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THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

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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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Saudi king's French Riviera holiday provokes beach protest

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:53:59 PMGo to full article
A general view of the public beach called "La Mirandole" which is seen below the villa owned by the king of Saudi Arabia in Vallauris - Golf JuanSaudi King Salman and a 1,000-entourage were due to arrive on Saturday for holiday on the French Riviera, where over 100,000 residents have petitioned against the closure of the public beach outside his villa. The new king and his inner circle's three-week visit at the family's seafront villa in Vallauris, where U.S. actress Rita Hayworth celebrated her wedding to Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan in 1949, will be a boon for the local economy. The mayor of Vallauris also wrote to President Francois Hollande to protest against unauthorized work done by the Saudis at the property, where a slab of concrete was poured directly onto the sand to install an elevator.
 
 

Australian Islamic State group medic arrested on return home

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:38 AMGo to full article
SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian nurse who says he was forced by Islamic State militants to work as a medic in Syria was arrested after returning home and faces terrorism-related charges of supporting the movement.
 

Turkey air strikes show shift from 'complacency': experts

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:37:16 AMGo to full article
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gives a speech during a press conference after his visit at the Turkish Council of State in Ankara on July 24, 2015, vowing to continue operations against the jihadistsTurkey's air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, and Ankara's consent to the US using a key airbase to launch attacks on the jihadists, mark a break with its previous "complacency", analysts said. The new strategy effectively makes Turkey a full member of the US-led coalition against IS jihadists but raises the risk of cross-border reprisals and could give a stronger hand to Kurdish militants, they said. "The Turks are in a situation where IS have become too big to ignore," Michael Stephens, head of the British Royal United Services Institute's centre in Qatar, told AFP.
 
 

In shift, Turkish jets strike Islamic State targets in Syria

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:51:23 PMGo to full article
Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, ouside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, Friday, July 24, 2015. Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria early Friday, government officials said, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier. The bombing is a strong tactical shift for Turkey which had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group. (AP Photo)ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a major tactical shift, Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets Friday across the border in Syria, Turkish officials announced — a move that came a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier.
 
 

Pentagon chief hails peshmerga as model for Iraq

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:44:39 PMGo to full article
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter talks to multinational troops at the Arbil International Airport in the capital of the autonomous northern Iraqi region on July 24, 2015Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said during a visit to Kurdistan Friday that the autonomous region's peshmerga force was a model for the rest of Iraq in its fight against jihadists. The US defence secretary, on the second day of his first visit to Iraq since taking office earlier this year, praised the efforts of what is the region's de facto army. "We are trying to build a force throughout the territory of Iraq, and someday in Syria, that can do" what the peshmerga have achieved, Carter said.
 
 

Kerry: Agreement on Iran issue only alternative to force

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:00:28 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, testifies along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, second from left, and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015, to review the Iran nuclear agreement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that if the U.S. Congress disapproves of the Iranian nuclear deal, it will undermine President Barack Obama's ability to act throughout the world.
 
 

Expulsion from Derna bastion may show limits for Islamic State in Libya

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:36:40 PMGo to full article
Members of the Libyan pro-government forces, aim a weapon during their deployment in the Lamluda area, southwest of the city of DernaBy Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli CAIRO/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Islamic State jihadists have exploited widespread chaos to gain a foothold in Libya, but their ejection from an eastern city suggests they may not achieve a Iraq-style takeover due to strong local rivals and the absence of sectarian divisions. Last month, local Islamist fighters reinforced by local civilians ousted Islamic State militants from Derna on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, one of two bastions the jihadists had established in the North African oil-producing country. It was the first setback in Libya for the ultra-violent jihadist movement that has sent in combatants and clerics from Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab states to try repeat its success in Iraq and Syria, where it has captured vast territories and proclaimed a "caliphate" based on medieval religious precepts.
 
 

Football frenzy waning in turbulent Egypt

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:57:11 AMGo to full article
Egypt once boasted some of the strongest teams in Africa and the Middle East, but violence now means games are played in empty stadiumsEgypt once boasted some of the strongest teams in Africa and the Middle East, and the sport was adored by millions. Games are now played in empty stadiums, with spectators banned. "Although it is played for spectators, we no longer enjoy football, our only pleasure in life," said Gamal, 21.
 
 

A Palestinian village braces for Israeli demolition

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:42:30 AMGo to full article
In this Tuesday, July 21, 2015, photo, a Palestinian boy runs outside his family tent in the village of Susiya, south of the West Bank city of Hebron. Residents of this dusty village are bracing for Israeli bulldozers to come and knock down their makeshift homes of tarp, wood and wire any day now. But as they wait for the military order to be carried out, villagers are rallying support from Western governments. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)SUSIYA, West Bank (AP) — Residents of this dusty village are bracing for Israeli bulldozers to come and knock down their makeshift homes of tarp, wood and wire any day now.
 
 

Japan's Nikkei to buy Financial Times for £844m

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:38:12 AMGo to full article
Pearson is selling the FT Group for £844 million ($1.31 billion, 1.2 billion euros)British publisher Pearson on Thursday said it had agreed to sell its salmon-pink business newspaper the Financial Times to Japanese media group Nikkei for £844 million ($1.31 billion, 1.2 billion euros). Pearson said it was selling the FT Group, which includes FT.com. In a video interview with the FT, Pearson's chief executive John Fallon said the company wanted to focus on being "the world's best education company".
 
 

At least 10 feared dead after migrant boat sinks off Libyan coast

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:55:12 PMGo to full article
Naval personnel lower a patrol dinghy into the sea from the Belgian Navy Vessel Godetia, one of the EU vessels taking part in the Triton migrant rescue operation, during operations off the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy, on June 18, 2015At least 10 migrants who were seeking to reach Europe are feared dead after their inflatable dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, a local prosecutor on the Italian island of Sicily said Thursday. A UNHCR spokesman had earlier said that the potential toll could reach up to 40, but prosecutor Francesco Paolo Giordino said it would be closer to "about a dozen". "From what I managed to find out, the victims were on an inflatable boat that was carrying about 100 migrants," said Giordino.
 
 

Kerry calls talk of better Iran deal a 'fantasy'

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:05:02 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry, testifies along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015, to review the Iran nuclear agreement. Kerry bluntly challenged critics of the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday, calling it "fantasy, plain and simple," to think the United States failed to hold out for a better deal at the bargaining table. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday it is "fantasy plain and simple" to claim that President Barack Obama failed to insist on enough restraints on Iran's nuclear program before agreeing to lift economic sanctions long in place.
 
 

U.S., Iran both counter-attack critics of nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:38:11 PMGo to full article
By Patricia Zengerle and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Nouri WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both counter-attacked on Thursday against conservatives at home who are trying to block last week's nuclear deal. In Washington, Kerry told skeptical lawmakers that rejection of the accord would give Tehran "a great big green light" to accelerate its atomic program. Rouhani, elected two years ago on a promise to reduce the international isolation of the country of nearly 80 million people, defended the agreement following criticism from the Revolutionary Guards and conservative lawmakers that it endangers Iran's security.
 

Amnesty protests 'staggering execution spree' in Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:23:02 PMGo to full article
Amnesty International protested at what it called a "staggering execution spree" in Iran so far this year that has seen almost 700 people put to deathAmnesty International on Thursday protested at what it called a "staggering execution spree" in Iran so far this year that has seen almost 700 people put to death. "At this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country" recorded by Amnesty for the whole of 2014. Said Boumedouha, deputy head of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said the spike "paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale".
 
 

France's Hollande discussses Iran nuclear deal with Rouhani

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:50:49 PMGo to full article
France's President Francois Hollande (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) on September 24, 2013 in New YorkFrench President Francois Hollande conferred with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani Thursday on "conditions for implementing" the Iran nuclear accord, Hollande's office said. Hollande "expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East," it added. The conversation marks the latest step by Western leaders to beef up contacts with Iran since the July 14 deal in Vienna.
 
 

Coalition-trained Iraqi troops join battle against IS

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:00:38 PMGo to full article
Iraqi military members at the Counter Terrorism Service training location during a visit by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on July 23, 2015 in BaghdadIraqi troops trained by the US-led coalition have joined the battlefield for the first time, a US pentagon spokesman said Thursday, and are battling the Islamic State group to retake Ramadi. "As many as 3,000" Iraqi soldiers trained and armed by the coalition are taking part in ongoing operations to reconquer the Anbar provincial capital, Colonel Steven Warren said. "This is a development we are very satisfied to hear," he told reporters in Baghdad during a visit by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
 
 

Financial Times: A reference point for global business

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:56:04 PMGo to full article
A 'FT' logo sits on the side of the Financial Times headquarters in London, on July 23, 2015The Financial Times, whose sale to Japanese group Nikkei was announced Thursday, is the go-to paper for the business world which has harnessed the Internet to become a truly international newspaper. The British daily, with its distinctive pink paper, started life in 1888 as a four-page publication targeting London's financial industry, but now reaches more than two million people each day around the world. An unashamed champion of free markets and a supporter of the European Union, the FT is known for the reliability of its news and its insightful analysis -- even if it has rowed back on previous calls for Britain to adopt the euro.
 
 

Syria sees West easing tough stance after Iran deal: Assad aide

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:16:43 PMGo to full article
A close adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Iran's nuclear accord with world powers will force the West to soften its stance against Damascus and deal with its government to find a negotiated solution to Syria's civil war. Tehran has given vital financial and military support to Assad in a four-year-old conflict that has become a battleground for Shi'ite Muslim Iran's regional power struggle with Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, which backs insurgent forces in Syria. Western powers have supported non-Islamist rebels in Syria and said there was no room for Assad in a future Syria.
 

Iran deal fuels tussle for gas pipelines in Pakistan

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:37:17 PMGo to full article
Iranian labourers work on a section of a pipeline - adorned with Iranian (L) and Pakistan (R) flags after a pipeline project was launched in the Iranian border city of Chah Bahar in 2013A landmark deal on Iran's nuclear programme has breathed new life into plans for a gas pipeline through Pakistan -- and sparked a geopolitical tussle, with Russia looking to expand its influence, observers say. With sanctions on Iran likely to ease and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government getting under way, wrangling is intensifying over the proposed pipelines, which would link Central Asia to the Middle East. Islamabad last week hailed the nuclear deal, struck after long negotiations in Vienna, as reviving a stalled project to pipe gas from Iran's southern fields to energy-starved Pakistan.
 
 

Tunisia parliament backs death penalty for 'terror crimes'

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:33:05 PMGo to full article
A Tunisian policeman patrols the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse south of the capital Tunis following a shooting attack two days earlier on June 28, 2015Tunisia's parliament approved Thursday imposition of the death penalty for "terrorist" crimes, despite opposition from rights groups and a de facto quarter-century moratorium on executions. Lawmakers were voting during the second of three days of debate on a bill aimed at beefing up powers to confront a jihadist threat following deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State group. President Beji Caid Essebsi imposed a state of emergency after a student went on a shooting rampage at a beach resort last month, killing 38 foreign tourists, most of them Britons.

 

 

Iraqi Kurds head back to Europe, escaping war and seeking work

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:41:24 PMGo to full article
By Isabel Coles ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - The economy is in freefall, but business has never been better for one trade in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Smugglers are taking thousands of dollars from young Kurds desperate to leave the autonomous region, now at war with Islamic State militants and in the throes of economic crisis. One Kurdish smuggler involved in the trade for nearly three decades said the network of which he is a part sent 255 people to Europe in May and June alone, nearly all of them young men.
 

Kerry mounts furious defense of Iran nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:19:15 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State Kerry makes statement to media before closed door briefing with House members on Iran nuclear deal in WashingtonBy Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mounted a furious counterattack against critics of the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, telling skeptical lawmakers that rejection of the accord would give Tehran “a great big green light” to swiftly accelerate its atomic program. Testifying before Congress for the first time since Iran and world powers reached the deal last week, Kerry fought back against accusations by a senior Republican that America’s top diplomat was “fleeced” by Iranian negotiators in the final round of the Vienna talks.
 
 

European business reps congregate on Iran business forum

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:29:32 PMGo to full article
Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade of Iran applauds during the "Iran-EU conference, Trade and Investment" forum in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Less than 10 days after signing its nuclear deal, Iran formally threw open its doors Thursday to European Union companies, eager to do business _ and dozens of firms answered the call. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — Oil, gas, banks and more, worth tens of billions of dollars to the highest bidder. Less than 10 days after signing its nuclear deal, Iran formally threw open its doors Thursday to European Union companies, eager to do business — and dozens of firms answered the call.
 
 

South Korea's growth slowest in more than 2 years

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:30:38 AMGo to full article
People walk past sale signs at a Seoul shopping district, South Korea, Thursday, July 23, 2015. South Korea's quarterly growth slowed to the lowest in more than two years as a severe drought hit agriculture and an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome sapped consumption.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's quarterly growth slowed to the lowest in more than two years as a severe drought hit agriculture and an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome sapped consumption.
 
 

FBI chief: Islamic State group bigger threat than al-Qaida

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:32:04 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this July 8, 2015, photo, FBI Director James Comey testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Comey spoke July 22 on the threat posed to the U.S. by the Islamic State Group at the Aspen Security Conference in Aspen, Colo. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)ASPEN, Colorado (AP) — The Islamic State group's effort to inspire troubled Americans to violence has become more of a terror threat to the U.S. than an external attack by al-Qaida, the FBI director said Wednesday.
 
 

Obama tries another push to close Guantanamo Bay prison

 
‎22 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:56:14 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is close to bringing Congress another plan for closing the prison for terrorism detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a campaign pledge that President Barack Obama hasn't given up on, his spokesman said Wednesday.
 

Saudis seek US reassurance on Iran deal

 
‎22 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:45:29 PMGo to full article
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter (left) meets Saudi King Salman (right) at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, on July 22, 2015Saudi leaders on Wednesday sought reassurance from US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter over a deal curbing Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions. Carter held talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with King Salman and his powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is defence minister and second-in-line to the throne. Carter arrived as part of a tour of the Middle East trying to allay the concerns of US allies that Iran, made wealthier under the deal, will be more able to support its regional proxies.
 
 

Tunisia lawmakers debate new anti-terror bill

 
‎22 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:38:27 PMGo to full article
Tunisian Ennahdha Islamist party deputies attend a debate on July 22, 2015 at the Assembly of the Representatives of the People in TunisPresident Beji Caid Essebsi imposed a state of emergency after a student went on a shooting rampage at a beach resort last month, killing 38 foreign tourists, most of them Britons. Tunisia has come up with several drafts of legislation to deal with "the fight against terrorism and money laundering" since its 2011 revolution, but none reached parliament because of a lack of consensus.
 
 

Iran pushes nuclear deal as U.S. lawmaker aims to stop it

 
‎22 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:13:54 PMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, Araghchi and Fereydoon stand on the balcony of Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks in ViennaBy Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Nouri and Richard Cowan DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran's pragmatist government tried on Wednesday to sell its nuclear agreement with world powers to hardliners at home, just as a U.S. Congressional leader promised to do "everything possible" to sink the deal. With both Tehran and Washington facing stiff opposition to the accord, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Saudi Arabia in the hope of reassuring leaders there who fear their arch-rival Iran will make major mischief in the region. Last week's agreement was a big success for both U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
 
 

Rushdie says 'wrong lessons' learned from his Iran fatwa ordeal

 
‎22 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎06:48:44 PMGo to full article
Writer Salman Rushdie, pictured on October 5, 2014, told L'Express, "Instead of concluding we need to oppose these attacks on freedom of expression, we believed we should calm them through compromises and ceding"More than a quarter century after being slapped with a fatwa from Iran calling for his murder over his book "The Satanic Verses", Salman Rushdie says the world has learned the "wrong lessons" about freedom of expression. Instead, after the September 11, 2001 attack on America and the massacre in Paris in January this year of cartoonists and staff at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, and with the ongoing rampage of the brutal Islamic State group in the Middle East, Rushdie said some writers and other people were too cowed to talk freely about Islam. The "politically correct" positions voiced by some -- including a few prominent authors who disagreed with Charlie Hebdo receiving a freedom of speech award at a PEN literary gala in New York in May -- were motivated by fear, Rushdie said.

 

 

 

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Saudi king's French Riviera holiday provokes beach protest

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:53:59 PMGo to full article
A general view of the public beach called "La Mirandole" which is seen below the villa owned by the king of Saudi Arabia in Vallauris - Golf JuanSaudi King Salman and a 1,000-entourage were due to arrive on Saturday for holiday on the French Riviera, where over 100,000 residents have petitioned against the closure of the public beach outside his villa. The new king and his inner circle's three-week visit at the family's seafront villa in Vallauris, where U.S. actress Rita Hayworth celebrated her wedding to Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan in 1949, will be a boon for the local economy. The mayor of Vallauris also wrote to President Francois Hollande to protest against unauthorized work done by the Saudis at the property, where a slab of concrete was poured directly onto the sand to install an elevator.
 
 

At least 55 killed as Saudi-led warplanes hit Yemen's Taiz: Saba

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:57:37 AMGo to full article
A Saudi soldier stands guard as servicemen on a Saudi military cargo plane prepare to unload aid at the international airport of Yemen's southern port city of AdenA Saudi-led airstrike on Yemen's Taiz killed at least 55 people and left tens injured, Houthi-controlled news agency Saba said on Saturday. A coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, has been bombarding Iran-allied Houthi forces in Yemen since late March in a bid to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh. The Saba agency quoted a local source in Taiz as saying that the bombing targeted the Mokha area inhabited mostly by engineers and workers of a power station and some displaced families.
 
