Tag Archives: Barack Obama

US asks Russia not to target Al-Qaeda branch in Syria – Russian FM Lavrov

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Washington has asked Moscow not to conduct airstrikes against al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, for fear that members of the “moderate opposition” could also be hit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has reported.

“They [the US] are telling us not to hit it [al-Nusra Front], because there are also ‘normal’ opposition groups [on those territories],” Lavrov said in an interview with local Russian media that was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

The minister also stressed that “such opposition groups should leave terrorist positions,” adding that “we have long agreed on that.” Russia first set a deadline for the “moderate” opposition to leave territories occupied by al-Nusra Front extremists, but then agreed to give them more time to withdraw.

In the interview, Lavrov said that Russia believes that taking specific and more effective measures to fight the Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups should be the top priority for Russia and the US if the Syrian crisis is to be resolved.

“It is important to provide humanitarian access to the settlements blocked by one side or another, to secure the ceasefire and to prevent its violation, as well as to launch the political process… but, as important as these goals are, terrorism is our common threat, and there should be no doubt about that,” he said, adding that, in the meantime, al-Nusra Front has been attempting to merge with other armed opposition groups.

Lavrov also said that the political process in Syria is being held back by radical opposition groups that refuse to come to the negotiating table and set preconditions for peace talks. He added that it is important to set aside these demands and focus on the fight against terrorism.

The minister also emphasized that Russia and the US are involved in a close and intensive dialog on Syria that includes regular telephone calls between Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, and a video-conference channel set up between the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria located at the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia and the US base in the Jordanian capital of Amman, as well as a joint US-Russian center in Geneva.

Lavrov had held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the initiative of the US side earlier the same day, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement

The two ministers discussed “the fight against ISIS and the need to urgently distance the moderate opposition from the Jabhat al-Nusra group, as well as efforts to cut off the flow of weapons and militants coming from abroad to beef up terrorist organizations,” the statement said.

In the meantime, Kerry, who is in Paris, told journalists that he had discussed the upsurge in violence in Syria during the phone call with Lavrov, explaining that the two had worked specifically on “ways to try to strengthen the enforcement and accountability for this cessation,” AP reported.

In the meantime, the US State Department said that Washington has asked Russia to be “more careful” in targeting its airstrikes against al-Nusra Front, as hitting civilians or opposition groups while attacking the jihadists could eventually give more support to the terrorist groups.

“[The US State] Secretary conveyed to Russia and the Assad regime that they need to carefully distinguish between these terrorist groups operating on the ground and those parties to the cessation of hostilities,” US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said during a briefing on Friday, adding that the US agrees that IS and al-Nusra Front “pose a real threat to the security on the ground in Syria.”

Over 40,000 Foreign Terrorists From 100 Countries Fight in Syria

More than 40,000 foreigners from over a hundred caountries arrived to Syria to fight for various factions like Daesh extremist group, the US Stet Deaprtment said citing intelligence sources.

WASHINGTON — The number of foreign terrorists participating in the Syrian conflict has exceeded 40,000, US Department of State Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell said in a briefing on Thursday.

“An excess of 40,000 total foreign fighters have gone to the conflict [in Syria] from over a hundred countries,” Siberell stated.

The official said the number has been provided by the US intelligence community.

Siberell added that international efforts have made it more difficult for terrorists to enter the conflict zone.

Syria has been mired in civil war since March 2011, with opposition factions and extremist groups, including terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, fighting the Syrian Arab Army and government forces loyal to the country’s legitimate President Bashar Assad.

At least 88 killed, dozens more injured in triple car bombings across Baghdad

The Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has been rocked by three successive bombings that claimed the lives of dozens of civilians, according to police sources and media. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the so-far deadliest of the attacks.

The car bombing attack in the city’s district of Sadr City killed at least 63 people and injured dozens of others, AP reported citing Iraqi officials.

An SUV rigged with explosives was parked near a beauty salon in a busy market in the Sadr City neighborhood, Iraqi police reported.

The bomb was detonated by a suicide bomber, a media outlet that sympathizes with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) reported.

The blast killed over 20 people on the spot while others succumbed to their wounds shortly after. At least 60 people were injured by the blast, and many remain in critical condition.

Shortly after the first blast, two more attacks were recorded in the city. One of them occurred in the Kadhimiya district of northern Baghdad – an area of the city considered a center of Shiite Islam. The attack claimed the lives of 18 people, Iraqi police and hospital officials told AP on condition of anonymity, adding that at least 34 people have been injured.

One more bomb that went off in the Sunni district of Jamiya killed seven and wounded at least 22 people.

The officials told Reuters that the death toll figures are likely to rise.

