Amnesty International urges Al Khalifah to release Sheikh Isa Qassim

Human rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, harshly criticized the Bahraini authorities for an unprecedented level of human rights violations heightening in the country especially since the 2011 uprising.

The organization demanded from the Al Khalifah regime to free Sheikh Isa Qassim and other political and social activists.

Several journalists are also in Bahraini jails for whom the Human Rights organizations have demanded discharge.

The Bahraini authorities have detained at least 1300 anti-regime protesters in 2016 without any trial that includes at least 180 minors.

According to an Amnesty International report, those detained are being harshly kept and tortured while the United Nations, European Union and Arab League has been given a notice to take action.

Anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah dynasty relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.

Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said regime forces have detained dozens of pro-democracy activists recently as the Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its heavy-handed crackdown on political dissidents and rights activists in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom.

 

 

Sheikh Qassem: Arab kingdoms back Israel to save themselves

A senior Hezbollah official slams Israel as the main challenge facing the Middle East, saying certain Arab governments back the regime as a means of maintaining their power at home.

The Lebanese resistance movement’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said Israel should always be regarded as the “real enemy” in the region, the country’s al-Ahed news website reported.

“However, certain countries contribute to Israel’s aggression, and some Arab countries even support this regime in order to preserve their seats of power in their home countries,” he noted.

He was referring to reported contacts and dealings between a number of Arab states and Israel.

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab governments that have official diplomatic Israeli ties and host Israeli missions. The rest have no diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime, seeking to portray themselves as the traditional adversaries of Tel Aviv and the upholders of the Palestinian cause.

Even so, reports have indicated that several of them, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have had secret relations with Tel Aviv, covertly appeasing the regime.

In November 2015, The Associated Press reported that Israel was set to open a “permanent mission” in the UAE, which it said was to operate as part of the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Also, late last May, the Middle East Eye news portal reported that Israel and some Arab countries, including the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, were planning to overthrow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and replace him with a former leader of the Fatah movement.

To the contrary, Qassem said, Israel always protests Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance movements and Iran, saying they do not leave the entity in peace, “as if this regime has the right to plunder other lands, [too],” he said.

Qassem further said Israel “is the invader, which is the problem, not the resistance, which has resorted to defense to preserve its dignity.”

The Hezbollah official, meanwhile, warned Israel against harboring further expansionist ambitions against the region.

“Israel knows well that in the event it staged any sort of war in the region, it would be suffering a heavy defeat.”

Israel forced itself onto the region after full-on Western-backed military operations against Arab territory in 1948. In 1967, it went on to seize more such lands belonging to Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians.

Hezbollah helped Lebanon defend itself against Israeli wars in 2000 and 2008, and eject the invaders. The Palestinian resistance too forced Tel Aviv to pull out of the Palestinian territory of Gaza Strip in 2005.

The Islamic Republic has invariably asserted support for the resistance in the face of the usurping regime.

 

 

Analysis: Does Trump really attack Iran?

US President Donald Trump and his top officials have continued their Iranophobic outbursts but have been unable to take any action against Iran.

Recently, Trump said on Twitter that Iran was "playing with fire" and announced fresh sanctions on the country after saying “nothing is off the table” in dealing with Iran.

Thunderous threats by Trump administration against Iran have not gone beyond outbursts with Washington finding it increasingly difficult to actualize its threats as the reality of global geopolitics sinks in.

There are several reasons why the US is unable to launch a war or even limited military action against Iran.

Lack of global consensus

First, it is impossible for the US to obtain a global consensus to launch any military strike against Iran. The current and previous US administrations have been attempting to imply that Iran’s ballistic missile program violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Iran maintains that its missiles are not designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and that it is not involved in such missile work, which is prohibited by the Resolution. Russia has also said that ballistic missile tests by Iran does not contravene a United Nations resolution on Tehran’s nuclear program, after the US requested emergency UN consultations.

Overstretched military

Secondly, an overstretched US military lacks the capacity and capability to launch a military strike against Iran. An understaffed US military is struggling to retain troops after engaging in years of occupation operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Current US commitments exceed its capabilities and this is the major reason Trump has demanded US allies in NATO to allocate more budgets to their militaries as Washington cannot foot the bill. Furthermore, with new tensions in Sino-US ties Washington has expanded its military presence in the Asia Pacific as it shifts its military hardware from the West Asia region.

Weakened Economy

The US economy plunged into a recession during Obama’s administration because of the colossal costs of managing two wars. Since the 9/11 attacks, the US has used $3.2 trillion in its wars, according to a new study conducted by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Additionally, with spending obligations to veterans over the next four decades, the total increases to nearly $4.8 trillion in 2017.

Therefor the existing economic realities prevent the US from launching any military move against an emerging global power such as Iran.

