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Media Summary

US ‘carpet bombs’ ISIS in Iraq

The Times, Guardian and Reuters report that the departure of John Bolton as national security advisor increases the chance that US President Donald Trump will meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later this month. Trump, speaking at the White House yesterday, seemed to suggest that there could be flexibility on sanctions. Asked if he would ease restrictions, he said: “We will see what happens. I think Iran has potential. They’re incredible people.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has urged the US to “put warmongers aside” after the dismissal of Bolton. Rouhani’s remarks signalled approval of Trump’s decision to remove Bolton. Rouhani’s website quoted him as further urging Washington to “abandon warmongering and its maximum pressure policy” on Iran.

Reuters reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down the impact of Bolton’s departure, predicting that Washington would hold to a tough line on Iran. In an interview, Netanyahu sounded unfazed by Bolton’s dismissal and possible Trump-Rouhani talks. “Look, the one who formally crafted the American policy was Pompeo […] and President Trump of course. But I’m not getting into the personality changes in this administration,” he told Channel 20. “I am convinced, I have no doubts at all, that in any situation – with talks, without talks – President Trump and his administration will be very, very tough with Iran.”

In the Times, Gerard Baker argues that White House hawks are an “endangered species”: ‘[John] Bolton’s exit clears the way for this isolationist president to seal a hat-trick of handshakes with sworn enemies of the US”.

BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Independent report that two Australian citizens detained in Iran have been identified as Jolie King and Mark Firkin. King, who also holds a UK passport, and Firkin were blogging about their travels in Asia and the Middle East. They were arrested 10 weeks ago but news of the arrest, and that of another British-Australian woman, came to light on Wednesday. Iran is believed to be holding the two British-Australian women to exchange one of them for an Iranian imprisoned in the US on charges of evading US sanctions.

In the Guardian, Patrick Wintour examines the “Britain-Iran blame game”: “The summoning of the Iranian ambassador to the British Foreign Office on Wednesday over broken assurances about the destination of an Iranian oil tanker, and now the arrest of two British-Australian nationals, marks yet another stage in the mutual blame game between Britain and Iran that leaves the relationship stuck deeper in a frustrating rut”.

In the Guardian, Ben Doherty argues that Australia has been left with few diplomatic levers after Iran detained three of its citizens: “Canberra’s adherence to a hawkish US policy has undermined its ability to negotiate with the paranoid and sanctions-squeezed regime in Tehran”.

In the Times, Richard Spencer contends that hostage-taking is Iran’s “tried and trusted way to get results”: “Hostage-taking, Iran has discovered, works, whatever the effect on its reputation”.

Reuters reports that Iran’s envoy to London said on Wednesday that the oil cargo of Adrian Darya 1 was sold at sea to a private company, but he insisted that the EU’s Syria sanctions did not apply to Tehran. “At (the) meeting with the British Foreign Secretary, it was emphasised that British authorities’ action against the tanker carrying Iranian oil was in violation of international law,” Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad said on Twitter after being summoned in London.

Reuters reports that fighting has picked up in several areas of Afghanistan, days after the collapse of talks between the US and Taliban. Officials said there was fighting in at least 10 provinces, with the heaviest clashes in the northern regions of Takhar, Baghlan, Kunduz and Badakhshan, where the Taliban have been pressing security forces for weeks.

The Independent reports that the international community has blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to annex nearly a third of the West Bank, with the UN branding it “devastating” to peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu pledged to enforce Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and north Dead Sea area if re-elected. Just hours after the prime minister made his promise, militants in Gaza fired rockets at Ashdod. Reuters reports that Middle Eastern nations have expressed alarm at the announcement with the Arab League “consider[ing] his announcement a dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law.”

The Guardian argues that Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex territory in the West Bank will make “finding a way out of conflict with the Palestinians impossible”.

In the Financial Times, Mehul Srivastava maintains that Benjamin Netanyahu has upped the stakes in next week’s Israeli election with his “incendiary West Bank pledge”: “Netanyahu’s tried-and-tested election strategy of stoking fears among his political base and insisting only he can protect them has served him well, delivering four terms as Israel’s prime minister”.

In the Times, Anshel Pfeffer examines the role of Avigdor Liberman in next week’s Israeli election: “Fierce criticism of the Israeli prime minister in the run-up to next week’s election is coming from an unexpected source”.

In the Guardian, Oliver Holmes and Sufian Taha interview Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley: “Netanyahu pledge could kill off notion of a future state of Palestine”.

