CIA warns Arab activist of potential Saudi threat

                              By Muhammad Mussa</p>  <p>LONDON (AA) - The CIA warned an Arab activist in Norway that he faces a potential threat from Saudi Arabia, it was reported Tuesday.</p>  <p>“Something crazy - concerning my personal safety - happened two weeks ago which I haven't been at liberty to speak about, but is breaking today. The last two weeks have been very stressful, but I hope I've managed well given the pressure” Iyad el-Baghdadi wrote on Twitter.</p>  <p>U.S. intelligence contacted Norwegian authorities April 25 regarding the potential threat to el-Baghdadi‘s life from Saudi Arabia. He was taken by authorities to a secure location where he was warned of threat.</p>  <p>“The way I understood it was, the Saudis have a crosshairs on me, but there is no idea of what they are going to do,” el-Baghdadi told the Guardian newspaper.</p>  <p>“They assured me that they are taking it very seriously. They came prepared,” he said, explaining that a police squad transferred him to the safe location and another briefed him on the situation.</p>  <p>El-Bahdadi is a Palestinian-born writer and a pro-democracy activist who has been a vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was granted political asylum in Norway in 2015 after being arrested and expelled from the United Arab Emirates.</p>  <p>The pro-democracy campaigner is active on Twitter and has gained a large following because of his satirical and abrupt analysis on Middle Eastern governments, including the Saudi royal family and political issues in the region.</p>  <p>Following the murder last fall of Jamal Kashoggi, a Saudi journalist working for the Washington Post, el-Baghdadi warned that bin Salman would become more dangerous if he was not held to account by the West. </p>  <p>“If they get away with kidnapping the next step will be assassinations in your capitals, and I’m not joking even a little bit,” he said on Twitter.</p>  <p>The outspoken activist further warned that bin Salman is still seeking to silence critics of the Saudi government outside the kingdom and the rising number of educated Saudis who are politically active and living outside the kingdom “is shaping up to be a long-term problem for MBS,” using the prince’s initials.</p>  <p>News of a threat comes months after Kashoggi’s torture and murder inside the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul last October. The high profile murder caused international outrage and saw widespread condemnation of bin Salman. </p>  <p>Following the murder, the CIA fingered bin Salman as being behind the order to kill the Washington Post journalist who was also a U.S. resident. </p>  <p>Despite the evidence, however, the U.S. administration of Donald Trump denied bin Salman’s role in the murder and continues to support the crown prince.

US gets payment from Saudi-led coalition for refueling

             By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. received its first reimbursement payment from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, after Washington failed to charge for fuel and refueling charges, the Pentagon said Thursday.</p>  <p>&quot;The U.S. has received initial reimbursement for the additional refueling expenses following notification to the Saudi-led Coalition of the billing error,&quot; Pentagon spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich told Anadolu Agency in a statement.</p>  <p> The Pentagon said in December it was seeking seeking $37 million for fuel and $294 million for mid-air refueling services conducted by American forces, totaling $331 million owed by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).</p>  <p>&quot;The process of reimbursement is continuing, and we continue to expect full reimbursement of refueling expenses, which has been revised to approximately $299,000,000 for fuel, refueling and flight hours,&quot; Rebarich said.</p>  <p>The charges to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been for their campaign in Yemen to fight Houthi rebel forces.</p>  <p>Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country and the crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition, with support of the U.S., launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.</p>  <p>The UN describes the situation as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.</p>  <p>Tens of thousands of people, including civilians, are believed to have been killed and the UN estimates 14 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.

Saudi border guards rescue Iranian oil tanker crew

By Mohamed Khbesa

RIYADH (AA) – Saudi Arabia's border guards have rescued an Iranian oil tanker carrying 26 sailors off Jeddah city's coast in the Red Sea, state media reported on Thursday.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, a spokesman with the General Directorate of the Saudi border guards said that Jeddah seaport has received a distress call from the Iranian ship "Happiness I" which sustained engine failure that led to loss of control.

The oil tanker, carrying 24 Iranian sailors and two Bangladeshi nationals, broke down some 70 nautical miles southwest of Jeddah seaport.

Saudi authorities rescued the crew, transferred the vessel to Jeddah seaport, and activated the national plan to deal with pollution as a precaution to avoid oil leak, the source added.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) also reported Thursday that an Iranian oil tanker headed to Jeddah seaport due to engine failure.

The tanker set off two days ago to the Suez Canal and had to head to the closest seaport of Jeddah due to the technical failure, IRNA reported.