IS targeted Sadr City in February in a twin bombing attack, which claimed the lives of 70 people.

The group is ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim and considers Muslims adhering to other sects of Islam apostates and their enemies.

Sectarian violence remains one of the biggest security challenges in Iraq, since the US invasion of Iraq deposed its Sunni minority in power and installed a Shiite majority government.

Military officers and former officials of Saddam Hussein’s government, whose careers were ruined by the change of regime in Baghdad, were instrumental in Islamic State’s rise from a little-known Iraqi ally of Al-Qaeda to the most-publicized terrorist threat in the modern world.

 

Putin calls for non-aligned international security system in face of global terror threat

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow's Red Square.

May 9, 2016. Russian President and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin at a military parade to mark the 71st anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 WWII, on Moscow’s Red Square.

Vladimir Putin said Russia is all for creating a non-aligned system of international security to counter global terror. The president, speaking at the V-Day parade in Moscow, called on all nations to learn the lessons of WWII.

“Today our civilization has faced brutality and violence – terrorism has become a global threat,” the Russian president said, addressing the crowds on Moscow’s Red Square ahead of a parade dedicated to the 71st anniversary of victory in WWII. “We must defeat this evil, and Russia is open to join forces with all countries and is ready to work on the creation of a modern, non-aligned system of international security.”

According to the Russian leader, the lessons of the World War II showed that “double standards” and “short-sighted indulgence to those who are nurturing new criminal plans” are unacceptable.

“The lessons of history show that peace on our planet doesn’t establish itself, that you need to be on high alert,” he said.

The Great Patriotic War (the term used in Russia and former Soviet republics to describe the conflict on the Eastern Front from 1941-45) will always remain “an outstanding, sacred heroic deed of our people, a call to live according to conscience, to keep the height of the truth and justice, to transfer these values from generation to generation,” the president added.

“Our fathers and grandfathers defeated the powerful, merciless enemy, in front of whom many countries folded,” Putin said.

“It was our servicemen who gave the Nazis and their accomplices full retaliation for millions of victims, for all the barbarities and excesses on our land.”

Putin added that Russian soldiers have proven that they are “worthy successors to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War who are defending the country’s interests with honor.”

“I’m sure the veterans today are proud of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren – they are not letting [the veterans] down and will always remember the great victory, the heroic deeds of the glorious generation of victors,” he said.

Seventy-one years ago, Nazi Germany was defeated. Almost 80 percent of the world’s population was caught up in the war, including all of the great powers, and a total of 55 million people were killed in the conflict.

The Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The following four years of fighting saw 27 million Soviet people killed.

In Europe, V-Day commemorations started on Sunday, as the Nazi Germany’s Instrument of Surrender came into force at 22:43 CET on May 8, 1945. In Moscow it was already 00:43, on May 9.

 

‘Dirty Bargain’: Turkey, EU Forge Deal With Syrian Blood on Their Hands

As the Turkish government continues its crackdown on the free press, columnist Kemal Okuyan speaks to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear to expose how this relates to Ankara’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees.

“I have to say that this is a real dirty bargain,” Okuyan, a leading columnist with Turkish newspaper SoL, tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker. “The refugee crisis, I think, is an outcome of the terrorist acts of NATO, Turkey, and other reactionary forces in the region.”

 https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=7958257

According to Okuyan, Ankara is manipulating the crisis in order to achieve its own ends with the European Union.”This was on purpose, by the Turkish government,” he says. “And we know that Turkey encouraged people to go by boat through the sea to the Greek islands.

“Now they are using this to blackmail the European Union.”

As part of negotiations with the EU, Ankara wants over 3 billion euros, visa exceptions, Western ground forces in Syria, as well as the enforcement of a terrorist-free zone in neighboring Syria.

While Turkey may be taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis for its own gains, the European Union isn’t entirely innocent, either.

“The European Union is also one of the actors in the Syrian [conflict],” Okuyan says. “Especially Germany, France, Britain. They have their hands in Syria, so they are also responsible for this big human tragedy.”

While the Erdogan government may have sights on joining the EU, it could face problems due to its harsh press laws.

“Nearly three-fourths of the daily newspapers printed in Turkey are in the hands of Erdogan,” Okuyan says.

“There are a lot of journalists in prison in Turkey,” he adds. “There is also blackmailing, [where] you are not arrested, directly, but they say if you have another problem, then you will be put into prison.”

Still, as all sides use the refugee crisis for their own political gain, millions of people are suffering.

“In Turkey, the refugees are in terrible conditions,” Okuyan says. “When you see photos of people [who have] died when crossing to the Greek islands, these are not only accidents, they are killed on purpose for their money.

