Sunday, November 8, 2015

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Saudi-Led Operation Has Killed Over 1,000 Children in Yemen

Civilian casualties of the Saudi-led bombing in Yemen have reached 6,318, according to the local health ministry.

Over 1,000 children have been killed since the start of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, spokesman for the country's Health Ministry Tamim Shami said.

"Civilian casualties since the beginning of the bombing have reached 6,318, among them are 1,241 children, 1,028 women," Shami told RIA Novosti.

"Devastating airstrikes were carried out against 109 hospitals, 229 healthcare centers, as well as 56 ambulances," he added.

According to the spokesman, over 15,000 civilians have been wounded since the beginning of the conflict. The northern Saada governorate and Yemen's capital, Sanaa, have the highest number of victims.

Yemen has been engulfed in a military conflict between the government and the armed Houthi political opposition faction for over a year. A Saudi-led coalition of countries has been conducting airstrikes against Houthi positions at the request of Yemen’s displaced President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi since March.

There is now a major shortage of medicines and medical instruments in the country, according to Shami. Though humanitarian aid is being provided through the World Health Organization, "this is not enough to treat the number of people injured in the bombings," he said.

The recent airstrikes against a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen's northern Saada region have claimed lives, the spokesman said.

"There are wounded and killed as a result of the bombing of this hospital, though numbers are being clarified," Tamim Shami told RIA Novosti.

On Monday, a hospital of the medical aid group Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, or MSF) in Saada was bombed while staff and patients were inside the building. The MSF believes the coalition is responsible for the incident. The Saudi-led coalition has denied the reports.

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Yemeni Forces Destroy another Saudi Warship: Report

The Yemen army, backed by Popular Committees loyal to the Houthi Ansarullah movement, destroyed a Saudi warship in the waters southwest of Yemen, media reports said Saturday.

Yemen’s al-Masirah TV said on Saturday that the warship was successfully targeted as it was sailing off the coast of Mocha in the Red Sea.
It was not immediately clear how the allied forces managed to sink the vessel but it came hours after two Saudi boats were destroyed in the same area by rounds of Katyusha rockets fired from the positions of Ansarullah and the Yemeni army on the mainland, Press TV reported.
Masirah said the Saudi warship was completely destroyed in the Saturday attack, adding that it was the fourth naval ship belonging to the regime in Riyadh and its allies that have been drowned over the past months.
Saudi Arabia has deployed its vessels around the coasts of Yemen in an attempt to support its airstrikes and to maintain a crippling blockade on the poorest nation of the Arabian Peninsula.

Saudi prince's Captagon: 'Breaking Bad' in Saudi Arabia

Cecily Hilleary

When authorities at Beirut’s international airport confiscated two tons of the amphetamine Captagon on board a private jet belonging to a Saudi prince last week, it focused attention on an issue rarely discussed: drug abuse in Saudi Arabia.
Abd al-Muhsen bin Walid bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud was detained at an airport in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, while in possession of 24 bags and eight suitcases full of narcotics.
Captagon, the brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, was developed in the 1960s to treat hyperactivity and narcolepsy. It was banned in the 1980s because of its potential for abuse, but a knock-off version continues to be illegally manufactured in small-scale labs in Lebanon, Turkey and especially Syria.
“Syria is a tremendous problem in that it’s a collapsed security sector, because of its porous borders, because of the presence of so many criminal elements and organized networks,” said the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) regional representative, Masood Karimipour. “There’s a great deal of trafficking being done of all sorts of illicit goods — guns, drugs, money, people. But what is being manufactured there and who is doing the manufacturing, that’s not something we have visibility into from a distance.”
Western media have made numerous attempts to link the drug to Syria's militants, in particular the Islamic State group, whose fighters reportedly use it to increase their strength and prowess in battle.
But the real market for the drug is Saudi Arabia, which consumes more Captagon than any other country and, according to the UNODC, accounts for a third of all global amphetamine seizures.
In 2011, the last year for which figures were available, the Saudi kingdom seized a whopping 11 tons of amphetamines, predominantly Captagon, up from nine tons in 2010. Captagon has been found hidden inside machine parts, stuffed into fruits and vegetables and even delivered via parcel post from outside the kingdom.
The penalty for drug trafficking — at least for foreigners and nonroyals — is death by hanging or by decapitation. The Saudi government encourages informants by rewarding them half the cash value of whatever drug is seized; the remaining cash value is divided among the officers arresting the drug dealer.
Havocscope, a website that tracks data on international black marketeering, estimates drug trafficking to be a $6.1 billion business in the kingdom.
‘Veneer of respectability’
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) special agent Joseph Moses had never heard of Captagon until he was sent on assignment to Istanbul in the late 1990s.
“When I asked what Captagon was used for, I was told it was for the euphoric effects, similar to amphetamine, and, second, that it was also used for its Viagra-like effect on the libido,” Moses said.
Many users are young men, according to Justin Thomas, an assistant professor of psychology and psychotherapy at the UAE’s Zayed University and author of Psychological Well-Being in the Gulf States. Research shows that some users are as young as 12. Media reports suggest students use Captagon to stay alert during exams or to wake up early after late-night socializing.
“There are known cases of women using it for weight loss, too, but how widespread that is, is anyone’s guess,” Thomas said.
Calorie-rich diets, a sedentary lifestyle and a prohibition against outdoor sports contribute to the fact that more than 44 percent of Saudi women are clinically obese.
But the fundamental problem may be boredom. “There are no cinemas, a paucity of athletic fields and courts, and virtually no student-led campus life with activities such as clubs, sports or newspapers,” writes Wilson Center scholar and author Caryle Murphy.
Strict gender segregation and high youth unemployment — about 30 percent — make youth more susceptible to frustration and depression, says Murphy.

