Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 23:20

25 drones, missiles fired at Saudi oil facilities:

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday displayed remnants of 25 drones and missiles it said were used in a crippling attack “unquestionably sponsored” by Tehran. Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told a news conference that the attacks were launched from Iran not Yemen.

”The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” he said, adding Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were used in addition to cruise missiles.

An investigation into where the attacks were launched from was still under way and the result would be announced at a later date, he said.

Proof of Iranian responsibility, and in particular firm evidence that it was launched from Iranian territory, could pressure Riyadh and Washington into a response. Both nations, however, were stressing the need for caution.

Trump has said he does not want war and is coordinating with Gulf and European states.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the strike was a “real test of the global will” to confront subversion of the international order.

His envoy to London, Prince Khalid bin Bander, told the BBC the attack was “almost certainly” Iranian-backed: “We’re trying not to react too quickly because the last thing we need is more conflict in the region.”

Iran dismissed the allegations. Iran again and again has denied involvement in the Sept. 14 raids, which hit the world’s biggest crude processing facility and initially knocked out half of Saudi output. Responsibility was claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.

Diplomats at the United Nations said experts were expected in the kingdom to lead an international inquiry.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has directly blamed Iran for the strikes, was due to hold talks Wednesday with Saudi leadership as he arrived in Jeddah to weigh with the US allies a response to the strike that roiled global energy markets.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who have claimed Saturday’s strikes, vowed meanwhile they had the means to hit “dozens of targets” in the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a phone call the kingdom wants an international investigation that would be seen as highly credible, the state news agency SPA reported.

President Donald Trump — who has already re-imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy — on Wednesday promised to “substantially increase” the measures, winning quick praise from Riyadh.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the administration has concluded that the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and that evidence would be presented at the UN General Assembly next week.

“They want to impose maximum … pressure on Iran through slander,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

“We don’t want conflict in the region … Who started the conflict?” he added, blaming Washington and its Gulf allies for the war in Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi movement, an ally of Iran battling a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition for more than four years, has claimed responsibility and said it used drones to assault state oil company Aramco’s sites.

The attack exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure and threw down a gauntlet to the United States, which wants to curb Tehran’s influence in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was to meet Prince Mohammed in Jeddah on Wednesday to discuss the crisis before heading to the United Arab Emirates.

U.N. officials monitoring sanctions on Iran and Yemen were also heading to Saudi Arabia to investigate.

Published in World

The death of Robert Gabriel Mugabe (95) saw another of the first-generation leaders of newly independent southern African states leave the world stage.

Southern Africa was the last region on the continent to obtain majority rule. The independence of Zimbabwe (1980), Namibia (1990) and democracy in South Africa (1994) ended white settler minority regimes. They were replaced in power by liberation movements. The Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu, later Zanu-PF), the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) and the African National Congress (ANC) have been in government since then.

Mugabe’s death invites a look at the succession – or lack of – in these three countries.

Despite the cultivation of heroic narratives and patriotic history, the first-generation freedom fighters who took over the state offices are not immortal. Mugabe’s male-dominated leadership structures based on liberation struggle credentials remain entrenched.

In all three countries a second struggle generation is gradually entering the higher echelons of party and state. But the “born free” – people who were born after liberation – as well as women have hardly made significant inroads into the meritocratic, male-dominated core structures of power.

The question is how much longer the “old men syndrome” will remain alive and kicking in the three countries, despite growing frustration among the politically powerless.

Zimbabwe

Celebrated by many as an icon of the anti-colonial struggle, Mugabe was nevertheless an autocratic ruler who overstayed his time in office. The military finally replaced him with his longtime confidante Emmerson Mnangagwa in a soft coup in November 2017.

