NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg delivered a pointed and robust defense of the trans-Atlantic alliance to Congress on Wednesday, stressing the need for unity in the face of deep global shifts and "unforeseen" challenges ahead.
Syria called local truces near Damascus and in a northern province on Friday but no halt to combat on the main battlefield in Aleppo, after a surge in fighting the United Nations said showed "monstrous disregard" for civilian lives.
The five United Nations Security Council veto powers have agreed the text of a draft resolution to endorse an international roadmap for a Syria peace process and the 15-member body is expected to adopt it later on Friday, diplomats said.
The downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey highlights the growing danger posed by a pattern of provocative military behavior by Moscow, U.S. and European security officials said Tuesday, calling for a revival of military-to-military talks between Russia and NATO that were shelved last year. The first-ever shoot-down of a Russian plane by a member of the Western alliance comes after months of brinkmanship by Russian forces on several continents and a series of NATO responses, including stepped-up military exercises, that have placed the former Cold War foes on a footing that at times has looked just short of war.
NATO on Tuesday rejected Moscow's explanation that its warplanes had violated alliance member Turkey's air space by mistake and said Russia was sending more ground troops to Syria and building up its naval presence. With Russia extending its air strikes to include the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was losing patience with Russian violations of his country's air space.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared before world leaders Wednesday that he is no longer bound by agreements signed with Israel and called on the United Nations to provide international protection for Palestinians, in the most serious warning yet that he might walk away from engagement with the Jewish state. Abbas, however, stopped short of accompanying his threat with a deadline or giving any specifics, leaving room for diplomatic maneuvers to refocus the world's attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The U.N. Security Council on Monday backed Iran's nuclear agreement with world powers but the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards attacked the resolution, underlining powerful opposition to the deal. U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the United Nations endorsement, saying it showed last week's accord commanded broad international support as the best way of ensuring Iran never gets nuclear weapons.
I spent much of this spring obsessed with a question: Could the United States and Russia stumble into war, perhaps even nuclear war? It was a concern I'd first heard in late 2014, shortly after Russia's covert invasion of eastern Ukraine and its military harassment of neighboring NATO member states, which the United States is treaty-bound to defend.
When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was about to leave Tehran for Vienna last week, the Twitter handler for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted a tweet in English to show strong support for the negotiation team: "I recognize our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful," the tweet said. It was clearly another attempt by the supreme leader to protect Zarif and his team from attacks by hard-liners in Tehran.
The U.S. committed Monday to contribute weapons, aircraft and forces, including commandos, as needed for NATO's new rapid reaction force, to help Europe defend against potential Russian aggression from the east and the Islamic State and other violent extremists from the south. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the specifics of American contributions to the rapid reaction force a year after President Barack Obama made a commitment to such assistance at the NATO summit last year in Wales.
The United States and its NATO allies are preparing militarily for the prospect that their rift with Russia could outlast President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Sunday. Russia's intervention in Ukraine has put NATO allies in eastern Europe on edge and triggered a series of military moves by the alliance, including an acceleration of exercises and the creation of a NATO rapid response force.
Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters. The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal due by June 30 in which it would agree to restrict sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. Talks between six major powers and Tehran are approaching the final stages after they hammered out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and other long-term nuclear limitations.
All United Nations Security Council resolutions related to Iran's nuclear program will be lifted immediately if a final deal is agreed, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday, stressing the benefits to Iran of this week's negotiations. After leading Iranian negotiators to a preliminary deal with world powers in Switzerland, Zarif must now convince a domestic audience that the talks are heading toward a final deal that is in Iran's interest. He disputed a "fact sheet" released by the United States shortly after the deal that emphasized Iranian concessions and referred to sanctions being suspended rather than lifted.
Iran's Supreme Leader hit out on Thursday at a letter by U.S. Republican senators threatening to undo any nuclear deal between Washington and Tehran, saying he was worried because the United States was known for "backstabbing", Mehr news agency reported. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority on all Iranian matters of state, added at a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and senior clerics that whenever negotiators made progress, the Americans became "harsher, tougher and coarser". The letter signed by 47 Republican senators warned Iran that any nuclear deal made with U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, could last only as long as he remained in office - an unusual intervention into U.S. foreign policy-making.
Israel’s prime minister is in Washington to build American support, bolster his re-election campaign, and (clandestinely) push for war on Iran. He should be careful what he wishes for. So Bibi Netanyahu did not back down, and he’s here now in the United States, and he’s giving the speech Tuesday. In doing so, he has forced a true low point in U.S.-Israel relations. As has been often observed, he’s turning Israel into a partisan issue—up to somewhere around a quarter of congressional Democrats are refusing to attend the speech. That’s a crack, a big one. If he remains prime minister after the March 17 elections, the fissures between Netanyahu’s government and Barack Obama and the Democrats will only widen. Congressional support for Israel is due for a reconsideration.
World leaders have long racked up points at home for being antagonistic toward the United States. Hugo Chavez called Barack Obama “a clown” and “an embarrassment.” Vladimir Putin routinely riles against American hypocrisy. Evo Morales has blasted “North American imperialism.” Their approval ratings soared. In Israel, however, this was never the case. Historically, Israel’s bond with the U.S. has always been its most valued strategic asset. Even as relations between the countries’ leaders frayed in recent years, Israelis have been steadfast in their belief that America has their back. Asked this past December about the importance of the country’s relations with the U.S., 96 percent of Israelis deemed it extremely important.
The U.N. Security Council was expected to vote on Tuesday on a Palestinian draft resolution that calls for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories by late 2017, a measure that is unlikely to pass due to strong opposition from Washington. Jordan's U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said the vote would take place at 5 p.m. ET (2200 GMT). The United States and Israel oppose the Palestinian draft. Washington, council diplomats say, has made clear it does not want such a resolution put to a vote before the Israeli election in March. Britain has also said it cannot support the proposal.
The United States has spent $7.6 billion on counternarcotics programs during its 13-year occupation of Afghanistan, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction announced today in a critical report that cites United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime statistics indicating Afghan opium poppy production reached its highest level ever in 2013. From the report:
A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday a deal on Iran's nuclear program was still possible by late next month and there were no talks now about extending the deadline, after Tehran and Moscow indicated more time may be needed. Speaking before a meeting between the U.S., Iranian and European Union foreign ministers, the State Department official said "we're working on creative ways to give us all of the assurances we need" that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. "There's a lot of ways to get to ‘yes’ here," the senior U.S. official said, declining to be named.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel on Monday to scrap plans to expand settlements in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state, and urged both sides to return rapidly to peace talks. Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed the city's eastern half in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians seek to establish statehood in the three territories, while Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital.