Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

US-backed forces take Raqa hospital from IS holdouts

October 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Gihad Darwish with Maya Gebeily in Kobane | Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces celebrate at the frontline in the Islamic State (IS) group’s crumbling stronghold of Raqa on October 16, 2017

RAQA (SYRIA) (AFP) – US-backed forces said Tuesday they had retaken the main hospital in Syria’s Raqa from the Islamic State group, leaving the jihadists to make a last stand around the city’s stadium.The capture of the state hospital brought the Syrian Democratic Forces closer to completing their conquest of Raqa, a northern city that was once the de facto capital of IS-held territory.

“The national hospital was liberated and… 22 foreign mercenaries were killed,” the SDF said. “Clashes continue with great intensity near the municipal stadium.”

The jihadists also suffered setbacks Tuesday in the eastern Syrian region of Deir Ezzor, where Russian-backed regime forces retook swathes of territory, further reducing a “caliphate” that three years ago was roughly the size of Britain.

In Raqa, only about 300 IS fighters, mostly foreigners, were believed to remain in the last neighbourhoods still out of the control of the SDF, a Kurdish-Arab alliance supported by the US-led coalition battling IS in Syria and Iraq.

The retaking of the hospital followed Monday’s seizure by the SDF of an infamous roundabout used by the jihadists for public beheadings and crucifixions.

The Al-Naim traffic circle had been dubbed the “Roundabout of Hell” by residents under IS’s more than three years of rule over the city.

As the sun was setting over Raqa’s west Monday, a group of fighters gathered for the dabkeh — the jumpy line dance traditional in the Middle East — to celebrate their native city’s near-recapture.

Three months after Iraqi forces retook Iraq’s Mosul, the largest city the jihadist group controlled, the loss of Raqa will be another nail in the coffin of IS’s brutal experiment in statehood.

Image result for Al-Naim traffic circle, photos

– End of battle –

The breakthrough in the operation to retake Raqa, which was launched on June 6, came after a deal was struck allowing the evacuation in recent days of civilians who had been held as human shields.

Under the deal, a total of 275 Syrian IS fighters and relatives also surrendered to the SDF, though it was unclear whether they would be given safe passage elsewhere.

The final phase of the Raqa battle was launched on Sunday after a last batch of haggard-looking civilians was able to escape the devastated city.

The SDF said it may achieve full victory in Raqa very soon, but stressed that fierce fighting was still under way near the stadium.

“The end of the battle is fast approaching, maybe today or tomorrow,” SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP.

After IS captured Raqa in 2014, the city become synonymous with the jihadist group’s worst abuses and was transformed into a planning centre for attacks abroad.

After Raqa, anti-IS efforts will focus on Deir Ezzor province, where the jihadists still control areas around the town of Mayadeen, part of provincial capital Deir Ezzor, as well as several villages and remote desert areas.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that regime forces had brought the entire area stretching between Deir Ezzor and Mayadeen under their control following a major military offensive.

“These are not desert areas, they are villages along the Euphrates (river) that were IS strongholds,” the Britain-based monitoring group said.

“The Islamic State group is collapsing under pressure from the regime in Deir Ezzor province,” it said.

IS also controls territory in neighbouring regions on the Iraqi side of the border, where they are facing another US-backed offensive by Iraqi pro-government forces.

by Gihad Darwish with Maya Gebeily in Kobane
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Israeli Air Force Destroys Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery in Retaliatory Strike

October 16, 2017
BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 OCTOBER 16, 2017 12:35

The SA-5 missile battery, which was stationed some 50 kilometers east of the Syrian capital, fired at Israeli jets that were on a routine aerial reconnaissance flight in Lebanese airspace.

Israeli f-16 fighter jet

Israeli f-16 fighter jet. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The Israeli Air Force attacked and destroyed a Syrian SA-5 anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus Monday morning after it fired a surface-to-air missile at Israeli jets.

