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Found 147 results

  1. KABUL (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from illegal mining of talc, much of which ends up in the United States and Europe, advocacy group Global Witness reported on Tuesday. Almost all went to Pakistan, where much of it is re-exported. Pakistan provides more than a third of U.S. imports of talc and much also ends up in the European Union, it said. “Unwitting American and European consumers are inadvertently helping fund extremist groups in Afghanistan,” Nick Donovan, Campaign Director at Global Witness, said in a statement, calling for stronger checks on imports. Illegal mining of gemstones and minerals such as lapis lazuli is a major source of revenue for Taliban insurgents and the report said Islamic State was fighting for control of mines in Nangarhar, the province where it has its stronghold. Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan, has large deposits of talc as well as minerals such as chromite and marble, and sits on major smuggling routes used for drugs and other contraband. The report quoted a senior Islamic State militant commander as saying that wresting control of mining assets from other armed groups in Nangarhar was a priority: “The mines are in the hands of the mafia ... At any price we will take the mines.” Security officials in Afghanistan have long been concerned about the uncontrolled traffic in Nangarhar of commodities like talc and chromite, which the Global Witness report said “may be the least glamorous of conflict minerals”. It said that while it was difficult to estimate the value of the trade to Islamic State, revenue from mining in Nangarhar could amount “anywhere from the high tens of thousands to the low millions of dollars a year”. Somewhere in the hundreds of thousands was a plausible mid-range estimate, it added. The sum did not appear very high, it said, but the U.S. military estimated the strength of Islamic State in Nangarhar at somewhere between 750 to 2,000 fighters, meaning the funds would be a significant source of revenue to the movement. An Afghan mining ministry spokesman said a special committee had already been established to coordinate approaches to the issue with security and intelligence services. The ministry planned a news conference this week to address some of the specific issues raised in the report. Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mark Heinrich Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
  2. NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. push to change the Iran nuclear deal was sending a “very dangerous message” that countries should never negotiate with Washington, Iran’s foreign minister warned as U.S. and North Korean leaders prepare to meet for denuclearization talks. Speaking to reporters in New York on Saturday, Mohammad Javad Zarif also said that for French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “to try to appease the president (Donald Trump) would be an exercise in futility.” Trump will decide by May 12 whether to restore U.S. economic sanctions on Tehran, which would be a severe blow to the 2015 pact between Iran and six major powers. He has pressured European allies to work with Washington to fix the deal. Macron and Merkel are both due to meet with Trump in Washington this week. “The United States has not only failed to implement its side (of the deal), but is even asking for more,” said Zarif, who is in New York to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting. “That’s a very dangerous message to send to people of Iran but also to the people of the world - that you should never come to an agreement with the United States because at the end of the day the operating principle of the United States is ‘what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable,’” he said. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier this month that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “looked at the Iran deal, he’s seen what he can get and he’s seen how he can push through loopholes and we’re not going to let that happen again.” Under the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, struck the pact to try to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon but Trump believes it has “disastrous flaws.” Zarif said if Washington leaves the deal, there were many options being considered by Tehran, including complaining through a dispute mechanism set up by the agreement or simply leaving the deal by restarting its nuclear activities. “We will make a decision based on our national security interests when the times comes. But whatever that decision will be, it won’t be very pleasant to the United States,” he said. When asked if Iran could stay in the deal with the remaining parties, Zarif said: “I believe that’s highly unlikely because it is important for Iran to received the benefits of the agreement and there was no way Iran would do a one-sided implementation of the agreement.” Iran has always said its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes and Zarif said if Tehran resumed its nuclear activities it would not be intended “to get a bomb.” “America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment. If they want to fear anything its up to them,” Zarif said. Personal Comment From Bors: Next up!
  3. So there's a lot of misinformation about whats going on in Syria, and I figured I'd create this thread in the same spirit the 2016 General Election one existed to keep people informed with news, videos, narratives and counter narratives. I'm subscribed to a lot of online channels and feeds on the Syrian civil war so I'll post things that I think will shed light on the reality on the ground. The Syrian Army + allies are currently in the process of removing rebels from Eastern Aleppo. Here's what the Syrian army gained in about a month: The Red is territory currently held by the government. The blue is rebel held territory, and the yellow boundary is territory in Aleppo lost by rebels in the course of a month. For all intents and purposes, the battle for Aleppo is almost over: [MEDIA=twitter]806241874520526849[/MEDIA] [MEDIA=twitter]806248857457872896[/MEDIA]
  4. Israel’s Deepening Involvement with Syria’s Rebels As it becomes clear that Bashar al-Assad has stabilized his rule over the ruins of Syria, outside powers are stepping up their intervention in the country in an effort to shape an outcome that will secure their interests. Israel, which has remained relatively less involved than other actors, is now faced with regional rivals – Iran and its proxies – that have never been more powerful and emboldened. Israel is left to defend its interests with targeted airstrikes and by supporting ragtag rebel militias in southern Syria whose interests partially align with those of the Jewish state. Interviews I have conducted with dozens of rebels, activists and civilians in southern Syria indicate growing Israeli involvement there. Israel’s increased entanglement stems from a growing realization that Russia and the United States are unwilling or unable to deal with Iran’s growing clout in Syria. However, this deeper involvement has created expectations among civilians and rebels in southern Syria of open-ended Israeli support, an expectation Israel is unlikely to meet. The predicament for Jerusalem illustrates the dangers of relying on American power to secure national interests in an era of U.S. retrenchment and disengagement from the global arena. Jerusalem’s Cautious Approach Iran and its proxies, which Israel perceives to be its biggest long-term threat in the region, are growing emboldened, as illustrated by the latest launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle into Israel. The Shia Lebanese militia Hizballah has been transformed by the Syrian civil war, gaining priceless combat experience in the country, especially due to close cooperation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and Russian military advisers. Hizballah exponentially increased its arsenal in Lebanon, constructed permanent bases inside Syria, and recruited thousands of Syrians into local “Syrian Hizballah” militias. The stabilization of the Assad regime, in large part due to financial and military support from Iran, is a major success for Tehran. Clearly, Iran and Hizballah did not invest efforts in forming, arming and financing local Syrian militias, as well as erecting military bases in the country, for them to simply be dismantled once the war is over. Initially, Israeli policymakers adopted a cautious approach to the civil war in Syria, focusing on preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizballah, while avoiding choosing a side. Mindful of their government’s failures when it came to intervening in the prolonged civil war in Lebanon, Israeli policymakers wished to avoid entanglement in Syria. Syrian opposition members, most prominently former political prisoner Kamal Labwani and the self-appointed liaison to the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, Issam Zeitoun, told me they have repeatedly attempted to convince the Israeli government to establish a no-fly zone near the border fence in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Those efforts failed miserably. According to two prominent Israeli activists involved in the humanitarian aid effort from Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu objected to a no-fly zone in southern Syria, fearing an attack on the zone would encourage more internally displaced Syrians to settle there. Netanyahu feared that an attack on the safe zone may drive the displaced to seek shelter in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Syrian opposition leaders in southern Turkey, and rebel commanders in southern Syria, have told me that Jerusalem has rebuffed repeated efforts by Syrian rebel commanders to obtain support from Israel or to convince it to intervene militarily against the Assad regime directly. Instead, until the Russian intervention in September 2015, Israel tried to work through the Obama administration by encouraging it to increase support for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. Those efforts were also unsuccessful. The Obama administration wished to keep its involvement in Syria to a minimum, while Jordan grew increasingly disenchanted with the Syrian opposition and focused instead on limiting the number of new refugees entering its borders. At the same time, Israel provided limited humanitarian aid across the border and medical treatment to over 5,000 Syrians in Israeli hospitals. Following the Russian intervention, some in the Israeli security establishment adopted the hopeful view that the Kremlin would replace Tehran as the main patron of the Assad regime and move Damascus away from Iran’s orbit. This would secure Israel’s main interest in the region without the need for deeper involvement. Instead, the Assad regime continued to play off its backers, Iran and Russia, to secure maximal support for its own goals. Israel established a deconfliction mechanism with the Russians and for the time being Russia is not preventing some Israeli strikes on Hizballah targets inside Syria. At the same time, Israeli officials acknowledge that Israel’s freedom to operate in Syria has been significantly curtailed due to the Russian intervention. A Russian veto prevented further Israeli retaliation for the downing of its jet earlier this month. Israeli Involvement Grows In 2016, Israel grew increasingly concerned as Assad’s regime stabilized and Iran’s and Hizballah’s presence in Syria expanded. Repeated Israeli appeals to the Obama administration to increase support for the rebels were rejected. During the end of President Barack Obama’s term and President Donald Trump’s first months in office, Russia spearheaded negotiations with Jordan, Turkey, opposition representatives and the United States regarding the establishment of deconfliction zones in Syria. Israel attempted to influence both America and Russia to protect its interests concerning the southern deconfliction zone, which abuts the Golan border fence. In dozens of meetings and visits to Washington and Moscow, Israeli officials first attempted to