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Four Reasons Why Liberation of Aleppo Would Mean an End to the Syrian War

As the Syrian army advances in the jihadist-ravaged city of Aleppo, Russian political analysts explain why the once-vibrant metropolis, formerly home to 2.3 million people, is of prime importance to all the parties of the conflict and can play a key role in settlement of the ongoing crisis.

The first group of residents trapped in Aleppo’s militant-occupied eastern neighborhoods has started to escape through a humanitarian corridor created with Russia’s help, according to reports broadcast by Al Mayadeen TV.

Leaflets were dropped on Thursday over the city with instructions on how to approach checkpoints and a map showing the corridors.

Those who want to leave are supposed to wave the leaflet with their right hand raised above their head and the other hand either around their head or holding a child’s hand, the leaflet reportedly says. While approaching checkpoints the residents are advised to move slowly and to follow the commands of the Syrian military.

Once near checkpoints, they will be required to turn around to demonstrate they do not have explosives on them.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday that Russia and the Syrian government have jointly launched a large-scale humanitarian relief operation in Aleppo, establishing three corridors for civilians and one for militants wishing to lay down arms.

Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported on Thursday that President Assad has issued a decree granting amnesty to all militants who surrender within three months. This prompted “scores of terrorists” to turn themselves in and lay down their arms.

Meanwhile, local media reports suggest that the Syrian government forces are ready to retake the desperate city; they’ve already re-established full control over two more strategic districts along the last access road into opposition-held east Aleppo: the neighborhood Bani Zeid and a second rebel-held district adjacent to Bani Zeid.

A military source told SANA that army engineering units had dismantled the explosives and removed mines from its streets and squares, with the Syrian army establishing full control over the Efrin bus station, youth housing and all the building blocks and factories in al-Liramoun in the northern outskirts of Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Shapovalov, the Director of the Institute of Political Science, Law and Social Development has explained to RT why Aleppo, Syria’s most important economic and geopolitical center, might become a key to fully resolving the Syrian conflict.

Aleppo — Syria’s most important economic and trade center with advantageous geopolitical position

“Aleppo is of prime importance to all the parties of the conflict as it is Syria’s most important economic and trade center; the city lies on the crossroad of the country’s trade routes and holds a very advantageous geopolitical position,” he said.

“Full control over Aleppo allows one to control not only all of northern Syria but the whole territory along the border with Turkey, the district inhabited by Kurds, and the territory of northwestern Iraq,” the political analyst explained.

“Aleppo is the dominating center of this whole region. And for the Syrian government forces, for their adversaries, for Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US it is the key to control over the whole Syrian territory and adjacent regions.”

Hence, Shapovalov said, there’s no wonder that since the very start of the military conflict in the country there has been fierce fighting for this city.

It is the key to control over the whole Syrian territory and adjacent regions

Another political scientist, head of the Center for Middle East and Central Asia Studies Semyon Bagdasarov, also explained that Aleppo is the top strategic point, the economic capital of Syria and its clean-up could be a grandiose victory for Syria and Russia.

“However the liberation of Aleppo without closure of Syrian-Turkish border crossings, first and foremost in the city of Azaz, will be a hard task,” he said.

It is essential for cooperation with the Syrian Kurds

“Azaz — is a Turkish crossing gate and a whole load of arms, ammunition and thousands of militants have got into Syria through this crossing. It must be closed and it could be dome only in alliance with the quasi-state [known as] the Federation of North Syria – Rojava, or otherwise the Syrian Kurds,” Bagdasarov explained.

The political analyst further said why the territory under the control of the Syrian Kurds will play a vital role in the recapture of Aleppo:

“There are over 2,000 NATO servicemen on this territory, including the American special forces and its engineer-sapper battalions and the Danish, UK, French and German units. There is no clear border among them and during an offensive there might be undesirable clashes.”

Vladimir Shapovalov also noted the Kurds, more than anyone else are interested in the liquidation of the jihadists and might become a key ally to President Assad.

“For the Kurds, the most important thing is the fight against the Islamist militants, which are their major adversary in establishing Kurdish autonomy,” he said.

