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Tensions rise amid expectations of Iran retaliation against Israel

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Iran has promised a response after its consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus was destroyed in a suspected Israeli missile attack (Aljazeera)

Iran’s mission to the United Nations has suggested that any Iranian military response to a deadly Israeli air raid on the Iranian consulate in Damascus  could have been averted if the UN Security Council had denounced Israel’s attack.

The Iranian statement on Thursday comes amid a growing number of media reports that an Iranian attack on Israel or Israeli interests is imminent.

“Had the UN Security Council condemned the Zionist regime’s reprehensible act of aggression on our diplomatic premises in Damascus and subsequently brought to justice its perpetrators, the imperative for Iran to punish this rogue regime might have been obviated,” the Iranian mission said in a social media post.

Iran has promised to carry out a “decisive” response to the Israeli attack that killed seven members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two generals, in Damascus on April 1.

The Israeli assault and anticipated Iranian retaliation have raised fears of an all-out regional war in the Middle East amid the raging conflict in Gaza, intensifying tensions and a chorus of calls for de-escalation

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian held phone calls with his Qatari, Saudi, Emirati, Iraqi and German counterparts.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock cautioned against further tensions during her talks with Amir-Abdollahian, Berlin said.

“Avoiding further regional escalation must be in everyone’s interest. We urge all actors in the region to act responsibly and exercise maximum restraint,” the German Federal Foreign Office said in a post on X.

German airline Lufthansa extended its suspension on flights to Tehran on Thursday, the Reuters news agency cited a company spokesperson as saying.

Russia also warned its citizens against travelling to the Middle East, especially Israel, the Palestinian territory and Lebanon.

The United States, which has forces stationed across the region, had warned Iran against attacking Israel, pledging support for its ally.  “Our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad; let me say it again: ironclad,” US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. “We’re going to do all we can to protect Israel’s security.”

A US official, who spoke to Al Jazeera Arabic on condition of anonymity, said Biden’s statement is not merely rhetorical, and the US would help intercept Iranian rockets or drones against Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke via phone to Israeli Defence Minister Yogy Gallant on Wednesday.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s security and made clear that the US will stand with Israel against any threats by Iran and its proxies,” the US Department of State said in a statement.

Blinken also spoke to his Turkish, Chinese and Saudi counterparts, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

“We have been engaged in a series of contacts not just at his [Blinken’s] level – but other levels, too – to talk to foreign counterparts to send this really clear message to Iran that they should not escalate this conflict,” Miller said.

The New York Times reported, citing anonymous Pentagon sources that Michael E Kurilla, the top US general in the Middle East, was visiting Israel on Thursday to discuss the possible Iranian attack.

Later on Thursday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that the US is committed to Israel’s security without providing details on how Washington would respond to an Iranian strike. “I want to be really careful. I am not going to get into operational procedures from here,” she told reporters.

Iran hawks in the US Congress have been calling for a strong response by Washington to any Iranian military move against Israel.

“Israel is under threat of imminent attack by Iran,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton wrote in a social media post. “President Biden needs to warn the ayatollahs immediately that the United States will back Israel to the hilt and the joint American-Israeli retaliation for any attack will be swift and devastating.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to issue a threat to Iran and other adversaries, saying that the country is prepared for “challenges in other arenas” beyond the war on Gaza.  “We have determined a simple rule: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We are prepared to meet all of the security needs of the State of Israel, both defensively and offensively,” Netanyahu said during a visit to an airbase in central Israel, according to his office.

The Israeli military has been attacking Iran-linked targets in Syria for years as Tehran deepened its military presence in the war-torn country.

But the attack on the Iranian diplomatic facility in Damascus earlier this month was seen as especially brazen. It garnered condemnations from across the Middle East and the rest of the world.

“The consulate and embassy offices in any country are considered to be the territory of that country. When they attack our consulate, it means they have attacked our territory,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

“The Zionist regime made a mistake and must be punished and will be punished.”

(Aljazeera)



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Landslide early warnings issued to Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura Districts

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The Landslide Early Warning Centre of the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has issued landslide early warnings to the districts of Badulla, Colombo, Galle, Gampaha, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala and Ratnapura. The warning will be effective until 12 noon on 21st May 2024.

Accordingly,
Level II landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district and Mathugama in the Kalutara district.

Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries divisions and surrounding areas of Haldumulla, Haputhale, Badulla, Hali Ela and Ella in the Badulla district, Padukka in the Colombo district, Nagoda and Elpitiya in the Galle district, Attanagalla in the Gampaha district, Dodangoda, Agalawatta, Ingiriya, Bulathsinhala, Walallawita and Palindanuwara in the Kalutara district, Yatinuwara, Ganga Ihala Korale, Kandy four Gravets or Ganagawata Korale,  Pasbage Korale, Udapalatha, Ududumbara and Udunuwara in the Kandy district, Kegalle, Deraniyagala, Yatiyanthota, Bulathkohupitiya, Mawanella, Galigamuwa, Dehiowita, Ruwanwella and Warakapola in the Kegalle district, Alawwa, Narammala and Polgahawela in the Kurunegala district, Ratnapura, Balangoda, Kiriella, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda, Kuruwita, Imbulpe, Ayagama and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.

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President highlights Global North’s failure in Climate Change Financing at 10th World Water Forum

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing the 10th World Water Forum, held in Bali, Indonesia today (20), highlighting the stark contrast between global funding priorities, pointing out the willingness of the Global North to fund death and destruction in Ukraine while showing reluctance to finance measures to combat climate change.

Accordingly, President Wickremesinghe proposed a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens, estimated at $1.4 trillion annually. He suggested that funds raised through this levy could support Blended Finance projects focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The World Water Summit, themed “Water for Common Prosperity,” began on May 18 in Bali, Indonesia, bringing together world leaders, experts, academics, entrepreneurs, and policymakers. The conference aims to unite nations in a collaborative effort to address global water issues.

Since its inception in 1997, the World Water Summit has been held every three years, serving as a premier platform for countries worldwide to share experiences and knowledge on best practices for water management. The summit facilitates dialogues among stakeholders on water, sanitation challenges, and sustainable development goals.

This year’s event sees the participation of key United Nations organizations, including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations International Children’s Fund, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the United Nations Climate Change Organization.

Following is the speech delivered by President Ranil Wickremesinghe;

At the outset let me thank the President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Joko Widodo for hosting the 10th World Water Forum in Bali. The theme ‘Water for shared prosperity’ focuses on collective responsibility in managing water resources, the life blood of all living beings and ecosystem services. This follows the “Sustainable Management of Lakes” Resolution proposed by Indonesia at the UNEA-5.

During the UNEA -6 held this year, the European Union together with Sri Lanka brought about the resolution “6/13 Effective and inclusive solutions for strengthening water policies to achieve sustainable development in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for taking the initiative during the G20 Presidency to launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance. Sri Lanka expresses its willingness to become a pioneering member.

Climate Change and water stress are two sides of the same coin. The cumulative effects of Climate Change are the main reason for what we see today as the water resource crisis. According to IPCC projected climate scenarios till 2090, Sri Lanka’s dry zone will get drier and the wet zone will get wetter in an unprecedented manner. Sea level rise will cause salt water intrusion in coastal areas resulting in salinization of land. I took this example from Sri Lanka while appreciating the fact that this is what is happening all over the world.

In global terms the solution to water stress revolves around climate mitigation and adaptation. Combating the triple planetary crisis with specific measures aiming at water. In the Nationally Determined Contributions water is classified under the adaptation sectors. On the other hand, mitigation is equally important as emissions are the root cause. Combating the threats to water resources posed by climate change requires colossal amounts of financial resources.

The Global North has failed miserably in adhering to the commitments to provide financial resources for Climate Change. There is a notable lack of political will after the euphoria of the Glasgow COP was over. Climate Change denial is gaining ground in the West.

The establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund, after a long drag, if effectively implemented can help to bridge the gap. This is a big IF. The Summit for a new Global Financing Pact will hopefully reach a conclusion by September this year. Nevertheless, the final outcome will depend on the results of the US Presidential Elections in November.

The OECD in 2021 projected the investment for global water related infrastructure at US $ 6.7 trillion for 2030 and US$ 22 trillion for 2058. The UNEP Report 2023 “Underfinanced – Underprepared” estimate the under financed gap to combat climate change at US$ 194 – 366 billion per year. The Global North is willing to fund death and destruction in the Ukraine. But there is an unwillingness to fund measures to avoid death and destruction caused by climate change.

