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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

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Divided Europe faces mounting migrant crisis

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:52:30 PMGo to full article
A child holds a baby as migrants wait to cross the Macedonia-Greece border near the town of Gevgelija on August 26, 2015Faced with its worst migrant crisis since World War II, Europe has many sensible options to deal with people fleeing conflict in Syria and elsewhere -- but can't agree on any of them. Efforts to redistribute refugees around the European Union have been hobbled by a lack of unity among governments running scared of right-wing populist parties. Meanwhile, measures to stop the flow of asylum seekers at its source in the Middle East and North Africa have stalled because the turbulence in the region means Brussels has no stable governments it can deal with.
 
 

Egypt turns to Russia to combat terrorism

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:22:28 PMGo to full article
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, enters a hall for his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. The Egyptian president is visiting Moscow in a bid to revive relations with Russia which were traditionally warm in the Soviet times. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool)MOSCOW (AP) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, making his second visit to Moscow in three months, says he hopes for Russia's help in combating terrorism in the region.
 
 

2015: The year migrants streamed into Europe

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:49:38 PMGo to full article
Migrants wait on an overcrowded boat on August 23, 2015 during a rescue operation by Italian coast guards off the coast of LibyaEurope is struggling with its biggest migration crisis since World War II, and the situation has got much worse since January. Around 340,000 migrants have reached the borders of the European Union in the seven months to July, three times more than in the same period a year earlier, according to Frontex, the EU border management agency. In 2014, a total of 283,000 people sought to emigrate to Europe, three times the figure in 2013.
 
 

Greek coast guard rescues hundreds of refugees, migrants

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:36:54 PMGo to full article
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's coast guard says it has rescued hundreds of refugees and migrants in operations off the coasts of eastern Aegean islands, as a wave of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa toward Europe continues unabated.
 

Merkel backs emergency funds for German towns facing refugee influx

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:06:43 PMGo to full article
A boy walks along a corridor inside Friedland refugee camp, housing about 3,000 refugees, in FriedlandGermany's government plans to double funding this year to help towns cope with record numbers of refugees, moving to tackle an issue that is straining resources and fuelling social tensions. With refugee shelters in the country being attacked almost daily and politicians warning of a rise in xenophobia, Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed a draft law to bring forward the transfer of 500 million euros ($575 million) originally intended for 2016. Germany, the biggest recipient of migrants in Europe, and its European Union partners are groping for answers to the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
 
 

In Islamic State war, like others, heritage always a target

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:05:04 AMGo to full article
FILE - This undated file photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. The nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra this week was the latest victim in the Islamic State group’s campaign of destruction of historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. Arabic at bottom reads, "The moment of detonation of the pagan Baalshamin temple in the city of Palmyra." (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)CAIRO (AP) — A nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra this week was the latest victim in the Islamic State group's campaign of destruction of historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
 
 

Lebanon cabinet fails on trash crisis amid new protests

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:51:28 PMGo to full article
A Lebanese protester holds a national flag during clashes with security forces following a demonstration against the ongoing trash crisis on August 25, 2015, in front of the seat of the government in BeirutLebanon's cabinet ended an acrimonious meeting on Tuesday with no solution to a trash crisis that has sparked violent protests and calls for the government's resignation. Impromptu protests on Tuesday descended into violence once more in the evening, as a small group of young men threw rocks at Lebanese security forces. After more than five hours of talks, the cabinet decided to reject a list of tenders for waste management contracts across Lebanon and refer the problem to a ministerial committee.
 
 

US seeks max 15-year prison term for Kenyan in terror case

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎08:59:37 PMGo to full article
MIAMI (AP) — A Kenyan man who admitted that he provided thousands of dollars in cash and recruits to foreign terror organizations in Africa and the Middle East should get the maximum 15-year sentence in U.S. prison, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
 

AP Interview: Latvian president supports banning burqa

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎08:38:07 PMGo to full article
President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in the Latvian capital Riga Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015. Latvia's president says he would support a ban on face-covering Islamic veils as the Baltic country readies to receive 250 refugees from Africa and the Middle East. (AP Photo/David Keyton)RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Latvia's president says he would support a ban on face-covering Islamic veils as the Baltic country readies to receive 250 refugees from Africa and the Middle East.
 
 

Surge of migrants walking through Balkans hits Hungary

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:18:02 PMGo to full article
Illegal migrants walk near the railway crossing at the border between Hungary and Serbia near Roszke, 180 km southeast from Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015. (Sandor Ujvari/MTI via AP)SUBOTICA, Serbia (AP) — Thousands of migrants, many from Syria, poured into Hungary on Tuesday as soldiers frantically tried to finish a border fence to keep them out — the latest flashpoint as Europe struggles to handle a torrent of asylum seekers.
 
 

Dubai, Saudi markets make gains after sell-offs

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:28:40 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia's stock market closed more than 7 percent higher and Dubai's main index inched up more than 4 percent on Tuesday after several days of sell-offs on the back of a further slide in oil prices and investor concerns over China's economy.
 

AP Interview: US eyes migration, poverty as pope trip themes

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:48:13 PMGo to full article
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Kenneth Hackett talks during an interview with The Associated Press in Rome, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican says he expects Pope Francis will call on the United States to rediscover the fundamental values "that made our nation great" - including its long history of welcoming foreigners -when he visits next month and becomes the first pope to address Congress. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)ROME (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican said Tuesday he expects Pope Francis will call on the U.S. to rediscover the fundamental values "that made our nation great" — especially its long history of welcoming foreigners — when he visits next month and becomes the first pope to address Congress.
 
 

Libya in tatters after bloody year of rival governments

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:24:08 PMGo to full article
A Libyan fighter walks amidst rubbleTorn apart by a year of fighting between two rival governments, Libya is now in tatters with hopes sparked by the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi having fizzled out. "The situation is more perilous than at any time since the fall of the Kadhafi regime in 2011," said Patrick Skinner, analyst with the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy based in New York. In September last year, the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) coalition established its own government which is based in the capital and controls most towns in the west of the country.
 
 

AP PHOTOS: Syrian refugee mothers care, fear for newborns

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:45:25 AMGo to full article
In this Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015 photo, Syrian refugee Wadhah Hamada, 22, holds her son Ra'fat, 10 days, while posing for a portrait inside her father's tent at an informal settlement near the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Mafraq, Jordan. Among the tents of this informal camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, pregnant mothers have given birth to children they struggle to care for amid sandstorms and crushing poverty. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)MAFRAQ, Jordan (AP) — Here among the tents of this informal camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, pregnant mothers have given birth to children they struggle to care for amid sandstorms and crushing poverty.
 
 

Mideast leaders flood to Moscow for Syrian talks, aerospace salon

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:56:25 AMGo to full article
Technicians prepare Ilyushin Il-76TD long-haul cargo aircrafts (background) for the upcoming Maks-2015, the Int'l Aviation and Space Show, in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, on August 21, 2015Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host the Jordanian King and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the Syrian crisis and take part in a showcase of Russia's military industry. Jordanian King Abdullah II and the strongman of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will visit Moscow one day before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrives in the Russian capital to attend the Maks-2015 military salon. Despite foreign interest in the Russian space and defence industries, no international contracts are expected to be signed during the salon, a spokesman for Russia's state defence import-export company Rosoboronexport, Vyacheslav Davydenko, told AFP last week.
 
 

Amnesty report finds Saudi Arabia executed 175 in past year

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:05:21 AMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.
 

IS destruction of ancient Syrian temple erases rich history

 
‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:37:50 PMGo to full article
FILE - This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria. Activists say Islamic State militants have destroyed a temple at Syria's ancient ruins of Palmyra. News that the militants blew up the Baalshamin Temple (not pictured) came after the extremists beheaded Palmyra scholar Khaled al-Asaad on Tuesday, hanging his bloodied body from a pole in the town's main square. (SANA via AP, File)BEIRUT (AP) — The destruction of the nearly 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin by Islamic State militants erased a symbol of the once rich religious life of Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra and left residents, archaeologists and historians fearful that the extremists will destroy more of the rich site, including an even larger more ancient temple nearby.
 
 

UN council hears from gays who fled IS terror

 
‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:25:12 PMGo to full article
Members of UN Security Council vote during a Security Council meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York on July 29, 2015UN Security Council members on Monday heard Syrian and Iraqi gays tell of their terror-filled lives under the Islamic State, in the first-ever council meeting on LGBT rights. Subhi Nahas told the meeting that gays in his Syrian hometown of Idlib were being hurled from rooftops and stoned by cheering townspeople, including children. "In the Islamic State, gays are being tracked and killed all the time," said Nahas, who escaped and now works for a refugee organization in the United States.
 
 

Migrant seriously hurt in France, likely hit by train

 
‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:52:35 PMGo to full article
A policeman faces migrants trying to reach the Channel Tunnel in Coquelles, near Calais, northern France, on July 29, 2015A man trying to get into Britain was seriously hurt Monday in northern France, most likely hit by a train, while the Channel Tunnel was temporarily closed after migrants flocked onto train tracks nearby. At least nine people have died this year trying to cross over into Britain, and thousands more are camped out in slum-like conditions in the northern port city of Calais, waiting for their chance to clear the Channel and get to their Eldorado. Last week, France and Britain signed a deal to tackle smuggling gangs and try and reduce daily attempts by desperate migrants and refugees from Asia, Africa or the Middle East to break into the Channel Tunnel.
 
 

Long lines of migrants enter Serbia en route to Europe

 
‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:23:50 PMGo to full article
A woman migrant carries a boy who is crying, as they enter into Macedonia from Greece, on the border line between the two countries near southern Macedonia's town of Gevgelija, on Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. Thousands of migrants have poured into Macedonia and boarded trains and buses that are taking them a step closer to the European Union. Police are letting the migrants pass across the border Monday, directing them to the new transit center for migrants near the border line. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)By Marko Djurica MIRATOVAC, Serbia (Reuters) - Long lines of migrants, many of them refugees from Syria, snaked through southern Serbia by foot on Monday before jumping on trains and buses north to Hungary and the last leg of an increasingly desperate journey to western Europe. State authorities and aid agencies threw up tents and scrambled to supply food and water to thousands surging through the western Balkans, their numbers swelling since Greece began ferrying migrants from its overwhelmed islands to the mainland. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said more than 7,000 had reached Serbia from Macedonia between Saturday and Sunday, many of them having spent three desperate days on Greece’s northern border after Macedonia halted their passage saying it could take no more.

 

 

 

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Suspect in 1996 Khobar Towers bombing arrested

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:44:20 PMGo to full article
This wanted poster from website of the U.S. State Department's Rewards For Justice program shows a mugshot of Ahmed al-Mughassil, the man suspected in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official told the Associated Press on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015 that al-Mughassil has been captured. (U.S. State Department Rewards For Justice via AP)WASHINGTON (AP) — A man suspected in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia has been captured, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
 
 

Saudi military intercepts Scud missile fired by Yemeni forces

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:30:58 PMGo to full article
Houthi militants stand on the rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital SanaaYemeni army units allied to the Houthi militia fired a ballistic missile toward southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday but the Saudi military said it intercepted it and retaliated with air strikes on Yemeni territory. Residents in Yemen's capital Sanaa reported hearing a big roar as the Scud was launched from near the city, followed by Saudi-led air strikes on a presidential palace and a military depot for rockets. Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman, a spokesman for the Yemeni forces fighting alongside the Houthis, said the missile was aimed at an electricity station in Saudi Arabia's Jizan province.
 
 

Arab League delays meeting on creating joint military force

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:21:12 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — The Arab League has postponed a meeting of member state defense ministers who were scheduled to ratify a protocol for a new joint military force to intervene in troubled areas in the region, the organization said in a statement Wednesday.
 

Iran again calls on US to release 19 detained Iranians

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:19:07 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this photo April 11, 2013 file photo, Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, smiles as he attends a presidential campaign of President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran. Iran has no plan to swap detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian with any Iranian prisoners held in the United States, local news agencies reported Tuesday, the first time any Iranian official has mentioned such a trade for the journalist. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has again raised the issue of 19 Iranians held in the U.S., calling for them to be released amid the trial of a detained Washington Post reporter.
 
 

Yemen's Qaeda denies having held Briton rescued by UAE

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:27:42 AMGo to full article
British petroleum engineer Robert Semple, 64, was kidnapped in Yemen's vast desert Hadramawt province in February 2014Al-Qaeda in Yemen has denied it was holding a British hostage who the United Arab Emirates said it had rescued from the jihadists this week, according to a statement posted online. Authorities in Abu Dhabi and London said Sunday that the British hostage, identified as 64-year-old oil worker Robert Semple, had been rescued by UAE forces in a military operation against Al-Qaeda in Yemen. "The UAE government claimed that it freed a Briton who was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda.... This news is untrue as we are not holding any British hostages," Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the network's Yemeni branch, said in a statement posted on jihadist sites.
 
 

Iran film epic about Prophet Mohammed postponed

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:08:08 AMGo to full article
A man walks past an advertising billboard in Tehran for the movie "Muhammad", which will now be screened in Tehran for the first time on Thursday, a spokesman for the film told AFPThe eagerly awaited premiere of Iran's multimillion-dollar film "Muhammad" -- about the childhood of the prophet -- was postponed Wednesday for 24 hours due to technical problems, a spokesman said. The 171-minute film, which stars many top Iranian actors, was due to show in around 140 theatres throughout Iran on Wednesday, the day before it opens the Montreal Film Festival. "Those who have purchased tickets in advance can use their tickets from Thursday until next Wednesday," Mohammad Reza Saberi, the film's producer and distributor, told the ISNA news agency.
 
 

Hoping for domestic reform, Iranian activists back nuclear deal

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:03:17 AMGo to full article
Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in TehranBy Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian pro-democracy activists, lawyers and artists have thrown their weight behind last month's nuclear deal with world powers, hoping it will lead to a promised political opening that President Hassan Rouhani has so far failed to deliver. Dozens of prominent figures, many of whom have spent time in jail and faced travel or work bans, have recorded short video clips on social media sites this week praising the July 14 accord that will lift international sanctions from Iran in exchange for strict curbs on its nuclear program. "These video messages show that those who have paid the highest prices for the cause of democracy and human rights in Iran are supporting the deal," Mohammadreza Jalaeipour, a pro-democracy activist who organized the campaign said.
 
 

Saudi Arabia holding main suspect in 1996 Khobar bombing: newspaper

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:57 AMGo to full article
-UNDATED FILE PHOTOS - showing four men listed as "most wanted terrorists" and released by [Presiden..The main suspect in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers residence at a U.S. military base in Saudi Arabia has been captured after nearly 20 years on the run, a Saudi-owned newspaper reported on Wednesday. Asharq al-Awsat said Ahmed al-Mughassil, leader of the Hezbollah al-Hejaz who had been indicted by a U.S. court for the attack that killed 19 U.S. service personnel and wounded almost 500 people, had been captured in the Lebanese capital Beirut and transferred to Riyadh. Saudi authorities were not immediately available to comment.
 
 

Yemen's Al Qaeda denies it held British hostage

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:34:36 AMGo to full article
The Yemen branch of Al Qaeda denied reports it had been holding a British hostage who the United Arab Emirates said it freed from the group earlier this week. In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, regarded as the most dangerous offshoot of the militant group, said: "The UAE government claims it freed a Briton whom al Qaeda had kidnapped. The UAE said on Sunday that their forces in the southern Yemeni city of Aden had freed the hostage, identified as an oil worker abducted in Yemen in February 2014.
 

