Washington seeks global ‘coalition’ against Iran regime

Iranian protesters hold a portrait of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, General Qassem Suleimani, during a demonstration in Tehran against the US. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Washington seeks global ‘coalition’ against Iran regime

  • US State Department says the coalition will not be “anti-Iran” because the US stands “firmly behind” the country’s people, in contrast to the regime and its “bad actions.”
  • Citing Iran's failure to curb its destabilization activities, President Donald Trump pulled out the US from the Iran nuclear accord, to the anger of US allies.

WASHINGTON: The US wants to build a global “coalition” against the Tehran regime and its “destabilizing activities,” the State Department said on Thursday, after pulling out from the Iran nuclear accord to the anger of US allies.
The plan is to be detailed on Monday by the top United States diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his first major foreign policy address since taking office in April.
“The US will be working hard to put together a coalition,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.
The aim is to “bring together a lot of countries from around the world with the specific goal of looking at the Iranian regime through a more realistic lens” which would include “all of its destabilizing activities that aren’t just a threat to the region but are a threat to the broader world,” she said.
Nauert added that the coalition will not be “anti-Iran” because the US stands “firmly behind” the country’s people, in contrast to the regime and its “bad actions.”
She evoked a comparison with the US-led international coalition against the Daesh group in Syria and Iraq.
Begun in 2014, that coalition now counts as members 75 countries or institutions and intervened militarily against the jihadists, although only a minority of coalition members have conducted most of that military action, which has left the extremists nearly defeated on that battlefield.
Nauert did not say whether the proposed coalition against Iran’s regime would have a military component.
She said the State Department received on Monday about 200 foreign diplomats to explain to them President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear accord, and the next steps.
In a breakthrough that ended a 12-year standoff over Western fears that Iran was developing a nuclear bomb, the administration of former president Barack Obama and other major powers reached the accord with Iran in 2015.
It lifted punishing international sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to freeze its nuclear effort.
Withdrawing from the deal last week, Trump called for a new agreement with deeper restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program as well as curbs on its ballistic missiles and its backing for militant groups across the Middle East.
Along with Iran the other signatories of the 2015 deal — France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia — strongly criticized the US withdrawal.
On Thursday the European Union said it will begin moves to block the effect of reimposed US sanctions on Iran as efforts to preserve the nuclear deal deepened a transatlantic rift.
Asked about the potential willingness of European nations to join the proposed new coalition, Nauert said many US allies “fully understand” and are “not turning a blind eye” to Iran’s actions.


Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

Russian soldiers distribute aid in the central Syrian province of Homs. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 August 2018
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Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’

  • A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
  • The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone

MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.