U.S. Attempts to Fight Ebola, Ukraine Ratifies Landmark Deal Amid Russian Sanctions and U.S. Steps Up Plans to Fight ISIS as al-Qaeda Expands

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The ravages of the Ebola virus can easily be seen in West Africa six months on, but the outbreak has become more dire in recent weeks as death tolls rise and health officials warn of a potential global disaster. In an effort to contain the virus, the United States will send thousands of military personnel to aid the region’s crippled health care system which marks a major milestone in the effort to fight the disease. Nick Robins Early reports, 14 Numbers That Show The Magnitude Of The World’s Worst Ebola Outbreak, how devastating the medical crisis has become in West Africa through a collection of revealing stats on the fight against Ebola. The numbers are as follows:

2,400 – The number of estimated Ebola deaths as of Sept. 12, 2014.

4,784 – The total number of Ebola cases reported as of Sept. 12, 2014. Due to many unreported cases, this figure is thought to be less than the actual number of people infected with the virus.

2 – The age of the Guinean boy who some researchers think may have been “patient zero” in the Ebola outbreak. Scientists believe humans originally caught the virus from a sick animal.

5 – The number of West African nations that have reported cases of Ebola. A sixth nation, the Democratic Republic of Congo, has also suffered from an Ebola outbreak, although it is a different strain from the one that originated in Guinea.

12-18 – The number of months that U.S. scientists predict the outbreak will last under current conditions.

20,000 – The number of Ebola cases that the World Health Organization estimates could occur by the time the virus is contained. It should be noted, however, that these type of long-term projections are prone to uncertainties and can vary. A recent New York Times report says that researchers at various universities predict the number could be more like 20,000 in a single month.

12,750 – The total number of health workers that the World Health Organization has called for in order to stem the outbreak and treat people infected with the virus.

3,000 – The number of U.S. military personnel that the United States is expected to send to West Africa to assist in medical training, distribution of aid and the building of health care facilities.

$1,000,000,000 – The estimated global resources needed for the next six months in the fight against Ebola, according to U.N. officials. This is a 10-fold increase from just a month ago, and is what the U.N. says is needed just to keep the outbreak contained to tens of thousands of people.

400,000 – The number of home protective kits that the United States reportedly plans to distribute to the four West African nations most affected by the outbreak.

178 – The number of days since the outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization by Guinea’s health officials.

52 percent – The approximate fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Given access to proper medical treatment, especially adequate fluid replacement, the fatality rate of the Ebola outbreak can be significantly lowered.

1,700 – The number of beds that the new U.S. aid effort will reportedly aim to set up in Liberia, one of the hardest hit nations.

0 – The number of beds currently available to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, according to World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan.

The Obama administration is preparing to send 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to aid in the Ebola crisis and supply logistical and medical support to local health care systems and boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat patients, according to Jim Kuhnhenn, US to assign 3,000 from US military to fight Ebola. President Obama announced the effort Tuesday during a visit to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as the outbreak could spread and mutate into more easily transmitted disease. The announcement comes amid regional and aid organization appeals for the U.S. to increase their role in com batting the outbreak that has claimed 2,200 people. Administration officials said Monday that the new initiatives aim to:

– Train as many as 500 health care workers a week.

– Erect 17 heath care facilities in the region of 100 beds each.

– Set up a joint command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate between U.S. and international relief efforts.

– Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.

– Carry out a home- and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.

