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Chitchat What happened in Saudi Arabia in the last 3 days ?

Yes a little out of date but I thought I'll post it anyway as it gives a sense of the mood in Iran. But in spite of this, my friends there tell me that it's very much life as per normal in Iran. They are pissed off and irritated but are just just shrugging this off as sabre rattling by the Saudis and do not see MBS representing any a real threat for now. Tehran Times is much like our ST anyway, probably ranked just a few notches away.
This classic video from the days of the Iran-Iraq War (and excellently narrated by Sean Bean is extracted from Once Upon a Time in Iran) - you should ask your friends about the man who is known as Khomeini's Nightingale, Sadiq Ahengaran (you can catch him at the 1:00m mark)

One of Ahengaran's most famous songs:

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The full documentary offers an interesting narrative on the Iranian perspective of martyrdom which is inspired by the deaths of Hussain and his son at the battle of Karbala (in Iraq) - so despite the shism between Sunni and Shia was ignited by Ali not being declared successor, the Iranian spiritual connect is intrinsically linked to Hussain - and the return of the Hidden Imam/Mahdi.

Unlike the Arab states (GCC or otherwise), the Iranians do not shy away from iconography of the Prophet, Ali, Hussain, the Imams and the Mahdi either:

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"Yemen's former president, who once said that governing the Arabian Peninsula country was like "dancing on the heads of snakes", has turned his back on his rebel allies, in a move planned and orchestrated by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates."

Planned in Abu Dhabi

Yemeni officials told Al Jazeera that Saleh's decision to "sideline" the Houthis, a group of Shia rebels that control the capital Sanaa and large expanses of the country, was planned in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, in consultation with Saudi Arabia.

A Yemeni official told Al Jazeera that the unravelling of the Saleh-Houthi alliance was aimed at carving the coalition an exit from the conflict.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, the official said: "Mohammed Bin Salman [Saudi Arabia's crown prince and heir to the throne] has been influenced by the UAE and thinks switching from [Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour] Hadi to Saleh will help end the war."

Leaked emails written by two former US officials in August suggested that Mohammed bin Salman "wanted out" of the war, which he started in March 2015.

When the conflict began, analysts expected the fighting to last only a few months, but the violence has shown no signs of abating, costing the coalition billions of dollars and claiming the lives of at least 87 Emirati troops and an estimated 200 Saudis.

According to the UN, more than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed and millions forced from their homes, and the country is facing the worst famine in modern history.

"The UAE and Saudi Arabia have lost a lot of men in this war and it seems that with the UAE's help, Saleh, or one of his sons, could end it," the official said.

"Saleh has completely sidelined the Houthis. With help from the UAE, he's still dancing on the heads of snakes. In a year or two from now, his son, Ahmed, or even former Prime Minister Khaled Bahah [who currently resides in the UAE], could be the next man to rule Yemen."

Intelligence Online, a Paris-based news and diplomacy publication, reported that Mohammed bin Salman sent Ahmed al-Asiri, the former military spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, to Abu Dhabi in June to meet Saleh's son, Ahmed, and discuss the possibility of forming a new government.

Ahmed, a powerful former military chief who once served as ambassador to the Emirates, has been living in the UAE for the last five years.

The publication also said that Mohammed bin Salman was lobbied by the UAE's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, to ditch Hadi in favour of Saleh. It added that Mohammed bin Salman had warmed to the idea of "a return to power of the former Yemeni president."

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Yemen crisis: Who is fighting whom?
  • 2 December 2017
Related Topics
Image copyrightEPA
Image captionMore than 60% of civilian deaths have been the result of Saudi-led air strikes, the UN says
Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been devastated by a war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

More than 8,600 people have been killed and 49,000 injured since March 2015, many of them in air strikes by a Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs the president.

The conflict and a blockade imposed by the coalition have also left 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and created the world's largest food security emergency.

Although neither side appears close to achieving a military victory, in December cracks began to appear in the alliance fighting Mr Hadi's forces, which could potentially augur a fresh effort at negotiating an end to the war.

How did the war start?
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHouthi rebel fighters entered Sanaa in September 2014 and took full control in January 2015
The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to Mr Hadi, his deputy, in 2011.

