Disarming Hezbollah out of question: Iran

Two fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah stand near Katyusha rockets in the southern village of Ein Qana, Lebanon. (AP file)
Updated 23 November 2017
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Disarming Hezbollah out of question: Iran

ANKARA: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are ready to help rebuild Syria and bring about a lasting “cease-fire” there, chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, adding that disarming Lebanon’s Hezbollah is out of the question, state TV reported on Thursday.
Iranian state television quoted Jafari as saying: “Hezbollah must be armed to fight against the enemy of the Lebanese nation which is Israel. Naturally, they should have the best weapons to protect Lebanon’s security. This issue is non-negotiable.”
He said: “Iran only provides advisory and spiritual assistance to Yemen ... and this help will continue.”
Jafari also praised the success of Iranian allies across the region, hailing a “resistance front” from Tehran to Beirut.
“We directly deal with global arrogance and Israel not with their emissaries...,” he said. The term global arrogance refers to the US.
“The guards are ready to play an active role in establishing a lasting cease-fire in Syria ... and reconstruction of the country,” Jafari said.
“In meetings with the (Iran) government, it was agreed that the Guards were in a better position to help Syria’s reconstruction ... the preliminary talks already have been held with the Syrian government over the issue,” Jafari said
Jafari repeated Iran’s stance on its disputed ballistic missile work, saying the Islamic Republic’s missile program is for defensive purposes and not up for negotiation.
The program was not part of the 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
“Iran will not negotiate its defensive program ... there will be no talks about it,” he said.
“(French president Emmanuel) Macron’s remarks over our missile work is because he is young and inexperienced.”
Macron said earlier this month that Tehran should be less aggressive in the region and should clarify the strategy around its ballistic missile program.


US-backed forces take positions in last Daesh enclave

Smoke rises from the last besieged Daesh enclave in Baghouz, Syria where Syrian Democratic Forces have taken positions. (Reuters)
Updated 18 March 2019
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US-backed forces take positions in last Daesh enclave

  • Smoke rose over the tiny Baghouz enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it
  • Daesh fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters

BAGHOUZ, Syria: US-backed fighters said they had taken positions in Daesh’s last enclave in eastern Syria and air strikes pounded the tiny patch of land beside the Euphrates River early on Monday, a Reuters journalist said.
Smoke rose over the tiny enclave as warplanes and artillery bombarded it. Another witness said the militants had earlier mounted a counter attack.
“Several positions captured and an ammunition storage has been blown up,” said Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, on Twitter late on Sunday.
The enclave resembles an encampment, filled with stationary vehicles and rough shelters with blankets or tarpaulins that could be seen flapping in the wind during a lull in fighting as people walked among them.
Backed by air power and special forces from a US-led coalition, the SDF has pushed Daesh from almost the entire northeastern corner of Syria, defeating it in Raqqa in 2017 and driving it to its last enclave at Baghouz last year.
But while its defeat at Baghouz will end its control of populated land in the third of Syria and Iraq that it captured in 2014, the group will remain a threat, regional and Western officials say.
The SDF has waged a staggered assault on the enclave, pausing for long periods over recent weeks to allow surrendering fighters, their families and other civilians to pour out.
Since Jan. 9, more than 60,000 people have left the enclave, about half of them surrendering Daesh supporters including some 5,000 fighters, the SDF said on Sunday.
People leaving the area have spoken of harsh conditions inside, under coalition bombardment and with supplies of food so scarce some resorted to eating grass.
Last month, the SDF said it had found a mass grave in an area it captured.
Still, many of those who left Baghouz have vowed their allegiance to the militant group, which last week put out a propaganda film from inside the enclave calling on its supporters to keep faith.
Suicide attacks on Friday targeted families of Daesh fighters attempting to leave the enclave and surrender, killing six people, the SDF said.
Late on Sunday, the Kurdish Ronahi TV station aired footage showing a renewed assault on the enclave, with fires seen to be raging inside and tracer fire and rockets zooming into the tiny area.
The SDF and the coalition say the Daesh fighters inside Baghouz are among the group’s most hardened foreign fighters, though Western countries believe its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has left the area.