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Syria strongly condemns terrorist attacks in Iran

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Syria strongly condemned the two terrorist attacks which took place in Iran earlier today, stressing that such terrorist attacks that are backed by well-known countries will not discourage Syria and Iran from continuing to fight terrorism. In a statement, Foreign and Expatriates Ministry voiced Syria’s full solidarity with the leadership, government and people of Iran and its condolences to the families of the victims. Syria stresses that such “terrorist attacks backed by well-known countries and circles will not discourage Syria and Iran from continuing their fight against terrorism that is supported by countries and parties known in the region and beyond”, the Ministry added.

Threat of Chemical Weapons-Related Provocations in Syria Still Remains

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The threat of provocations related to use of chemical weapons in Syria still remains, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, adding that terrorists might possess toxic substances. “There was repeated information about possible provocations with usage of toxic substances. And, of course, making it public was likely to help to avoid such provocations”, Peskov added. On Friday, Putin said at the International Economic Forum in Russia’s St. Petersburg (SPIEF) that Russia foiled planned chemical attacks’ reiteration on the Syrian territory by making public the intelligence data on the plot in early May. The Russia leader also refuted the reports of Syrian President Bashar Assad having stockpiles of toxic substances, and people having allegedly suffered from the chemical weapons and called them a “provocation”.

 

Syrian army advances south toward rebel-held area

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The Syrian army said it had retaken a swathe of territory from Islamic State in southern Syria on Thursday in a rapid advance near areas held by U.S.-backed Syrian rebels at the border with Jordan and Iraq. Tensions flared in the southern region last week when the U.S.-led coalition mounted an air strike against pro-government forces that U.S. officials said posed a threat to U.S. and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in the area. Washington described the forces as Iranian-directed. The Syrian army on Thursday declared the capture of areas to the south of Palmyra and to the east of Qaryatayn in southeastern Homs province. An official with one of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel groups operating in southern Syria told Reuters that government forces appeared to be trying to preempt any rebel move toward Deir al-Zor, another priority target for the government.

 

Iran Urges War on Cyber Capabilities of Terrorists

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A ranking Iranian security official warned against a major shift in the methods and approaches used by terrorist groups, calling for concerted global action to curb terrorists’ cyber capabilities and counter their modern tactics. Addressing the 8th International Meeting of High Representatives for Security Issues in Moscow on Wednesday, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani warned of the shifting nature and geographical distribution of terrorists in the world. Pointing to the cyber-infrastructures and modern communication systems that terrorist networks employ to recruit, organize, train and control forces in different countries, Shamkhani stressed the need for serious international determination to restrict such modern capabilities and counteract terrorists’ Internet-based activities. He further noted that Iran, with years of experience in combatting terrorism and its military, security, and cyber threats, could play a significant role in the global initiatives against terrorism. Shamkhani then attributed the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group’s acquisition of advanced communication systems, modern arms and weapons of mass destruction to the double standards adopted by certain “infamous governments” which sponsor terrorist groups. The top official further deplored the UN’s weak performance in dealing with regional crises, and urged certain states to end their “failed and dangerous policies” toward Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Security officials from 95 countries around the world have gathered in Moscow for the 3-day conference to coordinate efforts in ensuring cyber security, addressing the regional and international threats, and countering the issues leading to crises.

Riyadh summits embodied keenness to achieve security, stability, says King Salman

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King Salman has thanked all authorities of member states of GCC and also Trump, for their participation to this summit, where they had the opportunity of discussing about several and noteworthy challenges in various fields. This has led to signing an important agreement between GCC countries and USA, and also the establishment of Center for countering Terrorism in Riyadh. The aim of Global Center for combating extremist Ideology is prevent families from spreading of terrorism and extremism. The ability of Saudi Kingdom of hosting this summit reflects the importance of bolstering international relations, to achieve common goals. The Cabinet has also thanked King Salman for his help, but it has also reminded the importance of eradicating terrorism and extremism in several States and interviewing in some situations such as war between Palestian and Israelian people and also interviewing in Syria. It was established by Public Investment Fund the establishment of Saudi Military Industries, which localize 50% of military expenses. The Cabinet has also thanked King Salman of supporting and giving efforts to Yemeni people, to contain disease. In conclusion, Saudi Government has signed a MoU with Japan, in compliance with Vision 2030 and others are going to be signed with Azeri and Sweden Government, to implement their economic relations.

 

It Has Brought In Riyadh With Bensalah Trump Greets Bouteflika

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The President of National Council met Donald Trump during the summit to Ryhad. He brought President’s respectful. Trump remembered the bilateral cooperation between two Countries and auspicated a major cooperation. President of National Council agrees with Trump, and remembered the historical relationship between two Countries, with the recognition of independence of United States in 1783 and the sustain of USA to the independence of Algeria during the decolonization. He then talked about Libya, Mali, Syria and Sahara and said that military solutions are unsuccessful, the only way is the diplomatic way. President of National Council expressed his sustain to the relations between United States and Muslims Countries and added that he want a new Middle East based on union. He then talked about the situation affirming that there won’t be peace without an official recognition of the Palestinian State with capital Jerusalem.

