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Cuba’s First 5-Star Luxury Hotel Opens Despite Uncertainty Over Trump

HAVANA (Reuters) – Towering cranes dot the Havana skyline as communist-run Cuba races to build luxury hotels, amid indignation among some residents and concern that U.S. President Donald Trump might reverse a detente that fueled the tourist boom.

Swiss-based Kempinski Hotels SA will inaugurate its Gran Hotel Manzana in the heart of the capital on Wednesday, billing it as Cuba?s first true luxury hotel.

The five-star property, managed by Kempinski but owned by the Cuban government, occupies the top floors of a renovated Belle Epoque shopping mall filled with glitzy Gucci and Montblanc stores.

Farther down the iconic Paseo de Prado boulevard toward the Caribbean Sea, workers are developing two other sites into luxury hotels to be operated respectively by Spain?s Iberostar and France?s Accor SA, the largest hotel group in Europe. 

Tourism is the one bright spot in Cuba?s moribund economy, which is struggling with falling exports and upheaval in major trade partner Venezuela. Cuban Tourism minister Manuel Marrero said in May that more than 4.2 million tourists were expected this year, up from 4 million in 2016. He said the country was adding 2,000 hotel rooms a year to its stock of 65,000 hotel rooms and 21,000 homes renting to tourists.

Visits by Americans have soared since U.S.-operated cruises and scheduled flights were relaunched last year as part of the detente pursued by former President Barack Obama after a half-century hiatus.

However, his successor Trump is considering tightening those rules when he announces his Cuba policy as soon as this month, according to current and former U.S. officials and people familiar with the discussions. That would likely hurt tourism, at least in the short run, and might slow the pace of hotel construction.  

?We hope that trade and travel restrictions eased by the Obama administration will not be tightened again by the current U.S. government,? said Alessandro Benedetti, a marketing director at Kempinski. ?That would not be favorable for any kind of businesses connected to tourism, such as cruise ship operators, airlines or hotel chains.?

The Cuban government has courted foreign hotel operators to develop untapped markets, particularly in high-end tourism.

With its gleaming white stone facade and French bay windows, the Gran Hotel Manzana features a rooftop infinity pool overlooking Havana?s central park, as well as a spa with steam room and sauna. There is also a cigar lounge with a tobacco sommelier.

Industry experts say Cuba, which offers a plethora of low- and mid-range accommodation, is right to bet on luxury, although it will be a challenge for operators to maintain standards in a tightly controlled Soviet-style economy.

?We have travel agencies contact us saying they had never worked with Cuba because it didn?t offer anything up to their standards,? said Benedetti.

?But now that?s changed,? he said, citing strong interest from U.S. tourists seeking more luxurious destinations.

Cubans have mixed feelings

It remains unclear how far Trump will go in rolling back Obama?s changes. Any reinstatement of U.S. restrictions on Cuba travel would face criticism from American travel companies as well as a growing number of U.S. lawmakers.

The number of U.S. visitors rose 74 percent last year, but Americans are still not officially allowed to visit as tourists. Because their trips must fit certain categories, like educational travel, most descend on Havana rather than the coastal resorts.

While Cuba has been building resorts around the island, it has redoubled its focus on the capital, where hotels are fully booked year-round and demand is growing.

?With this increase, it would be appropriate to have products of high standard,? said Francisco Camps, Cuba deputy general manager for Spain?s Meliá Hotels International S.A., which wants to introduce its two main luxury brands.

Despite assurances tourism revenues will benefit all Cubans, the move has stirred mixed feelings in a country that prides itself on social equality.

?The hotels are very pretty, but they are too expensive for Cubans,? said retiree Antonio Cazamayor, who lives on a monthly pension of $10. Rooms at the Gran Hotel Manzana will range from $360 for a low-season double to $5,000 for the 1,600-square-foot presidential suite.

Cazamayor?s home in the densely populated back streets of central Havana is just a few blocks from the hotels but feels like a different world.

His building appears derelict from the outside, with the ground-floor windows boarded up, but inside it teems with families packed into tiny units.