 

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes kill more than 120 in Yemen

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:42:33 AMGo to full article
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed more than 120 civilians and wounded more than 150 after shelling a residential area in the Yemeni province of Taiz on Friday evening, security officials, medical officials and witnesses said.
 

Iran hits out at Kerry's 'empty threats'

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:40:35 AMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks in parliament in Tehran on July 21, 2015, to defend the Vienna accord on Iran's nuclear programmeIran hit out Friday against US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of threatening military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on July 14. "Unfortunately the US Secretary of State once again talked about the rotten rope of 'the ability of the US for using military force'," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement. Zarif decried what he called the "uselessness of such empty threats against the nation of Iran and the resistance of the nation of Iran", and said such remarks should be consigned "to the last century".
 
 

US could release Israeli spy in November

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:52:00 AMGo to full article
Israeli youth demonstrators hold a banner with an image of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a demonstration for his release in Jerusalem on July 13, 2010Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard could be released after serving a 30-year sentence when he becomes eligible for parole in November, the US Justice Department said Thursday. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1987, two years after his arrest, and is eligible for parole in November 2015 -- and on Friday the Justice Department indicated that it would not oppose his release. "The Department of Justice has always and continues to maintain that Jonathan Pollard should serve his full sentence for the serious crimes he committed, which in this case is a 30-year sentence as mandated by statute," Department of Justice spokesman Marc Raimondi said.
 
 

Turkey air strikes show shift from 'complacency': experts

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:37:16 AMGo to full article
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gives a speech during a press conference after his visit at the Turkish Council of State in Ankara on July 24, 2015, vowing to continue operations against the jihadistsTurkey's air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, and Ankara's consent to the US using a key airbase to launch attacks on the jihadists, mark a break with its previous "complacency", analysts said. The new strategy effectively makes Turkey a full member of the US-led coalition against IS jihadists but raises the risk of cross-border reprisals and could give a stronger hand to Kurdish militants, they said. "The Turks are in a situation where IS have become too big to ignore," Michael Stephens, head of the British Royal United Services Institute's centre in Qatar, told AFP.
 
 

Convicted spy Pollard could be freed from US prison soon

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:27:03 AMGo to full article
FILE - This May 15, 1998, file photo shows Jonathan Pollard speaking during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Pollard could be released from federal prison within months. Pollard becomes eligible for parole in November 2015, on the 30th anniversary of his arrest on charges of selling classified information to Israel. U.S. officials say they're unlikely to oppose his parole.(AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Jonathan Pollard, an American who was convicted of spying for Israel in a sensational espionage case that inflamed public sentiment, could be released from federal prison within months, his lawyer and the Justice Department said Friday.
 
 

Officials deny report that U.S. preparing to release Israeli spy

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:20:23 AMGo to full article
Israelis hold placards, some depicting former U.S. Secretaries of State, during a protest calling for the release of Pollard from a U.S. prison, outside U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's hotel in JerusalemU.S. officials on Friday denied a Wall Street Journal report that the Obama administration was considering early release for Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel. The Justice Department said Pollard must serve his full 30-year sentence. One U.S. official rejected the notion that Pollard's release would have anything to do with trying to smooth tense relations with Israel over President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fiercely opposes.
 
 

'Staggering toll': Iran executed nearly 700 in first half of 2015, report says

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:10:39 PMGo to full article
In 2014, Iran topped the list as the world’s most frequent executioner. “Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” wrote Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
 

The war against IS: key developments

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:10:28 PMGo to full article
Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units supporting Iraqi government forces launch rockets towards Islamic State group positions on the outskirts of Fallujah on July 7, 2015August 8, 2014: US jets strike IS positions in northern Iraq in response to an appeal from Baghdad, in the first American military operation in the country since troops withdrew in late 2011. Already entrenched in neighbouring Syria, IS seized swathes of Iraqi territory in a lighting offensive launched in June 2014 marked by the frantic retreat of security forces. On September 5: US President Barack Obama vows to build "a broad, international coalition" to defeat IS.
 
 

Special Report: How Sony sanitized Adam Sandler movie to please Chinese censors

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:08:41 PMGo to full article
Sandler and his wife Jackie attend the premiere of the movie "Pixels" in New YorkBy Clare Baldwin and Kristina Cooke HONG KONG/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a 2013 script for the movie “Pixels,” intergalactic aliens blast a hole in one of China’s national treasures – the Great Wall. Sony executives spared the Great Wall because they were anxious to get the movie approved for release in China, a review of internal Sony Pictures emails shows. It is just one of a series of changes aimed at stripping the movie of content that, Sony managers feared, Chinese authorities might have construed as casting their country in a negative light.
 
 

Kerry to talk with Russia on Islamic State fight and role Iran might play

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:52:16 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks to the audience as he discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Council on Foreign Relations President Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New YorkBy Michelle Nichols NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that he planned to discuss combating Islamic State militants in Syria and what role Iran could play when he meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Qatar in coming weeks. Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York that "we have to change the dynamic in Syria" to kill off radical Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in swathes of territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq.
 
 

Kerry: Agreement on Iran issue only alternative to force

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:00:28 PMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry, left, testifies along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, second from left, and Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015, to review the Iran nuclear agreement. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that if the U.S. Congress disapproves of the Iranian nuclear deal, it will undermine President Barack Obama's ability to act throughout the world.
 
 

Today Iran, tomorrow the world? Nuclear deal fires up entrepreneurs.

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:28:03 PMGo to full article
The Iranian video begins low-key, the camera panning silently as dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs click away at their computers, lost in thought. Tables are pounded to the beat, a singer belts out lyrics in Persian, and the energy release shows how much ambition and hope these young Iranians have in their tech start-up future – and how much greater it can be, now that a landmark nuclear deal is opening up Iran for business. Recommended: How much do you know about Iran?
 

Civilian suffering in Yemen at 'unprecedented' level: Red Cross

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:20:59 PMGo to full article
Yemenis walk on a beach of Aden's Tawahi neighbourhood on May 6, 2015 as civilians are trying to escape by sea the ongoing fightingCivilian suffering in Yemen has reached "unprecedented levels," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Friday, warning that intensifying violence in the country's south was hamstringing emergency medical aid. The ICRC voiced particular concern over worsening clashes in the southern governorates of Taiz and Aden, where Saudi-backed forces loyal to exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi have made major gains. "The suffering of the civilian population has reached unprecedented levels," the ICRC's mission chief in Yemen, Antoine Grand, said in a statement.
 
 

Syrian government says too early for more U.N.-backed peace talks

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:02:11 PMGo to full article
A man carries crutches as he walks on glass fragments inside a damaged hospital after what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and fell near the hospital in the town of Tel al-Shehab in Deraa, SyriaBy Laila Bassam and Sylvia Westall BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's foreign minister said on Friday it was too early to hold another United Nations-backed peace conference on Syria, indicating the dim prospects for diplomacy as a U.N. envoy wraps up three months of consultations on the war. Walid al-Moualem also reiterated his government's view that Iran's support for Damascus would continue after its nuclear deal with world powers including the United States, which says President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.
 
 

Iran deal won't affect backing for Damascus: Syria minister

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:58:03 PMGo to full article
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Muallem says the Iran nuclear deal will not alter Tehran's support for Assad's governmentAn international agreement on Iran's nuclear programme will not alter Tehran's staunch support for the Syrian government and may even strengthen Damascus, Syria's foreign minister said Friday. Speaking at a conference in Damascus on "confronting terrorism", Walid Muallem said those who hoped to persuade Iran to abandon Syria's government would be disappointed. "There are those, led by the United States, who think that this agreement will enable the West to influence Iran's positions on the Syrian crisis," Muallem added, dismissing that as "delusional".
 
 

Special Report: West Africa's alarming growth industry - meth

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:25:34 AMGo to full article
File photo of federal policemen looking at seized barrels they suspect contain the ingredients to make crystal methamphetamines in ApatzinganIt highlights the new and fast-growing role West Africa is playing in the global drug trade, not just as a transit point for drugs but also as a producer of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Smugglers of Moroccan hashish have long crossed West Africa on their way to Europe or Asia. The synthetic drug is derived from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, two medicines that are used to treat ailments from nasal decongestion to asthma.
 
 

Analysis: Like Iran, pacts with USSR ignored foe's behavior

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎06:05:47 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Critics of the Iran nuclear deal claim it is flawed, among many reasons, because it does not demand that Tehran also change its behavior at home and abroad. That complaint ignores the United States' long history of striking arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, a far more dangerous enemy.
 

Iran's Zarif 'to visit Gulf, Iraq'

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:04:18 AMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is reported to be heading to Iraq's holy Shiite town of Najaf on Sunday and on to BaghdadIran's top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq this weekend, the ISNA press agency said Friday, following a landmark nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The accord, struck on July 14, which imposes certain controls on Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of crippling economic sanctions, is expected to form the basis of discussions during Zarif's trip. Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia have been quick to voice concern over the agreement, which will see a progressive easing of international sanctions on Iran in place since 2006.
 
 

White House labels rally against Iran deal "pro-war rally"

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:20:05 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's spokesman has referred to a Washington demonstration against the Iran nuclear deal as a "pro-war rally."
 

'Fleeced, bamboozled' Kerry defends Iran deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:05:53 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry listens during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, July 23, 2015 in Washington, DCUS Secretary of State John Kerry faced blistering accusations Thursday that he had been "fleeced" and "bamboozled" by Tehran, as he defended the Iran nuclear deal publicly for the first time on Capitol Hill. Kerry appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to defend the hard-fought agreement, which he called a "good deal for the world" that deserves the approval of a skeptical Congress. "The truth is that the Vienna plan will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, more lasting means of limiting Iran's nuclear program than any alternative that has been spoken of," he said of the deal struck last week in the Austrian capital.
 
 

Frontlines of Yemen's war shift in favor of Riyadh

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:42:00 PMGo to full article
Saudi military cargo plane is seen at international airport of Yemen's southern port city of AdenBy Noah Browning and Mohammed Mukhashaf DUBAI/ADEN (Reuters) - The tide of Yemen's messy war has unexpectedly turned, handing a morale boost and possibly decisive military momentum to Gulf Arab-backed forces bent on ending the ascendancy of the Houthis, a powerful militia they see as a puppet of Iran. The loss of the strategic southern port of Aden in the space of just a few days is a spectacular reversal for the Houthis, a once obscure rural group that won national importance last year before gaining the upper hand in a four-month-old civil war. At stake in what happens next is the stability of a country that is a cockpit of rivalry between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, sits on leading international shipping routes and provides a haven for al Qaeda's boldest international wing.
 
 

Amnesty protests 'staggering execution spree' in Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:23:02 PMGo to full article
Amnesty International protested at what it called a "staggering execution spree" in Iran so far this year that has seen almost 700 people put to deathAmnesty International on Thursday protested at what it called a "staggering execution spree" in Iran so far this year that has seen almost 700 people put to death. "At this shocking pace, Iran is set to surpass the total number of executions in the country" recorded by Amnesty for the whole of 2014. Said Boumedouha, deputy head of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said the spike "paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale".
 
 

Iran nuclear deal: why Saudis are wooing the Muslim Brotherhood

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:55:31 PMGo to full article
Saudi Arabia has launched a diplomatic overture toward the Muslim Brotherhood that appears aimed at limiting Iran’s influence with some branches of the Sunni Islamist organization. The Saudi move follows the recent nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran and marks a dramatic departure from an aggressive policy that saw Riyadh label the group a terrorist organization in March 2014 and attempt to eradicate it from the Gulf region. Most striking was last week’s official visit to the kingdom by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
 

France's Hollande discussses Iran nuclear deal with Rouhani

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:50:49 PMGo to full article
France's President Francois Hollande (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) on September 24, 2013 in New YorkFrench President Francois Hollande conferred with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani Thursday on "conditions for implementing" the Iran nuclear accord, Hollande's office said. Hollande "expressed the wish for Iran to contribute positively to the resolution of crises in the Middle East," it added. The conversation marks the latest step by Western leaders to beef up contacts with Iran since the July 14 deal in Vienna.
 
 

Senator Rubio: Iran deal could 'go away' with Obama

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:55:46 PMGo to full article
Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday warned that President Barack Obama's successor could scrap the Iran nuclear deal even if it is approved by Congress. Rubio was among the unsparing critics of the July 14 agreement at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew defended it. The deal, which followed two years of negotiations, is aimed at curbing Iran's ability to obtain a nuclear weapon in exchange for relaxing crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.     "The Iranian regime and the world should know that this deal is your deal with Iran - yours meaning this administration - and the next president is under no legal or moral obligation to live up to it," Rubio said.     "The deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office." The Florida senator, who is among 16 official candidates vying for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also criticized U.S. negotiators for failing to make the release of Americans detained by Iran part of the nuclear deal.
 

Iran nuclear deal safeguards seem effective: Saudi FM

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:54:45 PMGo to full article
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks during a joint press conference with his visiting Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry (unseen) following a meeting on July 23, 2015 in JeddahAn agreement reached this month to curb any Iranian attempt to get an atomic bomb appears to have effective safeguards, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Thursday. Riyadh and its Gulf neighbours share with Israel a concern that Iran, made wealthier under the agreement, will be more able to support its regional proxies.
 
 

Saudi downplays Hamas pilgrimage visit

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:41:55 PMGo to full article
The hajj and umra pilgrimages both culminate at the Grand mosque in the holy Saudi city of MeccaSaudi Arabia on Thursday played down the significance of a visit by Hamas leaders, saying it was only a religious pilgrimage and Riyadh's position on the Palestinian Islamist movement was unchanged. "There was no (political) visit by Hamas to the kingdom," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry. The official Saudi Press Agency reported last Saturday on the rare Hamas visit.
 
 

Syria sees West easing tough stance after Iran deal: Assad aide

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:16:43 PMGo to full article
A close adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Iran's nuclear accord with world powers will force the West to soften its stance against Damascus and deal with its government to find a negotiated solution to Syria's civil war. Tehran has given vital financial and military support to Assad in a four-year-old conflict that has become a battleground for Shi'ite Muslim Iran's regional power struggle with Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, which backs insurgent forces in Syria. Western powers have supported non-Islamist rebels in Syria and said there was no room for Assad in a future Syria.
 

Bilateral agreements between Iran, IAEA not side deals: White House

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:08:44 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bilateral agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency do not represent any kinds of separate deals alongside the recent nuclear deal between Iran and the United States and other world powers, the White House said. "This does not represent some sort of side deal," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a daily briefing on Thursday. (Reporting by Julia Edwards and Roberta Rampton; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Lisa Lambert)
 

Hollande, Rouhani agree to boost cooperation after nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:05:53 PMGo to full article
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives in UfaFrench President Francois Hollande agreed in a phone conversation with Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on Thursday to reinforce bilateral cooperation between the countries after last week's nuclear deal in Vienna, Hollande's office said. "(French Foreign Minister) Laurent Fabius' visit to Iran on July 29 is aimed at initiating this development," Hollande's office said in a statement. Hollande said during the conversation with Rouhani that he wanted Iran to make a positive contribution to solving crises in the Middle East, according to the statement.
 
 

Austria's President Fischer to visit Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:16 PMGo to full article
Austrian President Heinz Fischer will be the first European head of state to visit Iran since 2004Austrian President Heinz Fischer will in September make the first visit to Iran by a European head of state since 2004, his office said Thursday. The announcement came nine days after a historic agreement on Iran's contested nuclear programme was struck in Vienna. "After the success of the Vienna accord on July 14, 2015, concluding several years of nuclear talks, President Heinz Fischer will make a working visit to Iran from September 7 to 9," the presidency said in a statement.
 
 

Iran deal fuels tussle for gas pipelines in Pakistan

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:37:17 PMGo to full article
Iranian labourers work on a section of a pipeline - adorned with Iranian (L) and Pakistan (R) flags after a pipeline project was launched in the Iranian border city of Chah Bahar in 2013A landmark deal on Iran's nuclear programme has breathed new life into plans for a gas pipeline through Pakistan -- and sparked a geopolitical tussle, with Russia looking to expand its influence, observers say. With sanctions on Iran likely to ease and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government getting under way, wrangling is intensifying over the proposed pipelines, which would link Central Asia to the Middle East. Islamabad last week hailed the nuclear deal, struck after long negotiations in Vienna, as reviving a stalled project to pipe gas from Iran's southern fields to energy-starved Pakistan.
 
 

Rouhani assures critics nuclear deal is good for Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:40 PMGo to full article
By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin Nouri DUBAI (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani defended Iran's nuclear deal with world powers after it came under attack from conservatives at home, arguing on Thursday it reflected the nation's will and was "more valuable" than carping over the details. While many Iranians hope last week's agreement will bring an end to sanctions and deliver prosperity, the elite Revolutionary Guards military force and conservative lawmakers have said it endangers the country's security. "This is a new page in history," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on television, reiterating that the deal had launched a phase of reconciliation with the outside world.
 