Polarized America

The Trump administration is already facing questions of legitimacy with many Americans saying the current White House occupant is not representative of the majority as he lost the popular vote and is in office following his selection by some of its 538 members. Therefore, Washington is incapable of rallying a polarized American to support a war on Iran.

Iran’s options deter US attack

Meanwhile Iran’s options and possible response to a US military attack worry many experts who warn that such a conflict could flare-up across the region and beyond with Washington being unable to control the outcome of such an escalation.

A former US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst Jeffery White in an analysis on how a US strike on Iran would play out writes: “While a war with Iran might begin in the military domain, it would likely expand to others, and while it might begin at the operational or tactical level it would soon encompass strategic and political levels as well”. Military affairs experts believe Iran's strategy of asymmetric warfare would deal a devastating blow to the giant US army. Indeed, Iran’s superiority in asymmetric warfare has acted as a deterrence to US military adventurism.

Trump’s pledges

Speaking in December, Trump stated that instead of investing in wars, he said, he would spend money to build up America's aging roads, bridges and airports. Thus launching a war with a formidable foe such as Iran would imply that he would be unable to fulfill his pledges to Americans.

Iranians united

Internally, any military action by the US against Iran would further unite and galvanize Iranians around the Islamic establishment and completely isolate the few elements seen to be leaning towards Washington.

Trump’s profit and loss view of Iran

Considering the foregoing, would Trump still continue his belligerent anti-Iran rhetoric? In answering this question, one has to look at Trump’s foreign policy approach which is based on a trader’s outlook of making maximum profits and avoiding losses. The American president views the Iran nuclear deal signed between Tehran and six world powers, US included, as an agreement benefitting Iran financially while imposing financial losses on Washington. Therefore, the Iranophobic rhetoric by Trump is not geared towards a military buildup but rather a ploy meant to weaken global consensus on the deal known as The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Any US withdrawal from the deal will imply Trump’s further isolation and place him on a collision course with its allies.

Nigerian Muslims: We love Imam Khamenei, we fight to death for Iran

“If Iran wants our help, we are ready to go and help it, even with our blood,” he said. “Donald Trump needs to know that Iran has followers all over the world ready to help defend it against America.”

Touring the narrow unpaved streets of Zaria in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, Muhammad shows Iran’s success in building enclaves of fervent support way beyond the Middle East and the limits of any harsher foreign policy planned by the U.S. president to contain it. The 30-year-old is among an increasing number of converts to the Shiite school of Islam that Iran has been exporting since its 1979 revolution.

As the world adjusts to the Trump era, the message for Washington and its allies is that Iran wields growing influence in unexpected places. The Islamic power has been able to expand its reach regardless of the economic sanctions that excluded it from much of the global oil market until last year.

In this case, it’s in Africa’s most populous nation, key oil producer and a country where the sectarian battle that has thrown the Middle East into chaos is festering. Nigeria’s Muslims are mainly Sunnis and Iran’s growing foothold in Africa has alarmed the Saudis.

“Iran is on its own crusade, its own global war, believing that the U.S. is out to get it,” said Paul Salem, vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. “They’re building networks, under religious slogans, that they can use in any fight. And wherever they are expanding, there’s a potential for a sectarian Shiite-Sunni conflict.”

Westerns need to spread Shiite-Sunni conflict but reality is that heads of both sides (Shia, Sunni) intend to be brothers and they order their followers to be united against the enemy.

Trump has signaled a sharp departure from the detente that marked the previous American administration’s relations with Iran following a landmark accord over its nuclear program in 2015. The U.S. last month put Iran “on notice” following a ballistic missile test and imposed more sanctions. Trump called the nation “the world’s top sponsor of terrorism.” Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, has said there's a “global existential war” between some parts of the Muslim world and the “Judeo-Christian West.”

The Pentagon is monitoring Iranian activities in Nigeria and West Africa, spokesman Christopher Sherwood said. Saudi cables released in 2015 by WikiLeaks reveal concern about Iran-driven Shiite expansion from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria in West Africa to India and China in Asia.

Muhammad, who was born a Sunni, said he converted five years ago despite his family’s threat to kill him. Last month, it was clear where his loyalties lay. Muhammad was with a group of friends outside a local mosque in one of Zaria’s poorer neighborhoods when one of them picked up the news on his phone of Trump’s intention to take a tougher stance on Iran.

“We burst out laughing,” he said. If Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei “says everyone who finds an American in their country should kill him, we will kill him,” he explained as the streets filled up with girls from elementary school, their hair covered with flowing waist-length veils.

For Muhammad, the culprits are not only the Americans. It’s also their allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. As he lashed out at those two countries, his words were a reminder of the rhetoric used by Hassan Nasrallah, the Lebanese leader of Hezbollah, which is funded and armed by Iran.

“There’s enmity between Iran on one side and the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other side,” said Muhammad.

