sc

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

 

 

frosty@khouseafrica.com

 

 

 

K-House Africa

 

 

 

 

 Watch us
on YouTube

 

 

Radio 66/40

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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 hours 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

 

 

Ukraine says Russian sanctions must stay, rejects talk of Trump deal

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎28 minutes agoGo to full article
Ukraine's President Poroshenko listens during a news conference in TallinnUkraine's president said on Tuesday world powers should keep sanctions on Russia, rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump's proposal to consider reducing the penalties if Moscow proved a useful ally. Petro Poroshenko told reporters that sanctions remained the only way to keep Russia at the negotiating table over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, that Western powers say has been fueled by Moscow. The United States, the European Union and others imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine's east.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Burned out migrants in Greece try to keep sane

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
In this Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 photo, a Syrian refugee boy, left, listens to music on speakers while a girl, right, peers with her younger sister through the entrance of their family's tent in Kalochori refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Many migrants living in this warehouse tent camp and another one nearby are feeling burned out. They try to keep busy as they dream of a better life in Western Europe and not let boredom or depression set in.(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Kawa Mohammed lives in a small tent with his wife and his three children in the Kalochori refugee camp on the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki's outskirts.
 
 

Jordanian King to visit Russia to discuss counter-terrorism - Kremlin

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
King Abdullah II of Jordan leaves after a meeting at the Jordanian Royal Palace in AmmanMOSCOW (Reuters) - Jordan's King Abdullah will visit Moscow on Jan. 25 and discuss steps to combat terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. The two leaders also plan to talk about economic cooperation, the Kremlin said in a statement. (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Jack Stubbs)
 
 

Rights group faults Egypt for listing 1,500 on terror list

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — An international rights group says an Egyptian court's decision to place more than 1,500 citizens on a terrorism watch list without trial or even prior notification is a "mockery of due process."
 

If Trump ends America's world leadership, who will step up?

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎13 hours agoGo to full article
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact agreed to under the Obama administration, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's pursuit of an "America first" foreign policy is raising questions about who, if anyone, will fill the void if the U.S. relinquishes its traditional global leadership role. China and Russia are among the aspirants for greater economic and military influence, while an ambivalent Germany could emerge as the West's moral compass.
 
 

Merkel says populism won't solve world's problems

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
German Chancellor Merkel delivers a speech at the German-Italian economic conference in BerlinGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that openness, not populism, polarization or isolation, was the answer to the world's challenges of globalization and digitalization. "I think that, a quarter of a century after German unification, after the end of the Cold War, a new historical era will perhaps be replaced by another one," Merkel said in a speech to church leaders in Wuerzburg.
 
 

France FM in Saudi to reaffirm 'partnership'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:23:52 PMGo to full article
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault on his first ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria"France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday to reaffirm the allies' "strategic partnership", as European concerns mount over US President Donald Trump's foreign policies. Ayrault, on his first ministerial visit to the kingdom, "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria", the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
 
 

Some Mosul residents face new fears after Islamic State rule

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:57:31 PMGo to full article
A man speaks on his phone next to destroyed houses at al Zohour area in MosulBy Michael Georgy MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Mohamed Mahmoud is relieved he no longer has to watch Islamic State militants hang corpses from electricity poles, now that Iraqi forces have cleared the group from his east Mosul district. Like other Iraqis, he worries that destructive forces like sectarianism, which already provoked one civil war since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, will destabilize Iraq even if Islamic State is completely removed from Mosul. The hardline jihadists were welcomed by some fellow Sunni Muslims when they seized Mosul in 2014 because the community, a majority in the city but a minority in Iraq, felt marginalized by the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
 
 

Glad to see Obama go, Gulf Arabs expect Trump to counter Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:24:54 PMGo to full article
Former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle board Special Air Mission 28000, a Boeing 747 which serves as Air Force One, at Joint Base Andrews, MarylandBy William Maclean DUBAI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump's short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East. While many countries around the world listened with concern to his protectionist inaugural address, Gulf Arab officials appear optimistic. In Gulf Arab eyes, that involves above all checking what they see as a surge of Iranian support for paramilitary allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and for fellow Shi'ite Muslims in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province.
 
 

Israel nuclear whistle-blower convicted over release terms

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎5:35:32 PMGo to full article
Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu was jailed in 1986 for disclosing the inner workings of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to Britain's The Sunday Times newspaperIsraeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu has been convicted of violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after completing an 18-year jail term, a court announced Monday. Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu was slapped with a series of restraining orders, which he was charged with violating on three counts. Vanunu was convicted of meeting with two US nationals in Jerusalem in 2013 without having permission to do so, and will be sentenced in two months, a court statement said.
 
 

Swiss asylum requests plunge 31 percent in 2016

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎4:55:40 PMGo to full article
Migrants from Eritrea wait for their meal at the former Auberge du Chalet-a-Gobet in LausanneRequests for asylum in Switzerland plunged by nearly a third to around 27,200 last year after authorities closed the Balkan land route used by thousands to flee hot spots in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the SEM migration agency said on Monday. In December alone, requests for asylum fell 64 percent from a year earlier, bringing the full-year drop to 31 percent after the Balkan route was interrupted in March and Swiss authorities took a tough line on the border with Italy last summer. Neutral and landlocked Switzerland got just a fraction of the roughly 1.3 million requests for asylum across Europe last year as countries continued to process the wave of people that arrived in 2015, SEM said in a statement.
 
 

Emirates to launch second US flight stopping in Europe

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:31:16 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Middle East's biggest airline is launching a new daily service between Dubai and Newark that will stop in the Greek capital, Athens.
 

Syria talks may signal shift in conflict dynamics

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎2:22:45 PMGo to full article
Bashar Jaafari, Syrian Ambassador to the UN and head of the Syrian delegation, right, speaks to a member of Syrian delegation during the talks on Syrian peace in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. Syria talks brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran aimed at bolstering a shaky cease-fire in place since last month opened on Monday in Kazakhstan, marking the first face-to-face meeting between the Damascus government representatives and rebel factions trying to overthrow it. The gathering is also the start of a new effort to end six years of carnage that has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced half of Syria’s population and sent millions of refugees to neighboring countries and Europe. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)BEIRUT (AP) — Syria talks in the Kazakh capital Astana come at a time of significant changes to the conflict in its sixth year. Although promising to focus on reinforcing a cease-fire, the conference has raised expectations of a path toward a political settlement of the civil war.
 
 

Correction: Pushing Asia's Buttons story

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎1:11:24 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2016, file photo, a TV screen shows images of then U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea takes offense first, and most regularly, with Japan, largely over disputes stemming from Tokyo’s 35-year colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century. But President Trump has proven surprisingly good at pushing buttons in Seoul in recent months. During his campaign, Trump suggested that the United States would let South Korea defend itself from North Korean aggression if Seoul didn’t pay more for the stationing of 28,500 American troops in the country. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)In a story Jan. 23 about sensitive subjects for Asian countries, The Associated Press reported erroneously that communications giant Huawei has been kept out of the U.S. market. It does sell products in the U.S.
 
 

Israeli leader accepts invitation from Trump to visit US

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎12:10:11 AMGo to full article
The Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim looms over Arab Bedouin shacks in the West Bank, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. The municipality of Jerusalem has granted final approval for the construction of hundreds of new homes in east Jerusalem, while a hard-line Cabinet minister pushed the government to annex Maaleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement as emboldened Israeli nationalists welcomed the presidency of Donald Trump. The building plans were put on hold in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister on Sunday accepted an invitation to visit the White House next month in hopes of forging a "common vision" for the region with President Donald Trump that could include expanded settlement construction on occupied territories and a tougher policy toward Iran.
 
 

Ex-hostage's daughter finds dad's love by meeting his captor

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎8:43:11 PMGo to full article
In this Jan. 18, 2017 photo, Sulome Anderson, journalist and daughter of former American hostage Terry Anderson, holds a photograph of herself, lower right, with her father shortly after his return from Lebanon at her home in New York. Sulome said a multi-year retracing of her father’s harrowing ordeal repaired their tattered relationship. Sulome describes the quest in “The Hostage’s Daughter,” a recently published book. Her effort to research the 1985 kidnapping of Terry Anderson in Beirut, Lebanon, eventually brought her face-to-face with one of his captors. Ultimately, it led her to see eye-to-eye with her father again. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)NEW YORK (AP) — She tried drugs. She tried arguing. She tried writing a book. After a quarter century, the daughter of the longest-held American hostage during Lebanon's civil war says she's found her father's love. And it took coming face-to-face with one of his captors to do it.
 
 

Fleetwood holds off major champions to win in Abu Dhabi

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5:16:25 PMGo to full article
Tommy Fleetwood of England holds the trophy after he won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood looked at the leaderboard and saw three of the biggest names in golf among the players hunting him down in the final holes of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday.
 
 

Turkey's president eager to hear Trump's policies on Mideast

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10:57:09 AMGo to full article
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's president says he is interested in hearing U.S. President Donald Trump's policies on the Middle East.
 

George Krimsky, 1970s AP correspondent in Soviet Union, dies

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6:37:01 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2009 file photo, journalist and author George Krimsky is interviewed by The Associated Press at his home in Washington, Conn. Krimsky, who covered Charles Manson's arrest, the Lebanese civil war and dissident activity in the Soviet Union and later co-founded a center for international journalists, has died at age 75. Krimsky, who lived in Washington with his wife of 46 years, died Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, after a yearlong battle with lung cancer, his family said Saturday. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)WASHINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Journalist and author George Krimsky, who covered Charles Manson's arrest, the Lebanese civil war and dissident activity in the Soviet Union and co-founded a center for international journalists, has died at age 75.
 
 

Hundreds of Israelis protest against Trump in Tel Aviv

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎11:10:42 PMGo to full article
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest outside the US embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv against US President Donald Trump, mirroring worldwide demonstrations to mark his first full day in office January 21, 2017Hundreds of Israelis, most of them women, protested outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv Saturday against President Donald Trump, mirroring worldwide demonstrations to mark his first full day in office. The protesters waved placards reading "Hate is not great" and "Women's rights are human rights", according to an AFP journalist. The "woman's march" demonstration was one of more than 600 being held worldwide, a day after Trump's inauguration Friday, to condemn his allegedly sexist stances following a series of disparaging comments he made during his presidential campaign.
 
 

Syria regime, rebels set for first face-to-face at Astana

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:06:05 PMGo to full article
The conflict in Syria has lasted nearly six years, killing more than 300,000 and displacing over half of the country's populationSyria's government and rebel fighters will on Monday sit down at the negotiating table for the first time in nearly six years of war, the latest diplomatic push to end the hostilities. Hosted in the Kazakh capital Astana, the talks will see an opposition delegation composed exclusively of rebel groups negotiating with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in an initiative sponsored by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.
 
 

U.S. envoy to Kazakhstan to attend Syria talks as an observer

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎7:05:57 PMGo to full article
The U.S. State Department said on Saturday it will not send a delegation from Washington to attend Syrian peace talks in the Kazakh capital next week due to immediate demands of the transition. The State Department's acting spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan, George Krol, would attend the Jan. 23 Russian-led talks as an observer. "We welcome and appreciate Kazakhstan's invitation to participate as an observer," Toner said in a statement, "Given our presidential inauguration and the immediate demands of the transition, a delegation from Washington will not be attending the Astana conference." Toner said the U.S. was committed to a political resolution to the Syrian crisis through a Syrian-owned process.
 

Germany must prepare for 'rough ride' under Trump: Vice Chancellor

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎1:51:11 AMGo to full article
German Economy Minister Gabriel addresses a news conference in Berlin GermanyBy Joseph Nasr BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will need a new economic strategy geared toward Asia should the new U.S. administration start a trade war with China, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday, warning against protectionism hours after President Donald Trump was sworn in. "I think we have to prepare for a rough ride," Gabriel said in an interview with the public broadcaster ZDF, in the first official German reaction to Trump's inauguration.
 
 

Briton falls to death at 2022 Qatar World Cup stadium site

 
‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎6:51:42 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2014 file photo, construction work is under way at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Organizers of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar say a British man has died working at a stadium which will be a venue for the event. The organizers say the unnamed 40-year-old man died on Thursday working at Khalifa International Stadium, which is due to stage games up to the quarterfinal stage in 2022. (AP Photo/Rob Harris, File)A British man fell to his death this week at a World Cup stadium building site in Qatar, where construction conditions have come under sharp scrutiny since the country was awarded the 2022 soccer tournament.
 
 

Syria's ancient Palmyra: five things to know

 
‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎4:14:40 PMGo to full article
Syria's ancient city of Palmyra was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, where archaeological treasures are under renewed attack by Islamic State group jihadists, was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980. IS jihadists first seized Palmyra in May 2015 and began to systematically destroy the central city's monuments. Although the precise date of its founding is unknown, Palmyra's name is referred to on a tablet dating from the 19th century BC as a stopping point for caravans between the Mediterranean and the east.
 
 

With little room to maneuver, Syria's rebels head for talks

 
‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎3:09:07 PMGo to full article
FILE - This undated handout file photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry claims to show Russian Military engineers driving in their APCs to operate in Aleppo, Syria. Syrian rebels are sending representatives next week to the capital of Kazakhstan for talks with government representatives. With the loss of Aleppo, the election of Donald Trump and the pivot of Turkey toward Russia, the opposition has very little room to maneuver. Without much foreign support and with the wider rebellion in crisis, the opposition will be negotiating for scraps.(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP, File)BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels are sending more than a dozen representatives next week to the capital of Kazakhstan for talks with government representatives, the first such negotiations between the two sides in a year.
 
 

Russia says hopes Trump sends Mideast expert to Astana talks on Syria

 
‎Friday, ‎January ‎20, ‎2017, ‏‎1:59:05 PMGo to full article
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia hopes that the administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will send a Middle East expert to talks on the Syria conflict in the Kazakh capital Astana later this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. (Reporting by Alexander Winning; editing by Maria Kiselyova)
 

Qaeda operations leader killed in US strike in Syria: Pentagon

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎11:31:37 PMGo to full article
The air strike occurred Thursday at a training camp in Idlib province that had been operational since 2013, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis saidWashington (AFP) - A US air strike has killed an Al-Qaeda leader in northern Syria, the Pentagon said Thursday.
 
 

Iran's Revolutionary Guards reaps economic rewards in Syria

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎8:49:50 PMGo to full article
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani meets with Syrian Prime Minister Emad Khamis in TehranBy Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Ellen Francis DUBAI/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran's government and entities close to the elite Revolutionary Guards have signed major economic contracts with Syria, reaping what appear to be lucrative rewards for helping President Bashar al-Assad regain control of parts of his country from rebels. An opposition group condemned the telecommunications and mining deals signed with Iran, Damascus's main regional ally, as "looting" of the Syrian people and the country's wealth by the "Iranian extremist militias". Syria's economy is shrinking fast as industrial and agricultural output falls after six years of civil war, and almost two-thirds of the population lives in extreme poverty.
 
 

U.S. strikes in Libya kill more than 80 Islamic State fighters

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎8:47:37 PMGo to full article
Fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government walks as smokes rises following an air strike on Islamic State positions in Ghiza Bahriya district in SirteBy Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 80 Islamic State militants, some of whom were believed to be plotting attacks in Europe, died in U.S. air strikes on camps outside the group's former North African stronghold of Sirte in Libya, the United States said on Thursday. "These strikes were directed against some of ISIL's external plotters," U.S Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Pentagon briefing, using an acronym for Islamic State, the Syria- and Iraq-based militant group.
 
 

Lebanon gets a new government, now it needs a new economy

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎8:22:03 AMGo to full article
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri attend the first meeting of the new cabinet at the presidential palace in BaabdaBy Lisa Barrington BEIRUT (Reuters) - After years of political deadlock, Lebanon finally has a new government. Battered by war in neighboring Syria, neglected by wrangling politicians and caught in rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the pillars of the economy - remittances from overseas workers, tourism and real estate - are not what they were. Long-term, Lebanon is searching for new sources of growth, which fell from 8-9 percent to below 2 percent when Syria's civil war began in 2011.
 
 

Key players in Iran nuke deal aim message at Trump: It works

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎2:23:20 AMGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations, the European Union and key players in the Iran nuclear agreement delivered a united message Wednesday aimed at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump: The deal is working and must be maintained to keep Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.
 

Iran looks to Syria talks to boost regional clout

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎2:00:03 AMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) meets with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis in Tehran on January 18, 2017Iran is looking to Syria peace talks next week as a chance to build on its regional clout, experts say, as Tehran, Moscow and Ankara all stake out claims for influence. The Syrian army's victory in recapturing the rebel stronghold of east Aleppo last month has thrust Tehran to the centre of the diplomatic game playing out over the country's future. President Hassan Rouhani said this week that the co-sponsors of the peace talks opening in Astana on Monday -- Iran, Russia and Turkey -- were the only powers with the influence to turn the fragile ceasefire between the Syrian government and rebels into a lasting settlement.
 
 

Outgoing U.S. envoy says U.N. needs to 'push' Iran on arms embargo

 
‎Thursday, ‎January ‎19, ‎2017, ‏‎12:40:47 AMGo to full article
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Power addresses media following a United Nations Security Council vote, aimed at ensuring that U.N. officials can monitor evacuations from besieged parts of Aleppo, at the United Nations in New York CityBy Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council needs to push Iran to abide by an arms embargo, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said on Wednesday amid U.N. concerns that Tehran has supplied weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah. Most U.N. sanctions were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union to curb its nuclear program.
 
