Iraqi forces making steady gains in southeast Mosul

iraqi-forces-making-steady-gains-in-southeast-mosulPublished in: Iraq

Advancing Iraqi forces have pushed into the southeast regions of the Daesh-held city of Mosul.

Gunfire and blasts could be heard throughout the southeastern part of the city on Monday as Iraqi troops pushed ahead with their operation to purge Mosul of its Daesh occupants.

"We are now at Intisar neighborhood, Nineveh province. We are the defensive lines of al-Karama district and in front of us there is al-Salam neighborhood, which is the last point for the forces of the 3rd Brigade, First Division,” said the division’s commander.

He added that the sector has now been cleansed of all Daesh militants. “They were retreating and they were in low supply and they were cut off from their supply routes, so they were retreating gradually and they've started to flee," he added.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi army has announced that six villages located to the south of the city have been retaken from the terrorists.

"We've liberated six villages and we are heading to Hawija and we will liberate, God willing and then we will head to Mosul," said an officer from the army's 17th Division.

Around half of the eastern side of Mosul has so far been liberated by the Iraqi army and volunteer forces that launched an offensive to retake Mosul, the last urban area in control of Daesh in Iraq, on October 17.


Bahraini protesters clash with regime forces over court rulings

bahraini-protesters-clash-with-regime-forces-over-court-rulingsPublished in: Bahrain

Dozens of Bahraini demonstrators have engaged in clashes with regime forces to express their strong opposition to death sentences and seven life terms handed down to a group of political dissidents.

The protesters took to the streets in the village of Eker, situated about 20 kilometers south of the capital, Manama, on Sunday night and threw Molotov cocktails and firecrackers at armored police vehicles. The marchers also set some tires on fire.

Earlier in the day, Bahrain’s Court of Cassation upheld three death sentences and seven life terms against 10 defendants after alleging that they had carried out a bomb attack west of Manama in March 2014, which killed an Emirati officer and two Bahraini policemen.

The same appeals court also adjourned to 12 December the trial of distinguished Shia cleric and opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, the secretary general of the country’s dissolved main opposition bloc al-Wefaq National Islamic Society.

Bahrain’s Supreme Court of Appeal increased Salman’s jail term to nine years from the original four on May 30.

The cleric was arrested in December 2014 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Manama regime and collaborating with foreign powers.

Sheikh Salman denies the charges, saying he has been seeking reforms in the country through peaceful means.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has repeatedly called on the Manama regime to release the 51-year-old cleric.

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the kingdom on February 14, 2011.

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

On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to Bahrain to assist the Manama government in its crackdown.

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


<div>Syria: Gov't Forces in Control of 65 Percent of Eastern Aleppo Now</div>

syria-gov-t-forces-in-control-of-65-percent-of-eastern-aleppo-nowPublished in: Middle East

Syrian Army soldiers and popular forces are now in control of some 65 percent of Eastern Aleppo territories after weeks of non-stop clashes against Jeish al-Fatah coalition of terrorist groups, Damascus said Monday.

The Syrian government's War Information Center, Elam al-Harbi, reported that government troops have liberated the entire neighborhoods in Northeastern Aleppo and captured a number of districts in the South-East, extending their rule over some 65 percent of entire Eastern Aleppo.

The army managed to win back the districts and neighborhoods of Hanano Housing Project, Jabal Badrou, Ard al-Hamra, al-Heidariyeh, Bostan al-Pasha, Sheikh Khedher, Shiekh Fares, al-Halak, al-Sakhour, Ba'eidin, al-Nazarat, Youth Housing Complex, Tariq al-Bab, Karam al-Tarab, Karam al-Jazmati, Karam al-Qaterji, Karam al-Maysar, Karam al-Tahan, several squares and key heights, the graveyard and residential units in recent weeks.

The army men continued their advances and opened their way into al-Sha'ar district this afternoon after laying a brief siege on the militants.

Field sources said that al-Sha'ar seems to fall to the army in coming hours help the government forces come closer to Aleppo Citadel and the old neighborhoods of the city.

