Gaza Truce Holds for Second Day, While Fighting Continues in Other Parts of the Middle East and Ukraine

Luckovich cartoon: Mideast fighting

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For the second day now, a ceasefire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has ended the month long fighting ahead of negotiations in Cairo for a long term truce and broader deal for the Gaza Strip, the Associate Press reports, Cease-fire in Gaza holds for second day. On Wednesday, delegations from both sides plus Egyptian mediators met in Cairo to work out a deal with some of Hamas’ negotiating points including an internationally funded reconstruction of Gaza, which would be overseen by a Palestinian unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas. The ceasefire is the longest pause in the war that killed 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis including three civilians. The lull in the violence allowed people to return to their devastated homes and inspect the damage.

In Ukraine, the story changes as Ukrainian government forces backed by warplanes advanced their military offensive to reclaim lost territory from pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday and cautiously watched Russia’s military exercises over the border, according to Richard Blamforth, Ukraine Fighting Intensifies Amid Tensions With Russia. In the 24 hours up to Tuesday morning, Kiev’s military said government forces clashed 26 times with separatists in the east as fighter jets struck at rebel positions and concentrations of military equipment. In addition, Ukraine condemned Russian war games near the joint border as provocation and violating Ukrainian air space by Russian warplanes and drones as well as cross border shelling. Defense officials said separatist on Tuesday opened fire on unarmed Ukrainian Soldiers crossing back into Ukraine from Russia where they took shelter from fighting. Ukraine confirmed Monday that 311 soldiers and border guards were forced by fighting to cross the border saying they destroyed their weapons before crossing back, however, the rebels said they left them behind allowing separatists to seize them. In the past 24 hours, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 46 wounded in action against separatists. Fighting since April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said more than 1,100 people including government forces, rebels and civilians have died, while 730,000 Ukrainians have left the country into Russia this year due to fighting according to the European head of the United Nations agency for refugees. Defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that Ukrainian forces had come under mortar and artillery attack from Russia and Russia has been violating Ukrainian airspace with Russian planes. In addition to a foreign ministry statement calling for Russia to pull back its forces, he said, “Ukraine regards the carrying out of such unprecedented military exercises on the border with Ukraine as a provocation.”

On Wednesday, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters that Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State fighters 25 miles from Arbil in norther Iraq, the Kurdish regional capital, Reuters reports, Kurds, Islamic State clash near Kurdish regional capital. Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the ministry of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters, said: “We have changed our tactics from being defensive to being offensive. Now we are clashing with the Islamic State in Makhmur.” Yawar also confirmed that the Kurds have re-established military cooperation with Baghdad after a dramatic weekend offensive in the north by the Sunni militants prompted the Kurdish leadership and the Shi’ite led governments of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to bury the hatchet. The two, who previously fought over oil, budgets and land, now are working together against the biggest threat to Iraq’s security since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Yawar said 50,000 members of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority are hiding in the mountains near Sinjar and risk starving to death if they are not rescued in 24 hours.

Meanwhile Wednesday, in Lebanon, state media reported clashes breaking out in a border town held by Islamic extremists from Syria after negotiating a cease fire, mediate by Muslim clerics, collapsed overnight, the Associate Press reports, New clashes break out in Lebanese border town. The ceasefire was meant to help end four days of fighting in Arsal and allow for the negotiations for the release of captive Lebanese solders, however, the National News Agency reported fighting again early Wednesday with militants firing on troops. So far, 17 Lebanese troops have died and 22 soldiers and an unknown number of police are missing.

While fighting continues, migrants flow into Europe in alarming numbers causing tension in France where clashes between asylum seekers in camps and police broke out as tear gas is fired to quell the chaos, Elaine Ganley reports, Migrants clash in France as camp tensions soar. Sudanese and Eritreans battle the heat in Calais, a port city in France, while Africans fight for space and try to sneak into Britain some 20 miles away. British police tried to prevent people from crossing over as their french counterparts fired tear gas Tuesday to break up this third battle which left 51 injured and one critical, according to the Calais prefecture. Migrants fleeing poverty and war in African and the Middle East arrive in Calais with hopes of crossing the channel using the ferry or on cargo laden trucks. Their numbers have increase up to 1,300 in the city at the edge of the English Channel overwhelming the city, aid agencies and police. Deputy Mayor Philippe Mignonet, in charge of security, said, “There are migrants who arrive each day and each day some who succeed in getting to Britain. Calais has been taken hostage.” The Monday night and twice Tuesday clashes were a culmination of a month long tug of war between Calais and migrants after the city bulldozed makeshift camps in May and the migrants then occupied a food distribution center but were expelled. Now, authorities want to expel hundreds in two abandoned factories causing migrants to turn on each other. Noemie Bourdet of aid group Secours Catholique in Calais believes the clashes are over a place at a parking lot where smugglers didn’t ask for payments, even though, migrants are usually forced to pay for a place in line in a parking lot where trucks leave for Britain. In addition, Bourdet addressed the charge that Calasi migrants are simply a security problem: “They expel them without solutions.” However, Mignonet disagrees: “It is a doubly catastrophic situation for us. People only talk of Calais for its migrant problems … This seriously hurts the city’s image.”

Israel Continues its Strike, More MH17 Remains Found, Rebels Cross into Lebanon and Grim Finacial News for 11 Countries


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Editorial Cartoonist Ann Telnaes


On Sunday, U.N. official said 10 people were killed at a Unite Nations school sheltering displaced people in the southern Gaza Strip apparently hit by an Israeli airstrike even after Israel announced a possible scaling back in its operation, the Associated Press reported, Gaza: 10 dead after strike near UN school. The Israeli military had no comment on the Rafah school strike but did day it was redeploying along the Gaza border for a new phase of the operation to stop rockets fired toward Israel and destroy Hamas’ tunnel network. Lt. Col Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, explained, “We have indeed scaled down some of the presence and indeed urged Palestinians in certain neighborhoods to come back to their homes.” While security officials confirm the tunnel operation is winding down and Israel will be taking its troops out of the strip, Israeli airstrikes and tank shellings continued, according to Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra, that killed 10 people and wounded 35 after the strike near the boys’ sch00l in Rafah. Robert Turner, the director of operations for the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, said preliminary finding indicate the blast was an Israeli airstrike near the school that shelter 3,000 people and confirmed one U.N. staffer was killed. He added, “The locations of all these installations have been passed to the Israeli military multiple times. They know where these shelters are. How this continues to happen, I have no idea. I have no words for it. I don’t understand it.” The Israeli military said it is looking into it. Inside the compound, several bodies including children were laying in puddles of blood strewn across the ground, while some of the wounded were taken to the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah and others were treated in makeshift clinics. At least six U.N. facilities have been struck by Israeli fire since the beginning drawing international condemnation and in each case Israel claims it was responding to militants launching rockets nearby. The death toll in these four weeks of fighting comes to 1,750 Palestinians mostly civilians killed and 70 Israelis mostly soldiers killed. Al-Kidra said 50 Palestinians were killed on Sunday including 10 members of one family in a single strike in southern Gaza with Israel carrying out a total of 180 strikes that day. Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq said: “Hamas will not accept any ceasefire deal as long as Israelis are still in Gaza Strip.” Much of Gaza has been destroyed and some 250,000 people forced to flee their homes since the war began. Rocket fired continued toward Israel Sunday with more than 3,000 rockets fired since the beginning as three civilians were killed Sunday and damaged several homes. Several soldiers have been killed by Palestinians gunman using the tunnels near Israel communities along the Gaza border. The Israeli military death toll rose to 64 after Israel confirmed Hadar Goldin, a 23 year old infantry lieutenant fear captured in Gaza, was killed in battle with his funeral later Sunday, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who is a distant relative of Goldin and has known him his whole life.

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, investigators at Malaysia Airlines wreckage site on Saturday recovered more human remain and belongings, the bead of an international recovery mission stated. Toby Sterling reports, More Human Remains Recovered At MH17 Crash Site In Ukraine, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, speaking from Kiev said 70 Dutch and Australian investigators reached the site for the second consecutive day despite fighting in the area between pro-Russia separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces. Flight 17 went down in Hrabove July 17 with what the West alleges was a Russian made missile fired by rebels killing 298 passengers and crew with most being Dutch. Aalbersberg did not give details on the remains recovered as his team continued the search for the remaining 80 victims spread over the 8 square mile area which is expected to take weeks. He thanks both sides for allowing the mission to proceed after weeks of delays due to fighting. The remains will be transferred to a facility in Kharkiv by refrigerated truck where the Dutch, Malaysian and Australian forensic experts will examine them. Then the remains will join the 200 bodies in the Netherlands to be identified. Friday and Saturday’s search focused on the area around a chicken farm near the village of Grabovo, however, this phase is complete, Aalbersberg said hoping to expand his team to full strength of 100 by Monday. “Tomorrow our goal is to move the search to an area northeast of the village of Rozsypne, where pieces of wreckage from the aircraft have been found,” he said.

On Saturday, Syrian rebels fighting in its civil war raided a border town in neighboring Lebanon killing and capturing security force member marking the most serous incursion into the tiny country during Syria’s 3 year old conflict, Bassem Mroue reports, Syria rebels raid Lebanese town, capture troops. In a statement, the Lebanese army said the rebels, who included foreign fighter, demanded to trade soldiers and police officers captured in Arsal for some of the most dangerous detainees. Lebanese army general and another officials told the Associated Press that the gunmen attacked army positions firing on troops and took control of the main police station in the town of Arsal. Lebanon’s state run National News Agency said that Arsal residents freed police officers at the station with rebels capturing some guns and releasing several detainees. In addition, the gunmen killed two residents near the police station and two soldiers with several wounded. The army statement said, “What is happening today is among the most dangerous of what Lebanon and the Lebanese are being subjected to. The gunmen kidnapped several soldiers and policemen who were spending the weekend with their families … and demanded the release of some of the most dangerous detainees held by the army. The Lebanese army will not accept that its members be hostages and will not stay silent about targeting the army and Arsal residents.” The statement said the Lebanese army “will not allow any side to move the battle from Syria” into Lebanon and “will not allow any foreign gunman to endanger the security of Lebanon or to harm its soldiers or policemen.” According to Mroue, Prime Minister Tammam Salam described the attack as a “flagrant aggression against the state of Lebanon” and vowed that his government “will deal with the developments with extreme firmness and strength.” Arsal is home of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and rebels such as the Lebanese Sunnis in Arsal, who backed the Sunni rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the Shiites, who belong to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group backing Assad. The violence in Arsal followed the ambushing of opposition fighters by Syrian troops and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun region near the Lebanon border that killed 50 people with seven troops and Hezbollah fighters among the dead. The Syrian uprsing started as a peaceful protest against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, but escalated when the government forced violently cracked down on dissent. So far, 170,000 people have in killed in Syria in more than three years of fighting, according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights.

