Jail term for Iranian Woman who dares Go out Without Hijab

Islam, Middle East, personality

An Iranian woman who peacefully protested the obligatory hijab rule by removing her head scarf in public in Tehran in December says she has been sentenced to two years in prison in addition to an 18-year suspended prison term.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh removed her headscarf in protest against the compulsory hijab rule in Iran and was forced to flee the country.

Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, women have been forced to cover their hair according to Islamic law on modesty. In recent years, there have been dem

Shaparak Shajarizadeh also says she has left Iran to escape “injustices.”

In a live broadcast shared widely on social media this week, Shajarizadeh said that she was sentenced to prison for opposing the compulsory hijab.

“This means that I will have to be silent for 20 years and not get involved in any activities,” Shajarizadeh said on Instagram.

Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who represented Shajarizadeh and other women arrested for opposing the compulsory hijab was arrested last month.

Shajarizadeh, 42, was released on bail in late April.

In a video posted online on July 9, she said she has left Iran.

“Due to the injustices in Iran’s judicial system, I had to leave the country,” she said.

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China prepares mission to land spacecraft on moon’s far side

Middle East, Tech
moon
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

China was preparing to launch a ground-breaking mission early Saturday to soft-land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russia, the European Union and U.S.

With its Chang’e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to ever successfully undertake such a landing. The moon’s far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

If successful, the mission scheduled to blast off aboard a Long March 3B rocket will propel the Chinese space program to a leading position in one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.

China landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit.” rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples—the first time that will have been done since 1976. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration.

Chang’e 4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey.

It will also perform radio-astronomical studies that, because the far side always faces away from Earth, will be “free from interference from our planet’s ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise,” space industry expert Leonard David wrote on the website Space.com.

It may also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chang’e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to do so. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit, one of which is still operating as a precursor to a more than 60-ton station that is due to come online in 2022. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.

To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission, China in May launched a relay satellite named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge,” after an ancient Chinese folk tale.

China’s space program has benefited from cooperation with Russia and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to U.S. legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections. Its program also suffered a rare setback last year with the dialed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

China’s latest mission closely follows the touchdown of NASA’s InSight spacecraft on Mars on Monday, at a site less than 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the American rover Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-12-china-mission-spacecraft-moon-side.html#jCp

Iran denies attacking Israeli positions — Peace and Freedom

Middle East, News, SEcurity, SYRIA

Iran has denied involvement in rocket attacks on the Golan Heights that led to Israeli strikes on Iranian sites in Syria. The UN has called for an end to “hostile acts” amid fears of further escalation.

    
Tanks on the Golan Heights (picture-alliance/Xinhua News Agency)

Iran on Friday rejected accusations by Israel that it had fired rockets at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, describing them as ” freely invented and baseless” charges designed to justify Israel’s own attacks on Syria.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi also criticized the international community for not condemning Israeli airstrikes in Syria on Thursday that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a retaliation against Iran’s aggression.

Image result for Bahram Qasemi, photos

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi

Its silence “only gives the Zionist regime (Israel) the green light for further aggressions that serve only to make the region more insecure and unstable,” he said.

The defense committee of Iran’s parliament also said Iranian forces had nothing to do with the attacks on Israeli positions.

“This is another lie from the Zionist regime for propaganda purposes, ” said committee spokesman Mohammad Nabandegani. Nobandegani also denied that Iran had any military forces in Syria at all.

Read more: The West tends to ‘exaggerate’ Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict

 

Israel announced early on Thursday that its forces had hit “almost all” Iranian infrastructure sites in Syria during airstrikes carried out in retaliation for Iran’s firing of 20 rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Netanyahu said that Iran had “crossed a red line” with the rocket attacks.

The attacks were some of the worst direct violence between arch rivals Israel and Iran in years and have raised fears of a wider conflict in the region. Israel has long expressed concern that Iran could establish a military presence in Syria amid the instability caused by Syria’s long-running civil war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed fears of further escalation in a tweet in which he called for an end to “all hostile acts and any provocative actions.”

António Guterres

✔@antonioguterres

The Middle East is already embroiled in terrible conflicts with immense suffering of civilians. I urge an immediate halt to all hostile acts and any provocative actions to avoid a new conflagration in the region. https://bit.ly/2I4yCzH 

A UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that Guterres had been in contact “with various people at various levels” about the attacks.