Reuters reports that Iran has denounced a “US-Israeli plot” to put pressure on the UN nuclear watchdog, after the IAEA called in recent days for more cooperation from Tehran following what diplomats say was the detection of uranium particles at an undeclared site. “Since two days before this session of the Board, we are witnessing a US-Israeli plot with the support of their affiliated media,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement.

Reuters reports that Syrian rebel fighters on Wednesday said Russian-backed forces were amassing troops in preparation for resuming a five-month offensive in northwest Syria after a second day of raids by jets believed to be Russian threatened to end a fragile ceasefire. The jets that flew overnight at high altitudes struck a village near Kafr Takhareem and an area near the town of Darkoush, both in rural areas in western Idlib province.

Reuters reports that lawyers for Selahattin Demirtas, former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party have applied for his release from jail after a court ruled he was eligible to be set free. Demirtas has been in jail for almost three years and faces several legal cases, mainly on terrorism charges.

The Times and Independent report that the Pentagon has released videos of the US air force carpet-bombing a river island in Iraq “infested with Islamic State” cells. US F-15 and F-35 fighter jets dropped explosives on Qanus island, a river island located in the Tigris about 175 miles northwest of Baghdad which officials claim is a hideout for Isis militants. “Here’s what it looks like when F-15 and F-35 jets drop 36,000kg of bombs on a Daesh [Isis]-infested island,” US Central Command said in a tweet.

Reuters reports that OPEC will discuss whether there is a need for deeper cuts in oil production when they hold a ministerial meeting on Thursday. Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadhban said that when OPEC and its allies met in June “there was this common understanding that perhaps six months since January are not enough (time) to assess the cut that we have introduced and we need two more months.” “That’s why this meeting is going to be held tomorrow, to see should we continue with this cut or should we introduce a deeper cut,” he said.

The Financial Times and Reuters report that Saudi Aramco has chosen a range of international and local banks, including JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, to handle its much-anticipated initial public offering. Advisers and bankers involved in the IPO said the state oil company had started informing lenders of their mandates on Wednesday as the government accelerates the part-privatisation. If successful, the historic deal would be one of the world’s largest IPOs, marking renewed intent from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to push through his ambitious economic transformation plan.

Reuters reports that US senators have revived efforts to apply pressure on Saudi Arabia over human rights by pushing the country to fulfil its commitment to provide $750m of aid to the Yemeni population, according to a letter sent to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The letter stated that Saudi Arabia had provided just a small share of its current $750m commitment. The letter said the UN required funding for  vaccinations, food, fuel and medicine. “If funding is not received by the end of October, 5 million people – in a country facing the largest cholera outbreak in modern history – will lose access to clean water,” the letter said.

Netanyahu gives pre-election interviews: Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to Israeli broadcasters this morning giving wide ranging interviews. Asked on Kan Radio if he would respect the results if he lost, Netanyahu said: “there is forged voting and there are grounds to change the laws, but we will abide by the law.” Asked about his relationship with Ayelet Shaked, he said he respected her and they would be the first partners he will call to form a government. Asked about introducing a new law to grant him immunity from prosecution he said:  “I have never made that a condition for coalition agreements.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin today: All the Israeli media report that Netanyahu will meet Putin today in Sochi and will be accompanied by the National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and the Director of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman.

  • Ahead of the visit the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the implementation of Netanyahu’s promise to apply sovereignty to the Jordan Valley would seriously exacerbate regional tension and also undermine the hope of making peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Likud Facebook message says ‘Arabs want to destroy us all’: The Israeli media report the controversy surrounding a message on the Likud’s Facebook page that said: “Lapid, Odeh, Gantz and Lieberman must not form a dangerous left-wing government next week… a weak, secular left-wing government that relies on the Arabs who want to destroy us all—women, children and men—and will facilitate a nuclear Iran that will wipe us out. We can’t let that happen.” The Likud later retracted the message and said it was a mistake by a campaign staffer and had not been seen or approved by the Prime Minister.

Ayman Odeh films Netanyahu: All the Israeli media reported the incident in the Knesset yesterday when Joint List leader Ayman Odeh approached the Prime Minister and filmed him whilst holding his mobile phone very close to his face as a protest against the Likud proposal to allow cameras in polling stations because of allegations of voter fraud in Arab communities. In response, several Likud MKs moved towards Odeh and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein ordered Odeh to be escorted out of the chamber.