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‘Times have changed’: Saudi Arabia-Syria in rapprochement talks | Bashar al-Assad News



Saudi Arabia is close to reaching an agreement on diplomatic normalisation with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, as Riyadh jockeys to play a lead role in removing the Iranian presence from Syria, Al Jazeera has been told by those with close knowledge of the discussions.

According to a senior official from the Syrian opposition Free Officer’s Movement, who maintains close contacts within the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and General Intelligence Directorate (GID), “the political mood within the House of Saud has changed, many senior royals, particularly Mohammad bin Salman [MBS] himself, are keen to reengage with Assad”.

“The prevailing attitude can be defined as, ‘times have changed, the Arab Spring is history and the region is transitioning towards a new future, with new geopolitical characteristics,’” the official, who himself recently reconciled with Damascus after defecting to the Syrian opposition in the summer of 2011, added.

The discussion with Al Jazeera came on the heels of a report in early May, which claimed Riyadh had dispatched an intelligence delegation led by GID Director General Khalid Humaidan to Damascus to engage in discussions on the possibility of detente between the two erstwhile foes. Also in May, Syria dispatched its first ministerial delegation in 10 years to Riyadh, led by the Minister of Tourism Rami Martini.

From the Syrian conflict’s earliest days, Saudi Arabia had been a key player in supporting the proxy war aimed at toppling al-Assad. Riyadh supplied an array of local rebel groups with finances and weaponry, including US-made anti-tank missiles, as part of the effort. However, the campaign faltered following larger counter-interventions by al-Assad’s chief foreign patrons, Russia and Iran.

However, in the sort of strange twist of fate characteristic of Middle Eastern international relations, Saudi Arabia now appears to view the corridors of power in Damascus as an expedient avenue for shoring up its broader regional interests.

‘Defuse Iran tensions’

According to a Damascus-based official from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who was privy to the recent talks with Riyadh: “MBS is engaged in efforts to defuse tensions with The Islamic Republic of Iran by engaging with Syria.”

According to the official, “MBS instructed his team to reassure Syria that he does not want regime change against Bashar, and that Syria, as a brotherly Arab nation, should naturally be close to Saudi Arabia.”

The official claimed this was “clearly also intended as a signal” to the Iranian leadership that Riyadh “recognises that the side of the war in which … [Iran] most heavily invested won, and that it will not try to challenge that reality”.

The official, while refusing to confirm, also alluded to the possibility of an Iranian presence at the Damascus meeting, saying, “let’s just say the Iranians were immediately very welcoming to what they heard.”

Both sources spoke with Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity over the issue.

In May, Iraqi President Barham Salih confirmed reports from April which said Saudi Arabia and Iran held bilateral talks in Baghdad in a bid to soothe simmering tensions. Allegedly, those discussions focused largely, although not exclusively, on resolving the war in Yemen, where the Royal Saudi Air Force has been engaged in an air campaign since mid-2015 against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

An official from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not comment to Al Jazeera on whether the Damascus talks focused on bettering relations with Iran, but did say, “the time has come to accept that Syria, as it is, is an indelible part of the Arab landscape.”

However, while simultaneously seeking to cool tensions with Iran to avoid military conflict, Saudi Arabia’s effort also constitutes the reincarnation of the decades-old quest among Sunni Gulf monarchies to peel Syria away from Tehran’s strategic orbit.

This is now seen as all the more urgent as the tide of the Syrian civil war recedes and Iran continues to reap the post-conflict benefits of its intervention by establishing a deep and influential foothold across government-held areas, particularly in the form of a vast network of parastate Shia militias and institutions.

According to the well-connected figure from the Free Officer’s Movement, “the Saudi officials made clear to the [Syrian] government that they want to re-normalise relations, but any support for Syria in the diplomatic field will need to be preceded by signs that Assad is serious about reducing the influence of the Iranian hand in Damascus … expelling the Iranian militia, and ending [Iran’s] and Hezbollah’s exploitation of Syria as a giant military base.”

Yet, even if al-Assad had the political will to do so, it is doubtful he has the capability to extirpate Iran’s vast network of proxy militiamen, whose help he needs to keep the remnants of his armed opponents at bay.

As Syrian analyst Samir Altaqi recently wrote, “the Syrian army is fractured and weak … Assad is in no position to substitute or even confront the vitally needed and deeply rooted pro-Iranian forces in Syria.”

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad managed to survive the uprising against him [SANA via Reuters]

‘Covert political influence’

According to the Free Officer’s Movement official, the Saudis appear to have for now accepted this strategic reality, and have offered the Syrian government something of a compromise position on the Iranian presence.

“The Saudis acknowledge that the Iranians will continue to have covert political influence in Damascus as they do in Baghdad, but they and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] want Assad to pressure the Iranians to at least reduce their build-up of strategic military assets, like the missile storage and production bases.”

The Saudi-Syrian dialogue follows a recent Russian-facilitated meeting held between representatives of the Israeli and Syrian governments, at which Iran’s military presence was also discussed.

