Monday, December 11, 2017
Video & Report - #Putin orders withdrawal of #Russian troops from #Syria during surprise visit to Khmeimim Airbase
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria. He announced the move during his first visit to the country, as he arrived with no advance notice at Khmeimim Airbase in Syria’s Latakia province on Monday morning. A “significant part” of the Russian military contingent in Syria should return to Russia, Putin announced, addressing Russian military personnel at Khmeimim. The order to withdraw followed the defeat of “the most battle-hardened grouping of international terrorists” by the Russian and Syrian militaries in the space of two years.
As he arrived at the base, which houses Russian forces assisting Syria in the battle against Islamic State terrorists (IS, formerly ISIS), Putin was greeted by his Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, and by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, in a brief stop on the Russian leader's way to bilateral talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, followed by a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
The commander of the Russian forces in Syria, Colonel-General Sergey Surovikin, informed Putin that about 70,000 sq km of Syrian territory had been liberated and 32,000 terrorists killed in the last seven months of the operation. Russian special forces, military police, sapper teams and 25 aircraft will now leave Syria, and the field hospital will be removed.
Putin also warned that should terrorists attempt to “rear their heads” in Syria again, Russia will strike them as “they have never seen before.” Russia will continue to use Khmeimim Airbase and the Syrian port of Tartus, which provides technical support for the Russian Navy, while the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria will also remain.
Syria was “preserved as a sovereign and independent state” and refugees are returning home, the Russian president noted. He is expected to discuss the organization of a Syrian people’s congress and further steps towards peaceful settlement, with the leaders of Egypt and Turkey on Monday.
President Assad once again expressed deep gratitude to the Russian Air Force, following up on his surprise visit to Russia’s Sochi just three weeks ago, when the Syrian leader had also expressed thanks for Moscow’s help in the fight against terrorism.
The Russian General Staff declared the liberation of Syria from IS on December 6, saying that “all terrorist units of ISIS” in the country had been destroyed. Putin later said that the military work was completed “with a full victory,” adding that there “might be some spots of resistance.”
Russia’s campaign in Syria was launched on September 30, 2015, after Damascus asked for Moscow’s help in the fight against extremist Islamist forces trying to overthrow the government. In March 2016, Russia partially withdrew its air force from Khmeimim Airbase, saying its objectives there had been largely achieved.
New York police have named 27-year-old Brooklyn resident Akayed Ullah as the suspect who was wearing a homemade explosive device that detonated at the Port Authority bus terminal near Times Square. Ullah is of Bangladeshi descent. New York Mayor Bill Di Blasio has describe the event as an attempted terrorist attack.
UN Women Pakistan unveiled their #LeaveNoOneBehind campaign on this International Day of Human Rights and had a strong message everyone should pay attention to. This year, they dedicated their campaign to highlight the plight of transgender persons in Pakistan and how they are discriminated against in every walk of life. The video also presents a beautiful picture of how this marginalised section of society can become equally productive if provided with equal opportunities.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
West should boast about its 'decisive victories’ in Afghanistan, Iraq & Libya, not Syria – Zakharova
On Saturday, the US-led Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) dismissed the Russian defense ministry announcement earlier this week, which proclaimed the liberation of Syria from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), with only “some spots of resistance” remaining across the war-torn country. Brushing aside Russia’s achievements in Syria, a CJTF-OIR representative told Sputnik that terrorists continue to operate in the Deir ez-Zor province.
The US-led coalition, not the Russian Federation or Syrian Regime, is the only force that has made meaningful progress against [Daesh/ISIS],” the spokesman told the news agency. Just before that announcement, French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also refused to acknowledge Moscow’s role in defeating IS, instead, accusing Russia of “appropriating” the US-led coalition victory.
“I sometimes find it a little surprising that Russia appropriates the victory against Daesh,” Le Drian told the BFMTV channel, adding, that the demise of IS came “thanks to the actions of the coalition.”
Earlier Wednesday, President Donald Trump praised himself and Secretary of Defense James Mattis for their achievements in bringing IS to its knees. “He’s knocked the hell out of them,” Trump boasted during a cabinet meeting. “Of course, I made it possible by what I let you do, right?” Trump lightheartedly asked Mattis.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, took note of the statements which significantly downplayed Moscow’s role, and ‘advised’ Western politicians to focus on their perceived successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, where over the years, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, infrastructure destroyed and vast numbers left in ruins.
