Thursday, February 18, 2016

US, Russia Launch Effort for Long-Term Syria Cease-fire - VOA

European Divisions Drive Munich Conference, While Russia Circles

1 Share
By Matthew Bodner, Defense News 8:38 p.m. EST February 18, 2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, talks to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Security Conference in Munich.(Photo: Matthias Schrader/AFP via Getty Images)
MUNICH — In the best of times, the annual Munich Security Conference serves as an altar upon which the trans-Atlantic alliance can reaffirm its vows. When the chips are down, as they were this year, Munich exposes the deep fragility of Euro-Atlantic unity.
The tone of European leaders assembled at the conference was as ominous as the threats described were diverse. The European Union is overwhelmed by migrants from Syria, transnational terrorism, and the threat of Russia on the eastern flank.
“There is a great deal at stake. The forces pulling us apart in Europe are so enormous,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during a panel session at the conference.
Despite a valiant effort by US Secretary of State John Kerry to encourage his Western colleagues, session after session of Munich panels saw top European leaders lament the state of affairs, while focusing primarily on their immediate security priorities.
“This moment is not as overwhelming as people think it is,” Kerry said, referring to a slew of threats ranging from the migrant crisis, deterring Russia, dealing with ISIS and ending the war in Syria. “We know what needs to be done and, most importantly, we have the power to do it.”
Part of Kerry’s problem was the distinct impression that Europe is no longer certain the US will act as the ultimate guarantor of continental security. Meanwhile, Russia is seizing upon almost every opportunity to pursue its own objectives.
These objectives have been described as seeking sanctions relief, asserting itself as a great power and dividing the European Union — three formulations that are inexorably linked.
Many interpreted the Munich security conference as signaling a new Cold War. Whether that is true or not, the battle of wills between Moscow and the West appears to be heating up.
The Threat List
Russian foreign policy is opportunistic and the Kremlin has long resented power blocs to which it does not belong — be they political, economic or military alliances. And Moscow is now an obstacle to every major European challenge.
The lack of a unified vision for Europe’s priority was made clear during the conference’s so-called presidents’ debate. The panel featured the presidents of Poland, Finland, Lithuania and non-EU member Ukraine.
It kicked off with EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, who unintentionally framed the remaining debate appropriately by naming the rise of transnational skeptics to national governments across the EU as the greatest security threat to Europe. What followed was a laundry list of national security concerns presented by Europe’s eastern neighbors.
Polish President Adrzej Duda, for example, respondent to Schultz’s concerns by asserting Poland’s main priority now is to deter Russia by strengthening NATO’s presence in the region with “more bases, and especially infrastructure of NATO in our part of Europe.”
Predictably, Duda’s priorities were echoed by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who called for reforms to be discussed at the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw, scheduled to take place this summer.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto argued that Europe should look at the bigger picture and work to find the “most basic common denominator” with which to engage Russia constructively, a point that stood in obvious contrast to the rest of the panel — especially Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who, in an impassioned oratory reminded Europe he was fighting a war against their common antagonist, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The list of competing security concerns continued beyond the presidential panel.
France, in the wake of the Paris attacks, was busy trying to rally the international community to deepen its commitment to fighting ISIS and radical extremists of all stripes everywhere.
Germany, as well as a number of other western, central and northern EU members, cited the migrant crisis as the primary existential threat to the EU, and argued that ending the war in Syria should be the continent’s main priority.
The common thread was Russia. Niinisto perhaps said it best: “Russia is there — from Syria to the Arctic. Always.”
The Russian Connection
Backed into a corner by sanctions and diplomatic isolation, Moscow appeared to launch a full-court press while in Munich. During his speech, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev delivered a dire warning: You need us to fight terrorism and end the war in Syria, so lift the sanctions.
The initial reaction to Medvedev was negative, and his question-and-answer session was dominated by hard questions pertaining to Russia’s role in the MH17 disaster over eastern Ukraine, and its alleged indiscriminate bombardment of civilians in northern Syria.
The question is whether nations like Germany will tolerate the migrant crisis or terrorist spillover from the Syrian conflict if things get worse. With reforms in Ukraine faltering, along with the European Union's patience with Kiev, can Moscow pressure the West into accepting its terms?
Moscow has the mechanisms to do so, if calls for Western unity go unheeded. The Kremlin has inserted itself as an obstacle or would-be partner in nearly every challenge cited by European nations.
In this way, Russia appears to have chosen to directly challenge the Western diplomatic policy of “compartmentalization,” the almost sacred separation of Ukraine and Syria with regards to engaging Moscow that has driven diplomatic jargon in recent months.
If Europe’s main priority is to end the migrant crisis, the war in Syria must be drawn to a close. In Syria, Russia holds all the cards. Though a cease-fire is soon to be implemented, Russia continues to allegedly bomb civilians and opposition fighters.
Worsening the tensions between Europe and Russia over Syria is the recurring antagonism between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Putin. Both have a penchant for bravado and escalation, and tensions could flare as Russia gets closer to its objectives in Syria.
Russia’s moves may indicate that Moscow is attempting to exacerbate the refugee crisis, defeat the Syria opposition, and only then present the West with a deal to combat ISIS together with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on Putin’s terms.
Meanwhile, Russia is arguing that it should be let off the hook for Ukraine. Medvedev asserted that sanctions poison relations and prevent both sides from taking on the real civilizational threat together: violent extremism in the Middle East.
Two years after the events in Kiev that eventually led to Russia’s annexation of Crime and its alleged involvement in the civil war in Donbas, the new government’s reform efforts are foundering, and it's not clear Poroshenko can keep the situation under control.
The risk for the West to give up on Ukraine in exchange for Russia’s cooperation in Syria, or even just the promise of cooperation, should be taken seriously. Poroshenko certainly did during his panel session, where he devoted a significant amount of time to defending reforms.
Munich sent a clear message: 2016 will test the strength of the political, economic and cultural ties that have bound the trans-Atlantic community since 1945. And Russia may have the momentum. It certainly has the clearer goals.
Twitter: @mattb0401
Read or Share this story: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
Read the whole story
· · · · ·