Sources in militant-held districts of Eastern Aleppo disclosed on Monday that Jeish al-Fatah has arrested a large number of its militants after they attempted to escape their areas to surrender themselves to the government forces.

The sources said that after devastating advances of the Syrian army and popular forces in Eastern Aleppo, a large number of militants, who wanted to leave the city and surrender themselves to the government forces, have been captured by their commanders and hardliners of Jeish al-Fatah.

"Members of the Aleppo Command Council have arrested a number of Jeish al-Islam militants on charges of escaping war, but Jeish al-Islam's commander Soheib has managed to flee," they added.

The Aleppo Command Council also seized the field commander, Omar Qasoumeh who intended to surrender to the Syrian Army along with 150 of his troops.

Local sources had disclosed earlier that Jeish al-Fatah has dispatched a large number of those in its prisons, including the old Aleppo prison, to the frontline.


Why Saudi King Reshuffle Top Religious Authority?

why-saudi-king-reshuffle-top-religious-authorityPublished in: Saudi Arab

Saudi Arabia's King Salman in new royal decrees has made some changes to the country's Council of Senior Scholars, dismissing the conservative religious scholars and appointing new and close-to-the-ruling-family figures instead in a bid to pave his son Mohammed bin Salman way to gain further power and public support to press ahead with his social and economic reforms.

Although some say that King Salman's move followed a recent criticism directed by some of the Council’s members against government's cutting the public pays and increasing the costs of the social services, the essence of these changes stems from a will by the king to remove the current independent scholars and further statize this religious body.

One of the new members is Mohammad al-Isa, the former minister of justice and the former member of same council whom the liberals deem a moderate Wahhabist scholar and in favor of demands of reformist voices inside the royal family. Another newly-appointed member of the Council is the Minister of Islamic Affairs and former rector of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University Suleiman Aba al-Khail, who among the Saudi Twitter users is known to be a liberal figure. Last month, Aba al-Khail in a bitter reprimand said that some Saudi clerics "corrupted the youths' minds."

Although the new replacements give some messages about the nature of relations between the Saudi government and the Wahhabist clerics, and also about attempts that aim at pushing for the third generation of princes in the ruling family to rise to power, Council of Senior Scholars is still under sway of older conservatives like Sheikh Saleh bin Fawzan al-Fawzan as well as Saleh al-Luhaidan who once called for “execution of managers of corruption-promoting media.” After death of powerful and prominent Wahhabist scholars such as Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al ash-Sheikh, Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, and Muhammad ibn al Uthaimeen the ground was prepared for this religious body to become further dependent and state-controlled.

The Saudi government in past few years has opened the way of entry of more moderate scholars and presence of thinkers from other branches of Sunni faith into the Council of Senior Scholars. In fact, a look at the bonds between religious authority and the government in Saudi Arabia shows that since establishment of the Saudi government and the unity between Al Saud and Al Sheikh in 1744 Wahhabism has been less powerful in comparison to the government. In recent decades the government determined the duties of the Wahhabist scholars, practically bringing the Council under the government’s bureaucracy, and only in some specialized cases it enjoys relative independence. Actually, the view of Saudi princes to religion is in practice much affected by their instrumental and pragmatic attitude to it, and if conditions become appropriate for challenging the established scholars' power, the liberal princes will waste no time to do so.

It appears that this challenge against the religious establishment has become even more serious in the kingdom in the time of King Salman’s rule, especially that his son Mohammed will possibly ascend to throne after him. In fact, the view that rules mind of Prince Mohammed, his close circle, and a broad spectrum of young Saudi princes is the key issue that the Saudi government must be freed from the yoke of hurdles and traditional and tribal restrictions. According to the Western observers, this trend which eyes stronger relations with the US can push Wahhabism's back to the wall and consequently lead to emergence of an obedient Council of Senior Scholars which more has advisory than operational role.


Why Israel Trying Deepen its Influence over Eurasia?

why-israel-trying-deepen-its-influence-over-eurasiaPublished in: Articles

The Israeli regime not by use of weapons and hard force but by soft ways and smart tactics and with a consideration of the demands of the countries seeks getting a toehold in that Eurasian region to play as a key actor.

