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Saudi woman arrested for ‘immodest’ miniskirt video

A Saudi woman has been arrested for a video that was widely shared online which showed her strolling along an empty street wearing a skirt and crop top, Saudi state TV channel Ekhbariya reported on Tuesday.

The clip had incensed some social media users in the conservative Muslim kingdom who vented their anger using the hashtag “Model Khulood must be tried” — a reference to what they said was the woman’s Snapchat name.

Many of those critics shared images of the video with her bare legs and midriff blurred out or painted over.

In the video, the unidentified woman walks alone through a street flanked by mud-brick walls, in what users identified as Ushaiqir, a heritage village and day-trip destination outside the capital Riyadh.

“Riyadh police have detained the woman who appeared in indecent clothing in Ushaiqir and referred her to the public prosecutor,” Ekhbariya said on its official Twitter account, including the popular hashtag.

Home to Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the kingdom cleaves to a strict interpretation of Islam and requires Saudi women to wear conservative dress and bans them from driving.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Saudi-woman-arrested-for-immodest-dress-500071

Saudi-led air strikes kill at least 20 Yemeni civilians

DUBAI – At least 20 Yemeni civilians were killed and many others were wounded when a Saudi-led coalition air strike hit a village in the south, officials from the armed Houthi movement and the government said on Wednesday.

The UN said the victims of Tuesday’s bombing, which hit al-Atera village in Taiz province where fighting between Yemen’s two warring sides has intensified, were internally displaced people (IDPs).

Yemen’s internationally recognized government confirmed that around 20 people were killed, including women and children. It gave no further details on the attack.

Yemen’s human rights minister, Mohammed Askar, called for a government investigation into what he described as an “unfortunate incident.” while Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam condemned it as a “monstrous crime.”

Shabia Mantoo, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman in Yemen, said most of those killed were believed to be from the same family.

Government forces backed by the coalition have been fighting to seize a major military base in the area for several months. The Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Iran-allied Houthis after they overran the capital Sanaa.

Tuesday’s attack was the latest in a series of coalition bombings that have hit schools, hospitals, markets and private homes across northern Yemen.

The impoverished Arab country has been devastated by the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and sparked a cholera outbreak among 300,000 people.

Thousands of people have been displaced and more than a million people have been forced to flee their homes nationwide, according to the UN.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Saudi-led-air-strikes-kill-at-least-20-Yemeni-civilians-500129

US targets Iran with new sanctions over missile program

The United States slapped new economic sanctions against Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any “positive contributions” coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

The measures signaled that the administration of President Donald Trump was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place an agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions.

The US government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what is said was “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.” Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, it said. Others had “orchestrated the theft of US and Western software programs” sold to Iran’s government, the Treasury Department said.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity,” the State Department said in a statement.

It said the activities “undercut whatever ‘positive contributions’ to regional and international peace and security were intended to emerge” from the nuclear agreement.

On Monday, the Trump administration said Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement but it was also in default of the spirit of the accord and Washington would look for ways to strengthen it.

It was the second time Trump certified Iranian compliance with the agreement since he took office in January, despite having described it as “the worst deal ever” during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing then-President Barack Obama whose administration negotiated the accord.

“Even as we continue to work to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, we cannot look away while Iran threatens our country and our allies in ways beyond their nuclear threat,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday.

‘POISON THE ATMOSPHERE’

The statement listed Iranian support for groups including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas movement, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iran condemned Washington’s sanctions announcement as “contemptible and worthless.” Iran “will reciprocate the move by imposing sanctions on a number of American natural and legal persons who have taken steps against the Iranian people and other Muslim nations in the region,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS News the sanctions “poison the atmosphere” and violate the “spirit” of the nuclear agreement.

“We will look at it and see whether it violates the letter of the deal. And we will act accordingly,” he said.

The Trump administration is reviewing policy on Iran, not only looking at Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal but also its behavior in the region which Washington says undermines US interests in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Trump’s reservations about the nuclear deal held up the White House’s announcement on compliance, a US official said. In the end, Trump agreed reluctantly to recertify the agreement after being advised repeatedly by his top national security aides to do so, another senior US official said.

Behind the scenes, advisers argued that there was no alternative but to recertify the deal for now because the past sanctions regime the United States had with European allies against Iran is no longer in place and unilateral sanctions are not as effective as multilateral ones.

