Moscow invites BRICS partners to invest in rebuilding post-war Syria

Moscow invites BRICS partners to invest in rebuilding post-war Syria
Russia has invited its partners among the BRICS nations (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) to establish a foothold in the promising Syrian market, according to the Russian Ambassador to the country, Alexander Kinshchak.

“According to Syrian estimates, losses in the real sector of the economy topped $75 billion,” the ambassador told TASS news agency. “UN experts believe that it will take nearly $200 billion to achieve the pre-crisis GDP growth rate,” he added.

“We are aware that the Syrian government will find it difficult to obtain a huge amount of money required for the post-crisis recovery,” Kinshchak explained.

“Therefore, Russia suggested that the international community, first of all, the nations friendly to Syria, should join efforts in order to work out a complex program for its revival,” he added.

Kinshchak said Russia was looking to BRICS and allies like Iran and other states that have independent foreign policies and are motivated to gain a foothold in the promising Syrian market.

In 2016, Damascus and Moscow signed nearly a billion dollars’ worth of agreements to rebuild war-torn Syria. Russia was offered a chance to participate in exploring and developing oil and gas on land and offshore. In particular, it was invited to upgrade the Baniyas refinery and construct a refinery with Iran and Venezuela.

Syria has begun agricultural exports to Russia. The countries also intend to open a bank to facilitate transfers. The bank would be controlled 50-50 by the countries’ central banks.

Courtesy: RT

Bashar al-Assad – the useful tyrant?

President Bashar al-Assad remains at the center of the Syrian conflict. Fighting between troops, rebels and IS has claimed countless lives and the situation is still volatile. How has Assad stayed in power for so long in times of such instability?

Watch video42:31

According to UN estimates, the balance sheet after seven years of war in Syria is devastating: 500,000 dead or missing, 12 million people uprooted, besieged cities, air raids on the civilian population and endless suffering. Bashar al-Assad remains at the center of the conflict. He has been President of Syria since 2000. He succeeded his father Hafiz al-Assad, who ruled the country from 1971 to 2000. The son started as a reformer, initially courted by heads of state in the West. After all, he was considered a guarantor of stability and a partner in the fight against Islamic terrorism. But the “Damascus Spring” ended abruptly after the people’s demands for more freedom outstripped the Syrian leadership’s will to reform. Assad violently repressed the protests that began in Syria in the course of the Arab Spring in 2011. In the subsequent civil war, he stands accused of using chemical weapons against opposition fighters and civilians. Bashar al-Assad maintained his grip on power through a mixture of brute force, skillful tactics and above all through international aid, especially from his allies Russia and Iran. At the beginning of 2017, Syrian troops controlled 19 percent of the country: Now it’s more than half, including the four largest cities, access to the Mediterranean, ten out of 14 provincial capitals and 85 percent of the population. IS has largely been defeated and the area held by the last remaining rebels is shrinking steadily. So who is Bashar al-Assad? How could his clan hold on to power for so long? The film examines how the Assads have repeatedly managed to politically survive through changing international alliances. How does the dictator exploit the geostrategic interests of global players? We talk to close companions and opponents as well as other people who have met him.

Courtesy: DW

Iran & Syria ‘are playing with fire,’ Israeli military warns amid flare-up of tensions

Iran & Syria ‘are playing with fire,’ Israeli military warns amid flare-up of tensions
The IDF warned Syria and Iran against ‘violating Israeli sovereignty,’ otherwise they would pay a heavy price. The Israeli military also insisted that Israel does not seek an escalation in tensions in the region.

“Iran and Syria are playing with fire,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Twitter. The military added that it acts “with determination” against “the attempt of the Iranian-Syrian attack and the violation of Israeli sovereignty.” “The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and will continue to act as necessary.”

The IDF lashed out at the Syrian military, accusing the state of interference in the Israeli-Iranian incident, as well as at Iran for “using Syria as a launchpad for activity against Israel.”

is the aggressor here. They sent a on a military mission, violating sovereignty. The is ready for all scenarios, urging Iran and Syria to cease aggression.