Mnangagwa’s sidelining was initiated by Mugabe’s younger wife Grace (born in 1965, she was 40 years his junior) to hijack the succession of her husband. She led a group of Zanu-PF members, dubbed the G40 (for Generation 40). The name referred to a constitutional clause that everyone above the age of 40 qualified as a presidential candidate. But, the military and security apparatus and its leadership was still firmly rooted in the struggle generation and opted for “Team Lacoste” named after “the Crocodile”, which is Mnangagwa’s nickname.

This ended the political careers of the G40. So far, the “elders” remain in charge and in firm control.

Morgan Tsvangirai (born 1952) founded the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai in 1999. The opposition party has been denied electoral victory several times since 2002.

After Tsvangirai’s death earlier this year the much younger Nelson Chamisa (born in 1978) won the internal party power struggle. He challenged Mnangagwa in the elections in July last year.

Thanks mainly to rural area results, Zanu-PF recorded a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections. Mnangagwa also secured a (disputed) and much more narrow first term in office as elected head of state.

This is partly due to a continued stricter social control in rural areas. Political interaction and activities in villages can be much more easily monitored than in urban areas. But it also suggests that traditional values – such as respect for elders – remain alive. This gives the generation in power a comparative advantage over younger competitors.

Similar generational constellations also benefited the governing parties in Namibia and South Africa.

Namibia

Namibia has had three state presidents since independence in 1990. Sam Nujoma, co-founder of Swapo in 1960, was its president until 2007 and the country’s first head of state for three terms until 2005. In May he celebrated his 90th birthday in seemingly good health. Though he remains influential, he has been less visible lately.

In a heavy-handed inner-party battle he ensured that his crown prince Hifikepunye Pohamba (born 1936) followed for two terms. Pohamba was succeeded by Namibia’s first Prime Minister Hage Geingob (born 1941).

After a clash with Nujoma, Geingob left Namibia to head the Global Coalition for Africa in Washington. Returning to Namibia’s parliament, he made a comeback under Pohamba. Reappointed as Prime Minister in 2012, he became state president in 2015 and party leader in 2017.

Geingob is tipped to be reelected as head of state for another five-year term in the next presidential and parliamentary elections in November. His current Vice President Nangolo Mbumba is the same age. In the Swapo electoral college on 7 September he secured another top ranking on the party’s candidate list for the National Assembly and will remain in the inner circle of “Team Hage”.

Five years ago the delegates, in a surprise move, ousted some of the old party cadres. But the elders remained dominant in cabinet. This time the expected further generational shift did not happen.

Party president Geingob could also fill ten secure seats on the electoral list and brought some of those seniors back, who did not make the cut. As the head of state he can appoint another eight non-voting members to parliament. This will allow him to retain several more of the trusted old cadres.

Despite this, Namibia’s second struggle generation (those who went into exile in the mid-1970s) is gradually taking over.

South Africa

Nelson Mandela,(1918-2013) served only one term as state president. His successors Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma (both born 1942) were recalled by the ANC and did not survive the full two terms in office.

Zuma was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa. Born in 1952, he is ten years younger than his predecessor.

Inter-generational tensions have begun to show in South Africa. In the latest national elections young South Africans, or “born frees”, showed their disdain for the ANC’s old guard and agenda by staying away from the polls as a form of protest.

This younger generation has shown its frustration with the limits to liberation. Many dismiss formal politics. Their preference is to engage in social movements or other parties.


Read more: Study shows young South Africans have no faith in democracy and politicians


One such choice is to support Julius Malema (born 1981) and his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which was founded in 2013 and appeals to a smaller pan-African segment of the younger generation. But the party’s election results remained behind its expectations and kept it in a distant third place, garnering only 10,80% in the latest polls.

The future

For obvious reasons, the first-generation freedom fighters, who took over the state offices after liberation, continue to place a high value on seniority in age.

Younger generations of leaders and women make only limited inroads into the structures of power, and the “born free” are not represented.

Rather, the second struggle generation is moving upward to take over, maintaining a system which leaves little room for renewal beyond the confines of individual credentials within the ranks of the former liberation movements.

