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US Decision on Syrian Troops Left Muddled After WSJ Report

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US troops Syria

A decision that the United States President Donald Trump took three months ago has been altered as many times as it should have. On December 19, he announced to pull out American troops from the Syrian Arab Republic without any deliberations, causing the White House jitters. The precipitancy of the decision has led to several changes since then.

Another update was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, stating that the US military is planning to keep nearly 1,000 militants in the war-torn country for achieving their objective of defeating the Islamic State group and averting any potential threats.

The report came as a major shift from Trump’s initial decision of complete withdrawal of more than 2,000 US troops, and was far more than the recent modifications made in the original declaration. Few weeks back, it was announced that a total of 400 American forces would still stay back in Syria, as a reversal to what Trump initially intended.

On Sunday, the Journal reported that the US intends to continue working with the Syrian Kurds, who are under a threat from Turkey. Citing the American officials, it stated that the shift in plans came as the talks between the US, the Kurds, European allies and Turkey have failed to establish a safe zone in Syria.

However, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford refuted the report, calling it “factually incorrect”. He stated, “There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down US forces to a residual presence.”

The US official said that certain plans have exceeded the number of 400 forces, and there are several potential figures that could be announced. However, he confirmed that no final decision has been taken so far. Dunford suggested that the actual plan is to ensure a safe zone in northern Syria by keeping a combined force of about 1,500 troops.

The Journal’s report also stated that the United States is likely to withdraw hundreds of American forces, after “the last bastion” of ISIS is seized.

As per the reports, the US-backed Syrian fighters are on a mission of completely ending the presence of ISIS, by destructing their last enclave in Syria. The operation that was becoming difficult is now on the verge of conclusion, as the forces have seized the Baghouz village giving space to the group.

The claims regarding the American presence in Syria have been changed several times, since the withdrawal has been announced. The decision had initially caused a great turmoil in the White House and had also led to a resignation from one of the most significant members of the administration: Defense Secretary James Mattis.

While the US mission in Syria still remains unachieved, the number of troops that would stay back is also uncertain. Moreover, several changes to the original decision have induced a great confusion about the final decision of the Trump administration.

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Qatar World Athletic Championships and the Series of Controversies

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Qatar World Athletic Championships

The Middle Eastern country, Qatar is increasingly trying its hand in sports. Earlier this month, the country wrapped up a prestigious sport meet outside the Olympic games, the IAAF World Athletic Championships. From September 27 to October 6, it hosted globally recognized athletes competing in different forms of race and athletic games.

“We are really thrilled to partner with the IAAF to expand the horizon of athletics in the Middle East and the MENA region. It is a collective effort of our people and the government,” said Dahlan Al Hamad, Vice-Chairman of the Organising Committee and Director General of the IAAF World Athletic Championships Doha 2019.

Nearly 2,000 players, including 1054 men and 918 women, from 208 countries fought for athletic medals at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. It is the world’s first to include stadium air conditioning systems. Besides, the 10-day event also marked midnight marathons held at Doha Corniche.

The 2019 World Athletic Championships began with women’s marathon at midnight, where Ruth Chepngetich from Kenya broke the tape 2:32:43 and won the title of world champion, outrunning the 68 women who participated.

On the other hand, the men’s marathon on October 5, was won by an 18-year-old Ethiopian, Lelisa Desisa. With the sprint finish, he clocked a season’s best of 2:10:40. He won the first gold in marathon, while his Ethiopian teammate Mosinet Geremew followed for silver at 2:10:44. “This is not for me, it’s for 100 million Ethiopians and they are very happy,” said Desisa.

Rest of the events took place at the Khalifa Stadium, where only few out of the 1972 total athletes were the highlights. Women from the United States won several golds, including Hammer throw by Hammer throw, 100 metres hurdles by Nia Ali, 400 metres hurdles by Dalilah Muhammad, and 4 × 400 metres relay by Phyllis Francis, Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad, Wadeline Jonathas and others.