 

US commander warns of more IS attacks in Asia-Pacific

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎8:27:17 PMGo to full article
Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, called for a concerted effort by the global community to deal with the Islamic State threat in the regionA top US military commander warned Wednesday that the Asia-Pacific region is at risk of attacks by Islamic State group fighters returning to their home countries. As the group loses territory in the Middle East, radicalised fighters from Bangladesh, Indonesia and elsewhere are likely to target their native countries, Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris said. In the past year alone, ISIL has made its murderous intentions clear in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United States," he said at an geo-political conference in New Delhi.
 
 

Iraq announces 'liberation' of east Mosul

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎6:26:42 PMGo to full article
Iraqi elite forces have in recent days entered the last neighbourhoods on the eastern side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River that runs through the cityIraqi forces have retaken control of east Mosul from the Islamic State group, commanders said on Wednesday, three months after a huge offensive against the jihadist bastion was launched. Elite forces have in recent days entered the last neighbourhoods on the eastern side of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River that runs through the city. Speaking at a news conference in Bartalla, a town east of Mosul, Staff General Talib al-Sheghati, who heads the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), announced "the liberation... of the left bank".
 
 

Popular Sufi leader in Morocco dies aged 95

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎6:16:42 PMGo to full article
Sidi Hamza al-Qadiri al-Boutchichi was believed to be descended from the Prophet Mohammed and belonged to a long line of Sufi leadersThe head of one of Morocco's biggest Sufi orders, with tens of thousands of followers at home and abroad, died Wednesday aged 95, an official and local media said. Sheikh Sidi Hamza al-Qadiri al-Boutchichi had been the spiritual leader of the Qadiriya Boutchichiya order since 1972. Seen as a "living master" by his followers and famed for his wisdom and kindness, he was believed to be descended from the Prophet Mohammed and belonged to a long line of Sufi leaders.
 
 

US congresswoman Gabbard makes secret Syria trip

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎5:46:32 PMGo to full article
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who often clashes with her own party on issues related to Syria, has long opposed a US policy of regime change thereA US congresswoman made a rare secret visit to Syria as part of her effort toward ending the years-long conflict in the Middle Eastern nation, her office said Wednesday. House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, made a fact-finding mission to the capital Damascus despite continued fighting in the war-torn country in contravention of a frail ceasefire. "As an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders," said Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer.
 
 

Security issues sow divisions as Cyprus talks resume

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎3:04:42 PMGo to full article
An woman pushes a baby stroller in front of an abandoned building, in the UN-controlled buffer zone in NicosiaBy Michele Kambas ATHENS (Reuters) - The vexed issue of security arrangements in a post-settlement Cyprus took center stage on Wednesday in talks on the island's future, as officials played down chances of swift progress in a push towards reunification by its Greek and Turkish authorities. Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said last week it should retain troops on the divided island to protect the minority Turkish Cypriot community, a comment that raised hackles in Athens. "We will try to ... maybe offer some alternatives for the political level to consider," the source - who is close to the Turkish Cypriot delegation - told Reuters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
 
 

Luxury goods maker Burberry sales up over Christmas period

 
‎Wednesday, ‎January ‎18, ‎2017, ‏‎2:57:25 PMGo to full article
LONDON (AP) — Luxury goods maker Burberry says retail sales rose in the three months including the critical Christmas season, as improved results in Asia helped reverse recent declines.

 

 

 Iran News - Yahoo!News     Feed image

 

 
 
 
 

The Latest: UN seeks over $8 billion in 2017 for Syria aid

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures as he arrives to attend the talks on Syrian peace in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. The face-to-face meeting in Kazakhstan's capital is the latest in a long line of diplomatic initiatives aimed at ending the nearly 6-year-old civil war. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on Syria talks underway for a second day in Kazakhstan and developments on the ground in the war-torn country (all times local):
 
 

Jihadists in Syria launch assault on rebels attending peace talks

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
A general view of Rixos President Hotel, the venue that hosts Syria peace talks in Astana, KazakhstanBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - A jihadist group has launched a major assault on Free Syrian Army groups in northwestern Syria as they attend peace talks in Kazakhstan, rebel officials said on Tuesday, an attempt to crush the moderate wing of the insurgency against the government. Officials from the jihadist group, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, could not immediately be reached for comment. Fateh al-Sham was previously known as the Nusra Front.
 
 

Russia, Turkey, Iran near deal over Syria truce efforts

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Head of Syrian opposition delegation Alloush attends Syria peace talks in AstanaBy Suleiman Al-Khalidi and John Irish ASTANA (Reuters) - Russia, Turkey and Iran on Tuesday were working on a statement to reaffirm a fragile ceasefire between Syrian warring parties that could agree to establishing a mechanism to observe its compliance and pave the way for a U.N.-led peace settlement. Delegations from the Syrian government and opposition were holding indirect talks for a second day in the Kazakh capital at a time when Turkey, which backs the rebels, and Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, each want to disentangle themselves from the fighting. Delegates from Russia, Turkey and Iran were wrangling over the terms of the final communique which would need to be approved - though not formally signed - by the government and opposition delegations.
 
 

Syria peace talks in Astana close to final declaration

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
A member of the rebel delegation Osama Abu Zeid speaks to the media during the second day of Syria peace talks at Astana's Rixos President Hotel on January 24, 2017The UN envoy for Syria said Tuesday that a final declaration was close to being achieved at indirect talks between Syrian rebels and their war-torn country's regime in Kazakhstan's capital Astana. The talks, which yielded no apparent breakthrough on Monday's first day, could have been the first face-to-face negotiations between the regime and the armed opposition since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011, but the rebels backed out. "We are not far from a final declaration," UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said.
 
 

Turkey, Russia, Iran agree on mechanism to monitor Syria ceasefire violations: AA

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey, Russia and Iran have reached agreement on forming a three-party mechanism to monitor ceasefire violations in Syria, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday. It appeared to confirm a previous report by Russian news agency TASS, which on Monday cited an early draft communique as saying the three countries would set up a mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire. (Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk)
 

Saudi Arabia warns destructive computer virus has returned

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎3 hours agoGo to full article
Saudi Arabia is warning that a computer virus that destroyed the systems of its state-run oil company in 2012 has returned. A state-run television channel aired comments on Monday suggesting that 15 government ...
 

After rocky start, second day of Syria talks in Kazakhstan

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures as he arrives to attend the talks on Syrian peace in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. The face-to-face meeting in Kazakhstan's capital is the latest in a long line of diplomatic initiatives aimed at ending the nearly 6-year-old civil war. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Syria pressed on with efforts Tuesday to shore up a shaky cease-fire between the Damascus government and its allies and rebel factions, as he shuttled between delegates from the two sides on the second day of peace talks in Kazakhstan.
 
 

U.N. Syria envoy says not far from final Astana declaration

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
The U.N. special envoy for Syria said on Tuesday Russia, Turkey and Iran were closing in on a final statement reaffirming a cessation of hostilities between Syrian warring parties. "We're working for a declaration that can reassure the actual cessation of hostilities to become more solid," he told reporters. "This is not a paper, but a cessation of hostilities and saving lives.
 

UN Syria envoy says Astana talks 'not far from final declaration'

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura speaks to the media during the peace talks between the government and opposition at Astana's Rixos President Hotel on January 24, 2017The UN envoy for Syria said Tuesday that a final declaration was close to being achieved at indirect talks between Syrian rebels and Damascus in the Kazakh capital Astana. "We are not far from a final declaration," Staffan de Mistura said.
 
 

No sign of breakthrough on first day of Syria talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:15:48 PMGo to full article
Chief rebel negotiator Mohammad Alloush attends the first session of Syria peace talks at Astana's Rixos President Hotel on January 23, 2017Peace talks with Syrian rebels and the war-torn country's government got off to a rocky start Monday, while Washington said President Donald Trump was open to joint operations with Russia against Islamic State jihadists in Syria. The Syrian rebels' representatives vowed to keep fighting if peace negotiations with the government of President Bashar al-Assad fail, as the first day of talks in the Kazakh capital Astana ended with no apparent breakthrough.
 
 

Talks on Syria's civil war off to a rocky start

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:14:19 PMGo to full article
Delegations of Russia, Iran and Turkey hold talks on Syrian peace at a hotel in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. The talks are the latest attempt to forge a political settlement to end a war that has by most estimates killed more than 400,000 people since March 2011 and displaced more than half the country's population. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Talks between the Syrian government and representatives of rebel factions got off to a rocky start Monday after their first face-to-face meeting in Kazakhstan that marked a major shift in the war's dynamics and confirmed Russia's role as regional heavyweight.
 
 

Yemeni government forces take strategic port of Mokha

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:43:22 PMGo to full article
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Forces allied with the internationally-recognized government of Yemen seized control of a strategic Red Sea port on Monday after waging an assault against Shiite rebels, a top military commander said.
 

The Latest: Trump willing to work with Russia against IS

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:26:56 PMGo to full article
Kazakhstan's officials prepare working space for delegations at a hotel lobby where Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold talks on Syrian peace, in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. The talks are the latest attempt to forge a political settlement to end a war that has by most estimates killed more than 400,000 people since March 2011 and displaced more than half the country's population. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on Syria talks that are being held in Kazakhstan and developments on the ground in the war-torn country (all times local):
 
 

France FM in Saudi to reaffirm 'partnership'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:23:52 PMGo to full article
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault on his first ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria"France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday to reaffirm the allies' "strategic partnership", as European concerns mount over US President Donald Trump's foreign policies. Ayrault, on his first ministerial visit to the kingdom, "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria", the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
 
 

Russia and Turkey push Syria's warring sides to seal truce

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:12:35 PMGo to full article
A car is parked in front of Rixos President Hotel, the venue that hosts Syria peace talks, in Astana, KazakhstanBy Denis Dyomkin and John Irish ASTANA (Reuters) - Syria's warring sides met for their first talks in nine months on Monday, with their Russian and Turkish backers pushing to cement a ceasefire that could pave the way for political talks. The meeting in the Kazakh capital comes at a time when Turkey, which backs the rebels, and Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, each want to disentangle themselves from the fighting. "We understand that militarily they have achieved what they wanted in Syria.
 
 

Syrian Kurdish YPG says not bound by Astana peace talks outcome

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:55:30 PMGo to full article
Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) walk in the Ghwairan neighborhood of HasakaThe Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Monday it would not be bound by any decision that comes out of peace talks under way in Kazakhstan as it was not involved in the meetings. Indirect talks between representatives of the Syrian government and rebel groups began on Monday in the Kazakh capital Astana, sponsored by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. "As we are not participating in these talks, we stress that we are not bound by any decisions issued from the Astana conference," the YPG said in a statement.
 
 

First day of Syria talks end without apparent breakthrough: sources

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:35:21 PMGo to full article
Representatives of the Syria regime and rebel groups along with other attendees take part in the first session of Syria peace talks at Astana's Rixos President Hotel on January 23, 2017A first day of indirect peace talks between Syrian rebels and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Kazakhstan's capital Astana ended Monday without any apparent breakthrough, sources told AFP. "Our delegation's meetings are over for today," a source close to the regime told AFP, after rebel spokesman Yehya al-Aridi told reporters the opposition's meetings were also done for the day. Monday's talks, organised by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran, could have marked the first time armed rebel groups directly negotiate with Assad's regime since the conflict began in 2011.
 
 

Glad to see Obama go, Gulf Arabs expect Trump to counter Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:24:54 PMGo to full article
Former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle board Special Air Mission 28000, a Boeing 747 which serves as Air Force One, at Joint Base Andrews, MarylandBy William Maclean DUBAI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump's short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East. While many countries around the world listened with concern to his protectionist inaugural address, Gulf Arab officials appear optimistic. In Gulf Arab eyes, that involves above all checking what they see as a surge of Iranian support for paramilitary allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and for fellow Shi'ite Muslims in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province.
 
 

Netanyahu sees 'opportunities' with Trump but calls for restraint

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎6:49:05 PMGo to full article
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday Donald Trump's presidency in the United States represented "significant opportunities" for Israel, but called for restraint from fellow right-wing politicians. Referring to former US president Barack Obama, Netanyahu said "after eight years of withstanding huge pressures on a large array of topics, first and foremost Iran and the settlements, I definitely welcome the change of attitude". Obama's administration grew frustrated with Israeli settlement building, warning it was eating away at prospects of a two-state solution.
 
 

Syrian talks to continue, may produce joint document: source

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎6:24:14 PMGo to full article
ASTANA (Reuters) - The first day of indirect talks in Astana between the Syrian government and rebels has given grounds for­ cautious optimism about potential ­progress, a source close to the talks told Reuters on Monday. The guaran­tor states - Russia, Turkey and Iran - are expected to continue talk­s and work on a possible joint document ­on Tuesday, the source said. (Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Catherine Evans)
 

Syria talks may signal shift in conflict dynamics

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎2:22:45 PMGo to full article
Bashar Jaafari, Syrian Ambassador to the UN and head of the Syrian delegation, right, speaks to a member of Syrian delegation during the talks on Syrian peace in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. Syria talks brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran aimed at bolstering a shaky cease-fire in place since last month opened on Monday in Kazakhstan, marking the first face-to-face meeting between the Damascus government representatives and rebel factions trying to overthrow it. The gathering is also the start of a new effort to end six years of carnage that has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced half of Syria’s population and sent millions of refugees to neighboring countries and Europe. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)BEIRUT (AP) — Syria talks in the Kazakh capital Astana come at a time of significant changes to the conflict in its sixth year. Although promising to focus on reinforcing a cease-fire, the conference has raised expectations of a path toward a political settlement of the civil war.
 
 

Gulf-backed Yemeni forces push into Red Sea coast city: officials

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎1:50:46 PMGo to full article
Members of the Yemeni army ride on the back of military trucks near the Red Sea coast city of al-MokhaYemeni army forces backed by Gulf Arabs fought their way into the Red Sea coast city of al-Mokha on Monday, military officials said, pushing out Iran-allied Houthi militia. A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen's civil war nearly two years ago to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces. The so-called National Army loyal to Hadi entered the port area on Mokha's southwestern edge, an army official said.
 
 

Expectations low as Syria's warring sides meet

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎12:51:41 PMGo to full article
Participants of Syria peace talks attend meeting in AstanaBy Olzhas Auyezov and Suleiman Al-Khalidi ASTANA (Reuters) - Syria's warring sides met for talks in Kazakhstan's capital on Monday, flanked by intermediary nations seeking to engineer steps towards a goal other negotiations have failed to reach: an end to the six-year-old conflict. Sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Iran, the meeting marks the first time the opposition and representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have come together since United Nations-brokered talks in Geneva were suspended early last year. As fighting continued in Syria and organizers played down chances of a breakthrough, the two sides sat opposite each other at a round table in a hotel conference room in Astana before a day of talks got under way.
 
 

Search teams find 4 more bodies in Tehran building collapse

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:42:17 AMGo to full article
Iranian firefighters remove the debris of the Plasco building which collapsed on Thursday, in central Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Scores of workers and dozens of trucks were searching the ruins Saturday, three days after the historic high-rise building in the heart of Tehran caught fire and later collapsed. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's official news agency says search teams have found four more bodies of victims from last week's deadly building collapse in Tehran.
 
 

Trump invites Israel's Netanyahu to February talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎4:30:31 AMGo to full article
Palestinian labourers work on a construction site in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017US President Donald Trump discussed Iran with Benjamin Netanyahu and invited the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House early next month. The two leaders spoke by telephone and "agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran," the White House said in a statement, signalling the new administration's tougher line on Tehran. Israel approved hundreds of new settler homes in east Jerusalem Sunday hours before the telephone call, which an Israeli statement described as "very warm".
 
 

Trump launches term stirring controversy over popular support

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:46:08 AMGo to full article
New US President Donald Trump stopped short of making a full divestment prior to taking office, earning a swift rebuke from an ethics watchdog and Democratic Party opponentsBarely arrived in the White House, President Donald Trump has touched off a stormy debate over the extent of his popular support, but sought to shift the focus to upcoming actions from his office. A day after massive anti-Trump protests in Washington and in hundreds of towns and cities around the world, the new president turned to Twitter to mock the demonstrators who had filled the streets. Celebs hurt cause badly," Trump tweeted early Sunday, referring to the actors, singers, writers and filmmakers who took the stage at the Washington march to speak out against him.
 
 

Four more bodies found in rubble of collapsed building in Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:38:50 AMGo to full article
A collapsed building is seen in TehranIranian rescuers have recovered four bodies from the rubble of a high-rise building in Tehran that collapsed last week after a fire, bringing the death toll to at least seven, with more than 20 people still missing, state television reported on Monday. "Four bodies were found and turned over to the coroner's office for identification," Esmail Farahani, deputy head of Iran's Emergency Medical Services, told state TV. Farahani said the bodies were located in the basement of the 17-storey Plasco shopping mall, which crumbled after catching fire on Thursday, trapping as many as 30 people, many of them firefighters.
 