secure a guarantee that foreign Shia fighters would have to leave Syria. When this request was rebuffed by the Kremlin and ignored by Washington, Israel asked that those fighters not be allowed within 60 kilometers of the border fence. This request was ignored as well. Russia agreed to prevent the presence of foreign Shia fighters within five to seven kilometers from the Golan Heights, but made it clear that the guarantee was only temporary. Throughout these failed negotiations, Israeli decision-makers came to the realization that they would have to protect Israel’s interests on their own. In September 2017, Israel began striking targets deeper inside Syrian territory, going beyond the “traditional” strikes on Hizballah’s weapon convoys near the Lebanese border. The targets now included regime military bases with a significant Iranian footprint. Another major shift in Israeli policy occurred during this time as well, according to Syrian activists and rebels I have interviewed, as well as pro-regime and opposition media reporting. Rebels from Quneitra and western Daraa, as well as media activists in those regions with ties to the rebels, told me that Israel began providing more military support to a greater number of rebel groups affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. This support came in the form of weapons, ammunition and money to purchase weapons on the black market. All of my sources confirmed the identity of at least seven factions receiving Israeli support, on the condition that the groups would not be named. However, two of these groups have been publicly identified before: Liwaa’ Fursan al-Jolan and . Israeli officials have vehemently denied support to jihadist groups, leaving open the possibility that the government supports these non-jihadist groups. Some of the groups that started getting Israeli support in late 2017 were previously supported by the Military Operations Command, a CIA-directed center in Amman. Until January 2018, this center paid the salaries for tens of thousands of Free Syrian Army “Southern Front” fighters and provided them with materiel and ammunition. The Trump administration’s decision to shut down the center left rebel factions in southern Syria in desperate need for alternative sponsors. Israel’s support is intended to protect the border area from encroachment by Iranian proxies, but also to enable the rebels to more effectively fight the local ISIL affiliate, Jaysh Khalid ibn al-Walid. According to Syrian rebels engaged in combating ISIL in western Daraa, Israel’s support includes not just materiel and cash, but also drone strikes and shelling with high-precision missiles on ISIL targets during defensive and offensive rebel operations in the Yarmouk basin. When ISIL launched an offensive on the rebels in January, Israeli strikes killed multiple ISIL fighters near al-Jabiliya. Most recently, the Israeli Defense Forces fired precision-guided anti-tank missiles at ISIL targets in western Daraa on Feb. 1, helping the rebels with another failed offensive. Despite this support, and Military Operations Command’s previous assistance to these groups, the rebels have been unable to advance against ISIL for more than three years. Israel previously provided assistance to the besieged Beit Jann pocket in western Damascus, transferring medicine, medical equipment, food and diapers. Israel also provided cash to Iyad Moro, a former rebel commander and Israel’s contact person in Beit Jann, for the purchase of weapons on the black market, according to a rebel whose faction was operating in the area. As the Assad regime intensified its assault on the besieged area,Israel permitted several dozen rebels from Daraa and Quneitra to cross through the occupied Golan to Beit Jann in December 2017. This crossing was reported in the pro-Hizballah daily al-Akhbar and confirmed to me by four rebels in southern Syria. Following the surrender of the Beit Jann pocket, some of these fighters were evacuated back to their homes in southern Syria through regime territory, while other rebels left for rebel-held Idlib. A third group, the largest, “reconciled” with the Assad regime and remained in their homes. Israel’s apparent involvement in the “reconciliation” negotiations ensured that these fighters will now serve as a regime-approved militia under Moro’s command, tasked with keeping both rebels and Iranian proxies away from the border fence. This agreement could possibly serve as a blueprint for future deals in southern Syria, which would aim to secure regime and Israeli interests, at the expense of both Iran and the rebels. Humanitarian Aid – and Rising Tensions Dozens of locals in Daraa and Quneitra have told me that Israel also increased the flow of humanitarian aid into southern Syria in recent months, sending construction materials and supplies for schools and hospitals and allowing non-Israeli volunteer doctors and nurses to enter Syria under the protection of an allied rebel group. This work was facilitated, in part, by the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees,” an American NGO into Syria from international charities. Some of these locals even sent me photos of items they received that they did not know how to use, such as mineral body scrubs. The aid from Israel, which was once concealed or provided through the United Nations and other agencies, began appearing in the original packaging in Hebrew in 2016. Last year, Israel publicized for the first time the extent of the aid it has transferred into Syria, amounting to over 360 tons of food, 90 tons of clothes, and other much-needed items such as generators. Israel also began admitting women and children for day treatments in Israeli hospitals and continues to admit injured and sick Syrians, while Jordan largely sealed off its border. Thus, during the February 2017 rebel offensive on the Manshiye neighborhood in Daraa, Jordan did not allow injured rebels to enter for treatment (a policy Jordan has employed to deter unwanted rebel offensives on the regime), while Israel accepted them in large numbers, according to rebels and activists. According to dozens of interlocutors in southern Syria, after initial opposition, Israeli aid is being warily accepted by a desperate population that feels abandoned by everyone else. Thousands of Syrians, particularly those residing in camps for the displaced along the border fence, are able to survive thanks to this aid. Syrians who return from medical treatment in Israel tell their friends and relatives about the high quality of the care and describe Israel as a beautiful and highly advanced country. Nevertheless, mistrust toward Israel lingers. In November, following a rebel offensive near the regime-controlled village of Hader, false rumors spread that the reason the offensive failed was heavy Israeli shelling on the rebels. The suspicion sometimes extends to the mundane: A contact in Quneitra sent me photos of hamburgers his family had received from a local distribution of Israeli aid, asking whether they were safe to eat because rumors spread among the local population that the meat was pork. Some of Israel’s policies regarding aid distribution and its decision to cooperate with certain commanders but not others have created tensions in Quneitra and Daraa. These tensions erupted into violent clashes several times, most recently in November 2017, when an opposition-affiliated group attempted to rob an Israeli aid shipment, prompting an Israeli strike against the group. False Hope Israeli officials proclaimed time and time again that Israel is staying out of the war in Syria, only admitting to treating Syrians in Israeli hospitals and later to providing cross-border humanitarian assistance. However, as time went on, Israel has become more deeply entangled in events across the border fence. Israeli humanitarian assistance and military support have created a sense of hope among some rebels and civilians in southern Syria that Israel could serve as a reliable ally in their struggle against the Assad regime and protect them from its attacks. Reports from pro-regime outlets about Israel’s intention to establish the “safe zone” after all have added to this perception. “What about the safe zones?” a rebel with Fursan al-Jolan asked me in December. When I replied that there did not appear to be any plan to establish such a zone, he responded, “But our relationship with Israel is good and we prevented the arrival of Hizbollah and Iran.” Israel’s military establishment is entering relationships with rebel groups with a sense of distrust . Despite what the rebels may wish, Israel will not attempt to overthrow the Assad regime, as Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states have previously tried to do. Instead, Israel simply aims to secure its border, at least until another viable way emerges to keep Iranian-backed militias away from the Golan Heights. Despite the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, illegal under international law, the border with Syria was Israel’s quietest until 2011 throughout the rule of Hafez and Bashar Assad. Thus, the Assad regime itself is not perceived as a threat – only its reliance on Iran. The current debate among leadership is whether an Assad regime takeover of southern Syria would serve Israeli interests. Some believe that such a takeover would displace ISIL from the border, which the rebels have been unable to accomplish for years, and that the regime would keep Iranian proxies away from border. These Israeli policy-makers would be content with a Syrian regime takeover of southern Syria, as long as Iranian proxies are kept from the border fence. Israel’s initial regional strategy relied, to a large extent, on American leadership and involvement. When the priorities of the Obama administration shifted and the Trump administration largely disengaged from the region, Israeli leaders found themselves facing a resurgent Iran on their border. Attempts to convince Russia to protect Israel’s interests have produced only partial results – Israel gained freedom to operate against Hizbollah targets in Syria, but Moscow is unable or unwilling to keep Iranian proxies far enough from the border fence or to prevent the construction of Iranian bases in Syria. Barring an unfathomable large-scale invasion of Syria and a direct intervention in a bloody civil war, Israel’s ability to shape reality in Syria is limited, yet the perceived threats are significant. All realistic Israeli options entail operating in an environment dominated by Russia, which has shown only limited desire or capacity to challenge Iran, since it needs Iranian-backed militias to help stabilize Assad’s rule. Thus, as Jerusalem continues to search for a permanent solution that will prevent Iran’s presence near the Golan, it finds itself relying on allies it recognizes are beset by factionalism and corruption and whose goals ultimately differ from its own. The current balance of power, coupled with Assad’s drive to regain control of southern Syria, will likely result in the regime retaking the area. It remains to be seen whether Israel will manage to secure a deal that prevents Iranian proxies from entering the border region or acquiesces to their presence. What is clear is that relationships Israel has formed with the rebels, coupled with its increased humanitarian assistance to civilians, have created expectations among residents of southern Syria that Israel is unlikely to meet. https://warontherocks.com/2018/02/israels-deepening-involvement-syrias-rebels/ Personal Comment: Israel has tried to use their special relations with Russia for years as a solution to many problems, but while they remain useful I doubt they will be able to solve this one. On the one hand keeping Iranians away from the border is not sufficient, as their recent missile capabilities in Yemen proved, on the other hand Russia isn't even willing to commit to that as a stronger Iran to challenge the US is in their interests. It remains to be seen how Israel handles this very relevant change in the balance of power. Some of it will undoubtedly come in the form of making friends with the Saudis and some of it in the form of continued airstrikes, but I suspect neither is sufficient.
