Posts Tagged ‘Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’

Russia To Target U.S. and Coalition Aircraft Over Syria

June 19, 2017

Russia steps up rhetoric after U.S. fighter shoots down Syrian government jet


June 19, 2017 10:33 a.m. ET

MOSCOW—Russia escalated tensions with the United States Monday, promising to actively track U.S. and coalition aircraft over Syria with air defense systems and warplanes, the country’s defense ministry said.

In a statement released Monday, the Russian military said it would treat U.S. and coalition operating west of the Euphrates Rivers as “aerial targets,” but stopped short of threatening a shootdown.

“In regions where the…



Russia warns US-led coalition over downing of Syrian jet


Defence ministry says planes flying west of Euphrates will be treated as targets and that it has suspended safety agreement with US

A US navy F/A-18 Super Hornet
The Pentagon confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday. Photograph: US DoD handout/EPA

Russia’s defence ministry has said it will treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria as a potential target, after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday.

The ministry also said it was suspending a safety agreement with Washington designed to prevent collisions and dangerous incidents in Syrian airspace.

According to the Pentagon the Syrian jet in question had dropped bombs near US partner forces involved in the fight to wrest Raqqa from Islamic State (Isis) control. It was the first such US attack on a Syrian air force plane since the start of the country’s civil war six years ago.

In an apparent attempt at deescalation, Viktor Ozerov, the chairman of the defence and security committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, described the defence ministry’s statement as a warning. “I’m sure that because of this neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions to threaten our aircraft,” he told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of direct confrontation between Russia and American aircraft.”

Ozerov said Russia will be tracking the coalition’s jets, not shooting them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may appear only if they take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft”.

The deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said the US strike “has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law.

“What is this if not an act of aggression? It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy.”

The Russian response increases the risk of an inadvertent air fight breaking out between US and Russian warplanes in the skies above Syria.

The US military confirmed that a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet had shot down a Syrian SU-22 on Sunday. The US said the Syrian jet had dropped bombs near Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who are aligned with US forces in the fight against Isis. Damascus said its plane had been on anti-Isis mission.

Col John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said there were no US forces in the immediate vicinity of the Syrian attack but that the SDF was under threat for more than two hours.

The growing risk of a direct confrontation between the US and Russia follows a decision by Donald Trump to grant his military chiefs untrammelled control of US military strategy in Syria.

Tensions have also been bubbling between Washington and Moscow over efforts to dislodge Isis from its Raqqa stronghold.

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has been pressing the US to make the removal of Isis a joint land and air operation, but discussions over Syria’s long-term political future appear to have ground to a halt, leaving the US military to operate in a political vacuum.

The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters working alongside western special forces, said it would take action to defend itself from Syrian warplanes if attacks continued.

The Trump administration has promised to improve arms supplies to the SDF after it concluded that it was the force most capable of freeing Raqqa from Isis.

In a sign of how complex the Syrian peace process has become, Russian-sponsored peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, are scheduled to resume on the same day – 10 July – as talks convened by the UN in Geneva.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced the date on Monday in the knowledge that it would coincide with the UN schedule. He also said that the UN’s Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, would take part.

A spokesman for de Mistura said “the subject is currently being discussed”.

Russia halts US aviation cooperation over downing of Syrian jet

June 19, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© Omar haj kadour, AFP | A Syrian army jet fires rockets over the village of Rahbet Khattab in Hama province on March 23, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-19

The Russian defence ministry said Monday that it was halting aviation cooperation with the United States after the US downed a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, a move one Russian official described as a clear “act of aggression”.

The Russian defence ministry said it was halting cooperation with Washington within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria, effective immediately. It also accused the United States of not using the proper communication channels before shooting down the Syrian army jet.

“The command of the coalition forces did not use the established communication channel for preventing incidents in Syrian airspace,” the ministry said, adding that Moscow “ends cooperation with the American side from June 19”.

Moreover, any coalition aircraft flying to the west of the Euphrates will be treated as targets, the defence ministry said.

“Any flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, discovered west of the Euphrates river will be tracked as aerial targets by Russia’s air defences on and above ground.”

URGENT: Russian military halts Syria sky incident prevention interactions with US as of June 19 – Moscow


@RT_comCoalition’s airborne objects in Russian Air Force’s Syria missions areas to be tracked as targets – Moscow

Voir l'image sur Twitter

Russia previously suspended the memorandum of understanding on air safety in April to protest against US airstrikes launched in response to a suspected chemical attack.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday firmly condemned the United States for shooting down the Syrian plane, calling it an “act of aggression”.

“This strike has to be seen as a continuation of America’s line to disregard the norms of international law,” Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow on Monday, the TASS news agency reported. “What is this if not an act of aggression?”