Part of Captagon’s appeal in Saudi Arabia, where the religious taboo against drug use is strong, may lie in its innocuous appearance: It is a small, scored white tablet that resembles any over-the-counter drug.
“My theory is that Captagon still retains the veneer of medical respectability,” said Thomas. “It may not be viewed as a drug or narcotic because it is not associated with smoking or injecting.”
Increased awareness
“Drug and substance abuse in Saudi Arabia used to be taboo subjects for many years, but that is no longer the case,” said Saudi political analyst Fahad Nazer. “The media tackles it on a regular basis, and the government has launched public awareness campaigns on several occasions. There is a realization that Saudi youths are not less susceptible to the lure of drugs than their peers elsewhere.”
The government, he explained, may take a harsh approach to smugglers and dealers, but is far more lenient with drug users.
“The latter are mostly seen as victims who are in need of treatment and counseling, rather than criminals who deserve punishment,” Nazer said.
The government sponsors drug rehabilitation centers in four cities: Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Qassim. Because of the stigma surrounding addiction, there are no accurate figures for the number of addicts being treated, other than what can be gleaned from occasional newspaper reports.
The center at Jeddah recently reported it takes in four to nine new patients a day, mostly men, and reports suggest as many as 40,000 to 50,000 Saudis go through drug treatment annually. But that doesn’t include those who, fearing exposure, go to addiction treatment centers in Europe or Asia, where along with detox, they can enjoy massages, saunas and five-star accommodations.