  5. Turkish forces push into Syria, battle Kurdish militia AZAZ, Syria (Reuters) - Turkey’s army and rebel allies battled U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria’s Afrin province on Sunday, stepping up a two-day-old campaign against YPG fighters that has opened a new front in Syria’s civil war. Amid U.S. calls for restraint, Turkish artillery pounded YPG positions, while rockets fired from inside Syria slammed into two Turkish border towns, wounding dozens, according to the local governor’s office and a witness. Turkey began its push to clear YPG fighters from a northwestern enclave of Syria on Saturday when it launched artillery and air strikes against their positions in Afrin in what it called “Operation Olive Branch”. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and has been infuriated by U.S. support for the fighters. Washington, which is backing the YPG in the battle against Islamic State in Syria, on Sunday said it was concerned about the situation. “Our jets took off and started bombing. And now the ground operation is underway. Now we see how the YPG ... are fleeing in Afrin,” President Tayyip Erdogan said. “We will chase them. God willing, we will complete this operation very quickly.” Intense Turkish artillery fire and air strikes continued to hit some villages, the YPG said, while fierce battles raged to the north and west of Afrin against Turkish forces and their rebel allies, said Birusk Hasaka, a YPG spokesman in Afrin. Turkey, which is backing the Free Syrian Army rebel factions in northern Syria, wants to create a 30-km (19 mile) “safe zone” in the region, broadcaster HaberTurk quoted the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, as saying. But it is targeting the U.S.-supported YPG at a time Turkey’s ties with NATO ally Washington are deeply strained. “We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Turkey did advise the United States before taking action, the U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, said on Sunday, adding “We’ll work this out”. BORDER TOWNS HIT The attacks follow weeks of warnings against the YPG in Syria from Erdogan and his ministers. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Kommersant newspaper that Turkey had been infuriated by “unilateral” U.S. actions in Syria. Turkey has been particularly outraged by an announcement that the U.S. planned to train 30,000 personnel in parts of northeast Syria under the control of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Rockets fired across the border from Syria hit the Turkish town of Reyhanli, killing a Syrian national and wounding 46 people, the local governor’s office said. Another five were wounded when rockets hit the border town of Kilis, a Reuters witness said. Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebel factions had captured a Kurdish village with no resistance and were clearing landmines, a Turkish official said. The YPG said it had repelled the Turkish forces. “All the Turkish military’s ground attacks against Afrin have been repelled so far and they have been forced to retreat,” Nouri Mahmoudi, a YPG official, said. Since the morning, the combatants have exchanged shelling and clashed along several frontlines around Afrin, he said. Thousands rallied against the attacks in the border town of Amuda in northwest Syria. In Turkey, police used pepper spray against pro-Kurdish protesters in Istanbul and Ankara. Turkey said it had hit targets including hideouts used by Kurdish militants. The YPG said Turkey’s strikes killed some civilians and accused Turkey of striking civilian districts and a camp for displaced people in Afrin. Erdogan said some of Turkey’s allies had provided the YPG with 2,000 plane shipments and 5,000 truckloads of ammunition, comments that appeared to be aimed at the United States. France called for restraint and an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council which will hold talks about the situation in Syria on Monday, foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war, will demand in the United Nations that Turkey halt it’s operation in Afrin, RIA news quoted a member of the Russian parliament’s security committee as saying on Saturday. TRAINING CAMP Around 25,000 Free Syrian Army rebels are taking part in the operation with the goal of recapturing Arab towns and villages seized by the YPG almost two years ago, a rebel commander said. Major Yasser Abdul Rahim said the rebels did not seek to enter the mainly Kurdish city of Afrin but encircle it and expel the YPG, which controls it. A main goal of the military operation was to recapture Tel Rifaat, a town southeast of Afrin, and a string of Arab villages the YPG captured from rebels in February 2016, driving out tens of thousands of inhabitants, Abdul Rahim told Reuters. A Reuters reporter on the outskirts of the northern Syrian town of Azaz, under the control of Free Syrian Army factions, heard several blasts and saw smoke rising from a hill to the west, where a fighter said the YPG were. There were no signs of conflict in the town itself, where life appeared to continue as normal with uniformed rebel police at the main roundabouts. At a car repair workshop on the outskirts of the town some men were fixing a gun-loaded vehicle. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey/turkish-forces-push-into-syria-battle-kurdish-militia-idUSKBN1F90RQ Personal Comment: Honestly this isn't too surprising. The Afrin pocket has never had much US support for geographic reasons. They really had two options, roll over for Assad, or get beaten into submission by Turkey. And it looks like Turkey traded support of some groups in Idlib for a green light to attack the Kurds.
  6. Terrorists have acquired advanced drone technologies and are now capable of launching attacks all over the world, the Russian Defense Ministry has warned, following an assault on Russian bases in Syria. The threat of terrorists using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for attacks is not an unlikely scenario, as they attempted to use them to launch a strike in Syria against Russia’s Khmeimim Airbase and a port site in Tartus, the head of the UAV department of the Russian General Staff, Major General Aleksandr Novikov, said The military official again drew attention to the fact that precise target coordinates as well as fine adjustments to flight configurations were needed for such tactics to be effective. He also pointed out that the coordinates used by the drones in the Syrian attack were much more precise than those that could be obtained from open access resources such as the internet. Terrorists had new, advanced types of drones just days after they became available on the open market. In 2016, the extremists started using UAVs of foreign manufacture for air reconnaissance and air strikes instead of the home-made drones. Components used in the drones that attacked the Russian bases could indeed be purchased separately on the open market. However, assembling such a drone requires “a large amount of time and specific expertise,” including special training, scientific knowledge and practical experience of building similar devices, Novikov said, adding that the drones had likely undergone flight trials. Specialists “from the countries that produce and actively use” various UAVs were involved in the development and construction of the drones used by the terrorists in the attack on the Russian bases, the major general said, citing the results of the technical assessment. He added that the drones carried bombs with industrially-manufactured explosives which could not have been made locally or taken from other munitions. The Pentagon said it is “concerned” about weapons falling into terrorists’ hands after Moscow said the drones used in the attacks on Russian bases in Syria could have only been supplied by a “technologically advanced state.” While Moscow did not mention who the “technologically advanced state” may be, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway appeared to pre-emptively deflect any potential criticism, arguing that“those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.” “We have seen this type of commercial UAV technology used to carry out missions by ISIS," he told Sputnik, adding, that the militarization of such devices by the terrorists “is cause for concern.” Russia has repeatedly warned that US military supplies aimed at propping-up the so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria eventually end up in the hands of terrorists. Russian military sites in Syria were targeted by two major attacks in the past two weeks, one on New Year’s Eve and another on January 6. The first assault, which reportedly involved an infiltration squad with mortars, resulted in two Russian service members being killed and reported damage to warplanes at Khmeimim Airbase. The second attack was far less efficient, thanks to the electronic warfare and anti-aircraft defenses of the two sites. Read more: https://www.rt.com/news/415591-threat-of-terrorist-drone-attacks/ http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/17433/russias-air-base-in-syria-seems-to-be-under-regular-attack-now Personal comment: P-8 Poseidon spy plane patroling the area at the moment of attack is just a coincidence
  7. JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin trod carefully on Sunday around a threatened U.S. aid cut to Palestinians, stopping short of backing a funding halt as he repeated calls for a U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees to be dismantled. Netanyahu’s public comments appeared to reflect a desire to show support for a major ally, but also concern that choking off funds would deepen Palestinian hardship and could put Israel and militants on a course for war. With Palestinians seething over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he threatened on Tuesday to withhold aid money, accusing them of being “no longer willing to talk peace”. On Friday, in a report denied by a State Department official, the Axios news site said Washington had frozen $125 million in funding for UNRWA. The U.N. agency, founded in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, is a main provider of educational and health services in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said UNRWA was “an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian problem.” “It also enshrines the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’. Therefore, UNRWA should pass from the world,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting. Netanyahu made almost identical comments about dismantling UNRWA in June - a message he said at the time he had conveyed to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool Praising Trump’s “critical approach” on the aid issue, Netanyahu steered clear of advocating a suspension of funding for the Palestinians. He said U.N. money for them should be transferred gradually to its global refugee agency UNHCR “with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees and not fictitious ones, as is happening today under UNRWA.” Chris Gunness, an UNRWA spokesman, said the refugee crisis was being perpetuated by “failure of the parties to deal with the issue...” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem January 7, 2018. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool “UNRWA is mandated by the General Assembly to continue with its services until a just and lasting solution is found for the Palestine refugees,” Gunness said in a statement. Palestinian officials have said Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, overturning decades of U.S. policy, meant he could not serve as an honest broker in peace negotiations that Washington has been trying to revive, and they condemned his remarks on a funding halt as blackmail. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The United States is the largest donor to UNRWA, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to the organization’s website. Gunness said the agency had not been “informed directly of a formal decision either way by the U.S. administration” on cuts. In addition to its services in Gaza, UNRWA operates in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. editing by John Stonestreet Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. © 2018 Reuters. All Rights Reserved. Personal Comment From Bors: When even Israels PM thinks your being too harsh.
  8. #BUSINESS NEWS JANUARY 7, 2018 / 9:51 PM / UPDATED 3 HOURS AGO Iraq to export Kirkuk oil to Iran before end-January: Iraqi oil minister BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will start exporting oil from the northern Kirkuk fields to Iran before the end of January, Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi told reporters on Sunday in Baghdad. About 30,000 barrels per day of crude will be trucked to Iran’s Kermanshah refinery in the first instance, he said. '‘God willing, we will start before the end of the month,‘’ he added. Trucking crude to Iran comes under a swap agreement announced last month by the two countries to allow a resumption of oil exports from Kirkuk. Iraq and Iran have agreed to swap up to 60,000 barrels per day of crude produced from Kirkuk for Iranian oil to be delivered to southern Iraq, Luaibi said last month. Kirkuk crude sales have been halted since Iraqi forces took back control of the fields from the Kurds in October. Kurdish forces took control of Kirkuk in 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of Islamic State. The Kurdish move prevented the militants from seizing the region’s oilfields. Iraq and Iran are also planning to build a pipeline to carry the oil from Kirkuk to avoid having to truck the crude, Luaibi said last month. The planned pipeline could replace the existing export route from Kirkuk via Turkey and the Mediterranean. Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, writing by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by John Stonestreet and Jane Merriman Personal Comment From Bors: Kurds: "You're here for the oil WE recovered?"
