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Pence Heads to the Middle East

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 15:45
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence leaves Friday on a trip to the Middle East.  He is the first senior administration official to visit the region since U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move widely condemned by world leaders.  Trump also announced that the U.S. would move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.  The announcement was followed by a so-called Day of Rage, with demonstrations against Trump...
Categories: Iraq

German Rapper-Turned-IS Pitchman Reportedly Killed in Syria

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 03:14
A former German rapper who became a recruiter, fighter and propagandist for the Islamic State terror group has reportedly been killed in fighting in Syria. The pro-IS Al-Wafa media group announced the death of Denis Cuspert, who also went by the name Deso Dogg, on Thursday and posted graphic photos of his corpse, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. Al-Wafa said Cuspert had died in an airstrike during a battle in Gharanij in Syria's Deir el-Zour governorate, but...
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Israel Digs Deep to Thwart Tunnel Threat From Gaza Strip

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 23:49
Massive earthworks and mounds of sandy soil line the Israel-Gaza border as the Israeli military forges ahead with an ambitious subterranean barrier to detect and prevent attack tunnels from reaching southern Israel from the Palestinian enclave.   Israeli military officials on Thursday touted the secretive project as a major deterrent against what Israel has seen as a strategic threat since the last war against Hamas exposed the extent of the tunnels. Israel has made uncovering the...
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Food Shortages, Hunger Growing in War-Torn Syria, Says WFP

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 22:50
The World Food Program warns a growing number of civilians in war-torn Syria face food shortages at a time when many people are suffering from acute hunger.   The WFP warns Syria’s long-running civil war is pushing more and more people into hunger and misery.  Against all the odds, the agency continues to deliver food to millions of people in besieged and hard to reach areas; but, WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said these efforts are not enough. “As you know, we are...
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Turkey Ratchets Up Pressure on Syrian Kurds

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 22:24
Turkey is stepping up its military and diplomatic preparations for a threatened offensive into Syria against a Syrian Kurdish militia. The escalation comes as Turkish ministers dismissed efforts by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to calm tensions. Turkey’s threat to intervene in Syria's Afrin enclave controlled by the Kurdish militia, the YPG, was triggered by a U.S.-led coalition announcement of the creation of a 30,000-member border security force. Turkish President Recep...
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Duterte Threatens to Ban Deployment of Workers to Kuwait

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 20:05
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Thursday to impose a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait because of sexual abuses that have forced some Filipino women to kill themselves. Duterte said he wanted Filipino officials to hold talks with Kuwait and tell them the abuses are unacceptable and that the Philippines may ban Filipinos from working there unless the abuses end. "I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders but they have to do something about...
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UAE Protests to UN Over Qatar Flight 'Interceptions'

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:29
The UAE said Thursday said it has filed a complaint with the United Nations over Qatar's "interception" of two passenger planes en route to Bahrain this week. Protests have been filed over "Qatar's threat to the lives of civilians through its interception of two UAE aircraft on a routine flight to Bahrain via internationally accredited airlines, and with all necessary approvals and permits," the official news agency WAM reported. The UAE on Monday said...
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5 Detained Over Fire Bombs Thrown at Tunisia Synagogues

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:16
A judge in Tunisia has ordered the detention of five people suspected of throwing Molotov cocktails at two synagogues during protests over price hikes.   A court spokesman told The Associated Press on Thursday that the judge in Medenine ordered the suspects held pending trial. The suspects all are between 19 and 22 years old.   The Medenine court spokesman says early evidence makes authorities think the incident on the island of Djerba wasn't terror-related. It happened...
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Embassy in Baghdad: US Opposes Delay in Iraqi Elections

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 19:08
The United States supports holding Iraqi parliamentary elections on May 12 as planned by Iraq’s government, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said on Thursday, criticizing calls to postpone the vote. “Postponing the elections would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the constitution and damaging Iraq’s long-term democratic development,” the embassy said in a statement. The statement was published as Iraqi lawmakers were debating whether to hold the vote as planned or postpone it in order...
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Israeli PM Unveils Memorial at Mumbai Jewish Center to Terror Victims

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:52
Standing beside an 11-year-old Jewish boy orphaned in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday unveiled a memorial to the 166 victims killed by militants at the city's Chabad Center.   Moshe Holtzberg's parents were among six people gunned down at the Jewish center, which was one of the targets of the 10 Muslim militants who rampaged through India’s financial capital for three days nearly a decade ago.   The boy, then just two...
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Researchers: Hacking Campaign Linked to Lebanese Spy Agency