Estimates vary wildly as to how many of Nigeria’s 190 million population, which is roughly divided between Christians and Muslims, are now Shiites. Some followers put their number at 20 million, while Sunnis say they’re not even a quarter of that.

It all began with a Sunni Muslim university activist, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, who was so impressed with the Iranian revolution that he wanted one at home. When that didn’t happen, Sheikh Zakzaky went to Iran, at some point he became a Shiite and later started wearing the white turban of a cleric. He became the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria and turned it into a vehicle for proselytizing and gaining followers in the 1990s.

Things escalated when Nigerian troops killed more than 800 Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 and arrested Sheikh Zakzaky and hundreds of his followers. The army accused the Shiite group of attempting to kill Nigeria’s army chief-of-staff, a charge the movement denies. Sheikh Zakzaky remains in jail.

Muhammad, the carpenter, converted after attending two daily lectures by Sheikh Zakzaky for weeks. Former newspaper vendor Sharif Abu Bakr Zakariya, 43, said he became a Shiite more than 20 years ago after the cleric “told us the truth about Islam.”

Paralyzed for the past decade, he sat in a wheelchair in a tiny room decorated with a picture of the late Imam Khomeini, Iran’s first supreme leader. He agreed with Muhammad’s assessment of the world. “Trump is carrying out a Zionist agenda,” Zakariya said. And what if he confronts Iran? “No, he won’t be successful,” he said.

Zakariya, who lives with his wife and seven children in two rooms in a low-income neighborhood in the city of Kano, the hub of Nigeria’s Muslim north, survives on handouts from Sheikh

Zakzaky’s Islamic movement. He gets about 1,500 naira ($4.80) a week. He said he would offer his kids to Iran if Imam Khamenei said he needs them to confront America.

“I love him,” he said. “I love Iran.”

In Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, Hamza Yousef, a tall, soft-spoken student, said he still hasn’t told his parents that he has become a Shiite. Yousef, 25, was born in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, where his family still lives. He’s now a student at the Almustafa International University, a branch of the main Islamic university based in Qom, Iran, which has campuses in several countries, including South Africa and Mali.

The U.S. wants to punish Iran “out of spite,” said Yousef. “America is an enemy of Islam.”

 

Seated on the floor of the center he runs in a low-income neighborhood, Shiite cleric Sheikh Sanus Abdul-Qader pointed up to the pictures of top Iranian, Lebanese and Nigerian Shiite leaders hung on the wall above him. They included Imam Khamenei and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah.

“We consider them heroes who strive to help humankind and symbols of humanity," Abdul-Qader said, as giggling children filled jerry cans with water from the center’s spigot on the dark street outside.

Did he think the U.S., with all its might, would prevail in any confrontation with Iran? “Iran will be steadfast if there’s a war,” said Abdul-Qader. “The strong always prevail.”

Dangers of Concurrent Heat Waves, Air Pollution

The combination of prolonged hot spells with poor air quality greatly compounds the negative effects of each and can pose a major risk to human health, according to new research.

"The weather factors that drive heat waves also contribute to intensified surface ozone and air pollution episodes," said UCI (the University of California, Irvine) professor of Earth system science Michael J. Prather, co-author of the study, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "These extreme, multiday events tend to cluster and overlap, worsening the health impacts beyond the sum of their individual effects."

Heat waves cause widespread discomfort and can be deadly for vulnerable individuals, while surface ozone and air pollution are linked to premature death from heart disease, stroke and lung ailments, The Science Daily reported.

Prather's group made the findings after examining 15 years of surface observations (1999-2013) for the eastern United States and Canada. The researchers overlaid a grid of one-degree-square segments onto a map of the region and analyzed the recorded levels of surface ozone, amounts of fine particulate matter (pollution) and maximum temperatures between April and September for each roughly 69-by-69-mile section of the map. This allowed them to construct a climatological picture of the duration, coincidence and overlap of each of these factors.

Meteorologically, slow-moving high-pressure systems accumulate pollutants and heat during the summer months. Scorching temperatures, low precipitation, strong sunlight and low wind speeds allow heat and poor-quality air to stagnate in a given location for an extended period of time.

"These conditions increase the emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds, which boost the production of surface ozone and other aerosols," said lead author Jordan Schnell, a postdoctoral researcher at UCI when the study was conducted who is now at Princeton University. "The droughtlike conditions that exist in heat waves reduce soil moisture, making near-surface temperatures hotter and inhibiting the role played by vegetation in absorbing ozone, resulting in lower air quality."

Humans only make the problem worse by consuming more fossil fuel-generated energy to run air conditioners, the researchers noted.

"It's important to study the combined effects of pollution and prolonged heat events because we expect these conditions to become more prevalent in a warming climate," Prather said. "Our evidence suggests that pollution and heat waves are synergistic stressors that produce disproportionately greater adverse health impacts. Policymakers should be taking these issues into consideration going forward."

 

 

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