‘Right to self-defense’

Germany’s Foreign Ministry has sided with Israel in condemning Iranian aggression. In a tweet, it said the rocket attacks were “a serious provocation that we condemn in the harshest way possible. Israel has, as we have stated several times, a right to self-defense.”

Washington also slammed what it called “the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks” and reiterated its support for “Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”

Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, has called on the UN Security Council and Guterres to condemn Iran and call on Tehran to remove its forces from Syria.

However, in light of the divisions within the Security Council over Syria, it seems unlikely that the body will issue any statement on the matter.

tj/ng (AP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/iran-denies-attacking-israeli-positions/a-43736095

via Iran denies attacking Israeli positions — Peace and Freedom

An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

international News, Middle East, News, Politics, SEcurity, SYRIA

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination. Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation…

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination.

Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation could be looming ahead of next week’s review decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

On April 9, an air strike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members at the Syrian base. Tehran blamed Israel and vowed unspecified retaliation, drawing Israeli counter-threats to broaden attacks on Iranian military assets in Syria.

Sharpening these warnings, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday that Assad may find himself in Israel’s sights.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Steinitz told the Ynet news site.

Asked if that meant Israel might assassinate Assad, Steinitz said: “His blood would be forfeit.” He also appeared to suggest that his remarks did not reflect Israeli government policy, saying: “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”

There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office or from Israel’s Defence Ministry.

A Ynet text story had quoted Steinitz as saying explicitly that Israel would kill Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.

Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Russia have been reinforcing Damascus against a seven-year-old Syrian rebellion. The Israelis worry that Iran’s garrison will remain, linking with Hezbollah to form a broad Syrian-Lebanese front against them.

On Sunday, Israeli media carried what they described as an alert by Israel’s intelligence services that Iran was planning a missile salvo against Israeli military bases from within Syria.

Some analysts interpreted the publication as a warning to Iran that its plans were known, lest it try to carry out the missile strike without explicitly claiming responsibility.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Syria, where Moscow wants to see Assad’s rule restored.

“Whoever is interested in Assad’s survival should do the honour of telling Assad to prevent attacks on Israel,” Steinitz said, alluding to Putin.

via An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

Saudi Arabia intercepts 2 missiles launched by Houthis

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics

Riyadh, May 7 (IANS/WAM) Saudi Air Defence forces intercepted two ballistic missiles launched by the Houthi rebels from Yemen. The missiles on Sunday were directed towards the city of Najran and launched by the militia deliberately to target civilian and populated areas, spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces Colonel Turki al-Maliki said. There were no […]

https://www.socialnews.xyz/?p=1232798

Iran’s economy since the nuclear accord came into effect

Middle East, News, Politics

— China, South Korea and Turkey remain Iran’s top three trading partners                        — Ordinary Iranians got almost no benefit from nuclear deal

 

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany – lifted international sanctions on Iran’s economy, including those on oil, trade and banking sectors.

BBC News

By Amir Paivar

A shopper passes a food stall in Tehran's Grand Bazaar.AFP

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers – the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany – lifted international sanctions on Iran’s economy, including those on oil, trade and banking sectors.

In exchange, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to abandon the agreement and will make a decision on 12 May about whether to reintroduce sanctions from his country.

So, as that deadline draws nearer, Reality Check examines how Iran’s economy has fared since the nuclear accord came into effect.

Shoppers and carpet sellers stand next to carpets in Tehran's Grand Bazaar in Iran.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionCarpets for sale in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar.

How much have oil exports boosted Iran’s economy?

Iran’s economy was in a deep recession in the years before the nuclear agreement. But the International Monetary Fund reported that the real GDP of Iran grew 12.5% in the first year following the implementation of the deal.

Chart showing fluctuating economic growth in Iran

Growth has fallen since then, and the IMF estimates the economy will grow at 4% this year, which is healthy but below the 8% target Iran had for the five years following the deal.

That initial boost was almost all thanks to the hike in oil exports.

Sanctions on Iran’s energy sector halved the country’s oil exports, to around 1.1 million barrels per day in 2013. Now Iran exports almost 2.5 million barrels daily.

Close-up of a handful of pistachio nuts taken in Tehran in 2006.AFP

What about other famous Iranian exports, like pistachio nuts?

Iran’s non-oil exports in the year to March 2018 reached $47bn (£34.5bn) which is almost $5bn more than the year before the nuclear agreement.

