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Wed, 16 Aug 2017
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Russian General Staff reports Daesh formations near Hama and Homs totally decimated

© Sputnik/ Mikhail Voskresenskiy
Daesh formations near Hama and Homs have been totally defeated, the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday. Moscow has managed to reverse the developments in Syria, the General Staff stressed.

"The actions of the Russian group allowed Syrian troops to reverse the situation completely. As of today, terrorist formations have been totally decimated in Hama and Homs... Government troops have also strengthened their footing in the Damascus province and on the capital's outskirts," the chief of the Russian General Staff's Main Operational Directorate Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said.

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Complete control established over Palmyra, terrorists suffered serious damage

© Sputnik/ Michael Alaeddin
Complete control has been established over Syria's Palmyra, the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday, adding that terrorists are suffering serious damage.

"In a month and a half, the [Syrian] government forces <...> completely destroyed a Daesh terror group, advanced more than 60 kilometers and established complete control over Palmyra. The terrorists suffered serious damage," Rudskoy said.

Bad Guys

FSB head: ISIS leaders 'negotiate merger' with other terrorist groups

© Medyan Dairieh / Global Look Press
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups are changing their tactics, moving fighters to Afghanistan, Yemen and Africa in order to set up a new large-scale terrorist network, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service has stated.

"Having realized that they are being threatened with total destruction in the zone of their former domination, leaders of the largest international terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front and the remnants of the pre-existing Al-Qaeda structures, began changing their tactics. In particular, they stepped up transfer of militants over to Afghanistan, Yemen and deep into Africa, and started building support points and bases there," Aleksandr Bortnikov told participants of the VI Moscow Conference on International Security on Wednesday.

"We're talking about development of a new large-scale terrorist network," the FSB director said. "There are also reports of ongoing negotiations between Islamic State and other [terrorist] groups about a possible merger."

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Turkish FM claims Ankara notified US 'weeks' before airstrikes on Kurdish-held areas in Syria and Iraq

© Rodi Said / Reuters
Members of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) inspect the damage at their headquarters, Syria April 25, 2017.
Ankara notified the US and international coalition of plans to strike Kurdish-held areas in Syria and Iraq "weeks" in advance, the Turkish foreign minister said. Washington claimed the operation was "not approved by the coalition" raising deep concerns.

The Turkish Air Force hit the respective areas on Tuesday, claiming that dozens of "terrorists" were killed. The targeted territories had been allegedly infiltrated by members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group, according to Turkish Army statement. Local Kurdish militias the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Peshmerga, however, said the strikes had hit them instead, giving of a lower number of dead and wounded among fighters and civilians.

Comment: For more on this story: Turkish airstrikes on Kurds complicates US operations in Iraq and Syria


Radar

USS Mahan forced to alter course after close encounter with Iranian military ship

© AP Photo/ Ed Bailey
A US Navy destroyer had to alter its course while in the Persian Gulf after an Iranian military vessel approached it within area of 1,000 yards, sources from the US administration said as cited by the US media.

The Mahan destroyer of the US Navy had to switch on the danger signal and change its course after it had a close encounter with the Iranian military ship in the Persian Gulf, media reported Wednesday.

The incident took place on Monday, after the Iranian ship came within area of 1,000 yards from the Mahan destroyer with its weapons manned, the US ship changed its course and fired flares, manning its own weapons, two US officials told the Fox News broadcaster.

As a result, the Iranian ship did not come closer than 1,000 yards to the Mahan after the danger signal by the US ship was switched, according to the broadcaster.

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Journalist investigation reveals Obama secretly freed dangerous Iranians in historic prisoner swap deal

© Yuri Gripas / Reuters
When Barack Obama signed a prisoner swap deal with Iran, he said the released Iranians were "not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses." However, a Politico investigation claims that some were national security threats - a fact Obama ignored to keep Tehran on board with a nuclear deal.

Speaking to the American people on January 17, 2016, then-President Barack Obama called the prisoner swap - which saw the release for seven Iranians for four Iranian-Americans imprisoned by Tehran - a "one time gesture" to Iran.

He said the Iranians being released were "civilians" who had not been charged with "terrorism" or any "violent offenses."

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China offering contested South China Sea oil and gas blocks

Last week, China National Offshore Oil Corp tendered 22 oil and gas blocks in the South China Sea, expecting bids from foreign companies that would help it develop the reserves in response to growing local oil and gas demand. It has already struck one deal, with Canada's Husky Energy, which will drill two exploration wells in block 16/25 next year.

Some might consider Husky exceptionally brave given the circumstances. A lot of the South China Sea is the object of disputes between China and its neighbors, with a court in The Hague last year ruling against China's claims and in favor of the Philippines—one of the neighbors opposing China's expansion in the basin. China however, has not acknowledged the ruling, which has heightened tensions in the area.

The South China Sea may hold 28 billion barrels of oil, according to an estimate from the U.S. Geological Survey from the mid-90s. Since then, with technology improvements, this figure could have increased substantially. Of course, low oil prices or no low oil prices, everyone wants a piece of the oil pie, and China wants the biggest one. The question is: will foreign oil companies help China take it?

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WTO allows Mexico to impose trade sanctions against US on tuna fishing

© Tony Gentile / Reuters
The World Trade Organization has ruled for Mexico in a dispute with the United States over the trade in tuna fish. Mexico can now slap a $163.23 million fine on the US every year until the situation is resolved.

Mexico's economy ministry said it will impose sanctions immediately, after getting a third of the $472.3 million it had asked for.

The complaint goes back to 2008 and questions the US rules on "dolphin friendly" labeling. According to Mexico, the US unfairly penalized its fishing industry.

Rocket

US to launch Minuteman III ICBM in show of 'nuclear capabilities' amid N. Korea tensions

© Lee Corkran / Getty Images
An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) will be launched from a US Air Force base in California Wednesday to ensure its "effectiveness, readiness and accuracy," and demonstrate "national nuclear capabilities," according to the US military.

The Minuteman III missile test comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with a carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson approaching North Korean waters. However, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Global Strike Command says the test was planned in advance and is not connected with the situation in North Korea, and the launches happen on regular basis, according to the Washington Examiner.

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China launches its first domestically-built aircraft carrier

© Knews24 / YouTube
China has transferred its first indigenously built aircraft carrier into the water, expanding its fleet to two such vessels. The ceremony, held amid heightened tensions in the region, almost coincided with the US deployment of THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea.

The new carrier, which name is yet to be revealed, was launched on Wednesday morning in northeast China's Dalian shipyard in Liaoning Province, Xinhua reported.

The pride of China's naval engineering was transferred from dry dock into the water at a launch ceremony that started at about 9am at the Dalian shipyard of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, the news agency noted.