“Bringing the world into focus
through the lens of Scripture”

 

frosty@khouseafrica.com

 

 

 

K-House Africa

 

Banking Details

 

 

 Watch us
on YouTube

 

 

Radio 66/40

 

 

 

 Africa news

 

THE STRUGGLE FOR JERUSALEM

 

 

The Rise Of Islam

 

 

THE DECLINE OF THE USA

 

 

GLOBAL RELIGION

 

 

GLOBAL PESTILENCE

 

 

Global Government

 

 

THE RISE OF THE FAR EAST

 

 

THE RISE OF THE EUROPEAN SUPER STATE

 

 

WEAPONS PROLIFERATION

 

 

THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

0

 

Articles

 

DVD PRICELIST

 

Price List

 

 Kings High Way Briefing Packs

 

Topical Teachings

DVD Briefing Back

Packs

 

Audio CD

 

Audio MP3 Collections

 

DVD

 Commentaries

 

Strategic Trends

 

Verse By Verse Commentaries

 

Old Testament Study Notes

 

New Testament Study Notes

 

Personal Update

 

Donations

 

New Product Notice

 

FAQ

 

Contact US

 

K-House USA

 

Comment Line

 

Time Traveller

 

Other Links

 

DEVOTIONAL

 

Words in Red

 

Prophecy News Watch

 

The Coming Prince

 

THE WITNESS 1 Audio MP3

 

THE WITNESS 2 Audio MP3

 

hawk warrior

 

 

 

 

 

Monitor The Strategic Trends

 

The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

The ancient people called Magog are commonly believed to have been the ancestors of the Russian nation. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of an invasion of Israel by Russia, which has not yet been fulfilled. What could cause Russia to come against the tiny nation of Israel -- which has no oil and no real strategic value? This question has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. However, recent developments in the Middle East have for the first time in history lent credence to this long-awaited prophecy.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


•What does the Bible say about “wars”?
•How can the classic literature of centuries ago impact todays (and tomorrow’s) tactics and strategies?
•Which technologies are predicted in the Bible? Which ones have yet to be witnessed?
•In what ways have the economies of scale in violence been reversed?
•What is the threat assessment and risk analysis pending today?
•In what ways can a country be regarded as a “one-bomb target”?
•What are the likely implications of trans-humanism in the quests for the “Super-Soldier”?
•How could electromagnetic pulses emerge to become the “Great Equalizer”?
•Where is the safest place to be?
 Dr. Chuck Missler, an honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, with an international background including three decade’s experience in the board rooms of the defense industry, reviews the major Biblical references to warfare, the trends in modern weapons technology, and some of the current preparations for war among the major powers.
 

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

The final world dictator seeking global domination will also be an “Assyrian” who is here characterized by a bow, riding a white horse. It is interesting how many confuse this counterfeit with the rider of the white horse in Revelation 19. In chapter 6, however, this rider is among some very bad company!
 “Behold a White Horse” explores the career of the first of these “Four Horsemen” who seems to have at least 33 titles in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament and the common term “AntiChrist” really isn’t one of them. We also explore the only physical description of him in the Scripture!
 • Why is he a “mistaken identity”?
 • How do we know this is NOT the Christ?
 • What is the precedent condition(s) for his appearance?
 • What is the precedent condition for the unsealing of the Seven Sealed Book? What is the Seven Sealed Book?
 • Is his “bow” a pun? How? Why?
 • How can he “go forth to conquer” if he is a “peace maker”?
 • Is the Church on the earth at this time? How do we know?
 • Is He alive today? How do we know?
 • How can he be the “Seed of the Serpent”?
 Join Chuck Missler as he looks at the first of the Five Horsemen.

 

This briefing pack contains 2 horse of teaching

DVD

1 Disc

2 MP3

1PDF NOTES FILE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia News Headlines - Yahoo! News        Feed image

 

Go Direct

 

Middle East News Headlines - Yahoo! NewsFeed image

 

 
 

Top Asian News at 11:30 a.m. GMT

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:32:57 PMGo to full article
BANGKOK (AP) — Regional talks dealing with the swelling tide of boat people in Southeast Asia began Friday with a Myanmar official criticizing those who blame his country for causing the crisis, saying "finger pointing" would not help. Htin Linn, the acting director of Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry, spoke after several officials urged delegates to address the root causes of the problem — a reference to minority Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar for years — and a top U.N. official called for stateless Rohingya to be granted citizenship.
 

S. Korea confirms 10 MERS cases

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:27:42 PMGo to full article
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is considered a deadlier version of the SARS virus which killed hundreds of people in 2003 and led to Asian nations checking the temperature of passengers as they arrived at airportsSouth Korea confirmed three more MERS cases Friday, bringing the total number of patients infected with the potentially deadly virus to 10, including a man who defied a quarantine protocol and travelled to China, health officials said. The infections were all traced to the original case of a 68-year-old man diagnosed on May 20 after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and killed hundreds of people, mostly in China.
 
 

Cyprus police probe Israel link in ammonium nitrate haul: media

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:19:53 PMGo to full article
Cypriot police suspect a man arrested on Wednesday was planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island after they found almost two tonnes of ammonium nitrate in his basement, newspapers reported on Friday. Authorities are investigating possible links to Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, which views Israel as its arch enemy, three Cypriot newspapers said on Friday. Police suspect Israeli interests were the target, the Simerini, Politis and Phileleftheros newspapers said.
 

China confirms first case of MERS, a South Korean man

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:54:05 PMGo to full article
BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in a South Korean businessman who ignored instructions to stay home after his father was diagnosed with the disease.
 

UN nations agree to action to save Iraqi cultural sites

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:55:07 PMGo to full article
An image made available by Jihadist media outlet Welayat Homs on May 28, 2015 allegedly shows a flag of the Islamic State in the ancient city of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old metropolis and an Unesco world heritage siteUN member-states on Thursday declared that the destruction by jihadists of Iraqi cultural sites may amount to war crimes and agreed to take steps to curb the trade of stolen ancient artifacts. The General Assembly adopted a resolution on saving Iraq's cultural sites as international concern mounted over the fate of the Syrian archeological site of Palmyra captured by Islamic State fighters a week ago. Videos of IS combatants destroying artifacts at the Mosul museum and smashing sledgehammers into ancient walls at Hatra and Nimrud sparked an outcry and calls to prevent the "cultural cleansing" of the Middle East.
 
 

Kurdish fighters in Syria on the march against IS militants

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:39:41 PMGo to full article
In this photo released on May 20, 2015, provided by the Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. In contrast to the failures of the Iraqi army, in Syria Kurdish fighters are on the march against the Islamic State group, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country's northeast in recent days, under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes. (The Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units via AP)BEIRUT (AP) — In contrast to the Iraqi army's failures, Kurdish fighters in Syria are on the march against the Islamic State group, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country's northeast under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes.
 
 

Few regrets in Mideast over Blair resignation

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:38:02 PMGo to full article
Tony's Blair resignation as Middle East peace envoy has been widely welcomed by Palestinians who say his term was useless, and even some Israelis agree he failed to accomplish muchTony's Blair resignation as Middle East peace envoy has been widely welcomed by Palestinians who say his term was useless, and even some Israelis agree he failed to accomplish much. The Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- had appointed him to support the Palestinian economy and institutions in preparation for eventual statehood. Palestinians accuse Blair of siding with Israel at their expense, and unleashed a torrent of criticism against him.
 
 

Iran defends spy trial of US journalist

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:03:26 PMGo to full article
The trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian on espionage charges has started behind closed doors in TehranIran hit back Thursday at US claims that the trial of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian on spying charges lacked transparency, insisting its judiciary is independent. Washington has called for the release of Rezaian, who went on trial behind closed doors on Tuesday, and National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan condemned a "complete lack of transparency" in the case. Rezaian, 39, is accused of "espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic republic", according to his lawyer.
 
 

Corruption is leading indicator for political unrest, study finds

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:57:57 PMGo to full article
By Stella Dawson WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Corruption is a leading indicator for political instability and 64 countries where fraud and bribery are widespread risk falling into violent upheaval, a global think tank said in a new report. While anti-corruption researchers long have argued the corrosive power of corruption, its political impact has never before been measured globally. By examining the linkage between corruption measures and peaceful societies, the research by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) based in Sydney finds strong statistical evidence that high and rising levels of corruption can undermine security, and that only small increases can cause civil unrest.
 

Al-Qaeda's Syria branch seeks image makeover in West

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:26:22 PMGo to full article
The Al-Nusra Front was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in 2012Al-Qaeda's Syria franchise is striving to reinvent itself as a legitimate opposition force that is more acceptable to the West, but it is unlikely to succeed, analysts said Thursday. In a rare television interview, Al-Nusra Front chief Abu Mohamed al-Jolani vowed not to use Syria as a springboard to attack the West and said he would be willing to protect minorities. "It's all part of a normalisation process that Al-Qaeda in Syria has been seeking to do for some time now," said Charlie Winter, an analyst on jihadism at the London-based Quilliam Foundation.
 
 

Christian schools in Israel say budget cuts hurt community

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:20:41 PMGo to full article
In this photo taken Tuesday, May 26, 2015, Arab Israeli Christian school children play soccer at the Terra Santa School in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Ramle, Israel, Private Christian schools are among Israel’s highest ranked educational institutions, established by churches in the Holy Land hundreds of years ago long before Israel was established. But school administrators are accusing Israel of slashing their funding as a pressure tactic to get them join the Israeli public school system a move they say would interfere with the schools’ Christian values and high academic achievements. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)RAMLE, Israel (AP) — It was an unlikely display of protesters: nuns cloaked in white, a black-clad priest clutching a golden scepter and dozens of Arab schoolchildren picketing outside the hulking headquarters of Israel's Education Ministry. Their message, raised high on large banners: "Take your hands off our schools."
 
 

Cyprus police hold suspect after large ammonium nitrate haul

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:58:20 PMGo to full article
Cypriot authorities detained a Lebanese national on Thursday after finding in his possession a large quantity of ammonium nitrate fertilizer which, police said could case widespread damage if used in an explosive mixture. A public prosecutor, asking for court proceedings to be held in camera, said the case raised questions of state security. Police said they had discovered two tonnes of ammonium nitrate at premises used by the 26-year-old in the coastal town of Larnaca on Wednesday night.
 

Carter seeks ways to improve Iraq training, equipping

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:38:26 PMGo to full article
ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — U.S. military leaders are looking for ways to improve and speed up the program to train and equip Iraqi forces, including options to better prepare Sunni tribes to join the fight, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday.
 

Greek coast guard picks up 216 migrants in eastern Aegean

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:55:36 AMGo to full article
Immigrant women with their children enter an abandoned hotel where they have been given shelter at Kos island, Greece, on Thursday, May 28, 2015. After Italy, financially crippled Greece is the main destination for refugees and economic migrants seeking a better life in the European Union. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities say the coast guard has picked up 216 people in the Aegean Sea who entered the country illegally by sailing from the Turkish coast to nearby islands overnight, raising the total this week to more than 1,500.
 
 

S. Korea reports seven MERS cases, one suspect flies to China

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:33:21 AMGo to full article
South Korea confirms two more MERS virus infections, bringing the total number of cases to seven, as one suspected victim ignored warnings and flew to China on a business tripSouth Korea said Thursday it had confirmed two more MERS virus infections, bringing the total number of cases to seven, as one suspected victim ignored warnings and flew to China on a business trip. The infections, all traced to the original case of a 68-year-old man diagnosed on May 20 after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia, have triggered public concerns of a wider outbreak. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and killed hundreds of people, mostly in China.
 
 

Analysis: Against IS, airstrikes may not suffice

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:20:24 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Saturday, May 9, 2015 file photo, a plume of smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. The U.S.-led coalition has carried out over 4,100 airstrikes against Islamic State radicals, with limited results. (AP Photo, File)BAGHDAD (AP) — It's the modern era's military strategy of choice: overwhelming air power delivering precision-guided punishment backed by intelligence on the ground, with minimal exposure for soldiers of the striking side.
 
 

Former British PM Blair quits as Middle East envoy

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:57:13 PMGo to full article
Tony's Blair resignation as Middle East peace envoy has been widely welcomed by Palestinians who say his term was useless, and even some Israelis agree he failed to accomplish muchTony Blair resigned Wednesday as the Quartet diplomatic group's envoy, his office said, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he worked to end as troubled as ever. There was some praise for the former British prime minister's work over eight years as delegate of the Quartet -- the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia. Israel carried out four air strikes on militants in the Gaza Strip, witnesses said.
 
 

Blair to leave Middle East envoy post after years of struggling diplomacy

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:22:25 PMGo to full article
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks during the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South SinaiBy Luke Baker JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Former British prime minister Tony Blair is standing down as the Quartet representative in the Middle East, the organization said on Wednesday, after eight years struggling to break ground in peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians. Officials close to the Quartet of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia, said Blair, 62, would continue to play an informal role in trying to forge a two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israel. A Quartet statement said Blair "plans to step aside" and expressed appreciation for what it called his "unwavering commitment to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace" and efforts to improve the Palestinian economy.
 
 

Saudi designates two Hezbollah officials as terrorists

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:14:19 PMGo to full article
Saudi Arabia has designated two senior officials of the Lebanese Hezbollah group as terrorists, accusing them of involvement in spreading "chaos and instability", state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday. The agency identified one as Khalil Youssef Harb and said he was a military commander in charge of Hezbollah's activities in Yemen. SPA named the second as Mohammed Qabalan and said he had been convicted by an Egyptian court in absentia in 2010 for activities in the country.
 

Temperatures soar across Mideast countries amid sandstorms

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:19:12 PMGo to full article
Laborers cover their faces as they ride a truck on a highway in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, during a sandstorm and a heat wave. Temperatures are soaring across the Middle East, with winds and sandstorms driving people indoors as unlucky pedestrians try to shield themselves from the sun with books, newspapers or anything they can find. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)CAIRO (AP) — Temperatures soared across the Middle East on Wednesday, with winds and sandstorms driving people indoors as unlucky pedestrians tried to shield themselves from the sun with books, newspapers or anything they could find.
 
 

Letter to Obama discussed at Post reporter's trial in Iran

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:48:29 PMGo to full article
Ali Rezaian, brother of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian poses for a portrait at The National Press Club in WashingtonTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A letter a detained Washington Post journalist wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama and a trip he made to the U.S. Consulate in Dubai have become major topics of his espionage trial in Iran.
 
 

Top Asian News at 4:00 p.m. GMT

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:03:04 PMGo to full article
UKHIYA, Bangladesh (AP) — The traffickers spun stories that were unimaginable to their listeners, many who hailed from tiny Bangladeshi villages where almost no one earns more than a few dollars a day. First, there would be the boat: A huge boat where people could spread out comfortably, where the food would be plentiful and delicious. They would be treated with decency while on board and at the end of a week or so they would be quietly dropped off in Malaysia and given high-paying jobs.
 

Saudi Arabia sanctions 2 senior Hezbollah members

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:06:05 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia says it is sanctioning two senior members of Hezbollah, accusing them of leading terrorist operations in the Middle East.
 

U.S. praises Saudis for imposing sanctions on Hezbollah officials

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:48:19 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday commended Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on two senior officials of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon and designating them as terrorists. The United States designated the two officials, Khalil Youssef Harb and Mohammed Qabalan, in 2013 for overseeing "violent operations" in the Middle East. "Today's step taken by Saudi Arabia reflects the close counter-terrorism and information sharing cooperation we enjoy and look forward to extending further," said Adam Szubin, U.S. ...
 

Erdogan's war on critical media heats up ahead of Turkish election

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:23:21 PMGo to full article
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during an opening ceremony in Istanbul, TurkeyBy Ayla Jean Yackley and Nick Tattersall ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A veteran U.S. journalist and author said on Wednesday President Tayyip Erdogan had blocked his honorary citizenship and declared him an enemy of the state, as the Turkish leader's war on critical media intensifies ahead of a June election. In what opponents see as part of a campaign to muzzle dissent, Erdogan has repeatedly berated news outlets including the New York Times and Turkish daily Hurriyet, while a prosecutor this month sought to shut two TV stations, seen as opposed to the government, on terrorism-related charges. Erdogan is constitutionally barred from party politics as head of state, but has been making podium speeches across Turkey ahead of the June 7 polls in the hope the ruling AK Party will win a big enough majority to hand him greater powers.
 
 

Top Asian News at 1:30 p.m. GMT

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:32:47 PMGo to full article
UKHIYA, Bangladesh (AP) — The traffickers spun stories that were unimaginable to their listeners, many who hailed from tiny Bangladeshi villages where almost no one earns more than a few dollars a day. First, there would be the boat: A huge boat where people could spread out comfortably, where the food would be plentiful and delicious. They would be treated with decency while on board and at the end of a week or so they would be quietly dropped off in Malaysia and given high-paying jobs.
 

Yemen war will end up harming Riyadh, Iran minister says

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:53:32 PMGo to full article
Iran's foreign minister urged rival Saudi Arabia to end its military campaign in Yemen, saying the war would "bring harm" to the kingdom, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday. Iran has repeatedly condemned a Saudi-led air offensive against Yemen's Houthi movement, launched in March after the Tehran-allied fighters began battling forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for control of the country. Zarif's remarks from Kuwait, where he was attending a meeting of the Islamic Organisation Conference (IOC), was one of Tehran's most direct attempts yet to engage Gulf Arab countries on the crisis in Yemen.
 

Australian boy in Syria creates quandary for government

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:24:05 PMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A 7-year-old Australian boy who horrified the world a year ago when he was photographed holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier by the hair has created a quandary for the government, which wants to make scores of Australian fighters in the Middle East someone else's problem by revoking their citizenship.
 

Hamas executed Palestinians during Israel war: Amnesty

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:15:36 PMGo to full article
Palestinian men sit amid the rubble of houses which were destroyed during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas militants in the summer of 2014, in the Eastern Gaza City Shujaiya neighbourhood, on May 23, 2015Amnesty International accused the Islamist movement Hamas Wednesday of committing war crimes against fellow Palestinians to "settle scores" during last year's Gaza war with Israel, executing at least 23 people. A report by the London-based rights group detailed the "brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of 'collaborating' with Israel" by Hamas, de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip enclave.
 
 

Australia warns children of foreign fighters risk charges

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:07:48 AMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian boy who was photographed holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier could reportedly return to Australia with his mother and siblings, prompting the prime minister to warn Wednesday that children as well as adults who break terrorism laws face prosecution.
 

Gunmen try to kill Libya's recognized prime minister

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:23:31 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Wednesday, April 15, 2015 file photo, Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. A spokesman for Libya's internationally recognized government said Tuesday, May 26, 2015, that gunmen tried to assassinate al-Thinni on his way to the airport in the eastern city of Tobruk, Libya. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Gunmen tried to assassinate Libya's internationally recognized prime minister on his way to the airport in the eastern city of Tobruk on Tuesday, a spokesman for his government said.
 
 

Pentagon chief's take on Iraqis undercuts Obama's strategy

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:49:05 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this May 6, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Carter’s blunt assessment that Iraqi forces lack the “will to fight” undermines a central premise of President Barack Obama’s strategy for defeating the Islamic State: that Iraq’s military can effectively handle ground operations so American forces don’t have to. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter's blunt assessment that Iraqi forces lack the "will to fight" undermines a central premise of President Barack Obama's strategy for defeating the Islamic State: that Iraq's military can effectively handle ground operations so Americans don't have to.
 
 

Facing closure of refugee camp, Christmas Island grasps for economic future

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:07:06 PMGo to full article
By Byron Kaye SYDNEY (Reuters) - If the remote Australian outpost of Christmas Island had its way, it would have reopened a local casino that once raked in billions of dollars instead of renting hotel rooms at an ageing resort to refugee camp workers. The tiny island in the Indian Ocean is often the first port of call on Australian territory for asylum seekers en route from South Asia and the Middle East. In 2001, it made international headlines when Australia in a controversial move refused to let a Norwegian freighter disembark 438 asylum seekers rescued from a 20-metre (66-foot) fishing boat.
 

14-year-old planned to blow up Austrian train station

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:04:59 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian court has found a 14-year-old boy guilty of planning to blow up Vienna's main railway station after being radicalized by Islamic extremists.
 

Nuclear Iran 1,000 times worse than IS: Netanyahu

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:59:18 PMGo to full article
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, May 26, 2015Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "a thousand times more dangerous and more destructive" than the Islamic State group, his office said. "As horrific as ISIS is, once Iran, the preeminent terrorist state of our time, acquires nuclear weapons, it will be a hundred times more dangerous, a thousand times more dangerous and more destructive than ISIS," Netanyahu said, referring to IS. "As we are meeting, the P5+1 talks are reconvening, and I'm afraid they're rushing to what I consider is a very bad deal," Netanyahu told US Senator Bill Cassidy, in remarks relayed by the Israeli premier's office.
 
 

Obama: US must examine how assets are being used in IS fight

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:38:29 PMGo to full article
President Barack Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said the U.S. and its allies need to examine whether they are deploying military assets effectively against Islamic State militants as Iraq mounts a new offensive to recapture critical territory west of Baghdad.
 
 

Erdogan opens 'Saladin' airport in Turkey's restive southeast

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:38:18 PMGo to full article
Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds a Koran as he speaks during the opening ceremony for the Selahaddin Eyyubi airport on May 26, 2015, in Hakkari provincePresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday opened a new airport in a restive eastern province dogged by a Kurdish separatist insurgency, naming the facility for a celebrated Muslim medieval leader of Kurdish origin. Erdogan inaugurated the airport in Yuksekova in Hakkari province, close to the border with Iran and Iraq, alongside Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in a joint appearance ahead of June 7 elections. Of Kurdish origin, he is known simply as Saladin and in Arabic as Salah ad-Din.
 
 

Only new refugees to benefit from EU quotas in migrant crisis: draft

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:19:00 PMGo to full article
Syrian refugees arrive at the coast of the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, after reaching the country by its sea borders with TurkeyBy Robin Emmott BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will consider new refugees reaching Italy and Greece in its migrant quotas, not those already in camps, according to a proposal seen by Reuters to be presented on Wednesday, a concession to EU governments against the plan. Seeking to share out asylum-seekers fleeing chronic conflict in Africa and the Middle East, the EU executive's proposals have been met with scepticism from governments that are facing rising anti-immigrant sentiment at a time of economic austerity. In a 23-page draft proposal to EU governments, the European Commission says the plan to resettle 24,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and 16,000 from Greece "shall apply only to persons arriving on the territory of Italy and Greece as from the exact date of entry into force" of the decision.
 
 

Warring parties trap civilians in Libya's Benghazi: HRW

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:45:17 PMGo to full article
A member of the Libyan army stands on a tank as heavy black smoke rises from Benghazi port on December 23, 2014Militias in Benghazi are trapping civilians in the strife-torn eastern Libyan city, leaving them in dire conditions without food, medical care and electricity, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. The New York-based watchdog appealed to warring factions in Benghazi to give residents safe passage out of the city and to permit aid agencies access to deliver crucial supplies. It reported that people it had interviewed on the phone last week said Libyan families and foreign civilians were among those stuck in several neighbourhoods.
 
 

Ford expands presence in Morocco

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:03:12 PMGo to full article
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Ford Motor Company is expanding its presence in North Africa with a new Moroccan sales office and plans to double the amount of car parts purchased in the country, it announced Tuesday.
 

Palestinians dismiss reported Netanyahu initiative

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:57 PMGo to full article
A Palestinian protester gestures holding a rock near an Israeli police vehicle during clashes outside the compound of the Israeli Ofer Military Prison, near the West Bank town of BetuniaPalestinians on Tuesday angrily dismissed reported remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would like to negotiate the future annexation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday quoted "an Israeli source" briefed on last week's meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as saying that Netanyahu wants to resume talks with the Palestinians, with his goal being to reach understandings on the borders of settlement blocs that Israel would annex under any peace agreement.
 
 

Teenager in Austrian 'Playstation' terrorism case gets two years

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:21:10 PMGo to full article
A 14-year-old terror suspect is led into court by prison guards in St. PoeltenA 14-year-old boy from Austria who downloaded bomb-making plans onto his Playstation games console was sentenced to a two-year jail term on Tuesday after pleading guilty to terrorism charges, a court spokeswoman said. As well as researching how to build a bomb, the boy made contact with militants supporting the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria, prosecutors said ahead of the trial. The boy, a Turkish national, will serve what remains of the eight-month custodial term in a juvenile detention center, the spokeswoman for the regional court in Sankt Poelten said.
 
 

Erdogan's ambition heralds turbulence after Turks vote

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:44:36 AMGo to full article
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan looks on during a news conference in SarajevoBy Nick Tattersall and Orhan Coskun ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's general election looks likely to push Tayyip Erdogan's dream of an all-powerful presidency further from his reach, and usher in a period of turbulence as its most divisive modern leader jockeys to maintain his dominance. Barred by the constitution from party politics as head of state, Erdogan has nonetheless campaigned across Turkey before the June 7 parliamentary vote in a sign of how much he has riding on the outcome. Constitutionally, most authority has lain with the Turkish prime minister, an office Erdogan held from 2003 to 2014.
 
 

Australia rejects Vietnamese refugee claims in 40 minutes

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:54:59 AMGo to full article
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia secretly held a group of 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers on a warship at sea for almost a month and rejected their refugee claims during interviews that took as little as 40 minutes before returning them all to Vietnam last month, officials said.
 

IT chief at Bangladesh Coca-Cola unit arrested as Islamic State suspect

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:53:09 AMGo to full article
By Ruma Paul and Serajul Quadir DHAKA (Reuters) - An IT manager at a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Co was one of two men arrested in Bangladesh on suspicion of planning to fight for Islamic State in Syria, police and company sources said on Monday. The pair were detained during a raid in the capital, Dhaka, on Sunday night, said Sheikh Nazmul Alam, a senior official of the police detective branch. One man, Aminul Islam, was the information technology head of a multinational company, and worked as a regional coordinator for Islamic State, while the other, Sakib Bin Kamal, was a teacher at a school in Dhaka, he added.
 

Islamic State faces battle in Iraq, U.S. reassures Abadi

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:29:37 AMGo to full article
Members of the Iraqi army and Shi'ite fighters launch a mortar toward Islamic State militants outskirt the city of FallujaBAGHDAD/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic State poured more fighters into Ramadi as security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries prepared to try to retake the Iraqi city, while Washington scrambled on Monday to reassure Baghdad after a U.S. official's sharp criticism of Iraqi forces. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi after Defense Secretary Ash Carter questioned Iraqi troops' will to fight when Ramadi fell.
 
 

What does Ireland vote say about US debate on gay marriage?

 
‎26 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:12:19 AMGo to full article
Two men kiss as first results start to filter through in the referendum, Dublin, Ireland, Saturday, May 23, 2015. Ireland has voted resoundingly to legalize gay marriage in the world's first national vote on the issue, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday even as official ballot counting continued. Senior figures from the "no" campaign, who sought to prevent Ireland's constitution from being amended to permit same-sex marriages, say the only question is how large the "yes" side's margin of victory will be from Friday's vote. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)NEW YORK (AP) — Ireland's national referendum on same-sex marriage, which was approved by 62 percent of the voters, comes just weeks ahead of an expected ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether to legalize gay marriage throughout the United States. A look at some of the parallels and contrasts in the two countries' situations:
 
 

Iran will need to spend most of any post-sanctions windfall at home

 
‎25 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:52:38 PMGo to full article
By Lesley Wroughton and Sam Wilkin WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranians will demand their government spend a windfall from the lifting of economic sanctions on improving the quality of life at home, limiting the degree to which a future nuclear deal could fund Tehran's allies on Middle East battlefields. Since 2012, Iran has given support worth billions of dollars to regional allies, funding and arming mainly fellow Shi'ite Muslims in conflicts that have taken on a sectarian dimension. Within months of financial sanctions being lifted, Iran will be able to collect debts from overseas banks that may exceed $100 billion, mostly from oil importers whose payments have been blocked, diplomats and analysts said.
 

