Several Turkish tanks and military vehicles, including M60T, Leopard 2A4 and ACV-15, roll into Syria from Hatay border

The ground units of Turkish military is likely to join operation in Syria’s Afrin on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.

“From tomorrow [Sunday], depending on developments, our ground units will perform the necessary activities [as part of the Operation Olive Branch],” Yildirim told reporters in a joint news conference with the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli in Ankara.

The prime minister said the first phase of “Operation Olive Branch” was conducted by air forces and ‘nearly all’ targets were destroyed.

Turkey launched a military campaign in Afrin region, northwestern Syria, to eliminate the PKK, PYD, YPG and Daesh terrorist organizations, and to save civilians in the region from the terrorists’ oppression and cruelty.

“The goal of the Republic of Turkey is not and may never be to bring prejudice to the territorial integrity of Syria. The work that is being done for the last three years will remove the harassment and destruction on the territory of the Euphrates Shield in northwestern Syria and it will also eliminate the violation against civilians living on our border districts and terrorism activities.

Read More At:

http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/land-forces-may-join-afrin-operation-sunday-turkish-pm/1037237

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US MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries (air defense system) loaded onto general cargo vessel ‘EIT PALOMA’ (under Antigua and Barbuda flag) in Germany (very probably) bound for Middle East

The Syrian government said on Thursday that a U.S. military presence in Syria represented an “aggression” against Syrian sovereignty, and vowed to free the country from any “illegitimate” foreign presence.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement was a response to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday in which he signalled that U.S. forces would stay in parts of Syria indefinitely.

“The American military presence on Syrian land is illegitimate and represents a blatant breach of international law and an aggression against national sovereignty,” the statement said.

Syria would continue its “relentless war against terrorist movements with their different names until every inch of Syrian soil is cleansed” and would work with “the same determination” to free Syria of any “illegitimate foreign presence”.

Tillerson signalled an open-ended military presence as part of a broader strategy to prevent Islamic State’s resurgence, pave the way diplomatically for the eventual departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and curtail Iran’s influence.

The United States has around 2,000 military personnel in Syria, deployed as part of the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign against Islamic State. The Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said the government was not in need of U.S. dollars “stained with the blood of Syrians”.

Read More At:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-usa/syrian-government-u-s-military-presence-in-syria-is-act-of-aggression-idUSKBN1F70YL

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Massive mobilization of Turkish forces toward Syrian border

Turkey’s president has said the country will launch a military assault on a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria “in the coming days” and urged the US to support its efforts.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the operation against the Afrin enclave aimed to “purge terror” from his country’s southern border.

Afrin is controlled by a Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency within its borders.

A YPG spokesman in Afrin said there had been clashes on Sunday between his unit and Turkish troops near the border. Rojhat Roj said shelling of areas in Afrin district, in Aleppo province, had killed one YPG fighter and injured two civilians.

Turkey and its western allies, including the US, consider the PKK a terrorist organisation. But the US has been arming some of Syria’s Kurds to help defeat Islamic State in Syria – a sore point in already tense US-Turkish relations.

The Turkish president said that “despite it all” he wanted to work with the US in the region and hoped it would not side with the YPG during the Afrin operation.

“We expect [the US] to support Turkey in its legitimate efforts” to combat terror, Erdoğan said.

Separately, Erdoğan’s spokesman described as “worrying” reports that the US-led coalition fighting Isis would establish a 30,000-strong border security force in Syria involving the Kurdish militia.

Read More At:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/14/turkey-plans-assault-on-kurdish-enclave-in-syria

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Iranian forces deploy some tanks (probably UK made Chieftain FV4201) near the city of Shiraz

Ten people have been killed overnight in anti-government protests sweeping Iran, according to state TV.

The demonstrations, which erupted on Thursday in Iran’s second city of Mashhad, are the biggest show of dissent seen since the huge rallies of the Green Movement were brutally suppressed in 2009.

Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli-Larijani called for a crackdown on “rioters” and “vandals” on Monday, according to state television.

“Some individuals are exploiting the situation. This is wrong,” he said.

State TV said armed protesters had tried to take over some police stations and military bases, but faced serious resistance from security forces.

Read More At:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42532784

 

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Video reportedly shows Iranian forces moving towards Mashhad, but the convoy would seem trasporting Russian-made S-300 missile systems (Air Defence), is Tehran fearing something bigger than a protest?

Iranian police warned antigovernment protesters against staging new rallies after arresting dozens of demonstrators in Tehran and the western city Kermanshah, even as the United States called for a “peaceful transition” of government in Iran.

Speaking on December 29 after a second day of protests against price hikes that turned political and spread to multiple Iranian cities, Mohsen Hamadani, a deputy governor of Tehran Province, was quoted by state media as saying that law enforcement agencies would take tough measures against any future gatherings.

