Then when it came to the need for such a program, the regime’s claims for it to be solely for self-sufficiency in its energy needs, and medical purposes just didn’t hold up under scrutiny. Even with the Bushehr reactor up and running, which it wasn’t at the time, it would only result in the production of 3 percent of Iran’s electricity needs, and that the rest of the facilities that were in action or in the pipeline, was not feasible for civilian use. So much about Iran’s nuclear program just didn’t add up even with the fact that there was no evidence at the time that it was operating a reprocessing program meant little. The regime had been known to be seeking to acquire hot-cell heavy manipulators and lead glass shielding windows from a foreign state, which would be required should it be wanting to embark on such a program. Suspicions arose as to why the regime would want to acquire such components, which it claimed was for the use of producing medical isotopes. However, after studying specifications for the project, which the IAEA had acquired from a foreign state, it showed that the hot cells being fitted out had walls of 1.4 metres in thickness, which were more suited to the handling of spent fuel, rather than for the purpose of radioisotope production, and pointed towards a military use rather than a medical one. Then in the summer of 2002, the Iranian dissident group the MEK revealed the existence of a series of nuclear sites in Iran, and within a year it was discovered that Iran was in the process of conducting uranium enrichment at Natanz. With suspicions beginning to be raised even further that Iran was at work developing nuclear weapons, this further heightened when it was discovered that the regime was mining uranium at Saghand as well as operating a yellow cake production plant in the vicinity of Ardakan, and with a pilot uranium enrichment plant up and running in Natanz, it was also operating a commercial scale enrichment facility close by. To produce nuclear weapons, enriched uranium is essential, and it takes a full-blown nuclear program to produce it. Uranium ore is a natural element much like iron, often taken from the ground in open cast mining; but it needs to be processed to extract pure uranium from the base material. Centrifuges are essential in processing of uranium. They are cylindrical tubes that whirl at great speed, separating out or purifying the desired uranium isotopes. Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant was designed to hold around 3,000 centrifuges, producing in the region of 19.75 percent enriched uranium, which Iran claimed is part of the process to produce medical isotopes. Where nuclear weapons are concerned, their design requires the use of weapons grade uranium to make them functional, and it takes 90 percent enrichment of uranium to take it to weapons grade, which would take only a matter of weeks to produce in Iran’s new and advanced centrifuges.
Doubling down on centrifuges
Back in August 2012, Iran was known to have doubled the number of centrifuges at its Fordow plant in just three months, increasing the number to 2,000. Until the time of the Iran Deal, the number had increased to 2,800, with Fordow running at full capacity. During that period of time, Iran had increased its supply of a more purified form of enriched uranium, which was much easier to convert into weapon’s grade fissile material. But at this present time, with the regime now mass producing much more efficient centrifuges, with more than 10,000 installed at the Natanz facility alone, they had enough low-enriched uranium to produce at least six nuclear weapons. Before the Iran Deal, with Iran having built at least five secret facilities, where work was believed to have been carried out on the development of nuclear weapons, it can only be said that the Iran deal has put this work on hold, as most of Iran’s nuclear program is still continuing in a limited capacity. Should the deal eventually collapse, it would only take Iran a matter of months to reinstate its nuclear activity, and the road to a bomb would be fast coming. So with these nuclear sites carved into the side of mountains, with the regime protecting them with state of the art air defences throughout the country, it leaves them virtually immune to airstrikes. This made it difficult to completely halt Iran’s nuclear program through a bombing campaign would be near impossible, due to the regime’s instalment of the Russian S-300 long-range air defence system. So adding this to the fact that Iran has already developed its own long-range air defence system, named the Bavar-373 (Bavar meaning “Belief) – and has claimed it is far superior to the Russian S-300, it also gives it the ability to operate both on and off roads. And with the system using Sayyed-3 missiles, which have been successfully tested, it utilizes target acquisition radar, target engagement radar, and phased array radar to direct the primary functions of the system. The system can strike mid-altitude targets with great accuracy, is able to down bombers as well as various other combat aircraft including drones and cruise missiles. But as far as the Iran deal is concerned, the Iranian regime is in a win-win situation, because as far as an armed confrontation is concerned, it is fast heading toward becoming untouchable. So the only way to bring an end to its nuclear program, other than through a one-sided deal that only benefits its clerical leadership, would be through sanctions or hostilities. But whatever option is chosen, a regime change would be needed at the end of it, in order to deter Iran from the nuclear path in the future, and at the moment, this seems to be a long way off.