US defense chief's criticism of Iraqis raises questions

 
‎25 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:31:53 PMGo to full article
In this May 1, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington. The Islamic State group’s takeover of Ramadi is evidence that Iraqi forces do not have the “will to fight,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” that aired Sunday, May 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Islamic State group's takeover of the Iraqi provincial capital Ramadi has prompted criticism from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and raised new questions about the Obama administration's strategy to defeat the extremist group.
 
 

U.N. urges Lebanon to pick president, end political vacuum

 
‎25 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:24:02 PMGo to full article
A United Nations envoy urged Lebanon's feuding political leaders to pick a new president, warning on Monday that the country's year-long power vacuum had undermined its ability to deal with the impact of the Syrian crisis and a host of other problems. Lebanese politics has long been dogged by sectarian divisions and personal rivalries but the war next door has exacerbated divisions even further. "I urge Lebanon's leaders ... to put national interests above partisan politics for the sake of Lebanon's stability, and to show the flexibility and sense of urgency needed to resolve this issue," U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag said in a statement marking one year without a president.

 

 
 

 

 Iran News - Yahoo!News     Feed image

 

 
 
 
 

Iranian aid plane bound for Yemen lands in Djibouti

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:49:04 PMGo to full article
An Iranian plane carrying aid for Yemen landed in Djibouti on Friday and the cargo will be inspected by the United Nations before it moves on, Iran's Fars news agency reported. The plane would be the first Iranian aid flight to land in Yemen since conflict broke out there in March between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the government supported by Saudi Arabia. Two Iranian cargo planes carrying food and medicine to Yemen were forced by Saudi jets to leave Yemeni airspace in April.
 

Iran shares some information in nuclear probe, no breakthrough: IAEA

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:46:05 PMGo to full article
Negotiators of Iran and six world powers face each other at a table in the historic basement of Palais Coburg hotel in ViennaBy Michael Shields VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday it had made incremental progress but no breakthrough in its inquiry into whether Iran may have researched an atom bomb, a sobering message that may dim chances for a deal between Tehran and big powers next month. Diplomats view Iran’s reluctance to open up to investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency as a sign of its reluctance to cooperate fully until punitive sanctions imposed on it are lifted as part of any settlement with the powers. A confidential, quarterly report issued by the IAEA said the Islamic Republic had provided some information about one of two open items in the investigation into possible military dimensions to its nuclear energy program "The Agency and Iran agreed to continue the dialogue on these practical measures and to meet again in the near future," said the report, which was obtained by Reuters.
 
 

Syrian army in retreat as rebels tighten grip on Idlib

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:10:39 PMGo to full article
Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo flying Islamist flags as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015Syrian troops retreated as regime warplanes bombarded Al-Qaeda-led rebel fighters on Friday, a day after the insurgents overran the last government-held city in the key northwestern province of Idlib. Opposition forces now control the vast majority of Idlib after Al-Nusra Front and its allies in the Army of Conquest captured Ariha and surrounding villages on Thursday in a swift assault. It was the latest blow to loyalist forces who have been battling myriad groups of rebels for four years, after the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group last week.
 
 

UN nuke agency reports that Iran probe stalled

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:45:16 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — Amid accelerated international efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, the U.N. atomic agency on Friday reported that work on a key element — an assessment of allegations that Tehran worked on atomic arms — remains essentially stalled.
 

Iran aid plane for Yemen lands in Djibouti airport

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:03:14 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting that a plane from the country's Red Crescent organization carrying 20 tons of humanitarian aid for Yemen has landed in Djibouti.
 

Myanmar says don't 'single us out' at migrant crisis talks

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:36:35 AMGo to full article
Rohingya migrants from Myanmar gather at a confinement area in Bayeun on northern Sumatra island, May 28, 2015Myanmar rebuked the UN Friday after being called on to address the cause of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from its shores, saying it is being "singled out" for criticism at international talks. Tensions over Southeast Asia's migrant crisis were exposed as delegates from 17 nations gathered to address the flight of thousands of desperate people on boats across the Bay of Bengal, aiming for Malaysia and Indonesia. The crisis unfurled at the start of this month after a Thai crackdown on people smuggling threw the multi-million dollar industry into disarray.
 
 

Thailand hosts talks on Southeast Asia migrant crisis

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:16:58 AMGo to full article
Rohingya women from Myanmar gather by the coast in the confinement area for migrants at Kuala Cankoi in Aceh province on May 28, 2015Delegates from 17 nations gathered in Thailand Friday for talks on Southeast Asia's migrant crisis which has seen thousands of desperate people flee on boats across the Bay of Bengal aiming for Malaysia and Indonesia. Earlier this month Bangkok began a belated crackdown on the smuggling trade in the country's deep south, after dozens of bodies were pulled from mass graves in a remote border area studded by migrant camps. The vast majority of migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar or Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty.
 
 

Iran, N. Korea 'collaborate' on nuclear arms: Iranian opposition

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:53:54 AMGo to full article
A North Korean Taepodong-class missile is displayed during a military parade in Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang in 2013An exiled Iranian opposition group accused Tehran Thursday of a "vast collaboration" with North Korea in developing nuclear arms, alleging that experts from both countries made regular intelligence-sharing visits. "The Iranian regime continues to collaborate with North Korea on nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles," the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a report citing sources close to the Iranian government. North Korean experts spent a week in the Iranian capital in April this year, the report said, staying at a site close to the country's defence ministry.
 
 

U.S. defense aid to Israel to rise over Iran deal fears: sources

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:11:56 AMGo to full article
Israel's Defence Minister Yaalon speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu during a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in JerusalemBy Dan Williams TEL AVIV (Reuters) - U.S. defense aid to Israel is likely to increase after 2017, sources on both sides said on Thursday, seeing a possible link to Washington's efforts to assuage its ally's fears over nuclear diplomacy with Iran. A U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said negotiators were close to a new deal that would bring annual payouts to $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion on average. "They (the United States) are trying to douse the fires after our flare-up about the Iran deal," the official added, referring to curbs being negotiated on Tehran's disputed nuclear program, which Israel has condemned as insufficient.
 
 

Coalition strikes, fighting kill 40 rebels in Yemen's Aden

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:38:30 PMGo to full article
Militiamen loyal to Yemen's fugitive President Abderabbo Mansour Hadi hold a position during clashes with opponents and Huthi rebels in the port city of Aden's Dar Saad suburb on May 28, 2015Saudi-led coalition strikes against Iran-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen's second city Aden on Thursday and ground clashes killed at least 40 Huthis and their allies, the city's deputy governor said. Residents reported non-stop air raids on rebel positions across the city amid heavy fighting. The coalition air campaign against the rebels and allied forces loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh began on March 26 in an effort to restore UN-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power.
 
 

North Korean nuclear, missile experts visit Iran-dissidents

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:56:12 PMGo to full article
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the 810 army unit’s Salmon farms in this undated photoBy John Irish PARIS (Reuters) - An exiled Iranian opposition group said on Thursday that a delegation of North Korean nuclear and missile experts visited a military site near Tehran in April amid talks between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program. The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) exposed Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak in 2002. Iran says allegations that is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability are baseless and circulated by its enemies.
 
 

Qaeda-led rebels take Idlib's last Syria regime bastion

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:50:23 PMGo to full article
Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo flying Islamist flags as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015A rebel coalition led by the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda stormed and seized the last regime-held city in Idlib province Thursday, as Iraq exhumed the remains of 470 jihadist victims. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Nusra Front and its allies in the Army of Conquest -- Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic -- captured Ariha after fierce clashes with regime forces including their Hezbollah allies, who were seen withdrawing. The rebel sweep saw their fighters quickly enter outer districts of Ariha, the Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
 

Pan-Muslim group condemns jihadist groups, IS

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:11:29 PMGo to full article
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah attends the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Corporation in Kuwait City, May 28, 2015A conference of Muslim states on Thursday condemned main jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq and studied a plan for developing an effective strategy against "terrorism and extremism". "We condemn the gruesome atrocities committed by all terrorist organisations including Daesh (Arabic for the Islamic State group), Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front (its affiliate in Syria)," said the final communique of a two-day conference by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Sunni groups named are involved in armed conflicts in several Arab countries including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
 
 

Washington Post hits back against Iran court claims

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:04:30 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this photo April 11, 2013 file photo, Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, smiles as he attends a presidential campaign of President Hassan Rouhani, in Tehran, Iran. The closed trial of Rezaian detained in Iran for more than 10 months has begun in a court used to hear security cases. Iran's official IRNA news agency says the trial of Rezaian began Tuesday, May 26, 2015 in a Revolutionary Court, saying he has been charged with espionage and propaganda against the Islamic republic. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Post hit back Thursday at Iran's allegation that a jailed journalist wrote a letter to President Barack Obama.
 
 

Iran defends spy trial of US journalist

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:03:26 PMGo to full article
The trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian on espionage charges has started behind closed doors in TehranIran hit back Thursday at US claims that the trial of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian on spying charges lacked transparency, insisting its judiciary is independent. Washington has called for the release of Rezaian, who went on trial behind closed doors on Tuesday, and National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan condemned a "complete lack of transparency" in the case. Rezaian, 39, is accused of "espionage, collaboration with hostile governments, gathering classified information and disseminating propaganda against the Islamic republic", according to his lawyer.
 
 

Airstrikes target Yemen's rebels as fighting rages in east

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:09:23 PMGo to full article
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Saudi-led warplanes bombed Shiite rebels in their northern Yemeni stronghold on Thursday as fighting raged in an oil-rich eastern province, security officials and tribesmen said.
 

Corruption is leading indicator for political unrest, study finds

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:57:57 PMGo to full article
By Stella Dawson WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Corruption is a leading indicator for political instability and 64 countries where fraud and bribery are widespread risk falling into violent upheaval, a global think tank said in a new report. While anti-corruption researchers long have argued the corrosive power of corruption, its political impact has never before been measured globally. By examining the linkage between corruption measures and peaceful societies, the research by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) based in Sydney finds strong statistical evidence that high and rising levels of corruption can undermine security, and that only small increases can cause civil unrest.
 

Rebels storm last regime-held city in Syria's Idlib: monitor

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:51:20 PMGo to full article
Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces have won a series of victories in Syria's Idlib provinceA rebel coalition led by Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate edged into the last remaining government-held city in the northwest province of Idlib on Thursday, a monitoring group said. The lightning offensive saw the Army of Conquest, or Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic, enter outer districts of Ariha within a matter of hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP. "There was heavy shelling and rocket fire, then they stormed the city," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
 
 

Iran opposes Syria no-fly zone

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:05 PMGo to full article
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has rejected the idea of ​​a Syria no-fly zoneA senior Iranian official Thursday rejected the idea of ​​a Syria no-fly zone, which Turkey wants, saying it would be "a mistake" and would not restore security to the region. "Talk of the establishment of a buffer and no-fly zone is the repetition of previous mistakes and will not help with security and stability in the region," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said. Before it will join a US-led coalition staging air strikes on Islamic State group jihadists, Ankara wants an air exclusion zone and also a buffer zone along its border with Syria.
 
 

Top US negotiator with Iran 'to leave after talks end'

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:46:19 PMGo to full article
US under secretary of state for policy Wendy Sherman will leave post after nuclear talks with Iran are completeThe "tenacious" top US negotiator in talks with Iran on curtailing its nuclear program will leave her post after a June 30 deadline for an agreement, a senior State Department official said Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry was effusive in his praise of Wendy Sherman, 65, describing her as "indefatigable, tough and creative" and saying she had played a central role in reining in Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Sherman will leave the post of undersecretary of state for policy when the Iran talks are completed, the senior State Department official told AFP.
 
 

Iran foreign minister says nuclear deal possible by June 30

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:33:53 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses journalists during a news briefing in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, May 28, 2015. Iran's foreign minister is holding out hope that a "sustainable, mutually respectful" deal can be struck with world powers in talks over his country's nuclear program before the current deadline of June 30. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Iran's foreign minister on Thursday held out hope that a "sustainable, mutually respectful" deal can be struck with world powers in talks over his country's nuclear program before the deadline of June 30.
 
 

Food supply fears whet appetite for Dutch farm technology

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:08 PMGo to full article
Wim Peters, a tomato farmer, holds up a box full of Roma tomatoes in a greenhouse in Someren, near Eindhoven, the NetherlandsBy Thomas Escritt AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - From the rooftops of Amsterdam to the expanses of Kazakhstan, Dutch technology is helping food producers to meet the needs of both gourmets and growing populations facing uncertain supplies. One of the most densely populated countries in the world, the Netherlands has long learnt to squeeze the maximum out of its limited farmland, making it the second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States. Such technology is at work in some unlikely spots.
 
 

Yemen may never emerge intact from civil war

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:39:18 PMGo to full article
By Mohammed Ghobari and Noah Browning CAIRO/DUBAI (Reuters) - Yemen may never emerge as a united country from a civil war pitting a northern Shi'ite Muslim militia and its allies in the army against fighters in the mostly Sunni south. Secessionist sentiment in the south, stoked by what southerners see as decades of marginalization by the north, is deepening as result of the damage inflicted upon Aden and other southern cities in assaults by the northern Houthi militia. Forget it," said Saleh Hashem, a resident of Aden, a port city whose historic commercial district lies in ruins.
 

Iran's Zarif hopes for nuclear deal within 'reasonable period of time'

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:57:18 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif gestures after a joint news conference with his Greek counterpart Kotzias in AthensIranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday he hoped Tehran and world powers would reach a final nuclear deal "within a reasonable period of time" but this would be hard if the other side stuck to what he called excessive demands. Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China reached a tentative framework for a nuclear pact on April 2 but several issues remain unresolved. "If the other side respects what has been agreed in Lausanne and tries to draft, based on mutual respect, a comprehensive agreement with Iran that is sustainable..., then we can meet any deadline," Zarif said after meeting his Greek counterpart.
 
 

Iran warns against 'excessive demands' in nuclear talks

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:42:59 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warns against "illusions" and "excessive demands" in nuclear talks with Western powersIran on Thursday warned global powers against making "excessive demands" in talks aimed at sealing a ground-breaking nuclear deal, after France demanded access to its military installations. Zarif on Saturday is to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, after weeks of behind-the-scenes complex technical discussions in Vienna seeking to narrow the gaps on what would be an unprecedented deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear programme.
 
 

French FM to head Israel, Egypt in June to revive peace process

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:39:31 AMGo to full article
French Foreign Affairs Minister Fabius poses outside his office in ParisFrance's foreign minister said on Thursday he would travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in June to try to revive the peace process and persuade all sides to accept a French U.N. Security Council resolution that would set parameters for talks. There is no peace and security without justice for the Palestinians, but let's be frank justice hasn't been given to the Palestinians," Fabius told France Inter radio. France recently handed a working document to Arab League countries in preparation of a Security Council resolution that would set a timeframe and the exact parameters of a new peace talks between Israelis and the Palestinians, French diplomats have said.
 
 

Two Saudi border guards die in Yemen shelling

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:53:22 AMGo to full article
Saudi soldiers load an artillery piece at a position close to the Saudi-Yemeni border, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, on April 13, 2015Two Saudi border guards have been killed and five others wounded by shellfire on the frontier with Yemen, official media reported. The deaths occurred when "military missiles from Yemen" struck their position at Zahran South in the Asir border region on Wednesday, Riyadh's interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The two dead guards bring to at least 30 the number of people, military and civilian, killed in the Saudi border area since a Riyadh-led coalition began air strikes against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen in late March.
 
 

Boat people talks: Key issues and expectations

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:42:59 AMGo to full article
Indonesian Muslim protesters hold defaced posters of Myanmar's radical Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu during a protest demanding an end to the violence against ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine State, outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. In the last three years, hundreds of minority Rohingya Muslims have been killed and hundreds of thousands others others are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded camps or forced to flee their homes to avoid persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)BANGKOK (AP) — In the past month, more than 3,000 desperate, hungry people have landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, drawing international attention to a crisis in Southeast Asia. Arrivals of the overcrowded boats — crammed with Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and impoverished Bangladeshis hoping to find jobs — have now slowed. But the crisis is far from over, and will be the topic of a Friday conference in Bangkok to be attended by senior officials from across the Asia-Pacific and beyond.
 
 

Leave cancelled for India's doctors as heat wave kills 1,300

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:07:43 AMGo to full article
Sheep cross a parched area of a dried-up pond on a hot summer day on the outskirts of New DelhiA heat wave in India has killed at least 1,371 people this week as temperatures soar above 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit), and doctors' leave has been cancelled to help cope with the sick. May and June are India's hottest months, with temperatures regularly pushing above 40 Celsius. The death toll in the worst affected states of Andhra Pradesh in the southeast and nearby Telangana is more than double the toll from a shorter hot spell there last year, officials said, with most of those killed elderly or labourers suffering sunstroke or dehydration.
 
 

U.N. council urges end to impunity for attacks on journalists

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:19:52 AMGo to full article
Mariane Pearl arrives at the first annual UNICEF Women of Compassion Luncheon in Los AngelesThe United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the frequent attacks against journalists worldwide and demanded an end to the impunity enjoyed by those guilty of violent crimes against members of the press. The appeal came in the form of a unanimously adopted resolution that also called for the release of all media professionals "who have been kidnapped or taken as hostages, in situations of armed conflict." The resolution was drafted by this month's Security Council president, Lithuania, whose Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius presided over the meeting. Mariane Pearl, a journalist and widow of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded by Pakistani militants in 2002, told the 15-nation council that it was "a troubled time for our profession." "In 2014, impunity in journalism murder cases reached a staggering 96 percent and the remaining 4 percent obtained only partial justice," she said.
 
 

Gamba and Guangzhou book AFC quarter-final places

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:20:55 AMGo to full article
Japan's Gamba Osaka forward Patric (R) shoots the ball while South Korea's FC Seoul midfielder Kim Chi-Woo reacts during the AFC Champions League Round of 16 match in Osaka on May 27, 2015Gamba Osaka of Japan and Guangzhou Evergrande of China booked their places in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League Wednesday after the two former champions defeated South Korean sides FC Seoul and Seongnam FC in the Round of 16. Japanese treble winners Gamba beat Seoul 3-2 at home to complete a comprehensive 6-3 aggregate victory while a brace by Ricardo Goulart saw Chinese champions Guangzhou down Seongnam 2-0 for a 3-2 aggregate triumph.
 
 

Gamba Osaka advances in Asian Champion League

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:30:56 PMGo to full article
OSAKA, Japan (AP) — Gamba Osaka advanced to the Asian Champions League quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over FC Seoul on Wednesday.
 

Coalition raids on rebels in Yemen capital kill 43

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:26:12 PMGo to full article
Yemeni men inspect a damaged vehicle following a reported airstrike in Sanaa, on May 27, 2015Saudi-led coalition warplanes killed 43 soldiers on Wednesday when they targeted a rebel troop headquarters in the Yemeni capital as the United Nations tried to reschedule postponed peace talks. The coalition campaign of air strikes against Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and allied forces loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh began on March 26 in an effort to restore UN-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power. On Wednesday, warplanes launched a raid on the command headquarters of special forces loyal to Saleh in southern Sanaa, as well as on an arms depot in the Fajj Attan neighbourhood overlooking the city, residents said.
 
 

France warns Iran over nuclear deal as deadline nears

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:57:04 PMGo to full article
Negotiators of Iran and six world powers face each other at a table in the historic basement of Palais Coburg hotel in ViennaBy Parisa Hafezi and John Irish ANKARA/PARIS (Reuters) - France warned on Wednesday it was ready to block a final deal between Iran and the six major powers on Iran's nuclear program unless Tehran provided inspectors access to all installations, including military sites. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week ruled out international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any agreement. Iran's military leaders echoed his remarks.
 
 

Iran says nuclear talks could go beyond June 30 deadline

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:23:13 PMGo to full article
Iran denies it is trying to produce atomic weapons and insists the Bushehr reactor and its other nuclear facilities are purely for peaceful energy needsTalks between Iran and world powers aimed at finalising a deal over Tehran's nuclear programme could go beyond a June 30 deadline, a senior Iranian negotiator said on Wednesday. US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet in Switzerland this weekend as part of a push to seal the deal, US officials said. With the issue of access to military sites emerging as a potential deal-breaker, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the work of his nuclear negotiators after they came under heavy criticism from conservatives in parliament.
 
 

Biden defends US cooperation on Russia amid Ukraine tensions

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:22:49 PMGo to full article
Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the conflict in Ukraine, Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at the Brookings Institute in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday defended the Obama administration's decision to cooperate with Russia on areas of "clear mutual interest," even as the West tries to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine.
 
 

German court rejects Yemenis' claim against US drone strikes

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:57:10 PMGo to full article
A man holds a sign reading "Defend virtues, stop the drone war" in front of the court in Cologne, Germany, where three Yemenis are taking legal action against the government, May 27, 2015The three plaintiffs said they survived a 2012 US drone strike that killed two of their relatives and that the fear of another attack had turned their family lives into "a constant nightmare from which we can't wake up". The court said it agreed that in principle Germany had a duty to protect people against danger to life and limb emanating from its territory. "In addition, the agreements on the deployment of friendly forces in Germany provide for only very limited influence by German authorities on the use of the properties by foreign troops," a court statement said.
 
 

Emboldened in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State may be reaching limits of expansion

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:41:46 PMGo to full article
Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa provinceBy Peter Graff LONDON (Reuters) - With its two biggest victories in nearly a year in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State has energized its fighters, littered the streets of two cities with the bodies of its enemies and forced Washington to re-examine its strategy. The near simultaneous capture this month of Ramadi west of Baghdad and Palmyra northeast of Damascus has reinforced the sway of the self-proclaimed caliphate of all Muslims closer to the ramparts of Islam's two great historic capitals. In both Iraq and Syria they have lost ground in recent months as well as gained it.
 
 

Israeli air force chief unfazed Egypt may get Russia's S-300

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:31:16 PMGo to full article
By Dan Williams HERZLIYA, Israel (Reuters) - The chief of Israel's air force on Wednesday played down worries voiced by some fellow officials about the possibility of Egypt acquiring advanced Russian-made air defenses. The Russian news agency TASS said in March Egypt would receive the Antey-2500 missile system, an S-300 variant, and put the value of the contract at more than a billion dollars. Neither Egypt nor Russia has formally confirmed it.
 

U.S. says no extension for Iran nuclear talks: State Department

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:06 PMGo to full article
The United States will not consider an extension to reach an agreement on curbing Iran's nuclear program, the State Department said on Wednesday, despite indications from France and Iran that talks may stretch into July. "We're not contemplating any extension beyond June 30," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said at a news briefing. Rathke said the United States believes the world powers working with Tehran can achieve their goal of reaching an agreement by the self-imposed deadline.
 

Syria plays up ties with Iran, Russia

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:29:21 PMGo to full article
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem attends a 2014 anti-extremism conference in TehranSyrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Wednesday that Iran and Russia would never give up their support for his regime in the face of a four-year-old armed revolt. "I assure you that the relationship between Syria, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is much deeper than some people think," Muallem said at a press conference with his visiting Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian. In March, embattled President Bashar al-Assad said Russia and Iran "want stability and a political solution for Syria".
 
 

Kuwait emir asks Muslim states to increase extremism fight

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:12:05 PMGo to full article
Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah attends the Organization of Islamic Corporation (OIC) summit at the Bayan palace in Kuwait City, on May 27, 2015Muslim countries must increase measures to fight extremism, Kuwait's emir said Wednesday, at the start of a conference aimed at combatting the spread of jihadist organisations such as the Islamic State group. "We are required to intensify efforts with the world to combat terrorism being waged by terrorist organisations," Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah told attendees at a conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
 
 

Saudi Arabia sanctions 2 senior Hezbollah members

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:06:05 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia says it is sanctioning two senior members of Hezbollah, accusing them of leading terrorist operations in the Middle East.
 

Letter to Obama discussed at Post reporter's trial in Iran

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:02:50 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this photo April 11, 2013 file photo, Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, smiles as he attends a presidential campaign of President Hassan Rouhani, in Tehran, Iran. The closed trial of Rezaian detained in Iran for more than 10 months has begun in a court used to hear security cases. Iran's official IRNA news agency says the trial of Rezaian began Tuesday, May 26, 2015 in a Revolutionary Court, saying he has been charged with espionage and propaganda against the Islamic republic. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A letter a detained Washington Post journalist wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama has become a major topic of his espionage trial in Iran.
 
 

Yemen faces catastrophe without vital supplies: Red Cross

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:59:04 PMGo to full article
By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Saudi-led coalition allows it to import and distribute vital food, fuel and medicines, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday. "Humanitarian agencies can do things, but it will be the tip of the iceberg," said Cedric Schweizer, outgoing head of the ICRC's delegation in Yemen. "Most things are political decisions -- access to fuel, ensuring that the importation of normal medicines for chronic diseases can be allowed, and food because 90 percent of food is imported in Yemen." Saudi-led forces began air strikes on Houthi forces in Yemen two months ago.
 

Syria says wants more Iraqi coordination in Islamic State fight

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:42:02 PMGo to full article
Residents walk in Palmyra cityDamascus wants more coordination with Baghdad to combat Islamic State fighters who control land in both countries, Syria's foreign minister said on Wednesday, days after the group seized a border crossing and overran a central Syrian city. Islamic State seized al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq last week and has taken over the desert city of Palmyra, the first time the group has captured a large population center directly from the Syrian military.
 
 

Video exposes division among Iran officials in nuclear talks

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:34:58 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Amid a new round of Iran nuclear talks, Iranians have been captivated this week by a leaked video showing a vehement argument between a hard-line lawmaker and the country's foreign minister.
 

Iraq rebrands military campaign against Islamic State over fears of sectarianism

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:33:55 PMGo to full article
Shi'ite paramilitaries riding military vehicles travel from Lake Tharthar toward Ramadi to fight against Islamic state militants, west of SamarraA campaign led by Shi'ite paramilitaries to drive Islamic State militants from Iraq's Sunni heartland was rebranded on Wednesday after criticism that the name chosen for the push was overtly sectarian. The move was a response to fears that Iraq's reliance on Shi'ite paramilitaries to defeat Islamic State fighters, instead of the disordered and demoralized national army, could alienate Sunni Iraqis and deepen the region's sectarian divide. The United States said it was "unhelpful" that the militias had dubbed the operation to retake Iraq's western province of Anbar "Labeyk Ya Hussein." The name translates to "At your service, Hussein," in honor of one of the most revered figures in Shi'ite Islam.
 
 

Khamenei backs Iran nuclear team against parliament critics

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:30:09 PMGo to full article
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to lawmakers in Tehran, on May 27, 2015Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday praised the work of his country's nuclear negotiators after they came under heavy criticism from the conservative camp in parliament. The negotiators, who resumed talks with world powers in Vienna on Tuesday, "are working, making efforts, breaking sweat... to obtain what is in the interests of the country and the regime", he said in a meeting with members of parliament. The intervention from Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran, came after several deputies accused the negotiators of having betrayed the Islamic republic by making key concessions.
 
 

No Iran deal without full access to military sites: France

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:55:28 PMGo to full article
France's foreign minister said on Wednesday his country would not back any nuclear deal with Iran unless it provided full access to all installations, including military sites. "France will not accept (a deal) if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites," Laurent Fabius told lawmakers . Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out international inspection of Iran's military sites or access to nuclear scientists under any nuclear agreement.