“In such a context, the alliance with the Syrian government is of primary importance to the Kurds, as it is Assad who could ensure the security of the Kurdish areas, not only from the terrorists but from Turkish claims as well,” he added.

Control over Aleppo would allow for the completion of the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority over most of the country

Semyon Bagdasarov also agreed that Aleppo is a sweet spot for Turkey, as it is the gateway to the whole north-west of Syria, including Aleppo Province.

“Turks historically regard Aleppo as their city and think that the population of the city gravitates more towards Turkey, but it is not the case,” he said.

The political analysts agree that the liberation of the city would mean the liberation of Syria and the end of the war.

“Control over Aleppo would allow for the completion of the restoration of the Syrian government’s authority over most of the country, the most densely populated and the most economically developed part of the country” said Vladimir Shapovalov.

“After establishing control over Aleppo, control over the rest of Syria would only take a couple of weeks”, he concluded.

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Paris Peace Talks Embolden Status Quo of Incremental Genocide in Palestine

The ill-fated peace talks denounced by both parties do little but provide a veneer of legitimacy to the rightward creep of Netanyahu’s apartheid regime.

Peace talks began in Paris on Friday, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, with an espoused aim to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have repeatedly failed since the Jewish state was established in 1948, in the heart of ancient Arab lands.

The diplomats were joined by representatives from the Arab League, the European Union and several neighboring Arab states, but notably the meeting, designed to reestablish peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, included no representatives for either of the adversaries.

The Israeli Prime Minister publicly blasted the initiative as his country makes a hard shift toward more aggressive militarism against their Palestinian neighbors. In May, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed controversial far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister to replace the more moderate Moshe Ya’alon. Reacting to the appointment, UN Middle-East envoy Nikolay Maladenov said on Wednesday that Israeli ministers are “killing hope” for peace, following comments by the Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, that a Palestinian state will never be allowed.

“As long as we are in the government, there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no settlement evacuations and we will not give any land to our enemies,” Shaked said on Tuesday.

The situation for Palestinians has grown more desperate in recent years, with childhood poverty increasing at a near exponential rate, people repeatedly dispossessed of their land and under constant bombardment by Israeli defense forces. The climate of violence and fear has been repeatedly noted as closely resembling the South African regime of apartheid, including remarks by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The Palestinian people have been devastated by efforts by Israeli officials to co-opt their leadership, providing victims with few options to voice their dissent to a global audience about the daily tragedy they endure.

Mass killings of Palestinians by IDF forces have given way to a rash of stabbings in Israel by beleaguered Palestinians. More peaceful approaches, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) program advanced by Palestinian leadership have had limited effect on Israel, with the world refusing to cut trade ties with the country and leading to ever-higher levels of poverty in Gaza and the West Bank.

On Thursday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with peace activist Miko Peled and political analyst Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich to discuss whether the Paris peace talks are about peace or if they are a fig-leaf to justify the status quo of Palestinian displacement.

Do the Paris peace talks have any significance or hope of success?

“Frankly the answer is no,” said Sepahpour-Ulrich. “Israel has never been interested in a political solution and the fact that we continue to hold these peace talks, with the first one in 1949, the Lausanne Conference, and many more since 1979.”

“This whole thing reminds me of what Desmond Tutu said about the missionaries – ‘They had the bible and we had the land, they told us to close our eyes and then they had the land and we were holding the Bible,’ and the same thing is true now with these peace talks,” she said.

“Nothing ever comes out of these talks and it tends to buy Israel time to further occupy Palestinian land and engage in incremental genocide,” stated the analyst. “All of these rounds of talks are just buying more time while the Palestinian land is shrinking and so is the number of Palestinian people.”

“If somebody is serious about creating peace then we need more than talk, we need action,” she said.

Why is there no focus in these talks on holding Israel accountable for settlements?