The officials, under the condition of anonymity, said the plan would cost $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan, that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect to carry out humanitarian efforts in Iraq and in West Africa. In addition, they said it would take two weeks to get U.S. forces on the ground. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations African affairs subcommittee, said, “This humanitarian intervention should serve as a firewall against a global security crisis that has the potential to reach American soil.” The countries hardest hit include Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, while the virus has reached Nigeria and Senegal. The U.S. will provide medics and corpsmen for treatment and training, engineers to help erect the treatment facilities and specialists in logistics to assist in patient transportation. The visit to the CDC by Obama came a day after the U.S. demanded international aid response to step up. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called Monday for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, warning that the potential risk of the virus could “set the countries of West Africa back a generation.” The meeting Thursday with the Security Council marks a rare occasion when a public health crisis is addressed rather than threats to peace and security, according to Power. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to brief the council with World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan and Dr. David Nabarro, the recently named U.N. coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries. The Senate also weighed in Tuesday with a hearing to examine the U.S. response and an American missionary doctor who survived the disease set to testify. Four Americans have been treated for Ebola in the U.S. after evacuation. The U.S. has already spent $100 million responding to the outbreak and offered to operate treatment centers for patients. Additionally, Obama will be briefed on cases of respiratory illness being reported in the Midwest where public health officials are monitoring a high number of reported illness associated with human enterovirus 68 in Iowa, Kansas, Ohio and elsewhere. Lauran Neergaard reports, Ebola survivor: No time to waste as Obama ups aid, on Tuesday, Dr. Kent Brantly told senators: “We can’t afford to wait months, or even weeks, to take action, to put people on the ground.” Under the plan, the government could end up spending $1 billion to contain the disease. Obama after his briefing with doctors from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and from Emory University, he said: “If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people affected, with profound economic, political and security implications for all of us.” World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said, “This massive ramp-up of support from the United States is precisely the kind of transformational change we need to get a grip on the outbreak and begin to turn it around.” Brice de le Vingne, director of operations for Doctors without Borders, said, “The response to Ebola continues to fall dangerously behind and too many lives are being lost. We need more countries to stand up, we need greater concrete action on the ground, and we need it now.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Obama’s plan, his spokesman said in a statement, and called on the international community “to be as bold and courageous in its response as those who are on the front lines fighting this disease.” Congress still needs to vote on Obama’s request for $88 million more to help fight the disease including funding CDC work in West Africa through December and speeding development of experimental treatments and vaccines. Late Tuesday, the Obama administration submitted a request to reprogram $500 million in Pentagon money for the Ebola effort. Meanwhile in Britain, the Associated Press reports, 1st UK volunteer gets experimental Ebola vaccine, a former nurse has become the first person in the country to receive an experimental Ebola vaccine in an early trial to test its safety. Ruth Atkins, 48, received the shot Wednesday in Oxford, the first of 60 healthy volunteers in the U.K. who will receive the vaccine developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline and targets the Zaire strain of Ebola that caused the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. A trial of the same vaccine has already begun in the U.S. The vaccine is meant to spark the immune system’s production of Ebola antibodies and does not contain infectious material. In a statement, trial leader Adrian Hill of Oxford University, said, “Witnessing the events in Africa makes it clear that developing new drugs and vaccines against Ebola should now be an urgent priority.” Hill and colleagues hope the trial will finish at the end of 2014 and could be used to vaccinate health workers in West African if proven safe and effective. Faith Karimi reports, Ebola patients buying survivors’ blood from black market, WHO warns, desperate patients are buying blood from survivors of the virus on the black market, the World Health Organization warns. The WHO reports, “Studies suggest blood transfusions from survivors might prevent or treat Ebola virus infection in others, but the results of the studies are still difficult to interpret. It is not known whether antibodies in the plasma of survivors are sufficient to treat or prevent the disease. More research is needed.” Convalescent serum used to treat patients such as American aid worker Rick Sacra who received blood from Kent Brantly who survived Ebola has been effective. However, patients in affected nations are getting blood through improper channels which could lead to the spread of other infections such as HIV and other blood related ailments. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director general, said this week: “We need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem out black market trading of convalescent serum for two reasons. Because it is in the interest of individuals not to just get convalescent serum without … going through the proper standard and the proper testing because it is important that there may be other infectious vectors that we need to look at.” Meanwhile, a French volunteer with Doctors Without Borders contracted Ebola in Liberia and will be taken for treatment in France by a private American plan, according to the organization.