Treasury Secretary says U.S. keep right to impose Iran sanctions over rights

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:34:13 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Thursday the Iran nuclear agreement would not prevent the United States from imposing additional sanctions on Iran over issues such as human rights violations if it feels it is necessary. The issue of Iran's human rights violations or potential support for militant groups that might attack the United States or its allies have been among the serious concerns of members of Congress as they begin a 60-day period for reviewing the international nuclear agreement with Iran. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott)
 

Kerry mounts furious defense of Iran nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:19:15 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State Kerry checks opening remarks before appearing at Senate Foreign Relations Committee in WashingtonBy Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry mounted a furious counterattack against critics of the Iran nuclear deal on Thursday, telling skeptical lawmakers that rejection of the accord would give Tehran “a great big green light” to swiftly accelerate its atomic program. Testifying before Congress for the first time since Iran and world powers reached the deal last week, Kerry fought back against accusations by a senior Republican that America’s top diplomat was “fleeced” by Iranian negotiators in the final round of the Vienna talks.
 
 

Kerry pushes back against critics of Iran deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:10:04 PMGo to full article
Members of the anti-war group Code Pink applaud as Secretary of State John Kerry arrives to testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Obama administration officials will stand stalwart behind the Iranian nuclear deal despite deep concern on Capitol Hill that Iran will try to evade nuclear inspectors and use billions from sanctions relief to further destabilize the Middle East. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry bluntly challenged critics of the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran on Thursday, calling it "fantasy, plain and simple," to think the United States failed to hold out for a better deal at the bargaining table.
 
 

Saudi FM: Iran deal may stop Tehran from getting nuke weapon

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:09:21 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right, is greeted by Saudi Arabian Assistant Minister of Defense Mohammad Al-Ayesh, center, as Tim Lenderking U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission stands left, after his arrival military aircraft at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Carter is meeting with Saudi King Salman and other Saudi officials. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said Thursday the Iran nuclear deal appears to have the provisions needed to curtail Iran's ability to obtain a nuclear weapon in what were the most favorable remarks yet from the kingdom on the recent agreement.
 
 

Saudi official downplays significance of recent Hamas visit

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:21:45 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's top diplomat says a recent visit by the leader of Hamas was for religious purposes and was not an official political visit to the kingdom.
 

Japan and China square off over disputed East China Sea territory

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:38:13 PMGo to full article
Japan this week asked China to stop building oil platforms next to a disputed area in the East China Sea. The exchange follows a defense white paper by Japan on Tuesday that said China's construction of some 16 oil rigs could be used to exploit resources on Japan’s side of territorial waters. The paper, issued days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the first round in a legislative fight to allow Japan’s Self Defense Forces to fight overseas, also criticized China for its recent activity near Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.
 

European business reps congregate on Iran business forum

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:29:32 PMGo to full article
Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade of Iran applauds during the "Iran-EU conference, Trade and Investment" forum in Vienna, Austria, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Less than 10 days after signing its nuclear deal, Iran formally threw open its doors Thursday to European Union companies, eager to do business _ and dozens of firms answered the call. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)VIENNA (AP) — Oil, gas, banks and more, worth tens of billions of dollars to the highest bidder. Less than 10 days after signing its nuclear deal, Iran formally threw open its doors Thursday to European Union companies, eager to do business — and dozens of firms answered the call.
 
 

Saudi Arabia says relations with Hamas have not changed after meeting

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:54:59 PMGo to full article
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday a visit to the kingdom last week by a Hamas delegation was religious rather than political and Saudi relations with the Iran-allied Palestinian group had not changed. Saudi Arabia has for years regarded Hamas with intense suspicion because the Palestinian militant group is both a traditional ally of Iran and also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement Riyadh has often seen as a threat.
 

Iran eyes $185 billion oil and gas projects after sanctions

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:47:55 PMGo to full article
By Shadia Nasralla and Maria Sheahan VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran on Thursday outlined plans to rebuild its main industries and trade relationships following a nuclear agreement with world powers, saying it was targeting oil and gas projects worth $185 billion by 2020. Iran's Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh said the Islamic Republic would focus on its oil and gas, metals and car industries with an eye to exporting to Europe after sanctions have been lifted, rather than simply importing Western technology. The United Nations Security Council on Monday endorsed a deal to end years of economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
 

Germany rejects criticism of its business ambitions in Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:29:06 PMGo to full article
German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel briefs the media on his last week's visit in Iran during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)BERLIN (AP) — Germany's economy minister has dismissed criticism of his recent trip to Iran, saying Tehran's poor human rights record and refusal to recognize Israel aren't legitimate reasons to avoid doing business with the country.
 
 

Yemen's ex-president in talks to resolve war-party official

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:18:41 PMGo to full article
Supporters of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stand under a huge poster of Saleh as they rally in his support in SanaaRepresentatives of Yemen's ex-leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are in talks with diplomats from the United States, Britain and the United Arab Emirates to help end four months of war in the impoverished country, a member of his party said. "There are negotiations in Cairo between the leaders of the Congress party and diplomats from the United States, Britain and the UAE in order to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Yemen and to lift the siege on the grounds that the continuation of the war and the siege serve extremist groups," Adel Shuja, a leader of the party Saleh leads, told Reuters.
 
 

Beirut's mounting trash reflects crisis of government

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:28:25 PMGo to full article
A general view shows the Naameh landfill, south of Beirut, LebanonBy Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - The stench of uncollected refuse in the streets of Beirut is a stark reminder of the crisis of government afflicting Lebanon, where politicians divided by local and regional conflicts have been unable to agree on where to dump the capital's rubbish. Mounting piles of garbage festering in the summer heat are triggering health warnings and protests by residents furious their government failed to avoid a crisis ignited by the long-scheduled closure of a major landfill site last week. For lack of state planning, the tip at Naameh south of Beirut had already been kept open well beyond its planned closure date.
 
 

Drones and ditches as Turkey tightens border after Islamic State bombing

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:53:16 PMGo to full article
By Orhan Coskun ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is erecting a modular wall along part of its border with Syria as well as reinforcing wire fencing and digging extra ditches after a suspected Islamic State suicide bombing killed 32 mostly young students in a border town this week. Turkey's NATO allies have long expressed concern about control of its border with Syria which in parts runs directly parallel with territory controlled by Islamic State. A suicide bombing on Monday in the southeastern town of Suruc highlighted fears about Syria's conflict spilling onto Turkish soil.
 

Iran says to introduce new oil contract in two or three months

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:40:57 AMGo to full article
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran aims to introduce a new petroleum contract internationally in the next two to three months, its deputy oil minister said on Thursday, part of the Islamic Republic's plan to boost output post-sanctions. The proposed contract is more liberal than Iran's previous "buy-back" contracts, Hossein Zamaninia, Iran's deputy oil minister for commerce and international affairs, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Vienna. (Reporting by Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Writing by Alex Lawler; Editing by Pravin Char)
 

After Iran deal, EU's Mogherini to visit Tehran, Saudi Arabia

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:11:57 AMGo to full article
The European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will travel to Tehran on Tuesday following the West's historic nuclear deal with Iran, also going to Saudi Arabia in her first official visit to the two regional powers. Mogherini's first stop will be Saudi Arabia on Monday, where she will meet officials including the country's new foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, with whom she is expected to discuss regional issues following the July 14 nuclear accord with Iran.
 

US defence chief Carter in Iraq for talks

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:40:39 AMGo to full article
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has arrived in Baghdad for talks with top political and military officialsUS Defence Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Baghdad on Thursday for talks with top political and military officials on Iraq's war against the Islamic State jihadist group. Carter, on his first visit to Iraq since taking the job in February, is expected to meet Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, as well as Sunni tribal leaders from Anbar province, where much of the current fighting is taking place. Top foreign officials' visits to Iraq are generally not announced in advance for security reasons.
 
 

Yukiya Amano: the world's eyes on Iran

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:08:05 AMGo to full article
By Shadia Nasralla VIENNA (Reuters) - Yukiya Amano, the Director General of the U.N. nuclear agency, faces one of the world's most delicate diplomatic tasks following an historic deal reached between Tehran and six world powers this month. If Iran were to break its promises, Amano and his agency would be responsible for detecting and telling the world about the breach. If Iran keeps its promises, it is also Amano who will report this and trigger sanctions relief for Iran.
 

EU's Mogherini to visit Iran, Saudi Arabia next week: official

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:43:06 AMGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini during talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015Brussels (AFP) - EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will visit Iran and Saudi Arabia next week, following the agreement with Tehran on its contested nuclear programme, a statement said Thursday.
 
 

More than 200 protesting teachers arrested in Iran, activists say

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:37:25 AMGo to full article
There was a heavy police presence in Tehran during the protest by teachers demanding the release of their colleagues from jailMore than 200 teachers were arrested on Wednesday during a protest outside the parliament in Tehran demanding the release of their colleagues from jail, an activist group said. Authorities launched a crackdown after over 2,000 teachers from across Iran gathered outside parliament carrying placards and chanting "Free those arrested," the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said. Anti-riot police on motorbikes roamed the streets and there was a heavy security presence in metro stations, the group of Iranian pro-democracy activists in exile said in a statement.
 
 

Iran deal with US brings thousands to Times Square protest

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:01:09 AMGo to full article
Supporters react to a speech by Republican presidential candidate former New York Gov. George Pataki at the 'Stop Iran' protest Wednesday, July 22, 2015, near Times Square in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of protesters packed into Times Square on Wednesday evening to demand that Congress vote down the proposed U.S. deal with Iran.
 
 

Republican lawmakers challenge Obama on Iran nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:01:56 AMGo to full article
Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, left, arrive for a classified briefing for all House members on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 22, 2015, about the deal reached to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)WASHINGTON (AP) — Backed by Israel, Republicans on Wednesday forcefully challenged President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran as the White House dispatched a Cabinet-level lobbying team to build support for the agreement to ease sanctions in exchange for concessions on the Islamic nation's nuclear program.
 
 

 

 

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Hungary to finish Serbia border fence by August 31: PM Orban

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:19:15 PMGo to full article
Hungarian soldiers stand in front of the first completed elements of the 150 meter-long fence on the border with SerbiaHungary will finish building its anti-migrant fence on its southern border with Serbia by August 31, ahead of a previous November deadline, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Saturday. "The fence will be built by August 31, any schedules different from that are invalid," Orban told an audience at a Hungarian-language summer university in Baile Tusnad in Romania, according to Hungarian state news agency MTI. Work began last week on a short test section of the four-metre-high (12 feet) fence, a bid to stem a surge in 2015 in the number of migrants and asylum-seekers crossing into Hungary from Serbia.
 
 

Turkey strikes Islamic State, Kurdish militants in drive for 'safe zone'

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:44 PMGo to full article
A Turkish Air Force A400M tactical transport aircraft is parked at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, TurkeyBy Ece Toksabay ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish fighter jets and ground forces hit Islamic State militants in Syria and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camps in Iraq overnight on Saturday, in a campaign Ankara said would help create a "safe zone" across swathes of northern Syria. Turkey has dramatically cranked up its role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State since a suspected IS suicide bomber killed 32 people earlier this week in a town close to the Syrian border, while pledging to also target Kurdish militants.
 
 

Turkey strikes IS in Syria, Kurdish militants in Iraq

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:13:48 PMGo to full article
Turkey is stepping up its fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Kurdish militants in IraqTurkey's military Saturday carried out a new wave of air and artillery strikes against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, in an escalating campaign Ankara says is aimed at rooting out terror. The two-pronged operation against IS and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) -- two groups who are themselves bitterly opposed -- came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey the authorities blamed on both organisations. The PKK blasted the air raids on its northern Iraq mountain stronghold, saying a fragile ceasefire that had been in place since 2013 with Ankara "no longer has any meaning".
 
 

Turkish jets strike Kurds in Iraq, Islamic State in Syria

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:53:58 PMGo to full article
Image from aircraft cockpit video released by Turkey's state-run agency Anadolu Friday, July 24, 2015, of what they report to be Turkish warplanes striking Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria. Earlier a government official said three F-16 jets took off from Diyarbakir airbase in southeast Turkey early Friday and used smart bombs to hit three IS targets across the Turkish border province from Kilis. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules requiring prior authorisation for comment, said the targets were two command centres and a gathering point of IS supporters. The official said the Turkish planes had not violated Syrian airspace. (Anadolu via AP Video) TURKEY OUT TV OUTANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish jets struck camps belonging to Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, authorities said Saturday, the first strikes since a peace deal was announced in 2013, and again bombed Islamic State positions in Syria.
 
 

Illegal migration clearly linked with terror threat: Hungary PM

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:23:29 PMGo to full article
Orban attends a news conference in BudapestHungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday there was a clear link between illegal migrants heading to Europe and a rising threat of terrorism, justifying his conservative government's tough anti-immigration stance. The landlocked central European country is part of Europe's visa-free Schengen zone, making it attractive to migrants coming through the Balkans. Most are from poor or conflict-ridden countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, looking to move on to wealthier western Europe.
 
 

Turkey to continue security operation as long as threat exists: PM

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:41:25 AMGo to full article
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's security operations will continue for as long as it faces a threat, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday, a day after Ankara dispatched war jets to attack Islamic State in Syria and Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. "These operations are not 'one-point operations' and will continue as long as there is a threat against Turkey," Davutoglu said at a news conference in Ankara, before heading to Istanbul, where he is due to meet with President Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the army this afternoon. ...
 

Turkey strikes IS in Syria, Kurdish militants in north Iraq

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:17:51 AMGo to full article
A left wing protestor throws a molotov cocktail towards police during a demonstration denouncing a police operation against Kurdish militants, on July 24, 2015 in Gazi district in IstanbulThe Turkish military on Saturday carried out a second wave of strikes against targets controlled by Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and embarked on a new air campaign to bombard camps of Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The two-pronged operation against IS and militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) -- two groups who are themselves bitterly opposed -- came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey the authorities blamed on the organisations. The raids against IS, which had begun before dawn Friday, marked a major shift in policy towards the group by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.
 
 

PKK Kurdish militants says truce has no meaning after Turkish air strike

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:03:46 AMGo to full article
The militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) said on Saturday its truce with Ankara had lost all meaning after an overnight attack by Turkish warplanes on its camps in northern Iraq. "The truce has no meaning anymore after these intense air strikes by the occupant Turkish army," the PKK said in a statement on its website. President Tayyip Erdogan opened peace talks with the Kurds in 2012, but they have since stalled and are beset by suspicion on both sides.
 

Australian Islamic State group medic arrested on return home

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:29:38 AMGo to full article
SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian nurse who says he was forced by Islamic State militants to work as a medic in Syria was arrested after returning home and faces terrorism-related charges of supporting the movement.
 

Turkey confirms attacks on PKK militant camps in Iraq: statement

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:27:33 AMGo to full article
A Turkish Air Force A400M tactical transport aircraft is parked at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, TurkeyANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish fighter jets launched attacks on camps of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq overnight, the prime minister's office said in a statement on Saturday, confirming earlier media reports. Turkey simultaneously launched ground attacks against the PKK and Islamic State in northern Syria, it said. (Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Gulsen Solaker; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Paul Tait)
 
 

Australian nurse arrested after return from Syria

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:49:37 AMGo to full article
A member of the Kurdish People's Protection Units fires towards Islamic State group jihadists on the southern outskirts of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh on July 20, 2015An Australian nurse who allegedly worked alongside Islamic State militants has been arrested after voluntarily returning from Syria, police said Saturday. The Melbourne-based father-of-five, widely named as Islamic convert Adam Brookman, surrendered to Turkish officials earlier this week ahead of his arrival in Sydney late Friday. "A 39-year-old Australian national was arrested upon arrival at Sydney International Airport last night on an interstate arrest warrant, relating to his alleged involvement in the conflict in Syria," federal police said in a statement.
 
 

Special Ops General: ISIS Leader Preparing for Own Demise

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:41:00 AMGo to full article
Special Ops General: ISIS Leader Preparing for Own DemiseThe leader of ISIS appears to be preparing for his own demise by looking for an heir to the terror throne, the chief of U.S. special operations said today."I think he's trying to be resilient. I think he's trying to develop some level of follow-on leadership so in the event something happens to him that somebody will know to carry on," Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said today at the Aspen Security Forum. ...
 
 

Two ex-Guantanamo inmates charged with 'terrorism' in Belgium

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:35:03 AMGo to full article
Policemen patrol in Antwerp, Belgium, on January 16, 2015Two former inmates at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay have been arrested in Belgium on charges of belonging to a group suspected of recruiting jihadists for Syria, prosecutors said Friday. The pair were arrested early Thursday in connection with a burglary at an apartment near the northern Belgian port city of Antwerp, a spokesman for the prosecutor, Jean Pascal Thoreau, told AFP. The pair were charged with "participating in the activities of a terrorist group," which in turn is suspected of recruiting fighters for Syria, he added.
 
 

Gold price slumps as China bites

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:29:15 AMGo to full article
Gold prices hit multi-year low points this week, hit by a stronger dollar and weak Chinese demandGold prices hit multi-year low points this week, hit by a stronger dollar and weak Chinese demand. PRECIOUS METALS: Gold slumped to the lowest point in nearly five and a half years, weighed down by the strong dollar and reports of massive selling in China, dealers said. "It can't be overestimated how much sentiment towards purchasing gold has been weakened following the stunning and sudden drop below $1,100 at the beginning of the week," said Jameel Ahmad, chief market analyst at trading group FXTM.
 
 

Reports: Turkish jets hit IS targets in Syria, Kurds in Iraq

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:07:18 AMGo to full article
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish jets flying from a base in Turkey's southeast have struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria for the second straight night, Turkish news reports said Saturday. The fighter jets also hit camps of Kurdish PKK militants in northern Iraq, the reports said.
 

