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Archive for Middle East

Newsline: US Embassy in Baghdad accused of serving as headquarters for Mossad, ISIS

Senior Iraqi parliament member Hassan Salem issued a warning about the US embassy’s “suspicious activities,” saying that it hosts Mossad and ISIS agents. Salem claimed that “the US embassy in Baghdad has turned into a center for Israel’s Mossad” and ISIS terrorists, additionally claiming that the embassy is “interfering in the country’s internal affairs by spying, spreading rumors and hatching plots,” Fars News reported. The lawmaker further claimed that the embassy should be closed down for its illegalities. “The US embassy’s violation of laws and forgetting its responsibilities based on the international laws mean that the center could not be called an embassy and therefore, its closure is legally necessary,” Salem said. (https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iraqi-PM-US-embassy-hosts-Mossad-agents-ISIS-terrorists-595644) Salem has previously accused the US of providing a terrorist with protection. In February, he said that the US have ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in their care in the western desert of the Iraqi Anbar province. “Al-Baghdadi is using the Anbar desert as a safe haven, while the US forces provide him with all means of support from their station at the Ain Al-Assad military base in the Anbar province,” Salem said.

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Newsline: Syrian dissident claims he was attacked at country’s Istanbul consulate

A prominent Syrian opposition figure who once served as a spokesman for a military negotiation committee of the opposition, says he was “attacked” at the Syrian Consulate in Istanbul. (https://www.dailysabah.com/istanbul/2019/07/10/syrian-dissident-claims-he-was-attacked-at-countrys-istanbul-consulate) Osama Abo Zayd was at the consulate for the legal registration of his marriage in Istanbul. He said he had to “pay” $300 for an appointment at the consulate and was mistreated when he arrived. “A clerk saw a wristband symbolizing the Syrian revolution on my wrist and told me he would not process my application if I didn’t remove it,” Zayd told Anadolu Agency (AA), referring to the opposition movement against the Bashar Assad regime. “Then, officials there hurled insults at me and tried to remove me from the consulate. “They intimidated me and tried to hit me. Security officers came and forced me out of the building,” Zayd said. The dissident said he has filed a lawsuit against the consulate clerks. “Turkey’s relations with the regime are bad, but it still did not shut down the consulate so that it can help the Syrian people. Instead, people coming here are subject to insults,” Zayd complained. He said the consulate has to serve all Syrian citizens, regardless of their views, under international laws.

Newsline: Pompeo Seeks to Make Baghdad Embassy Pullout Permanent

In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered a partial evacuation of diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq amid escalating tensions with Iran. Now, several State Department officials say they are being told the drawdown in embassy staff will effectively become permanent, a move that could leave the U.S. Embassy short-staffed to undertake important tasks like countering Iran on the diplomatic front—and in the short-term has marooned hundreds of diplomats in the Washington area without an embassy to go back to. A State Department spokesman said this characterization of the drawdown is “inaccurate.” He said: “No decision on permanent staffing levels have been made, but a review of staffing is in process.” But three other State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the staffing levels at the Baghdad embassy reached after the evacuation in May are being treated as a de facto permanent cap on State Department personnel in Iraq. “They’ve already quietly made the policy decision that they’re not sending these people back,” a senior State Department official familiar with internal deliberations told Foreign Policy. “But they’re not actually calling it a drawdown, they’re just saying they’re reviewing the ordered departure,” the official said. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/12/pompeo-seeks-to-make-baghdad-embassy-pullout-permanent-officials-say-state-department-diplomacy-middle-east-iran-tensions-embassy-drawdown-evacuation/) The embassy still has an estimated thousands of personnel in place, but only a small portion of staff at the embassy work directly on core diplomatic functions, including political officers, economic officers, and public diplomacy officers. The majority are contractors, security personnel, or officials from other federal agencies, including the intelligence community. After the partial evacuation, two officials told Foreign Policy, the embassy has less than 15 State Department officials left working directly on core diplomatic functions.

Newsline: Israel’s embassy blurs lobster in envoy’s lunch with Brazil’s president

Israel’s embassy in Brazil shared a photo of its ambassador eating lunch with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but not before blurring out the lobster dishes the two appeared to be enjoying. (https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/israels-ambassador-camouflages-pricey-non-kosher-meal-with-brazilian-president) The camouflaged picture made headlines in Brazil, with local media noting that the crustacean is an expensive delicacy and international media noting it is decidedly non-kosher. Black smudges blur what appear to be lobsters from a picture posted on social media on Sunday of Ambassador Yossi Shelley having lunch with Bolsonaro.

Newsline: New Saudi ambassadors take up posts in Washington and London

Saudi Arabia’s new ambassadors to the United States and the United Kingdom have taken up their posts after several months’ vacancy amid tensions with Western allies over the Yemen war and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the Gulf kingdom’s first female ambassador, presented her credentials in Washington while her brother, Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan, did so in London, state news agency SPA reported. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-diplomacy-usa-britain/new-saudi-ambassadors-take-up-posts-in-washington-and-london-idUSKCN1TZ0UF) They arrive at a fraught period in both bilateral relationships, with heightened criticism of Riyadh’s human rights record and calls to freeze arms sales amid a four-year-old war in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis. Princess Reema was named in February to replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was heavily criticized for denying that Khashoggi had been killed last October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before the authorities ultimately acknowledged the murder of the Washington Post columnist.

Newsline: US appoints ambassador to Ankara after almost two years

The Embassy of the United States in Ankara announced that the U.S. Senate on late June 27 confirmed David Satterfield to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey. “We have exciting news! Last night, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ambassador David Satterfield to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Turkey. We look forward to welcoming him in the near future. Stay tuned!” the embassy said on its Twitter account on June 28. (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-appoints-ambassador-to-ankara-after-almost-two-years-144541) Satterfield is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and has been acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs since 2017. Satterfield also assumed top posts at U.S. missions in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon. John Bass was the last serving American ambassador to Ankara from 2014 to 2017. Bass, who is assuming office of the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, left Turkey in October 2017 amid a visa crisis between Washington and Ankara. The post has been empty since then. The U.S. Embassy in Ankara suspended all non-immigrant visa services at all U.S. diplomatic facilities in Turkey as a reaction to the detention of U.S. Consulate employee Metin Topuz, and Turkey’s Washington Embassy followed suit in suspending non-immigrant visa services. The blame for Turkey’s visa spat with Washington lies with the United States, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said in 2017, singling out then U.S. ambassador to Ankara, Bass, as responsible for the situation.

Newsline: Bahrain recalls ambassador to Iraq over embassy attack

Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iraq for consultations after demonstrators broke into the courtyard of the kingdom’s embassy in Baghdad and took down the flag to protest a U.S.-led meeting in Bahrain on Israeli-Palestinian peace. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-palestinians-plan-bahrain/bahrain-recalls-ambassador-to-iraq-over-embassy-attack-statement-idUSKCN1TS36F) “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain condemns the attack on the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Republic of Iraq by the demonstrators (which) led to sabotage in the embassy building,” said a statement on the ministry’s website.