In Ukraine, on Tuesday, lawmakers strengthened their ties to Europe and loosened control over the country’s rebellious east region where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels has left 3,000 people dead and returned Western and Russian relations back to the Cold War era, the Associate Press reports, Ukraine lawmakers ratify landmark deal with Europe. The deal lowers trade tariffs between Europe and Ukraine. requires Ukrainian goods to meet European regulatory standards and forces Kiev to undertake major political and economic reforms. President Petro Poroshenko called the vote a “first but very decisive step” toward bringing Ukraine fully into the European Union. In a live broadcast after the deal was made, Poroshenko said the protesters who died in clashes with riot police in Kiev and government troops who died fighting the rebels “have died not only for their motherland. They gave up their lives for us to take a dignified place among the European family.” He continued, “After World War II, not a single nation has paid such a high price for their right to be European. Can you tell me, who now after this will be brave enough to shut the doors to Europe in front of Ukraine?” Earlier Tuesday, parliament also approved laws granting temporary self rule to pro-Russian region in the east as well as amnesty for those involved in the fighting. One law calls for three years of self rule in parts of eastern Ukraine and for local elections in November. A separate bill calls for amnesty for those involved in the fighting in the east, but not those suspected or charged with crimes including murder, sabotage, rape, kidnapping and terrorism. The law could exclude those who tried to kill Ukrainian law enforcement officials and servicemen meaning many of the separatists who waged war for five months. Although Poroshenko did not mention the bills in his speech, he later said according to Interfax-Ukraine that he felt “we are obliged to take a step to ensure that the other side takes corresponding steps” toward peace. Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the rebels in the Donetsk region, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the separatist leadership would study the measures, an unusually conciliatory statement compared to the rebels’ previous assertions that they aim for complete independence. The U.S. state Department and Vicd President Joe Biden congratulated Ukrainian lawmakers and leaders. Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman at the State Department, said, “By forging ahead with this agreement in the face of great challenges, Ukraine’s leaders have carried out the will of the Ukrainian people, who demonstrated their overwhelming support for further integration with Europe last winter and with their votes in the May 25 presidential elections.” The passage of the measures came as Poroshenko begins his first state visit to Canada and the U.S., where he will address a joint session of Congress on Thursday and is also scheduled to speak to the U.N. General Assembly next week. Martin Schulz, the president of the EU Parliament, said, “The message this sends could not be clearer: the European Parliament supports Ukraine in its European vocation. The European Parliament will continue defending a united and sovereign Ukraine.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said the military will increase its forces in Crimea due to the “exacerbation of situation in Ukraine and increased foreign military presence near our borders.” Also on Tuesday, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Russian ruble drops to historic low amid sanctions, Russian currency dropped to all time low against the dollars as investors worry bout the fallout of economic sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed a new round of sanctions against Russia for its action in Ukraine such as blocking off Western financial markets to key Russian companies and limiting imports of some technologies. Economist Alexei Kudrin, who served as finance minister under President Vladimir Putin for 11 years until 2011, said Tuesday that the sanctions could send Russia’s economy into recession for one or two years. Interfax quoted him as saying, “The sanctions that have been imposed are going to have an effect (on the economy) for the next one or two years because they have limited opportunities for investment in this uncertain environment.” Vasilyeva reports: “Among the most recent sanctions, the United States on Friday tightened the maximum credit duration for a number state-owned Russian companies and banks to 30 days, effectively shutting off Russia from long-term loans. The U.S. and the EU indicated, however, they may reverse some of the sanctions if they see that Moscow is supporting peace process in Ukraine, where more than 3,000 died since mid-April.” Jitters over the impact of the US. EU sanctions were fueled by reports that the Russian government is preparing more import bans that could hurt Russian consumer spending. Russian in August imposed an import ban on dairy products, meat and vegetables from the European Union and the United States, causing prices to shoot up for selected foods.