  9. BEIRUT, Lebanon — One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday, inciting international outrage over the ever-increasing government impunity shown in the country’s six-year war. Western leaders including President Trump blamed the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and called on its patrons, Russia and Iran, to prevent a recurrence of what many described as a war crime. Dozens of people, including children, died — some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth — after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers. They said the toxic substance spread after warplanes dropped bombs in the early morning hours. Some rescue workers grew ill and collapsed from proximity to the dead. The opposition-run Health Department in Idlib Province, where the attack took place, said 69 people had died, providing a list of their names. The dead were still being identified, and some humanitarian groups said as many as 100 had died. The government of Mr. Assad, who renounced chemical weapons nearly four years ago after a large chemical attack that American intelligence agencies concluded was carried out by his forces, denied that his military had been responsible, as he has done every time chemical munitions have been used in Syria. Graphic | Evidence From Victims Points to Nerve Gas in Syria Attack Victims in a deadly gas attack in northern Syria showed symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent or some other deadly substance. A statement from the Syrian military accused insurgents of responsibility and said they had accused the army of using toxic weapons “every time they fail to achieve the goals of their sponsors.” But only the Syrian military had the ability and the motive to carry out an aerial attack like the one that struck the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Russia offered another explanation. A spokesman for its Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Syrian warplanes had struck an insurgent storehouse containing toxic substances to be used in chemical weapons. Witnesses to the attack said it began before 7 a.m. Numerous photographs and graphic videos posted online by activists and residents showed children and older adults , or lying motionless in the mud as rescue workers ripped off victims’ clothes and hosed them down. The bodies of at least 10 children lay lined up on the ground or under a quilt. A few hours later, according to several witnesses, another airstrike hit one of the clinics treating victims, who had been sent to smaller hospitals and maternity wards because the area’s largest hospital was severely damaged by an airstrike two days earlier. The scale and brazenness of the assault threatened to further subvert a nominal and often violated cease-fire that had taken hold in parts of the country since Mr. Assad’s forces retook the northern city of Aleppo in December with Russian help, emboldening the Syrian leader to think he could win the war. Victims receiving treatment at a makeshift hospital. AMMAR ABDULLAH / REUTERS The attack also seemed likely to dampen peace talks that have been overseen by the United Nations in Geneva and by Russia and Turkey in Astana, Kazakhstan. Incredulous over the chemical assault, humanitarian groups demanded action from the United Nations Security Council, where partisan divides over who is to blame for the Syrian war have paralyzed its members almost since the conflict began in 2011. On Tuesday night, Britain, France and the United States were pushing the Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemns the attack and orders the Syrian government to provide all flight logs, flight plans and names of commanders in charge of air operations, including those for Tuesday, to international investigators. The draft resolution, negotiated among diplomats from the three countries on Tuesday, was later circulated to all 15 members of the Council. It could come up for a vote as early as Wednesday. For Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly blamed what he has called President Barack Obama’s failures for the Syria crisis, the chemical weapons assault posed a potential policy dilemma and exposed some glaring contradictions in his own evolving positions on Syria. The White House called the attack a “reprehensible” act against innocent people “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” Victims of the attack on Tuesday. It appeared to be the largest and most toxic chemical attack in Syria since August 2013, when more than 1,000 people were killed in the Damascus suburbs by the banned toxin sarin. AMMAR ABDULLAH / REUTERS At the same time, Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, denounced Mr. Obama for having failed to make good on his famous “red line” statement in 2012, suggesting he would intervene militarily in Syria if Mr. Assad used chemical weapons. But in August 2013, Mr. Trump exhorted Mr. Obama not to intervene after a chemical weapons attack near Damascus that American intelligence attributed to the Syrian military killed more than 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children, according to United States government estimates at the time. “President Obama, do not attack Syria,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “There is no upside and tremendous downside.” Mr. Trump’s administration, which would like to shift the focus in Syria entirely to fighting the Islamic State, has in recent days described Mr. Assad’s hold on his office as a political reality — an assertion that has drawn strong condemnation from influential Republicans who say Mr. Assad must leave power. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who had said that Mr. Assad’s fate “will be decided by the Syrian people,” struck a sharply different tone on Tuesday, urging Mr. Assad’s allies Russia and Iran “to exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.” Mr. Tillerson added that “Russia and Iran also bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.” Russia has insisted that it had no military role in the strike. But a State Department official who briefed reporters in Washington said Russian officials were trying to evade their responsibility because Russia and Iran were guarantors of the Assad government’s commitment to adhere to a cease-fire in the peace talks that the Kremlin had helped organize in Astana. Rescue workers from the White Helmets civil defense organization said that many children were among the dead and wounded. Radi Saad, who writes incident reports for the group, said that volunteers had reached the site not knowing a chemical was present and that five of them had suffered from exposure to the substance. While chlorine gas attacks have become almost routine in northern Syria, this one was different, medical workers and witnesses said. Chlorine attacks usually kill just a few people, often those trapped in an enclosed space, and the gas dissipates quickly. This time, people collapsed outdoors, and in much larger numbers. The symptoms were different: They included the pinpoint pupils of victims that characterize nerve agents and other banned poisons. One doctor posted a video of a patient’s eye, showing the pupil reduced to a dot. Several people were sickened simply by coming into contact with victims. The opposition minister of health, Mohamad Firas al-Jundi, said that he had been in at 7:30 a.m. when more than 100 people arrived wounded or sickened. “The patients are in the corridors and on the floors of the operation rooms, the E.R.s and in the patient rooms,” he said. “I saw more than 10 deaths due to this attack.” Symptoms included suffocation; fluid in the lungs, with foam coming from the mouth; unconsciousness; spasms; and paralysis, he said. Video Dr. Farida was working in Aleppo when government forces took control. She brought her story to the United States to seek humanitarian aid before returning to treat patients in rebel-held territory in northern Syria. “It’s a shocking act,” he said. “The world knows and is aware of what’s happening in Syria, and we are ready to submit evidence to criminal laboratories to prove the use of these gases.” A 14-year-old resident of the attacked town, Mariam Abu Khalil, said she had left home for her examination on the Quran — scheduled for early morning because fewer bombings were expected then — when the attack took place. On the way, she saw an aircraft drop a bomb on a one-story building a few dozen yards away. In a telephone interview Tuesday night, she described an explosion like a yellow mushroom cloud that stung her eyes. “It was like a winter fog,” she said. Sheltering in her home nearby, she saw several residents arrive by car to help the wounded. “When they got out, they inhaled the gas and died,” she said. The attack appeared to be the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since the August 2013 assault. Under threat of United States retaliation, Mr. Assad agreed to a Russian-American deal to eliminate his country’s chemical weapons program, which until that time it had denied having, and to join an international treaty banning chemical weapons. But the operation took far longer than expected and raised questions about whether all the materials were accounted for. The head of the international monitoring body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, complained in an internal report about misleading statements from Damascus and expressed concern about possible undeclared chemical weapons. Since then, the organization, working with the United Nations, has found that the Syrian government used chlorine gas as a weapon three times in 2014 and 2015, violating the treaty. Rebel fighters, doctors and antigovernment activists say there have been numerous other chlorine attacks, including at least two in the past week, in one case killing a doctor as he worked. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has also accused the Islamic State of using banned mustard gas in Iraq and Syria. The area around Khan Sheikhoun is not held by the Islamic State, but by other insurgents: Qaeda-linked militants and a variety of other rebel groups. A chemical weapons attack, if carried out by the government, would be a brazen statement of impunity, coming during a major international meeting in Brussels where officials are debating whether the European Union and other countries will contribute billions of dollars for reconstructing Syria if it is presided over by a government run by Mr. Assad. Correction: April 5, 2017 Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated when Mr. Assad renounced chemical weapons. It was nearly four years ago, not nearly five. Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Hwaida Saad from Beirut; Maher Samaan from Paris; Patrick Kingsley from Reyhanli, Turkey; Michael D. Shear from Washington; Karam Shoumali from Istanbul; and Somini Sengupta from New York. _________________________________________ Source: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/world/middleeast/syria-gas-attack.html _________________________________________ Odd situation. I see no reason for Assad to use chemical weapons, but the version of events Russia provides does not sound very plausible either. Anyone got some good theories on what's going on here?
  10. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (from L to R) show their shared Nobel Peace Prize awards to the audience in the Oslo City Hall in Oslo in this December 10, 1994 file photo. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen/Files Shimon Peres, who died on Wednesday at the age of 93, never realized his vision of a new Middle East built upon a 1993 interim peace deal he helped shape with the Palestinians. But Israel's elder statesman won world acclaim and a Nobel prize as a symbol of hope in a region long plagued by war fueled by deep religious and political divisions. Peres was hospitalized following a stroke two weeks ago and his condition had improved before a sudden deterioration on Tuesday, doctors said. In announcing his passing, family members said that he did not suffer pain, and as a last act after death, he donated his corneas for transplant. "Don't forget to be daring and curious and to dream big," Peres urged first-graders at the start of the school year in a posting on his Facebook page earlier this month. The comment seemed to sum up his own credo. In a career spanning nearly seven decades, Peres, once a shepherd on a kibbutz, or communal farm, served in a dozen cabinets and twice as Labour Party prime minister, but he never won a general election outright in five tries from 1977 to 1996. "I am a loser. I lost elections. But I am a winner -- I served my people," Peres, who held the largely ceremonial post of president from 2007-2014, once said in a speech. He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Israel's late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a 1993 accord that they and their successors failed to turn into a durable treaty. When a far-right Jewish Israeli opposed to the peace deal assassinated Rabin in November 1995, the torch passed to Peres. But Palestinian suicide bombings that killed dozens of Israelis and an aggressive campaign by Likud battered Peres's rating and he lost the 1996 election to Benjamin Netanyahu by less than 30,000 votes. In 2000, the failure of final-status peace talks with the Palestinians and the eruption of a Palestinian uprising rife with suicide bombings further damaged Israel's left and Peres's leadership prospects. In 2005, Peres left the Labour Party to join then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new party, Kadima, which had spearheaded Israel's unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip earlier that year. Following Kadima's 2006 election victory, Peres served as vice prime minister. FOUNDING FATHERS Born in 1923 in what is now Belarus, Peres immigrated to British-ruled Palestine with his family a decade later. Israel's founding father David Ben-Gurion groomed him for leadership. He oversaw arms purchases and manpower in the Hagana, the Zionist fighting force, before Israel's establishment. Peres is widely seen as having gained nuclear capabilities for Israel by procuring the secret Dimona reactor from France while defense ministry director-general in the 1950s. As defense minister he oversaw the dramatic 1976 Israeli rescue of hijacked Israelis at Entebbe airport in Uganda. Peres was popular in his first term as prime minister in 1984-86 as part of a power-sharing pact with Likud. He pulled troops back from Lebanon, normalized relations with Egypt and cut inflation from 445 percent a year to below 20 percent. Despite his key role in building Israel's defenses, Peres never gained broad popular trust in his security credentials as Rabin, his Labour rival and former army chief, or Sharon enjoyed. ALSO IN WORLD NEWS Israel's elder statesman, Shimon Peres, dies at 93 Aleppo bombardments hit bakery, hospital: residents Most Israelis, hardened by frequent conflict, dismissed his vision that a new age for the Middle East was dawning hand-in-hand with peace deals. He was seen abroad as an urbane diplomat but at home often as an ego-driven manipulator in domestic politics who eroded his party's identity out of a thirst for cabinet posts after election losses to Likud. Nevertheless, during his last years, the last of Israel's founding fathers saw a rise in his popularity among Israelis. He used the presidency as a pulpit for advocating peace and maintained an active public schedule, encouraging Middle East diplomacy and technological innovation. He is also known for his stewardship of the Peres Center for Peace, a non-governmental organization focused on building closer ties with the Palestinians, improving healthcare and developing local economies. Earlier this month, after a series of health scares including a mild heart attack, Peres received an artificial pacemaker. "I feel great. When can I get back to work already? I'm bored!" he told reporters at the time. Peres wrote several books including "Entebbe Diary", "The New Middle East" and "Battling for Peace". His wife, Sonia, died in 2011. He is survived by two sons and a daughter. (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Michael Perry) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-peres-obituary-idUSKCN11Y0E7
  11. (Reuters) - Militants linked to Islamic State have released photos that purport to show weapons and equipment that belonged to American soldiers and were captured by the group in eastern Afghanistan. The photos, which came to light on Saturday, show an American portable rocket launcher, radio, grenades and other gear not commonly used by Afghan troops, as well as close up views of identification cards for a U.S. Army soldier, Specialist Ryan Larson. The U.S. military command in Kabul denied any suggestion the soldier had been captured, saying he "has been accounted for and remains in a duty status within his unit." American special operations troops have been fighting alongside Afghan forces in a renewed offensive against militants who claim allegiance to Islamic State in Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan. "SPC Larson was attached to a unit conducting a partnered (operation) with Afghan Forces," U.S. military spokesman Commander Ron Flesvig said in an emailed statement on Sunday. "The soldier's I.D. and some of the equipment were left behind after the (operation). The loss of personal identification is unfortunate."