Many neighborhood buildings, which date to the 1920s and 1930s, are missing walls or balconies. Collapses are common. An apartment block in front of Cazamayor?s was recently evacuated after its stairwell caved in.

?If that one collapsed, and this one is falling apart, why don?t they build homes?? Cazamayor asked.

Hobbled by an inefficient, centrally planned economy and a U.S. economic embargo, Cuba has struggled to maintain its infrastructure in a punishing tropical climate.

Since the country opened up to tourism in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union, Havana reinvested much of its revenue in renovating historic buildings, from Art Deco hotels to colonial palaces.

?They have returned the sparkle to part of Old Havana,? said Abraham Rodriguez, 45. He attended a school in the building that now houses the Gran Hotel Manzana and recalls how the classrooms flooded when it rained.

But much of the rest of the city is still falling into ruin.

Cubans working in the private sector as restaurateurs, taxi drivers and tour guides say the arrival of Kempinski and its rivals spells good business for them.

Yet the benefits for the more than two-thirds of the government employees are less obvious.

Josefa Cespedes, 73, has been living for a quarter-century in a building that houses a unit of the Communist Party charged with keeping tabs on the neighborhood because her home collapsed.

?The poor have to wait for the state to help,? she said.


(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Cynthia Osterman)

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Pentagon Distancing Itself From Donald Trump On Qatar

The Pentagon is distancing itself from President Donald Trump over remarks he made on the United States? relationship with Qatar.

Trump this week took credit for a recent diplomat shakeup in the Middle East. Several Arab countries, including key U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cut ties with Qatar over its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Those countries consider the largely nonviolent group to be a terrorist organization, but the official U.S. policy is that it?s not. Trump?s recent tweets seemed contradict that stance, however.

Asked about the commander in chief?s comments, Department of Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters that, ?I can?t help you with that… I will only tell you that we have, with regard to our bases there, continued presence in our operations.?

Davis also praised Qatar for what he called an ?enduring commitment to regional security.? State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert echoed those remarks, telling reporters on Tuesday that, ?our relationship with Qatar is one that?s strong? and U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith retweeted an earlier statement she?d made about the ?great partnership? between the two countries.

Trump?s comments came as a shock to officials in Qatar, which Trump had only weeks ago called a friend.

?We were surprised? by Trump?s comments, Ambassador Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani told the Daily Beast. ?It?s unfortunate to see these tweets. We have close coordination with the United States. They know our efforts to combat financial terrorism and terrorism.?

It?s only the latest example of Trump?s Twitter rants creating friction with a key U.S. partner. Earlier this week, he lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling his reaction to the city?s recent terror attack ?pathetic.? Both British Prime Minister Theresa May and the acting U.S. ambassador the U.K. Lewis Lukens praised the mayor in response. Khan then suggested the U.K., widely considered the U.S.? closest ally, cancel Trump?s upcoming visit.

Trump has also publicly squared off with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over refugees and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto over a proposed border wall. He also irritated basically the entire world by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

?Fundamentally, Trump in the last 4½ months has demonstrated that he doesn?t understand or doesn?t care how America has engaged the world for the last 70 years,? former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder told HuffPost.

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The Newest Photo Of The Prince Of Bhutan Is Just Too Cute

Prince George and Princess Charlotte always occupy the royal spotlight, but there?s another little royal who always makes us smile: the baby prince of Bhutan. 

Bhutan?s royal baby, Dragon Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, is absurdly adorable ? that?s just a fact. But he confirmed his royal reign of cuteness with a new photo. 

The photo was released as the country?s June calendar picture and marks the celebration of Queen Jetsun Pema?s birthday. Dragon Prince Jigme is the son of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the queen

Earlier this year, the baby prince went viral because of an equally adorable photo of him playing with a yellow toy car: 

How cute is he? 

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8 Dumbledore Quotes That Can Help You Save For Retirement

Millennial fans who read through all 3,407 pages of the Harry Potter series know that Albus Dumbledore is among the greatest wizards ever. But they don?t, apparently, know how to save for retirement.

