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Syrian regime troops, looking set to recapture all of Aleppo, reportedly slaughter civilians

Posted by Tip Staff - December 13, 2016


 

Syrian government forces, which are backed by Russia and Iran, are reported to have executed at least 82 civilians as they continued their advance in rebel-held Aleppo and looked poised to recapture the entire city Tuesday. Twenty-four of the 82 civilians were fleeing women and children gunned down in the street, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, said. Jens Laerke, a spokesman at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called what was happening in Aleppo “a complete meltdown of humanity.” The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, said, “Dozens of bodies reportedly litter the streets of a number of east Aleppo neighborhoods, with residents unable to retrieve them due to the intense bombardment and fear of being shot.” He condemned “the crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction.” France’s ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, said of the situation in Aleppo: “The worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century is unfolding before our eyes.”
Abdullah Othman, the head of one of the largest rebel groups in Aleppo, told The Daily Beast that some people in the bombarded areas of the city fled out of desperation to regime-controlled areas: “Seventy-nine of them were executed at the barricades. The rest – everyone under 40 – were taken to warehouses that look more like internment camps. They face an unknown fate…This morning 20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.” The Syrian Coalition, which consists of opposition groups, blasted the “shameful international inaction, which has paved the way for the level of blatant criminality by the Assad regime and its allies."
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said on Tuesday that all of eastern Aleppo was now under the control of the Syrian government, although this has not been confirmed. It was reported Tuesday that a ceasefire arrangement was reached that would allow for the evacuation of remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, declared, “We call on Russia and Assad to allow impartial, international observers into the city to oversee the safe evacuation of the people who wish to leave, but who justifiably fear that if they try, they will be shot in the street or carted off to one of Assad’s gulags.”
 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday that his country would develop nuclear-powered ships, in what he called a reaction to the United States violating the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 global powers last year. The White House said that such a move would not be in violation of the deal. However, some nuclear experts are saying that such nuclear-propelled vessels are typically fueled by highly-enriched uranium, the Iranian production and use of which is prohibited by the agreement. 
Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “On the basis of international experience, were Iran to go ahead with such a project, it would have to increase its enrichment level…That’s the point, because Iran would be looking for a non-weapons rationale to provocatively increase its enrichment level in the case that the deal with the powers comes unstuck.” The research of Magdi Ragheb, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois, indicates that many nuclear-fueled ships run on uranium that has been enriched above 90%; the nuclear deal prevents Iran from using uranium enriched over 3.67%. Dennis Ross, a former White House adviser to President Barack Obama, tweeted that “nuclear propulsion for maritime means producing HEU [highly-enriched uranium].”
Rouhani claimed that that the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act by the House of Representatives and Senate in the past month constituted a violation of the nuclear deal (though president Barack Obama has not yet signed the bill to make it official). Similar claims were made in November by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, rejected those charges. “Iran is making this up. These problems don’t exist,” Cardin told The Weekly Standard.  “Congress, by extending [the Iran Sanctions Act], is not taking any new steps against Iran at all,” but merely ensuring that sanctions that were waived by Obama remain on the books so that they can be “snapped back” if Iran violates the deal.
In fact, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations agency that is charged with monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, has declared that Tehran already violated the deal twice by exceeding its cap on heavy water—nuclear runoff that can be used to produce weaponizable material.

 

Two F-35 stealth fighter jets arrived in Israel on Monday, the first of 52 that it has agreed to purchase in the coming years. The planes were taken for an hour-long test run Tuesday.
The planes arrived at the Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev Desert after a stopover in Italy and a six-hour rain delay. Among the dignitaries on hand to celebrate the arrival of the American-made jets were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.
Netanyahu thanked Carter and the United States for allowing Israel to purchase the planes. “It’s a sign of your personal friendship, your personal commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance, and…I wish to thank as well, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President Obama, the American Congress, and the American people,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony, adding later: “Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East—in my opinion beyond the Middle East—we will always remain so.”
The United States Defense Department tweeted a line from Carter's remarks: "F-35s will help U.S. and Israel air forces operate more jointly and more effectively. Together, we will dominate the skies."
The Hebrew name for the F-35 will be “Adir,” meaning “mighty.” Carter said that the name was appropriate for “aircraft that represent the full force of military might.”

 

Topping off a year of diplomatic achievements, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Azerbaijan Tuesday for a meeting with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. “Israel is the Jewish state and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority,” Netanyahu said. “Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us.”
On Wednesday, Netanyahu will travel to Kazakhstan. Both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are Muslim-majority nations – the former’s population is predominantly Shiite.
The two countries want to strengthen their ties with Israel, Netanyahu said, and “following the strengthening of our relations with powers in Asia, and countries in Africa and Latin America, now comes the connection with important countries in the Muslim world.”
Netanyahu’s trip reportedly irked Azerbaijan’s immediate neighbor to the south: Iran. “It is unacceptable when a Muslim country tries to develop ties with a perpetrator. The Azerbaijani authorities must take this into account, as it is unacceptable for the Muslim society,” said a top Iranian cleric.
Israel has a strong economic and security relationship with Azerbaijan, buying more than a quarter of its oil from the country. It is also reportedly one of Azerbaijan’s largest weapons merchants, selling close to $5 billion in defense equipment. “Azerbaijan is more important for Israel than France,” Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in 2012, noting at the time that Israel did more trade with Azerbaijan than France.
 


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