Turkey calls for removal U.S. envoy to counter ISIS over Kurdish policy

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition Forces to counter Islamic State (ISIS), Brett McGurk, of supporting Kurdish forces in Syria, and called for the removal of McGurk from his position. “Brett McGurk, the USA’s special envoy in the fight against Daesh [Islamic State], is definitely and clearly giving support to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and YPG [People’s Protection Units]. It would be beneficial if this person is changed,” Cavusoglu told NTV television on Thursday (May 18). Turkey sees the YPG and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as “terrorist organizations” as it says they have ties with the PKK, which is designated as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. The comments by the Turkish foreign minister came after McGurk, along with officials from the State Department, paid a visit to Syrian Kurdish controlled areas on Tuesday (May 16) in order to meet Kurdish officials there. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he told U.S. President Donald Trump that Turkey would not hesitate to attack if it faced any sort of attacks from the YPG, according to Turkish media. “We clearly told them this: if there is any sort of attack from the YPG and PYD against Turkey, we will implement the rules of engagement without asking anyone”, Erdogan said being cited by Sabah newspaper. In the battle to free Raqqa from ISIS, the U.S. has actively supported the YPG-led SDF, but was initially wary of allying directly to the YPG due to concerns from NATO ally Turkey. U.S. ties with the Syrian Kurds have grown deeper despite the concerns of NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links to the PKK.

Ceaseless Middle East wars forcing change in approach to medical care

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The Middle East’s protracted conflicts have caused a region-wide health crisis that goes beyond war wounds to heightened resistance to antibiotics and a collapse in vaccination drives, leading to a resurgence of diseases tamed in peacetime. Health threats are so varied that one of the Middle East’s main teaching hospitals, the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), has introduced a conflict-medicine program to equip students to cope in an environment afflicted by chaos. As fighting has engulfed Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya since 2011, doctors and nurses have had to adjust not only to treating terrible injuries but to a faster spread of disease and growing threats to their own safety from combatants. Doctors, universities and aid agencies must respond by sharing experience and expertise, and by adapting research and medical practices, said participants at a conflict medicine conference at AUBMC, pointing out that Lebanon’s doctors have had their share of experience in conflict medicine due to the 1975-1990 civil war. The conference was held a few hundred meters from the iconic Beirut building that is witness to the war with its riddled facade. One growing problem is the disruption of vaccinations. Ali Batarfi, dean of the Hadramawt College of Medicine in Mukalla, Yemen, described a recrudescence of dengue fever that had been comparatively rare before the war there. Yemen is suffering from a cholera outbreak after more than two years of a war that has crippled public services, fostered malnutrition, hindered the import of adequate medical supplies and hobbled hospital capacity with war injuries. The collapse in national health systems has accelerated resistance to antibiotics because of drug usage in excess of prescribed limits. At the same time, infections have spread as war has destroyed sanitation and clean water systems and triggered chaotic population movements. The impact ripples beyond countries at war. Lebanon’s health system has grappled with the extra patients from around the war-ridden region attending its hospitals, including some from the more than one million Syrian refugees now in the country. A fifth of patients at AUBC are from Syria and Iraq, of whom the overwhelming majority suffered from war wounds, though the burns department noted a big rise in cases among children because of tent fires in refugee camps. Doctors in war zones have had to radically alter their approach, rationing resources, operating in primitive conditions and changing the way they treat trauma injuries. Surgical treatment of injuries is very different when those wounds have been caused by high-velocity bullets or shrapnel – something traditionally trained surgeons must learn as war has spread in the Middle East. Increasingly, warring sides in conflicts are targeting medical facilities, seemingly aiming to reduce their enemies’ stomach for battle by aggravating the suffering of civilians. “When I started for MSF, my MSF jacket was my bullet-proof vest”, said Dr Anja Wolz, emergency coordinator at Medecins Sans Frontieres in Brussels, who has worked recently at the MSF field hospital in Mosul. “Now you feel like a target”. The ICRC has warned that the drawn-out crises plaguing the Middle East “could lead to the total collapse of health systems”.

