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Syrian Army scores big overnight gains in East Ghouta region

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:48 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:30 A.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched another big overnight assault in the East Ghouta region, capturing several farms and trenches that were under the control of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham.

Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Army kicked off last night’s assault by storming a number of points near the recently captured Battalion 274 base in the eastern corridor of the East Ghouta.

This big assault would result in the Syrian Army taking control of several localities from Jaysh Al-Islam, paving the way for their forces to reach the Al-Obb Orchards, Al-Ash’ari Farms, Mesraba, and Beit Sawa.

According to an Al-Masdar field correspondent in Damascus, the Syrian Army’s gains last night have given them fire control over the strategic Shifouniyah-Douma Road, which is a primary supply route for Jaysh Al-Islam.

If this road is captured by the Syrian Army in the coming days, the entire rebel-held pocket in the East Ghouta will be split in half.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Over 100 Turkish Army vehicles travel to Syria’s Afrin for 2nd phase of Operation Olive Branch

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:18 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:10 A.M.) – One of the largest Turkish Army convoys traveled to Syria’s Afrin region this weekend, as they prepare to launch the second phase of Operation Olive Branch.

According to pro-opposition activists in northern Syria, the Turkish Army convoy consisted of more than 100 heavily armored vehicles, including tanks and ACPs.

The Turkish Army convoy was spotted traveling through Turkey’s Kilis region before it finally reached the Aleppo Governorate’s Afrin region.

Below is the video of this massive Turkish Army convoy arriving in Afrin this weekend:

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

2,984 crimes committed by Israeli forces within one month (West Bank)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:52 PM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (6:30 A.M)- Israeli occupation forces reportedly committed approximately 2,984 crimes in the West Bank, last month (February).

This statistic was used by the West-Bank wing of Hamas, accusing Israeli forces of violating international law.

Hamas released the statistic as an overal crime record for the month, the crimes included; Palestinians killed,  Palestinians wounded, home demolitions, raids/break ins of villages/homes, arrests/detention of the innocent and others, all were amongst the statistics gathered.

All these violations of international law, carried out against Palestinians, were reportedly used in statements (By Hamas), to point out the severity of the problems faced by Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Those responsible for Damascus shelling should be punished – Russian MoD

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:22 PM PST

The situation in Eastern Ghouta has been tense over the past several weeks, resulting in ongoing shelling by local militants on Damascus and its suburbs, which prompts retaliatory fire from the Syrian pro-government forces.

Today, the humanitarian corridor in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, has been shelled four times, as terrorists continue their provocations in Syria even during aid pauses, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria. Three civilians were injured as a result of the continuous shelling of checkpoints in Eastern Ghouta by the terrorist groups, the defense ministry says.

The Russian military called militants’ actions a “war crime” and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

The ministry also warned that the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front was preparing provocations in Eastern Ghouta in order to prevent the UN humanitarian convoy from reaching civilians. Militants in the outskirts of Damascus actively use underground tunnels for their raids, the Defense Ministry added.

Today, civilians again haven’t managed to leave Eastern Ghouta, since terrorists keep people as “human shields,” according to the Russian Reconciliation Center.

On March 3, the fifth humanitarian pause, aimed at enabling the civilians of Eastern Ghouta to leave the region, began. Four previous aid pauses provided no results as militants continue to hold local residents on pain of death.

Last week, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2401 that urges all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and adhere to a long-term humanitarian ceasefire for at least 30 days across Syria in order to ensure the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid supplies, as well as the medical evacuation of injured people. Despite the adopted resolution, the situation in Eastern Ghouta remains tense.

Since the ceasefire does not apply to anti-terrorist operations, Syrian government forces continue to battle militants in the region. The situation in Eastern Ghouta has escalated over the past weeks as local militants are actively fighting back, shelling Damascus and its suburbs. Damascus says it opens fire in response to shelling from Eastern Ghouta, whereas the western countries are accusing the Syrian government and Russia of being responsible for the mounting tensions in the area.

Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Nusra loses tank after tank during failed armored assault against rival Islamist fighters in west Aleppo

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 07:02 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:01 A.M.) – On Saturday afternoon, Al-Qaeda affiliate militia Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (better known by its previous name Jabhat al-Nusra) launched a powerful armored assault against rival Islamist faction Jabhat Tahrir Souriya in the western countryside of Aleppo province.

The Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group struck its opponent’s defenses at the village of Ajeel only to encounter an anti-tank screen. The ensuring engagement saw considerable destruction dealt to Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham’s armored strike force.

According to rebel sources, anti-tank missile teams of Jabhat Tahrir Souriya managed to knock-out some three armored fighting vehicles (all of them main battle tanks apparently) belonging to Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham within less than an hour; a pickup armed with a 23-mm cannon was also destroyed).

The loses endured by Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham has effectively neutralized its armored thrust into western Aleppo for the time being. Whether or not the jihadist faction makes another push is yet to be seen.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Night vision footage: Syrian Army seizes three towns from militants in east Damascus under cover of Russian airstrikes

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:17 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:15 A.M.) – Footage has emerged showing the night operation by elite Syrian Army forces that eventually led to the seizure of three key militant stronghold town in Damascus’ East Ghouta region – Uataya, An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama.

The night assault was just one of three identical operations conducted by Syrian troops since the government’s East Ghouta offensive started one week ago.

The battle – kicked-off on the night of Friday to Saturday – was mostly fought on the northern outskirts of Uataya where elite Syrian forces encountered a determined resistance by Jaysh al-Islam fighters.

With clashes lasting until the daylight hours of Saturday, Uataya’s fall to the Syrian Army would push Islamist rebels to also abandon An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama (their withdrawal being conducted just before Uataya was captured) or face encirclement and annihilation.

The Syrian Army’s advance of Friday to Saturday was one of the most significant to ever be made during a 24-hour period in history of operations across East Ghouta.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army takes control of Raju centre (video)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:03 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 A.M.) – Members of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured the town centre of Raju, a strategic position in Syria's Afrin district, Saturday, according to media reports.

Footage showed FSA members stepping on a Syrian flag and chanting “Allahu Akbar” as they pointed to smoke billowing over a building. Clashes with People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces were reportedly continuing in the town.

FSA forces were backed by Turkish soldiers and squads of Turkish national police and gendarmerie, according to Turkish media.

Located 25 kilometres (15.50 miles) northwest of Afrin town, Raju is one of the district's five towns.

Turkey views the YPG, which is active in Afrin, as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The district of Afrin is home to around 500,000 civilians, a population which has doubled with refugees after fighting in other areas of the country.

Source: Ruptly

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian choppers airdrops leaflets over East Ghouta, calls on civilians to head to safety (video)

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:25 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:00 A.M.) – Syrian choppers air dropped thousands of leaflets over the East Ghouta region of Damascus, yesterday, calling on civilians to head to the humanitarian corridors.

The leaflets provided the civilians of the East Ghouta directions to the humanitarian corridors and ways to evacuate their present areas.

Video footage of the airdrop was released by the Syrian Ministry of Defense on Saturday; it showed the choppers dropping the leaflets over several areas:

The primary humanitarian corridor is located at the Wafiddeen Refugee Camp crossing, which is located just north of the Jaysh Al-Islam held town of Douma.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Pictures: Elite Syrian forces conquer strategic militant stronghold in east Damascus

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:08 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:05 A.M.) – On Saturday, elite forces of the Syrian Army conquered the long-standing militant stronghold town of Uataya in Damascus’ East Ghouta region from Islamist rebels.

The operation, spearheaded mostly by Republican Guard assault units, lasted an entire day and saw Jaysh al-Islam fighters mount a fanatic resistance; to this effect, clashes on Uataya’s northern outskirts were exceptionally violent.

At the time of the battle, Uataya’s strategic value was immense as the town dictated the fate of two other rebel strongholds which had themselves withstood multiple assaults by Syrian government forces over the years – An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama.