“They sabotage the boats.”

Just In Case: Inside the Pentagon’s Explosive Plan B for Libya

Recognizing its own failure in Libya, the Pentagon has a new plan to address the spread of terrorist groups in the North African nation: more bombs.

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been in chaos. NATO airstrikes destabilized a government that was unpopular with the West, but otherwise secure, allowing terrorist groups like Daesh, also known as IS/Islamic State, to flourish.

Now the Pentagon has a new plan to “cripple” the terrorist group’s growing influence in Libya, and it’s not much different from the strategy that led to their rise. Presented to the White House last month, the strategy calls for “as many as 30 to 40” airstrikes across the country, which, it is promised, will allow “Western-backed” militias to overwhelm Daesh militants.

According to US officials, the plan is not being “actively” considered at this time, as the Obama administration is currently trying to install a unity government in Libya, and that effort could be hindered by renewed violence.

Earlier this week, a number of Libyan experts noted that the Pentagon’s strategies are based on faulty intelligence.

“The estimates of the number of jihadists is grossly exaggerated,” said Karim Mezran of the Atlantic Council, according to AntiWar.com.

While the Pentagon has claimed that between 5,000 and 6,500 Daesh militants are operating in Libya, the need for only 30 to 40 airstrikes suggests that even Washington suspects that the terrorist fighters number in the hundreds, not the thousands.

As the US considers a new military operation in Libya, recently uncovered secret documents show that Italy has invasion plans of its own. Published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the documents show that Italian troops are preparing to join US, French, and British special forces that have been operating inside Libya for several weeks.

Varying estimates suggest that between 3,000 and 7,000 international troops will be deployed, with nearly a third sent by Rome.

Critics have questioned Italy’s need to become embroiled in a foreign military ground war.

“And the principal question – what is that national interest Italy wants to protect?” reads an op-ed from La Repubblica. “There is danger that Italy could once again be dragged into war with only one purpose – to please its allies.”

Whichever stabilization strategy the West ultimately decides upon, the US and its allies may increasingly regret ousting Gaddafi in the first place.

North Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles Off Country’s East Coast – Reports

Following the implementation of harsh new sanctions, North Korea has reportedly launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea for a second time, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The missiles were fired from the city of Wonsan, where similar launches have occurred, and sources indicate that the projectiles flew a distance of approximately 300 miles.

“The military is keeping close tabs on the situation and prepared to deal with any North Korean provocations,” South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed that Pyongyang is in possession of miniaturized nuclear warheads.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” Kim said, according to KCNA, adding “this can be called a true nuclear deterrent.”

This week, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a strong condemnation of North Korea’s threat to use preventive strikes.

“In particular, we consider public statements with threats of carrying out some ‘preventive nuclear attacks’ against one’s opponents completely unacceptable,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry reads. “Pyongyang must understand that North Korea completely sets itself against the international community, provides the international legal basis for the use of military force against it.”

Pyongyang has also expressed outrage over joint military drills between Washington and Seoul. The largest ever conducted, the exercises are meant to mimic a hypothetical invasion of North Korea

The UN imposed new sanctions — the harshest in 20 years — against Pyongyang last week over nuclear tests conducted earlier this year. The DPRK also launched a satellite in February which the UN deemed a veiled attempt to demonstrate its ballistic missile capabilities.

Hours after those new penalties were put in place, North Korea fired short-range missiles into the ocean.

Hacker ‘Guccifer,’ who uncovered Clinton’s private emails, to be extradited to US

Marcel Lazar Lehel, aka Guccifer, is escorted by masked policemen in Bucharest after his arrest in 2014.

Guccifer, the infamous Romanian hacker who accessed emails of celebrities and top US officials, will be extradited to the United States, after losing a case in his home country’s top court.

Reuters reports that Lehel will come to the US under an 18-month extradition order, following a request made by the US authorities. Details of the extradition have not been made public, however.

Marcel Lehel, a 42-year-old hacker better known by his pseudonym “Guccifer,” achieved notoriety when he released an email with images of paintings by former President George W. Bush, including a self-portrait in a bathtub. He also hacked and published emails from celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Steve Martin and Mariel Hemingway.

Also released were emails between former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Corina Cretu, a Romanian member of European Parliament, prompting Powell to deny that the two had had an affair.

Perhaps most notably, Lehel was also the first source to uncover Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private email account while she was Secretary of State, which the FBI is investigating as a potential danger to national security.

In March 2013, the hacker released to RT and several other news outlets the four memos that had been sent to Clinton from her former political adviser Sidney Blumenthal. The memos contain information regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as well as the January 2013 hostage crisis in In Amenas, Algeria.