Survivor of Turkey attack vows to keep up 'revolution'

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:05:14 AMGo to full article
Turkish officials carry the bodies of victims on July 20, 2015 after an explosion in the town of SurucActivist Oguz Yuzgec was wounded in a deadly suicide bombing blamed on Islamic State militants in a Turkish border town, but he remains defiant and vows to keep fighting for his beliefs. The slim, brown-haired survivor is still recovering from wounds to his abdomen and stomach in the town of Sanliurfa, which borders Syria. "Seeing people demonstrating and mobilising after what happened gives me strength," Yuzgec said, referring to protests in solidarity with the victims of Monday's suicide attack.
 
 

Turkey stages first air strikes on Islamic State in Syria

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:32:53 AMGo to full article
Ambulances leave from the Dag military post, which was attacked by Islamic State militants on Thursday, on the Turkish-Syrian border near Kilis, Turkey,By Orhan Coskun and Dasha Afanasieva ANKARA/ELBEYLI, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish warplanes pounded Islamic State targets in Syria for the first time on Friday, with President Tayyip Erdogan promising more decisive action against both the jihadists and Kurdish militants. Hours after the initial attacks, fighter jets were launched in a second round against Islamic State, while others targeted militants camps of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, according to local media. Friday's operations followed a telephone conversation between Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, and were accompanied by police raids across Turkey to detain hundreds of suspected militants, including from Kurdish groups.
 
 

Turkish jets bomb PKK Kurdish rebels in Iraq: spokesman

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:15:32 AMGo to full article
Turkish warplanes bombed military positions of Turkey's rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in neighbouring Iraq Friday, a spokesman for the rebel organisation said. "At around 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling," PKK spokesman in Iraq Bakhtiar Dogan told AFP.
 
 

/C O R R E C T I O N -- Knights of Columbus/

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:26:00 PMGo to full article
In the news release, Knights of Columbus to Expand Humanitarian Assistance to Suffering Middle East Christians, issued 24-Jul-2015 by Knights of Columbus over PR Newswire, we are advised by the organization that the seventh paragraph, first sentence, should read "Christians in the Middle East are facing a dire situation - and even extinction - while the response from the international community has been woefully inadequate," rather than "Christians in the Middle East are facing a dire situation - and even extinction - while the response from the international community has woefully inadequate," as originally issued inadvertently.
 

Turkey warplanes attack Kurdish militants in northern Iraq - media

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:09:57 PMGo to full article
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish warplanes launched attacks on camps of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq late on Friday, Dogan news agency and other local media reported. The attacks, which was Reuters was unable to immediately confirm, followed air strikes into northern Syria, where Turkish fighters had targeted Islamic State bases. (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Daren Butler; Writing by David Dolan)
 

British soldier shot in Afghanistan in 2012 dies

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:10:40 PMGo to full article
Lance Corporal Campbell, from 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh infantry, died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central EnglandA British soldier shot in Afghanistan more than three years ago has died from his wounds, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Friday. Michael Campbell's death, nearly nine months after British combat forces ended their 13-year operation against the Taliban, brings the total number of British fatalities in the Afghanistan conflict to 454. Lance Corporal Campbell, from 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh infantry, died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England, on Thursday, the MoD said.
 
 

Turkey's Incirlik: US airbase on frontline for half a century

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:34:28 PMGo to full article
US airforce F-16 warplanes lining to take off from the Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, January 10, 2001Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey has been a prized US facility since the depths of the Cold War but its strategic value has often been held hostage to discord between Ankara and Washington. A landmark deal letting US warplanes use Incirlik to strike Islamic State jihadists in neighbouring Syria marks the latest chapter in the base's long involvement in conflicts. "Incirlik has always been problematic," Michael Stephens of the RUSI Qatar research unit at the Royal United Services Institute in London told AFP.
 
 

Obama in Africa: Will his trip be more about symbolism or substance?

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:03:00 PMGo to full article
Over his time in office, President Obama’s engagement with sub-Saharan Africa has often seemed to be heavy on symbolism but light on substance. The first African-American president gave a soaring speech on Africa’s need for strong institutions over strongmen in Ghana in 2009, he visited historical vestiges of the transatlantic slave trade in Ghana and then in Senegal in 2013, and he attended Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2014. Critics fault Mr. Obama for failing to offer Africa the kind of generously funded programs that President George W. Bush did with his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR ) and the Millennium Challenge development initiative, and for ceding America’s preeminent place in Africa to a resource-hungry China.
 

In shift, Turkish jets strike Islamic State targets in Syria

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:51:23 PMGo to full article
Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, ouside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, Friday, July 24, 2015. Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets across the border in Syria early Friday, government officials said, a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier. The bombing is a strong tactical shift for Turkey which had long been reluctant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the extremist group. (AP Photo)ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a major tactical shift, Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets Friday across the border in Syria, Turkish officials announced — a move that came a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier.
 
 

Belgium arrests two ex-Guantanamo inmates on terrorism charges

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:50:16 PMGo to full article
By Robin Emmott BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium has arrested two former detainees of Guantanamo prison on charges of terrorism, saying the men are suspected of seeking recruits to fight in Syria, the federal prosecutor's office said on Friday. The two men, who were held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base in Cuba between 2001 and 2005, were under police surveillance and were arrested in the early hours of Thursday in the Belgian city of Antwerp along with three others. "They were in a car, we believe waiting to commit a robbery," said Jean-Pascal Thoreau, a spokesman for Belgium's federal prosecutor.
 

Turkish bombing of Islamic State marks end of tacit truce

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:32:14 PMGo to full article
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media in front of a mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, July 24, 2015. In a major tactical shift, Turkish warplanes struck Islamic State group targets Friday across the border in Syria, Turkish officials announced _ a move that came a day after IS militants fired at a Turkish military outpost, killing a soldier. In a related, long-awaited development, Erdogan confirmed that Turkey had agreed to let the U.S. use a key base in southern Turkey for military operations against the militants “within a certain framework.”(AP Photo/Depo Photos)ISTANBUL (AP) — Last month, the first edition of the Islamic State group's Turkish-language magazine contained not a word of criticism of the Turkish government. This week, the second edition calls Istanbul occupied territory and blasts President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a tyrant.
 
 

'Staggering toll': Iran executed nearly 700 in first half of 2015, report says

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:10:39 PMGo to full article
In 2014, Iran topped the list as the world’s most frequent executioner. “Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” wrote Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
 

The war against IS: key developments

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:10:28 PMGo to full article
Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units supporting Iraqi government forces launch rockets towards Islamic State group positions on the outskirts of Fallujah on July 7, 2015August 8, 2014: US jets strike IS positions in northern Iraq in response to an appeal from Baghdad, in the first American military operation in the country since troops withdrew in late 2011. Already entrenched in neighbouring Syria, IS seized swathes of Iraqi territory in a lighting offensive launched in June 2014 marked by the frantic retreat of security forces. On September 5: US President Barack Obama vows to build "a broad, international coalition" to defeat IS.
 
 

Turkey bombs IS in Syria, vows to carry on fight

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:34:16 PMGo to full article
The Turkish F-16 warplanes dropped four guided bombs on three IS targets in neighbouring SyriaTurkey on Friday vowed to press on with operations against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and other militant groups, after its war planes bombed the jihadists' positions for the first time. Following the pre-dawn air raids on the IS targets in Syria, Turkish police arrested almost 300 suspected members of IS and pro-Kurdish militant groups nationwide, in one of Turkey's biggest recent crackdowns on extremists. The raids marked a major shift in policy towards IS by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.
 
 

U.S., allies target Islamic State with 27 air strikes in Syria, Iraq

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:56:37 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and its allies staged 27 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq on Thursday, the coalition leading the military operation said in a statement. Six of the eight air strikes in Syria hit near al Hasaka, striking five units of fighters, among other targets. In Iraq, the strikes hit multiple targets near nine cities, including Mosul, Makmur and Falluja, the statement released on Friday said. (Reporting by Washington Newsroom; Editing by Bill Trott)
 

Kerry to talk with Russia on Islamic State fight and role Iran might play

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:52:16 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks to the audience as he discusses the Iran nuclear deal with Council on Foreign Relations President Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New YorkBy Michelle Nichols NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that he planned to discuss combating Islamic State militants in Syria and what role Iran could play when he meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Qatar in coming weeks. Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank in New York that "we have to change the dynamic in Syria" to kill off radical Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in swathes of territory it has seized in Syria and Iraq.
 
 

Pentagon chief hails peshmerga as model for Iraq

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:44:39 PMGo to full article
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter talks to multinational troops at the Arbil International Airport in the capital of the autonomous northern Iraqi region on July 24, 2015Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said during a visit to Kurdistan Friday that the autonomous region's peshmerga force was a model for the rest of Iraq in its fight against jihadists. The US defence secretary, on the second day of his first visit to Iraq since taking office earlier this year, praised the efforts of what is the region's de facto army. "We are trying to build a force throughout the territory of Iraq, and someday in Syria, that can do" what the peshmerga have achieved, Carter said.
 
 

Senior Al Qaeda operational commander killed in US airstrike

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:11:10 PMGo to full article
A US airstrike in Afghanistan has killed a senior Al Qaeda leader, the Pentagon announced on Friday. Abu Khalil al-Sudani was described as a “high-ranking Al Qaeda operational commander” who was the head of Al Qaeda's “suicide and explosives operations,” Reuters reported. Mr. Sudani was killed in a July 11 strike in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday the strike illustrated US forces’ ongoing efforts against Al Qaeda.
 

Afghan-Taliban peace talks likely in China next week

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:19:33 PMGo to full article
Despite the Taliban's willingness to engage in peace talks there has been no let-up in militant attacks, such as this bomb blast targeting NATO forces in Kabul, on July 7, 2015Afghan officials said Friday they will meet Taliban insurgents next week for a second round of talks aimed at ending 13 years of war, pledging to press for a ceasefire in negotiations likely to be held in China. The Afghan government conducted its first face-to-face talks with Taliban cadres on July 7 in Murree, a Pakistani hill station north of Islamabad, which were supervised by American and Chinese representatives. "The second round of talks... is set for July 30 or 31," said Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC), the government's top peace negotiating body.
 
 

US air strike kills senior Al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:05:40 PMGo to full article
An Afghan soldier looks out from a helicopter over part of Paktika province, where the Pentagon says a senior Al-Qaeda commander was killed by a US air strikeA US air strike in Afghanistan killed a senior Al-Qaeda commander, the Pentagon said Friday, in the latest blow to the worldwide militant network struggling with the rise of the Islamic State group. The attack, which occurred in Paktika province on July 11, killed Abu Khalil al-Sudani, a "high-ranking Al-Qaeda operational commander", the Pentagon said in a statement released to reporters in Iraq who were travelling with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. "Al-Sudani was one of three known violent extremists killed in the strike.
 
 

Syrian government says too early for more U.N.-backed peace talks

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:02:11 PMGo to full article
A man carries crutches as he walks on glass fragments inside a damaged hospital after what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and fell near the hospital in the town of Tel al-Shehab in Deraa, SyriaBy Laila Bassam and Sylvia Westall BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria's foreign minister said on Friday it was too early to hold another United Nations-backed peace conference on Syria, indicating the dim prospects for diplomacy as a U.N. envoy wraps up three months of consultations on the war. Walid al-Moualem also reiterated his government's view that Iran's support for Damascus would continue after its nuclear deal with world powers including the United States, which says President Bashar al-Assad must leave power.
 
 

Top Iraq Shiite cleric calls for protection of army families

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:51:53 PMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's top Shiite cleric on Friday called on the government in Baghdad to do more to protect the families of Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic State group, saying they are an "easy prey" for extremists bent on revenge attacks.
 

Expulsion from Derna bastion may show limits for Islamic State in Libya

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:36:40 PMGo to full article
Members of the Libyan pro-government forces, aim a weapon during their deployment in the Lamluda area, southwest of the city of DernaBy Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli CAIRO/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Islamic State jihadists have exploited widespread chaos to gain a foothold in Libya, but their ejection from an eastern city suggests they may not achieve a Iraq-style takeover due to strong local rivals and the absence of sectarian divisions. Last month, local Islamist fighters reinforced by local civilians ousted Islamic State militants from Derna on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, one of two bastions the jihadists had established in the North African oil-producing country. It was the first setback in Libya for the ultra-violent jihadist movement that has sent in combatants and clerics from Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab states to try repeat its success in Iraq and Syria, where it has captured vast territories and proclaimed a "caliphate" based on medieval religious precepts.
 
 

Defense Secretary Carter meeting with Kurds in Iraq

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:33:27 PMGo to full article
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter held talks Friday with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in their regional capital of Irbil, seeking insights to their military successes against the Islamic State.
 

Carter: US airstrike kills senior Al-Qaida commander

 
‎24 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:37:22 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, stands with Col. Otto Liller, commander, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), second from right, as he observes Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces participate in a training exercise at the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service Academy on the Baghdad Airport Complex in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Carter is on a weeklong tour of the Middle East focused on reassuring allies about Iran and assessing progress in the coalition campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday that a U.S. airstrike recently killed a senior Al-Qaida operational commander in eastern Afghanistan.
 
 

Iraq deploys coalition-trained troops to Ramadi fight for first time

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:50:36 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter talks with members of the media on a military aircraft en route to Amman, Jordan, after departing Jeddah, Saudi ArabiaBy Phil Stewart BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has for the first time deployed troops trained by the U.S.-led coalition in their campaign to retake the city of Ramadi from Islamic State militants, sending 3,000 of them in recent days, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday. Colonel Steve Warren told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter that 500 Sunni tribesmen, whose training by Iraqis was overseen by U.S. troops, were also taking part in the operation. The Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, were in the process of encircling Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in an effort to choke off Islamic State supplies and trap their fighters, ahead of a push to seize the city, Warren said.
 
 

Iraqi Kurds head back to Europe, escaping war and seeking work

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:41:24 PMGo to full article
By Isabel Coles ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - The economy is in freefall, but business has never been better for one trade in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Smugglers are taking thousands of dollars from young Kurds desperate to leave the autonomous region, now at war with Islamic State militants and in the throes of economic crisis. One Kurdish smuggler involved in the trade for nearly three decades said the network of which he is a part sent 255 people to Europe in May and June alone, nearly all of them young men.
 

How the Presidential Candidates Would Confront $18.6 Trillion of U.S. Debt

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:16:00 PMGo to full article
It has taken a while, but many of the 2016 presidential candidates have begun talking about how $18.6 trillion in long-term debt could threaten the U.S. economy, and what they would do to address it if they manage to succeed President Obama in the White House.
 

US-trained Iraqi troops to join Ramadi counteroffensive

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎05:06:50 PMGo to full article
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and Army Lt. Gen. James Terry as he arrives at Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad, IraqBAGHDAD (AP) — For the first time, Iraqi troops trained by the U.S.-led coalition have been added to the assault force Iraq is using to retake the city of Ramadi, a U.S. military official said Thursday.
 
 

Region's militant troubles weigh on Morocco's vital tourism industry

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎04:34:11 PMGo to full article
Tourists walk around the Argana restaurant at Marrakesh?s famous Jemma el-Fnaa squareBy Aziz El Yaakoubi RABAT (Reuters) - French tourist Margot Benet thought twice before boarding her plane bound for Morocco's legendary city of Marrakesh. It was just days after an Islamist militant gunman killed 38 tourists in neighbouring Tunisia. After she and her husband and two young children spent nearly a week in Marrakesh, the capital Rabat and other Moroccan towns without incident, she reckons she made the right decision.
 
 

Two Swedes arrested on Syria terrorist crime suspicion

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:42:58 PMGo to full article
Two Swedes were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of terrorist crimes in committing murder in Syria in 2013, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said, adding a third person was arrested in absentia. In a brief press release, the authority said the apprehended suspects were Swedish citizens, 30 and 32 years old, but did not name them or identify them by gender. "Two persons have been arrested in Gothenburg on probable cause on suspicion of terrorist crimes in committing murder," the Prosecution Authority said in a press release.
 

10 Things to Know for Today

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎03:08:22 PMGo to full article
A vendor of second hand goods waits for customers in the Monastiraki tourist district of Athens, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Greece's radical left-led government emerged bloodied but alive early Thursday from a key vote in parliament, which overwhelmingly approved new creditor-demanded reforms despite a revolt among hardliners in the main coalition partner. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
 
 

Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎02:15:00 PMGo to full article
Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism“Other countries have spied on American companies, and they have stolen from them, but this is likely the first time—occurring months before the late November attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE)—that a foreign player simply sought to destroy American corporate infrastructure on such a scale. “Like Humphrey Bogart saying, ‘Play it again, Sam,’ Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one of our mass hallucinations.
 
 

FBI chief: Islamic State group bigger threat than al-Qaida

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎01:23:55 PMGo to full article
ASPEN, Colorado (AP) — The Islamic State group's effort to inspire troubled Americans to violence has become more of a terror threat to the U.S. than an external attack by al-Qaida, the FBI director said Wednesday.
 

Drones and ditches as Turkey tightens border after Islamic State bombing

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:53:16 PMGo to full article
By Orhan Coskun ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is erecting a modular wall along part of its border with Syria as well as reinforcing wire fencing and digging extra ditches after a suspected Islamic State suicide bombing killed 32 mostly young students in a border town this week. Turkey's NATO allies have long expressed concern about control of its border with Syria which in parts runs directly parallel with territory controlled by Islamic State. A suicide bombing on Monday in the southeastern town of Suruc highlighted fears about Syria's conflict spilling onto Turkish soil.

