U.N. goes stealth to help rebuild ISIS-ravaged Iraq

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U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are close to tearing the city of Mosul out of ISIS’ stranglehold. Once they do, the sprawling city will join dozens of other towns and villages that need to be rebuilt virtually from the ground up. A vast swath of northern Iraq is reeling from violence and destruction that has forced almost 900,000 people to flee their homes in the last year alone.

Efforts to bring those Iraqis back home are robust — and unique; the United Nations has more than 800 stabilization efforts underway across the country — work the U.N. has done in many countries following many conflicts. But this time, the work is aimed at building confidence in local governance as much as it is at rebuilding Iraq’s shattered infrastructure.

U.N. equipment and supplies are not stamped with the instantly-recognizable blue globe insignia, and local Iraqi contractors are carrying out the work in the name of the Iraqi government, rather than foreign contractors. The U.N.’s new strategy is designed to minimize the promotion of its own work, and to instead quietly facilitate a “for the country, by the country” reconstruction.

CBS News

Election over, Iran’s attention turns to supreme leader’s post

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Tehran: After Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s re-election, talk in Iran has turned to the future of an even larger political figure: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Although the topic is taboo in Iran, the question of who will succeed Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 77 and ailing, loomed over the May 19 election. Dr Rouhani, a relative moderate, won 57 per cent of the vote in a four-man field, demonstrating strong public support for his policies of economic pragmatism, international engagement and expanding social freedoms.

But in Iran’s theocracy, one vote matters most: the supreme leader’s.

Ayatollah Khamenei and the hard-line “principlist” faction that is close to him have indicated impatience with Dr Rouhani’s economic policies and outreach to the West – especially the 2015 nuclear agreement.

The Sydney Morning Herald

How Iran Is Transforming Its Aviation Industry With Multi-Billion Dollar Orders For Hundreds Of Jets

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In the space of 18 months, Iran has set about what amounts to a complete overhaul of its aviation sector. Since most international sanctions were lifted on the country in January 2016, its airlines have placed orders for more than 300 new aircraft and options for a further 50 planes.

To put that in context, these orders are twice as large as the entire fleet of planes currently being flown by the country’s 17 commercial airlines.

Until sanctions were eased early last year, Iranian airlines had found it impossible to buy new aircraft or spare parts and they were often forced to cannibalize some planes to keep others in the air. Although they theoretically had a fleet of 250 planes, around 100 of them were sidelined, having broken down or been stripped for parts, meaning only 150 were taking off and landing on a regular basis.

The main beneficiary from the spending spree to date has been Europe’s Airbus, which has attracted a mix of firm orders and memorandums of understanding for 173 aircraft. Its chief rival Boeing has accrued orders and options for 140 planes, while the smaller European turboprop-maker ATR has attracted orders and options for 40 aircraft.

Forbes

Iran accuses US of ‘brazen’ plan to change its government

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Iran’s envoy to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo speaks during a Security Council meeting after a vote on the Iran resolution at the UN headquarters in New York on July 20, 2015. The UN Security Council on July 20, unanimously adopted a resolution that will clear a path for international sanctions crippling Iran’s economy to be lifted. On condition that Iran respects the agreement to the letter, seven UN resolutions passed since 2006 to sanction Iran will be gradually terminated, according to the text.

Iran is accusing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of “a brazen interventionist plan” to change the current government that violates international law and the U.N. Charter.

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Tuesday that Tillerson’s comments are also “a flagrant violation” of the 1981 Algiers Accords in which the United States pledged “not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran’s internal affairs.”

Tillerson said in a June 14 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the 2018 State Department budget that U.S. policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons “and work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”

“Those elements are there, certainly as we know,” he said.

CNBC

Yemen soldiers killed in suspected Qaeda attack: army

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SANAA: Three Yemeni soldiers were killed Wednesday when suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen opened fire on a military zone in the country’s Hadramawt province, a military source said.

“Three soldiers were killed in the attack on the first military zone in the Al-Qoton district, and the gunmen managed to get away,” the source said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to brief the press.

“We suspect the gunmen belong to Al-Qaeda,” the source added.