According to a Pew Charitable Trust analysis of 2012 Census Bureau data, more than two-thirds of millennials (ages 22 to 34) have failed to open a retirement savings account. If evil forces such as low salaries, high student loans and a lack of access to 401(k) plans are conspiring against your financial future, why not look to Dumbledore for some good advice?

?Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,? says Dumbledore in ?The Prisoner of Azkaban.? As this June marks the 20-year anniversary of the series? release, what better time to faithfully reference Dumbledore ? in the form of eight of his classic quotes ? and start saving?

#1 ?It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.? Time is the one thing that millennials have on their side that no other working generation has. Life expectancies are only rising, and the impact this has on the exponential growth of your money due to compound interest can be quite magical. For example, if at the age of 22 you put $10,000 in an account earning 8-percent interest and never add to it again, you?ll still have over $1 million by the time you turn 82.

#2: ?It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.? Even if you don?t have the ability to save high dollar amounts now, you can still chose to save something. Even a ?riddikulus? $25 a week earning 8-percent interest will grow to give you $466,998.79 in 45 years? time.

#3 ?Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.? Millennials are facing a nearly pension-less future combined with uncertain government programs and benefits. There?s nothing to gain by putting this off. If your employer offers a matching 401(k) plan, then by all means take advantage of the free money. If you?re self-employed or one of the 35 percent who work for employers not offering 401(k)s, opt for an IRA or a SEP IRA. Yes, they offer the same tax advantages as a 401(k), you can still invest in stocks, and setting them up is simple.

#4 ?Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.? Remember why you are saving in the first place. Think about how good it will feel to spend time with your friends or kids or grandkids without rushing off to work. Think about how good it will feel not to be a burden to your family.

#5 ?We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.? Yes, there will be hard days. You will be tempted to take that extra $25 and give in, go out and throw caution to the wind. Next time you?re faced with that decision, remember what you are choosing and why.

#6 ?It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.? On the other hand, don?t make yourself crazy. Figure out how to do both ? save for retirement and live your life.

#7 ?Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.? As millennials, you have officially become the nation?s largest demographic at 83.1 million, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report. The financial industry is desperate to serve you. The data-heavy white paper Millennials Money generated by Facebook found that even though millennials are underinvested, 86 percent say they value saving. If lack of knowledge is stopping you, ask for help.

#8 ?People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.? While it might be hard to stomach the advice of all the well-meaning people imploring you to save, saving is still the right thing to do. Whether you get with a good advisor or take a more do-it-yourself approach, what matters is that you do what you can, or as Dumbledore says, ?fight and fight again, and keep fighting.?

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Official Resigns After Blaming Flint Water Crisis On ‘N*****s Who Don’t Pay Their Bills’

An official at an agency that manages foreclosed homes in Flint, Michigan, has resigned after a recording surfaced Sunday in which he blames the city?s water crisis on ?n*****s who don?t pay their bills.?

Phil Stair resigned as sales manager of the Genesee County Land Bank, the bank?s executive director, Michele Wildman, told MLive on Monday.

Note: A version of the audio file posted online by Truth Against The Machine and a transcript appear in full and uncensored form below.

Local environmental activist Chelsea Lyons recorded Stair explaining in May why he thought Flint, a city mired in debt, switched from buying Detroit?s pretreated Lake Huron water to using Flint River water, which sparked the crisis that has left the city without safe drinking water for several years.

After the 2014 switch, the city?s water plant failed to properly treat the more toxic water under orders from state officials, causing lead from old pipes to leach into city water.

But in his racist remarks, Stair traces the crisis to residents not paying their water bills:

Detroit was charging all its customers for the cost; they weren?t collecting from their residents. They weren?t shutting the water off, they were letting bills go forever, but they were charging everybody else, they covered them. Well, Flint has the same problems as Detroit, fucking niggers don?t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them. I don?t want to call them niggers, shit, I have, shit, I just went to Myrtle Beach, 24 guys, and I was the only white guy. I got friends, I mean, there?s trash and there?s people that do this. ? They just don?t pay their bills. Well, Detroit didn?t collect on their bills, so they charged everybody else, but Flint, Flint had to pay their bill to Detroit.