Iraq/Da’esh – Jihadist fighters killed at least 10 soldiers in the western Iraqi province of Anbar on 02 May 17 in their latest deadly attack on security forces in the area, officers said. The latest attack near the remote outpost of Rutba brought to at least 26 the number of members of the Iraqi security forces killed by the Islamic State group in the area in recent days. "We had 10 soldiers killed and six wounded in an attack by Da’esh early this morning," an army lieutenant colonel said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. A police officer and a local official confirmed the attack and casualty toll. The army officer said IS attacked a 1st Division base in the Saggar area, east of Rutba, using mortar rounds and rockets before fighters armed with rifles tried to storm it. He said the ensuing clashes lasted two hours until 0700 hrs local (0400 hrs GMT). Rutba lies about 390 kilometres (240 miles) west of Baghdad in the vast province of Anbar and is the last sizeable town before the border with Jordan. According to figures provided by several Anbar officials, at least 26 Iraqi personnel -- including members of the border guard, the army and the police -- have been killed in the area since April 23.
Iraq/Kurds – Gunmen shot dead a senior official of Iraq's state-run North Gas Company (NGC) on the 2 May 17 as he was heading to his office in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police and company sources said. Deputy NGC manager Mohammed Younis, an Iraqi Kurd, and his driver were killed instantly when assailants in a speeding car fired on their vehicle, police sources said. No claim of responsibility for the killings has been made. Kirkuk has a mixed population of Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs. It has been under Kurdish control since June 2014, when ISIS overran the northwest of the country and Iraqi security forces collapsed.
Kurds/United States – The United States on the 9 May 17 announced it would supply arms and military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group in Syria, a move likely to anger key ally Turkey which considers the Kurdish forces to be terrorists. The weapons will go to the fighters ahead of an upcoming offensive to recapture Raqa, the last major bastion for IS in Syria and the capital of their supposed "caliphate." President Donald Trump on the 8 May 17 "authorised the Department of Defence to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqa," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. "The SDF, partnered with enabling support from US and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqa in the near future." The equipment will include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armoured vehicles and engineering plant such as bulldozers, a defence official told AFP. The Kurdish elements of the SDF are from the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and they have been the main faction fighting IS on the ground in Syria. But Turkey says the YPG is linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has killed more than 40,000 people. Turkish war planes carried out strikes on YPG forces in Syria last month and also hit Kurdish positions in neighbouring Iraq, which Ankara described as "terrorist havens".
Erdogan to meet Trump
The 9 May 17 announcement comes ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Washington to meet Trump. Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, said it was unclear how Washington can allay Turkey's concerns. He noted that the US government's National Counter-Terrorism Centre previously labelled the YPG as the PKK's Syrian affiliate, but scrapped that description once the US began working with them in late-2014. "There really cannot be any ignoring the fact that the YPG is the official affiliate of a terrorist organisation that Turkey has been fighting for over 30 years," Lister said. "We have many reasons to be very frustrated with the Turks, but Ankara has a justified reason for being infuriated by our support for the YPG." Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who arrived in Vilnius late on the 9 May 17 as part of a Europe trip, earlier attended a summit in Copenhagen for senior leaders from the top 15 countries in the anti-IS coalition, including Turkey. Mattis gave a positive assessment of the role Turkey will play. "Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another to take Raqa down," Mattis said. Spokeswoman White later said Mattis had spoken with Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik and reassured him of US commitment to protecting its NATO ally. "Equipment provided to the SDF will be limited, mission specific, and metered out incrementally as objectives are reached," White said, adding that the US foresees Raqa eventually being governed by Arabs, not Kurds.
The US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria discussed the campaign's next steps as the jihadists' "caliphate" around Raqa is collapsing. Though officials warn that military action will continue for some time, they are generally upbeat about the progress and quickening momentum of the fight. "We examined the enemy situation and discussed the next steps to make sure we are all on the same sheet of music. We are going to further accelerate this fight," Mattis said. After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadists have become largely isolated in Raqa. Several coalition countries are keeping a nervous eye on the region as IS-held territory diminishes. But thousands of foreign fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, and coalition nations, particularly in Europe, are bracing for a possible wave of battle-hardened jihadists returning home. According to a senior US administration official, Interpol has identified 14,000 foreign fighters it knows have travelled to Syria and are still alive. The campaign against IS began in autumn 2014 and has seen the Iraqi security forces, backed with coalition training and air power, reverse humiliating losses and recapture several key cities including Ramadi and Fallujah.
Kurds/Turkey/United States – Turkey on the 10 May 17 slammed as unacceptable a US plan to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists, but the militia applauded a "historic" move that would hasten the extremists' defeat. The issue risks further stoking tensions between Ankara and Washington less than a week before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Washington to meet his US counterpart Donald Trump in their first face-to-face encounter as heads of state. The Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) is seen by Washington as the best ally against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria and the prime attacking force in any assault on their stronghold of Raqa. But Ankara regards it as a terror group and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which since 1984 has waged an insurgency inside Turkey leaving tens of thousands dead. The dispute poisoned ties between Turkey and the United States under the administration of former president Barack Obama but Ankara had hoped for smoother ties under Trump. "The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable," Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television. "Such a policy will benefit nobody," he said. "We expect that this mistake is to be rectified." Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added that "every weapon that turns up in their hands is a threat directed toward Turkey".
'Ensure clear victory'
In a surprise announcement, the Pentagon said Trump had authorised the arming of Kurdish fighters within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqa." The YPG hailed the move as "historic" and said it would now play "a more influential, powerful, and decisive role" in fighting IS. YPG spokesman Redur Xelil described the move as "somewhat late," but would still "provide a strong impetus" to all forces fighting IS. The SDF, a US-backed group dominated by YPG but which also contains Arab elements, said that receiving US arms and military equipment would "hasten the defeat" of the jihadists. It remains to be seen what shadow the issue will cast over the talks between Trump and Erdogan, which have been touted as chance to forge a new partnership between the two NATO allies. A high-level Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey's spy chief Hakan Fidan had been in the US laying the groundwork for the meeting. Canikli said Turkey would take the diplomatic initiative to convince Washington "to do what friendship requires". "The argument that a ground operation in the fight against Da’esh would be successful only with YPG has nothing to do with reality," he said. Both Washington and Brussels classify the PKK as a terror group but do not regard the YPG as such. "YPG and PKK are both terror groups; there is no difference at all between them. They only have different names," Cavusoglu said in televised comments during an official visit to Montenegro.
'Graveyard for jihadists
Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle to recapture Raqa but on condition the offensive does not include the YPG. Last month, Erdogan said if Turkey and the United States joined forces, they could turn Raqa into a "graveyard" for jihadists. But on April 27, Turkish warplanes struck YPG forces in Syria and also hit Kurdish forces in neighbouring Iraq in what Ankara described as "terrorist havens". But the strikes angered Washington which accused Turkey of failing to properly coordinate its moves. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on the 9 May 17 took part in a summit in Copenhagen for senior leaders from the top 15 countries in the anti-IS coalition, including Turkey. Mattis, who was in Vilnius on the 10 May 17 as part of a European tour, gave a positive assessment of the role Turkey will play in the lead up to the Raqa fight. "Our intent is to work with the Turks, alongside one another to take Raqa down," he said. Meanwhile, Trump was to receive Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov at the White House on Wednesday to discuss a Russian plan to establish safe zones in Syria and help end the six-year conflict. Russia, the key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey have been on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict but are working increasingly closely together in search of peace.
Saudi Arabia – Two people, including an infant, were killed and 10 others wounded after “terrorists” shot at workers at a development project in the eastern Qutaif governorate and left the scene, the Saudi interior ministry said on the 12 May 17. The inciden took place at Al-Masoura neighborhood in Al-Awamiya town in Qutaif. He added that the terrorists fired indiscriminately and heavily at passers-by killing a two-year-old Saudi national, a Pakistani resident. Ten people including six Saudi nationals were wounded in the attacks. The injured include a woman and two children, a Sudanese national, an Indian national who is in a critical condition, in addition to four security men who suffered minor injuries. The Saudi Ministry of interior added that the terrorist elements targeted development projects in Qatif province, where they confronted shooters hiding in the neighbourhood. The spokesman of the Ministry Interior said that workers of the company executing one of the development projects in the district of Al-Masoura in the province of Qutaif were subjected to heavy firing by the terrorists. The attack targeted the project with explosive devices to obstruct its development. The terrorists were staying in abandoned houses and used the Al-Masoura neighbourhood as a base to execute kidnappings and attacks on innocent citizens. The Saudi interior also praised the people of Al-Awamiya who cooperated with the security forces. At the same time they called upon everyone to stay away from the project area and the roads leading to it for their own safety. The ministry also called on the culprits to surrender themselves to the authorities and confirmed that one of the wanted men was killed during the confrontations.
