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Mattis: Turkish Offensive ‘Distracts’ from Anti-IS Fight

2 hours 16 min ago
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday issued a strong rebuke of Turkey’s offensive against a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, saying it is distracting from the fight against Islamic State militants. “The violence in Afrin disrupts what was a relatively stable area of Syria. It distracts from international efforts to ensure the defeat of ISIS, and this could be exploited by ISIS and al-Qaida,” Mattis told reporters in Indonesia. Turkey last week began bombing...
Categories: Iraq

UNRWA Launches $500M Fundraising Campaign After US Funding Cuts

7 hours 18 min ago
The United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees launched a $500 million funding campaign Monday, in the aftermath of a decision by the Trump administration to substantially cut the United States’ contribution to the agency this year. VOA’s Margaret Besheer has more from the United Nations.
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US, EU Appeal To Turkey to Minimize Casualties in Syria Attack

7 hours 19 min ago
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his European counterpart Federica Mogherini have called on Turkey to ensure the safety of civilians in its offensive on a Kurdish enclave in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that his forces will not withdraw until Turkey's goals are achieved. But he said that Ankara has no intention of claiming any of Syria's territory. The United States has supported Kurds in their fight against Islamic State. VOA's Zlatica Hoke...
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Pence Underscores US Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal

7 hours 49 min ago
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Tuesday the Trump administration's view that the international deal on Iran's nuclear program should be changed, and said moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is a tangible sign of U.S. commitment. As he met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Pence said the U.S. is sending a signal to its European allies about the need to alter the 2015 agreement that brought sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for limiting the country's...
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As US Looks to Rein in Turkish Offensive, Manbij is Key

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 05:55
The key U.S. question about Turkey's offensive in northwestern Syria is whether Ankara pushes on from Afrin to Manbij, where U.S. forces and their allies against the Islamic State militant group are on the ground, U.S. officials said on Monday. Turkey shelled targets in northwest Syria on the third day of a campaign by its forces and Syrian rebel allies against Kurdish YPG fighters, which Ankara sees as allies of Kurdish insurgents who have fought the Turkish state for...
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In Gaza, UNRWA Chief Says US Aid Cut Risks More Mideast Instability

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 04:00
The head of the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees said on Monday that U.S. plans to cut funding to the body were abrupt and harmful and risked destabilizing the Middle East. Pierre Krähenbühl, commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), visited the Gaza Strip on the same day that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem that the U.S. would move its embassy there by the end of 2019. The United States, by far the...
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US Asks Turkey to Show Restraint in Syria

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 02:00
The United States is expressing concern about Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria and top officials are appealing for restraint and fears that the conflict could spread.  At Monday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. understands Turkey’s “legitimate security concerns” and is “committed to working with Turkey as a NATO ally.”   “Increased violence in Afrin disrupts a relatively stable area of Syria," she said. "It distracts...
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US Aid Chief Visits Raqqa Amid Stabilization Push

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 00:29
The U.S. government’s aid chief, Mark Green, made an unannounced visit to Raqqa in Syria on Monday, the most senior U.S. civilian official from the Trump administration to visit the war-struck northern city months after it was retaken from Islamic State. Green was accompanied by the head of the U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel, as the United States ramps up efforts to stabilize areas where Islamic State has been driven out by American-backed Kurdish militia. Lessons from Libya...
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AP Explains Turkey's 'Operation Olive Branch' in Afrin, Syria

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 00:06
Turkey has launched an air and ground campaign into Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave in northwestern Syria. Codenamed "Operation Olive Branch," it's the latest chapter in a decades-long conflict between Turkey and Kurdish militants. Here's a look at why this is happening now and what's at stake: What's the goal? Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said Turkey wants to create a 30-kilometer (20-mile) deep "secure zone" in Afrin. President...
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Civilian Casualties Reported as Turkey Intensifies Operation Against Syrian Kurds

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 21:35
Turkey's military operation against the People's Protection Units (YPG), a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, has entered its third day with reports of growing civilian casualties. Turkish soldiers backed by tanks are moving deeper into the Syrian enclave of Afrin in an effort to oust the militia. Turkey claims to have captured several villages. The YPG counters it has recaptured two of them amid reports of heavy fighting. On Sunday, thousands of fighters of the...
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Pence: US Embassy Will Move to Jerusalem in 2019