The comment comes about one minute into a 20-minute audio recording published by liberal news site Truth Against the MachineLyons did not immediately return a request for comment about the recording. She told MLive she and another woman met Stair at a local bar and she made the recordings over two days

Stair?s allegation that unpaid bills caused the Flint water crisis drastically differs from most accounts. Politicians, activists and others have heaped blame on officials at every level of government for ignoring the crisis in its early stages as residents repeatedly raised concerns that their tap water had a funny smell, color and taste ? and was making them sick.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) did not acknowledge the crisis until late in 2015, after experts found that there was a sharp increase in the number of children with elevated lead levels in their blood. There?s no safe exposure level for lead, a harmful neurotoxin that can affect brain development.

Stair also blamed Snyder for not stepping in earlier when Flint was negotiating its water service contract with ?brokeass Detroit.?

Experts have called the crisis an example of environmental racism, saying it would have been handled differently if Flint weren?t a majority-black city where 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The disaster represented ?a complete failure of government? rooted in ?systemic racism,? Snyder?s Civil Rights Commission concluded in a damning report released in February.

Flint residents have had to pay some of the highest rates for drinking water in the country. The state gave residents discounts on water bills after acknowledging the emergency, but suspended the credits earlier this year ? a decision that rankled locals who are paying for contaminated water.

Flint warned 8,000 homeowners last month that they could be hit with tax liens ? legal claims against their property ? if they?ve fallen more than six months behind on their water bills. Genesee County could then foreclose on homes with liens and transfer their ownership to the Genesee County Land Bank. Flint City Council voted to place a one-year moratorium on the tax liens a couple weeks after the city started sending out notices. 

The Land Bank plays a critical role in a city struggling with blight and abandonment, overseeing a major program to demolish vacant homes. In Lyon?s recordings, Stair denigrates the Flint residents he was supposed to serve, complaining about ?fucking deadbeatshe claims are ?destroying? neighborhoods.  

?The people are still the people,? Stair said. ?They fuck the houses up, and they leave and then we tear ?em down; they just go somewhere else and just fuck those houses up.?

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Flint Democrat who has advocated for his constituents throughout the crisis, condemned Stair?s comments on Twitter Sunday. Kildee founded the Land Bank in 2004, when he was Genesee County?s treasurer, and Stair says that Kildee hired him.

Wildman, the bank?s executive director, apologized for her former employee?s remarks on Monday, according to Michigan Radio.

?We are outraged by the offensive statements and committed to taking all steps necessary to rebuild public trust,? she said.

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U.S. Takes Step Towards Embrace Of Gulf Plan To Destabilize Iran

The Trump administration this week appeared to take a potential step closer to backing efforts plotted by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to destabilize Iran; possibly topple its Islamic government; and force Qatar to fall into line with Gulf policies that target Iran, political Islam, and militants; with the appointment of a seasoned covert operations officer as head of the Central Intelligence Agency?s Iran operations.

The appointment of Michael D?Andrea, a hard-charging, chain-smoking operative, alternatively nicknamed the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike, whose track record includes overseeing the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, suggested that the CIA was likely to take a more operational approach in confronting Iran in line with President Donald J. Trump?s Saudi and UAE-backed hard line towards the Islamic republic, which involves a possible push for regime change.

Mr. D?Andrea took up his new post at a moment that the US focus appeared to be shifting to Iran as the Islamic State suffered significant defeats with the near fall of Mosul in Iraq and the imminent fall of Raqqa, the group?s self-declared capital in Syria.

Saudi support of militant groups in Pakistani Balochistan that operate across the border in the Iranian province of Sistan and Balochistan is abetted by a US policy that allows militancy to fester by failing to recognize links between multiple conflicts in South and Central Asia.