As expected, the seizure of Uataya by the Syrian Army prompted to a general collapse of rebel defenses east of the town with An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama also falling to government troops within the hour after Islamist fighter were forced to flee all three strongholds.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Russian warplanes unleash powerful airstrikes onto Islamist forces across east Damascus as Syrian Army storms key town

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 04:34 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:34 A.M.) – Since about midnight on Sunday, Russian warplanes have been in the process of carrying out another wave of heavy night strikes against militant groups across Damascus’ East Ghouta region.

So far Russian airpower has delivered several dozen precision strikes against rebel tactical positions, movements and gatherings in the district towns of Masraba, Beit Sawa and Douma with devastating effect.

The bombardment by Russian jets has somewhat complicated the efforts of Free Syrian Army affiliate militia Faylaq al-Rahman to reinforce Jaysh al-Islam’s position around Ash-Shifuniyah.

On the ground, elite Syrian Army assault units have geared up for yet another night assault against insurgent forces inside the stronghold town of Ar-Rayhan following the capture of its surrounding farmlands on Saturday afternoon.

At the present time, heavy clashes are ongoing in the vicinity of Ar-Rayhan as Syrian troops aim to breach the first line of rebel defenses on the town’s outskirts.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Turkey kills over 50 Syrian pro-gov’t fighters in one week

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 03:59 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:30 A.M.) – The Turkish Armed Forces have killed scores of Syrian pro-government fighters this week amid their latest push in the Afrin region of Aleppo.

On Saturday, 36 pro-government fighters from the National Defense Forces (NDF) were killed inside the town of Kafr Jina after Turkish warplanes bombed their positions near the front-lines in Afrin.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led alliance of militias operating in northern Syria, has confirmed that Turkish airstrikes targeted Syrian forces in the early hours of Saturday morning, but did not provide any information on casualties.

Prior to this bombing, the Turkish Air Force killed 19 NDF fighters at a town near the government’s border with the Afrin region.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian Army publishes video of militants firing on 2 children fleeing battle in East Ghouta

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 03:17 PM PST

The Syrian Army has sent a video to Russian Center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria showing two children fleeing Eastern Ghouta in the night through a humanitarian corridor.

A girl and a boy managed to escape through the humanitarian corridor on Friday night with army being able to pick them and organize cover as the militants were shooting at them.

On February 24, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2401 that urges all conflicting parties to immediately stop all hostilities and adhere to a long-term humanitarian pause across Syria in order to ensure the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid.

Russia, in turn, proposed an initiative of organizing a five-hour humanitarian pause to ensure humanitarian supplies and evacuations from the area.

However, militants, operating in Eastern Ghouta continue shelling and prevent the humanitarian operations from being implemented.


Source: Sputnik

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army reaches new areas in East Ghouta region

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 02:48 PM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:40 A.M.) – For the fifth night in a row, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has launched a big night assault in the East Ghouta region, targeting several areas under the control of Jaysh Al-Islam.

Led by the Tiger Forces, the Syrian Arab Army continued their advance from recently captured Utaya and Al-Nashabiyah, pushing their way to the Al-Obb Orchards and Al-Ash’ari Farms after a fierce battle with the Islamist rebels.

According to Al-Masdar’s field correspondent in Damascus, the Syrian Army reached now only the Al-Obb Orchards and Al-Ash’ari Farms, but also, the Jaysh Al-Islam held towns of Beit Sawa and Mesraba.

As a result of this advance, the Syrian Army now possesses fire control over the Shifouniyah-Douma Road, which is a primary supply line for Jaysh Al-Islam in the East Ghouta region.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Palestinian farmer shot and killed by Israeli snipers

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 11:31 AM PST

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (9:22 P.M)- A Palestinian farmer from Khan Yunis (Gaza Strip) has just died from his sustained, gunshot wound, in hospital.

59 yr old farmer, shot and killed by Israeli snipers today

The Palestinian Farmer, Mohammed Atta abd Abu Al-Jama, was 59 years old, he died after an Israeli sniper opened fire on him, near to the Israeli/Gaza border, East of the strip.