Ryabkov said the Kremlin had also warned the United States not to use force against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime Moscow ally.

A Syrian jet plane

The incident marked the first time an American fighter jet had taken down a Syrian warplane, which Washington accused of attacking US-backed fighters.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to evict the Islamic State (IS) group from its Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

>> Read more: MSF says 10,000 Syrians flee Raqqa as battle for the city nears

The Syrian jet was shot down after regime forces engaged fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance battling IS jihadists with US support, in an area close to Raqqa. The American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 around 7pm as it “dropped bombs near SDF fighters” south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.

It said that several hours earlier, regime forces had attacked the SDF in another town near Tabqa, wounding several and driving the SDF from the town.

The coalition said the Syrian warplane had been shot down “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of Coalition partnered forces”.

Syria’s army disputed the account, saying its plane was hit while “conducting a mission against the terrorist Islamic State group”.

It warned of “the grave consequences of this flagrant aggression”.

International imbroglio

The SDF entered Raqqa for the first time earlier this month and now holds four neighbourhoods in the east and west of the city.

In a further escalation of military action in Syria, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it launched a series of missiles into Syria on Sunday in revenge for deadly attacks on its capital that were claimed by the Islamic State group. It said the missiles were “in retaliation” for a June 7 attack on the parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that killed 17 people.

Assad has focused his forces further east, to the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, which is largely under IS group control and where government forces are besieged in part of the provincial capital.

Outside of coalition operations, US forces have only once directly targeted the regime – when Washington launched air strikes against an airbase it said was the launchpad for an alleged chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in April.

The Kremlin denounced those US strikes as an “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law”.

Syria’s war began in March 2011 with anti-government protests but has since spiralled into a complex and bloody conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and become a proxy war for regional powers as well as ensnaring the United States and Russia.

Interfax reported that Ryabkov and the US under secretary of state, Thomas Shannon, would meet in St Petersburg on June 23 to discuss persistent tensions in bilateral ties.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)


The Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber was shot down by an American F18 Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces north of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil)-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The US, which has special forces troops in the area, had earlier sent a warning to the Syrian military to stop targeting the forces and called on Russia to rein in its ally, but they were ignored.

Russia, which intervened militarily to back the Syrian regime in 2015,on Monday condemned the US action, saying it flouted international law.

“It is, if you like, help to those terrorists that the US is fighting against, declaring they are carrying out an anti-terrorism policy,” Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, adding it was a “dangerous escalation”.

 Image may contain: airplane

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “It is hard for me to choose any other words but these: if you [the US] can’t help you should at least not interfere. As your ‘efforts’ once again do nothing but help the militants.

“You are fighting the wrong party: it is not the Syrian army that perpetrates terror attacks in European capital cities.”

See the whole report:



Iran to Resume Financial Support to Hamas, Report Says

May 30, 2017

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard representatives met with Hamas officials in Lebanon to mend rift caused by their supporting opposite sides in Syrian civil war

Jack Khoury
May 30, 2017 2:49 PM

Image may contain: 5 people

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas military leader Yehya Al-Sinwar with the wife of slain senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza City May 11, 2017. MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

Top Hamas officials recently met in Lebanon with senior representatives of the Shi’ite Hezbollah movement and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in an effort to come to agreement on the resumption of Iranian financial assistance to Hamas, which is facing severe financial difficulties.

The parties have agreed in principle on a deal which will see Iran resume its financial aid to Hamas, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

The agreement will restore the support that Iran provided to the group prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, which caused a rift over Tehran’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hamas’ support for Sunni rebels battling against him.

Hamas, a Sunni Muslim movement, and Iran, whose citizens are almost all Shi’ites, have also agreed that Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political bureau chief, will visit Tehran shortly in an effort to resume contacts and overcome unresolved issues.

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According to Asharq al-Awsat, the Iranians had been waiting for Hamas to conclude its leadership selection process, which saw the appointment of Haniyeh as political bureau chief and of Yahya Sinwar as the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Iranians are very satisfied with Haniyeh’s appointment since Tehran is not enamored, to put it mildly, with the other contender for the post, Moussa Abu Marzouk. (At one point a recording surfaced in which Abu Marzouk accuses the Iranians of engaging in extortion in exchange for Iran’s aid to Hamas.)

In the course of the meetings in Lebanon, the Iranians have also forgone their demand that Hamas take Iran’s side in its power struggle with Saudi Arabia, the London daily added.

However, Abu Marzouk, who serves as deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, insisted on Tuesday that there has been no change in relations between Hamas and Iran and that reports of an improvement in ties are nothing more than a media invention. Ties between Hamas and Tehran had never been severed, he added.