The Yemeni developments have caused major concerns for the Saudi regime and its regional and international supporters. The Saudi officials, who previously refused holding any negotiations with Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, are now talking about start of dialogue on November 15, 2015 with Ansarullah movement. On the other hand, the US as well as British officials’ remarks signaled that the Saudi regime’s international backers have come up with the conclusion that the continuation of war against Yemen could immerse Riyadh in more difficult circumstances and go on in favor of Ansarullah.
Setting November 15 as a date for kicking off the negotiations between the two internal and external Yemeni groups is, on the one hand, an official admission that using military choice policy against the rival has failed to yield the wanted results, and on the other hand it could be considered as a starting point for ending the militaristic policy and seizing the three-week opportunity to change Yemen’s conditions. However, even if it is supposed that Saudi Arabia has come up with the conviction that its war in Yemen has reached a dead end, this does not mean that the November 15 would be the time when the aggression and military operations against Yemen ends. Additionally, the Brigadier General Ahmad al-Asiri, the Saudi military spokesman, has made it clear that even at the time of negotiations between the Yemeni sides the war would not be halted.
However, whether the Saudi military operations are or are not stopped briefly or permanently at that time, the November 15 would be a practical confession that the war on Ansarullah has been a move in vain.
The following points help us evaluate the Saudis’ conditions and their potentials.
1. The Saudi regime has struggled for several months to capture Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, establish Mansour Hadi’s government there, and paint its policy and performance in Yemen as legitimate, and therefore pretend that Mansour Hadi’s “puppet government” is a legitimate government and everybody should accept it. Although, with difficulty and participation of multiple forces Aden, Saudis made Ansarullah to evacuate Aden, the port city fell to Al-Qaeda terrorist group rather than to pro-Saudi Al-Islah or Hadi’s forces .Following the events, Khaled Bahah, the Saudi-bound Prime Minister, had to flee Aden unavoidably after staying several days in the city. At the time being, Aden is a stage of conflicts between the three groups of Al-Qaeda, dubbed Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen, pro-Hadi militant groups, and the Southern Movement ( Al-Hirak al-Janoubi). The Southern Movement, which played a pivotal role in wresting Aden out of Ansarullah movement’s control, has accused Saudi Arabia and Hadi’s forces of incompetence, arguing that their policies have made Aden a stronghold and center for Al-Qaeda activity, and Al-Qaeda has practically gained control of the two highly sensitive cities of Aden and Al Mukalla, Yemen’s fifth largest city. Reportedly, Saudi Arabia remained silent over the group’s capture of Al Mukalla in exchange for the terrorist group's aid in capturing Aden.
2. Failing to settle its troubles in Aden, Saudi Arabia has decided to capture Sana'a, the capital city. Therefore, receiving support from the UAE and Qatar, Saudi Arabia dispatched huge forces and special equipment to Marib in an attempt to open a way from south and east of the country to capture Sana'a. But Ansarullah missile attack in early September on a Marib military base, the camping place of the Saudi-led coalition forces, killed and injured nearly 1000 Arab military forces, sending Saudi front totally flustered. Following the deadly attack, the UAE who lost nearly 100 of its forces has distanced itself from Saudi Arabia. Saudi forces' fears pushed the operation to capture Sana'a from Marib in an uncertainty. Therefore, Riyadh decided to open up a way from the northern governorate of Al Jawf to Sana'a. Meanwhile, the kingdom has worked hard to convince the tribal chiefs to draw their cooperation against Yemen’s Ansarullah, gaining limited wins in this way, however, this plan reached a dead end too, shattering the Saudi hopes that capture of Sana'a was close. This was while Al Jawf, due to having long borders with Saudi Araba and its desert areas, could be an easy way for Riyadh to endanger Sana'a.
3. After failure of Sanaa's occupation plan, the Saudis have moved forces southward with the intention of capturing Taiz city and its islands. The Saudi regime thought that the Al-Islah Salafi-Wahhabi group which has Taiz as its traditional stronghold could threaten Ansarullah from inside. On the other hand, Taiz is of strategic importance because it is located near Bab el-Mandab Strait and the islands on its estuary. The Saudi Arabia’s extensive sea facilities and those of its allies in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea make it possible for Riyadh to carry out a huge operation. Riyadh made big efforts to exploit the Sudanese, Egyptian and other Arab and African forces. Sudan has sent 1500 troops to the Saudi mission in order to help the kingdom capture Taiz, but so far the Al Saud regime and its African allies’ massive measures have failed to meet their set objective. The Ansarullah movement has targeted and destroyed three Saudi navy vessels, and killed dozens of Sudan’s army forces. The significant point is that, despite a sketchy promise made to Saudi King Salman for participation in the aggression against Yemen, Egypt has failed to deploy forces, vowing that Cairo would send forces after capturing Taiz, to help preserve the coalition forces’ gains. The Saudi military campaign in Taiz has failed to hit Ansarullah, and the successive Riyadh’s losses in Aden, Sana'a and Taiz have demoralized the kingdom’s forces.
4. The Saudi regime is busy deploying new forces into Yemen, hoping to make a major victory before November 15, the date of negotiations between the Yemeni warring sides. However, should Saudi Arabia manages to capture Taiz in the remaining days to the negotiations date, it would not solve the Saudi problems, because the Ansarullah control over the Red Sea coast, the capital Sana'a, the northern regions and many other strategic positions in the country would not be spoiled by the success of the Saudi operation in Taiz. It is obvious that even if the Sudanese and other supporting forces accompany Saudi forces to capture Taiz, they could not continue standing beside Saudi Araba for a long time, and right after they withdraw, the security equation could be tapped in favor of Ansarullah movement and against Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it is clear that Saudi Arabia in November 15 negotiations would not be able to arrange for the team of its proponents as it wishes, because only under the condition of Ansarullah’s submission and concession, the Saudi regime could actualize its plan for Yemen. Ansarullah and its allies’ standing is clear, and it was reiterated in the speech of the movement’s leader, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi I, during the ceremony of Ashura on October 24. Ansarullah stance insists that the negotiations should be purely between the Yemeni sides and without any foreign intervention. So the Saudi Arabia political record is as chaotic and crisis-hit as its security record in Yemen.
5. Currently, the pressure on Riyadh in its war against Yemen is heavier than any other time. The Saudi people, who have not experienced any war for the last 100 years, are viewing the assault on Yemen as futile and shameful. The Yemen war has given the Al Saud ‘s internal critics the excuse to call the policies of King Salman and his son, Mohammad bin Salam Al Saud, who is the kingdom's Minister of Defense, as dangerous, and ask for them to be dethroned. On the other hand the confidence that Saudi Arabia and its partners could wrap up the Yemeni case in several months, in a way that eliminates the Western concerns, is internationally shrinking day by day. The US believes that Saudi performance in Yemen has complicated management of more significant cases in the region, putting the West in a tight corner. The West thinks that Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen has made the kingdom vulnerable, pushing the most important Arab rival of Iran to the sidelines, sending it to make concessions in such an significant case as Syria crisis. This is while in the West’s viewpoint it is impossible to restore Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to power, as their opposition forces would not let them return to the country. Presently, there are three forces in Yemen which prevent Hadi’s government from returning to the country, and generally block the Saudi plan for Yemen: Ansarullah movement, the Southern Movement and Ansar al-Sharia. So the West sees the project of bringing back Hadi to power and the implementation of UN Resolution 2216 as terminated.
6. Being defeated in the war drives the invaders totally insane, ramping up the possibility of a tragedy. Therefore, massacring Yemen’s civilians by Saudi Arabia to take revenge on the Resistance front is probable. To prevent this potential tragedy, consciousness and containment measures are nedded and the human potentials of the Muslim world should be used.