Although the man was transported to hospital, he soon died of the sustained gunshot wounds.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army readies for major offensive in northwest Hama – reports

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 09:46 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (7:45 P.M.) – Forces of the Syrian Army and allied paramilitaries appear to be preparing for a major offensive operation against rebel groups in the northwestern countryside of Hama province according to some pro-government sources.

Reports state that the Syrian Army and allied forces are mobilizing significant numbers of troops and equipment at the frontline opposite the long-standing militant stronghold of Qalaat al-Mudiq.

If the reports true and Qalaat al-Mudiq is the target, then Syrian pro-government forces will be opening up a front in a region of Hama province that has been relatively quiet for many years.

Earlier on in the Syrian conflict, the Syrian Army suffered major losses during multiple assaults (all of which failed) to recapture Qalaat al-Mudiq from Islamist fighters.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army moments away from capturing another key militant stronghold in east Damascus

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:58 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:57 P.M.) – Following the swift seizure of Uataya, Hazrama and An-Nashabiyah from Islamist rebels in Damascus’ East Ghouta region earlier on Saturday, the Syrian Army is now on the verge of capturing yet another long-standing militant stronghold – the town of Ash-Shifunyah.

According to reports from some military-affiliated sources, the Syrian Army has managed to seize at least half of Ash-Shifunyah following 24 hours of violent clashes with Jaysh al-Islam fighters.

Interesting enough, Al-Masdar News journalist Ibrahim Joudeh has stated that Syrian troops actually control more like 80 to 90 percent of the town.

In any case, it has become apparent that Ash-Shifunyah will likely fall to the Syrian Army very soon, particularly since most of the assault units involved in the Uataya battle are now freed for operations elsewhere.

Should the town be seized within the next few hours then the Syrian Army will have captured its forth militant stronghold of the day – a record advance in the history of East Ghouta operations.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Syrian Army reduces East Ghouta pocket in Damascus by one-third after week of operations – Map update

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 08:24 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:25 P.M.) – Less than ten days since the Syrian Army kicked-off its ground offensive against militant groups in Damascus’ East Ghouta region, the once formidable rebel pocket – for years unbreachable in certain areas – has already undergone a major and sudden reduction.

The now week-long offensive has seen the Syrian Army – backed up by tremendous artillery and air support – capture about one-third of the insurgent bastion, most of these advances being made in its eastern sector.

Overall, about six or so militant stronghold towns have now come under the control of the Syrian Army and most of the main rebel defense lines that once protected the northern and eastern approaches of the rebel pocket have been shattered.

In recent hours alone, Syrian troops seized the fortress towns of Uataya, An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama.

Some of the finest formations available to the Syrian Army’s order of battle are involved in the East Ghouta operation including the elite Tiger Forces Division, Republican Guard, 4th Mechanized Division and 9th Armored Division.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Syrian Army seizes 3 rebel strongholds across east Damascus in one fell swoop during massive all-out assault

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:49 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:47 P.M.) – Moments ago, vanguard forces of the Syrian Army scored a major advance inside rebel-controlled areas of Damascus’ East Ghouta region, seizing the militant stronghold towns of Uataya, An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama.

The victory was achieved after an entire day of heavy clashes between the Syrian Army and rebel forces of the Jaysh al-Islam faction near to and inside Uataya.

In the end, superior firepower in the form of tanks, artillery and airstrikes would propel Syrian troops to overrun all militant defense lines and strong-points within the town.

By this advance, the Syrian Army virtually isolated the towns of An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama from all other militant-held areas within East Ghouta and de facto split to the insurgent pocket into two.

However, when the Syrian Army entered An-Nashabiyah and Hazrama, it found the towns to be completely bereft of insurgent fighters who had fled both settlements in the final hours of the Uataya battle to avoid being encircled.

