Israeli Army Wants to Increase its Budget to Face Iranian Threats

Israel

Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief Yoav Horowitz have requested that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) help raise 4 billion Israeli Shekel ($1.14 billion) for defense and military budget.

An audio recording of a secret session held two weeks ago was revealed, during which Horowitz was heard requesting the money from the organization to help the state fill gaps in its defense budget.

“The Israeli government, and especially the various security forces, reached the conclusion that the State of Israel needs an additional NIS 4 billion. I will only talk about what you all know, including the Iranian threat and the threat in the north – all of this brings the security forces to request another NIS 4 billion,” said Horowitz.

He indicated that the prime minister, the defense minister and the security forces are deliberating this dilemma and trying to stretch the budget to see where the funds can be raised.

An informed political source revealed that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman are behind this request, adding that the Israeli Army is not concerned to reconsider the financial agreements with the Ministry of Finance. He added that the security budget is already doubled.

The Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry have been discussing for months funding the amounts set two years ago, and that’s why Lieberman went straight to Netanyahu discussing the need for an additional 4.5 billion shekels ($1.3 billion), according to military sources.

The sources also stated that Lieberman informed the PM that the new strategic reality in the region, with a stronger Russia, a revived Assad, and a bigger Iranian threat, mandated the extra funds. He explained that the “demands in question are based on contingency plans that are nothing new and do not stem from a war or emergency military operation.”

In 2015, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon signed a memorandum of understanding between their ministries that covers the years 2016 to 2020.

Some of the details of this deal remain classified, but based on the information to give the media, it promised a stable budget for those five years.

Both ministries and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot agreed that the army’s portion of the defense budget would remain fixed at about 31 billion shekels ($8.8 billion). For the defense budget as a whole, the agreement set a baseline of 56.1 billion shekels a year in addition to US defense aid ($3.8 billion a year from 2019). The total budget is expected to reach about 70 billion shekels a year.

When asked about the budget issue, a Defense Ministry senior official replied: “Haven’t you heard the threats of Iran’s Chief of Staff during his visit to Syria?”

Chief of Staff of Iran’s armed forces Maj-Gen Mohammad Bagheri indicated Wednesday that Tehran would not tolerate violations of Syrian sovereignty by Israel and vowed that the two countries would jointly fight against Syria’s enemies.

“We cannot accept a situation where the Zionist entity attacks Syria from the ground and the air,” Bagheri said his visit to Damascus, Syria.

He said he was in the Syrian capital to coordinate and cooperate “in order to fight our common enemies, whether they are the Zionists or the terrorists. We discussed ways to strengthen relations in the future and outlined the basic principles of this cooperation.”

Lieberman responded to Bagheri’s statement saying that Iran was attempting to spread its control into Syria and establish a military presence in a quest to become the dominant regional power.

“We won’t allow this. We have the tools to cope with this challenge,” reiterated Lieberman.

Sources close to Lieberman stated that he is concerned over the recent developments in the region including the instability and Hezbollah’s mobilization with the support of Iran. He added that Assad regime’s field advancements could lead to the reformation of the Syrian Army.

The Defense Minister also has fears that the army might not be fully prepared, according to the sources.
On Thursday, Lieberman flew to Washington to meet Defense Secretary James Mattis for talks on Iran and other regional issues. Sources stated that Israel is keen on fully coordinating with Washington to face Iran’s threats.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Israel on Monday and held meetings with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli leadership had been trying to recruit Russia as well against Iran’s power.

Putin Outlines his Vision for Syria Solution

Moscow, Raqqa- Russian President Vladimir Putin uncovered on Thursday his vision regarding a political solution in Syria, proposing a congress bringing together representatives of all ethnic groups in Syria following the establishment of de-escalation zones.

Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club held in Sochi Thursday, Putin said: “There is an initiative to set up a congress of the Syrian peoples, involving all the ethnic and religious groups, as well as the government and opposition.”

“If this is done with the support of the guarantor countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it would mark the next step on the way to finding a political solution and drawing up a new constitution, but it is too early to talk about that,” the president added.

Putin also expressed concern that the setup of de-escalation zones may lead to Syria’s division, hoping that cooperation between all forces in the country would prevent it.

The Russian president said he was also concerned of the complicated dialogue between the Syrian regime and opposition.

“There are grounds to expect, and I’d be cautious, that we will soon finish off the terrorists in Syria, but this is not the reason yet to be glad and think that they have been eliminated once and for all,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) retained on Thursday full control over the city of Raqqa.