According to Iran’s ministry of agriculture, the export of “signature items” such as pistachio nuts stood at $1.1bn in the same period, slightly lower than the previous year.

But Iran’s agricultural exports, including pistachios and saffron, are more affected by the country’s drought, rather than sanctions or trade relations.

Following the nuclear agreement, the US lifted a ban on Iranian luxury items such as carpets and caviar. Sanctions cut exports of Iranian carpets to the US – its biggest market – by 30% .

Iran’s trade with the European Union has increased significantly thanks to the lifting of sanctions but China, South Korea and Turkey remain Iran’s top three trading partners.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, with other US and Iranian officials, meeting in Austria on 16 January 2016. The day the International Economic Energy Agency verified whether Iran had met all conditions under the nuclear deal.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionUS Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Austria on the day international sanctions on Iran were lifted.

Did the nuclear deal stabilise Iran’s falling currency?

In 2012, the rial lost almost two-thirds of its value against the dollar because of sanctions and domestic mismanagement of the currency market. The sanctions limited Iran’s oil revenues and its access to the global banking system.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised the nation that following the nuclear deal “you will not see the exchange rate go up every hour”.

Mr Rouhani managed to deliver on that promise by keeping the Iranian currency stable for almost four years. But in late 2017, when President Trump refused to certify the nuclear deal to Congress, the rial started to fall again.

The rial has lost almost half of its value against the dollar since last September. Many Iranians have been buying hard foreign currency to hedge against the possible future collapse of the nuclear deal, the return of sanctions and a fresh currency crash.

It was reported that some $30bn of capital left Iran in the first quarter of 2018, mostly to neighbouring countries and the Caucasus.

The Iranian government has since launched a crackdown on the foreign exchange market, banning exchange offices from selling hard currency and introducing limits (at $12,000) on cash possession – all in a bid to rescue the rial.

Household budgets in Iran since 2005

Are ordinary Iranians richer because of the nuclear deal?

Analysis by BBC Persian of figures from the Central Bank of Iran shows that household budgets (the value of all the goods and services used by a household) have fallen in real terms from $14,800 in 2007-08 to $12,515 in 2016-17.

Household budgets declined steadily for seven years until 2014-15 when the nuclear deal was struck and increased slightly the following year.

The analysis also shows that Iran’s middle class has been hit the hardest in the past decade. While the average household budget has fallen 15%, the figure is 20% for middle-class families.

Experts blame a combination of domestic mismanagement of the economy and international sanctions for the fall in household budgets.

Most of the post-nuclear deal boom came from increased oil revenues that go directly into the government coffers and that takes time to trickle down into people’s pockets.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-43975498

U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan while providing security for Special Operations unit By Dan Lamothe 

Middle East, Military, News

Army Spec. Gabriel D. Conde, 22, was killed in Afghanistan by gunfire April 30, U.S. military officials said. (U.S. Army)

A U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan was hit by gunfire in a district east of Kabul while providing security for a U.S. Special Operations unit, U.S. military officials said.

Army Spec. Gabriel D. Conde, 22, was an airborne-qualified infantryman with the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and was killed in Kapisa province’s Tagab district, the Pentagon announced. He had been in Afghanistan since September on his first deployment from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, Martin O’Donnell, said Wednesday that Conde was carrying out an operation alongside Afghan forces against Taliban officials. Conde joined the Army in 2015 in Loveland, Colo., and was assigned to Army units in Alaska after going through basic training. His death marked the second U.S. combat death in Afghanistan this year.

U.S. military officials would not clarify on Tuesday Conde’s exact role while deployed, but he was part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, in which the U.S. military targets terrorist groups in Afghanistan. The Pentagon primarily does that through the use of Special Operations troops, but it also uses conventional infantry soldiers such as Conde to bolster security.

Conde was killed in an operation in which another U.S. service member was wounded and medically evacuated to Bagram Airfield north of Kabul for medical treatment in a military hospital.

Washington Post

Pompeo says Israel, Palestinian peace still a US priority — INKLING LEAGUE

Middle East, News

AMMAN, Jordan – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority for the Trump administration even if it doesn’t agree it’s the main cause of Mideast instability. Pompeo spoke in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Monday, urging the Palestinians to return to peace talks with Israel, […]

AMMAN, Jordan – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a priority for the Trump administration even if it doesn’t agree it’s the main cause of Mideast instability.
Pompeo spoke in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Monday, urging the Palestinians to return to peace talks with Israel, saying the U.S. is open to a two-state solution, which he termed a “likely outcome.”
He declined to criticize Israel for its actions in dealing with mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza border over the past month. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli fire. Pompeo said the U.S. was “fully supportive” of Israel’s right to defend itself.