Iran enlists Afghan refugees as fighters to bolster Syria's Assad

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:18:34 AMGo to full article
Afghan resident Mohammad Shafi Karimi (C) poses for a photograph with friends in Ghazni before leaving to fight in Syria, where he was killedThe fate of two brothers from Kabul, one grievously wounded, the other killed fighting in Syria, spotlights Iran's covert but active recruitment of Afghan refugees to buttress President Bashar al-Assad's steadily depleting forces. Shiite Iran, Assad's key military and financial patron, denies enlisting Afghan mercenaries to fight alongside Syrian forces in the four-year conflict against opposition Sunni rebels that has left more than 240,000 people dead and millions displaced.
 
 

US Senate panel chief acknowledges momentum for Iran deal

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:39:15 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this July 8, 2015 file photo, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Supporters of the Iran nuclear deal see growing momentum on their side in the Senate, raising the possibility they'll be able to block a disapproval resolution and protect President Barack Obama from having to use his veto pen. Murray on Tuesday, became No. 29 on the list of Democrats and independents who have publicly announced their support of the deal. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — A key U.S. Republican committee chairman acknowledged Tuesday that the White House lobbying campaign for the Iran nuclear deal has generated results, and said he doesn't know if opponents of the deal can prevail.
 
 

Assad 'confident' of Russian support for Syria regime

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:44:07 PMGo to full article
An image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV on August 25, 2015 shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad answering questions during an interview in DamascusSyrian President Bashar al-Assad expressed "strong confidence" Tuesday that Russia will continue supporting his embattled regime, speaking in an interview with Hezbollah's Al-Manar television network. Assad also described as "legitimate" the presence in Syria of fighters from Hezbollah backing his forces. The powerful Lebanese Shiite movement, along with Russia and Iran, have been Assad's major allies since Syria's revolt broke out in 2011.
 
 

Saudi Arabia's King Salman to visit US next month

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:26:52 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi officials say King Salman will visit the United States early next month for the first time since ascending the throne and will meet with President Barack Obama.
 

Yemen rebels kill 3 Saudi soldiers in border attacks

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:28 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Attacks by Yemeni rebels have killed three Saudi soldiers and wounded another three along the border, the Saudi military said Tuesday.
 

IAEA: Iran provides sizable amount of info for nuclear probe

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:43:05 PMGo to full article
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of Japan addresses the media during a news conference after a meeting of the IAEA board of governors at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday Aug. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — Iran has provided a "substantive volume" of information to the U.N. atomic agency on allegations that it worked on nuclear arms, the agency's chief said Tuesday, but declined to characterize the value of the documents.
 
 

Russia's biggest air show hurt by economic crisis, sanctions

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:53:10 PMGo to full article
Visitors walk along row of planes and helicopters on display at MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon in ZhukovskyBy Gleb Stolyarov ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (Reuters) - Russian civil aviation companies face a disappointing week at the country's largest air show that opened on Tuesday as economic crisis and Western sanctions take a heavy toll on order books and scare away many foreign firms. By contrast, demand for Russian military aircraft is booming and the biennial MAKS air show is increasingly being used to showcase the country's military might. According to Russian media, Russia and Iran will sign a $1 billion deal during the three-day show for S-300 missiles.
 
 

Diplomat: Iran has no plan to swap detained Post reporter

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:50:41 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this photo April 11, 2013 file photo, Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post, smiles as he attends a presidential campaign of President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran. Iran has no plan to swap detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian with any Iranian prisoners held in the United States, local news agencies reported Tuesday, the first time any Iranian official has mentioned such a trade for the journalist. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian diplomat said Tuesday that Tehran has no plans to swap detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian for prisoners held in the United States, the first time a high-level official has alluded to the possibility of such a trade.
 
 

Anti-nuclear deal protest held outside Iran parliament

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:45:30 PMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) speaks in the parliament in Tehran on July 21, 2015, to defend a Vienna accord that would see the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear programmeThe nuclear deal would see sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for a new inspections regime and curbs on the country's atomic programme. Iran's parliament and the US Congress need to vote on the agreement struck in Vienna before it can be implemented. President Barack Obama will veto that measure, but Congress could override such a veto -- and kill the deal -- with a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
 
 

Red Cross pulls foreign staff from Yemen office after attack

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:57:24 PMGo to full article
GENEVA (AP) — The International Red Cross says it has withdrawn its 14 foreign staffers from its office in Aden, Yemen, following an attack by unknown gunmen who held employees at gunpoint and made off with cash, cars and equipment.
 

France sees Assad's 'neutralisation' as pre-condition for peace

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:30 PMGo to full article
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been in power since 2000French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that the "neutralisation" of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was a pre-condition to resolving the crisis in the war-torn country. "We must reduce the terrorist influence without maintaining Assad. The two are bound up together," Hollande told a gathering of French diplomats in Paris.
 
 

Lebanese ministers walk out of meeting over garbage crisis

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:19:37 PMGo to full article
A worker gestures as he removes concrete barriers near the government palace in BeirutBy Laila Bassam and John Davison BEIRUT (Reuters) - The powerful Shi'ite party Hezbollah and its Christian allies walked out of an emergency Lebanese cabinet meeting on Tuesday in protest at a proposed solution to a garbage disposal crisis that has ignited violent protests in Beirut. The national unity government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam also canceled a tender to select new refuse collection firms, underscoring the difficulties it faces overcoming the crisis that has brought popular calls for it to step down. Salam has threatened to resign, expressing frustration at the failings of his cabinet, which groups Lebanon's rival parties.
 
 

IAEA received 'substantive' data from Iran this month

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:53:47 PMGo to full article
IAEA Director General Amano addresses a news conference after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in ViennaBy Shadia Nasralla VIENNA (Reuters) - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday it received substantive amounts of information from Iran aimed at quelling concerns its nuclear past had military elements, although it was too early to say whether any of it is new. The nuclear watchdog also warned that it will run out of money next month to monitor implementation of nuclear accords with Iran unless it gets more funding from member states to cover costs of the work set to reach around $10 million a year. Iran had for years been stonewalling an investigation by the U.N. nuclear watchdog into the possible military dimensions of its atomic program, but delivered on its latest promise to send further data to the IAEA by mid-August.
 
 

Iran denies plans to swap prisoners with United States

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:02:45 PMGo to full article
Iran is not considering a prisoner exchange with the United States, a senior official said on Tuesday, ahead of an expected verdict for an Iranian-American journalist held in Tehran for more than a year. "The reports on the possible exchange of prisoners are not true and it is not on the table," Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency. There has been speculation of a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States both before and after last month's landmark nuclear deal, but both countries have consistently denied that such an agreement is imminent.
 

Red Cross stops work in Yemen's Aden after raid

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:20 PMGo to full article
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday it had temporarily suspended its activities in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden after its office was raided by unidentified gunmen a day earlier. Aden is largely lawless since it became a frontline in Yemen's conflict between supporters of the exiled, Western-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the northern, Iran-allied Houthi movement. Although forces loyal to Hadi's exiled government in Saudi Arabia retook Aden from the Houthis last month, al Qaeda militants deployed in a western district of Aden on Saturday.
 

U.S. says will make sure IAEA has enough money for Iran work

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:36:23 PMGo to full article
The United States said on Tuesday it will make sure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has enough money to report on Iran's past, present and future nuclear programs. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has asked its member states to step up financial contributions for its monitoring activities in Iran which are set to widen after Tehran reached a deal with world powers in July to curb its atomic program. "The United States is committed to working with all (IAEA) member states to ensure the agency has the resources it needs to verify Iran's nuclear-related commitments under the (July 14 agreement)," the U.S. mission in Vienna said in a statement.
 

IAEA says Iran sent 'substantive' data over its nuclear past

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:35:12 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (Reuters) - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Tuesday it received "substantive" amounts of information from Iran to quell concerns its nuclear past might have had military aspects, although it was too early to draw conclusions from it. Yukiya Amano, the IAEA's director-general, told reporters it was premature to say whether Iran offered any new information on Aug. 15, when it sent its last batch to the agency. Amano added he thought the nuclear arrangements reached with Iran last month were the "most robust safeguard regime in the current world". ...
 

Nuclear watchdog seeks to soothe concerns on Iran probe

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:34:40 PMGo to full article
Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks to journalists at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on August 25, 2015The UN atomic watchdog chief sought Tuesday to ease concerns in the United States about its investigation into Iran's alleged past nuclear activities following July's landmark deal with major powers. "The arrangements made with Iran are technically sound and consistent with IAEA safeguards practices. Under the July 14 agreement aimed at ending a 13-year standoff, Iran will dramatically reduce in scale its nuclear activities in order to make any dash to produce atomic weapons all but impossible.
 
 

'Grateful' freed British hostage arrives home from Yemen

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:10:58 PMGo to full article
British petroleum engineer Robert Semple, 64, was kidnapped in Yemen's vast desert Hadramawt province in February 2014A British man held for more than a year by Al-Qaeda in Yemen arrived home Tuesday, declaring himself "incredibly grateful" to the United Arab Emirates forces who rescued him. Petroleum engineer Bob Semple, 64, was kidnapped in Yemen's vast desert Hadramawt province in February 2014. UAE forces announced Sunday they had freed him in a military operation and taken him to Yemen's main southern city of Aden.
 
 

France's Hollande: Turkey needs to ramp up Islamic State fight

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:07:04 PMGo to full article
By John Irish and Marine Pennetier PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday Turkey must do more to tackle Islamic State in Syria and urged it to restore dialogue with Kurdish groups after launching strikes against them more than a month ago. Hollande delivered his annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors a day after the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters that Turkey and the United States would launch air operations to push Islamic State from a border area in northern Syria, something that could help prevent the militants bringing in fighters and arms in.
 

Britain's Hammond hopes for 'new chapter' in Iran ties

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:13:09 PMGo to full article
Writing in the state-run Iran newspaper, British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said he hoped the nuclear deal struck recently between Tehran and world powers would help open Iran up to the WestBritain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Tuesday he hoped the reopening of the British embassy in Iran could spark a "new chapter" in ties between the two countries. Writing in the state-run Iran newspaper, Hammond said he hoped the nuclear deal struck recently between Tehran and world powers would help open Iran up to the West.
 
 

Yemen air strikes, fighting kill at least 40

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎11:02:32 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows following air-strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on a weapons depot at a military airportAt least 40 people have been killed in more than 24 hours of Saudi-led coalition air strikes and fighting in Yemen's central province of Baida, military sources said on Tuesday. The fighting and air raids in Mukayris, a town seen as a gateway to southern provinces recently recaptured by pro-government forces, left 19 rebels, 15 loyalists and six civilians dead, the sources told AFP. Coalition strikes against rebel positions in Baida continued on Tuesday as the fighting raged, they added.
 
 

Yemen fire kills 3 Saudi soldiers, as one dead in crash

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:46:12 AMGo to full article
Armed Saudi volunteers, from the Fayfa tribes, stand atop an ancient tower during a tribal gathering in the Jizan province, near the Saudi-Yemeni border, on April 14, 2015Three Saudi soldiers have been killed by artillery fire from Yemen, and another died when his patrol vehicle crashed along the border, authorities in Riyadh said on Tuesday. A Saudi border post in the kingdom's southern region of Jazan came under shell and rocket fire from Yemeni territory on Monday. In a separate incident, a Saudi soldier operating along the border with Yemen was killed when his vehicle overturned, the spokesman added.
 
 

Saudi soldier killed by Yemen fire, one dead in crash

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:37:21 AMGo to full article
Members of the Saudi border guard are stationed at a look-out point on the Saudi-Yemeni border, in southwestern S.ArabiaA Saudi soldier has been killed by artillery fire from Yemen, while another died when his patrol vehicle crashed along the border, authorities in Riyadh said on Tuesday. A Saudi border post in the kingdom's southern Jazan region came under shell and rocket fire from Yemeni territory on Monday. In a separate incident, a Saudi soldier operating along the border with Yemen was killed when his vehicle overturned, the spokesman added.
 
 

Back from golf course, Obama tees up renewable energy, Iran

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:12:15 AMGo to full article
U.S. President Barack Obama waves after addressing the National Clean Energy Summit at the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center in Las VegasWith the U.S. presidential election campaign and China's slumping stock market dominating headlines, Obama was set to speak on Monday in Las Vegas on clean energy, then travel to New Orleans on Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As he stepped off Air Force One in Washington on Sunday night, savoring the last moments of family time, Obama held the hand of his eldest daughter Malia, who will soon start her final year of high school in Washington before going to university.
 
 

Iran victory within Obama's reach

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:06:32 AMGo to full article
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference on the nuclear deal with Iran on July 15, 2015 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DCUS President Barack Obama has won the backing of a fresh clutch of senators for his Iran deal, raising the prospect he could yet dodge a humiliating legislative rebuke. For months, Republicans and rebellious Democrats have looked on course to pass a resolution against the nuclear deal, a stinging rejection of a central Obama foreign policy goal. A 'no' vote next month would not be enough to scupper the whole nuclear agreement -- thanks to Obama's veto power -- but it could foreshadow trouble ahead.
 
 

Lebanese anti-government protesters call Saturday rally

 
‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:23:17 PMGo to full article
Protesters sit along a wall of concrete barriers erected on Monday to increase security, a day after protests against the government turned into violent clashes with police, near the government palace in BeirutBy John Davison and Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese protest organizers called for more demonstrations against the government on Saturday after two days rallies that descended into violence and forced the government to erect blast walls around it headquarters. The "You Stink" campaign has mobilized against the government's failure to solve a garbage disposal crisis, bringing thousands of people onto the streets in protests that have threatened the survival of the cabinet. The campaign has mobilized independently of the big sectarian parties that dominate Lebanese politics in a sign of how long-simmering frustration at Lebanon's political deadlock has boiled over into open anger.

 

 

 

 

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Hungary border fence proves futile in slowing migrant flow

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:17:48 PMGo to full article
Syrian refugees cross into Hungary underneath the border fence on the Hungarian - Serbian border near Roszke, Hungary on Aug. 26, 2015. The number of refugees entering Hungary has reached a new high as the government hurries to build a 4-meter (13-foot) fence on the Serbian border to stop them. More than 140,000 migrants have reached Hungary on routes across the Balkans so far in 2015. Recently, some 80 percent of them are from war zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)ROSZKE, Hungary (AP) — Clambering over the razor-wire fence or scuttling under it, migrants surged Wednesday across the Serbian border into Hungary. Then they jostled to formally enter the country so they could quickly leave it, heading toward more prosperous European Union nations on a desperate quest to escape war and poverty.
 
 

DoD manual allows journalists to be held as 'belligerents'

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:11:06 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2015 file photo, Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon. New Defense Department guidelines allow commanders to punish journalists and treat them as "unprivileged belligerents" if they believe journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — New Defense Department guidelines allow commanders to punish journalists and treat them as "unprivileged belligerents" if they believe journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy.
 
 

Saudi king to visit US for first time since rift

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:00:36 PMGo to full article
A picture released by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on February 2, 2015 shows Saudi new King Salman bin Abdulaziz who will visit Washington on September 4, 2015Saudi King Salman will visit the United States next month for the first time since acceding the throne and following a rift over America's rapprochement with Iran, a diplomat said Wednesday. The monarch, who pulled out of a Gulf leaders' summit with US President Barack Obama in May at the last minute, would travel to Washington on September 4, the Saudi diplomat said. Washington has sought to allay the concerns of its traditional allies over a historic deal it and other world powers reached with Tehran over the Islamic republic's suspect nuclear programme.
 