The Women’s Protection Units, which is affiliated to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), organized on Thursday a military parade in Raqqa’s Al-Naim Square, where they raised a portrait of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organization by Turkey.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is getting prepared to be handed over to a civilian authority.

Separately, the Israeli Army shelled on Thursday Syrian regime positions in Quneitra in the Golan Heights.

Putin: Russia Hopes to Broaden Cooperation with US

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he hoped Moscow could cooperate with Washington in a broader range of fields.

“We have dialogue at the work level and on the level of the special services, the defense ministries, the foreign ministries. We achieve joint results,” Putin said at a forum with scholars. “We have to expand our cooperation to other spheres.”

Putin also said that Moscow was not concerned about a US military build-up in the Baltic region.

“We are analyzing it, watching this closely. Every one of their steps are known and clear to us,” Putin said at a forum with scholars. “This doesn’t worry us. Let them train there, everything is under control.”

Commenting on the chances of closing of Russia’s borders with rebel regions in eastern Ukraine, Putin said it would result in a “Srebrenica-like massacre”, referring to the mass killing of Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

He said Europe was to blame for the Ukraine crisis and that only European powers could act to change the situation.

Putin added that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was being pressured by the US to prevent Russia from taking part in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

“We are seeing that the IOC is under strong pressure,” Putin said at a forum with scholars.

“It relies on advertisers, television channels, sponsors, and so on. And these sponsors are receiving unambiguous signals from certain American institutions.”

Israel Draws Red Lines after Attacking Anti-Aircraft Syrian Battery

Israel

Tel Aviv, Damascus, London — An Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman said that Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli aircraft on a spy mission overflying Lebanon.

Other Israeli sources confirmed notifying the Russian army, a major backer supporting the Assad regime in Damascus, about the airstrike “in real-time mode”.

No Israeli planes were hit by the missile fired by the Syrians, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. The counter-strike took place two hours later and “incapacitated” the anti-aircraft unit located 50 km east of Damascus, he said.

“We know according to our intelligence it was a battery controlled by the Syrian regime and we hold the Syrian regime responsible for the fire,” Conricus said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement saying Israel would not hesitate to defend itself.
“Today there was an attempt to harm our aircraft — this is unacceptable to us.

The air force acted quickly and accurately to destroy what needed to be destroyed,” Reuters cited Netanyahu as saying.

“Our policy is clear. Whoever tries to harm us, we will strike at him. We will continue to act in the region as is required in order to defend Israel.”

But the Syrian army said it struck an Israeli warplane that had breached its air space at the Syria-Lebanon border.

“The Israeli enemy this morning violated our air space… Our air defense mediums confronted it, hit one of its planes directly and forced it to flee,” the Syrian military statement said.

According to military sources, the Syrian anti-aircraft missile was fired at the Israeli warplane at about 10:00 am on Monday.

Later on, Israeli officials reported that the Israeli aircraft responded with four air-to-surface missiles demolishing the Syrian missile battery.

Russian Defense Minister in Tel Aviv, Dodges Commenting on Israeli Airstrike in Syria

Shoigu

Moscow – Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday for talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

During the meeting, Shoigu was said to have overlooked commenting on the recent Israeli airstrike against missile defense bases east of Damascus, Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not elaborate on Moscow’s view on the attack.

Israeli jets bombed a Syrian anti-aircraft battery east of Damascus after it fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli spy aircraft overflying Lebanon, the Israeli military said earlier on Monday.

Russia’s news agency TASS reported that the Israeli forces notified Russia “in real time” about a strike on a target near Damascus.

Russia has been backing the Damascus-centered regime led by Bashar al-Assad against Syrian rebels and other groups since 2015.

“I would like to talk about the things related to Syria. The operation there is close to the end. There are several problems which require urgent solution and the prospects of further development of the situation in Syria require discussion,” Shoigu said.

More so, he dodged questions concerning the airstrikes before the press and reporters, focusing instead on the war against terror.

Addressing Lieberman, he stressed the need to “mobilize all forces” against terrorism in the region.

In an official statement, Konashenkov said that Shoigu arrived in Tel Aviv on a two-day visit, during which he will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss issues of technical – military cooperation between the two sides.

Konashenkov added that regional security and issues related to the Syrian settlement will be discussed.