While Ukraine tries to rebuild a fragile and devastated government, the U.S. continues to implement its plan for ISIS. U.S. officials on Monday said the United States took its first step in its plan to expand the fight against the extremist group, going to the aid of Iraqi security forces near Baghdad who were under attack, the Associated Press reports, First U.S. airstrikes in expanded Iraq fight. The U.S. Central Command said on Sunday two airstrikes were conducted in support of Iraqi forces near Sinjar and southwest Baghdad. The strikes authorized by President Barack Obama represent a new offensive against the group to protect not only U.S. interest and personnel, but directly support Iraqi forces fighting militants. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to stop American extremist from joining terrorist groups like ISIS during a presentation Monday, but details are a little fuzzy, according to the AOL article, Holder announces plan to stop Americans from joining ISIS. HOLDER VIA U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: “Ultimately the pilot programs will enable us to develop more effective and inclusive ways to build a more just, secure and free society that all Americans deserve.” He said his plan will bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders and U.S. attorneys in hopes of building a broad network to keep the nation safe. Other nations have taken steps involving local officials such as British Prime Minister David Cameron who asked his government to pass legislation that allows law enforcement to seize the passport of anyone suspected of traveling to support ISIS, while Germany banned its citizens from any activities supporting the group. The International Centre for Radicalization estimates more than 11,000 Western Europeans have traveled to fight with Syrian rebels. Maria Golovnna reports, New al Qaeda wing in South Asia claims major attack, Al Qaeda’s South Asia wing has claimed responsibility for hijacking a Pakistani naval ship and trying to use it to fire rockets at U.S. vessels in the Arabian Sea, in the first major assault by the newly created group. The SITE monitoring service quoted its spokesman, Usama Mahmoud, said: “These mujahideen had taken control of the Pakistani ship, and they were advancing towards the American fleet when the Pakistani army stopped them. As a result, the mujahideen, the lions of Allah and benefactors of the Ummah, sacrificed their lives for Allah, and the Pakistani soldiers spoiled their hereafter by giving up their lives in defense of the enemies of the Ummah the Americans.” The naval yard on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast is a strategic facility at the cent of the U.S. Pakistani security, anti-terrorism and anti-trafficking cooperation. The Pakistani Taliban, allied with al-Qaeda, said the Sept.6 attack was carried out with the help of insiders leading to the arrest of a number of navy personnel on suspicion of collaborating with attackers. Back in the U.S., Republican controlled House voted to give U.S. military authority to train and arm Syrian rebels Wednesday, David Espo and Donna Cassata report, House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels. The provision will be added to spending legislation to assure the federal government runs normally after Sept.30 end of the budget year and final approval in the Senate may come as earl as Thursday. It grants Obama authority until Dec.11 and gives Congress plenty of time to return to the issue in a post-election session set to begin mid-November. The Senate will vote only once on the legislation combining approval for arming and training rebels with the no shutdown federal spending provisions. Testifying before a Senate Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry said the forces seeking to create an Islamic state ” must be defeated. Period. End of story.” The legislation also includes $88 million to combat the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. In France, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that his country was ready to take part int he airstrikes in Iraq if needed, the Associated Press reports, France ready to participate in Iraq airstrikes. He spoke in Paris before President Barack Obama was expected to outline Washington’s plans for fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. France has said it will join a U.S. led coalition in Iraq and send arms to Kurdish authorities to fight militants. The French president and foreign minister are going to Iraq Friday and hosting an international conference Monday on how to stop the group and help Iraq. Fabius said that “we will participate, if necessary, in military air action” in Iraq, according to a text provided by the French Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Fabius said people should not refer to the group as the Islamic State since they do not represent Islam or a state and started to refer to the group Wednesday as Daesh, the acronym in Arabic for its full former name, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Speaking to lawmakers, Fabius said “the determination of the Daesh butchers is strong. Ours must be even stronger.” Egypt’s top Islamic authority also said the group should not be called the Islamic State.

Losing the War Against Ebola, ISIS Threat Cast A Heavy Shadow Over NATO Summit and Ukraine Ceasefire Deal Met With Skepticism