Thus in a day of campaigning, the Syrian Army has managed to wrest control of three large towns in East Ghouta which for years prior represented unbreachable militant strongholds.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Civilians in east Damascus form armed groups to combat militant factions and escape – reports

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 06:19 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:19 P.M.) – Civilians in insurgent-controlled areas of Damascus’ East Ghouta region are beginning to form armed groups to combat militant factions and escape towards government-held areas according to reports by Russian military sources.

Reports state that what started off as protests against militant groups in East Ghouta by disillusioned ‘civic activists’ is now slowly turning into a grass-roots counter-insurgency movement.

Russian sources note that clashes between East Ghouta residents and insurgents on Wednesday left four civilians and 3 ‘terrorists’ dead.

Although such actions are clearly in favor of the Syrian government, there exists no evidence that the newly formed bands of anti-militant civilian fighters are coordinating with government forces.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Nusra recaptures 50 towns in Idlib and Aleppo from rival Islamist militia amid huge counter-offensive – Map update

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:45 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:45 P.M.) – Forces of the Al-Qaeda affiliate group Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham (better known by its former name as Jabhat al-Nusra) have recaptured over fifty towns and villages across northwest Syria from rival Islamist militia Jabhat Tahrir Souriya following a swift counter-offensive launched about two days ago.

The sudden revival of Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham’s strength comes less than a week after the militant faction appeared to be on the ropes, having lost over half of its territorial holdings throughout Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Despite the success of Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham’s counter-blow, the jihadist faction is still yet to retake the strategic town of Dart Izza’ – two storming attempts to achieve this have failed so far.

Overall, the battles between Ha’yat Tahrir al-Sham and Jabhat Tahrir Souriya across the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib province have been highly-mobile.

According to Al-Masdar News journalist Ibrahim Joudeh both sides are engaged in a cat and mouse game of striking each others’ weak points yet do not commit to pursuit assaults due to a lack of manpower which denies them the ability to properly defend their holdings and properly attack new areas at the same.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

The Middle East’s nuclear technology clock starts ticking

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:32 AM PST

The Middle East's nuclear technology clock is ticking as nations pursue peaceful capabilities that potentially leave the door open to future military options.

Concern about a nuclear arms race is fuelled by uncertainty over the future of Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

The Trump administration was mulling loosening controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu prepared, in an address this week to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to urge US President Donald J. Trump to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions.

Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage.

The US has signalled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies with Westinghouse in the lead have a stake in the kingdom's plan to build by 2032 16 reactors that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

In putting forward  demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia was backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the United States in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

"The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives," warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to Saudi demands, Messrs Trump and Netanyahu's opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests.

European signatories to the agreement are pressuring Iran to engage in negotiations to limit its ballistic missile program and drop its support for groups like Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Iran. Iran has rejected any renegotiation but has kept the door open to discussions about a supplementary agreement. Saudi Arabia has suggested it may accept tight US controls if Iran agreed to a toughening of its agreement with the international community.

The Trump administration recently allowed high-tech US exports to Iran that could boost international oversight of the nuclear deal. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan signed a waiver that allows a Maryland-based company to export broadband networks, satellite dishes and wireless equipment to Iran for stations that monitor nuclear explosions in real time.

Iranian resistance to a renegotiation is enhanced by the fact that Europe and even the Trump administration admit that Hezbollah despite having been designated a terrorist organization by the US is an undeniable political force in Lebanon. “We…have to recognize the reality that (Hezbollah) are also part of the political process in Lebanon," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the eve of a visit to Beirut.

A US willingness to go easy on demanding that Saudi Arabia adhere to tough safeguards enshrined in US export control laws, widely viewed as the gold standard, would open a Pandora's box.

The United Arab Emirates, the Arab nation closest to inaugurating its first nuclear reactor, has already said that it would no longer be bound by the safeguards it agreed to a decade ago if others in the region were granted a more liberal regime. So would countries like Egypt and Jordan that are negotiating contracts with non-US companies for construction of nuclear reactors. A US backing away from its safeguards in the case of Saudi Arabia would potentially add a nuclear dimension to the already full-fledged arms in the Middle East.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) cautioned last year in a report that the Iranian nuclear agreement had "not eliminated the kingdom's desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons… There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities, motivated by its concerns about the ending of the (Iranian agreement's) major nuclear limitations starting after year 10 of the deal or sooner if the deal fails."