 

Merkel, jeered on visit to refugees, says no to xenophobia

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:48:12 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor Merkel arrives for statement after visit to asylum seekers accomodation facility in HeidenauBy Hans-Edzard Busemann HEIDENAU, Germany (Reuters) - Dozens of protesters heckled Chancellor Angela Merkel and waved placards that read "traitor" on Wednesday when she visited an eastern German town where anti-refugee protests erupted into violence at the weekend. Merkel vowed that Germany would not tolerate xenophobia and repeated that the weekend scuffles, in which 31 police officers were hurt, were "shameful and repulsive". "There is no tolerance for those people who question the dignity of others, no tolerance for those who are not willing to help where legal and human help is required," Merkel told reporters and local people in the town of Heidenau.
 
 

Arab League delays meeting on creating joint military force

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:21:12 PMGo to full article
CAIRO (AP) — The Arab League has postponed a meeting of member state defense ministers who were scheduled to ratify a protocol for a new joint military force to intervene in troubled areas in the region, the organization said in a statement Wednesday.
 

8 Tips for Surviving the Stock Market's Record Drop

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:00 PMGo to full article
Yes, it's entirely plausible that when Shanghai sneezes, Wall Street catches a cold. Wall Street's historic plunge -- in which the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 1,000 points Monday before "bouncing back" to a 588-point loss -- appeared to subside Tuesday, as the Dow and Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 3.4 percent Tuesday morning. Call it an interest rate chill pill, as the People's Bank of China cut interest rates for the fifth time in nine months, while investors held out hope that the Federal Reserve might hit the brakes on an interest rate hike.
 

Military may have skewed IS analysis: report

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:24:21 PMGo to full article
The US-led bombing campaign of the Islamic State began in Iraq a year ago, and subsequently in SyriaThe Pentagon is investigating whether military officials have improperly rewritten intelligence assessments to give a more optimistic view of the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The inspector general probe began after at least one civilian analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency said he had evidence that US Central Command officials were reworking intelligence report conclusions prepared for President Barack Obama and other policymakers. Under a directive by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the 17 US intelligence agencies, analytical assessments "must not be distorted" by a particular audience, agenda or policy view.
 
 

The OZY Hunger Games: Lincoln Chafee, the First 'Fallen' Democrat

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:00 AMGo to full article
The OZY Hunger Games: Lincoln Chafee, the First 'Fallen' DemocratRhode Island's red turned blue scion hasn't won many friends in his new home.
 
 

Kurds launch new assault on Islamic State in northern Iraq

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:56:58 AMGo to full article
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters walk with their weapons as smoke rises from the site of clashes, south of DaquqKurdish forces attacked Islamic State insurgents in a cluster of villages in Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk on Wednesday, bent on securing territory they have gained in the course of rolling back the jihadists since last summer. The front line between the regional Kurdish peshmerga forces and Islamic State in northern Iraq has hardly budged for months. By mid-morning, Islamic State militants had been routed from the village of Albu Najm, according to a source within the peshmerga forces.
 
 

TRUMP'S APPEAL IS REMINISCENT OF CASTRO

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:30:15 AMGo to full article
Donald Trump has some of these same characteristics, which could be a source of great consequence to our nation. What most arrested my attention was the way he used the same small, but effective, gestures as Fidel.
 

The Islamic State economy: how Syrian antiquities fuel terrorism

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:06:00 AMGo to full article
When the self-described Islamic State (IS) publicly beheaded a Syrian archaeologist last week for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of hidden treasures in the ancient city of Palmyra, it was a measure of how important the illicit sale of antiquities has become to the cash-hungry and predominantly self-financed organization. The extremist Islamist group that controls more than a third of both Syria and Iraq is awash in cash, experts in terrorist financing say. Recommended: How much do you know about the Islamic State?
 

In Islamic State war, like others, heritage always a target

 
‎26 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:05:04 AMGo to full article
FILE - This undated file photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. The nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra this week was the latest victim in the Islamic State group’s campaign of destruction of historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. Arabic at bottom reads, "The moment of detonation of the pagan Baalshamin temple in the city of Palmyra." (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)CAIRO (AP) — A nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra this week was the latest victim in the Islamic State group's campaign of destruction of historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
 
 

Turkey, US conclude talks on anti-IS operation plan

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:19:38 PMGo to full article
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish and U.S. officials have concluded "technical talks" over their cooperation on operations against the Islamic State group, Turkey's foreign minister said Tuesday.
 

Medical charity says Syrian family showed signs of chemical exposure

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:55:48 PMGo to full article
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Tuesday it had treated a Syrian family with symptoms of exposure to chemical agents from an area where Islamic State fighters have been battling other rebels. Two adults, a three-year-old girl and a five-day-old baby girl were treated at an MSF-run hospital in Aleppo province, northern Syria, last Friday, the charity said in a statement. Within three hours they developed blisters and their breathing difficulties worsened, the statement said.
 

Berlin eases asylum rules for Syrians as migrants pour into EU

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:31 PMGo to full article
Migrants queue outside the State Office of Health and Social Affairs in Berlin (LAGeSo) where hundreds are waiting to receive help from the administration on August 25, 2015Germany on Tuesday said it had eased asylum rules for Syrians in a move expected to relieve pressure on southern European nations as thousands more migrants pour into the bloc. Record numbers of people are streaming into EU member Hungary from Serbia, posing a new headache for regional leaders who will meet this week at a summit to be dominated by Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II. As criticism mounts over the bloc's response to the crisis, Germany said it has stopped returning Syrian asylum-seekers to their first EU port of entry, becoming the first member state to effectively simplify the application process for those fleeing the brutal civil war.
 
 

U.S. reports 36 air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎09:03:43 PMGo to full article
A F/A-18E/F Super Hornets of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VFA-211) lands on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) aircraft carrier in the GulfWASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies carried out 36 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria on Monday, a U.S. military statement said. Islamic State fighters, weapons and vehicles in Iraq were hit in 31 strikes in various areas, including 12 near Tuz, said the statement issued on Tuesday. Five air raids were conducted against militant targets in Syria, it added. (Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Sandra Maler)
 
 

VA Gets to Work, Reduces Backlog of Disability Claims by 84 Percent

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎08:30:00 PMGo to full article
The Department of Veterans Affairs announcement on Monday that it had slashed the backlog of veterans’ claims for disability coverage provided a rare bit of good news for an agency that has been rocked by scandal and controversy for years. The VA said the backlog has fallen 84 percent from a peak of 611,000 claims in March 2013. Saddled by inefficiency, incompetence and outdated technology, it wasn’t that long ago that the VA staffers were stuffing thousands of applications for benefits in cardboard boxes or leaving them unopened in bins.
 

Iraq's Abadi says Baiji battle 'crucial' to ousting Islamic State

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎08:21:11 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi arrives for the second working session of the G7 summit at the Elmau castle in KruenBAGHDAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the battle over the northern town of Baiji and its refinery - Iraq's largest - was critical to the fight against Islamic State. The town, about 190 km (120 miles) north of Baghdad, has been a battlefront for more than a year since its seizure by the Islamists in June 2014 as they swept through much of northern Iraq toward the capital. ...
 
 

A look at the latest developments in Europe's migrant crisis

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎08:09:26 PMGo to full article
Migrants assist a wheelchair user as they all advance along the railway track near the Serbian border with Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. Thousands of migrants have been crossing into Hungary on their way toward Germany and other rich EU countries as part of a new wave of people fleeing war-thorn countries of the Middle East and Africa. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)GENEVA (AP) — Record numbers of migrants and refugees fleeing violence and poverty in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea are trying to reach Europe, despite the risks of perilous sea crossings and the inability of countries to provide adequate humanitarian assistance. Here are the latest developments Tuesday:
 
 

UN rights arm denounces executions in Iraq's Kurdish region

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:59:28 PMGo to full article
GENEVA (AP) — U.N. rights officials are denouncing the execution of a man and his two wives in Iraq's Kurdish region over the kidnapping and murder of two girls, saying they fear the self-ruled region may slide back toward use of the death penalty.
 

U.S. Army nears high-stakes award for Humvee replacement

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:35:30 PMGo to full article
The U.S. Army is expected to award a contract on Tuesday for a new armored truck to replace thousands of aging Humvees, a long-awaited deal that could be worth up to $30 billion for the winning team. Analysts see specialty truck maker Oshkosh Corp as the top contender to win a contract to build 55,000 new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, or JLTVs, given its record in cranking out thousands of tailor-made mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles, or M-ATV for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board, led by chief arms buyer Frank Kendall, met on Tuesday to review the acquisition strategy for the vehicles developed by the U.S. Army, clearing the way for the expected Army announcement.
 

Turkey to hold snap elections on November 1

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:28:03 PMGo to full article
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara on August 12, 2015Turkey is to hold snap elections on November 1 after coalition talks failed, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tasking Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Tuesday with forming an interim caretaker cabinet. The elections will take place at a critical moment in the country's modern history as the government battles Kurdish rebels in a hugely controversial air and land campaign. In an unusual twist, the caretaker cabinet will see the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) forced to work alongside pro-Kurdish forces despised by Erdogan.
 
 

German party receives far-right threats after refugee visit

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:26:08 PMGo to full article
By Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) were forced to evacuate their headquarters on Tuesday after receiving a bomb threat and flood of racist emails and phone calls the party said were linked to leader Sigmar Gabriel's visit to the eastern town of Heidenau. The town near Dresden was the scene of violent clashes over the weekend as far-right militants, protesting against the arrival of around 250 refugees at a local shelter, pelted police with bottles and rocks, some shouting "Heil Hitler". Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor and economy minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, traveled to the town on Monday and denounced the "mob" behind the violence.
 

UN condemns first executions in Kurdish region in 7 years

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:16:10 PMGo to full article
Iraqi Kurdish president Massud Barzani delivers a speech in the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk on August 3, 2015The UN on Tuesday condemned the execution by the government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region of three people convicted of murder and kidnapping, in the first use of the death penalty in the region in seven years. Farhad Jaafar Mahmood and his two wives, Khuncha Hassan Ismaeil and Berivan Haider Karim, were hanged in the early hours of August 12, after being convicted of kidnapping and murdering two girls. "We are dismayed to learn of the executions," Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN rights office, told reporters in Geneva.
 
 

IS CALIPHATE

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:15:36 PMGo to full article
IS CALIPHATE 082515: Map locates the Islamic State group’s area of support and control in Syria and Iraq. Points out Palmrya, the site of the recently destroyed 2,000-year-old temple.; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;
 

Allegations of new chemical attack in Syria

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:30 PMGo to full article
Syrians walk through the rubble following an alleged bombing by Islamic State group in Marea on April 8, 2015Activists and medical organisations have documented an alleged chemical weapons attack on a Syrian town last week that affected dozens of civilians, with one source blaming the Islamic State group. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it had treated civilians apparently exposed to a chemical agent in Marea, without saying what type or providing overall casualty figures. The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) said its own doctors in the northern town had identified the agent as mustard gas.
 
 

Libya calls for international air strikes against IS

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:40:31 PMGo to full article
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri, pictured during an interview in Paris on August 24, 2015, wants an arms embargo lifted and international air strikes against the Islamic State group in LibyaLibya's foreign minister on Tuesday renewed a call for the lifting of an arms embargo and for international air strikes to help tackle the Islamic State group which threatens to create a "rear base" in the country. "The situation is extremely serious," Mohamed al-Dayri, foreign minister for Libya's internationally-recognised government based in Tobruk, told AFP on a visit to Paris. Libya has two rival governments and has been torn apart since the international community helped oust its leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
 
 

Iraqi PM says defense of refinery town crucial to IS defeat

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎06:11:21 PMGo to full article
In this Monday, Aug. 24, 2015 photo, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, second from right, meets with his military commanders at an Iraqi Army base near the oil refinery town of Beiji north of Baghdad, Iraq. Al-Abadi said that winning the ongoing battle over control of an oil refinery town north of Baghdad is the key to defeating the Islamic State group in Iraq during his visit to the town of Beiji. (AP Photo)BAGHDAD (AP) — Winning the battle for control of an oil refinery town north of Baghdad is a key step toward defeating the Islamic State group, Iraq's prime minister said in remarks aired Tuesday, hours before a suicide attack killed 13 soldiers and allied militiamen in the western Anbar province.
 
 

14 suspected IS recruiters arrested in Spain, Morocco

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:53:37 PMGo to full article
A person suspected of forming part of a network that recruited Islamic State fighters is led away by Spanish police in San Martin de la Vega on August 25, 2015Spain and Morocco on Tuesday arrested 14 people on suspicion of belonging to a network that recruited and sent fighters to the Islamic State group. One suspect was detained in Spain while the other 13 were arrested in cities across Morocco, a Spanish interior ministry statement said, describing it as a "joint anti-terrorist operation". "Those arrested formed part of a network whose main activity was to recruit and send foreign fighters to join the ranks of the terrorist organisation Daesh in regions of Syria and Iraq under its control," it said, using the main Arabic acronym for the group.
 
 

Migrant crisis set to hijack western Balkans summit

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:43:27 PMGo to full article
Some 102,000 migrants have entered the EU via Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro or Kosovo between January and July this year, according to EU border agency FrontexEurope's raging migrant crisis is set to hijack a summit in Vienna of leaders from the western Balkans region on Thursday that will also be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. When it was announced a year ago, the gathering of a slew of heads of government and ministers as well as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was meant to be about regional cooperation and prospects for joining the EU. Some 102,000 migrants entered the EU via Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro or Kosovo between January and July this year, versus just 8,000 for the same period in 2014, according to EU border agency Frontex.
 
 

France sees Assad's 'neutralisation' as pre-condition for peace

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:30 PMGo to full article
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been in power since 2000French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that the "neutralisation" of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was a pre-condition to resolving the crisis in the war-torn country. "We must reduce the terrorist influence without maintaining Assad. The two are bound up together," Hollande told a gathering of French diplomats in Paris.
 
 

Veterans discharged for misconduct have higher risk of homelessness

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:00 PMGo to full article
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - U.S. veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who were discharged due to misconduct are more likely to be homeless than other returning vets, according to a new study. “Collectively, these results represent the strongest risk factor for homelessness among U.S. veterans observed to date, and may help to explain the higher risk of homelessness observed among veterans, despite access to VA benefits and services,” Gundlapalli told Reuters Health by email. The researchers used data on 448,290 U.S. active-duty military service members who were separated from the military between 2001 and 2011, deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, and who subsequently used Veterans Health Administration services.
 

A new guide presents the tourist side of Kurdistan

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:59:52 PMGo to full article
A guidebook to help travelers discover Kurdistan.Dr. Douglas Layton, an American scholar and tour operator, has released a guide intended to help change people's perceptions and show that the Kurdistan region, located in between Turkey, Iraq and Iran, shouldn't suffer because of the area's geopolitics. Layton's company Kurdistan Iraq Tours wants you to know: Kurdistan is one of the safest regions in the Middle East, not to be lumped in with the headlines of chaotic occurrences taking place in Iraq. Because of its geographical location, bordering Turkey, Iraq and Iran, it's constantly in the spotlight because of the current events affecting the general area, despite the fact that a future in tourism could be on the horizon.
 
 

As violence in Turkey spirals, PKK commander urges restraint

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎04:55:18 PMGo to full article
By Ayla Jean Yackley ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A senior commander in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on Tuesday called on armed followers to refrain from unprovoked attacks on security forces as violence escalates in southeastern Turkey following the collapse of a ceasefire. Duran Kalkan, a member of the PKK's executive committee, stopped well short of ordering a new truce but said attacks on conscripts and other soldiers merely doing their duty violated the PKK's "views". More than 60 police officers and soldiers have been killed in attacks by the PKK and affiliated groups and close to 200 have been wounded, dashing hopes that a 2-1/2-year ceasefire could spell the end of the long-running insurgency.
 