The 29-year-old American track and field athlete, Dalilah Muhammad drew attention, as she broke her own world record she set in July at the United States championships. Finishing the 400 metres hurdles in 52.16 seconds, she had no idea that she won until she saw the scoreboard.

From the men, Mutaz Essa Barshim was the show stealer, who concluded a stunning comeback from a career-threatening injury. Despite ruptured ankle ligaments, Barshim successfully retained his world high jump title before a fully-packed stadium. He became the poster guy for this years World Athletic Championships as well as for his country, after winning gold on home ground.

Following the event, Qatar became the first and the only country in the Middle East to host the World Athletic Championships. This year, the biennial event changed its traditional arrangement of hosting the qualifying competitions in morning sessions and the finals in afternoon session. For Doha, the schedule was revised, where “pre-session” was in the afternoon and a “main session” in the evening.

The rescheduling of the event for the first time is said to have provided the athletes a cooler weather condition for running the marathon. Besides being called a hot country to host an athletic event, another point of condemnation was that the Khalifa International Stadium partially remained empty, while the athletes were breaking records.

As per the head of European Athletic Association, Svein Arne Hansen, the lesser attendance was because of the timetable. “You can’t make people sit there at 11.30 [p.m.],” he said. “Normally, people go to work in the morning.”

Organisers blamed that fewer audiences in the stadium was an outcome of the odd timing of the event, which were designed keeping in mind European TV audiences.

Right after the 2019 World Athletic Championships, Qatar hosted another major sports event, 2019 ANOC World Beach Games. On 12 October, more than 1,200 athletes came to Qatar, representing 97 nations at the event hosted at the Katara Beach. Coming only six days after the Athletic Championships, the Beach Games were praised in a sharp contrast to the criticism that the Arab nation faced for IAAF games.

A few months before the ANOC Beach Games took place, the sporting event saw a change of host from San Diego to Qatar, following the inability of the former to raise funds. This event was also conducted in an open space, and the ANOC General Assembly highlighted that Qatar efficiently hosted the event on a short notice.

The Arab nation will soon be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as it continues to mark a trail of other significant sports events on its way. The two recent events that the gulf nation hosted were different in the way they were accepted, where Qatar and its capabilities were criticized for one and appreciated for the other. Besides, it will also be hosting the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in December. As it advances on the path of becoming a sports hub, the future prospects for Qatar could turn out to be a little glittery. Especially with the nation already being known as the first nation in the Middle East to be holding a sporting event of this magnitude.

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Libya Civil War: Bloodshed Becomes Mainstay as Calls for Aid Amplify

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Libya Civil War: Bloodshed Becomes Mainstay as Calls for Aid Amplify

On October 14, an airstrike killed three children, all sisters, while wounding their mother and fourth sister. A week before that on October 6, another airstrike took place on Equestrian Club in Tripoli’s Janzour. Fortunately, not claiming any lives, yet injuring a number of innocent children, besides damaging the property. The attacks, which certainly weren’t the first in the damning Libya civil war, won’t be the last given such fragile circumstances.

Libya civil war has seen various factions come head to head either for an out-an-out war or use the situation for proxy battles. However, the scenario has revolved around one prime character, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar. The same forces, which were accused of carrying out both the airstrikes. LNA have been on a mission to seize Tripoli since April. The capital held by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj.

But while it is Libyans who are caught in this vicious turmoil, foreign actors have been largely fueling the war. While, Turkey supports the GNA, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt are the backbone of LNA.

However, Libya civil war is driven by more than just personal aversion of the warring parties, but with the technologically advanced drones carrying out strikes and cyber-attacks proclaiming to overthrow the government. Even last week, GNA claimed that the UAE’s drones carried out attacks in Gharyan city, south of capital Tripoli.

“UAE’s drones that support rebel war criminal [Khalifa] Haftar just targeted Abu Ghilan area in Gharyan city,” GNA’s military forces said in a statement.

Although Haftar has maintained his stiff stand in the name of removing terrorists from the region, the UAE has maintained support for the LNA out of personal interest. The nation, seeks to exploit the oil resources and take charge of its economy. While, Egypt has also backed the moves, it has pretty much remained puppet to the Arab nation.