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Russia & China are ‘challenging the world order’ – US Defense Sec

Although the US military “do not seek” a new Cold War, it is determined to oppose the rising global powers – Russia and China – in order to protect the US-dominated “international order,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said.
Carter delivered this surprisingly direct and candid program statement, riddled with accusations against Russia for what he called “nuclear saber-rattling” and “violating sovereignty” of US allies, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, AP reported on Saturday.
The US official once again put Russia and China in the same league as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) when listing America’s top-ranked bogeymen.
“Terror elements like ISIL, of course, stand entirely opposed to our values. But other challenges are more complicated, and given their size and capabilities, potentially more damaging,” he said.
“Some actors appear intent on eroding these principles and undercutting the international order that helps enforce them… Of course, neither Russia nor China can overturn that order. But both present different challenges for it,” Carter said.
According to AP, Russia and China are challenging “American preeminence” and Washington’s so-called “stewardship of the world order” as they reassert themselves on the international arena as serious military powers.
According to Carter, their “challenging activities” can be seen at every possible level, be it at sea, in the air, in space – or even in cyberspace. “Most disturbing” for the US official, however, is whathe called “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling,” which in his view “raises questions about Russian leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.”
It is not quite clear exactly what “brandishing” Carter was referring to, but there was, indeed, a recent Russian reaction to new US plans to deploy advanced nuclear bombs at the Büchel Air Base in Germany. The deployment is the latest move planned as part of a joint NATO nuclear sharing program, which involves non-nuclear NATO states hosting more than 200 US nuclear warheads.
The Kremlin said that new US nukes deployed in Europe would destroy the strategic balance in the region and force Russia to take similar measures.
“This is another step and, unfortunately, it is a very serious step, towards an increase in tensions on the European continent… It may lead to the destruction of the strategic balance in Europe. Therefore it would definitely cause Russia to take corresponding counter-steps and counter-measures in order to restore the strategic balance and parity,” President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters in September.

Interestingly, from Carter’s perspective, it is Moscow that is forcing Washington to – unwillingly! – enter a new Cold War-era style arms race. “We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot, war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy. But make no mistake; the United States will defend our interests, our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords us all,” Carter said.