The SA-5 missile battery, which was stationed some 50 kilometers east of the Syrian capital, fired at Israeli jets that were on a routine aerial reconnaissance flight in Lebanese airspace, IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ronen Manelis stated.

“We see the Syrian regime as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation, and it will not be accepted,” Manelis stated, adding that while Israel has no intention to enter into the civil war in Syria, Israel will react to all provocations.

Manelis told journalists that Russia was updated about the incident, in which no Israeli jets were harmed, in real time, and that it will be brought up during the visit of the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu who is set to land in Israel in the coming hours.
Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, and officials from Israel and Russia meet regularly to discuss the deconfliction mechanism system implemented over Syria to prevent accidental clashes between the two militaries.

Shoigu will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other senior officials to discuss the Jewish State’s ongoing concerns regarding Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah by Tehran through Damascus.

Israel rarely comments on foreign reports of military activity in Syria but has publicly admitted to having struck over 500 Hezbollah targets in Syria, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that strikes will continue when “we have information and operational feasibility.”

During an IAF operation in March to strike a Hezbollah arms convoy in Syria, regime air defense fired three surface-to-air missiles towards IAF jets. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the war in Syria began six years ago.

Following that incident, Liberman warned against any further launching of missiles by the Syrian regime, threatening to destroy all Syrian air defenses.

 http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israeli-air-force-destroys-Syrian-anti-aircraft-battery-in-retaliatory-strike-507547

US-backed forces in toughest Raqa fighting yet

October 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) take a position inside a building on the eastern frontline of Raqa on October 5, 2017

BEIRUT (AFP) – The US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance fighting to wrest the Syrian city of Raqa from the Islamic State group was engaged Monday in its toughest fighting yet, a spokeswoman said.”The Syrian Democratic Forces are currently waging their toughest battles yet,” said Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, spokeswoman for the operation launched in early June to retake IS’s one-time de facto Syrian capital.

An estimated 300 diehard jihadists holding no more than 10 percent of the eastern city were bracing for a bloody last stand after the weekend evacuation of most civilians set the stage for the SDF’s final assault.

The latest fighting “will bring an end to Daesh’s presence, meaning they can choose between surrendering and dying,” Sheikh Ahmed told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The jihadists are trapped and the outcome of the battle is in no doubt but flushing out a group of mostly foreign fighters who have nothing to lose and who had months to prepare remains a perilous task.

“The IS elements that are still there are resisting,” the spokeswoman said, adding that the neighbourhoods where fighting is under way “are fortified and heavily mined areas.”

 

U.S.-allied forces begin final assault on Islamic State in Syria’s Raqqa

October 16, 2017
By Bassem Mroue
Associated Press
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U.S.-backed Syrian fighters launched an operation to retake the last Islamic State-held pocket of the northern city of Raqqa on Sunday after some 275 militants and their family members surrendered.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the operation will continue “until all the city is cleansed from terrorists who refused to surrender.”

The SDF has been on the offensive in Raqqa since early June and now controls about 90 percent of the city that was once the extremist group’s self-styled capital. Most of the fighters who remain in the pocket are foreigners, according to the SDF and opposition activists.

The operation was named after Adnan Abu Amjad, an Arab commander with the SDF who was killed in August while fighting against IS in central Raqqa.

The loss of Raqqa would hand another major blow to IS, which has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. Iraqi forces captured the northern Iraqi city of Mosul — the largest ever held by the extremist group — in July, and Syrian government forces retook the eastern Syrian city of Mayadeen, near the border with Iraq, on Saturday.

IS still holds parts of Syria’s Deir el-Zour province and Iraq’s Anbar province, as well as small, scattered pockets elsewhere.

On Saturday, the U.S.-led coalition and local officials said Syrian IS fighters and civilians would be allowed to leave Raqqa, but not foreign fighters. The evacuation appeared aimed at sparing the lives of civilians being used as human shields. As of last week, around 4,000 civilians were believed to still be in the city.