“Our Western partners have been saying in the recent days that it was not Russia but them, the coalition, who defeated Islamic State in Syria," Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page, especially calling out the Le Drian statement. “Dear Sirs, stop it! Your successes are in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. You should be proud of them,” she sarcastically pointed out.
Russia’s defense ministry also found it “strange” hearing from the French foreign minister that Moscow has somehow “awarded” itself the victory over ISIS.
“The defeat of IS in Syria is first of all result of actions by the Syrian leadership and governmental forces,” the ministry said. “With the support of the Russian Air Force, the Syrian armed forces liberated from IS terrorists hundreds of settlements and returned under control of the legitimate leadership practically the entire territory of the country.”
Russia began providing military support to Syria following an official request from Damascus in 2015 to prevent the terrorists from completely overrunning the country. Russia’s help allowed the Syrian Arab Army to turn the tide and liberate large swathes of the country previously occupied by the jihadists. Smashing the blockade of Deir ez-Zor, the terrorists last stronghold in eastern Syria, represented a turning point in this year’s campaign against the terrorists, ultimately leading to their demise.
The US coalition, meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry stated, was only able to accomplish a so-called ‘liberation’ of Raqqa, with that ‘victory’ coming through a complete destruction of the city. The coalition also impeded Syrian government forces, conducting direct air strikes on their positions in Deir ez-Zor, the ministry said.
“In three years of its presence in Syria, the coalition only recently achieved its first ‘result’ in the fight against Daesh by destroying Raqqa along with civilians,” the ministry said. “That is why, if there is any positive role of the international coalition in defeating Daesh in Syria, it is only that it did not manage to destroy other Syrian cities with its carpet bombing, like it did with Raqqa.”
By Lucinda Franks
When I started out in journalism in the 1970s, attitudes toward sexual harassment among the token women sprinkled about in newsrooms were nearly antithetical to those we’ve heard from the women who have come forth in recent weeks with a flood of anguished revelations.
My first job was at the London bureau of a prominent international wire service. When I walked in the newsroom, the all-male staff gaped at me as if I were an oasis in a desert. They were soon disappointed. I responded with such aloofness, they called me the Ice Princess. I felt lonely, in need of a friend. I suppose this is why I responded when one reporter began to engage me in conversation. My hopes rose — until I felt the hand slowly sneaking up my thigh. I dispatched him with an elbow in the torso. And the guy who grabbed my butt the next day got a swift back kick into the kneecap and a couple of four-letter words.
My generation of women came of age amid the exhilaration of second-wave feminism: We saw ourselves as strong, fierce self-defenders. Inappropriate sexual advances, we told ourselves, were simply an opportunity to prove our superiority over the weaker sex. Few of us believed we sustained any serious damage, and most of us thought that with enough grit, we could defy the odds and find our way.
One night after work, a group of reporters invited me to the local Irish pub. In the space of an hour, we downed several big glasses of Guinness, with Paddy Whiskey chasers. I was terrified, but I knew how crucial this test was. I would absolutely deny them the pleasure of seeing me fall off my stool. I kept up with them drink for drink and didn’t pass out until I put the key to my apartment inside the door. But I collapsed with a warm feeling, giddy at the thought of their respect. It’s not that I wanted to be one of the guys — I just wanted to be a good journalist, with perhaps a place in the bigger club that ran the world.
I soon found myself in Northern Ireland, in the middle of a ferocious attack on Catholics by club-wielding Protestants. I sustained a superficial scalp wound and, excitedly bloody, I found a pay phone. I began dictating a first-person story when the London bureau chief came on the line. He was an irascible eccentric known for flinging Remington typewriters at offending reporters, and he wasn’t happy to hear from me. “Damn you, get your tail back here. Women aren’t allowed in war zones!” he shouted. At the time, he was too apoplectic to see that a good story would be over by the time he found a man to replace me, but he gradually, grudgingly let me stay.
Once I returned, I saw him darkly flipping through my copy. I ducked. “Franks,” he finally pronounced with congratulatory gravity, “I don’t think of you as a woman anymore. You write like a man.”
I still can’t help thinking of this as the ultimate compliment. I was already brainwashed.
When the sluice opened a few months ago and men across all industries began to take sudden and precipitous falls, at first, I was slightly skeptical. I was puzzled by the stories some women told about freezing up, unable to repel a boss or sometimes even a co-worker. A few maintained that when they did resist, they felt guilty and fearful, and wrote emails the next day apologizing and asking for another chance. I felt bad for them, and yet my honest reaction was confusion: What feminist, I wondered, would be so desperate as to trade her self-respect for a job?