U.S. quietly tells Russia where American troops are located inside Syria

1 Share
By Andrew Tilghman, Military Times 4:45 p.m. EST February 18, 2016
A Russian bomber lands at Hemeimeem Air Base in Syria on Jan. 20. The U.S. military told the Russians where American special forces troops are located in Syria and asked the Russians not to bomb them.(Photo: Vladimir Isachenkov/AP)
The Pentagon told the Russian military where U.S. Special Forces are located in Syria with the hopes that Russian aircraft will steer clear of that area and not risk bombing American service members, top military officials said Thursday.
The disclosure reveals an expanded level of military–to-military communication and cooperation between the two countries beyond the basic “memorandum of understanding,” or MOU, that was signed in October and focused on safety protocols for air crews operating in Syrian air space.
“We provided a geographical area that we asked them to stay out of because of the risk to U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Thursday.
“This was a step we took to try to maintain their safety in a dangerous situation and this was a request that we made to the Russians outside the scope of the" memorandum of understanding, Cook said.
“Up to this point, [the Russians] have honored this request,” Cook said.
The official memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Russia came in October after Russia began daily airstrikes in Syria. The agreement was limited in scope because the U.S. and Russia have sharply different military goals in Syria. The U.S. is focused on defeating Islamic State militants while Russia is conducting airstrikes mainly in support of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In December, the U.S. began sending teams of up to 50 special operations troops into northeastern Syria to support Syrian rebel groups fighting the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
About that same time, the U.S. told Russian military officials the general location of those troops, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
Cook said high-level U.S. Defense Department officials shared the information with their counterparts in the Russian Ministry of Defense. He declined to say whether the U.S. and Russia had any formal written agreement.
The U.S. has rejected some similar requests from Russia. “There have been requests made by the Russians that we have not been willing to agree to,” Cook said.
The Air Force commander said the agreement is informal.
“I don’t have any assurances, really, from the Russians. But we told them … these general areas where we have coalition forces. And we don’t want them to strike there because all it’s going to do is escalate things,” Brown told reporters in a briefing from his office in Qatar.
“The Russians have actually outlined some areas — some of the airfields that they're worried about, that they don't want us flying close to, and really, typically, we don't fly there anyway. So, that hasn't been an issue.”
The Defense Department has repeatedly cited operational security and declined to say publicly where the U.S. special operations troops are in Syria.
Several local news reports say the U.S. forces have taken over an airfield in northeastern Syria, Rmeilan Air Base in the Syrian Kurdish region near Syria's Iraqi and Turkish borders.
In January American helicopters were at the base as local workers expanded the runway, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The airfield was until recently under control of the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the YPG, but was turned over to the U.S. to help expand American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the loose-knit coalition of American-backed militants fighting the Islamic State group.
Read or Share this story: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
Read the whole story
· · ·

Russia seizes upper hand as US flounders in Syria - News

1 Share
STUTTGART, Germany — Unity between air and ground forces and a clear objective have enabled the Russians to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war, reverse the fortunes of their longtime ally President Bashar Assad and leave the already muddled American strategy in Syria in tatters.
Rather than finding himself stuck in a Mideast quagmire, as was widely predicted in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin has seized control of events and established himself — and not President Barack Obama — as the indispensable power broker in a crisis that has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced half the Syrian population and unleashed waves of refugees whose presence threatens to wreck the European Union.
“They have mastered the game by very effective tactics and they are on the winning side,” said Marc Pierini, a former European Union ambassador to Syria. “The best the West can hope for is a political arrangement dominated by the regime.”
When Russia intervened in Syria in September, Assad’s position seemed untenable as a mix of opposition forces, some backed by the United States, and the Islamic State group gained ground. A year after the U.S. and allies had been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria, the Russians entered the war to shore up Assad, launching a massive air campaign the West said focused mainly on U.S.-backed Syrian opposition forces, rather than the Islamic State group.
And unlike the U.S., which failed at attempts to develop enough reliable local forces, Russia has been able to coordinate its air campaign with effective partners on the ground — the Syrian army and its Iranian allies.
Those tactical advantages are now on full display around Aleppo in northwestern Syria, whose fall to the regime could deliver a decisive blow to the five-year rebellion, carving out an expanding swath for Assad in Syria’s west.
Meanwhile, the U.S. efforts to train a Syrian opposition force have widely been deemed a disaster. The lone effective ground partner for the Americans have been Syrian Kurds, who now are taking advantage of Russia’s airstrikes around Aleppo to seize territory north of the city along Turkey’s border.
The U.S. support of the Kurds, is putting at risk the U.S’s 60-year alliance with Turkey, which views the Kurdish militia in Syria, the YPG, as its top enemy and fears that they could secure an enclave along the Turkish border and link up with the Kurds in southern Turkey, whom Ankara has been battling for months.
Turkey, whose Incirlik Air Base is key to a U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, has lashed out at Washington over the issue in a sign of conflicting priorities.
Now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, under pressure to stem the flow of refugees pouring into Europe, has revived talk of instituting a no-fly zone over Syria, a move Washington has long been cool to.
Merkel, during a news conference Wednesday, said rather than establish such a safe zone by force, her plan would require the consent of the Assad regime, underscoring how little leverage the West possesses when dealing with Russia in Syria. Russia already has brushed the idea aside.
Short of a dramatic reversal in American policy — one willing to risk confrontation with Moscow — Western calls for a halt to hostilities in Syria amount to more wishful thinking than strategy, critics of U.S. policy say.
“I think we need to establish a no-fly zone to start to stabilize parts of Syria,” said Stephen Szabo, a security analyst with the Transatlantic Academy in Washington. “If it comes to a conflict with Russia through miscalculation, so be it.”
Merkel’s public flirting with the idea of a no-fly zone, a reversal from past statements, is part of a percolating focus on the idea of setting up safe havens for civilians in Syria.
In a Feb. 9 op-ed in the Washington Post, Syria observers Michael Ignatieff and Leon Wieseltier argued that failure to establish such a zone would make the U.S. complicit in war crimes given the toll on civilians in Aleppo.
“Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it would prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians.”
“If the Russians and Syrians sought to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences,” the authors said.
A series of safe zones backed by U.S.-led coalition fire power could force Putin to the negotiating table on less favorable terms, said Szabo, the security analyst. However, he said, the chances of the White House taking such action were remote.
“They (the Russians) know we have air superiority. He (Putin) will push as far as he can until he gets push back,” Szabo said.
The question is whether the strategic stakes for the U.S. in Syria are high enough to test Putin’s resolve.
“A no-fly zone is a very difficult bet,” said Pierini, a security analyst at the Carnegie Europe think tank in Brussels. “This was a good idea the day before yesterday. Doing it in 2012 would have meant something. Now, with this massive and highly capable Russian presence, it is a very dangerous situation.”
Despite a deal negotiated last week in Munich between the West and Russia for a cessation of hostilities, international observers say Russian airstrikes continue in force.
For years, the U.S. has largely stood on the sidelines as the civil war steadily intensified in Syria, focusing its energy on the campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and arguing that fighting in Syria could only be ended through political dialogue. Early on, long before the Russian military campaign, the White House resisted calls to arm rebel forces in Syria. While the policy of the administration was that “Assad must go,” the White House was skeptical about whether a credible opposition force existed that was worth arming.
Critics from all sides, such as Republican hawk Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is now running for president, have argued that a more robust plan to support a secular Syrian opposition would have made a difference. Obama also rejected calls to establish a no-fly zone over Syria, which would have prevented regime fighter planes from carrying out strikes on rebel and civilian positions in Syria, but also immersed the U.S. in a messy civil war.
The debate over a no-fly zone now comes as the Assad regime’s siege on Aleppo sends thousands more civilians to Syria’s border with Turkey, an upheaval that could eventually result in another tide of Europe-bound refugees.
And it further complicates the U.S. relationship with its NATO ally Turkey and its nominal allies on the ground in Syria, the Kurds.
For Russia, there are no such complications, and in recent months its willingness to align with those willing to hammer anti-Assad forces, has brought about an alliance between Russia and the Kurds, who view Washington as an unreliable partner.
“The intentions of Russia are very clear and very transparent,” said Pierini. “Now we have alliances and allegiances shifting for good and bad reasons. Syrian Kurds fighting in support of the U.S. and Russia to the great despair of the Turks. It could all get a lot worse.”
One concern is Turkey, anxious about Syrian Kurds carving out territory near its border, could launch a ground offensive that would bring it into direct conflict with Russia. That could prompt Turkey to appeal to the U.S.-led NATO alliance for support. However, the U.S. has warned Turkey against sending in forces, and Ankara appears reluctant to step inside Syria for direct confrontation without U.S. backing. But it has been shelling Kurdish positions for several days and demanded they withdraw from territory near the border.
“Turkey’s original objectives in Syria’s civil war — to extend its regional influence and ensure the swift removal of Bashar al-Assad — now seem a distant dream,” said the Soufan Group, a New York-based security firm, in an analysis of the latest developments. “Far from emerging triumphant from the current mess in the Middle East, Turkey appears to be the region’s biggest loser.”
Read the whole story
· · · · · ·