 

Syria rebels vow to continue fighting if Astana talks fail

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎2:11:14 AMGo to full article
Syrian government forces patrol the northern city of AleppoSyrian rebels have vowed to continue fighting if talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the Kazakh capital Astana fail, a rebel spokesman said Monday. "If the negotiations succeed, then we are with the negotiations," rebel spokesman Osama Abu Zeid told AFP. The comment comes after the rebels refused to take part in face-to-face negotiations in a first session of talks with the regime.
 
 

Israeli leader accepts invitation from Trump to visit US

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎12:10:11 AMGo to full article
The Israeli settlement of Maaleh Adumim looms over Arab Bedouin shacks in the West Bank, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. The municipality of Jerusalem has granted final approval for the construction of hundreds of new homes in east Jerusalem, while a hard-line Cabinet minister pushed the government to annex Maaleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement as emboldened Israeli nationalists welcomed the presidency of Donald Trump. The building plans were put on hold in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister on Sunday accepted an invitation to visit the White House next month in hopes of forging a "common vision" for the region with President Donald Trump that could include expanded settlement construction on occupied territories and a tougher policy toward Iran.
 
 

Netanyahu says Trump invites him to Washington in February

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11:32:49 PMGo to full article
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in JerusalemIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump had invited him to a meeting in Washington in February. In Washington, Trump, who took office on Friday, said his phone call with Netanyahu had been "very nice." He was asked about the call by reporters after delivering remarks at a ceremony swearing in his top advisers at the White House. The statement from Netanyahu's office said "the Prime Minister expressed his desire to work closely with President Trump to forge a common vision to advance peace and security in the region, with no gaps between the United States and Israel." It said the two discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues.
 
 

The Latest: Israeli leader gets White House invitation

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎11:07:13 PMGo to full article
A worker stands in a construction site in the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. The municipality of Jerusalem has granted final approval for the construction of hundreds of new homes in east Jerusalem, while a hard-line Cabinet minister pushed the government to annex Maaleh Adumim, a major West Bank settlement as emboldened Israeli nationalists welcomed the presidency of Donald Trump. The building plans were put on hold in the final months of President Barack Obama's administration. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on Israeli plans in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Trump era (all times local):
 
 

Intensive negotiations ahead of Russia-led Syria talks

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎9:33:32 PMGo to full article
Spokesman for the Syrian opposition Yahya Al-Aridi speaks to the media ahead of Syria peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. Syrian rebel delegates huddled in Kazakhstan Sunday ahead of talks with government representatives scheduled to begin Monday, the first such negotiations between the two sides in a year. At the top of the agenda is an effort to consolidate a fragile cease-fire agreement reached last month and ease humanitarian suffering in the war-ravaged country. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Delegates from Russia, Turkey and Iran held hours-long talks in Kazakhstan Sunday on the eve of negotiations between Syrian rebels and President Bashar Assad's government, trying to forge common ground that would nudge forward a political settlement for the country's civil war.
 
 

Ex-hostage's daughter finds dad's love by meeting his captor

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎8:43:11 PMGo to full article
In this Jan. 18, 2017 photo, Sulome Anderson, journalist and daughter of former American hostage Terry Anderson, holds a photograph of herself, lower right, with her father shortly after his return from Lebanon at her home in New York. Sulome said a multi-year retracing of her father’s harrowing ordeal repaired their tattered relationship. Sulome describes the quest in “The Hostage’s Daughter,” a recently published book. Her effort to research the 1985 kidnapping of Terry Anderson in Beirut, Lebanon, eventually brought her face-to-face with one of his captors. Ultimately, it led her to see eye-to-eye with her father again. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)NEW YORK (AP) — She tried drugs. She tried arguing. She tried writing a book. After a quarter century, the daughter of the longest-held American hostage during Lebanon's civil war says she's found her father's love. And it took coming face-to-face with one of his captors to do it.
 
 

Iran sentences British woman to 5 years on security charges

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎7:50:01 PMGo to full article
FILE -- In this Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 file photo, Richard Ratcliffe husband of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, poses for the media during an Amnesty International led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Iran has sentenced Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman accused of trying to overthrow the cleric-run government, to five years in prison, a news website affiliated with the judiciary reported Sunday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency's charitable arm, was detained in April 2016 while trying to leave the country with her toddler daughter, who remains in Iran with family after authorities seized her passport. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has sentenced an Iranian-British woman accused of trying to overthrow the cleric-run government to five years in prison, a news website affiliated with the judiciary reported Sunday.
 
 

British-Iranian aid worker's five-year jail term upheld in Iran

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6:33:54 PMGo to full article
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella pose for a photo in LondonAn Iranian appeals court has confirmed a five-year jail sentence for British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on security charges, Iran's judiciary spokesman said on Sunday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family said in September that a Revolutionary Court had handed down the sentence on undisclosed charges. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said the term had been upheld.
 
 

Syria rebels arrive in Astana for talks with regime

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎5:37:13 PMGo to full article
Syrian government forces patrol the northern city of AleppoMembers of the Syrian opposition delegation arrived Sunday in the Kazakh capital Astana for face-to-face peace talks with the war-torn nation's government. The talks, set to begin on Monday, will be the first time a delegation composed exclusively of rebel groups will negotiate with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Chief opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush flew into Astana on Sunday morning, according to an AFP correspondent who saw the delegation arrive.
 
 

Syrian rebels call on Russia to help defend ceasefire

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4:23:36 PMGo to full article
Alloush of the Jaish al Islam faction and member of the HNC attends a news conference after a meeting during Syria Peace talks in GenevaBy Suleiman Al-Khalidi ASTANA (Reuters) - A Syrian rebel group called on Russia to withstand pressure from Iran and the Syrian government to help ensure that a ceasefire agreed last month holds, the head of a delegation at peace talks told Reuters on Sunday. Mohammad Alloush said a failure by Moscow to end what the opposition says are widespread violations of a Turkish-Russian brokered ceasefire would be a blow to its influence in Syria. "It's a real test of the power of Russia and its influence over the regime and Iran as a guarantor of the deal, so if it fails in this role there will follow bigger failures," Alloush said in the Kazakh capital, where talks are due to begin on Monday.
 
 

Syrian army nears Turkey-backed rebels in new advance

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎3:22:02 PMGo to full article
The Syrian army and its allies on Sunday drove Islamic State from several villages east of Aleppo, a military media unit run by Hezbollah and a war monitor reported, bringing them closer to territory held by Turkey-backed rebels. Several overlapping conflicts are being fought in Syria, dragging in regional and global powers as well as the government and local groups, complicating the battlefield in the north of the country and raising the risk of an escalation in the war. The main struggle in Syria's civil war is between President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran, Russia and Shi'ite militias including the Lebanese Hezbollah, against rebels that include groups backed by Turkey, Gulf monarchies and the United States.
 

Israel's Netanyahu says to speak with Trump later Sunday

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎12:37:22 PMGo to full article
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on January 22, 2017Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would speak with US President Donald Trump by telephone later in the day, their first talks since the billionaire businessman took office. Trump has pledged strong support for Israel and vowed during his campaign to recognise Jerusalem as the country's capital despite the city's contested status. Israeli right-wing politicians have welcomed Trump's election, with hardliners who oppose a Palestinian state hoping it will allow them to move forward with their goal of annexing most of the occupied West Bank.
 
 

Israel's Netanyahu to speak with Trump on Sunday, Iran on agenda

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎12:22:36 PMGo to full article
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump during their meeting in New YorkJERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would later in the day hold his first conversation with Donald Trump since his inauguration as U.S. president. "A telephone conversation will be held this evening between President Trump and me. Many matters face us, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria, the Iranian threat," Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks at the start of the Israeli cabinet meeting. (Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Potter)
 
 

Israeli leader to Iran: "We are your friend, not your enemy"

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:31:43 PMGo to full article
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's leader has recorded a conciliatory message to the people of Iran, saying, "we are your friend, not your enemy."
 

Syria regime, rebels set for first face-to-face at Astana

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎8:06:05 PMGo to full article
The conflict in Syria has lasted nearly six years, killing more than 300,000 and displacing over half of the country's populationSyria's government and rebel fighters will on Monday sit down at the negotiating table for the first time in nearly six years of war, the latest diplomatic push to end the hostilities. Hosted in the Kazakh capital Astana, the talks will see an opposition delegation composed exclusively of rebel groups negotiating with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in an initiative sponsored by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.
 
 

Iran rescuers find three bodies at collapsed building, hopes for survivors fade

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎6:34:42 PMGo to full article
A collapsed building is seen in TehranIranian rescuers have removed three bodies from the rubble of a high-rise building in Tehran that collapsed after a fire, a fire department spokesman said on Saturday, as hopes of finding survivors trapped beneath the shopping mall were fading. "Because of rekindling fires and the extreme heat..., we feel that it is unfortunately unrealistic that anyone would survive, although our hope is that some may come out alive," fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki told state television. "Based on the available indications, the number of people under the rubble are between 25 and 30," Esmail Najjar, head of the National Disaster Management Organization, told the state news agency IRNA.
 
 

Kremlin hopes for rapport with US, but differences will stay

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎5:21:30 PMGo to full article
Traditional Russian wooden dolls called Matryoshka depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, hours before Donald Trump is to be sworn in as president of the United States, are displayed for sale at a street souvenir shop in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman voiced hope for a constructive dialogue with President Donald Trump's administration in comments broadcast Saturday, but warned that differences will remain.
 
 

Rescue teams pull 2 bodies from Iran building rubble

 
‎Saturday, ‎January ‎21, ‎2017, ‏‎4:03:59 PMGo to full article
An Iranian firefighter removes debris of the Plasco building which was engulfed by a fire and collapsed on Thursday, in central Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Scores of workers and dozens of trucks were searching the ruins Saturday, two days after a historic high-rise building in the heart of Tehran caught fire and later collapsed. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Rescuers found the bodies of two firefighters in the rubble of a commercial building that collapsed in Tehran after a blaze, leaving up to 30 people dead, Iran's state TV reported Saturday.

 

 

 

Iraq News Headlines - Yahoo! News    Feed image

 
 

The Latest: Syria talks in Astana pledge to safeguard truce

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎10 minutes agoGo to full article
The Latest: Syria talks in Astana pledge to safeguard truceThe latest on Syria talks underway for a second day in Kazakhstan and developments on the ground in the war-torn country (all times local): 2:15 p.m. Syria talks in Kazakhstan between the Damascus government ...
 
 

Oil steady on OPEC cuts, U.S. output recovery

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎26 minutes agoGo to full article
Pump Jacks are seen at sunrise near BakersfieldBy Christopher Johnson LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices were steady on Tuesday as news of lower production by OPEC and other key exporters was balanced by reports of more drilling and higher output in the United States. Ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and big producers outside the group said on Sunday that of the almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) they had agreed to remove from the market starting on Jan. 1, 1.5 million bpd had already been cut. Ministers were engaged in a campaign of "bullish rhetoric", talking up their deal to make sure the market responds positively, said Tamas Varga, senior analyst at London brokerage PVM Oil Associates.
 
 

Iraqi forces battle Islamic State in pocket of eastern Mosul

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎51 minutes agoGo to full article
Iraqi Army soldiers celebrate with residents of liberated neighborhoods as they hold upside down a flag of the Islamic State group, in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. The U.N. and several aid organizations say an estimated 750,000 civilians are still living under Islamic State rule in Mosul despite recent advances by Iraqi forces. Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement Tuesday that the cost of food and basic goods is soaring, water and electricity are intermittent and that some residents are forced to burn furniture to keep warm. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Fierce fighting erupted in Mosul on Tuesday as Iraqi forces tried to drive Islamic State militants from one of their last bastions in the eastern half of the city, as aid groups expressed concern for the estimated 750,000 people still in the militant-held west.
 
 

Children head back to school in east Mosul: UN

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Iraqi students run in a school yard in Mosul's eastern Gogjali neighbourhood on January 23, 2017Thousands of Iraqi children are heading back to school in east Mosul after weeks of fighting and more than two years of jihadist rule, the UN children's fund UNICEF said Tuesday. Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group 100 days ago and have ousted the jihadists from all the central neighbourhoods of east Mosul. "As fighting subsides in east Mosul, 30 schools reopened on Sunday with help from UNICEF, allowing over 16,000 children to resume their education," it said in a statement.
 
 

Chechens serving as Russian military police in Aleppo: Kadyrov

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been in power since 2007Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov on Tuesday confirmed that troops from the mainly Muslim Caucasus region were serving as Russian military police in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo. "The soldiers said with pride that they have been given the honour of serving to protect peace and public order in Aleppo, defending the civilian population from terrorist attacks," Kadyrov wrote on his account, which has 2.3 million followers.
 
 

Fears for Mosul civilians as Iraq plans west bank assault

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Iraqi forces have all but completed their reconquest of Mosul's east bank and commanders are turning their sights to the western side of the cityThree quarters of a million civilians living in west Mosul are at "extreme risk", the United Nations warned Tuesday as Iraqi forces prepared for a push into the jihadist bastion. A hundred days into a massive offensive to retake the Islamic State group's last major stronghold in Iraq, federal forces and jihadists took up positions on either side of the Tigris River that divides Mosul. The three months it took to reconquer Mosul's east saw some tough fighting but even deadlier battles are expected on the city's west bank, which is home to the narrow streets of the Old City and some of IS's traditional redoubts.
 
 

UN warns west Mosul civilians at 'extreme risk'

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎4 hours agoGo to full article
Iraqi families flee an area near Mosul controlled by Islamic State group on January 22, 2017The estimated 750,000 people living in jihadist-controlled west Mosul are in grave danger, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, 100 days into a massive Iraqi operation to retake the city. "We are relieved that so many people in the eastern sections of Mosul have been able to stay in their homes," the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande said in a statement. On October 17, tens of thousands of Iraqi forces launched an offensive -- Iraq's largest military operation in years -- to retake the country's second city from the Islamic State group.
 
 

Pet pigeons take flight in Iraq's Mosul as militants retreat

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
FILE -- In this Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, Mustafa Othman feeds his pigeons on the roof of his family's house, in a neighborhood recently liberated from Islamic State militants, in eastern Mosul, Iraq. For the first time in over two years, flocks of white and grey pigeons can be seen circling Mosul’s rooftops. Among the many strict rules imposed by the Islamic State group in the northern Iraqi city was a ban on breeding or flying the birds. Many Mosul residents killed off their flocks or confined them to cages, but 17-year-old Mustafa Othman couldn’t bring himself to do it. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — For the first time in over two years, flocks of white and grey pigeons can be seen circling Mosul's rooftops.
 
 

Today in History

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
Today in History
 

The Latest: Trump repeats unproven claim of illegal votes

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
The Latest: Trump repeats unproven claim of illegal votesThe Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local): 9 p.m. President Donald Trump is telling House and Senate leaders he would have won the popular vote in the 2016 election if not for the votes of ...
 
 

Trump’s continuing crowd obsession demonstrates perils of Twitter presidency

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎12 hours agoGo to full article
Trump’s continuing crowd obsession demonstrates perils of Twitter presidencyIt was a castoff pro-football player who offered some wise advice to President Trump on Monday, after a first few days in office marred by squabbles over how many people attended his inauguration. “Yo @POTUS even I know to stay away from the notifications section on twitter,” wrote former Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who has struggled with fame and substance abuse. “S— will drive you crazy,” Manziel added.
 
 

White House opens door to cooperation with Russian in Syria

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2107 file photo, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford greets Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Pentagon. The Trump administration opened the door to cooperating with Russia “or anyone else” to combat the Islamic State group in Syria, suggesting it could reverse a previous refusal to coordinate military action with Moscow as long as it backs the Syrian government. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday opened the door to cooperating with Russia "or anyone else" to combat the Islamic State group in Syria, suggesting it could reverse a previous refusal to coordinate military action with Moscow as long as it backs the Syrian government.
 
 

Trump spokesman says negative coverage is ‘demoralizing’ to Trump

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
Trump’s continuing crowd obsession demonstrates perils of Twitter presidencyWhite House press secretary Sean Spicer, holding his first formal briefing with reporters, promised Monday not to lie to the press but complained about “demoralizing” news coverage. Spicer also said President Trump would soon unveil a Supreme Court nominee and a new plan for battling ISIS, but hedged on a controversial pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Two days after reading an angry statement attacking the media coverage of Trump’s inauguration, Spicer spent 78 minutes in a packed White House briefing room taking roughly 60 questions about the new president’s plans and priorities and a few queries about his own role as the government’s top spokesman.
 
 

White House denies Trump filled front rows with supporters during CIA HQ visit

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
White House denies Trump filled front rows with supporters during CIA HQ visitWhite House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday rejected reports that President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters during the weekend hurt his already troubled relationship with the U.S. intelligence community. On Saturday, Trump gave a freewheeling speech at the CIA while standing before a wall memorializing fallen officers. Among other comments, he ripped the media for downplaying the size of the crowd at his inauguration and boasted that most of the people in the room had voted for him.
 
 

White House contests report that Trump bungled visit to CIA HQ

 
‎Today, ‎January ‎24, ‎2017, ‏‎14 hours agoGo to full article
White House denies Trump filled front rows with supporters during CIA HQ visitWhite House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday rejected reports that President Trump’s visit to the CIA’s headquarters over the weekend actually hurt his already troubled relationship with the U.S. intelligence community. On Saturday, Trump gave a freewheeling, campaign-like speech to the intelligence community while standing before a wall memorializing fallen officers. Former CIA Director John Brennan called the appearance shameful, and CBS reported that the visit was “uncomfortable” and not welcomed enthusiastically by the CIA officials there.
 
 

Oil slips as U.S. drilling recovery offsets OPEC-led cuts

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:33:01 PMGo to full article
Petrol nozzles are seen at Cosmo Energy Holdings' Cosmo Oil service station in TokyoBy Devika Krishna Kumar NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell 1 percent on Monday as signs of a strong recovery in U.S. drilling largely overshadowed news that OPEC and non-OPEC producers were on track to meet output reduction goals. Ministers representing members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers said at a meeting in Vienna on Sunday that of the almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) they had agreed to remove from the market starting on Jan. 1, 1.5 million bpd had already been cut. "Despite comments over the weekend at the OPEC compliance meeting that cuts in OPEC/non-OPEC production were ahead of schedule, a sharp rise in U.S. rig counts and talk of large increases in capital spending seem to be souring the bullish mood," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Chicago-based brokerage Price Futures Group.
 
 

U.S. military denies coordinating Syria air strikes with Russia

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:21:16 PMGo to full article
A general view shows rising smoke after strikes on Aleppo cityThe Pentagon on Monday denied that it had coordinated air strikes with Russia in Syria, after Russia's defense ministry said the United States had provided coordinates for Islamic State militants. The Russian defense ministry said the Russian military had received coordinates of Islamic State targets near al-Bab, Syria from the "American side" of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militant group on Jan. 22.
 
 

Iraqi forces claim recapture of eastern Mosul after 100 days of fighting

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:18:03 PMGo to full article
A military vehicle of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces is seen at the site of car bomb attack during a battle with Islamic State militants in Andalus neighborhood of MosulBy Maher Chmaytelli and Saif Hameed BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi officials said on Monday government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul, 100 days after the start of their U.S.-backed campaign to dislodge Islamic State militants from the city. The deputy parliament speaker announced the capture of the east of the city, Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq, after a meeting with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. "We completed the total liberation of the left bank of Mosul and this is a gift to the Iraqi people," said Sheikh Humam Hamoudi in a statement.
 
 

U.N. expresses concern for 750,000 civilians remaining in western Mosul

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎11:17:25 PMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United Nations expressed "deep concern" on Tuesday about 750,000 civilians living in western Mosul, ahead of a U.S.-backed offensive to dislodge Islamic State from this area. "The reports from inside western Mosul are distressing," Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said in a statement. "The prices of basic food and supplies are soaring ... many families without income are eating only once a day. Others are being forced to burn furniture to stay warm. ...
 

Creative Ways Hospitals Reach Diverse Populations

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎10:09:25 PMGo to full article
In the past five decades, about 59 million immigrants have come to the U.S., and that's one reason "it's in everyone's best interest to develop and promote culturally diverse patient services," says Marisol Romany, manager of language services and cultural development at Orlando Health, which runs six acute care hospitals in Florida and is affiliated with two other facilities. Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, provides patient navigators for Asian patients -- many of them first-generation immigrants -- to guide them through registration, help schedule their tests, take them to their appointments and explain every step in the patient's native language.
 

Iraq premier orders probe into violations by troops in Mosul

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:48:16 PMGo to full article
Iraq's special forces troops patrol in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops announced on Wednesday they were in "full control" of eastern Mosul, after routing Islamic State militants from that part of the northern city almost exactly three months since the major operation started. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's prime minister on Monday ordered an investigation into violations of human rights and other abuses purportedly committed by government troops and paramilitary forces battling the Islamic State group to retake the city of Mosul.
 
 

After women's marches, can numbers translate to real change?

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:42:12 PMGo to full article
A crowd fills Independence Avenue during the Women's March on Washington, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)DENVER (AP) — Deb Szeman, a self-described "homebody," had never participated in a demonstration before hopping on an overnight bus from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the women's march on Washington.
 
 

The Latest: Trump willing to work with Russia against IS

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:26:56 PMGo to full article
Kazakhstan's officials prepare working space for delegations at a hotel lobby where Russia, Iran and Turkey will hold talks on Syrian peace, in Astana, Kazakhstan, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. The talks are the latest attempt to forge a political settlement to end a war that has by most estimates killed more than 400,000 people since March 2011 and displaced more than half the country's population. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on Syria talks that are being held in Kazakhstan and developments on the ground in the war-torn country (all times local):
 
 

France FM in Saudi to reaffirm 'partnership'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:23:52 PMGo to full article
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault on his first ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria"France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday to reaffirm the allies' "strategic partnership", as European concerns mount over US President Donald Trump's foreign policies. Ayrault, on his first ministerial visit to the kingdom, "will discuss the main regional issues, particularly the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria", the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
 
 

Russian bombers hit Islamic State near besieged Syrian army enclave

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎9:12:35 PMGo to full article
Russian jets pounded Islamic State in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor on Monday, seeking to thwart a full-blown assault by the militants against the last district in the region still held by the Damascus government. Six TU-22 strategic bombers carried out air strikes against Islamic State targets near the city of Deir al-Zor, Russia's defense ministry said in a statement. The long-range bombers took off from Russian territory, it said, a rare occurrence as Russia usually launches bombing runs from its air base in the Syrian province of Latakia.
 

Some Mosul residents face new fears after Islamic State rule

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:57:31 PMGo to full article
A man speaks on his phone next to destroyed houses at al Zohour area in MosulBy Michael Georgy MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Mohamed Mahmoud is relieved he no longer has to watch Islamic State militants hang corpses from electricity poles, now that Iraqi forces have cleared the group from his east Mosul district. Like other Iraqis, he worries that destructive forces like sectarianism, which already provoked one civil war since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, will destabilize Iraq even if Islamic State is completely removed from Mosul. The hardline jihadists were welcomed by some fellow Sunni Muslims when they seized Mosul in 2014 because the community, a majority in the city but a minority in Iraq, felt marginalized by the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
 
 

Iraq builds new airport in Karbala to handle pilgrims

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:39:28 PMGo to full article
Iraq builds new airport in Karbala to handle pilgrimsIraqi officials laid the cornerstone of a new airport near Karbala Monday, mostly to handle the millions of pilgrims who flock to the holy Shiite city each year. The Central Euphrates Airport will be located some 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of Karbala, Ahmed Tobal, an engineer with the Khayrat al-Sibtein company supervising the project, told AFP. Khayrat al-Sibtein belongs to the Imam Hussein shrine, the Karbala mausoleum of the Prophet Mohammed's grandson which is one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam.
 
 

Glad to see Obama go, Gulf Arabs expect Trump to counter Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:24:54 PMGo to full article
Former president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle board Special Air Mission 28000, a Boeing 747 which serves as Air Force One, at Joint Base Andrews, MarylandBy William Maclean DUBAI (Reuters) - Gulf Arab states are quietly applauding the arrival in the White House of a hawkish leader opposed to their adversary Iran, even if they suspect Donald Trump's short temper and abrasive Tweets may at times heighten tensions in the combustible Middle East. While many countries around the world listened with concern to his protectionist inaugural address, Gulf Arab officials appear optimistic. In Gulf Arab eyes, that involves above all checking what they see as a surge of Iranian support for paramilitary allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and for fellow Shi'ite Muslims in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province.
 
 

Swiss asylum requests plunge 31 percent in 2016

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎4:55:40 PMGo to full article
Migrants from Eritrea wait for their meal at the former Auberge du Chalet-a-Gobet in LausanneRequests for asylum in Switzerland plunged by nearly a third to around 27,200 last year after authorities closed the Balkan land route used by thousands to flee hot spots in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the SEM migration agency said on Monday. In December alone, requests for asylum fell 64 percent from a year earlier, bringing the full-year drop to 31 percent after the Balkan route was interrupted in March and Swiss authorities took a tough line on the border with Italy last summer. Neutral and landlocked Switzerland got just a fraction of the roughly 1.3 million requests for asylum across Europe last year as countries continued to process the wave of people that arrived in 2015, SEM said in a statement.
 
 

ISIS Damages Iconic Monuments in Ancient Syrian City, Reports Say

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎3:43:00 PMGo to full article
ISIS Damages Iconic Monuments in Ancient Syrian City, Reports SayA month after retaking control of Palmyra, the Islamic State group (also called ISIS or Daesh) has allegedly committed new destruction and executions in the ancient Syrian city. Two of Palmyra's iconic monuments, the Tetrapylon and the Roman theater, have experienced  "significant damage," according to the Cultural Heritage Initiatives (CHI) of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), which obtained new satellite images of the site from DigitalGlobe. Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights alleges that ISIS is again using the archaeological site for mass executions, killing a group of 12 prisoners on Jan. 19.
 
 

Iraq PM orders investigation into abuses reported in Mosul battle

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎2:54:34 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seen on a screen as he speaks via a videoconference during a ministerial summit to hold discussion on the future of Mosul city, post-Islamic State, in ParisPrime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday ordered an investigation into allegations that members of Iraq's security forces and a Shi'ite paramilitary group had kidnapped and abused civilians in the campaign to take back Mosul from Islamic State. Abadi also called on field commanders to make sure no human rights violations were committed under the cover of the war operations, according to an official statement. A recording circulated on social media and on the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network on Saturday perpetrating to show police officers summarily executing three unarmed men in a district of Mosul retaken from Islamic State.
 
 

Prices soar, families use river water as Islamic State besieges Syrian city

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎1:55:41 PMGo to full article
Food prices have soared and families are drinking untreated river water in the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said on Monday, as a siege imposed by Islamic State threatens tens of thousands of civilians. Islamic State militants launched a fierce assault on Syrian government-held areas of Deir al-Zor earlier this month, capturing an area used to supply the city through air drops as the assault cut the state-controlled area in two.
 

Soccer-2019 Asian Cup to begin on Jan. 5

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎1:25:35 PMGo to full article
The 2019 Asian Cup will begin on Jan. 5 and will be played over 28 days across eight stadiums in the United Arab Emirates, the continent's soccer governing body said on Monday. The Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi will play host to the opening game and the final on Feb. 1 in the region's premier tournament for the member nations, the Asian Football Confederation said in a statement. Three stadiums in Abu Dhabi and two each in Dubai and Al Ain and one in Sharjah will host the tournament, which will feature 24 teams for the first time after expanding from 16 in the last edition in Australia in 2015.
 

Today in History

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎7:01:22 AMGo to full article
Today in History
 

Trump security adviser probed for Russia links: report

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎5:32:56 AMGo to full article
Michael Flynn has come under investigation as part of a counterintelligence examination of communications between Russian government members and Donald Trump's inner circleA top military counsel to President Donald Trump is under scrutiny by US counterintelligence agents who have probed the new national security adviser's communications with Russian officials, the Wall Street Journal said Sunday. The paper reported that Michael Flynn, a retired three-star general who was among senior White House staff sworn in Sunday, has come under investigation as part of a counterintelligence examination of communications between Russian government members and Trump's inner circle.
 
 

After mass turnout, can protests turn into political impact?

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎23, ‎2017, ‏‎12:10:15 AMGo to full article
Protesters move along Constitution Avenue at the Women's March on Washington during the first full day of Donald Trump's presidency, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)DENVER (AP) — Deb Szeman, a self-described "homebody," had never participated in a demonstration before hopping on an overnight bus from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the women's march on Washington.
 
 

Iraq forces take two more areas in east Mosul

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10:20:32 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces battled the last holdout jihadists in east Mosul after commanders declared victory there and quickly set their sights on the city's west, where more tough fighting awaitsIraqi forces on Sunday retook two areas from the Islamic State group in Mosul, sealing their control of the east bank three months into an offensive to reclaim the city. It also said that federal forces had retaken control of the road linking Mosul, Iraq's second city, to Dohuk, a provincial capital in the west of the autonomous region of Kurdistan. The latest progress effectively seals the Iraqi forces' control over the east bank, with only the neighbourhood of Rashidiyah, on Mosul's northern edge, left to retake.
 
 

Three suspected al Qaeda members killed in drone strikes in Yemen: officials

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎6:57:24 PMGo to full article
Three suspected members of al Qaeda's Yemen branch were killed on Sunday by what local officials said they believed were two separate U.S. drone strikes. If confirmed, they would be the first such attacks since U.S. President Donald Trump assumed office on Friday. In the first strike two men were killed when a missile hit the vehicle in which they were travelling in the al-Soumaa district of southern al-Bayda province, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
 

Oil producers say output cut on track

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4:55:09 PMGo to full article
Countries within OPEC agreed to implement a previous accord struck among themselves on November 30 to cut production by 1.2 million bpd from January 1Oil producers said Sunday that their landmark December deal to slash output by almost two million barrels per day was on track, as they met to review progress. "Compliance is great, it's been really fantastic," Khaled al-Falih, energy minister of oil behemoth Saudi Arabia, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying. The December 10 accord, valid from January 1 for six months, obliges 24 countries inside and outside the OPEC group to cut production by 1.8 million bpd between them.
 
 

The Latest: Trump changes course after denouncing protesters

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎4:50:25 PMGo to full article
A large crowd gathers at the Capitol for the Women's March on Jackson, Miss., as people across the nation rally in support of women's rights Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger, via AP)WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):
 
 

Jack Huston: Hollywood aristocrat with real noble blood

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎12:03:12 PMGo to full article
Actor Jack Huston attends the Paramount premiere of "Ben Hur" in Hollywood, California, on August 16, 2016British actor Jack Huston's grandfather, the legendary filmmaker John Huston, once had a movie about psychological trauma among soldiers banned because of its anti-war message. The actor nevertheless finds himself this year as one of the stars alongside Jennifer Aniston and Alden Ehrenreich in "The Yellow Birds," a movie about the terrors of fighting in Iraq.
 
 

Turkey's president eager to hear Trump's policies on Mideast

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10:57:09 AMGo to full article
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey's president says he is interested in hearing U.S. President Donald Trump's policies on the Middle East.
 

In Mosul battle, Iraq forces face fewer IS-planted bombs

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎10:05:30 AMGo to full article
While previous urban battlefields in Iraq's war against IS were largely depopulated, Mosul still sheltered a million-plus people when an offensive to retake it was launchedIraqi forces used to facing deserted, explosives-rigged streets and booby-trapped buildings have not encountered as many bombs planted by jihadists in Mosul as they did in earlier battles against them. The Islamic State group has no qualms about killing civilians, but the presence of a large number of residents in Iraq's second city discouraged the jihadists from extensively sowing it with explosives, officers say. While previous urban battlefields in Iraq's war against IS were largely depopulated by the time the country's forces moved in, Mosul still sheltered a million-plus people when the offensive to retake it was launched three months ago.
 
 

Iraqi general's tour suggests tough fight ahead in west Mosul

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎8:16:46 AMGo to full article
A member of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) stands on a building during a battle with Islamic State militants in east of MosulBy Michael Georgy MOSUL (Reuters) - Residents of east Mosul held up their children and took selfies with Iraqi counter-terrorism commander Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi after his men cleared Islamic State fighters from their neighbourhoods. Flanked by bodyguards in the Mohandiseen neighbourhood, Saadi got a firsthand view of Islamic State's meticulous planning and reign of terror as he moved from house to house, greeted by locals as a hero. The battle for Mosul, involving 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of the Kurdish security forces and Shi'ite militiamen, is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
 
 

Iraqi forces eye tougher fight in Mosul's west

 
‎Sunday, ‎January ‎22, ‎2017, ‏‎2:54:55 AMGo to full article
Civilians walk amid the rubble after a battle between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. U.S.-backed Iraqi government troops announced on Wednesday they were in "full control" of eastern Mosul, after routing Islamic State militants from that part of the northern city almost exactly three months since the major operation started. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — A crowd of Iraqi officers looked out at the Tigris River Friday from a balcony of Mosul's Nineveh International hotel. Just over three months ago, the men were some 45 kilometers (28 miles) away in a cluster of desert villages on the edge of Nineveh plain.

 

 

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

 

 
 

Russian strategic missile forces to go fully digital by 2020

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Jan 10, 2017 - Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) will completely switch to digital data transmission technologies by 2020, the Defense Ministry press service said in a statement.

According to the MoD press service, missile launch centers, down to the division level, as well as the SMF's Communications Center, training facilities and the Peter the Great Military Academy in Moscow and its branch in Serpukhov, are now all equipped with digital telecommunications equipment.

Over the past four years new digital communications systems for SMF divisions have been delivered to command points across the country and satellite communications centers have been modernized along with short and ultra-shortwave up radio stations and service and repair centers.

"If the current pace of modernization is maintained, by 2020 the Russian Strategic Missile Forces will be 100-percent equipped with digital data transmission technologies," the statement said.

As Many as 99% of ICBMs of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces in Combat Readiness
There are some 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles in the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, 99 percent of which are in the state of combat readiness, the commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) said Thursday.

He also said that Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) will do combat patrolling in new regions in 2017, including the European part of the country.

"It is necessary to stress that RVSN will explore new regions of combat patrolling within the framework of exercises in 2017," Col. Gen. Sergey Karakayev told reporters.

"At present, the RVSN group comprises some 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads of various power classes. [ As many as] 99 percent of missile launchers are in the state of combat readiness."