Mr Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by al-Qaeda, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of many military officers to Mr Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.

Image copyrightAFP
Image captionAli Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over the presidency after an uprising in 2011
The Houthi movement, which champions Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and fought a series of rebellions against Mr Saleh during the previous decade, took advantage of the new president's weakness by taking control of their northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.

Disillusioned with the transition, many ordinary Yemenis - including Sunnis - supported the Houthis and in September 2014 they entered the capital, Sanaa, setting up street camps and roadblocks.

In January 2015, the Houthis reinforced their takeover of Sanaa, surrounding the presidential palace and other key points and effectively placing Mr Hadi and his cabinet ministers under house arrest.

The president escaped to the southern port city of Aden the following month.

Image copyrightAFP
Image captionA Saudi-led multinational coalition intervened in the conflict in Yemen in March 2015
The Houthis and security forces loyal to Mr Saleh then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Mr Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015.

Alarmed by the rise of a group they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr Hadi's government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.

What's happened since then?

Media captionThe Saudi bombing of a funeral using US weapons killed 140 people in October
What followed was two-and-a-half years of fighting which appears to have entrenched both sides, while three UN-organised efforts to negotiate a peace deal have failed.

Pro-government forces - made up of soldiers loyal to President Hadi and predominantly Sunni southern tribesmen and separatists - were successful in stopping the rebels taking Aden, but only after a fierce, four-month battle that left hundreds dead.

Having established a beachhead, coalition ground troops landed in Aden that August and helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of much of the south over the next two months. Mr Hadi's government established a temporary home in Aden, although most cabinet members remained in exile.

Media captionThe BBC's Nawal Al-Maghafi visits the front line of the Yemen army's battle for the capital of Yemen
The Houthis meanwhile have not been dislodged from Sanaa, and have been able to maintain a siege of the southern city of Taiz and to fire mortars and missiles across the border with Saudi Arabia.

Jihadist militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and rival affiliates of so-called Islamic State (IS) have meanwhile taken advantage of the chaos by seizing territory in the south and continuing to carry out deadly attacks, notably in government-controlled Aden.

Media captionSaudi Foreign Affairs Minister Adel al-Jubeir: "No country has provided more aid to Yemen than Saudi Arabia".
The launch of a ballistic missile towards Riyadh in November 2017 prompted the Saudi-led coalition to tighten its blockade of Yemen.

The coalition said it wanted to halt the smuggling of weapons to the rebels by Iran - an accusation that officials in Tehran denied - but the UN said the restrictions could trigger "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades".

Why is there a rift between the rebels?
For months there have been suggestions that the delicate alliance between the Houthi movement and Mr Saleh's supporters was under strain, and at the end of November and start of December there were a series of events which could prove to be significant.

On 29 November, fighting erupted in Sanaa between the erstwhile allies. With both sides blaming each other for the rift, on 2 December Mr Saleh appeared on television to tell the Saudi-led coalition that he was open to turning a "new page" in relations.

He called upon the coalition to stop air attacks and loosen its blockade on the country and offered fresh talks - an offer welcomed by the Saudi-led coalition but that prompted accusations of betrayal from Houthi rebels.

Analysts say it is unsurprising that the grouping of forces against Mr Hadi has proven fragile, given the Houthis' historical rebellions under Mr Saleh's presidency and that Mr Saleh was once a friend of the Saudis.

What's been the impact on civilians?

Media captionWatch: What happened to Saleem?
Civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting and repeatedly been the victims of what UN Human Rights Council has called "unrelenting violations of international humanitarian law".

By 29 October 2017, at least 5,159 civilians - more than 20% of them children - had been killed and 8,761 others injured, according to the UN. Saudi-led coalition air strikes were the leading cause of child casualties as well as overall civilian casualties.

Media captionInside Yemen's industrial-scale prosthetic limb factory
The destruction of civilian infrastructure and restrictions on food, medicine and fuel imports have also caused what the UN has "catastrophic" humanitarian situation.

More than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Some 17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children.