As the stories about what these women experienced became more perverted and even downright weird, I wondered whether male hubris had finally gone berserk. Had the sexualization of American popular culture in the 1990s and 2000s taken the restraints off the male id, freeing men to pursue their most absurd fantasies — holding professional interviews at their homes, parading around naked under open bathrobes in front of job applicants? Had feminism, with its promotion of sexual freedom, combined with these cultural changes, paradoxically poured gas on the fires of these workplace assaults? Or had this stomach-turning type of aggression simply evaded the rumor mill but been happening all along?
As I thought about this, more of my own memories came back. Had our pioneering generation deceived ourselves?
Of course, back then we were fully aware of the quid pro quo of the casting couch, where men in power could use that power to make or break a young woman’s career. We warned our sisters, but we spoke in whispers, never aloud. Maybe we were more afraid than we admitted.
Even if most of us may not have suffered serious sexual harassment, how many of us sustained more hidden damage inflicted by insecure men — especially if we had the audacity to be successful?
Two years after I joined the news service, I won the Pulitzer Prize. I suffered for it mightily. That I was the first woman to win for national reporting — I had been brought to New York to do a five-part series on the violent antiwar Weatherman group — made it only worse. I could see it in their bowed heads: We’ve been striving for years to win that coveted prize and a 24-year-old walks away with it! The entire bureau of men refused to speak to me that day and the days after.
I was haunted by the creeping conviction that I didn’t deserve the prize — I should give it back. For at least the next 10 years, I was too ashamed to tell people I’d won.
Subtler moments of discrimination in my younger days have been coming back over the past few weeks: the stories killed before I’d even finished them; the time I came back to work after visiting my ailing mother and a man my age, hired for much higher wages, had been awarded my promised transfer to Paris.
When you get older, gender discrimination gets easier, somewhat predictable and sometimes even funny. But it doesn’t stop — even if you’ve published four books and had a long journalism career. When my last book came out, I was interviewed by a certain talk show host, before he was stripped of his job because of gross sexual misconduct charges. I had hardly opened my mouth before he fell asleep. During the rest of the interview, he kept nodding off while the camera judiciously avoided him. When I left the studio, he had popped awake for his new guests. I saw him waving his hands enthusiastically while speaking with two high-powered male journalists.
I herald this latest female generation for their courage in revealing their humiliations for the chance to change society. We, the earliest female newswomen, were tough, ambitious, even cocky about our talent, but over the years, our self-confidence was often irreparably harmed. Our generation might have been smart, but there was much we just didn’t get. Grateful to win a place in the hierarchy of power, we didn’t understand the ways that gender degradation still shaped our work lives. A few years ago, I met a fellow who had won a Pulitzer for foreign reporting the year before. When he finally discovered what we had in common, he said in a scolding voice: “You’re the shyest Pulitzer winner I’ve ever met. Do you understand you won the highest award in journalism? When I got it, I shouted it to the skies.”
And the skies clearly listened.
Muhammad Bin Salman’s demand of eradicating Shias from Pakistan left leaders astonished
Saudi Arabian Prince and the current Defense Minister Muhammad Bin Salman made a unique demand from Pakistani leadership. He asked the Pakistani rulers to eradicate Shias from Pakistan and take as much financial aid as they want, in this regard.
Senior governmental sources told that the deputy crown Prince of Saudi Arabia made this demand during his recent visit that they were ready to provide any kind of help to the government of Pakistan for eradicating Shia Muslims from the country.
However, the government sources told, senior leadership clearly refused the Prince’s demand and said that Pakistan was not an Arab state. Shias and Sunnis both leave peacefully here and Shias have played an important role in the establishment and development of the country. Leadership’s response to the foolish demand of the Saudi prince is appreciable.
Muhammad Bin Salman needs to be reminded of the fact that more than fifty million Shia Muslims live in Pakistan whereas a hundred million Barelvi Muslims are also a part of this country. Therefore, the Prince should not dream about Saudi influence in Pakistan on the basis of just 20-30 million Salafi and Deobandis. He should also be reminded that both Shias and Sunnis unitedly struggle for the establishment of Pakistan and the Quaid of this country was a Shia Muslim whereas the then Deobandi leadership, in unison with Congress, was declaring Pakistan as Kaafiristan and Quaid e Azam as Kaffir e Azam. Pakistan is not going to become a tool at the hands of Saudi Arabia and suffer because of any conspiracy.