Infographic: 15th anniversary of US war on Iraq

Fifteen years have passed since US-led forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, but the aftermath is still vividly felt across the country till this day.

At the time, Washington alleged it is deploying troops on Iraqi soil because of a threat to its national security and international peace caused by Iraq’s possession and development of weapons of mass destruction. The US’ argument eventually proved to be invalid after eight years of armed presence in Iraq failed to reveal any cac

The power vacuum after then longtime President Saddam Hussein was toppled and the re-ignition of sectarian flames pushed the country into chaos, setting the stage for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014. The terrorist group’s quick territorial gains plunged Iraq into further turmoil, bringing more destruction and terror.

It is always civilians who suffer the most. According to estimates, the death toll of Iraqi civilians during the US occupation reached 134,000 – and bloodshed and instability continued under ISIL’s shadow.

Data from the United Nations shows that 5.4 million civilians have fled their homes between 2014 and 2017 when the extremist group was wreaking havoc on Iraqi territory.

With ISIL officially defeated late last year, reconstruction efforts are cautiously resuming in the country for the second time in less than a decade.

he of such weapons.

US-ROK joint military drills to resume despite thaw with DPRK

The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US will resume their joint military drills that were suspended in January until the end of PyeonChang Winter Games, to which the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) sent its athletes.

“The exercises are expected to resume on April 1, at a scale similar to that of the previous years,” a spokesperson for South Korea’s defense ministry said.

The decision came amid easing in tensions on the Korean Peninsula following rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The DPRK has yet to comment on Washington and Seoul’s decision to return to their military exercises, which it had long criticized.

Assad visits Eastern Ghouta as military continues bombardment

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad made an unannounced visit to Ghouta on Sunday. The Damascus suburb has been the scene of heavy fighting, and rebel leaders are pursuing peace talks after months of airstrikes and heavy bombardment.

Al-Assad met with Syrian army units on the frontlines of Ghouta. This was his first trip to the region in years.

Assad told soldiers that “every tank driver who advances one meter forward has changed the political map of the world.”


About 600 meters from where the president was standing, Syrian army units pressed ahead with their offensive, taking the town of Saqba.

In the past month, Syrian military units backed by Russian and Syrian airstrikes have managed to advance in Eastern Ghouta, the last major insurgent bastion near Damascus. The Syrian military managed to slice the suburb into three separate parts. Syrian military officials told CGTN that government forces now control over 70 percent of rebel areas, and that more than 25,000 civilians have crossed into government safe areas.

The UN describes the situation of those still inside as “dire,” and says the humanitarian situation has worsened for those who remain trapped. The UN estimated the population of Ghouta at more than 400,000 when the offensive began. Government sources rejected the report and said the number is exaggerated.

Meanwhile, according to Syrian state TV, Damascus had reportedly given rebels in one of the three zones in Ghouta until 3 p.m. on Sunday to surrender. Government sources say though the deadline is over, there is still room for talking.

Another rebel faction in control of the southern part of Ghouta says it is negotiating with the UN for a ceasefire. The region is controlled by Faylaq Al-Rahman, and is the closest to the capital.

Rebels say that surrendering and leaving isn’t an option, but a senior military source tells CGTN that the only option Damascus has on the table is a full rebel departure out of Ghouta.

Putin wins 2018 presidential election with landslide victory


Incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to secure a landslide victory in the 2018 Russian presidential election. A preliminary result released by the Russian Central Electoral Commission shows that Putin is now leading with over 76.66 percent of the vote. It is well above the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off. As of 6:36 Moscow Time (3:36 GMT),99.63 percent of ballots had been processed.

An unexpected higher turnout 

The Presidential Election this year has seen a relatively higher turnout than this time in 2012. The turnout is currently at 67 percent with 99.63 percent of votes counted, slightly higher than the 65 percent turnout in 2012.

Participation in Russian presidential elections has been declining slowly since they were first held in 1991, when it was well above 74 percent. In 2002, when Putin ran for president, it fell to under 69 percent. Russian experts have explained this trend by saying that ordinary people showed less political activity when their life was stable and secure.

“It is nonsense and absurd to claim that Russia would do anything like that before the elections and the World Cup,” Putin said as he denied that Russia was behind the poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Shortly after the preliminary result was announced, Putin talked to reporters at his election campaign HQ about important issues.

Putin explained, “There is no such substances in Russia. we destroyed all our chemical weapons as monitored by international inspectors. We did this first, unlike some of our partners who did not fulfill their promise. We are ready for cooperation.”

It is the first time that he has touched on the issue. But the UK spy poisoning scandal did add a fresh layer to this year’s election.

Moscow said it is open to working with London to investigate the poisoning if the UK is willing. Putin said Russia is ready to cooperate, discuss and overcome any difficulties with London.


The president has promised to boost living standards for ordinary Russians. Personal incomes have been stagnant, although inflation has remained relatively low. The country’s economy is slowly returning to growth after a two-year recession. However, far-reaching reforms in problem areas such as pensions and healthcare are not expected.

Relations overseas, particularly in the West, are tense in the wake of allegations of election-meddling in Europe and the US, cyber-attacks, involvement in Ukraine and Syria, as well as the recent accusation relating to the poisoning of Skripal. Western sanctions remain in place, and the US and UK have added new measures over the past week.

