A Syrian child receives treatment at a small hospital in the town of Maaret al-Noman following the toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Mohamed al-Bakour / AFP
The British delegation at the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday that samples taken from the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province last week tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.
The toxic gas attack in Idlib’s Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, which killed scores of children, prompted the United States to launch missile strikes on an air base in Shayrat that lies in central Syria’s Homs and widened a rift between Washington and Moscow, a close Syrian ally.
“UK scientists have analyzed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the delegation said during a special session at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.
Earlier testing by Turkish authorities had also said the chemical used in the attack was sarin.
A fact finding mission from OPCW was sent to Turkey to gather bio-metric samples and interview survivors, sources told Reuters earlier Thursday.
The OPCW mission will determine whether chemical weapons were used, but is not mandated to assign blame. Its findings, expected in 3-4 weeks, will be passed to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation tasked with identifying individuals or institutions responsible for using chemical weapons.
Last week’s bombing in the town of Khan Sheikhoun near the Turkish border was the most lethal since a sarin attack on Aug. 21, 2013 killed hundreds in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.
On the battlefield, US-backed forces fighting ISIS launched a new phase of their offensive on Thursday, a statement said, but they have not yet begun to attack the militant group’s stronghold of Raqqa city in an apparent delay in the operation.
The multi-phased campaign by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance made up of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighting groups, was launched in November and aims ultimately to drive the jihadists from Raqqa, their de facto Syrian capital.
Officials in the Kurdish YPG militia, a powerful component of the SDF, said last month that assaults on Raqqa city itself would start in early or mid-April.
But the fourth phase of the campaign aims to clear ISIS pockets from the countryside north of the city, the SDF statement said. It did not say when the assault on Raqqa itself would begin.
“We aim to liberate dozens of villages in the Wadi Jallab area and the northern countryside … and clear the last obstacles in front of us to pave the way for the operation to liberate Raqqa city,” it said.
The SDF have closed in on Raqqa from the north, east and west.
Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.
Today on the Google News that I use as my computer’s homepage I noticed an article about Russia retreating from the International Criminal Court (ICC) via the direction of President Putin. To be honest with you I was surprised to hear that they actually belonged to it. The reason I was surprised is because the United States does not belong to it and as far as I know, China doesn’t either. In my belief either every Nation on Earth should belong to it or no Nation should. For most of my adult lifetime (born in 1956) it has seemed that only African Nations and some Eastern European Nations have been accused under its jurisdiction. I am not a person that looks forward to a one World Nation situation even though I know it is coming. When the UN or the Hague speak of War Crimes a lot of us older folks think of Germany under Hitler yet they did not charge Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. We have used such Courts to convict and to hang ‘War Criminals’ like Saddam in Iraq and Generals in Serbia and deposed Presidential butchers throughout Africa but never a ‘Western-World’ Leader. So yes, I was surprised to hear that Russia was a consenting member of the ICC.
In the media here in the U.S. we have been hearing of ‘possible’ war crimes being committed in Syria by ISIS and other ‘Rebel’ groups as well as by the Government of Syria via their President Mr. Assad. We are also now hearing that ‘War Crimes’ may be being committed by the Russian Military under the leadership of President Putin. I guess this would be a real good reason for Mr. Putin to have Russia withdrawn from the umbrella of the ICC so that he and or his Generals cannot be arrested and brought before that court. Personally if I were him I would have done so a long time ago. Before any of my fellow Americans get all uppity with me on this issue you need to remember that we do not belong to the ICC either. If we did belong to it would former President George W. Bush, former VP Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld not have all swung from their gallows long ago for their actions in Iraq?
Now to the main issue of this article concerning President Putin. It is my own personal belief that the American Media, Hollywood, and our idiotic Politicians created President Putin. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989 and the fall of the Soviet Union these three groups of idiots constantly belittled Russia in every form and medium. They portrayed the Russian people as backward, lazy and stupid. They trounced on them without mercy as a vanquished enemy instead of a future friend and Ally. These idiots gloated over, stomped on and spit all over the National Pride of the people of Russia without mercy. President Putin when he came to power started to rebuild the integrity of the Russian Country and their people. In my belief he was exactly what the people of Russia needed at that time. The Communists Russian Government fell in 1989 for many good reasons, among them was how horribly they treated their own citizens. If the ‘West’ had only made fun of the flaws of the Communist system and not of the Russian people, Mr. Putin would still be hiding in his closet bowing to his KGB Uniform in private. Mr. Putin should have helped bring in a new level of friendship with the people of the U.S. but how do you make yourself grow closer to someone who is laughing at and mocking your people? The answer is, you don’t.