Eurasia's geopolitics

The Eurasia region covers a wide geographical area including Ukraine, Belarus, the areas between the Black Sea and Russia, Caucasus, Caspian Sea, Central Asia, and Mongolia. In categorization of the regions, Eurasia is a key region and its actors can play a decisive role in the international structure. The region was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Now it borders the Atlantic Ocean, West Asia, and the Pacific Ocean, with Russia standing as its key actor. In fact, the region is the defining identity of the Russian empire since the 17th century. And it is so when it comes to Russia’s Near Abroad in the present time. The Israeli regime, located in Asia, seeks close ties with the nations of Eurasia in a bid to deepen its influence over the region.

Capacities and the security-identity order

A simple explanation of the interests is the place of the material power and its reflections in the eyes of nations. The capacities determine an actor’s place and an actor’s vulnerability is well dependent to its place. Ideas, ideologies, and knowledge are closely connected to different types of power. So, the limits of the maneuvering capability of an actor are in direct relation with its place. Presence of the Israeli regime in Eurasia means that the Eurasian countries will have a new understanding of Tel Aviv as a result of close ties and cooperation with the regime. Beside meeting their needs and enjoying joint benefits, the Israeli leaders look forward to build their favorable order in Eurasia with the least possible costs to address their security goals.

Any order in the context of time highlights its specific values and introduces a system of rewarding and punishing. It, beside the favorable and specific goals and methods, develops the identity-based and value-based principles. The ultimate goal of any actor in the systematic and stable orders is securing the maximum degree of stability. To actualize this end, Tel Aviv needs boosting ties with the Asian countries from Greece to Turkmenistan. Having in mind that material and spiritual forces work to provide security as an outstanding product regardless of the characteristics of the actors, in an order in which the Israeli regime is the top actor and owns the hegemony the security will be accessible in its two aspects, namely in physical and identity aspects.

The causal necessities of cooperation

Presence of order in Eurasia requires going beyond the basic and principal needs. The shortage of natural resources of the Israeli regime makes Eurasian gas and oil attractive for Tel Aviv, and its technology-based industries make economic development, boosting ties with the world, and weathering the present-day challenges feasible. The Israeli political and economic potentials transformed Tel Aviv into a good model, a modernization catalyst, and a gate for expansion of relations with the West. On the other side, expanding ties with the Eurasian countries not only can change the balance of power in favor of the Israeli regime in its competition with Iran but also affects the operational and ideological areas of influence of the Islamic Republic.

Another drive for Tel Aviv to seek toehold in Eurasia is to prevent further Muslim countries from joining the opposite camp. This Israeli concern grew after Kazakhstan's government recognized the state of Palestine in January 1992, and its boost of ties with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the same year. The friendship associations and the Jewish Agency for Israel played a big role in holding and deepening the relations between Tel Aviv and Eurasia’s nations. The important and permanently considered point in the Israeli regime’s Eurasian diplomacy is trying to avoid provoking the key power Russia through two ways of diplomacy and trade.

Israeli regime and Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's advantages Such as large Muslim population, bordering Russia and Turkey, 7 billion barrel oil reserves and 85 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves, and being along the Asian transit route to Europe motivated the Israeli regime to seek influence in Azerbaijan. The Israeli instruments of presence in Azerbaijan include the active presence of the Jewish communities like Ashkenazi Jews, Sephardi Jews, and the Georgian Jews with the population of over 16,000 people. The Azeri independence was accompanied by a growing rise of Jewish and pro-Zionist institutions and organizations that aimed at supporting and restoring the Jewish culture in post-Soviet Azerbaijan. The new constitution of Azerbaijan took secularism and religious equality as its base, turning the country into a haven for the rich Jewish communities. Four years after opening embassy in the Azeri capital of Baku, Israeli regime's Benjamin Netanyahu met with the former Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev on August 29, 1997.