Rather than embarking on a covert program, the report predicted that Saudi Arabia would, for now, focus on building up its civilian nuclear infrastructure as well as a robust nuclear engineering and scientific workforce. This would allow the kingdom to take command of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at some point in the future. Saudi Arabia has in recent years significantly expanded graduate programs at its five nuclear research centres.

"The current situation suggests that Saudi Arabia now has both a high disincentive to pursue nuclear weapons in the short term and a high motivation to pursue them over the long term," the report said.

Saudi officials have repeatedly insisted that the kingdom is developing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes such as medicine, electricity generation, and desalination of sea water. They said Saudi Arabia is committed to putting its future facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Vietnam constitutes a precedent for application of less stringent US safeguards. The US settled for a non-binding Vietnamese statement of intent in the preamble of its agreement that Vietnam had no intention to pursue fuel cycle capabilities.

Tailoring Saudi demands of parity with Iran could be addressed, according to former senior US non-proliferation official Robert Einhorn, by sequencing controls to match timelines in the Iranian nuclear agreement. This could involve:

— establishing a bilateral fuel cycle commission that, beginning in year 10, would jointly evaluate future Saudi reactor fuel requirements and consider alternative means of meeting those requirements, including indigenous enrichment;

— creating provisions for specific Saudi enrichment and reprocessing activities that would be allowed if approved on a case-by-case basis by mutual consent and would kick in in year 15;

— limiting the period after which Saudi Arabia, without invoking the agreement's withdrawal provision, could end the accord and terminate its commitment to forgo fuel cycle capabilities if it believed the United States was exercising its consent rights in an unreasonably restrictive manner.

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir recently raised the stakes by declaring that the kingdom was engaged in talks with ten nations about its nuclear program, including Russia and China, nations that impose less stringent safeguards but whose technology is viewed as inferior to that of the United States.

To strengthen its position, Saudi Arabia has added Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, an international law firm specialized in energy regulation, to its army of lobbyists and public relations firms in Washington, in a bid to ensure it gets a favourable agreement with the United States.

"Allowing Moscow to gain a nuclear foothold in Saudi Arabia would deal a serious blow to U.S. regional influence and prestige," warned the Washington-based Arabia Foundation's Ali Shihabi.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

VIDEO: Militant underground base goes up in smoke after Russian airstrike lands a direct hit

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 05:18 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:15 P.M.) – On Saturday, Russian warplanes targeted the rebel stronghold of Kafr Zita in northern Hama province with multiple airstrikes. A range of munitions ranging from thermobaric (fuel-air) to bunker busting bombs were used in the bombardment.

As usual, the Russian airstrikes were in retaliation for the shelling of nearby government-controlled towns by rebel forces with rocket artillery.

According to reports, at least one guided bunker buster bomb hit its mark, striking an underground rebel base (most likely an ammo storage) and sending super-heated debris billowing out into the sky above.

Furthermore, Russian airstrikes also managed to destroy the offending militant Grad rocket launcher after it was located.

Much like the nearby rebel stronghold of Al-Latamenah, Kafr Zita is fortress town that posses both a dense network of above-ground defenses and an intricate underground tunnel system within which barracks, vehicle depots, command centers and ammo storage sites are based.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Scores of Syrian troops killed by Turkish airstrikes on ex-Russian base in Afrin

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 04:50 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:49 P.M.) – At least over a dozen Syrian government troops of the National Defence Forces (Syrian national militia) have been killed after a series of airstrikes by Turkish warplanes on their positions in the country’s Afrin region.

The Syrian forces unit which came under attack was stationed at an ex-Russian military camp (originally serving as a deescalation point) in the town of Kafr Jannah, only very recently having been assigned to the site. Turkish airpower deliberately targeted the base.

Reports state that at least fifteen Syrian troops were killed in the airstrikes; some pro-Turkish sources claim that the death toll for government forces is as high as 30.