Media captionThe BBC's Clive Myrie reports from one hospital on the brink of running out of fuel
At least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare. Only 45% of the 3,500 health facilities are fully functioning. They have struggled to cope with the world's largest cholera outbreak, which has resulted in more than 913,000 suspected cases and 2,196 deaths since April 2017.

Two million Yemenis are currently internally displaced due to the conflict and 188,000 others have fled to neighbouring countries.

Why should this matter for the rest of the world?
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSuicide bombings claimed by so-called Islamic State have killed dozens of people in Aden
What happens in Yemen can greatly exacerbate regional tensions. It also worries the West because of the threat of attacks emanating from the country as it becomes more unstable.

Western intelligence agencies consider AQAP the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda because of its technical expertise and global reach, and the emergence of IS affiliates in Yemen is a serious concern.

The conflict between the Houthis and the government is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this, and they are themselves backers of President Hadi.

Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.
Even as Western governments and media outlets sing his praises, the young crown prince is viewed domestically as an incompetent and corrupt ruler who hides behind liberalism, tolerance and anti-corruption rhetoric. This view is shared by ruling members of the monarchy, economic elites and the population at large, who see Mohammad as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement.

Personal enrichment is a huge part of the NEOM project, which is an attempt to generate new revenue streams that would primarily benefit Mohammad, now that he has sidelined many of the country’s traditional economic elites.

The younger generation of Al Saud rulers — represented by the recently appointed crown prince — have created the illusion of a “new” Saudi Arabia, one defined by youth, moderation and liberalization. But far from embodying a break with “traditional” Saudi rule, the new generation has simply doubled down on the tried and tested approaches to modern Saudi statecraft.

Like its predecessors, the current regime uses great repressive force to maintain its rule. It relies on the very same programs of reform and modernization to shore up international support while exacerbating sectarian tensions and violently crushing all forms of political opposition, including the very forces of moderation it purports to support.

The timing of these announcements speaks to the regime’s desperate need for a victory to cover up its many domestic and regional failures, to increase confidence in the regime’s commitment to reform and to provide fodder for its all-out war against domestic opposition and regional rivals. This is not to say that change in Saudi Arabia is not possible, nor to discount the efforts of thousands of Saudis who have risked so much to improve their living situations. But in the hands of relentless dictators in such an authoritarian context, “change” is elusive at best.

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from Friday 29 May 2015 20:16 UTC

Riyadh is looking at a quagmire of its own in Yemen. King Salman might well heed the words of his predecessor King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud.
In 1934 he told British agent John Philby: “My fathers and grandfathers didn't own Yemen, and no one has been able to achieve security and stability there. Who can rule Yemen with its Zaidis and its problems?”
Evidently for the House of Saud today, chaos and anarchy in Yemen appears to be preferable to a dangerous democracy.

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My friends tells me that Sadiq Ahengaran continues be held in high regard but barely composes any new songs. He did mostly during the war. He now holds an executive role in the armed forces. But his songs continue to be played on radio and tv during certain auspicious times of the year.

Just some trivia... :smile:

This classic video from the days of the Iran-Iraq War (and excellently narrated by Sean Bean is extracted from Once Upon a Time in Iran) - you should ask your friends about the man who is known as Khomeini's Nightingale, Sadiq Ahengaran (you can catch him at the 1:00m mark)
My friends tells me that Sadiq Ahengaran continues be held in high regard but barely composes any new songs. He did mostly during the war. He now holds an executive role in the armed forces. But his songs continue to be played on radio and tv during certain auspicious times of the year.

Just some trivia... :smile:
Thank you for sharing - been following his "career" for a long time so below you can see him in his full Republican Guard uniform too. I believe your friends are referring to the most auspicious time as Ashura for the Shias.

Here is some trivia for you - the chest beating (shinazani) is also varied depending on the pace of the poem:

Wahid (single): chest-beating with slow rhythm, one hard beat with seconds of intervals.
Sangin (heavy): chest-beating with moderate rhythm, a hard beat with short intervals.
Shur (passionate): chest-beating with fast rhythms, gentle beats without intervals.
Double beats, triple beats and four beats: two, three or four continuous beats with fast rhythms, while it has a short pause between each time

The usual triggers for outpouring of emotion in his/Shia poetry are the mention of Karbala, Hussain, Ali and Zaynab.