The continued cultivation of a heroic narrative and patriotic history includes the internalised conception that freedom fighters never retire. Theirs is a lifelong struggle. “A luta continua” remains alive as long as they are.

But this is a backward looking perspective, nurtured by a romanticised past. It blocks new ideas and visions by younger generations contributing to governance, which would create ownership and make them feel represented. It prevents rather than creating a common future.The Conversation

 

Henning Melber, Extraordinary Professor, Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis

The United States believes the attacks that crippled Saudi Arabian oil facilities last weekend originated in southwestern Iran, a U.S. official told News men on Tuesday, an assessment that further increases tension in the Middle East.

News reported that three unidentified US officials said the attacks involved both cruise missiles and drones, indicating that they involved a higher degree of complexity and sophistication than initially thought.

The officials did not provide evidence or explain what U.S. intelligence they were using for the evaluations. Such intelligence, if shared publicly, could further pressure Washington, Riyadh and others to respond, perhaps even militarily.

Iran denies involvement in the strikes. Iran’s allies in Yemen’s civil war, the Houthi movement, claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Houthis say they struck the plants with drones, some of which were powered by jet engines.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said it looked as if Iran – which has a long history of friction with neighbor Saudi Arabia – was behind the attacks.

But in a sign that U.S. allies remain unconvinced, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was unsure if anyone had any evidence to say whether drones “came from one place or another.”

Saudi Arabia sought to reassure markets after the attack on Saturday halved oil output, saying on Tuesday that full production would be restored by month’s end.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ruled out talks with the United States unless the Trump administration returns to the nuclear accord between Iran and the West that the United States abandoned last year.

“Iranian officials, at any level, will never talk to American officials … this is part of their policy to put pressure on Iran,” Iranian state TV quoted him as saying.

Trump on Tuesday said he is not looking to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a U.N. event in New York this month.

U.S.-Iran relations deteriorated after Trump quit the nuclear pact and reimposed sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic programmes, severely hurting the Iranian economy. Trump also wants Iran to stop supporting regional proxies, including Yemen’s Houthis.

Iran’s clerical rulers openly support the Houthis, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, but Tehran denies that it actively supports the Yemeni group with military and financial support.

Despite years of air strikes against them, the Houthi militia boasts drones and missiles able to reach deep into Saudi Arabia, the result of an armament campaign pursued and expanded energetically since Yemen’s war began four years ago.

Strains between Washington and Tehran have risen more in recent months after attacks on tankers in the Gulf that the United States blames on Tehran, and Iran’s downing of a U.S. military drone that prompted preparations for a retaliatory air strike that Trump says he called off at the last minute.

SAUDI DOUBTS
Saudi Arabia has asked international experts to join its investigation, which indicates the attacks did not come from Yemen, the Saudi foreign ministry said.

One of the three U.S. officials expressed confidence that Saudi Arabia’s collection of materials following the attacks would yield “compelling forensic evidence … that will point to where this attack came from.”

A U.S. team is helping Saudi Arabia evaluate evidence from the attacks, which hit crucial facilities of Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco in Abqaiq and Khurais and initially cut Saudi oil production in half.

The Saudi energy minister said on Tuesday that the kingdom will achieve 11 million barrels per day (bpd) capacity by the end of September.

Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman also told a news conference that the world’s top oil exporter would keep full oil supplies to customers this month.

He said Saudi Arabia would keep its role as the secure supplier of global oil markets, adding that the kingdom needed to take strict measures to prevent further attacks, which exposed the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the broader global economy.

Oil prices fell 5% after the news that Saudi production is back, having surged more than 20% at one point on Monday – the biggest intra-day jump since the 1990-91 Gulf crisis over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

A day after warning that the United States was “locked and loaded” to respond to the Saudi incident, Trump dialed down his rhetoric, saying on Monday there was “no rush” to do so and that Washington was coordinating with Gulf Arab and European states.

Published in World

Ansu Fati is set to become Barça’s youngest Champions League debutant in the club’s history.

