Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army members have seized control of Mt. Barsaya near the town of Afrin, a strategically important high point. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018
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Turkish troops targeted in Afrin suicide attack

ANKARA: A female Kurdish suicide bomber targeted Turkish troops on Sunday in Syria’s northwest region of Afrin, but caused no casualties, said the Turkish military.
The attacker, Avesta Khabur, was part of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the female component of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“The attack was from a long distance, so the tank that was carrying soldiers wasn’t damaged,” Abdullah Agar, a security expert and retired special warfare and commando officer, told Arab News. “Ankara is showing great determination in continuing its operation.”
The New York Times said the attack “puts the US in the awkward position of allying with suicide bombers.”
Since the start of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in Afrin on Jan. 20, 597 Kurdish fighters have been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed or captured — said the Turkish military.
On Sunday, following heavy clashes, Turkish troops and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the strategic Mount Bursaya in northern Syria.
Mount Bursaya was used by the YPG to strike the Turkish border town of Kilis and the Syrian city of Azaz with artillery, mortars and missiles.
On the fourth day of Operation Olive Branch, a YPG rocket hit a mosque in Kilis, killing two civilians. So far, seven Turkish soldiers and 13 FSA fighters have been killed in the campaign.
“It was known for a long time that the YPG was making preparations to conduct a suicide bombing,” Sertac Canalp Korkmaz, a researcher on security studies at ORSAM, a think tank in Ankara, told Arab News.
“Last week, weather conditions in Afrin were severe. On the battlefield, foggy weather allows terrorists to carry out suicide attacks,” he said. “But countermeasures by the Turkish military will help prevent such attacks.”
Korkmaz underlined Turkey’s significant combat experience against suicide bombing attempts.
“During last year’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, the Turkish Army faced several suicide attacks by Daesh against military outposts,” he said.
Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have also carried out suicide attacks in Turkey, targeting civilians, including foreigners, and police officers.
On Monday, Turkish law-enforcement officials caught a Daesh suspect, Demet Tasar, who was wanted by Interpol. She and 19 other suspects were allegedly plotting suicide attacks in Turkey.
Last week, 1,166 people were detained throughout the country for suspected ties to the PKK, while 34 people were arrested for suspected links to Daesh.


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.