Syria/Da’esh – At least 32 people were killed on the 2 May 17 in an Islamic State group attack near a refugee camp on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, a monitor said. "At least five suicide attackers blew themselves up outside and inside a camp for Iraqi refugees and displaced Syrians in Hasakeh province," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Heavy clashes then erupted between the IS fighters and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, some of whose combatants were among the dead, Abdel Rahman said. The camp lies in the Rajm al-Salibeh area just inside Syrian territory, and at least 21 of the dead were displaced Syrians or Iraqi refugees, the Observatory said. "At least 30 people were wounded, and the death toll will rise because some people are in critical condition and others are still unaccounted for," the Britain-based monitor said. The US-backed SDF has captured swathes of northern Syria from IS, and in recent days overran most of the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Tabqa. The battle for Tabqa is an important part of a broader offensive for IS's main Syrian stronghold, Raqa, downstream.
Syria – A car bomb blast killed at least five people on the 3 May 17 in the rebel-held Syrian town of Azaz by the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The dead were four civilians and a police officer, the Britain-based monitor said, adding that the toll could rise because a number of those wounded were in serious condition. The dead were placed in black body bags, next to which grief-stricken mourners sat weeping or staring in shock. The blast hit near a mosque and the headquarters of the opposition's provisional government which administers some areas under rebel control. Azaz has regularly been targeted in bomb blasts, including on 7 Jan 17 when at least 48 people were killed in a tanker truck blast.
Syria/Chemical Weapons Use – New evidence supports the conclusion that Syrian government forces have used nerve agents on at least four occasions in recent months: on 4 Apr 17, in a chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least ninety-two people, and on three other occasions in Dec 16 and Mar 17, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. These attacks are part of a broader pattern of Syrian government forces’ use of chemical weapons. The attacks are widespread and systematic, and in some cases have been directed against the civilian population. These two features mean the attacks could meet the legal standard required to characterize them as crimes against humanity. As part of the evidence showing these attacks have become widespread and systematic, the 48-page report, Death by Chemicals: The Syrian Government’s Widespread and Systematic Use of Chemical Weapons, identifies three different systems being used to deliver chemical weapons:
— Government warplanes appear to have dropped bombs with nerve agents on at least four occasions since 12 December;
— Government helicopter-dropped chlorine-filled munitions have become more systematic;
— Government or pro-government ground forces have started using improvised ground-launched munitions filled with chlorine.
In at least some of the attacks, the intention appears to have been to inflict severe suffering on the civilian population. “The government’s recent use of nerve agents is a deadly escalation – and part of a clear pattern,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the last six months, the government has used warplanes, helicopters, and ground forces to deliver chlorine and sarin in Damascus, Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo. That’s widespread and systematic use of chemical weapons.” HRW says that what appears to be repeated use of nerve agents undermines Syrian and Russian officials’ claims that the chemical exposure in Khan Sheikhoun was due to a conventional bomb striking toxic chemicals on the ground. It would not be plausible that conventional bombs struck chemical caches repeatedly across the country. Photos and videos of weapon remnants that struck Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April appear to be consistent with the characteristics of a Soviet-made air-dropped chemical bomb specifically designed to deliver sarin. The United Nations Security Council should immediately adopt a resolution calling on all parties to fully cooperate with investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and adopt sanctions against anyone UN investigators find to be responsible for these or past chemical attacks in Syria. Human Rights Watch interviewed sixty people with first-hand knowledge of the chemical attacks and their immediate aftermath, and reviewed dozens of photos and videos of impact sites and victims that were posted online and provided directly by local residents, but was unable to conduct ground investigations of the attack sites. Information from local residents in Khan Sheikhoun indicates that a warplane flew over the town twice, around 6:45 a.m. on 4 April. One resident said he saw the plane drop a bomb near the town’s central bakery in the northern neighbourhood during the first fly-over. Several people, including the person who saw the bomb falling, said they heard no explosion but saw smoke and dust rising from the area, consistent with the relatively small explosive charge in a chemical bomb. Several people also confirmed that they saw people injured or heard reports of injuries immediately after the first fly-over. A few minutes later, they said, a warplane dropped three or four high-explosive bombs on the town. Human Rights Watch identified ninety-two people, including thirty children, whom local residents and activists said died due to chemical exposure from this attack. Medical personnel said the attack injured hundreds more. Human Rights Watch reviewed dozens of photos and videos provided by residents of a crater from the impact of the first bomb. Local residents believed this site was the source of the chemical exposure because those who died lived nearby and