Suicide attack kills 20 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard

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Wednesday 13th February 2019 19:45:35 in English News by Xafiiska Hargeysa
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    Suicide attack kills 20 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard

    Deadly attack took place near the Pakistan border where armed groups and drug smugglers operate.

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Deadly attack took place near the Pakistan border where armed groups and drug smugglers operate.

Twenty members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard were killed in a suicide attack in the southeast of the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency, citing what it described as an "informed source", reported the attack on the security forces in Iran's Sistan and Baluchistan province on Wednesday.

The province, which lies on a major opium trafficking route, has seen occasional clashes between Iranian forces and Baluch separatists, as well as drug traffickers.

The attack happened on the road between the cities of Zahedan and Khash, a volatile area near the Pakistan border where armed groups and drug smugglers frequently operate.

Ten members of the Guard were also wounded in the suicide car-bomb attack, which targeted a bus transporting the security force, Iran'sFars news reported.

The Jaish al-Adl armed group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Fars.

The attack came on the day of aUS-led conference in Warsawthat included discussions on what the United States describes as Iran's "malign influence" across the wider Middle East.

The Guard is a major economic and military power in Iran, answerable only to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While Iran has been enmeshed in the wars engulfing Syria and neighbouring Iraq, it largely has avoided the bloodshed plaguing the region.

In 2009, more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack in Sistan and Baluchistan province.

Most recently, an attack on a military parade in September 2018 in Iran's oil-rich southwest killed more than 20 and wounded about 60.

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US-led Middle East summit in Warsaw: All you need to know

Widely perceived as a US attempt to isolate Iran, Arab and European delegates will gather alongside Israel's Netanyahu.

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Warsaw, Poland- AUnited States-led two-day summit on "peace and security" in the Middle East started on Wednesday - a gathering denounced by uninvited Iran as "dead on arrival".

The meeting was first announced last month by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his strongly worded anti-Iranspeech in Cairo and has been widely perceived as an effort to rally world powers behind Washington's vision against Tehran.

But the conference comes at a sensitive moment as the European Union is trying to prop up JCPOA, the2015 nuclear dealwhich was signed to prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. TheUS withdrew from the dealafter President Donald Trump's May 2018 decision.

Here are five things to know about the Warsaw summit, which has a cumbersome official title: Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East.

What's the summit about and who's attending?

After a lukewarm reception by invited parties, the angle of the conference focused on broader subjects of security in the region.

Poland has been resisting the urge to turn the summit into a propagandistic anti-Iranian meeting, underscoring its commitment to JCPOA, but as Poland's former ambassador to Afghanistan Piotr Lukasiewicz told Al Jazeera: "[Poland] has lost control over the general message of the conference to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia."

 

It is still unclear exactly who will attend, but Tehran officials are missing from the guest list; the meeting was planned by Brian Hook, Trump's special envoy on Iran and head of the Iran action group.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to speak to US Vice President Mike Pence, who will address the conference, with Pompeo in attendance.

Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is expected to make a rare speaking appearance on Thursday.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be there but has said he primarily wants to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen - a war which his country is involved in.

Other European countries will send lower-level delegates and some Arab countries are sending delegations led by ministers.

Who won't be there?

Chief EU diplomat Federica Mogherini said she would not attend

Russia, Iran's key ally, declined the invitation.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil announced on Monday that he would not attend the summit, as well as Palestinian officials who have dubbed the conference a US-Israeli "conspiracy aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause".

Why now?

The conference comes as the US starts its policy of disengagement in the region.Trump announced in December last year thewithdrawal of US troops from Syria.

Warsaw represents the first attempt by the Trump administration to build a coalition.

The stakes are high, according to Lukasiewicz, because the outcome might help determine who will fill Washington's role.

"The US has chosenIsraelas its ally long time ago.Saudi Arabiaseems to be another intercessor of American interests in the region," he said. "The Palestinian issue seems to become a silent victim of the unofficial rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran".

The meeting in Warsaw could be the first of many, said Patrycja Sasnal from the Polish Institute of Foreign Affairs.

"The US wants to create a forum where Israel and the Sunni Arab countries meet, given that they have not established diplomatic relations yet," she said. "For the US, the summit is an alternative to JCPOA that is supposed to put more pressure on Iran and force it back to the negotiation table, this time regarding its regional policy and missile programme."

It seems that this is what Iran fears too.

Critics in Tehran argue that European countries should have shown a stronger stance against US policy.