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

US warship fires warning shots at Iranian boats in Strait of Hormuz

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 9, 2017 - A US warship fired warning shots at the weekend at four Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels that approached it at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz, US defense officials said Monday.

The shots fired by the destroyer USS Mahan on Sunday put an end to the incident, which US officials denounced as "unsafe and unprofessional."

They said the crews of the small Iranian rapid attack boats were manning their weapons as they sped toward the American ship.

"Mahan established radio communications with the IRGCN vessels and issued multiple radio and visual warnings to remain clear," a US defense official said.

The Mahan also fired flares, let off smoke and sounded the ship's siren and whistle, the official said.

"Disregarding the warnings, the IRGCN vessels continued to directly approach Mahan at a high rate of speed," the official said.

"Mahan then fired three warning shots with a crew-served 50-caliber machine gun, and the IRGCN vessels arrested their high-speed approach."

A series of similar incidents took place in 2015 and early 2016 before decreasing significantly, Davis said.

The Pentagon identified 23 incidents in 2015 and 35 in the first half of 2016, the last one in August.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic's supreme leader.

Their boats periodically approach US warships in international waters and the Strait of Hormuz, ignoring US radio messages and giving little indication of their intentions.

The US Navy regularly denounces such incidents.

General Joe Votel, the commander of US forces in the region, has expressed concern about the risk of military escalation triggered by rogue commanders.

In January last year, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters.

The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later.

At the time of Sunday's incident, the Mahan was with two other US navy ships, the USNS Walter S. Diehl and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

The incident comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to make way for his successor Donald Trump in less than two weeks.

The Republican president-elect has nominated as his defense secretary retired Marine Corps general James Mattis, a tough-talking former head of Central Command who has not minced words criticizing Iran.

He is set to testify at his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Thursday.

 

 

N. Korea holds mass rally to push Kim's New Year message

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) Jan 6, 2017 - Thousands of North Koreans have rallied in Pyongyang, chanting communist slogans and vowing support for leader Kim Jong-Un, who in his New Year's message announced plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

Clad in thick winter coats and pumping their fists in the air, those assembled in Kim Il-Sung square chanted "long live comrade Kim Jong-Un" and held banners proclaiming "let us accelerate the victorious advance of socialism!"

Kim marked the New Year with a 30-minute televised speech that largely focused on the country's rise as a nuclear power, announcing that it was in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile of the kind that could threaten US soil.

"The people should regard Kim Jong-Un's New Year address as a motto of life and struggle," state media KCNA quoted a party official at the rally as saying.

Kim's New Year address drew swift response from US president-elect Donald Trump, who took to Twitter vowing to halt Pyongyang in its tracks.

In 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland, prompting Washington to reinforce its antimissile defenses in the region.

But analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially since it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kim also admitted to his "shortcomings" as a leader in his New Year's speech and pledged "devoted efforts" to make North Korea prosperous again.

Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has referred to growing public discontent about the leadership, saying ordinary North Koreans have had to learn ways to survive on their own rather than relying on the party.

 

 

North Korea nuclear threat Trump's first challenge

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - North Korea's determined quest for a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland is the first major US foreign policy challenge of the Donald Trump era.

And, less than three weeks before he takes office, Trump has already plunged into these most dangerous of waters with a warning to unpredictable dictator Kim Jong-un.

Kim marked the New Year by announcing that North Korea plans to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the kind he would need to threaten US soil.

The US president-elect responded with one of his trademark Twitter taunts, vowing to halt Pyongyang in its tracks.

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," he declared. "It won't happen!"

Trump didn't provide any context for his promise but, if Kim continues to plough ahead despite the sanctions already imposed on his regime, the endgame is ominous.

"Has our next commander-in-chief issued, 18 days before his inauguration, a pledge that the US will wage pre-emptive war against the DPRK?" asked Strobe Talbott.

Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state, spoke for many worried experts who fear Trump has limited diplomatic options.

US President Barack Obama's outgoing administration has pursued a policy of UN-backed sanctions targeting Kim's regime, and a call for six-party negotiations.

- Inevitable war? -

These talks would see North Korea come to the table with China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia to negotiate an end to the stand-off and a nuclear-free peninsula.

But, aside from China, outside states have little leverage over the pariah regime and Beijing opposes any stronger measures that might threaten to destabilize its neighbor.

Trump suggests an ICBM in the hands of an aggressive North Korean despot -- still technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 war -- would be intolerable.

So, if sanctions don't work, is war inevitable?

Perhaps not yet, but the US military -- which has just under 30,000 troops in South Korea -- has stepped up planning for any eventual operation.

"It is the threat that keeps me awake at night," a senior defense official said. "Primarily because we don't know what the dear leader in North Korea is really after."

The senior official, speaking last month on condition of anonymity said US commanders have been reviewing options for 70 years but that the ICBM threat has focused minds.

Robert Einhorn, who until 2013 was State Department special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control, told AFP that Kim's threat to test an ICBM was not new.

"Whether they can deliver it is another story," he said.

"Many experts believe that the North may be two or three years away from having the ability confidently to deliver a nuclear payload on the continental US."

China does not want North Korea to join the small club of nations that can launch nuclear weapons half-way round the planet, but it doesn't want the regime to collapse either.

If sanctions cause Kim's authoritarian state to fall apart, China could face millions of refugees and see its neighbor Korea reunified as a US military ally.

Some once argued that Kim and his equally isolated predecessors were merely brandishing the nuclear threat to force the United States into direct negotiations.

But experts now see the pursuit of nuclear missiles as a strategic choice to deter South Korean or US aggression.

"I don't think these programs are any longer a bargaining chip. If they ever were," Einhorn said, adding that Trump will have to decide whether to seek direct contact.

- Trump unpredictable -

As with the 2015 Iran deal, any talks would have a multilateral veneer but the key elements would have to be worked out between US and North Korean diplomats.

For Einhorn, Trump will have to decide "whether the strategy will be pressure alone or whether pressure will have to go hand in hand with negotiations."

Are plans being laid for any of this? It's hard to tell from a single president-elect tweet, but absent any new plan, fears of war will continue to build.

"Kim Jong-un is the more dangerous," Einhorn said. "But the more unpredictable, at this stage, may be Donald Trump."

 

 

N. Korea plans nuclear push in 2017: top defector

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 27, 2016 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in South Korea and the United States, a high-ranking defector said Tuesday.

In his first press conference since fleeing his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August, Thae Yong-Ho said Kim had issued a directive at a rare ruling party congress in May to "complete" nuclear development by the end of next year.

"With South Korea holding presidential elections and the US undergoing an administration transition, the North sees 2017 as the prime time for nuclear development," Thae told local reporters.

"That's based on a calculation that the US and South Korea will not be able to take physical, military measures because they are tied up with domestic politics," he added.

North Korea carried out two nuclear tests in 2016 and numerous missile launches in pursuit of its ultimate goal of a deterrent capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Analysts are divided as to how close Pyongyang is to realising that ambition, especially as it has never successfully tested an inter-continental ballistic missile.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father, Kim Jong-Il who died in December 2011.

According to a transcript of his press conference, Thae said Kim would never trade away the North's nuclear arsenal -- no matter how large a financial incentive might be offered.

The North Korean leader's main aim is to open a new dialogue with the US from the position of a confirmed nuclear power, he said.

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept the North as a nuclear state.

Thae said he was ignorant of how much progress the North had really made with its nuclear weapons programme, saying such information was not given to diplomats.

"Even the foreign minister doesn't know," he added.

Thae was living in London when he escaped to the South with his wife and two sons -- becoming one of the highest-ranking diplomats ever to defect.

The North's state media denounced him as "human scum", and accused him of embezzling state funds, raping a minor and spying for South Korea in exchange for money.

 

 

S. Korea calls Trump's tweet 'clear warning' to North

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - South Korea said Tuesday that US president-elect Donald Trump had sent a "clear warning" to North Korea with a tweet dismissing Pyongyang's ballistic missile claims.

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," Trump tweeted. "It won't happen!"

Trump's tweet came a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appeared to try to pressure the incoming president by announcing his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Kim also said his country had significantly bolstered its nuclear arsenal last year.

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed nation, but Trump has not previously clearly stated his policy on the isolated Stalinist state.

"President-elect Trump's message is significant since it is his first mention of North Korea's nuclear programme and can be seen as a clear warning," South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuck told a briefing.

Cho said the incoming US administration was clearly aware of the "gravity and urgency" of Pyongyang's nuclear threat thanks to South Korea's "active outreach".

US policy on the North would remain largely unchanged, he said.

"They are maintaining an unwavering stance on the need for sanctions on North Korea," Cho said.

Trump also blasted Beijing for not doing enough to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted. "Nice!"

Following Trump's remarks, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman again declared that Beijing would "stay committed to denuclearisation" on the peninsula.

"Efforts made by the Chinese side are obvious for all to see. We hope that relevant parties would refrain from words and deeds that will lead to the escalation of tension," Geng Shuang told reporters.

In a New Year's speech on Sunday, Kim did not make a specific reference to the incoming Trump administration. But he called on Washington to make a "resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy".

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an ICBM.

However, it carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year alone in pursuit of its oft-stated goal -- developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

 

 

Five questions on China-N. Korea relations

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 3, 2017 - US president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called out China for doing too little to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme, and on Monday he took to Twitter again to blast Beijing.

"China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted. "Nice!"

His comments come a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un appeared to try to put pressure on Trump by announcing his country is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," Trump also tweeted. "It won't happen!"

But what leverage does the incoming American president really have over the hermetic nation? And what could Beijing do to stop it? Here are five questions on the China-North Korea relationship.

- Why is the North obsessed with nuclear weapons?

Pyongyang is still technically at war with the US after the Korean War of 1950-53 ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

The North Korean leadership has built its claim to domestic legitimacy on military might and says a credible nuclear deterrent is critical to the nation's survival, arguing it is under constant threat from an aggressive United States.

Although it has regularly threatened neighbouring South Korea, its main priority is developing an effective strike threat against the US mainland.

- How does China fit in?

China is North Korea's only ally, its main diplomatic protector, and its economic lifeline.

The two countries' Communist parties are linked by ideology, sympathy, and decades of history, with Chinese forces' intervention decisive in saving the North from being overrun during the Korean War.

Beijing sent vast numbers of soldiers to the peninsula, with Western historians estimating 400,000 died, and Chinese sources settling on a figure of about 180,000.

Mao Zedong described the neighbours as being as close as "lips and teeth".

Beijing's nightmare scenario is that if the Pyongyang regime collapses, millions of hungry North Koreans might flood over its border -- and the US-allied South would take over, meaning American troops could be stationed right on the Chinese border.

- Are Beijing-Pyongyang ties weakening?

Beijing regularly says it "firmly opposes" the North's nuclear tests and calls for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Following Trump's remarks, on Tuesday a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman again declared it would "stay committed to denuclearisation" on the peninsula.

"We hope that relevant parties would refrain from words and deeds that will lead to the escalation of tension," Geng Shuang told reporters.

China sees Kim Jong-un's energetic pursuit of a nuclear programme as a source of instability, and consistently calls for the revival of six-party talks to find a solution.

But it has resisted targeting the country's fragile economy for fear of provoking an implosion.

Even so its patience with Kim is running thin and he has not visited China since taking power -- a possible sign of the Chinese Communist Party rulers' displeasure with the young leader.

- Could Beijing stop Pyongyang?

It is not clear whether China could rein in the North even if it wanted to.

Beijing has ensured that past UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions against Pyongyang have included humanitarian exemptions, and has continued to purchase huge amounts of North Korean coal -- $101 million worth in October alone -- a crucial source of foreign exchange for Pyongyang.

But the latest resolution, passed in December, had no such clause and Beijing announced it would suspend purchases of coal from the North -- for three weeks to December 31.

- What leverage does the US have?

Not much -- it has been unable to influence China's North Korea policy for years.

Washington has long pursued a policy of "strategic patience" -- essentially a refusal to engage in any significant dialogue unless Pyongyang made some tangible commitment to denuclearisation.

And impeachment of South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye -- a hardliner on Pyongyang -- could result in a more pro-engagement leader taking office, undermining Washington's efforts to pressure the North.

Trump has suggested that the US' longstanding One-China policy could be upended if Beijing does not do more to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

 

 

US condemns Pyongyang missile plan, warns against 'provocative' actions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 1, 2017 - The United States on Sunday sharply condemned a North Korean plan to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile and warned Pyongyang against "provocative actions."

The toughly worded US statement called on "all states" to show the North that any unlawful actions would have "consequences."

It was issued by the Pentagon at a sensitive time -- just weeks before President Barack Obama is due to hand power over to his successor, Donald Trump.

The statement came hours after Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, said his country was close to testing such a missile, which would be capable of reaching American shores.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

He said Pyongyang was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy."

The Pentagon statement noted that "multiple UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibit North Korea's launches using ballistic missile technology."

It urged Pyongyang to "refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric that threaten international peace and stability."

The statement reaffirmed Washington's "ironclad commitment" to defend its allies, using "the full spectrum of US extended deterrence capabilities."

Pyongyang has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and analysts are divided over how close it is to doing so.

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.

 

 

Kim says N. Korea in 'final stages of test launching ICBM'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Jan 1, 2017 - North Korea is in the "final stages" of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, leader Kim Jong-Un said Sunday, adding the country had significantly bolstered its nuclear deterrent in 2016.

"We are in the final stages of test-launching the intercontinental ballistic missile," Kim said in a 30-minute televised New Year's speech, pointing to a string of nuclear and missile tests last year.

Pyongyang had "soared as a nuclear power", he said, adding it was now a "military power of the East that cannot be touched by even the strongest enemy".

The country carried out two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches last year along in pursuit of its oft-stated goal -- developing a weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

"We have seen marvellous feats for bolstering our military power, including the fact that our preparations for test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile are in the final stages," Kim added.

Analysts are divided over how close Pyongyang is to realising its full nuclear ambitions, especially as it has never successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

But all agree it has made enormous strides in that direction since Kim took over as leader from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in December 2011.

A senior US defence official said last month that the North has developed the capability to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile and launch it, but has not mastered bringing the weapon back from space and onto a target.

There are growing concerns of fresh provocations by Pyongyang following last month's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, which has left the country with a caretaker leader -- Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

On relations with South Korea, Kim said the North was willing to "hold hands with anyone who wishes to improve North-South ties". But he denounced Seoul for pushing inter-Korean relations to their "worst state".

"We must launch all-out efforts to pulverise actions by anti-unification forces like Park Geun-Hye," he said.

Kim called for an end to the South's annual joint military exercises with the United States -- a perennial thorn in North-South ties.

- Pressure on Trump -

"Unless they stop the war of annual exercises, the DPRK (North Korea) will keep increasing military capabilities for self-defence and preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force," Kim said.

Kim, wearing black-rimmed glasses and a dark Western suit and tie, delivered his speech from behind a lectern in a wood-panelled room in the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee Office Building in Pyongyang.

No audience was shown although the address was regularly interrupted by what appeared to be canned applause.

Although Kim did not make a specific reference to the incoming Donald Trump administration, he called on Washington to make a "resolute decision to withdraw its anachronistic hostile North Korea policy".

Washington has repeatedly vowed that it would never accept the North as a nuclear state. Trump has never clearly stated his policy on the isolated state.

"North Korea is indirectly pressuring the Trump administration with its possible ICBM launch," said Kim Yong-Hyun, professor of North Korea studies at Seoul-based Dongguk University.

"It is stressing that if the US upholds its policy of pressuring the North, it will conduct an ICBM test in the first half of this year," he said.

Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain who defected to the South in August, has said Kim was planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push in 2017 to take advantage of leadership transitions in Washington and Seoul.

 

 

Final U.S. ship transferred to South Korean navy decommissioned

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:09 AMGo to full article
Jinhae, South Korea (UPI) Dec 29, 2016 - The South Korean navy officially decommissioned the vessel Pyeongtaek, the last ship transferred to the branch from the United States.

Pyeongtaek, an Edenton-class search-and-rescue ship, was initially in service with the U.S. Navy designated as USS Beafort. South Korea received the vessel as part of the Security Assistance Program on Aug. 29, 1996.

The ship was withdrawn from service during a ceremony military officials say highlighted a close partnership between the U.S. and South Korea.

"Beaufort had a great legacy, but the biggest legacy is not what the ship did in the U.S Navy but the continued service it provided for the ROK and US alliance," U.S. Naval Forces Korea chief Cmdr. Henry Kim said in a press release. "It is the last former U.S. ship in the ROK fleet, so today's decommissioning is important to our ROK partners and us."

Kim went on to explain how the event marked a turning point for South Korea, noting the country's growing military shipbuilding capability.

"This ceremony marks the end of an era," he continued. "This is the last U.S. ship to have served in the ROK Navy. Now each ROK ship is ROK built. That is an obvious source of pride, and as both navies progress and grow stronger, so will our alliance."

Pyeongtaek served the South Korean Navy for 20 years, and participated in various military and civilian operations including the Taean oil spill recovery in 2008. Following its decommission, the vessel will be transferred to Pyeontaek City.