There is a state that is stirring conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, and guess what, its name is Russia – appears to be the message Carter was determined to impress upon his audience.
“In Europe, Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic states. Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia is throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire, prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism Russia claims to oppose,” was the US Defense Secretary’s assessment of the role Russia has played in the two world regions.
In particular, Russia and China have been accused of not following the principles of the global order: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, and freedom of navigation.
To confront the threat, the US military industrial complex is heavily investing in cutting-edge warfare technologies “that are most relevant to Russia’s provocations.” Such as? “New unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber… innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones I really can’t describe here,” Carter said – which, of course, by no means could be interpreted as saber-rattling or provoking an arms race.
Moreover, in response to Russian “aggression,” the US is now modernizing its entire nuclear arsenal, including its bombers and submarines, long-range missiles – not to mention the nukes themselves.
Could there be any doubt the world order is safe under such stewardship?

November 7: The eternal values of the Revolution

November 7, 1917, the Great Socialist Revolution in Russia. Medieval and feudal values were swept aside and people's power was internationalized, creating public services of excellence, making available public resources as universal property, implementing regimes of social mobility and externalizing the Revolution to the four corners of the Earth. November 7, in the Gregorian Calendar, marks the date of the October 25 Revolution in the Julian Calendar, the Great October Socialist Revolution, which brought medieval societies into the front line of development within one generation, which created a worldwide revolution enshrining workers' rights, women's rights and human rights into Constitutional law around the world. The eternal values of the Revolution
The Russian Revolution was an exercise in power to the people, implementing democracy, freeing serfs, creating the proletariat, freeing women and giving them the vote, taking children out of the mines, creating Trade Unions which defended workers' rights against the hegemonistic tendencies of societies controlled by Capitalists.
It was an exercise in massive programs of literacy, freeing people constrained by the imposed yoke of ignorance, being unable to read or write or communicate, it was an exercise in the creating of public services - universal healthcare, universal education, the right to a house, the right to a job, the right to social mobility, where excellence and endeavor were rewarded over family connections or the power to bribe. It was an exercise in a universal movement of goodwill, brotherly and sisterly relations being favored over differences in race, in creed, in ethnicity, in color; it was an exercise in the implementation of social leaning programs worldwide. Whole societies and countries were freed from the yoke of imperialism, colonies were disbanded, people were educated, people were empowered, women were given universal rights, universally.
Providing universal and free public services
Public services existed for the first time in developing countries which had been the playgrounds of the rich and prosperous from the northern hemisphere, more specifically North America and Western Europe, countries which had enslaved millions of people in the Negro Holocaust, i.e. slavery. They have yet to apologize and make reparations.
The climate was one of goodwill, one of providing knowledge, discussing ideas and enshrining ideals in Constitutions. For the general goodwill of Humanity. The idea was a free education, the idea was security of the State against invasion from imperialist powers, the idea was safety on the streets, with people free to venture out at any time of day or night, free to do what they wanted, the idea was to provide free medical care, including dental care. The idea was to export these universal rights and values to all countries. It worked, and it was successful. The model existed, was implemented and enjoyed, it was celebrated, it freed millions of people from the yoke of imperialist tyranny, it provided an example, a model and a path to follow. It also provided a beacon of light for the future, after the neo-imperialist wave which is the reactionary knee-jerk force we feel today and see around the globe in the wars provoked by the 666 - the Big Six Lobbies which shape the policies of the FUKUS Axis (France-UK-US) and their NATO poodles (Banking, Finance/Economics, Energy, Food, Pharmaceutical, Weapons).
The Great October Revolution brought previously unknown benefits to countless millions of people, despite having been forced to defend itself right from the beginning when the countries which have historically fostered and sponsored social terrorism interfered in the Russian Civil War; the Great October Revolution surpassed the provocations from external forces creating dissent through acts of terrorism and sabotage via agents provocateurs; the Great October Revolution created an industrialized society capable of withstanding and destroying the Hordes of Hitler and then decades later, spending 250 billion USD a year (forty years ago), providing public services for peoples enslaved by those exponents of social terrorism.
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Russian airstrikes target IS positions in Syria's Palmyra

