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The Integrity Commission and the Iraqi Ministry of Justice organized on Wednesday an international conference to recover the “looted and smuggled” Iraqi funds, in the presence of Arab justice ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister and Kuwaiti Minister of Justice Abdullah Al-Roumi. A statement by the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi quoted him as saying in his speech at the conference, “Corruption and money smuggling is a dangerous disease that affects any society and any country if the risks of this disease are not dealt with seriously and responsibly and through measures to combat corruption and eliminate outlets for squandering, smuggling and disregard for the capabilities of people.”

He stressed that “there should not be any safe haven for looted money and thefts, and the corrupt and thieves should not feel that there is a haven for money stolen from any country,” referring to billions of dollars stolen and fl ed during the era of the former Iraqi regime. He considered that the “foundational errors” in the years that followed the overthrow of the former regime exacerbated corruption and more seriously in the country. He stressed that fighting corruption and recovering the Iraqi people’s money smuggled out of the country is a priority for the Iraqi government, noting in this regard that his government formed a special anti-corruption committee that was able in one year to uncover corruption files that had not been revealed for 17 years and recovered funds looted from abroad.

For his part, the head of the Iraqi Integrity Commission, head of the looted funds recovery fund, Alaa Al-Saadi, said in a statement to reporters on the sidelines of the conference that the meeting today aims to create a united front to pressure the countries that refrain from returning those funds. He explained that the major obstacle that prevents the recovery of this money is “the lack of cooperation of a number of countries that embrace the looted money, protect those convicted of smuggling it, and work to invest or launder this money, in addition to granting citizenship to those convicted.” He revealed that the commission prepared 217 files condemning the smuggling of money outside the country last year until the middle of this year to request international legal assistance, in addition to issuing 157 judicial decisions in absentia to hand over convicts and fugitives wanted by the judiciary. (KUNA)

The U.S. has removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show. The redeployment of the defenses from Prince Sultan Air Base outside of Riyadh came as America’s Gulf Arab allies nervously watched the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, including their last-minute evacuations from Kabul’s besieged international airport.

 

While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the U.S.’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses. Tensions remain high as negotiations appear stalled in Vienna over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers, raising the danger of future confrontations in the region. “Perceptions matter whether or not they’re rooted in a cold, cold reality. And the perception is very clear that the U.S. is not as committed to the Gulf as it used to be in the views of many people in decision-making authority in the region,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. “From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden – three successive presidents – taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment.”

Denied
Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand U.S. troops since a 2019 missile-and-drone attack on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production. That attack, though claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, appears instead to have been carried out by Iran, according to experts and physical debris left behind. Tehran has denied launching the attack, though a drill in January saw Iranian paramilitary forces use similar drones. Just southwest of the air base’s runway, a 1-square-kilometer (third-of-a-square-mile) area set off by an earthen berm saw American forces station Patriot missile batteries, as well as one advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense unit, according to satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. A THAAD can destroy ballistic missiles at a higher altitude than Patriots. A satellite image seen by the AP in late August showed some of the batteries removed from the area, though activity and vehicles still could be seen there.

 

A high-resolution Planet Lab satellite picture taken Friday showed the batteries’ pads at the site empty, with no visible activity. A redeployment of the missiles had been rumored for months, in part due to a desire to face what American officials see as the looming “great powers conflict” with China and Russia. However, the withdrawal came just as a Houthi drone attack on Saudi Arabia wounded eight people and damaged a commercial jetliner at the kingdom’s airport in Abha. The kingdom has been locked in a stalemate war with the Houthis since March 2015. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby acknowledged “the redeployment of certain air defense assets” after receiving questions from the AP. He said the U.S. maintained a “broad and deep” commitment to its Mideast allies. “The Defense Department continues to maintain tens of thousands of forces and a robust force posture in the Middle East representing some of our most advanced air power and maritime capabilities, in support of U.S. national interests and our regional partnerships,” Kirby said.

In a statement to the AP, the Saudi Defense Ministry described the kingdom’s relationship with the U.S. as “strong, longstanding and historic” even while acknowledging the withdrawal of the American missile defense systems. It said the Saudi military “is capable of defending its lands, seas and airspace, and protecting its people.” “The redeployment of some defense capabilities of the friendly United States of America from the region is carried out through common understanding and realignment of defense strategies as an attribute of operational deployment and disposition,” the statement said. Despite those assurances, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, the kingdom’s former intelligence chief whose public remarks often track with the thoughts of its Al Saud ruling family, has linked the Patriot missile deployments directly to America’s relationship to Riyadh. “I think we need to be reassured about American commitment,” the prince told CNBC in an interview aired this week. “That looks like, for example, not withdrawing Patriot missiles from Saudi Arabia at a time when Saudi Arabia is the victim of missile attacks and drone attacks – not just from Yemen, but from Iran.” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on a tour of the Mideast in recent days, had been slated to go to Saudi Arabia but the trip was canceled due to what American officials referred to as scheduling problems. Saudi Arabia declined to discuss why Austin’s trip didn’t happen after the withdrawal of the missile defenses.

Source: Arab Times

Do I need a booster if I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Probably at some point, but health officials still are collecting the data needed to decide. With boosters being planned in the US as early as the fall for those who got the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, recipients of the single-dose J&J jab might be wondering just how well their protection is holding up. All the vaccines used in the US — including the J&J vaccine — still are doing their job of preventing hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. “I don’t think there’s any signal that the J&J vaccine is failing at its primary task,” said Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Despite continued protection against severe disease, US officials are planning to offer Pfizer and Moderna boosters eight months after the second shot based on evidence that effectiveness against infection wanes over time. Adding to the decision, the vaccines don’t appear quite as strong against the highly contagious delta variant as they were against earlier versions of the virus.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said boosters “will likely be needed” for the J&J vaccine. Authorities expect more data to decide in the coming weeks. That’s in part because the J&J rollout didn’t start until March, several months after Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations began. The J&J shot is made differently. And there’s more data about how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines fare against delta because they’re more widely used in countries where the variant struck before its US surge. There is some real-world data showing J&J’s shot holds up against the delta variant. A huge study of health workers in South Africa showed the vaccine remained 71% protective against hospitalization from the variant and between 91% and 96% effective against death. And the researchers said the vast majority of so-called “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people were mild

 

RESIDENT Joe Biden (right) meets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.—AFP

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday met President Joe Biden a day after a deadly bomb attack on the US Afghanistan evacuation mission forced a postponement and cast a shadow on an Israeli charm offensive.

The US had an “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security, including replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, Biden said after the two met one-on-one, a day after originally planned.

In a hint at differences of opinion, he added, “we’re also going to discuss ways to advance peace and security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Bennett began his remarks with condolences before announcing, “I bring with me from Jerusalem a new spirit of good will.”

Bennett, who aims to reboot relations, says: ‘I bring with me from Jerusalem a new spirit of goodwill’

Bennett had aimed to reboot US-Israel relations following Benjamin Netanyahu, who during 15 years in office embraced Republicans and antagonised Democrats.

Still, the 49-year-old premiere in his first official overseas visit kept to many of his predecessor’s hardline views.

“We cannot lose sight for even one moment that we’re in the toughest neighborhood in the world,” he said, citing militant Islamic State (IS) group, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. “That’s why Israel always has to be overwhelmingly stronger than... all of our enemies combined.”

A broader meeting was expected to follow including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Israeli National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata and Israeli Ambassador to Israel Gilad Erdan, along with Bennett’s senior aide Shimrit Meir.

Bennett took office in June as head of an eclectic coalition in which his hawkish party holds only a handful of seats. His government includes pro-settlement hardliners like himself as well as political doves and the first Arab party to sit in a coalition.

“He heads and leads the most diverse government in Israeli history,” Biden said of Bennett.

Bennett’s positions on key issues remain at odds with the White House.

He has said he will continue settlement construction and is against a Palestinian state in territories Israel captured in 1967.

He opposes the US reopening a consulate in Jerusalem to handle Palestinian affairs, which Trump shut in 2019 after moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In Washington Bennett strove to highlight common ground.

“Israel knows that we have no better or more reliable ally in the world than the United States of America,” he said.

Bennett said in the Oval Office that the bombings in Kabul highlighted the potential danger of a nuclear Iran.

“These very days illustrate what the world would look like if a radical Islamic regime acquired a nuclear weapon,” Bennett told Biden.

STATEMENT OF THE CHINESE EMBASSY IN THE STATE OF KUWAIT ON THE PUBLICATION OF AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ‘TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE’ SEPARATIST IN THE ARAB TIMES

 On 1st August 2021, the Arab Times 2nd and 3rd page published an exclusive interview with the stubborn “Taiwan independence” separatist Joseph Wu. We strongly condemn the despicable acts of “Taiwan independence” separatists to deliberately distort the history of Taiwan, viciously attack the Chinese government, and mislead public opinion. We hereby declare that:

1. There is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory. This is a basic fact universally recognized by the international community. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution No.2758 adopted in 1971 officially restored the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations. That same year, China and Kuwait established diplomatic relations. The Kuwait side always recognizes that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and adheres to the “one-China” principle. We highly appreciate this.

