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Despite Trump, EU leaders still committed to Iran Nuclear Deal

© Metro
European Union leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to a landmark deal to limit Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, despite opposition from U.S. President Donald Trump.

The 28-member bloc gave a nod to concerns Trump has raised, however, by stepping up criticism of Tehran's ballistic-missile program and its role in what the West sees as fomenting instability in the Middle East.

"We fully stay committed to the complete implementation by all sides of the Iranian nuclear deal. We see this as a key security interest for the European Union and the region," the EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said late on October 19 in Brussels.

The EU leaders issued a joint statement saying, as reported by RFE/RL earlier in the day based on a draft statement, that the EU "reaffirms its full commitment to the Iran nuclear deal."

Since Trump declared his opposition to the 2015 deal and refused to certify Iran's compliance last week, the bloc has been stepping up efforts to save it, and on October 19 appealed to the U.S. Congress not to let it fall apart.

In an address on October 13, Trump asked the U.S. Congress to strengthen a U.S. law related to the deal in order to put additional pressure on Tehran by setting up triggers for the imposition of sanctions. Trump also said he would seek the removal of so-called sunset clauses, which set expiration dates for some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program under the deal between six global powers and Tehran. He threatened to withdraw the United States from the deal if his goals are not met, calling on Congress and U.S. allies to help achieve them, and has repeated that threat in subsequent remarks.

Comment: Let the cooler heads prevail.


Russian ships visit Philippines, Duterte vows to disengage from US

Russian Navy destroyer Admiral Panteleyev
Three Russian navy ships have arrived in the Philippines and two others are expected over the weekend to deliver donated military equipment, officials say.

It is Russia's third naval visit since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office vowing to diversify the country's ties away from the United States and toward China and Russia.

Three Russian antisubmarine ships docked in Manila on October 20 in time for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's upcoming visit to the country, said Rear Admiral E. Mikhailov, the task force commander.

Two other vessels will be arriving on October 21 at the port of Subic Bay northwest of Manila to unload donated military equipment, the Philippine Navy said in a statement. The navy said the donated equipment would be handed over to Duterte, who earlier said Russia would provide 5,000 assault rifles.

Shoigu will be attending next week's meeting of 10 Southeast Asian defense ministers with counterparts from other countries, including the United States and China.

"I am assuring you that we will do our best to make this port call a significant contribution to the strengthening of friendly ties and cooperation between our two nations in the interest of security and stability in the region," Mikhailov said.

Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian Navy will allow local residents of Manila to take tours of the large antisubmarine vessel Admiral Panteleyev during its stay in Manila.

Comment: Duterte is taking new equipment from anyone. In June, this year, he accepted four M134D Gatling-style machine guns, 300 M4 assault rifles and 100 grenade launchers donated by the US to fight islamic influences in Marawi. But, desperate times-desperate measures aside, a Russia-China alliance seems to be his current trajectory.


US State Dept: Al-Nusra affiliate using chemical weapons in Syria

© The Sleuth Journal
The US Department of State admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria. Russia's defense ministry says it's the first admission of its kind.

The assertion was made in the latest Syria travel warning issued by the State Department on Wednesday. It also mentions Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL].
"Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and Al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham [dominated by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization], operate in Syria," the travel warning reads. "Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons," it said.
Terror groups have targeted roadblocks, border crossings, government buildings and other public areas in major Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Daraa, Homs, Idlib, and Deir-ez-Zor, the State Department acknowledged.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said a precedent had been set by Washington acknowledging that Al-Nusra linked terrorists use chemical weapons in Syria.

"This is the first official recognition by the State Department not only of the presence, but the very use of chemical weapons by Al-Nusra terrorists to carry out terrorist attacks, which we repeatedly warned about," General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the ministry, commented on Friday.

Comment: The US is part of the international agreement to eliminate its supplies of chemical weapons. Russia has already done so. The US stated it needs until 2023 to complete the task.

See also:
Russia presses US to expedite elimination of its chemical weapons

Light Saber

Syrian Army captures huge amount of ISIS weaponry, heavy military equipment in Mayadin liberation

© Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA
On Thursday, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) released a video showing of the weapons and ammunition captured by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces from ISIS in Mayadin city.

The video showed that the SAA has captured dozens of light, and heavy machine guns and sniper rifles. The SAA also captured several anti-tank weapons including at least 3 Russian-made RPG-29. In addition, 2 unidentified man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) were captured by the SAA. The SAA also seized more than 20 drones, and what appears to be some ISIS made DIY drones.


McCain threatens to subpoena White House for info on Niger attacks

© William Thomas Cain / AFP
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) says that he will subpoena the White House for information regarding the recent attacks in Niger, which killed four US servicemen. The issue could become a new bone of contention in McCain's ongoing feud with President Trump.