The SDF said the initiative by local tribesmen and members of the Raqqa Civil Council “succeed in evacuating civilians who were still in the city and the surrender of 275 local mercenaries and their families.” It added that the ongoing offensive aims to “end the presence of mercenaries of the terrorist organization inside the city.”

Saudi View of Donald Trump’s New Policy on Iran “Identical To That of Israel”

October 15, 2017
BY BEN LYNFIELD
 OCTOBER 15, 2017 16:34

King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against Iran.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Emba

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks at a briefing with reporters at the Saudi Embassy in London, Britain. (photo credit:REUTERS / HANNAH MCKAY)

Saudi Arabia’s reaction to US President Donald Trump’s more confrontational posture toward Tehran was strikingly similar to Israel’s, highlighting the two countries’ common desire for a more determined American effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.

On Saturday, King Salman praised Trump in a phone call for his “firm strategy” against “Iranian aggression and its support for terrorism in the region,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran,” the Agency added.

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IRGC

The report followed an announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Friday, also praising Trump for the same reasons, saying the US president “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”

Since Trump’s election, the Saudis had been hoping for a tougher American stand on Tehran, which they view as a great and growing threat to their interests.

In May, the Saudis gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal, his sanctioning of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and his vow to stand against Iran’s fueling of “conflict, terror and turmoil” are seen by the Saudis as initial crystallization of the more assertive — some would say, aggressive, approach they had hoped for.

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The Trump speech was music to the ears of Abdul-Rahman Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He echoed Netanyahu’s choice of the word “courageous” to describe Trump’s approach.

“It’s a correct beginning for regional corrections or at least stopping the creeping of Iran,” he wrote of the speech in Asharq al-Awsat Saturday.

“The project of Iran is expansive and it wants to have hegemony over the region. It is not only building its nuclear capability for defensive purposes,” Rashed wrote.

“Iran is waging destructive military wars every day in the region. All of them are expansionist activities,” he added.

In the view of Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East specialist at Haifa University, “what the Saudis want from the US is what we Israelis want: to lean hard on Iran, to make sure they don’t cheat and find ways to bypass the nuclear agreement to develop nuclear weapons — to not allow them to develop long range ballistic missiles unhindered and to confront them on their support of terror and subversion.”

“The Saudis feel that Trump’s assertive speech is a signal that the US is prepared to do something on these three things critical to the Saudi perception of national security. Their view is quite identical to what we Israelis feel about things on the agenda,” Ben-Dor said.

The Saudis are worried about Iranian subversion across the region: in Yemen, where Riyadh has gotten bogged down in its war with Iranian-backed Houthi forces; in Syria, where growing Iranian influence threatens Saudi allies; and in Bahrain, where there are outbreaks of unrest among the Shiite majority.

“These are immediate threats. The nuclear project and long range missiles are not immediate but they are very paramount in the Saudis’ thinking about their future,” Ben-Dor said.

In Ben-Dor’s view, the Saudis do not want to see the US pull out of the nuclear deal entirely. “They don’t see an alternative. If the agreement collapses now without an alternative agreement and without an international coalition subscribing to an agreed upon policy than Iran gets a free hand to continue and develop its own nuclear ambitions more forcefully and without international inspection.”

Rather than it collapsing, the Saudis want the agreement “to have more teeth, a tougher inspection regime and to expand it to include Iran’s missile program.”

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are more important than the nuclear deal — “The Guards are the defender of the nation.”

October 15, 2017

By Raghida Dergham

When the administration of former President Barack Obama claimed it was helpless in relation to Iran’s separation of nuclear negotiations from its regional ambitions, it omitted to say that it had had allowed Iran’s Republican Guards to intervene in Syria and Iran publicly.

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On this issue, Washington was turning a blind eye to the flouting of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran from exporting men and material outside its borders and using and backing proxy militias.