Russia Dismantles ISIS Cell in Moscow, Makhachkala

Russia

Moscow- The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has uncovered a ‘sleeper cell’ linked to ISIS that was active both in Moscow and the North Caucasus region, the Russian National Anti-terrorist Committee said. Four members of the cell were detained.

In Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s southern Republic of Dagestan, security forces also discovered two extremist hideouts, where they found three ready-to-use improvised explosive devices.

According to investigators, the members of the cell were plotting several potentially high-profile attacks in southern Russian regions, including explosions at public events as well as assaults on officials and the military.

“On October 13 and 14, four members of the so-called sleeping cell of ISIS organization (terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) were detained by the FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow and Makhachkala, all of them are from Dagestan,” the statement issued by Russian National Anti-terrorist Committee said.

The statement added that the detainees are confessing and providing detailed information about their contacts with elements of the organization’s envoys, as well as the preparation of terrorist attacks using IEDs and knives in areas in Dagestan, where large crowds of people gather during large celebrations and social events.

Russian Security forces released video footage showing arrest operations and confessions of the detainees.

One of the videos showed security forces while they were arresting two terrorists in a car and confiscating cold weapons they had with them.

In another video, one of the detainees was shown confessing and admitting that he was planning to travel to one of Central Asia’s republics to buy weapons needed to carry out terrorist attacks and target security forces and headquarters in Dagestan.

Another detainee said that the IEDs they have made were stuffed with iron rollers, which terrorists usually do to maximize the number of injuries.

He explained that they were filled with a magnet to stick to the walls or metal screens, and he confirmed that the cell members had carried out the necessary tests before assembling the IEDs.

Notably, this is the second operation of its kind the Russian security forces have carried out within two weeks and ended up with thwarting the activity of terrorist sleeper cells in Moscow.

Russia’s FSB security service said on October 2 that it had detained members of what it said was ISIS sleeper cell in the Moscow region that had been planning to launch a series of high-profile attacks on the country’s transport system.

The FSB said in a statement on its website that the detentions had occurred on Sept. 30 and that the cell included Russian citizens from the North Caucasus region, who, it said, were committed to trying to set up a global Islamic caliphate and were directed by foreign militants.

It said the cell had been planning to set off explosives in crowded public places and target transport infrastructure.

The FSB said then that it had detained all of the cell’s members, but did not say how many people it had taken into custody. The question of opening criminal cases against them was being decided, it added.

World Cup 2018 Power Rankings: Germany on Top among Qualified 23

Germany

London – Twenty-three nations have booked their places for the World Cup in Russia, with the holders and Brazil looking in good shape, but we rank England in 13th place, below Iceland:

1) Germany
If the world champions were frustrated by their failure to win continental honors at Euro 2016 they have certainly taken it out on everyone else since. Germany won 10 qualifying games out of 10 and, even if San Marino’s presence in Group C needs taking into account, a record 43 goals scored suggests things are back in their old working order. So too did their Confederations Cup title in July, achieved with an experimental squad. Joachim Löw can select from an unrivaled depth of talent and, while winning back-to-back World Cups remains a huge task, none of next summer’s contenders has an equivalent selection of tools with which to tackle the different challenges they will face.

2) Brazil
Brazil look revitalized under Tite and the light work they made of the fiendish Conmebol qualifying procedure was deeply impressive. The manager has openly stated they should be listed among the leading contenders next summer; it is hard to disagree and it is worth listening to Dani Alves when he says Tite’s human touch makes him “very distant from all Brazilian coaches”. Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho and an energized Paulinho are among those benefiting from the transformation and perhaps a sequence of failing to lift the trophy since 2002 will be ended in Russia.

3) Spain
Will it aid Spain that, certainly unlike most of their European rivals, they have already had to dispose of another World Cup contender in the qualifiers? Italy may well make it through the play-offs and, in fairness the rest of Group G was not up to much, but that 3-0 win at the Bernabéu last month was ominous and La Roja’s new generation appear ready to challenge seriously next summer. Álvaro Morata is developing into a genuinely world-class striker; Marco Asensio has a glittering career ahead at just 21; and the in-form Isco, who scored twice against the Italians, has been given room to express himself by Julen Lopetegui. Spain have emerged from their rough period to look a major force once again.

4) France
Qualifying was not without the odd hiccup – but for the frame of the goal that home draw with Luxembourg could have become something far more humiliating – but France did well in one of the more awkward groups and the potential of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé trumps that of virtually any side that will be playing in Russia. Can Didier Deschamps get the best out of them all? If he can then France, who have few obvious weaknesses on paper, will deserve to be ranked among the favorites next summer.