Islamic State shows images of ancient Syrian temple destruction

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:53:04 PMGo to full article
A general view shows the temple of Baal Shamin in the historical city of Palmyra, SyriaBEIRUT/DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Islamic State militants published photos on Tuesday purporting to show the destruction of a Roman-era temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, an act the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO has called a war crime. Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters the images did appear to show the destruction of the ancient Baal Shamin temple and correlated with descriptions given by residents of the explosion detonated there on Sunday. Five photos were distributed on social media showing explosives being carried inside, being planted around the walls of the temple, a large blast and then rubble.
 
 

Turkish PM begins work on new cabinet, Kurds see friction

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:37:25 PMGo to full article
Turkey's Prime Minister Davutoglu meets opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Leader Bahceli as part of the coalition talks in Ankara, TurkeyBy Tulay Karadeniz and Gulsen Solaker ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday called on reluctant opposition parties to join an interim government ahead of new elections, but two refused and the third, a pro-Kurdish party, said it doubted he was serious. Davutoglu was earlier appointed by President Tayyip Erdogan to form a temporary power-sharing cabinet and lead Turkey into an election on Nov. 1, after two months of coalition talks failed to produce a working government. Within hours, two opposition parties - the secularist CHP and the nationalist MHP - reiterated that they would not take part, raising the prospect of a cabinet dominated by Davutoglu's Islamist-rooted AK Party and propped up by outsiders who could include loyal bureaucrats and ex-AKP members.
 
 

Merkel to visit site of anti-refugee clashes after criticism

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎03:07:18 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will pay a visit on Wednesday to the eastern town where anti-refugee protests erupted in violence at the weekend, after she came under criticism from other parties for a belated response to the clashes. Merkel will meet asylum seekers, volunteers and security forces in the town of Heidenau, near Dresden, accompanied by the state premier of Saxony, her spokesman said in a statement. The clashes early on Saturday between police and far-right militants angry about the arrival of roughly 250 asylum seekers, who are being housed in a former building supplies store in the town, left 31 police officers injured.
 

Spain, Morocco arrest 14 suspected of recruiting for Islamic State

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:55:48 PMGo to full article
A suspect is led by Spanish National Police officers after being arrested in San Martin de la VegaSpain and Morocco arrested 14 people on Tuesday suspected of planning attacks and recruiting fighters to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Spanish government said. All the arrests were made in Morocco apart from one man detained in the small town of San Martin de la Vega, near Madrid, where hooded anti-terrorist police brought the suspect out from his home with his head covered, according to Reuters television journalists at the scene.
 
 

Up to 3,000 refugees, migrants expected a day in Macedonia: UNHCR

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:35:07 PMGo to full article
Migrants sitting along a railway track on the Greek side of the border move away as a train approaches the Greek-Macedonian border, near GevgelijaBy Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Up to 3,000 migrants are expected to cross into Macedonia every day in the coming months, most of them refugees fleeing war, particularly from Syria, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Member states of the European Union must share the burden by establishing "equitable re-distribution" of desperate families seeking asylum in the bloc, the U.N. refugee agency said. Nearly 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year, including nearly 181,500 in Greece and 108,500 in Italy, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
 
 

France's Hollande: Turkey needs to ramp up Islamic State fight

 
‎25 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎02:07:04 PMGo to full article
By John Irish and Marine Pennetier PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday Turkey must do more to tackle Islamic State in Syria and urged it to restore dialogue with Kurdish groups after launching strikes against them more than a month ago. Hollande delivered his annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors a day after the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters that Turkey and the United States would launch air operations to push Islamic State from a border area in northern Syria, something that could help prevent the militants bringing in fighters and arms in.

 

 

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

 

 
 

Hundreds of US rabbis voice support for Iran nuclear deal

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 17, 2015 - More than 300 American rabbis wrote members of Congress Monday urging them to support the international nuclear deal with Iran, signalling the US Jewish community is split over the historic but controversial accord.

The religious leaders come from across the spectrum, but hail overwhelmingly from Judaism's Conservative and Reform streams as well as other progressive Jewish movements, a spokesperson said.

"We encourage the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to endorse this agreement," the 340 rabbis wrote in a letter to Congress distributed by Ameinu, a progressive charitable Jewish organization.

"We are deeply concerned with the impression that the leadership of the American Jewish community is united in opposition to the agreement," the rabbis added.

"We, along with many other Jewish leaders, fully support this historic nuclear accord."

The agreement, finalized last month after more than a year of intense negotiations, would roll back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strongly opposed to the deal. He argues it will fail to block Iran's path to nuclear weapons that could be used to target the Jewish state.

Two weeks ago Netanyahu personally called on US Jewish groups to thwart the White House-backed deal. He made his appeal on a webcast hosted by Jewish American groups, which said it reached some 10,000 people.

The Jewish community is split over whether to back the landmark accord.

Progressive group J Street supports it.

The American Jewish Committee, a leading Jewish advocacy organization, has come out opposed, as has the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is reportedly spending more than $20 million in efforts to rally opposition to the deal.

Among the rabbis who signed the congressional letter, 49 are from New York, the state represented by senior Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who earlier this month announced he will oppose the accord when it comes up in Congress in September.

On Tuesday another influential Democrat, Senator Robert Menendez, gives a speech on the Iran nuclear accord and will announce whether he will vote for or against it.

Congress is expected to pass a resolution opposing the deal in September.

President Barack Obama will veto that measure, but Congress could override such a veto -- and kill the Iran deal -- with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

 

 

Fate of nuclear deal still 'not clear': Iran's Khamenei

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 17, 2015 - The fate of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers is still undecided but it will not leave the country vulnerable to US influence, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday.

Khamenei, the country's highest authority, said in a statement quoted on his website that Tehran would block any US attempt to influence Iran despite the historic accord.

"They think that through this agreement -- the fate of which is not clear as no one knows if it will be approved here or in America -- they could find a way to intrude into the country," Khamenei said.

"We have closed such a path and will decisively shut it. We'll allow neither economic nor political nor cultural intrusion by the United States."

The deal, reached in Vienna last month, must still be ratified by the US Congress and could face the need for parliamentary approval in Iran.

Khamenei, quoted as speaking to members of the Islamic Radio and Television Union in Tehran, also accused the United States of trying to "infiltrate" the Middle East.

"They seek the disintegration of Syria and Iraq, (but) with God's help it will not happen," he said.

Khamenei's remarks reflected Tehran's continued deep suspicion of the United States, despite his backing President Hassan Rouhani in reaching a deal.

The agreement between Iran and six major powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- aims to curb Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for a gradual lifting of international sanctions imposed on its economy since 2006.

The US Congress, dominated by Republicans in opposition to President Barack Obama, is expected to pass a resolution opposing the deal in September.

Obama is likely to veto that measure, but Congress could still override such a veto -- and kill the Iran deal -- with a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

In Iran, a debate is ongoing on the need for parliament to approve the agreement.

A majority of lawmakers -- 201 of 290 -- has requested that the agreement be submitted as a bill to be voted on and approved.

Khamenei also stressed his support for all forces fighting Israel, the Islamic republic's arch-foe.

"Iran defends the resistance in the region, including the Palestinian resistance, and provides support for anyone who fights Israel and strikes the Zionist regime," he said.

Iran does not recognise Israel and supports the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

 

 

S. Korea, US begin military drill despite N. Korea threats

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 17, 2015 - Tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops Monday began a military exercise simulating an all-out North Korean attack, as Pyongyang matched Seoul in resuming a loudspeaker propaganda campaign across their heavily-fortified border.

The annual Ulchi Freedom exercise, which will run through August 28, is largely computer-simulated, but still involves 50,000 Korean and 30,000 US soldiers.

The drill plays out a full-scale invasion scenario by nuclear-armed North Korea and both Seoul and Washington insist it remains purely defensive in nature.

Pyongyang views Ulchi Freedom -- along with other annual South Korea-US drills -- as wilfully provocative and had threatened the "strongest military counter-action" should this year's exercise go ahead.

"Such large-scale joint military exercises... are little short of a declaration of a war," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which oversees cross-border issues, said last week.

The committee specifically warned of the drill's potential for an accidental military clash that could trigger an "all-out" conflict.

Military tensions are already running high along the Korean peninsula after South Korea blamed the North for landmine blasts that maimed members of a border patrol earlier this month.

The South retaliated by resuming high-decibel propaganda broadcasts across the border, using loudspeakers that had lain silent for more than a decade.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the mine blasts and threatened "indiscriminate" strikes against South Korean border units unless the broadcasts were halted immediately.

- North turns on loudspeakers -

But on Monday Seoul's defence ministry reported that Pyongyang had resumed its own loudspeaker propaganda campaign at a site on the eastern section of the border.

The two Koreas had blasted propaganda messages at each other for years before the practice was discontinued by mutual agreement in 2004 during a period of rapprochement.

The rising tensions topped the agenda of a National Security Council meeting convened and chaired Monday morning by the South's President Park Geun-Hye.

"We need to maintain a strong military readiness to protect our people's lives and their properties from North Korea's provocations," Park told a cabinet meeting afterwards.

Because the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean conflict was never replaced by a full peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Last Saturday both nations celebrated the 70th anniversary of the peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, and there had been hopes earlier this year that the event might offer the opportunity for some diplomatic fence-mending.

Instead, the last few months have seen cross-border ties in a downward spiral, accompanied by the all-too familiar rhetoric of mutual recrimination.

The North has also targeted the US with its verbal broadsides, citing its nuclear arsenal amid threats of retaliation over Ulchi Freedom.

The powerful National Defence Commission stressed that North Korea had moved beyond the limits of conventional warfare.

It is now an "invincible power equipped with both latest offensive and defensive means ... including nuclear deterrence," the commission said, adding that only by dropping its "hostile" policies could the US "ensure the security of its mainland".

 

 

N. Korea threatens imminent strikes against South, warns US

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 15, 2015 - North Korea on Saturday threatened South Korea with "indiscriminate" military strikes unless it halts cross-border propaganda broadcasts, and issued fresh nuclear weapons warnings against the United States.

The threats came amid escalating military tensions on the Korean peninsula following a landmine attack South Korea blamed on the North and ahead of a major South Korea-US joint military exercise condemned by Pyongyang.

They also coincided with celebrations in both Koreas to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean peninsula's 1945 liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Initially there were hopes the anniversary might be an opportunity for some sort of inter-Korean rapprochement, but instead ties have spiralled downwards to the familiar accompaniment of angry rhetoric and mutual recrimination.

After three landmine blasts maimed two South Korean soldiers on border patrol, Seoul this week resumed high-decibel propaganda broadcasts across the heavily-militarised frontier, using batteries of loudspeakers that had lain silent for more than a decade.

Pyongyang rejected accusations that it was behind the mine incident as "absurd", and its frontline army border command on Saturday demanded the broadcasts be halted immediately.

- 'All-out' military action -

Failure to do so would trigger "an all-out military action of justice to blow up all means for 'anti-North psychological warfare' in all areas along the front," the command said in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

The action will involve "indiscriminate strikes which envisage even possible challenge and escalating counteraction," the statement said.

The threat came a day after North Korea said it would turn Seoul into a "sea of fire" if South Korean activists continue the practice of launching anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border by helium balloon.

The nuclear-armed North regularly ups its bellicose rhetoric before and during the joint military exercises South Korea holds with its US ally every year, but rarely follows through on its threats.

The last direct attack on the South was in 2010 when the North shelled a South Korean border island, killing four people.

Monday sees the start of the two week-long "Ulchi Freedom" drill which involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops in a wargame that simulates an invasion by North Korea.

- Nuclear threats -

On Saturday, the North's powerful National Defence Commission threatened the United States with the "strongest military counter-action" should the joint exercise go ahead.

The North Korean army and people "are no longer what they used to be in the past when they had to counter the US nukes with rifles," the commission said in a statement.

It is now an "invincible power equipped with both latest offensive and defensive means ... including nuclear deterrence," it said.

In a special Liberation Day address in Seoul, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said the recent landmine attack was a serious breach of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, and vowed a tough response to any further provocation by the North.

"North Korea must wake up from its daydream that it can maintain its regime through provocations and threats ... these will only lead to isolation and destruction," Park said.

Because the armistice was never replaced by a full peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

 

 

In departure from Republicans, Trump wouldn't 'rip up' Iran deal

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 16, 2015 - US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump took a strong departure from his party's rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, saying he would not necessarily "rip up" the accord, in an interview aired Sunday.

"I would police that contract so tough that they don't have a chance," the bombastic real estate mogul said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding "it's very hard to say we're ripping up" the deal.

Several of Trump's fellow Republican contenders have publicly opposed the deal, with some vowing to abolish it if elected.

The Republican-controlled US Congress is expected in September to vote against the deal, a landmark agreement that would roll back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

But the Republicans are unlikely to have enough support to overturn a subsequent veto by President Barack Obama.

Trump made the comments even as he sounded a dismal note on the deal's eventual outcome and called US Secretary of State John Kerry, who worked to negotiate it, incompetent.

"Iran is going to be unbelievably powerful and unbelievably rich and Israel is in big trouble," Trump said.

"They are going to be such a wealthy, such a powerful nation, they're going to have nuclear weapons. They are going to take over parts of the world that you wouldn't believe and I think it's going to lead to nuclear holocaust," Trump said.

"The people that negotiated that deal, namely Kerry and his friends, are incompetent," he said.

The billionaire businessman added that as an entrepreneur, however, he was "good at looking at a contract and finding things in a contract even though they're bad."

"I've heard a lot of people say 'We're going to rip up the deal.' It's very tough to do when you say 'rip up a deal' because I'm a deal person," Trump said.

The money that could become available to Iran with the easing of sanctions could be as much as $150 billion, US media has reported.

Asked specifically whether he would keep the deal alive as president, Trump responded: "The problem is by the time I got in there, they will have already received the $150 billion."

 

 

Iran submits nuclear activity information to UN watchdog

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Aug 16, 2015 - Iran has submitted documents linked to its past nuclear activity, the UN's atomic watchdog has confirmed, a key condition of a probe into suspected efforts to create nuclear arms.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed a "roadmap" with Iran in July to investigate its nuclear programme, as part of an overall accord with major world powers.

The historic deal is aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear activity in exchange for relief on painful economic sanctions.

The IAEA said Iran had met a key deadline by handing over the papers on Saturday.

"Iran... provided the IAEA with its explanation in writing and related documents as agreed in the roadmap for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran's nuclear programme," the agency said in a brief statement published Saturday.

A senior Iranian official also confirmed that the documents had been submitted.

"We have achieved our commitments as part of the deadline set out in the agreement," said Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation.

The IAEA is to issue a report on its investigation by December 15.

The agency has long sought to probe allegations that at least until 2003 Iran's nuclear programme had "possible military dimensions" -- that it conducted research into making a nuclear bomb.

Iran has always rejected the allegations as based on faulty intelligence provided by its enemies to a gullible and biased IAEA, and a probe has been stalled since last year.

A particular sticking point in the probe had been the IAEA's desire to inspect military sites where these suspicious activities may have taken place, such as Parchin.

But following the deal reached in July with the so-called P5+1 -- Russia, France, China, Germany, Britain and the United States --Iran granted the IAEA tightly-controlled "managed access" to its military bases.