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 16:46
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that the United States would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by the end of 2019. "In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year," Pence said, addressing the Knesset, Israel's lawmaking body, in Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is Israel's capital and, as such, President Trump has directed the State...
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Turkey Steps Up Offensive Against Syrian Kurdish Militia

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 13:31
Turkish forces shelled northern Syria on Monday, pressing a campaign to push Kurdish militia out of the Afrin area, while officials said the operation will be over quickly. The Kurdish militia YPG also reported clashes Monday with Turkish forces northwest of Afrin. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said in addition to being brief, the military offensive would serve to reduce Turkey's terror risk. Ankara accuses YPG, which controls Afrin, of being linked to an...
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US Jerusalem Decision in Focus as Pence Visits Israel

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 08:53
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Monday it was an honor "to be in Israel's capital, Jerusalem," highlighting a U.S. decision to recognize the city as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Donald Trump parted from decades of U.S. policy by saying Jerusalem is Israel's capital and setting in motion the process of moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. "In making his historic announcement on December 6, President Trump did so...
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Tunisian Forces Kill Senior al-Qaida Member

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 03:16
Tunisian special forces have killed a senior member of al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in a remote western area of the country, near the border with Algeria. Tunisian officials have identified the militant as Bilel Kobi, a senior aide to  Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the leader of the militant group. Another jihadist was also killed in the operation as a special unit of the National Guard and soldiers circled an armed group of militants in the western region of Kasserine overnight...
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Mattis: Turkey Alerted US Before Striking Kurds in Syria

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 22:21
Turkey alerted the United States before striking a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in northern Syria, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. "They warned us before they launched the aircraft that they were going to do it," Mattis told reporters Sunday on a plane headed for Southeast Asia. Turkey on Saturday began bombing the Kurdish-controlled city of Afrin along the Turkish border in northern Syria, in an attempt to drive the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or...
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Iran May Try to Loosen Revolutionary Guard's Grip on Economy

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 15:23
Iran's supreme leader has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to loosen its hold on the economy, the country's defense minister says, raising the possibility that the paramilitary organization might privatize some of its vast holdings. The comments this weekend by Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami appear to be a trial balloon to test the reaction of the idea, long pushed by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate. Protests over the country's poor economy last...
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Turkey Steps Up Offensive Against Syrian Kurdish Militia Amid Growing Diplomatic Pressure

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 13:51
Turkish land forces have advanced into Syria trying to push a Kurdish militia out of the Afrin area. Over 40 targets were hit by Turkish jets and artillery, and there are reports of civilian casualities. Quoting YPG forces, a stringer for the VOA Kurdish Service in Afrin reported that three Turkish military tanks were destroyed in the nearby towns of Bilbil and Shara. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says the objective of Operation Olive Branch was to establish a 30-kilometer...
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Saudis Urge Oil Production Cooperation Beyond 2018

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 13:04
Saudi Arabia’s energy minister urged global oil producing nations on Sunday to extend their cooperation beyond 2018, but said this might mean a new form of deal rather than continuing the same supply cuts that have boosted prices in recent months. It was the first time that Saudi Arabia had publicly raised the possibility of a new form of coordination among oil producers after 2018. Their agreement on supply cuts, originally launched last January, is set to expire in December this...
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Turkey: Border Town Hit by Rockets From Syria

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 12:11
Four rockets fired from Syria hit a Turkish border town Sunday as Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters pushed forward with an offensive to drive Syrian Kurdish forces from an enclave in northern Syria, the state-run news agency reported. Gov. Mehmet Tekinarslan said four rockets struck the town of Kilis, hitting two houses, an office and slightly wounding one person. The Turkish artillery returned fire, the governor said. The attack came after dozens of Turkish jets pounded the...
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Pence Visits Jordan on Mideast Peace Mission

Sun, 01/21/2018 - 10:56
Jordan's King Abdullah expressed concern about Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. During the second stop on the vice president's four-day tour of the Middle East, Pence said that the two countries had agreed to disagree on the controversial decision announced last month. "Friends occasionally have disagreements, and we agreed to disagree on recognizing Jerusalem. We agreed all parties...
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