Pompeo did not meet any Palestinian representatives during a two-day visit to Israel and Jordan.

via Pompeo says Israel, Palestinian peace still a US priority — INKLING LEAGUE

EU Leaders Endorses Iran Nuclear Deal

international News, Middle East

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany reaffirmed their support for the current nuclear deal with Iran. The issue is due to come to a head, again, in May when President Trump decides whether to maintain the treaty.

The parties to the Iran nuclear deal sit around a large negotiating table at UN headquarters in New York in 2017.

The leaders of Britain France and Germany reaffirmed their support for the existing nuclear deal with Iran, which is “the best way of neutralizing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran,” according to a statement released Sunday by the prime minister’s office in London.

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend, and the three leaders agreed that the best way forward was to maintain the existing agreement, which was signed in 2015.

Watch video06:19

‘The Day’ Interview – Merkel heads to Washington

But US President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to scupper the deal and his next chance to do so would be in May. With an eye towards that, the European leaders also agreed to work towards achieving additional “important elements.”

“Our priority as an international community remained preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon,” said the statement from 10 Downing Street, referring to the three European leaders.

“They agreed that there were important elements that the deal does not cover but which we need to address — including ballistic missiles, what happens when the deal expires, and Iran’s destabilizing regional activity,” it continued.

Watch video01:57

European Parliament debates Iran nuclear deal

“They committed to continue working closely together and with the US on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses — including those issues that a new deal might cover.”

A “four pillars” solution

The current deal, formally titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed by the previous US president, Barack Obama, after prolonged multi-party negotiations involving the five permanent members of the UN security council — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China — and Germany, the European Union and Iran.

Read moreUS pursues Iran sanctions

Both Merkel and Macron met with Trump in Washington this past week, seemingly working in tandem as they tried to persuade Trump to see the current deal as a stepping stone to a longer-term, broader accord, featuring a “four pillars” solution.

Watch video03:16

German ambassador warns against unraveling Iran deal

The first column is the current nuclear treaty with Iran. The others would target Tehran’s nuclear activities after 2025, when so-called sunset clauses kick in, enhance global leverage against Iran’s regional influence and try to curb its ballistic missile program.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on TV Sunday Trump had not yet made up his mind about whether or not to scrap the accord.

“He has made no decision on the nuclear deal, whether to stay in or get out,” Bolton told Fox News.

Read moreIran questions new nuclear demands

Macron speaks to Iran

Macron later spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and agreed to work together to preserve the deal, according an Elysee statement.

They spoke for more than an hour, with Macron proposing the discussions be broadened to cover “three additional, indispensable subjects,” his office said.

It refered to Tehran’s ballistic missile programs, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 and “the main regional crises” in the Middle East.

aw,bik/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Israeli forces fire bullets, tear gas at border protesters, wound 200

international News, Islam, Middle East, Military, News, Politics

GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers fired bullets and tear gas at thousands of Palestinian protesters at the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, wounding nearly 200 people, hours after the United Nations human rights chief criticised Israel for using “excessive force”.

Israeli troops have killed 38 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,000 others since Gaza residents began staging protests along the border fence on March 30 to demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

On Friday, Israeli ground troops, holed up behind fortifications on their side of the 40km (25-mile) border fence, fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters at five locations on the Gazan side.

The Gaza health ministry said 60 were wounded by gun fire, including a Palestinian journalist who was hit with a bullet in his foot.

Dozens more, including four medics, were treated for gas inhalation, as Israeli forces showered the area with tear gas canisters from behind their fortifications.

Protesters hurled stones and rolled burning tyres towards the fence, and some attached cans of burning petrol to kites and flew them into Israeli territory.

 gaza

Others cleared away barbed wire coils which Israeli troops had placed in Gazan territory overnight in a bid to create a buffer zone between protesters and the fence.

The protests come at a time of growing frustration for Palestinians as prospects for an independent Palestinian state look poor. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for several years and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have expanded.

In a statement released earlier on Friday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the loss of life was “deplorable” and that a “staggering number of injuries” had been caused by live ammunition.

