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Fri, 24 Nov 2017
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Saudi coalition will reopen Yemeni ports for humanitarian aid traffic


The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has described the Saudi-led coalition's announcement as "good news."
The Saudi-led military coalition that has been blockading Yemen's ports of entry said that it will reopen the main airport and a important Red Sea port to humanitarian traffic on November 23.

The airport in the capital of Sanaa will reopen to UN aircraft and the sea port of Hodeida will be able to receive urgent humanitarian aid, the coalition said in a statement.

The coalition imposed the blockade two days after Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on November 4.

The United Nations officials cautiously welcomed the decision and said they also expect the port of Salef to reopen.

Comment: Yemen facing 'worst cholera outbreak in the world' with 1000's of new cases each day - UN, WHO


Snakes in Suits

Mohammad bin Salman: The new balance of power

© AFP / Fayez Nureldine
The Crown Prince has set off a complex chain reaction of political moves that affect the region's political and economic stability.

Morbid curiosity draw attention to the real-life Game of Thrones now playing out in Saudi Arabia, but the stories of intrigue among the Bedouin clans who control the kingdom are less interesting than the changes in the regional chessboard. Some of the facts are known, while others only can be inferred. The ascent of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman - with the assistance of the United States and the approval of China - occurs in the context of an effort to restore the regional balance of power, following 15 years of instability due to America's sponsorship of Shi'ite rule in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's Sunni government balanced Shi'ite Iran. When the George W. Bush administration overthrew him and imposed majority, that is, sectarian Shi'ite rule in Iraq, the disenfranchised Sunni minority supported non-state actors, namely al-Qaeda and its offshoot ISIS. The regional power balance shifted drastically in favor of Iran, and the Obama administration's jerry-rigged nuclear deal with the Iran gave it additional power.

Comment: More on Muhammad Bin-Salman:


Star of David

Mueller begins probe of Jared Kushner's Israeli contacts

© Cheriss May/NurPhoto
Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly probing Jared Kushner's contacts with Israeli officials in the weeks before Kushner's father-in-law, Donald Trump, took office as president.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly probing Jared Kushner's contacts with Israeli officials last year as Israel tried to derail a UN Security Council vote on its West Bank settlements.

Kushner is Donald Trump's son-in-law, a senior adviser and fixer. Former FBI director Mueller was appointed by the Department of Justice in May to lead a broad investigation sparked by allegations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The Wall Street Journal's revelation of the probe into Kushner's contacts with Israel comes as details emerge of an imminent Trump "peace plan" that would railroad Palestinians into surrendering their rights in exchange for a state in name only.

According to the newspaper, Mueller's "investigators have asked witnesses questions" about the involvement of Kushner "in a controversy over a UN resolution" passed before Trump took office that condemned Israel's settlements, all of which are illegal under international law.

Snakes in Suits

Ex-British PM Gordon Brown's new book: My life, my excuses over Iraq War

Brown's political legacy is a rather dull affair, more in the shadows of the times that surrounded his time in government. With so little to acclaim, it's not surprising that Brown should now seek to whitewash Britain's - and his own personal - responsibility in the illegal war on Iraq.

Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister who took over from Tony Blair in 2007, made headlines earlier this month when he claimed that Britain had been hoodwinked by the Americans about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and thus duped into joining the war on that country.

The Independent, for example, ran the headline: 'US hid intelligence from Britain about Saddam Hussein's WMDs before Iraq War, Gordon Brown claims'.

Several other British news outlets ran similar headlines along the line that "Britain had been deceived" into joining the American war plan on Iraq, which the George W Bush administration launched in March 2003.

Brown's claim comes out of the publication this month of his autobiography which is grandly titled: My Life, Our Times.

Snakes in Suits

Snake in a Suit: Five of Obama's biggest & most outlandish lies (VIDEO)

© Reuters
Barack Obama was likely the most dishonest president in US history.

After eight years of Obama we put together a list of his five biggest and most outlandish lies.

1.) If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your insurance plan

Number of mentions: 37 times

Light Sabers

State Dept officials accuse Rex Tillerson of breaching Child Soldiers Prevention Act

© Yuri Gripas / Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
A group of about a dozen US state department officials have taken the unusual step of formally accusing secretary of state Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers, according to internal government documents reviewed by Reuters.

A confidential state department "dissent" memo not previously reported said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a US list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries.

Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with US military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are close allies in the fight against Islamist militants, while Myanmar is an emerging ally to offset China's influence in southeast Asia. Documents reviewed by Reuters also show Tillerson's decision was at odds with a unanimous recommendation by the heads of the state department's regional bureaus overseeing embassies in the Middle East and Asia, the US envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the department's human rights office and its own in-house lawyers.

Arrow Down

'Biased & inexperienced': Chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards slams Macron for provocative statements

© Francois Mori / Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron
The chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps has slammed French President Emmanuel Macron as being "young and inexperienced," claiming those characteristics were behind the leader's recent remarks on Tehran's ballistic missile program.

Mohammad Ali Jafari took aim at the French president on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing state TV. It followed comments that Macron made during a visit to Dubai on November 9, when he suggested amending the JCPOA, the key agreement on Tehran's nuclear program, despite eight International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports confirming that Iran has fully complied with the deal. The French leader said that the "ballistic activity of Iran" should be renegotiated - though it is not covered under the accord - "with sanctions if necessary."

Later that day, Macron made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia where he said that he was "very concerned" by Iran's ballistic-missile program. He argued that the missile used in a failed attack on Riyadh from Yemen earlier this month was "obviously" an Iranian missile.

Wall Street

US sanctions boost Russian business in Latin America

"US sanctions only motivated Russia to search for new markets and mechanisms. And Latin America, discouraged by Trump's policy, is again looking for new footholds."

The largely ineffective sanctions policies of the EU and Europe have only succeeded in impeding business with those countries, while stimulating Russian economic contact with developing and third world economies.

The legacy of the Soviet era is still a meaningful advantage for Russia around the world, and Latin America is no exception.

Yoda

Putin should, and probably will, run again for President

No sign of anyone else being prepared for the post, and with the international situation so tense Putin should stay

As 2017 approaches its close, and as the Presidential election in March next year looms closer, the rumour mill in Moscow is working over time speculating about Putin's intentions.

Whilst most expect Putin to run again, there are some suggestions that he is thinking of an exit, and is considering nominating a successor.

Names which typically get mentioned are Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's Prime Minister, who was Russia's President between 2008 and 2012, and Lieutenant General Alexey Dyumin, who is currently the Governor of Tula Region.

I have no idea what Putin's plans are and I doubt that any one of those speculating does either, though I am sure that the top people in the Kremlin all know. However, I would personally be very surprised if Putin decides not to run again.

Heart - Black

Israel officials prepare for mass evictions, home demolitions in illegally occupied East Jerusalem

© Saeed Qaq/Apaimages
A bulldozer can be demolishing homes belonging to Palestinians in Jerusalem
Israeli officials from the Jerusalem municipality and police examined five buildings in the Kafr Aqab neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem yesterday, in preparation for their demolition.

The buildings, erected without the almost impossible to obtain "permit", are currently home to some 138 Palestinian families.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the apartment blocks are to be demolished in order to build a public road next to the Separation Wall.

The paper reports that out of some 60,000 residents in Kafr Aqab, about 52,000 are living in "illegal" buildings.

Comment: A small sample