Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation

Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami (L) meeting with his Syrian counterpart Abdullah Ayoub (R) in the capital Damascus. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2018

Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation

  • Iranian forces have backed Al-Assad in the country’s civil war
  • US National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that Iran should remove its forces from Syria

BEIRUT: Iran has signed a deal to rebuild Syria’s armed forces, which have been depleted by more than seven years civil war, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday.
Hatami, on a two-day visit to Syria, told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station that the agreement also stipulates helping rebuild Syria’s military industry.
The announcement comes as the US under President Donald Trump shifts is toughening its stance on Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, which has weathered a calamitous civil war.
The White House has demanded that Iran extract itself from Syria as an essential precondition to lifting sanctions that went into effect earlier this month.
Israel has also been critical of Iran’s expanding role in Syria, saying it won’t tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence near its frontiers.
Iran has been an essential backer of Syria’s government in the civil war now in its seventh year, providing advisers, military supplies, training and thousands of militiamen to fight alongside the Syrian army.
Hatami said Iran was in Syria at the invitation of the government.
The precise details of the agreement were not announced.
The Syrian government does not release casualty numbers, but monitoring groups say the government has lost tens of thousands of fighters since the civil war broke out in 2011.
Iran and Russia both intervened on behalf of the government as opposition forces gained ground in the early years of the war.
Al-Assad, who has ruled with an iron fist since inheriting the presidency from his father in 2000, now looks safe in his post but he rules over a shattered country.
At least 400,000 people have been killed in the war, according to monitoring groups, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia estimates the economic damage to the country at over $300 bn.
The government and its international backers have described the conflict as a war against terrorism and enemies abroad, chiefly the US and other western nations.
Hatami said Syria’s government is now in a stronger position and warned against any “foreign aggression” against Syria.

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed praises Jacinda Ardern and lights up Burj Khalifa to honor New Zealand

Updated 22 March 2019

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed praises Jacinda Ardern and lights up Burj Khalifa to honor New Zealand

DUBAI: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, thanked Jacinda Ardern on Friday for her ‘sincere empathy’ following the attack on two New Zealand mosques that killed 50 Muslims.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was illuminated in a gesture of solidarity with New Zealand and its prime minister.

Ardern has received widespread praise from around the world and in particular from Muslim countries and their leaders for the way she has handled the aftermath of the terrorist attack carried out by a white supremacist.

“New Zealand today fell silent in honor of the mosque attacks' martyrs,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted. “Thank you PM Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world.”

Ardern led thousands of people in a two minute vigil on Friday as the shocked nation came together to remember those killed in the attack. 

She told those gathered in a park opposite the Al Noor mosque, where 42 people died, that: "New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”

The prime minister’s response to the killings has been widely admired in helping the country come to terms with the atrocity. In the hours after the shootings she wore a black headscarf and visited members of the Muslim community.

She moved to reassure those caught up in the attacks and hugged survivors at a community center in Christchurch.

“We represent diversity, kindness, compassion,” Ms Ardern said on the day of the attack. “A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who need it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

She did not hesitate to describe the killings as a terrorist attack and said she would refuse to say the name of the killer who carried it out.

But she has also acted quickly with legislation. Her government banned on Thursday the sales of semi-automatic weapons.

“Ardern’s performance has been extraordinary - and I believe she will be strongly lauded for it both domestically and internationally,” political commentator Bryce Edwards of Victoria University in Wellington told Reuters.

Social media has been flooded with messages of admiration for Ardern, with many using her as an example for their own politicians to follow.