“Let me reframe the conversation for a second if I may. I believe that the only way to move forward is to recognize the following: Palestine was occupied in 1948 and a racist, apartheid regime known as Israel was established in Palestine. In 1967, the state of Israel completed that occupation of Palestine by taking a few small parts that it left out in the West Bank and Gaza strip that then calling it Israel, even though we know it is Palestine,” said Peled detailing the history of Palestinian displacement.

“The establishment of a single state with exclusive rights for Jewish people has been in place ever since and that is it. This idea that there is a Palestine different from Israel and Israel different from Palestine and that somehow the state of Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian entity for some sort of compromise within this framework is hallucination, it is science fiction,” he said.

“The only way to move forward is a complete condemnation of the racist, colonialist project that is called the state of Israel and to get rid of it just like apartheid was done away with in South Africa, with a democracy of equal rights, where Palestinians have all of their rights, the right of return is materialized, and this whole racist, colonialist project is done away with. That is the only way to move forward,” stated the activist.

Peled commented that hope for Palestinians will come not through talks, but through resistance, likening their situation to the South African apartheid. The activist praised Palestinian leadership for modeling their Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) effort on the successful struggle for liberation in South Africa, but considers the situation in the Middle East to be more perilous, with countries around the world refusing to join in solidarity by cutting off trade with Israel.

Sepahpour-Ulrich agreed that the commonplace notion of a two-state solution has always been a false cry for peace, and criticized Europe and the United States for allowing the oppression to continue.

“There is no question in my mind that there is no will to change the status quo, the Europeans and the Israelis and their trade has grown over the years. If you are under the belief that there needs to be a two-state solution or you think that this occupation needs to end, then you freeze your trade, you don’t allow it to grow,” she said. “The United States has been funding this occupation, so, what they are doing is giving lip service, and it is just propaganda, they are selling a false truth.”

“There is no reality to these peace talks. The world is being lied to,” said the analyst. “They are just biding their time to wipe Palestine off the map, which Google incidentally did in one instance.”

US launches airstrikes on ISIS from Mediterranean, for 1st time since Iraq War

The USS Harry Truman has begun hitting Islamic State’s targets from the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first time a carrier group has launched airstrikes from the area since the 2003 invasion in Iraq.

Fighter jets conducted combat sorties from the aircraft carrier in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on Friday after transiting the Suez Canal the day before, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said in a statement.

“While the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is in the 6th Fleet area of operations, they continue to project power ashore against terrorists and violent extremists,” Vice Admiral James Foggo III, commander of US 6th Fleet, said in a statement.

This exemplifies our Navy’s mobility, flexibility and adaptability, as well as our commitment to execute a full range of military operations in concert with our indispensable European allies and partners.”

Friday’s airstrikes mark the first time an American carrier has hit targets on the ground from the Mediterranean since 2003, when the USS Truman was deployed in the region during the US invasion in Iraq.

The five-ship USS Truman strike group is returning from an eight-month deployment in the Persian Gulf. However, the Pentagon extended the deployment of Carrier Air Wing 7 for one more month to reduce a gap with its replacement, the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Earlier in the day, the USS Eisenhower headed to the region with around 7,000 service members on board.

“The Dwight David Eisenhower Strike Group deploys to relieve the Harry S. Truman Strike Group and will be supporting air strikes against ISIS, answering the nation’s call and stepping up the fight,” said Admiral Phil Davidson, head of Fleet Forces Command, according to Navy Times.

The aircraft carrier nicknamed “Ike” was supposed to have set sail back in November, but its departure was delayed, and the USS Truman headed out in its place. The “Ike” was undergoing repair work, which took almost two years to complete.

 

Egypt’s Sisi to discuss first two years of presidency in TV interview Friday

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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is scheduled to give on Friday a TV interview hosted by media figure Osama Kamel, the Egyptian presidency announced Thursday.

The interview, which is scheduled for 7:30pm, will be aired on the Egyptian State TV.

According to state-owned MENA news agency, the interview will last an hour and 40 minutes.

MENA added that the interview would cover a number of topics, including El-Sisi’s achievements over the past two years and the challenges Egypt currently faces.

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.