McCain told reporters Thursday that the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he chairs, has been told "very little"about the operations in Niger that left four US soldiers dead and two wounded. He added that the committee may have to take legal action to get answers from the White House.

"There's a mindset over there that they're a unicameral government," McCain said, according to the Washington Post. He added that "it was easier under Obama" to get information about military operations.

Bad Guys

Top Russian senator expects US will exert 'unprecedented pressure' to influence 2018 Russian presidential polls

© Global Look Press
The U.S. national flag on the U.S. Embassy building in Moscow, Russia.
The Chair of Russia's Foreign Affairs Committee expects that the US will seek to influence the country's presidential election next year, saying Washington will only settle for victory by a pro-Western candidate.

"The United States recognizes elections as fair and democratic only when they are won by pro-western candidates," Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page on Friday.

"In the case of any other outcome, election procedures and results are anathema to them," he added.

"Judging by the increasing demagogy about alleged Russian interference [in US polls], they have already started their 'artillery raid' ahead of the Russian presidential elections. It is likely that the scale of pressure there will be unprecedented."

Arrow Down

US's Kurdish Plan C fails before it begins: Iraq effortlessly recovers Kirkuk

The column of Iraqi government troops enters Kirkuk, October 16, 2017
US ploy to use Kurds to increase regional influence and stem rise of Iran disintegrates

On 6th October 2017 - less than two weeks ago - I wrote a lengthy article for The Duran explaining how the US, having failed to achieve regime change in Syria ("Plan A") and having failed to engineer the partition of Syria on sectarian lines ("Plan B"), was now seeking to use the Kurds to destabilise both Iraq and Syria by supporting the setting up of quasi-independent Kurdish statelets in these two countries, in order to stem the rise of Iranian influence there.

In that article I predicted that this Plan C would fail, just as Plans A and B have done, and that its effects would be to alienate Turkey further from the US, bring Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq closer together, and would isolate the Kurds in a region where they were already in danger of becoming over-extended.

What I did not imagine when I wrote that article was that it would take all of two weeks for Plan C to start to fail. This was because I seriously overestimated the strength and coherence of the Kurds, especially those of Iraq, whose Peshmerga militia it is now clear was grossly overrated, not just by me but by many other observers of the region.

Comment: Pete Escobar: Have you betrayed your Kurd today?


North Korea's letter to Australia was an opportunity to start a dialogue that Canberra decided to ignore

North Korea's Foreign Affairs Committee has authored an open letter addressed to the government of Australia, in what many are calling an unprecedented direct appeal to a US ally in the wider Pacific regions.

A summary of the letter's contents, as relayed by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK, is reproduced below:


US-led coalition confirms Syria's Raqqa completely liberated - Stunning drone footage shows Raqqa completely leveled

© Sputnik/ Hikmet Durgun
Power in the Syrian city of Raqqa will be passed to the local population, according to the statement of the US-backed coalition.

Earlier in the day the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the US-led coalition, announced the complete liberation of the city of Raqqa from Daesh terrorist organization militants.

"The SDF is proud to announce from the center of the city of Raqqa the victory of our forces in the great battle in which IS [Daesh] terrorists lost. Their forces were defeated in the center of the pseudo-caliphate. The city... has been liberated," the Arab-Kurdish detachments said in a press release.

Comment: Raqqa has been fully liberated, into the hands of the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
US backed SDF militias said on Friday that Raqqa will be part of a decentralized federal Syria now that the city has been freed from US-Saudi backed Islamic State.

This ties Raqqa to Kurdish plans to set up autonomous regions in the north of Syria. We are certain that Turkey will not be too pleased with this latest statement from the SDF.


Pyongyang says US will have to accept N Korea's nuclear status - CIA chief hints N. Korea may be 'months' away from capability to nuke US

© KCNA / Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile
Washington will have to put up with Pyongyang's nuclear status, a top official from North Korea's Foreign Ministry has said, ruling out talks on the matter with the US.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK] is not planning to hold talks on nuclear weapons and the US has to get along with the DPRK's nuclear status," Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North American Department of North Korea's Foreign Ministry said, speaking at the 2017 Non-proliferation Conference in Moscow.

According to Choe, North Korea's nuclear status is essential for securing "stability and safety" on the Korean peninsula and in north-eastern Asia by extension.

Pyongyang is ready to pacify the Americans and will fight fire with fire if necessary, the official continued.

Comment: North Korea may be "months" away from capability of striking US soil with nuclear weapons, CIA Director Mike Pompeo hinted.
"They [North Korea] are close enough now in their capabilities that, from a US-policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving [ability to strike the US]," Pompeo said, speaking at a national security forum in Washington on Thursday, as cited by AP.

According to the CIA chief, intelligence data gathered on Pyongyang and its current weapons capabilities is still imperfect.

"When you're now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant,"said Pompeo.

"We are at a time where the [US] President [Donald Trump] has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un doesn't have that capacity," he added.