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On Tuesday, Doctors without Borders said the world is losing the battle against Ebola and is saddened by the fact most people who enter the West African treatment centers go there to die alone. In separate remarks following a United Nations meeting on the matter, the World Health Organization chief said everyone underestimated the crisis that has killed 1,500 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. U.N. officials implored governments worldwide to send medical workers and material contributions. In Liberia, a missionary organization reported that another American doctor has been infected. Doctors without Borders whose treated 1,00 Ebola patients in West Africa since March is overwhelmed, according to the organization’s president, Joanne Liu. She called on other countries to contribute civilian and military personnel familiar with biological disasters, AOL reports. At a U.N. forum, Liu explains, “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it. Ebola treatment centers are reduced to places where people go to die alone, where little more than palliative care is offered.” In Sierra Leone infectious bodies rot on the street, while Liberia had to build a new crematorium instead of Ebola care center, Liu reported. As for countries already involved in the fight, WHO Director Margaret Chan acknowledged and thanks them at the U.N. meeting: “We need more from you. And we also need those countries that have not come on board.” President Obama urged West Africans on Tuesday to wear gloves and masks when caring for Ebola patients or burying those who died as this has been one of the ways the virus has spread through the populations. In a brief video message, Obama explained, “You can respect your traditions and honor your loved ones without risking the lives of the living.” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the situation is now the world’s first Ebola epidemic, given how widely it is spreading. The latest missionary to contract the disease, a male obstetrician, was not immediately identified by the group Serving in Mission and did not work in the Ebola ward. A Liberian doctor on the treatment team said it was too soon to tell whether he will be evacuated. U.S. offcials on Tuesday announced a $24.9 million 18 month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to speed development of ZMapp which will allow a small amount to be used for early stage safety testing while the Department of Health and Human Services works on speeding up production. The outbreak has taken a heavy toll on health care workers and nurses in Liberia and Sierra Leone have gone on strike to demand hazard pay and better protective gear. However, as of Tuesday, the governments report the disputes have been resolved and nurses are back at work. In addition, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warn that food in countries hit by Ebola has become more expensive and will become scarcer due to farmers who can’t reach their fields. AOL reports: “Authorities have cordoned off entire towns in an effort to halt the virus’ spread. Surrounding countries have closed land borders, and airlines have suspended flights to and from the affected countries. Seaports are losing traffic, restricting food imports to the hardest-hit countries. Those countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – all rely on grain from abroad to feed their people, according to the U.N. food agency. For instance, the price of cassava root, a staple in many West African diets, has gone up 150 percent in one market in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.” Vincent Martin, coordinator for the food agency’s response to the crisis, said, “Even prior to the Ebola outbreak, households in some of the affected areas were spending up to 80 percent of their incomes on food. Now these latest price spikes are effectively putting food completely out of their reach.”

While Ebola ravages West Africa and continues to spread, another kind of disease has continued to spread its message of hate across the Middle East raising international concern and garnering international condemnation from the political arena. Sinan Salaheddin and Diaa Hadid report, Group accuses extremists of war crimes in Iraq, Amnesty International accused the Islamic State extremists on Tuesday of systematic “ethnic cleansing” in northern Iraq. In a new 26 page report, Amnesty said miltants abducted hundreds maybe thousands of women and girls of the Yazidi faith, killed hundreds of Yazidi men and boys and in one incident rounded them up on trucks, took them to the edge of their village and shot them. On Monday, the United Nations’ top human rights body approved a request by Iraq to open an investigation into crimes committed by the Islamic State group against civilians, aiming to provide evidence of atrocities in Iraq that could be used in international war crimes prosecution of the group. In Amnesty’s report, the advancement of the group has expelled 830,000 people mostly Shiites and tiny religious minorities including Aramaic-speaking Christians, Yazidis, a faith that traces to ancient Mesopotamia, the Shabak, an offshoot of Islam, and Mandeans, a gnostic faith. Thousands of Christians live in schools and churches in northern Iraq, Shiites mostly drifted to southern Iraq and Yazidis crowd into displaced persons camps and half finished building. Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International, said, “Minorities in Iraq have been targeted at different points in the past, but the Islamic State (group) has managed, in the space of a few weeks, to completely wipe off of the map of Iraq, the religious and ethnic minorities from the area under their control.” Yazidi lawmaker, Mahma Khalil, said, “They have been trying hard to force us to abandon our religion. We reject that because we are the oldest faith in Iraq, that has roots in Mesopotamia.” Meanwhile, CNN reports, Leaders hold pivotal NATO summit as threats of ISIS, Russian aggression loom, the spread of ISIS across Syria and Iraq and hundreds of deaths in Ukraine’s struggle to remain independent from Russia mark a pivotal moment for the NATO alliance, leaders on Thursday said. British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We meet at a crucial time in the history of our alliance. The world faces many dangerous and evolving threats, and it is absolutely clear that NATO is as vital to our future as it has been in our past.” Cameron spoke at the beginning of the two day NATO summit to discuss the alliance’s response to threats int he Middle East and Ukraine as well as Afghanistan’s future. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “We will take important decisions to keep our nations safe, to keep the vital bond between Europe and North America strong and to help build stability in a dangerous world.” The discussion happened amid a peace plan discussed by Ukraine and Russia expected to be implemented Friday, according to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s Twitter account Thursday. The day before, Poroshenko’s office via phone said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had reached an agreement on the process toward peace between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. Putin presents a seven point road map to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine even though Russia denies involvement. Rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk said in joint statements Thursday they would order a ceasefire at 3p.m. Friday if “if agreements are achieved and Ukrainian officials sign a plan for a political settlement of the conflict.” Rebel leaders will also take part in talks in Belarus on Friday, the statement said, where they will present proposals on ensuring compliance with the plan. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk along with NATO and United States have greeted Russia’s plan with skepticism seeing it as a disguised rescue plan for pro-Russian rebels. Meanwhile in a statement Thursday, Dutch Safety Board said a preliminary report will be released next Tuesday on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over rebel controlled eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board on July 17. The report, according to the statement, “will present factual information based on sources available” to its investigators including satellite imagery, radar details and data from the plane’s “black box” recorders. Tuesday’s report will set out what investigators believe happened, but will not apportion blame. Back at the summit, Rasmussen calls on Russia to end the annexation of Crimea and withdraw from Ukraine: “We call on Russia to step back from confrontation and take the path of peace. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has been a wake-up call. It has … reminded all of us that our freedom, security and prosperity cannot be taken for granted, that some are trying to redraw dividing lines in Europe with force and in blood. We will adopt a readiness action plan that will make our forces faster, fitter and more flexible, ready to address any challenges whenever they come and from wherever they come.” NATO members will be urged to prioritize defense as some member states are not pulling their weight. U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Wales for the summit after a visit to Estonia aimed at reassuring nervous Eastern European nations that NATO’s support for its member states is unwavering. In a joint opinion piece in the Times of London Thursday, Obama and Cameron warn against isolationism: “To the east, Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening a sovereign nation state. To the south, there is an arc of instability from north Africa and the Sahel to the Middle East…the problems we face today threaten the security of British and American people, and the wider world.” Cameron told CNN ahead of the summit that NATO leaders would discuss the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism and members should agree on how to help Middle Eastern nations tackle the threat. Also on the agenda, Afghanistan, NATO’s biggest overseas commitment of troops, where votes in the contested presidential election are being audited and Rasmussen said the Afghan government needs to finalize a Status of Forces Agreement to protect NATO forces there as they switch to an advisory and training role. But he did say he was “encouraged” that both candidates in the runoff vote, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have agreed on the need for a new agreement.