[Analysis] Russia's Syria tactics imperil EU-Turkey migrant plan - EUobserver

1 Share


[Analysis] Russia's Syria tactics imperil EU-Turkey migrant plan
Events in Syria raise doubts as to whether the EU-Turkey migrant plan is still relevant. They show the need for solidarity, but there's little of that and few options on how to stop Turkey's “nightmare”. The bomb blast in Ankara on Wednesday (17 ...
US to Russia on Syria ceasefire: 'Put up or shut up'CNN
Russia denies Syria hospital bombingUSA TODAY
Kurds' advance in Syria divides US and Turkey as Russia bombsReuters
CBS News -The Guardian
all 7,619 news articles »

Russia seizes upper hand as US flounders in Syria - Stars and Stripes

1 Share

Stars and Stripes

Russia seizes upper hand as US flounders in Syria
Stars and Stripes
Russia has promised to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria in case of a ground offensive by Turkey, a move that would lead to a "big war," the Syrian group's envoy to Moscow said in an interview on Wednesday.
Kurds Warn Turkey of 'Big War' With Russia If Troops Enter SyriaBloomberg
Turkey warns Russia over Ankara attackFinancial Times
[Analysis] Russia's Syria tactics imperil EU-Turkey migrant planEUobserver

all 3,532 news articles »