It should be noted that Asharq al-Awsat, which cited Palestinian sources in its report, is a Saudi-owned publication and has an interest in disclosing the reported meetings even if the rapprochement between Hamas and Iran is not an entirely new development. At a major Hamas event in Gaza two years ago, which included a military parade, a spokesman for the organization’s military wing thanked Iran for its assistance and support. The mention was an indication of the beginning of a thaw in relations that had soured over the Syrian war and triggered Hamas moving its Damascus offices to Doha in Qatar.

Among other signs of improved relations are positive comments by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Iranian President Hassan Rohani this week about cooperation between Qatar and Iran, coming just after the summit of U.S. President Donald Trump and Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the message was largely anti-Iranian.

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which had a patron in Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, but he was deposed by Egypt’s current president Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who has curtailed the Brotherhood’s influence.

Hamas is in desperate need of outside assistance and Iran could be a central pillar of such support. In Hamas and in the Gaza Strip as a whole, there is an acute awareness of what Iranian support could mean for the organization’s relations with countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as with the international community.

These developments follow the adoption of Hamas’ new policy platform last month, in which the movement sought to present itself as more moderate. The sense among officials in Gaza is that the ties with Tehran will be left vague and will be based mainly on military assistance.

Jack Khoury
read more:

Aleppo: A complete meltdown of humanity after America refuses to impose consequences for “Red Line”

December 16, 2016
December 14, 2016 at 7:00 PM
Washinton Post

THE BATTLE for Aleppo is ending in catastrophe, both for the tens of thousands of people who have been besieged there and for the future of Syria. On Wednesday, Syrian government and Iranian-led Shiite militia forces renewed attacks on the last rebel-held streets of the city, shredding a promise to allow a peaceful evacuation. According to the United Nations, the pro-government forces have been executing civilians in the street or in their homes — including, on Monday, at least 11 women and 13 children. Thousands of men have been rounded up and gang-pressed into the Syrian army, or dispatched to an unknown but likely terrible fate. The United Nations’ term for this nightmare was apt: “A complete meltdown of humanity.”

The meltdown has several dimensions. One is the utter disrespect for the laws of war by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies. These forces systematically destroyed hospitals, including pediatric facilities; decimated civilian housing with bunker-buster bombs and chlorine gas; and refused to allow food or humanitarian aid of any kind into the besieged districts of the city. Aleppo represents “the death of respect for international law and the rules of war,” David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary who now heads the International Rescue Committee, was quoted as saying . It sets a horrific precedent for conflicts in the 21st century.

The fall of Aleppo also means the elimination of any prospect in the foreseeable future for the end of Syria’s war or the waves of refugees and international terrorism it is generating. The Assad regime, which represents the minority Alawite sect, is unlikely ever to reestablish control over all of Syria, even with Russian and Iranian help. Even as it was crushing Aleppo, where Western-backed forces were based, it allowed the Islamic State to recapture the city of Palmyra. But the regime now will have no incentive to negotiate a peace settlement with the Sunni majority or Kurdish community. The likely result is years more of war and a steady stream of recruits for Sunni terrorist movements that target the West as well as Damascus.

Above all, Aleppo represents a meltdown of the West’s moral and political will — and in particular, a collapse of U.S. leadership. By refusing to intervene against the Assad regime’s atrocities, or even to enforce the “red line” he declared on the use of chemical weapons, President Obama created a vacuum that was filled by Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. As recently as October, Mr. Obama set aside options drawn up by his advisers to save Aleppo. Instead, he supported the delusional diplomacy of Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose endless appeals to Moscow for cease-fires yielded — as Mr. Putin no doubt intended — nothing more than a humiliating display of American weakness.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama’s U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, delivered an impassioned denunciation of the Aleppo carnage, which she said would “join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later.” She excoriated the Assad regime, Russia and Iran but offered no acknowledgment that the stain of Aleppo extends also to her, the president and American honor. Those who will live with the long-term consequences of the Syrian catastrophe are unlikely to be so forgiving.

We at Peace and Freedom believe President Obama’s refusal to enforce his “Red Line” for chemical weapons use in Syria resulted in:

–Hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded.

–Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, many of whom died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

–The almost total destruction of many areas of Syria.

–A global loss of faith in America by America’s allies.

–A reinforced belief in American weakness and lack of resolve in the minds of the leaders of Russia, China, Iran and other nations.

President Obama, by refusing to exact consequences for his “red line” threat, changed the global strategic balance toward Mr. Putin and Russia and Mr. Xi in China. The U.S. has not yet recovered from the damage.

Iran says its new attack drone was based on captured “stealth” US aircraft

October 3, 2016

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard unveiled a new attack drone which is similar to a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle captured five years ago and is capable of carrying bombs, state media reported on Saturday.