The State Department also called on the Iranian government to release US citizens Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang and other “unjustly detained US citizens” and said it was deeply concerned about reports of their declining health.

“Iran should immediately release all of these US citizens on humanitarian grounds,” the State Department said.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/ISIS-Threat/US-targets-Iran-with-new-sanctions-over-missile-program-500061

Lebanese PM says army to carry out operation at Syrian border

BEIRUT – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Tuesday the army would carry out an operation in an area of the border with Syria that has been a base of operations for militants including jihadist groups.

Speaking in parliament, Hariri described the operation planned for the Juroud Arsal area as carefully studied, the National News Agency reported. The government had given the army the “freedom” to act, he added.

Juroud Arsal, a barren area in the mountains between Syria and Lebanon, has been a base of operations for insurgents fighting in the Syrian civil war, including jihadists from Islamic State and the group formerly known as the Nusra Front.

Rights group Amnesty International urged the army not to use excessive force in the operation in an area where many Syrian refugees live in crowded camps.

Speculation has been building that the powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah and the Syrian military are set to mount a major operation against the insurgents on the Syrian side of the frontier.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said time was running out for Syrian militants along the border near Arsal to reach deals with Syrian authorities, saying it was “high time to end the threat of militant groups in Arsal.”

Hariri however said “there is no coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian armies.”

A security source said the Lebanese army, a recipient of US and British military aid, had increased its deployment in the Arsal area in the last 24 hours.

The source said the militants in the Juroud Arsal area were estimated to number around 3,000, two-thirds of them belonging to Islamic State or the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, and the remainder members of other rebel groups.

The Arsal area is home to thousands of Syrian refugees who were recently caught up in raids on camps as security forces searched for militants.

Hariri said in a statement later on Tuesday that the army was separately investigating the “deaths of Syrians in Arsal,” an apparent reference to the deaths in army custody of several Syrians earlier this month.

In 2014, the Arsal area was the scene of one of the most serious spillovers of the Syrian war into Lebanon, when jihadists briefly overran the town of Arsal.

The Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah has provided Syrian President Bashar Assad with crucial military support in the war, a role that has drawn heavy criticism from its Lebanese opponents including Hariri.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Lebanese-PM-says-army-to-carry-out-operation-at-Syrian-border-500068

Saudi woman arrested for ‘immodest’ dress

A Saudi woman has been arrested for a video that was widely shared online which showed her strolling along an empty street wearing a skirt and crop top, Saudi state TV channel Ekhbariya reported on Tuesday.

The clip had incensed some social media users in the conservative Muslim kingdom who vented their anger using the hashtag “Model Khulood must be tried” — a reference to what they said was the woman’s Snapchat name.

Many of those critics shared images of the video with her bare legs and midriff blurred out or painted over.

In the video, the unidentified woman walks alone through a street flanked by mud-brick walls, in what users identified as Ushaiqir, a heritage village and day-trip destination outside the capital Riyadh.

“Riyadh police have detained the woman who appeared in indecent clothing in Ushaiqir and referred her to the public prosecutor,” Ekhbariya said on its official Twitter account, including the popular hashtag.

Home to Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the kingdom cleaves to a strict interpretation of Islam and requires Saudi women to wear conservative dress and bans them from driving.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Saudi-woman-arrested-for-immodest-dress-500071

Trump: Iran complying with nuclear deal but remains dangerous threat

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, but warned that Tehran was in default of the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it.

It was the second time Trump certified Iranian compliance with the agreement since he took office in January, despite criticizing it during the 2016 campaign as “the worst deal ever.”

Trump administration officials, briefing reporters on Monday on the decision, said new economic sanctions against Iran were being prepared over its ballistic missile program and for contributing to regional tensions.

Under US law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump had faced a congressionally mandated deadline of Monday to decide.

A senior administration official said Iran was judged in compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal but that Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believed Iran “remains one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. interests and to regional stability.”

The official ticked off a list of accusations about Iranian behavior in the region, including ballistic missile development and proliferation, support for terrorism and militancy, complicity in atrocities committed in Syria and threats to Gulf waterways.

“The president and the secretary of state judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent of the JCPOA, which was to contribute to regional and international peace and security. As a result, the president, the secretary of state and the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA,” the official said.