The following Israeli goals majorly pushed Tel Aviv to draw on its big financial capacities and seek cultural and political influence in the newly formed Republic of Azerbaijan: securing energy supply from Azerbaijan( Azerbaijan provides 20 percent of Israeli oil), gaining access to Caucasus market, spying on Iran, organizing the Jewish communities of Azerbaijan as the protectors of Israeli interests in Azerbaijan's economic, political, and cultural institutions, fighting a growing wave of Islam through painting Iran and Islamism as threats, attracting Azeri political and economic elites, arranging cultural events like tours to the occupied territories, and trying to display a model of ties with a Muslim country in a bid to encourage other Muslim states to recognize and start relations with Tel Aviv.

Israeli influence project in Central Asia

The Israeli regime started relations with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as two Central Asian states in different fields such as agriculture, agricultural irrigation systems, and the related technologies. Turkmenistan also began cooperation on developing educational technologies, agriculture, economy, healthcare services, and finance with the Israeli regime. Turkmenistan is geopolitically significant for Tel Aviv. There is a saying in Jerusalem (Al-Quds) which says “everybody can see Iran from his hotel room in Ashgabat.”

The prelude to the Israeli-Kazakh relations was joint projects for producing tomatoes and cotton. This prompted wider relations in a variety of dimensions between them. The Davi Foundation Project launched by the Israeli company named Lachish was the biggest initiative in agriculture and cattle breeding. Renewing Azerbaijan’s communication networks by Israeli companies was another field of cooperation between the two sides.

The Tel Aviv has tight security relations with Astana. The Israeli contract companies are aiming at modernizing Azerbaijan’s military infrastructures. The Israeli companies like Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israeli Military Industries, and aerospace institutions cover all Kazakhstan’s needs from military drones to communication technologies. The Israelis also developed civilian technologies like public healthcare, agriculture, and water resources management in Kazakhstan. In 2014, the two sides signed a deal for weapons sales, technology development, and joint military training. Kazakhstan provides a quarter of the Israeli oil needs. According to a 2009 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Israeli regime and Russia have been the key weapons suppliers of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Georgia.

Israeli regime and Russia

The Israeli leaders consider the ties with Moscow as being in their ideal status. According to an agreement signed by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Ariel Sharon in 2003, the Israeli regime became the gate of Russian oil transit in West Asia region. This involved Tel Aviv in the Russian and Caucasian energy policies. For the Israelis, Russia’s closeness to Iran and Syria does not pose risks to Tel Aviv’s interests, and they comfortably seek alluring the Russians into cooperation in fields other than energy.

Israeli regime in regional organizations

Attaining an observer status in the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation ( BSEC) not only can help Tel Aviv gain influence among the members of this regional economic organization but also adds to its economic capacities. Tel Aviv's attempts to join the Eurasian Economic Union are considerable that is a trading bloc founded in 2015 by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. After Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joining, Tajikistan is likely to be spurred to apply for membership of the Union. EAEU guarantees free exchange of commodities, capital, services, and manpower, and eyes convergent and united economic policies. Tel Aviv spares no effort to join the EAEU. Zio Alkaine, the head of the Joint Israeli-Russian Economic Commission, has said that negotiation between the EAEU and Tel Aviv for Israeli accession is becoming a top priority. He hoped that after two rounds of talks in 2016, Israeli regime will join this regional economic organization in 2018. With its high potentials in supplying capital, services, technology, and products, Tel Aviv will be able to boost trade with the five members, and undertake the proxy job of preparing the ground for Western influence through promoting the liberalist values in Eurasia.

Consequences of Israeli regime's Presence in Eurasia for Iran

Israeli presence in the neighborhood of Iran carries a message: Tel Aviv is accepted in the Eurasian region. The Israeli relations with Eurasian countries grant it new international capabilities. The consequences of this Israeli influence in Eurasia for Iran are as follows:

- Damaging Iran’s political and cultural relations with Eurasian countries

- Limiting activities of Iranian private and state firms in Eurasia

- Downsizing Iranian products' markets

- Improving Israeli spying capabilities by collecting data from the Iranian borders

- And posing security, cultural, and sectarian threats against Iran, beside provoking separatist approaches inside Iran, and pushing for religious conflicts in Iran