President Putin is a very wise human being and he is a very strong Leader yet it would have been better for the World as a whole if he had only served his first two terms as their President then retired to a villa on the Baltic. 2008, Georgia, a chance for Mr. Putin to regain some National pride for the Russian people. Question for you, how do the Leaders of Countries usually do this? The answer is through their military, a huge Nation goes to war with a little Nation and squashes it. Just my opinion but the former President of Georgia was acting like an idiot by flaunting issue differences in Mr. Putin’s face and he got himself and his country spanked. American politicians have done the same kind of things before like with Cuba in the Spanish-American War, Granada, and Panama. Mr. Putin has restored the pride of the people of Russia yet at the same time it appears he has fallen back into his KGB mindset.
President Putin has taken total control of all aspects of Russian Society and when any leader/government does this it always means that the people of their Country lose their freedoms, their lively hoods and sometimes, their lives. President Putin is making some grave mistakes in his dealings with Iran though not so much with his dealings with President Assad in Syria. Even though Mr. Putin’s Mother was a Christian it seems that her knowledge was not passed down to him. Syria under Mr. Assad was much more secular even though it was obvious that he was by no means a Saint, Iran on the other hand is all about the Islamic religion, they are a total different mindset. In Syria Russia has had a major Naval Base for several decades, they were already allies. To not realise that Mr. Putin would step in to help secure his Ally was very short-sighted of Western Leaders. With the selling of 10 billion dollars worth of military equipment to Iran Mr. Putin is giving a ruthless murderer that is up against Russia’s underbelly the weapons that he will sooner or later turn against the Russian people.
In my online dictionary I looked up the word ‘Reich’ to make sure of its definition before I used it in this title. The dictionary said that the word ‘Reich’ is from “old High German”. This should not surprise many of us as we have grown up hearing of Hitler and Germany’s 3rd Reich. Hitler considered the First Reich to be the Roman Empire and the Second was under Mr. Bismark during the 1880’s. He did not consider the German Government during World War One to be a ‘Reich’ as he considered it to be weak and not worthy of the title. Then of course Hitler thought his Germany would last a thousand years, he was only wrong by about 990 years. As far as English usage is concerned the dictionary says there was only one ‘Reich’ and it was the Germany of 1871-1945. Here is where I am tying Mr. Putin into the word and the world of “Reich”. The definition of ‘Reich’ is (Empire, Realm, Nation). I believe that President Putin, in his mind, is trying to return to a system of Communism/Czarism. Mr. Putin has made it clear that he is not one who believes in Democracy or Capitalism, but he does believe in Communism and the policies of the old KGB. His actions have proven without a doubt that he has no intention of ever letting go of power in Russia. I am sure he does not want to be known by the German word Führer which means ‘Leader, to lead’ so, maybe, will Mr. Putin decide to someday proclaim himself to be Czar Putin so that he can disperse of the need for future phony elections all together? Remember, ‘Reich’, the Nation/Empire of the ‘New’ Soviet Union under the Realm or Leadership of Czar Putin? I’m just saying, is it possible?
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Modi and Abe will discuss various trade deals and pacts designed to develop closer strategic relations
“Japan may be on its way to becoming one of India’s most important strategic partners, some years from now,” Sanjib Baruah, an honorary research professor at India’s Center for Policy Research think-tank and professor at Bard College, tells TIME. “[But] China is the elephant in the room.”
Traditional alliances in the region are shifting, as Russia — one of India’s biggest arms suppliers — seeks stronger relationships with Pakistan and China. As the country looks to phase out its phase out its fleet of Soviet-era aircrafts, India has increasingly looked to Washington, and American defense companies for military equipment.