Trump calls for peace in the region, tougher line against Iran (credit: REUTERS)

‘TOTALITY OF BEHAVIOR’

The landmark deal struck with Iran by the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany is aimed at preventing Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon by imposing time-limited restrictions and strict international monitoring on its nuclear program. In return, Tehran won relief from punishing international economic sanctions.

Iran denies seeking nuclear arms. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, concluded in December 2015, however, that Iran worked on the design of a missile-borne nuclear warhead until 2009.

While lifting nuclear-linked sanctions, the United States maintains sanctions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program, human rights record and what Washington charges is its support for international terrorism.

The senior administration official said the Trump administration intended to employ a strategy that would “address the totality of Iran’s malign behavior” and not just focus on the Iran nuclear agreement.

The administration is also looking at ways to strengthen the nuclear deal and more strictly enforce it, the official said, citing concerns that the deal over time would let Iran openly pursue industrial-scale nuclear fuel enrichment.

“We’re in a period where we’re going to be working with our allies to explore options for addressing the JCPOA’s flaws, which there are many,” the official said.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Trump-Iran-complying-with-nuclear-deal-but-remains-dangerous-threat-500010

British budget hotel chain to expand into Iran

LONDON – Britain’s easyHotel has reached an agreement with developers to open more than 500 rooms in Iran, joining other foreign chains that have moved into the country since the lifting of sanctions.

The budget chain, which was launched by easyJet (EZJ.L) founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou in 2004, now operates in Britain, six other European countries and the United Arab Emirates.

“There are a number of hotel companies that are looking to expand into Iran. We’re looking to develop in the Middle East, and it made sense for us to take this opportunity,” easyHotel Chief Executive Guy Parsons told Reuters.

Other chains to have moved into Iran since the lifting of sanctions include France’s Accor (ACCP.PA), Spain’s Melia Hotels International (MEL.MC) and several hotel companies based in the Gulf.

“We’re comfortable that now is the right time to go … But we’re going to keep monitoring the situation and discussing it with the franchisee and developer in Iran,” he said.

Relations between Iran and Britain have often been fraught though there has been a gradual improvement in recent years, helped by Iran’s nuclear deal with major world powers that led to international economic sanctions being lifted in 2016.

Iranian protesters stormed the British embassy in 2011, prompting London to expel Iranian diplomats, and the countries only resumed diplomatic relations in 2014.

Iran is the 33rd largest tourism market in the world, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, and the government hopes to attract 20 million tourists a year by 2025.

Parsons said easyHotel in Iran would be managed by a franchisee, meaning much of the running of the hotels would be subcontracted to local staff, allowing the firm to expand without risking direct capital investment.

He also said most of its customers would probably be “Iranians in Iran” and the company was not necessarily targeting a large growth in travel from Europe or Britain.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/British-budget-hotel-chain-to-expand-into-Iran-500032

US, Russia tout Israel’s security needs amid concerns of Iran in Syria

Both the US and Russia said on Monday that they understand Israel’s concerns about a future Iranian presence in Syria, as Israeli officials spoke about the possibility that Israel might need to take military action to prevent Tehran from setting up permanent bases, ports and arms factories in Syria and Lebanon.

The threats came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Paris that Israel was opposed to a cease-fire for southwestern Syria brokered by the US and Russia earlier this month, because it would allow a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, a distance of 20 kilometers from Israel’s border.

The Trump administration shares Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concerns over Iran’s presence in southern Syria, and is working with Israel to prevent it, a White House official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

“Both governments – the United States and Israel – are rightly concerned about Iran’s malign influence in the region,” the official said. “A core goal of US policy in Syria is to ensure that no vacuum is created which Iran can fill.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia and the United States would do all they could to address Israeli concerns about the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria, the RIA news agency reported.

The Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying Moscow and Washington carried out preparatory work on a cease-fire in southern Syria with all parties concerned, including Israel.

“I can guarantee that the American side, and we, did the best we can to make sure that Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration,” he was quoted as saying.

Trump officials claim the cease-fire is a successful diplomatic achievement that has prevented Syrian bloodshed and demonstrated the value of cooperating with Moscow.

Trump himself said that he is negotiating a second cease-fire that would govern another section of the war-torn country.

US, Russia, Jordan reach ceasefire deal for southwest Syria (credit: REUTERS)

But critics question whether Russia and Iran are using the pause in fighting to consolidate their gains and regroup for a new offensive.

Another administration official told the Post last week that Israel was “not a party to [the negotiations], but were consulted,” after a national security adviser to the president claimed on CNN that Israel was directly involved in the cease-fire negotiations.