 

 

 

 

Iraq News Headlines - Yahoo! News    Feed image

 
 

Iraqi authorities raise Baghdad attacks death toll to 15

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:26:25 PMGo to full article
Civilians and security forces inspect the aftermath of a car bomb attack in the parking lot of Babylon hotel in Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 29, 2015. Two separate car bombs inside parking lots of two downtown hotels have killed and wounded civilians late Thursday, authorities said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)BAGHDAD (AP) — The death toll from bombings that targeted two prominent hotels in Baghdad a day earlier rose to 15 people, with another 42 wounded, Iraqi authorities said on Friday, as a lawmaker warned that the capital is vulnerable to more attacks.
 
 

Car bombs at Baghdad hotels kill at least nine

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:19:31 PMGo to full article
Iraqi security examine the wreckage of cars at the Babylon hotel in Baghdad on May 29, 2015, after a car bomb ripped through the parking lot early in the morningAt least nine people were killed and dozens wounded when car bombs ripped through the car parks of two upscale Baghdad hotels, officials said on Friday. Militants were able to bring the bombs, which exploded just before midnight (2100 GMT) on Thursday and were heard across the city centre, inside the walled compounds of the Ishtar and Babylon hotels in central Baghdad. The blast at the Ishtar -- formerly a Sheraton -- shattered windows of the recently renovated hotel, turning rows of expensive cars and SUVs into charred, twisted metal.
 
 

Syrian army in retreat as rebels tighten grip on Idlib

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:10:39 PMGo to full article
Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo flying Islamist flags as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015Syrian troops retreated as regime warplanes bombarded Al-Qaeda-led rebel fighters on Friday, a day after the insurgents overran the last government-held city in the key northwestern province of Idlib. Opposition forces now control the vast majority of Idlib after Al-Nusra Front and its allies in the Army of Conquest captured Ariha and surrounding villages on Thursday in a swift assault. It was the latest blow to loyalist forces who have been battling myriad groups of rebels for four years, after the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group last week.
 
 

Syrian insurgents advance in areas around captured town: monitor

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:29:46 PMGo to full article
Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front gesture as they travel through the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib provinceA Syrian insurgent alliance which has captured the last government-held town in the northwestern Idlib province made further advances on Friday, a monitoring group and fighters said. The "Army of Fatah" which includes al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front, the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group and other factions, captured Ariha town on Thursday night as the Syrian military pulled back. The Syrian army has lost large parts of Idlib province to insurgents since late March, when the provincial capital fell to the insurgent alliance, whose name is a reference to Islamic conquest.
 
 

France and Morocco strengthen counterterrorism cooperation

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:00:37 PMGo to full article
PARIS (AP) — France and Morocco have vowed to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, four months after they resumed judicial cooperation following a year-long diplomatic rift.
 

Rocky road: Britain's troubled ties to European Union

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:54 AMGo to full article
Rocky road: Britain's troubled ties to European UnionThe British people will get another chance to decide on their European future by the end of 2017 — marking one more milestone in a long-troubled relationship. The planned referendum on Britain's membership ...
 
 

12 Australian women have tried to join IS: police

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:40:39 AMGo to full article
An image grab taken from a Jihadist media Welayat Homs video on May 28, 2015 allegedly shows Islamic State group fighters in Tadmur, SyriaAt least 12 Australian women from one city have attempted to join the Islamic State group, police said Friday, warning of a trend towards a "romanticised view" of violent jihadists. More than 100 Australians have left the country to support IS in Syria and Iraq, raising concerns about radicalisation and whether they pose a security threat on return, the authorities have said. Victoria Police assistant commissioner Tracy Linford said those attracted to IS were mostly young, isolated people swayed by slick social media propaganda.
 
 

Iraq's Sunni-Shiite divide: Does US experience show how it can be bridged?

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎03:30:41 AMGo to full article
A tempest in Iraq over a military operation’s name might have been a small thing, but to some regional experts, it offers a measure of the deepening divide between the country’s Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities. On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially renamed the military offensive that was launched to retake Anbar province from Islamic State (IS) militants “Lubbayk ya Iraq,” or “At your service, Iraq.” The operation was originally dubbed “Lubbayk ya Hussein” – chosen by the Shiite militias leading the battle to honor a revered figure in Shiite Islam. The switch to a less sectarian name was seen as a positive gesture toward Iraq’s marginalized Sunni population – something bestowing an air of nationalism and unity on the operation.
 

Students build home from ground up for wounded veteran

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎02:03:06 AMGo to full article
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jerral Hancock is about to replace the worst day of his life with the best one.
 

In Islamic State fight, radically changed Pentagon view of civilian casualties

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:33:04 AMGo to full article
As the Islamic State continues its march across Iraq and Syria, so, too, has come the blame game. It runs along the lines that the US military should be doing more to help its Iraqi and Syrian allies in the region fight the Islamic State. Specifically, the US has reportedly declined to bomb certain targets for fear of civilian casualties.
 

Syria: Europeans block it from UN culture protection measure

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:06:44 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syria's U.N. ambassador said Thursday that a newly adopted General Assembly resolution on the Islamic State group's threat to Iraqi cultural heritage doesn't address the same threat to his country because member states threatened to reject the measure.
 

2 car bombs kill 10 people in Iraq

 
‎29 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎12:06:05 AMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Authorities in Iraq say two separate car bombs inside parking lot of two hotels have killed 10 people in the capital Baghdad.
 

Islamic State settles into Ramadi, but the lull unlikely to last

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:04:45 PMGo to full article
When the evening prayer was over, the man, whose head was shrouded in black, delivered a speech to the faithful, hailing the Islamic State's capture of the capital of Anbar Province -- its greatest victory over Iraqi forces in almost a year. Ali Attiya al-Jubouri, widely known as "the blind judge", is one of Islamic State's most senior figures and his presence in the mosque signaled the group's dominance over the city, which it seized on May 17 from hapless government forces. "By the blessing of God, we now have an open road between Ramadi and Raqqa," he said, referring to the ultra hardline group's de-facto capital in neighboring Syria.
 

US to "fine tune" Iraq strategy in light of Ramadi debacle

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:56:20 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon leaders are trying to "fine tune" U.S. strategy for ousting the Islamic State group from Iraq, focusing on faster and better training and arming of Sunni tribes whose combat role is central to reversing the extremists' advances, senior U.S. officials said Thursday.
 

UN nations agree to action to save Iraqi cultural sites

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:55:07 PMGo to full article
An image made available by Jihadist media outlet Welayat Homs on May 28, 2015 allegedly shows a flag of the Islamic State in the ancient city of Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old metropolis and an Unesco world heritage siteUN member-states on Thursday declared that the destruction by jihadists of Iraqi cultural sites may amount to war crimes and agreed to take steps to curb the trade of stolen ancient artifacts. The General Assembly adopted a resolution on saving Iraq's cultural sites as international concern mounted over the fate of the Syrian archeological site of Palmyra captured by Islamic State fighters a week ago. Videos of IS combatants destroying artifacts at the Mosul museum and smashing sledgehammers into ancient walls at Hatra and Nimrud sparked an outcry and calls to prevent the "cultural cleansing" of the Middle East.
 
 

Paper sorry for letter suggesting Obama should be executed

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:51:08 PMGo to full article
SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) — A newspaper apologized Thursday for publishing a letter to the editor that suggested President Barack Obama should be executed.
 

Qaeda-led rebels take Idlib's last Syria regime bastion

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:50:23 PMGo to full article
Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front drive in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo flying Islamist flags as they head to a frontline, on May 26, 2015A rebel coalition led by the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda stormed and seized the last regime-held city in Idlib province Thursday, as Iraq exhumed the remains of 470 jihadist victims. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Al-Nusra Front and its allies in the Army of Conquest -- Jaish al-Fatah in Arabic -- captured Ariha after fierce clashes with regime forces including their Hezbollah allies, who were seen withdrawing. The rebel sweep saw their fighters quickly enter outer districts of Ariha, the Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
 
 

Kurdish fighters in Syria on the march against IS militants

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:39:41 PMGo to full article
In this photo released on May 20, 2015, provided by the Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. In contrast to the failures of the Iraqi army, in Syria Kurdish fighters are on the march against the Islamic State group, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country's northeast in recent days, under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes. (The Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units via AP)BEIRUT (AP) — In contrast to the Iraqi army's failures, Kurdish fighters in Syria are on the march against the Islamic State group, capturing towns and villages in an oil-rich swath of the country's northeast under the cover of U.S.-led airstrikes.
 
 

Study says girls seek sisterhood _ not just marriage _ in IS

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎09:27:49 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa city in Syria. The notion that young women are traveling to Syria solely to become "jihadi brides" is simplistic and hinders efforts to prevent other girls from being radicalized, new research suggests. Young women are joining the so-called Islamic State group for many reasons, including anger over the perceived persecution of Muslims and the wish to belong to a sisterhood with similar beliefs, according to a report released Thursday, May 28, 2015, by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London. (Militant website via AP, file)LONDON (AP) — The notion that young women are traveling to Syria solely to become "jihadi brides" is simplistic and hinders efforts to prevent other girls from being radicalized, new research suggests.
 
 

Pan-Muslim group condemns jihadist groups, IS

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎08:11:29 PMGo to full article
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah attends the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Corporation in Kuwait City, May 28, 2015A conference of Muslim states on Thursday condemned main jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq and studied a plan for developing an effective strategy against "terrorism and extremism". "We condemn the gruesome atrocities committed by all terrorist organisations including Daesh (Arabic for the Islamic State group), Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front (its affiliate in Syria)," said the final communique of a two-day conference by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The Sunni groups named are involved in armed conflicts in several Arab countries including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
 
 

Where They Stand: George Pataki on issues of 2016 campaign

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:54:25 PMGo to full article
Former New York Gov. George Pataki announces his plans to seek the Republican nomination for president, Thursday, May 28, 2015, at the historic town hall in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Former New York Gov. George Pataki has entered the contest for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Here's a look at where the three-term governor stands on various issues that will be debated in the GOP primaries:
 
 

Iraq 'exhumed 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves'

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:26:45 PMGo to full article
Iraqi security forces inspect a mass grave containing the remains of dozens of people believed to have been slain by jihadists in the city of Tikrit, on April 12, 2015Iraq has exhumed the remains of 470 people believed to have been executed by jihadists near Tikrit last year in what is known as the Speicher massacre, the health minister said Thursday. "We have exhumed the bodies of 470 Speicher martyrs from burial sites in Tikrit," Adila Hammoud said at a press conference in Baghdad. In June 2014, armed men belonging or allied to the Islamic State group abducted hundreds of young, mostly Shiite recruits from Speicher military base, just outside the city of Tikrit.
 
 

Hearst Editorial Director Ellen Levine & Author Lee Woodruff To Speak At The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's "Women Breaking The Silence About Mental Illness" Luncheon

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:32:00 PMGo to full article
NEW YORK, May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, a not-for-profit organization funding innovative scientific research to better understand the causes, develop new treatments for, and alleviate suffering from brain and behavior disorders, will host its second "Women Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness" Luncheon featuring a discussion between Hearst Magazine's Editorial Director Ellen Levine and advocate, author Lee Woodruff about depression, anxiety and the importance of removing the stigma from mental illness. The Luncheon will be held Monday, June 15, 2015 at the Metropolitan Club in Midtown Manhattan. "By engaging in this important conversation about depression, anxiety and recovery, Ellen Levine and Lee Woodruff are educating the public, raising awareness and, most importantly, helping to eliminate the stigma around mental illness that keeps so many people suffering in silence instead of seeking help," says Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
 

U.S., allies target Islamic State with 26 air strikes: statement

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:29:42 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition has staged 26 air strikes since early Wednesday targeting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq against, according to the Combined Joint Task Force leading the air operations. In Iraq, 20 air strikes struck near 10 cities, including five near Mosul, three by Falluja and one near Ramadi, the task force said in a statement released on Thursday. Six air strikes in Syria targeted areas near al Hasaka and Dayr az Zawr, it said. (Reporting by Washington Newsroom)
 

George Pataki is in for 2016. Chris Christie without 'Bridgegate' burden?

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:28:29 PMGo to full article
George Pataki is running for president. Will he try to be Chris Christie, minus the burden of the “Bridgegate” traffic scandal? Mr. Pataki, in case you’ve forgotten, was a three-term governor of New York, leaving office in 2006.
 

Al-Qaeda's Syria branch seeks image makeover in West

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:26:22 PMGo to full article
The Al-Nusra Front was designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States in 2012Al-Qaeda's Syria franchise is striving to reinvent itself as a legitimate opposition force that is more acceptable to the West, but it is unlikely to succeed, analysts said Thursday. In a rare television interview, Al-Nusra Front chief Abu Mohamed al-Jolani vowed not to use Syria as a springboard to attack the West and said he would be willing to protect minorities. "It's all part of a normalisation process that Al-Qaeda in Syria has been seeking to do for some time now," said Charlie Winter, an analyst on jihadism at the London-based Quilliam Foundation.
 
 

Global chemical weapons stockpile '90% destroyed'

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:51:28 PMGo to full article
Around 65,000 metric tonnes of declared chemical weapons have been destroyed, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsThe world's chemical watchdog said on Thursday that 90 percent of the global chemical weapons stockpile has been destroyed, calling it a "major milestone". The stockpiles included caches containing chemicals needed to make deadly nerve agents like sarin, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said. "This is a major milestone that shows we are well on the way to ridding the world of chemical weapons," OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement, issued from the OPCW's Hague-based headquarters.
 
 

Chobani CEO pledges to donate most of wealth

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:50:09 PMGo to full article
This April 30, 2015 photo provided by Chobani LLC shows company founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya at the Chobani Soho cafe in New York. Ulukaya says he will join some of the world’s richest individuals in pledging to give away at least half his wealth, which has been estimated at $1.41 billion. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for Chobani, LLC)NEW YORK (AP) — Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya says he will join some of the world's richest individuals in pledging to give away at least half his wealth, which has been estimated at $1.41 billion.
 
 

Ex-governor Pataki joins Republican race for White House

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:49:02 PMGo to full article
Former New York Governor George Pataki has long flirted with the idea of contesting the presidencyGeorge Pataki, the former governor who led New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks, on Thursday threw his hat into the crowded ring of Republicans running for the White House. The son of a postman, Pataki studied at Yale University and Columbia Law School.
 
 

Islamic State 'blind judge' shows up in Ramadi as Iraqi forces make slow advance

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:00:00 PMGo to full article
A senior Islamic State figure known as "the blind judge" has made an appearance in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, asserting the militant group's dominion over it as security forces and Shi'ite militias prepare a counter-attack. Residents of Ramadi said a blind man with one hand and his head shrouded had delivered a speech in the Anbar provincial capital's main mosque after evening prayers on Wednesday. Iraqi security expert Hisham al-Hashimi, who closely tracks the hardline insurgents, identified the man as Ali Attiya al-Jubouri, also known as Abu Asim, or "the blind judge of the Islamic State".
 

Pentagon mulls improving Iraqi troop training after fall of Ramadi

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:52:33 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at a news conference at the Pentagon in WashingtonBy David Alexander ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday Pentagon officials have begun to examine how the U.S. military could better equip and train Iraqi troops after the recent fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Islamic State insurgents. Carter told reporters on his plane to Asia that he had convened a group of defense policy officials and military officers from U.S. Central Command and the Pentagon's Joint Staff to look at how "we can enhance, hasten" the mission to train and equip Iraqi forces.
 
 

Western women who join Islamic State defy 'jihadi bride' stereotype: report

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:09:09 PMGo to full article
FILE - This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria. In interviews, court documents and public records, The Associated Press has compiled a detailed picture of European girls and young women who join extremists such as the Islamic State group - a decision that is far more final than most may realize. (Militant Website via AP, File)By Michael Holden LONDON (Reuters) - Western women joining Islamic State are increasingly from comfortable backgrounds and often well educated with romantic notions of adventure often quickly dispelled by the harshness of life as a "Jihadi bride", according to a British research report. Some 550 women from Western countries have left their homelands to join Islamic State, which has captured swathes of Syria and Iraq, said the report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College, London. Based on the social media activity of more than 100 Western women who are thought to have joined the militants, researchers said there were many differing reasons why women join.
 
 

430,000-Year-Old Murder Victim Discovered

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:08:06 PMGo to full article
430,000-Year-Old Murder Victim DiscoveredArchaeologists may have unearthed one of the world's oldest cold cases — a skull fragment found in a Spanish cave from an ancient murder victim whose head was bashed in. The skull was first unearthed in the Atapuerca Mountains, which are threaded by a series of limestone caves, sinkholes and tunnels. "The bodies were deposited at the site by other members of the social group," study co-author Nohemi Sala, a paleontologist at the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, speculated.
 
 

Islamic State photos purport to show unharmed Palmyra ruins

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:57:02 AMGo to full article
Tourists walk in the historical city of PalmyraIslamic State posted photographs online which it said were taken in the central Syrian city of Palmyra and appeared to show its ancient ruins unharmed since the hardline group seized it from government forces. Reuters was not able to independently confirm the authenticity of the photographs posted on jihadi forums by the Islamic State's media branch. Islamic State is an offshoot of al Qaeda that has seized territory in Syria and Iraq and is the target of a U.S.-led air strike campaign in both countries.
 
 

Oil prices higher in Asian trade

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:17:43 AMGo to full article
Oil prices rise in Asia on expectations that the latest US stockpiles report will show a further dip in crude reserves as traders worry about a global oversupplyOil prices rose in Asia Thursday on expectations that the latest US stockpiles report will show a further dip in crude reserves as traders worry about a global oversupply, analysts said. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery rose 12 cents to $57.63 while Brent crude for July gained 39 cents to $62.45 in afternoon trade. The Department of Energy's weekly petroleum report, usually released on Wednesdays, will be issued on Thursday owing to a public holiday at the start of the week.
 
 

Egyptian police general killed in roadside bomb attack in Sinai

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:11:47 AMGo to full article
An Egyptian police brigadier general was killed in a roadside bomb attack on Wednesday in North Sinai, the interior ministry said, one of the most high-profile police deaths in the Islamist insurgency raging in the region. The Interior Ministry spokesman said the roadside bomb hit a team of security forces on the al-Samarat road in the provincial capital of al-Arish. Brigadier General Ahmed Ibrahim was a deputy in the criminal investigations department in North Sinai.
 

France wants Europe to do more to fight Islamic State

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎10:24:06 AMGo to full article
PARIS (AP) — France's foreign minister wants European countries to do more to fight the Islamic State group, and is seeking support from Russia in international talks about defeating the group.
 

'Transparent,' 'Black-ish' Feted at TV Academy Honors

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:00:31 AMGo to full article
Four other television shows that have "shifted cultural acceptance" were lauded at the annual TV Academy event held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.
 

Rand Paul blames GOP hawks for rise of Islamic State group

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:31:55 AMGo to full article
Spanish soldiers advance Iraqi soldiers during a training mission outside Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. Islamic State extremists unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.
 
 

US launches new Islamic State investigations 'daily'

 
‎28 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:28:26 AMGo to full article
A Kenyan man pleaded guilty to supporting three different terrorist organizations, admitting to providing money and recruits in Syria and Somalia, the US Justice Department saidThe United States now launches a new investigation into suspected Islamic State group sympathizers almost every day, a senior official said, underscoring the increased threat posed by the jihadist group. Pointing to a significant uptick in cases linked to militants who now control swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, the official warned Congress of "brinkmanship" over intelligence gathering powers that put national security at risk at a sensitive time. "We are opening new investigations daily, particularly the ISIL threat," said the senior administration official, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
 
 

Did GOP create ISIS? Why Rand Paul says so

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:33:55 PMGo to full article
Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, who is a candidate for his party's 2016 presidential nomination, has created a national brand as a man unafraid of challenging party orthodoxy.
 

Colorado theater shooting victims relive terror in courtroom

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:30:58 PMGo to full article
In this May 21, 2015 photo, Christina Blache sits in her living room during an interview with The Associated Press, in Northglenn, Colo. Blache, who was shot through both legs with an assault rifle when James Holmes opened fire in a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012, says that testifying in the Holmes trial has been both cathartic and re-traumatizing. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — From the witness stand, Christina Blache could finally do what she had most wanted and most feared: She looked for the first time at the man who shot her, who killed her friend, who ravaged so many lives.
 
 

Islamic State suicide attacks in Iraq's Anbar kill 17 troops

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:21:34 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this May 14, 2015 file photo, security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during a sandstorm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq. An Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday, May 27, 2015, that Islamic State extremists used a sandstorm that engulfed most of Iraq on Tuesday night to unleash a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland. (AP Photo, File)BAGHDAD (AP) — Islamic State extremists unleashed a wave of suicide attacks targeting the Iraqi army in western Anbar province, killing at least 17 troops in a major blow to government efforts to dislodge the militants from the sprawling Sunni heartland, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday.
 
 

Egyptian police general killed in roadside bomb attack in Sinai

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎06:01:58 PMGo to full article
An Egyptian police brigadier general was killed in a roadside bomb attack on Wednesday in North Sinai, the interior ministry said, one of the most high-profile police deaths in the Islamist insurgency raging in the region. The Interior Ministry spokesman said the roadside bomb hit a team of security forces on the al-Samarat road in the provincial capital of al-Arish. Brigadier General Ahmed Ibrahim was a deputy in the criminal investigations department in North Sinai.
 

The Latest on IS: Detainees killed at theater in Syria ruins

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:46:13 PMGo to full article
In this Thursday, May 21, 2015 photo, newly-arrived Iraqi Shiite militiamen check their weapons, in the predominately Sunni city of Nukhayb, southwest Iraq. (AP Photo)6:45 p.m. (1545 GMT)
 
 

Syrians lose hope in face of shocking carnage, devastation: U.N.

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:50 PMGo to full article
By Louis Charbonneau UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The people of Syria are losing hope in the fifth year of a civil war that has brought levels of death and destruction that are so extreme they should shock the world's collective conscience, the United Nations chief said in a report on Syria. Of the country's roughly 23 million people, some 12.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid, including 5 million children, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his monthly report published on Wednesday. "The level of carnage and devastation throughout the Syrian Arab Republic should shock the collective conscience of the world," said Ban's report, which covers the month of April and was largely prepared by outgoing U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
 

IS kills 20 men in ruins of Syria's Palmyra: monitor

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:26:46 PMGo to full article
The advance by Islamic State fighters on Palmyra has raised fears the Syrian world heritage site could be destroyedThe Islamic State jihadist group shot dead at least 20 men in the ruins of Syria's ancient city Palmyra on Wednesday, accusing them of fighting for the government, a monitor said. "IS executed 20 men by firing on them in front of a crowd gathered in Palmyra's Roman theatre, after accusing them of fighting for the Syrian regime," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP. "IS gathered a lot of people there on purpose, to show their force on the ground," Abdel Rahman said.
 
 

Can Bernie Sanders Push Hillary Clinton Further to the Left?

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:26:05 PMGo to full article
Can Bernie Sanders Push Hillary Clinton Further to the Left?On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders held the first rally in his campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination, telling a group of voters in his home state, Vermont, that he will aggressively tackle income inequality. Sanders is one of the most colorful and little-known figures in American politics: He’s 73 years old, a former mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and a declared socialist. The question is: Can he push Clinton further to the left?
 
 

Iraq cleric Sadr criticises operation codename choice

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:20:31 PMGo to full article
An Iraqi fighter from the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) -- a group formed by Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- takes part in a military parade in Kufa, on May 3, 2015Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr on Wednesday criticised the codename given to a military operation in Sunni areas of Iraq, warning that it risked fanning the flames of sectarianism. The Hashed al-Shaabi, an umbrella for mostly Shiite militias and volunteers, on Tuesday launched an operation aimed at severing the Islamic State jihadist group's supply lines in Anbar province. "This name is going to be misunderstood, there's no doubt," said Sadr in a statement presented as an answer to a question by a religious student.
 
 

France calls for tougher global mobilization against IS

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎05:01:47 PMGo to full article
PARIS (AP) — French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius called on the international community to strengthen its mobilization against the Islamic State group ahead of an international meeting on Iraq organized next week.

 

 
 

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

 
‎20 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:50 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows after an US air strike near the Mosul dam, Iraq's largest, on the Tigris river, on August 17, 2014The US wants Iraq to launch its offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group in April or May, military officials said. Mosul is believed to be held by 1,000-2,000 IS fighters and 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops are needed to carry out the offensive, an official with US Central Command said on Thursday. US-led coalition aircraft have recently focused air strikes in the area of Mosul and Kurdish forces have made inroads on the ground nearby. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched successful offensives against IS-held roads near Mosul, which is in the north of the country.

 

 


 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 
 

Rouhani says most Iranians want peace

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 26, 2015 - An overwhelming majority of Iranians want peace with the rest of the world, President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday, defending the nuclear negotiations under way with major powers.

"Despite a small minority that speak loudly, the vast majority of the population are in favour of peace, reconciliation and constructive agreement with the world," Rouhani said during a televised speech in Shahriyar, west of Tehran.

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany) have been engaged for nearly two years in negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme to prevent the Islamic republic from getting the bomb, in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions.

The two sides signed a framework agreement on April 2 and aim to finalise a deal by June 30.

The negotiations, approved by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have support within the country and among the Iranian political class.

But some conservatives have criticised the concessions made to the West.

"We are determined to solve our problems with the world through logic, reasoning and negotiation," Rouhani said, adding that "the strong nuclear negotiating team takes serious steps every day toward protecting the rights of the nation."

During a closed session in parliament on Sunday, ultraconservative lawmakers strongly criticised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araghchi, who are leading the nuclear talks with major powers.

The lawmakers accused them of having accepted in principle military site inspections by foreign experts, which have been ruled out by Khamenei.

Araghchi later said the negotiating team had refused such inspections.

 

 

Israel thanks US for opposing nuke-free Mideast plan

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 24, 2015 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his "appreciation" to the United States for opposing an Arab plan for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, an Israeli official said.

The Jewish state is believed to be the only country in the region that has an atomic bomb although it has never confirmed its nuclear military capacity.

The Saturday phone call between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry came with the two governments locked in bitter disagreement over American-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran, which Israel says could compromise its security.

A month-long UN conference reviewing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended Friday without agreement, after the US, Canada and Britain opposed a proposal backed by Egypt and Arab countries to convene a conference by March 2016 on creating a Middle East nuclear-weapons free zone.

Netanyahu spoke with Kerry "to convey his appreciation to President Obama and to the secretary (of state) for the position taken," the official said.

"The United States kept its commitment to Israel by preventing a Middle East resolution that would single out Israel and ignore its security interests and the threats posed to it by an increasingly turbulent Middle East."

Israel also appreciated the British and Canadian decision "to reject the coordinated diplomatic effort against Israel at the conference," the official said in a statement.

Israel is not a member of the NPT but attended the conference as an observer.

President Barack Obama told American Jews on Friday that his "commitment to Israel's security is and always will be unshakeable".

"There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired," Obama said.

 

 

Iran denies agreement on military site inspections

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 24, 2015 - An Iranian negotiator on Sunday denied accepting military site inspections as part of a nuclear deal with world powers, a delicate issue in talks that must be concluded by the end of June.

Abbas Araghchi, who is also deputy foreign minister, made the remarks as he briefed a parliamentary committee on the progress of the talks with the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany.

"In his report, Mr. Araghchi said that inspections of military sites have been accepted but the inspections are regulated and will be seriously managed," ultra-conservative lawmaker Javad Karimi-Ghodoussi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

The remarks appeared to contradict those of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said this week that inspections of military sites and interviews of scientists by foreign experts were excluded from a framework nuclear agreement.