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The Obama administration had voluntarily agreed to ignore these resolutions otherwise necessary to rein in the IRGC, albeit it used as a pretext the need to conclude and safeguard the nuclear deal for the sake of US national interests at any cost in the region. As the sanctions on Iran were lifted, the IRGC benefits from the influx of billions of dollars unfrozen by Washington as part of the nuclear deal. For this reason, claiming that Iran’s incursions in Iraq and Syria had nothing to do with the nuclear deal is a lie, because the Obama administration knew full well what it was doing. The former president not only became willfully blind to the massacres enabled by the IRGC to keep Bashar Assad in power, the same Assad that Obama had said must step down, but his administration also financed in a de-facto manner the activities of the cash-strapped Iranians in the Arab region.

Image result for Iran's revolutionary guards, photos

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Today, it is important to remind those who mourn Obama’s wisdom compared to Trump’s recklessness of this history with regard to the fate of the nuclear deal. The rise of the IRGC and its expansion in the Arab region, as well as its growing influence within Iran at the expense of moderates, all happened because the Obama administration allowed it to happen. And let no one claim this was accidental or a byproduct of policy; rather, it was a historic shift in the Middle East engineered by a calculated American decision. So what is happening now as the Trump administration is about to de-certify the nuclear deal, amid reports the administration and the Congress could designate the IRGC a terrorist organization?

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Iranian reactions sought to preempt any serious move by the US president and Congress to designate the IRGC quickly and firmly, issuing threats and warnings. The so-called moderate camp, to out-bid its opponents, rushed to the defense of the IRGC, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declaring following his meeting with the IRGC head General Mohammad Ali Jafari: “We have repeatedly declared that the IRGC is an honor for our country and a guarantor of the defense of our homeland and the continuation of the revolution that defends the borders of our country. If US officials commit this strategic mistake, the Islamic Republic of Iran will surely reciprocate. We have designed a number of actions that will be announced at the right time.”

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Jafari said: “Diplomatic expression is different from defense forces’ expression, but its content and orientation are the same. Trump must be sure that we [the IRGC] are united with the Foreign Ministry and our government.”

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“The Guards are the defender of the nation,” government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said. “If the US wants to put the Guards on the terrorist list, it puts itself in the camp of terrorists. Any country that wants to have such a position about the Guards will share this view with the Daesh terrorists.”

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The wrath in Iran’s official corridors indicates that Tehran is deeply concerned by Washington’s moves against the IRGC, whether to slap additional sanctions or designate it a terror group, as this could lead to a serious destabilization of the regime’s structure in Tehran and the regimes that collaborate with the IRGC on their territories.

The IRGC is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and Iran may even be prepared to sacrifice its ballistic missile program to protect the Guards from Donald Trump and the US Congress.

Raghida Dergham

The Iranian establishment is hoping that the threats issued by the Trump administration will not be serious, and would be thwarted by Tehran’s co-signatories in the nuclear deal led by the EU’s Federica Mogherini and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to Russia and China naturally. However, the Iranians are deeply concerned especially that Trump intends to rely in his new Iran strategy on Congress, which has always looked for ways to trim the wings of the Islamic Republic, especially with regard to its sponsorship of terrorism as well as regional expansionism.

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In truth, the IRGC is much more valuable for Tehran than the nuclear deal. It is the backbone of the regime and the revolution, and any measures against it will deeply impact Iran’s foreign and domestic policies. For this reason, Tehran wants to link its stringent defense of the IRGC against America’s measures and the nuclear deal, to protect both.

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Tehran may agree to including its ballistic missile program in the nuclear deal in return for guarantees regarding the IRGC and protecting it from any real measures or designations. It understands the seriousness of the US president’s de-certification of its compliance with the nuclear deal, not because it believes this will lead to the undoing of the deal – which is not on the table at present – but because de-certification means that Trump is throwing the ball into Congress’s court, which carries dangerous implications for the Islamic Republic.

