Breaking News -- Middle East
|Kuwait Imposes Visa Ban on Five Muslim-Majority Countries
Kuwait has ripped a page from the playbook of US President Donald Trump by suspending the issuance of visas for travelers native to Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
Correction: the following news article proved to be untrue. As Ghulam Dastagir, Pakistan's ambassador in Kuwait said on Wednesday, this rumor first appeared in 2011. Mr. Dastagir clarified that Kuwait hasn't placed any visa ban on Pakistani nationals. No contrary statements have been issued by representatives of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.
Tourism, trade, and visitor visas from the nations have all been restricted, following an order from the Kuwaiti government to slap a "blanket ban" on possible migrants.
Observers have pointed out that most of the nations on Trump’s list have substantial Muslim populations and are experiencing some form of economic or military conflict. Alex Nowrasteh, of the Cato Institute, a right-leaning think tank, writes "foreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and the end of 2015." Nowrasteh opined that “the measures taken here will have virtually no effect on improving US national security.”
The Kuwaiti government has told would-be migrants to not apply for visas from the five banned nations, as Kuwait City is worried about the possible migration of radical Islamic terrorists. A group of militants bombed a Shia mosque in 2015, killing 27 Kuwaiti nationals. A 2016 survey conducted by Expat Insider ranked Kuwait one of the worst nations in the world for expatriates, primarily due to its strict cultural laws.
Kuwait was the only nation to prohibit the entry of Syrian nationals prior to Trump’s executive action. Kuwait City previously issued a suspension of visas for all Syrians in 2011.
As a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kuwait has become embroiled in escalated tensions between the GCC and Iran. Washington has emerged as a guarantor of GCC security since the early 1990s, according to a Congressional Research Service brief. On Wednesday, Trump’s National Security Adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, made a highly unusual appearance at a White House daily briefing in which he announced that the US is “officially putting Iran on notice,” but did not detail what the warning entailed.
lynn cited a recent Houthi attack on a Saudi vessel and ballistic missile weapons testing as "Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East," adding that "these are just the latest of a series of incidents in the past six months in which Houthi forces that Iran has trained and armed have struck Emirati and Saudi vessels, and threatened US and allied vessels transiting the Red Sea."
End of tax-free living in Saudi Arabia as oil revenues dry up
Saudi Arabia has introduced a value-added tax (VAT) with the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), indicating the end of life without VAT across the Gulf.
The decision was taken on Monday and implies a five percent levy on some goods across the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which unites Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Other Gulf countries are also expected to follow and introduce the VAT system by the beginning of 2018.
The move has IMF backing, which recommended the Gulf States impose revenue raising measures. The countries have already introduced taxes on tobacco and fizzy drinks.
“A Royal Decree has been prepared,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The tax on tobacco, now at 50 percent, will be increased to 100 percent, the same level as those for energy drinks and sodas.
Residents of the region had enjoyed the tax-free period before the oil prices more than halved. The price of a barrel of crude oil fell from over $114 in 2014 to just over $55 currently.
Last year, the world’s largest crude exporter announced some austerity measures. Saudi Arabia froze major infrastructure projects, slashed ministers’ salaries and imposed a wage freeze on civil servants. Riyadh managed to reduce the budget deficit from a record $98 billion in 2015 to $79 billion last year.
The country also made unprecedented cuts to fuel and utility subsidies, as it seeks to diversify its revenues to balance the budget by 2020.
Iran fires another missile from launch pad, US official says
by Lucas Tomlinson
Iran launched another missile Wednesday from the same launch pad east of Tehran where it conducted a previous ballistic missile test last month, an official told Fox News.
The Semnan launch pad was the same as the one where Fox News reported exclusively on Tuesday, satellite photos showed Iran had placed a Safir rocket poised to put a satellite into space before it was taken off the launcher. The reason Iran scrubbed the previous launch is not yet known.
The missile used in Wednesday's launch was a short-range Mersad surface-to-air missile, which impacted 35 miles away, according to a U.S. official.
This latest test comes less than a week after the U.S. placed new sanctions on Iran. There's been a flurry of activity at the Semnan launch pad, located about 140 miles east of Tehran, in recent weeks, officials have told Fox News.
On Jan. 29, Iran launched a new type of medium-range ballistic missile prompting an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 31. A day later the White House issued a strongly worded statement from National Security Adviser Mike Flynn putting Iran "on notice." President Trump tweeted a similar statement soon after.
On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch “very dangerous” and said the launch “should not have happened,” and agreed with President Trump that new sanctions on the Islamic Republic were needed.
U.N. Resolution 2231 calls upon Iran not to conduct ballistic missile tests -- but does not forbid the nation from doing so. The resolution went into effect days after the landmark nuclear deal with signed with Western nations including the U.S.
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