  12. While We Obsessed over Melania, US Airstrikes Massacre Scores of Civilians in Syria As many as 77 innocent people or more, including 11 children, were killed during US-led coalition airstrikes performed in Syria over this Monday and Tuesday. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the US-led airstrike in Manbij, Syria targeted the group of civilians, mistakenly identifying them as ISIS-affiliated fighters. The number of those killed remains unclear, though AFP and the New York Times reported that 56 civilians were killed Monday and another 21 killed Tuesday. Dozens more have been wounded. Other reports vary, however, and estimate higher numbers. “That school housed displaced people from neighboring villages,” Abu Omar al-Manbiji reported to Syria:direct, a non-profit reporting agency that works on the ground in Syria. “So far we count 124 dead from the attack, and that number could very well increase.” The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks civilian deaths in the area, reported that 104 civilians, including 29 children, 16 women, and 8 prisoners, have been killed in the area since the start of June, and they confirmed at least 11 children died in these latest strikes. NSFW Manbij city is one of the most barren regions of Syria, with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights estimating approximately 70,000 civilians have been stranded in Manbij as fighting between ISIS fighters and Western-funded rebels intensifies. In a public statement, human rights group Amnesty International condemned the airstrikes as “the largest loss of civilian life by coalition operations in Syria: “There must be a prompt, independent, and transparent investigation to determine what happened, who was responsible, and how to avoid further needless loss of civilian life. Anyone responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice and victims and their families should receive full reparation,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, the interim deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program for Amnesty International. “International humanitarian law requires all parties to a conflict to prevent the needless loss of civilian life,” Mughrabi said. “Even if coalition forces believed that fighters from the armed group calling itself Islamic State were present around al-Tukhar, they should have taken the necessary precaution to identify who else was present to avoid or at least minimize civilian casualties.” As of this writing, there has been no response to the airstrikes by U.S. President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. http://usuncut.com/world/us-airstrikes-syria-civilians/ Personal Comment: US has permafucked Syria and Iraq, allowed Saudi's to spread Wahhabism to their detriment and continue to support Jewish Apartheid in Palestine. 10/10 best foreign policy so far US
  13. UAE: 'War is over' for Emirati troops in Yemen Statement leaves open the possibility of keeping troops in Arabian Peninsula nation for "counterterrorism operations". The United Arab Emirates says the "war is over" for its troops in Yemen, though it may continue to keep them there for "counterterrorism operations". Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's crown prince and deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, carried the announcement on his official Twitter account late on Wednesday. He was quoting Anwar Gargash, UAE's junior minister for foreign affairs, who had given a speech saying the "war is over for our troops". “Our standpoint today is clear: war is over for our troops; we’re monitoring political arrangements, empowering Yemenis in liberated areas” — أخبار محمد بن زايد (@MBZNews) June 15, 2016 An Arabic version of his comments was worded slightly differently from the English one, saying the war is "practically" over. أنور قرقاش : موقفنا اليوم واضح فالحرب عمليا انتهت لجنودنا ونرصد الترتيبات السياسية ودورنا الأساسي حاليا تمكين اليمنيين في المناطق المحررة — أخبار محمد بن زايد (@MBZNews) June 15, 2016 The statement left open the likelihood that Emirati troops would remain in the Arabian Peninsula country, where they operate in the southern province of Hadramawt and the port city of Aden. The spokesman for the Arab coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In his remarks, Gargash defended the UAE's decision to go to war in Yemen, saying that all political means had been exhausted in the crisis and that Iranian "interference" and support for the Houthis required decisive action. "The military role has ended," Riad Kahwaji, a military analyst, told Al Jazeera from Dubai. "Now the Yemeni conflict has to be resolved through political means. Operation Decisive Storm and Operation Restoring Hope have achieved their objectives." No dispute Kahwaji ruled out the possibility of a dispute between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, key members of the Arab coalition. "What we have seen over the past few weeks is Saudis retaliating to violations by the Houthis, who were fighting beyond their borders," he said. "We have not seen major operations against Houthi forces from either the Saudis or Emiratis." The Arab coalition accuses Iran of arming and supporting the Houthis, while Iran says it has only given the group political support. Gargash was speaking to a private audience of guests invited by the crown prince to his royal gathering space, or "majlis", as it is referred to in the Gulf, as part of a nightly series of lectures given during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Gargash was also quoted as saying that the UAE was "monitoring political arrangements" and "empowering Yemenis in liberated areas". The UAE has been among the most active members of the Arab coalition that intervened more than a year ago to help forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognised government roll back gains by Shia Houthi rebels, who still control the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen. Yemeni security officials told the Associated Press news agency that Emirati troops were still guarding the airport and presidential palace in Aden on Wednesday, from where the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been operating. Hadi's government was driven out of Sanaa in late 2014. Emirati troops also have a camp in Aden. Continued fighting on several fronts killed at least 48 people over the past day, according to Yemeni security officials. Another 65 people were wounded in combat between rebels and government forces around the besieged city of Taiz as well as in Shabwa, Jawf and Marib provinces. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists. In addition to fighting the Houthis and their allies in Yemen, the UAE helped the Arab coalition drive al-Qaeda from the southern coastal city of Mukalla in April. The US has provided military support, intelligence, ships and special operations forces to help the ongoing operations against al-Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. American special operations forces have also been advising the Yemeni, Emirati and Arab coalition forces in the region. The UAE, which has one of the best-equipped militaries in the region, suffered numerous losses over the past year of fighting in Yemen, including four pilots killed in two separate helicopter crashes this week. Government media reports say more than 80 Emirati soldiers have been killed since operations began there on March 26, 2015. In September, 45 Emirati troops were killed by a rebel missile attack, marking the deadliest day for its military in its 44-year history. The government has not made clear the numbers of Emirati troops serving in Yemen. The United Nations said in February that at least 2,800 civilians have been killed and more than 5,300 wounded since the coalition operation began. The coalition has been criticised by rights groups and aid organisations for the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni civilians in air strikes. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/06/uae-war-emirati-troops-yemen-160616044956779.html Apparently the UAE just said fuck it, after Saudis started working with radicals in Yemen.
  14. Turkey Istanbul: Blast and gunfire heard at Ataturk airport At least one explosion and gunfire have been heard at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, Turkish media report. According to a Turkish source quoted by Reuters news agency, there were two blasts and there are "multiple injuries". Gunfire was directed from an airport car park, according to another source quoted by the agency. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36658187 Oh boy, here we go again. + How to destroy a countries tourism industry.