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Trump’s de-certification of the nuclear deal means that he does not want to confirm Iran’s compliance, as he is required to do every 90 days, in view of his criticisms of the substance of the deal which believes is the “worst possible.” Yet he is not about to walk away from it, although as president, it is his right to declare the deal is not in the US national interest regardless of Tehran’s compliance.
Rather, Trump wants to re-open negotiations on Tehran’s missile program, although he has not yet proposed expanding them to include Iran’s regional expansionism. Perhaps that was implicitly included in his tackling of the IRGC.

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Both the action against the IRGC and the de-certification of the deal carry complex questions, and declaring them without actual and serious measures could discredit both Trump and Congress.
Meanwhile, the media’s keenness to defend the nuclear deal is interesting, because in one layer of it, it reflects the media’s preparedness to overlook Iran’s expansionism in the Arab region via the IRGC and even defend the latter against terror designation. There is a kind of fatalist narrative in the US liberal media that there is no other option but to cave in to Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, with the claim that standing up to the former would reinforce the latter’s intransigence and distrust of the US. In reality, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un must remember what the US does to those who surrender their nuclear arms, such as Col. Qaddafi, and to those who surrender their programs to weapons inspectors, such as Saddam Hussein.

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The liberal media in the US has decided that North Korea and Iran’s nuclear capabilities are irreversible, and effectively dismiss the non-proliferation principle, with dangerous implications.
The US media has a right to battle Trump and warn against his “recklessness,” “ignorance” and “irrationality,” as they accuse him. However, it has no right to ignore the terrifying consequences of policies that it had once consented to before waking up to criticize now, from George W. Bush’s Iraq war, to his and Obama’s enablement of Iran in Iraq, and then in Syria, where the Obama administration once claimed to support the moderate rebellion.

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• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. Twitter: @RaghidaDergham

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1177706

US-backed fighters begin final attack in Syria’s Raqqa

October 15, 2017

The Associated Press

OCTOBER 15, 2017 2:31 AM

© AFP/File | The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces say they have begun the battle to capture the last 10 percent of Raqa under jihadist control

‘Islamic State’ facing imminent collapse in Syria’s Raqqa

October 15, 2017

US-backed coalition forces claim they are about to drive the “Islamic State” completely out of Raqqa. Local officials and tribal leaders have reportedly struck a deal to allow IS fighters and civilians to evacuate.

SDF forces fight Islamic State in Raqqa in 2017

US-backed forces were on the brink of defeating the last remnants of the “Islamic State” (IS) group in the jihadists’ de-facto Syrian capital of Raqqa on Saturday, according to officials close to the operation to retake the city.

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said that around 100 IS militants had already surrendered and been “removed” from the city since Friday.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think Islamic State will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said.

But the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG told Reuters that coalition forces could have the city clear of IS forces within days.

Read more: Syrian Christians advance against IS in de-facto capital Raqqa

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (IS) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said.

Kurdish YPG in Syrian SDF alliance

The YPG is one of the most influential militant in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of groups that also includes Arabs and Christian units.

The SDF offensive to retake Raqqa started in June with the help of US-led airstrikes and several hundred US special forces.

Syrian IS fighters leaving Raqqa

Hundreds of people are trapped in IS-held pockets in the city, raising concerns over civilian casualties and IS using human shields.

Local officials from the Raqqa Civil Council and tribal leaders announced Saturday they had struck a deal to evacuate civilians and local fighters. The SDF will search and screen all people departing Raqqa.

The US-led coalition confirmed the deal in a statement.

“The arrangement is designed to minimize civilian casualties and purportedly excludes foreign terrorists,” the US-led coalition said in a statement, adding that it does not condone a deal that allows IS fighters “to escape Raqqa without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else.”

 Civil Council/local Arab tribal elders work to minimize civilian casualties as SDF & @CJTFOIR prepare for major defeat in Raqqa

UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitoring group said that the issue of foreign fighters was of particular concern.