Since money is not coming our way in anticipated amounts and at anticipated pace, to overcome the resource gap, Sri Lanka presented to COP 28 the Tropical Belt Initiative. A novel concept of harnessing commercial investments in the natural forests, mangroves, swamps, grassland water bodies and other natural resources in the Tropical Belt towards tackling the triple planetary crisis. The Tropical Belt from the time of its existence has been a ‘shield’ for the whole world. It is a catalytic accelerator of solutions to the ongoing triple planetary crisis. Investment in the tropical belt will bring in transformative changes to combat the triple planetary crisis.

In this context, the Initiative on Global Blended Finance will enable the Global South to mobilise the much needed financial resources. The US$ 9.4 billion available to commence this fund is a good example of leveraging concessional finance. The Tropical Belt Initiative will also benefit from this facility. In this context Sri Lanka proposes a 10% levy on the annual profits of global tax evasion assets deposited in tax havens. The annual profits are estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion per annum. The levy can be enforced by imposing sanctions, similar to those imposed on Russian Banks on the Banks and the Financial Institutes which fail to implement the levy. The monies raised by these levies to be made available to be utilised by the Blended Finance projects on Climate Change adaptation and mitigation.

The Global Blended Finance initiative is a supplement to the Loss and damage funds – not an alternative. These two measures must work in tandem. Therefore at this forum, let us express our appreciation for the hard work done by Indonesia in proposing this Initiative at the G20 culminating the establishment of the Alliance Secretariat.

Again, our thanks to President Joko Widodo for his contribution both in respect to the management of water resources and for bringing together the Global Blended Alliance.”

 

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Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president, dies in helicopter crash aged 63

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Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran's president in 2021, having led the country's judiciary and other top offices

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has died after a helicopter carrying him and other officials crashed in a mountainous and forested area of the country in poor weather.

The 63-year-old, a figure representing conservative and hardline factions in Iranian politics, was president for nearly three years and appeared on track to run for re-election next year.

A former chief justice, Raisi was touted as a potential successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 85-year-old supreme leader of Iran.

Raisi was born in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, a religious hub for Shia Muslims. He underwent religious education and was trained at the seminary in Qom, studying under prominent scholars, including Khamenei.

Also like the supreme leader, he wore a black turban, which signified that he was a sayyid – a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, a status with particular significance among Twelver Shia Muslims.

Raisi racked up experience as a prosecutor in multiple jurisdictions before coming to Tehran in 1985. It was in the capital city that, according to human rights organisations, he was part of a committee of judges who oversaw executions of political prisoners.

The late president was a longtime member of the Assembly of Experts, the body that is tasked with choosing a replacement for the supreme leader in the event of his death.

He became attorney general in 2014 for two years, when he was appointed by Khamenei to lead the Astan Quds Razavi. The colossal bonyad, or charitable trust, has billions of dollars in assets and is the custodian of the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia imam.

Raisi initially ran for president in 2017, unsuccessfully challenging the re-election of former President Hassan Rouhani, who represented the centrist and moderate camps.

After a short hiatus, Raisi was making headlines as the new head of the Iranian judiciary system, having been appointed by Khamenei in 2019. He presented himself as a defender of justice and a fighter against corruption, and made many provincial travels to garner popular support.

Raisi became president in 2021 amid low voter turnout and wide disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates, and appeared to have secured a firm footing for re-election.

Like other top Iranian officials, his harshest rhetoric was reserved for Israel and the United States, followed by their Western allies.

Raisi made many speeches since the start of the war on Gaza in October to condemn ‘genocide’ and ‘massacres’ committed by Israel against Palestinians, and called on the international community to intervene.

He promised revenge against Israel after it levelled Tehran’s consulate building in Syria and killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including two generals.

And he welcomed Iran’s response which was to launch hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, most of which were shot down by a coalition of Israeli allies – but left Iran claiming an overall success.

Raisi was hawkish on Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has been in limbo after former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018.

He was a champion of the strategic policy of “resistance” and “resilience” that Khamenei has adopted in the face of the harshest-ever sanctions that Iran has faced – imposed after the nuclear deal fell through.

A close ally of the IRGC, the late president was also a staunch backer of the “axis of resistance” of political and armed groups that Iran supports across the region, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

And he was a strong backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Iran has supported in his government’s war against the Syrian opposition, which has left hundreds of thousands dead.

(Aljazeera)

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