Here is a very recent example of what your friends just mentioned (I had uploaded the older footage because that was the genesis of his birth as Khomeini's Nightingale) - he easily reduces grown men, in this instance leaders of the Revolutionary Guard to tears - and the fact that he is placed so near and can approach the Ayatollah directly speaks volumes. Unfortunately English is often a poor translator of Farsi but his voice really is quite hypnotic. Even the Ayatollah despite being stoic throughout the recitation wipes aways tears at the end...hope you enjoy watching this phenomenon (recommend with headphones and lights turned down low) - it is displays of such emotions that drives the Wahhabis crazy and scares them shitless too...

Slightly out of date comments as thing are moving in so many different directions but a few key highlights this week to watch out for:

- Salleh vs Houthi (ongoing) - Salleh has turned against his Houthi allies and Sanaa is a battlefield with conflicting narratives on who has the upper hand - there is mention that Salleh has reached out to KSA and they have pounded the Houthis via air assaults - however, Salleh also reached out to the Iranians = so he is happily playing both sides and openly

- GCC summit in Kuwait: Qatari Emir has indicated he will be attending; interesting how the dynamics will play out with all members seated around the table

- Lebanon has gone quiet (for now)

- Nethanyahu in his Saban address over the weekend used the same language as MBS - referred to the Iranian regime as no different from the Nazis and asserted that they have "a ruthless commitment to murdering Jews"

- Israel claimed to have hit an Iranian depot in Damascus - Syria claimed it shot down the rockets

- declaration by Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel: Israeli pundits are guessing with the proximity of KSA and Israel, the "outrage" from the governments of KSA, Jordan and Egypt will be "measured" - they are also backchannelling with Abbas to prepare him - what they do not have clarity over is what kind of spillover there will be in the streets. Abbas has already requested for an urgent meeting of the Arab League to discuss ahead of the expected announcement.

We update as matters unfold.

Only Tuesday but the weeks starts on Sundays in the ME so here is a bitesize update:

- Salleh vs Houthi (ongoing) - Saleh has been killed; Houthis declare victory over KSA and UAE; fighting ongoing between Houthis and pro-Salleh group; Salleh's son, Ahmed Ali released from UAE and apparently in Riyadh with plans to return to Yemen to take over his father's role; exiled President Hadi from his lush Riyadh residence urges the Yemenis to rise up against the Houthis and ordered troop advancement on Sanaa; KSA and UAE planes targeting airstrikes in Sanaa on Houthis

- GCC summit in Kuwait: Summit cut short following closed-session; UAE and KSA announce an almost parallel organisation but no mention of Bahrain (which is highly unusual)

- Lebanon: Hariri officially withdraws his resignation; KSA expected to take economic measures against Lebanon

- Nethanyahu in his Saban address over the weekend used the same language as MBS - referred to the Iranian regime as no different from the Nazis and asserted that they have "a ruthless commitment to murdering Jews": Rouhani urges Muslims to "disrupt what he called a plot by unnamed countries in the region to build ties with Israel."

""Some regional Islamic countries have shamelessly revealed their closeness to the Zionist regime,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live by state TV.

- Israel claimed to have hit an Iranian depot in Damascus - reports of second Israeli attack

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- declaration by Trump of Jerusalem as undivided capital of Israel: watching this space for tomorrow's possible announcement; Turkey and Israel exchange barbs on the status of Jerusalem - Turkey/Erdogan threatens to cut ties and cites Jerusalem issue as "red line for Muslims";

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For it’s not that the embassy itself is just a symbolic move. It means that the United States would acknowledge that the city of Jerusalem, sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, is the capital of the Israeli state, and that the Palestinians can never share it. The slovenly “peace process” – abandoned by the Israelis, then by the Palestinians and then by the Americans years ago, although “statesmen” still talk about it in the dream world in which they live – would no longer exist even in our imaginations.

That’s why everyone from Macron to Erdogan, from the Saudis to the EU, and of course the poor old Palestinians, have been variously criticising and condemning Trump’s potential decision. If he doesn’t sign the old waiver – which has to be renewed every six months – to the US law to move the embassy, then he will indeed, to quote the Palestinian leadership, be risking an “ethnic” conflict.