 

 

Duped by fake news, Pakistan minister makes nuke threat to Israel

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Islamabad (AFP) Dec 26, 2016 - Pakistan's defence minister has threatened to retaliate in kind to any Israeli nuclear strike after apparently being tricked by a fake news site into a confrontation on social media.

Khawaja Asif was responding to an invented story published on the website AWDNews and headlined: "Israeli Defense Minister: If Pakistan send ground troops into Syria on any pretext, we will destroy this country with a nuclear attack."

"Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh (Islamic State).Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too" the Pakistani minister tweeted Friday.

His missive prompted a clarification from Israel's Ministry of Defense, which responded to him on Saturday:

"@KhawajaMAsif The statement attributed to fmr Def Min Yaalon re Pakistan was never said," adding: "KhawajaMAsif reports referred to by the Pakistani Def Min are entirely false".

Israel has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence, but is widely believed to be an atomic power.

Pakistan, which conducted its first nuclear test in 1998, is believed by analysts to have around 120 nuclear weapons and the fastest growing stockpile.

Mainly Muslim Pakistan has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Asif was widely mocked for his blunder.

"Our nuclear program is too serious a business to be left to Twitter-addicted politicians", said prominent TV journalist Nusrat Javeed.

There is a rising tide of fake articles being widely shared on social media.

Earlier this month a rifle-wielding man entered a pizza restaurant in Washington, saying he wanted to investigate a fake news story that the establishment was a centre for child abduction linked to failed US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Last week Google said it was working to refine its algorithm to weed out "non-authoritative" information after a British news report showed a Holocaust denial website was the top result when users asked "Did the Holocaust happen?"

 

 

Is the Iran nuclear deal already being violated?

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Dec 23, 2016 - Before Donald Trump has even arrived in the White House, Iran says the United States has already violated the nuclear deal and threatened to build atomic-powered ships in retaliation. Is the historic accord at risk?

Earlier this month, US lawmakers renewed a law called the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), extending its provisions for another decade.

ISA, first introduced in 1996, aimed to cut off foreign investment in Iran's oil and gas sector to starve it of funds that might be used for its nuclear programme or to fund "terrorist" groups.

Key provisions of ISA were suspended in January when the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers came into force, although Washington has kept others linked to human rights and terrorism in place.

The White House said renewing ISA was pointless since it remains suspended so long as Tehran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear programme.

Knowing it would pass anyway, President Barack Obama let the law through, but refused to sign it.

The president symbolically let slide a deadline to ink his name on the legislation -- which he has called unnecessary -- meaning the 10-year sanctions renewal will automatically become law.

Even if it were pointless, however, Tehran was up in arms, with both the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani calling the renewal a "clear violation" of the accord and lodging a formal complaint with the United Nations.

- 'Posturing' -

So is Iran right about a violation?

Iran points to Article 26 of the deal, which says the US "will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II", which includes ISA.

It argues that even if the sanctions remain suspended, the law has still been "re-introduced".

"The US Congress never liked the deal and now that Obama is leaving office, they're trying to find ways of violating the deal without being too obvious about it," said Foad Izadi, a world politics professor at the University of Tehran.

Western analysts disagree, saying Iran is just trying to score political points.

"If it doesn't have any practical impact, who cares about the legislation? I think the Iranians are just posturing," said Dan Newcomb, a sanctions lawyer with Shearman and Sterling in New York.

Moreover, sanctions expert Sam Cutler, of consultancy Horizon Client Access, said there was "a zero percent chance" that Iran was not briefed during the nuclear talks that the Congress would re-introduce ISA.

"The Iranians knew this was going to happen and for them to claim this is a violation now beggars belief," he said.

Cutler says a specific phrase was included in the deal -- referring to "the respective roles of the President and the Congress" -- to draw a dividing line between the actions of the White House and sabotage attempts by hawkish lawmakers.

- Why the fuss? -

So if ISA is suspended and the renewal makes no difference, why is Tehran making such a fuss?

The answer lies with Iran's wider frustration that the nuclear deal has not produced many of the expected benefits, said Izadi.

"Iran is not getting what it thought it would get. The reason Iran is going to the complaints process is not just the Iran Sanctions Act, it is also other areas where the other side has not played its part," he said.

Top of the list are Iran's continued banking problems.

Although hundreds of European companies are desperate to resume trading with Iran, major banks are still refusing to facilitate big transactions.

This is because Washington still has a number of non-nuclear sanctions in place that prevent anyone doing business with a long list of Iranians it says are linked to terrorism, human rights abuses and its ballistic missile programme.

The banks would have to sift through each transaction to make sure none of the money ended up with someone on this list -- a costly and time-consuming affair when dealing with a country as opaque as Iran.

A wrong move could result in gigantic penalties like the $9 billion fine slapped on French bank BNP Paribas in 2014.

When the banks ask the US Treasury for guidance, the answers are slow and ambiguous, said Izadi.

"They ask for a green light, and they are given a yellow light, which is not enough."

The problem was banks were excluded from the nuclear talks, said Newcomb.

"I don't think either side understood that the financial community would not simply turn 180 degrees on Iran transactions because of this deal," said Newcomb.

He says he tried to explain the problem to both US State Department officials and Iranian delegations, but no one listened.

"I think (the Iranians) thought... if the president announces sanctions are removed, then everything will fall into place. They come from a different political climate."

None of this amounts to a clear breach of the nuclear deal by the US, but the Iranians see it as another attempt to quietly undermine the accord.

- Nuclear ships -

As for Iran's plans to produce nuclear-powered ships, experts say this is not a violation either, or at least not yet.

It was a carefully chosen response by Rouhani because nuclear engines could use highly-enriched uranium -- also used for nuclear weapons -- but not necessarily.

Both France and China use only low-enriched uranium in their nuclear-powered ships, said Shashank Joshi, from the RUSI think tank in London.

"Iran is showing they're looking into doing something tough, without actually doing it... that they're willing to tear up the deal if pushed too far."

er/dv/fa

ISA - INTELLIGENT SENSING ANYWHERE

BNP Paribas

 

 

With Cold War words, Trump launches into nuclear debate

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 23, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump indicated Friday he did not fear a new arms race and warned the United States would match any move by another country to boost its nuclear arsenal, in a spectacular new foray into foreign policy.

His stunning -- and initially unexplained -- use of language reminiscent of the Cold War rocked the Washington establishment two days before Christmas, and left Americans baffled by the seemingly mixed messages Trump is sending Russia.

Trump began upping the nuclear rhetoric with a bombshell tweet Thursday calling for America to "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

Anti-proliferation campaigners and lawmakers were aghast at the saber-rattling talk, though some observers wondered how much stock to put into Trump's words -- and even whether they may be part of a deliberate strategy to bring about a promised rapprochement with Russia.

Matters were not helped after his aides struggled to come up with a coherent take on what Trump meant, leaving Americans scrambling to make sense of the president-elect's tweet which, as has often been the case since his election, landed without context or detail.

His remarks came hours after President Vladimir Putin declared Russia needs to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces," and a day after the president-elect met with Pentagon brass.

When asked for clarity, Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said Trump would not tolerate other countries increasing their nuclear arsenal without responding.

"There's a few countries around the globe, Russia being one of them, China, others, that have talked about increasing their nuclear capabilities," Spicer told the MSNBC news network.

"The president-elect's point is unless these guys come to their senses and recognize that this is not a smart move, increasing the nuclear stockpile around the globe is not good for anybody, the US is not going to sit back and take it."

In a subsequent interview on CNN, Spicer warned: "If another country wants to threaten our sovereignty or our safety, he will act."

- Putin sees 'nothing unusual' -

Early Friday, Trump was quoted telling MSNBC -- when asked in an off-air telephone call to clarify his nuclear policy tweet -- that his administration had no reservations about entering "an arms race."

"This morning he told me on the phone, 'Let it be an arms race. We'll outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,'" network host Mika Brzezinksi said.

On Thursday, Trump spokesman Jason Miller had tried to nuance Trump's tweet and claimed he was actually "referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it -- particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes."

The debate marks a jarring departure from the stance of President Barack Obama, who in a famous 2009 speech in Prague called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In 2010, Obama and Russia's then-president Dmitry Medvedev signed the so-called New START treaty that calls for a significant reduction in the nuclear arsenals of both countries.

Ties between Moscow and Washington hit their lowest point since the Cold War under Obama due to the Ukraine crisis and Russia's military intervention in Syria.

But on Friday, Putin said he found "nothing unusual" about Trump's call to boost America's nuclear capability.

"During his election campaign he spoke about the necessity of strengthening the nuclear component of the United States, to strengthen the armed forces," the Russian leader told his annual year-end press conference.

- More at play? -

Even as the country reeled from his Twitter outburst, Trump sowed further confusion Friday by releasing a copy of what he called a "very nice letter" in which the Kremlin strongman offered him Christmas greetings and called for greater bilateral cooperation.

Trump has often said he admires Putin's leadership qualities and the US intelligence community concluded that Russia was responsible for cyber attacks ahead of November's election that sought to tip the balance in favor of the Republican.

Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggested something more was at play between Trump and Putin.

"One possibility is that this isn't all nonsense or even a mistake, but rather is part of a choreographed effort" between Putin and Trump, he said on MSNBC.

"One could imagine that they simply re-sign the START treaty, tell us, 'Look, we solved this nuclear problem or at least played it down, and now is the time to eliminate sanctions and make other concessions to Russia.'"

Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moves by Trump to ratchet up nuclear capabilities may meet stiff opposition from Democratic lawmakers, though options for blocking him will be limited with Republican majorities in the House and the Senate.

"Congress must not allow the Tweeter in Chief to unleash a dangerous and costly nuclear arms race," Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said in a tweet.

 

 

US must 'greatly strengthen' its nuclear capability: Trump

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 22, 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday that America must massively boost its nuclear capability until the "world comes to its senses."

"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," Trump wrote on Twitter, without explaining what he meant.

His comment marks a jarring departure from President Barack Obama's rhetoric, who in a famous speech in Prague in 2009 called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Trump's tweet came the day after he met with a group of Pentagon brass including Vice Admiral James Syring, who heads the Missile Defense Agency.

The conversations centered on cutting costs to various military programs.

America currently has an estimated arsenal of about 7,000 nuclear warheads, second only to Russia, which has a few hundred more.

The Pentagon wants to replace or modernize all three legs of its "triad," a three-pronged nuclear attack force comprising intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarines and bombers.

Experts estimate the cost will hit $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

During the presidential campaign debates, Trump was unable to provide specifics when asked what his priority would be for the nuclear triad, saying "the power, the devastation is very important."

"I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important," he said at the time.

"The biggest problem we have today is nuclear, nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That's in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now."

 

 

Putin urges Russian nuclear weapons boost

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Dec 22, 2016 - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the country to reinforce its military nuclear potential and praised the army's performance in its Syria campaign.

In a speech that recapped military activities in 2016, Putin said the army's preparedness has "considerably increased" and called for continued improvement that would ensure it can "neutralise any military threat".

"We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems," the Kremlin strongman said.

"We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country."

He said Russia's military had successfully demonstrated its capabilities in Syria, showcased its technology to potential arms buyers and helped the Syrian army make considerable advances.

"The Syrian army received considerable support, thanks to which it carried out several successful operations against militants," he said.

"The effective use of Russian weapons in Syria opens new possibilities for military-technical cooperation.

"We must take maximum advantage of this. We know there is interest in modern Russian weapons from foreign partners."

Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria in September 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad, with its special forces also operating on the ground in the country.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military had used "162 types of modern armaments during the military campaign in Syria," including its Sukhoi warplanes and MiG and Kamov helicopters.

"They have shown to be highly effective," he said.

- '35,000 fighters' -

Shoigu produced figures for the entire campaign in Syria but did not mention any estimate of civilian casualties.

Russian warplanes have "liquidated 725 training camps, 405 weapon factories and workshops, 1,500 pieces of terrorist equipment, and 35,000 fighters, including 204 field commanders," he said.

The Russian airforce has conducted a total of 18,800 sorties and carried out 71,000 strikes since the start of its campaign, Shoigu said.

"In general, the operation has allowed (us) to solve several geopolitical problems," he said.

"We have considerably damaged international terrorist organisations in Syria, stopped their expansion... (and) prevented the breakup of Syria."

Russia is prioritising its Asian partners including India and China for arms sales, he added.

Shoigu said NATO activities along Russia's western borders have grown eight-fold over the past decade, forcing Moscow to send more warplanes to prevent breaches of Russian airspace.

Next year, four additional S-400 anti-missile defence systems will be delivered to the army, and Russia will pay particular attention to its Western flank and the Arctic, he said.

"First and foremost, we will continue to increase military capabilities... take measures to reinforce troops in the western, southwestern and Arctic strategic sectors," Shoigu said.

 

 

IAEA content with oil-rich Iran

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Tehran (UPI) Dec 19, 2016 - The director-general of the nuclear watchdog for the United Nations said oil-rich Iran is meeting its commitments to downplay weapons concerns.

Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spent the weekend in Tehran discussing the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a multi-lateral agreement that commits Iran to stepping away from the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

The deal, implemented in early 2016, means some of the nuclear-related sanctions imposed by Western powers have eased and opened the door to Iran's fossil fuels industry.

Amano was quoted by Iran's state-funded broadcaster Press TV as saying his agency was "satisfied" with Iran's commitment to the JCPOA.

"The director general reiterated that the JCPOA is a net gain from a verification point of view," the IAEA's account read. "For the future, Amano stressed the vital importance of full implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments in order to make the implementation sustainable."

Iran has been opening its economic doors to potential investors after so-called Implementation Day, when the country was verified as meeting the terms of a U.N.-backed nuclear agreement, passed in January. It's the only member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that has room for production growth under the terms of an agreement to limit output starting in January.

The OPEC agreement was followed by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate to extend the Iran Sanctions Act for another 10 years. The measure targets energy and other Iranian industries, though the U.S. president can ease restrictions. Many of the measures were suspended when the United Nations verified this year that Iran was complying with the terms of the multilateral agreement.

In his last press conference of the year, U.S. President Barack Obama said sanctions and diplomacy paid off for both sides.

"Through diplomacy, we've ensured that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon -- without going to war with Iran," he said.

Schlumberger, an oilfield services company with offices in Houston, signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Iranian Oil Co. for work on oil fields straddling the western Iranian border with Iraq in early December.

 

 

Iran discusses nuclear ships plan with IAEA chief

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Dec 18, 2016 - Iran discussed its plans for nuclear-powered ships with UN nuclear chief Yukiyo Amano on Sunday, saying it would present details within three months, local media reported.

Amano did not comment on Tehran's plans to produce nuclear-powered engines, but said Iran had so far met all of its commitments under last year's nuclear deal with world powers.

President Hassan Rouhani told Amano he hoped "Iran and the IAEA can have good technical cooperations on the production of nuclear propellants for maritime transport," the government's website reported.

In an earlier meeting, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said they "discussed the nuclear-powered engines in detail," adding that talking points included the most controversial one -- the level of uranium-enrichment required for the ships.

"This is not a simple matter that can be decided quickly. We have three months to review it," he told reporters.

"Normally, the enrichment for such engines is between five percent and 90 percent. It depends on the type of engine and the time and goal we want to reach," said Salehi.

Rouhani last week announced the plans for nuclear-powered ships in response to news that the United States was renewing sanctions legislation, which he said was a "clear violation" of the nuclear deal.

Under the deal, Iran is only allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, but that limit falls away after 15 years.

Tehran says Washington has breached the nuclear accord by renewing the Iran Sanctions Act, even though almost all of its measures remain suspended under the deal.

"We adhere to our commitments and we will not trigger the violation of commitments," Rouhani said after meeting with Amano, repeating that the renewal of sanctions "contradicts" the accord.

"As long as the other sides remain committed to their commitments in the (nuclear deal), the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to act on its commitments."

 

 

Lockheed Martin to continue ICBM sustainment for U.S. Air Force

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
King Of Prussia, Pa. (UPI) Dec 15, 2016 - Lockheed Martin has received $60 million in contracts to sustain and modernize intercontinental ballistic missile re-entry systems for the U.S. Air Force.

The agreement is comprised of a new contract in addition to an extended second contract. The company will be tasked with providing equipment and services for U.S. Air Force personnel to support testing and maintenance for all Minuteman III re-entry systems.

Company officials say modernizing existing equipment is essential for national security in the United States.

"Missile maintainers bear great responsibility for our nation's critical strategic deterrence mission," Lockheed Martin Missile Systems and Advanced Programs vice president Doug Graham said in a press release. "We are proud to support their mission and provide airmen with next-generation support equipment to enable them to test and maintain ICBMs with modern technology, supporting Air Force Global Strike Command's Continuous Force Improvement Program."

The modification raises the cumulative value of the sustainment contract, initially awarded in 2010, to almost $107 million over the next five years.

The Boeing-made Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, began development in 1970, with developers building on the payload capacity of its predecessors. The missile is the only land-based ICBM in service in the U.S.

 

 

Obama allows Iran sanctions renewal without signing bill

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 15, 2016 - President Barack Obama allowed US sanctions against Iran to be renewed on Thursday, but in a surprise move declined to actually sign the legislation that brings the sanctions into force.

"The extension of the Iran Sanctions Act is becoming law without the president's signature," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.