 

2. The Chinese government is committed to promote peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and China’s reunification. Over the years, the Chinese government has rolled out multiple measures and policies to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and safeguard the wellbeing of people across the Taiwan Strait. Thanks to these measures and policies, people across the Taiwan Strait enjoy ever closer ties. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities in Taiwan, however, obstinately adheres to the separatist position of “Taiwan independence”, instigates separatism, and solicits foreign support, which has caused a serious setback for cross-Strait relations and may even result in unpredictable severe consequences. China must be and will be reunited. No individual and no force should underestimate the resolve, the will and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

3. We demand that the media in Kuwait should stay alert to attempts of the “Taiwan independence” forces and refuse to do anything that hurts the feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people or the friendship between China and Kuwait.

Source: Arab Times

Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman and a member of the negotiation team gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia on March 19, 2021.— AP/File

The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolise power, but they insist there won’t be peace in Afghanistan until there is a new negotiated government in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani is removed.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in a country on the precipice.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last US and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan.

This week, the top US military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Memories of the Taliban’s last time in power some 20 years ago have stoked fears of their return among many. Afghans who can afford it are applying by the thousands for visas to leave Afghanistan, fearing a violent descent into chaos. The US-NATO withdrawal is more than 95 per cent complete and due to be finished by Aug 31.

Shaheen said the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone.

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolise power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment. “So we do not want to repeat that same formula.”

But he was also uncompromising on the continued rule of Ghani, calling him a “war monger” and accusing him of using his Tuesday speech on the occasion of Eidul Azha to promise an offensive against the Taliban.

Shaheen dismissed Ghani’s right to govern, resurrecting allegations of widespread fraud that surrounded Ghani’s 2019 election win. After that vote, both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves president. After a compromise deal, Abdullah is now the second top official in the government and heads the reconciliation council.

Ghani has often said he will remain in office until new elections can determine the next government.

His critics — including ones outside the Taliban — accuse him of seeking only to keep power, causing splits among government supporters.

Last weekend, Abdullah headed a high-level delegation to the Qatari capital Doha for talks with Taliban leaders. It ended with promises of more talks, as well as greater attention to the protection of civilians and infrastructure.

Shaheen called the talks a good beginning. But he said the government’s repeated demands for a ceasefire while Ghani stayed in power were tantamount to demanding a Taliban surrender. “They don’t want reconciliation, but they want surrendering,” he said.

Before any ceasefire, there must be an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans,” he said. Then “there will be no war.”

"Under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf", says the Taliban spokesman

He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls.

However, there have been repeated reports from captured districts of Taliban imposing harsh restrictions on women, even setting fire to schools. One gruesome video that emerged appeared to show Taliban killing captured commandos in northern Afghanistan.

Shaheen said some Taliban commanders had ignored the leadership’s orders against repressive and drastic behavior and that several have been put before a Taliban military tribunal and punished, though he did provide specifics. He contended the video was fake, a splicing of separate footage.

Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals. But he warned they could, given the weapons and equipment they have acquired in newly captured districts. He contended that the majority of the Taliban’s battlefield successes came through negotiations, not fighting.

“Those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us ... were through mediation of the people, through talks,” he said. “They (did not fall) through fighting ... it would have been very hard for us to take 194 districts in just eight weeks.”

"The Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, and while they have yet to capture any of the 34 provincial capitals, they are pressuring about half of them," Milley said.

In recent days, the US has carried out airstrikes in support of beleaguered Afghan government troops in the southern city of Kandahar, around which the Taliban have been amassing, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Thursday.

The rapid fall of districts and the seemingly disheartened response by Afghan government forces have prompted US-allied warlords to resurrect militias with a violent history. For many Afghans weary of more than four decades of war, that raises fears of a repeat of the brutal civil war in the early 1990s in which those same warlords battled for power.

“You know, no one no one wants a civil war, including me,” said Shaheen. He also repeated Taliban promises aimed at reassuring Afghans who fear the group.

Washington has promised to relocate thousands of US military interpreters. Shaheen said they had nothing to fear from the Taliban and denied threatening them. But, he added, if some want to take asylum in the West because Afghanistan’s economy is so poor, “that is up to them.”

He also denied that the Taliban have threatened journalists and Afghanistan’s nascent civil society, which has been targeted by dozens of killings over the past year.