Libya has been under siege since 2011, when NATO-backed militias overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a void that allowed rebels and smugglers to take over. The situation, which has sinfully sidelined the United Nations truce seeking peace.

Regional and European powers in Libya have competed for influence in the oil-rich nation for years. However, the escalation since April has turned the tables for worse. On the other hand, apart from UAE, Turkey’s involvement draws another question.

Risk with Turkey’s Intervention

Even if it is known that there is no military solution to Libya’s crisis, the UN Security Council in June still reimposed the arms embargo on the country for another year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following which told journalists: “We have a military cooperation agreement with Libya. We are providing to them if they come up with a request, and if they pay for it. They really had a problem in terms of defence needs.” A statement completely opposite to the UN embargo effect.

Turkey has maintained significant trade relations with Libya since the former leader Muammar Gaddafi was in charge. The nation opposes LNA head General Khalifa Haftar, who is pursuing an illegal struggle against the country’s Government of National Accord (GNA), and his actions have, thus, created insecurity in the country, destroyed infrastructure, delayed potential investments, and even given rival countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, more influence in Libya.

However, for Erdogan, the GNA and its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj is Libya’s legitimate government, backed by the UN, and his supply of weapons causes no issue. Haftar, using which, has utilized to secure more support from Turkey’s rivals.

Libya civil war has been reduced to a mere propaganda fought with different narratives today. Yet what different characters have revealed is that Libya has foiled to remain a failed state having abundant resources and no real solution to the ongoing conflict.

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Lebanon Crisis: Ongoing Protests Remind of Civil-War Economic Shocks

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Lebanon crisis

Last updated on October 21st, 2019

Bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, Lebanon is located at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland. The history and cultural identity of the Middle-eastern country is highly influenced by its surroundings.

The smallest recognised sovereign state on the mainland Asian continent is lately engulfed in economic dis-functioning. The 15-year long civil war, which started in 1975 and ended in 1990, has actively contributed in the Lebanon crisis, leading the country towards economic damages.

Since then, the restructuring of political stability and prosperity in the country has been a difficult task. The country, which was unable to recover from the civil war losses for years, went through various other revolutions in the 21st century.

The 2005 Cedar Revolution, 2006 Lebanon War, 2007 Lebanon conflict, 2006–08 Lebanese protests and 2008 conflict in Lebanon never allowed the country’s economy to recover fully from the crisis.

At a time when Lebanon has been trying to maintain its foreign relations with other nations, the political turmoil and continued conflicts have severely affected its capital Beirut and its position as a regional centre for finance and trade. The country has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states.

Moreover, Syrian civil war since 2011 has added to the Lebanon crisis. Since, Lebanon has a very high level of public debt and large external financing needs, the delayed restructuring has led to skilled labour’s migration to the Western-European countries. This movement has tended to effect the rest of the world.

The Lebanon crisis headed with poor economic and financial situations and the government’s plans for new taxes led to violent protests in the capital on Friday, where tens of thousands of people demanded the resignation of the country’s political leadership, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

The protests are a huge challenge to Hariri’s national unity government, which has blamed the parties in his coalition for obstructing reforms to Lebanon’s debt-laden economy. Hariri has further given a 72-hour deadline to his partners in government, calling for an actual solution or to stop blocking him, hinting he may otherwise resign.

Meanwhile, the riot police in vehicles and on foot rounded up the protesters waving Lebanese flags in Beirut, detaining many, and leaving dozens wounded during the clashes. The police fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters on violent protestors – who wore black hoods, blocked roads, set tyres on fire and used iron bars to smash storefronts in Beirut’s affluent downtown district. The security sources suggested that 52 policemen were injured on Friday and nearly 70 people were arrested.

Observing the rising unrest due to the Lebanon crisis, the UN urged all the Middle-Eastern countries to avoid actions that could lead to more tensions and violence.

From years, Lebanon’s well-documented troubles have prevented tourism from reaching its full potential in the country and the unrest gaining worldwide recognition could now lead to zero tourism from the Middle-Eastern countries.