people, who came near it, including first responders, exhibited the strongest symptoms of chemical exposure. One of the first photos of the crater, taken by first responders, shows what appears to be liquid on the asphalt. That would be consistent with the use of a bomb containing sarin, which is in liquid form at room temperature. The photos and videos of the crater show two remnants from the chemical weapon used: a twisted thin metal fragment with green paint and a smaller circular metal object. Green colouring is widely used on factory-produced weapons to signify that they are chemical. The KhAB-250, for example, one of two Soviet-produced bombs specifically designed to deploy sarin from a warplane, has two green bands. The circular object seen in photos of the crater appears similar to the cap covering the filling hole on the KhAB-250. These remnants, combined with witness observations, the victims’ symptoms, and the identification of sarin as the chemical used in the attack by the French and Turkish governments and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, suggest that the Syrian warplane dropped a factory-made sarin bomb. According to open source material, the KhAB-250 bomb, and its bigger version, the KhAB-500, are Soviet-produced bombs designed specifically to deliver sarin. Evidence suggests that the Khan Sheikhoun attack is not the first time government warplanes have dropped nerve agents in recent months. Witnesses described to Human Rights Watch symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents that they and other local residents experienced after warplanes attacked eastern Hama on 11 and 12 December 2016, and northern Hama, near Khan Sheikhoun, on 30 March 2017. The December attacks were in territory controlled by ISIS, which closely monitors communication, so it has been difficult to reach witnesses. But four witnesses interviewed by phone and two medical personnel interviewed via text message through intermediaries gave consistent accounts of the attacks. An opposition-affiliated activist and local residents provided the names of sixty-four people who died from chemical exposure in the December attacks. The suspected nerve agent attack in northern Hama on 30 March caused no deaths but injured dozens of people, both civilians and combatants, according to local residents, medical personnel, and first responders. All four suspected nerve agent attacks were in areas where offensives by armed forces fighting the government threatened government military air bases. Government forces’ use of chlorine-filled weapons has also become more widespread and systematic, Human Rights Watch said. During the last month of the battle for Aleppo city, which ended on 15 Dec 16, helicopters dropped multiple improvised chlorine-filled munitions in a pattern showing that the attacks were part of the overall military strategy to retake the city. Such attacks have continued more recently, for example in al-Lataminah in northern Hama. Since Jan 17, Human Rights Watch has also documented, for the first time since Aug 13, the use by government or pro-government ground forces of improvised surface-fired rockets containing chlorine to attack territory near Damascus controlled by armed groups fighting the government. Some of the chemical attacks hit residential areas far from the frontlines without any obvious military target and appear to have killed and injured only civilians, suggesting the Syrian government forces directed at least some of the attacks against the civilian population. The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons, including in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 Apr 17. While Russia has carried out aerial attacks in the areas where chemical attacks took place, Human Rights Watch has no information to indicate that Russian authorities have used chemical weapons. However, Russian forces continue to provide active military support to Syrian forces despite extensive evidence that the latter are using chemical weapons and unlawfully attacking civilians. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons, and requires their destruction. The prohibitions also apply to toxic chemicals with civilian uses, such as chlorine, when they are used as weapons. Syria became a party to the convention in Oct 13. Crimes against humanity consist of specific criminal acts committed on a widespread or systematic basis as part of an “attack on a civilian population,” meaning there is some degree of planning or policy to commit the crime. Such acts include murder and “other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.” The prohibition of crimes against humanity is among the most fundamental in international criminal law and can be the basis for individual criminal liability in international courts, as well as in some foreign domestic courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As close allies to Syria, providing active military backing and regular political support, Russia and Iran should pressure the Syrian government to immediately end its use of chemical weapons and to cooperate with investigators. Russia and Iran should cease cooperation with Syrian individuals and military units suspected of involvement in chemical attacks or other war crimes. Both Russia and China should stop using their veto power in the Security Council to block accountability for serious crimes in Syria and should support referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. On 12 Apr 17, the council failed to condemn the Khan Sheikhoun attack and demand that the Syrian government cooperate with investigators when Russia vetoed a proposed resolution. Meanwhile, all UN member states should support and fund the Syria accountability mechanism established by the UN General Assembly in Dec 16. “The Security Council has already declared that Syria’s past use of chemical weapons is a threat to international security,” Roth said. “As that use continues, it is shameful that Russia prevents the council from even demanding Syria cooperate with investigators.”