The president, who had previously been expected to sign the measure, symbolically let slide a midnight deadline to ink his name on the legislation -- which he has called unnecessary -- meaning the 10-year sanctions renewal will automatically become law.

Under the Iran nuclear deal signed in July 2015, world powers agreed to lift international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran's nuclear program.

Obama has said that passage of the US sanctions renewal would make no difference to the agreement because the White House will continue to suspend all the sanctions linked to Iran's nuclear program.

The language in the nuclear agreement makes it unclear whether renewing the sanctions -- and keeping the nuclear ones suspended -- amounts to a violation.

"This administration has made clear that an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, while unnecessary, is entirely consistent with our commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)," Earnest said, referring to the nuclear deal by its formal name.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ordered the country's scientists to start work on nuclear-powered ships in response to the expected renewal of sanctions, criticizing the US move as a breach of the nuclear accord.

International analysts said the announcement was likely just a bluff, since it would be an extremely costly effort for little strategic gain.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that continued implementation of the Iran nuclear deal remained "a top strategic objective" for the United States.

Kerry echoed the White House's assertion that the legislation was unnecessary, stating that with or without the renewed sanctions, the United States would still be able to address any Iranian breach of the nuclear deal or snap back sanctions should Iran fall short of its commitments.

"The administration has, and continues to use, all of the necessary authorities to waive the relevant sanctions, to enforce those that are outside the scope of the JCPOA, and to re-impose sanctions if necessary in the event that Iran should fail to perform its commitments under the JCPOA," Kerry said in a statement.

 

 

N. Korea calls time on 200-day mass mobilisation

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎27, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:07 AMGo to full article
Pyongyang (AFP) Dec 15, 2016 - North Korea on Thursday wrapped up a 200-day mass mobilisation campaign aimed at boosting an economy struggling with upgraded UN sanctions imposed after its two nuclear tests this year.

Coming hard on the heels of a similar 70-day campaign that ended in May, the 200-day version kicked off in early June, pushing extra hours and working weekends.

On the final day Thursday, as on every day for the entirety of the campaign, dozens of female propaganda troupes armed with drums and flags put on early morning performances at strategic locations across the city, encouraging commuters on their way to work.

A large placard erected in front of each troupe - and replicated in work units across the country - asked the question: "Comrade, have you carried out your battle plan today?"

On Thursday the section on the placard counting down to the end of the campaign read: "Days remaining - 1"

Outside experts say the economic benefits of such campaigns are dubious at best, with some suggesting they have a negative net impact on productivity as exhaustion fuels inefficiency.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned them as mass exercises in "forced labour" that use political coercion to extract economic gain.

North Koreans are used to mandatory mass mobilisation campaigns, with participation rigorously monitored and used as a measurement of loyalty to the regime.

But Andrei Lankov, a veteran North Korea watcher and professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said the modern-day campaigns were more show than substance -- a strategy from a bygone socialist era that was long past its sell-by date.

The primary focus is on industrial output, with top priority given to reducing a yawning energy deficit that acts as a constantly tripping circuit breaker on economic growth.

Power outages remain commonplace in Pyongyang which, as the country's showcase capital, receives privileged utilities supplies.

Heavy batteries and power-saving LED lights are popular items in markets for those who can afford them, while the balconies of Pyongyang's apartment blocks bristle with solar panels to keep basic household appliances running.

The current 200-day campaign was launched to kick-start a new five-year economic plan unveiled by supreme leader Kim Jong-Un at a ruling party congress in May.

The plan was long on ambition but short on detail, offering no clear hint of reform despite Kim's call to "expand our method of economic management".

According to South Korea's central bank, the North Korean economy contracted by 1.1 percent last year -- the first downturn since 2010.

Given the paucity of economic data released by the North, estimating its GDP is a hazardous exercise, but experts say upgraded sanctions are clearly posing a challenge that old-school, mass mobilisation campaigns are simply no match for.

North Korea carried out two nuclear tests this year, in January and September, drawing two separate rounds of UN sanctions aimed at blocking Pyongyang's access to hard currency revenues.

The latest measures included a cap on North Korea's coal exports -- a key foreign exchange earner.

 

 

Iran eyes nuclear-powered ships after US sanctions move

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Dec 13, 2016 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday ordered the country's scientists to start work on nuclear-powered ships in response to the expected renewal of sanctions by the United States.

In letters read out on state television, Rouhani criticised the US move as a breach of last year's nuclear accord and told Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation to start work on "planning the design and production of nuclear fuel and reactors for maritime transport."

The president said he had also ordered the foreign ministry to prepare a legal complaint to the international committee that oversees the nuclear accord.

Under the deal signed in July 2015, world powers agreed to lift international sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme.

But US lawmakers recently voted to renew 10-year-old sanctions legislation against Iran related not just to nuclear issues, but also ballistic missile-testing and human rights.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure into law in the coming days, saying it makes no difference to last year's agreement because the White House will continue to suspend all the sanctions linked to Iran's nuclear programme.

Iranian lawmakers had raised the prospect of building nuclear-powered ships and submarines back in 2012 at the height of tensions with the international community over the nuclear programme.

International analysts said the announcement was likely just a bluff, since it would be an extremely costly effort for little strategic gain.

Then nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani said that Iran had the capacity to design nuclear reactors for ships but no plans to do so.

He also said that nuclear-powered ships did not require the sort of highly enriched uranium which could also be used for weapons.

- Agreement wording ambiguous -

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme was entirely peaceful, but hoped an end to sanctions would help revive its battered economy.

Although it has seen a significant boost in oil sales since the deal came into force in January, its hopes of attracting large-scale foreign investment have been thwarted by continuing US sanctions in other areas.

The biggest problem lies with world banks, which are needed to finance the bigger trade deals but remain wary of returning to Iran, fearing they could be fined by Washington.

The Iran Sanctions Act passed the US Senate 99-0 earlier this month after easily clearing the House of Representatives in November.

The language in the nuclear agreement makes it unclear whether renewing the sanctions -- and keeping the nuclear ones suspended -- amounts to a violation.

At a press conference last week, conservative parliament speaker Ali Larijani said parts of the deal were "rushed".

"Some of the sections of the JCPOA should have been written with more precision to stop differing interpretations," Larijani said.

Rouhani, who is expected to run for a second term in May, has faced a barrage of criticism from conservatives who say his team made too many concessions for minimal economic gain.

In a speech last week, he emphasised that his team had not acted alone and that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was closely involved at every stage of the negotiations.

"We took no step on the JCPOA issue without consulting the honourable leader," Rouhani said.

 

 

Envoys discuss N. Korea amid political flux in US, S. Korea

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 13, 2016 - Senior US, Japanese and South Korean officials with special responsibility for the North Korean nuclear issue held talks Tuesday, at a time of political flux and policy uncertainty in Washington and Seoul.

"We shared the view that it is more important than ever to keep close cooperation among the three countries," South Korea's nuclear envoy Kim Hong-Kyun told reporters after the meeting in Seoul.

The three envoys get together regularly in each other's capitals and one of their main aims is to shape and maintain a consensus on how best to deal with the growing nuclear weapons threat from Pyongyang.

It's a consensus that is looking particularly frail at the moment.

The trio's meeting in Seoul on Tuesday was the first since the eruption of a major political scandal in South Korea that resulted in parliament voting last week to impeach President Park Geun-Hye.

Park took a hard line with North Korea and was a staunch ally of Washington's policy of "strategic patience" -- essentially a refusal to engage in any significant dialogue unless Pyongyang made some tangible commitment to denuclearisation.

Although Park's impeachment still requires approval by the Constitutional Court, most observers are betting on an early election that could result in a more pro-engagement president entering the Blue House.

- Tectonic shifts -

It is also the first trilateral meeting since Donald Trump became US president-elect -- a result that could presage some tectonic shifts in US foreign policy, including how to deal with the security situation on the Korean peninsula.

In a recent interview that drew expressions of deep concern from Beijing, Trump questioned Washington's traditional "one China policy" -- the cornerstone of decades of Sino-American diplomacy.

Adherence to the policy should be linked to other bilateral issues, Trump argued, citing the need for China to do far more to help pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons programme.

"There are, to be frank with you, important domestic transitions going on both in Washington and Seoul and I'm sure like everyone else, North Koreans are watching those transitions carefully," the US nuclear envoy Joseph Yun told reporters in Seoul.

Yun spun the hiatus as an "opportunity" for Pyongyang to reconsider its opposition to denuclearisation.

"But so far of course we have not seen any signs that they want to engage," he added.

Specifically addressing the transition in Washington, Yun said it was inevitable that a new administration would take a "fresh look" at outstanding foreign policy issues.

But he stressed that US policy on North Korea had generally enjoyed broad bi-partisan support.

"Nobody, whether they are Republican or Democrat, has ever said anything but the goal of denuclearisation ... so I'm not really worried about that," he said.

High on Tuesday's agenda was implementation of the new sanctions announced earlier this month by the UN Security Council, following North Korea's fifth nuclear test in September.

The measures aimed at blocking Pyongyang's access to hard currency revenues included a cap on North Korea's coal exports -- a key foreign exchange earner.

The United States, Japan and South Korea followed up by announcing their own unilateral sanctions, which Kim said they would try to coordinate in the most effective way possible.

 

 

Netanyahu wants to discuss Iran deal options with Trump

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 11, 2016 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to discuss with US President-elect Donald Trump ways to get rid of the Iran nuclear deal, he said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

"I think what options we have are much more than you think. Many more," Netanyahu said in the interview with CBS's "60 minutes."

Netanyahu gave no details on what he will be proposing when he meets with Trump, but minimized the downside of Washington backing out of an accord that includes other world powers, including its European allies.

"There are ways, various ways of undoing it," he said. "I have about five things in my mind."

Netanyahu has been an ardent opponent of the 2015 agreement, which places curbs on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from US and other international sanctions.

He alienated the administration of outgoing President Barack Obama by denouncing it in an address to a joint meeting of the US Congress.

Trump has criticized the nuclear agreement as a "disastrous deal," but has stopped short of saying he would rip it up, instead suggesting he would renegotiate or dismantle it.

His pick for defense secretary, retired general James Mattis, considered a hawk on Iran, has advocated working closely with allies to enforce its terms.

 

 

N. Korea military drill targets South's presidential office

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 11, 2016 - South Korea warned Sunday of "fatal" consequences for Pyongyang's leadership if provoked into conflict, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw a military drill simulating an attack on Seoul's presidential Blue House.

Kim watched with binoculars as North Korea's special operation forces conducted an exercise aimed at "destroying specified targets of the enemy", including the Blue House, the North's KCNA news agency said.

The ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun also carried a two-page report on the drill, showing pictures of a building resembling the Blue House being overrun by North Korean troops and set ablaze.

One photo showed Kim roaring with laughter as he watched the simulated attack.

"Well done, the enemy troops will have no space to hide themselves, far from taking any counteraction," state-run KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

No date was given for the military exercise in Sunday's report.

The South Korean military "strongly condemned" the drill, warning there would be fatal consequences if confronted by the North.

"If the enemy conducts a provocation based on its rash judgement, we will strongly and firmly retaliate with a fatal blow against the North Korean leadership," the defence ministry's joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.

There are growing concerns of fresh provocations by Pyongyang following Friday's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye which has left the country without a recognised leader.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, who has temporarily taken on the role and authority of acting president, held an emergency cabinet meeting and ordered the military to be extra vigilant against the North.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests already this year and multiple missile launches in its push for a weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

The UN Security Council slapped its toughest sanctions yet on the North last month over its fifth nuclear test in September, capping the North's annual coal exports -- its top external revenue source.

 

 

S. Korea crisis: What will the North do?

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 11, 2016 - These are euphoric but anxious days for South Korea, as the heady impeachment of a deeply unpopular president leaves the country without a recognised leader at a time of military tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.

And with Pyongyang smarting from a fresh round of UN sanctions and never shy about embarking on a dangerous game of brinkmanship, the one thing the country doesn't want to display is vulnerability.

But so considerable are the powers vested in the executive in South Korea that Friday's impeachment stripping them away from President Park Geun-Hye inevitably leaves a sizeable vacuum that must seem all too tempting to provocateurs in Pyongyang.

It's a concern that was swiftly addressed by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, the unelected former prosecutor who has temporarily taken on the role and authority of acting president.

At an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday, Hwang said he had instructed the military to be extra vigilant to any move by the North to exploit the current situation.

"The government is carrying out all measures necessary to prevent any government vacuum and ease the people's anxiety," Hwang said.

"Up until now ... no special development from North Korea has been reported. But all civil servants should work with a sense of tension for the time being," he added.

- 'Vegetable president' -

North Korean state media, which has issued highly personal attacks on Park in the past, has clearly enjoyed witnessing her downfall and the attendant political chaos.

On Saturday, the ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun called the impeached Park a "vegetable president", and said her continued refusal to resign was the act of "an old witch and psychopath without equal".

But is ridicule likely to lead to provocation?

Most analysts believe the North will resist the temptation and adopt a wait-and-see strategy -- not only towards the situation in the South, but also towards Washington and the incoming administration of US president-elect Donald Trump.

North Korea has a tendency to try and test new US presidents, but Trump is such an unknown quantity -- especially on foreign policy -- that it might choose to hold off for a while.

"It'll want to spend time feeling out the policy directions of the Trump administration," said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

"In the meantime, it's unlikely to stage a fresh nuclear test which might set Trump on a hardline course early on," Yang said.

- Enough test data -

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests already this year, and multiple missile launches in its push for a weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

"North Korea's weapons testing timeline is primarily driven by its ambitions to increase military capabilities, and the recent tests give its scientists and engineers much technical data to work with," said Leif-Eric Easley, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

"So Pyongyang may wait to see if a pro-engagement politician emerges from South Korea's political tumult," Easley said.

Park took a hard line with Pyongyang throughout her presidency, refusing to offer any concessions unless the North made a tangible commitment to denuclearisation.

In a shock move, she even closed down the Kaesong joint industrial zone -- a rare North-South cooperative project that had survived previous cross-border crises.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un "knows exactly what he is doing," said Koh Yu-Hwan, a political science Professor at Dongguk University.

"There is no reason for him to stage provocative acts and change the atmosphere in the South in favour of conservatives," Koh said.

The North is also preparing for a series of key anniversaries, including the 75th and 105th birthdays of late leaders Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung in February and April respectively, as well as the 85th anniversary of the army's founding on April 25.

In the past, such dates have been marked by strategic weapons' tests, but Yang predicted that Pyongyang would avoid being overly confrontational.

"I think the festive mood will favour stability over disturbance," he said.

- How long? -

The problem is that the political uncertainty in South Korea could carry on for much longer than Pyongyang is willing to wait.

Park's impeachment has to be approved by the Constitutional Court -- a process that could take six months. If it confirms her ouster then a presidential election must be held, but that could take another 60 days.

"We are talking about a possible eight months where you have essentially a technocrat running the country," said Marcus Noland, a specialist in Korean issues at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"So the current situation - the UN sanctions, a new US president and political upheaval in the South is almost a perfect recipe for the North Koreans to do something provocative," Noland said.

N. Korea military drill targets South's presidential office
Seoul (AFP) Dec 11, 2016 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un conducted a large scale military drill targeting South Korea's presidential Blue House, state media said Sunday.

The military exercise of the North's special operation forces -- carried out as Kim watched with binoculars at an observation post -- was aimed at "destroying specified targets of the enemy," including the South's Blue House, KCNA said.

The ruling Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun also carried a two-page report of the drill, showing several pictures of a building resembling the Blue House being invaded by the North's troops and set on fire, as well as one of Kim roaring with laughter as he watched the simulated attack.

"Through the combat drill, our forces extended the sea of fire of the Yeonpyeong Island to the sea of fire of Cheong Wa Dae," KCNA said, referring to the South's border island which was bombarded by the North in 2010.

No date was given for the military exercise.

"Well done, the enemy troops will have no space to hide themselves, far from taking any counteraction," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

There are growing concerns of fresh provocation by Pyongyang following Friday's impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, who has temporarily taken on the role and authority of acting president, held an emergency cabinet meeting and ordered the military to be extra vigilant against the North.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests already this year and multiple missile launches in its push for a weapon capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

The UN Security Council slapped its toughest sanctions yet on the North this month for its fifth nuclear test in September, capping the North's annual coal exports -- its top external revenue source.

 

 

Petraeus sees 'downsides' to Iran nuclear pact

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Dubai (AFP) Dec 10, 2016 - A global deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions contains elements "of great concern", retired US general David Petraeus, seen as a contender to be Washington's top diplomat, said on Saturday.

The agreement took effect in January following its signing last year after years of international effort.

It calls on Tehran to curb its controversial nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief from the United States and other nations.

Iran has denied that it seeks to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

"There are some significant downsides that should cause us great concern," Petraeus told the Manama Dialogue security forum in Bahrain of the accord.

He pointed to the 10-15 year validity of the pact, and the fact that it gives Iran access to tens of billions of dollars in previously frozen assets.

Petraeus is on the shortlist to be secretary of state under Donald Trump, who will assume the US presidency at the end of Barack Obama's term in January.

Trump has promised to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement once in office, calling it the "worst deal ever negotiated".

Despite Petraeus's reservations, the former general said "there are actually some positive elements", as it helped curb Iran's path to a nuclear weapon.

