NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018
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NATO reports Russian naval buildup amid Syria tensions

  • We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, says NATO spokeswoman
  • At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks

BRUSSELS: NATO says the Russian navy is building up its presence in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over the war in Syria.
Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
“We will not speculate on the intention of the Russian fleet, but it is important that all actors in the region exercise restraint and refrain from worsening an already disastrous humanitarian situation in Syria,” NATO’s chief spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said Wednesday.
She says several of the Russian ships are equipped with cruise missiles.
Russian defense officials could not be reached for comment. At least eight ships, including a missile cruiser and two missile-carrying submarines, have joined the Russian flotilla over the past three weeks. Russian media reports indicate there are around 15 Russian navy vessels in the Mediterranean overall.
Moscow has repeatedly alleged that Syrian rebels are preparing a chemical weapons attack in Idlib as a provocation to bring a Western attack on Syrian forces.
The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said the naval buildup was connected to that prospect. “The United States and its allies have forced Russia to send a powerful sailing group to the Mediterranean,” it wrote on Tuesday.
State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the Russian reports “false-flag-type reporting.”
“We’ve seen that before where they try to put the blame — they try to put the onus on other groups and we don’t buy into that,” she said Wednesday during a regular briefing with reporters in Washington.
Western countries and independent analysts say Syrian government forces have carried out a number of chemical attacks over the course of the seven-year civil war. The US has vowed to respond if Syrian forces use chemical weapons in Idlib. Western countries carried out strikes on Syrian government forces after an alleged chemical attack earlier this year.
Both Syria and Russia deny that government forces have ever used chemical arms.


US imposes new sanctions on Iran over weapons programs

Updated 19 sec ago
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US imposes new sanctions on Iran over weapons programs

  • Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals
  • The move freezes any US assets of those targeted and bans US dealings with them

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on 14 people and 17 entities connected to Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), a body it said had played a central role in Iran’s past nuclear weapons effort.
Among those designated for sanctions was the Shahid Karimi group, which works on missile and explosive-related projects for the SPND, and four associated individuals, the US Treasury Department said in a Statement.
“The US government is taking decisive action against actors at all levels in connection with Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) who have supported the Iranian regime’s defense sector,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
“The United States will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction. Anyone considering dealing with the Iranian defense industry in general, and SPND in particular, risks professional, personal, and financial isolation.”
It said the steps targeted current SPND subordinate groups, supporters, front companies, and associated officials. The move freezes any US assets of those targeted and bans US dealings with them.
"Today’s action serves as a warning to individuals and entities considering dealing with the Iranian regime’s defense sector in general, and SPND in particular: by engaging in sanctionable activity with designated Iranian persons, you risk professional, personal, and financial isolation," the Treasury statement said.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that Tehran was determined to boost its defense capabilities despite mounting pressure from the United States and its allies to curb its ballistic missile program.