 

 

Fears US 'national interest' hurt by partisan Iran row

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 13, 2015 - The former White House official who resigned this week as head of a key US group lobbying against the Iran nuclear deal, warned Wednesday that the partisan row was hurting America's national interest.

Gary Samore, who stepped down as president of United Against Nuclear Iran because he supports the agreement, said a political battle between Congress and the White House had crowded out the "pragmatic center."

"This looks like it will be a straight-out political battle between Republicans and some Democrats against the White House and that's very unfortunate," Samore told AFP.

His resignation Monday thrust him into the center of the fierce battle over the Iran deal, one fueled by multi-million-dollar lobbying budgets and the 2016 presidential election campaign.

Samore, a non-proliferation expert, advised Barack Obama during his first presidential term and received wide media attention this week as former White House colleagues hailed his decision as a victory for the "yes" camp.

United Against Nuclear Iran immediately announced he would be replaced by anti-deal former senator Joe Lieberman and unveiled a multi-million dollar campaign to highlight "key deficiencies and weaknesses" in the agreement.

The Republican-controlled Congress is expected in September to vote against the deal, but is unlikely to have enough support to overturn Obama's veto.

"I don't know that this agreement is really going to survive 15 years, in fact my guess is that it probably won't," Samore said.

"But if the agreement collapses I have confidence in our ability to mobilize support for pressure against Iran or use military force if necessary."

"It would be much better if the White House and Congress could come to an agreement on a resolution of support, with conditions that would strengthen the elements of the deal," he added

Samore insisted Congress could have strengthened Obama's hand vis-a-vis Tehran by reinforcing the agreement with "conditions relating to the use of force if necessary, or responding to Iran's regional policy, or keeping Congress adequately involved in implementation."

"That would be, from a national interest standpoint, the best outcome," he said. "Unfortunately I think the politics preclude that from happening."

After the knock-down-drag-out Washington fight ahead in the next month, "I don't know how much political will be left for coming up with a compromise," he added.

- 'No basis to compromise' -

While the White House has been frustrated by Republicans' summary rejection of the deal -- in some instances before it was finalized. Obama has also been criticized for playing politics.

Critics roundly reject his suggestion that the only alternative to the deal is war.

The White House has "decided that there is no basis to compromise with the Republicans who are going to oppose this agreement no matter what," said Samore.

"They have decided that the only strategy that is going to succeed is to appeal to enough Democrats on the left to block a congressional override of the president's veto."

"The most effective political strategy is to make this an anti-war vote."

Samore explained his thinking after reading over the deal.

"I really do think there are solid grounds for reasonable people to come to different conclusions on this agreement," he said describing his decision.

"I think the strength of the agreement is that it limits Iran's ability to produce fissile material at its declared facilities for 15 years at least and establishes a versification and enforcement mechanism that will improve our ability to catch them cheating."

"On the negative side, the agreement allows Iran to retain a larger enrichment program than I am comfortable with and most of the critical limits expire in 15 years."

"But when you look at those pros and cons against the available alternatives, my conclusion is that this agreement is the most effective way to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, at least for the time being."

 

 

Image analysis suggests N. Korea boosting uranium stocks

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:14:17 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 13, 2015 - Fresh satellite images suggest North Korea is expanding its uranium extraction capacity, possibly with a view to increasing its stockpile of weapons-grade fissile material, according to a leading non-proliferation expert.

The images show Pyongyang has begun to refurbish a major mill that turns uranium ore into yellowcake -- a first step towards enriched uranium, said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

"This suggests that North Korea intends to mine and mill a significant amount of uranium that could serve as fuel for expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile," Lewis said in an analysis posted late Wednesday on 38North, the website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Lewis noted that the yellowcake might also be destined to produce fuel for an experimental light-water reactor under construction at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

The analysis comes days after experts at IHS Jane's said separate satellite images suggested North Korea was operating a second hall of uranium enrichment centrifuges at Yongbyon.

North Korea has staged three successful nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

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

 
 

N. Korea slams South-US drill, threatens strikes on White House

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 12, 2015 - North Korea on Thursday condemned a looming South Korea-US joint military exercise as a "declaration of war" and boasted of its ability to make retaliatory strikes against Seoul and the White House.

The annual, two-week "Ulchi Freedom" exercise, which kicks off Monday, involves tens of thousands of troops in what is a largely computer-simulated rehearsal for a North Korean invasion.

It is one of a number of annual joint drills that Washington and Seoul insist are purely defensive in nature, but which Pyongyang condemns as provocative rehearsals for a full-scale attack on the nuclear-armed North.

This year's Ulchi Freedom comes at a time of particularly heightened tensions, following a recent landmine attack on a South Korean border patrol that Seoul blamed on North Korea.

A statement by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), which oversees cross-border issues, denounced Ulchi Freedom as a "drill for a surprise nuclear war" against the North.

"Such large-scale joint military exercises... are little short of a declaration of a war," the statement said, warning of the potential for an accidental military clash that could trigger an "all-out" conflict.

Echoing a threat it has made repeatedly in the past, the committee said South Korea and the United States should be aware that their "strongholds of aggression and provocation" -- including the White House and presidential Blue House in Seoul -- were in range of the North's "ultra-precision" military weapons.

North Korea has an extensive missile development programme to complement its nuclear weapons strategy, although experts are divided as to how advanced its delivery systems are.

In May, the North claimed to have successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) -- a technology that could eventually offer a survivable second-strike capability.

A fully developed SLBM capability would take the North Korean nuclear threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula.

But numerous experts questioned the authenticity of the May test, saying photos of the launch might have been digitally manipulated.

And North Korea has never conducted a test to back its claim to have a working inter-continental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental US.

Ulchi Freedom will kick off amid elevated cross-border tensions following the recent mine attack that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

Pyongyang has yet to react to the charge that it was responsible, but the South has already responded by resuming high-decibel propaganda broadcasts across the border, using batteries of loudspeakers that had lain silent for more than a decade.

Officials in the South say restarting the broadcasts is only the "first step" in a series of retaliatory measures.

 

 

S. Korea, US to hold live-fire drills after mine blasts

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 12, 2015 - South Korea announced Wednesday a series of heavy-weaponry, live-fire military drills with the United States as part response to a recent landmine attack blamed on North Korea.

Four exercises, involving tanks, howitzers, attack helicopters and fighter bombers, will be held in the coming weeks in an area around 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the North Korean border, the defence ministry said.

"This will show our preparedness to retaliate against any provocative acts, including such a treacherous act of aggression as the landmine attack", a ministry spokesman said.

The first drill was to take place later Wednesday, with the last one conducted towards the end of the month.

They will be separate from the full-scale, annual "Ulchi Freedom" joint exercise that kicks off next Monday and lasts for two weeks.

The annual drills always trigger a surge in military tensions with the nuclear-armed North which has repeatedly condemned them as rehearsals for invasion.

South Korea has vowed the North will pay a "harsh price" for the mine blasts that maimed two its soldiers on border patrol last week.

The military said investigations showed North Korean soldiers had sneaked across the border to plant the mines along a known patrol route.

Pyongyang has yet to respond to the charge.

South Korea has ramped up border security in the wake of the blasts and -- after a break of more than a decade -- resumed the broadcast of propaganda messages into the North, using batteries of powerful loudspeakers set up at several sites along the border.

 

 

If US drops Iran deal, dollar could suffer: Kerry

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) Aug 11, 2015 - If the United States cancels the Iran nuclear deal, as some members of Congress urge, the blow to its credibility may be such as to hasten the end of the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday.

Kerry said in New York that if the United States is not able to uphold its end of the deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, this could revive an attack on the dollar's status "which is already bubbling out there."

And he warned that such a diplomatic turnaround would alienate even America's traditional allies, not only "with respect to the sanctions, but we will lose their support if we have to use military action."

Kerry was the principal US negotiator of the accord, signed last month in Vienna, that dramatically curtails Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for a gradual and conditional lifting of international sanctions.

The deal has been publicly and vocally opposed by many members of the US Congress as well as by Israel, and has raised concerns among US allies in the Gulf.

Kerry's comments continue a month-long public defense of the deal by members of President Barack Obama's administration.

But it is the first time he has tied the fate of the US dollar to the deal.

"I mean, the complications that will grow out of that are enormous and there will be an increase in this notion that there ought to be a different reserve currency because the United States is misbehaving, and not in fact, you know, living by the agreements that it negotiates itself," he said.

"So it has broad implications," he said, speaking at a forum organized by the Reuters news agency, promising that more details on this threat would be released by the US Treasury.

The US opponents of the deal have a slim but unlikely chance of being able to block the deal in Congress.

Congress will vote in September on a resolution to stop the president suspending sanctions against Iran.

Obama has said he would veto that resolution. A two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress -- which, for now, appears unlikely -- would be required to overturn that veto.

 

 

Obama predicts support for Iran deal will grow

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 10, 2015 - US President Barack Obama has predicted that opposition to his nuclear deal with Iran will erode as the agreement is implemented and a "parade of horribles" fails to materialize.

In an interview recorded before Obama left on vacation Friday, he said Ronald Reagan faced similar Republican criticism when he decided to talk to the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev.

"His conservative supporters wrote some really rough stuff about him as appeasing the evil empire," Obama said, framing a very immediate Congressional fight in broader historic context.

Obama is battling to secure enough votes in Congress to make sure the deal survives and avoid a humiliating defeat.

"When this agreement is implemented and we've seen centrifuges coming out of facilities like Fordow and Natanz, and we've got inspectors on the ground and it becomes clear that Iran in fact is abiding by this agreement, then attitudes will change," Obama told National Public Radio.

"People will recognize that, in fact, whatever parade of horribles was presented in opposition have not come true," he added.

Critics argue that the deal -- exchanging sanctions relief for Iran's scaling back its nuclear program -- will offer Tehran a cash windfall, while leaving key nuclear assets in place.

A vote in Congress is expected in September.

 

 

Japan's Abe rapped as Nagasaki marks 70th anniversary of A-bomb

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 9, 2015 - Japan on Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki that claimed more than 74,000 lives, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came under fire for his attempts to expand the military's role.

Bells tolled and tens of thousands of people, including ageing survivors and the relatives of victims, observed a minute's silence at 11:02 am (0202 GMT), the moment the bomb from a US plane devastated the port city on August 9, 1945.

Abe laid a wreath at the ceremony, attended by representatives from 75 countries including US ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

"As the only country attacked with an atomic bomb in war, I am renewing our determination to lead the global effort for nuclear disarmament, to create a world without such weapons," Abe said in his speech.

He promised that Japan would continue to abide by its long-held principles: not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

Abe was criticised for failing to mention the three principles at a ceremony days earlier in Hiroshima, alarming atomic bomb survivors -- particularly when the nationalist leader is trying to push through legislation to extend the military's role.

Nagasaki survivor Sumiteru Taniguchi, 86, lashed out at Abe's government for trying to revise the pacifist constitution, accusing it of returning Japan to the state before the end of World War II.

"The security bills which the government is trying to push through would jeopardise our long-time movement for nuclear abolition and hopes of hibakusha (atom-bomb survivors)," he said in a thin voice. "I cannot tolerate the bills."

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also criticised the government as Abe listened.

"Worries and anxieties are now spreading among us that this pledge made 70 years ago and the principle for peace in the Japanese constitution may be now undermined," he said to loud applause.

Abe has faced criticism and opposition for his attempts to expand the role of his pacifist country's so-called Self-Defence Forces.

These would allow them to engage in combat -- in defence of an ally which comes under attack -- for the first time since the war.

A constitution imposed by a post-war US occupation force prevented the military from engaging in combat except in the nation's self-defence.

- 'Fat Man' -

In the now bustling port city of Nagasaki, about 74,000 people died in the initial blast near a major arms factory from a plutonium bomb nicknamed "Fat Man". Thousands of others perished months or years later from radiation sickness.

The attack on Nagasaki came three days after the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a bomb, dubbed "Little Boy", on Hiroshima in history's first atomic bombing.

A wall of heat up to 4,000 degrees Celsius (7,200 degrees Fahrenheit) -- hot enough to melt steel -- incinerated that city.

About 140,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Hiroshima attack, including those who survived the bombing but later died from radiation sickness.

Gums bled, teeth fell out, hair came out in clumps; there were cancers, premature births, malformed babies and sudden deaths.

The twin bombings dealt the final blows to imperial Japan, which surrendered on August 15, 1945 to bring an end to World War II.

While some historians say they prevented many more casualties in a planned land invasion, critics counter that the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing that Japan was already heading for imminent defeat.

At memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima on Thursday, Abe said Japan would submit a fresh resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons at the UN General Assembly this year.

"We have been tasked with conveying the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, across generations and borders," he told the crowd.

Pope Francis said Sunday the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings still evoked "horror and revulsion" 70 years on and called for a ban on nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction.

In his traditional Angelus prayer at Saint Peter's Square, the pontiff said Hiroshima had come to represent "the symbol of man's disproportionate power to destroy through the erroneous use of scientific progress and techniques".

This year's memorials come days ahead of the scheduled restart of a civilian nuclear reactor in southern Japan -- the first to go back on line for two years because of concerns following the disaster at the Fukushima atomic plant in 2011.

While Abe has pushed to switch the reactors back on, public opposition remains high after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

 

 

S. Korea ramps up border security after landmine attack

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 11, 2015 - South Korea ramped up border security Tuesday as military tensions flared following landmine blasts blamed on North Korea, and the presidential office in Seoul demanded a formal apology.

South Korea says North Korean soldiers sneaked across the border and laid the mines, three of which were tripped by members of a South Korean border patrol on Tuesday last week.

One soldier underwent a double leg amputation while another had one leg removed.

The South responded by resuming border propaganda operations after a break of more than a decade, switching on batteries of powerful loudspeakers to blare out messages denouncing border provocations.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to such campaigns. The last time the South threatened to turn the loudspeakers back on -- in 2010 -- the North vowed to shell the units involved.

"We are strengthening defence postures (along the border) against another potential provocation by the North," Seoul's defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said Tuesday.

The army will "respond immediately" if the North opens fire at the loudspeakers, Kim said, adding that border area residents had been advised to exercise extreme caution and farmers to leave their fields.

Until now, there has been no unusual North Korean activity observed along the border.

The mine blasts came with cross-border tensions already running high ahead of the launch next week of a major South Korea-US joint military exercise condemned by Pyongyang.

In Seoul, the presidential Blue House demanded an apology for what it called a "clear breach" of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

"We sternly urge North Korea to apologise for this provocation and punish those responsible," Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-Wook told reporters.

Because the 1953 armistice was never replaced with a peace treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

British Foreign Secretary (foreign minister) Philip Hammond, who is on a two-day trip to South Korea, condemned the mine blasts as a violation of the armistice and a threat to regional peace.

"We've condemned this unprovoked attack. And North Koreans must be held to account for the breach of the armistice," he told reporters during a trip to a memorial honouring British servicemen killed during the inter-Korean conflict.

The North's actions "threaten stability in this region", Yonhap news agency quoted Hammond as saying.

The defence ministry declined to comment on how many units were involved in the propaganda broadcasts, which resumed late Monday afternoon.

Media reports suggested loudspeakers had been switched on at up to 11 locations along the border.

A ministry official said the messages being boomed across the border ranged from snippets of world news and the weather forecast to the superiority of democracy.

He said noise from the speakers could be heard 10-20 kilometres (6-12 miles) away depending on the time of day.

Both Koreas discontinued the high-decibel propaganda exchanges in 2004 during a period of rapprochement.

But South Korean civil activists have continued -- much to Pyongyang's fury -- to send anti-North leaflets over the border using helium balloons.