Warplanes, believed to be Russians, carried out tens of airstrikes on areas in the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria on Sunday, killing one person and wounding others, a monitor group reported.
The airstrikes targeted areas in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, which was overran by the Islamic State (IS) militant group last May, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based watchdog group that relies on a network of activists on ground.
The Russian air force has been engaged in striking the IS positions across Syria since late September.
The Syrian government officials hailed the strikes as efficient, while the opposition rebels accused Moscow of attempting to support the administration of President Bashar al-Assad only.
The Russians, however, said their aim is to support a political solution to Syria.
On Oct. 6, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all Russian actions in Syria aim for a political settlement of the Syrian conflicts.
The IS terror group seized full control of Palmyra, otherwise known as Tadmur, on May 20 this year.
Since capturing it, the terror-labeled group destroyed the city's notorious military prison and several Islamic tombs.
The IS also committed public executions of government soldiers and people accused of working for the government.
Their latest execution was against a Khaled Asaad, a prominent Syrian archaeologist, who had lived in Palmyra for most of his life and dedicated his carrier to study the archaeological sites of Palmyra.
Government officials said the IS militants were trying to extract information of Asaad about the "hidden gold" of Palmyra, which, they said, don't even exist.
Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming for searching new clues of historical facts on the development of civilizations.

Putin signs temporary ban on passenger flights from Russia to Egypt

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on temporary ban of passenger flights from Russia to Egypt. The text of the decree was posted on the portal of legal information on Sunday.
"Russian air companies are temporarily banned from making flights [including commercial] from Russia to Egypt, with the exception of flights [including commercial] to transport Russian citizens commissioned by the state authorities and federal agencies to Egypt for work-related purposes," the document says.
Apart from that, the document strongly recommends travel companies not to sell holiday packages that include flights to Egypt. "Travel operators and agents are recommended to refrain from selling travel packages including transportation by air for the period of the temporary flight ban," the document says.
The decree obliges the government "to take measures to ensure the return of Russian citizens staying in Egypt and their luggage back to Russia."
Apart from that, Putin bound the foreign ministry to coordinate with the Egyptian authorities issues of security of Russian citizens staying in that country and their safe return home, according to a presidential decree published on Sunday on the official portal of legal information.
The decree comes into force from the day of signing.
On Friday, November 6, the Russian president agreed with recommendations of the National Anti-terrorist Committee to suspend air service with Egypt until the causes of the A321 plane crash were identified. According to presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, flights to Egypt will be suspended until proper level of security is ensured. Putin also issued instructions to help Russians vacationing in Egypt return home. Peskov noted however that the suspension of flights did not mean that a terrorist attack was considered as a key theory of the Russian plane crash in northern Sinai.
According to Russia’s Tourism Agency [Rostourism], about 80,000 Russians were staying in Egypt as of Friday.
An A321 passenger jet of Russia’s Kogalymavia air carrier [flight 9268] bound to St. Petersburg crashed on October 31 some 30 minutes after the takeoff from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. It fell down 100 kilometers south of the administrative center of North Sinai Governorate, the city of Al-Arish. The plane was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members. There were four Ukrainian and one Belarusian nationals among the passengers. None survived.

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As U.S. Escalates Air War on ISIS, Allies Slip Away

