Daily Briefing

Briefing:- 8/12/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 8th of December, 2017:-

1. British terrorist who fought in Syria gets 10-year jail:-

A British terrorist who fought to overturn Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi and joined the ranks of the Islamic State group in Syria was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday.

Mohammed Abdallah, 26, who has dual British and Libyan nationality, joined the “Tripoli Brigade” in 2011 along with his brother, Abdalraouf.

Abdallah’s brother was shot and paralyzed from the waist down in battle, the trial in London heard.

In 2014, Abdallah headed to Syria with help from his wheelchair-bound brother, who set up a “hub” for would be Islamic State fighters from his home in Manchester, northern England.

He was arrested when he returned to London’s Heathrow airport in September 2014.

In 2016, Sky News published files from an Islamic State defector which listed Abdallah as a specialist sniper with expertise in using the “Dushka” – a Russian-made heavy machine gun.

Abdallah was found guilty on Thursday of possessing a Kalashnikov assault rifle, receiving £2,000 (2,300 euros, $2,700) for terrorism and membership of Islamic State.

Abdallah in court denied pledging allegiance to Islamic State and said he was instead imprisoned by jihadists. He claimed he had only traveled to Syria to donate money to poor people.

But judge Maura McGowan said Abdallah had “bragged” about acquiring weapons and was “totally committed” to signing up for the Islamic State group.

“Your commitment to violence abroad is clear and you have not shown any sign of changing your views or attitudes,” she said.

Abdallah’s trial was delayed after a terror attack at Manchester Arena in May this year by bomber Salman Abedi, in which 22 people were killed.

Abedi attended the same mosque as the Abdallah brothers and reportedly visited Abdalraouf in prison in the months leading up to the attack.

2. President Macron warns against Middle-East meddling at Lebanon conference:-

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday warned regional powers against meddling in Lebanon at an international meeting aimed at fending off pressure on the fragile country from rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the talks in Paris with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose shock resignation last month – which he has since rescinded – sparked fears of a new crisis in the Middle East.

Opening the meeting, Macron said it was “essential that all of the parties in Lebanon and regional actors respect the cardinal principle of non-interference” in the affairs of other countries.

Representatives from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, Italy, and Egypt, were present for the show of support for Lebanon, which took place against the backdrop of rising tensions in the Middle East.

Hariri and Macron both emphasized their opposition to US President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that he would move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

“It complicates the peace process even more (between Israel and the Palestinians) and creates a new challenge to regional security,” Hariri said in opening remarks at the meeting.

Macron added: “None of the region’s problems will be resolved by unilateral decisions or the strongest imposing their will.”

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country, is suspected of having pressured Hariri, a longtime ally, to resign as part of its attempts to counter the growing influence of Iran, a Shia Muslim power.

The Saudi kingdom and other Arab states accuse Iran of using armed proxies such as Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement to advance its interests, from Lebanon to Yemen to Syria and Iraq.

In a televised resignation statement from Riyadh on November 4, Hariri accused Tehran and Hezbollah – which has ministers in Hariri’s government – of destabilizing his country and the region.

A Lebanese source close to Hariri told AFP that the premier traveled to Riyadh believing he was going to discuss economic projects but instead “found himself faced with a list of economic sanctions brandished by the Saudis against Lebanon.”

Hariri remained in Riyadh for two weeks afterward, fuelling speculation that he was being held, hostage.

Macron then intervened, inviting Hariri to Paris for talks, after which he returned home to a hero’s welcome. Two weeks later, he withdrew his resignation.

The meeting ended with plans for three follow-up conferences: one in Paris in early 2018 on boosting investment in Lebanon; another in Rome on building up Lebanon`s regular army; and a third in Brussels on helping the roughly 1.5 million Syrian refugees that have fled there.

“Lebanon’s stability is not only crucial for its inhabitants but for the entire region,” Macron said Friday, demanding that the sovereignty of the small multifaith country, long a proxy battleground between its bigger neighbors, be respected.

Hariri said the fragile stability enjoyed by his country, which neighbors Syria, “appeared like a small miracle” in a region torn by the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni conflicts.

“The desire of all in Lebanon is to save our democracy,” he said.

Riyadh’s power play in Lebanon backfired, with the various Lebanese factions coming together in order to avoid a political breakdown.

Hariri announced Tuesday that he would stay on as premier after cabinet members – including from Hezbollah – issued a joint statement to reaffirm their commitment to stay out of regional conflicts.

“Lebanon will respect this principle of keeping its distance (from trouble beyond its borders). You will see,” he vowed Friday, insisting there was “no crisis between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia”.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the principle “applied to all, both inside and outside (Lebanon).”

The International Support Group for Lebanon was launched in September 2013 partly in response to the huge influx of refugees from Syria.

3. Arabs, Europe, UN reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:-

Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East on Wednesday condemned the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as an incendiary move in a volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.

The European Union and United Nations also voiced alarm at US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Major US allies came out against Trump’s reversal of decades of the US and broad international policy on Jerusalem.

France rejected the “unilateral” decision while appealing for calm in the region. Britain said the move would not help peace efforts and Jerusalem should ultimately be shared by Israel and a future Palestinian state. Germany said Jerusalem’s status could only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution.

Israel, by contrast, applauded Trump’s move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video message that it was “an important step towards peace” and it was “our goal from Israel’s first day”.

He added that any peace accord with the Palestinians would have to include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and he urged other countries to follow Trump’s example.

Trump upended decades of US policy in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks aggravating conflict in the tinderbox Middle East.

The status of Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.

Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital dating to antiquity, and its status is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

4. British Foreign Minister to visit Iran, lobby for jailed aid worker:-

British foreign minister Boris Johnson will travel to Iran on Saturday to lobby counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif for the release of jailed Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The trip will be only the third by a British foreign minister to Iran in the last 14 years and takes place against a complex backdrop of historical, regional and bilateral tensions.

Johnson has vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in Britain’s efforts to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.

“The Foreign Secretary will urge the Iranians to release dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so,” a foreign office spokesman said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is not the only dual national being held in Iran but has become the most high profile after Johnson said she had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016, in remarks critics said could have prompted Iran to extend her sentence.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran. Johnson has since apologized for his comments.

There were calls for his resignation – something which threatened to destabilize Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority government at a crucial point in Britain’s Brexit negotiations.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told she will appear in court on Dec. 10, her husband Richard has said.

5. US Embassy won’t be moving to Jerusalem in the next two years – Secy. Tillerson:-

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said today the “relocation” of the US embassy to Jerusalem would probably not take place for at least two years.

President Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel created a firestorm in West Asia with several countries including Turkey, Iran and Saudia Arabia condemning the move.

Clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Palestinians in West Bank on Thursday, just hours after President Trump’s announcement of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

On Friday, after talks with French foreign minister  Jean-Yves Le Drian, Tillerson said: “This is not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year but the president does want us to move in a very concrete, very steadfast way.”

Several Egyptians protested in Cairo against President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. There were protests outside the US embassy in Jordan as the Arab world erupted against the Trump administration’s move.

Hundreds of Palestinians continued to protest in a “day of rage” on Friday in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the ancient city as Israel’s capital.

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