles (some domestically produced), and thousands of missiles and mortar shells. Sinwar also lashed out directly at Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, saying: “We’re waiting for you to succeed in forming a government in Israel, to see what you can do, and we will cause you to curse the day you were born.” Addressing a domestic audience as well, Sinwar underscored the gains Gaza had made over the past two years with the “Great March of Return” border clashes, calling it a “war of attrition” against Israel.
Attorney General defends judicial system: All the Israeli media report that yesterday Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit strongly defended Israel’s judicial system, in particular the two state prosecutors responsible for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption cases. Mandelblit’s remarks were a direct response to criticisms aired by Justice Minister Amir Ohana and other Netanyahu supporters accusing prosecutors of political bias and leaks to the media. Mandelblit rejected such accusations, saying they “would not deter [the authorities] from doing their job faithfully” and stating again that he would not be opening an investigation into the leaking of witness testimonies. Mandelblit added that several Netanyahu aides currently under investigation were “not victims [of judicial persecution] but rather suspects” in a state’s witness harassment investigation.
Jordanian detainees released: Israel and Jordan agreed on a deal yesterday to resolve a diplomatic crisis between the two states, Israeli media reported. Two Jordanian nationals detained for the last 6 months in Israel suspected of terrorism-related offences will be released by the end of this week, while Jordan will return its ambassador to Israel. Yet the prospects for resolving another diplomatic impasse over two Israeli enclaves of border farmland inside Jordan before their 25 year lease expires on 10 November do not look promising. Jordan’s military chief of staff visited the area yesterday in a public show of sovereignty, with Amman not likely to reverse its stated intention to resume control of Naharayim/Baqura and Tzofar/Ghamr.