Araghchi denied the lawmaker's comments on his Instagram page.

"What can we do except put the fate of Karimi-Ghodoussi and Fars in the hands of God?" he wrote alongside a picture of a Fars headline that read: "We accepted the inspection of military sites".

Araghchi said later that during the briefing both he and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated their "objection to inspections or visits to any military centres or interviews with our nuclear scientists".

"We presented necessary explanations... regarding security measures which countries implementing the protocol usually take in order to protect their military, nuclear and industrial information and prevent spying," he said in a statement from the ministry.

The United States says Iran has agreed in principle to enhanced inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), particularly under the Additional Protocol that allows snap inspections.

"The exact details of the inspection regime are still being worked out," said US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She expressed hopes for "a solution that will give us and the IAEA the assurances we need with regard to access (to the sites) and transparency" of the Iranian nuclear programme.

Tehran denies any foreign access to its military facilities, in order to protect national "military or economic secrets".

The official IRNA news agency quoted parliamentary spokesman Behrouz Nemati as saying "it will not be like the Americans can inspect any place at any time" and "these inspections will be regulated".

The long-running nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 are aimed at preventing the Islamic republic from getting the bomb, in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions.

The parties have until June 30 to finalise the deal.

 

 

Lawrence Livermore researchers use seismic signals to track above-ground explosions

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Livermore CA (SPX) May 25, 2015 - Lawrence Livermore researchers have determined that a tunnel bomb explosion by Syrian rebels was less than 60 tons as claimed by sources. Using seismic stations in Turkey, Livermore scientists Michael Pasyanos and Sean Ford created a method to determine source characteristics of near earth surface explosions.

They found the above-ground tunnel bomb blast under the Wadi al-Deif Army Base near Aleppo last spring was likely not as large as originally estimated and was closer to 40 tons.

Seismology has long been used to determine the source characteristics of underground explosions, such as yield and depth, and plays a prominent role in nuclear explosion monitoring. But now some of the same techniques have been modified to determine the strength and source of near and above-ground blasts.

The new method to track above-ground explosions serves as a forensic tool for investigators and governmental agencies seeking to understand the precise cause of an explosion.

"The technique accounts for the reduction in amplitudes as the explosion depth approaches the free surface and less energy is coupled into the ground," said Michael Pasyanos, an LLNL geophysicist and lead author of a paper appearing in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The team, also made up LLNL scientist Sean Ford, used the method on a series of shallow explosions in New Mexico where the yields and depths were known.

Pasyanos and Ford's examination of source characteristics of near-surface explosions is an extension of the regional amplitude envelope method. This technique was developed and applied to North Korean nuclear explosions, then applied to chemical explosions and nuclear tests in Nevada.

"The technique takes an earthquake or explosion source model and corrects for the wave propagation to generate predicted waveform envelopes at any particular frequency band," Pasyanos said.

Methods for determining the yields of contained events range from teleseismic amplitudes and P-wave spectra to regional P-wave amplitudes and magnitudes. Pasyanos developed a method to characterize underground explosions based on regional amplitude envelopes across a broad range of frequencies. One advantage of the method is that examining the signal over a wide frequency band can reduce some of the strong tradeoffs between yield and depth, Pasyanos said

"By allowing the methodology to consider shallow, uncontained events just below, at, or even above the Earth's surface, we make the method relevant to new classes of events including mining events, military explosions, industrial accidents, plane crashes or potential terrorist attacks." Pasyanos said. "A yield estimate is often very important to investigators and governmental agencies seeking to understand the precise cause of an explosion."

For the Syrian explosion, the team did not have local seismic data from Syria, but it was well recorded by regional stations from the Continental Dynamics: Central Anatolian Tectonics (CD-CAT) deployment in Turkey.

If the explosion occurred well above the surface, a yield of 100 tons TNT equivalent would be required to produce the observed seismic signal.

"Given the video footage of the explosion, however, we know that it was neither at nor above the free surface, nor fully coupled," Ford said. "We estimate a chemical yield ranging from 6 and 50 tons depending on the depth, with the best estimate between 20-40 tons. Including independent information on the depth, we could narrow this considerably. If, for instance, we definitively knew that the explosion occurred at 2 meters below the surface, then we would estimate the yield at 40 tons."

The team found that though there are expected tradeoffs between yield and depth/height, when constrained by other information, the yields are consistent with ground truth yields in tests in New Mexico and reasonable values from what Pasyanos and Ford know about in Syria.

 

 

Proliferation talks fail over Mideast nuke plan

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) May 22, 2015 - Nuclear non-proliferation talks ended without agreement on Friday after the United States, Canada and Britain opposed a plan to set up a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

More than 150 countries took part in a month-long conference reviewing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology.

But talks on a final document outlining an action plan for the next five years hit a wall over a provision on convening a conference by March 2016 on creating a Middle East nuclear-weapons free zone.

Israel, which is not a member of the NPT but attended the conference as an observer, opposed the proposal backed by Egypt and Arab countries.

Israel is believed to be the only country that possesses a nuclear arsenal in the region, although it has never acknowledged its nuclear military capacity.

US Arms Control Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller told the NPT conference that provisions on holding the conference were "incompatible with our long-standing policies."

Gottemoeller argued that the proposed nuclear-free zone did not stand a chance of success "absent the consent of all states involved," a clear reference to Israel's opposition.

Earlier this week, the US administration had dispatched an envoy to Israel to discuss the proposal, hoping to reach a compromise that would have salvaged the final document of the NPT conference.

- US blames Egypt -

Gottemoeller took aim at "a number of states, in particular Egypt" for the failure of the talks, accusing them of refusing to "let go of unrealistic and unworkable conditions" to create the nuclear weapons-free zone.

The head of the British delegation to the talks, Matthew Rowland, also said the terms for convening the conference on the nuclear weapons-free zone were "a stumbling block for us."

Canada said it could not agree to the document because of the provisions that would have laid the groundwork for creating the zone banning all nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

In an eleventh-hour move, Iran, which heads the non-aligned movement, requested more time to consider the final document but the session resumed with no agreement.

Iran's envoy cited the refusal of "three delegations" to agree to the final text, accusing them of blocking the consensus "with this high cost."

The envoy said this was "only to safeguard the interest of a particular non-party to the treaty that has endangered peace and security in the region by developing a nuclear capability."

At the last NPT conference in 2010, a final document called for the conference on the nuclear-free weapons zone for the Middle East to be held in 2012, but that meeting never materialized.

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, has 190 state-parties or entities that meet every five years to take stock of progress in nuclear disarmament.

The treaty is seen as a grand bargain between the five nuclear powers and non-nuclear states which agreed to give up atomic weapon ambitions in exchange for disarmament pledges.

But non-nuclear states have been increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of disarmament and had sought during the month-long conference to press for action to speed up the reduction of stockpiles.

 

 

Obama sells Iran deal directly to US Jews

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 22, 2015 - Amid a bitter public fight with Israel's government, President Barack Obama on Friday donned a yarmulke and pitched his nuclear deal with Iran and the case for a Palestinian state directly to US Jews.

Visiting Washington's conservative Adas Israel synagogue, Obama embarked on a Hebrew-sprinkled charm offensive which stressed that US-Israeli relations encompass more than just official links with the Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Telling the 1,000-plus congregation he was delighted to be "an honorary member of the tribe," Obama said "my commitment to Israel's security is and always will be unshakeable."

"The people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back."

Netanyahu has publicly opposed a deal that would curb Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. The White House views the framework accord as a potential signature foreign policy achievement.

"There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired," Obama said.

The president added that he had no interest in reaching a bad deal.

"I'm interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon -- every single path."

"In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region -- including Israel -- more secure. That's how I define a good deal."

Obama also tacitly addressed his split with Netanyahu over the need for a two state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli stalemate.

"I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland," he said to rapturous applause.

"And I believe that's two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well."

 

 

Peace activists live-stream press conference from N. Korea

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 23, 2015 - A group of international women peace activists broadcast a landmark press conference from North Korea on Saturday, using Twitter's new video live-streaming app Periscope, apparently with official approval.

The group of 30 women, led by American feminist Gloria Steinem, are scheduled to cross the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea on Sunday to promote peace and reconciliation.

Their 15-minute press conference was held in a Pyongyang hotel room, and although the video feed was weak and dropped repeatedly, official minders who accompany foreign visitors to North Korea at all times were notably absent.

In a country where internal and external communication is highly restricted and carefully monitored, the use of live streaming technology like Periscope would appear to pose an intriguing challenge for the authorities.

Media events in North Korea -- especially ones involving foreign journalists -- are usually tightly scripted and choreographed to ensure the official line is perfectly adhered to.

"We did tell them," the co-organiser of the peace crossing, Christine Ahn, said when asked if the group's minders had been made aware of their plan to live-stream the event.

"We're free to say whatever we wish," Steinem added.

North Korea has a domestic Intranet which allows its very limited number of users to exchange state-approved information and little more.

Outside of hotels catering to foreigners, access to the full-blown Internet is for the super-elite only, meaning a few hundred people or maybe 1,000 at most.

Tools like Periscope and its rival Meerkat allow images to be sent in real time, avoiding post-recording censorship and allowing the broadcast of interactive events like Saturday's press conference, during which journalists watching outside North Korea could send in questions.

More than two million people in North Korea use mobile phones but almost all lack Internet connectivity or the ability to make overseas calls.

Coleen Baik, the member of the women's peace group who live-streamed the press conference, has also sent three other clips using Periscope in recent days of the group moving around Pyongyang.

Baik told the website North Korea Tech that she had paid $250 for a basic mobile service and then $450 for 2GB of data.

"Expensive, but actually not as much as I expected," she said.

- 'Not ignorant' of rights abuses -

The activists' peace enterprise has not been without controversy, with critics suggesting they are being used as a propaganda tool by the North which has a grim record of human right abuse.

"We are not ignorant of the fact that there are restrictions here. It's perfectly clear," Steinem said.

"One of our biggest considerations from the beginning was that we include human rights in our declaration of purpose," she added.

The group had wanted to cross the DMZ through the Panmunjom "truce village", where North and South Korean soldiers stand just metres apart in a permanent face-off over the border.

But South Korea opposed the plan and the women said Friday that they had agreed "with regret" to Seoul's preference for a road crossing on the western part of the border.

 

 

Nuclear disarmament talks struggle to reach action plan

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) May 20, 2015 - A month-long conference at the United Nations to decide on an action plan for nuclear disarmament headed into a final stretch on Wednesday with no agreement in sight.

More than 150 countries are taking part in the conference ending Friday on reviewing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark document that seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology.

Talks have been deadlocked over demands by non-nuclear states for concrete steps from nuclear powers to reduce their arsenals and provide annual reports on the state of their stockpiles.

An Austrian-led initiative backed by 159 states to ban nuclear weapons altogether has come up against strong resistance by the declared nuclear powers: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The conference president, Algerian Ambassador Taous Feroukhi, told delegates that "the gap is still wide" on disarmament and called for "an extra effort" to reach a consensus.

"Efforts are ongoing and I hope, I hope that we can arrive at something," said Feroukhi.

Delegates have been instructed to go back to the drawing board to come up with an acceptable draft to both nuclear powers and non-nuclear nations by Thursday 1900 GMT.

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament at the Arms Control Association, said he was not optimistic about chances for agreement on a final document, but that would not mean that the NPT is unraveling.

"Even if there is no consensus at this review conference, it doesn't mean that suddenly states are going to start leaving the NPT and there will be a cascade of proliferation and more nuclear weapons state," Reif told AFP.

But the rift would signal that non-nuclear states will be looking for other venues to make their demands on disarmament heard, he said.

- Not enough -

The NPT review conference failed to yield an action plan when it was convened in 2005, and disarmament activists complain that the measures agreed in the 2010 document have not been implemented.

"We know that even if there is a document, it's not going to be a very good one," said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Swiss-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The month-long conference has shown that "it's difficult to reconcile the strong movement forward from non-nuclear states, and nuclear states that basically won't commit to anything," said Fihn.

Reached in 1968, the NPT is seen as a grand bargain between the five nuclear powers and non-nuclear states which agreed to give up atomic weapon ambitions in exchange for disarmament pledges.

But 45 years after the NPT entered into force, non-nuclear states are feeling increasingly frustrated about the slow pace of disarmament.

In particular, the United States and Russia have made little headway in cutting their nuclear stockpiles since 2011, and the crisis over Ukraine is stoking distrust, dimming prospects for future cooperation.

Talks on creating a weapons-free zone in the Middle East have run into problems after Russia put forward a proposal to hold a conference in 2016, under UN auspices, a diplomat said.

Israel, which is not a member of the NPT but is attending as an observer, is opposing the proposal, according to a diplomatic source.

 

 

S. Korea, Japan defence chiefs to hold 1st meet in 4 years

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 21, 2015 - The South Korean and Japanese defence ministers will hold talks for the first time in four years next week to discuss pressing regional issues including North Korea, Seoul said Thursday.

The talks between Han Min-Koo and his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani will take place on the sidelines of the May 29-31 Asia Security Summit in Singapore, the South Korean defence ministry said.

With relations between Seoul and Tokyo stuck in a long, bitter impasse over territorial issues and historical disputes, bilateral defence talks at the ministerial level have not been held since January 2011.

The agenda for the meeting includes the impact of a new set of US-Japan defence guidelines, which South Korea has voiced discomfort over, a Seoul defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

"Regional provocations and threats such as North Korea's recent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test will also be discussed," he said.

The new defence guidelines -- announced during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Washington -- allow Japan to shoot down missiles heading toward the US and come to the aid of third countries under attack.

South Korea is concerned about Japan exercising the doctrine of "collective self-defense" around the Korean peninsula without its consent.

But the two neighbours share common concerns about growing threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.

"Security cooperation between Japan and South Korea is necessary considering the threat from North Korea," Nakatani told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday.

The North claimed on May 8 that a new SLBM had been successfully tested under the personal supervision of leader Kim Jong-Un.

Launching missiles from submarines would allow the North to deploy weapons far beyond the Korean peninsula, but many experts believe it is still years away from developing a working SLBM capability.

Pyongyang already has mid-range missiles capable of reaching Japan, and frequent missile tests off its east coast are unnerving for Tokyo.

 

 

Iran rules out nuclear inspections of military sites

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:44:41 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 20, 2015 - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday ruled out allowing nuclear inspectors to visit military sites or to question scientists if Tehran strikes a long-sought deal with world powers.

"We have already said that we will not allow any inspections of military sites by foreigners," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

"They also say that we must allow interviews with nuclear scientists. This is interrogation. I will not allow foreigners to come and talk to scientists who have advanced the science to this level," Khamenei said.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony for military cadets, he said that no "intelligent government" would allow such a thing and "excessive demands" must be resisted.

Khamenei, who has the final word on all policy matters in Iran, said Tehran would refuse to allow "the insolent enemy" to talk to its scientists, adding that other countries hide the identities of their nuclear experts.

Several Iranian atomic scientists were assassinated between 2010 and 2012 in attacks Tehran blamed on Israel and the US.

The United States as well as Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are in the midst of negotiations with Tehran to finalise a deal by June 30 that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

For several weeks, political and technical experts have been trying to finalise the terms of a final agreement. They were due to gather again on Wednesday in Vienna for talks.

If fully implemented, a deal would see Iran dramatically scale back its nuclear activities and submit those that remain to what US President Barack Obama has described as the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated".

The issue of inspections is a sticking point in the negotiations.

In late April, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran was ready to accept the "highest level of international transparency" available to members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But Zarif said this week that the NPT additional protocol did not grant inspectors access without limits or reason.

He said that the rules allowed "some access" but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national "military or economic secrets".

The additional protocol provides for snap inspections of nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and requires that information be provided on all activities regarding the nuclear fuel cycle.

Iran is a signatory of the NPT and voluntarily implemented the additional protocol between 2003 and 2006, but ceased applying it after its nuclear programme was referred to the UN Security Council.

Iran has long asserted its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes, and that international concern about it seeking a nuclear bomb is misplaced.

 

 

US blacklists Iraqi firm helping Iran buy Airbus planes

 
‎24 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:53:15 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 21, 2015 - The US Treasury placed restrictive sanctions Thursday on an Iraqi middleman company which obtained and sold nine Airbus aircraft to Iran's already-blacklisted Mahan Air.

The Treasury said Al-Naser Airlines, based in Iraq, was used as a "cutout" to procure eight Airbus A340 aircraft and one A320 for transfer early this month to Mahan Air, which was placed under sanctions in 2011 for providing transport services to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC-QF, and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

Both groups have been designated by the US as terror and terrorist-supporting organizations.

Al-Naser obtained the nine aircraft "from unwitting European vendors," the Treasury said in a statement, without providing further identification.

The Treasury also blacklisted a Syrian businessman, Issam Shammout, and his company Sky Blue Bird Aviation, for helping Mahan Air obtain aircraft and parts. Shammout, it said, is chairman of Syria-based Cham Wings, also blacklisted by the Treasury since 2011.

The new sanctions forbid US companies and individuals from doing business with the blacklisted entities and individuals, and block their assets and interests in US jurisdictions.

"We will continue to actively counter Iranian sanctions evasion, whether in support of terrorist entities or other sanctioned parties," Treasury Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said in the statement.

"We will not hesitate to sanction those who help in these endeavors."

Iran's aviation sector has faced difficulties obtaining aircraft and parts since an embargo dating from 1995 that prevented Western manufacturers from selling equipment and spare parts to Iranian companies.

Those restrictions were partially lifted by an interim agreement on Iran's nuclear program that came into force in January 2014.

This allowed for the sales of spare parts, though direct sales of planes remained banned.

 

 

N. Korea says can arm long-range missiles with nuclear warheads

 
‎24 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:53:15 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 20, 2015 - North Korea ramped up its nuclear threats on Wednesday, boasting of its ability to deliver miniaturised warheads on high-precision long range rockets -- a claim denied by the United States.

At the same time, the North denounced "reckless" remarks made in Seoul this week by US Secretary of State John Kerry, and cancelled an invitation to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to visit a joint industrial zone on its side of the border with South Korea.

Pyongyang has been flexing its advancing military muscle of late, most recently announcing it had successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

On Wednesday its powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) claimed that the country's nuclear arsenal was already highly developed.

"It has been a long time since we began miniaturising and diversifying our means of nuclear strike," the commission said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

"We have also reached the stage where the highest accuracy rate is guaranteed, not only for short- and medium-range missiles but long-range missiles as well," the NDC said.

Washington rejected the nuclear claim.

"Our assessment of North Korea's nuclear capabilities has not changed. We do not think that they have that capacity" to miniaturise weapons, a US National Security Council spokesman told AFP.

But the spokesman agreed Pyongyang was "working on developing a number of long-range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, that could eventually threaten our allies and the homeland".

Reducing the size of a nuclear warhead to the point where it can fit on a missile would be a major leap forward in establishing a genuine deterrent, and Pyongyang has claimed progress with miniaturisation before.

In January the South Korean Defence Ministry said it believed the North's ability to miniaturise a nuclear device had reached a "significant" level. The top US homeland security commander, Admiral William Gortney, said last month the North was already capable of mounting a warhead on a missile.

- Expert doubts -

But other senior officials in both countries have questioned such assessments, and independent analysts on Wednesday stressed that the North's claims were often overblown.

"There are differences between their statements and their actual operational reality," Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based senior researcher of the International Crisis Group, told AFP.

"Some of it is bluster or exaggeration and maybe for internal audiences, and some of it is probably also for external audiences in an effort to test and to see if they can use systems for blackmail or coercion," he said.

Cho Han-Bum, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, said Pyongyang was "too cash-strapped" to perfect such intricate technology as miniaturising a warhead.

"I find the claim hard to believe," he said.

Experts have voiced similar doubts over the recent SLBM test, suggesting it was probably not submarine-launched at all, but likely fired from a submerged barge.

And it was probably an "ejection test" in which the missile is launched underwater, breaks the surface and then falls back after a few seconds of partial fuel burn.

- Expanding nuclear programme -

But scepticism over the North's claims for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capability are heavily outweighed by genuine concern at the expansion of both programmes.

A recent report by US researchers warned that North Korea could, in a worst-case scenario, possess 100 nuclear bombs arms by 2020.

North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 and has an extremely active ballistic missile development programme, even if expert opinion is split on how much progress it has made.

During his visit to Seoul Kerry had denounced Kim Jong-Un's "egregious" leadership, saying he had fuelled regional tensions with repeated "provocative, destabilising and repressive actions".

The North Korean Foreign Ministry responded Wednesday, calling Kerry's comments those of "a loser admitting the total failure" of US policy towards Pyongyang.

Separately Wednesday, Pyongyang cancelled without explanation an invitation for Ban, who is also in Seoul, to visit the Kaesong joint industrial area which lies 10 kilometers over the inter-Korean border.

Had Thursday's visit gone ahead, Ban would have become the first UN secretary-general to set foot in the isolated state for more than 20 years, since Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.

"This decision by Pyongyang is deeply regrettable," the UN chief, a former foreign minister of South Korea, told a forum in Seoul.

"However, I as the secretary-general of the United Nations, will not spare any efforts to encourage (North Korea) to work with the international community for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and beyond."

Speaking at an Asian leadership forum in Seoul on Tuesday, Ban had warned that continued North Korean provocation risked fuelling tensions and a possible arms race across the region.

 

 

Nuclear modernization programs threaten to prolong the nuclear era

 
‎24 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:53:15 AMGo to full article
Chicago IL (SPX) May 20, 2015 - In the latest issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, experts from the United States, Russia, and China present global perspectives on ambitious nuclear modernization programs that the world's nuclear-armed countries have begun.

In the latest edition of the Bulletin's Global Forum, Georgetown University professor Matthew Kroenig argues that:

"Failure to modernize would not contribute to disarmament - but more than that, it would be irresponsible. A crippled US nuclear force would embolden enemies, frighten allies, generate international instability, and undermine US national security.

"In other words, it would risk ruining the world that currently exists. Rather than preparing for an alternate reality, therefore, Washington needs to build the nuclear forces that it needs to deter threats to international peace and security in this reality. This means maintaining a robust nuclear posture and fully modernizing nuclear forces, as planned."

Eugene Miasnikov, director of the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies in Dolgoprudny, Russia, comments that:

"The real question regarding modernization is how much is enough. Which sorts of modernization would create obstacles to further cuts? Which would be neutral? ... It is up to the American people to decide on the future size of their nuclear arsenal and how much modernization is required.

"But it is important to bear in mind that these decisions will have profound effects on the rest of the world. These decisions might reduce international tensions, which would be conductive to further nuclear cuts. Or they might become a source of additional tension and trust."

And Lu Yin a colonel in China's People's Liberation Army and a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies at National Defense University in Beijing, writes that:

"Eliminating nuclear weapons does not appear feasible at this stage. Modernizations of nuclear arsenals are certain to go forward. But it's possible, and very important, to achieve a balance between modernization and disarmament.

"The United States and Russia must take the lead in establishing this balance - first by de-emphasizing nuclear weapons in their national security strategies so that the practical reasons for possessing nuclear weapons can gradually disappear, and second by reducing their arsenals. This would establish trust and set a good example for other nations."

 

 

S. Korea holds live-fire drill off east coast

 
‎24 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:53:15 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 19, 2015 - South Korea's military said it was holding live-fire drills on Tuesday off its country's east coast involving anti-ship missiles and jet fighters after North Korea conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test condemned by Seoul and Washington.

The joint naval and air force exercise involves some 20 warships as well as an unspecified number of jet fighters, Seoul's defence ministry deputy spokesman Na Seung-Yong told reporters.

"The ongoing live-fire drills involving anti-ship guided missiles and other strategic training for navy and air force troops...are aimed at quashing the North's intention for provocations at sea," Na said.

The exercise came as military tension rose on the Korean peninsula following the North's launch of the SLBM, a weapon feared to take the country's nuclear threat to a new level.

The North's state media announced on May 8 that the new SLBM had been tested under the personal supervision of leader Kim Jong-Un.

The test, if confirmed, is a violation of a United Nations ban on the North's use or testing of ballistic missile technology, imposed after a series of missile and nuclear tests.

Tension further escalated after Pyongyang followed up the SLBM launch by test-firing three anti-ship cruise missiles and held a live-fire drill near the disputed sea border off its west coast.

Seoul condemned the SLBM test as "worrisome" and US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Monday of the possibility of imposing fresh sanctions on the isolated state.

A fully-developed SLBM capability would allow the nuclear-armed North to deploy weapons far beyond the Korean peninsula.

The South Korean military estimated last week that it could take up to five years before Pyongyang is able to deploy a fully operational submarine armed with ballistic missiles.

 

 

Kerry discusses security in Seoul after N. Korea muscle flexing

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 18, 2015 - US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed security issues with top South Korean officials on Monday following a new ballistic missile test by North Korea and the reported execution of its defence chief.

Kerry sat down with President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul, where he was also due to deliver a policy speech on cyber-space, which has become another outlet for North Korean belligerence.

In an effort to revive long-stalled denuclearisation talks, Washington says it is open to preliminary discussions with Pyongyang. But North Korea has responded with some significant military muscle flexing.

Just over a week ago, the North said it had successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) -- a technology that could eventually offer the nuclear-armed state a survivable second-strike capability.

UN sanctions ban Pyongyang from using ballistic missile technology.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un hailed the acquisition of a "world-class strategic weapon", US defence officials sought to play down the test, saying Pyongyang was still in the earliest stages of developing an SLBM capability.

Nevertheless, during a two-day stop in Beijing before arriving in Seoul, Kerry slammed the North's provocative and "destabilising" behaviour as "unacceptable".

Internal stability in North Korea has also become a concern after South Korea's intelligence agency reported last week that Pyongyang's defence minister had been purged and most likely executed.

The agency said it had unverified reports that the execution had been carried out at close range with a high-calibre anti-aircraft gun.

Some observers said the execution, if confirmed, suggested Kim was still struggling to cement his absolute authority in a country that has been ruled by his family for seven decades.

During his talks with Park and later with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se, Kerry was expected to underline US commitment to its military alliance with South Korea, which hosts a permanent deployment of close to 30,000 US troops.

- Elite hackers -

In Beijing, Kerry had voiced hopes that the successful conclusion of an atomic deal with Iran would encourage North Korea to resume six-party negotiations on its nuclear programme.

The talks, grouping North and South Korea, Japan, the United States, China and Russia, were aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in return for economic and diplomatic benefits, and security guarantees.

But the six-party forum has not met since December 2008.

President Barack Obama's administration has been accused of neglecting North Korea's nuclear programme while focusing its attention on Iran.

A recent report by US researchers warned that North Korea appeared poised to expand that programme over the next five years and, in a worst-case scenario, could possess 100 atomic arms by 2020.

North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and has an active ballistic missile development programme, although expert opinion is split on how much progress it has made.

Later Monday, Kerry was scheduled to lay out a comprehensive foreign policy speech on the use of cyber-space, including issues of cyber-security.

Seoul has blamed North Korean hackers for a series of devastating cyber-attacks on military institutions, banks, government agencies, TV broadcasters and media websites in recent years.

The United States also blamed the North for a cyber-attack on Sony Pictures over its North Korea-themed satire "The Interview" last year.

Pyongyang denied involvement in the hack of the entertainment company but furiously condemned the film, which features a fictional plot to assassinate Kim.

South Korea's defence ministry believes North Korea runs an elite cyber-warfare unit with up to 6,000 personnel, and regards its ability to launch hacking attacks as a major security threat.