Aren’t there enough wars in the Middle East to keep even the crazed White House busy? Trump has long ago taken the Sunni side in the Sunni-Shia conflict – but now he risks turning up the heat by infuriating both of them. The Arabs all know – and many Israelis agree – that President Trump is bananas. But the ramifications of any movement of the embassy – or acceptance by Trump that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel – will be enormous. It will tell the Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, that their second most holy city belongs to the Jews of Israel and not to them. It will tell the Iranians the same. It will mean the same to all the Muslim countries of the world.
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Further significant revelation, Houthis have killed Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, Ali Saleh’s nephew and a leader in the Republican Guards. He was regarded as a fearsome soldier and rallied Salleh's supporters into action against the Houthis when the alliance broke. This is a significant blow.

There are also reports that his 13 year old son was executed by the Houthis.
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US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital in world first

Media captionWhy the city of Jerusalem matters
US President Donald Trump will unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, senior administration officials say.

But the officials said Mr Trump would not immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The news comes ahead of an expected speech by Mr Trump on Wednesday.

Arab leaders earlier warned against moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, with one saying this would be "a flagrant provocation to Muslims".

The status of Jerusalem - a holy site for Israelis and Palestinians - is extremely contentious.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital city, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the US becomes the first country to do so since the foundation of the state in 1948.

What has the US just announced?
The Trump administration officials said recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital was seen "a recognition of reality" by the president.

However, specific boundaries of the city would remain subject to a final status agreement, the official said. The status of holy sites will not be affected.

Mr Trump also would direct the state department to begin the process of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem - but this could take several years.

He promised the move to pro-Israel voters during his campaign for the presidency.

The US officials added that the president would be signing a regular waiver blocking the embassy's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until the new building was completed.

Ahead of his formal announcement, Mr Trump phoned several regional leaders to tell them he intended to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

What's been the world reaction?
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionPalestinian protesters burned pictures of Donald Trump on Tuesday
Before the confirmation of the US move, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told Mr Trump that the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world".

The White House said the president spoke to Middle East leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Among the reaction from those leaders:

  • Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned "of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world"
  • Jordan's King Abdullah said the decision would "undermine efforts to resume the peace process" and provoke Muslims. Jordan acts as custodian of the Islamic sites in Jerusalem
  • Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Mr Trump "not to complicate the situation in the region"
US government employees and their families have been barred from personal travel in Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank for security reasons ahead of planned protests.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned his country could sever ties with Israel if the US recognised Jerusalem as its capital.

And Ismail Haniya, the chief of the Islamist Hamas group that runs Gaza, said a shift of the embassy and recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would cross "every red line".

France, the European Union and the Arab League have also expressed concern.

Israel's intelligence minister Israel Katz told Army Radio that Israel was "preparing for every option", including an outbreak of violence.

What is so contentious about Jerusalem's status?
The issue goes to the heart of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, who are backed by the rest of the Arab and wider Islamic world.

The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.

Israel occupied the sector, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and all countries, including Israel's closest ally the US, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionIsrael sees Jerusalem as its indivisible capital; Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state
Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

If the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it would reinforce Israel's position that settlements in the east are valid Israeli communities.

Why is this happening now?
Analysis by Barbara Plett-Usher, state department correspondent

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise. There is no other obvious reason he's doing this now.

Administration officials said he would simply be acknowledging reality - that Jerusalem functions as Israel's capital. They said the decision would not determine final status issues such as boundaries and sovereignty - that's still left to negotiations.

On other core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Arab and Muslim leaders might be able to work with changes in the US approach. But Jerusalem is also holy land, not just a disputed capital.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia are custodians of Islam's holy sites and have issued strong warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world. There's also no indication that this is a bargaining chip to advance the peace process: according to the officials, Trump's not expected to publicly endorse a two-state solution.

It sounds like the Palestinians will get nothing. Perhaps there is a wider strategy at work, but it looks like a workaround so the president can satisfy his pro-Israel voters