 

 

S. Korea blames North for mine blasts, threatens 'harsh' response

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 10, 2015 - South Korea on Monday accused North Korea of planting landmines that maimed two soldiers on border patrol, sending military tensions on the Korean peninsula soaring as it threatened to make Pyongyang pay a "harsh price".

The Defence Ministry said it believed three landmines exploded in the incident last Tuesday, hitting a patrol in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) -- a buffer zone stretching two kilometres on either side of the actual frontier line dividing the two Koreas.

"We are certain they were North Korean landmines planted with an intention to kill by our enemies who sneaked across the military border," ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters.

One soldier underwent a double leg amputation, while the other had one leg removed.

In a statement, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said its military would make North Korea "pay a harsh price proportionate for the provocation it made."

Describing the attack as a "baseless act" and "wanton violation" of non-aggression accords, the statement urged the North to apologise for the attack and punish those responsible.

The last direct attack on the South was in December 2010 when North Korea shelled the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong, killing two civilians and two soldiers and triggering brief fears of a full scale conflict.

The rival Koreas remain technically at war because their 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

The UN Command that monitors the ceasefire accord said Monday that it had conducted a special investigation into last week's blasts and concluded they were from North Korean "wooden box" land mines placed on a known South Korean border patrol path.

"The investigation determined that the devices were recently emplaced, and ruled out the possibility that these were legacy landmines which had drifted from their original placements," it said in a statement.

More than a million mines are believed to have been planted along the inter-Korean border, including those which were air-dropped in great numbers in the 1960s at the height of a Cold War confrontation with the North.

The incident comes at a sensitive time, with both Koreas preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary on Saturday of the 1945 liberation of the Korean peninsula from Japanese rule.

There had been hopes that the anniversary might open an opportunity for some sort of rapprochement, but efforts to organise a joint commemoration went nowhere with Pyongyang refusing to consider talks because of Seoul's refusal to cancel annual joint military exercises with the United States.

 

 

Iran disagreement shakes Democratic party politics

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 8, 2015 - The White House responded with ill-disguised anger Friday to news that Chuck Schumer, a key Democratic ally in the Senate, will oppose the landmark nuclear deal with Iran.

In a statement -- purposely announced at the same time as the blockbuster Republican presidential debate Thursday -- Schumer said planned inspections of Iran's nuclear sites were not intrusive enough and would allow it to become a threshold nuclear state.

The loss of Congress's most influential Jewish member is a blow to President Barack Obama, who is trying to rally enough votes in the Senate to protect the agreement from being overturned.

"It makes the deal much more vulnerable both now in terms of congressional support but also with next president who will have to follow through," said Julian Zelizer of Princeton University.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest described Schumer's decision as "disappointing" but "not particularly surprising."

But the civil tone belied seething resentment among Obama allies.

It is resentment that could have a lasting impact on who leads the Democratic Party in the Senate after current leader Harry Reid retires in 2016.

"Senator Schumer siding with the GOP against Obama, (Hillary) Clinton, and most Democrats will make it hard for him to lead the Dems in '16," said Dan Pfeiffer, a long-time Obama senior advisor who left the administration in March.

- Last straw -

While allies, Schumer and Obama have disagreed on several major issues over the years.

Schumer voted for the war in Iraq, suggested Obama's signature healthcare reform was a mistake and now opposes the Iran deal.

That was the last straw for some.

"Chuck Schumer, who said it was a mistake to pass Obamacare, now comes out again the Iran Deal. This is our next Senate leader?" asked Jon Favreau, a former Obama speechwriter.

Schumer's former roommate, Senator Dick Durbin had also been in the running to take the coveted top Democratic spot in the Senate.

He may now see an opening to press his case.

Depending on the outcome of the 2016 election the person holding that post will either run Senate business as the majority leader -- if the Democrats regain the majority -- or lead the opposition if they do not.

Previous holders of the post include Lyndon Johnson, who went on to become president.

The White House said it was up to Senate Democrats to decide their leader, but dropped heavy hints about what they thought of Schumer's actions.

"I certainly wouldn't be surprised if there are individual members of the Senate Democratic caucus that will consider the voting record of those who say they would like to lead the caucus," said Earnest.

Earnest also made several references to Schumer's backing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The New York Times, Schumer's home-state newspaper was more scathing, saying he had "cast his lot with Republican presidential candidates."

Action group MoveOn.org fumed, saying they would withhold $10 million in contributions to candidates who undermine Obama's diplomacy with Iran.

The ill, Zelizer said, will "could cost him considerable support among Senate Democrats who understand this is political blow to the administration."

There was, however, some praise for Schumer.

Hardline Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz praised Schumer's "bravery" and urged him to lead the charge against the deal.

It is an endorsement that even a besieged Schumer could perhaps do without.

 

 

Obama warns rejecting Iran deal would spell war

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 5, 2015 - President Barack Obama made an aggressive case for his signature nuclear deal with Iran Wednesday, telling lawmakers that rejecting diplomacy would lead to war and destroy US credibility.

Casting it as "the most consequential foreign policy debate" since the Iraq War, Obama said Congress must not waver under pressure from critics whom history had already proven wrong.

"Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option: another war in the Middle East," he said.

"Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal," he added, urging lawmakers to instead choose a forsaken American tradition of strong diplomacy.

Obama was swept into office on a tide of anger over George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

The invocation of the Iraq War will touch a nerve in Congress, particularly among the Senate Democrats whose 2002 vote for war helped launch the bloody eight-year conflict and marked their record.

Still, Obama said the vote this time round was bigger than any political career.

"If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran's nuclear program or the sanctions we have painstakingly built," he warned.

"We will have lost something more precious. America's credibility as a leader of diplomacy. America's credibility as the anchor of the international system."

- 'Never fear to negotiate' -

Positing the now unpopular Iraq war as a cautionary tale, Obama recalled president John F. Kennedy's diplomatic efforts to engage a nuclear Soviet Union as a more worthy example to follow.

Obama's remarks were made at the American University, in Washington, where in 1963 Kennedy used a commencement address to argue vehemently for peace amid a drumbeat of calls for military buildup against the Soviet Union.

Speaking a year after the Cuban missile crisis and months before his death, Kennedy cautioned against the use of US power to bring about "peace of the grave or the security of the slave."

Obama, brandishing his own record as evidence he is not weak or willing to appease, said: "I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat. I've sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home. I've ordered military action in seven countries."

He added: "There are times when force is necessary" and that time may yet come if Iran does not respect the deal -- but not yet.

The agreement would give Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, which Washington long believed was cover for building a bomb.

Congress is expected to vote on the issue within weeks.

- War and peace -

Critics have angrily denounced Obama's rhetoric and what they say is a false dichotomy between war and peace.

The alternative to a bad deal, they say, is a better deal that not only subjects Iran to inspections and limits enrichment, but which also completely dismantles the nuclear program.

Senators John McCain and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, in a joint statement, accused Obama of relying on "endless straw men."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Obama's suggestion that Republicans had found "common cause" with Iran hardliners "goes way over the line of civil discourse."

The debate has split Congress largely -- although not exclusively -- along party lines, with Republicans, who are in the majority, staunchly against the accord.

Obama will need to win the support of fellow Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer in order to avoid having the deal rejected by lawmakers.

Here, history has proved as much of a burden as an aid to Obama.

The United States and Iran severed ties following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which saw 52 American embassy staff and citizens held hostage for 444 days.

Iran's antagonism toward the United States, Israel and support for terror groups in the Middle East since then has given many lawmakers pause, with a number of Democrats already breaking ranks.

Obama admitted that Iran might use cash coming its way under sanctions relief to fund "terrorist organizations."

But he said that was preferable to an Iran armed with a nuke.

Obama singled out Israel as an opponent of the deal, but said it would also benefit from an Iran blocked from gaining nuclear weapons.

"No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any deals with a government like Iran's," the US leaders said.

But he added "a nuclear armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions."

 

 

Bikini nuclear refugees seek US aid to leave Marshall Islands

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:39:38 AMGo to full article
Majuro (AFP) Marshall Islands (AFP) Aug 7, 2015 - Nearly 70 years after they were uprooted to make way for United States' nuclear tests, Bikini Islanders have approved two new resolutions seeking Washington's aid to relocate again -- including one citing the "psychological toll" of leaving their atoll.

For decades, Bikini islanders have struggled to survive on Kili, an inhospitable and isolated island with no lagoon for fishing or calm anchorage for boats.

Their hardship has worsened in the past four years with ocean water repeatedly flooding the land, and an airport runway that turns to mud when it rains.

It has reached an intolerable stage for the Bikini Council, which has now requested Washington's assistance with relocating the people who have lived in exile since the start of the nuclear testing at Bikini atoll in 1946.

The United States tested 24 nuclear weapons at Bikini, including its largest hydrogen bomb, Bravo, in 1954.

"We may have no option but to relocate," Bikini Mayor Nishma Jamore said as he outlined the future for the 800 residents on the island.

"Climate change is real. We are feeling and experiencing it. In the future we will have no choice (but to relocate)."

Jamore was speaking Thursday after the Bikini Council approved two resolutions seeking to have the Resettlement Trust Fund for Bikini islanders, established by Washington in 1982, used for relocation outside of the Marshall Islands.

Most of the Bikini people want to move to the United States because of the deteriorating conditions, but the trust fund specifically restricts resettlement spending to the Marshall Islands.

One resolution noted that since the resettlement to Kili in 1948, the change from an atoll environment to an island with no lagoon "continues to take a severe psychological toll on the people".

Added to the problem of subsistence is the impact of rising sea levels on Kili and Ejit Islands, also home to people relocated from Bikini Atoll, which are "covered by high waves at least five times in the last four years, resulting in contamination of all wells on both islands", the resolution said.

The second resolution says conditions on Kili "are similar to those facing the people of Bikini on Rogerik in 1946, of being placed on an island that cannot sustain the population".

The people of Bikini spent two years on Rogerik before being moved to Kili in 1948 because they were starving.

The Bikinians believe the US government remains morally responsible for their welfare, claiming their home island has not been properly cleaned and repaired since the nuclear tests.

"They really need to clean up Bikini," councillor Lani Kramer said. "I believe even if we don't go back they should clean it up no matter what."

 
 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 

 
 

UN 'horror' as Syria air strikes kill nearly 100

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:15:09 AMGo to full article
Damascus (AFP) Aug 17, 2015 - The death toll in Syrian government air strikes on a rebel-held town outside Damascus neared 100 on Monday, with UN officials expressing horror at the "unacceptable" attack.

Sunday's raids on Douma, in the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta, were among the bloodiest regime attacks in Syria's four-year war.

They came almost exactly two years after devastating chemical weapons attacks on the same region that much of the international community blamed on the Syrian government.

The United Nations' Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura described the attacks as "unacceptable in any circumstances".

The United States also condemned the "brutal" strikes which State Department spokesman John Kirby said shows "the regime's disregard for human life".

Syria's main opposition body in exile, the National Coalition, denounced the strikes and the international community's "lukewarm response" towards the war's civilian casualties.

At least 96 people were killed and 240 wounded in 10 air strikes on a marketplace and other parts of Douma, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said government aircraft carried out another four strikes on Monday morning, without providing a casualty toll.

An AFP photographer said residents were trying to bury victims of Sunday's attack, despite the renewed strikes.

He said the number of dead in repeated raids on Douma had forced gravediggers to create a mass grave at least four layers deep to accommodate the dead.

The photographer described Sunday's attack as the worst he had covered in the town.

- Dozens of bodies -

He saw dozens of bodies lined up on the bloodied floors of a makeshift clinic, as medics struggled to treat waves of wounded.

Eastern Ghouta, a rebel bastion regularly targeted by government air strikes, has been under a suffocating siege for nearly two years.

Amnesty International has accused the government of committing war crimes there, saying its heavy bombardment of the area was compounding the misery created by the blockade.

It also accused rebels in the area of committing war crimes by firing rockets indiscriminately at Damascus.

De Mistura called the Douma attacks "devastating".

"Hitting crowded civilian markets killing almost 100 of its own citizens by a government is unacceptable in any circumstances," he said in Geneva.

He said the deaths underscored that there was no military solution to the conflict.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien, on his first trip to Syria since taking the post in May, also condemned the attack on Monday, telling a news conference in Damascus, he was "horrified by the total disrespect for civilian life in this conflict".

"I am particularly appalled by reports of air strikes yesterday causing scores of civilian deaths and hundreds injured right in the centre of Douma, a besieged area of Damascus," O'Brien said.

The European Union also condemned "escalating" violence in Syria.

Syria "has already become the world's largest humanitarian crisis", the EU said, urging all warring parties to respect international humanitarian law and violators to be held accountable.

- 'Deliberate' targeting of civilians -

At least 240,000 people have been killed in Syria's war, which began in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The opposition National Coalition accused the government of "deliberately" targeting civilians in Douma.

"Assad's jet fighters fired missiles on marketplaces at (a) busy time when they are densely crowded with the intention of inflicting as many civilian casualties as possible," a statement read.

It also said the international community's failure to respond to such atrocities contributed to the violence.

Coalition head Khaled Khoja said the Assad regime's "boldness in committing massacres against civilians for 53 consecutive months depends on international silence that amounts to complicity".

Elsewhere, rebel fire on the provincial capital of Assad's coastal heartland Latakia killed six people and wounded 19 on Monday, state TV said. According to the Observatory there were only three deaths.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow did not accept Assad's departure as a prerequisite for peace, at a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"While some of our partners believe that it is necessary to agree in advance that at the end of the transitional period the president will leave his post, this position is unacceptable for Russia," Lavrov said, without naming Assad.

Lavrov last week hosted Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and representatives of the Syrian opposition, who all insisted Assad must go.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Kirby said "Assad has no legitimacy to lead the Syrian people".

 

 

Syria regime raids kill 82 in 'massacre' near Damascus

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:15:09 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Aug 16, 2015 - Syrian government warplanes bombed a market in a rebel-held town outside Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 82 people in one of the bloodiest regime attacks in the country's war.

The series of strikes on the town of Douma overwhelmed makeshift clinics, with bodies lying side-by-side on a bloodied floor as medics struggled to treated waves of wounded.

The head of the Syrian opposition National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, called the attacks as "massacre" and pledged they "will not go unpunished".

The deaths came as the UN's new humanitarian chief visited Syria for the first time since his appointment in May.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said regime warplanes had carried out at least 10 strikes on Douma, most of them hitting a marketplace.

It said that at least 250 people were wounded, with civilians accounting for most of the dead, and the toll could rise further because many of the injured were in a serious condition.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said locals had gathered after a first strike hit the market to help evacuate the wounded when more attacks came.

At least six raids hit the market, with the others striking nearby in the centre of town, Abdel Rahman said, confirming that the attack was among the bloodiest regime strikes in Syria's conflict.

An AFP photographer in Douma described the attack as the worst he had covered in the town in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta.

In one makeshift clinic, whole sections of floor were covered with rows of the dead, as volunteers worked to wrap each victim in a white shroud.

- Waves of wounded -

Frantic residents brought in the injured, who were treated on chairs, beds and the floor if necessary as the clinic overflowed with patients.

Two young boys sat on a stretcher with blood drying on their faces as they awaited treatment, one resting as though exhausted while the other cried.

Eastern Ghouta is the regular target of government air strikes and has been under siege for nearly two years, with regime forces tightening the blockade since the start of 2015.

Amnesty International earlier in the week accused the government of committing war crimes in Eastern Ghouta, saying its heavy aerial bombardment of the area was compounding the misery created by the blockade.