Last month, President Park appointed an army general to the new post of national cyber-security tsar, specifically tasked with defending against North Korean hacking.

 

 

Netanyahu says not too late to stop Iran nuclear deal

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 17, 2015 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday there was still time to stop an Iranian agreement with world powers that he says would give Tehran nuclear arms.

"It's still not too late to retract the plan that gives Iran an agreement which will pave it a road to a nuclear weapon," he said at a ceremony marking Israel's capture of Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.

The United States as well as Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are in the midst of negotiations with Tehran to finalise a deal by June 30 that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

Israel says that Iran cannot be trusted to honour the nascent deal, which is anyway full of loopholes.

"We oppose this deal and we are not the only ones," Netanyahu said. "It is necessary and possible to achieve a better deal."

Arab and largely Sunni Muslim states of the Gulf fear a nuclear deal could be a harbinger of closer US ties with their Shiite arch-foe Iran, a country they also see as fuelling conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

US President Barack Obama tried to reassure America's Gulf allies at a Camp David summit Thursday that engaging with Iran would not come at their expense.

Iran has long asserted its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes, and that international concern about it seeking a nuclear bomb is misplaced.

 

 

US Congress sends Iran nuclear review bill to Obama

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 14, 2015 - The US Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday assuring lawmakers have the right to review, and perhaps reject, any nuclear deal that President Barack Obama reaches with Iran.

The measure, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 400 to 25, one week after it cleared the Senate, now goes to the White House, with Obama signaling he will sign it.

Washington and world powers Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany are in the midst of negotiations with Tehran to finalize a deal by June 30 that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of punishing economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic since 2006.

A US delegation led by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to Vienna, Austria and joined the crunch talks, which resumed Tuesday.

The White House has been negotiating essentially in secret, in part due to concerns that US lawmakers might seek to torpedo a deal that fell short of their demands.

A framework agreement was reached with Iran on April 2 in Lausanne, where negotiators laid out several bullet points, including one asserting that economic sanctions would snap back into place should Iran be found violating the accord.

The period up to June 30 is being used to iron out several remaining technical details.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said the bill made clear that lawmakers would not let the Obama administration "shut Congress out of the process" of approving a nuclear accord.

"Congress will be in a much better position to judge any final agreement to ensure that the Obama administration hasn't struck a bad deal."

The bill will allow lawmakers at least 30 days to review any final Iran nuclear pact.

The original bill's co-author, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, praised the House action and said Congress will have to vote up or down on the Iran deal "before the president could provide relief from congressional sanctions."

The legislation would also compel the president to report back to Congress every 90 days about Iran's compliance with the deal.

Lawmakers would have the ability to support or oppose the pact by voting for or against lifting congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran.

Should Congress pass a resolution opposing the accord, Obama would have 12 days to veto it. If he does, Congress would have 10 more days to override the veto.

- Sanctions against Hezbollah -

After last week's Senate vote on the bill, Tehran warned that US lawmakers were waging "psychological war" against Iranian negotiators.

Obama, who had wanted unfettered negotiation powers with Tehran, lifted his veto threat when it became clear the bill had strong support from Democrats.

But the measure ran into difficulty in recent weeks when conservative senators moved to add amendments, including one by 2016 presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio that would require Tehran to publicly acknowledge Israel's right to exist as part of the final agreement.

Such an amendment would likely pass, but Democrats warned it would kill the bill and perhaps prompt Iran to walk away from negotiations.

The amendment was kept off the legislation.

House members sought to send a further message to Tehran Thursday by unanimously approving legislation that urges Obama to increase financial sanctions against Hezbollah, a group backed politically and financially by Iran and which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

"The administration must do more to attack the root of the problem: Iran's support, coordination, arms, and money it provides to terrorist organizations," number two House Republican Kevin McCarthy said.

 

 

N. Korea sub missile test genuine, but exaggerated: experts

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 14, 2015 - North Korea's recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile was probably genuine but almost certainly exaggerated, and did not present the imminent threat promoted by Pyongyang, weapons experts and analysts said Thursday.

Reaffirming suspicions that last Friday's exercise was an "ejection" test rather than a full-scale test, the experts said the North was still likely in the early stages of developing a credible SLBM capability.

"Earlier assessments that ... North Korea possesses an emerging regional seaborne ballistic missile threat rather than an imminent threat, and that it does not represent an emerging intercontinental threat, remain valid," said Joseph Bermudez, a chief analytical officer at US-based AllSource Analysis.

Writing on the closely-watched North Korea-watching website, 38North, Bermudez said the SLBM tested last week was probably not "submarine-launched" at all, despite Pyongyang's claims to the contrary.

Instead it was likely fired from a submerged barge that analysts had seen in satellite pictures of the North's Sinpo South Naval Shipyard as far back as October.

And it was probably an "ejection test" in which the missile is launched underwater, breaks the surface and then falls back after a few seconds of partial fuel burn.

"This is a reasonable assessment," Bermudez said, arguing that a full scale flight test, or a launch from an actual submarine would be at the "uppermost limits" of the North's capabilities.

Jeffrey Lewis, an arms expert at the California-based Monterey Institute of International Studies, echoed Bermudez's assessment, but stressed that it did not mean last week's test was a fake.

"This is a normal test to conduct in the early stages of an SLBM program," Lewis said, adding that it represented a "real milestone" -- even if the North had exaggerated its sophistication.

"North Korea has been developing this capability for some time and the recent test is yet another step in that direction," Lewis said.

Given that Kim Jong-Un is closely associated with the program, Lewis suggested the North could move ahead quickly, and even conduct a full flight test later this year.

But several flight tests would normally be required, and there was still the matter of launching the missile from an actual submarine, leaving the prospect of a credible SLBM deployment years away.

 

 

Iranians fire warning shots at commercial ship in Gulf: US

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 14, 2015 - Iranian Revolutionary Guards fired warning shots Thursday at a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Gulf that had collided recently with an Iranian oil rig, US officials said Thursday.

After hearing a radio call for help, the United Arab Emirates dispatched coast guard vessels to aid the tanker and the Iranian boats then departed the area, US officials said.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels tried to intercept the Singapore-flagged ship, the Alpine Eternity, "in order to settle a legal dispute stemming from an incident on March 22, 2015, when the Alpine Eternity reportedly hit an Iranian-owned oil platform," a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

"Iran claims that the vessel is liable for damages to the oil platform," the official said.

The incident reflects rising tensions in the Gulf, fueled in part by the conflict in Yemen that pits Iranian-backed Shiite rebels against pro-government forces supported by a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states.

Thursday's episode appeared similar to a move last month by Iran against a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship, the Maersk Tigris.

The Iranians seized the vessel in the Gulf after firing warning shots and cited a commercial dispute with the Danish shipping group Maersk which hired out the ship. The Maersk Tigris was eventually released after Iranian authorities said the matter was settled.

Analysts say Iran may be taking a more assertive stance after they were apparently thwarted in an attempt to deliver weapons to their Huthi allies in Yemen. An Iranian convoy of ships which was suspected of carrying arms bound for Yemen was forced to turn back after the US Navy deployed about a dozen warships to the area.

In Thursday's confrontation, the Iranian patrol craft fired across the bow of the Alpine Eternity in international waters and the commercial ship then headed towards the UAE, officials said.

The Alpine Eternity issued a radio call for help and the Iranian boats fired a second wave of warning shots, the officials said.

- Third maritime incident -

UAE authorities heard the radio call and deployed coast guard boats in response. The Iranian boats then departed the area, the US officials said, adding that there were no Americans aboard the commercial ship.

A US naval ship was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away at the time and "monitored the radio traffic" but received no request for assistance, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority said no Singaporeans were on board and that it "verified with the ship manager of Alpine Eternity that the crew members are safe and the vessel is currently in UAE waters."

The Pentagon acknowledged it was the third incident in a few weeks involving Iranian forces confronting commercial vessels in or near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

"This is something that we continue to watch, that we're concerned with," he said.

Iran recently seized a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel in the Gulf, harassed a US-flagged ship and warned the United States not to interfere with an Iranian aid ship headed for Yemen. The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel, the Maersk Tigris, was eventually released, after Iranian officials said a commercial dispute had been settled.

- 'Robust' US presence -

Following the seizure of the Maersk Tigris, the US Navy recently provided security for American-flagged commercial ships crossing through the Strait of Hormuz. But US commanders called it off after about a week, saying tensions had appeared to ease.

Asked if the beefed up security for the vital waterway was canceled too soon, Warren said: "We're always in a position to reevaluate in the future."

Twelve US naval ships, including an aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, are currently in the region but no additional vessels were due to deploy to the area as a result of Thursday's incident.

"We maintain a robust presence in the Persian Gulf," he said.

Another possible maritime showdown emerged this week.

The United States has demanded that an Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen change course and head towards Djibouti, where the United Nations is overseeing humanitarian efforts for the Yemen conflict.

But a senior Iranian commander rejected the request and warned the Americans that "a fire might start" if there were attempts to block Tehran's aid efforts.

Although Iran has said it would provide a naval escort for the aid ship, so far the vessel has no warships guarding it. The Iranian cargo ship is currently heading southwest off the coast of Oman, Warren said.

The ship in Thursday's incident, the Alpine Eternity, is an oil-chemical tanker that had last stopped at a port in Bahrain, according to the marinetraffic.com shipping website.

 

 

Questions over N. Korea defence chief execution

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 14, 2015 - Doubts surfaced Thursday over the reported execution of North Korea's defence chief as South Korea's spy agency clarified that it had been unable to verify he had been put to death.

Briefing a select parliamentary committee on Wednesday, the National Intelligence Service said Defence Minister Hyon Yong-Chol had been purged, and cited intelligence suggesting he may have been executed on April 30 using an anti-aircraft gun.

The grim details of Hyon's demise dominated headlines, but the NIS on Thursday stressed that his execution had never been confirmed.

"Hyon has been purged," an NIS spokesman told AFP.

"And there are intelligence reports that he might have been executed, but this has not yet been verified," the spokesman said.

The confusion is partly the result of the way NIS briefings to parliament are carried out and reported.

They take place behind closed doors, after which selected lawmakers pass on the information to the South Korean media -- resulting in a gap between the original NIS briefing and the resulting headlines.

According to the lawmakers, the NIS said Hyon was purged for disloyalty and dozing off during official events presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un.

If confirmed, it marks the most high-profile elimination of a top Pyongyang official since the purge and execution of Kim's powerful uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, in December 2013.

The NIS had correctly reported Jang's downfall before it was confirmed by North Korea, but the agency has had some intelligence failures as well as successes in analysing events north of the border.

- Questionable conclusions -

The NIS knows its briefings will be relayed to the media, so the information it divulges is usually deemed to have been carefully vetted for accuracy.

But some of the lawmakers who attended Wednesday's briefing, as well as some independent analysts, have questioned the agency's conclusion on Hyon.

Shin Kyoung-Min, an opposition MP, said it was "odd" that North Korean state TV had continued to show recorded footage featuring the defence minister even after he had supposedly been purged.

The state-run media typically deletes all past mentions of purged officials and air-brushes them from any TV footage.

Such officials are often simply not heard of again, and their fate could range anywhere from demotion and exile to the countryside, to jail or execution.

But old TV video of Hyon accompanying Kim was broadcast as recently as May 12.

"If Hyon has really been purged, and even executed, the TV station wouldn't be making such a mistake," Shin told a local radio station.

A search of Hyon's name on the website of Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, produced dozens of news stories -- the most recent dated April 30.

The same search on the North's official website, Uriminzokkiri, also produced hundreds of news stories.

The April 30 article in Rodong Sinmun named Hyon among those officials attending musical performances on April 28 and 29.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think-tank in Seoul, said it was "highly unlikely" the North had arrested Hyon only a day later and executed him immediately.

"It's not like he was attempting to assassinate Kim Jong-Un ... so it is really hard to believe that he was executed in such a hasty manner," Cheong said.

"Also, his name should have been deleted from the North's websites long ago if he was really executed ... like Jang Song-Thaek," Cheong said.

All images and mentions of Jang, who often accompanied Kim on "field guidance trips" across the country, were deleted from official records after he was purged.

A current search of Jang's name on both Uriminzokkiri and Rodong Sinmun only shows stories relating to his arrest, purge and execution.

 

 

N. Korea launches firing drills in Yellow Sea: Yonhap

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 13, 2015 - North Korea launched live-fire drills near the disputed sea border with South Korea late Wednesday, the Yonhap news agency reported, amid high tensions over Pyongyang's recent submarine-launched ballistic missile test.

The reported firing drills -- some shot from a war ship -- came just hours after Pyongyang informed South Korea of its plans to conduct the exercise.

The artillery rounds were fired near the South's Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, but none landed on the south side of the disputed border in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap reported.

The North's military has said it will stage the firing drills any time between 3:00 pm (0600 GMT) Wednesday and midnight Friday in its territorial waters, South Korea's Defence Ministry said.

The North's plans, contained in a message sent through a military hotline, prompted South Korean troops to step up vigilance along the Yellow Sea border, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

For its drills, the North's coast artillery designated two areas near South Korea's front-line islands close to the sea border, he said.

"We see such drills as a threatening attitude aimed at stirring up tensions in a sensitive area," he said, adding South Korea would react "sternly" if North Korean shells fell south of the border.

Cross-border tensions have soared since Pyongyang's state media announced Saturday that a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) had been successfully tested under the personal supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who described it as a "world-level strategic weapon".

The test rang alarm bells in Seoul because a fully developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

The North followed up the SLBM launch by test firing three anti-ship cruise missiles on Saturday.

Pyongyang has also threatened to fire on sight at South Korean navy patrol boats it accuses of routinely entering its territorial waters in the Yellow Sea.

Seoul has denied any incursions.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye warned that Pyongyang's SLBM development posed a "serious challenge" to regional stability and vowed a strong military response to any provocation from Pyongyang.

The two Koreas recognise different boundaries dividing their territorial waters in the Yellow Sea.

The North argues that the demarcation recognised by the South -- the Northern Limit Line (NLL) -- is invalid because it was unilaterally drawn by US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North recognises what it calls the Military Demilitarization Line, which is south of the NLL.

The maritime border has always been a flashpoint and was the scene of brief but bloody naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

In November 2010, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans and briefly triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

Most recently, North and South Korean naval patrol boats briefly exchanged warning shots in October last year.

Because the Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

 

 

N. Korea sub missile claim looks like a bluff: experts

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 13, 2015 - North Korea's claim that it launched a ballistic missile from a submarine was mostly likely a bluff and the images it released appear photoshopped to overstate the regime's military power, US experts said Tuesday.

Pyongyang state media announced triumphantly on Saturday that a new submarine-launched ballistic missile had been tested successfully, under the personal supervision of the country's leader Kim Jong-Un.

Kim hailed the SLBM test, saying the North had a "world-level strategic weapon."

But US defense officials have privately voiced skepticism that anything resembling a ballistic missile was test-fired. And analysts who closely follow North Korea's weapons programs are not convinced either.

"I have some serious doubts," said author Joseph Bermudez, who has written extensively about Pyongyang's missile program.

The submarine shown by the North Koreans is a prototype that was only recently put into service about six or seven months ago, and it is unlikely the vessel could already be ready to launch a missile, according to Bermudez.

Moreover, satellite photos show a barge near the submarine, which could have served as a platform to fire the missile, Bermudez said at an event organized by 38 North, a website focused on analysis of North Korea.

It is more probable that the test touted by Pyongyang was carried out from the barge, said Bermudez, who has worked as a consultant to the US military.

And as for the images of the alleged missile launch posted by the North Korean news agency, there are details that do not "match up," he said.

The images "show a bring pink shadow in the water, a reflection in the water from the missile launch," he said.

"And normally you would expect to see this if you saw a flame coming from the engine of the missile. However, there is no flame on the picture, just steam and water."

The incompatible details "might suggest that the imagery provided to the public was manipulated or photoshopped in some fashion," he said.

- New missile? -

The missile that appears in photos does not correspond to others in the North's arsenal, indicating that Pyongyang may be trying to develop a new missile to be used on submarines, Bermudez said.

The launch likely involved a prototype missile, built specifically for an ejection test, said Joel Wit, a former US diplomat.

Despite the North's overblown claims, the regime's bid to construct an arsenal of submarine-launched missiles is no joke, said Wit, the co-founder of the 38 North site.

Pyongyang is determined to build an eventual sea-based arsenal, but the regime has presented it as more advanced than it really is, he said.

A North Korean fleet of submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles represents a strategic nightmare for the United States and its Asian allies. It would transform the danger posed by the North, allowing it to carry out a nuclear strike from distant locations or to retaliate in the event of a nuclear conflagration.

Apart from its submarine-based efforts, Pyongyang has already conducted three nuclear tests and is working to place atomic warheads on missiles.

Shortly after the Cold War, North Korea purchased submarine missile technology from Moscow and has tried to reverse-engineer old Russian subs to construct a launch system, according to John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who has written about Pyongyang's missile work.

If it could muster enough money and receive badly needed outside technological help, North Korea might be able to develop submarine-launched missiles by 2020, Wit said.

Even in that scenario, the weapons would not pose a risk to the United States but to neighboring countries such as South Korea or Japan, because Pyongyang has yet to successfully build a long-rang ballistic missile that could reach American territory.

Wit said those submarines "would be more of a regional threat."

If the North attempted to deploy subs near the US coast, the vessels would be easily countered by sophisticated American anti-submarine radar and weapons.

"I wouldn't want to be on one of those subs, because I don't think they could get even close," said Wit.

 

 

Three dead after S. Korean reservist goes on rampage

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:17:34 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 13, 2015 - A South Korean reservist went on a shooting spree that left two comrades dead and two others wounded on Wednesday before shooting himself dead, as Amnesty International urged Seoul to rethink mandatory military service.

The unidentified reservist opened fire on his fellow soldiers with his rifle during shooting practice at a military training camp in southern Seoul before turning the gun on himself, a defence ministry spokesman said.

"The man killed himself on the spot following the shooting spree," the spokesman told AFP.

"The exact reason is still not clear, but our initial investigation found the incident appeared to be related to a personal matter," he added.

According to the Yonhap news agency, "Gangnam Style" singer Psy, who is also a reservist, had been at the same training camp performing his mandatory military duty and left just 20 minutes before the shooting.

The shooter killed two reservists and left two others wounded, Yonhap reported, citing an army spokesman.

In a suicide note found in his pocket, the reservist complained that life was meaningless and said he had suffered during his military training, according to Yonhap.

"Tomorrow, I will do shooting practice... I am becoming obsessed with thinking that I want to kill them all and I want to die," the note read.

Every able-bodied South Korean male between the ages of 18 and 35 is required to serve two years in the military.

Upon completion, they must serve in the reserve forces for eight more years, with a maximum of 160 hours of duty per year.

Apart from those with physical disabilities, exemptions are rare and anyone refusing to serve -- for moral or religious reasons -- faces an automatic jail term.

- Jailing 'Refuseniks' -

Wednesday's shooting came as Amnesty International released a report calling on South Korea to release hundreds of young men jailed for refusing conscription, and urging Seoul to offer alternatives to serving in the military.

Most prominent among the "refuseniks" are Jehovah's Witnesses, some 12,000 of whom have been jailed over the past six decades.

Amnesty said the stigma attached to conscientious objectors meant many faced economic and social disadvantages that lasted far beyond the typical 18-month jail term.

"For the South Korean government to condemn innocent young men as criminals is a scandal and a violation of their rights," said Hiroka Shoji, the watchdog's East Asia researcher.

"The jailing of conscientious objectors does not make South Korea any safer, it only serves to stigmatise and crush the aspirations of young men who had bright futures."

The main rationale for military service is the threat posed by North Korea, given that the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

For many the policy of conscription is an unwanted and deeply resented intrusion that interferes with studies or nascent careers and serves no discernible purpose, especially in a rapidly ageing society where the size of the workforce is dwindling by the year.

The vast majority, however unwillingly, buckle down, knowing that refusal means a criminal record that precludes any future job with the government or a major corporation.

But the Jehovah's Witnesses and a few others opt for jail, citing their moral opposition to bearing arms.

- 'Prisoners of conscience' -

Amnesty -- while not calling for an end to conscription -- said the government should provide options.

"The government is failing these young men, their families and society. There are genuine alternatives to military service that the authorities can and must provide," said Shoji.

"These men are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released."

The South Korean armed forces rely heavily on the military service system, with draftees accounting for the lion's share of its 690,000 active personnel.

Wednesday's shooting incident underlined the pressures many conscripts and reservists feel, and is just the latest in a series of similar incidents involving suicides and young men turning their guns on other members of their unit.

Military service in South Korea can involve genuine combat duty, often along the border with North Korea, which former US president Bill Clinton once described as the "scariest place on earth".

In 2007, the defence ministry announced plans to introduce alternative service for conscientious objectors by 2009.

However, following the 2008 presidential election, the government announced the plans had been put on hold indefinitely, citing a lack of public support.

 

 

Iran nuclear talks resume as Tehran expresses hope over deal

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) May 12, 2015 - Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi said on Tuesday he was "very hopeful" that an accord on Tehran's nuclear programme could be reached with world powers ahead of the June 30 deadline.

"Different elements inside and outside of the negotiation chamber can prevent a deal but despite all of this, we will continue the negotiations and we are very hopeful that we can reach a deal before the deadline," he said at the start of a new round of talks in Vienna.

Negotiators in the Austrian capital were trying to reach a "single agreed text" and resolve any outstanding issues, he added.

Araghchi, who is Iran's deputy foreign minister, and his colleague Majid Takht are meeting European Union negotiator Helga Schmid behind closed doors at the Palais Cobourg.

Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by the end of June.

The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of punishing economic sanctions imposed on Tehran since 2006.

A US delegation led by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to join the Vienna talks on Wednesday. Political leaders of the remaining world powers involved in the negotiations will follow on Friday.

However, negotiations have been rendered more difficult after the US Senate passed legislation on May 8 giving Congress the right to review and perhaps even reject any nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

Iranian officials said the vote was part of a "psychological war" against Tehran's negotiators.

 

 

S. Korea's Park says North's sub missile threatens stability

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 12, 2015 - South Korean President Park Geun-Hye warned Monday that North Korea's recent submarine-launched ballistic missile test posed a "serious challenge" to regional stability and vowed a strong military response to any provocation from Pyongyang.

Pyongyang's state media announced Saturday that a new SLBM had been successfully tested under the personal supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who described it as a "world-level strategic weapon".

The test rang alarm bells in Seoul because a fully developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

Pyongyang's development of an SLBM "is a serious challenge to stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia," Park told a specially-convened meeting of senior ministers and security advisers.

South Korean troops will retaliate "sternly" in the event of any provocation by North Korea, especially near the disputed Yellow Sea border, a statement from the presidential Blue House quoted her as saying.

The North Korean test was widely believed to have been an ejection test -- with the missile only travelling a few hundred metres -- rather than a full flight test, and South Korea's initial assessment was that the North was still in the "early phase" of development.

But an unnamed defence official later said the North could have a functioning submarine armed with ballistic missiles in two to three years, with operational field deployment one or two years after that.

The North followed up the SLBM launch by test firing three anti-ship cruise missiles on Saturday.

Pyongyang has threatened to fire on sight at South Korean navy patrol boats it accuses of routinely entering its territorial waters in the Yellow Sea.

Seoul has denied any incursions.

 

 

US team heads to new round of Iran nuclear talks Wednesday

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 11, 2015 - Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman will lead a US delegation to Vienna May 13 to join the next round of negotiations on finalizing an Iran nuclear accord, the State Department said Monday.

The American team, which includes a representative of President Barack Obama's National Security Council and experts on arms control, non-proliferation, economic sanctions and energy, departs Wednesday.

The European Union and Tehran said in a statement last week that the crunch talks aimed at hammering out a final deal by a self-imposed deadline of June 30 were to resume Tuesday in the Austrian capital.

The EU negotiator Helga Schmid and her Iranian counterparts would kick off the talks, with political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations joining in on May 15, the statement said.

The so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- is conducting the sensitive negotiations aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for an easing of punishing economic sanctions.

 

 

US skeptical of N.Korea test launch claim: officials

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 11, 2015 - North Korea did not test fire a ballistic missile from a submarine as Pyongyang claimed over the weekend and the country is still a long way from achieving such a capability, US officials said Monday.

The North's state media said on Saturday that a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) had been tested but US officials rejected the regime's account.

"That was not a ballistic missile," a defense official told AFP.

The official played down the test, saying it did not represent a technical breakthrough for the North.

"They are trying to develop that capability," but there was no "imminent" threat of a submarine-launched missile arsenal coming on line in North Korea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pyongyang's state media said North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un touted the test as an "eye-opening success" that gives his military a "world-level strategic weapon."

The precise nature of the launch remained unclear. Some analysts suggested the missile might have travelled only a few hundred meters, and that the event did not qualify as a full flight test.

South Korea called on North Korea to halt the program and assessed Pyongyang was still in the "early phase" of developing submarine-launched missiles.

But a defense official in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the North could have a fully operational submarine armed with ballistic missiles within four or five years.

Experts say North Korea bought submarine missile technology from Russia shortly after the end of the Cold War, and has tried to reverse-engineer old Russian subs to build a launch system.

"We don't expect them to develop a highly capable system anywhere remotely similar to our ballistic missiles on submarines, but if they can put a missile on a submarine, even a short to medium-range missile, then that would obviously complicate our effort to track their missiles," John Schilling, an aerospace technology expert, said at a conference in Washington last week.

North Korea is still years away from building long-range missiles that could be fired from subs, according to a recent report by Schilling, who used to advise the US Air Force and now works for the Aerospace Corporation.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the test, saying the US government could not discuss "intelligence matters."

"Any type of launch of this nature would violate at least four UN Security Council resolutions. And it's another example of North Korea's unwillingness to play by the international rules," spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.

 

 

N. Korea says test-fired submarine-launched ballistic missile

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 9, 2015 - North Korea said Saturday it had successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) -- a technology that could eventually offer the nuclear-armed state a survivable second-strike capability.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who personally oversaw the test, hailed the newly developed missile as a "world-level strategic weapon", according to a report by the official KCNA news agency.

Adding further fuel to inter-Korean tensions, South Korea's military said it had detected the separate test-firing by the North on Saturday of three anti-ship cruise missiles off its northeast coast.

Pyongyang has issued three warnings over the past week that it will fire on sight at South Korean navy patrol boats it accuses of violating the disputed Yellow Sea border on the west side of the divided peninsula.

Seoul has denied any incursions and vowed to retaliate "sternly" to any provocation.

There was no immediate independent confirmation of the SLBM test, which would violate UN sanctions banning Pyongyang from using ballistic missile technology.

- New-level threat -

A fully-developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

Satellite images earlier this year had shown the conning tower of a new North Korean submarine, which US analysts said appeared to house one or two vertical launch tubes for either ballistic or cruise missiles.

The same analysts from the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said at the time that developing an operational SLBM capability would be extremely costly and likely take North Korea "years" to achieve.

"If this is what North Korea claims it is, then it has come much sooner than anyone expected," said Dan Pinkston, Korea expert at the International Crisis Group in Seoul.

"An SLBM capability would certainly increase the credibility of the North's retaliatory threat, but I'd like to see what foreign intel says about this test," Pinkston said.

According to the KCNA report, the test was carried out by a sub that dived to launch depth on the sounding of a combat alarm.

- Missile 'soared' into sky -

"After a while, the ballistic missile soared into the sky from underwater," the agency said.

It gave no detail of the size or range, nor did it specify when or where the launch was carried out.

Pictures released by KCNA showed a missile firing out of the water, with Kim Jong-Un watching from a boat in the foreground.

