Rebel fighters push to break Damascus stalemate

Updated 07 February 2013
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Rebel fighters push to break Damascus stalemate

Syrian fighters battled Bashar Assad’s forces on the edge of central Damascus, opposition activists said, seeking to break his grip over districts leading to the heart of the capital.
Their offensive aims to break a stalemate in the city of two million people, where artillery and air strikes have prevented opposition fighters entrenched to the east from advancing despite their capture of army fortifications, the activists said.
“We have moved the battle to Jobar,” Captain Islam Alloush of the Islam Brigade told Reuters, referring to a district which links rebel strongholds in the eastern suburbs with the central Abbasid Square.
“The heaviest fighting is taking place in Jobar because it is the key to the heart of Damascus.”
Assad has lost control of large parts of the country but his forces, backed by air power, have so far kept fighters on the fringes of the capital.
Fighters said they had made significant gains.
“Parts of the Damascus ringroad fell to us today. The road has been effectively the last remaining barrier between the Ghouta and the city,” said Abu Ghazi, a rebel commander based in the eastern suburb of Irbeen.
“There is a new strategy, brigades are united. What is happening in the field is huge but it is a preparation for bigger operations,” said Abu Moaz Al-Agha, a spokesman of the Gathering of Ansar Al-Islam.


 


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.