The drone, called the “Saegheh,” or Thunderbolt, was unveiled at an expo showcasing the latest achievements by the Revolutionary Guard.

“This long-range drone is capable of hitting four targets with smart precision-guided bombs with high accuracy,” the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace arm, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA,Reuters reported.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency said the drone is similar to the RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone used by the U.S. Iran’s state-run Press TV said the long-range drone can carry four precision-guided bombs.

Military officials did not demonstrate the drone’s abilities and did not say what range it had.

Iran claimed to have shot down an RQ-170 drone used by the Central Intelligence Agency in December 2011 and broadcast footage of the recovered aircraft. It also claims to have captured three American ScanEagle drones.

Iran said last year that it had successfully tested its replica of the RQ-170.

Also on Saturday, Tasnim published photos of what it said was a U.S.-made MQ-1C drone captured recently by the Guard. The news agency did not say when or how the drone was captured.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Iranian Commander Threatens to Close Strait of Hormuz to US

May 4, 2016

The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Iranian forces will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to the United States and its allies if they “threaten” the Islamic Republic, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday.

The comments by Gen. Hossein Salami, carried on state television, follow a long history of both rhetoric and confrontation between Iran and the U.S. over the narrow strait, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes.

Gen. Hossein Salami

The remarks by the acting commander of the Guard also follow those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who on Monday criticized U.S. activities in the Persian Gulf. It’s unclear whether that signals any new Iranian concern over the strait or possible confrontation with the U.S. following its nuclear deal with world powers.

In his remarks, Salami said that “Americans should learn from recent historical truths,” likely referring to the January capture of 10 U.S. sailors who entered Iranian waters. The sailors were released less than a day later, though state TV aired footage of the sailors on their knees with their hands on their heads.

“If the Americans and their regional allies want to pass through the Strait of Hormuz and threaten us, we will not allow any entry,” Salami said, without elaborating on what he and other leaders would consider a threat.

He added: “Americans cannot make safe any part of the world.”

Lt. Rick Chernitzer, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said American sailors “continue to operate in accordance with professional maritime standards and international law” in the Persian Gulf region.

“We remain thoughtful, vigilant and responsible mariners as we conduct our operations here,” Chernitzer said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We do, however, reserve the inherent right to self-defense.”

The U.S. and Iran have a long history of confrontations in the Persian Gulf. They even fought a one-day naval battle on April 18, 1988, after the near-sinking of the missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts by an Iranian mine. That day, U.S. forces attacked two Iranian oil rigs and sank or damaged six Iranian vessels.

A few months later, in July 1988, the USS Vincennes in the strait mistook an Iran Air flight heading to Dubai for an attacking fighter jet, shooting down the plane and killing all 290 people aboard.

U.S. Navy officials say they face near-daily encounters with Iranian naval vessels. In January, an unarmed Iranian drone flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, the first since 2014, according to Navy records obtained by the AP.

The U.S. has also criticized what it called a “highly provocative” Iranian rocket test in December near its warships and commercial traffic. Iran said it has the right to conduct tests in the strait and elsewhere in Gulf.

Iran also sank a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier near the strait in February 2015 and has said it is testing “suicide drones” that could attack ships.


Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

After missile tests, U.N. urges Iran to act with restraint — Obama tells Iran and Saudi Arabia to kiss and make up

March 10, 2016

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reacted to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests by urging Tehran to act with moderation and restraint and to avoid increasing regional tensions, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday.

“In the current political atmosphere in the Middle East region, and so soon after the positive news of the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the secretary-general calls … Iran to act with moderation, caution and the good sense not to increase tensions through hasty actions,” Dujarric told reporters.

A series of ballistic missile tests this week conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard units drew international concern. The United States, France and other countries said that if confirmed, of launches nuclear-capable ballistic missiles would be a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Iranian Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh

Dujarric noted that it is up to the 15-nation council to examine issues related to resolution 2231, which calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The United States has said Iran’s missile tests do not violate the terms of an historic nuclear deal between Tehran and six major powers, which resolution 2231, adopted in July 2015, endorsed. The U.N. missile restrictions and an arms embargo on Iran are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.

Council diplomats say they will first await confirmation from national intelligence agencies about whether the missiles Iran has fired were nuclear-capable. They also say that Russia and China, which opposed the continuation of restrictions on Iran’s missile program, would likely block council action.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the tests were not in violation of the nuclear agreement, which led to lifting of sanctions in January.

Western diplomats say resolution 2231, which “calls upon” Iran to refrain from certain ballistic missile activity, offers no green light for nuclear-capable missile launches by Tehran and is therefore a clear ban.

However, they acknowledge that Russia, China and Iran likely interpret that language as an appeal to Iran to voluntarily refrain from missile activity. Tehran has also said that none of its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.