Red lettering on the side of the missile read "bukgeungsong," meaning "north star," or possibly "polaris".

North Korea has been known to doctor military photos, and the validity of the KCNA pictures could not immediately be verified.

The agency quoted Kim as saying the Korean military now possessed a "world-level strategic weapon capable of striking and wiping out in any waters the hostile forces infringing upon (North Korea's) sovereignty and dignity."

The test was an "eye-opening success" on a par with North Korea's successful launch of a satellite into orbit in 2012, Kim said.

The satellite launch was condemned by the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test and resulted in a tightening of UN sanctions.

- Expert opinion divided -

While there is no doubt that the North has been running an active ballistic missile development programme, expert opinion is split on just how much progress it has made.

The North has yet to conduct a test showing it has mastered the re-entry technology required for an effective intercontinental ballistic missile.

There are also competing opinions on whether the North has the ability to miniaturise a nuclear device that would fit onto a delivery missile.

North Korea's small submarine fleet is comprised of largely obsolete Soviet-era and modified Chinese vessels, but suggestions that it was experimenting with a marine-based missile system have been around for a while.

The South Korean defence ministry cited intelligence reports last September that Pyongyang was understood to be developing a vertical missile launch tube for submarine use.

Ministry officials said the North's 3,000-ton Golf-class submarine could be modified to fire medium-range ballistic missiles.

 

 

N. Korea slams 'rubbish' US claims over space programme

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 8, 2015 - North Korea on Friday slammed US allegations that its space research is essentially a disguised ballistic missile programme, and vowed to send more satellites into orbit in defiance of UN sanctions.

Dismissing the "litany of rubbish" put out by the US "barking dogs," the North's National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) said it would push forward with a robust space launch agenda.

Coming just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un called for more satellite deployments, the NADA statement will fuel speculation that the nuclear-armed North is planning a long-range rocket launch in the coming months.

North Korea successfully put a satellite into orbit with its Unha-3 carrier in December 2012.

That launch was condemned by the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test and resulted in a tightening of UN sanctions.

"No one... should any longer misinterpret the entirely just space development of (North Korea) and float wild rumours about it," the NADA statement said.

"No matter who dares grumble and no matter how all hostile forces challenge the launch, (our) satellites... will soar into space one after another at the time and place designated and decided by the supreme leadership," it added.

Satellite analysis has shown a major construction programme underway at North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launching Station since mid-2013, focused on upgrading facilities to handle larger, longer-range rockets with heavier payloads.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University believes the completed upgrade would allow the Sohae site to handle rockets of up to 50 metres (165 feet) in length -- almost 70 percent longer than the Unha-3.

But such a rocket is still believed to be several years from becoming operational, meaning a repeat Unha-3 launch would be more likely in the short-term.

The 2012 satellite launch was seen as a major step forward for the North's nuclear weapons programme, as long-range missile delivery capability had long been cited as its main weakness.

There is little doubt that the North has an active ballistic missile development programme, but expert opinion is split on just how much progress it has made.

The North has yet to conduct a test showing it has mastered the re-entry technology required for an effective intercontinental ballistic missile.

 

 

US Senate vote aims to pressure nuclear talks team: Iran

 
‎14 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:50 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 8, 2015 - The US vote giving Congress the right to review any nuclear deal with Iran is part of a "psychological war" against Tehran's negotiators, an Iranian official said on Friday.

"Americans in this game have given Congress this role to overview the agreement so in the talks they can pressure our nuclear negotiating team," said Esmail Kosari, a member of parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee, quoted by Fars news agency.

With an agreement targeted by the end of next month, "they have no choice but to lift the sanctions, they create this new game by Congress to wage a psychological war," he said.

The US Senate on Thursday passed legislation giving Congress the right to review and perhaps even reject any nuclear deal between world powers and Iran.

The new law comes amid intense negotiations on a deal intended to prevent Tehran's development of a nuclear weapon in exchange for lifting of economic sanctions.

Negotiations seeking a definitive accord on Iran's nuclear programme are to resume on Tuesday in the Austrian capital.

Iran and the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- aim to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.

The Islamic republic's conservative-dominated parliament is also working on legislation giving it the right to ratify any nuclear deal struck with world powers.

 

 

Iran leader tells nuclear team to avoid 'humiliation'

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 6, 2015 - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday instructed his country's negotiators to steer clear of "humiliation" in nuclear talks with world powers that resume next week in Vienna.

"The negotiators must respect the red lines and tolerate neither pressure nor humiliation, or threats," he said in a speech to teachers carried on his website.

"It is unacceptable for the other side to make threats while negotiations are taking place. What use is negotiation in the shadow of threats?" Khamenei asked.

Negotiations seeking a definitive accord on Iran's nuclear programme are to resume on May 12 in the Austrian capital, the European Union and Tehran said Tuesday.

Iran and the P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.

"What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end," Khamenei, who has the final word on all policy matters in Iran, said a week after the preliminary deal.

Khamenei wants punitive international sanctions lifted without Iran having to abandon uranium enrichment for its nuclear programme.

 

 

North Korea Unveils New Satellite Control Center

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) May 05, 2015 - North Korea will continue developing space technology despite international sanctions, the country's leader Kim Jong-un said when visiting a newly-built satellite command and control center earlier this week.

"Peaceful space development is an option taken by our Party and people and a legitimate right of [this country]," Kim said while touring the center of the National Aerospace Development Administration.

"The status of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as a satellite producer-launcher remains unchanged though the hostile forces deny it and its space development can never be abandoned, no matter who may oppose," South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted Kim as saying.

North Korea will continue its efforts to emerge as "a space power", Kim Jong-un said, stressing the need to "provide more cutting-edge facilities for the center, build a base in which satellite test can be done in the same circumstances with outer space and erect something symbolic of the center."

The new center is equipped with advanced technology and will provide a springboard for the launch of various new satellites, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

In 2012 North Korea launched a satellite into orbit after a number of botched attempts.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran nuclear talks to resume May 12 in Vienna: EU

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) May 5, 2015 - Negotiations seeking a definitive accord on Iran's nuclear programme will resume on May 12 in Vienna, the European Union and Tehran said Tuesday.

EU negotiator Helga Schmid and her Iranian counterparts Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi "will resume their work on 12 May in Vienna," the EU diplomatic service said in a statement.

The political leaders of the other world powers involved in the negotiations will join the talks on May 15, the statement said.

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, speaking on state television in Tehran, confirmed the plans.

"We will resume negotiations next Tuesday up to Friday when the G5+1 (global powers) will join us and we will arrive at some conclusions," said Araghchi, who is part of an Iranian tean currently taking part in expert-level talks in New York, on the margins of a UN disarmament summit.

Iran and the G5+1 -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.

US top diplomat John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York on Monday hoping to push forward the tough nuclear negotiations as they reach the final phase.

Lower-level negotiations resumed last week in Vienna after the April 2 breakthrough in Lausanne, but little has trickled out about the discussions.

Under the agreed parameters, Iran, which denies seeking the atomic bomb, is set to scale down its nuclear programme for 10 to 15 years or more, and allow closer UN inspections.

The exact details of how this will work, in particular the scale and timeframe under which the powers will lift painful sanctions slapped on the Islamic republic, still need to be nailed down.

 

 

N. Korea's Kim vows more satellite launches

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) May 3, 2015 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un vowed to launch more "satellites" in order to become a space power, state media said Sunday, despite global condemnation on past launches, dubbed disguised ballistic missile tests.

Kim, during a visit to the North's newly-built satellite command centre, urged scientists to work harder to "further glorify the (North) as a space power," state-run KCNA said.

"The status of the (North) as a satellite producer-launcher remains unchanged though the hostile forces deny it and its space development can never be abandoned, no matter who may oppose," Kim was quoted as saying.

The new, 13,770 square-metre command centre will provide a "solid springboard for continued launch of various working satellites," the KCNA said.

More satellites will be launched into outer space at the time and locations set by the ruling Workers' Party, Kim said, adding that such projects are "legitimate rights" of the country.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed North in December 2012 launched a satellite into orbit, describing it as a purely peaceful scientific project.

But the UN condemned the move as a disguised ballistic missile test, banned under the UN resolutions triggered by its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Pyongyang, angered by fresh UN sanctions following the launch, conducted its third nuclear test -- its most powerful to date -- in February 2013.

The 2012 satellite launch was seen as a major step forward for the North's nuclear weapons programme, as long-range missile delivery capability had long been cited as its main weakness.

There is little doubt that the North has an active ballistic missile development programme, but expert opinion is split on just how much progress it has made.

Analysts say development of a working, long-range missile capable of reaching the US would mean the North's regular nuclear strike warnings would be taken more seriously.

But the country is yet to conduct a test showing it has mastered the technology required for an effective intercontinental ballistic missile.

 

 

Iran determined to end 'manufactured' nuclear crisis

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) May 4, 2015 - Iran is determined to end the "manufactured crisis" over its nuclear programme and drafting of a final deal with world powers, though hard, is progressing, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday.

The remarks, on Zarif's official Twitter account, came two days after US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced what he said was "hysteria" from opponents of an agreement, which is due by June 30.

Zarif, Kerry and other diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 world powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) say the deal would guarantee Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful.

"Drafting #IranDeal is moving forward. Hard work, and many brackets, remain. Determined to end this manufactured crisis & open new horizons," Zarif tweeted.

Iran has long asserted its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes and that international concern about it seeking a nuclear bomb is misplaced.

An outline agreement between Iran and the P5+1 reached on April 2 in Switzerland after marathon talks met with fierce opposition from US Republicans who say it would threaten America's security.

But Zarif told an audience at New York University last week that Iran is willing to submit to the highest level of international transparency and wants to conclude a final accord as soon as possible.

If fully implemented, a deal would see Iran dramatically scale back its nuclear activities for at least 10 years along with other curbs in exchange for the lifting of UN, EU and US sanctions.

Iran's post-deal nuclear activities would be subject to the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated," US President Barack Obama has said.

However, there remains strong opposition in the US Congress and there are opponents in Tehran also who say Iran has already given up too much in the negotiations.

On April 15, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Israel's arch-foe Iran to Nazi Germany, and suggested that the lessons of World War II had not been learned.

 

 

Kerry denounces 'hysteria' over Iran nuclear deal

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 2, 2015 - US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday denounced what he called "hysteria" over a final nuclear accord being discussed between world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

"There's a lot of hysteria about this deal. People really need to look at the facts, and they need to look at the science behind those facts," Kerry told Israel's privately run Channel 10 Television in an interview.

Kerry said a final agreement due to be agreed by June 30 provides indefinite access to Iranian nuclear facilities.

"We will have inspectors in there every single day. That's not a 10-year deal. That's for ever. There have to be inspections," he said.

"I say it again. We will not sign a deal that does not close off Iran's pathways to a bomb and that doesn't give us the confidence to all of our experts and global experts, that we will be able to know what Iran is doing and prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon."

On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told an audience at New York University that Tehran is willing to submit to the highest level of international transparency on its nuclear programme and wants to conclude a final accord as soon as possible.

If fully implemented, a deal will see Iran dramatically scale back its nuclear activities and submit those that remain to what US President Barack Obama has described the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated".

In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the republic of 75 million people major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.

On April 15, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Israel's arch-foe Iran to Nazi Germany, and suggested that the lessons of World War II had not been learned.

 

 

Britain tells UN Iran trying to buy nuclear technology

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 30, 2015 - Iran is actively trying to buy nuclear technology through blacklisted companies, according to a confidential UN report, citing information from the British government.

The claims -- which if true would violate UN sanctions -- were made to a UN panel of experts just weeks after world powers reached a framework deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program.

"The UK government informed the panel on the 20 April 2015 that it 'is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran's Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)'," the report, seen by AFP, said.

"Given the late communication, the panel could not independently investigate the above information."

The United Nations has slapped a series of sanctions on Iran over its failure to address international concerns about its nuclear program and suspicions that it could have military purposes.

KEC is on a UN list of blacklisted Iranian companies for its ties to the nuclear program.

The report was presented to the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee on April 21, just as negotiators from the P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany - began work on finalizing the nuclear deal.

The panel noted that overall there had been few reported violations of UN sanctions.

"It might be linked, inter alia, to a decrease in the Islamic Republic of Iran's prohibited activities and restraint on the part of member-states so as not to affect the negotiations process" for the nuclear deal, the report said.

World powers have set June 30 as the deadline for finalizing the agreement that would end one of the most vexing disputes in international diplomacy and could open the door to revamping relations with Iran.

 

 

Signs N. Korea nuclear reactor operational: US think-tank

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) April 30, 2015 - Recent satellite images suggest the nuclear reactor seen as North Korea's main source of weapons-grade plutonium may have resumed low-power or intermittent operations, a US think-tank said Thursday.

Last year, the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said the five-megawatt reactor at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex appeared to have been shut down -- possibly for renovations.

But satellite pictures taken over the winter period showed several "signatures" of low-level activity, including irregular snow melting patterns on the reactor and turbine buildings, ISIS said in a fresh analysis.

The think-tank also highlighted images of a weak stream of warm water being evacuated from the reactor's discharge pipeline, as well as what appeared to be steam rising from the turbine building.

While the images "do not show clear evidence that the reactor has resumed full power operation", ISIS said they did suggest the reactor "may be operating at low power or operating intermittently".

North Korea mothballed the Yongbyon reactor in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, but began renovating it after its last nuclear test in 2013.

When fully operational, the reactor is capable of producing around six kilos (13 pounds) of plutonium a year -- enough for one nuclear bomb, experts say.

North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and there is growing concern that Pyongyang is moving faster down the path towards a credible nuclear deterrent than previously thought.

A recent report by US researchers warned that North Korea appeared poised to expand its nuclear programme over the next five years and, in a worst case scenario, could possess 100 atomic arms by 2020.

And earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese nuclear experts believed the North may already have a nuclear arsenal of 20 warheads and the uranium enrichment capacity to double that figure by next year.

 

 

Iran to release seized Maersk vessel after 'debt settled'

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Copenhagen (AFP) April 30, 2015 - Iran will release a cargo vessel chartered by Danish shipping group A.P. Moeller-Maersk as soon as the company settles a debt stemming from a long-running business dispute, the Iranian embassy in Denmark said Thursday.

"Iranian authorities reiterate that there has been absolutely no political or security intentions or considerations behind the incident," the statement said.

"The seizure of the ship was solely an enforcement of a judicial court ruling resulting from a commercial dispute between two private parties," it added.

Maersk said it was told by the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organisation at a meeting Wednesday that an Iranian court had ordered it to pay $3.6 million (3.2 million euros) in compensation in the case.

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards seized the Maersk Tigris on Tuesday in the strategic and highly militarised Strait of Hormuz with 24 crew members aboard.

According to Iranian state TV the crew members are from Bulgaria, Myanmar, Romania and Britain. The Iranian embassy said diplomats can visit the crew "in case of need or request."

"Naturally the ship will be released after settlement of debts by Maersk Shipping Line and will be allowed to sail to its final destination," the Iranian statement said.

Maersk on Thursday urged Iran to release the crew and vessel, saying: "The crew is not employed by Maersk Line, nor is the vessel owned by Maersk Line."

The Marshall Islands-flagged vessel was operated by Rickmers Ship Management and was carrying cargo for Maersk Line.

The shipping giant said it had been told by the Iranian Ports and Maritime Organisation that the seizure was linked to the loss of 10 containers it had shipped to Dubai for an Iranian company in January 2005.

"The containers were never collected by the consignee or any other party. After 90 days and in accordance with United Arab Emirates law, the cargo was disposed of by (the) authorities," Maersk said.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that Iran's Revolutionary Guards had "harassed" a US-flagged commercial ship last week in the Gulf, raising security concerns over shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of global marine oil traffic passes.

 

 

Iran harassed a US-flagged cargo ship last week: US

 
‎07 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎04:14:53 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 29, 2015 - Iran's Revolutionary Guards "harassed" a US-flagged commercial ship last week in the Gulf, days before seizing control of another cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

The two incidents over a five-day period raised concerns about the security of shipping lanes in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

"It's difficult to know exactly why the Iranians are behaving this way," Warren said.

"We call on them to respect all of the internationally established rules of freedom of navigation, the law of the sea to which they are a signatory and other established protocols," he said.

In the April 24 incident, four Iranian patrol boats with the country's elite Revolutionary Guards "harassed a US-flagged merchant ship called the Maersk Kensington" as it moved along an established shipping route, he said.

The Iranian vessels "followed her for approximately 15 to 20 minutes in actions the ship master of the Kensington interpreted as aggressive," he said.

The American military was not involved in the incident and the Kensington's captain later filed a report with the US Navy describing the event.

On Tuesday, Iranian boats forced a Marshall Islands-flagged ship, the Maersk Tigris, to Iran's Larak Island after firing warning shots across the bow and boarding the vessel.

Iran has said it seized control of the container ship due to a commercial dispute with Denmark's giant Maersk group, which chartered the vessel to ferry cargo in the region. When it was intercepted, the Tigris was traveling on an international shipping route within Iran's territorial waters.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking at New York University, said a lawsuit was filed against the ship's owners between 15 and 16 years ago over undelivered cargo.

'Keeping an eye on things'
The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Farragut, and a P-3 surveillance aircraft to the area to monitor the Maersk Tigris.

"What they are doing is keeping an eye on things. They are in close enough proximity to the Maersk Tigris that they will be able to respond if a response is required," Warren said.

As the US government had defense and other ties with the Marshall Islands, US officials were "in discussion with the Marshall Islands on the way ahead," he said, without elaborating.

But US officials said privately no military action was imminent.

The maritime incidents coincided with rising tensions in the region over the conflict in Yemen, with a Saudi-led coalition carrying out bombing raids on Iranian-backed Huthi rebels.

The United States is providing intelligence and other logistical help to the Saudis and their partners in the coalition.

Danish shipping group A.P. Moeller-Maersk said Wednesday that the crew of the Tigris cargo vessel was "safe."

The vessel was operated by Rickmers Ship Management, with head offices in Singapore and Hamburg, and was carrying cargo for the Maersk Line, the Danish group's shipping unit which had chartered the ship.

 

 

Iran willing to submit to 'highest' transparency: FM

 
‎03 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:50:37 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) April 29, 2015 - Iran is willing to submit to the highest level of international transparency on its nuclear program and wants to conclude a final accord as soon as possible, its foreign minister said Wednesday.

"The (UN nuclear agency) IAEA has seen everything and if you're looking for a smoking gun, you've got to wait a long, long, long time before you get one," Mohammad Javad Zarif told an audience at New York University.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have begun drafting a final nuclear accord due by June 30.

The agreement is intended to ensure the wholly peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of a raft of international sanctions imposed since 2006.

Tehran is ready to accept the "highest level of international transparency" available to members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said Zarif.

"Iran is prepared, within an agreement, to accept the additional protocol and I think with that you will have all the transparency that you need."

If fully implemented, a deal will see Iran dramatically scale back its nuclear activities and submit those that remain to what US President Barack Obama has described the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated."

In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the republic of 75 million people major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.

About the June 30 deadline, Zarif said: "No time deadline is sacrosanct."

"We want to finish this way before June 30," the minister said.

"We want to use every opportunity, including working around the clock starting next Monday, starting tomorrow actually here in New York, and then next Monday somewhere in Europe, to finalize all the elements."

Iran has fulfilled every detail of its undertaking, Zarif said, since an interim agreement in November 2013 eased the sanctions regime. But he criticized the United States for not doing the same.

"There is a lot to be desired in the way the United States, particularly the Treasury Department, has implemented its part," Zarif said.

"There were many incidents in which I took the heat when there was an apparent American, at least lack of good faith, in implementing its part of the deal when they increased or added new entities to the previous sanctions or similar measures."

An outline nuclear agreement reached on April 2 between Iran and six world powers, met with fierce opposition from US Republicans who say it would threaten America's security.

Obama called the agreement a "historic understanding" but Iran is concerned that the US Congress could introduce a bill to block a final accord.

 

 

North Korea May Possess 20 Nuclear Warheads

 
‎03 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:50:37 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Apr 30, 2015 - Pyongyang may have accumulated some 20 nuclear warheads with the capability of doubling its potential by 2016, according to the latest expert estimates.

The figures, sounded by Chinese nuclear experts during a closed meeting with US colleagues, exceed previous US estimations ranging from 10 to 16 nuclear bombs, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing sources briefed on the issue.

"They [Chinese experts] believe on the basis of what they've put together now that the North Koreans have enough enriched uranium capacity to be able to make eight to 10 bombs' worth of highly enriched uranium per year," Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who attended the meeting in February, said as quoted by the newspaper.

Earlier this month, head of US Northern Command Admiral William Gortney told reporters that North Korea may be capable of placing a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could reach the United States.

North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005 and has conducted a series of underground nuclear weapon tests in the subsequent years. Pyongyang's nuclear program has triggered protests from the international community.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

No Deal: Intel Can't Sell Chips to China Over US Nuclear Fears

 
‎03 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:50:37 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Apr 12, 2015 - The US has banned Intel from selling China chips it requires to update its Tianhe-2 supercomputer - the world's largest - over concerns that it will be used for "nuclear explosive activities."

The Tianhe-2 can perform a quadrillion mathematical calculations per second and though most of the technology is domestically developed, it uses tens of thousands of Intel's Xeon and Xeon Phi processors.

Intel has been selling the chips to China for years but in August the US Department of Commerce told Intel they would need to apply for and be granted an export license to continue shipping chips.

"Intel complied with the notification and applied for the licence, which was denied. We are in compliance with the US law," the chip maker said in a statement to the IDG new service.

In February the US placed 4 institutions with supercomputers on a list blocking them from receiving certain US exports. Those included China's National University of Defense Technology, as well as the National Supercomputing Center of Guangzhou, home of the Tianhe-2 and the Tianhe-1a.

The notice from the Commerce Department announcing the denial of the export permit said the institutions in question were "acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

The US export regulations cited apply to technologies that could be used for the "design, development, or fabrication of nuclear weapons." It's not clear if the US government has definite proof that these computers are being used for nuclear weapons research but the regulations require that officials have "more than positive knowledge" that the processors would be used - either directly or indirectly - in the development of nuclear weapons programs.

The ban could be yet another push for China to develop its own tech industry. Both US and Chinese regulations that stem from suspicions of spying have led China to rely more on its domestic industry. Strict Chinese banking regulations with requirements for information sharing that made US tech companies balk already pushed more of the financial tech market back into Chinese hands.

US has also had concerns about possible connections between Chinese technology firms and government spying. The US would not allow Huawei Technologies, the largest networking and telecommunications firm in the world, to operate in the US due to concerns over Chinese government spying. And in fact, the leaked NSA documents revealed that the US made efforts to create backdoors into Huawei's systems itself.

Meanwhile, Intel can console itself with its recently awarded contract to supply chips for the US challenge to the Tianhe-2, being developed by the US Department of Energy at the Argonne National Laboratory. The Tianhe-2 boasts a computational capacity of 33.85 petaflops, but Argonne's Aurora supercomputer is slated to have a 180 petaflop capacity.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

Iran's Rouhani warns change coming for 'sanctions busters'

 
‎03 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:50:37 AMGo to full article
Tehran April 28, 2015 - President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that middlemen who have circumvented sanctions will need to "think of another job" as a potential final nuclear deal brings changes to Iran's economy. The remarks, at a ceremony in Tehran ahead of Labour Day on Friday, signalled Rouhani's intent to tackle a black market that has thrived in Iran after official trading routes were cut off. Although sanctions plunged the economy into recession and hurt most of the population, some Iranians have amassed fortunes from smuggling foreign goods from Turkey, Iraq and Gulf states. "Sanctions busters should now think of another job," Rouhani said. "With the final agreement -- which if the other side has serious determination will be possible in the coming months -- production and the economic situation will be much better." Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have begun drafting a final nuclear accord which is due by June 30. The agreement is intended to ensure the wholly peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of a slew of international sanctions imposed since 2006. "To increase production we need... new technology, competent management, investment and the presence of entrepreneurs," he added, stressing the need to attract "domestic and foreign capital". Rouhani had made a similar warning at the same time last year, saying "a small, fringe group is very angry" about sanctions being lifted under a nuclear deal "because they will suffer losses". Since the signing of an interim agreement in November 2013 that eased the sanctions regime, foreign trade delegations have visited Iran with a view to resuming trade after a final agreement. About two dozen American businesspeople visited Tehran last week and a large delegation from Switzerland, the first in 10 years, arrived Sunday for four days of consultations with politicians and economists. Large foreign companies in the oil and automotive industries have also made contacts for a return to Iran if sanctions are lifted. Rouhani in his speech also cited the importance of equality between men and women at work. "There should be no bias between men and women. We should create equal work opportunities," he told Labour Minister Ali Rabii at the event.
 

After Iran deal, world looks to jump-start nuclear disarmament

 
‎03 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎07:50:37 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) April 24, 2015 - Nuclear powers join non-nuclear nations on Monday to launch a conference on non-proliferation, buoyed by the Iran deal but alarmed by slow-moving US-Russian disarmament.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the conference that reviews the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and he may meet on the sidelines to discuss the hard-fought Iran deal with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Work on the framework Iran agreement must be completed by June 30 but it is already earning praise as a potential happy ending to one of the world's most vexing nuclear disputes.

Despite applause for the Iran deal, delegates from more than 150 countries are heading into the month-long conference with a sense of gloom over the lack of progress on disarmament and the deadlocked plan for a nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East.

The United States and Russia have made little headway in cutting their nuclear stockpiles since 2011, and the crisis over Ukraine is stoking distrust, dimming prospects for future cooperation.

"We have a stalling in the path to a nuclear-free world," Angela Kane, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said ahead of the gathering at UN headquarters in New York.

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who chaired the international commission on the NPT, described the state of play as "one of paralysis, of minimal forward-movement and of backsliding."

- Grand bargain -

Reached in 1968, the NPT is seen as a grand bargain between five nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - and non-nuclear states which agreed to give up atomic weapon ambitions in exchange for disarmament pledges.

But 45 years after the NPT entered into force, non-nuclear states are feeling increasingly frustrated and the global consensus on how to move toward a nuclear-free world is under severe strain.

"The nuclear-weapons states are not living up to their side of the bargain," Kane said.

"Right now, the non-nuclear states need to be given the sense that they are taken seriously."

Delegates to the NPT conference are working on an "outcome document" laying out priorities for the next five years, but some diplomats have not ruled out that disagreements could lead to a collapse of the talks.

Pessimism has also focused on Washington's $1 trillion modernization plan for its nuclear forces that is compounding fears that the United States is not seriously working toward reducing its stockpile.

Another point of contention is a proposed nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East that has failed to materialize despite a plan at the last NPT conference to begin talks on the proposal in 2012.

Kane warned that the next five years will be crucial to ensure that the NPT "retains credibility."

She suggested that there be a roadmap with targets that are "not far off in Never-Never-Land" to reassure non-nuclear states that they have signed on to a treaty that is "worthwhile."

As a stark reminder of the horrors of a nuclear attack, a group of aging Hiroshima survivors are traveling to New York to attend the conference and make a personal appeal for action.

 

 

Iran leads calls for Israel to give up nuclear weapons

 
‎28 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:04 PMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Apr 27, 2015 - Iran on Monday led calls by non-aligned nations for Israel to give up its nuclear weapons as a major conference got underway on advancing prospects for a nuclear-free world.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addressed the conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ahead of a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the landmark nuclear deal reached this month.

Zarif insisted that the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is demanding that "Israel, the only one in the region that has neither joined the NPT nor declared its intention to do so, (...) renounce possession of nuclear weapons."