U.S. quietly tells Russia where American troops are located inside Syria - Military Times

1 Share

Military Times

U.S. quietly tells Russia where American troops are located inside Syria
Military Times
The Pentagon told the Russian military where U.S. Special Forces are located in Syria with the hopes that Russian aircraft will steer clear of that area and not risk bombing American service members, top military officials said Thursday. The disclosure ...
Pentagon: Russia agreed not to strike US forces in SyriaThe Hill
US has told Russia where US special forces are in SyriaWashington Post
'Russia a major military': President Obama backtracks on Moscow's defense capabilitiesRT
Voice of News
all 101 news articles »
Next Page of Stories
Page 2

European Divisions Drive Munich Conference, While Russia Circles -

1 Share

European Divisions Drive Munich Conference, While Russia Circles
MUNICH — In the best of times, the annual Munich Security Conference serves as an altar upon which the trans-Atlantic alliance can reaffirm its vows. When the chips are down, as they were this year, Munich exposes the deep fragility of Euro-Atlantic ...
Russia warns Assad not to snub Syria ceasefire planReuters 
US, Russia Launch Effort for Long-Term Syria Cease-fireVoice of America
Yes, the US and Russia can cooperate to end the Syrian civil war. Here's why.Washington Post

Center for Research on Globalization -Jerusalem Post Israel News
all 2,067 
news articles »

Donald Trump Fires Back at Sharp Rebuke by Pope Francis

1 Share
Mr. Trump’s attack on Francis reflected a political calculation that criticizing the pope will not hurt him with conservatives — and might even improve his standing in South Carolina.

World Briefing: Ukraine: Governing Coalition Splinters

1 Share
The governing coalition lost its majority in Parliament after a second faction bailed out.

Agreement Clears the Way for Airdrops of Humanitarian Aid in Syria 

1 Share
The United Nations World Food Program will start its first airdrops in Syria in coming days, using aircraft provided by a Russian contractor.

North Korea satellite tumbling in orbit again: U.S. sources

1 Share
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea’s recently launched satellite is once again tumbling in orbit, after stabilizing briefly, according to a U.S. official and other sources.

Russian arms sale to Iran without approval would violate ban: U.S

1 Share
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A reported sale of Russian combat aircraft to Iran would violate a U.N. arms embargo if it occurred without advance U.N. Security Council approval, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
Next Page of Stories
Page 3

US, Russia Launch Effort for Long-Term Syria Cease-fire

1 Share
The U.S. and Russia will launch an effort Friday that could bring long-term stability to efforts to get humanitarian aid to besieged areas of Syria. The two countries, under the auspices of the United Nations, will co-chair an initial meeting of a cease-fire task force in Geneva. The task force will explore prospects for a long-range cessation in Syria, where a five-year civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 people and the displacement of millions more. The...

As Drones Explode in Popularity, Potential Benefits, Dangers Emerge

1 Share
An estimated 1 million drones were sold over the 2015 Christmas holiday period in the United States alone. The explosion in their popularity - and their plummeting price tag - has prompted some concern over the potential dangers of drones. But there is also recognition of the huge benefits the technology could bring. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.