Prior to these discussion of the dire situations across the Middle East and Russia on Thursday, President Barack Obama authorized the State Department request for 350 additional troops in Iraq ” “to protect our diplomatic facilities and personnel in Baghdad,” according to a Tuesday statement from the office of the White House Press Secretary, reports Ashley Alman, Obama Authorizes Sending Additional Troops To Iraq. According to the White House statement regarding the request: “This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President’s commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.” In addition, the statement said, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor will soon travel to Iraq “to build a stronger regional partnership.” Earlier Tuesday, the Islamic State group released a video claiming it depicts the beading of captured American Steven Sotloff, which is the second one in two weeks following the video release in August of James Foley’s execution, another American Journalist killed by ISIS.

While the United States tries to take steps to protect its interests in the Middle East after the execution of two of its citizens, India and Israel are both concerned about possibly confronting the group that is now on their doorstep. Daniel Estrin reports, Israelis worry with Syrian al-Qaida on doorstep, fir the first time in the Syrian civil war, al-Qaida fighters are now hunkered down on Israel’s doorstep as Israelis in Golan Height could be their next targets. The push by Nusra Front, a well-known branch of al-Qaida, comes two weeks after Israel ended its 50 day war with Hamas on its southern border with Gaza causing concern in the conflict weary nation. Last weeks seizure of strategic Quneitra border crossing by Nusra fighters who expelled Assad’s forces from eh area plus abducted 45 U.N. peacekeepers in the process has brought the extremists within a few yards of Israeli positions in Golan Heights. For the past three years, Israelis in the Golan have had a relatively safe front seat view of the civil war as Syrian government forces battled rebels attempting to wrest control of the strategic area between Israel and Syria. Some Israelis are convinced it’s a matter of time before the Islamic radicals target them due to their ideology and the fact Israel is a Jewish state. According to Estrin: “Israel captured the Golan, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, in the 1967 Mideast war from Syria. It later annexed the area, a move that has never been recognized internationally. Since the aftermath of the subsequent 1973 war, U.N. monitors have helped to enforce a stable truce and the area has been tense but generally quiet. That started to change when the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011. Israel has largely stayed on the sidelines of the war next door, quietly content to watch Assad’s forces battle to a stalemate against the various rebel groups trying to oust him. However, Israel has occasionally responded to mortar fire that spilled over the border, usually unintentionally, and is believed to have carried out several airstrikes on weapons shipments thought to be bound for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. As the Nusra Front took over the border area last Wednesday, the Israeli army ordered Kuniel’s 200 farmhands out of the fields for three days, forcing them to leave behind freshly picked fruit in vats to rot.” However, Israeli officials believe Syrian rebels are focused on battles in Syria not Israel, but do pose a threat to Israel. Oviv Oreg, former head of the al-Qaida desk on the Israeli National Security Council, said the Nusra Front sees Israel as a “legitimate target” as its fighters now “have direct access.” Israeli defense officials estimate that a few thousand Syrian rebels are now positioned along the border in the Golan, with a few hundred in the Quneitra area, including the Nusra fighters. After taking control of the crossing, Nusra Front captured 45 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers and trapped 8o others from the Philippines who later fled to safety. The Philippines announced it would withdraw its troops front the U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNDOF due to this situation. Stephane Cohen, former Israeli military liaison to UNDOF, said the peacekeeping force is collapsing and can no longer serve its purpose to enforce a truce between Israel and Syria leaving Israel alone in front of al-Qaida. Meanwhile, more countries are pulling out of the force and others will not contribute forces in such an uncertain security environment. In addition, the collapse will undermine regional stability as the force provides an important outlet for Israel and Syria to air their grievances. As Uzi Dayan, former deputy military chief of stat, puts it: “In Syria there are no good guys and bad guys. There are bad guys, very bad guys and extremely bad guys.” Meanwhile, al-Qaida has expanded into India, according to a video released by al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri on Thursday, vowing that its militants would bring Islamic law to the entire subcontinent and wage jihad against its enemies,” AOL reports, Al-Qaida says it has expanded into India. Three Indian states with large Muslim populations are on alert following the video’s release, local TV stations report, though no indications of an increased security are present. Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri said in the video seen online by the SITE monitoring group that the new group “is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity.” Al-Zawahri message seems largely directed at his own rivals in the international jihad movement and with raising the group’s profile in the wake of repeated success by the Islamic State group. Ajai Sahni, a top Indian security analyst with the New Delhi based Institute for Conflict Management, said: “Al-Qaida is struggling for its legitimacy in the eyes of the radicalized Muslim world. Osama bin Laden has been killed and (al-Qaida’s) entire top leadership, apart from Zawahri and a few others, one by one have been decimated by the American drone attacks.” Al-Zawahri said the group, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, would fight for an Islamic state and laws across the region, “which was part of the Muslims’ territories before it was occupied by the infidel enemy.” The leader of the new group, Essam Omar, said in an audio recording released with the video, that Jews and Hindus – who he referred to as “apostates of India” – “will watch your destruction by your own eyes.” Fighters will “storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder,” Omar said, decrying what he called the region’s “injustice toward Muslims.” In the past few months, the Islamic State has grown in India. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Thursday morning with top security and intelligence officials to discuss the threat. India, however, has suffered from underfunded and ill trained security infrastructure that has allowed Pakistani militants in 2008 to attack Mumbai, a financial hub, that shut down the city for days killing 166 people and New Delhi has fought an insurgency in Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, with militants wanting to bring independence to the Himalayan region or join it to Pakistan leaving thousands dead.

Ebola Gains Momentum, Airstrikes Being Considered in Syria and the Ukraine Crisis Escalates Once Again