5) Belgium
Belgium put on one of Europe’s better qualifying campaigns, negating any real threat from two potentially tricky rivals in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece. Perhaps the unlikely combination of the Spaniard Roberto Martínez and the Frenchman Thierry Henry can deliver where Marc Wilmots failed and produce a run of convincing tournament performances. Romelu Lukaku’s form for club and country makes Christian Benteke’s struggles all the less troublesome, while Dries Mertens is in the form of his life for Napoli. None of their other mainstays need too much introduction and there remains the tantalizing prospect that, should everything be harnessed correctly, Belgium can do something special.

6) Portugal
They only scraped into the automatic qualification place although, save for a post-Euro 2016 hangover defeat in Switzerland, there was not too much wrong with Portugal’s campaign. Now the question is whether Fernando Santos can get players such as Bernardo Silva and André Silva to perform on the highest stage, and whether Cristiano Ronaldo – who will be 33 when Russia 2018 comes around – can handle a game every three or four days for, potentially, a month. Should Santos succeed then Portugal ought to be more fluid than the team that did not win too many friends in taking the European title.

7) Argentina
The bones will be picked out of a qualifying campaign that flirted with disaster and required saving by a Lionel Messi masterclass in Ecuador, but Argentina have made it and will automatically be installed as one of the favorites. It is worth pointing out that everyone bar Brazil came close to missing out in an extraordinary Conmebol qualifying group; it will also be a big concern, though, that the gap between Jorge Sampaoli’s team and their bitterest rivals – whom they did defeat in a summer friendly – was so big. They certainly have the individual talent to bridge it in Russia – and, in what will probably be his last World Cup, Messi has the incentive to deliver more magic.

8) Poland
There is a strut to Poland under Adam Nawalka and they fit neatly into any “dark horse” assessment – not least because the world’s sixth-ranked side will be one of the eight seeded teams in Russia. That is almost entirely down to their outstanding form during qualifying, marred only by a puzzling 4-0 defeat in Denmark; goals are not usually a problem and especially not for Robert Lewandowski, who scored 16 of their 28 in Group E. They are fast and assertive at their best. The worry would be that, as seemed to be the case at Euro 2016, Lewandowski may try to do too much and blunt his own effectiveness in the penalty area.

9) Mexico
The urbane Juan Carlos Osorio may not be universally popular in Mexico but his team barely had to break sweat in a poor qualifying group, an irrelevant (to them) late defeat away to Honduras notwithstanding. The Colombian Osorio has been criticized for his rotation of players, among other things but El Tri play with clarity and, with Carlos Vela and Javier Hernández both in their prime, carry a serious threat. It is still hard to see them mustering a performance that can overthrow one or more of the favorites, though.

10) Nigeria
Nigeria have started to get their house in order and there is distinct optimism around a generation of players that looks their best hope of a last-eight spot in some years. Victor Moses, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi add Premier League quality. The coach, the German Gernot Rohr, has molded a balanced and organized side that can be lethal on the counterattack and maybe, after a series of nondescript World Cup appearances, Nigeria are now equipped for something more.

11) Uruguay
The one guarantee with Uruguay is that they will always hang in there and second place in the South American qualifiers was a pleasant tonic after a run of three consecutive defeats either side of Christmas. Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani always give you a decent chance and they have an exceptional midfield talent coming through behind them in Federico Valverde. They finished up in good form with a 4-2 win over Bolivia although, with 20 goals conceded, Óscar Tabárez may be concerned that some of their time-honored solidity needs recapturing.

12) Iceland
The Iceland manager, Heimir Hallgrimsson, believes his side should turn up in Russia with the same hope of winning as anyone else. Nobody would dare laugh nowadays: Iceland kept their heads to win a fiendish Group I after Croatia folded with the finishing line in sight, and the question now is whether they can at least emulate their last-eight finish of Euro 2016. They can be such a difficult team to analyze, sometimes lacking an obvious pattern of play, but they benefit from an exceptional knowledge of one another and unswervable self-belief. Those two factors, added to the match-winning excellence of Gylfi Sigurdsson, could leave them perfectly equipped for another eye-catching campaign.