 

 

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

 

 
 

N. Korea prepares to launch new long-range rocket: Yonhap

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 22, 2015 - North Korea is preparing to launch a new, long-range rocket, possibly in October, having completed an upgrade at its main satellite launch base, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

Any such launch would almost certainly be viewed by the international community as a disguised ballistic missile test and result in the imposition of fresh sanctions.

Quoting an unnamed government source, Yonhap cited "credible intelligence" that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had ordered the launch of a satellite to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North's ruling Workers' Party on October 10.

"We think (the North) will carry out a provocation around the 70th anniversary," the source said.

The South Korean Defence Ministry declined to confirm or deny the Yonhap report.

"As to the construction of North Korea's long-range missile launching facilities, we've been watching the North's moves very closely," a ministry spokesman said.

According to the Yonhap source, North Korea has completed work on an extended 67-metre (220-foot) gantry capable of handling a rocket twice the size of the 30-metre Unha-3 rocket launched in December, 2012.

The Unha-3 launch was widely condemned overseas as a ballistic missile test and triggered additional UN sanctions.

North Korea, which insisted the launch was purely scientific in nature, responded three months later by conducting its a third nuclear test -- the most powerful to date.

North Korea is banned under UN Security Council resolutions from carrying out any launch using ballistic missile technology, although repeated small-range missile tests have gone unpunished.

The upgrading of facilities at the Sohae launch centre have been closely monitored by satellite imagery analysts at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

In a recent report, the institute estimated that an October 10 launch would be "difficult although not impossible".

North Korea, meanwhile, has made its intentions very clear.

Visiting a newly-built satellite command centre in May, Kim Jong-Un had vowed to push ahead with further satellite launches despite the sanctions threat.

"Space development can never be abandoned, no matter who may oppose it," Kim said.

 

 

Americans pack Times Square to denounce Iran deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) July 23, 2015 - Protesters poured into New York's Times Square on Wednesday to denounce the Iran nuclear deal as a threat to Israel and global security, demanding that Congress reject the agreement.

Speakers, including Republican politicians, called on Congress to throw it out, whipping up the crowd that included supporters of right-wing Jewish and evangelical Christian groups.

"We're here as Americans to speak with one voice to say stop Iran now, reject this deal," said George Pataki, the former three-term Republican governor of New York.

"This is a God awful deal, this must be rejected. Congress must do its job and stand up for the American people, stand up for our safety and say no to this Iranian deal," he said.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, co-organizer of the Stop Iran Rally, claimed that 10,000 people had turned out. Protesters held up US flags and placards denouncing the deal.

A spokesperson for the organizers said protesters had "packed the entire block" on both sides of Seventh Avenue.

The rally expressed support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose criticism of the deal has strained relations with President Barack Obama.

Recent polls have suggested that of the 79 percent of Americans who heard about the deal, 48 percent disapprove.

Organizers played a montage of news reports about bombings around the world carried out by extremist groups linked to Iran. "Iran has been killing Americans for 36 years," it said.

"Stop the deal."

Scholar and Democrat Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, appealed to fellow liberals to side with Republican opposition.

"It is a bad deal for Democrats. It is a bad deal for liberals. I am here opposing this deal as a liberal Democrat," he said.

He called the deal bad for America, bad for world peace and bad for the security of the Middle East.

The Republican-majority Congress has 60 days to review the deal.

The Congress can pass a motion of disapproval, but President Barack Obama can then veto that. An override of the veto requires two-thirds approval in both the House and Senate.

 

 

Saudis seek US reassurance on Iran deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (AFP) July 22, 2015 - Saudi leaders on Wednesday sought reassurance from US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter over a deal curbing Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

Carter held talks in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with King Salman and his powerful son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is defence minister and second-in-line to the throne.

Carter arrived as part of a tour of the Middle East trying to allay the concerns of US allies that Iran, made wealthier under the deal, will be more able to support its regional proxies.

Despite the agreement reached this month between Tehran and six major powers led by Washington, Gulf states also worry Iran could still be able to develop an atomic weapon.

They are wary of the overtures to Tehran by Washington, their traditional defence partner.

"Both the king and the minister reiterated their support of the Iranian nuclear deal," Carter told reporters aboard his plane.

During the discussion with the king, "the only reservations we discussed were ones that we thoroughly share, mainly that we attend to verification of the agreement as it is implemented", Carter said after the Saudi visit lasting about four hours.

Under a so-called "snapback" mechanism, sanctions can be reinstated if world powers feel Iran has not met its commitments under the Vienna agreement.

Riyadh and its neighbours accuse their Shiite regional rival of meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Anwar Eshki, chairman of the Jeddah-based Centre for Strategic and Legal Studies, said he believed Carter was trying to "reassure the Gulf countries, and the kingdom especially".

The agreement, which ended a 13-year standoff, requires Iran to curb its nuclear capabilities including the number of uranium centrifuges.

International monitors will supervise the process, which in exchange will ease an embargo that has crippled Iran's economy.

Saudi Arabia and Israel are "on the same page" with their concerns about the agreement, a Western diplomatic source said.

The deal would see Iran's oil exports gradually resume and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.

- 'A difficult situation' -

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Carter met on Tuesday, has voiced fears the nuclear deal will help fund Iranian "aggression".

The Saudis also "think it's a mistake," although "they don't say it as loud and as publicly as the Israelis," said the source.

There are worries the Iran deal could spark a nuclear race in the Middle East.

In June, France and Saudi Arabia announced a feasibility study for building two nuclear reactors in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has also reached accords this year with Russia and South Korea on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Along with its own nuclear projects, Riyadh is building alliances beyond its ties with Washington in order to counter Tehran, under a more assertive foreign policy adopted since King Salman acceded to the throne in January.

Two months later, the kingdom organised an Arab coalition to conduct air strikes against Iran-backed Huthi rebels seizing territory in neighbouring Yemen.

US aerial refuelling, intelligence and other assistance has supported that Saudi-led alliance.

"There was a difficult situation in Yemen," Salman told Carter during their meeting, apologising that he could not attend a May summit with President Barack Obama in Washington.

Carter told reporters that Salman will now visit the US to meet Obama later this year.

Anti-rebel forces are tightening their control on Yemen's southern city of Aden after months of trying to dislodge the Huthis, in a war which the United Nations said has left the country a step away from famine.

"We talked about the need that both the Saudis and we share for a political settlement in Yemen. That is the way to peace, to restore the humanitarian situation there," Carter said.

Since late last year, Saudi Arabia has also been part of a US-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group which has occupied large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadist group has committed widespread atrocities there and inspired attacks around the world, including in Saudi Arabia.

Carter said military cooperation including the training of Saudi special forces, cyber security and missile defence systems also came up for discussion in the kingdom.

He returned Wednesday afternoon to Jordan, another member of the anti-IS coalition, for discussions with the Jordanian military.

On Tuesday, Carter told coalition military personnel at a Jordanian air base that the US and Israel had a "common commitment to countering Iranian malign influence in the region".

 

 

N. Korea says no interest in Iran-style nuclear deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 21, 2015 - North Korea said Tuesday it had no interest in following Iran down the path of nuclear dialogue, insisting it was already a nuclear weapons state and therefore beyond any logical comparison with Tehran.

One week after the historic deal that cleared a path to lift sanctions crippling Iran's economy in exchange for limits on its nuclear programme, Pyongyang rejected any suggestion that it might follow suit.

North Korea "is not interested at all in the dialogue to discuss the issue of making it freeze or dismantle its nukes unilaterally," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

"It is illogical to compare Iran's nuclear agreement with the situation of (North Korea) which is exposed to constant provocative military hostile acts and the biggest nuclear threat of the US," the spokesman told the North's official KCNA news agency.

Both Tehran and Pyongyang, allies since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, have been subjected to tough economic sanctions over their controversial nuclear programmes.

The deal reached with Iran was touted by some as a possible blueprint for eventual negotiations with North Korea, with US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman saying she hoped it would give Pyongyang "second thoughts" about the nuclear path it was pursuing.

But the North's foreign ministry spokesman said the two situations were "quite different".

North Korea "is a nuclear weapons state both in name and reality and it has interests as a nuclear weapons state," he said.

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

The six-nation talks to curb its nuclear ambitions -- involving both Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan -- have been in limbo since Pyongyang stormed out in 2009.

There has been growing pressure for the international community to try a new approach with North Korea, which has pushed ahead with its nuclear and missile programmes despite multi-layered UN sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

The United States and South Korea insist that the North must show a tangible commitment to denuclearisation before significant talks can resume.

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 arms by 2020.

"Nuclear deterrence... is not a plaything to be put on the negotiating table," the foreign ministry spokesman said.

 

 

Russia Puts Eight ICBMs Into Service

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Moscow, Russia (Sputnik) Jul 17, 2015 - Eight intercontinental ballistic missiles have been put into service in Russia's Strategic Missile Forces in the second quarter of 2015, the country's Deputy Minister of Defense Yuriy Borisov said Thursday.

Russian Strategic Missile Forces have also received seven mobile launchers, Borisov said.

He added that Russia would carry out six space launches for military purposes by end of the year.

According to the deputy minister, the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces carried out two launches in the second quarter of 2015.

 

 

 

S. Korea regrets North's rejection of talks offers

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 20, 2015 - South Korea voiced regret Monday at North Korea's rejection of its offers for talks at various levels as both countries prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Last week, Seoul's parliamentary speaker Chung Ui-Hwa had used the August 15 anniversary as a peg to offer talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong-Nam.

On the same day, the South's defense ministry asked Pyongyang to attend September's Seoul Defense Dialogue, a security forum to which some 30 nations including the US and China have been invited.

But Pyongyang rejected both proposals over the weekend, describing them as "shameless" attempts to conceal Seoul's hostile policy towards the North.

"We find it very regrettable that the North rejected the offers ... and disparaged our efforts to have dialogue," Seoul's unification ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said.

"We hope that the North will respond to our offers for talks and take the path for ...progress of inter-Korea ties," Jeong told reporters.

The North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles cross-border ties, said South Korea's joint military exercises with US forces earlier this year revealed the "hypocrisy" of its peace overtures.

The North has habitually slammed the annual joint military drills, calling them rehearsals for war.

Cross-border tensions have flared at regular intervals this year, with the North conducting a series of ballistic missile tests in anger at the military exercises.

And Pyongyang was infuriated by the opening last month of a new UN office in Seoul to monitor the North's widely-criticised human rights record.

This year's 70th anniversary of liberation from japanese rule had been touted as an opportunity for the two Koreas, who remain technically at war, to make some gesture of reconciliation.

But plans for some sort of joint celebration have failed to materialise.

 

 

The Iran nuclear deal -- Buckle up for a very rough ride

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Jul 19, 2015 - Make no mistake: the intense debate and negotiations over the P-5 plus One nuclear agreement with Iran are just beginning. However difficult the talks in Switzerland and Austria over the past four years may have been, the coming months will make that pothole filled road look like a modern eight-lane super highway. Certain members of Congress abetted by the Israeli government and its American supporters will do their level best to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has already promised to "die trying" to defeat this agreement. Many Republican members will refuse to accept the agreement. Some have already come out against the JCPOA without having read it. And the presidential campaign will turn this debate into the political equivalent of a Mel Brooks movie gone astray. Meanwhile, none of the other signatories to the JCPOA has opposed the agreement so vehemently or with any such intensity. One wonders why that is.

Unfortunately, government in Washington is so broken and the divisions between parties so visceral that a rational evaluation of the JCPOA is mission impossible. That said, it would be refreshing if proponents and opponents would step back for a moment and consider several facts and realities. The first is that this is not a bilateral U.S.-Iranian agreement.

The JCPOA has been signed by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union and of course Iran. Further, it is the U.N. Security Council that will lift the U.N. sanctions on Iran based on the JCPOA. And, as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has the legal right to maintain a nuclear capability for peaceful purposes. Hence, the requirement to end all of Iran's nuclear programs has no legal basis and contrary to a binding international treaty signed by the United States.

That said, how might this controversy play out? Congress has sixty days to review the agreement and then vote on it. At this stage, it seems unlikely that if Congress were to vote against the JCPOA and President Barack Obama vetoed the legislation, that veto would not be overridden in the Senate where 67 votes are needed for the required 2/3 majority. But if the veto were overridden, how would the other signatories react? And what will be the effect of the U.N. having lifted sanctions when the United States did not?

No matter that outcome, this Congressional review and accompanying hearings along with what will be a vicious political campaign to defeat the agreement will have another predictable effect. At best, America's credibility and image as a serious state will be greatly damaged and further challenged. At worst, we will be regarded as a laughing stock. And once this storm passes, intense criticisms and attempts to block the JCPOA will continue, as they have with the Affordable Health Care Act, producing even greater erosion and dissipation of American standing abroad.

The administration will try to assuage Israel and key Arab allies in the region in part by providing more military weaponry and probably beefing up military presence as a reassurance measure. It is very unlikely the United States would transfer so-called "bunker busting" bombs to Israel or anyone else to reduce the prospect of a pre-emptive strike against Iran that surely would precipitate a regional war. And the White House will take a strong rhetorical stance against any Iranian actions to increase its regional influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen regardless of whether or not that works.

In a rational world, three outcomes would be expected. First, the JCPOA would be assessed on the basis of a rigorous, objective and non-partisan cost-benefit analysis. Second, the administration would come forward with a comprehensive strategy for the region. Third, this strategy would explore the prospects for a broader agenda with Iran regarding Iraq, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperative Council and Hezbollah.

Washington, sadly, is not a rational world. President Obama and his team, particularly Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, should be commended for their vision and perseverance. Clearly, the JCPOA is a bet that Iran can and will abide by international agreements and be conducive to re-entering the world community. That may not happen.

But for an administration that has preferred caution to boldness and rhetoric to action, the JCPOA is a dramatic and even stunning policy choice. If it works, and the path ahead will be nasty and fraught with setbacks, the JCPOA could be the diplomatic triumph of the post-World War II world. A big bet yes, but a bet worth taking.

________________________________________________________________

Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist as well as Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.

 

 

Iran's Zarif defends 'balanced' nuclear deal to MPs

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 21, 2015 - Iran's foreign minister defended Tuesday what he said was a "balanced" nuclear deal with world powers, telling lawmakers there was a need to accept that the negotiations had required compromise.

In a speech to parliament, Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasised that last week's agreement would secure the lifting in coming months of UN and Western sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

In return, Iran has agreed to put curbs on its atomic activities for at least a decade but it will continue to enrich uranium and be allowed to pursue research and development of more modern nuclear technology.

The deal and restrictions, including a more rigorous inspection regime, aim to remove Western concerns that Iran is seeking an atomic bomb -- an allegation it has always denied.

Zarif, who led Iran's negotiating team, was feted in street celebrations in Tehran after the deal was announced last Tuesday, but members of the conservative-dominated parliament have proved a tougher sell.

In a sign of their scepticism, just days before the final negotiations started in Vienna, lawmakers passed a new law which they said was to defend the nuclear programme, but which the government opposed.

Some hardliners in parliament have railed against the diplomacy, arguing that too many concessions were made.

- 'Give and take' -

But Zarif said that the long-running talks could never have satisfied Iran's or the West's every demand.

"We should not forget that any deal is a give and take and each side gives up part of its demands to realise the more important part until what has been given and received is balanced," he said.

"Iran's key objectives on which we insisted are what we gained. For the other side the key demands were to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear weapons through limitations and supervision."

Suggesting that Iran got the better side of a bargain with the West, and reiterating Tehran had never sought nuclear weapons, Zarif added: "What they gained was a vain effort to get what was already acquired.

"Our biggest achievement is the stamp by the UN Security Council confirming (uranium) enrichment in Iran."

However, in a move that could possibly delay parliament's approval of the deal, lawmakers voted to appoint a 15-member committee to evaluate the text of the Vienna agreement. Its members are yet to be selected.

US lawmakers in Congress have 60 days to review the deal.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday endorsing the historic deal, clearing the path to remove the sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy in recent years.

It marks formal UN approval for the hard-won agreement reached between Iran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

Although Iran's parliament has the right to reject the agreement, it is unlikely to do so as the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has signalled his approval of the government and its negotiators' actions.

And on Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei's foreign affairs adviser, added his personal backing.

"If there is something that hasn't been achieved, definitely they could not have done more," Velayati said of Zarif and his colleagues in the talks.

"Through all my years of experience I do not know a stronger diplomatic team."

 

 

Pentagon chief tries to calm Mideast jitters over Iran deal

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
Amman (AFP) July 21, 2015 - US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter sought to reassure anxious Middle East allies Tuesday over the Iran nuclear deal during a regional tour that includes stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Carter met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fierce critic of the landmark Iran accord, before flying on to Jordan, a key partner in the US-led war on the Islamic State (IS) group.

Addressing military personnel from six nations in the anti-jihadist coalition at a Jordanian airbase, he said the United States and Israel had a "common commitment to countering Iranian malign influence in the region".

Netanyahu "made it quite clear that he disagreed with us with respect to the nuclear deal and Iran. But friends can disagree," Carter said.

"We will continue to work with Israel and other partners in this region to counter the danger from Iran, even as we do the same with respect to ISIL," he said, using another acronym for IS.

Meeting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Jerusalem Tuesday, Netanyahu underlined Israeli opposition to the Iran deal.

"It will put Iran at the threshold of an entire nuclear arsenal within a decade," he said.

Carter met American forces stationed in Jordan, which shares borders with both Syria and Iraq, and colleagues of Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by IS after his plane crashed in Syria and later burned alive by the group in a gruesome video.

