As many as 8,500 US troops have been put on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe as Russian troops mass on Ukraine’s border, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

Kirby said that the “bulk of” US troops placed on heightened alert were intended to bolster NATO’s quick response force, but added they would be “postured to be ready for any other contingencies as well.”

As of Monday afternoon, no final decision to deploy the troops had been made, Kirby emphasized.

German court verdict against Anwar Raslan a former Syrian intelligence officer, will not bring justice to all Syrians, but it is nevertheless a momentous achievement.

While Anwar Raslan is just one of the hundreds of members of Bashar al-Assad’s security and intelligence apparatus who are responsible for state-sponsored torture and countless other atrocities over the past 10 and a half years, his individual conviction carries a much wider meaning. It is a damning legal indictment of the Syrian regime as a whole.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has spread in a dozen Iranian provinces, bringing confirmed cases to 43, Iran health ministry announced on Thursday.

Iran was the second country after China where the coronavirus spread in in early 2020 and Covid-19 became an epidemic, but the government was slow to admit the crisis and act to contain it, leading to the worst Covid crisis in the Middle East.

Iran has announced that it has closed all its land and sea borders to non-Iranians for 15 days, but air travel is still ongoing except from eight African and four European countries, namely England, France, Norway and Denmark.

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that any entry of Russian troops into Ukraine will be treated by the West as “an invasion,” as he tried to clarify confusion over an earlier suggestion that a “minor” attack could invite a lesser response.

However, expanding on comments he made Wednesday that a “minor incursion” by Russia would be treated differently, Biden said that Moscow would not necessarily mount a standard invasion and that “we have to be ready.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted Thursday that he wanted “to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions.”

A Lebanese American man’s survivors, who filed an ambitious lawsuit last year alleging Lebanon’s security agency kidnapped and tortured him before he died in the U.S., hope to find an opening after the agency recently responded in an American court.

In its filing, the Lebanese security agency claimed the lawsuit falsely accuses it and its director of “serious crimes of kidnapping, torture and killing at the direction or aid of alleged terrorist organizations.”

The family’s lawsuit filed in Washington in May initially argued it was possible to sue Iran under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act as it has been designated as a “state sponsor of terrorism” since 1984. The suit also described Hezbollah, now both a dominant political and militant force in Lebanon, as an “instrument” of Iran.

The trial of Iranian-Swedish dissident Habib Chaab started in Tehran on Tuesday, state television showed, with charges including terrorism and “spreading corruption on earth” punishable by the death sentence.

He is accused of spreading corruption on earth through the formation, management and leadership of a group called the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz and planning and carrying out terrorist operations and destroying public property.

Tehran designates the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) a terrorist group, and blames it for a string of attacks in the southwestern Khuzestan province.

Kuwait has condemned in the strongest terms the cowardly terrorist drone attack by the Houthi militia that targeted civilian facilities which resulted in the death of three civilians and the injury of others.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry said the attack is a “deliberate attempt” by the Houthis to violate the basic principles of international laws and conventions.

Iran is once more trying to find channels to pay its dues to the United Nations despite sanctions by the United States to regain its lost voting rights.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced earlier this week that Iran and seven other countries have had their voting rights suspended over late dues.

Iran had also lost its voting rights last year when the United States sanctions had prevented access to its billions of dollars of money frozen abroad.

In October 2019, a government decision to impose a tax on WhatsApp users unleashed unprecedented mass popular protests in Lebanon that grew into demands for the ouster of corrupt and inept political leaders.

Over two years later, the leaders are still in power and the whole communications sector is on the verge of collapse and Lebanon is in danger of losing its Internet connection.

The Internet is connecting the whole country, and the risk of disconnection affects all the sectors: the security services, airport, banks, central bank, medical and educational institutions and the judiciary.

People in Lebanon took to the streets, on Thursday, in a number of cities in what protesters called “day of rage” against the deteriorating living conditions, the free fall of the Lebanese currency and a sharp rise in fuel prices

The Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2022 said “corrupt and incompetent” Lebanese authorities have deliberately plunged the country into one of the worst economic crises in modern times, demonstrating a disregard for the rights of the population.

Almost 80 per cent of Lebanon’s population now lives under the poverty line, with 36 per cent in extreme poverty.


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