The Islamic State group has taken responsibility for some, but the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for most of the killings while the Taliban in turn accuse the Afghan government of carrying out the killings to defame them. Rarely has the government made arrests into the killings or revealed the findings of its investigations.

Shaheen said journalists, including those working for Western media outlets, have nothing to fear from a government that includes the Taliban. “We have not issued letters to journalists (threatening them), especially to those who are working for foreign media outlets. They can continue their work even in the future,” he said.

15 July 2021 (Geneva) -- The International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that the reliance on taxation as the solution for cutting aviation emissions in the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposal is counter-productive to the goal of sustainable aviation. EU policy needs to support practical emission reduction measures such as incentives for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and modernization of air traffic management.

“Aviation is committed to decarbonization as a global industry. We don’t need persuading, or punitive measures like taxes to motivate change. In fact, taxes siphon money from the industry that could support emissions’ reducing investments in fleet renewal and clean technologies. To reduce emissions, we need governments to implement a constructive policy framework that, most immediately, focuses on production incentives for SAF and delivering the Single European Sky,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Comprehensive Approach

Achieving aviation decarbonization requires a combination of measures. These include:

  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels which reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to traditional jet fuel. Insufficient supply and high prices have limited airline uptake to 120 million litres in 2021—a small fraction of the 350 billion litres that airlines would consume in a ‘normal’ year.
  • Market-based measures to manage emissions until technology solutions are fully developed. The industry supports the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) as a global measure for all international aviation. It avoids creating a patchwork of uncoordinated national or regional measures such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, that can undermine international cooperation. Overlapping schemes can lead to the same emissions being paid for more than once. IATA is extremely concerned by the Commission’s proposal that European States would no longer implement CORSIA on all international flights.
  • Single European Sky (SES) to reduce unnecessary emissions from fragmented air traffic management (ATM) and resulting inefficiencies. Modernizing European ATM through the SES initiative would cut Europe’s aviation emissions between 6-10%, but national governments continue to delay implementation.
  • Radical new clean technologies. While it is unlikely that electric or hydrogen propulsion could have a significant impact on aviation emissions within the EU ‘Fit for 55’ timeframe of 2030, the development of these technologies is ongoing and needs to be supported. 

“Aviation’s near-term vision is to provide sustainable, affordable air transport for all European citizens with SAF-powered fleets, operating with efficient air traffic management. We should all be worried that the EU’s big idea to decarbonize aviation is making jet fuel more expensive through tax. That will not get us to where we need to be. Taxation will destroy jobs. Incentivizing SAF will improve energy independence and create sustainable jobs. The focus must be on encouraging the production of SAF, and delivering the Single European Sky,” said Walsh. 

Promoting SAF

The most practical near-term solution to reducing emissions is SAF. Energy transitions are successful when production incentives drive down the price of alternative fuels while driving supplies up. The EU ‘Fit for 55’ proposal does not include direct measures that will achieve this. Without specific measures to reduce SAF costs, it does, however, propose a mandate to increase SAF utilization to 2% of jet fuel use by 2025 and at least 5% by 2030.

“Making SAF cheaper will accelerate aviation’s energy transition and improve Europe’s competitiveness as a green economy. But making jet fuel more expensive through taxation scores an ‘own goal’ on competitiveness that does little to accelerate the commercialization of SAF,” said Walsh.

Mandating a gradual transition to SAF is a less efficient policy compared to comprehensive production incentives, but it may contribute to making SAF more affordable and widely available in Europe, but only under the following key conditions:

  • It is limited to EU-only flights. This will limit the negative impacts on the competitiveness of European air transport and potential political challenges from other countries
  • It is accompanied by policy measures to ensure a competitive market and appropriate production incentives. The mandated use of SAF must not allow energy companies to engage in uncompetitive practices with the resulting high costs being borne by airlines and passengers.
  • It is targeted at locations which have substantial airline operations and close proximity to SAF refineries.

Concrete actions on Single European Sky are urgently needed

The SES has been on the drawing board for 20 years but has made little progress despite the promise of a 6-10% improvement in environmental performance, safer operations and reduced delays.

“Europe’s national politicians are quick to lecture airlines on the efforts industry should be making on the environment. But they are silent when it comes to areas of their own responsibility. Just recently the European Council failed to show any leadership to cut emissions by harmonizing European air traffic management. Moreover, the constant absence of political support from states on the SES proposals undermines the credibility of the ‘Fit for 55’ proposal and the credibility of Europe’s determination to drive real solutions for sustainability,” said Walsh.

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