The meeting with Japan is indicative of a continuing pivot for India as the two countries discuss deals ranging from a highly coveted civil nuclear cooperation pact to a defense trade agreement worth more than a billion dollars.
“There is always some nervousness in Indian policy circles that the U.S. may be insufficiently appreciative of India’s desire for strategic autonomy. But with Japan there is no such baggage,” says Baruah. “In the long run I can see Japan occupying the kind of place that Russia once did in Indian foreign and defense policy.”
Here’s what you need to know about Modi’s visit to Japan.
1. Pomp and circumstance
Modi’s visit was preceded by much fanfare as 32 members of India’s military band will participate in Japan’s Self Defense Forces 2016 Marching Festival for the first time, celebrating the two countries’ efforts to developing closer strategic ties. According to The Hindustan Times, the festival, which was held in Tokyo this year, is a tradition going back more than half a century and draws audiences of more than 50,000 people. Although India’s marching band has been in Tokyo since earlier this week, the actual festival will take place from Nov. 11 to 13, during Modi’s visit. While the march is a largely symbolic overture, it sets the tone for a meeting highly anticipated in bringing the two countries together both economically, as well as strategically.
2. Search and rescue planes
The meeting will also finalize one of the first military sale’s Japan has made since lifting a 50-year-old export ban on arms sales two years ago. According to Reuters, India will buy 12 rescue water-planes from Japan, worth an estimated $1.6 billion. The deal will be included in the memorandum of understanding signed by Prime Minister Abe and Modi during the summit.
3. Civil nuclear cooperation-pact
Modi and Abe will also conclude a much-anticipated civil nuclear-cooperation pact, which would allow Japan to sell nuclear technology to India. According to the Japan Times, the pact will benefit Japanese nuclear-component manufacturers who suffered setbacks after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The deal may also mark the first time Japan has sold nuclear technology to a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Negotiations began in 2010, before either Prime Minister was elected, and the two leaders reached a memorandum of understanding in December of last year, during Abe’s visit to India. Abe’s Vice-Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama traveled to India last month to put finishing touches on the deal.
4. Focus on Regional Security
Despite the promises of the meeting, some experts see the recent U.S. election as a monkey-wrench in terms of projected gains from the bilateral talks — as much of the long-term success of the meeting will hinge on U.S. influence in the region. There is also uncertainty as to how the new U.S. administration, under President-elect Donald Trump, will respond to its alliances around the world, especially in Asia.
“With the election of Trump, the containment strategy towards China embraced by the U.S. and Japan looks uncertain at best,” Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies in Japan’s Temple University tells TIME.
Although, there has been little indication of Trump’s policies, some fear his “America First” policy speech last April, raised serious questions as to America’s future global commitment in Asia.
“The Trump factor reinforces the perception that the U.S. is a declining power in Asia, and leaders will act accordingly,” says Kingston.
Among Japan’s largest concerns is China’s increasing military presence in the South China Sea. As an island nation, with very few natural resources, the disputed waterway is Japan’s cheapest trade corridor. For this reason, China’s militarization of the sea is of great concern to Japan and one of the areas in which it seeks stronger rhetoric from India.
While India issued a joint statement with the U.S. in January, “[calling] on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means,” the country has not risked adopting stronger rhetoric against China’s actions in the contested waters.
Ahead of Modi’s meeting with Abe, China’s state-run Global Times, warned India of “great losses” should New Delhi decide to call on Beijing to respect the Hague tribunal’s arbitration ruling rebuking China’s behavior in the South China Sea. Since then, the Times of India reported, Beijing’s foreign ministry has called on New Delhi to “respect [the] legitimate concerns” of India’s northern neighbor during the Indian prime minister’s meeting with Abe.
Although India would like to check the growing influence of China in the region, “China has significant capacity to cause trouble for India in its immediate neighborhood,” says research professor Baruah. For now, it isn’t in India’s best interest to antagonize the Asian giant — especially when there is still much trepidation as to Trump’s policies and influence in the region.