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:46
A major hacking operation tied to Lebanon's main intelligence agency has been exposed after careless spies left hundreds of gigabytes of intercepted data exposed to the open internet, according to a report published Thursday. Mobile security firm Lookout, Inc. and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, said the haul, which includes nearly half a million intercepted text messages, had simply been left online by hackers linked to Lebanon's General Directorate of...
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Displaced by War, Some Yemenis Sift through Garbage for Food

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 18:31
After persistent Saudi-led air strikes on their home area in northwest Yemen, the Ruzaiq family packed their belongings and fled to the relative safety of Hodeidah port on the Red Sea. But with no money or relatives to shelter them, the 18-member family joined a growing number of displaced Yemenis living on or next to the garbage dump of the Houthi-controlled city. Despite the health risks, the dump has become a source of food for hundreds of impoverished Yemenis and given some young...
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Poll: World Approval of US Leadership Sinks to New Low

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 17:58
The world's appreciation of United States leadership has dropped to a new low since Donald Trump became president one year ago, according to a new Gallup poll. Median admiration of U.S. leadership now stands at 30 percent in 134 countries and regions, lower than it was under the leadership of Trump's two most recent predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, the Gallup World Poll found. The country's leadership approval rating dropped 18 percent from 48 percent in the...
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Syria Threatens to Down Turkish Jets Over its Kurdish Region

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 17:56
Syria said on Thursday its air defense would shoot down any Turkish jets that carry out attacks within Syria, a stark warning as tensions soar over apparent preparations by the Turkish military to invade a northern Syrian Kurdish enclave.   From Damascus, Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said a military incursion into Syria's Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin would be "no picnic" for Turkey.   Any such operation would be considered an "aggressive...
Categories: Iraq

Pence Visit Showcases Dilemma Facing Egypt, Jordan Leaders

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 17:47
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's upcoming visit to the Middle East comes at a time of intensely publicized friction between his administration and the Palestinian leadership, posing a dilemma for his Arab hosts - Egypt's president and Jordan's king - on how to safeguard their vital ties with Washington without appearing to ignore Palestinian misgivings. Both countries are heavily dependent on U.S. military and economic aid, and talks with a senior Trump administration official...
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Lebanon Court Orders Six-Month Jail Term for Journalist

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 16:45
A Lebanese military court handed down a six-month prison sentence to a journalist for presenting views critical of the army, a court official told AFP said Thursday. Hanin Ghaddar, also a researcher known for her criticism of the powerful Hezbollah movement, was sentenced in absentia on January 10 over an expose at a conference in the United States, the source said. Her sentence sparked outrage among fellow journalists and academics in Lebanon, where they said free speech and freedom...
Categories: Iraq

Egypt Raises 'Extreme Concern' About Nile Dam With Ethiopia

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 16:33
Egypt's president on Thursday expressed his "extreme concern" to Ethiopia's visiting prime minister over the lack of progress in talks on the impact of a massive upstream dam that Egypt fears could cut into its vital share of the Nile. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has warned that Egypt's share of the Nile, which provides nearly all its freshwater, is a red line. But he has also sought to reassure Ethiopia and Sudan that Egypt has no intention of going to...
Categories: Iraq

Iraq, BP Sign Initial Deal to Develop Kirkuk Oil Fields

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 15:53
Iraq and British energy giant BP have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop lucrative oil fields in the country's north.   The Oil Ministry's statement quotes BP's president for the Middle East region, Michael Townshend, as saying that his company will conduct surveys and studies to increase production to 750,000 barrels a day. It says the signing took place in Kirkuk on Thursday without giving more details.   As of late last month, the fields around...
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Israel Kills Palestinian Sought in Deadly Shooting of Rabbi

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 15:02
Israeli forces hunting the killers of a rabbi raided a West Bank home before dawn Thursday, killing a wanted Palestinian in a firefight that also wounded two Israeli officers, one seriously, officials said.   The raid capped a police and army hunt for the suspect in a drive-by shooting last week that killed a rabbi from an Israeli settlement outpost in the West Bank, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.   The wanted man was killed and another man was arrested in the raid in...
Categories: Iraq

Turkey Dismisses US Assurances on Planned Border Force

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:44
Turkish officials say they are dissatisfied with assurances from Washington about a Kurdish border force the U.S. plans to maintain in northern Syria to help stabilize territory recently captured from the Islamic State terror group. Speaking in Ankara Thursday, the country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, warned the establishment such a force would cause “irreversible damage” to American-Turkish relations. And in what some analysts see as an underscoring of the warning, the...
Categories: Iraq