Balochistan serves as a safe haven for the Afghan Taliban and as a transit station in the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to Iran and beyond. It is also the focal point of at least two regional proxy wars: the escalating rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the perennial dispute between Pakistan and India. Pakistan accuses Indian intelligence of supporting Baloch separatists in retaliation for Islamabad?s backing of militants in Kashmir.

Mohammad Baksh Sajdi, the assistant commissioner of the Baloch district of Kharran, in a demonstration of the influence of Saudi-inspired, anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, recently banned barbers from ?cutting beards in a fashionable way which is against the principles of Islam according to all religious scholars.? A similar edict was issued in Balochistan?s Omara district. A magistrate in Kharran re-imposed the ban after it was cancelled by the government because it was illegal.

Mr. D?Andrea, who converted to Islam to marry his Muslim wife rather than out of religious conviction, brings an impressive covert operations record to challenging Iran. Mr. D?Andrea was reportedly involved in the use of torture in interrogations of suspected militants under President George W. Bush.

He also played a key role in the targeting in 2008 of Imad Mugniyah, the international operations chief for Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah who maintained close ties to Iran. Mr. Mugniyah was assassinated in Damascus in an operation carried out together with Israel?s intelligence agency, Mossad. Mr. D?Andrea was also involved in the ramping up of US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen that target Islamist militants.

The New York Times noted that Mr. D?Andrea?s appointment came as some US officials, including Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council?s senior director for intelligence, were pushing for a US policy of regime change in Iran.

Mike Pompeo, an advocate in the past of military action against Iranian nuclear facilities, wrote last summer before his appointment by Mr. Trump as CIA director that ?Congress must act to change Iranian behaviour, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.?

Other senior Trump administration officials, including Defense Secretary General (retired) James Mattis and National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, are believed to be hardliners when it comes to Iran.

Mr. D?Andrea?s appointment stroked with an emerging Saudi strategy to escalate the kingdom?s proxy war with Iran by fomenting unrest among the Islamic republic?s ethnic minorities as well as to confront together with the United States Iranian-backed groups in Syria and Yemen. The Trump administration has already stepped up support for Saudi Arabia?s two-year old, ill-fated intervention in Yemen.

Iran is unlikely to stand by idly if Saudi Arabia and the US were to initiate covert operations against it. ?There?s just one small problem: Iran is unlikely to back down,? said US Naval Postgraduate School Iran expert Afshon Ostovar. Mr. Ostovar noted that Iran?s ability to operate through proxy groups like Hezbollah, Lebanon?s Shiite militia, Palestine?s Islamic Jihad, and militias in Iraq was ?its most strategic asset.?

As a result, the US-Saudi-UAE strategy risks Iran retaliating by attempting to stir trouble among Shiites in Bahrain, home to a low-level insurgency since the island?s Sunni Muslim minority regime brutally squashed a popular uprising in 2011 with the support of Saudi troops, and in Saudi Arabia?s oil-rich, predominantly Shiite Eastern province.

To be sure, Shiites in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are Bahrainis and Saudis first and Shiites second. But decades of discriminatory policies in both regions have left their toll, and offer Iran potential opportunity to stir the pot.

Saudi Arabia?s Okaz newspaper reported this week that authorities had foiled an attack on US forces based in Qatar. The newspaper said the foiled attempt was planned by an Al Qaeda unit headed by a Qatari national.

Okaz?s report came in the wake of a suicide bombing in Qatif in the Eastern Province and a Saudi and UAE-sponsored media campaign against Qatar because of its ties to Iran and alleged support for militants. Saudi Shiite activists accused a US-trained Saudi interior ministry unit of having instigated the Qatif bombing in an effort to bolster the kingdom?s claim that it is a victim of Iran-inspired political violence.

Qatar announced amid the Saudi-UAE campaign that six of its soldiers had been wounded in Yemen ?while conducting their duties within the Qatari contingent defending the southern borders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?.

In a move reminiscent of past Qatari efforts to placate UAE and Saudi criticism, Qatar was reported to have expelled several officials of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, who were involved in the group?s activities on the Israeli occupied West Bank.