“Everyone is on ‘wait and see’ mode to gauge how Trump will act, because on the campaign trail he was a loose cannon,” says Kingston.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
This past week as the very weak humanitarian cease-fire in Aleppo Syria broke down Russian and Syrian Jets restarted bombing the eastern half of this once beautiful city. The UN says there are still more than 250,000 civilians ‘trapped’ in the eastern half of the city that ‘the rebels’ still control. In reality almost all of Syria has become a stew of who hates who, who is backing who, and who is killing whom today. The UN says the people of the city are trapped and starving and have no way out from the conflict. We have heard in the past few days that Russian and Syrian Jets have been bombing and shelling pretty much anything and every thing not caring whom they kill. This sounds a bit like Hitler ordering the bombing of London during WW-2. We hear on our evening news how the hospitals in Aleppo have been bombed several times and that the Syrian government is using Barrel Bombs on the population. They have also been know to use chemical weapons of the citizens several times during this almost six-year Civil War. The UN says that the actions by Russia and Syria do amount to War Crimes. So my friends, my question is simple. If in deed these are by legal definition War Crimes, should anyone be charged with these crimes? These crimes are in fact ‘mass murder’ so does the World Court in the Netherlands at the Hague actually hold anyone in either government as the ‘criminals?’ Or is the Hague really just a paper tiger that only holds weak small third world countries Leaders at fault for their crimes? I ask you for your opinion, will Presidents Putin of Russia and President Assad of Syria be charged as War Criminals and put out warrants for their arrest? I believe that the answer to that is no. I don’t think they have the guts to charge President Putin with anything just as they did not charge President George W Bush, VP Dick Cheney or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for their illegal actions in Iraq. Folks, this article is just my opinion. Time will tell us all if I am correct or not. I believe I am going to be right on this issue or I wouldn’t have written this article to you. I wouldn’t bet the title to the farm on it, but then again, I don’t bet, I don’t have a farm and I don’t have a title. I hope you all have a great day, stay safe, stay out of Aleppo, God’s blessings to you all.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
This post is my thoughts on an article I read this morning off of Reuters News line concerning an upcoming visit from Australia’s Foreign Minister Ms. Julie Bishop to Beijing China. The spokesman for China’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Hong Lei said he believes Australia “understands” China’s position on the South China Sea dispute with the government of the Philippines. Mr. Lei when speaking about Australia told the Australian government they “ought not avoid this reality”.
Are you paying any attention to the events going on concerning the territory ‘ownership’ of the South China Sea. I say this right now, the whole world ought to be paying close attention because it affects most everyone on the planet. The man-made islands that the Chinese government have ‘reclaimed’ in the South China Sea have now totaled more than 2,900 acres of land. Folks airport runways are already on the islands and missiles have been spotted on one of them already. (which China did not deny) Folks if you are not familiar with the situation, all nations on the globe have a 12 mile buffer-zone from the edge of their shores and after that you are then in international waters. These international waters are a free shipping zone, no country owns these waters. China’s government has made it plain what their goals and opinions are and that is exactly what they are going to do unless the worlds governments find a way to stop them. In case you weren’t aware of it, China claims all rights to the airways above the South China Seas as well. Over five-trillion dollars worth of trade go through those waters every year, China could stop that flow of goods or impose taxes on the whole world’s goods to be allowed to cross those waters.
The Philippines has filed a case against China at the Hague concerning China intruding on their sea borders. The government of China has forcefully denounced this case saying that they will not “recognize” it. There are many other nations in the region who have similar claims pending against China for the same reasons so it is not just the Philippines it is also Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan. China views the case that has been brought before the Hague as a “contravention of international law”. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this week was quoted as saying her government felt that the Philippines had the right to take their case to the Hague. It is this issue that got Ms. Bishop graced with China’s Regal chastisement. Isn’t it odd how such a thing as honesty can just tick some folks off?
American President Obama has also come under verbal ire from Beijing for sending American military aircraft and Naval ships near those islands. Is this an international game of chicken? No, honestly I don’t think so. The business, military and the very-low officials that I have ever met in my lifetime have all been very secretive, even of things that seemed to have no matter. I have never noticed the government of China to be a bluffer, have you? China has a very strong structured leadership, Russia’s top-tier leaders are strong, Americas government plays politics, may God help us all.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.