The Syrian Refugees Trapped Between an Angry Turkey and a Vengeful Assad 

1 Share
There are thousands of them, Syrians who have fled a recent escalation in their country’s years-long civil war, running for their lives from a joint Russian-Syrian government assault on the towns of northern Syria. Yet on the Turkish side of the Bab al-Salama border crossing, less than 36 miles from Aleppo, the gateway linking Syria to Turkey is all but deserted. A long straight road lined with olive groves leads to the crossing from the nearby Turkish town of Kilis. At the gate of the crossing, vendors on one side of the deserted road hawk juice, tea, nuts and cigarettes from under brightly colored umbrellas. Children from a nearby refugee scamper in the road in front of the gate. One enterprising group of vendors sells fish from the back of an old dark grey sedan. “Fish! A kilo for a lira!” shouts one peddler, to no one and no customer in particular.
The peculiar calm north of the border stands in brutal contrast to the situation to the south, where about 70,000 people have recently fled their homes. Many of them are gathered—trapped, really—in an encampment on the southern side of the Bab al-Salama crossing point, just out of sight from Turkey. Reversing a longstanding policy of welcoming Syrian refugees, Turkey has sealed the border to the vast majority of newly displaced people. Now, most Syrians fleeing the escalation in the north of the country can no longer escape.
And then there are the explosions. Every few minutes, there is a loud thump, sometimes followed by a plume of smoke on the hillside across the border in Syria. The thumping is thought to be Turkish artillery shells, targeting the Kurdish armed groups who are capturing towns from mainstream Syrian rebel groups. The sound of firing continued Wednesday morning and afternoon, before stopping on Thursday.
The shelling is one sign that the war in northern Syria is spiraling further out of control. Backed by an intense assault by Russian jets, forces supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad are advancing near the city of Aleppo, where they could place a key rebel stronghold under siege. The Russian air campaign threatens the continuing viability of the five-year-old rebellion against Assad, in which nearly half a million people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes.
Kurdish groups appear to have also capitalized on the Russian air campaign, capturing other rebel-held towns near Aleppo this week. The advances by Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) armed wing have alarmed Turkey, which regards the group as a terrorist organization and an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), another Kurdish group which has fought a three-decade battle with Ankara over the rights of minority Kurds in Turkey.
In response, Turkey began shelling Kurdish positions near its border north of Aleppo on February 13. The Turkish government also called this week for a ground incursion into Syria that would potentially include its own and allied forces.
It’s a possibility analysts believe is unlikely for the moment, but what’s clear is that the Russian-backed offensive has upended the already chaotic geopolitical calculus in northern Syria, producing a multipolar showdown between an array of local and international actors. The rebel groups that sprouted from the unarmed uprising against Assad five years ago now face an assault from the regime, the Russians, the Kurds and the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
The fighting has also pushed even more Syrians from their homes. At least 70,000 people fled their homes in northern Syria between February 1 and 16, according to the United Nations. Of the thousands massed at the Turkish border, only those with specific permits or seeking medical treatment are allowed through.
Those few Syrians who have made it across described hellish scenes in their final moments. Assad Breir, 60, fled the town of Tel Rifaat last week amid Russian airstrikes and before Kurdish forces took over the town, which lies on the strategic highway between the Turkish border and Aleppo. He and his two sons had all worked in construction. Although they had no experience fighting, his sons went to join the last-minute defense of the town against the Kurdish militants, he said. The evacuation of the town was rushed and chaotic, and Breir seemed to be struggling to make sense of his memories as he told his story. “We felt as if we were drunk, but we were not drinking alcohol,” he said.
Dressed in a long grey tunic and flicking a set of prayer beads, Breir spoke in the courtyard of a hospital in Kilis, a few miles from the Syrian border. He managed to enter Turkey by joining a convoy carrying injured people from the town into Turkey, including four of his relatives. Two were being treated in Kilis, while another two were sent to the nearby city of Gaziantep. Breir never saw his sons again. He was told they were killed in fighting. “In Tel Rifaat, everything was killed, down to the ants and the birds,” he said.
The escalating war in Syria is also sowing violence in Turkey. On Wednesday night a car bombing killed 28 people in the capital Ankara. The Turkish government blamed Syrian Kurdish militants—a charge they denied—and vowed to continue shelling Kurdish positions in Syria. Meanwhile, a proposed ceasefire plan formulated at a diplomatic summit in Munich last week shows no signs of being implemented. In the face of an ongoing Russian-backed assault, the rebel factions have vowed to continue fighting in what increasingly appears to be a battle for their survival.
Others fleeing the violence say entire towns have been largely depopulated. Abdulrahaman Alhafez, 48, a surgeon at a hospital in the town of Marea, crossed the Bab al-Salama crossing on Thursday morning, carrying a suitcase. “There only a few dozen families left” totaling 100 and 200 people, he said. The majority of the civilians had left when Kurdish-led forces entered Tel Rifaat. “They’re afraid of the Russian airstrikes,” he said. “They’re not afraid of the Kurdish militias. They’re afraid of the airstrikes that come before.”
Read the whole story
· · · · ·

New West Bank Violence as Palestinian Boys Stab 2 Israelis

1 Share
Israeli security forces at a supermarket in the occupied West Bank after two Palestinians stabbed two Israeli men on Thursday. One of the victims, an off-duty soldier, was killed.