Israel is considered a nuclear-armed state although it has never acknowledged its status and has refused to join the NPT, a treaty that imposes obligations on signatories.

Israel is sending an observer to the month-long NPT conference for the first time in 20 years.

Zarif said non-aligned nations are also seeking "as a matter of high priority" to set up a nuclear-free-weapons zone in the Middle East.

The planned zone was agreed at the previous conference in 2010, but there was no action on the proposal.

Back to the Cold War
The 190 signatories of the NPT opened a month-long conference to review progress over the past five years in reducing the nuclear threat with much of the focus centered on the fate of US and Russian stockpiles.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon implicitly criticized the United States and Russia for failing to advance nuclear disarmament, a setback he said marked a return to a Cold War mindset.

In a speech delivered by his deputy Jan Eliasson, Ban said a nuclear-free world was the "historic imperative of our time."

"I am deeply concerned that over the last five years this process seems to have stalled," the UN leader said.

The secretary-general complained that instead of stepping up nuclear disarmament "there has been a dangerous return to Cold War mentalities."

Since it entered into force in 1970, the world has seen a drastic cut in warheads, but UN officials have raised alarm over the failure to move toward deeper cuts.

The United States and Russia have made little headway in reducing stockpiles since 2011, and the crisis over Ukraine is stoking distrust, dimming prospects for future cooperation.

The NPT is seen as a grand bargain between five nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- and non-nuclear states which agreed to give up atomic weapon ambitions in exchange for disarmament pledges.

Ban said the action plans agreed at the last conference must be implemented, or the NPT "could risk fading in relevance."

 

 

US says learned from N.Korea, Iran nuclear deal 'different'

 
‎28 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:04 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) April 24, 2015 - The United States said Thursday that any deal reached with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions would be "fundamentally different" from a pact sealed with North Korea that later unraveled.

"The restrictions, inspections and verifications measures imposed on Iran by a comprehensive plan of action will go far beyond those placed on North Korea in the 1990s and the 2000s," said acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She was quizzed about reports that Chinese nuclear experts believe North Korea may already have a nuclear arsenal of 20 warheads and the uranium enrichment capacity to double that figure by next year.

The estimate, which The Wall Street Journal said was relayed to US nuclear specialists in a closed-door meeting in February, is significantly higher than any previously known Chinese assessment.

It also exceeds recent estimates by independent US experts which put the North's current arsenal at between 10 and 16 nuclear weapons.

Harf refused to discuss what the US administration estimates Pyongyang's current stockpile of nuclear weapons to be.

But she refuted allegations from critics of the current Iran nuclear negotiations that the situation in North Korea should raise concern.

"The comprehensive deal we are seeking to negotiate with Iran is fundamentally different than what we did in terms of our approach to North Korea," Harf told reporters.

"In the early 1990s, North Korea had produced weapons-grade plutonium prior to agreeing to limited IAEA inspections. After the agreed framework, they agreed to more intrusive inspections; but in 2002, when they finally broke its commitments, its violations were detected by the IAEA."

And she acknowledged that part of the reason for the in-depth, complex technical annexes to an Iran deal was "because of the lessons we learned from the North Korea situation."

International six-party talks aimed at reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program collapsed in 2008.

North Korea carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and has an active ballistic missile development program.

 

 

Iran, world powers seek to finalise nuclear deal

 
‎28 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:04 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) April 23, 2015 - Iran and major powers held a second day of talks Thursday seeking to finalise a historic deal that would make any attempt by Tehran to make a nuclear weapon extremely difficult and easily detectable.

Meeting in Vienna, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany want to turn a framework accord reached in Switzerland on April 2 into a full agreement by June 30.

Iran, which denies wanting the atomic bomb, is set to scale down its nuclear programme for 10 to 15 years or more, depending on the area of activity, and allow closer UN inspections.

The exact details of how this will work in practice, and in particular the scale and timeframe under which the powers will lift painful sanctions, still need to be nailed down, and experts warn it will be a difficult process.

The powers want to retain the ability to "snap back" the sanctions if Iran violates the agreement, and among the issues to be worked out in Vienna are a so-called dispute resolution procedure in case of problems.

The deal, if it can be finalised and made to work, could put an end to a 12-year-old crisis and potentially pave the way for a thawing of US-Iranian ties, although this makes other countries in the Middle East uneasy.

US Republicans and Israel, the volatile region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, fear the mooted accord will be too weak and that when its provisions expire -- at the deal's "sunset" -- Iran will again be on the threshold of getting the bomb.

The talks involved senior EU diplomat Helga Schmid, representing the P5+1 group, and Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, as well as experts from all six powers and Tehran.

Other officials including US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman were due to join the talks later.

 

 

Tricky drafting of Iran nuclear deal begins

 
‎28 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:04 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) April 22, 2015 - Iran and major powers on Wednesday began the difficult process of finalising by June 30 a historic deal putting an Iranian nuclear bomb out of reach, three weeks after agreeing the main outlines.

Following a negotiating marathon in Switzerland, Iran agreed on April 2 to what US President Barack Obama called a "historic understanding... which, if fully implemented, will prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

This will include Iran dramatically scaling back its nuclear activities and submitting those that remain to what Obama described the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated".

In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic republic of 75 million people major economic pain.

The accord, if completed and implemented, would draw to a close a crisis that has been raging since Iran's nuclear activities was first revealed some 12 years ago. It denies wanting the bomb.

It could even potentially see "axis of evil" Iran and the "Great Satan" United States bury the hatchet after 35 years of bitter acrimony -- and at a particularly volatile time in the Middle East.

"With courageous leadership and the audacity to make the right decisions, we can and should put this manufactured crisis to rest and move on to much more important work," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a New York Times op-ed published Monday.

- Experts -

The talks in Vienna on Wednesday, starting the process of drafting the deal, involved senior EU diplomat Helga Schmid, representing the P5+1 group, and Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, as well as legal and technical experts from all six powers and Tehran.

Other officials including US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman were to join later in the week.

The process of fitting together all the interlocking pieces in what will be a fiendishly complex accord is full of potential pitfalls, experts say.

The main problem looks to be the timing of when US and EU economic sanctions related to the nuclear dossier will be lifted.

Araghchi told the official IRNA news agency Wednesday that he was seeking "clear and precise information on the details" of how this will work.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he wants the removal to occur "on the first day of the implementation of the deal".

But Western officials say this will only happen once the UN atomic watchdog has verified that Iran has taken key steps in the agreement such as removing nuclear machinery. Washington says this would take six months to a year.

The powers will also lift all nuclear-related UN Security Council resolutions and replace them with a new text endorsing the deal and retaining some current UN restrictions such as on ballistic missiles.

The six powers want to retain the ability to "snap back" the sanctions if Iran violates the deal.

- Slashing centrifuge numbers -

The details on other key areas also still have to be nailed down.

According to a US fact sheet, Iran will cut the number of uranium centrifuges -- which can make nuclear fuel but also the core of a bomb -- to 6,104 from 19,000 at present. Around 1,000 of these will not enrich uranium.

In addition, Washington says, Iran will shrink its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent. Taken together this will extend the "breakout" time needed to make one bomb's worth of material to at least one year.

Iran has however criticised the fact sheet and a joint statement by Zarif and EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini on April 2 was vague, saying only that Iran's enrichment capacity and stockpile would be "limited".

Other areas that still have to be cleared up include the details of the IAEA's expanded inspections role and the future scope of Iran's research and development of more advanced types of nuclear machinery.

Further complicating matters is the opposition to the mooted deal among hardliners in Iran and Washington, where Republicans -- like Israel -- worry the deal is too weak. Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia are also uneasy.

Araghchi said that he also wanted the US side to "explain" the implications of the approval by a US Senate panel last week of a measure giving Congress input on the final deal, warning this could have "negative consequences".

"The US is part of multilateral negotiations and it is the responsibility of this government to ensure that its obligations, in particular those related to sanctions, will be implemented in full," Araghchi said.

burs-stu/har

New York Times

 

 

Sanctions to dominate fresh nuclear talks: Iran negotiator

 
‎28 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎07:02:04 PMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) April 22, 2015 - Fresh talks aimed at finalising a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers will focus on the lifting of sanctions and possible intervention by US Congress, a top Iranian negotiator said Wednesday.

Iran and the P5+1 group of nations agreed earlier this month to a framework deal aimed at putting a nuclear bomb out of Tehran's reach in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama called the interim agreement a "historic understanding" but Iran is concerned that US Congress could introduce a bill to block a final accord, which must be struck by June 30.

"We will ask the American delegation to explain this issue and will ask for clear and precise information on the details regarding the removal of sanctions," deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told the official IRNA news agency.

He warned that intervention by Congress could have "negative consequences" on the nuclear talks, which were set to resume in Vienna on Wednesday.

"The US is part of multilateral negotiations and it is the responsibility of this government to ensure that its obligations, in particular those related to sanctions, will be implemented in full," Araghchi said.

If fully implemented, a deal will see Iran dramatically scaling back its nuclear activities and submitting those that remain to what Obama described the "most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated".

In return, the United States and five other major powers committed to lift certain sanctions that have caused the Islamic republic of 75 million people major economic pain by strangling its oil exports and financial system.

The accord, if completed and implemented, would draw to a close a crisis that has been steadily and dangerously escalating since Iran's nuclear programme was first revealed some 12 years ago.

Araghchi, who is leading the Iranian delegation, said that "the lifting of sanctions should not be linked to conditions unrelated" to Tehran's nuclear activities, such as its ballistic missile programme.

Iran, subject to international economic penalties since 2006, wants complete sanctions relief once a deal is struck.

But world powers insist this shall only occur once the nuclear inspectors confirm that Iran is keeping its side of the bargain.

Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Wednesday that there was a "possibility of changes in the terms" of the framework agreement thrashed out in Lausanne.

"If there were not going to be changes, it would be pointless to continue the negotiations," she told reporters in Tehran.

Final Iran nuclear deal: tough issues still to crack
Vienna (AFP) April 22, 2015 - Negotiators working to a June 30 deadline were on Wednesday set to begin finalising a historic nuclear deal curtailing Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for lifting painful international sanctions.

If completed and implemented successfully, the accord would make any attempt by Iran to make a nuclear weapon -- which it denies wanting to do -- extremely difficult and easily detectable.

Despite Iran and six major powers having agreed on April 2 the main outlines of the accord in Lausanne, Switzerland, there are several potential problem areas to resolve in what will be a highly complex agreement:

- Sanctions -

The United States and European Union have committed to suspending economic sanctions they have imposed on Iran, although officials say that they will "snap back" into place if Iran violates the deal.

All past UN Security Council resolutions on the nuclear issue will be lifted and replaced by a new text endorsing the final deal and incorporating some UN sanctions such as those on conventional arms, missiles and asset freezes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said a week after the Lausanne breakthrough that Iran would not sign a final agreement unless "all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day".

But Western officials say that they suspension will only happen once the UN atomic agency confirms Iran has taken the key nuclear-related steps under the deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said this would take six to 12 months.

- Numbers, timeframe -

According to a US fact sheet, Iran has committed to slashing the number of centrifuges enriching uranium -- which can render it suitable for power generation but also for a bomb -- to 5,060 from 19,000 at present, and for 10 years.

An additional 1,044 centrifuges will remain at the Fordo facility -- which is built into a mountain -- but for 15 years these will be used for purposes other than uranium enrichment, the US says.

The same document says that Iran will reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium -- enough for several bombs if further processed -- from 10,000 kilogrammes (22,000 pounds) to 300 kg, and not to expand it for 15 years.

Iran has however called the fact sheet a "mixture of facts and lies", and an April 2 joint statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was much vaguer.

They said only that "Iran's enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile will be limited for specified durations". This may mean that the exact scope of the downsizing and the timeframe are yet to be nailed down.

The statement did concur however that the Fordo site will no longer be used for enrichment and that a new reactor being built at Arak would be redesigned so that it does not produce weapons-grade plutonium.

- Inspections -

Iran and the six powers also need to work out the details of additional inspection work that the UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, would conduct under the final deal.

According to the US, this will include "new transparency and inspections mechanisms", greater access to uranium mines and monitoring a new procurement channel for Iran to acquire nuclear-related materials and technology.

Some of additional oversight measures would be covered by the additional protocol to Iran's existing inspections agreement with the IAEA, as well as the so-called modified code 3.1. The US says Iran will implement both of these.

More oversight is a particular thorny issue in view of allegations that the IAEA wants to investigate that before 2003, and possibly since, Iran conducted research into developing nuclear weapons -- claims that Iran denies.

Western officials stress that these claims of "possible military dimensions" need to be cleared up before sanctions can be lifted, but the IAEA's probe has been stalled since last August.

- Research and development -

A key area of concern is Iran's research into new types of nuclear equipment to replace the 1970s-vintage IR-1 centrifuge machines currently in use.

Critics, including US Republicans and Israel, fear that new machines could enable Iran to make material for a bomb much more quickly, particularly once restrictions on enrichment expire.

According to the US fact sheet, Iran will remove its 1,000 more advanced IR-2M centrifuges and place them under IAEA-monitored storage, while not using more advanced models to enrich uranium for at least 10 years.

Iran will however "engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a scheduled and parameters which have been agreed to" by the six powers.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on April 3 that the two sides "still have some R&D issues to work out, and those are among the most challenging, to be frank."

 

 
 

 

 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 

 
 

Syria regime 'to accept de facto partition' of country

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) May 24, 2015 - Weakened by years of war, Syria's government appears ready for the country's de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadists, experts and diplomats say.

The strategy was in evidence last week with the army's retreat from the ancient central city of Palmyra after an advance by the Islamic State group.

"It is quite understandable that the Syrian army withdraws to protect large cities where much of the population is located," said Waddah Abded Rabbo, director of Syria's Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the regime.

"The world must think about whether the establishment of two terrorist states is in its interests or not," he said, in reference to IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front's plans for its own "emirate" in northern Syria.

Syria's government labels all those fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad "terrorists," and has pointed to the emergence of IS and Al-Nusra as evidence that opponents of the regime are extremists.

Since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011 with peaceful protests, the government has lost more than three-quarters of the country's territory, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

But the territory the regime controls accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of the population, according to French geographer and Syria expert Fabrice Balanche.

He said 10-15 percent of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by IS, 20-25 percent in territory controlled by Al-Nusra or rebel groups and another five to 10 percent in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

"The government in Damascus still has an army and the support of a part of the population," Balanche said.

"We're heading towards an informal partition with front lines that could shift further."

- 'Division is inevitable' -

People close to the regime talk about a government retreat to "useful Syria".

"The division of Syria is inevitable. The regime wants to control the coast, the two central cities of Hama and Homs and the capital Damascus," one Syrian political figure close to the regime said.

"The red lines for the authorities are the Damascus-Beirut highway and the Damascus-Homs highway, as well as the coast, with cities like Latakia and Tartus," he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The coastal Latakia and Tartus provinces are strongholds of the regime, and home to much of the country's Alawite community, the offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Assad adheres.

In the north, east and south of the country, large swathes of territory are now held by jihadists or rebel groups, and the regime's last major offensive -- in Aleppo province in February -- was a failure.

For now the regime's sole offensive movement is in Qalamun along the Lebanese border, but there its ally, Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement, is taking the lead in the fighting.

"The Syrian army today has become a Praetorian guard that is charged with protecting the regime," said a diplomat who goes to Damascus regularly.

He said the situation had left Syrian officials "worried, of course," but that they remained convinced that key regime allies Russia and Iran would not let the government collapse.

Some observers believe the defensive posture was the suggestion of Iran, which believes it is better to have less territory but be able to keep it secure.

"Iran urged Syrian authorities to face facts and change strategy by protecting only strategic zones," opposition figure Haytham Manna said.

- Dwindling regime forces -

The shift may also be the result of the dwindling forces available to the regime, which has seen its once 300,000-strong army "whittled away" by combat and attrition, according to Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"On the surface, the regime appears to have accepted that it must secure, hold and defend its core area of control... with its current mix of forces," he said.

Those are approximately 175,000 men from the army, pro-regime Syrian militias and foreign fighters including from Hezbollah and elsewhere.

The Observatory says 68,000 regime forces are among the 220,000 people killed since the conflict began.

But the new strategy does not indicate regime collapse, and could even work in its favour, Nerguizian said.

"Supply lines would have far less overstretch to contend with, and the regime's taxed command-and-control structure would have more margin of maneuver."

Thomas Pierret, a Syria expert at the University of Edinburgh, said that to survive, "the regime will have to lower its expectations and concentrate on the Damascus-Homs-coast axes.

"Militarily, the regime probably still has the means to hold the southeastern half of the country long-term, but further losses could weaken it from within."

 

 

Saudi-led coalition pounds Yemen rebels in three cities

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 22, 2015 - Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition pounded Shiite rebels across three Yemeni cities on Friday, as Riyadh reported the death of a Saudi child from cross-border fire.

The coalition has stepped up raids on positions held by the Huthi Shiite rebels and their allies since a humanitarian ceasefire ended late on Tuesday.

The latest violence came as the UN's human rights agency said that at least 1,037 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the start of the air campaign on March 26.

Spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly said 234 children and 134 women were among the dead and that 2,453 people were wounded over the past eight weeks in a war that has heavily damaged infrastructure.

Huge explosions rocked the outskirts of the capital Sanaa after Friday's air strikes. There were also raids on second city Aden in the south and Marib province east of the capital, residents said.

"It was a morning of terror," one resident of a southern suburb of Sanaa told AFP after a wave of attacks on military bases in the Dhabwa and Rimat Hamid areas.

In north Sanaa, coalition warplanes targeted a stadium and a camp of the Republican Guards loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has sided with the Huthis.

In all, 10 rebel and allied targets were hit in and around Sanaa, including Dalaimi air base near the international airport, witnesses said.

Residents said coalition raids also struck Huthi positions in Marib.

There were no immediate tolls available for Sanaa and Marib.

Coalition planes also raided Huthi positions in the southern province of Shabwa, a local official said.

- 'Drone kills 5 Qaeda' -

Tribal sources in the same province said a US drone strike killed five presumed members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In Aden, at least 16 Huthis and allied fighters were killed in raids and fighting on Friday, sources said, adding that three militiamen who back President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi also died in clashes.

The same sources reported another four Huthis killed in clashes later in the day.

Hayef al-Bakri, a local militia official in the port city, urged the Saudi-led coalition to intervene on the ground in Aden "to save residents".

He told AFP that civilians in Aden were facing "abuses" at the hands of the rebels.

Fighting in Abyan provincial capital Zinjibar killed eight people including six Huthis, sources there said.

Across the frontier in Saudi Arabia, a mortar round fired from Yemen killed a Saudi child, a civil defence official in the border area of Jazan said.

Another three civilians were wounded, he added.

On Thursday, one civilian was killed and three wounded in cross-border shelling into Najran province, Saudi state television reported.

The coalition has said it was determined to pursue its air campaign against the Huthis in order to restore the authority of Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh with members of his government.

The United Nations, which has warned that Yemen is on the verge of total collapse, will host a conference next week in Geneva hoping to relaunch political talks on Yemen, despite uncertainty over who will attend.

 

 

Syria's Assad pays tribute to soldiers despite setbacks

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Damascus (AFP) May 23, 2015 - Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has paid tribute to his army and a group of soldiers who escaped an almost month-long rebel siege, in comments which follow a series of regime losses.

Assad, quoted by state news agency SANA late Friday, saluted the "heroism" of some 150 soldiers and their families who were able to escape a hospital building in the town of Jisr al-Shughur in northwestern Syria.

"You represent with your heroism the soldiers of the Syrian army," Assad told their commanding officer, Colonel Mahmud Sabha.

"You resisted because you refused failure or capitulation," Assad said.

"Your life and those of the soldiers of the army and the national defence forces (pro-regime militia) are the most important thing for us and what we try always to protect."

The group had been besieged inside the building in Jisr al-Shughur since the town in Idlib province fell to rebels including Al-Qaeda's local affiliate, on April 25.

On Friday, most of those inside managed to escape just as the hospital was finally overrun by the rebel forces who had surrounded it.

The loss of Jisr al-Shughur came after the fall of the provincial capital Idlib city, and has been followed by a string of other regime setbacks.

The ancient city of Palmyra fell to the Islamic State jihadist group earlier this week and the government now only retains control of its border posts with Lebanon.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict since March 2011.

 

 

Colombia's FARC rebels suspend ceasefire over air strike

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Bogota (AFP) May 22, 2015 - Peace talks to end Colombia's five-decade conflict were plunged into fresh crisis Friday after FARC guerrillas suspended their unilateral ceasefire in response to a government air strike that killed 26 rebels.

The December ceasefire announcement by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had raised hopes that the two-year-old peace negotiations were approaching a breakthrough. But tensions have spiralled since the rebels killed 11 soldiers in an ambush last month.

On April 15, the day after the ambush, a furious President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the military to resume air strikes against the leftist FARC, which he had suspended on March 11 in recognition of their ceasefire.

Thursday night's air strike and ground attack was the deadliest assault on the FARC since that announcement.

It targeted a FARC base in the western department of Cauca, the FARC stronghold where the rebels carried out the ambush.

The strike came on the same day the government and FARC opened a new round of peace talks, seeking to make progress on ending a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people.

The FARC, which has defended the April ambush as a "defensive" action taken against an army siege, vehemently condemned the air strike.

The rebel fighters were "murdered in the deep of night and sound asleep, with 250-kilogram (500-pound) bombs, without a chance to fight back," Pastor Alape, a member of the FARC negotiating team, wrote on Twitter, calling it "a treacherous and degrading act."

Soon after, the rebel negotiating team announced on its blog that the FARC was ending its unilateral ceasefire after six months.

"We didn't plan to suspend the ceasefire... but the incoherence of the Santos administration has achieved it, after five months of ground and air offensives against our units across the country," they said.

They said they were still committed to continuing the talks, but reiterated their call for a bilateral ceasefire -- which Santos has repeatedly refused to grant without a final peace deal.

"Against our will we have to pursue dialogue in the midst of confrontation," they said.

"Although Santos has announced he will maintain the offensive, we insist on the need to grant the bilateral ceasefire the national majority has demanded with such insistence, for the health of the peace process and to avoid more victims."

A scheduled meeting Friday between government and rebel negotiators on their landmark agreement to cooperate on clearing the landmines that litter the Colombian countryside was called off, a Cuban foreign ministry official told AFP.

The two sides were expected to go ahead with the next scheduled meeting on Saturday.

Cuba is hosting the peace talks.

- Flare-ups strain talks -

Thursday's attack involved both military and police.

It targeted a FARC unit that the army blames for a November attack on the Pacific island of Gorgona that killed one of its lieutenants, a military source said.

Santos defended the strike, which he called a "very important blow" against the FARC.

"This is a legitimate action by the state in defense and protection of its citizens. These are the rules of the game that we have established."

After the FARC announced the suspension of their ceasefire, he vowed the military was "prepared" for any new attacks.

But in a Twitter post, he called on the FARC to double down on the peace process.

"Gentlemen of the FARC: It is time to accelerate negotiations. How many more deaths are needed to understand that now is the time for peace!"

The peace talks began in 2012 and have been continually derailed by attacks from both sides, including the FARC's capture of an army general in November.

The negotiations have reached partial deals on several issues, including political participation for FARC members and fighting the illegal drug trafficking that has fueled the conflict.

But a final accord remains elusive.

The FARC was founded in 1964 and has about 8,000 fighters.

FARC negotiators recently met the National Liberation Army (ELN), another leftist rebel group with about 2,500 fighters, on joining the peace process.

burs/jhb/pst

 

 

US to sell bombs to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) May 20, 2015 - The United States said Wednesday it plans to sell thousands of bombs and missiles to Israel as well as 10 Seahawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, in deals worth about $1.9 billion each, officials said Wednesday.

The US State Department informed Congress of the proposed arms sales to two allies in the Middle East that are both wary of Washington's negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

The planned weapons deal with Israel would provide 3,000 Hellfire missiles, 250 medium-range air-to-air missiles, 4,100 glide bombs and 50 BLU-113 "super penetrator" bombs designed to reach underground sites.

Israel, which has sharply criticized US diplomacy with Iran, has reserved the right to take unilateral military action against Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and the bunker buster munitions could be used to strike at buried nuclear sites.

The notification to lawmakers of the planned arms sales came after a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz suggested Washington might expand its military aid to Israel as compensation for a possible agreement between Iran and major powers to curtail Tehran's nuclear work.

Such an arrangement could involve more radar-evading F-35 fighter jets and more missile defense systems, the paper reported.

US officials said the planned sale would "replenish" existing stocks in Israel's arsenal and would not provide the country with new types of weapons.

"The proposed sale of this equipment will provide Israel the ability to support its self-defense needs," according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The planned deal with Saudi Arabia involves 10 Seahawk MH-60R helicopters along with associated radar, navigation systems and 38 Hellfire missiles, the agency said in a statement.

The equivalent value of the two arms sales reflected Washington's commitment to ensure Israel's "qualitative military edge" in the region.

The United States has agreed $90 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia between 2010 and 2014.

The main defense firms for the Saudi sale are Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

For the arms deal with Israel, the main contractors are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Ellwood National Forge Company and Raytheon Missile Systems.

Congress must be informed 30 days before the administration can take final steps on a military sale to a foreign government. The sale can go ahead unless lawmakers vote to block or amend the deal.

 

 

Raids hit Yemen rebels, allies ahead of new talks bid

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 21, 2015 - Saudi-led coalition warplanes carried out fresh raids on rebel positions in southern Yemen Thursday as pro-government tribesmen advanced on Shiite Huthi strongholds in the north, tribal and army sources said.

On the political front, Iran said it backed UN-brokered efforts to relaunch political talks but was opposed to foreign interference in Yemen's conflict, in which it backs the rebels.

Coalition warplanes twice bombed a Huthi gathering on a hill overlooking Taez, from which rebels have been attacking residential neighbourhoods of Yemen's third city, a local government official told AFP.

He said four civilians were killed and six wounded in overnight mortar fire by the rebel forces -- Huthis and renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The warplanes also struck rebel positions in nearby Daleh as well launching three dawn raids on Al-Anad air base in the southern province of Lahj, military sources said.

Arms depots of pro-Saleh forces at Dhamar and Baida provinces in central Yemen also came under air attack several times, residents said.

In main southern city Aden, witnesses reported sporadic fighting on the northern outskirts between rebel militia and forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

A rebel leader, Nabil al-Hashidi, was killed late Wednesday when pro-Hadi fighters stormed his hideout in Aden, tribal sources said, accusing him of "spying" for Iran.

In the rebel-held northern province of Jawf, pro-Hadi tribesmen seized control of Yatamah, a town on the border with Saudi Arabia, tribal sources said.

- Bid to relaunch talks -

The loyalists operated under the cover of coalition air strikes as they later advanced towards a town in the Huthi stronghold province of Saada, the sources said.

These advances come as the pro-Hadi forces chief-of-staff, General Mohammed Ali al-Maqdishi, arrived in the Ramlat al-Sabiin area near the Saudi border to inspect his troops, tribal sources said.

The Saudi-led coalition has waged an air campaign against the Huthis since March 26 in an effort to restore the authority of Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh with members of his government.

A United Nations conference to relaunch political talks on Yemen will open in Geneva next week, a UN spokesman said Wednesday, despite uncertainty over who will attend.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the May 28 meeting was to "restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process" after weeks of conflict that have left 1,850 dead.

Huthi supporter Tehran on Thursday said it backed efforts to relaunch a political dialogue, but also warned against outside interference.