  15. An Iranian military fighter plane flies past an oil tanker during naval manoeuvres in the Gulf and Sea of Oman April 5, 2006. REUTERS/FARS NEWS/FILE PHOTO A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf July 25, 2005. REUTERS/RAHEB HOMAVANDI/FILE PHOTO Gas flares from an oil production platform at the Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf, south of the capital Tehran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/RAHEB HOMAVANDI/FILE PHOTO An Iranian man works on an oil production platform at the Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf, south of the capital Tehran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/FILE PHOTO More than 20 European and Asian-owned supertankers are shipping Iranian crude oil, data seen by Reuters shows, allowing Tehran to ramp up exports much faster than market analysts had expected following the lifting of Western sanctions in January. Iran had been struggling as recently as April to find partners to ship its crude, but after an agreement on a temporary insurance fix more than a third of Iran's crude shipments are now being handled by foreign vessels. "Charterers are buying cargo from Iran and the rest of the world is OK with that," said Odysseus Valatsas, chartering manager at Dynacom Tankers Management. Greek owner Dynacom has fixed three of its supertankers to carry Iranian crude. Some international shipowners remain reluctant to handle Iranian oil, however, due mainly to some U.S. restrictions on Tehran that remain in place and prohibit any trade in dollars or the involvement of U.S. firms, including banks and reinsurers. Iran is seeking to make up for lost trade following the lifting of sanctions imposed in 2011 and 2012 over its nuclear program. Port loading data seen by Reuters, as well as live shipping data, shows at least 21 foreign tankers with capacity to carry around 25 million barrels of light and heavy crude oil have either loaded crude or fuel oil in the last two weeks, or are about load at Iran's Kharg Island and Bandar Mahshahr terminals. The resumption of international shipping of Iranian oil has been made possible by an increase in interim, limited, insurance cover by "P&I clubs" - maritime mutual associations that provide "protection and indemnity" insurance to shippers. The International Group of P&I Clubs, which represents the world's top 13 ship insurers, increased the amount covered by so-called "fall-back" shipping insurance from 70 million to 100 million euros ($111.53 million) in April. "In the first days after lifting sanctions only Iranian ships were loaded in the country, mainly due to several problems in finding insurance/reinsurance," said Luigi Bruzzone of ship broker Banchero Costa. "The strong interest of the market in these trades pushed all the stakeholders to solve all the problems ... and almost all P&I Clubs have granted their insurance." INSURANCE RISK? The "fall-back" cover is designed to offset any shortfall in payments from U.S. reinsurers, who are still not allowed to deal with Iran. "We are not surprised to see the increase in Iranian cargoes given the progress made by the P&I clubs and obviously the increase in Iranian production," said Brian Gallagher, head of investor relations at leading Belgian tanker owner Euronav, which itself is not involved in Iran yet. "We're interested in such trade ... (but) it will still take time for Iran to be fully integrated as there remain restrictions around dollar denominated transactions." Indeed, while the partial lifting of sanctions means foreign tankers can now transport Iranian oil, there remains a risk to shipping it because large accidents might not be fully covered. As a result, insurers say that large first-tier oil shippers, many of them publicly listed such as Euronav, Teekay Group or Frontline, still shy away from carrying Iranian oil. If the fall-back cover is exhausted in an incident, Andrew Bardot, executive officer at the International Group of P&I Clubs, said that costs like "collision and cargo liabilities, will not be covered, and will remain with the shipowner". A single Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) supertanker costs around $90 million, and the costs of a large oil spill can reach into the billions of dollars. "The limitations of the 'fall-back' cover - together with other continuing restrictions, for example those relating to the U.S. dollar and use of the U.S. financial system - however have discouraged a number of shipowners, and in particular the large shipping groups, from resuming trade with Iran in which they were previously engaged," said Bardot. NEAR PRE-SANCTIONS LEVELS With international vessels supporting Iran's own tanker fleet, traders said that its oil exports was now close to pre-sanction levels of around 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd). "Iran has ramped up harder and faster than expected," Citi analysts said in a note to clients. Iran's oil exports were between 2.1 and 2.3 million bpd in April and May, up from 1.3 million bpd a year ago, when Iran was shut out of the European market and dependent on limited shipments to Asian buyers. Asia is the main destination for crude shipped by foreign vessels, with India, China and Japan the biggest takers, but at least four international tankers are also heading for Europe. India, in particular, is taking a lead role as its demand soars and refiners such as Essar Oil, Reliance Energy, Hindustan Petroleum Corp, and Bharat Petroleum Corp enjoy good ties with Iran. The non-Iranian companies currently chartered to carry its oil include Chinese state controlled shipper China Shipping Development, PetroVietnam and Japan's Idemitsu Kosan. Greek, Turkish and Seychelles-owned tankers are also shipping Iranian crude. ($1 = 0.8966 euros) (This version of the story corrects paragraph 19 to say Iranian pre-sanctions exports of 2.5 million bpd, not production) (Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO, Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI, and Jonathan Saul in LONDON; Editing by Alex Richardson) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-oil-exports-idUSKCN0YR0XU Personal Comment From Bors: Ladies and Gentlemen I give you...The Free Market...
  16. www.canada.com April 4th, 2011 By Rafiq Sherzad, Reuters JALALABAD, Afghanistan - A "rogue" Afghan border policeman shot dead two foreign soldiers on a training mission on Monday, and hundreds of people turned out on the streets for a fourth day of protests against the burning of a Koran by a fundamentalist U.S. pastor. Up to a thousand angry residents in eastern Jalalabad city blocked the main highway to Kabul and set alight effigies of the pastor who presided over the Koran burning, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for the provincial governor. Hundreds held peaceful protests in neighbouring Laghman and nearby Paktia provinces. In southern Helmand province, residents of Lashkar Gah were coming out for a demonstration when a thwarted suicide attack cleared the streets. Police spotted two men driving into the central court and opened fire, the Helmand provincial governor's office said. One was seriously wounded and the other managed to detonate his explosives, wounding one policeman and two civilians, but did kill anyone. About 20 people have been killed and nearly 150 wounded over three days of protests in north and south Afghanistan that degenerated into violence, although other large gatherings in some parts of the country ended peacefully. Twelve people were killed and more than 110 wounded in Kandahar over Saturday and Sunday, where demonstrators waving Taliban flags and shouting "Death to America" burnt cars, smashed shops and sacked a girls' high school. On Friday, seven foreign UN staff and five Afghan protesters were killed after demonstrators overran their office in normally peaceful Mazar-i-Sharif city in the north. The protests were driven by anger at radical fundamentalist Christian preacher Terry Jones, who supervised the burning of a Koran in front of about 50 people at a church in Florida on March 20. Western political and military leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, have condemned the Koran burning, as well as the violence that followed. Those condemnations appear to have done little to placate anger or anti-Western sentiments across much of Afghan society. Jones has been unrepentant about the Koran burning and has since vowed to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in the United States later this month. --------------------------------- Damn you America!
  17. Well 2 divisons of Korean soliders came to Syria 23 hours ago to help Assad in his war for powers. as this says here http://thediplomat.com/2016/03/is-north-korea-fighting-for-assad-in-syria/ Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, there have been repeated rumors of North Korean military involvement including the transfer of arms and the presence of military advisers in the country. However, as of now, there is no hard evidence that North Korean troops are on the ground fighting alongside the pro-Assad forces or that Pyongyang is currently providing material support to the Syrian government. (personal comment) North Korean has Atomic Nukes.... I think they have Hydrogen Bombs too What in the name of .... Is starting the 3rd world war. If the America side vs Russia side is ready to clash. By the way why did I do this ? Oh to make myself useful one time. But what is happening in this fucking world?
  18. Syria War: What you need to know about the ceasefire The ceasefire in Syria that took effect on Saturday was part of a negotiated deal, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, passed in December 2015. The deal that contained three main commitments around humanitarian access, a negotiated ceasefire and a political transition was reached in Munich by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), a group of international actors mandated to find a resolution to the Syrian conflict. The ISSG, which includes major regional actors, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, as well as regional bodies, such as the Arab League and the European Union, has emerged out of previous attempts, notably the Geneva process, to negotiate a political solution to the Syrian conflict. The major difference between the ISSG's success in negotiating a deal in February had little to do with its structure or political agreement among the key sides. Instead, the February deal has everything to do with the changing dynamics on the ground and the ability of Russia and its allies to impose a political vision for ending the conflict that suits their interests. Below are answers to some key questions about what these commitments entail, what their chances of success are, and how the Munich agreement may shape the future of Syria. What does the ceasefire in Syria mean on the ground? Which areas will observe it and which areas will not? In theory, the ceasefire should apply to all of Syria. However, Russia has insisted that, along with its allied forces, it reserve the right to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Nusra Front forces as these two groups are outside the framework of the ceasefire, as are other groups labelled as 'terrorist' by the UN. This means that the ceasefire is not geographically demarcated. This exception to the ceasefire is very problematic, however, because Russian forces have attacked many rebel groups and civilian areas under the justification of attacking ISIL and Nusra. These two groups have become convenient scapegoats for Russian attacks throughout Syria. Russia has essentially reserved the right to militarily engage any armed groups in Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIL and Nusra. The United States has been working with Russia in an attempt to designate whether certain areas are ceasefire-abiding areas or not, but they have yet to agree on the specific geographic contours of the agreement. The absence of such contours will give Russia greater military latitude. Practically speaking, this means that large swaths of Syrian territory in which these groups are present, particularly in the eastern and northwestern parts of the country, will remain active conflict zones. Groups outside of the ceasefire, such as Ahrar al-Sham and others labelled as terrorist groups, remain present in parts of Homs and Hama provinces, as well as near Damascus, meaning these areas also potentially lie outside of the ceasefire zones. What are the chances of the ceasefire holding and for how long? What could it hold and why might it not? The ceasefire is unlikely to hold for three main reasons: First, Russia and its allies have reserved the right to attack forces outside of the ceasefire. This means that any violence on the ground that is committed by Russia or regime-led forces can be justified within the framework of the Munich agreement and the ceasefire under the pretence of fighting ISIL. As such, Russia can have its cake and eat it, too; it has reserved the right to militarily engage armed groups while demanding that they cease all hostilities. Second, there are simply thousands of small, organised brigades in Syria that have little interest in a cessation of hostilities. There is a network of armed groups who have benefitted handsomely from the conflict and for whom a ceasefire may threaten them and their activities. It is counterintuitive; however, it is important to note that not all of the violence in Syria is driven by metapolitical issues, such as trying to overthrow the regime, and that there are micropolitical issues, such as security and smuggling, that also motivate armed groups. With little incentive aside from the possible reprieve from Russian bombing, it is unlikely that many of these groups will be motivated to observe the ceasefire. Third, most of the rebel groups inside of Syria cooperate with other groups on the battlefield. This cooperation has as much to do with their political or ideological affinities as it does their relative strengths and weaknesses and need to build alliances to make military gains. Thus, very few armed groups inside Syria operate independently of other groups, blurring the distinctions between them. Isolating a few groups as outside of the ceasefire betrays the organisational structure of violence on the ground and the reality that most groups cooperate on the battlefield. How many of the rebel groups have committed to the ceasefire? According to the Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee (HNC), more than 100 rebel factions agreed to abide by the terms of the ceasefire. Many of the stronger rebel groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam, are outside of the terms of the ceasefire as they are labelled as terrorist groups and remain subject to attacks. This will complicate and weaken the ceasefire as both of these groups are known to cooperate with opposition-backed armed groups committed to the ceasefire. The greatest chance for success of the ceasefire is if there is significant compliance over the initial two-week period and that this brings different groups - whether officially or not - under the umbrella of the ceasefire. What are the chances that humanitarian aid will reach the besieged areas? While chances that the ceasefire will hold are slim, the agreement will likely lead to enhanced humanitarian access throughout the country. Humanitarian airlifts are about to begin the delivery of relief to besieged areas, and there are agreements between regime and opposition forces to lift sieges imposed on specific towns and villages. This includes Madaya, where a devastating siege by regime forces has been in place for months. Creating and maintaining access to areas in need should be reinforced by a large commitment of ISSG members to provide medicines, food, and other necessities. Unfortunately, the agreement does not carry stipulations for levels of humanitarian aid as it focuses solely on creating access. Will the ceasefire lead to a political transition? Unlikely. Advancing a political transition is the third goal of the agreement but is the least likely to generate any interest among the main parties at this point. At this point, international efforts have been focused on efforts where there is relative agreement specifically on the need for a ceasefire and creating humanitarian access. The contours of a political transition remain very contentious, and while the Western world is gravitating towards the Russian position on the architecture of a political transition, there is enough resistance from the political opposition and regional states to prevent a consensus on the issue. The commitment to a political transition envisaged through the UN Security Council Resolution 2254 is unlikely to generate resources and energy at this point when so much focus is on the ceasefire. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/02/syria-war-ceasefire-160228063752872.html Personal Comment: I'm not normally a big fan of al-Jazeera, but I don't have time to translate a better article. The ceasefire is a political agreement between Russia and the US aimed at preventing a direct intervention by US allies while at the same time preventing Assad from steamrolling the "moderate opposition". Of course even if Russia really does stop striking the "moderates", they're too weak to stand up to Assad on their own. Realistically speaking, the past few months have been a solid victory for Assad.
