Iran’s meddling ‘a threat to all in region,’ US says

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The Syrian regime has intensified its bombardment of the besieged Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, killing more than 245 civilians including dozens of children. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 February 2018
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Iran’s meddling ‘a threat to all in region,’ US says

BEIRUT/WASHINGTON: The war in Syria threatened to enter a new and dangerously unpredictable phase on Sunday as the US and Israel issued stark warnings over Iran’s role.
Israeli forces will press ahead with Syria operations despite the loss of an F-16 warplane shot down on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Israel carried out major air raids in Syria on Saturday against what it described as Iranian targets.
“We inflicted a heavy blow to Iranian and Syrian forces,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday.
“We made clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way. We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us. This was our policy and this will remain our policy.”
Iran also came under fire from the US State Department. “Iran’s calculated escalation of threat and its ambition to project its power and dominance place all the people of the region — from Yemen to Lebanon — at risk,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
“The US continues to push back on the totality of Iran’s malign activities in the region and calls for an end to Iranian behavior that threatens peace and stability.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said all concerned in Syria and in the region must abide by international law, and called for an immediate de-escalation in Syria. The UN Security Council will discuss the crisis on Wednesday.
Guterres is “following closely the alarming military escalation throughout Syria and the dangerous spillover across its borders,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Ambassador Marcelle M. Wahba, president of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Arab News: “These incidents … are of great concern as they could easily escalate. With the US military presence in Syria, as well as Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah, Syrian regime forces, Syrian Kurdish forces and a number of other opposition groups, it is a recipe for disaster if things get out of hand. I’m sure the US government is encouraging restraint on all sides.”
Ellen Laipson of the Stimson Center in Washington told Arab News Saturday’s events were “a dangerous turning point in the conflict. Israel and Syria have long experience in avoiding confrontation, but this incident risks changing the behavior of both states.
“It will not necessarily lead to sustained Israeli involvement in Syria’s civil war, but it illustrates that after the territorial defeat of Daesh, and the view that Syria has prevailed in its internal war against domestic opposition, the Syrian crisis has turned into a multiheaded monster.”
On the ground in Syria, six civilians, two of them children, died in renewed Assad regime airstrikes on Saturday night on the opposition held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus.


British-Iranian aid worker moved back to jail from hospital ward — husband

In this undated photo provided by the Free Nazanin Campaign, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hugs her daughter Gabriella, in Iran. (AP)
Updated 17 min 31 sec ago
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British-Iranian aid worker moved back to jail from hospital ward — husband

  • British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament the fact she had been moved back to prison was “a positive sign”

LONDON: British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been transferred back to an Iranian prison from a hospital psychiatric ward, her husband said on Monday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was moved to the psychiatric ward of Imam Khomeini hospital in the capital on July 15, the “Free Nazanin” campaign group run by her husband said last week.
“Nazanin has been returned from psychiatric hospital, and is now back in Evin prison,” her husband, Richard, said in a statement. She was discharged at her request and the request of the hospital doctor, the campaign group said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told she had been admitted to hospital for a 10-day period of assessment. She received psychotherapy sessions, had physical checks and was prescribed some medicines, the campaign group seeking her release said.
In its release, the group quoted Zaghari-Ratcliffe saying that she was kept in a private room measuring 2 meters by 3 meters (6.5 feet by 9.8 feet) and was handcuffed and chained to the bed day and night.
The Iranian embassy in London declined immediate comment on the case.
“They did all they could to me – handcuffs, ankle cuffs, in a private room 2x3m, with thick curtains, and the door closed all the time,” she was quoted as saying. “I wasn’t allowed to leave the room, as I was chained to the bed.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament the fact she had been moved back to prison was “a positive sign.”
“The way that she was detained for a week without being able to have any access to her family was totally unacceptable and I am afraid all too predictable from the Iranian regime,” he said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit, and was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment.
Her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, deny the charge.