"Iran backs initiatives aimed at bringing Yemeni political groups around the negotiating table," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said as he received the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

However, Zarif insisted only Yemen's political groups should attend, and that no representatives from "any other country should be present at the dialogue", Iran's Fars news agency reported.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin has said he would not go to Geneva unless the Huthis withdrew from at least part of territory they have seized in line with a UN Security Council resolution.

 

 

Gazans reach beyond blockade through start-up

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) May 20, 2015 - Dozens of workers sit with their eyes glued to computer screens and fingers clicking away on keyboards writing code and tapping in data for clients around the globe.

It could be a scene at any software firm, but these programmers are Palestinians based in the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006.

"Here we are opening a gap in the blockade and showing that Gazans are capable of achieving big things," says Saadi Luzun, 33, co-founder of Unit One, a Gaza-based outsourcing firm which also develops web and mobile applications for clients in the Gulf and Europe.

Ten years ago Luzun hooked up with fellow software engineer Ahmed Abu Shaaban to form "a small start-up in a tiny room" in Gaza City.

Their company now employs 89 people, most of them young women who are busily engaged in data entry inside the spacious office.

"Gaza has no oil or gas but we have human resources -- plenty of young people who are just waiting to be offered an opportunity," Luzun says as he walks past rows of staffers in front of their screens.

Recruiting women is a "social responsibility", says Luzun, whose next objective is to start employing people with disabilities. After three wars with Israel in the past seven years, there should be no shortage of recruits.

During last year's 50-day conflict with Israel, huge swathes of the territory were razed and around 2,200 Palestinians were killed while more than 10,000 were wounded.

- 10 jobs, 400 applicants -

"Gaza is not just war, blood and bombs," says Luzun.

"Gazans want to do business and not just sit around waiting for humanitarian aid."

The proof, he says, is in the numbers: the last time they held a recruitment drive, they were overwhelmed with 400 applicants for 10 jobs.

One young woman looking to find work at Unit One is Sadine al-Ayubi, who is about to finish her degree and is desperate to avoid the unemployment that affects more than two-thirds of young Gazans.

"Most young people have a degree but they never find work," the smartly dressed 21-year-old says, holding a smartphone with a sparkly cover.

For Lina, 23, who has been with Unit One for three years, the fault lies with "the political and economic situation" in Gaza, which is effectively ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement and cut off from the rest of the world by the Israeli blockade.

Until last year, Palestinians were able to leave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, but since October the frontier has been closed as Cairo struggles with a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

Last summer's war brought Gaza's already battered economy to its knees, with IMF figures showing GDP declined by about 15 percent in 2014.

During the bombardment, 128 businesses and workshops were destroyed, according to the Palestinian Federation of Industries.

- Sense of freedom -

Programmer Mohammed al-Banna, 27, says working in technology offered him a sense of freedom because it is "the only area" where Israel cannot cut Gazans off from the outside world.

In fact, Israel controls all of Gaza's cable communications which are routed through the Jewish state, and also controls the bandwidth of its Internet lines, meaning that it has the technical ability to completely sever the territory's digital link to the rest of the world.

In the perpetually-connected world of technology, having electricity is also crucial, but far from certain in Gaza, which suffers from hours-long power cuts every day.

In order to ensure its servers are never down, the firm has invested in solid backup generators to provide an uninterrupted power supply.

"Even during the war, we were able to continue working," Luzun says.

Such a step is crucial, particularly for reassuring clients who are "sometimes nervous about signing a contract with a company in a war zone," he adds.

Unable to leave Gaza, Luzun has not met most of his clients, instead using Skype for conference calls.

Unit One has come a long way and Luzun harbours dreams of creating a company culture like Google.

"We would like to do what Google does. We even thought of organising fun days for our staff," he says with a smile, recalling a visit to the California-based offices of the Internet giant.

But with the instability in Gaza unlikely to change any time soon, it is not such a straightforward prospect.

"We haven't done it yet -- we never know when a war can break out and force us to stop working," Luzun says.

 

 

UN announces Yemen talks, but govt demands rebel pullout

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 20, 2015 - The United Nations announced Wednesday a date for its conference on Yemen, where Saudi-led warplanes have intensified raids against rebels in a conflict that has displaced half a million people.

But Yemen's government-in-exile swiftly demanded a pullback of the Iran-backed Shiite rebels from seized territory as a precondition to joining the talks set for May 28 in Geneva.

The developments came as Tehran headed off a potential confrontation with arch-foe Washington by saying an Iranian ship bound for Yemen in defiance of a blockade would now dock in Djibouti for UN inspection.

The Saudi-led coalition has waged an air campaign against the Huthi rebels since March 26 in an effort to restore the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said next week's conference was aimed at restoring "momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process".

Ban hoped the Geneva talks would "reduce the levels of violence and alleviate the intolerable humanitarian situation".

Following the announcement, however, Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said the Hadi government had yet to receive an official invitation.

But even if it was invited, Yassin said the government would not attend without some implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 as a sign of "goodwill".

The April resolution imposed an arms embargo on the rebels and demanded they relinquish territory they seized since descending from their stronghold in the mountains of northern Yemen last year.

"We will not attend if there is no implementation, at least part of it. If there is no withdrawal from Aden at least, or Taez," Yassin told AFP.

After a five-day humanitarian ceasefire expired at the weekend, the Arab coalition resumed bombing several cities including Sanaa, accusing the rebels of having violated the truce.

- 'Most violent raids' -

The latest strikes on the capital overnight were "the most violent since the start of the bombing" campaign, said Old City resident Saleh Moqbel.

Civilians fled when powerful blasts went off as warplanes targeted for a second straight night arms depots on hills overlooking the city.

"Some of these families were hosted by relatives, while others were forced to rent shelters, including garages, to spend the night," said Hasan al-Amudi, who lives in Sanaa's downtown area.

In the central province of Ibb, witnesses reported seven coalition air strikes, mostly targeting a pro-rebel army camp.

Other strikes targeted the northern rebel stronghold of Amran province and Abyan province in the south.

On the Saudi side, a border guard was killed by a rocket "fired from Yemen" that hit a frontier area in the southern province of Jazan, the interior ministry said.

It was the latest in a series of mortar and rocket attacks that struck the frontier.

The Huthi rebels have allied with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and have been locked in deadly clashes with pro-Hadi fighters across Yemen.

Iran, a key ally of the Huthis, has demanded an end to the Saudi-led bombing.

The conflict has caused humanitarian chaos, with the UN saying more than half a million people have been displaced.

- Iran aid ship -

The Iranian aid ship bound for Yemen in defiance of US warnings had entered the Gulf of Aden and had been expected to reach Hodeida port on Thursday before Tehran heeded calls to allow UN inspections.

The aid "will be inspected in Djibouti. The ship will dock in Djibouti and the protocol laid down by the United Nations will be implemented," said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

The vessel, renamed Nejat (Rescue), is said to be carrying 2,500 tonnes of aid including food, water and medical supplies, all urgently needed in the conflict-wracked and impoverished state.

Its passengers include doctors, anti-war activists from the United States, France and Germany, and journalists, according to Tasnim, a news agency associated with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

Citing Yemen's health services, the UN said that as of May 15, some 1,850 people had been killed and 7,394 wounded in the violence in Yemen. Another 545,000 had been displaced.

The UN refugee agency said its assessments on the ground during the ceasefire had "exposed enormous difficulties for thousands of civilians displaced by conflict".

 

 

Saudi-led warplanes resume bombing of Yemeni capital

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 19, 2015 - Saudi-led warplanes pounded rebel targets in Yemen's capital Tuesday for the first time since the end of a five-day ceasefire, as hopes of a political breakthrough in the conflict fade.

A UN-sponsored peace conference for Yemen originally set for next week has been put on hold due to the resumption of fighting, which the United Nations says has killed some 1,850 people and displaced more than half a million.

A three-day conference wrapped up Tuesday in Riyadh and publicly backed the government of exiled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, although rebel groups boycotted the meeting.

The Saudi-led coalition resumed its bombing campaign early on Monday with raids on second city Aden, accusing the rebels of violating the temporary ceasefire that expired at the weekend.

Tuesday's raids in the capital hit the presidential palace complex and several bases of troops loyal to ousted strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, allied with the Shiite Huthi rebels.

Witnesses said the targets included the Republican Guard missile brigade base in Fajj Attan, south Sanaa, where strikes last month set off a chain of explosions that killed 38 civilians.

Coalition aircraft also hit air defence and coastguard bases in Hodeida province on the Red Sea coast, witnesses said.

Residents reported raids in the central province of Taez, and in Daleh and Aden in the south.

The United Nations and aid agencies had pleaded for an extension of the ceasefire, the first pause in the bombing campaign launched in March in a bid to restore the authority of Hadi.

But coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri accused the rebels of abusing the truce.

"They did not respect the humanitarian pause. That's why we do what is necessary to be done," he told AFP.

- UN talks postponed -

A planned, UN-brokered meeting of Yemeni political groups in Geneva has been suspended indefinitely.

"Part of the problem is that the fighting has once more resumed," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

"We want the fighting decisively stopped and then we can get about to organise and invite people to the conference."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he regretted that the five-day humanitarian truce had not been extended and "calls on all parties to create the conditions leading to a permanent ceasefire," said the UN spokesman.

US State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke praised Saudi Arabia for not retaliating to what he described as Huthi violations during the ceasefire.

"The Huthis shelled Saudi territory numerous times during the pause. And we think the Saudis exercised restraint during this pause, which enabled food, fuel and humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable Yemeni citizens," he said.

Rathke said that political dialogue will ultimately be "the only solution to the crisis," calling on the Huthis to "indicate their readiness and their willingness to come back to the table as part of a UN-led process".

- Rebels 'hijacked' aid -

Iran, a key ally of the Shiite Huthi rebels, called for an end to the "barbaric" Saudi bombing, and said Riyadh was not a suitable location for peace talks.

Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign affairs adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told reporters in Beirut that there must be an "end to barbaric Saudi raids that target innocent Yemeni civilians".

The United Nations, citing Yemen health services, says that as of May 15, some 1,850 people had died and 7,394 were injured in the conflict since late March.

The ceasefire allowed supplies of petrol and food to be delivered to Yemen but anti-Huthi groups accuse the rebels of confiscating the aid.

"The truce has only served the aims of the militia, which has increased its readiness and stocked fuel through aid that arrived in their areas of control," said a statement from pro-Hadi forces in the central city of Taez.

A coalition spokesman said the rebels had "hijacked" food and fuel aid.

 

 

Sri Lanka's president marks anniversary of war's end

 
‎27 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:46:04 AMGo to full article
Matara, Sri Lanka (AFP) May 19, 2015 - Sri Lanka's new president pledged his support for the military as he marked six years since the end of the civil war on Tuesday, a day after his predecessor accused him of forgetting the country's "war heroes".

Maithripala Sirisena pledged to ensure that the Tamil Tigers, who waged a violent 37-year campaign for a separate homeland on the island, never raised their heads again as he attended a military parade to commemorate fallen soldiers.

Sirisena took power in Sri Lanka in January after winning an election against the country's strongman former leader Mahinda Rajapakse, who oversaw the military crushing of the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2006.

He has pledged to bring about reconciliation with the island's Tamil minority, who have long faced discrimination, but also needs the support of the Sinhalese majority ahead of parliamentary elections expected to be held later this year.

"I assure you that I will make every effort to ensure national security," Sirisena said during commemorations Tuesday -- previously known as "Victory Day" but now renamed "Armed Forces Day".

"I will not allow the brutal LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorism to raise its head ever again.

"I have the fullest confidence in you (the troops) to safeguard the security of our motherland," he said, accusing his rivals of peddling "false propaganda" against the government.

Rajapakse, who is reported to be seeking a political comeback, had earlier accused the government of forgetting the country's "war heroes", citing the more low-key commemorations under Sirisena.

Sirisena served in Rajapakse's cabinet before quitting to stand against his one-time mentor, who had until then been regarded as odds-on for a third term.

On Tuesday Sirisena, who has lifted a Rajapakse-era ban on Tamils publicly commemorating their war dead, said the previous government had failed to achieve post-war reconciliation.

"We were all happy when the war ended. But can we be happy with the developments post war?" he said as he received a 21-gun salute at a parade involving more than 7,000 troops and police.

"We were not able to win hearts and minds of people. The true reconciliation could only be achieved by winning hearts and minds."

 

 

Kuwait MPs reject minister's grilling over Yemen war

 
‎24 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎11:54:33 AMGo to full article
Kuwait City (AFP) May 19, 2015 - Parliament on Tuesday rejected a demand by a Shiite MP to question the foreign minister over Kuwait's participation in Saudi-led air strikes against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen.

A majority of lawmakers approved Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah's stand that questioning on the Yemen war would breach the constitution.

Forty-five MPs voted in favour, nine against while two abstained.

Lawmakers who backed the move said that declaring war is a sovereign issue decided by the emir.

However, parliament accepted a motion to hold the questioning behind closed doors.

But MP Abdulhameed Dashti, who made the initial request for the grilling, walked out in protest saying the move was unconstitutional.

Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanem then removed the grilling from the agenda.

Since March 26, a Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the Huthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh after they overran large parts of Yemen.

There are just seven Shiite MPs in Kuwait's 50-seat parliament, while Shiites constitute around a third of the 1.3 million native Kuwaitis.

Dashti is an outspoken critic of the Sunni-ruled Gulf state of Bahrain over its alleged mistreatment of majority Shiites, and also of Saudi Arabia for having sent troops to Manama.

He currently faces two criminal investigations, instigated by the foreign ministry, for allegedly endangering diplomatic ties with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Along with Kuwait, all are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council which also includes Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

Oman is the only GCC member not taking part in the Saudi-led coalition waging the Yemen air war.

 

 

Saudi-led coalition bombs Yemen rebels as truce expires

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) May 18, 2015 - Saudi-led coalition warplanes resumed strikes on rebel positions in southern Yemen on Monday after a five-day ceasefire expired, jeopardising efforts to deliver desperately needed aid.

The humanitarian truce ended at 2000 GMT Sunday despite calls from a UN envoy and relief agencies for an extension.

An hour later, air raids hit the rebel-held presidential palace in the main southern city Aden as well as a base of the pro-rebel special forces there, military officials and witnesses said.

The coalition also targeted rebel positions in Aden's neighbourhoods of Tawahi and Khor Maksar, said the sources, without providing details on casualties.

The Saudi-led regional coalition has waged an air war on the Iran-backed Shiite Huthis rebels and their allies since late March in an effort to restore the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The new strikes came despite calls by UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to prolong the ceasefire.

"This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire," he said Sunday in the Saudi capital.

- Huthis 'violated ceasefire' -

A Western diplomat in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia has accused the Huthis of using the ceasefire to position long-range artillery, rockets and other weapons close to its border.

"They say this is a direct violation of the ceasefire agreement," the diplomat said.

The Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel said Saudi forces fired artillery at Huthi positions over the border in Yemen. It said the rebels hit a crossing point in Najran province.

Yemeni political parties began talks Sunday in the Saudi capital but the Huthis are boycotting the three-day meeting, insisting the talks be held in Yemen.

However, Yemen's Vice-President Khaled Bahah told AFP that he expected the Huthis would attend future talks.

Several representatives of the General People's Congress party of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is accused of backing the rebels, did take part.

Hadi, who has taken refuge in Riyadh, on Sunday repeated accusations that the rebels had staged a "coup".

"We are trying to regain our nation" from militias backed by "external" forces, he said in a reference to Iran, which has denied arming the rebels.

Sporadic clashes continued Monday in Aden, the scene of fierce fighting since rebels advanced on the southern port in late March where Hadi was holed up.

According to Aden health chief Al-Khader Laswar, 517 civilians and pro-Hadi fighters have been killed in the city in the past 50 days.

The toll includes 76 women and children, he said.

Quoted by the government news agency Sabanew.net, Laswar said he could not provide a toll for the rebels.

He added that 3,461 people were wounded, and said most Aden hospitals were now out of service as "most" medics have fled.

Pro-Hadi fighters also killed 12 rebels in an attack Monday on a base in Daleh, a military official said.

- Shortages of essentials -

The United Nations has expressed deep concern about the civilian death toll from the Saudi-led bombing as well as the humanitarian impact of an air and sea blockade imposed by the coalition.

It says more than 1,600 people have died in the conflict since late March.

Some aid has trickled in since the pause in fighting, but residents of areas where clashes persist complain that they lack the most basic supplies.

Although the truce had brought calm to the capital and some other areas, people remained deprived of basic needs, including water, electricity and petrol.

Hundreds of cars have lined up at the few petrol stations operating, according to an AFP correspondent.

The ceasefire allowed supplies of petrol and food to be delivered to Yemen but anti-Huthi groups accuse the rebels of confiscating the aid.

"The truce has only served the aims of the militia, which has increased its readiness and stocked fuel through aid that arrived in their areas of control," said a statement of anti-rebel forces in the central city of Taez.

 

 

Israel says no tanks for women soldiers: reports

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 18, 2015 - The Israeli army, which is distinguished by its strong integration of women in combat units, has decided not to let them serve in tanks, media reports said on Monday.

News website Ynet and other outlets reported that after an inquiry, military chiefs had concluded the requirements for tank crew exceeded the physiological capabilities of most women.

Women can join combat units only when those units do not require excessive physical abilities or direct contact with the enemy, the daily Haaretz quoted the authors of the report as saying.

The report also cited the close confines of a tank as being unsuitable for women to serve alongside men, as is already the case in the submarine service.

A military spokeswoman refused to confirm to AFP that such a decision had been taken.

"The army will continue to make every effort to integrate those women soldiers who want in all units, according to their physiological and mental capabilities," she said.

The spokeswoman said women are able to accomplish 92 percent of military missions and in recent years have been integrated in combat units.

Military service is compulsory for Israeli men who serve for three years, while women do two.

In 2000, parliament voted through an equality law forcing the army and security services to accept women in any position unless there was a valid reason not to do so.

 

 

Turkey says it shoots down 'Syrian helicopter'

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Istanbul (AFP) May 16, 2015 - Turkish fighter jets on Saturday shot down a Syrian helicopter that crossed into Turkey's airspace in the south of the country, the government and army said.

The incident marked a new spike in tensions between Turkey and the Damascus regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose overthrow Turkey believes is essential to solve the Syrian crisis.

"A Syrian helicopter was downed that violated the border for a period of five minutes within a seven mile (11 kilometre) limit," Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz was quoted as saying by the Dogan news agency.

Syrian state television had earlier indicated the aircraft was a drone.

"Having rightly fulfilled their duty, I congratulate the armed forces and kiss the eyes of them all," Yilmaz said, using a traditional Turkish expression.

He did not give any further details on the helicopter or possible casualties.

The incident happened in the area of the Cilvegozu border crossing in the Hatay region of southern Turkey on the Syrian border, Yilmaz said.

Without specifying that the aircraft was a helicopter, the Turkish armed forces said two F-16s had been scrambled to deal with the intruding Syrian aircraft.

"The aircraft was rendered ineffective. The aircraft fell onto Syrian territory," the army statement said.

- 'You will be punished' -

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also confirmed that a Syrian helicopter had been shot down and said he congratulated the Turkish pilots for their "strength and steadfastness".

In a clear warning to Assad, he said that the incident should serve as a warning to anyone who violates the Turkish border.

"No matter who you are, whoever violates our border will be punished," he told Star television in an interview.

"I hope this message has been received and no-one dares violate our borders again," he added.

A source told the Hurriyet daily that the targeted craft had broken into three pieces and crashed on the Syrian side of the border.

Syria meanwhile vehemently denied it could have been a manned aircraft.

"It is not true that Turkish fighter jets shot down a Syrian plane. What was shot down was a small drone flying nearby," Syrian state TV said, citing a military source.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has emerged as one of the main opponents of Assad, saying his exit is key to solving the conflict.

Turkey has also been accused of arming and supporting the Islamist opposition fighting Assad but Ankara had always vehemently denied this.

This is not the first time Turkish armed forces have shot down a Syrian aircraft.

In March 2014 they shot down a Syrian warplane, and the air force shot down a Syrian helicopter in September 2013.

A Turkish jet was also shot down by Syrian forces in 2012.

As in March 2014 -- when the downing of the plane came in the midst of campaigning for local elections -- the latest incident coincides with looming polls as Turkey prepares for legislative elections on June 7.

A deputy from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claimed earlier this month that Turkey was set to launch a military operation in Syria ahead of the polls but the allegation was ridiculed by the government.

 

 

Myanmar extends martial law in war-torn northern region

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Yangon (AFP) May 15, 2015 - Myanmar extended a state of emergency in a conflict wracked northern region near China Friday, with the defence minister arguing that continued military control of the area was necessary to ensure "peaceful relations" across the border.

Fighting between government troops and ethnic Chinese rebel fighters has raged in the Kokang region of Shan state since early February, raising fears over the country's peace process and causing tens of thousands of people to flee, many into China.

Myanmar air strikes have also drifted into Chinese territory, killing several civilians and prompting a rebuke from Beijing which scrambled its fighter jets.

A state of emergency giving the military sweeping powers has been in place in Kokang since February and Myanmar's parliament on Friday approved an extension, following an application from defence minister Lieutenant general Wai Lwin.

He told the legislature that the move was needed to ensure "stability" in the region, particularly as the country prepares for crucial elections later this year as it emerges from decades of military rule.

"That's why I have requested 90 more days of military administration; it is needed to be able to continue working for border security and peaceful relations with our neighbouring country," he said.

Of the nearly 90,000 people who have fled the region, only some 11,000 have returned, he said.

Conflict in the isolated mountainous region has overshadowed wider efforts to secure a nationwide ceasefire with a host of other rebel groups -- excluding the Kokang.

Myanmar has seen decades of conflict in its ethnic minority border areas, with insurgencies driven by regional demands for greater political autonomy as well as tussles over natural resources.

In March the United Nations hailed a draft ceasefire document as "historic", but efforts to ink a full deal have yet to bear fruit and have been shaken by on going conflicts in Shan state and neighbouring Kachin.

Although the Kokang rebels, who were driven out of Myanmar by the army in 2009 before suddenly returning in February, are not directly involved in peace talks, the ongoing fighting has drawn condemnation from the coalition of armed groups at the negotiating table.

Scores have died in the Kokang unrest, although precise numbers of military and civilian casualties are unknown and attacks on humanitarian convoys have hampered relief efforts.

Myanmar government-run media initially carried detailed daily updates of the conflict against the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the main insurgent group of the Chinese-speaking Kokang.

But information has recently dried up as clashes continue.

 

 

Fear and confusion follows night of violence in Burundi

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Bujumbura, Burundi (AFP) May 14, 2015 - Residents of Bujumbura cowered at home as rival armed troops were out in force in the city's streets on Thursday, the day after an attempted coup plunged Burundi deeper into crisis.

Fear and confusion gripped the lakeside capital of the central African nation, with many residents hunkering down in their houses, afraid to go out into streets where it was unclear who was in control, or whose side armed soldiers and police were on.

Bujumbura resident Onasphore Ndayishimiye was one of few who dared make the daunting journey to work on Thursday morning. On the way, he said, he narrowly avoided being shot.

"The police saw me and shot at me. I put my hands up and dived on the ground," said Ndayishimiye who was unharmed, but shaken.

He didn't know whose side the men who shot at him were on, nor why they had fired.

Ngugusony Buyenzi, a 26-year-old mechanic said the night had been terrifying with police and ruling party militiamen terrorising his city centre neighbourhood.

He said police and members of the Imbonerakure -- a pro-Nkurunziza youth wing whose name means 'The Watchmen' or, literally, "Those Who See Far" -- had shot some people including a friend of his who was now in hospital.

"I'm afraid they'll return tonight," Buyenzi said as occasional gunshots echoed through the deserted streets, answered by shouts of "Pierre to the Hague!" from those wishing President Pierre Nkurunziza might be tried by the International Criminal Court.

On Wednesday a senior general declared a coup against Nkurunziza who was out of the country at the time, attending a regional crisis meeting in Tanzania.

But it quickly became clear that the aspiring coup leader, General Godefroid Niyombare, did not have complete control over the armed forces.

- Information war -

Radio and televisions stations became the focal points of armed confrontations between opposing sections of the army and police. In Burundi, the information war is a real war.

Overnight at least three independent broadcasters were attacked, shot up, looted and burned by pro-Nkurunziza forces while gun and rocket fire was exchanged outside the state broadcaster which is protected by members of the still-loyal presidential guard brigade.

Fierce fighting resumed on Thursday at the state broadcaster, with troops supporting the attempted coup saying they had launched a major armoured assault to try and capture the state TV and radio complex.

The soldiers backing General Niyombare had also thwarted Nkurunziza's hopes of returning to Burundi on Wednesday night as they seized control of the airport just outside the city, sending civilian workers home and switching off the runway lights.

Burundi's isolation continued on Thursday with the airport closed and borders shut.

Sporadic gunfire and explosions heard throughout the night intensified before dawn and, as the sun rose over the low-slung lakeside capital, dark plumes of smoke snaked into the clear blue sky, seeming to come from buildings close to the port on Lake Taganyika.

Gunfire next to city hotels caused visitors to dive for cover and few civilians dared to venture out in stark contrast to the previous day when thousands had crowded the streets to celebrate the coup announcement.

Streets were blocked, sometimes by people armed and in uniforms, some by burning piles of tyres.

Even on the main road, the Chausee du Peuple Murundi, there were very few vehicles moving. A Red Cross van raced by. When a police truck approached, people hid.

Presidential guards also protected the headquarters of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, with locals saying Imbonerakure and loyalist factions of the police were deployed alongside them.

 

 

Moshe Yaalon: Israel's hardline defence minister keeps office

 
‎19 ‎May ‎2015, ‏‎01:18:51 PMGo to full article
Jerusalem (AFP) May 14, 2015 - Teaming up for another term with reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has held onto his powerful post after two years of relative stability.

The tall, bespectacled 64-year-old's appearance, more akin to that of an accountant than the former commando he is, belies his hardline beliefs, including the idea of a Greater Israel encompassing all of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Yaalon's scorn for Middle East peace efforts earned him publicity and Washington's ire in 2014, during the last round of failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The defence minister described US Secretary of State John Kerry, the driving force behind the resumption of talks, as having a messianic "obsession" with forging a peace deal to pave the way for a two-state solution.

Those remarks drew a sharp rebuke from the State Department and he was later forced to apologise.

Several months later, a year and a half into the job, Yaalon showed he was not afraid of overseeing combat as Israel launched a 50-day operation against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, a war that killed 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side.

He resisted calls from far-right cabinet ministers to completely topple Hamas, which would have seen a ground invasion of Gaza extended even longer.

And while he is adamant that Israel's arch-foe Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, he urged restraint during talk of a possible strike on Tehran's atomic facilities in 2012.

Domestically, he has long championed Jewish settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territory, but has somewhat disappointed hardcore settlement supporters since being in office.

After making a name for himself by opposing Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, he spoke out forcefully against any freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.

In August 2009, he urged Netanyahu, also prime minister at the time, to resist US demands for a settlement freeze, and as defence minister was expected to deploy his power to advance the settler movement.

But settler leaders say that while new construction grew in 2013, settlement building returned to a relatively low growth rate in 2014.

Chief of staff at the height of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Yaalon entered politics in November 2008, joining Netanyahu's Likud party.

He was appointed minister of strategic affairs in the 2009-2013 coalition.

Born in 1950 in the northern port city of Haifa, Yaalon performed his compulsory military service between 1968 and 1971, returning to active duty as a paratrooper during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

After serving in an elite commando unit in the 1970s and 80s, Yaalon became military intelligence chief a decade later.

He was head of the army's central command with responsibility for the West Bank before being named chief of staff.

Yaalon is married with three children.