His murder caused global revulsion and vows of international efforts to combat the Sunni extremist group.

- 'Barbarians are always defeated' -

"The enemy has to be defeated," Carter told US mechanics beside an American F-16 at the base.

"It will be, because the barbarians are always defeated by civilisation, a few by the many."

He later had a private meeting with pilots taking part in anti-IS coalition sorties.

Carter is due in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a visit expected to be dominated by concerns about the Iran nuclear deal.

Sunni-ruled Gulf states are wary of the US overtures to arch-foe Iran, believing the deal will only embolden Tehran's Shiite leaders.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television in an interview broadcast Tuesday he would tell Gulf foreign ministers in Qatar next month "all of the ways in which this agreement, in fact, makes the Gulf states and the region safer".

Israel also fears the agreement is not enough to keep the Islamic republic from obtaining nuclear weapons that could be used against it.

Netanyahu has said military force remains on the table to block Iran's path to a nuclear weapon, although experts say unilateral strikes by Israel appear highly unlikely for now.

Iran is accused of supporting militants in the region, including Israeli enemies Hezbollah and Hamas, and Israel argues that the expected lifting of sanctions under the nuclear accord will allow it to boost help for such groups.

Carter sought Monday to address Israeli worries that Washington was shifting its focus in the region, saying Israel remained "the bedrock of American strategy in the Middle East".

- 'Give and take' -

Under the July 14 agreement, Iran agreed to dismantle or mothball much of its nuclear industry in return for an easing and eventual lifting of sanctions.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

World powers called it an historic opportunity to set relations with Iran on a new path, but the deal has faced opposition from hardliners both in Tehran and Washington.

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the agreement in a speech to parliament in Tehran, saying "we should not forget that any deal is a give and take".

"Each side gives up part of its demands to realise the more important part until what has been given and received is balanced," he said.

There have been fears by some that such moves could contribute to a new conventional arms race in the already volatile Middle East.

"That has not happened here for at least two decades," said Eytan Gilboa, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu has urged US lawmakers to reject the deal. He angered President Barack Obama by appearing before Congress in March to denounce the emerging accord.

Gilboa said Israel is likely to hold off on discussions of "compensation" in the form of increased military aid until later to avoid signalling to Congress that it accepts the agreement.

"Israel wants to show that it is naive to assume that with this agreement you can change the government of Iran," he said.

burs/srm/

 

 

UN endorses Iran deal, paves way to lift sanctions

 
‎23 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:46 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) July 20, 2015 - The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday endorsing the historic deal on Iran's nuclear program and cleared a path to lift sanctions crippling its economy.

It marks formal UN approval for the hard-won, groundbreaking agreement reached between Tehran and the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, after 18 straight days of talks that capped almost two years of momentous negotiations.

The passing of the resolution sets in motion a gradual process -- conditional on Iran abiding by the deal -- that can terminate seven UN resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran since 2006.

The agreement with Tehran was reached on Tuesday in Vienna by the UN council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

US President Barack Obama said he hoped the resolution would "send a clear message" that diplomacy is "by far our strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon."

Faced with the prospect of Iranian oil returning to the global market, crude prices fell for a fourth straight session, dropping to $50.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In the Security Council, ambassadors said the years of hard work on Iran should become a blueprint for how the world deals with other crises such as those in Syria and Yemen.

"When our nations truly unite to confront global crises, our influence grows exponentially," said US envoy Samantha Power.

"It should motivate us to do far more."

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said: "We turn not simply a page but a whole chapter in the work of the Council by creating a new reality."

- Iran 'ready to engage' -

The deal has been touted as an opening for greater contact between Iran and the leading nations in other areas, especially on tackling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Iranian envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said that Tehran was ready "to engage in good faith" with its neighbors in the region.

"This is the time to start working together against our most common and important challenges, which include above all violent extremism," he said.

But Israel continues to reject the deal. On Monday, the Gulf Cooperation Council also protested "contradictory" signals coming from Iran since its struck the accord.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited Israel in a bid to ease concerns, signaling Washington was ready to boost military cooperation with the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that there is not enough in the deal to prevent the Islamic republic from obtaining nuclear weapons that could be used to target Israel.

"Today you have awarded a great prize to the most dangerous country in the world," Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor said after the vote.

The resolution charges the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to "undertake the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran's nuclear commitments."

Those commitments include limiting the number of centrifuges for its fissile material. The resolution demands that Iran "cooperate fully" with the IAEA.

- Sanctions threat stays for 15 years -

As soon as the council receives IAEA confirmation that the nuclear program is entirely peaceful, the seven UN sanctions resolutions against Tehran will be terminated and replaced by the terms of Monday's resolution.

Sanctions to be lifted include a ban on the trade of goods or services linked to Iranian nuclear activities, and the freezing of financial assets of designated Iranian officials and companies.

But embargoes on the sales and exports of conventional weapons and ballistic missile technology will remain in place -- for five years for conventional weapons and for eight years for missile technology.

If Tehran violates any of its commitments, the council can initiate proceedings to reinstate its panoply of sanctions.

The so-called "snapback" mechanism can put old sanctions back in place if world powers feel Iran has not met its commitments under the Vienna deal.

It leaves Iran under the threat of renewed sanctions for 15 years -- 10 under the Vienna agreement endorsed by the UN, and the P5+1 committing to another five years of tight monitoring.

In the United States, a Republican-majority Congress has 60 days to review the deal.

The Congress can pass a motion of disapproval, but President Barack Obama can then veto that. An override of the veto requires two-thirds approval in both the House and Senate.

 
 

US readies Iran resolution at UN

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) July 14, 2015 - The United States is readying a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council setting out timelines for Iran's compliance with a nuclear deal it reached with world powers Tuesday.

The resolution, expected in the coming days, would also replace the existing framework of Security Council sanctions with the restrictions agreed during negotiations in Vienna, US Ambassador Samantha Power said.

Calling for the "timely adoption of this important resolution," Power said she also planned to work closely with US lawmakers, "who are essential partners in shaping effective US policy toward Iran and in ensuring Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon."

A senior US administration official said earlier the resolution could be introduced as soon as next week.

But New Zealand's UN envoy Gerard van Bohemen, who holds the rotating presidency at the Security Council, stressed that no date for a vote had been set.

"Of course, the Council will stand ready to act when we know what the game plan is," he added.

The draft resolution already has the backing of UN veto-wielding members who took part in the Iran talks, the official said.

The resolution is expected to authorize economic retaliation in response to any breach of the deal, but will likely stop short of any reference to military consequences.

However, another senior administration official did not rule out the possibility of US military action as a last resort.

"Our clear preference is to resolve this diplomatically," the official said.

"Going forward, this or any future US president would have any option available to them including military action, if they felt that was necessary.

"If Iran is complying with this deal, we certainly believe that would not be necessary to address the nuclear issue."

Iran is actually under four series of UN sanctions detailed in seven separate resolutions adopted since 2006 in light of Iran's military and ballistic activities.

The provisions set under the sanctions resolutions "will be terminated subject to reimposition in the event of significant non-performance by Iran" as concerns its commitments, according to an annex of the deal clinched in Vienna.

The draft resolution prepared by the US must be submitted "without delay" for adoption by the UN Security Council, the annex added.

 

 

Iran's long-term nuclear ambitions survive deal

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 15, 2015 - Iran by agreeing a pact with world powers has accepted temporary curbs on its nuclear programme, but it has not abandoned atomic research and long-term uranium enrichment plans.

When the 10-year limitations of Tuesday's deal expire Iran will be able to use the more modern centrifuge technology it insisted on being able to develop under the agreement struck in Vienna.

The quid-pro-quo of a deal now for better technology later was one of the biggest criticisms from the accord's opponents; Israel maintains it grants Iran the means to obtain a bomb faster than before.

Iran, meanwhile, insists its nuclear activities are strictly civilian in nature and that it will produce the fuel needed for its Bushehr power plant on the Gulf coast.

Under the Vienna agreement, Iran can resume research and development on future IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges, which are far more efficient than the IR-1 machines currently in place.

Iran's higher level uranium enrichment was suspended as part of an interim nuclear agreement with the West in November 2013. But Tehran's longer-term goals are well-known.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEO), has said it will take "eight to 10 years" to develop the new centrifuges, said to be 24 times more powerful than the IR-1.

The issue of enrichment is particularly sensitive because uranium when processed at high doses becomes viable for a nuclear weapon.

Iran has agreed to limit its enrichment to less than five percent during the nuclear deal -- it had been at 20 percent and nearing bomb-level purity before an interim accord took effect in January 2014.

But Iran eventually aims to have an enrichment capacity of 190,000 SWU (separative work units) -- almost 20 times the current capacity.

Its supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outlined the target in July 2014.

"With the old IR-1, we will have 190,000 machines to achieve this capability, but with the IR-8, it will take about 9,000. It's a big difference," said an Iranian official.

Other considerations make the older centrifuges impractical: the only enrichment site Iran will be allowed to keep after the deal, Natanz, south of Tehran, can only hold around 50,000 machines.

- Obsolete technology -

Experts also say Iran's current nuclear equipment is obsolete.

"The IR-1 centrifuges are a bit like old Citroens of the 1930s. They are 40 times less powerful than a European centrifuge," said a Western nuclear expert familiar with Iran's nuclear programme.

Several Iranian officials, including lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi, spoke of having in the future an "enrichment capacity of one million SWU" to feed five nuclear reactors of 1,000 megawatts each.

"It is a mistake to be restricted to IR-1," said Behrouz Kamalvandi, the IAEO's spokesman in Tehran said before the Vienna deal.

"Each type of centrifuge -- IR-5, IR-6, IR-7 and IR-8 we fought for days on," he said of the earlier talks in Lausanne in April where the framework for the final deal was thrashed out.

Opponents of the final agreement -- particularly Israel, US Republicans and the Gulf Arab monarchies -- argue that any increase in capacity will allow Iran to reduce to a few weeks the "breakout" period to build an atomic weapon, compared to a year during the deal's duration.

But under the Vienna deal, Iran agreed to reduce to its number of IR-1 centrifuges from nearly 19,000 (less than half are in use) to just over 6,000.

To further reassure the international community, Iran will also change its heavy water reactor at Arak to reduce the amount of plutonium it makes, another potential source of fissile material for a bomb.

There will also be extensive checks of Iran's nuclear facilities, particularly with the implementation of the Additional Protocol (AP) of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and "managed access" at military sites.

The AP allows short-notice inspections by the International Energy Agency Atomic Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

"We can develop our programme without restriction" after the 10-year period of limitation, said Araghchi, one day after the Lausanne agreement paved the way to Tuesday's final deal.

 

 

In 'Tehrangeles' hopes and fears over nuke deal

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Los Angeles (AFP) July 15, 2015 - "Tehrangeles," as the vast expatriate Iranian community based in Los Angeles is known, welcomed Tuesday the nuclear deal struck in Vienna with hope, but also some doubts.

A "very, very happy" Alex Helmi, owner of a luxury carpet boutique in Beverly Hills, cheered the agreement as a sign of change, "because the policy of not talking to each other for 35 years has not been working."

"I'm very grateful to (US) President (Barack) Obama for continuing the negotiation. I think it's the right direction for the us," added the 59-year-old, who moved to the United States 40 years ago.

Ali Shoroush, a writer who calls himself "an old leftist," called the deal between the Islamic Republic and key world powers "very positive, very hopeful."

"This is a show against proliferation, a blueprint for a viable civilian nuclear deal," added the 60-year-old, browsing through books in an Iranian bookshop.

More than 700,000 Iranians or children and grandchildren of Iranians live in Los Angeles, many of them in Beverly Hills, where 20 percent of the population is of Iranian stock.

In his boutique on Westwood Boulevard -- nicknamed Persian Plaza for its many Iranian businesses -- Sam Tala said the deal between Tehran and the "P5+1" (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany) should help trade.

"The value of the money is going up. That's important because if the value increases, everything will be OK," said the 29-year-old, noting that his sanctions-gripped native country is currently forced to import lots of goods.

The 109-page deal struck in the Austrian capital limits the Islamic Republic's nuclear program in exchange for progressively lifting sanctions which have stifled its economy for decades.

The aim is to make it almost impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon, while allowing the country to develop nuclear power capacity.

In a music shop called Musi, 35-year-old artist Anita voiced doubts.

"I'm hopeful everything will get better, the economy and the situation for the young people. But my main concern is human rights," she said, declining to give her last name.

"We were hoping there would be more improvements on human rights," she added as she voiced hope for the release of imprisoned spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri.

Jimmy Delshad, a former mayor of Beverly Hills, is even more critical.

"Iran won a big fight. They got everything they wanted," he told AFP.

"I'm happy for the people of Iran if the money goes to the people of Iran, (but) I doubt that. Overall, it is a very big win for Iran and time will show whether they abide by this."

Many hope that the Vienna deal and the easing of diplomatic strains between Tehran and the West will help improve the image of the Iranian people themselves.

"The people of Iran are not a war-loving people. They are a magnificent people," said Helmi, the carpet dealer.

 

 

Iran says nuclear deal ends 'manufactured crisis'

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 15, 2015 - A deal with world powers ended a "manufactured crisis" over Iran's nuclear programme, its foreign minister said Wednesday as he arrived home from negotiating the agreement which angered US lawmakers.

As attention turned to the lengthy process of implementing the complex accord, Mohammad Javad Zarif said the world had no cause to fear Iran's nuclear activities.

Zarif, who led Iran's negotiating team in the 18 straight days of "tough" talks that culminated in Tuesday's historic agreement, said common ground had been found.

"We will take measures and they will do their part," he told reporters at Tehran's Mehrabad airport, referring to the six powers led by the United States with whom Iran is now bonded in the nuclear pact.

"It will happen in around four months from now," he said of the formal implementation of the deal.

Zarif's comments came after after a night of celebrations in Tehran where his own name was chanted in the streets by joyous Iranians.

Many festooned their cars with balloons and danced on the street to celebrate the prospect of an end to the long years of economic hardship caused by Western sanctions.

"Maybe the economy is going to change, especially for the young people. I was thinking about leaving, but now I will stay to see what happens," said Giti, 42, a computer programmer.

But only hours earlier in Washington the deal came under intense scrutiny.

The speaker of the Republican-led US House of Representatives, John Boehner, said the agreement was "likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world".

Zarif hit back at the deal's biggest critic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the region's sole if undeclared nuclear state, who branded the agreement a "historic mistake".

"Netanyahu kicked up a fuss as he is upset that Iran managed to get sanctions lifted and prevent a manufactured crisis," Zarif said.

- Obama faces hard sell -

Iran has always denied seeking an atomic bomb and that stance was reiterated by President Hassan Rouhani after Tuesday's agreement.

Soon after the deal was announced the White House launched a campaign to stop sceptics at home and abroad from derailing the hard-won accord.

US President Barack Obama was to hold a press conference later on Wednesday to try to convince Americans of the benefits of the deal, which is likely to face a bruising passage through Congress.

US lawmakers have 60 days to review the accord but Obama has vowed to use his presidential veto over any attempt to block it.

In return for curbs on its atomic programme for at least 10 years, Iran will be freed from sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Tehran has also agreed to allow the UN nuclear watchdog tightly controlled access to its military bases, an Iranian official said.

And it will slash by around two-thirds the number of centrifuges -- which can make fuel for nuclear power stations but also the core of a nuclear bomb -- from around 19,000 to just over 6,000.

Obama said the accord meant "every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off".

"This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it," he said, pointing to a broader effort to end the hostility between the two governments that has persisted ever since the overthrow of the US-backed shah in the Islamic revolution of 1979.

- Cooperation against IS -

Washington hopes the accord may lead to more cooperation with Iran at an explosive time in the Middle East after the Islamic State militant group surged last year, seizing vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the deal paves the way for a "broad" coalition to fight the Sunni extremist group which is as hostile to Shiite Iran as it is to the West.

"It removes the barriers -- largely artificial -- on the way to a broad coalition to fight the Islamic State and other terrorist groups," Lavrov said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told Sky Italia the deal "opens the way for a new confidence" in combating IS.

But it has alarmed some of America's most important Middle East allies, including Sunni regional power Saudi Arabia.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had accepted an invitation to visit Tehran soon.

With Iran set to reopen for business with the progressive lifting of UN and Western sanctions, he was likely to be the first in a long line of top diplomats beating a path to Tehran.

France was with Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States one of the six powers that reached the deal with Iran.

But Fabius denied commercial considerations had played any part, saying that while "trade is very important," France backed a deal with Iran "for strategic reasons because we wanted to avoid nuclear proliferation."

burs-adm/kir

 

 

Clinton: Iran will never get nuclear weapon if I'm president

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 15, 2015 - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton vowed Tuesday that Iran will never be able to acquire atomic weapons if she is elected to the White House.

Clinton's tough words came as critics in the US Congress, as well as skeptical US allies around the globe, criticized an agreement with Tehran as providing a glide path -- albeit a somewhat delayed one -- toward an eventual nuclear weapon.

"As president, I would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance," Clinton said in a statement.

"The message to Iran should be loud and clear: We will never allow you to acquire a nuclear weapon; not just during the term of this agreement -- never."

A former US secretary of state, Clinton said she is "still studying the details" of the plan, but gave it her qualified backing.

"Based on the briefings I received and a review of the documents, I support the agreement because it can help us prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," the ex-first lady said.

"With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel and our Arab partners safer."

The deal, hammered out between six world powers and Iran, was finalized in Vienna after marathon talks.

