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Withdrawal of US forces in Syria likely to start in ‘weeks’ — US general

HASAKEH, Syria: A Canadian extremist detained in Syria told AFP on Sunday he has been “hung out to dry” by the Daesh group like other foreign fighters and appealed to his government for help.Mohammad Ali, 28, was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) some nine months ago while trying to flee north into…

Withdrawal of US forces in Syria likely to start in ‘weeks’ — US general

HASAKEH, Syria: A Canadian extremist detained in Syria told AFP on Sunday he has been “hung out to dry” by the Daesh group like other foreign fighters and appealed to his government for help.Mohammad Ali, 28, was captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) some nine months ago while trying to flee north into Turkey with his Canadian wife and two children.He was interviewed at a detention center in the northeastern city of Hasakah in the presence of two members of the SDF, who are holding hundreds of foreign extremists.Ali, who joined Daesh in 2014 under the nom de guerre Abu Turab Al-Kanadi, said he had been interrogated by the American FBI, CIA and US defense officials, but never visited by a Canadian official.“Every time I get taken for an interrogation or an interview, I’m hoping it’s with someone from the Canadian government, someone that can clarify my situation and give me a bit of hope.”“Up until now, nothing,” he said. “I have nowhere else to go… How can they leave me sitting here like this in limbo?“The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria wants to send the prisoners back for trial, but governments in their countries of origin are often reluctant.Canada’s foreign ministry said it had opened a communication channel with Kurdish authorities but that there was no agreement on repatriation.The Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE) non-profit said it knew of 25 Canadians held by the SDF.Ali was dressed in a grey robe, matching cap and tattered black sandals.He repeatedly said he was “exhausted” and often paused for long periods before mumbling an answer.Like many other captured accused Daesh members, he said he joined the group to fight President Bashar Assad’s government.He first worked in Deash’s lucrative oil ministry for four months because of his previous experience in Canada as an oil worker.During that time, he used a prominent Twitter account to call on others to join the extremists, but said he was never part of Daesh’s formal media apparatus.He spent the following three years as a fighter and trainer, but said he always refused to shoot civilians.“That’s not why I came here,” he said.AFP could not immediately verify the details of the account he gave of his time in the “caliphate.”Ali said he began doubting his decision to join Daesh in late 2016, as the extremists began to lose territory and turn against foreigners, including a Dutch friend of his who was executed by the group.“The foreigners feel they were left out, hung out to dry, they’ve been used and abused,” he said.He paid a smuggler to take his Canadian wife, who he met under Daesh in Syria, and their two young girls north from Deir Ezzor province to the Turkish border.Ali said he was planning to go to the Canadian embassy in Ankara but was caught by the SDF before crossing into Turkey.He said he has been unable to speak to his wife or daughters, or his family in Canada, since being detained.“All I think about is my wife and kids,” he said.Hundreds of Daesh-affiliated men, women and children have streamed out of the group’s shrinking pocket in east Syria in the past two months, but journalists and advocates have limited access to them.Ali said he was not aware of any SDF legal proceedings against him.Asked what kind of future he was most afraid of, he said he feared being handed over to Syrian regime forces.He is resigned to serving jail time at home but insisted he should not be considered in the same category as accused British Daesh executioners Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, also held by the SDF.“Now the foreigners are trying to leave, trying to get back home,” Ali told AFP.“But a lot of the Syrians and the Iraqis, they’re just melting back into the population, holding down for a while, and when things start again, they will rise back up.“It doesn’t really take a genius to figure this out. They have pockets in the desert, they have people intermingling with the population, acting as civilians, just biding their time.”

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Sudan’s ex-president Bashir arrives at corruption trial

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Democratic US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference Monday afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their…

Sudan’s ex-president Bashir arrives at corruption trial

ST. PAUL, Minnesota: Democratic US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference Monday afternoon on travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.Before Israel’s decision, Trump tweeted it would be a “show of weakness” to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for a future state.Trump’s request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected US officials — and Israel’s decision to do so — were unprecedented and drew widespread criticism, including from many Israelis as well as staunch supporters of Israel in Congress. Critics said Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision was a reckless gamble and risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories.Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see her aging grandmother. Deri’s office released a letter that it said was from Tlaib , which promised to respect travel restrictions during her visit. But after the announcement, Tlaib tweeted she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”The two congresswomen are part of the “squad” of liberal newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for re-election. He subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to “go back” to their “broken” countries. They are US citizens.