Syria/Chinese Uyghur’s – Up to 5,000 ethnic Uighurs from China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang are fighting in various militant groups in Syria, the Syrian ambassador to China said on the 8 May 17, adding that Beijing should be extremely concerned about it. China is worried that Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for militants there, having travelled illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey. ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing of a Chinese hostage in 2015, highlighting China’s concern about Uighurs it says are fighting in the Middle East. Hundreds of people have been killed in Xinjiang in the past few years, most in unrest between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese. The government blames the unrest on Islamist militants who want a separate state called East Turkestan. Syria’s ambassador in Beijing, Imad Moustapha, told Reuters on the sidelines of a business forum that while some of the Uighurs were fighting with Islamic State, most were fighting “under their own banner” to promote their separatist cause. “Our estimated numbers, because of the numbers we fight against, we kill, we capture, we wound, would be around 4-5,000 Xinjiang jihadists,” he said. “China as well as every other country should be extremely concerned.” Beijing has never given a number for how many Uighurs it believes are fighting in the Middle East, but has repeatedly warned they pose a serious threat to China. It is not possible to independently verify the number of Uighurs in Syria. Rights groups and Uighur exiles say many Uighurs have fled to Turkey simply to escape Chinese repression at home, accusations Beijing denies. Moustapha said China did not pick favourites with rebel groups, like Western countries, and China and Syria were cooperating to fight the threat. “They don’t have a mixed message,” he said, referring to China. “They understand the true nature of the ultra-Islamic jihadi doctrine of these groups. Yes, we do exchange information and a little bit more than information regarding these terrorist groups,” he said, without elaborating. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television in Mar 17, praised “crucial cooperation” between Syria and Chinese intelligence against Uighur militants. He said ties with China were “on the rise”. Syria is trying to woo back Chinese investment, with a group of about 30 Syrian businessman meeting about 100 Chinese representatives over two days in Beijing. Moustapha said he would be attending next week’s summit on China’s new Silk Road plan, which aims to expand links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. Aboud Sarrouf, chairman of the Sarrouf Group and member of the Syria-China Business Council, said they were hoping to get Chinese investment to help repair war-damaged infrastructure. “They are preparing and waiting for the right time. They are a little bit reluctant and hesitating,” he told Reuters, referring to Chinese companies. “But we’re coming here to start preparing the foundation.” Syria may have difficulty encouraging back Chinese companies. Paul Liu, chief executive of Chinese steel products firm Sino Sources, said he wanted to hear about opportunities in Syria but was concerned about security. “If the government thinks things are not dependable, then we’ll first plan and then execute later,” Liu said.
Syria/Jordan/Da’esh – Two car bombs killed at least six people and wounded several others in Syria's sprawling Rukban refugee camp near the border with Jordan late on the 15 May 17 a rebel official and a resident said, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State militant group. One explosion was near a restaurant and the second targeted the camp's market nearby, they said. "There are at least six civilians dead and the number is expected to rise," said Mohammad Adnan, a rebel official from Jaish Ahrar al-Ashair who runs the policing of the camp. Islamic State said in a statement on its Amaq news agency its fighters "carried out the Rukban camp attack", according to the U.S.-based SITE monitoring group. It gave no further details. In January, a car bomb killed a number of people in the camp, and Islamic State militants have since launched attacks on Syrian rebels in the area. Rukban, near the joint Syria-Iraq-Jordan border, is home to refugees and also to rebel groups, including the Jaish Ahrar al-Ashair, which fight both President Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State movement. It was also hit by bomb attacks last year.