While the world watches in horror as fighting around the world intensifies, several countries are dealing with debilitating financial issues that could end up in bankruptcy. Alexander E.M. Hess and Alexander Kent reports, 11 Countries Near Bankruptcy: 24/7 Wall St., that after years of bitter court battles with creditors, Argentina has defaulted on its debts by failing to come to an agreement with creditors from its 2001 default and missing necessary bond payments on July 31 triggering the current default, according to Standard and Poor’s rating agency. However, other organizations like Moody’s Investors Service and the International Swap and Derivatives Association have not release statement confirming the default. Unfortunately, Argentina is not the only one struggling or failing to pay their debts in recent years and as a result has severely impaired credit ratings. Moddy’s currently lists 10 countries with rating of Caa1 or worse which means the country has substantial credit risk and is several notches below Ba1. The countries with the lowest ratings include Greece and Ukraine in Europe, Pakistan in Asia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Belize in South America. Even though they all have low ratings, the nations suffer from vastly different problems such as Ukraine and Egypt who recently were downgraded for political conditions, while Belize and Ecuador have upgraded in recent years based on improved financial positions. Some countries have a great deal of debt relative to the size of their economy lowering their credit rating and could potentially default. Three nations fall in this category with the world’s highest debt levels at 120% of GDP or more based on 2014 estimates such as Greece with 175% of the GDP this year which is more than any other nation except Japan, according to the International Monetary Fund. Ecuador;s government debt, according to IMF, would total 24.8% their GDP in 2014 which is exceptionally low, however, these countries do not access international bond markets regularly due to small financial sectors or debt restructuring agreements. Borrowing funds in the international bond market can be expensive with a poor credit rating due to high interest rates on the debt that investors see as riskier investments so they require greater return. A 10 year U.S. treasury note pays 2.5% annually, while Jamaica pays 7.65% annually and Greece yielded 29% on a 10 year government bond in early 2012 before the country defaulted. Inflation also causes issues e.g. Argentina, Jamaica, Belize and Ukraine issue their bonds in other common currencies such as dollar, yen and euro causing the inflation rate to be higher since the bond is issued in another countries currency and not their own which is lower. It becomes major problem in several countries with the worst rating such as Venezuela where the Inflation rate is expected to exceed 50% in 2014, according to IMF. Based on the credit ratings provided by Moody’s Investors Service, 24/7 Wall St. examined the 11 countries with credit ratings of Caa1 or worse which indicates considerable credit risk. IN addition due to many of these nations having significant debt in other currencies or weak currencies, 24/7 Wall St. used foreign currency ratings and outlooks for these nations. Figures on GDP growth, inflation, unemployment, population and debt levels are estimates for 2014 from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.

Growing Global Conflicts: Finding Peace in A Restless World

On Monday of this week, as the death toll in Gaza rises to 175 after a week long Israeli airstrike offensive, the Israeli military said it downed a drone launched by militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel began the campaign against Hamas controlled Gaza last Tuesday in response to rocket fire from the densely populated territory. In total, the military has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes since then, while Palestinian militants have launched close to 1,000 rockets at Israel, Peter Enav reports (Israel Says It’s Downed Drone Along Southern Coast). The unmanned drone, which was shot down by Israel, represent a new level of sophistication for Hamas which has never admitted to having such a weapon. The Israeli military confirmed that the dsrone was shot down mid-flight by a Patriot surface to air missile along the southern Israeli coastline never Ashdod. Speaking under anonymity, a senior military official, said Israel was aware Hamas possessed drones and Israel has targets Hamas drone facilities in Gaza previously. In a media statement, Hamas alleges that three drones were launched into Israel on Monday with only one confirmed by Israel. According to Enav, drones refer to a range of unmanned aircraft from rudimentary to advanced with weapons or surveillance capabilities. Hamas said it has both intelligence and munitions drones. In addition, the group alleges that it lost contact with one drone and targets included the Israeli Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said,”Hamas is trying everything it can to produce some kind of achievement and it is crucial that we maintain our high state of readiness. The shooting down of a drone this morning by our air defense system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible.”

On Monday fighting continued as two Israeli airstrikes struck the southern city of Khan Younis killing four Palestinians and raising the death toll to at least 175 people killed including dozens of civilians, according to officials at European Hospital and the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. No Israelis have been killed in Hamas rocket fire, however, several people have been wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday, said the current operation could last a long time and the military is prepared for all possibilities including a Gaza ground invasion. The outbreak of violence followed the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month and the subsequent kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an alleged revenge attack, along with Israeli raids against Hamas militants and infrastructure in West Bank. Though the killers of the Palestinian teenagers have been caught, the killer of the three teenagers has yet to be caught. Israeli leaders widely condemned the killing and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible would be brought to justice. Israel accuses Hamas of the killing and cracked down on the Islamic militants in the West Bank after the abduction of the teens causing Gaza to respond with rocket fire that led to the current round of fighting.

However since the fighting began, Netanyahu has come under international pressure to end the operation. On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a ceasefire and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that America was ready to help restore calm. A key mediator between Israel and Hamas, Egypt continued to work to stop the conflict as Hamas has shown signs it would agree to a ceasefire if hundreds of arrested activist were freed as part of a truce. On the other hand, Netanyahu wants to show the Israeli public that he can succeed in degrading Hamas’s ability to strike Israeli targets before moving to a truce.