However, the IDF insisted that Israel does not seek escalation with the two states. “We are willing, prepared and capable to exact a heavy price from anyone that attacks us, however we are not looking to escalate the situation,” the IDF said, insisting that what they’ve done was merely “a defensive effort triggered by an Iranian act of aggression and we are defending our airspace our sovereignty and civilians.”

Tensions between Israel, Iran, and Syria have been heating up since early Saturday after the IDF intercepted an Iranian UAV, which crossed from the territory of Syria into Israel. The Israeli military responded by targeting a Syrian military base, where they believed the operator of the drone to be located. Later that day, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet crashed after Damascus responded with anti-aircraft fire to an Israeli operation in its territory. The pilots ejected and survived the incident.

“We are willing, prepared, and capable to exact a heavy price on anyone that attacks us. However, we are not looking to escalate the situation,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, Head of the International Media Desk.https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/press-releases/idf-intercepts-iranian-uav/ 

In response, the IDF said it struck 12 Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria, including air defense batteries, adding that that during the attack, “anti-aircraft missiles were fired towards Israel, triggering alarms that were heard in Northern Israel.”

Following an exchange of fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security consultations, approving the necessary actions in real time following the incidents, official Israeli sources told Haaretz.

Air traffic at Ben Gurion International Airport, 20km from Tel Aviv, was halted for around 15-20 minutes amid security tensions, Israeli media reported.

Courtesy: RT

Israel military targets Iranian drone and strikes Syria, F-16 crashes

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will protect itself from “any threat or any attempt to harm its sovereignty” after its military downed an Iranian drone that infiltrated the region.

“Israel is seeking for peace, but we will continue to defend ourselves against any attack against us, and against any attempt by Iran to establish military bases in Syria or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said Saturday after meeting with top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He said had spoken with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the recent involvement.

Israel’s military launched a “large-scale attack” after shooting down the infiltrating drone and struck Iranian targets deep in Syrian before one of its own jets was downed.

The raids hit at least 12 targets, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets that were part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. The offensive marks Israel’s most substantial involvement in Syria to date.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The wreckage of the jet is seen on fire near Harduf, northern Israel, on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon.

Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling.

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

Israeli security stands around the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel, near kibbutz of Harduf, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone it said infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets inside Syria, in its most significant engagement since the fighting in neighboring Syria began in 2011. Responding anti-aircraft fire led to the downing of an Israeli fighter plane. (AP Photo/Rami Slush) ***ISRAEL OUT***

Investigators inspect the wreckage of an F-16 that crashed in northern Israel.  (AP)

Israel would not confirm whether the aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war.

According to Syrian state TV, which quoted a military official, Syrian air defenses struck more than one Israeli plane, and called the Israeli raids that hit a base a “new Israeli aggression.”

Military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the drone was “on a military mission sent and operated by Iranian military forces” and that Iran was “responsible for this severe violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

The drone was in Israel’s possession, the military said.

In this image made from video provided by Yehunda Pinto, the wreckage of a jet is seen near Harduf, northern Israel, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country early Saturday before launching a "large-scale attack" on at least a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel called it a "severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty" and warned of further action against the unprecedented Iranian aggression. (Yehunda Pinto via AP)

The Israeli military shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.  (AP)

Although Israel has shot down several drones from Syria that have infiltrated the country’s territory in the past, the attack on an Iranian site in response to Saturday’s incident signals an escalation in the Israeli retaliation.

The military confirmed the Syrian target of the drone’s launch components were destroyed.

Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Iranian involvement along Israel’s border in Syria and Lebanon has been a growing concern as it fears Iran could use the region to position attacks or develop a land route from the country to Lebanon in an effort to deliver weapons to Hezbollah more efficiently.

But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli airstrikes but has rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early morning hours.

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said Israel held Iran directly responsible for the incident.

netanyahu

Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces Gadi Eizenkot, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman meet.  (Yonat Friling)

“This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” he said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

However, the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies denied the drone violated Israeli airspace, saying it was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants.