In the latest episode of the Gulf cyberwar, leaked mails from the email account of the UAE ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, whose authenticity was confirmed by Huffpost and The Intercept, showed the UAE looking at ways to influence Iran?s domestic situation.

The UAE was also pressing the Trump administration in cooperation with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies to move its US air force base, the largest in the Middle East, out of Qatar.

The emails also revealed efforts to persuade US companies not to pursue opportunities in Iran. Various media reports suggested that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were gunning for the removal of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani as emir of Qatar.

A proposed agenda for a meeting this week between senior UAE officials and Foundation executives included discussion of possible US and UAE ?policies to positively impact Iranian internal situation?. Among the list of policies were ?political, economic, military, intelligence, and cyber tools,? and efforts ?contain and defeat Iranian aggression.? The agenda also included countering Qatari support for Islamist and militant groups; its ?destabilizing role in Egypt, Syria, Libya, the Gulf;? and ?Al Jazeera as an instrument of regional instability.?

The Foundation, which has played a leading role in arguing against the 2015 agreement that ended the Iranian nuclear crisis and lifted crippling international sanctions against the Islamic republic, enjoys funding from wealthy US conservatives, including gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, who supported Mr. Trump?s election campaign and is a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

The Saudis backed by the US are likely to be fishing in murky ponds in Iran. Baloch groups are largely delineated along either nationalist or Sunni Muslim ultra-conservative lines with Pakistani intelligence backing religious groups against the nationalists.

However, communities like the Iranian Arabs in Khuzestan, Iran?s oil-rich province that Arabs call Ahwaz after the region?s main city, are deeply divided and factitious and often a cesspool of personal, political and ideological rivalries. Various of the Ahwazi and Baloch groups maintain links with one another. Yet, sorting out who is who is often an almost impossible task.

In an assertion of ethnic identity, thousands of Iranian Arabs attended in March 2017 an Asian soccer competition match between Esteghlal Ahvaz FC, the local team in the Khuzestan capital of Ahwaz, and Qatar?s Lekhwiya SC dressed in traditional Arab garb.

Ahwaz Monitor, an Iranian Arab website, said the fans were protesting government efforts to suppress their identity. It said the fans cheered their team in Arabic rather than Farsi and chanted ?Arabic is my identity and honour? and ?Al Ahwaz for Ahwazis and all Gulf state residents are dearest to us.? Fans also reportedly recited poetry celebrating their region?s Arab heritage.

The website created last summer by Iranian Arab activists is emblematic of the factitiousness of exile Iranian ethnic minority groups. Yasser Abadi, an Ahwazi activist, who founded the website, rejected allegations that it was Saudi-backed or had links to militant Saudi-backed groups like Jundullah in Balochistan or the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (Harakat Al-Nizal L?Tahrir al-Ahwaz) that has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Khuzestan.

Al Nizal is believed to have close ties to Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatives in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. The group?s spokesmen appear on Wesal TV, a Saudi-based, virulently anti-Shiite satellite broadcaster.

Mr. Abadi insisted that he had funded the site himself, paying GBP 350 for three years of Internet hosting. The site ?doesn?t need Saudi or Arab League support or encouragement,? Mr. Abadi said.

Mr. Abadi described Saudi policy towards Khuzestan as ?volatile? and geared towards ?militarizing the region.? Mr. Abadi said most Ahwazis rejected violence because of the death and destruction they see elsewhere in the Middle East. He said his group relied on ?Arab influence,? which he defined as indirect ?media support, Arab votes in UN sub-committees against Iranian practices…publications, and legal support.?

Iran watchers noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has allowed some voice of dissent to be heard. ?The more that this happens, the less the Saudi-backed separatists win. What the separatists want is the polarisation of views and to incite the regime to attack the (Iranian Arab) community, thereby securing a popular backlash. In recent weeks, they have conducted more murders, mostly of security personnel but also of non-security officials. They want mass arrests and public executions in order to establish themselves as the vanguard of the Ahwazi resistance,? one expert said.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg?s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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