Unfortunately, Tuesday confirmed that Hamas has rejected Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire with Israel after the Israeli Cabinet accepted the plan squashing international efforts to end the fighting that’s killed 192 Palestinians and risking the lives of Israelis. The Associated Press reports, Israel accepts cease-fire to end Gaza conflict; Hamas calls proposal unacceptable,  that senior Israeli government officials now warn that Israeli will strike Gaza harder if Hamas does not accept the truce. The Egyptian proposal for a truce presented on late Monday called for a stop to the violence as of Tuesday morning followed by negotiations on easing the closure of Gaza’s borders which has been enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hams seized the territory in 2007. On conditions of anonymity, an Israeli official said, “As you know, the Cabinet has accepted the Egyptian proposal. If Hamas rejects it, Israel will continue and intensify its operations and Hamas will find itself totally isolated, including in the Arab world, which supports the proposal.” In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the proposal was not acceptable as Hamas officials are weary of promises from Egypt and Israel to ease the border blockade since the promise was part of the 2012 truce, which was broken due to a violent flare up. Referring to the 2012 truce, he said,” It’s not logical to ask people who are under aggression to cease fire and then later to negotiate terms that were not respected in the past by the Israelis.” The ease of the blockade is crucial to Hamas’ survival because the outbreak of fighting has left the militant group in serious financial woes  as the closure by Egypt has prevented cash and goods from being smuggled in across the Gaza-Egypt border.

As of Tuesday afternoon, in Gaza, the death toll now stands at 194 people killed with 1,400 wounded so far making it the deadliest conflict between Israel and Hamas in over five years. Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza on Tuesday and warned that the Islamic militant group will pay the price for not accepting the Egyptian truce plan and unleashing rocket fire at the Jewish state killing one Israeli. According to Karin Laub and Aron Heller,  Israel: Hamas to pay price for its ‘no’ to truce, Hamas does not consider Egypt’s current ruler a fair broker, who ousted the Hamas friendly government in Cairo a year ago. Hamas will continue to fight as it has little to lose, while a truce on unfavorable terms could weaken the grip on the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Reaffirming this stance, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday with more than 40 rockets hitting in a few minutes and causing the first Israeli death since the beginning of the offensive. In a TV response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated,”Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision. When there is no cease-fire, our answer is fire.” After holding fire for six hours, the Israeli air force opened fired launching 33 strikes from midafternoon. In Washington, State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said Israel had the right to defend itself, but would not want to see a ground invasion. Hamas officials rejected the plan on Tuesday noting they weren’t consulted by Cairo and see the truce as an ultimatum to Hamas from Israel and Egypt. A top Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, told the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen: “The siege on Gaza must be broken, and the people of Gaza should live freely like other people of the world. There should be a new equation so that we will not have a war on Gaza every two years.” In addition, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader in Gaza, had this to say: “Mediation to end this aggression needs to come from different countries, and the guarantees should be given by different countries in order to commit the occupation (Israel) to what any future agreement might say.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas’ main political rival, was to meet Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and then fly to Turkey for high-level talks. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been under a lot of pressure from his Cabinet and the ruling Likud Party to launch a ground offensive to end the rocket fire. He faced intense criticism from the right over agreeing to the Egyptian truce plan.