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Iran says it has warned US against seizing oil tanker

DUBAI: An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean toward Greece on Monday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.”The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Refinitiv…

Iran says it has warned US against seizing oil tanker

DUBAI: An Iranian tanker sailed through the Mediterranean toward Greece on Monday after it was released from detention off Gibraltar, and Tehran said that any US move to seize the vessel again would have “heavy consequences.”The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar about 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Sunday. Refinitiv ship tracking data showed on Monday that the vessel was heading to Kalamata in Greece and was scheduled to arrive next Sunday at 0000 GMT.The seizure of the tanker by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions led to a weeks-long stand-off between Tehran and the West. It also heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf.Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, lifted the detention order on Thursday but the next day a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million.

Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law. Washington wanted to detain the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organization.“We are happy this ordeal has ended and I hope this will lead to less escalation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said while visiting Finland.He also said the US warrant had no legal basis and was politically motivated to “make more escalation.”Greek authorities had no immediate comment on the situation.Iran said on Monday any US attempt to seize the tanker would have “heavy consequences.”

The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday evening. (Reuters)

Asked whether the United States could renew its seizure request after the tanker sailed from Gibraltar, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “Such an action, and even the talk of it … would endanger shipping safety in open seas.”“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi said in remarks broadcast on state television.Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.The Adrian Darya 1, which was re-flagged to Iran after being de-listed by Panama on May 29, was fully laden and carrying about 2 million barrels of oil, Refinitiv data showed. The cargo was valued at tens of millions of dollars.US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year, while the European Union is still part of the accord, which allows Tehran to sell its oil.

The tanker was seized by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. (Reuters)

Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero and has re-imposed US sanctions which place heavy penalties on any breaches even for non-US citizens and companies, including asset freezes and being cut off from the US financial system.While EU regulations still allow for companies and citizens in the bloc to trade with Iran, falling foul of US sanctions has meant most banks are unwilling to process even authorized transactions such as for food and medicine, finance sources say.This is likely to be the first major foreign policy challenge for Greece’s new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis since he took office in July if the vessel enters Greek territorial waters.Zarif said Iran could not reveal where the oil would go.“Because of US sanctions we cannot be very transparent with the destination,” he said.A spokesperson for the Greek coast guard said they had no formal information the vessel is heading to Kalamata and are monitoring the matter.

A crew member takes pictures with a mobile phone on Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1. (Reuters)

TANKER HELD BY IRANSeparately, a senior Iranian lawmaker said a crisis in Iran’s ties with Britain, which included Tehran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker last month, would not be over until the tanker reached its destination.Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on July 19 seized the Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after the Grace 1 was commandeered.“Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.“The crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” Falahatpisheh said.Mousavi said that Tehran was waiting for a court decision on alleged maritime violations by the Stena Impero and he hoped the procedures would be completed as soon as possible.The head of Iran’s judiciary Ebrahim Raisi also said “Iran should claim damages…to teach a lesson to those who acted against international laws and regulations by seizing the tanker.”Iran has denied its tanker was ever headed to Syria, a close ally of Tehran.The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.

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Car bomb kills Kurdish police officer in northeast Syria

Gibraltar says unable to meet US request to seize Iranian tanker now called ‘Adrian Darya-1’ GIBRALTAR: Gibraltar refused a US request to seize the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law. A federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the…

Car bomb kills Kurdish police officer in northeast Syria

Gibraltar says unable to meet US request to seize Iranian tanker now called ‘Adrian Darya-1’

GIBRALTAR: Gibraltar refused a US request to seize the Iranian tanker Grace 1 on Sunday, saying it was unable to comply because it was bound by European Union law.

A federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million. British Royal Marines had detained the vessel in Gibraltar in July on suspicion that it was carrying oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

“The Central Authority’s inability to seek the Orders requested is a result of the operation of European Union law and the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US,” a Gibraltar government statement said.

“The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.”

The tanker raised an Iranian flag and and had a new name painted on its side, Reuters images of the stationary vessel filmed off Gibraltar showed on Sunday.

Video footage and photographs showed the tanker flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing the new name of ‘Adrian Darya-1’ painted in white on its hull. Its previous name, ‘Grace 1’, had been painted over. The vessel’s anchor was still down.

The Grace 1 had originally flown the Panamian flag but Panama’s Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been de-listed after an alert that indicated the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing.

Gibraltar lifted a detention order on the vessel on Thursday but its fate was further complicated by the United States, which made a last-ditch legal appeal to hold it.

The initial impounding of the Grace 1 kicked off a sequence of events that saw Tehran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later, heightening tension on a vital international oil shipping route.

That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained.

The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, and reimposed economic sanctions.

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