Israel’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment but the government has consistently said that it is protecting its borders and that its troops are following rules of engagement.

 gaza1

Named the ‘Great March of Return’, the protest action revives a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages which their families fled from, or were driven out of, when the state of Israel was created in 1948.

More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

Writing by Ori Lewis, Editing by Stephen Farrell and Raissa Kasolowsky

Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto

Middle East, Military, News, SYRIA

 https://ift.tt/eA8V8J While Syrian troops carry on their liberation of Damascus’ suburbs from radical militants with the support of Iranian troops and Shia militia detachments, the United States and Saudi Arabia are planning to take advantage of Ankara’s tacit consent and launch … Vía Global Research https://ift.tt/2r3fB6e

via Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto 

While Syrian troops carry on their liberation of Damascus’ suburbs from radical militants with the support of Iranian troops and Shia militia detachments, the United States and Saudi Arabia are planning to take advantage of Ankara’s tacit consent and launch 

Syria’s Endgame Could “Get Ugly”: Washington’s Balkanization Plan. Turkey’s Military Presence in Northern Syria — peoples trust toronto 

Vía Global Research https://ift.tt/2r3fB6e

Chemical weapons team kept from reaching alleged Syria attack site

Middle East, Politics, Power, SYRIA

AFP and AP

© Hasan Mohamed, AFP | A child runs along a street in front of clouds of smoke billowing following a reported air strike on Douma, the main town of Syria’s rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 20, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-04-16

Independent investigators were prevented by Syrian and Russian authorities Monday from reaching the scene of an alleged chemical attack near the Syrian capital, an official said.

The incident comes days after the USFrance and Britain bombarded sites they said were linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program.

The lack of access to the town of Douma by inspectors from the watchdog group, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has left questions about the April 7 attack unanswered.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

“The team has not yet deployed to Douma,” two days after arriving in Syria, Uzumcu told an executive council of the OPCW in The Hague.

Syrian authorities were offering 22 people to interview as witnesses instead, he said, adding that he hoped “all necessary arrangements will be made … to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible”.

Heather Nauert

✔@statedeptspox

Chemical weapons were used on Syrian men, women, and children in . Reports that  weapons inspectors require special @UN passes are completely false.  and  need to stop the disinformation and allow unfettered access to the attack sites.

28 soldiers handed life sentences in Turkey for participating in a failed military coup in Turkey

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics, Power

A total of 28 soldiers were handed life sentences on Tuesday in three separate cases related to a failed military coup in 2016, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The soldiers were charged with “violating and attempting to overthrow the constitution’’ in relation to incidents in Istanbul and the south-eastern towns of Mus and Sirnak during the failed putsch on July 15, 2016, according to Anadolu.

Turkey remains under a state of emergency, which was imposed after the coup attempt.

This week, the Turkish parliament will vote on extending the state of emergency by another three months, which – if completed – would mean the country has been under emergency rule for two years.

More than 50,000 people are under arrest in connection with the coup, and some 150,000 people have been purged from the civil service and the military.

(dpa/NAN)

France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

FRANCE has accused Russia of trying to cover up the Syrian poison gas attack claiming “essential evidence” has vanished. At least 70 people were killed, many of whom were little children, after aircraft’s dropped barrel bombs full of toxic chemicals in Douma on April 7. AFP or licensors France has accused Russia of trying to…

via France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

international News, Middle East, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

FRANCE has accused Russia of trying to cover up the Syrian poison gas attack claiming “essential evidence” has vanished. At least 70 people were killed, many of whom were little children, after aircraft’s dropped barrel bombs full of toxic chemicals in Douma on April 7. AFP or licensors France has accused Russia of trying to…

via France accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria poison gas attack saying ‘essential evidence’ is vanishing as investigators are blocked from site — The Sun

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

international News, Islam, Middle East, Military, SYRIA, War

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra, in Syria's central province of Homs.© DOMINIQUE DERDA/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra…AMMAN, April 17 (Reuters) – A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.

Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defenses had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.

The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.

Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying a number of air defense missiles had been fired but no foreign attack had taken place.

Separately, a commander in the regional military alliance backing the government attributed the malfunction to “a joint electronic attack” by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, said the commander, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

State television had showed pictures of a missile it said was shot in the air above the air base.

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time. Asked about reports of the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We don’t comment on such reports.”