On Monday, according to Barbara Surk’s article, Heavy Clashes Between Hezbollah And Syrian Rebels Leave Many Dead, the British based Syrian Observatory for Human right said militants from the Islamic State took over territory from a rival al-Qaida linked Nusra Front group near the border of Iraq. The march by militants of the IS on the city of Deir el-Zour brings them closer to a showdown with Bashar Assad’s forces. The group recently captured cities and towns in northern Iraq and merged them with territory under its control in eastern Syria. Assad’s forces still control half of Deir el-Zour city, however no fighting between his troops and the extremist group have been reported. The Syrian conflict began in March 2011 following peaceful protest against Assad’s rule that turned into armed revolts after opposition supporter took up weapons to fight a brutal government crackdown. The situation dissolved in to civil war in which Islamic extremists with hard line al-Qaida ideologies have played a prominent role among fighters leading to the dampening of support from the West. On Monday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution authorizing cross border delivery of food and aid to Syrians in rebel held areas without government approval. The article explains: ” The resolution expressed ‘grave alarm at the significant and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria’ and deplored the fact that its previous demands for humanitarian access ‘have not been heeded’ by the Syrian government and opposition fighters.” The council adopted a resolution in February for aid, but monthly reports from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on its implementation paint a dire picture. According to Surk: “Just hours before the resolutions was adopted, 13 Syrian Red Crescent trucks loaded with 1,000 parcels crossed into the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh, which has been besieged by government troops for more than two years, causing widespread hunger-related illness and death among its residents. In Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus that has been under government siege for over a year, U.N. aid workers were not allowed to distribute aid on Monday, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement, adding that 18,000 civilians remain trapped there in desperate need of food and medicine. The interruption follows a week of sustained food distribution in Yarmouk during which the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees in the Middle East distributed food parcels to 3,316 families, Gunness said.”

While the Middle East deals with numerous conflicts between governments and militants with different ideologies, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday continues his verbal assault on Russia accusing military staff officers of fighting with separatists in eastern Ukraine and using a newly developed Russian missile system against government forces. According to Reuters’ article,  Ukraine’s President Poroshenko Says Russian Officers Fight Alongside Separatists, Poroshenko made his accusations as he was speaking to security chiefs at an emergency meeting after a weekend of Ukrainian air strikes on rebel position near the Russian border and charges by Moscow that Kiev killed a Russian man with cross border shell. After three months of fighting, several hundred Ukrainian servicemen, civilians and rebels have been killed as the fighting and war of words between Moscow and Kiev intensifies. As Poroshenko on Sunday accused Russia of movement of heavy military equipment into the country, he added: “Information has … been confirmed that Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces.” Accusing Russia of escalating fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions, National and Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists: “In the past 24 hours, deployment of (Russian) units and military equipment across the border from the Sumy and Luhansk border points was noticed. The Russian Federation continues to build up troops on the border. The (rebel) fighters systematically fire mortar and shoot into Russian territory which killed a Russian citizen.”

As Ukraine and the Middle East struggle to find a common ground, top U.S. and Iranian diplomats came together Monday for nuclear talks. The talks of U.S. and Iran were further complicated as both sides are fighting proxy wars in Israel, Gaza and Syria. However, both are talking cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan, while negotiating the decrease in the Islamic republic’s uranium and plutonium programs.  According to Bradely Klapper and Goerge Jahn, Kerry And Top Iranian Diplomat To Hold In-Depth Nuclear Talks Days Before Deadline, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif talked for two hours Monday in a second day of talks in Vienna and again in the afternoon hoping to meet Sunday’s initial deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff in Vienna that: “We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran’s program. It is a really tough negotiation.” In addition, both men talked about Afghanistan which Kerry visited before Vienna to broker a power sharing agreement between rival presidential candidates and a full audit of election ballots. Both men were in agreement that the mediation was extremely important for the Afghan people and echoed thr need for unity. However the two countries remain divided when it comes to the current Israeli Palestine conflict with Iran being the main benefactor for Hamas and alleged source of its new drone capacity, while Washington provides billions in aid each year to Israel. Nonetheless, the talks focused on nuclear matters. Monday’s talk came a day after failed talks between Britain, France and Germany with Iran on uranium enrichment and other issues standing in the way of a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of nuclear sanction on Tehran. Under a six month interim agreement in effect since January, world powers and Iran have until July 20 to conclude a final deal. The interim agreement does allow for an additional six month period for negotiation which seem likely. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that Iran has defied the expectation of some, but has yet to make the necessary decisions to prove the world its intentions are peaceful. Iranian hardliners oppose any concession by President Hassan Rouhani’s government, while U.S. lawmakers threaten to shoot down any agreement that would allow Iran to keep some enrichment capacity.