While no new U.N. sanctions may be imminent, Western diplomats say that the United States and some of its allies could take additional punitive action in the form of unilateral national sanctions against Iran over the latest missile launches, something Washington has done previously.

When U.N. sanctions on Iran were lifted in January, the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee was shut down. But council diplomats said they expect the former chair of that now-defunct committee, Spain, will take on the task of overseeing the monitoring of Tehran’s compliance with resolution 2231.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, editing by Michelle Nichols and Alan Crosby)


Saudi Arabia, Iran must shape ‘cold peace,’ Obama says

World | Thu Mar 10, 2016 11:18am EST


Wars and chaos in the Middle East will not end until Saudi Arabia and Iran can find a way to “share the neighborhood” and make some kind of peace, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a magazine interview released on Thursday.

“The competition between the Saudis and the Iranians, which has helped to feed proxy wars and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Yemen, requires us to say to our friends, as well as to the Iranians, that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace,” Obama told The Atlantic.

In a wide ranging interview on foreign policy, Obama also put a share of the blame for the crisis in Libya on Washington’s European allies. Libya is embroiled in political chaos after its 2011 uprising and facing a security vacuum and a growing threat from Islamic State.

“When I go back and I ask myself what went wrong, there’s room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya’s proximity, being invested in the follow-up,” Obama said. The Obama administration withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq but has grappled with years of Middle East turmoil since the Arab Spring uprising. Obama, in his final year in the White House, said there were limits on how far the United States could police the region.

“You have countries that are failing to provide prosperity and opportunity for their people. You’ve got a violent, extremist ideology, or ideologies, that are turbocharged through social media,” he said. “You’ve got countries that have very few civic traditions, so that as autocratic regimes start fraying, the only organizing principles are sectarian.”

On Syria, now in its fifth year of civil war, Obama defended his decision not to launch strikes there in 2013, despite concerns over President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Critics have seen that as a missed opportunity that might have helped bring an end to the war.

“For me to push the pause button at that moment, I knew, would cost me politically,” he said. “I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make.”

He also discussed Russia, which has increased its role in the Middle East by staking out a role in Syria and infuriating Washington with its support of Assad, who the United States and other Western nations have said must leave power.

On Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama said the two have “very businesslike” meetings, adding: “He understands that Russia’s overall position in the world is significantly diminished.”

The Atlantic article is at

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry)


Diplomats struggling to make progress in Syria at Munich conference

February 13, 2016

Feb 13, 2016, 8:47 AM ET

Diplomats from a dozen countries, led by the United States and Russia, are struggling to make progress in Syria, even as fighting in the north sends tens of thousands fleeing and threatens a deepening humanitarian crisis. Next month, Syria’s civil war will reach the end of its fifth year, and its consequences continue to reach new and disastrous levels.

An AP News Guide to the latest events:


No. The U.S. and Russia and other nations agreed to try to work for a less ambitious goal: a pause in fighting or “cessation of hostilities,” within a week. And even that vague formula will be difficult to pull off.

Moscow and Washington disagree over which armed factions would be covered under the cessation. Russia says it and its ally, the Syrian government, will continue to hit “terrorists,” by which they mean not just the Islamic State group and al-Qaida’s branch, the Nusra Front, but also a number of rebel factions opposing President Bashar Assad and backed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. So that would effectively mean fighting would continue on many fronts even if a cessation is declared.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lashed out at Moscow on Saturday, accusing it of “repeated aggression” in Syria and saying its warplanes were mainly targeting “legitimate opposition groups.” Kerry insisted the conflict would not end without Assad’s removal from power, a non-starter for the Syrian government and its allies.


Even as the diplomats debate in Europe, the shape of the battlefield is shifting rapidly. For two weeks, government forces have been on an offensive in the north, gaining ground in trying to encircle the rebel-held half of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war. The campaign has been helped by heavy Russian airstrikes, along with fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The fall of the rebel-held side of Aleppo would be the biggest blow to the opposition since the war began — and rebels believe Russia wants the fighting to continue as long as possible to allow troops to encircle and besiege the city. They’re almost there: After capturing a string of villages to the north, including Tamoura on Saturday, government forces are poised to target the rebels’ last remaining supply route to Turkey.

At least 300,000 people remain in the eastern, rebel-held half of Aleppo and face being cut off from aid. Tens of thousands have been fleeing the violence, compounding the humanitarian crisis.


The nations gathered in Munich agreed to accelerate humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian communities beginning this week. More than 1 million Syrians are estimated to be in towns and districts that have been blockaded for weeks or months, either by government forces or the rebels.

It is not clear how much aid will make it through without a real stop in combat — and each warring side must agree to open the way for the deliveries.