  19. A four-year-old boy has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on a murder charge. Ahmed Mansour Karni wasn’t in court on Tuesday when he was convicted and sentenced of the crime which it’s said was committed two years ago – when he was just two-years-old. The court in Western Cairo heard the case of Karni, who was listed as “wanted” for murder, disturbance of the peace and damaging state property. The indictment stated the charges in full as four counts of murder, eight counts of attempted murder, vandalising property belonging to the Egyptian Health Administration in his home province of el-Fayoum, threatening soldiers and police officers and damaging vehicles belonging to security forces. Defence lawyer Faisal a-Sayd said he believed the judge did not read the case. “The child Ahmed Mansour Karni’s birth certificate was presented after state security forces added his name to the list of accused, but then the case was transferred to the military court and the child was sentenced in absentia in an ensuing court hearing,” he told The Jerusalem Post. Lawyer Mohammed Abu Hurira said the case proved “there is no justice in Egypt… [it] is ruled by a bunch of lunatics.” The sentencing has caused anger online, with users asking how the sentencing could have occurred.TV Technologies wrote: “Think perhaps child bears similar name of older relative?”Amy Hawthorne added: “It is possible given reports of recent cases of judiciary sentencing people to death who were already dead.” Find more – Source: myjoyonline http://tamalefunnyvideos.com/2016/02/20/controversy-as-4-year-old-is-sentenced-to-life-in-prison/ Personal Comment From Bors:
  20. The Syrian government has confirmed that its army positions were targeted by Turkish shelling on Saturday, which also hit the positions of the Syrian Kurdish militias in the northern Aleppo province. Turkish shelling reportedly continued Sunday. Syria’s government has condemned Turkey for shelling Syrian territory, describing the act as direct support for “terrorist”groups, Syrian state media reported on Sunday, citing the letter to the United Nations. Damascus sent the letter after Turkey shelled areas recently captured by a Kurdish-backed alliance north of Aleppo on Saturday. It demanded that the UN Security council “take responsibility for international peace and security by putting an end to the crimes committed by the Turkish regime.” “On February 13, 2016, since the afternoon hours, Turkey’s heavy artillery, located on Turkish territory, artillery shelled Syrian territory, targeting Syrian Kurdish positions and the positions of the Syrian Arab Army,” SANA news agency reported after obtaining the letter. Read more in https://www.rt.com/news/332414-turkey-continues-shell-kurdish/ Personal comment: its happening folks WW3 is happening grab your shovels time to dig in
  21. Iran freed ten U.S. sailors on Wednesday a day after detaining them aboard two U.S. Navy patrol boats in the Gulf, bringing a swift end to an incident that had rattled nerves shortly before the expected implementation of a landmark nuclear accord. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had released the sailors after determining they had entered Iranian territorial waters by mistake. IRGC Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said earlier the boats had strayed due to a broken navigation system. The quick resolution contrasted with previous cases in which British servicemen were held by Iran for considerably longer, in once case almost two weeks. Iran expects the U.N. nuclear watchdog to confirm on Friday it has curtailed its nuclear program, paving the way for the unfreezing of billions of dollars of Iranian assets and an end to bans that have crippled oil exports. "Our technical investigations showed the two U.S. Navy boats entered Iranian territorial waters inadvertently," the IRGC said in a statement carried by state television. "They were released in international waters after they apologized," it added. Iranian state television later released footage of one of the detained men, identified as a U.S. navy commander, apologizing for the incident. "It was a mistake, that was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake," the sailor said on IRIB state TV. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden rejected reports Washington had offered Iran an apology over the incident. "No, there was no apology, nothing to apologize for ... and there's no looking for any apology," Biden said on CBS's 'This Morning' program. COOPERATION A carefully worded statement did not explain how the sailors and their two riverine command boats ended up being detained by Iran, saying only that "the Navy will investigate the circumstances that led to the sailors' presence in Iran". The sailors were later taken ashore by U.S. Navy aircraft, while other sailors took charge of the boats and headed towards Bahrain, their original destination. The Pentagon said there were no indications the sailors were harmed while in Iranian custody. RELATED COVERAGE › Iran state TV shows footage of U.S. sailor apologizing › White House: Pleased Iran released sailors, still has concerns U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he was pleased the sailors had been freed and appreciated "the timely way in which this situation was resolved". He added: "I want to personally thank Secretary of State John Kerry for his diplomatic engagement with Iran to secure our sailors' swift return." Kerry thanked Iran for its cooperation in the release of the sailors. "I think we can all imagine how a similar situation might have played out three or four years ago, and the fact that today this kind of issue can be resolved peacefully and efficiently is a testament to the critical role diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure, and strong," Kerry said. Kerry spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif several times as the United States sought to win the release of the sailors, a U.S. official said. Zarif said on twitter that he was "happy to see dialogue and respect, not threats and impetuousness, swiftly resolved the sailors episode". Four photographs published by Shargh Daily, a Tehran newspaper, and posted on Twitter, purportedly show the moments after one of the U.S. boats was stopped by the IRGC. RELATED VIDEO Iran releases U.S. sailors Iranians jailed in US could ease swap deal Iranian state television released footage of the arrest, showing the sailors as they knelt down with hands behind their heads and their two vessels being surrounded by several IRGC fast boats. The video showed weapons and ammunition confiscated from the sailors, who were seen eating food provided by the Iranians. There were also images of American passports being inspected. The incident raised tensions between Iran and the United States, which, along with other world powers, reached a deal last year under which Iran will curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Some conservatives in both countries, enemies since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, have criticized the deal that is due to be implemented in the coming days. NUCLEAR DEAL Iran's armed forces chief, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said the incident should demonstrate Iranian strength to "troublemakers" in the U.S. Congress, which has sought to put pressure on Iran after the nuclear deal. RELATED COVERAGE › Kerry spoke with Iran's Zarif at least five times about detained sailors: official › Kerry did not express regret to Iran in talks to free sailors: U.S. And at a presidential campaign rally in the United States, Republican front runner Donald Trump, who accuses President Barack Obama of being weak on foreign policy, described the detention of the sailors as "an indication of where the hell we're going". A senior U.S. defense official said the circumstances surrounding the incident were still not entirely clear. "We haven’t been able to fully debrief the sailors," the official said, adding the U.S. military hoped to do so within hours. The sailors were headed to a U.S. military facility in Qatar. "They’re going through what always happens in these cases, they'll get a medical evaluation, and there will be a debriefing." Attributing the boats' incursion into Iranian waters to a navigation error marked a de-escalation in rhetoric. Earlier, the Guards had said the boats were "snooping" in Iranian territory and Zarif had demanded an apology from Washington. The IRGC, the Islamic Republic's praetorian guard, is highly suspicious of U.S. military activity near Iran's borders and many senior officers suspect Washington of pursuing regime change in Tehran. The Guards operate land and naval units separate to the regular armed forces and stage frequent war games in the Gulf, which separates Iran from its regional rival Saudi Arabia and a U.S. naval base in Bahrain. Last month, the U.S. Navy said an IRGC vessel fired unguided rockets near the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping route for crude oil that connects the Gulf to the Indian Ocean. Iran denied the vessel had done so. In April 2015, the Guards seized a container ship belonging to Maersk, one of the world's major shipping lines, in the Gulf because of a legal dispute between the company and Iran. The ship and its 24 crew members were released after 10 days. The Guards have also seized British servicemen on two occasions, in 2004 and 2007, and a civilian British yacht crew in 2009. On each occasion the sailors were released unharmed. Iran said the British sailors were released when their government apologized to Iran, but London denied that it had offered any apology. (Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Sami Aboudi, Peter Graff, Giles Elgood, Peter Millershipand Philippa Fletcher) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-boat-comment-idUSKCN0UR0K120160113 Personal Comment From Bors: Well now that was slightly anti climactic.
