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US Lawmakers Sharply Divided Over Iran Policy

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 10:44
President Trump’s national security advisers told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday escalating tensions with Iran were part of a forty-year pattern of aggression from the Islamic Republic. But Democratic lawmakers remained unconvinced by the administration’s argument, urging a cautious approach in the Middle East. VOA’s Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson reports from Capitol Hill.
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Syrian TV: Two Shells Fall in Syria's Aleppo

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 06:57
Two shells fell in the center of the Syrian city of Aleppo, Syria's Ikhbariya television said early on Wednesday. No further details were immediately available.
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UN Envoy: Islamic State Revival in Iraq Must Be Prevented

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 04:07
The U.N. envoy for Iraq is calling for "wide-based international support" to prevent Islamic State extremists from regaining a foothold in the country. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also told the Security Council on Tuesday that if the issue of thousands of returning Islamic State fighters and their families from Syria to Iraq isn't managed properly, "we risk creating a new breeding ground for the next generation of terrorists." She stressed that this "is not...
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US: Syria May Be Using Chemical Weapons Again

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 03:42
The United States says there are signs the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria may be using chemical weapons again and it is warning the Syrians to stop it. The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it believes Syrian forces were behind an alleged chlorine gas attack Sunday in northwestern Syria. A spokeswoman says officials are still gathering information about the suspected attack but said, “if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and...
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Classified Iran Briefings Fail to Unite US Lawmakers on Threats, Response

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 01:44
VOA's Carla Babb contributed to this report. U.S. lawmakers expressed sharply diverging opinions on the threat level posed by Iran after classified briefings President Donald Trump's national security team presented to all House and Senate members Tuesday. "They explained to us how the Iranian threat streams were different than in the past … and that attacks against American interests and personnel were imminent," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told...
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Civilian Casualties Mount as Fighting in Syria's Idlib Province Intensifies

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 21:55
The U.N. human rights office warns civilian casualties are growing in northwestern Syria's Idlib province as fighting between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and rebels allied with al-Qaida escalates. The U.N. agency says it is extremely worried about the military action in Idlib, which is putting at risk the lives of three million civilians trapped in the province. Agency officials express concern at the speed with which a recent 72-hour cease-fire was broken by the warring...
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Bahrain Defends Decision to Host White House Mideast Meeting

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 20:24
Bahrain on Tuesday defended its decision to host a White House-engineered conference to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, saying its only objective is to support the "brotherly Palestinian people." The Palestinian Authority has rejected the economic conference planned for next month, which is part of the rollout of the White House's long-awaited Israel-Palestinian plan, saying any peace effort that ignores the Palestinian people's aspirations for an independent...
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Sources: Turkey to Reduce US Import Tariffs This Week

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 18:47
Turkey's Trade Ministry will implement a reciprocal reduction in tariffs on U.S. imports after the United States halved tariffs on Turkish steel imports last week, two Turkish sources said on Tuesday. The White House last week terminated Turkey's eligibility for the Generalized System of Preferences (GTS) program, in a move Turkey said contradicted trade goals, but also halved some of the tariffs it had raised last August amid a diplomatic row between the NATO allies. The...
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Turkish Rights Group Turns to Art to Represent the 'Disappeared'

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 18:43
Human rights groups in Turkey blame the state for hundreds of disappearances dating back decades as the military wages a war against separatist rebels of the PKK. Those rights groups are also turning to artists such as Anil Olcan to call attention to the victims of enforced disappearances. Olcan spent a year capturing images connected to the disappearances. He painstakingly superimposed photographs of the missing onto small marble columns.  “Marble is associated with death,”...
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Turkey’s Enforced Disappearances Remembered Through Art

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 18:30
In Turkey, a human rights group has turned to art to remember the victims of enforced disappearances. Rights groups blame the state for hundreds of disappearances dating back decades. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul,
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Pompeo Says 'Quite Possible' Iran Behind Gulf Incidents

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 18:27
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday it was "quite possible" Iran was responsible for sabotage of Gulf oil interests as he prepared to brief lawmakers on rising tensions. Pompeo cautioned that the United States has not made "a definitive conclusion" that can be presented publicly over mysterious sabotage incidents of oil tankers off the United Arab Emirates or drone strikes on a crude pipeline in Saudi Arabia. "But given all the regional conflicts...
Categories: Iraq