The Arab nation, which was once driven by tourism, agriculture, commerce, and banking, is now afflicted with crisis.

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British Family Detained at US Border Reveals True Face of US immigration

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US Border

There have been numerous instances of inhumane conditions and rude behaviour of the US Immigration authorities in the past. Yet, according to the accounts of a British family that crossed the US border accidentally to avoid an animal in British Columbia, Canada, the US authorities stooped lower than before.

The family consisted of seven British citizens, including two couples and three children. Amongst the three children, one couple had two-year-old twin daughters, while the other couple had a three-month-old baby.

The Connors family was arrested on October 3 and has already filed a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security, accounting the behaviour towards them and the inhumane and unhygienic conditions they were forced to settle in.

The couple has further claimed that the US immigration authorities held them in the conditions, which according to them have turned out to be “the scariest experience” of their lives.

According to one officer, the British family was found with approximately $16,000 cash in Canadian money when they were apprehended on Boundary Road continuing on the United States’ side, near the US border.

Bridget Cambria, the attorney of the British family of Aldea — the People’s Justice Center, filed the complaint to the DOH for the family. She disclosed the horrifying details about the behaviour of the US Immigration authorities towards the family. The complaint stated that the Connors’ were apprehended without their rights being read to them or a chance to “simply turn around” and return to Canada.   

Cambria also said that the US authorities subjected the family to wretched living conditions comprising of inadequate food and cold temperature. Currently, the British family is held at the Berks Family Residential Center in Pennsylvania.

Responding to the claims of the Connors’, arrested near US Border, the authorities termed them as false. US officials said, “Eileen Connors and David Connors are currently in ICE custody at the Berks Family Residential Center (BFRC). BFRC provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process.”

“BFRC supports all sanctioned local, state, and federal investigations into the safety and welfare of our residents. Reporters of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false,” the authorities added.

The Connors’ incident is the latest example of how derogatory, one of the world-leading countries has become with its policies.

Although the British family is neither the first nor it seems to be the last to become a target of such dreaded policies while accidentally crossing the US border, it certainly raises the need for the international organisations to raise voice against such policies and mitigate such instances in future.

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Rescue operation underway as Typhoon Hagibis strucks Japan

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Rescue operation underway as Typhoon Hagibis strucks Japan

The search and rescue operations have stated in Japan after Typhoon Hagibis hit the country on Saturday. Hagibis is said to be the worst thunderstorm in decades that claimed the lives of at least 40 people, and 16 are reported missing.

Three Rugby World Cup matches were canceled due to the destruction caused by Typhoon, but a pivotal match between Japan and Scotland forged ahead. The Typhoon-struck country won 28-21, debuting in the quarter-finals. After the matched concluded, national team coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to the people affected by the destruction.

“Everyone who is suffering with the typhoon, this game was all for you guys. The crowd was massive for us, and today was more than just a game,” Joseph said.

Japan has one of the best flood defences among other Asian countries. The infrastructure for dealing with floods in Tokyo is designed to endure a once-in-a-hundred-years natural calamity.

However, the other metro cities in Japan, including Shanghai and Manila are comparatively not so well-equipped.

Post typhoon, over 92,000 households have suffered a power cut, which is less as compared to 262,000 households on Sunday – with 120,000 witnessing water interruptions.

The warning for typhoon was launched in the anticipation of storm, urging over seven million people to abandon their homes, but it is believed only 50,000 took shelter in camps.

Thousands of police forces, disaster management team, firefighters, coastguards and military have launched rescue operation to reach the people trapped in landslides and floods.

The typhoon Hagibis damaged eight prefectures in the country, with storm speeds of up to 225km/h (140mph).

The town of Hakone recorded more than 1m (3ft) of rain, which is the highest total ever fallen in Japan over 48 hours, whereas the capital city of Tokyo remained nearly unaffected.

Just one month ago, Typhoon Faxai had devastating consequences in parts of Japan, completely destructing 30,000 homes, the majority of which have not been repaired till date.

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