Clinton said, however, that inking the accord is just a first step, and that "effective enforcement" of the deal will be of paramount importance.

"In light of the international community's long history and experience with Iranian behavior, the highest priority must be given to effective enforcement of the agreement," she said.

"Signing is just the beginning. As president, I would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance."

Israel in particular, has been vocal about its displeasure over the Iran deal, which seeks to ensure that Tehran cannot create a nuclear bomb in return for lifting biting sanctions that have crippled the Islamic republic's economy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who has clashed publicly and frequently with US President Barack Obama over the content of the deal -- called it a "historic mistake" and signaled he remains ready to order military action against Iran.

Clinton was eager to acknowledge Israeli concerns, saying in her statement, that "even with a nuclear agreement, Iran poses a real challenge to the United States and our partners and a grave threat to our ally Israel."

Obama will hold a press conference on Wednesday to convince Americans, allies and skeptics about the merits of the deal.

Congress has 60 days to review the agreement reached between Tehran and Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany (the so-called P5+1) to end a more than 13-year standoff.

Obama has vowed to veto any attempt to block it.

 

 

Iran nuclear deal faces fresh challenges in US

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 15, 2015 - Hours after major powers agreed a deal over Iran's nuclear programme, the White House on Wednesday launched a campaign to stop sceptics at home and abroad from derailing the long-awaited accord.

The agreement, signed on Tuesday after 18 days of marathon talks in Vienna, aims to ensure Tehran cannot create a nuclear bomb in return for lifting biting sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

It was hailed by the United States, the European Union, Iran and NATO -- all of whom hope the deal will end decades of bad blood between the Middle East's major Shiite Muslim power and the West -- but branded a "historic mistake" by Tehran's archfoe Israel.

US President Barack Obama said the accord meant "every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off".

"This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it," he said in an address to the nation.

Hours after the deal was signed in Vienna the US had already begun its diplomatic offensive in the United Nations, where its diplomats were readying a draft resolution setting out timelines.

The document, expected in the coming days, would also replace the existing framework of Security Council sanctions with the restrictions agreed during negotiations in Vienna, US Ambassador Samantha Power said.

In Washington, Obama faces a challenge from Republicans who control Congress, who have said they will reject the deal as it gives Tehran too much room to manoeuvre and does not safeguard American security interests.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said Tuesday the agreement was "likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world".

Congress has 60 days to review the deal reached between Tehran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to end a more than 13-year standoff, but the president has vowed to veto any attempt to block it.

Obama will hold a press conference on Wednesday to convince Americans, allies and sceptics about the benefits of the deal.

- Tectonic shift in relations -

Underscoring the tectonic shift in relations, Iranian state television broadcast Obama's statement live, only the second such occasion since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in his own address that "God has accepted the nation's prayers" and that the accord would lift "inhumane and tyrannical sanctions".

"Iran will never seek a nuclear weapon, with or without the implementation" of the Vienna deal, he added.

On the streets of Tehran, Iranians festooned their cars with balloons and danced on the street in celebration.

"I was thinking about leaving, but now I will stay to see what happens," said 42-year-old computer programmer Giti.

The deal limits Iran's nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent UN oversight, with world powers hoping this will make any dash to make an atomic bomb virtually impossible.

In return Iran will get sanctions relief, although the measures can "snap back" into place if there are any violations.

The international arms embargo against Iran will remain for five years with deliveries only possible with permission from the UN Security Council, diplomats said.

Tehran has also accepted allowing the UN nuclear watchdog tightly-controlled access to military bases, an Iranian official said.

Iran will slash by around two-thirds the number of centrifuges, which can make fuel for nuclear power -- and also the core of a nuclear bomb -- from around 19,000 to 6,104.

Painful international sanctions that have cut the oil exports of OPEC's fifth-largest producer by a quarter and choked its economy will be lifted and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.

Oil prices rose early in Asia after news of the deal, with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery up 24 cents to $53.28 and Brent crude for August added 25 cents to $58.76.

- End Tehran's 'interference' -

The agreement is Obama's crowning foreign policy achievement in six years, and the fruit of Rouhani's bid since his election in 2013 to end Iran's isolation.

Washington hopes it may lead to more cooperation with Tehran at a particularly explosive time in the Middle East after the Islamic State group rose to power last year, seizing vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.

But it has alarmed some of America's most important Middle East allies, including major Sunni regional power Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Riyadh said it hoped the deal would end Tehran's "interference" in Syria and Yemen -- where the kingdom is leading a coalition fighting Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels -- an argument echoed by other Gulf nations.

"Iran could play a (significant) role in the region if it revises its policy and stops interfering in the internal affairs of countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen," said an official from the United Arab Emirates.

In what was seen as a thinly-veiled threat of strikes against Iranian nuclear sites, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: "We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands."

Even politicians from Obama's own Democratic party were keen to show their tough stance, with presidential contender Hillary Clinton vowing Tehran will never be able to acquire atomic weapons if she is elected to the White House.

"As president, I would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance," Clinton said in a statement.

Even if the agreement gets past Congress -- the Iranian parliament and the UN Security Council also have to approve it -- implementing the accord could be a rough ride.

The UN nuclear watchdog will have to verify that Iran has indeed scaled down its facilities before the UN, US and EU lift their sanctions.

burs-stu/cah/psr

 

 

Skepticism in US Congress over Iran deal

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 14, 2015 - Top US Republicans and some Democrats expressed skepticism about Tuesday's historic nuclear deal with Iran, saying it gives Tehran too much room to maneuver and does not safeguard American security interests.

Some in Congress have already said they are prepared to reject the deal because it does not comprehensively halt Tehran's enrichment process or guarantee anytime-anywhere inspections.

And Republican presidential contenders looking to succeed Barack Obama slammed the accord as consolidating the power of Iran's mullahs instead of standing up to them.

"This isn't diplomacy -- it is appeasement," said 2016 candidate Jeb Bush.

Now that Obama has announced his support for the agreement between six world powers and Iran, finalized in Vienna after marathon talks, the attention in Washington shifts to the Republican-controlled Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner blasted the deal as "unacceptable," saying that if it is as he understands it to be, "we'll do everything we can to stop it."

He warned it would "embolden" Iran and could even trigger a global nuclear arms race.

Under legislation passed in May, lawmakers will have 60 days to conduct their review.

Public debate will occur during hearings, possibly beginning next week. Lawmakers are also calling for classified briefings from officials on technical aspects of the agreement.

Congress could then vote to approve or reject it -- or do nothing.

Obama has said he would veto a resolution of disapproval. Overriding that veto would require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House of Representatives -- a heavy lift in Congress.

Obama is barred from waiving any Iran sanctions during the review period. And should Congress later determine that Tehran failed to abide by the agreement, it could reinstate sanctions lifted by the president.

- 'Deep skepticism' -

Republicans lined up behind Boehner to voice their concerns.

"I begin from a place of deep skepticism that the deal actually meets the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker.

Congress "will need to scrutinize this deal and answer whether implementing the agreement is worth dismantling our painstakingly-constructed sanctions regime that took more than a decade to establish," he said.

Senior Senate Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who once chaired the intelligence committee, however urged lawmakers to study the deal carefully before rendering snap judgments.

"From what I see, it's about as good as we're ever going to get," Feinstein said.

Members from both parties stressed it will be a tough sell in Congress.

"I'm concerned the red lines we drew have turned into green lights, that Iran will be required only to limit rather than eliminate its nuclear program, while the international community will be required to lift the sanctions," warned Senate Democrat Robert Menendez, an architect of stiff sanctions against Tehran.

"The bottom line is: The deal doesn't end Iran's nuclear program -- it preserves it."

Despite the broad skepticism, it would ultimately be difficult for Republicans to persuade enough Democrats to abandon Obama and block the accord.

"It's highly unlikely that Congress would reject the deal with a veto-proof majority," Larry Hanauer, a policy analyst with Rand Corporation and former staff director of a House counter-terrorism panel, told AFP.

While Republican presidential candidates including Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump blasted the deal, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton expressed cautious support.

"I think this is an important step that puts the lid on Iran's nuclear programs," Clinton told reporters after meeting with Democratic lawmakers in Washington.

Some Democrats openly questioned the motives of Republican candidates who were expressing full-throated opposition to the deal before reading it.

"It's embarrassing the Republicans are standing up and saying they're against it when the ink is hardly dry. We want to read it and then take a thoughtful position," said Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate.

Several lawmakers warned that the deal rewards Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, also a presidential candidate, said Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been "dangerously naive" in their dealings with Tehran.

"You have taken the largest state sponsor of terror on the planet and given them money to increase their terrorist activities," such as funding groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Graham said.

 

 

The new MAD: Mutual Assured Disruption

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Jul 12, 2015 - During the Cold War, a thermonuclear conflict between East and West would have eviscerated much of society on both sides of the Atlantic. This delicate balance of terror was labeled Mutual Assured Destruction, commonly known as MAD. The acronym had obvious double meaning. Committing national suicide in a thermonuclear exchange was a clear-cut case of insanity on the part of Washington and Moscow. Unfortunately, the simplistic and negative use of the term MAD was misleading as the Cold War had far more complicated geostrategic and ideological sides to it.

Today, the term MAD can be reused and made more relevant to the current real and potential dangers to society at large. MAD now should be redefined properly to mean Mutual Assured Disruption as it applies to societies, individuals and standards of living. And this disruption can flow from acts of man and nature.

Disruption has always been present in the human condition. So what has intensified its power today? The answer rests in the combination of globalization and the diffusion of all forms of power, accelerated by the information and cyber revolutions encapsulated by the smartphone. These forces have now linked virtually all regions of the world in multi-dimensional forms of interconnectivity and interdependence. This interconnectivity and interdependence in a rapidly advancing technologically powered world are also creating, along with great opportunities, new fragilities and vulnerabilities. These fragilities and vulnerabilities are magnifying and distorting the effects of disruption.

As society embraces this interconnectivity, it also must accept the new costs imposed by heightened fragility and vulnerability. A few examples make this case. Last week in the U.S., the New York Stock Exchange went offline for several hours because of a computer "glitch." The United Airlines reservation system crashed shutting down all of its flights for much of a day. The impact was disruptive to clients, consumers and investors. Indeed, had these disruptions been traced to "hackers," imagine the response following the looting of some twenty million files of Americans from the Office of Personnel Management presumably to foreign hackers.

Meanwhile, the spread of the Islamic State beyond Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan reinforces the dangers of terror. Yet, for most people in the West and despite the horrors of September 11th in America and July 7th in London, the real impact of terror is disruption. A single transit through airport security shows how travel has been disrupted. And the tension between public safety and security and individual freedom is a further manifestation of these disruptive forces.

Acts of nature too are highly disruptive from freakish weather patterns in America with the West Coast in conditions of drought and much of the rest of the country literally awash in floods to the threat of pandemics such as Ebola. No doubt disruption could become destructive if cyber attacks wreaked huge physical damage by shutting down electrical power grids; terrorist-deployed weapons of mass destruction; and pandemics such as the Black Plague of the middle ages or the Spanish flu following World War I infected massive populations.

This shift from the nuclear driven MAD of the Cold War to today's new MAD by no means diminishes state against state conflict or war and violence in all forms. For example, the main numerical military advantage Russia holds over the West is short range or theater nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten or intimidate Europe. However, the increasing fragility and vulnerability of society because of dependence on new technologies and global interconnectivity must make minimizing disruption a new national security priority.

One can argue that there may be little new here. The collapse of the Chinese stock market last week parallels what happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008 here. And every great invention has certain downsides. The combustion engine led to greater pollution and dependence on oil as well as the side effect of many millions of deaths in traffic accidents. Penicillin has ultimately created drug resistant disease. Fortunately, progress has vastly outweighed the negative consequences.

What is needed is recognition and understanding of the power of disruption and the importance of setting in place policies and actions to minimize societal vulnerabilities and fragilities. A good start is modernizing our crumbling infrastructure. A second is taking on the cyber challenges with this appreciation of minimizing disruption. And a third is not transposing the likelihood of physical destruction across the entire spectrum of disruptions to every day life.

But whether politicians and the public will recognize this shift, from Cold War MAD to a globalized world's vulnerability and fragility posed by the new MAD of disruption, is perhaps one of the most under-publicized national security questions of our time.

_________________________________________________________________

Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist as well as Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.

 

 

The IAEA: the world's eyes and ears in Iran

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 15, 2015 - Staff at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog set to play a vital role in the new Iran nuclear deal, call this pleasantly cool basement the dungeon.

Inside a display cabinet full of clunky, old equipment sits a little orange toy figure with a tongue-in-cheek sign next to it: "Little Brother". But this is no laughing matter.

Down here lurks some of the high-tech kit, shown to AFP in an exclusive recent visit, that will ensure that Iran sticks to its side of the bargain in the historic accord clinched on Tuesday.

Mounted on a wall are cameras encased in microwave-sized blue metal boxes undergoing testing, able to record images of Iran's nuclear facilities that can then be watched by inspectors.

The cameras are specially made for the IAEA, and the pictures, just like the electronic fibre-optic seals to be put on nuclear equipment, cannot be faked.

Other gadgets, some of them new, fix to pipes in facilities to measure -- online -- the enrichment levels of uranium, while ultrasonic transducers monitor reactors and 3D laser range scanners check for any changes to nuclear sites.

The Vienna-based IAEA will be the "eyes and ears of the international community" in Iran, according to its Japanese Director General Yukiya Amano.

- People power -

The equipment is nothing without the human factor, though.

The IAEA has between four and 10 inspectors in Iran every day as well as its equipment, trying to make sure that Iran is not secretly building a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA will now have an even bigger job, inspecting not only sites where Iran declares nuclear material to be, as per the current arrangement, but elsewhere too.

Controversially, this could include inspecting military bases, in order to investigate allegations of past efforts to develop nuclear weapons -- and to probe any suspected efforts in the future.

With Iran set to reduce the number of uranium centrifuges, which can make nuclear fuel but also the core of a weapon, surplus equipment will be dismantled and placed in IAEA-monitored storage.

It will also have to certify that Iran is reducing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and monitor the redesigning of the Arak reactor and the removal of the original calandria or reactor core.

But according to Thomas Shea, a former IAEA inspector, the watchdog might also get help from others -- foreign intelligence services or dissidents -- to detect any secret sites.

"If Tehran were to create new clandestine facilities, it might try to hide them in cities, possibly under industrial facilities, hospitals or shopping malls or on military bases," Shea said in a report for the Arms Control Association.

"National intelligence services employ methods, such as spying and intercepting communications, that are beyond IAEA capabilities," he said.

- Big ask -

The IAEA is already unrecognisable from its 1950s beginnings, undergoing a radical overhaul after North Korea and Iraq's secret weapons programmes emerged in the 1990s.

Even to do its job in Iran before the recent deal, it had to bring former inspectors back from retirement, insiders say, and its new role will require many more, plus more money.

Their job is not helped by the fact that some in Iran view the IAEA as being riddled with spies and biased, an impression not dispelled by diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010.

According to diplomats, Iran only allows in inspectors from certain nations -- no Americans, no Britons, no French, and definitely no Israelis. But Germans, Russians and Chinese are okay.

According to the US official involved in this week's nuclear talks, part of the new accord is that this will change. Any nation with diplomatic relations with Iran -- so not the US -- will be able to send inspectors, he said.

"It is impossible to say how well this is going to succeed," Shea told AFP. "Iran is a big country."

 

 

Saudi hopes Iran ends 'interference' after nuclear deal

 
‎15 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎09:11:12 AMGo to full article
Riyadh (AFP) July 14, 2015 - Saudi Arabia expressed hope Tuesday for an end to Iran's regional "interference" after a historic nuclear deal aimed at ensuring its Middle East rival does not obtain an atomic bomb.

Two of the kingdom's fellow Sunni-run Gulf neighbours also expressed hope for better relations with Shiite-dominated Iran.

"Given that Iran is a neighbour, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighbourliness and non-interference in internal affairs," said an official spokesman cited by the Saudi Press Agency.

"Iran should, with the conclusion of this accord, put her resources towards its development and amelioration of the condition of the Iranian people instead of provoking troubles which would generate certain reactions from countries in the region."

The Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, have concerns that Iran could still be able to develop a weapon under the agreement between Tehran and six major powers.

They also worry that their traditional defence partner, Washington, is not taking seriously enough their concerns about what they consider Iran's "destabilising acts" in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Vienna agreement puts strict limits on Iran's nuclear activities for at least a decade and calls for stringent UN oversight.

In return, painful international sanctions that have slashed Iran's oil exports and choked its economy will be lifted and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.

To counter Iran, Saudi Arabia is pursuing its own nuclear projects and building alliances beyond its ties with Washington.

- Hope for 'new direction' -

A United Arab Emirates official said his country hoped to see a "new direction" accompany the nuclear pact reached in Vienna to end a 13-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

"Iran could play a (significant) role in the region if it revises its policy and stops interfering in the internal affairs of countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen," the official said.

"The new direction we hope to see accompany the historic nuclear deal would demonstrate a genuine desire for Iran to help extinguish fires devouring the region," the official said.

"This would move the region away from the discord of sectarianism, extremism and terrorism."

The UAE, like all other Gulf states except Oman, belongs to a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Iran-backed rebels in Yemen since March.

Abu Dhabi also fears that the Vienna agreement will strengthen Iranian influence in the region.

A change of path by Tehran would send a "positive signal that would help the region avoid nuclear proliferation and all the risks this would involve for its security and stability," the Emirati official said.