Ramadan Fare Frugal in Damascus as War Saps Spending

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:30
Abu Anas al-Hijazi scanned the stalls in the Syrian capital's Bab Srija market but bought nothing. For the cash-strapped 45-year-old wedding singer, this Ramadan is a frugal one. "We used to lay out a large spread and invite relatives and friends for a feast around six or seven times at least" during the Muslim holy month, he told AFP. "But now, I invite them once or twice at most." Throughout Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight...
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Iraqi PM Says He Wants to End Tensions Between Iran and US

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 17:18
State-run Iraqi media is quoting Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi as saying that Baghdad will send delegations to the U.S. and Iran to help end tensions between the two countries. Abdul-Mahdi, whose country has close ties to both Iran and the U.S., said Tuesday that Iranian and U.S. officials have informed Iraq that they have “no desire in fighting a war.” Abdul-Mahdi said Iraq is “playing a role to calm the situation but it is not a mediation.” He said he will visit Kuwait on Wednesday...
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Documents Offer Rare Look Inside Syrian Government Crackdown

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 16:39
Thousands of documents purportedly found in abandoned Syrian government offices during the country's civil war reveal the reach of President Bashar Assad's shadowy security agencies that sought to eliminate dissent at all costs, according to a rights report published Tuesday. The documents obtained by the Washington-based Syria Justice and Accountability Center, show the agencies spied on the populace at large, sought to eliminate dissidents through detention, intimidation or...
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Saudis Confirm Houthi Drone Attack on Airbase in Najra

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 12:13
Yemen's Houthi militia group says it attacked a weapons depot Tuesday at an airport in the Saudi city of Najran. A Saudi coalition spokesman confirmed the attack, saying an armed drone was used, but a civilian target was hit.  Arab media reported that an armed Houthi drone hit a weapons depot Tuesday at the main airport in the Saudi city of Najran, setting off an explosion. It was not clear if there were casualties. Saudi coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki confirmed...
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US: Military Actions ‘Put on Hold’ Potential Iranian Attacks on Americans

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 08:56
Michael Bowman on Capitol Hill contributed to this report. PENTAGON — Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan said the steps taken to bolster the U.S. military presence in the Middle East have deterred Iran and “put on hold the potential for attacks on Americans,” even as Iran carried out other attacks. “It doesn’t mean that the threats that we previously identified have gone away. Our prudent response, I think, has given Iranians time to recalculate,” Shanahan told reporters at the...
Categories: Iraq

What Is Behind Protests Against US-Backed Forces in Eastern Syria?

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 04:44
VOA's Saleh Damiger contributed to this story. WASHINGTON — For three consecutive weeks, residents in parts of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour have been protesting against U.S.-backed forces that recently defeated Islamic State in its last stronghold there.  With help from the U.S., Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led military alliance, has controlled large parts of eastern Syria after removing IS militants from the region. But rising food prices, lack...
Categories: Iraq

Water Supply to Libyan Capital in Jeopardy After Attack    

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 22:36
The United Nations is expressing concern over the reported cut-off of water to the Libyan capital, Tripoli.  "Yesterday, an armed group stormed Tripoli's main water distribution station and has reportedly closed the water valves supplying Tripoli and other cities in the northwest of the country, including Gharyan and Al Zawayih, potentially affecting some two million people and their access to water," U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Monday. He...
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WFP: Houthi Obstruction May Force Aid Suspension in Parts of Yemen

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 21:58
The World Food Program warned Monday that it may have to suspend the distribution of food aid in Houthi rebel-controlled areas of Yemen, if the group does not stop obstructing its work. In a statement, the United Nations food agency said humanitarian workers are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked and local authorities have interfered with food distribution. The agency also accuses the rebels of interfering with the independent selection of people to receive...
Categories: Iraq

Iran Quadruples Uranium Enrichment 

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 19:50
Michael Bowman of Capitol Hill contributed to this report. WASHINGTON — Iran said Monday it has quadrupled its uranium enrichment capacity as the war of words between Tehran and Washington shows little sign of cooling off. Iranian officials say the uranium will be enriched for civilian energy uses, far below weapons grade as spelled out in the 2015 nuclear agreement. Enriching uranium means concentrating the element's radioactive component. Natural uranium has less than one...
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