Trump’s Announcement of the Kurdish-Centric Plan to Take Raqqa

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On May 9th, the Trump administration made public its plan to provide the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with substantial heavy weaponry. The announcement signals Washington’s decision to rely on the SDF, which is dominated by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), for the operation to liberate Raqqa from Islamic State (ISIS) control. Ankara’s reaction to this decision, as it was to the Obama administration’s similar conclusion, will be vociferous. Turkey views, with a good deal of justification, the PYD as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) affiliate in Syria. The PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for most of last 33 years. Your humble columnist dearly wishes he could be a fly on the wall listening to the upcoming meeting between Trump and Erdogan on May 16th. Mr. Trump nonetheless made the only right, and only real, choice for an administration that promised to defeat ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Going with Turkey for the Raqqa operation would have been a terrible choice. The Turks were never willing to send much of their army to Raqqa, their Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies are not as good or proven fighters as the Kurds, the Turkish-aligned FSA are less numerous than the SDF/PYD, and in many cases they seem about as Islamist as ISIS. Turkish forces and their proxies would also have been fighting the Kurds all along the way to Raqqa. Naturally some policy elites in Washington appear intent on second guessing Mr. Trump’s decision on the matter. James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, argues in an April 10 Foreign Policy Magazine piece that the U.S. should have gone with Turkey on the Raqqa operation. Although this columnist has not seen any evidence for Mr. Jeffrey’s contention that local tribes want a Turkish role in the liberation of Raqqa, the rest of his argument deserves some scrutiny. Jeffrey argues that by focusing on the short-term tactical goal of destroying ISIS, the Americans are forgetting the more important strategic contest (which he likes to a “great game” of chess) going on in the area: Efforts by Turkey, Israel and other Arab Sunni states to push back against Iranian and Russian attempts to overthrow the regional order in the Levant. Jeffrey’s then goes on to draw a misleadingly simple tradeoff, where Washington can either 1) Fight ISIS without Turkey and let Iran and Russia win the larger game; or 2) Join Turkey against the Iranian-Russian attempt at hegemony in the Levant.  Mr. Jeffrey, like many American and Turkish policy makers, appears unable to see more than a two-dimensional game of chess. He works hard to argue that Turkey is an American ally while the PKK (and its Syrian PYD sister) are proxies of Iran, Assad and Russia. Things are a lot more complicated than that. Sometimes the PKK and these actors cooperate, while at other times they fight each other. To understand what the Iranians’ and Russians’ three-dimensional chess game looks like, in contrast, one need only ask how Iran, which Jeffrey himself acknowledges to be much less economically and militarily powerful than Turkey, enjoys so much leverage and influence outside its borders? Russia as well, with an economy the size of Australia’s, seems to punch in a foreign influence weight class far beyond its real size and power. The answer has to do with both Iran and Russia’s complex policies of supporting and working with various actors internationally, adroitly applying patronage and cooperation to maximum effect. Iraqis, for instance, know very well how Iran supports myriad groups in that country including various Shiite parties competing with one another, some Kurdish political parties and even Sunni Arab parties. When Iran thus wants to get something done in Iraq, it has a lot of often mutually hostile groups it can turn to. If something occurs in Iraq that Iran opposes (such as the 2012 no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Maliki), it can use its influence to overthrow the whole process. If the Americans, either by shrewd design or by accident, are to play a similarly high level of three-dimensional strategic chess in the Levant, they might well start with more support for the PYD at the same time that they remain NATO allies with Turkey. This seems especially wise given Turkey’s own ties with Jihadi groups in Syria and elsewhere (Jeffrey conveniently ignores the question of replacing ISIS with Jabhat al Nusra or Ahrar al Shams, which would hardly offer much of an improvement from the American point of view). In such a game, why couldn’t the U.S. support the PYD against ISIS and simultaneously oppose Iran? A simple rhetorical flourish might even do the trick: While leaders in Washington have repeatedly stated that American weapons given to the SDF/PYD must not end up in PKK hands or be used against Turkey, they never said anything about such weapons finding their way to the PKK’s Iranian branch, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). PJAK, of course, has been fighting a guerrilla war against the government in Tehran since 2004. This way, Ankara gets to keep supporting Hamas, Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) and other American friends, while Washington can pursue its own Kurdish friendships outside of Turkey, and both can still pretend to be the best of friends at NATO summits — just like Turkey and Iran pretend to be friends at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

 

Iraq’s Shiite militias squeeze Islamic State toward Syria border

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Iraq’s Shi’ite paramilitaries launched an offensive on Friday to drive Islamic State from a desert region near the border with Syria as security forces fought the militants in the city of Mosul. Spokesman Karim al-Nouri said the target of the operation was the Qairawan and Baaj areas about 100 km west of Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are advancing in their campaign to rout the militants from city. Seven months into the Mosul campaign, Islamic State has been driven from all but a handful of districts in the city’s western half including the Old City, where it is using hundreds of thousands of civilians as human shields. The paramilitaries have been kept on the sidelines of the battle for the city of Mosul itself, but have captured a vast, thinly populated area to the southwest, cutting Islamic State supply routes to Syria. Islamic State is losing territory in both  Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi military said in a statement its air force was supporting the operation by the paramilitary groups known collectively as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF). Unlike regular Iraqi security forces, the PMF does not receive support from the U.S.-led coalition, which is wary of Iran’s influence over the most powerful factions within the body. Officially answerable to the government in Baghdad, the PMF were formed when Islamic State overran around one third of Iraq including Mosul nearly three years ago and Iraqi security forces disintegrated. Nouri said PMF control over the border would assist Syrian government forces when they push toward the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa. On Friday, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said their assault on Raqqa, the militants’ biggest urban stronghold, would begin soon and that they were awaiting weapons including armored vehicles from the U.S.-led coalition

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