Riyadh, according to the Syrian foreign ministry official, “sees our talks with the Israelis as a possible prelude to behind-the-scenes talks with the US, especially at a time when the new Biden administration wants to leave the Middle East and may, therefore, accept the status-quo in Syria”.

An official in the Biden National Security Council, however, poured cold water on the idea of any rapprochement with al-Assad’s government.

“The United States supports free and fair Syrian elections as called for under UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We will not give legitimacy to the murderous Assad regime. Our allies in the region will do what they see as in the interests of their national security. However, we believe it is in their best interests not to engage with Assad,” said the US official, also on condition of anonymity.

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Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences




Government has on Wednesday started distributing mosquito nets to traders; starting with the Nakasero market.

The exercise was kick-started with 2000 mosquito nets from Quality Chemicals Limited (QCL).

During his last address to the nation on Friday 18th June 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced a 42-day lockdown directive, and all food market vendors were asked to stay at their places of work to avoid spreading the disease.

“Food market vendors should revert to the Presidential Directive of March 2020 to stay in their places of work,” he said.

President Museveni also said that the food market vendors were to be provided with mosquito nets and polythene sheets for their protection.

Handing over the donation, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, a director at Quality Chemicals Limited applauded the market vendors for the sacrifice made when they fled their homes to sleep at workplaces to earn a living for their families and provide food to our communities.

“It is therefore important to us to ensure that they are protected from the harmful mosquitoes that linger in the night. We have donated 2000 mosquito nets to the Ministry of Health who will supply them to the market vendors,” he said

Adding, “I applaud the president and the Ministry of Health for their role in the fight against covid-19. As Quality Chemicals, we decided to contribute towards government efforts in the fight against malaria.”

Upon receipt of the donation on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary applauded quality chemicals for a helping hand.

“The women who sleep in the market are about 5000 according to the number that was given to us by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The ministry has also brought 3000 nets to ensure that the population is covered. The nets are to protect them from mosquito bites while you’re asleep,” she said.

She asked them to follow the Standard Operating Procedures to avoid the further spread of Covid-19.

The post Distribution of Mosquito Nets to Markets Traders Commences first appeared on ChimpReports.

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Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: Heavy casualties reported after airstrike




Eyewitnesses told the BBC that the Ethiopian air force struck a market near the region’s capital.

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OPINION: Real Estate Business at a Glance in the Eyes of the Uganda Fiscal Year 2021/2022




By CPA David Kiwanuka

Section 5 of the Income Tax Act has been amended to include a new subsection 2a. This new subsection provides that: “A person who during a year of income earns rental income from more than one building shall account for the income and expenditure of each building separately and shall pay tax for each building separately.”

A second amendment concerning rental income is in line with the amendment of section 22 of the Income Tax Act: “In the case of rental income, seventy-five per cent (75%) of the rental income is deductible as expenditure and losses incurred by a person in the production of such income.”

This applies to both individuals and companies. The previous rate was 20% of the rental income for individuals and 100% of all losses and expenditures incurred by the company in the generation of rental income in a year of income.

Thirdly, there is an increase in the rental tax rate as per the amendment in Part VI of the Third Schedule. The applicable tax rate is 30% of the chargeable income of a person. The previous rate was 20% for individuals and 30% for non-individuals.

To those of us who own rental facilities, and you have been complying, and also intend to continue complying, the above changes yet to be implemented effectively 01st July 2021, indicate that as an individual, you have a tax advantage of approximately 57% compared to the previous one, and for the company especially if you are still incurring significant expenditures above 75% of the total rental income, you are yet to incur more tax liability as illustrated below (that is; Suppose your annual rental income is Shs 100m, qualifying rental expenditures are Shs 80m; this would result in chargeable rental income of Shs 20m & tax liability would be Shs6m only, for a company.

Currently, the same rental income is expected to result in a tax liability of Shs 7.5m since the qualifying expenditure has been predetermined at 75% of the rental income thus, increasing the chargeable rental income more by 5m. For an Individual; using the same illustration: with the tax reform, the tax liability would be Shs 6.654m, and for the old setting yet to expire on 30th June 2021, you were expected to incur a tax liability of  Shs 15.436m).

Lastly, it is imperative to further appreciate that, the deduction for the depreciation of an industrial building that qualifies for initial allowance has been deferred to the next year of income. Hence, in the year of investment, you can only claim an initial allowance, and from Year 2, you will be eligible for an industrial building allowance.

This makes a lot of sense to investors that have been targeting industrial building statutory purposes (i.e. an industrial building put to use for; an approved commercial building, an approved hospital, an approved hotel business, mining operations, and manufacturing operations) to ensure short and long term tax optimization.

In summary, for as long as you invest in real estate business, whether you earn a profit or incur a loss, you will have to pay tax if you are managing as a company i.e. for a non-individual; at least 30% of the 25% of the annual rental income “Ceteris paribus.”


The post OPINION: Real Estate Business at a Glance in the Eyes of the Uganda Fiscal Year 2021/2022 first appeared on ChimpReports.

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