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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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Substantial upgrade of US infrastructures + various vehicles deployment including AH-64 Apache/Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters in Syria, more updates soon

The Pentagon is likely to announce in the coming days that there are about 2,000 US troops in Syria, rather than the 500 the military has said are in the war-torn country.

Two US officials detailed the new figure on Friday, as the military acknowledges that an accounting system has underreported the size of forces on the ground.

Separately, Donald Trump discussed developments in Syria with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Sunday, a spokesman for Erdoğan said.

The US military has publicly said it has about 500 troops in Syria, mostly supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces group of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State in the north of the country.

The two officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon could as early as Monday publicly announce the new figure, though there was always a possibility that last-minute changes could delay an announcement.

An accounting system, known as the Force Management Level (FML), was introduced in Iraq and Syria under the Obama administration as a way to exert control over the military.

But the numbers do not reflect the extent of the US commitment on the ground, since commanders often find ways to work around the limits, sometimes bringing in forces temporarily or hiring more contractors.

Current FML figures are officially 5,262 in Iraq and 503 in Syria, but officials have privately acknowledged that the real number for each country is more. In August, the Pentagon announced that there were 11,000 troops serving in Afghanistan, thousands more than it has previously stated.

The Pentagon said last December it would increase the number of authorized troops in Syria to 500. It is not clear how long the actual number has been at about 2,000.

Read More At:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/24/pentagon-us-2000-troops-syria-not-500

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What is the need for the US to develop another big military base when ISIS is facing near total defeat in Syria?

Future plans of the United States regarding the Syrian crisis include maintaining a military presence in the country and establishing a new local government in areas where the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly led by the PKK’s Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), have been trained, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

According to the U.S. daily, the Trump administration does not want to leave the stage to the Assad regime after the Daesh terror group is completely defeated in the country.

This intention was interpreted in the piece as a “potentially open-ended commitment that could draw the U.S. into conflict with both Syria and Iran.”

The Washington Post also cited U.S. officials as saying that the current presence in Syria would be used in favor of the SDF, fearing that an “abrupt withdrawal” could lead to the Assad regime’s political survival.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also said last week that the country intended to set the right conditions for a “diplomatic solution” in the area.

“We’re not just going to walk away right now,” he added.

According to official figures, 503 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in Syria with the aim of training the PKK’s Syrian offshoot-dominated SDF. However, experts claim that the actual number is much higher.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Turkey, Iran and Russia agreed on holding a Syrian People’s Congress to find a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis during a trilateral meeting in the coastal Russian city of Sochi.

Turkey, Russia and Iran are the guarantor countries that brokered a cease-fire in Syria in December 2016, leading to the Astana talks, which are running parallel to the Geneva talks for peace in Syria. The three countries have carried out negotiations in the Kazakh capital since then and agreed on the formation of five de-escalation zones in Syria.

Syria has been locked in a deadly civil war since early 2011, after the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with brutality, leading to the death of thousands of people and to the displacement of more than 10 million others.

Read More At:

https://www.dailysabah.com/syrian-crisis/2017/11/23/us-intends-to-maintain-military-presence-in-syria-after-daesh-defeat

While the Trump administration celebrates a new deal meant to freeze the battlefield in southern Syria, the Assad regime and Iran are preparing for the next phase of the long-running war, in which they will attempt to re-conquer the rest of the country. Whether Iran succeeds depends largely on whether the United States acknowledges and then counters that strategy.

Tehran is pouring thousands of fighters into newly acquired territories and building military bases. Although U.S.-supported forces hold territories east of the Euphrates River in Syria’s southeast, as well as along the borders of Israel and Jordan in the southwest, Iran has stated its intention to help Bashar al-Assad retake all of Syria.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has been recently spotted in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, showing how high a priority it is for Iran to take the oil-rich land nearby. Soleimani has also been spotted near the town of Abu Kamal, which sits just across the border from the Iraqi city of Qaim and is the last piece of the land bridge Iran seeks to establish from Tehran to Beirut.

Read More At:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-us-must-prepare-for-irans-next-move-in-syria/2017/11/19/c8ee0906-cbc0-11e7-8321-481fd63f174d_story.html?utm_term=.a686ced9f8f1

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