Russia, which backs Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country, called for restraint and appeared to criticize Israel’s actions.

“It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Fox News’ Yonat Friling and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang

Courtesy: Fox News

Pilot of downed Russian Su-25 in Syria died fighting on the ground (GRAPHIC VIDEO)

Pilot of downed Russian Su-25 in Syria died fighting on the ground (GRAPHIC VIDEO)
The pilot of the Russian Su-25 jet shot down over Syria reportedly died fighting as his weapon was found with an empty magazine. He was being considered for a state award, documents found on his person apparently reveal.

The Russian airman killed by militants in the Al-Nusra-controlled area in Idlib province Saturday has reportedly been identified as Major Roman Filippov. Earlier, the Russian Defense ministry confirmed that the pilot died “during combat with terrorists.”

One of the pictures, posted by independent investigative group Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) indicateshows what appears to be a commendation authored by special operations air group commander Lt. Colonel Sergey Aksenov, recommending that a state award be bestowed upon Filippov for completing combat missions in Syria. The document was allegedly found in the slain pilot’s pocket.

Another photo shows the gun Filippov apparently used to fight for his life. A Stechkin machine pistol (APS), standard issue for Russian combat pilots, is seen next to three magazines, one of them empty and two half-empty.

Citing a Russian Defense Ministry source, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper confirmed the deceased pilot was Filippov. According to the report, he was a former Ukrainian pilot from the city of Simpferopol in what is now Russian Crimea.

The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to officially release the identity of the deceased. Earlier, it confirmed the pilot had successfully ejected from the aircraft before being killed while engaging terrorists on the ground. Moscow said the jet appears to have been shot down by a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD).

Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist group linked to Al-Nusra terrorists, claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier, videos and statements about the Russian pilot appeared on the Twitter account of the Jaysh al-Nasr, a militant group affiliated to the Free Syrian Army.

A video has emerged allegedly showing the rebels posing with the dead body of the pilot.

Warning! The video contains images some may find upsetting.

In retaliation to the downing of the Su-25 jet, the Russian military carried out precision airstrikes targeting the terrorists in Idlib. At least 30 militants are believed to have been killed in the operation, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

READ MORE: VIDEO shows precision strikes on militants who downed Russian jet in Syria

During the active phase of its Syria camping that began in September, 2015 and lasted until December last year, Russia has lost several aircraft, both due to technical flaws and in combat.

One of the most high profile incident remains the grounding of a Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish F-16 fighter jet in November, 2015. The Russian warplane was conducting sorties against terrorist targets near the Syrian-Turkish border when it was shot down by an air-to-air missile. One of the pilots, Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov, was killed by machine gun fire from Turkmen rebels on the ground. Peshkov was posthumously awarded a Hero of Russia medal, the highest honorary title of the Russian Federation.

COURTESY: RT

Ankara vows revenge as 7 Turkish soldiers killed in clashes near Syria’s Afrin

Ankara vows revenge as 7 Turkish soldiers killed in clashes near Syria’s Afrin
Seven Turkish soldiers were killed and a tank lost in Ankara’s ongoing military campaign against Kurdish militias in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. The casualties marked the deadliest day for Turkey since the offensive began.

Five servicemen died in fighting near the settlement of Sheikh Haruz located north-east of Afrin, the Anadolu news agency reported, citing a statement issued by Turkey’s General Staff. The soldiers were killed as a Turkish tank came under attack, it said.

Earlier, the General Staff also reported about the death of two other Turkish soldiers. One was killed in clashes with local armed groups on Syrian territory, while another lost his life during an attack by what Ankara described as “terrorist groups” in Turkey’s Kilis province.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed retaliatory strikes. “They will pay for this twice as much. We have given the necessary response instantly, and we continue to do so,” he said, apparently referring to the Kurdish militias, Anadolu reports. Following the attack on the tank near Sheikh Haruz, Turkey launched airstrikes targeting shelters, hideouts and ammunition depots of local armed groups.