Yto Barrada wrestles with the ghosts of Agadir

13 MARCH 2018

Selma Blair was only joking about Cameron Diaz retiring from acting

“Cameron Diaz is not retiring from anything. And for more breaking news: I am now retiring from being Cameron Diaz’s spokesperson.”

Yesterday, we were startled to hear that Cameron Diaz had quietly retired from acting. The ‘news’ came courtesy of her friend and The Sweetest Thing co-star Selma Blair, who told reporters at a party for Vanity Fair that Diaz was “done” with making films.

“I had lunch with Cameron the other day,” said Blair. “We were reminiscing about the film [The Sweetest Thing]. I would have liked to do a sequel but Cameron’s retired from acting. She’s like ‘I’m done’.

“She doesn’t need to make any more films. She has a pretty great life, I don’t know what it would take to bring her back. She’s happy.’”

Now, this seemed like a pretty big deal to us, given that Diaz has featured in some of our favourite feelgood films of the last 25 years. But Blair has now clarified her comments, saying that they were meant as a joke, and Diaz isn’t really quitting Hollywood.

“Guys please, I was making a joke in an interview,” Blair wrote on Twitter. “CAMERON DIAZ is NOT retiring from ANYTHING. And for more breaking news: I am NOW retiring from being Cameron Diaz’s spokesperson.”

📠📺☎️👩🏻‍🏫 BREAKING NEWS 🚨🚨🚨. Guys please, I was making a joke in an interview. CAMERON DIAZ is NOT retiring from ANYTHING. And for more breaking news: I am NOW retiring from being Cameron Diaz’s spokesperson. 🎙

In a tweet to another Twitter user, Blair said that she was surprised anyone had picked up on her remarks: “Oh dear. I didn’t know anyone really listened to what I said until I mention [sic] a super star.”

To be fair to Blair, Diaz has noticeably stepped out of the limelight in recent years. At a ‘Wellness Summit’ for Gwyneth Paltrow’s brand Goop in 2017, she explained that the constant travel from film set to film set had become overwhelming.

“I just went, ‘I can’t really say who I am to myself,’” she said. “Which is a hard thing to face up to. I felt the need to make myself whole.”

But if you’ve ever made a joke that went over people’s heads, you’ll be able to relate to Blair. Sending sympathy and solidarity, Selma: we know what it’s like to have a light-hearted remark be taken the wrong way.

Images: Getty Images

Russia, Iran, Turkey to Discuss Syria in Astana

ERBIL — The Kazakh Presidential spokesperson Aidos Ukibi said in a written statement that the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Turkey plan to meet in the Kazakh capital of Astana, to discuss Syria and its civil war.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to talk the Astana process on Syria on March 16, it revealed.

Iraqi Military Reportedly Finds US Army Rations in Cave Used by Daesh (PHOTOS)

The cave may have been used as a staging area from which the jihadists could rest and eat.

Directorate 4, a Telegram channel monitoring the security situation in Iraq and Syria, reported the find, saying that US MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) individual field rations packaging was found in the terrorists’ cave.

“Daesh shelter found by Iraqi forces in southern Mosul.”

The channel explained that in addition to caches of weapons and ammunition, the Iraqi military has also been finding these kinds of Daesh (ISIS)* underground shelters where the jihadists could get a bit of rest and relaxation. Directorate 4 added that it can be assumed that some of these secret facilities continue to be used.

A view shows damaged buildings in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria February 19, 2014

The Syrian and Iraqi militaries have been finding large stocks of weapons, ammunition, and other supplies in territories once controlled by Daesh. On Monday, Syrian Army units discovered a massive pile of US and European-made weapons inside Daesh hideouts near the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.Daesh declared a ‘caliphate’ in Iraq in 2014, capturing Mosul, the city’s second-largest city, and expanding west into Syria. With the combined efforts of the Iraqi military and the Kurdish militias and the support of the US-led coalition, the terrorist group was driven out of Iraq; the Syrian Army and its Russian and Iranian allies have fought to liberate the Daesh-controlled areas of Syria, with Kurdish forces doing their part in northern Syria. As of late February 2018, the terrorists’ holdings have been reduced to a few isolated pockets of territory in eastern Syria.

*Terrorist group banned in Russia.

Hashd al-Shaabi Deploys More Forces to Kirkuk: Official

ERBIL – Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias have deployed two more squads to Kirkuk province to prevent the Kurds raise the Kurdish flag in the city during the upcoming Kurdish traditional events in March , said an official.

“The militiamen of Hashd al-Shaabi usually harass and mistreat the Kurdish citizens overnight, they sometimes arrest them,” KDP’s spokesperson to Kirkuk Adnan Karkuki told BasNews.

“The Iranian-backed militiamen of Hashd al-Shaabi have mobilized more forces to Kirkuk in order to prevent the Kurdish flag to be used in the Kurdish new year Nawroz day,” he added.

In October last year, the Iraqi army in coordination with the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi invaded the disputed areas in the Kurdistan Region. As a result, hundreds of civilians were killed and 200,000 were displaced.

Hundreds of Civilians Flee Afrin as Turkish Army Advances: Monitor