"Even though some EU countries will send lower-level diplomats, their flag is going to be there. We expect the EU to be criticising US and holding a summit to analyse US foreign policy in the region, rather than participating in a conference geared to attack Iran," said Foad Izadi, professor of international studies at Tehran University.

Where do Europe and Poland stand?

The rejection of the summit by some Europeans "reflects that although EU countries have problems with Iran's regional behaviour, they don't believe how the US is addressing this problem is constructive for security and stability in the region." said Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Poland's decision to host the event highlights a wedge between EU countries, according to Ali Fathollah-Nejad, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. "Not all member-states align with what the E3 (Germany, UK and France) are aiming for," he said.

It is a multilateral forum and Europe can demand the inclusion of Iran in further rounds of talks. Any viable architecture of peace and stability in the region has to include Iran anyway.

PATRYCJA SASNAL FROM THE POLISH INSTITUTE OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Even if all EU countries shared the same position on the nuclear agreement, "the overall mood in Europe vis-a-vis Iran has become more critical, given Iranian assassination attempts that took place on EU soil as well as Iran's ballistic missiles that could reach Eastern Europe."

The timing of the Warsaw summit could suggest that the US is aware of the friction within Europe over Iran, and is eager to deepen the gap.

The fact Warsaw is the host could be centred on security concerns; Poland is trying to establish a permanent US military presence to counter Russia's regional ambitions.

What's expected to happen?

While the US seems determined to use Warsaw to expand its anti-Iran coalition beyond Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, experts doubt Washington will succeed.

"There won't be a tangible outcome with a statement that isolate[s] Iran," said Geranmayeh. "European countries are going to be very cautious on what statement they will sign or to join any conclusion that point[s] fingers on Iran."

According to Sasnal, a lot depends on who is going to participate in the event. The attendance of states without hostile relations with Iran would soften the general message of the conference.

European states could use this opportunity to exert pressure on Iran while keeping the JCPOA alive. "But for this, Europe has to present a unified front," Sasnal said.

The summit could also be used to tamp down Washington's anti-Iran position.

"It is a multilateral forum and Europe can demand the inclusion of Iran in further rounds of talks," said Sasnal. "Any viable architecture of peace and stability in the region has to include Iran anyway."

SOURCE:AL JAZEERA NEWS

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jan Smolenski is a journalist and political scientist based in Warsaw, Poland.

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Venezuela's Guaido says he's working to restore ties with Israel

Self-declared president says he's also open to relocating Venezuela's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

 
Venezuela shunned Israel in 2009 over the war in Gaza where more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
Venezuela shunned Israel in 2009 over the war in Gaza where more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
 

Juan Guaido, Venezuela's self-declared president, has said he's working to restore ties with Israel a decade after Venezuela severed relations with it in solidarity with the Palestinians.

GuaidotoldIsrael Hayomnewspaperon Tuesday: "I am very happy to report that the process of stabilising relations with Israel is at its height."

"First we'll restore the relations, then we'll announce the appointment of an ambassador to Israel, and we very much hope an envoy will come here from Israel," he said.

Guaido, who is backed by the United States, also said he was weighing whether to relocate Venezuela's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"I will declare the resumption of ties and the site of the embassy at the proper time," he said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem recognised as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, including the eastern sector that it annexed in 1967in violation of international law.

'Mossad are trying to kill me'

Last month, Israel joined the US, the UK and a host of European countries in recognising Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

However, President Nicolas Maduro - who won elections in 2018 with67.7percentof the vote -retains the support ofstate institutions including the military andRussia and China.

Guaido's embassy announcement could mark a sharp shift in Venezuelan foreign policy, which has traditionally backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Under Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, Venezuela cut ties with Israel over its actions in the 2008-2009 war in Gaza.

The 22-day land, naval and air bombardment saw more than 1,400 Palestinians killed, thousands injured, and massive damage to infrastructure, including homes, factories and schools.

At a rally in 2010, Chavez alsoallegedthat Israel was "financing the Venezuelan opposition" against him.

"There are even groups of Israeli terrorists, of the Mossad, who are after me trying to kill me," he said.

Guaido has vowed that the opposition, which he has regalvanised after several years of infighting, will keep protesting against Maduro until new presidential elections could be held.

The opposition has been holding regular protests and on Tuesday held a vigil demanding that aid being blocked by Maduro be let in.

Maduro's government insists aid is not needed and that the US is using it as an excuse to get its hands on Venezuela's abundant oil reserves, replicating the US's military interventions in Iraq and Libya.

In a separate development on Tuesday, Russia said it was ready to help resolve Venezuela's crisis but warned the US against intervening in Caracas's internal affairs.

SOURCE:AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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