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With Russia entering the fold, where is the Syrian crisis headed?

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Vladimir Putin

By Harshmeet Singh

The ongoing Syrian crisis is bringing together two of the most unexpected nations at a single stage, the USA and Russia. While the USA led alliance has been carrying out airstrikes in the IS (Islamic State) captured areas for quite a while, Russia’s entry into the Syrian crisis couldn’t have come any sooner.

Though the recent air strikes carried out by Russia in Syria surprised quite a few, it must be understood that Russia has always had a keen eye on Syria. To put things into perspective, Syria’s Tartus holds the only naval base of Russia outside the countries that formed the Soviet Union. Russia was one of the few countries that supported the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad during the deadly civil war in the country. It even used all its force to shoot down a proposal in the UNSC which was seeking to remove Assad from the Presidency. Over the past few years of the Syrian unrest, Russia has been continuously offering financial and military help to the Syrian administration, without getting directly involved in the domestic upheaval.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

But with Russia now sending its troops to Syria, the earlier dynamics seem to have changed. Experts are of the view that Mr. Putin is trying to increase the stature of Russia at the world stage and bring back its old glory. But with the Russian troops short of real war experience for many decades, this move can easily backfire. While at the outset it may seem that both the US and Russia are throwing their weight in Syria to bring back normalcy, the fact remains that US is as big a critic of the Assad regime as big a supporter Assad has in the form of Russia.

Russia’s increased participation in Syria has also invited sharp reactions from many other countries. The US led coalition, for instance, which also includes Turkey, has asked Russia to put an end to its air strikes, alleging that the Russian planes are targeting innocent civilians and that it would “only fuel more extremism”. Russia, on the other hand, says that it is exclusively targeting IS sites. These strikes were Russia’s first active military operation outside the states of former Soviet Union, ever since the cold war ended in 1991.

Several meetings were held between the Russia officials and the leaders of the US led coalition on the sidelines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly. Giving minimal attention to the concerns of the US led coalition, a senior official from the Russian ranks said that the air strikes would continue for another 3-4 months. There is another ongoing conspiracy theory behind the scenes, according to which the Russian planes are exclusively targeting the Syrian rebels who are being supported by the US led alliance to overthrow the Assad regime. Whatever the actual dynamics of the situation be, this habit of world powers of battling against each other at a battleground of the third country only brings destruction to innocent people.

 

The author is a Freelance writer. This piece was exclusively written for NewsGram.

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Exposed! Paradise Papers reveal Tax-haven Secrets of the Super-rich! Even Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t been spared!

The publication of this investigation for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years comes at a time of growing global income inequality.

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paradise papers
Paradise Papers expose tax haven secrets of ultra-wealthy, including Queen Elizabeth. The details come from a leak of 13.4 million files that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive - and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth. VOA

London, November 6, 2017 : A huge new leak of financial documents has revealed how the powerful and ultra-wealthy including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate secretly invest vast amounts of cash in different offshore tax havens, media reports said on Monday.

The details come from a leak of 13.4 million files in the Paradise Papers on Sunday that expose the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive – and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthiest corporations can legally protect their wealth.

The material which has come from two offshore service providers and the company registries of 19 tax havens was obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) with 100 other media organisations including the Guardian, the BBC and The New York Times.

Some of the revelations in the Paradise Papers include millions of pounds from Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate that has been invested in a Cayman Islands fund and some of her money that went to a retailer accused of exploiting poor families and vulnerable people.

Paradise Papers detail extensive offshore dealings by US President Donald Trump’s cabinet members advisers and donors including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The leak shows how social media giants Twitter and Facebook received millions in investments that can be traced back to Russian state financial institutions along with aggressive tax avoidance by multinational corporations including Nike and Apple.

It also includes information about a tax-avoiding Cayman Islands trust managed by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief wealth manager.

The leak also includes how some of the biggest names in the film and TV industries protect their wealth with an array of offshore schemes and the complex offshore webs used by two Russian billionaires to buy stakes in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

The disclosures will put pressure on world leaders including Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

The publication of this investigation for which more than 380 journalists have spent a year combing through data that stretches back 70 years comes at a time of growing global income inequality.

Offshore finance is about a place outside of one’s own nation’s regulations to which companies or individuals can reroute money assets or profits to take advantage of lower taxes reports the BBC.

These jurisdictions are known as tax havens to the layman or the more stately offshore financial centres (OFCs) to the industry. They are generally stable secretive and reliable often small islands but not exclusively so and can vary on how rigorously they carry out checks on wrongdoing. (IANS)

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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Indians Missing in Mosul: V.K. Singh in Iraq to Co-ordinate Search Opertion

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V.K Singh will co-ordinate search operation for 39 Indian
V.K Singh will co-ordinate search operation for 39 Indians who went Missing in Mosul. IANS

New Delhi, October 27: After the government sought DNA samples from the next of kin of the 39 Indians Missing in Mosul, Iraq three years ago, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is again visiting the country to seek an update.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveeh Kumar said on Friday that Singh’s visit “is to talk to people”.

“He has met a range of people in Iraq. And also to get an update on the 39 missing Indians in Iraq,” Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.

He said that on Thursday Singh was in Mosul city where the Indians went missing.

Last week, the families of the 39 Indians were asked to provide their DNA samples but no reason was provided, the kin said.

It was in June 2014 that the 39 Indians, mostly from Punjab, went missing in Mosul town when it was overrun by the Islamic State. Their families continue to hope the men are alive but also fear the worst.

Singh had visited Iraq in July too in this connection.(IANS)