More than 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011. Large parts of cities like Aleppo and Homs and suburbs outside of Damascus have been blasted into concrete husks by years of bombardment.

Half of Syria’s prewar population of 22 million has been driven from their homes by the war, and the numbers continue to swell. Some 6.6 million have fled to other parts of Syria, and more than 4.6 million have left the country, overwhelming its neighbors, especially Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

A half-million Syrians were among the 1 million refugees who flowed into Europe in 2015, the biggest migration seen on the continent since World War II. Thousands continue to make the dangerous sea journey to Greece, hoping to find new lives in Europe.

The crisis has enflamed tensions among European Union members and beyond. Turkish leaders this week accused the EU of hypocrisy for pressuring them to both take in more Syrians and block them from entering Europe. Turkey already hosts some 2.5 million Syrians and said it is reaching the end of its capacity to take more, but tens of thousands fleeing the Aleppo fighting are massed on its border seeking to enter.


With diplomats struggling to halt the fighting even temporarily, chances for a negotiated peace seem further than ever. All those players — directly or by proxy — complicate those efforts and make it effectively a regional war.

Assad is backed by his top allies: Russia, which began airstrikes against rebels in September, and Iran, which has given Damascus weapons and money and has sent its Revolutionary Guard forces to bolster his overstretched military. Also helping are Hezbollah guerrillas and Iraqi Shiite militias, which have been indispensable for battlefield victories.

The rebels get support from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The U.S. also backs some factions, but its efforts to train and arm an effective “moderate” rebel force have repeatedly floundered. Washington’s emphasis has been more on fighting the Islamic State group, using an air campaign against the militants for more than a year in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State group has taken over a swath of Syria from the east up to the northwest, linked to its territory in neighboring Iraq. But it has lost ground in both countries because of airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition and advances by Kurdish fighters.

The diplomacy is caught between the interests of those players. Moscow appears determined to help push Assad toward victory, or at least an improved position. The U.S. is caught between its priority of fighting IS and its allies’ priority of bringing down Assad. Few seem willing to bend.

Saudi Arabia has talked of sending ground troops into Syria, and on Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted by local media as saying Ankara and Riyadh may mount a joint ground operation against IS in Syria. Syria’s government has warned that any foreign ground troops entering the country would return home in “coffins.”

Bahrain Arrests 5 Bombing Suspects Allegedly Linked to Iran

August 13, 2015

The Associate Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain’s chief of police says five suspects with links to Iran have been arrested in connection with a bombing last month that killed two police and wounded six others.

Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan says investigators have connected the suspects to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as the Iranian-armed and funded Lebanese Hezbollah group.

The statement by Bahrain’s Interior Ministry was carried by the state-run news agency Thursday. The July 28 bombing targeted a bus carrying policemen near a primary school south of the capital in an area called Sitra.

Bahrain has faced years of clashes between anti-government activists and police following widespread 2011 protests that were led by its Shiite majority calling for greater political rights from the Sunni-led monarchy.


Obama hoping for kind legacy, gets delusional: Because of Me, “The U.S. is the most respected country on earth”

June 2, 2015


Says he wishes critics were less harsh on his policies

– The Washington Times

President Obama, who usually avoids discussions of his legacy, told an audience at the White House Monday that he hopes he’ll be remembered “fondly” and that some of his critics are “terribly unfair.”

The president’s self-evaluation came during a town hall meeting with a group of about 75 young Southeast Asian leaders. When one of them asked how he wants the world to remember him, the president responded with a smile, “Fondly, I hope.”

“Obviously there are things that I’ve been proud of,” Mr. Obama said, citing the recovery from the recession when he took office in 2009. He said U.S. leadership helped to avert a deeper crisis worldwide.

“It was hard, but we ended up avoiding a terrible depression,” the president said. “That’s an important legacy for me.”

Mr. Obama said many of the criticisms about him are too harsh, but added that people have a right to say what they think.

“As I always point out, democracy is hard,” Mr. Obama said. “I think many of the things said about me are terribly unfair. But the reason American democracy has survived so long is because people, even if they are wrong, have the right to say what they think.”

He told the group, “George Washington, our first president, complained terribly about some of the foolishness that was said about him.”

In this Dec. 8, 2011, file photo, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hands off her mobile phone after arriving to meet with Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague, Netherlands. Clinton emailed her staff on an iPad as well as a BlackBerry while secretary of state, despite her explanation that she exclusively used a personal email address on a homebrew server so she could carry a single device, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool/File)

Netanyahu and Obama. Reuters photo October 1, 2014

The president mentioned Obamacare as an achievement for which he’ll be remembered. But he devoted most of his thoughts to his foreign policy legacy.