The Obama administration heralded the Arab air forces flying side by side with American fighter jets in the campaign’s early days as an important show of solidarity against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh. Top commanders like Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who oversees operations in Syria and Iraq, still laud the Arab countries’ contributions to the fight. But as the United States enters a critical phase of the war in Syria, ordering Special Operations troops to support rebel forces and sending two dozen attack planes to Turkey, the air campaign has evolved into a largely American effort.
Administration officials had sought to avoid the appearance of another American-dominated war, even as most leaders in the Persian Gulf seem more preoccupied with supporting rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Now, some of those officials note with resignation, the Arab partners have quietly left the United States to run the bulk of the air war in Syria — not the first time Washington has found allies wanting.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have shifted most of their aircraft to their fight against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan, reacting to the grisly execution of one of its pilots by the Islamic State, and in a show of solidarity with the Saudis, has also diverted combat flights to Yemen. Jets from Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, coalition officials said. Qatar is flying patrols over Syria, but its role has been modest. “They’ve all been busy doing other things, Yemen being the primary draw,” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who leads the air war from a $60 million command center at this sprawling base in Qatar, said of the Arab allies. He added that those allies still fly periodic missions in Syria and allow American jets to use their bases. The United Arab Emirates last carried out strikes in Syria in March; Jordan in August; and Saudi Arabia in September, according to information provided by allied officials last week. But the Arab allies insist they are still playing an essential, if less active, military role in the war.
“Jordan’s commitment to this fight is unwavering,” said Dana Zureikat Daoud, a spokeswoman for the Jordanian Embassy in Washington. “We remain an active partner and contributor to the international coalition, and continue to conduct airstrikes against Daesh targets.”
The engagement of Western allies, like France and Australia, has also been limited. They have conducted a smattering of strikes in Syria, but have reserved most of their firepower for Islamic State targets in Iraq. Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has promised to fulfill his campaign pledge to end Ottawa’s role in the air campaign altogether. And none of the Western allies appear eager to join the United States in basing warplanes at Incirlik air base in Turkey, a move that would make it easier to increase strikes against militants in northern Syria and Iraq.
So far, eight Arab and Western allies have conducted about 5 percent of the 2,700 airstrikes in Syria, compared with 30 percent of the 5,100 strikes in Iraq, where many NATO partners also fly missions against the Islamic State. But the United States was always likely to fly the majority of the missions in Syria, as it does in Iraq, since its air forces are much larger than those of the Arab states or any forces deployed by Western allies.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has promised Congress that the air war in Syria will escalate “with a higher and heavier rate of strikes,” including more attacks against top Islamic State leaders and oil fields that remain one of the group’s main financial lifelines. But the revamped effort is already facing challenges. For the first time since 2007, the United States does not have an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and will not again until mid-December; the Navy needed time to conduct badly needed repairs on its fleet. The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its air wing, responsible for about 10 percent of the daily strikes in Iraq and Syria, left the gulf in early October. France said on Thursday that it would send its only aircraft carrier to the gulf to help fill the gap. General Brown said the coalition could also pick up the slack using land-based American and allied warplanes, including a dozen A-10 ground-attack planes newly deployed to Incirlik air base, and a dozen F-15’s on their way there. Incirlik is far more convenient to the fight — 15 minutes flight time to the Syrian border compared with nearly five hours from Persian Gulf bases — making it easier to increase the number of planes that can spend more time hunting Islamic State targets. But Australia and most of the European allies are reluctant to leave their bases in the Middle East, despite the shorter flight times.
“It’s not just as simple as, ‘go to Turkey,’ “ Gen. John R. Allen, the special American envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, told Congress last month. “They’ve got bilateral relationships in the gulf that are old, and have been cultivated in order for them to deploy.”
So while France will still conduct airstrikes in Syria — it has carried out about 270 strikes in Iraq and Syria over all, though only two so far in eastern Syria, a senior French official said — it will continue to fly out of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, at least for now. The Australians will continue F/A-18 combat missions over Syria that began on Sept. 11, expanding beyond strikes in Iraq. But they, too, do not want to give up their base in the United Arab Emirates.
Britain has talked tough about going after the Islamic State, but unlike France, its actions have not matched its talk. Britain currently flies bombing missions over Iraq and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights over Syria.
The British defense and foreign secretaries have said they want forces to be able to fight the Islamic State in Syria as well as in Iraq, and that it is absurd to stop planes at a border that the militant group does not recognize, especially since its command centers are in Syria. But stung by Britain’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of American wars, Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to seek the approval of Parliament before taking any military action in Syria. He has said that he will only press for such a vote if he has “a clear majority” in favor, and so far he has failed to find one. The recent election of the hard-left Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party and Russia’s military intervention in Syria have made it even less likely that Mr. Cameron will call for a vote.
While some Iraqi and Western experts have criticized the pace of the air campaign, General Brown described two broad areas where he expected attacks against the Islamic State to increase in the coming days. First, he said, newly armed Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters would put pressure on Islamic State fighters in and around Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital, forcing them to move from their defensive positions. “When they are active and moving, that increases our activity for strikes,” said General Brown. “Daesh presents itself as a target more.”
This is what happened in July, when a Kurdish offensive in northeastern Syria yielded about a dozen strikes a day. But some Kurdish fighters ran low on ammunition, bad weather set in at times, and American commanders focused on targets in western Iraq, reducing strikes in Syria last month to just four a day.
The general said the campaign would also intensify attacks on a second set of targets — fixed sites such as oil-production facilities, bomb-making factories and other so-called critical nodes that support the Islamic State’s war effort. Shifting more reconnaissance and surveillance planes to Incirlik to linger over targets longer will also help. Last month, American forces dropped bombs on 67 percent of their strike missions, up from about 25 percent a year ago — a sign there are more targets to hit. “What I want to have,” General Brown said, “is a steady of set of strikes that keeps the pressure on Daesh.”