Al-Qaeda has flourished in Yemen as the country’s civil conflict shows no sign of waning.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) extremists remain active in the vast region of Hadramawt, where a number of the group’s leaders are based.

Business Recorder

Yemen: ‘World’s worst cholera outbreak’ mapped

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War-torn Yemen is facing the “world’s worst cholera outbreak”, the United Nations declared this month.

According to the latest figures, more than 1,300 people have died since late April from the highly contagious bacterial infection, which can kill within hours if left untreated.

There are more than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera in the country and on average 5,000 new cases are recorded a day.

The UN has placed blame for the outbreak on all sides in the country’s ongoing conflict.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and backing Yemen’s UN-recognised government.

Two years of conflict have killed more than 10,000 people, wounded tens of thousands and displaced millions.

Al Jazeera

Saudi, Qatar ministers spar over Arab nations’ demands

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends a news conference in Moscow

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that there would be no negotiations over demands by the kingdom and other Arab states for Qatar to stop supporting terrorism.

Doha retorted that the allegations against it and demands were baseless and unacceptable. Qatar has previously also said the demands were aimed at curbing its sovereignty.

Asked by reporters on a visit to Washington if the demands were non-negotiable, Saudi’s Jubeir said: “Yes.”

“We made our point, we took our steps and it’s up to the Qataris to amend their behavior and once they do things will be worked out but if they don’t they will remain isolated,” Jubeir said.

If Qatar wanted to return to the Gulf Cooperation Council fold, “they know what they have to do,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar three weeks ago, accusing it of backing militants – then issued an ultimatum, including demands it shut down a Turkish military base in Doha, shutting the Al Jazeera TV channel and curbing ties with Iran.

Reuters

‘THE NEXT WAR WILL BE BLOODY’: A TRIP ALONG ISRAEL’S TENSE NORTHERN BORDER

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Israel’s northernmost village of Metulla with a population of close to 2,000 people sits on the Lebanese border and despite the ever-present risk of conflict with Hezbollah the community continues to grow. Metulla is one of the communities that is expected to be evacuated in the event of a war between Israel and the Shiite Lebanese terror group.

“The next war will be pretty bloody for both sides. Israel will evacuate its population and I suggest the Lebanese do the same,” Lt. Col. (Res.) Sarit Zehavi, the head of Alma, an organization that gives briefings on Israel’s security challenges on the northern border told The Jerusalem Post. As Lebanese worked a field in the distance, and tractors waddled down the streets of Metulla, the situation seemed quiet, but threats overshadow the border.

Israel has never carried out a mandatory evacuation of any community since the founding of the state but in addition to the threat posed by Hezbollah’s stockpile of more than 100,000 rockets, the IDF is now concerned about the very real possibility of ground attacks by the terror group against Israeli civilian communities in border communities.

The Jerusalem Post

Hamas to create buffer zone with Egypt to improve ties

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Hamas says bulldozers in Gaza are creating a 100-meter-wide (330-foot) buffer zone along the Egyptian border as part of the Islamic militant group’s efforts to combat extremists and improve ties with Cairo.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said Wednesday the creation of a 12-kilometer-long (7.5-mile) corridor was agreed upon in recent face-to-face negotiations with Egyptian officials. It expressed hope that Egypt would reopen the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a regular basis once the buffer zone is complete.

Egypt has long accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers of aiding an insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula, allegations denied by Hamas. Egypt and Israel have imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power in 2007.

The Washington Post

Egypt army: 12 vehicles destroyed crossing from Libya

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Egypt’s military says its air force destroyed 12 vehicles loaded with weapons, ammunitions and explosives, after receiving intelligence that “criminal elements” were attempting to cross the western border with Libya.

The military said, in a statement on Tuesday, that air force planes had set out to explore the border area and took more than 12 hours to track and deal with, what it described as “hostile targets.” The statement didn’t disclose exactly when the strikes had taken place.

In late May, Egyptian fighter jets launched airstrikes on what the military said were militant training bases in eastern Libya, in response to an earlier attack on Egyptian Coptic Christians traveling to a remote desert monastery south of Cairo.

That attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, killed 29 Copts

The Washington Post