“Today, the U.S. is the most respected country on earth,” Mr. Obama said. “We have put our international relationships on very strong footing.”

The lessons of his presidency, still 18 months from its completion, are under increasing attack from Republican candidates running for president. One of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, launched his presidential campaign Monday by saying, “Barack Obama has made us less safe.”

“Simply put, radical Islam is running wild,” Mr. Graham said. “They have more safe havens, more money, more capability and more weapons to strike our homeland than any time since 9/11.”

Mr. Obama also told the young Asian leaders, “It’s important for America to realize we are not perfect either.”

“So we have to make sure we are constantly seeing how we improve our democracy,” Mr. Obama said. “The amounts of money, for example, that are involved in our elections these days [are] disturbing, because it makes it seem like a few people have a greater influence in the democracy than the many.”

The president also gave his audience a minilecture on how to succeed in politics, describing how he rose to the presidency from lowly beginnings as a community organizer in Chicago.

“One of my core principles is that I will never engage in politics in which I’m trying to divide people or make them less than me,” Mr. Obama said. “I think those are the people who eventually end up having successful careers, because people sense that integrity and leadership . Unfortunately, too many politicians are just climbing the ladder, but they don’t know why. You have to stand for something.”



On Tuesday, President Obama hosted a discussion at the White House with a group of 75 young Southeast Asian Leaders on themes of civic engagement, environment and natural resources management and entrepreneurship. The group is the first cohort from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellows Program.

In a a question and answer session that took place, the president was asked how he would like the world to remember him. He said that he wants Americans to know that America once again became “the most respected country on earth” under his watch.

“People don’t remember, when I came into office, the United States in world opinion ranked below China, barely above Russia,” Obama said. “And today, once again, the United States is the most respected country on earth, and part of that I think is because of the work that we did to reengage the world and say that we want to work with you as partners, with mutual interests and mutual respect.”

See video:


Krauthammer Rips Obama on America’s Global Standing; ‘You Wonder…What Planet He’s Living on’ 

By Curtis Houck

Appearing on the Monday edition of The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer and host Bill O’Reilly tore into President Obama for stating that the U.S. is now “the most respected country on Earth” thanks to his administration with Krauthammer openly wondering “what planet he’s living on.” Following a soundbite of Obama speaking earlier on Monday at the White House, O’Reilly expressed his clear disagreement by declaring that: “No, we’re not respected by Putin, we’re not respected by ISIS and other terrorists, so I don’t know what he is referring to.”

When O’Reilly turned to Krauthammer for comment, the syndicated columnist began by stating his confusion with the President’s statement before proceeding to blast him for asserting that the U.S. is currently “the most respected country on Earth” [emphasis mine]:

You wonder what world, what planet he’s living on and it’s not just as you enumerated, our enemies who have respect for us. The Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians of course, ISIS, you can go all the way down. It is our allies. You think the Ukrainians respect us? Or the Pols? The Lithuanians? How about the Saudis? How about the Bahrainis? The King of Bahrain was supposed to come to the summit in Camp David with the President of the United States. He stiffs the President and foreign ministry of Bahrain issues a statement saying that on that day, where was the king? At a horse show in England. Now, if that’s a sign of respect, we’ve got problems. 

Continuing on that subject, Krauthammer raised another example in the form of Egypt where “[f]or the first time in 40 years, he goes to Moscow, looking for assistance and for weapons” after the U.S. had long held “a monopoly in that area” that’s now been replaced with “a revulsion against the United States because we have checked out under Obama.” 

Krauthammer finished that thought by stating that Egypt serves as one of many “allies who’ve depended on us for so long are finding themselves left hanging in the wind.”

Turning to unrest in liberal American cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and New York City, O’Reilly asked Krauthammer whether he was correct in observing that, despite the increase in both crime and murder rates in those cities, “there doesn’t seem to be a collective outrage among Americans yet about all of this deterioration.” 

Agreeing with that statement, Krauthammer explained that “[t]his is a gradual process” as “[p]eople got used to the miracles that Giuliani, Bloomberg have brought with the broken windows policing and they are not quite experiencing the crash that is coming” before going on to diagnose what he and many others to be a “police strike” in certain American cities.

To further explain the deterioration, Krauthammer linked it back to Obama and his handling of foreign policy:

It was predictable when he started in 2009 but the effects take time. The reason that the country is beginning to realize how – what kind of distress we are in in our position abroad is because it takes time. Shows itself, in Ukraine, in the South China Sea. Shows itself with ISIS and beheading of Americans. It shows itself over time. That same thing is going to happen in the cities.



The relevant portions of the transcript from FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor on June 1 can be found below.

FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor
June 1, 2015
8:14 p.m. Eastern


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: People don’t remember, when I came into office, the United States, in world opinion, ranked below China and just barely above Russia and today, once again, the United States is the most respected country on Earth and part of that, I think, is because of the work we did to reengage the world.


BILL O’REILLY: No, we’re not respected by Putin, we’re not respected by ISIS and other terrorists, so I don’t know what he is referring to. Now Charles, who joins us from Washington. He’s the author of the book Things of That Matter, now out in paperback. Great Father’s Day gift. Charles knows that throughout the last ten days or so, I’ve been doing the big picture on how things are going south in the USA, here, domestically, and overseas and that’s the theme of the first part of this program tonight. You saw in three major cities, Chicago, New York, and Baltimore, it is absolute carnage now. 50 people a weekend getting shot, dead. Nothing being done, alright? And overseas, it is almost even worse over there. So, President Obama says things are great. What do you say?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: He says we’re the most respected country in the world once again. You wonder what world, what planet he’s living on and it’s not just as you enumerated, our enemies who have respect for us. The Chinese, the Russians, the Iranians of course, ISIS, you can go all the way down. It is our allies. You think the Ukrainians respect us? Or the Poles? The Lithuanians? How about the Saudis? How about the Bahrainis? The King of Bahrain was supposed to come to the summit in Camp David with the President of the United States. He stiffs the President and foreign ministry of Bahrain issues a statement saying that on that day, where was the king? At a horse show in England. Now, if that’s a sign of respect, we’ve got problems.

O’REILLY: And Israel as well. They’ve – big, big problems.

KRAUTHAMMER: That goes without saying – look at Egypt. Where did the president of Egypt go several months ago? For the first time in 40 years, he goes to Moscow, looking for assistance and for weapons. We had a monopoly in that area of influence and that is not only gone and dissipated, but there’s been a revulsion against the United States because we have checked out under Obama and these allies who’ve depended on us for so longer are finding themselves left hanging in the wind.

O’REILLY: Alright, now, we can see it, you and me and I think most Factor viewers who live in New York or Chicago or Baltimore certainly, we can see it right before our eyes. Rahm Emmanuel, Democrat Mayor of Chicago, re-elected, despite all of the dead bodies. I mean, this has been going on for years under his administration. He hasn’t improved it one iota. He’s re-elected, okay? President Obama gets up there. Oh, hey, everything is good overseas, don’t worry about it. His party’s not outraged. Here in New York, De Blasio, yeah, his approval rating isn’t going down, but there doesn’t seem to be a collective outrage among Americans yet about all of this deterioration or am I wrong?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think you’re right, there is no outrage. This is gradual process. People got used to the miracles that Giuliani, Bloomberg have brought with the broken windows policing and they are not quite experiencing the crash that is coming, but essentially what you have in New York and Baltimore and other places is a police strike. It is not announced, probably isn’t even organized, but a cop who feels that he doesn’t have the Governor, the mayor and the attorney general behind him isn’t going wade into a crowd of hostile people to uphold the abstraction of the law.


This is pretty obvious and the effect of these things – it’s like the effect of Obama’s withdraw of foreign policy. It was predictable when he started in 2009 but the effects take time. The reason that the country is beginning to realize how – what kind of distress we are in in our position abroad is because it takes time. Shows itself, in Ukraine, in the South China Sea.


Shows itself with ISIS and beheading of Americans. It shows itself over time. That same thing is going to happen in the cities. I think if that De Blasio, if this continues over this trajectory, will not have an easy time. I don’t think he’s going to have a chance at reelection.


President Obama speaking at the White House summit on countering violent extremism on Feb. 19. This summit was mostly about not using the word Islamic… Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Photo: Diplomacy at work.

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012. Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest. The U/S. State Department attributed the unrest to a video produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Hong Kong police use pepper spray on October 16, 2014. Reuters Photo by Carlos Barria

Hong Kong police rain down tear gas on pro-democracy protesters, September 27, 2014. AP Photo by Wally Santana

The world’s longest lasting democracy sure has been quiet about the world moving toward less democratic systems of government.

President Obama kisses Myanmar democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit there. One wonders if there is any gain for being a friend to America there days. Or is this the “kiss of death”? Aung San Suu Kyi has been marginalized in Myanmar since Obama came to town…

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra toast during a official dinner as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks on from right at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.

Remember this from April 2014? From left: Michelle Obama, Cara Delevingne and Malala Yousafzai call for the release of the girls during the “hashtag campaign”

Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant leader Abubakar Shekau

Islamic State (IS) map of the world


'GOOD SAMARITANS': The State Department had to wait for confirmation that Stevens was dead because LIbyan bystanders had taken his lifeless body to a hospital 
Ambassador Chris Stevens — Killed in Benghazi