Ansu Fati who turned 16 years and 321 days today was included in Barcelona squad to face Borrusia Dortmund on Tuesday Night.

The young lad has proved himself worthy of every opportunity he received at Barcelona.

It took him just two minutes to put his name on the scoresheet against Valencia at the weekend. He also provided assist six minutes later to put Barca in a strong position.

Fati now looks forward to a brighter side of football in the UEFA Champions League, as he was named by coach Ernesto Valverde on Barca’s list.

Published in World
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 07:31

Netanyahu’s election gamble backfires

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in a battle for political survival after exit polls following Tuesday’s election showed the race too close to call and the Israeli leader’s decade-long grip on power slipping.

Netanyahu’s main election challenger, centrist Benny Gantz, said on Wednesday it appeared from the exit polls that Israel’s longest-serving leader was defeated but that only official results would tell.

In his own speech to right-wing Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, sipping water frequently and speaking in a hoarse voice, made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he was awaiting a vote tally.

Netanyahu’s appearance in the dead of night at Likud election headquarters was a far cry from his triumphant declaration five months ago that he had won a close election. His failure to form a government after the April ballot led to the new election on Tuesday.

Gantz, a former armed forces chief, beamed with confidence as he told a rally of his Blue and White Party that it appeared “we fulfilled our mission”, and he pledged to work towards formation of a unity government.

Netanyahu, he said, apparently “did not succeed in his mission” to win a fifth term.

“We will await the actual results,” Gantz, 60, said.

The final election results can take more than a week, but partial results are published by the Knesset as the vote-counting proceeds, so a clearer picture will likely emerge within a day before the final tally.

By 6 a.m. about a quarter of the votes had been counted.

Revised surveys by Israeli TV stations, several hours after polls closed, gave Likud 30 to 33 of parliament’s 120 seats, a slight drop from earlier forecasts, versus 32 to 34 for Blue and White.

Neither had enough support, at first glance, for a governing coalition of 61 legislators, and Netanyahu’s ally-turned-rival, former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party.

The updated polls showed that without Yisrael Beitenu’s projected eight to nine seats, stalemate could ensue: Likud would have the support of only up to 55 legislators, down from 57 in the earlier exit polls, for a right-wing coalition. Blue and White could enlist the backing of no more than 59 for a centre-left government.

Netanyahu, who highlighted his close relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump during the campaign, said in his 3 a.m. speech at Likud election headquarters in Tel Aviv that he intended to establish a “strong Zionist government” that would reflect the views of “many of the nation’s people”.

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz speaks at the party’s headquarters following the announcement of exit polls during Israel’s parliamentary election in Tel Aviv, Israel September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Corinna Kern
His description of a future administration appeared to open the way for Jewish parties not part of his current government to join.

It also seemed to be a swipe at Gantz, and the possibility that Netanyahu’s rival might try for a governing coalition with the tacit support of an Arab party, which many right-wingers see as disloyal to Israel.

The Joint Arab List made a strong showing in Tuesday’s election and was projected to capture 13 to 15 seats in the legislature, compared with 10 won by various Arab factions in April’s election.

Coalition-building could be complicated: Lieberman has said he would not join an alliance that included ultra-Orthodox parties – Netanyahu’s traditional allies. Lieberman ran on a platform largely focused on weakening the influence that religious parties have on everyday life in Israel.

Gantz has ruled out participating in an administration with Netanyahu, if the Israeli leader is indicted on looming corruption charges.

CORRUPTION CHARGES
Dubbed “King Bibi” by his supporters, Netanyahu, 69, had already been stung by the April poll.

Three corruption investigations and the Israeli attorney general’s announced intention to charge him with fraud and bribery have also chipped away at Netanyahu’s seeming invincibility, 10 years into consecutive terms as prime minister marked by a sharp focus on security that resonated with voters.

Netanyahu, who can argue at a pre-trial hearing in October against indictment, has denied any wrongdoing.