On Saturday, the Turkish General Staff said 899 fighters of the Syrian Kurdish militias – People’s Protection Units (YPG), Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) terrorists – were “neutralized” since the launch of Operation Olive Branch. It added that 13 Turkish soldiers were killed and 57 wounded since the start of the operation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s troops are closing in on Afrin’s city center as Operation Olive Branch entered its third week. “We are close,” he said Saturday at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) congress in the eastern Turkish province of Bitlis.

Ankara is targeting the YPG, a Kurdish-led militia it considers a wing of the armed and banned PKK. The YPG controls several enclaves in northern Syria, including Afrin. It secured the territories from Islamist rebels and other extremist groups over the course of the Syrian conflict with crucial backing from the US-led coalition.

Ankara launched air strikes against Kurdish positions late in January, with its troops advancing into the Kurd-held territories. A number of Turkish towns and villages along the Syrian border have meanwhile been hit by rocket strikes.

Turkey claims it seeks to secure its borders by pushing back what it calls “terrorist groups.” The Syrian government, though, has condemned the Turkish operation and considers the incursion a violation of Syrian sovereignty.

An estimated 5,000 civilians were displaced during the first days of the military campaign, according to the UN. UNICEF said at least 23 children have been killed as a result of fighting in the Syrian provinces of Afrin, Idlib, Saraqab, Khan Shaykhoun and the capital Damascus. Local Kurdish sources maintain that 141 civilians were killed, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.

COURTESY: RT

North Korea earned $200 million from banned exports: UN

A confidential memo has revealed Pyongyang flouted UN sanctions on exports of a wide range of goods. Germany has alleged that North Korea is using its Berlin embassy to buy equipment for its weapons program.

North Korean and Workers' Party flags flutter as a soldier walks by (picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/W. Maye-E)

North Korea earned nearly $200 million (€160 million) in 2017 by exporting a wide range of banned goods in violation of international sanctions, according to details of a confidential United Nations report seen Friday.

Pyongyang was able to sell coal, steel, iron and petroleum products between January and September to multiple countries, monitors said, despite UN sanctions barring their export.

North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons and sophisticated long-range missiles. Multiple sanctions dating back to 2006 have tried to choke off funding for the nuclear and missile programs.

Read more: UN chief calls for ‘peaceful denuclearization’ of Korean Peninsula

Watch video02:00

20 nations to increase pressure on N. Korea

‘Deceptive practices’

The 213-page report — seen by multiple news agencies — said North Korea used false paperwork to hide the origin of the coal it shipped to other countries, including Russia, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam.

UN monitors also said North Korea had flouted UN financial sanctions through “deceptive practices” and engaged in “widespread conventional arms deals and cyber operations to steal military secrets.”

The report said there was not enough “political will” and coordination to ensure sanctions were fully working.

Read more: Korean War allies consider further sanctions against North Korea

Sales to Syria, Myanmar

Pyongyang also appeared to have cooperated with Syria and Myanmar in ballistic missile development, according to monitors.

An investigation into 40 unreported North Korean shipments to the Syrian entity in charge of the country’s chemical weapons program showed “further evidence of arms embargo and other violations, including through the transfer of items with utility in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs.”

The Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against civilians in 2013 and agreed to destroy its stockpile later that year.

The report said Pyongyang also shipped ballistic missiles, air-to-surface missiles and rocket launchers to Myanmar.

German intel chief: Pyongyang using Berlin embassy for procurement

Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Berlin’s intelligence agency, claimed on Saturday that the North Korean regime had used its Berlin embassy to receive equipment intended for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

“We have seen that procurement activities took place from there, from our point of view with a view to the missile program and in part also the nuclear program,” Maassen told German broadcaster NDR, as part of a documentary due to air next week.

“If we see such things, we prevent them,” he added, but admitted that it wasn’t always possible to distinguish between goods intended for civilian or military purposes.

Read more: UN slaps new sanctions on North Korea in 15-0 vote

Watch video03:25

Korea: The history of a divided nation

dm, amp/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

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