Turkey to send IS fighters back to their home countries
ITV News, Independent and the Telegraph reported on the weekend that Turkey will send members of so-called Islamic State back to their home countries, Turkey’s interior minister has said. Süleyman Soylu vowed it will repatriate those in its captivity, stating Turkey is “not a hotel” for members of the terrorist organisation, which is also known as Daesh. Speaking to members of the press on Saturday, he said: “We are not going to keep them until the end of time. We’re not a hotel for Daesh.” He added: “Countries can’t just deprive Daesh members of their citizenship, this is unacceptable to us and it’s also irresponsible.” He blamed countries, including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, for stripping those associated with the organisation of their citizenship.
BBC News, Times and the FT reports that Saudi Aramco has confirmed it is planning to list on the Riyadh stock exchange, in what could be the world’s biggest initial public offering (IPO). The state-owned oil giant will determine the IPO launch price after registering interest from investors. Business sources say the Saudis are expected to make shares available for 1% or 2% of the firm, and the offer will be for existing company shares. Saudi Aramco is thought to be worth about $1.2tn (£927bn). The firm said it has no current plans for a foreign share listing, saying long-discussed plans for a two-stage IPO including an offering on a foreign exchange had been put aside for now. Katie Prescott, BBC Business Correspondent writes: “Once shrouded in mystery, Aramco has been transformed in the last few years as it geared up for this moment It has begun publishing financial results, holding question and answer sessions about the company and even bringing journalists to its sites following recent drone attacks.”
BBC News and Independent reports that protesters have blocked the main thoroughfares in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, as mass anti-government protests continue. Demonstrators were seen parking cars across key junctions of the city as police looked on without intervening.
Borzou Daragahi writes for the Independent on why the Middle East is being rocked by new wave of protests. He argues that “Across the region there is a demand for systemic change, not just the removal of one or more senior figures.”
Andrew England wrote a Big Read in the FT weekend called “Donald Trump’s whims stoke fears of instability in the Middle East”, he argues that Trump’s “impulsive and transactional manner has sowed fresh uncertainty. He has stoked tensions in the region with his “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran. But has also been unwilling to authorise more muscular responses beyond sanctions. In June, he aborted planned strikes against Iran at the last minute after Revolutionary Guards shot down a US spy drone. Then, he was perceived by some to have responded meekly after Washington and Riyadh blamed Iran for a devastating attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in September, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo described as an ‘act of war’.”
Chloe Cornish writes in the FT that: “Middle East protesters look to bring down the system, not just governments.” She says: “Demonstrators — particularly a burgeoning population of economically disenfranchised youth with no first-hand experience of past conflicts — have vented their anger at sectarian political parties, which they feel have been allowed to keep a stranglehold on power and plunder state resources while doing little to represent their concerns.”
In The Times Anshel Pfeffer reports that Israel’s “Air Force One” successfully completed its first test flight from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. The refurbished Boeing 767, once operated by Qantas, cost Israeli taxpayers nearly £175 million, including its secret missile-defence and encrypted communication systems. The decision of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, 70, to go ahead and purchase the new aircraft has been the focus of much criticism but it is possible he may never use it himself.
BBC News reports that at least 13 people were killed by a car bomb in the northern Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, Turkish authorities said. Turkey’s defence ministry said at least 20 others were wounded by the blast. Turkish troops and Turkey-backed rebels last month took control of Tal Abyad and other border towns from Kurdish forces, after US troops – who were protecting the Kurds – pulled out. Pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among the dead on Saturday, according to a UK-based monitoring group.
The Independent reports that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has praised Donald Trump in an interview with NBC news saying he is the “best” US president he has dealt with not because his policies are good, but because he’s the most transparent president.” Referring to Mr Trump’s predecessors in the White House, President Assad said: “All they are is a group of criminals who only represent the interest of American lobbies of large corporations in weapons, oil and others. Trump speaks with transparency to say ‘we want the oil’. What do we want more than a transparent foe?” he asked.
Gemma Fox, the Deputy International Editor of the Independent, reports on a Gazan woman turning rubble into building blocks and sunlight into power. “I wanted to address two serious issues in my community – electricity and building materials,’’ she tells the Independent. She designed SunBox, a generator that uses solar power to provide electricity in the face of the blockade. Linked up to panels that residents can install on their roof, the machine generates 1,000 kilowatts of electricity and needs only three hours to recharge back to full capacity. Gaza, she jokes, will never run out of sun.
Richard Hall reports from Beirut for the Independent on how Lebanese protesters are taking their fight to the highways. “Elias Saade is taking his seat on a sofa in a typical Lebanese living room. In front of him is a coffee table with a vase of flowers set on it. A large red rug at his feet really ties the room together. But there is something different about this living room: it is located in the middle of Beirut’s busiest highway. As anti-government demonstrations in Lebanon enter their third week, road blocks such as this have emerged as a defining battleground and a key strategy for keeping pressure on the country’s political leaders, who continue to resist the kind of sweeping reforms demanded by protesters.”
Reuters reports that thousands of Iranians chanted “Death to America” near the old U.S. embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary on the seizure of the mission, with the country’s army chief comparing the United States with a poisonous scorpion intent on harming Iran. Reuters also reports that Iran will not lift its ban on talks with the United States, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday, describing the two countries as implacable foes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
The Guardian reports that Israel has completed an investigation into the case of a former police officer who shot an unarmed Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet. Israel’s justice ministry said on Sunday that it had held four hearings into the case. It did not say when it would announce its decision on whether to file charges.
No breakthrough in coalition talks: Israel’s Kan News reports that Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing for a third election, seen to be his best option if he cannot reach a deal with Blue and White. So far Netanyahu is insisting he serves first in a rotating prime minister deal that would include the entire right-wing religious bloc of 55 MKs. Israeli newspaper Maariv reports that coalition talks between Blue and White and Likud will resume today. Yesterday, New Right politician Ayelet Shaked was interviewed on Army Radio where she said: “The Ultra-orthodox will have to compromise so that Lieberman will join the right-wing bloc and be able to accomplish things for his constituents.”
Channel 12 News reported that Netanyahu may re-appoint Naftali Bennett to a cabinet position. Analysts suggest it is, at least in part, a tactical move to ensure Bennett is not tempted to peel away from the right wing bloc and join a Blue and White led government. The current portfolios held by Netanyahu himself (and therefore technically available) include Defence, Diaspora Affairs and Welfare.
Arab leaders begin hunger strike: All the Israeli media report that the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee (AHMC) began a hunger strike yesterday protesting against violent crime in Arab communities. They have pitched a protest tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and intend not to eat until tomorrow. Yediot Ahronot reports that a 47 year old man from the Bedouin village of Khawaled was shot at close range while driving to work and in the village of Turan a violent brawl between two families led to the murder of a 35 year old man.
Russian hacker’s extradition delayed: The Israeli media report that the High Court issued an injunction to temporarily halt Aleksey Burkov’s extradition to the US. The timing is connected to the appeal in a Russian court of 26 year old Israeli traveller Naama Isaachar sentenced to seven and half years in prison for possession of 9.5 grams of marijuana. Russia wants Burkov extradited back to Russia. Similarly, Issachar’s family are also pushing for extradition to Russia that will allow Naama to return to Israel as part of a deal. Haaretz reports Burkov claims that he is not a spy working for the Russian government and did not meddle in the 2016 US election.