13) England
England were barely dealt a single problem in the most sterile of qualifying groups. Performances in the last two major tournaments speak rather less favorably of their prospects and they are left in a curious position where, after years in which their potential was often grossly overstated, expectations will perhaps move a little exaggeratedly in the other direction. Gareth Southgate’s team are competent enough and have an outstanding striker in Harry Kane; the problem is that nothing about what goes on behind him seems at all intuitive. There has been plenty of talk about lessons being learned in the team’s wider approach to tournament football; that may be so but the smart money is still on England pulling through the group stage comfortably enough before floundering against bolder opponents.

14) Egypt
What a story Egypt’s World Cup qualification, their first since 1990, provided and the good news might not stop there. Héctor Cúper’s team showed at the Africa Cup of Nations, where they finished runners-up to Cameroon, that they know their way around a major tournament and in Mohammed Salah they have a talisman who can decide tight games against anyone. They have an experienced spine, plenty of momentum and an immediate target – the Argentinian Cúper has already asked them to make the last 16 and, if they can take the initiative against sides that drop deep, it should not be beyond them.

15) Colombia
Colombia spluttered over the line and will need to be better if their quarter-final finish of 2014 is to be emulated. It is almost certainly a final chance on this stage for Radamel Falcao, who so cruelly missed out four years ago, while a repeat of last time around from James Rodríguez – generally disappointing since then – will probably be in order too. José Pekerman was relieved his team secured qualification by drawing with Peru and the resilience the Argentina-born coach showed in the critical draw in Peru will be required in spades eight months from now.

16) Serbia
It has been quite a turnaround for Serbia since, almost exactly three years ago, they underwent the shame of that fateful Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania and the picture looks altogether brighter now after they came top of a hard Group D. Nemanja Matic is the linchpin of a team with a pleasing blend of youth and experience. Slavoljub Muslin probably lacks the goalscoring power for a deep run next summer, but Serbia have been under-performing for some time and should, as a minimum, provide larger countries with an awkward moment or two.

17) Iran
“Team Melli” have never been past the group stage at a World Cup and, while they topped Group A in Asia’s third qualifying round by seven points, it would appear difficult for the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz to inspire something better next summer. Iran found it much harder to put teams away than their position suggested, although they were hardly averse to grinding out a result – five away games brought just two goals in total, both in 1-0 victories. They have a solid defense and a forward of great talent in Sardar Azmoun, but may struggle against stronger sides.

18) Costa Rica
Costa Rica continue to punch above their weight and their record in qualifying against the USA – inflicting two grievous blows in winning 4-0 and 2-0 – was eye-catching. They have a world-class goalkeeper in Keylor Navas although the squad as a whole is aging somewhat. It is a stretch to imagine they have the potential to reach the quarter-finals again, although only a fool would dismiss them out of hand. Their last meeting with a European side, a narrow defeat to Spain two years ago, suggests they should compete.

19) Japan
Vahid Halilhodzic looked to be on borrowed time before Japan, in beating Australia 2-0 six weeks ago, secured their progress to a sixth successive World Cup. The chances of bettering their two last-16 finishes seem fairly remote, although the Bosnian Halilhodzic took Algeria through the group stage in 2014 and, in a funny way, looks a better fit for the final tournament than for the qualifiers. Japan have plenty of European experience these days but, like Algeria, will still need to show signs of over-performing to move up these rankings.

20) Russia
Rarely has the buildup to a World Cup brought such little local enthusiasm for the home team, although Qatar may run Russia close in four years’ time. At the Confederations Cup it was Cristiano Ronaldo, rather than Stanislav Cherchesov’s stodgy side, that brought the crowds out in their droves and there is little obvious reason for that to change. Friendly results, including a win achieved in a slightly eccentric assignment against Dinamo Moscow, have been decent enough but it would currently take an optimistic soul to look beyond a last-16 exit at best.

21) Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia thanked Bert van Marwijk for taking them to a first World Cup in 12 years and promptly parted company with the Dutchman, negotiations for a new contract breaking down amid suggestions that he was not spending enough time in the country. It means they have lost the services of a 2010 World Cup finalist – with Holland – for next year’s tournament and the Argentinian Edgardo Bauza, who had been coaching their qualifying group B rivals the United Arab Emirates, will lead them to Russia instead. They did well to pip Australia to automatic qualification and look forward to players such as the prolific Mohammed al-Sahlawi to step up and have an impact.