Commenting on the incident, Iranian Oil Ministry's SHANA Petro Energy Information Network, reported no oil leak in the vessel.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

Saudi Arabia advises citizens to leave Sri Lanka

                                   RIYADH (AA) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday advised its citizens in Sri Lanka to leave the country in the wake of a deadly series of explosions that killed more than 250 people earlier this month.</p>    <p>A brief statement by the Saudi Embassy in Colombo came after US ambassador to Sri Lanka said the militants might be at large and planning more assaults.</p>    <p>On Easter Sunday, at least 253 people were killed and 500 injured when eight explosions targeted various locations in and outside Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.</p>    <p>The bombings hit churches in the cities of Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa, as well as Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo.</p>        <p>Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

US: Pompeo blames Iran for Yemen's civil war

             By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday blamed Iran for the ongoing civil war in Yemen, despite a congressional resolution to end support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in the country.</p>  <p>&quot;With respect to the civil war, this is Iranian-led,&quot; Pompeo said in an interview for The Hill’s Newsmaker Series.</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of countries against Houthi rebels since 2015, when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began in 2014. </p>  <p>The campaign has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.</p>  <p>Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Sweden in December, which yielded a cease-fire agreement in the Red Sea province of Al-Hudaydah. </p>  <p>Neither of the warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from Al-Hudaydah amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.</p>  <p>Pompeo said Houthis were not committing to any of the agreements made in Sweden, following the orders of Iran.</p>  <p>He said that weapons systems being used by Houthi forces &quot;have been smuggled in by Iran&quot; and are aimed at attacking the airport in Riyadh, which means U.S. citizens flying into the country could be in danger.</p>  <p>&quot;The support we are providing the Saudis as they engage with these dangerous missile systems is in America’s best interest,&quot; Pompeo said.</p>  <p>Last month, the Senate voted to pass a legislation that called for the end to the U.S.'s support to the Saudi-led coalition's war efforts in Yemen. The measure alpo passed in the House but was eventually vetoed by President Donald Trump.</p>  <p>Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator and 2020 presidential candidate, rebuked the administration's support for the war, saying &quot;U.S. participation in this war has not been authorized by Congress and is therefore unconstitutional.&quot; 

France: Reporters pressured on leaked secret documents

             <p>By Yusuf Ozcan</p>  <p>PARIS (AA) - France on Thursday launched an investigation of three journalists for &quot;compromising national defense secrets,&quot; referring to one of their stories on French weapons allegedly used in war-torn Yemen.</p>  <p>According to a joint statement by several French media organs, French prosecutors urged the journalists to give a statement on the story, which claimed that weapons sold to the UAE and Saudi Arabia were being used in Yemen.</p>  <p>The statement underlined that the story was based on a Sept. 25, 2018 classified document belonging to a body tied to the Defense Ministry.</p>  <p>French media outlets slammed the investigation as an attack on press freedom and stressed the French public has the right to know about weapons sales to countries accused of war crimes.</p>  <p>The story in question claimed that French weapons were used against Yemen’s Houthis – the rebels who overran much of the country since 2014, after a civil war erupted.</p>  <p>According to the story, 35 civilians were killed in 52 attacks by French howitzers between March 2016 and December 2018. In addition, it stressed that there were 70 French fighter jets and battle tanks -- sold to the UAE in the 1990s -- being used in the Yemen conflict.</p>    <p> </p>  <p>- Contradictory stance on espionage charges</p>  <p>French authorities lost no time in launching an investigation of the case, accusing the journalists of compromising national defense secrets.</p>  <p>However, their attitude stood in stark contrast with their treatment of Can Dundar, a fugitive Turkish journalist accused of leaking classified state documents.</p>  <p>In May 2016, a High Criminal Court in Istanbul convicted Dundar following the publication of images purporting to show arms being transported to Syria in trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT).</p>  <p>Dundar was arrested in November 2015 and held in prison until Feb. 26, 2016, when Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that his rights had been violated and ordered his release.</p>  <p>In March 2018, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals sentenced Dundar to 15-20 years on espionage charges.</p>  <p>But last fall, France turned a blind eye to decisions by Turkish judicial authorities and ignored the extradition agreements between both countries.</p>  <p>In September 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the fugitive journalist and spoke with him for up to an hour in the Elysee Palace, his official residence.</p>  <p>

Trump administration complicit in Saudi crimes: Report

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is complicit in the ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia, The Washington Post said Wednesday.</p>  <p>Trump recently vetoed a resolution aiming to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war, claiming it would weaken his status as commander-in-chief and that Washington's support for Saudi Arabia &quot;does not amount to engaging in hostilities&quot;.</p>  <p>&quot;In reality, the Saudi bombing campaign would be unsustainable without that U.S. support, or the continuing sale of bombs and other material,&quot; the Post's editorial board said in an opinion piece.</p>  <p>&quot;That makes the Trump administration complicit in the continuing atrocities, such as the latest school and hospital bombings,&quot; it said.</p>  <p> Since March 26, the Saudi-led coalition has bombed a hospital in the district of Kitaf and a school in the country's capital, Sanaa, according to the newspaper.</p>  <p>The strikes left at least 21 civilians dead, at least 12 of them children.</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition against Yemen's Houthi rebels since 2015, when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began in 2014.</p>  <p>The campaign has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.</p>  <p>Last year, a UN investigation found that these attacks could possibly amount to war crimes.</p>  <p>      <p>The Post's editorial board noted that Congress needs to look for other ways to force a change in U.S. policy toward the government led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “whose record of extraordinary recklessness in foreign policy has been matched by unprecedented domestic repression”.</p>  <p>It said the ideal approach would be to address both issues, which are intertwined, and this is the strategy of a bipartisan Senate bill. In addition to suspending arms transfers to the kingdom until it ends its campaign in Yemen, the bill seeks to force accountability for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist.</p>  <p>Khashoggi was murdered last October after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.</p>  <p>Saudi Arabia initially denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. But following a rising number of contradictions in its narrative, it sought to blame the journalist's death on a botched rendition operation being carried out by rogue agents.

"Handing a free pass to the crown prince after U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded he was responsible for the Khashoggi murder would be an invitation to further atrocities," it said.

The Post said that while the bill has a good chance of passing, the Republican leadership, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James Risch, has not yet allowed a vote.

US comic rips Kushner's support for Saudi crown prince

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Comedian Hasan Minhaj recently slammed U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner to his face for support for Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler. </p>  <p>Addressing a New York City gathering celebrating the release of the annual Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people, Minhaj referenced the Kingdom's detention of Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi activist who has been imprisoned, and who, like Minhaj, is a Time 100 honoree. </p>  <p>&quot;I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if there was a high ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MBS and say, ‘Hey maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it,&quot; Minhaj said with Kushner present at the gala.</p>  <p>He was referring to Mohammad bin Salman, who is oftentimes referred to simply by his initials. </p>  <p>&quot;But hey, that person would have to be in the room. It’s just a good comedy premise,&quot; Minhaj added. </p>  <p>The Indian-American comic had already run afoul of bin Salman for an episode of his Patriot Act comedy series which lambasted the crown prince for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and which was banned from streaming on Netflix in the Kingdom.</p>  <p>Minhaj told Time after the gala he was sincere in seeking the presidential aide's assistance in freeing al-Hathloul. </p>  <p>“I was just hoping he could send a WhatsApp message,” he said, according to Time. &quot;[It could say] hey, this person has been fighting for civil liberties for all people. Maybe you should let them out of prison.”</p>  <p>In Time's write-up of al-Hathloul, the magazine said the &quot;Saudi people owe a huge debt of gratitude to&quot; her for her activism. </p>  <p>&quot;She was among the first to challenge laws that are out of touch with Saudi Arabia’s young majority population, boldly posting videos of herself driving, running for the country’s first municipal elections to allow women in 2015, and signing the 14,000-strong petition urging an end to restrictions on women’s rights to marry or travel outside the country without a male guardian’s permission,&quot; wrote Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's regional director.</p>  <p>&quot;Unfortunately activism also revealed the crown prince’s intolerance for civil society,&quot; she added.

Saudi executes 37 people for ‘terrorism crimes’

RIYADH (AA) – Saudi authorities executed 37 people in connection with terrorism crimes, according to the official SPA news agency on Tuesday.

The executed were “convicted of forming terrorist cells”, SPA said.

It confirmed that all the executed were Saudi citizens.

Tuesday’s executions came only two days after Saudi authorities said they had foiled a terrorist attack on a police center near the capital Riyadh, in which four attackers had been killed and three policemen injured.

On Monday, Riyadh also detained 13 citizens for allegedly planning to carry out “terrorist acts” in the kingdom.

Saudi, Bahrain welcome US sanctions on Iran oil

RIYADH (AA) – Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on Tuesday welcomed a U.S. move to tighten sanctions on Iran's oil exports.

In a statement cited by the official SPA news agency, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf reiterated the kingdom’s full support for the U.S. move "as a necessary step to force the Iranian regime to stop its destabilizing policies, and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world."

He underlined Saudi efforts “to stabilize the oil market at all times by coordinating with other oil producers in order to ensure that sufficient supplies of oil are available to consumers”.

Bahrain also followed the Saudi footsteps in hailing the U.S. move.

According to the official BNA news agency, Bahrain said the move was "necessary and important, which will support and strengthen efforts drying up the sources of terrorism and address the dangerous role Iran plays in destabilizing security and stability."

On Monday, U.S. announced that it would end sanctions waivers on eight countries — Turkey, China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan — importing oil from Iran.

As of May 2, no country in the world will be able to buy Iranian oil because of the U.S. new sanctions on Tehran.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration re-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports in November after Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The administration then announced it would give 180-day waivers, called Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs), to eight countries to help them wean off their supply of Iranian oil.