At the present time it is unclear whether or not the Turkish military was aware of the presence of Syrian government troops at the base in Kafr Jannah.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Video showing aftermath of alleged US airstrike against Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 03:33 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:30 P.M.) – Video footage has been released by opposition media showing the aftermath of an alleged airstrike by US warplanes against Syrian government forces in the province of Deir Ezzor.

The footage is shown from the perspective of a Syrian soldier who records what appears to be the destruction of one or two buildings and an SUV at an undisclosed location in the province’s eastern countryside.

According to the Euphrates Post (the opposition outlet which has released the footage), the airstrike took place against a gathering of government forces on the eastern Euphrates shore (likely near Khasham or At-Tabiyyah if true).

It is unclear if the video is linked to airstrikes that took place on the night of February 7 to 8 or more recently.

In the last 24 hours, opposition sources claim that another round of US airstrikes against the Syrian Army and allied forces occurred and that at least two government troops have died as a result.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

US forces create ‘terrorist reserve’ in Syria’s Al-Tanf region – Russian deputy DM

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 03:00 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (1:00 P.M.) – United States special forces operatives based in Syria’s Al-Tanf region near the Iraqi border have willingly created a ‘reserve for terrorists’ according to Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Alexander Fomin.

The Russian official did not clarify whether this terrorist reserve in Al-Tanf was a safe haven specifically for Islamic State militants (who Russia has already accused the US of harboring in the area before) or anti-Assad fighters more generally speaking.

Russian diplomatic and military authorities have become increasingly less discriminate in determining which Syrian-based militant groups are terrorists, particularly in regards to US-backed paramilitary factions.

Despite repeated promises to fully withdraw from their garrison at Al-Tanf, US special forces remain embedded throughout a 55 kilometer by 55 kilometer area throughout the region with recent reports suggesting that an additional six hundred American operatives are to be moved there.

Syrian pro-government forces who attempt to enter the US security perimeter near Al-Tanf are subject to airstrikes by coalition warplanes.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Graphic video: Gruesome aftermath of Kurdish missile strike on pro-Turkish rebels in Afrin

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 01:20 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (11:20 A.M.) – Video footage has emerged showing the gruesome aftermath of a Kurdish anti-tank missile strike on a vehicle with three Turkish-backed rebels inside it.

Based on reports linked to the video and the visual evidence shown in the footage itself, it appears the Kurdish missile attack, whilst failing the blow the vehicle into pieces (as often happens), nonetheless outright killed all three militants inside it.

Although the video does not clarify where exactly the engagement took place, it was most likely either near the towns of Raju (now under the control of Turkey-led forces) or Jandaris.

Kurdish forces often use anti-tank guided missiles to opportunistically pick-off Turkish armor, rebel vehicles as well as gatherings of Turkish soldiers and pro-Ankara insurgents.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز

Breaking: Turkey-led forces seize major Kurdish stronghold in west Afrin, prepare to storm another

Posted: 03 Mar 2018 12:58 AM PST

BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:58 A.M.) – On Saturday morning, the Turkish Army and Syrian proxy militias under its command kicked-off their assault to capture the stronghold town of Raju in Syria’s Afrin region from Kurdish forces.

Backed up by airpower and artillery, Turkey-led forces – already stationed at the gates of Raju for several days now – quickly breached the town’s defenses and seized it within an hour.

It has become apparent that Kurdish paramilitary fighters did not even attempt to mount a defense of Raju, effectively abandoning it to the Turkish Army and its allies.

Now reports are emerging that pro-Ankara forces are preparing to storm another Kurdish stronghold south of Raju – the town of Jandaris.

Here Turkish forces have begun to outflank the town from the southern direction, so far capturing the nearby settlements of Ramadiye and Hamilek.

Overall it has become apparent that Ankara will continue its Olive Branch operation further into the depth of Syria’s Afrin region (particularly from the western direction) to further isolate Kurdish forces from the Turkish border.

Updates to follow.

Source: AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز