Sudan's military ousts President Omar al-Bashir, ending his 30 years in power

ICMD, April 11, 2019 Sudan's military ousted President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, ending his 30 years in power in response to escalating popular protests. The defense minister announced military rule for two years, imposing an emergency clampdown that risks enflaming protesters who have demanded civilian democratic change. Al-Bashir's fall came just over a week after similar protests in Algeria forced the resignation of that North African nation's long-ruling, military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Together, they represent a second generation of street protests eight years after the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted a number of long entrenched leaders around the Middle East. But like those popular movements of 2011, the new protests face a similar dynamic a struggle over the aftermath of the leader's removal. After the military's announcement on Thursday, protest organizers vowed to continue their rallies until a civilian transitional government is formed. Tens of thousands of protesters were massed at a sit-in they have been holding outside the military's General Command headquarters in Khartoum. The military's coup brought an end to a president who came to power in a coup of his own in 1989, backed by the military and Islamist hard-liners, and who had survived multiple blows that could have brought him down. Over his three decades in power, al-Bashir was forced to allow the secession of South Sudan after years of war, a huge blow to the north's economy. He became notorious for a brutal crackdown on insurgents in the western Darfur region that made him an international pariah, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The United States targeted his government repeatedly with sanctions and airstrikes for his support of Islamic militant groups. Throughout, he maintained his swagger, famed for his on-stage appearances dancing with his cane before cheering crowds. The protests that erupted in December have been the biggest challenge to his rule. They were initially fueled by anger over the deteriorating economy but quickly turned to demands for his ouster. They gained new momentum last week after Bouteflika's resignation. Word of al-Bashir's removal first emerged in the morning. State TV announced that the military would make an “important statement” imminently and the nation should “wait for it.” Two officials high in the military and government told The Associated Press that al-Bashir had been ousted. Thousands of protesters marched toward the center of the capital Khartoum on Thursday, cheering, singing and dancing in celebration. The announcement finally came hours later in the afternoon when Defense Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf appeared on state TV in military fatigues. He said the military had arrested al-Bashir. “I the defense minister, the head of the Supreme Security Committee, announce the uprooting this regime, seizing its head, after detaining him in a safe place,” he said. He denounced al-Bashir's government, saying the military and security agencies had long been observing its “bad administration, systemic corruption, absence of justice, the blocked horizon for all people especially the youth. The poor became poorer and the rich became richer. Hope in equality has been lost.” He also said al-Bashir's heavy-handed security crackdown against protesters had risked cracking the security establishment. Ibn Ouf said a military council decided on by the army, intelligence agencies and security apparatus will rule for two years, after which “free and fair elections” will take place. He also announced that the military also suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country's borders and airspace and imposed a night curfew for one month. Protest organisers have feared the military would impose its control after removing al-Bashir. Earlier in the day, one main organiser, the Sudanese Professionals Association, urged protesters to remain in the streets to press for a civilian transitional government. “We are not leaving. We urge the revolutionaries not to leave the sit-in,” the association said, warning against attempts to “reproduce the old regime.” Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the association, told The Associated Press they will not accept a military coup and insist on an “unconditional stepping down of al-Bashir and his regime. “ -- Courtesy AP

US designates Iran´s Revolutionary Guards as terrorist organization

ICMD, April 8, 2019 The United States on Monday designated Iran´s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, ramping up already far-reaching efforts to undermine the clerical government in Tehran -- which swiftly retaliated by calling US troops terrorists. It is the first time that Washington has branded part of a foreign government a terrorist group, meaning that anyone who deals with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could face prison in the United States. President Donald Trump called the unit -- which has some 125,000 troops and vast interests across the Iranian economy -- Tehran´s "primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign." "This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime," Trump said in a statement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing reporters, said that all businesses and banks around the world "now have a clear duty" to cut off all dealings that involve the Revolutionary Guards. "The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries," Pompeo said. The move comes on top of Trump´s decision last year to pull the United States out of an international deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return for the government allowing its nuclear technology to be restricted and kept under close supervision. The United States has long debated the terrorist designation and has been encouraged to do so by Saudi Arabia and Israel, arch-rivals of Iran which enjoy close relationships with Trump. The decision comes hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces re-election in tight polls. In a statement, he thanked his "dear friend" Trump. Swift retaliation Iran swiftly took retaliatory action. The Supreme National Security Council, in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, declared the United States to be a state sponsor of terrorism and both called the US Central Command and forces underneath it terrorist groups. -- Intl Agencies

Britain’s May seeks third Brexit vote Friday

The British government said it intended to bring back Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third vote in parliament on Friday to avoid a chaotic no-deal divorce from the EU. May’s throw of the dice comes a day after her dramatic pledge to resign in order to persuade her rivals to finally back her vision for breaking Britain’s 46-year bond with the European project. The government’s back is against the wall as it tries to avert potential economic disaster and financial panic in the coming weeks. The House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said the government was trying to secure permission for a third vote from parliament speaker John Bercow. He already rejected a similar attempt last week after ruling that the version May was bringing back was essentially the same text that lawmakers had already twice rejected by resounding margins. “We recognise that any motion brought forward tomorrow will need to be compliant with the speaker’s ruling and that discussion is ongoing,” Leadsom told the chamber. Anxious EU leaders last week offered Britain a Brexit extension until May 22. But it is conditional on parliament voting through May’s deal by Friday — the day Britain was originally scheduled to leave. Failure to pass the deal could mean a no-deal Brexit as early as April 12. Businesses fear that will cause economic chaos. To avoid that, the British government must spell out what its next steps should be. Britain might then seek a much longer extension that would mean it has to hold European Parliament elections despite having voted to leave the bloc. ‘Desire for new approach’ May’s handling of Brexit has provoked both anger and frustration as well as ridicule. She played what may have been her last political card on Wednesday by promising to quit once the messy divorce process is complete. “I know there is a desire for a new approach — and new leadership — in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations and I won’t stand in the way of that,” May told a packed meeting of party members. Her promise won over some likely contenders for her job. May became premier shortly after the 2016 referendum in which Britons narrowly voted to leave the EU. Former foreign minister Boris Johnson said he would now back the premier “on behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit”.

Saudi Arabia rejects call for international probe of Khashoggi murder

ICMD, March 14, 2019 Saudi Arabia on Thursday reiterated its rejection of calls for an international, independent investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, insisting it was well equipped to bring the perpetrators to justice. The head of a Saudi delegation speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva insisted that his country was taking all the “measures required for us to resolve this heinous crime”. Bandar Al-Aiban, who heads Saudi Arabia's human rights commission, stressed though that any calls to “internationalise” the investigation “amount to an interference in our domestic affairs”. Aiban was in Geneva presenting his country's response to a review of its rights record before the council last November, during which it faced a barrage of criticism from countries over the Khashoggi murder. His presentation came after 36 countries last week issued a joint statement demanding justice following the killing, in an unprecedented rebuke of the oil-rich kingdom at the rights council. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. -- Courtesy AFP