The group also accused rebels in the area of war crimes for firing rockets indiscriminately at the capital.

Sunday's strikes on Douma came as new United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien held talks with government officials in Damascus on his first trip to Syria since being appointed.

O'Brien met Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and expressed a willingness to work with the government to alleviate humanitarian suffering, state media said.

Close to 12 million people have been uprooted by Syria's conflict, with more than four million becoming refugees and another 7.6 million internally displaced.

On Saturday, O'Brien met the deputy foreign minister and visited the central city of Homs, which is now mostly under government control.

- 'Syria needs peace' -

"Beyond destruction of buildings lies destruction of lives. Syria needs peace," he wrote on Twitter.

"We are committed to continuing to support humanitarian efforts in Syria. Equal access to all people in need (is) vital for our work," O'Brien added.

Elsewhere, the Observatory said at least 27 opposition fighters and 15 government forces had been killed in battles since Saturday around the village of Tasneen, in central Homs province.

The fighting there began after a truce involving two government-held villages in Idlib province and a rebel bastion near Damascus broke down.

The truce for the villages of Fuaa and Kafraya and the town of Zabadani crumbled early Saturday after negotiators failed to reach a broader deal.

Fighting in all three areas continued on Sunday, with rebels firing missiles into Fuaa and Kafraya and government and allied forces battling the opposition in Zabadani.

Also Sunday, a US-trained rebel group said that Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front had freed seven of its members kidnapped two weeks earlier.

The group, known as Division 30, is among the units participating in a US-led programme in Turkey to train forces to fight the Islamic State group.

But after the first 54 members of the force entered Syria in July, Al-Nusra kidnapped 13 of them, including a commander, and at least three more were killed in clashes with the jihadist group.

Al-Nusra accused the force of serving US interests and paraded several of the captives in a video.

 

 

New Pentagon rules may change war reporting

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:15:09 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2015 - New guidelines in a US military war manual may change the rules for reporters covering conflicts, but it remains to be seen how the Pentagon will implement the new policy.

Media watchdog organizations have expressed shock and concern that reporters could be treated as "unprivileged belligerents" under the Defense Department's new Law of War Manual, which provides guidance for US commanders and others.

The Pentagon has insisted it "supports and respects the vital work that journalists perform." But some media advocates see too much room for maneuver in the guidelines.

Reporters Without Borders joined other organizations this past week in expressing concern, sending a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter urging consultations on the issue.

In the letter to the US defense chief, the Paris-based group said it was concerned that journalists could lose "privileged" status in combat areas merely by "the relaying of information," which, according to the guidelines, "could constitute taking a direct part in hostilities."

"This terminology leaves too much room for interpretation, putting journalists in a dangerous situation," said the group's secretary general, Christophe Deloire, in the letter.

Deloire said governments "have a duty to protect journalists covering armed conflicts" under a United Nations resolution and that his group was "disappointed that this manual takes a step in the wrong direction."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists expressed similar concerns last month, saying the Pentagon "has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar" for press freedom.

And The New York Times, in an editorial this month, called for the repeal of provisions affecting media, warning they would make the work of journalists covering armed conflict "more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship."

The newspaper said the rules could put reporters in the same category assigned to guerrillas or members of Al-Qaeda.

Treating journalists as potential spies, the newspaper argued, feeds into the propaganda of authoritarian governments that attempt to discredit Western journalists by falsely accusing them of espionage.

- Constitutional issues -

Heidi Kitrosser, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Minnesota who follows issues of free speech and government secrecy, agreed on the potential for curbing press freedoms.

"The breadth of the manual's language and its potential applications is alarming," she told AFP.

She added that the shift "is troubling for its conflict with US constitutional principles and also for its potential invoking by authoritarian regimes to support their own suppression of journalists."

Steven Aftergood, who monitors US government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said implementation of the policy will be critical, noting that it merely codifies existing practices an laws.

"A lot depends on how those laws are interpreted in practice," he told AFP.

"What seems clear is that extreme positions on either side of the issue are mistaken. In other words, total suppression of news coverage of war is obviously unacceptable. But so is the notion of absolute press freedom."

Aftergood added "there are likely to be legitimate battlefield secrets that the military is within its rights to protect. But how to navigate between those extreme positions is less clear and is hard to state in the abstract."

"In the US, at least, constitutional values should lead us to favor freedom of the press," he said.

The Pentagon said some elements of the manual may have been misconstrued, but that it was willing to work to allay any concerns.

"We've begun reaching out to leaders in the media to initiate a dialog on the manual. We expect this discussion will begin soon," Lieutenant Colonel Joe Sowers told AFP.

In an earlier email, Sowers said that the Pentagon stands "by the legal accuracy of the manual."

"But the fact that it is being construed in the way it has been is something of major concern to us."

 

 

Japan marks end of WWII under criticism from China, S. Korea

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:15:09 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 15, 2015 - Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II Saturday under criticism from China and South Korea, which said nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe failed to properly apologise for Tokyo's past aggression.

Further straining relations, a trio of cabinet ministers visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine -- which neighbouring countries see as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past -- prompting China to voice its "strong dissatisfaction".

The memorial services marking the day Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945 come after Abe on Friday delivered a closely watched speech that expressed regret -- but also said future generations need not apologise for Japan's war record.

His remarks were welcomed by the US but blasted by China as a non-apology, while Pyongyang derided it as "an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people".

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said his remarks "left much to be desired" and stressed the need for Japan to resolve the long-simmering issue of Asian women forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels.

However the Philippines, another wartime foe, said it had rebuilt a "strong friendship" with Tokyo.

Britain applauded the statement, while Australian leader Tony Abbott said Abe's remarks "should make it easier for other countries to accept Japan's commitment to a better future for all".

In a speech for Saturday's war commemorations, Emperor Akihito said he felt "profound remorse" over a war Tokyo fought in the name of his father Hirohito.

Some Japanese media said it was the first time the 81-year-old had used those words at the annual memorial.

Earlier about 60 politicians, including Sanae Takaichi, minister for internal affairs, entered the gates of Yasukuni.

The shrine is dedicated to millions of Japanese who died in conflicts -- but also includes more than a dozen war criminals' names on its honour list and a museum that portrays Japan as a victim of US aggression.

It makes scant reference to the brutality of invading Imperial troops when they stormed across Asia -- especially China and Korea -- in the 20th century.

- 'Died for the country' -

"How we console the souls (of war victims) is a matter for individual countries -- it should not be a diplomatic issue," Takaichi told reporters, responding to questions about possible criticism over her visit.

Other politicians visiting included Haruko Arimura, minister for women's empowerment, and Eriko Yamatani, minister of disaster management, along with thousands of other visitors.

The visits every August 15 enrage neighbouring nations, which view them as an insult and painful reminder of now-pacifist Japan's history, including its brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula.

China's foreign ministry voiced its opposition to Saturday's visits in a statement which said they demonstrated "Japan's erroneous attitudes toward the historical issues".

"China lodges its resolute opposition and strong dissatisfaction," the statement added.

Abe, the grandson of a wartime cabinet minister, was not expected to visit on Saturday, and instead sent a ritual offering to the shrine. His late 2013 visit drew an angry response from Beijing and Seoul, as well as a rebuke from close ally Washington.

Founded in 1869, the Shinto shrine honours some 2.5 million citizens who died in World War II and other conflicts -- along with 14 indicted war criminals, including General Hideki Tojo, who authorised the attack on Pearl Harbor, drawing the US into the war.

Japan's wartime history has come under a renewed focus since Abe swept into power in late 2012, and much speculation had focused on whether he would follow a landmark 1995 statement issued by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama.

Murayama's statement, which became a benchmark for subsequent apologies, expressed "deep remorse" and a "heartfelt apology" for the "tremendous damage" inflicted, particularly in Asia.

- 'Apology season' -

But on Friday, Abe -- who has been criticised for playing down Japan's war record and trying to expand its present-day military -- said future generations should not have to apologise.

"We must not let our children, grandchildren and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologise," he said.

He also reiterated his desire to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, possibly early next month. His speech made specific reference to the suffering of Chinese people at hands of Japanese soldiers.

Analysts said Abe was appealing to allies and neighbours while sticking to his nationalist convictions.

"It was a clever message that includes everything," said Haruko Sato, an Osaka University professor and expert on Japan-China relations.

But "his pledge to stop future generations from making repeated apologies appears to be what he really has in his mind".

Japan has seen little in the way of a national reckoning over the conflict, unlike wartime ally Germany.

"No German chancellor would say 'it's been a long time, the apology season will end soon'", said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan.

 

 

Pro-Hadi forces advance in Yemen's third city

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎10:15:09 AMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) Aug 16, 2015 - Pro-government forces supported by Gulf air strikes have made key gains against Shiite rebels in Yemen's third city Taez, seen as a gateway to the capital, military sources said Sunday.

The so-called Popular Resistance Committees, loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, have seized several strategic locations in central Taez, military officials said.

However, the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies still control entrances to Taez, including its eastern gate to Sanaa, which has been under their control since September, as well as other parts of the city, the sources said.

The officials reported heavy fighting around the presidential palace in Taez and the nearby central security forces' camp -- held by the rebels.

Rashad al-Sharaabi, spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees in Taez, said 10 rebels and four loyalist fighters were killed in the past 24 hours.

However, AFP could not confirm the toll from independent sources and the rebels rarely acknowledge their losses.

Loyalist forces have retaken the intelligence headquarters and a fortress from which the rebels had been shelling Taez, as well as the highest peak overlooking the city on Jabal Sabr, Sharaabi told AFP.

Saudi-led Gulf coalition warplanes, bombing rebel positions across Yemen since March, carried out several fresh air strikes in Taez early on Sunday, witnesses said.

The latest advance on Taez comes after loyalist forces made sweeping gains in south Yemen, starting with their recapture of main city Aden in mid-July.

On Friday, loyalists retook several facilities from rebels in Taez, including police and civil defence headquarters, according to the government's Sabanew.net website.

In a telephone call, Hadi reassured the 35th Brigade's commander in the city Thursday that "Taez is on its way to being liberated and support will soon reach it".

Military sources say the coalition has provided Hadi's supporters with modern heavy equipment, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and Yemeni soldiers trained in Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has cost nearly 4,300 lives since March, half of them civilians, according to UN figures, while 80 percent of Yemen's 21 million people have been left in need of aid and protection.

 

 

Syria regime air raids, rebel fire on Damascus kill 50: monitor

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Aug 12, 2015 - At least 37 civilians were killed Wednesday in Syrian government air strikes near Damascus, while at least 13 people died as rebels fired a barrage of rockets into the capital, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least four children were among the dead in regime strikes on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta region, where some 120 people were also wounded.

The death toll was likely to rise further, it said.

The air raids hit the towns of Douma, Saqba, Kafr Batna and Hammouriyeh in the rebel stronghold.

An AFP photographer in Douma saw more than a dozen bodies in makeshift plastic shrouds in a field hospital where medical workers struggled to aid the wounded.

Elsewhere, he also saw two plastic shrouds opened at the top to reveal the faces of two children, their skin yellow and blood-speckled.

Inside a clinic, a young boy wept and hugged his legs -- one roughly bandaged -- as he sat on a blood-smeared floor next to other injured residents.

The strikes came as rebels fired dozens of rockets into Damascus.

The Observatory, without specifying whether the raids or the Damascus attack came first, said at least 13 people, among them 10 civilians, were killed as a barrage of more than 50 rockets slammed into the capital.

It said another 60 people were wounded.

Syria's antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim told AFP by telephone from Damascus that rockets had struck near the capital's museum and historic citadel.

"The deputy director in charge of our mosaic pieces, Qassem Yahya, was killed. He was 38," Abdulkarim said.

"Another rocket fell by the museum's entrance and a passerby was killed," the director added.

Syria's state news agency SANA, citing a police source, put the toll at five dead with 55 injured, "most of them children and women."

Rebels often fire into the capital from rear bases on its outskirts, including at times barrages of hundreds of missiles.

Rights groups have condemned indiscriminate rebel rocket fire as amounting to war crimes.

The government regularly carries out air strikes against rebel-held areas on the outskirts of Damascus, particularly Eastern Ghouta, which is also under regime siege.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International accused the government of war crimes against Eastern Ghouta residents, saying heavy aerial bombardment was compounding misery created by the blockade.

More than 240,000 people have been killed in Syria's conflict since it broke out in March 2011, and millions have been forced to flee their homes.

 

 

Pentagon guidelines on war coverage by journalists draw fire

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 10, 2015 - The Pentagon is drawing fire for new legal guidelines that liken war correspondents to spies and says that in some instances they can be treated as "unprivileged belligerents."

The guidelines received little notice when they were published in June in the Defense Department's new Law of War Manual, a compendium of legal advice for commanders and others in the US military establishment.

But, in an editorial on Monday, New York Times called for their repeal, warning they would make the work of journalists covering armed conflict "more dangerous, cumbersome and subject to censorship."

The manual's section on the treatment on journalists says that, in general, they are civilians who should be protected from attack.

But, in some vaguely defined instances, it says journalists may be "unprivileged belligerents," the same category assigned to guerrillas or members of Al-Qaeda.

"Reporting on military operations can be very similar to collecting intelligence or even spying," the manual says.

"A journalist who acts as a spy may be subject to security measures and punished if captured. To avoid being mistaken for spies, journalists should act openly and with the permission of relevant authorities."

The manual also supports censorship of journalist's work.

"States may need to censor journalists' work or take other security measures so that journalists do not reveal sensitive information to the enemy.

"Under the law of war, there is no special right for journalists to enter a state's territory without its consent or to access areas of military operations without the consent of the State conducting those operations."

- 'Severe damage to press freedoms' -

A Pentagon spokesman insisted the manual is "not an authorization for any person to take any particular action related to journalists or anyone else."

"It is not policy and the manual is not directive in nature," Lieutenant Colonel Joe Sowers said.

The Times warned that allowing the guidance to stand "would do severe damage to press freedoms."

"Authoritarian leaders around the world could point to it to show that their despotic treatment of journalists -- including Americans -- is broadly in line with the standards set by the United States government," it said.

Conflating espionage with journalism, it argued, feeds into the propaganda of authoritarian governments that attempt to discredit Western journalists by falsely accusing them of being spies.

And it criticized the manual's suggestion that war reporters should operate only with the permission of "relevant authorities," and its broad assertion of a need for censorship to prevent sensitive information being revealed to the enemy.

"This unqualified statement seems to contravene American constitutional and case law, and offers other countries that routinely censor the press a handy reference point," the Times said.

Sowers responded: "We do not believe that the guidance in the manual will be used by authoritarian regimes in the way suggested in the editorial, and that was certainly not our intent.

"The Department of Defense supports and respects the vital work that journalists perform. Their work in gathering and reporting news is essential to a free society and the rule of law," he said.

He added that the Pentagon would take comments into account "as we review and seek to improve and clarify matters addressed in the manual."

The Committee to Protect Journalist also criticized the guidelines, warning last month of the negative impact they will have at a time when record numbers of journalists are being detained or killed in conflicts from Ukraine to the Congo.

"At a time when international leadership on human rights and press freedom is most needed, the Pentagon has produced a self-serving document that is unfortunately helping to lower the bar," it said.

 

 

Rival Libya factions resume peace talks in Geneva

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) Aug 11, 2015 - Rival Libyan factions were set to resume peace talks on Tuesday after a partial deal was reached last month, but hopes for a lasting ceasefire remain dim without the support of key power brokers.

The negotiations at the United Nations in Geneva are being hosted by UN envoy Bernardino Leon, who said the accord signed in Morocco on July 11 was an important step towards ending four years of deadly chaos.