A State Department official acknowledged that Israel was indeed consulted “at each step of this important process.” In a phone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday, Netanyahu reportedly expressed his concerns with the cease-fire and its consequences.

“We have stayed in close touch with Israel throughout this effort,” the official told the Post on Monday. “The secretary made clear that we are committed to pursuing an agreement that de-escalates violence and saves lives, while also addressing the very real security concerns of Syria’s neighbors, including Israel. Those efforts and our intensive consultations with Israel will continue.”

But Iranian inroads into Syria are not Israel’s only concerns, with Israeli diplomatic sources maintaining that Iran is working to establish air, land and sea bases in Lebanon as well – a development Jerusalem has made clear it will not tolerate.

One member of the security cabinet said on Monday that Israel will need to do something about the Iranian presence in Lebanon.

According to the minister, Israel is carefully tracking Iran’s presence there, and that it seemed the Iranians were only in the “initial stages” of establishing bases in the country.

The minister said Iran was taking advantage of the instability in Syria to create a corridor along Israel’s northern border to strengthen its presence in Lebanon as well.

Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren told the Post it was critically important for Netanyahu to reiterate Israel’s position that it “will not countenance the building of Iranian bases or ports” anywhere in Syria or Lebanon, and that Israel will not accept a cease-fire that does not take its interests into account.

Oren said Netanyahu’s message to everyone was: “You can have a cease-fire, but we will continue to act according to our red lines. We are going to stop Iran from building bases, ports and factories.”

Yaakov Amidror, a former head of the National Security Council who remains in contact with Netanyahu, echoed these remarks, saying Israel may need to take military action to prevent Iran or Hezbollah from setting up permanent bases in Syria.

If Israel’s interests are not taken into account by those determining what the future arrangements will be in Syria – the Americans, Russians or others – “that might lead the IDF to intervene and destroy every attempt to build [permanent Iranian] infrastructure in Syria,” he said.

Amidror, a fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, made his comments during a conference call with journalists organized by The Israel Project.

“We will not let the Iranians and Hezbollah be the forces that will win the very brutal war in Syria,” and then move their focus onto Israel, he said.

Until now, Israel has been very careful to stay out of the war in Syria, saying it will only intervene – and indeed only has intervened – to protect the red lines Netanyahu established: that game-changing weaponry is not transferred to Hezbollah via Syria; that Hezbollah and Iranian troops are not on the border with Israel; and that the Iranians do not establish permanent bases in Syria.

Amidror said that the ceasefire plan was completed without taking into sufficient consideration Israel’s need to defend itself.

“At the end of the day it is our responsibility, not the responsibility of the Americans or the Russians, to guarantee ourselves, and we will take all the measures that are needed for that,” he said.

Explaining how the Americans and Russians – with which Israel has good ties and a dialogue – agreed to a deal that could allow for a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, Amidror said the Russian strategic goal in the cease-fire was to ensure that Assad’s regime remains, and the American strategic goal was to destroy Islamic State.

Israel, he said, needs to “take care of its strategic goal,” which he defined as “keeping Iran and Syria from building launching pads in Syria.”

Amidror said that while Israel obviously wants to see the killing in Syria end, “the price can’t be having Iran and Hezbollah on our borders.”

He said that Israel has both diplomatic and military options to keep this from happening, and that “both options should be used.”

Amidror attributed Iran’s current success in the region to the Iranian nuclear deal signed two years ago. Iran, he said, is implementing a strategy that for the first time in modern history places them on the cusp of establishing a land corridor from Tehran, through Baghdad to Damascus and the Mediterranean.

“The ability of the Iranians to do what they are doing now in Syria and Iraq, and be involved in both Syria and Iraq, and their relations with Hezbollah, it is all built on the legitimacy they gained from this [nuclear] agreement,” he said.

Amidror said that it is very much in the Iranian interests to abide by the agreement, since in the meantime they are changing the contours of the entire Middle East. After the period of the agreement ends, they can then dash to the nuclear finish line, with their strategic situation in the region considerably improved, as well as their ability to withstand any new wave of sanctions.

“The agreement is the source of all the problems,” he said. “It is even more dangerous than we imagined when signed.”