  22. by BREITBART NEWS 3 Jan 2016 Saudi Arabia has reacted to the burning of its embassy in Iran by cutting off all diplomatic relations with the country. From the New York Times: BAGHDAD — Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday and gave all Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, as escalating tensions over the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia marked a new low in relations between the two Middle Eastern powers. The surprise move, announced in a televised news conference by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, followed harsh criticism by Iranian leaders of the Saudi execution ofSheikh Nimr al-Nimr and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by protesters in response. Mr. Jubeir said that the kingdom would not allow Iran to undermine the kingdom’s security. The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Saturday that Saudi Arabiawould face divine vengeance for the execution of Sheikh Nimr, a day after Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi Arabia, which put the cleric to death in a mass execution of 47 men accused of terrorism-related offenses, fired back, saying Iran had “revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism.” The heated rhetoric underscored the mounting tensions between the two powers, each of which considers itself the leader of the Islamic world and supports opposing sides in conflicts across the region. Setting off this round of recriminations was the Saudis’ execution on Saturday of Sheikh Nimr, a Shiite cleric from eastern Saudi Arabia who often criticized the Saudi royal family and called for Shiite empowerment. Skeikh Nimr had become a leader in Shiite protests, and the government accused him of inciting violence. Most of the reaction to the execution in the region broke cleanly along sectarian lines, with Shiite leaders in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere criticizing the Saudis for killing a man they called a peaceful dissident while Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies applauded what they called the country’s efforts to fight terrorism. Personal Comment: "Saudi Arabia fired back, saying Iran had “revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism.”"
  23. The 34-member bloc will fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, deputy crown prince says By AHMED AL OMRAN in Riyadh and ASA FITCH in Dubai Dec. 15, 2015 9:59 a.m. ET Saudi Arabia’s plan to form a Muslim antiterrorism coalition has underlined a new muscular foreign policy aimed at confronting the extremist group Islamic State, even at the risk of wading deeper into the region’s messiest conflicts. Calling terrorism a “disease which affected the Islamic world first before the international community as a whole,” Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Tuesday the coalition of 34 Muslim states would fight the scourge in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan. In this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 file photo, Saudi security forces take part in a military parade in preparation for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS Besides the 34 Muslim nations who signed up to the coalition, Riyadh said more than 10 other countries, including Indonesia, expressed their support of the new bloc. The kingdom’s main rival Iran, however, was absent from the list. The formation of the coalition followed criticism from U.S. and European politicians that Saudi Arabia hasn’t done enough to fight Islamic State and other terrorist groups. Islamic State militants took over large swaths of Iraq and Syria last year and are the focus of the U.S.-led air campaign in which Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries are participating. Some Saudis believe the time has come to show the government is serious about fighting Islamic State, a Sunni militant group that has roots in its own region and religion. Islamic State “is the seed of evil that we have let out of the can in the Middle East,” Prince Turki Al Faisal, chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, told the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai. “It’s our responsibility to vanquish it.” But it is also unclear what Saudi Arabia is asking the other countries to do—whether it is a loose grouping to talk strategy and share intelligence or the first step to establishing an actual fighting force. The new Saudi-led coalition will have a joint command center in Riyadh to “coordinate” and develop means to fight terrorism militarily and ideologically, Prince Mohammed told a hastily called news conference at a Riyadh air base early Tuesday morning. Some countries that were listed as members expressed willingness to review such a proposal but didn’t appear to make any formal commitment to a military coalition. Turkey, the only country in the alliance that is also a NATO member, welcomed the new coalition. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday that “the best response to those striving to associate terrorism and Islam is for nations of Islam to present a unified voice against terrorism” Meanwhile, Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad Momani said the war against terrorism was “our war and the Muslims’ war,” according to a statement carried by the official Petra news agency. William Hague, a former U.K. foreign secretary, told the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai on Tuesday that more Arab involvement was needed to combat Islamic State and counter the extremist narrative that it was at war with the West. Making it effective required coordination, however, he said. “To make something like NATO, you really have to decide to act together…to send people to act and die in another country,” Mr. Hague said. For Riyadh, the risks of such aggressive military action on a broad scale have become apparent in Yemen. The Yemen coalition, composed of mostly Sunni Muslim Arab allies, began bombing the Houthis from the air on March 26. It deployed a ground force in July, soon recapturing the southern city of Aden and pushing toward the capital, San’a. The campaign, however, has been costly for the Saudi government, both in financial and human terms. Human rights groups have also criticized the coalition for the large number of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes and fighting on the ground. The United Nations estimates the death toll of the war at more than 5,800 people. Many observers see the war in Yemen as the outgrowth of a regional confrontation between Sunni Muslim states and mainly Shiite Iran. Saudi Arabia and its allies support Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadiwhile Iran gives political backing—some say military support—to the Houthis, a group whose members adhere to the Zaidi offshoot of Shiite Islam. A seven-day cease-fire started in Yemen at noon Tuesday, local time, as United Nations-mediated peace talks began in Geneva. Fighting was still taking place in the country’s oil-rich Marib province and parts of the south in the hours leading up to the pause, according to local security officials. Christopher Davidson, a professor at Durham University in the U.K. who specializes in Gulf affairs, said the new alliance was primarily a way for Saudi Arabia to generate positive news about its role in international affairs following recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Both of the assailants in the California attack had spent time in the kingdom. Yet divisions within the participating countries of the Islamic coalition don’t bode well for its effectiveness, he said. “The constituent members of the new coalition mostly fall on the Sunni side of the sectarian fault-line and are themselves deeply divided on a number of key policy areas,” Mr. Davidson said. “The probability that it can become an effective international security alliance is therefore almost zero.” —Peter Wonacott in Dubai and Emre Peker in Istanbul contributed to this article. Personal Comment: Its laughable that the people responsible for spreading the disease are the ones who will have the cure.
  24. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN0TS0H420151209#PJ0qCQp33qh81aBS.97 Busloads of Syrians including rebel fighters left the last insurgent-held area of Homs on Wednesday under a rare local truce agreement in Syria's nearly five-year conflict that will shore up government control over the city. The rebels and their families are being moved to insurgent-held areas of the northwest near the Turkish border under the deal, an example of the type of local truce U.S. President Barack Obama has said could happen in Syria more frequently. Homs was a centre of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. The deal follows a major Syrian army ground offensive to the north of the city backed by Russian air strikes. Witnesses saw 15 buses leave the area. Homs governor Talal al-Barazi told reporters 300 fighters were on board, together with 400 members of their families. The fighters took with them light weapons, he said. The deal echoes a local ceasefire agreed in September elsewhere in Syria under which rebel fighters were supposed to be transferred to Idlib, though it has yet to be fully implemented. Several buses left the Homs district of Waer early on Wednesday and others were queueing up to leave on its outskirts, witnesses said. Children on buses waiting to leave peaked around the drawn curtains and aid workers handed out juice. Barazi said the buses would make a stop in Hama province where rebels who wished to could disembark, before continuing to Idlib, a province that is a stronghold of insurgents including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. He described the rebels who left as "militants who reject the agreement", saying they would leave with their families. "The Waer neighbourhood arrangements will be completely safe and there will be no weapons in Waer after the implementation of the agreement," he said adding security forces would go back to work in the area and would be the only ones armed. PEACE TALKS The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said about 750 people were expected to leave during the day for rebel-held areas in the Hama and Idlib provinces. The United Nations is presiding over implementation of the deal, which was agreed directly between the Syrian sides. Some diplomats say local ceasefires may be the most effective way of gradually bringing peace to a country where more than 250,000 people have been killed, though one concluded in Homs in 2014 was widely seen as a forced surrender. Syria peace talks involving world powers in Vienna in October called for a nationwide ceasefire and a renewal of U.N-brokered talks between the rival Syrian sides. Priority is being given to women, children and the severely wounded, the Observatory's head, Rami Abdulrahman, said. But the evacuation will include scores of fighters who reject the truce, he said, among them a small group from Nusra Front. A previous truce in Homs in 2014 allowed insurgents to withdraw from the Old City while Waer and other areas remained in the hands of insurgents. The Observatory said the Waer deal was better for the rebels than the 2014 agreement because some fighters will stay in the district and the deal will be implemented in stages. Humanitarian aid reached the Waer district last week under the terms of the agreement. The Syrian army and allied militia launched a major ground offensive north of Homs city after Russia, Assad's main ally, began carrying out air strikes in support of the Syrian military more than two months ago. Obama said last month there may start to be ceasefires in parts of Syria, freeing opposition groups from Russian bombings. The Homs deal follows the stalling of a separate plan aimed at halting fighting between rebels and government forces near Damascus. In late September, Iran and Turkey, which back opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, helped bring about local ceasefires in the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border and in two villages in the northwestern province of Idlib. A diplomat tracking Syria said the Waer agreement was an improvement on previous local ceasefires because it was directly negotiated by Syrians, rather than involving outside states. "Some people are talking about 40-50 local ceasefires waiting on the shelf to be discussed," the diplomat said. (Reporting by Marwan Makdesi and Kinda Makieh in Homs and Sylvia Westall in Beirut; Editing by Tom Perry and Janet Lawrence) Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN0TS0H420151209#gfUTOk4VvI3WwCyK.99
  25. Turks Shoot Down Russian Fighter Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24M fighter plane, claiming it was violating Turkish airspace, and was given 10 warnings over the course of 5 minutes. However, the plane crashed in Latakia province, Syria. The loss of the plane has been confirmed by Russian MoD who says the plane was brought down by grounds fire, while flying at an altitude of 6000 meters. Two pilots catapulted, at least one is claimed captured by the Turks. Russian MoD claims they have proof from airspace control assets that the plane did not violate Turkish air space. It should be noted that there was a previous incident where a Russian Su-30SM jet did violate Turkish airspace for several seconds, but promptly left. Russian MoD cited difficult weather conditions as the cause for the violations at that time. Russia has also been working closely with the Syrian Army in it's offensive into a region populated by Tukic people, whom the Turks regard as their relatives, and who receive weapons and supplies from Turkey. Turkey recently spoke to Russian diplomats, asking Russia to stop air strikes in that area. The entire situation is looking increasingly messy, and it will be some time before a clear picture can be obtained.
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