 

9,000 sorties, 400 localities freed: What Russia has achieved during its 5-month Syria operation

As Russia’s Vladimir Putin announced the start of the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has reported the anti-terror operation’s achievements to the Commander-in-Chief.

“Backed by our aviation, Syrian forces have freed 400 populated areas and over 10,000 square kilometers [3,860 square miles] of territories,” Shoigu said during a Kremlin meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Terrorists have been forced out from Latakia and Aleppo, and Palmyra has been “blocked,” the military official reported to Putin, saying that military actions to free the UNESCO heritage site from militants continue. Hama and Homs Provinces in central Syria have been largely mopped up, and Kuweires airbase that had been besieged by terrorists for over three years was retaken.

Saying that Russia’s Air Force in Syria has conducted more than 9,000 sorties starting from September 30, 2015, the Defense Minister added that for the first time massive strikes at a range over 1,500 kilometers [930 miles] with both air and ship-launched missiles have been conducted.

With Russia’s support from the air, the Syrian army managed to retake control of oil and gas fields near Palmyra.

Three large fields have already started functioning in normal mode, the minister added.

In all, 209 oil production facilities and almost 3,000 oil delivery vehicles have been destroyed by Russia’s airstrikes.

“As a result of airstrikes, terrorists’ resources’ provision has been largely cut,” Shoigu told Putin, saying that petroleum trade routes with Turkey, as well as main routes of weapons provisions to terrorists have been blocked

Al-Moallem: De Mistura Can’t Talk about Syria Presidential Elections

Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem said Saturday UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has no right to talk about Syrian presidential elections, noting that the Syrian Arab Republic delegation will not wait in Geneva forever for other parties to decide to show up.

During a press conference, al-Moallem said the Syrian Arab Republic delegation received a letter from de Mistura  scheduling Monday as a date for meeting at the UN HQ in Geneva within the Syrian-Syrian dialogue.

“Meeting with our delegation at first is a good thing,” he said, adding however that the Republic’s delegation “will not repeat the same mistake that happened in the previous round. They are going to wait for 24 hours only.”

“We are looking forward to having dialogue with the broadest spectrum of opposition groups in implementation of de Mistura’s mandate by the UN Security Council and the Vienna and Munich communiqués, particularly the national opposition…that is not linked to any foreign agendas,” al-Moallem added.

He commented on the UN Envoy’s recent statements setting up a schedule for Geneva talks which he said will discuss the regime, the constitution and the parliamentary and presidential elections, saying de Mistura doesn’t have the right to set a schedule, which is something up to the dialogue parties.

He went on saying that de Mistura must be aware, when he talks about the constitution, that it is the national unity government, the subject of discussion in the future, that will appoint a committee to draft a new constitution or amend the standing one, stressing that any outcome will be subject to referendum for approval.

Regarding the presidential elections, al-Moallem stressed that neither de Mistura nor anyone else whomsoever can discuss this issue as it is “an exclusive right of the Syrian people,” dismissing what the envoy said as “a deviation from all the UN documents.”

“We will no longer accept that [de Mistura] gives up objectivity to please this or that party, and our delegation will reject any attempt to put this issue on the schedule,” he added.

As for the upcoming parliamentary elections, al-Moallem said fulfilling the elections is part of the constitution, stressing that this issue should be respected where no reservations can be accepted by anyone, calling for a high turnout of Syrian voters.

Al-Moallem stressed that Syria is committed to the cessation of hostilities agreement, noting that there have been breaches of the agreement by the armed groups that were responded to by the army sometimes and overlooked in other times.

“We affirm out armed forces’ right to respond to breaches,” he added.

He used this opportunity to urge those who have taken up weapons to utilize the agreement of the cessation of hostilities and engage in reconciliations.

The crisis, he affirmed, is coming to an end, and we hereby welcome all those who want to join our armed forces in the fight against ISIL, al-Nusra Front and the terrorist organizations linked to them,” added al-Moallem.

In his comments on the talk about foreign ground intervention in Syria that came up in the past period, al-Moallem reaffirmed that “No one dares to intervene in Syria in a ground war, and that this talk has receded, noting that US President Barack Obama’s recent speech proved that he is not going to such a war.