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The Pakistan Nuclear Nightmare

With as many as 120 warheads, Pakistan could in a decade become the world’s third-ranked nuclear power, behind the United States and Russia, but ahead of China, France and Britain. Its arsenal is growing faster than any other country’s, and it has become even more lethal in recent years with the addition of small tactical nuclear weapons that can hit India and longer-range nuclear missiles that can reach farther.
These are unsettling truths. The fact that Pakistan is also home to a slew of extremist groups, some of which are backed by a paranoid security establishment obsessed with India, only adds to the dangers it presents for South Asia and, indeed, the entire world.
Persuading Pakistan to rein in its nuclear weapons program should be an international priority. The major world powers spent two years negotiating an agreement to restrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, which doesn’t have a single nuclear weapon. Yet there has been no comparable investment of effort in Pakistan, which, along with India, has so far refused to consider any limits at all.
The Obama administration has begun to address this complicated issue with greater urgency and imagination, even though the odds of success seem small. The recent meeting at the White House on Oct. 22 between President Obama and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan appears to have gone nowhere. Yet it would be wrong not to keep trying, especially at a time of heightened tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir and terrorism.
What’s new about the administration’s approach is that instead of treating the situation as essentially hopeless, it is now casting about for the elements of a possible deal in which each side would get something it wants. For the West, that means restraint by Pakistan and greater compliance with international rules for halting the spread of nuclear technology. For Pakistan, that means some acceptance in the family of nuclear powers and access to technology.
At the moment, Pakistan is a pariah in the nuclear sphere to all but China; it has been punished internationally ever since it followed India’s example and tested a weapon in 1998. Pakistan has done itself no favors by refusing to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and by giving nuclear know-how to bad actors like North Korea. Yet, it is seeking treatment equal to that given to India by the West.
For decades, India was also penalized for developing nuclear weapons. But attitudes shifted in 2008 when the United States, seeking better relations with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies as a counterweight to China, gave India a pass and signed a generous nuclear cooperation deal that allowed New Delhi to buy American nuclear energy technology.
American officials say they are not offering Pakistan an India-like deal, which would face stiff opposition in Congress, but are discussing what Pakistan needs to do to justify American support for its membership in the 48-nation Nuclear Supplier Group, which governs trade in nuclear fuel and technology.
As a first step, one American official said, Pakistan would have to stop pursuing tactical nuclear weapons, which are more likely to be used in a conflict with India and could more easily fall into the hands of terrorists, and halt development of long-range missiles. Pakistan should also sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons tests.
Such moves would undoubtedly be in Pakistan’s long-term interest. It cannot provide adequate services for its citizens because it spends about 25 percent of its budget on defense. Pakistan’s army, whose chief of staff is due to visit Washington this month, says it needs still more nuclear weapons to counter India’s conventional arsenal.
The competition with India, which is adding to its own nuclear arsenal, is a losing game, and countries like China, a Pakistan ally, should be pushing Pakistan to accept that. Meanwhile, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has done nothing to engage Islamabad on security issues, and he also bears responsibility for current tensions. The nuclear arms race in South Asia, which is growing more intense, demands far greater international attention.

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4 Pakistani militants held in Dhaka

They were among seven arrested for allegedly planning violent acts

Seven Islamist militants, including four Pakistani nationals, have been arrested in Bangladesh for allegedly planning violent acts in the Muslim-majority country grappling with a series of murders claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
The seven members of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were arrested last night in the capital, bdnews quoted police as saying.
Several jihadi books, CDs, seven Pakistani and Bangladeshi passports, seven mobile phones and about Rs. 27,000 were seized from them.
“They have admitted to have met to revive the JMB and plot sabotage in Bangladesh,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesperson Monirul Islam said, adding that they were involved in forging currencies and funding religious extremism.
About the Pakistani passports, Mr. Islam said they were valid. “But their frequent visits are mysterious.”
Bangladesh has in the past three months witnessed murders of an Italian aid worker, a Japanese farmer, attack on a Shia rally, killing of two policemen, and assassination of a book publisher.