US backed group says it can capture Syrian city of Raqqa

Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) fighters ride a military vehicle north of Raqqa city, Syria. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 March 2017

US backed group says it can capture Syrian city of Raqqa

BEIRUT: US-backed Syrian militias said on Thursday they have enough forces to capture the city of Raqqa from Daesh with support from the US-led coalition, underlining their opposition to any Turkish role in the attack.
Raqqa is Daesh main base of operations in Syria and the US-backed campaign to capture it has been boosted with the arrival of a Marines artillery unit.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the Kurdish YPG militia and Arab groups, have in recent days cut the road from the Raqqa to Daesh stronghold in Deir Al-Zor province — the last main road out of the city.
Deeply worried by the YPG’s influence, Ankara is pressing Washington to take part in the final assault on Raqqa.
The SDF says it ruled out any Turkish role during meetings with US officials last month, though Turkey said on Thursday no decision had been made yet and the US-led coalition said a possible Turkish role remained a point of discussion.
“The number of our forces is now increasing, particularly from among the people of the area, and we have enough strength to liberate Raqqa with support from the coalition forces,” Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, an SDF spokeswoman, said.
Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish government.
An SDF spokesman told Reuters on Thursday he expected the forces to reach the outskirts of the city within a few weeks. Its forces began the operation to encircle Raqqa in November. “We have information that the enemy is moving part of its leadership outside the city, as it is also digging tunnels under the ground. We expect they will fortify the city and the terrorist group will depend on street warfare,” Ahmed said.
The SDF and YPG have been the main partners for Washington in its campaign against Daesh in Syria. The US-led coalition has been providing air support and deployed special forces in Syria to help in the campaign against Daesh.

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

Updated 23 September 2019

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

  • Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepared to celebrate its National Day with entertainment events, firework displays and cultural events, Iran staged a military parade in Tehran on Sunday with tanks, missiles and armored vehicles.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian military leaders saluted as ranks of soldiers marched past them in tight unison, followed by an array of military hardware.

Among the weapons on display in the parade, held to mark the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, was an upgraded warhead for the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, said to have a range of 2,000km, and the Kaman 12 drone with a range of 1,000km. Speedboats and warships were shown in video footage on state TV.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities in the east of the Kingdom. After the attack the Pentagon ordered US troops to reinforce Saudi air and missile defenses.

In a speech at Monday’s parade, Rouhani denounced the US presence. “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” he said.

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.

“Their presence has always brought pain and misery ... the farther they keep themselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be.”

The US aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops are for “deterrence and defense,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

“If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.