“I say with confidence that our people will reject any attempts at dividing [the country],” he said.

Al-Moallem referred to the recent statements about a federal model in Syria made by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as circulated by the media, clarifying that the statements were not quoted objectively because Ryabkov made it contingent on the Syrians’ approval.

“I say as a Syrian citizen, and I’m sure you are with me, that we reject the talk about federalism and we are with the unity of Syria,” he added.

The Foreign Minister reiterated in comments on statements by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that the latter is always repeating his talk at all occasions and what he said “was worthless”. “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” al-Moallem said.

He asserted that the Syrian people are optimistic about the talks in Geneva, adding however that while the Syrian Arab Republic’s delegation is going to Geneva with the intention to made the dialogue a success, this issue depends also on the other parties as well.

“If those have illusions of taking over power through Geneva after they failed in the battlefield, they will fail once again,” he added.

He made it clear that nowhere in the UN documents there is something that talks about a transition period of presidency, “which is why there should be agreement on the definition of transition period.”

“As far as we understand it, transition is to move from a standing constitution to a new one and from a standing government to another that involves the other party,” he said.

Al-Moallem went on saying that the standing constitution will remain in place until holding a referendum by the Syrian people on a new or an amended one, reiterating again that there is no link between the legislative elections and what is going on in Geneva.

“We are going to Geneva and we do not know with whom we will have dialogue,” he said, reiterating that the Republic’s delegation will wait only 24 hours for the other parties to show up and if the other parties don’t show up by that time, the delegation will leave Geneva and the other party will be held responsible for the failure of the talks.

Al-Moallem affirmed that the Republic’s delegation does not put preconditions for the dialogue in Geneva, adding that those who know Syria and the Syrian leadership well realize that “we do not bow to anyone, whether states or groups.”

“We will not have dialogue with any side that discusses the position of the president. This is a red line and it is up to the Syrians alone,” he reiterated.

Asked about the Kurds in Syria, al-Moallem affirmed that “Our brothers, the Kurds, are Syrian citizens, and they are with us in the same trench against ISIL.”

‘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.

‘Unusual event’: Oconee nuclear reactor shut down after transformer explosion & fire

One of the reactors at the Oconee Nuclear Station has been shut down after a series of explosions and a fire damaged a transformed on site. The operator declared the incident “unusual” but emphasized there was no threat of radiation release.

Emergency crews deployed at the scene have managed to contain the fire, and will remain at the scene to assist crews. Oconee Nuclear Station is a nuclear power plant located on Lake Keowee near Seneca, South Carolina.

“Unit #1 was shut down as a precaution,” Oconee County Emergency Management said in a statement. “There is NO POTENTIAL FOR RELEASE.”

The plant operator Duke Energy said that while “Unit 1 has been safely shutdown” the remaining “Units 2 and 3 continue to operate safely.”

Officials blamed the “unusual event” on electrical equipment failure inside a transformer they say was located outside the building.

Authorities urged the public stay away from the area as emergency personnel and Duke Energy staff work around the area. However they emphasized that there was no security risk that would require evacuations or traffic detours.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

he transformer malfunctioned and caught fire at 3:20pm local time, and the “unusual event” was upgraded to an “alert” – a second level of emergency – at 4:58pm, according to the company.

Incidents falling to “alert” classification require outside interference from emergency services but pose “no threat to public safety,” the company explained.

The 15-by-12 foot transformer had been burning for approximately 30 minutes before fire crews and Oconee County Fire units responded, WYFF4 reports.

The intense flames and thick black smoke coming out of the transformer which was seen by many witnesses was reportedly due to the oil that was inside.

The blaze was completely extinguished with the help of local fire brigades, and had “no impact” on plant employees or the facility’s neighbors, while customers are not expected to suffer any power outages.

The operator announced it will be conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the incident at an aging plant located on Lake Keowee that began operations in 1973.

Oconee is one of the largest nuclear power plants in the US with a capacity of some 2,600 megawatts and is the second to have its operating license extended for an additional twenty years.