Biden welcomes passage of Ukraine reforms in call with Poroshenko: White House

1 Share
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in a telephone call on Thursday, commended Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko on the passage of anti-corruption legislation sought by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, the White House said.

As Drones Explode in Popularity, Potential Benefits, Dangers Emerge 

1 Share
From: VOAvideo
Duration: 02:46

An estimated one million drones were sold over the 2015 Christmas holiday period in the United States alone. The explosion in their popularity - and their plummeting price tag - has prompted some concern over the potential dangers of drones. But there is also recognition of the huge benefits the technology could bring. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Originally published at -
Next Page of Stories
Page 4

Pentagon Asks Russia to Avoid Parts of Syria to Protect US Forces 

1 Share
The Pentagon has asked Russia to stay away from parts of northern Syria to protect U.S. Special Operations Forces there, according to military officials. The acknowledgment shows a level of cooperation with Russia despite the Pentagon's repeated insistence that it is not coordinating with Moscow. Both have been managing air campaigns over Syria for months. Lieutenant General Charles Brown, the leader of U.S. Air Force Central Command, which overseas bombing and air surveillance...

Police Seek Suspect After Fatal Brooklyn Shooting

1 Share
The victim was shot during an argument outside an apartment building that has a history of drug activity, the authorities said.

MSF stops sharing Syria hospital locations after 'deliberate' attacks 

1 Share
Médecins Sans Frontières believes giving GPS coordinates of its facilities to Assad and Russian forces increases chance of direct targeting
Hospitals in opposition-held parts of Syria are refusing to share GPS coordinates with Russian and Syrian authorities because of repeated attacks on medical facilities and workers, Médecins Sans Frontières and humanitarian workers on the ground have said.
International charity MSF said it took the decision not to formally inform Syria’s government or its Russian allies about the location of some medical facilities, such as the one hit by a deadly airstrike this week, amid concerns that doing so could make them targets.
Continue reading...

Грани Времени. Спасет ли Орбан Путина от санкций? - 18 февраля, 2016 

1 Share
В Москве прошли традиционная ежегодная встреча президента России Владимира Путина и премьер-министра Венгрии Виктора Орбана. Что стоит за этим многолетним путинско-орбановским флиртом, каковы возможности венгерского лидера подорвать единство Европы в отношении агрессивного внешнеполитического курса России - обсуждают обозреватель венгерской газеты "Непсабадшаг" Габор Хорват, Будапешт, доктор политических наук Юлий Нисневич, зам. главного редактора Максим Саморуков.

Download audio:

Pentagon: US has told Russia where US special forces are in Syria - Washington Post

1 Share

Washington Post

Pentagon: US has told Russia where US special forces are in Syria
Washington Post
In October, roughly a month after Russia started airstrikes in Syria, the Pentagon and theRussian Ministry of Defense established a memorandum of understanding that outlined “specific safety protocols for air crews to follow” so that Russian and U.S ...
Pentagon: Russia agreed not to strike US forces in SyriaThe Hill
US asked Russia not to bomb near US commandos in SyriaFox News
U.S. quietly tells Russia where American troops are located inside SyriaMilitary Times
ABC News -RT
all 75 news articles »

Barclays Hints That Russia's Economy May Have Finally Bottomed - Forbes

1 Share


Barclays Hints That Russia's Economy May Have Finally Bottomed
It's as close to a bottom call on Russia's two-year economic crisis as any. London-based Daniel Hewitt of Barclays said Thursday that Russian growth indicators now point to a “bottoming out of the recession.” It's been a while. Oil and sanctions have ...

and more »
Next Page of Stories
Page 5