US SECRETARY of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that Iran is behind the latest bout of violence triggered by Israel’s assassination of a top Palestinian commander in the besieged Gaza Strip.
In tweets posed on Saturday, Pompeo alleged that Tehran is using the Islamic Jihad movement as a ‘proxy’ to strike Israel and fuel regional conflict.
‘Iran does not want peace in the region. It does not want the Palestinian people to prosper. It wants more conflict. Until we address Iran’s threats, the cycle of violence will continue,’ he wrote.
Pompeo also called for pressure on Iran to continue in order to force the country to the negotiating table for a new deal to replace the 2015 nuclear agreement, from which the US withdrew unilaterally in May 2018.
‘The way forward is clear: continued pressure until Iran negotiates a comprehensive agreement that includes halting its support to’ Islamic Jihad.
From predawn last Tuesday to Thursday morning, Israel and Islamic Jihad fought a battle, in which Tel Aviv conducted dozens of aerial assaults on Gaza and the resistance group fired hundreds of retaliatory rockets and mortar shells into the occupied lands.
The escalation erupted after Israel assassinated senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, along with his wife, in a targeted strike on their home in Gaza.
A similar Israeli air raid also hit the home of another Islamic Jihad commander in Syria last Tuesday, but missed the target.
Israel then submitted to a ceasefire which met all conditions set by Islamic Jihad, according to the Palestinian movement.
Meanwhile, Israel has carried out fresh air raids on the Gaza Strip for the second day since accepting the ceasefire that ended two days of flare-ups in clashes with Palestinian fighters.
Pompeo’s remarks are apparently aimed at anaesthetising Arab regimes which largely kept silent as the ferocious Israeli airstrikes targeted Gaza, killing at least 34 people, including many women and children.
The US administration has been playing a key role in bringing Israel and Arab regimes together around the key goal of confronting Iran.
On Saturday, US Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein urged the Persian Gulf Arab states to resolve their differences and unify their military capabilities against Iran.
Washington sees an ongoing rift that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have with Qatar as a threat to its push for a united front against Iran and has unsuccessfully tried to mediate the dispute.
Asked if he thought the Qatar rift could soon be settled, Goldfein said, ‘Certainly I am hopeful.’
In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE imposed a land, naval and air blockade on import-dependent Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.
The Saudi-led bloc presented Qatar with a list of demands and gave it an ultimatum – comply or face the consequences. Doha, however, refused to meet the demands and stressed that it would not abandon its independent foreign policy.
Qatar hosts al-Udeid air base, the largest US military facility in the region, while Bahrain is home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
- Members of the Iranian parliament, known as the Majlis, have protested against the government decision to increase the price of gasoline at short notice, saying they will submit a motion to reverse the controversial move.
Mojtaba Zonnour, who chairs the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, said on Saturday that he and other lawmakers will oppose the fuel price hike mainly because it had not been coordinated with the parliament.
‘In the very early hours of work in Majlis on Sunday, I and a significant number of the nation’s representatives, to whom I have spoken on the phone, will demand the suspension and cancellation of the government move to increase the price of gasoline,’ said Zonnour in an interview with the IRIB News.
The new gasoline prices were announced midnight local time on Friday, without any prior notice from the government. The decision has sparked unrest and clashes in various Iranian cities.
Member of the Majlis Committee on Plan and Budget, Hamidreza Hajibabayi, also said on Saturday that the price hikes are illegal and will harm the interests of the people and the country.
In a letter addressed to the Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, the Iranian lawmaker strongly protested the sidelining of the parliament in adopting such a sensitive decision.
On the illegality of the move, Hajibabayi claimed the government would pocket an income of more than $9 billion from increasing the price of gasoline, insisting that the law governing the budget of the current Iranian calendar year, which ends in March, had only allowed a third of that income.
The Iranian government has said it would spend all of more than $2.5 billion earned from the gasoline price hike on cash handouts and other form of subsidies targeting more than 70 percent of the Iranian
Meanwhile, the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) announced late last Thursday that the price of a litre of regular gasoline had gone up to 15,000 rials (12.7 US cents) from 10,000 rials, and the monthly ration for each private automobile was set at 60 litres per month. Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rials per litre.
It added that taxis and ambulances will have a 400-liter and 500-litre monthly quota, respectively. The price of CNG and gas oil will remain unchanged.
It noted that rations will be charged to consumers’ personal fuel card on Friday and can accumulate up to six months.
According to the statement, online app-based transportation vehicles will also receive rations.
Iran’s Vice President and Head of the Plan and Budget Organisation, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, said the revenues from the price hikes would be used to fund additional subsidies for 18 million families, or about 60 million people.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday said the government has no intention of receiving any portion of the hike despite the economic woes in the country which is under heavy US-imposed snactions.
He added that the government’s move to increase the gasoline prices would be beneficial to the Iranian people, particularly those who are going through economic hardships.
The NIOPDC said in August that motorists had to use smart cards to buy fuel as the government moved to restore gasoline and diesel rationing amid prices that had caused a surge in trafficking to neighbouring countries.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow feels it still has a lot of work to do in the last major bastion of foreign-backed militants and Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
‘We still have a lot of work in the zone of Idlib, as there is a large number of militants, who flee to other countries, including Libya,’ Putin told reporters at the 11th summit of BRICS nations in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia on Thursday.
He added Russia hopes the Geneva peace process for Syria would be successful.
‘Yes, many objectives have been reached but not all.
‘I really expect that during the political process in Geneva, during work on amendments or a new constitution for Syria, we will manage to mitigate the situation, establish good ties between the government and the opposition, and reach decisive general solutions which would appease the whole country and completely regain its territorial integrity,’ the Russian leader said.
Turkish forces have started setting up a military base in al-Hawas village in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah.
This announcement cameon the same day that Syrian government forces managed to liberate the villages of al-Luaibdeh Gharbyia and Tal Khazna in Idlib province.
Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that Syrian army soldiers struck the gatherings and fortifications of militants from the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, with barrages of artillery rounds and rockets, killing and injuring a number of the terrorists.