Lehel was indicted by the Department of Justice in 2014 on charges of wire fraud, unauthorized access to a protected computer, cyberstalking, aggravated identity theft and obstruction of justice.

In 2014 a Romanian court sentenced to four years in jail for hacking into the accounts of the country’s public figures “with the aim of getting… confidential data” as well as violating his parole. He is serving three years on top of that for other hacking-related offenses. After his extradition to the US, Lehel will return to Romania to serve out his sentences there.

The Romanian national, who goes by the pseudonym “Small Fume” in addition to Guccifer, is an unemployed taxi driver and paint salesman, and he says that he accessed the emails by using social engineering methods that included guessing the answers to security questions to access various accounts.

“I don’t oppose. I go there to United States to fight. I know what I did and this is okay with me,” Guccifer said in February to The Smoking Gun, where he published many of the documents he found.

Prosecutors have said that Lehel has a “compulsive need to be famous,” according to The Register.

 

Turkish Opposition Sues Erdogan Government for Supporting Terrorism

Turkey’s main opposition party has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing Ankara of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.”

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, has filed a criminal complaint against senior officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including President Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Chief Hakan Fidan.

The complaint accuses Ankara of being complicit in violence caused by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara itself considers a terrorist organization, as well as the group’s accumulation of weapons, for political gain.”More fatally, just in order to go through election periods calmly, the terrorist organization’s activities of transferring and piling up weaponry, both in rural areas and in urban centers, were openly overlooked,” CHP Deputy Chair Bulent Tezcan said as part of the filing.

The complaint cites the fact that only eight out of 290 requests to conduct anti-terror operations by the Turkish Armed Forces were granted during election periods.

As evidence, Tezcan cited a secret meeting between leaders of the AKP and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The complaint follows statements made by CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accusing the AKP of aiding terrorist organizations by “overlooking the stockpiling of weapons by the PKK.”

Highlighting unrest within the Turkish government, the nation’s highest court opened its own investigation into government links to the PKK last summer. This followed a criminal complaint by the ruling AKP against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Critics claim that the AKP’s complaint is political, attempting to force the HDP to comply with the Erdogan government.

Southeastern Turkey has been engulfed in violence as Turkish security forces crackdown on Kurdish communities to root out militant groups. The government’s actions have been roundly criticized by a number of rights groups.

“If we cannot solve the Kurdish issue in democratic ways, I am sure the next generation of the Kurds will be very radical,” Mehmet Yuksel, a representative of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, told Sputnik.

“We already see youths of old that are much more radical. They already think that the political ways are not the solution.”

North Korea’s Kim says country has miniaturized nuclear warhead

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country has miniaturized nuclear warheads to be mounted on ballistic missiles and ordered improvements in the power and precision of its arsenal, its state media reported on Wednesday.

Kim has called for his military to be prepared to mount pre-emptive attacks against the United States and South Korea and stand ready to use nuclear weapons, stepping up belligerent rhetoric after coming under new U.N. and bilateral sanctions.

U.S. and South Korean troops began large-scale military drills this week, which the North calls “nuclear war moves” and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive.

Kim’s comments released on Wednesday were his first direct mention of the claim, previously made repeatedly in state media, to have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to be mounted on a ballistic missile, which is widely questioned.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” KCNA quoted him as saying as he inspected the work of nuclear workers, adding “this can be called true nuclear deterrent.”

“He stressed the importance of building ever more powerful, precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and their delivery means,” KCNA said.

Kim also inspected the nuclear warheads designed for thermo-nuclear reaction, KCNA said, referring to a hydrogen bomb that the country claimed to have tested in January.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 claiming to have set off a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, which was disputed by many experts and the governments of South Korea and the United States. The blast detected from the test was simply too small to back up the claim, experts said at the time.

The U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the isolated state last week for the nuclear test. It launched a long-range rocket in February drawing international criticism and sanctions from its rival, South Korea.

On Tuesday South Korea announced further measures aimed at isolating the North by blacklisting individuals and entities that it said were linked to Pyongyang’s weapons program.

China also stepped up pressure on the North by barring one of the 31 ships on its transport ministry’s blacklist.

But a U.N. panel set up to monitor sanctions under an earlier Security Council resolution adopted in 2009 said in a report released on Tuesday that it had “serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime.”

North Korea has been “effective in evading sanctions” by continuing to engage in banned trade, “facilitated by the low level of implementation of Security Council resolutions by Member States,” the Panel of Experts said.

“The reasons are diverse, but include lack of political will, inadequate enabling legislation, lack of understanding of the resolutions and low prioritization,” it said, referring to the incomplete enforcement of sanctions.