“There is no authorization for such protests,” he was quoted as saying.

Despite the warning from Iranian authorities, the U.S. State Department and White House issued statements condemning the arrests and demanding that Tehran allow free expression by the protesters.

“There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

“The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching,” she said.

The State Department’s spokeswoman said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was personally urging support for what he has described as “elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government.”

“We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The protesters got some encouragement from Iranian clergy as well.

“Their protests, as well as other people’s reaction to high prices, are unquestionaby just,” said Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, a Friday prayer-leader and mid-ranking cleric in Iran’s second most populous city, Masshad, where the protests began on December 28.

But al-Hoda also questioned whether the protests weren’t also providing “food for hostile media” whose goal is “propagating sedition,” using terms often used to described independent news outlets.

In an unprecedented comment, the head of Mashhad’s revolutionary court, Hossein Haydari, said: “We consider protest to be the people’s right, but if some people want to abuse these emotions and ride this wave, we won’t wait and will confront them.”

Other clerics condemned the protests as “anti-Islam” and said Israel and the United States were behind them.

But the demonstrators were urged on by the exiled former Crown Prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, who said that “the uprising, once again showed that overthrowing theocracy in Iran is a national demand.”

Earlier on December 29 in Kermanshah, semiofficial news agencies Fars and Mehr reported that police dispersed a rally of some 300 people who chanted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death.”

Unconfirmed reports say that that up to 50 people were arrested in a demonstration in Kermanshah, on December 29, a day after hundreds protested against high prices and shouted political slogans in Mashhad.

Footage on social media showed protesters in Kermanshah’s central Azadi Square chanting “”Death to the dictator” and “The nation is struggling in poverty; The leader is trying to act as God.”

Various chants appeared to target both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, without naming him, and President Hassan Rohani.

Similar protests were reported in several other cities, including Rasht, Ahvaz, Ghazvin, Qom, Esfahan, and Hamadan among others.

Read More At:

https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-rallies-price-protests-kermanshah-mashhad/28945966.html

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We can see Russia increasing military movement around the country, one reason could be latest NATO activities in South Caucasus “in particular about a $75-million deal on deliveries of cutting-edge anti-tank missile systems Javelin to Tbilisi”

A regular round of Geneva International Discussions on security and stability in the South Caucasus has not brought about any agreement on the non-use of force in the region, a Russian diplomat said.

Russia highlighted an increase in NATO activity in the South Caucasus at the Geneva International Discussions, emphasizing that Moscow cannot take this calmly, Russia’s State Secretary, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told TASS on Wednesday.

“There appeared information about new contracts, in particular about a $75-million deal on deliveries of cutting-edge anti-tank missile systems Javelin to Tbilisi,” Karasin said. “Moreover, Americans have repurposed the Georgian peacekeepers’ course to train regular units.”

“Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia are alarmed, and naturally, we cannot take it calmly,” he said. “We focused attention on this fact at the Geneva meeting.”

A regular round of Geneva International Discussions on security and stability in the South Caucasus has not brought about any agreement on the non-use of force in the region, he said.

“For more than three hours and a half, we have been discussing a joint statement on non-use of force,” he said. “We nearly come to approve it.”

“However, one of the sides needed hours attempting to agree it,” the diplomat added. “Unfortunately, no such approval followed.”

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Read More At:

http://tass.com/politics/980799

Source reports about military (M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, AMOS Patria AMVs, XA-202 EPA and other vehicles) trains “with secret timetables” running through Finland

The increasingly militarized conflict between Western military alliance NATO and Russia has compelled Finland to boost its own defenses and acquire new weapons, according to the commander of the country’s armed forces.

Finnish Defense Chief General Jarmo Lindberg said Wednesday that the increased military activity in the region prompted Helsinki to rethink prior defense cuts and commit to expanding its forces, including procuring new weapons and equipment. Finland has been one of the few Western European countries that hasn’t sought membership in NATO, but its troubled relationship with neighboring Russia worsened after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, which prompted an escalation in NATO’s mobilization in recent years.

“The overall military activity in the neighborhood of Finland has been growing. Russia, as we all know, has been active ever since Crimea. NATO has brought on forces to the Baltic states, and in Poland it has forward presence. There is a U.S. Marine Corps unit in Norway. Sweden has brought the forces back to the island of Gotland, and they also ran a huge national exercise—19,000 soldiers—this September,” Lindberg told Defense News.

“So overall military activity all around Finland has been growing for the last four, five years. That means that also we are in a situation where we have been analyzing our military capabilities, our military readiness—and based on our analysis, it is changing. So more reserve, it is better readiness and it is better spearheading of capabilities for all the services,” he added.

Read More At:

http://www.newsweek.com/russia-nato-cold-war-finland-build-military-buy-more-weapons-740490

Full Video:

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