"There's a pretty intrusive set of verification measures," he said.

Petraeus led the US troop surge in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.

He headed the Bahrain-based US Central Command and then the NATO force in Afghanistan in 2010, before retiring to lead the CIA.

He resigned from the spy agency in late 2012 after coming under investigation for giving his biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell, access to classified information.

Petraeus eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge of mishandling classified information.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Gulf allies fear the Iran nuclear pact will lead to more regional "interference" by predominantly Shiite Iran, which backs opposite sides in the Syria and Yemen conflicts.

 

 

China fails to block UN meeting on N. Korea rights abuses

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Dec 9, 2016 - The UN Security Council on Friday met to discuss North Korea's "appalling" human rights situation, overriding a bid by China, Russia and three other countries to block the meeting.

It was the third time Beijing has failed to stop the annual discussion at the Security Council since a UN commission of inquiry in 2014 accused Pyongyang of committing atrocities unparalleled in the modern world.

Angola, Egypt and Venezuela joined China and Russia in a vote in favour of scrapping the meeting. But nine countries including Britain, France and the United States supported the move in the 15-member council. Senegal abstained.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi argued that the council should focus on threats to global peace and security, saying North Korea's human rights situation should not be considered as such a menace.

"The Security Council is not a forum for discussing human rights issues and still less for the politicization of the human rights issues," he said.

This discussion is "detrimental, with no benefit whatsoever," he added, urging council members to "avoid making any rhetoric or actions that may provoke or lead to escalation of the tensions."

Pyongyang's sole ally and trade partner, China has long argued that international efforts should firmly focus on talks to denuclearize North Korea.

US Ambassador Samantha Power shot back that "it stretches credulity, really, to suggest... that the brutal governance practiced by the regime is neutral for international peace and security."

- Truly appalling -

The UN commission of inquiry found compelling evidence of torture, execution and starvation in North Korea, where between 80,000 and 120,000 people are being held in prison camps.

Over the past year, UN rights officials have interviewed 110 North Korean defectors, many of whom spoke of torture and ill-treatment in detention, UN rights official Andrew Gilmour told the council.

Some North Korean detainees were kept in isolated cells so small they were unable to sit and many were deprived of food, water, he said.

"There has been no improvement in the truly appalling human rights violations in the country," said Gilmour.

The meeting followed the adoption just a week ago of tougher sanctions against North Korea, including new measures to curb the reclusive state's coal exports to China, in response to Pyongyang's fifth and biggest nuclear test.

South Korea's Ambassador Cho Tae-yul told the council that North Korea had squandered $200 million on two nuclear tests and 24 missile launches -- funds that Cho said should have been spent on easing the dire humanitarian situation.

Some 60,000 North Koreans have been sent to work abroad to earn hard currency for the Pyongyang regime in what amounts to forced labor, Cho said.

"The council discussion of Pyongyang's disastrous human rights record shows that crimes against humanity cannot be ignored, and that those responsible for atrocities in North Korea should face justice," said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director.

The rights group urged the council to move beyond putting a spotlight on North Korea's rights violations and begin work on bringing those responsible to justice.

The General Assembly has encouraged the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for war crimes investigation, but China is likely to block any such move with its veto power.

North Korea has been hit by six sets of UN sanctions since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.

 

 

N.Korea capable of launching nuke, does not master targeting: US official

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Dec 8, 2016 - North Korea has developed the capability to pair a nuclear warhead with a missile and launch it, but has not mastered bringing the weapon back from space and onto a target, a senior US defense official said Thursday.

Pyongyang has conducted a series of missile launches in the wake of its fourth nuclear test in January, to the consternation of regional countries and many in the international community.

While experts say the North is thought to have succeeded in making nuclear warheads small enough to arm Scud missiles, it is unclear if they can put a weapon on a bigger rocket that travels further and deploys a warhead from space.

"Truthfully, they have the capability right now to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon, they are just not sure about re-entry, that's why they continue to test their systems out there," the official said.

He added that he believed the North Koreans can already "mate" a missile with a warhead.

But "they are not sure of the re-entry capability for a strategic strike, so they are endeavoring to try and overcome that."

In the wake of ramped-up testing by North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un, the United States is deploying an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.

Despite strong objections from China and Russia, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system will be ready within about 10 months, the Pentagon says.

North Korea's continued nuclear testing is generating renewed concern in the US military, and the Pentagon has numerous contingency plans to more assertively try to rein in the country's atomic capabilities.

Something we are "very much leaning into (is) being more prepared for the future (in) North Korea," the official said.

"It is the threat that keeps me awake at night. You've heard other senior leaders say the same thing, primarily because we don't know what the 'Dear Leader' in North Korea really is after."

The official noted that the United States and its allies have little leverage over isolationist North Korea.

"We are in a very tenuous situation with not a lot of leverage, not a lot of initiative in terms of negotiations," the official said.

"So as you might imagine, we are preparing for contingency operations to the degree we need to."

The official said the United States has had backup military plans at the ready since the 1953 armistice between the North and South.

 

 

China should build more nuclear arms to prepare for Trump: media

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Dec 8, 2016 - China should "significantly" increase military spending and build more nuclear weapons as a response to US President-elect Donald Trump, an editorial in the nationalistic Global Times newspaper said Thursday.

China should "build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile" to protect its interests, should Trump attempt to corner the country in an "unacceptable way", it said.

"China's military spending in 2017 should be augmented significantly," it added in the print article run in both English and Chinese.

The paper is not part of the official state media, but has close ties to the ruling Communist Party.

Chinese officials are sometimes thought to use it as a rhetorical hammer, but have also admonished it for its often bombastic language.

The president-elect frequently savaged China on the campaign trail, even calling it America's "enemy" and pledging to stand up to a country he says views the US as a pushover.

But he has also indicated he is not interested in projecting US power away from home, saying America is sick of paying to defend allies like Japan and South Korea -- even suggesting they should develop their own nuclear weapons.

The editorial follows a Twitter tirade by Trump earlier in the week blasting China's trade and foreign policies, as well as a protocol-shattering decision to accept a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a rogue province awaiting unification.

In the editorial, the Global Times said: "We need to get better prepared militarily regarding the Taiwan question to ensure that those who advocate Taiwan's independence will be punished, and take precautions in case of US provocations in the South China Sea."

On Wednesday, Trump selected Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who has close ties to Chinese President Xi Jinping dating back to the mid-1980s, as ambassador to China -- potentially welcome news for Beijing, which called him an "old friend" upon receiving reports of his nomination.

Nevertheless, the state-owned China Daily newspaper remained pessimistic about the future of relations with the US.

A Thursday editorial said that though the Asian giant had thus far responded to Trump with "laudable" prudence, further provocations from the unpredictable politician would jeopardize Sino-US ties.

"China has to prepare for the worst," it said. "What has happened over the past weeks tends to suggest that Sino-US relations are facing uncertainty as never before, as Trump's words are not necessarily more bark than bite."

 

 

UN Security Council to discuss North Korea rights abuses

 
‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎6:02:28 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Dec 7, 2016 - The UN Security Council will discuss human rights violations in North Korea on Friday despite opposition from China, Pyongyang's ally, diplomats said.

Beijing is expected to call for a procedural vote to block the meeting on North Korea -- accused by a UN inquiry of committing atrocities unparalleled in the modern world -- for the third consecutive year.

Nine council members -- Britain, France, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine, the United States and Uruguay -- requested the meeting, saying in a letter this week that they required information on the situation in North Korea "and its implications for international peace and security."

Beijing maintains that the regime's rights abuses do not pose a risk to global security, and that the issue should be taken up by the UN Human Rights Council.

China failed to stop the meeting last year, although Russia, Angola and Venezuela also voted in favor of dropping North Korea's rights abuses from the council agenda.

The council has held annual meetings on human rights in North Korea since 2014, with Pyongyang refusing to send a representative to the talks.

A UN commission of inquiry in 2014 found compelling evidence of torture, execution and starvation in North Korea, where between 80,000 and 120,000 are being held in prison camps.

This year's meeting is likely to focus on forced labor and North Korea's diversion of resources to build up its missile and nuclear programs, a Security Council diplomat said.

UN member-states adopted a resolution at a General Assembly committee last month condemning rights abuses and expressing concern that funds needed to ease the dire humanitarian crisis were being spent on Pyongyang's military programs.

Although the General Assembly has encouraged the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for war-crimes investigation, China -- which has a veto on the council -- is likely to block any such move.

The meeting follows last week's adoption of tougher sanctions against North Korea, including new measures to curb Pyongyang's coal exports to China.

North Korea has been hit by six sets of UN sanctions since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.

 

 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 
 
 
 
 

Syria's Assad vows to retake key area near Damascus

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:57 AMGo to full article
Damascus (AFP) Jan 10, 2017 - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake an area that supplies Damascus with water and rejected any negotiations on his departure at upcoming talks in Kazakhstan.

Millions of people have been without water for weeks after fighting damaged key infrastructure in the Wadi Barada region outside Damascus that is the main water source for the capital.

The government says former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, known previously as Al-Nusra Front, is present in Wadi Barada, and blames rebels there for cutting water to Damascus since December 22.

"The role of the Syrian Army is to liberate that area in order to prevent those terrorists from using that water in order to suffocate the capital," Assad told French media in an interview aired Monday.

Assad's forces have been battling rebels in Wadi Barada for weeks and the fighting has continued despite the start on December 30 of a nationwide ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey.

Assad said the ceasefire was being "breached on a daily basis" and mainly around Damascus "because the terrorists occupy the main source of water" in Wadi Barada.

He said "more than five million civilians have been deprived of water for the last three weeks" as a result of the fighting.

The United Nations says 5.5 million people in and around Damascus are without water.

Assad said that Fateh al-Sham is "occupying" the Wadi Barada region, 15 kilometres (10 miles) northwest of the capital.

But rebels deny that the jihadists are in the area and say the water supply was severed after government strikes hit pumping facilities.

Assad also insisted that the ceasefire does not include Fateh al-Sham or its formidable rival, the Islamic State group (IS).

Regime forces and fighters from Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah on Monday clashed with rebels and some Fateh Al-Sham jihadists in the Wadi Barada area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Also Monday, the Observatory said IS had blown up a natural gas plant that supplied one-third of Syria's electricity.

"In the past 48 hours, IS blew up the Hayyan gas plant in eastern Homs province, putting it totally out of order," said the Britain-based group that tracks the country's civil war using sources on the ground.

A source at the Syrian oil ministry confirmed the explosion to AFP.

The plant had already ceased to operate one month ago, after the advance of the jihadists in the central region of Palmyra.

- Russia 'serious' about talks -

Assad meanwhile rejected any negotiations towards his departure from power at talks set to be held in late January in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.

"My position is related to the constitution, and the constitution is very clear about the mechanism in which you can bring a president or get rid of a president," he said.

"So, if they (the opposition) want to discuss this point, they have to discuss the constitution, and the constitution is not owned by the government or the president or by the opposition.

"It should be owned by the Syrian people, so you need a referendum," he said.

The Astana talks, organised by regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel backer Turkey, aim to pave the way towards an end to a nearly six-year war that has killed 310,000 people and displaced millions.

Assad has said Syrian forces are on their way to victory after they recaptured the northern city of Aleppo on December 22 with support from Moscow and Tehran.

Opposition negotiator Basma Khodmani said: "This time the Russians are serious and determined. They want to get out of the conflict. They have gone as far as it was in their interest to go on the military front."

"They can't obtain a total victory as it would take years. They now want a political solution and this Astana meeting to be credible."

Since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011, Syria's uprising has evolved into a complex war involving many players.

On Sunday, commandos from the US-led coalition battling IS raided a village held by the jihadists in eastern Syria, the Observatory and the Pentagon said.

The operation was "focused on ISIL leadership," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.

The Observatory said at least 25 jihadists were killed in the two-hour raid on the village of Al-Kubar in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, but Davis called the number "grossly exaggerated".

 

 

US-led raid on IS leaders in Syria 'successful': Pentagon

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:57 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 9, 2017 - US special operations troops carried out a "successful" raid in Syria against leaders of the Islamic State group in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

The operation was "focused on ISIL leadership" and was conducted by a US special operations unit tasked with tracking down top jihadist operatives, Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.

Davis said, however, that reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitor, that 25 jihadists had died in the raid were "grossly exaggerated."

He said the raids were carried out by the "Expeditionary Targeting Force" (ETF), an elite unit deployed to Iraq.

This kind of raid is aimed at eliminating jihadists as well as intelligence-gathering to conduct further operations, Davis said.

According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces, at least four helicopters, including Apache attack helicopters, were used in the operation.

A commander of the SDF said the attack targeted vehicles driven by senior IS fighters coming from Raqa, killing several and capturing other. Davis denied that prisoners were taken, saying there was "no detention from this operation."

A Syrian army official said military radars had detected the operation but could not identify the nationality of the aircraft.

The United States has been leading a campaign against IS in Syria since September 2014.

Deir Ezzor is Syria's second biggest province after Homs. Since early 2015, jihadists have besieged the provincial capital, also called Deir Ezzor, home to some 200,000 people.

According to the Observatory, the raids killed 14 IS members traveling on a bus and 11 in a firefight when a water facility was targeted.

 

 

Cyprus future in the balance as new peace talks begin

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:57 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) Jan 9, 2017 - Rival Cypriot leaders resumed UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva on Monday billed as a historic opportunity to end decades of conflict on the divided island, but the outcome is far from certain.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who have negotiated for more than 18 months in the run-up to the talks, arrived separately at UN headquarters in Geneva before sitting down for talks.

The two leaders, who have been among the most outspoken proponents of a deal, smiled at the cameras before settling around a large table with their extensive delegations and delving into the thorny talks.

The two sides are set to meet for three days in Geneva, and should on Wednesday provide maps of their proposals for the internal boundaries of a future bi-zonal federation on the eastern Mediterranean island.

If that goes to plan, they will be joined from Thursday by the leaders of the island's three guarantor powers -- former colonial ruler Britain, Greece and Turkey.

But both sides acknowledge key issues still need to be thrashed out, with the prospects of solving one of the world's longest-running geopolitical disputes remaining murky.

The United Nations has pulled out all the stops in its bid for a deal, eyeing the best chance of a settlement in more than a decade.

"It is a real possibility that 2017 will be the year when the Cypriots, themselves, freely decide to turn the page of history," said UN envoy Espen Barth Eide, who welcomed the two leaders along with the UN's Geneva chief Michael Moeller.

- 'Tough week' ahead -

But some experts believe the Geneva talks are a disaster waiting to happen because of deep divisions on core issues such as property, territorial adjustments and security.

Leaving for Geneva on Sunday, Akinci described the talks as a "crossroads".

"We are not at a point where Geneva will mark the final conclusion. We need to be cautious," he said.

"We are expecting a tough week."

Anastasiades tweeted that he was heading to Geneva "with hope, confidence and unity" after earlier striking a note of caution, warning of "significant differences on substantive issues fundamental to a Cyprus solution".

Cyprus, home to around one million people, has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Nine years later, Turkish Cypriot leaders declared a breakaway state in the north which is recognised only by Ankara.

The years of communal violence, which culminated in the Turkish invasion, saw tens of thousands from both sides flee their homes -- and they remain displaced to this day.

- Crunch issues -

It has always been agreed that some of the territory currently controlled by the Turkish Cypriots will be ceded to Greek Cypriot control in any peace deal.

Just how much and which land they should give up has hampered four decades of talks.

The issue is vital because the two leaders have pledged to put any deal to the vote in their respective communities.

In 2004, a majority of Turkish Cypriots backed a UN reunification plan but it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.

Cyprus then joined the European Union, although EU legislation is suspended in the north until a settlement is reached.

The sides also remain far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Akinci determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.

And there are differences over security arrangements, with Anastasiades wanting Turkish troops to leave the island but Akinci determined to keep a military presence.

Akinci also insists on a rotating presidency with a Turkish Cypriot elected every two years -- a proposal unpopular among Greek Cypriots.

burs-nl/gca/txw

 

 

Russia starts scaling down Syria military deployment

 
‎Yesterday, ‎January ‎10, ‎2017, ‏‎4:04:57 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Jan 6, 2017 - Russia's military on Friday said it has begun scaling back its deployment to Syria, with Moscow's sole aircraft carrier ordered to leave the conflict zone first.

"In accordance with the decision of the supreme commander of the Russian armed forces Vladimir Putin, the Russian defence ministry is beginning the reduction of the armed deployment to Syria," military chief Valery Gerasimov said in televised comments.

Gerasimov gave the command for the naval group headed by aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov -- which also includes the nuclear-powered Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser and the Severomorsk destroyer -- to begin preparations immediately to return to its home port in the Arctic Circle.

"The tasks set for the aircraft carrier group during its military mission have been fulfilled," added Russia's main commander in Syria, Andrei Kartapolov.

Aircraft on board the carrier conducted some 420 sorties and hit 1,252 "terrorist" targets during the two months that it was involved in the Syria mission, Kartapolov said.

He insisted that Russia still had sufficient air defence capabilities in Syria thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the war-torn country.

The Kuznetsov arrived off Syria in November as Russia boosted its firepower on land and in the Mediterranean to support regime forces targeting the second city of Aleppo.

Dur