Saturday’s strikes by the U.S., Britain and France were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian military in eastern Ghouta. Both Damascus and its ally Russia have denied using any such weapons.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Damascus and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdullah in Cairo, Yara Bayoumy in Washington and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Arab leaders meet to unify ranks with eye on Iran, Jerusalem

Middle East, SYRIA

Arab leaders meet to unify ranks with eye on Iran, Jerusalem


Billboards with photos of Saudi King Salman and Arabic that reads, “welcome” line the road to the convention center where Arab leaders are meeting for an Arab summit meeting in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, April 15, 2018. The summit opened in the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran as tensions with Iran and wars in Syria and Yemen threaten stability across the region. Salman told leaders from across the 22-member Arab League that Iran was to blame for instability and meddling in the region. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)
RABRABB
DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia used its perch as host of an annual gathering of Arab leaders on Sunday to push for a unified stance against rival Iran as the regional powerhouses vie for the upper hand in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi King Salman told leaders from across the 22-member Arab League that Iran was to blame for instability and meddling in the region. He said Yemeni rebel Houthis, backed by Iran, had fired 116 missiles at the kingdom since Saudi Arabia went to war in Yemen three years ago to try and roll back Houthi gains there.

The summit took place in the oil-rich eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, a location that may have been selected by the kingdom to avoid cross-border Houthi missile strikes that have targeted the capital, Riyadh, and southern border cities.

While locked in proxy conflicts in Yemen and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran also back opposing groups in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.

The summit this year takes place after the U.S., Britain and France launched dozens of strikes early Saturday at sites they said were linked to Syrian chemical weapons program. President Bashar Assad and his close ally, Russia, have denied government forces ever used such weapons.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said Assad’s government and “international players trying to achieve their own strategic political goals” bear responsibility for the crisis there.

“Regional interference in Arab affairs has reached an unprecedented degree. And first of these is the Iranian interference, the aim of which is not for the well-being of the Arabs or their interests,” he said.

The Saudi monarch made no reference to Syria in his remarks before Arab leaders amid divisions within the region-wide body over support for the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria. The kingdom, as well as Bahrain and Qatar, have issued statements backing Saturday’s strikes on military targets in Syria. More wary of the widening conflict are countries like Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.

A final statement by the 22-member states refrained from supporting or criticizing those strikes. The league said it condemns the use of chemical weapons, but did not lay direct blame on any one party.

Assad was not invited to the summit, though most heads of state from across the Middle East and North Africa attended the Arab League meeting, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

At the start of the summit, Aboul-Gheit lamented a lack of consensus among Arab states on regional security.

“The crises burning in some corners of the Arab world today… cast a shadow over the safety and security over the entire region,” Aboul-Gheit said. “These take a toll on the national security of all of us.”

Instead, Arab heads of state stressed unity and unwavering support for Palestinians. King Salman reiterated Saudi Arabia’s rejection of the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite the monarch’s stern words of condemnation, Saudi Arabia has strengthened ties with Washington under the Trump administration.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir defended those ties, saying “there is no contradiction” with having very strong strategic ties with the U.S. while advising against certain policies.

“The fact that we have very strong ties with the U.S. over history, and the Trump administration in particular, is a positive factor, not a negative factor in trying to help guide them towards a positive engagement in the Middle East,” al-Jubeir told reporters after the summit.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, announced at the summit a $150 million donation to the religious administration that oversees Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque— one of Islam’s holiest sites. The kingdom announced another $50 million for programs run by the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians after the U.S. slashed its aid.

The strongest criticism of the Trump administration came from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The decisions have made the United States a party to the conflict and not a neutral mediator,” Abbas said at the summit.

Saudi tensions with neighboring Qatar were on display at the summit. Qatar’s emir was not in attendance, instead dispatching his country’s Arab League representative to the meeting. While the Qatari flag was erected alongside other member-state flags on the streets of Dhahran, the country’s representative did not appear in a group photo of the top delegates in attendance.

Tensions erupted nearly a year ago when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar and imposed a de facto blockade on the small Gulf state. The four accuse Qatar of sponsoring terrorism because of its support for Islamist opposition groups in the region and its warm relations with Iran. Qatar denies the allegations and says the moves attempt to undermine its sovereignty.

The standoff with Qatar, however, did not feature in summit deliberations.

Associated Press writer Maggie Hyde in Beirut contributed to this report.

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