22) South Korea
An unconvincing set of qualifiers was compounded by friendly defeats to Russia and Morocco – 4-2 and 3-2 respectively – this month and optimism is distinctly lacking. South Korea have not won a game since March, when they beat Syria 1-0, and bar the admirable Son Heung-min they possess few names to make opponents sit up. Shin Tae-yong, appointed in July, has a battle on his hands – not least to win round South Korea’s fans, who still hold out hope of a glorious return to the fold for Guus Hiddink.

23) Panama
Barely known to most without a keen interest in the Concacaf qualifying tournament, Panama are a welcome new face and will be ready to bloody a nose or two. If we are being harsh, their form in a group low on quality was essentially middling – and they had a decisive slice of luck against Costa Rica on Tuesday when their equalizer was given despite not crossing the line – but nobody in the country will care. They disrupted the USA, among others, with some strong-arm tactics on the road to Russia – perhaps recalling Honduras’s performance at Brazil 2014.

The Guardian Sport

EU: Washington Does Not Have Authority to Terminate Iran Nuclear Deal

Mogherini

London – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed on Friday that US President Donald Trump does not have the authority to terminate the nuclear deal world powers signed with Iran in wake of his recent announcement of a new strategy against Tehran.

She said: “The president of the United States has many powers, but not this one.”

Trump had announced during a speech unveiling during which he unveiled the new strategy that he could terminate the deal at any time.

In other European reactions to Trump’s stance, France, Germany and Britain said in a joint statement that preserving the nuclear deal “falls within our national interest.”

French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romat said in a statement that the deal was a strong tool to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert stated: “We have a great interest in the continuation of this international unity. If … an important country like the United States comes to a different conclusion as appears to be the case, we will work even harder with other partners to maintain this cohesion.”

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano declared on Friday that Tehran is “subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

He added that Iran is honoring its commitments.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that FM Sergei Lavrov had telephoned his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif on Friday, saying that Moscow will remain completely committed to the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Lavrov told Zarif that Russia was firmly determined to implement the deal in the form in which it was approved by the United Nations Security Council, reported Reuters.

The Kremlin meanwhile warned of “negative and dire consequences” if Washington withdrew from the deal, saying that Tehran would reciprocate such a move.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that spiking the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”

Echoing Moscow’s stance, Beijing reiterated its commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran.

A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hoped that all sides would continue to support and implement the agreement.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “strongly hoped” the Iran nuclear deal will remain in place, after Trump accused Iran of violating the accord.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted that Guterres had long praised the 2015 pact as a very important breakthrough to stem the spread of nuclear weapons and advance global peace.

UN Chemical Weapons Investigators to Visit Syria’s Shayrat Air Base

United Nations- UN investigators will this week travel to the Shayrat air base in Syria that the United States and its allies say was used to launch the sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province last April.

The team from the joint UN-OPCW probe, known as the JIM, left Monday for Damascus and were to go to the Shayrat airfield, a Security Council diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Agence France Presse on Wednesday.

The trip to the airfield comes just weeks before the release of a much-awaited report on the Khan Sheikhoun attack that the West and a UN commission have said was carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

The United States in April launched a missile attack on Shayrat after concluding that Syrian aircraft, loaded with sarin gas, had departed from that airfield to attack Khan Sheikhoun.

The JIM visit to Shayrat would address criticism from Russia that the panel is biased by refusing to accept Syria’s offer to visit the military base.

Western diplomats have expressed skepticism however, suggesting the visit would be used by Damascus to try to bolster its assertion that the sarin gas was released by an accidental air strike on a storage depot in rebel-held Idlib.

The joint investigation of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)  earlier this year presented a report confirming sarin gas was used in the attack at Khan Sheikhoun that left 87 people dead.

Syria’s regime has denied any involvement and maintains it no longer possesses chemical weapons after a 2013 agreement under which it pledged to surrender them.

Lavrov: Tillerson Assures Washington’s Only Goal in Syria is Fighting ISIS

Lavrov

Moscow- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has given assurances that Washington’s only goal in Syria is fighting ISIS, the TASS news agency cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Thursday.

Lavrov said he had last had a telephone conversation with Tillerson on Oct. 9, the agency reported.

Russia’s defense ministry accused the United States on Tuesday of pretending to fight ISIS and of deliberately reducing its air strikes in Iraq to allow the group’s militants to stream into Syria to slow the Russian-backed advance of the Syrian army.

Lavrov, touching upon a possible US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, said it was hard to imagine how it could be legally implemented, TASS reported.