Middle East Government


Yemeni Houthis claim drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Yemen's Houthi movement launched drone attacks on oil facilities in a remote area of Saudi Arabia, the group's Al Masirah TV said Saturday, but there was no immediate confirmation from Saudi authorities or state oil giant Aramco. A Saudi-led coalition is battling the Iran-aligned Houthis to try to restore Yemen's government, which was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the group in late 2014. The war has been in military stalemate for years. The Houthis have stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent months. "Ten drones targeted Aramco's Shaybah oilfield and refinery in the first Operation: Balance of Deterrence in the east of the kingdom," the Al Masirah channel reported, citing a Houthi military spokesman.


Magazine says Trump invited Iranian foreign minister to White House

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the White House last month at the height of tensions between the two countries, The New Yorker magazine reported. The invitation, extended by Sen. Rand Paul with permission from the president, was turned down for now, The New Yorker reported Friday. Zarif said it was up to Tehran to decide on accepting it. Neither the White House nor the State Department responded to requests for comment on the report, which quoted U.S. and Iranian sources and what the magazine called a well-placed diplomat. Zarif told the magazine he would not want a White House meeting that yielded just a photo op and a two page statement afterwards, The New Yorker said.


Speculative Data Futures: Karima

#artificialintelligence

I am Karima, which means the generous. It always reminds me of my home, Syria, a generous country destroyed by war. I was born and raised in a refugee camp populated by 5000 Syrians. It is not easy to be born Syrian in a refugee camp, especially if you are a woman. Hunger for a loaf of bread in the refugee camp is connected to a hunger for bodies.


SoftBank Group's $108 billion Vision Fund 2 draws in Microsoft, Apple

The Japan Times

SoftBank Group Corp. has secured pledges from Microsoft Corp. and other investors of around $108 billion for a second Vision Fund aimed at investing in technology firms. The Japanese conglomerate itself plans to invest $38 billion in the fund, it said in a statement. Others set to join include Apple Inc. and Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (Foxconn) -- both investors in the first fund. Notable for their absence on the list of state and corporate backers were the sovereign wealth funds of the two countries that formed the cornerstone of its first fund: Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, as well as investment bank Goldman Sachs. SoftBank said it is still talking to potential investors and that it expects the fund's anticipated capital to grow.


Iran denies claim that US warship destroyed Iranian drone

FOX News

Iran's Revolutionary Guard claims the vessel was caught trying to smuggle Iranian oil to foreign ships; Trey Yingst reports. Iran on Friday denied President Trump's claim that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf after it threatened the ship -- an incident that further escalated tensions between the countries. Trump said Thursday that the USS Boxer – which is among several U.S. Navy ships in the area – took defensive action after an Iranian drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down. Trump blamed Iran for a "provocative and hostile" action and said the U.S. responded in self-defense. But Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters as he arrived for a meeting at the United Nations that "we have no information about losing a drone today."


Robotic surgery set to transform medical care in the Gulf

#artificialintelligence

DUBAI: When it comes to man versus machine, many industries, including medical science, are at a critical juncture. Advancements in technology are creating a world where robots are performing tasks with speed and efficiency unmatched by their human counterparts. Increasingly, robots are becoming a familiar presence in operating theaters, especially in the Gulf. Experts predict that the region could become the leader in the field of robotic surgery. In June, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) -- the result of a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Johns Hopkins Medicine -- became the first hospital in the Kingdom to perform a robot-assisted hysterectomy.


Iran vows to ditch more nuclear curbs in war of words with U.S.

The Japan Times

TEHRAN - Iran said Tuesday it will further free itself from the 2015 nuclear deal in defiance of new American sanctions as U.S. President Donald Trump warned the Islamic republic of "overwhelming" retaliation for any attacks. Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have spiraled since last year when Trump withdrew the United States from the deal under which Tehran was to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The two arch-rivals have been locked in an escalating war of words since Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in what it said was its own airspace, a claim the US vehemently denies. On Monday, Washington stepped up pressure by blacklisting Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and top military chiefs, saying it would also sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later in the week. Tehran was defiant on Tuesday, saying the new US sanctions against Iran showed Washington was "lying" about an offer of talks.


Mike Pompeo in Mideast seeks to build coalition against Iran but faces hard sell

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks Monday with the Saudi king and crown prince about countering the military threat from Iran by building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump repudiated last year. With tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20 and Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran's naval commander warned that his forces won't hesitate to down more U.S. drones that violate its airspace. The U.S. has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.


Iran likely at 'inflection point,' launching attacks to change 'status quo,' Defense Intelligence Agency director tells Fox News

FOX News

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., director of Defense Intelligence Agency, gives insight on recent Iranian attacks on tankers and a surveillance drone. EXCLUSIVE – Iran is likely at "an inflection point," and the recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone appear to be part of an effort to change "the status quo," the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told Fox News exclusively. "I'd say that they're probably at an inflection point right now," the director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., explained in his first national TV interview as the leader of the nearly 17-thousand strong agency. Director Ashley said, based on their activity over the last several years, the Iranians would probably say they were in a "favorable" position with their influence over the Iraqi government and the likelihood their longtime regional ally -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad -- will remain in power. But, Director Ashley -- whose agency's mission is to understand foreign militaries and the operational environment -- said the United States' withdrawal from the Iran deal and subsequent sanctions made a major impact on the regime.


Yemen's Houthi rebels strike Saudi airport ahead of Mike Pompeo visit

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - One person was killed and seven others were wounded in an attack by Iranian-allied Yemeni rebels on an airport in the kingdom Sunday evening as U.S. Secretary of State was on his way to the country for talks on Iran, Saudi Arabia said. Regional tensions have flared in recent days, The U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. The Trump administration has vowed to combine a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions with a buildup of American forces in the region, following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. A new set of U.S. sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. The Sunday attack by the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, targeted the Saudi airport in Abha.