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/US-Russia-tout-Israels-security-needs-as-Iran-threatens-to-entrench-military-presence-in-Syria-499994

Unemployment among women in Jordan increasing

Like many women in Jordan, Fida al-Diq married just out of high school and soon had four children. Her husband is a Jordanian police officer. Now in her 40’s, and with grown children, al-Diq would like to find a job but isn’t quite sure how to do so.

“I don’t have a university degree and most of the jobs require a degree,” she told The Media Line. “I married when I was in young and started a family early. I would have loved to open a cooking business, and I guess I could still do it now selling from my house, but I’m too tired. I don’t have the energy for that.”

She said that many of her friends work outside the home and she sees them as strong and independent women.

“I think working for women is very important in Jordan,” she said. “It gives women financial independence and power, helps her to develop her personality, and makes sure she won’t be bored when the children leave home. But for me, I think it’s too late.”

New figures in Jordan show that women’s unemployment is growing significantly from a total of under 25 percent last year, to 33 percent so far this year. The overall unemployment rate in Jordan is also high, with over 18 percent out of work in the first quarter of 2017, according to Jordan’s Department of Statistics.

One reason for the growing unemployment is the increase of Syrian refugees in Jordan. With a population of 9.5 million, Jordan hosts about 1.26 million refugees, according to UN figures. Many of these refugees are willing to work for lower wages than local Jordanians.

In addition many women are working in the informal sector, selling things out of their homes. For example, one of Fida al-Diq’s friends opened a small business selling make up and women’s accessories. Women order online and she delivers to their home.

In Jordan, women are highly educated and there are more female students than men in universities. But according to women’s rights organizations, there is still discrimination against women in hiring. Many employers prefer to hire men, either because men usually have to support a family, or because they believe that women will have to take more time off to care for family members.

Gender inequalities in Jordan today also stem from traditional gender roles that have embedded themselves in Jordanian culture. “At the root of the barriers to women’s labor force participation are traditional attitudes that place a high value on women’s roles in the private sphere and within the family that is important in Jordanian society,” wrote the World Bank in a recent report.

In some parts of Jordan, tribal values which say that men should be the breadwinner and women should stay at home remain in force. Women only received the right to vote in Jordan in 1974, and women’s organizations say that women are still seen as needing protection.

There is an active civil society sector in Jordan and the US government is also financing programs to increase women’s employment. Increased employment, for both men and women, will contribute to Jordan’s stability.

 Click here for more from The Media Line.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Unemployment-among-women-in-Jordan-increasing-499933

US ends laptop ban on Middle Eastern airlines

The US Transportation Security Administration said on Monday it has lifted a ban on passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines carrying large electronics like laptops onboard US-bound flights, the last carrier under the restrictions.

In March, US officials imposed restrictions on passengers carrying laptops and other large electronic gear in cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to address the potential threat of hidden explosives.

Last month, US officials announced new security requirements for all airlines rather than an expansion of the laptop ban and have been dropping the restrictions from airlines as they boosted security.

A TSA spokesman said the US government had lifted the restrictions at Saudi Arabian Airlines’ main hub in Jeddah at King Abdulaziz International Airport on Monday. US government officials will visit Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport “later this week to confirm compliance there as well,” spokesman James Gregory said.

On Thursday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a revised directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it clarify aviation security measures scheduled to begin taking effect later this week.

An airline official briefed on the matter said the directive gave airlines more flexibility and additional time to obtain explosive trace detection equipment. The official was not authorized to discuss sensitive security issues with the media and requested anonymity.

The directive includes technical adjustments, agency officials said, declining to release the text. European airlines have been pushing for changes to meet the new requirements.

DHS has said that it could impose new restrictions on laptops if airlines do not make security upgrades.

European and US officials told Reuters that airlines have until July 19, to put in place increased explosive trace detection screening and other measures and 120 days to comply with other security measures, including enhanced screening of airline passengers.

The new requirements include enhanced passenger screening at foreign airports, increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas and expanded canine screening. They affect 325,000 airline passengers on about 2,000 commercial flights arriving daily in the United States, on 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries.

A group of airline groups, including the International Air Transport Association, criticized the new requirements in a July 14 letter to US officials saying it is a “fundamental shift away from the risk-based approach” and said it would be “extremely difficult” to “meet the deadlines because of the lack of availability of screening equipment technology and resources.” The letter was reported earlier by Politico.

Article source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/US-ends-laptop-ban-on-Middle-Eastern-airlines-499986