“The obstacle to their departure is that the mastermind of attacks in Paris in November 2015 is believed to be among them and he has refused to surrender,” SOHR head Rami Abdel-Rahman said. IS supporters killed 130 people in multiple terrorist attacks across Paris in November 2015.

Separately, the Syrian government and allied Shiite militia retook the town of Mayadeen from IS after intense fighting and Russian airstrikes, the Syrian military said Saturday.

Located along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, Mayadeen has been strategic IS stronghold as the group lost territory in Syria and Iraq.

Pro-Syrian regime forces have been trying to secure the Iraqi border and push IS out of a small pocket in the provincial capital Deir al-Zor

IS stronghold since 2014

IS had seized Raqqa as part of a broad offensive in Syria and Iraq in early 2014 and the city has since served as the jihadists’ primary Syrian stronghold.

But IS has lost much of its territory after US and Russian-backed forces began separate offensives against the militant group. In July, US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul, the jihadists’ de-facto capital in Iraq.

cw/amp/jm (Reuters, AP, dpa)

Syria demands ‘immediate’ withdrawal of Turkey troops

October 14, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A picture taken on October 14, 2017, shows Turkish army diggers on a hill in the Syrian border town of Salwah

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syria on Saturday demanded the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of Turkish troops that have deployed in the country’s northwestern province of Idlib, state media said citing a foreign ministry source.

 Turkish troops entered Idlib on Thursday night as part of efforts to enforce a so-called “de-escalation zone” agreed by rebel backer Ankara and regime allies Russia and Iran at talks in Astana earlier this year.

But the Syrian foreign ministry source slammed the “Turkish aggression”, saying it had “nothing whatsoever to do with the understandings reached by the guarantor countries in the Astana process.”

The source added that the deployment was “a violation of these understandings and a departure from them.”

“The Turkish regime must abide by what was agreed in Astana.”

Turkey’s military said Friday it had begun “activities to establish observation posts on October 12”, days after Turkish troops launched a reconnaissance mission in Idlib.

On Friday, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily reported over 100 soldiers including special forces, and 30 armoured vehicles, had entered Idlib.

And a new convoy entered on Saturday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

The province is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a group led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, which has ousted more moderate rebels in recent months.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish troops had entered Syria with the Free Syrian Army, the name Ankara uses for rebels seeking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.

Turkey says it is backing Syrian rebels in a bid to oust HTS members in the area and allow Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement the zone.

The “de-escalation” zone in Idlib is the one of four agreed in Astana and the last to be implemented, after.

Idlib is one of the last major areas of Syria beyond the control of the government, which has recaptured vast swathes of territory from opposition fighters since its ally Russia intervened on its behalf in September 2015.

Turkey has intervened in Syria before, last year launching its operation Euphrates Shield targeting the Islamic State group and Kurdish fighters.

More than 330,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

China urges US to ‘preserve’ Iran nuclear deal

October 13, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) attends a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 30, 2017

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Friday called on the United States to maintain its commitment to the Iranian nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump is expected to declare no longer in America’s interest.”We believe this deal is important to ensuring the international nuclear nonproliferation regime and regional peace and stability. We hope all parties can continue to preserve and implement this deal,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a regular press briefing.

China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, discussed the Iranian nuclear issue with US counterpart Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Thursday to prepare for Trump’s November visit to Beijing, Hua said.

The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — at talks coordinated by the European Union.

While the deal stalled Iran’s nuclear programme and thawed relations between Tehran and its “Great Satan”, opponents say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence in the Middle East.

US officials say Trump will not kill the international accord outright, instead “decertifying” the agreement and leaving US lawmakers to decide its fate.

UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at his US counterpart saying he was opposing “the whole world” by trying to abandon the agreement.

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Explaining the Iran nuclear deal 01:21