An election loss could leave him more at risk of prosecution in the graft cases, without the shield of parliamentary immunity that his current political allies had promised to seek for him.

“Unless that miraculous turnabout between the exit polls and the actual results happens – the Netanyahu magic has been broken,” Anshel Pfeffer, author of a Netanyahu biography, wrote in the left-wing Haaretz daily.

Campaigns run by Likud and Blue and White pointed to only narrow differences on many important issues: the regional struggle against Iran, the Palestinian conflict, relations with the United States and the economy.

An end to the Netanyahu era would be unlikely to bring about a significant change in policy on hotly disputed issues in the peace process with the Palestinians that collapsed five years ago.

Before the last election, Trump gave Netanyahu a lift with U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. This time, the White House seems more preoccupied with Iran.

The Trump administration plans soon to release an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that may prove a dead letter: The Palestinians have rejected it in advance as biased.

In what was widely seen as a bid to draw votes away from ultranationalist parties, Netanyahu last week announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians seek statehood.

But Blue and White, while vowing to pursue peace, has also said it would strengthen Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank, with the Jordan Valley as Israel’s “eastern security border”.

In Gaza, Palestinians awaited the results of the vote.

“This election affects many things in our life,” said Mohamad Abdul Hay Hasaneen, a janitor in the city of Khan Younis. “There might be limited escalations after the election, but I don’t think this would result in a full war.”

Published in World

The Huawei Mate 30 Pro looks set to boast a truck load of features – from a supercharged quadruple-camera set-up, support for 5G networks, an all-screen design with improved facial recognition... the list goes on.

But one thing that will not be coming to the Mate 30 Pro is support for Google apps.

Google has confirmed the next-generation Huawei Mate will not be able to launch with any Google applications or services, which means no Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Hangouts, and even no Google Play Store to install third-party apps like SnapChat, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, as well as buy eBooks, films and music tracks and other media.

The access to Google services has been restricted due to the ongoing US trade ban on Huawei. The Shenzhen-based company will still be able to use Android on its devices, since the mobile operating system is open-source at its core. However, Google-owned apps and services that are separate from the OS will be restricted.

Huawei has been granted a three-month extension from the United States Commerce Department that runs out on November 19, 2019 to enable it to "provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019."

However, this only applies to smartphones that were already available when the ban came into effect earlier this year. This means Huawei will be able to bring Android 10 features to the Huawei P30, Huawei P30 Pro, and numerous others, but will not be able to do the same on the foldable Huawei Mate X, or the Huawei Mate 30 series.

Of course, that won't trouble customers in China, which hasn't had access to the Google Play Store for years as the Californian company does not operate its services within the country. As such, there are hundreds of competing app stores – each with a widely different selection of apps and services available.

But it could seriously damage sales in the UK and Europe, where the Mate 30 series will be competing with the likes of the OnePlus 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, and a host of other Android flagship phones that have access to the Google Play Store and all of the apps listed above. It seems unlikely that customers – no matter how much they love Huawei software, industry-leading camera features, and industrial design – will be willing to forgo the likes of WhatsApp, SnapChat, Netflix, Amazon, Google Maps, Prime Video, and more.

That's why Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu has confirmed plans to include a workaround to let customers install their favourite Google services and apps on the handset.

In response to a question about whether the company would include safeguards to stop users installing Google apps onto the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro by other means than the Play Store, Richard Yu said the process would be "quite easy for users", noting that Android's open-source nature allows "a lot of possibilities".

Of course, whether customers will be suitably wooed by the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro hardware to put-up with the colossal faff of installing Android apps without the ease of the Google Play Store remains to be seen.

There's also security concerns with encouraging users to side-load software onto Android as this leaves the handset open to malware. We've already seen Cyber-criminals take advantage of the popularity of Fortnite, which is not available from the Play Store and needs to be side-loaded, to serve players with malware.

 

Credit: T3

Published in Telecoms
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