"Without such a change, we cannot build anything positive, and this will have consequences on the region and its people."

The official WAM news agency said UAE leaders have congratulated Rouhani, saying they hope the Vienna accord will "strengthen security and stability in the region".

Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, sent cables to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani congratulating them on the "historic agreement".

He hoped the deal "would contribute to strengthen peace and stability in the region and to direct all efforts for the development of the countries in the area".

 
 

Global powers to up pressure on Iran for nuclear deal

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 8, 2015 - European ministers were flying back to Vienna late Wednesday aiming to up the pressure on Iran to end a standoff over a nuclear deal in time to send it to US lawmakers.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier arrived ahead of his French and British counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Philip Hammond, who were also due to return to the Austrian capital during the night.

In a high-stakes game of diplomatic brinkmanship, global powers are chasing a deal curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions and ending a 13-year standoff over suspicions Iran has sought to develop a nuclear bomb -- allegations it has long denied.

"It's doable by tomorrow night (Thursday) if talks advance this evening," said a Western diplomatic source.

Iran and six world powers on Tuesday effectively gave themselves until Friday to reach a deal by extending a November 2013 interim accord, after missing two target dates in this latest round of roller-coaster talks.

But under a new US law, if Secretary of State John Kerry fails to present the deal to Congress before the end of July 9 then lawmakers will have 60 days instead of 30 to review it, which may further delay its implementation.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism however, saying his government is already preparing its economy for the lifting of sanctions.

"Negotiations with the P5+1 group are at a sensitive stage and the Islamic republic of Iran is preparing for (the period of) post-negotiations and post-sanctions," he said.

Rouhani made the remarks at Tehran's Mehrabad airport before flying to Russia to attend a meeting on Friday of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which Iran has applied to join.

Work continued behind-the-scenes Wednesday to overcome the last few remaining differences, with the main accord and five complicated annexes mostly already written.

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi met twice for a total of three hours trying to hammer out details of what will be a highly complex accord, a US official said.

- Iranians anxiously watching -

In a sign of the rising tensions however, diplomats told of a stormy meeting Monday evening between Kerry and the foreign ministers of Iran and the other major powers that one senior envoy saw as a "very heated exchange of views."

Iranian media reported that Zarif told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini: "Never threaten an Iranian".

During separate talks between Kerry and Zarif, other residents at the posh Coburg hotel heard shouting and raised voices, prompting a Kerry aide to poke his head round the door and advise the two to pipe down, a diplomatic source said.

Observers say it is hard to believe that after almost two years of intense and tough negotiations the talks could collapse.

Zarif said in an op-ed in the Financial Times that while a deal was "within reach", there was still no guarantee of success.

Back in Iran, Iranians are anxiously following the news out of Vienna, hoping for a deal that will end sanctions which have crippled the country's economy.

"It's important to get it done as soon as possible, because the longer it takes, the more money and opportunities we lose" to boost the economy, said Mohammad, a 31-year-old computer engineer from the northeastern city of Shahrud.

If a deal is signed and sanctions are lifted, "the situation will improve, wages will increase and there will be more jobs," he predicted.

Negotiations have stalled on how to ease sanctions against Iran, probing allegations that in the past Tehran did try to develop nuclear arms and ensuring Iran can continue to have a modest, peaceful nuclear programme.

Iran has also insisted there should be changes to a UN arms embargo and an easing of restrictions on missile sales.

 

 

In Tehran, frustration overcomes hope for nuclear deal

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 8, 2015 - Hope among Iranians for a lasting deal over their country's nuclear programme gave way to frustration Wednesday as negotiations with world powers overran yet another deadline to seal a final accord.

The deal, which has been under negotiation for over 20 months, was originally meant to be struck by July 1. But the deadline has been extended twice, and marathon discussions in Vienna are expected to drag on until at least the weekend.

The streets of Tehran were largely empty Wednesday, with most of the country commemorating the death of Imam Ali, the key figure of Iran's Shiite Muslim faith.

But many Iranians were still anxiously awaiting news from Austria.

The agreement is "important for me because I want to make investments but I'm left confused and frustrated as to what the outcome of the negotiations will be," said 24-year-old architecture graduate Parnian.

She said she was "optimistic" about a deal but added that "things will not change for better" for ordinary Iranians.

"The status quo will be preserved after a deal and the best thing that can happen is that things won't get worse," she said.

Iran and world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States -- have been locked in negotiations for months seeking a lasting deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

The deal would curb Tehran's atomic capability, making it virtually impossible to build a nuclear bomb, in exchange for a lifting of punishing economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic since 2006.

Iran denies seeking a bomb and has called for sanctions to be dropped as soon as a deal is in place.

"I remain very positive and I believe that an agreement will be reached because the government of President Hassan Rouhani resumed negotiations believing a deal was possible, and they worked really hard for it," said Mohammad, a 31-year-old computer engineer from the northeastern city of Shahrud.

- Inflation, oil price plunge -

He said he had spent the last 12 days closely monitoring progress out of Vienna on television and social media.

"It's important to get it done as soon as possible, because the longer it takes, the more money and opportunities we lose" to boost the economy, Mohammad said.

If a deal is signed and sanctions are lifted, "the situation will improve, wages will increase and there will be more jobs," he predicted.

Middle class and poor Iranians have seen their purchasing power plummet since 2012, with inflation above 40 percent and a currency that had already lost two-thirds of its value before Rouhani took office.

The moderate leader managed to curb inflation to around 15 percent while under sanctions, but another challenge emerged last year as oil prices almost halved, as did state oil revenue.

The government has also reduced direct subsidies introduced by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad originally meant to mitigate price increases.

"In 2005, I earned two million rials a month and I could spend and save," recalls Mohammad. "Today, I earn between 15 to 20 million but my cheque barely gets me to the end of the month."

- 'There is hope' -

Since 2013, an interim accord that froze parts of Iran's nuclear programme in return for minor sanctions respite has been renewed twice already, and a "framework agreement" for a final text was reached in Lausanne in April.

The Vienna talks are supposed to be the last, but the going has been "very tough" as both sides edge closer to a lasting pact, according to one Western diplomat.

For Iranian journalist Emad Abshenass, "it is frustrating because the talks are taking so long. But as long as the talks are going on there is hope that they finally reach a deal, or even an agreement.

"Both sides are trying not to leave anything behind," he said.

Given the statements made by both sides ahead of the Vienna talks, Abshenass said "everyone" thought negotiations would go past the initial June 30 deadline.

"And even if the talks were to extend beyond July 10, they will find a way to solve the differences," he added.

 

 

China needs long-range strategic bomber: state media

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) July 7, 2015 - China needs to develop a long-range strategic bomber to strike adversaries farther away from its coast in the event of conflict, state media reported Tuesday, quoting defence experts.

Beijing has been steadily beefing up its military through years of double-digit increases in defence spending, rapidly expanding its naval power, commissioning its first aircraft carrier and adding to its submarine and surface fleets.

But the government-run China Daily newspaper said in a full-page article that a recent military meeting had deemed the country's air force a "strategic force", citing the latest issues of Kanwa Defense Review, a Canada-based defence and weapons technology publication.

The title had previously been reserved for the military's Second Artillery Corps, which the paper described as China's "de facto strategic missile force".

The meeting agreed that a long-range strategic bomber would enable the air force to attack farther out into the Pacific Ocean, the paper quoted Kanwa Defense Review as reporting, as far as the "second island chain".

Chinese strategists conceive of the "first island chain" as the arc stretching from Japan to Taiwan, which includes numerous US military bases on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The second chain refers to islands farther east in the Pacific, including the Marianas, the Carolines, and the US territory of Guam with its Andersen Air Force Base. A third "island chain" encompassing Hawaii is also sometimes mentioned.

China's increased military posture has come as Beijing asserts its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, where it has disputes with several Asian neighbours including Japan and the Philippines.

Its moves have raised tensions with the United States, still the region's top military power.

A capacity to strike the second island chain would hinder foreign militaries from intervening in "an emergency or conflict", the China Daily said, citing the report.

In May, China's State Council, or cabinet, said in a white paper that the country would project its military power further beyond its sea borders and more assertively in the air.

The Chinese military defines a long-range strategic bomber as one that can carry more than 10 tonnes of air-to-ground munitions and with a minimum range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) without refuelling, the China Daily said.

Chinese defence technology magazine Aerospace Knowledge said in a series of articles last month that China needs a long-range stealth bomber, China Daily said.

"A medium-range bomber can't essentially fix the PLA air force's shortcomings in terms of strategic strike and strategic deterrence," it cited one of the reports as saying. "Thus the air force does need an intercontinental strategic bomber capable of penetrating an enemy's air defences."

But the China Daily quoted the publication's deputy editor-in-chief Wang Yanan as saying such an aircraft would require "a state-of-the-art structure and aerodynamic configuration as well as a high-performance turbofan engine".

"All of these are major problems facing the Chinese aviation industry," he added. "I don't think these difficulties can be resolved within a short period of time."

 

 

'Very, very, very tough' Iran talks extended

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 7, 2015 - Global powers wrestling for a historic nuclear deal with Iran gave themselves yet more time Tuesday after foreign ministers failed to bridge what one diplomat called "very, very, very tough" remaining issues.

Iran and the P5+1 group -- the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany -- effectively gave themselves until Friday to agree a deal by extending the terms of a 2013 interim accord under which Iran has been curtailing its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

"Removing the remaining brackets (in the text of the agreement), this seems to be very, very, very tough," the senior diplomat said as an 11th day of talks stretched late into the night in Vienna.

But the envoy insisted the negotiations are "not an open-ended process. We've given ourselves a couple more days because we think it can be done."

This was rammed home by a second diplomat, who said the new target date -- the latest in a string of postponements in almost two years of talks seeking to end a 13-year standoff -- is the "final" one.

"It's difficult to see why and how we could go on any longer. Either this works in the next 48 hours or it doesn't," the second diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"We have never been closer, than we've ever been on this agreement, and we are still not where we need to be to finalise a deal," a senior US administration official said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry remained in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Their Russian, Chinese, French and British counterparts had already left. The latter two said they would return to the Austrian capital on Wednesday evening.

"If very tough political decisions, hard choices, can get made soon, I do believe we can get to an agreement ... it is possible," the US official said.

For many observers July 9 had always been the real deadline, and the US team now has its back against the wall trying to nail down the final details by then.

If Kerry fails to hand over a deal by the end of Thursday, US lawmakers will get 60 days instead of 30 to review it, which risks further complicating its implementation.

- Arms ban to remain -

The mooted deal would curb Iran's nuclear programme for a decade or more in order to make any push to make nuclear weapons -- it denies any such aim -- virtually impossible.

In return painful sanctions on Iran would be progressively lifted.

Despite progress on a series of complicated annexes, negotiations have stalled on how to ease sanctions against Iran, probing allegations that in the past Tehran sought to develop nuclear arms, and ensuring Iran can continue to have a modest, peaceful nuclear programme.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed there was also disagreement over the issue of lifting of a UN conventional arms embargo which bans sales of convention weapons such as tanks and missiles to Tehran.

"I can assure you that there remains one major problem that's related to sanctions: this is the problem of an arms embargo," Lavrov told Interfax from Vienna.

The arms embargo was not overly important as Iran had developed its own industry, but global powers "must change their approach on sanctions if they want a deal," Iran's lead negotiator Abbas Araghchi said late Tuesday, saying the UN ban had to be changed.

"Western nations must be prepared to give up sanctions," Araghchi said

But US officials insisted there would be "ongoing restrictions on arms just like there will be ongoing restrictions regarding missiles" in any nuclear deal, which is to be endorsed by a resolution in the UN Security Council.

Negotiators are already drawing up a draft resolution which would also address the nuclear-related bans on arms trade and ballistic missiles, the senior administration official said.

While Iran has a right to conventional missiles "what we are concerned about is missile technology that becomes a delivery system for a nuclear weapon."

 

 

Anger still crackles 30 years after France bombed Greenpeace ship

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Wellington (AFP) July 7, 2015 - Thirty years after France's deadly bomb attack on the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand, anger still crackles in Pete Willcox's voice when he discusses the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship.

Willcox was captain of the environmental group's converted trawler when frogmen working for French intelligence slipped into Auckland Harbour late on July 10, 1985, and fixed two large limpet mines to its hull.

Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira died in the subsequent blasts, which New Zealand's then-prime minister David Lange described as "a sordid act of international state-backed terrorism".

"Fernando had two children and his murder blew a hole in their lives that can never be patched up," Willcox told AFP ahead of the anniversary.

"And as a captain, the worst thing you can do is lose a crew member. It was hard."

The Rainbow Warrior had docked in Auckland on its way to protest French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) southeast of Tahiti.

But France's spy agency, the DGSE, had other ideas, launching the ominously titled "Operation Satanique" to stop it.

The mission was unprecedented -- bombing a peaceful protest vessel without warning in the territory of a friendly nation.

A former top French intelligence official described it as a "fiasco".

"This type of action against an opponent like Greenpeace would be unimaginable today," he told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

New Zealand journalist David Robie said Paris -- spurred by Cold War paranoia -- believed Greenpeace must be stopped to save the nuclear programme and curb calls for independence from France's Pacific territories, which were being fuelled by the controversial testing.

"It reflected the militarised mindset that prevailed at the time," said Robie, whose book about the incident, "Eyes of Fire", has been updated for the anniversary.

- 'A trail so Gallic...' -

New Zealand police initially dismissed the idea of French involvement as a conspiracy theory, while officials in Paris denounced the very suggestion as a national slur.

They were forced to backtrack two months later as evidence mounted, exposing embarrassing blunders by the DGSE team.

A French-made inflatable boat and diving gear were abandoned in Auckland waters, while investigations into suspects uncovered records of calls to the defence ministry in Paris.

"They left a trail so Gallic that the only missing clues were a baguette, a black beret and a bottle of Beaujolais," a DGSE source told the Washington Post at the time.

Most damningly, two agents posing as a Swiss couple were arrested in the days after the explosion as they attempted to return a rental campervan.

The pair -- Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur -- were only captured because they were reluctant to flee New Zealand without collecting the NZ$130 ($90) deposit on the vehicle.

The scandal rocked the French government, leading to defence minister Charles Hernu's resignation and the sacking of DGSE chief Pierre Lacoste.

The fallout could have been worse, with Lacoste releasing a memo in 2005 that stated the then-president Francois Mitterrand personally authorised the operation.

- 'They set out to murder us'-

Mafart and Prieur were charged with murder, eventually pleading guilty to manslaughter and receiving 10-year jail terms.

But they were free within three years under a deal that caused almost as much angst in New Zealand as the bombing, involving France threatening to block trade access to European markets unless Wellington handed over the agents.

No one else in the 13-strong DGSE team ever faced justice over Pereira's death.

Robie said the bombing "utterly backfired", outraging New Zealanders, galvanising anti-nuclear sentiment in the Pacific and trashing Paris' reputation in the region for decades.

Public sympathy resulted in an upsurge of donations and members for Greenpeace -- helping it go mainstream -- and Willcox said the attack remained a defining moment in the organisation's history.

"We never believed that a bunch of hippies in an old steel boat would scare the government of France so badly they would set out to murder us," he said.

"Yet they did, and we took it as a sign that we must be doing something right."

 

 

Iran talks drama in knife-edge final act

 
‎09 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎10:17:02 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 6, 2015 - Marathon Iran nuclear talks appeared to be stumbling Monday as foreign ministers grappled to resolve the last hurdles blocking a deal, amid warnings that years of negotiations may fail at the 11th hour.

Foreign ministers from the global powers leading the talks to rein in Iran's suspect nuclear programme huddled for the first time with the Iranian delegation during this 10-day stretch of talks in Vienna.

But even though it seems that the teams are really down to the last few sticking points aiming to end a 13-year standoff with Iran, a German diplomatic source sounded a cautious note.

"We are not there yet... We should not underestimate that important questions remain unresolved. There will not be an agreement at any price," the source said.

"If there is no movement in decisive areas a failure is not ruled out."

The so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- was due to hold a second plenary session with Iran on Monday evening.

After failing to make a June 30 deadline, global powers have given themselves until Tuesday to try to reach an accord putting a nuclear bomb out of Iran's reach.

But an Iranian official admitted Tuesday's date that was not sacrosanct.

He insisted his country had made "a number of concessions" but that a number of issues -- few in number but "tough" -- remained to be thrashed out at ministerial level.

"July 7, July 8, we do not consider these dates as those dates we have to finish our job," the official, who asked not to be named, told reporters.

"Even if we pass July 9, that will not be the end of the world, there will be another period for us to watch."

On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, in the Austrian capital since June 27 facing off against his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, warned the talks still "could go either way".

The point was rammed home by France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as they returned to Vienna late Sunday.

"The main question is to know whether the Iranians will accept making clear commitments on what until now has not been clarified," Fabius said, adding that "all the cards" were "now on the table".

- Clock ticking -

Kerry is under pressure to nail down the deal by Thursday in order to send it to the Republican-controlled US Congress for a 30-day review. Under a new law, if the deal is reached after July 9 US lawmakers will have 60 days to vote on it.

The P5+1 powers want Iran to sharply curb its nuclear programme to make any push to acquire the atomic bomb all but impossible, in return for sanctions relief.

Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons, saying its activities are purely for peaceful purposes.

The deal, capping almost two years of rollercoaster talks following the 2013 election of Iranian Presid