That deal was backed by members of Libya's internationally-recognised parliament based in the eastern port city of Tobruk, as well as members of other political parties, civil society and local officials.

But it was boycotted by the Islamist-aligned General National Congress (GNC), which was installed in Tripoli by a powerful militia alliance that seized the capital last year.

The UN has not yet confirmed those attending the latest round of talks.

Representatives from the GNC were "expected", UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told journalists on Tuesday, but he stopped short of confirming their arrival in Geneva.

Experts said that even if the GNC commits to dialogue, a durable ceasefire could remain elusive.

"There may be a disconnect between the negotiators and those fighting," said Frederic Wehrey, a North Africa specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The UN-backed talks include "fairly influential people", and may ultimately lead to the declaration of a prospective ceasefire, he said.

But he warned that without "a separate (negotiation) track for these armed groups", stopping the bloodshed could prove impossible.

Libya has been plagued by near relentless violence since the 2011 overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi.

With the country deeply fractured -- including two parliaments vying for power and a slew of armed groups battling for control of the country's oil wealth -- the UN hopes to forge a unity government that can ease the violence.

The West "may see the negotiations process as a path to 'stability' rather than peace necessarily," said Fadil Aliriza, a Libya specialist at the London-based Legatum Institute.

"But it's hard to imagine how political figures with dubious popular support and minimal control over their armed forces can bring peace to a fractured country.

"Even if GNC comes on board, which is anyone's guess, the international community's focus on getting a unity government doesn't fix the sources of conflict," he told AFP in an email.

 

 

Peru dismantles Shining Path rebel column: officials

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Lima (AFP) Aug 10, 2015 - Peru has dismantled a column of Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path by capturing two of its leaders, the government said Monday.

A military intelligence operation led the army to the leaders, Dionisio Ramos and Alexander Alarcon Soto, both suspected of killing police and soldiers in the southeastern province of Cusco, shooting down a helicopter and attacking a police station, said Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Vega.

Soldiers seized weapons and explosives from the pair that were stashed near a gas pipeline connecting Camisea, one of Latin America's largest gas reserves, to the capital Lima.

"With this operation, the southern wing of Shining Path is dismantled. An energy and tourism hub is secured. It is possible they will send another column to take over the zone, but we will be watching," said Vega.

Shining Path waged a bloody rebellion in the 1980s and 1990s that left some 69,000 people dead in civil strife nationwide.

It has been largely dismantled since the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman in 1992, but surged back into the headlines last month when the army freed 54 captives being held deep in the jungle by remnants of the group.

The captives had been forced to work in slavery and have children with guerrillas, who were then inducted into the rebels' ranks, officials said.

They were rescued from a densely forested corner of the Amazon known as VRAEM -- the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers -- which includes the area where the two men captured at the weekend allegedly operated.

The government estimates Shining Path today has some 350 members, including 80 armed fighters.

It is active in coca-growing regions and is believed to use the illegal drug trade to fund itself.

 

 

4 Gazans wounded in Israel air strike after rocket fire

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 7, 2015 - A retaliatory Israeli air strike on Hamas's military wing in the Gaza Strip wounded four policemen Friday, a Palestinian official said, following a rocket attack on the Jewish state.

The hospital official told AFP one was critically injured and the rest moderately hurt in the strike on a training facility of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, near El Bureij refugee camp in the centre of the strip.

In an attack claimed by jihadists, Gaza militants earlier fired a rocket into southern Israel, without causing casualties, the Israeli army said.

"A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel," it said in a statement. "No injuries reported."

Israeli media said at least one other rocket was fired but fell short and landed in the Palestinian territory.

The air force "targeted a Hamas terror infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip. A direct hit was confirmed," Israel's military said.

Hamas is the de factor power in Gaza and Israel formally holds it responsible for any attack launched from the coastal territory.

"Hamas must fulfill its responsibilities or face the consequences," the army statement said.

Earlier, a previously unheard of group calling itself "The Grandsons of the Companions of the Prophet" claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

The rocket fire was "the first response by Salafist jihadists to Jewish attacks against Al-Aqsa", it said.

Last month, Israeli police entered Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, as they clashed with Palestinians angered by Jews' being granted access to the compound on an annual day of Jewish mourning.

The mosque compound, one of the most volatile sites in the Middle East, is the most sacred site in Judaism and Islam's third holiest, after Mecca and Medina.

In Gaza, Salafists have made no secret of their disdain for Hamas over its observance of a tacit ceasefire with Israel and failure to implement Islamic law.

Last summer, Israel went to war against Hamas with the aim of stamping out cross-border rocket and mortar attacks.

The 50-day conflict killed about 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

 

 

Military reinforcements enter Yemen from Saudi Arabia

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) Aug 6, 2015 - Saudi Arabia has sent new military equipment including tanks into Yemen to support loyalists fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels, tribal and military sources said on Thursday.

"Dozens of tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as hundreds of Yemeni soldiers trained in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Yemen overnight" via the Wadia border post in the north of the country, a Yemeni military source told AFP.

"These military reinforcements came from Saudi Arabia's Sharura region and are intended for the popular resistance and the national army," another military source said, referring to forces loyal to Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, currently in exile in Riyadh.

Since March 26, a Saudi-led military coalition has supported the loyalists with air strikes to stop the advance of the Huthi rebels, who last year took over the capital Sanaa and pressed south into second city Aden earlier this year.

Tribal sources told AFP that the reinforcements were headed towards the provinces of Marib, east of Sanaa, and Shabwa, to the southeast, "to expel the Huthis and their allies" from these two provinces, where heavy fighting has been ongoing.

Pro-Hadi forces continue to gain ground in the south of the country after retaking Aden last month and seizing the country's largest airbase of Al-Anad to its north on Tuesday.

This turnaround in the fighting coincided with the appearance on the battleground of modern military equipment that, according to military sources, the Saudi-led coalition had provided to Hadi's supporters.

A military source on Monday reported the presence of "hundreds of soldiers from Gulf countries" that were members of the coalition in Aden, where they landed with "dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles" to "secure the city".

Also on Thursday, pro-government forces and the rebels carried out a prisoner exchange, said the International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitored the operation.

A Red Cross statement said seven Huthi rebels were transferred from Aden to Sanaa.

They boarded a plane to Sanaa in return for the release of more than 20 southern pro-government fighters, the head of security at Aden airport, Colonel Ahmed al-Dulahi, told AFP.

The ICRC also said that its president, Peter Maurer, would visit Yemen August 8-10 "to highlight the dire humanitarian situation in the country".

The war in Yemen has killed nearly 4,000 people, half of them civilians, while 80 percent of the 21 million population needs aid and protection, the UN says.

 

 

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Tripoli (AFP) Aug 6, 2015 - Libyan peace talks are to resume next week as UN envoy Bernardino Leon presses on with efforts to strike a political settlement between the country's rival factions, his office said Thursday.

The next round is to be held on Monday in Geneva, a source at the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said.

The mission said Leon "was urging the main parties to redouble their efforts... towards narrowing existing differences and forging a common platform" for a solution to the Libya conflict.

Leon "acknowledges that while some of the parties continue to have reservations about what has been achieved to date, it is important for all parties to continue working on jointly addressing and resolving these concerns within the framework of the dialogue process", it said.

Plunged into chaos after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libya has two parliaments and governments vying for power, as a slew of armed groups battle for control of its oil wealth.

The elected parliament, which is recognised by the international community, initialled a UN draft deal on July 11 aimed at setting up a national unity government and holding fresh elections.

Members of political parties, civil society and local officials also signed the agreement.

But the rival parliament known as the General National Congress (GNC) has refused to endorse the draft deal, saying it was "unsatisfactory" and calling for "modifications".

It was not immediately clear who will attend the Geneva talks and whether a GNC delegation would travel to Switzerland.

 

 

Loyalists retake Yemen's biggest airbase: defence ministry

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Aden (AFP) Aug 4, 2015 - Advancing loyalist forces recaptured Yemen's biggest airbase from Iran-backed rebels on Tuesday after a 24-hour assault using heavy armour supplied by a Saudi-led coalition, the defence ministry said.

A ministry statement hailed the victory and pledged that loyalist forces would press their fightback against the rebels and their allies until the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was restored over all of Yemen.

The Al-Anad base, north of second city Aden, housed US troops overseeing a drone war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen until shortly before the Shiite Huthi rebels overran it in March.

During the night, forces loyal to Hadi took control of the buildings, hangars and warehouses in the vast 15 square kilometre (six square mile) complex, military sources said.

In the morning, they combed the base to check there were no remaining pockets of resistance.

Some 70 rebels were killed and 10 captured in the fighting, pro-government sources said.

The loyalists suffered 24 dead and 23 wounded.

UN says Arab League open to Yemen monitoring mission
Geneva (AFP) Aug 4, 2015 - The United Nations said Tuesday the Arab League had indicated it would consider sending peace monitors to conflict-torn Yemen if a ceasefire was agreed, as pro-government forces made further gains.

The comments came after the UN's envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby in Cairo hoping to push forward a peace process that has faltered so far.

"The Secretary General of the Arab League said in fact that the league, when the time came, would consider seriously the question of monitors, in case of a ceasefire," UN spokesman Ahmed Fawzi told reporters in Geneva.

Fawzi said it was the first time the Arab League had indicated a willingness to deploy on the ground to monitor a prospective peace deal in the war-torn country.

During Ahmed's talks in Cairo, "there was an identity of views on the situation in Yemen, and the process that the special envoy is trying to launch," Fawzi said.

"The special envoy still feels, as he did in Geneva, that there is momentum for a political solution to be reached", Fawzi further said.

A first attempt at peace talks in Geneva in June between the pro-government forces and Iran-backed Huthi rebels collapsed without the warring parties even sitting down in the same room.

The Saudi-backed pro-government forces -- who are fighting to restore the authority of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi -- retook Yemen's biggest airbase from the rebels earlier on Tuesday.

It was the latest in a series victories for the Hadi loyalists and followed the rebels' ouster from Yemen's second city, Aden.

The rebels still control large swathes of the country, including the capital Sanaa, and their leader Abdulmalik al-Huthi has vowed that all recent setbacks are "short-term".

The exiled government has said it is only prepared to discuss the rebels' withdrawal from all the territory they have seized.

In Cairo, Ahmed also met with members of the General People's Congress (GPC), the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied to the Shiite rebels.

Fawzi denied rumours that the UN envoy discussed a possible exit for Saleh from Yemen.

Ahmed will continue his talks in Oman and will stop in Riyadh before heading to New York to brief the Security Council, the UN spokesman said.

 

 

Yemen rebel chief says ready for political settlement

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) Aug 3, 2015 - The leader of Yemen's Iran-backed rebels said a political settlement with the exiled government was still possible after what he called the "short-term" setback of their ouster from second city Aden.

Abdulmalik al-Huthi said the rebels would welcome a new attempt by a third party to broker a deal after the failure of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva in June.

"A political settlement is still possible," Huthi said in a speech broadcast by the rebels' Al-Masira television channel late on Sunday.

"We would welcome any (mediation) effort by a neutral party -- Arab or international," he said.

Huthi played down the withdrawal of the rebels and their allies from Aden in mid-July after four months of ferocious fighting.

"The advance made by the enemy in Aden will collapse," he said.

"It is a short-term situation which we will overcome despite all the money of Saudi Arabia."

Yemen's oil-rich neighbour has led an air campaign against the rebels since March and has also trained and equipped ground forces that were instrumental in securing Aden.

It was the rebels' entry into the southern port that forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his internationally recognised government into Saudi exile in March.

Riyadh has justified its military intervention against the rebels and their allies, saying that they posed a threat to the kingdom's security.

But Huthi said that after more than four months of devastating bombing, the threat was the other way round.

"With the crimes that you are committing you pose a danger to Yemen," he said.

"To guarantee your security, you have to be a good neighbour."

The rebels have fired mortars, rockets and even Scud missiles across the border but say that they only did so in response to the Saudi-led air war.

A Saudi civilian was killed on Sunday but the majority of the 49 deaths so far have been soldiers.

Saudi civilian killed in shelling on Yemen border
Riyadh (AFP) Aug 2, 2015 - Shelling from Yemen killed a civilian Sunday across the border in Saudi Arabia, which has been leading air strikes against Shiite rebels in the war-torn country, a civil defence spokesman said.

The civilian died when a projectile hit his house in the Saudi city of Najran before dawn. It had been fired from an area of northern Yemen under the control of Iran-backed Huthi rebels, the spokesman was quoted as saying by official Saudi news agency SPA.

At least 49 people, mostly soldiers, have been killed on the Saudi-Yemeni border since a Saudi-led military coalition launched air strikes on the Huthi rebels and their allies in Yemen on March 26.

The military campaign aims to support forces loyal to exiled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled Yemen to Saudi Arabia in late March as Huthis advanced on the southern city of Aden, threatening to take over the whole country.

 

 

India's historic peace accord to end oldest insurgency

 
‎13 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎05:40:30 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Aug 3, 2015 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday announced a peace accord with a faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), an armed rebel group in northeast India, ending the country's oldest insurgency.

"My warm greetings to all those present here today, on this historic occasion," Modi said in his address to the nation, after the signing of the peace accord between the government interlocutor and Th Muivah, NSCN's influential IM faction's general secretary.

"Today is historic, a golden moment, when they quit weapons and join the mainstream. I welcome them," he added.

The agreement is expected to pave the way for peace in northeast India, particularly in the under-developed state of Nagaland, that shares its border with Myanmar.

The NSCN rebel group -- over six decades old -- is seen as the biggest and most violent insurgencies from amongst the dozens of big and small armed tribal and guerrilla armies that operate in India's seven northeastern states.

Even as recent as this June, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a single rebel attack in the region.

India's National Investigation Agency later announced the capture of Khumlo Abi Anal, an operative of NSCN's other faction that operates out of neighbouring Myanmar.

"I believe that weapons or violence is not the way to solve problems and this (NSCN's) entry into the mainstream is the way ahead," Modi said.

"I believe that NSCN will also act as an inspiration for those (rebel groups) who want to come from a bad path to good path across the country," the prime minister added.

A government statement on Monday said that the details and execution plan of the peace accord will be "released shortly."

"The agreement will end the oldest insurgency in the country. It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East (India)," the statement added.

Peace in the region, particularly Nagaland, is seen as an important step for implementing the Modi government's 'Act East' policy, which aims to develop the region by closer economic ties with east Asian countries in the immediate neighbourhood.

 

 
Aleppo
حلب
Halab
Aleppo City landmarks
Nickname(s): Ash-Shahbaa
Aleppo is located in Syria
Aleppo
 
Location in Syria
Coordinates: 36°13′N 37°10′E

Baalbek

Baalbek, also known as Baalbeck (Arabic: بعلبك‎ / ALA-LC: Baʻalbak, Lebanese pronunciation: [ˈbʕalbak]) is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis (Greek: Ἡλιούπολις), was one of the largest sanctuaries in the empire. It is Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure, and it can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world, containing some of the largest and best preserved Roman ruins.

Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The gods worshiped there, the triad of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design.

Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is about 85 km (53 mi) northeast of Beirut and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 72,000, mostly Shia Muslims - the Shi'ite movement of Hezbollah operates a hospital in the town.

 

 

 

Baalbek
بعلبك
Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek
Baalbek is located in Lebanon
Baalbek
 
Location in Lebanon
Coordinates: 34°0′25″N 36°12′14″E

 

 

 

Temple of Venus, Baalbek, 1891

 

 

 

 

 

 

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