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The World Health organization estimates that the West African Ebola outbreak could exceed 20,000 cases, more than 6 times as many as doctors know about, while a new plan outlined by the U.N. health agency takes into account that the in hardest hit areas the actual number of cases is two to four times higher than reported, John Heilprin and Krista Larson report, UN: Ebola cases could eventually reach 20,000. The agency on Thursday published new figures reporting 1,552 people have died from among 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. The U.N. health agency said at least 40 percent of the cases are from the last three weeks alone adding that “the outbreak continues to accelerate.” Nigerian authorities said a man who contracted the virus following contact with a traveler from Liberia evaded surveillance and infected a doctor in southern Nigeria who died, making it the first of 6 deaths reported in Nigeria to occur outside the commercial capital of Lagos where American man Patrick Sawyer arrived in late July and later died of Ebola. On Wednesday, Nigeria authorities said they have not eliminated but contained the virus. Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told reporters: “After four days, following a manhunt for him, he returned to Lagos by which time he was found to be without symptoms. This case would have been of no further interest since he had completed the 21 days of surveillance without any other issue but for the fact that the doctor who treated him died.” The doctor’s wife along with the morticians who embalmed the doctor are part of a group of 70 people under surveillance in Port Harcourt. Carolyn Thompson reports, Ebola in mind, US colleges screen some students, college students from West Africa may be subjected to extra health checks when they arrive to study in the United States as administrators try to insulate campuses from the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Several thousands students are arriving from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria putting U.S. authorities on alert but cautioning against alarm. While the Center of Disease Control and Prevention has no specific recommendations fro colleges, some state health departments are spelling out what to look for and how to react. In addition universities are drafting their own precautionary plans against the disease. The American College Health Association recommends their members update emergency plans, find out where patients have traveled and use isolation rooms when available. The federal government says U.S. universities count 9,728 active students from Nigeria, 204 from Liberia, 169 from Sierra Leone and 95 students from Guinea. The roughly 30 Nigerian students at University of Illinois will be pulled aside for temperature checks and private Ebola discussions when they arrive at the health center for mandatory immunization paperwork and tuberculosis screenings, according to the center’s director, Dr. Robert Palinkas. Similar screening will also take place at the University at Buffalo, Mercer University in Georgia, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the University of Akron in Ohio. Universities in the United Kingdom will also be on alert as thousands of Nigerian students arrive there and Universities UK has circulated guidance from Public Health England advising administrators on how to recognize and react to possible cases.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Islamic group killed more than 150 troops captured in recent fighting for military bases in northeastern Syria in the past 24 hours by shooting some and slashing others with knives in the latest mass killing, while in southern Syria, gunmen detained 43 U.N. peacekeepers fighting on the Syrian side of Golan Heights early Thursday, Ryan Lucas and Zeina Karam reports, Islamic state group kills captured Syrian soldiers. In addition, the Britain based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 81 peacekeepers were trapped in the area due to heavy fighting between rebels and Syrian troops. Many of the soldiers that were killed were rounded up Wednesday in the arid countryside near Tabqa airfield three days after fighters seized the base. In Iraq, the group killed nearly 200 men in late June near the northern city of Tikrit and like the recent slaughter posted videos and photos online of the men before and after the killings. Earlier in the month, Islamic State fighters shot and beheaded hundreds of tribesmen in eastern Syria who had risen up against the group. A U.N. commission has accused the Islamic State group Wednesday of committing crimes against humanity in Syria same as in Iraq. So far, the bloody conflict in Syria has cost more than 190,000 loves and destabilized the region. In a statement by the Syrian Foreign Ministry, the government holds “the terrorist groups and those who support them fully responsible for the safety of the U.N. peacekeepers, and calls for their immediate release.” A statement from Ban’s office said the U.N. “is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers.” As of July, UNODF had 1,223 troops from six countries including Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. A rebel spokesman said the opposition is fighting President Bashar Assad and poses no threat to Israel. The Associate Press reports, 44 Fijian soldiers held captive by rebels in Syria, that 44 soldiers working as U.N. peacekeepers remain captive in Syria Friday while 75 Philippine soldiers were in tense standoffs with militants, the two nations reported. Fijian Commander Brig. Gen. Mosese Tikoitoga said he’s been informed his soldiers are alive and unharmed, while Philippines President Benigno Aquino III said that his troops are not in immediate danger. The events began Thursday morning o the Syrian side of Golan Heights, an area divided between Israel and Syria. Tikoitoga said three vehicles filled with 150 armed rebels converged on the Fijian camp at 7:30 a.m. demanding the soldiers leave within 10 minutes and insisted they board the rebel vehicles. The Fijians were taken to an unknown location then returned to their original post. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the detention of the Fijians: “I call for their immediate and unconditional release as well as action for the scores of peacekeepers from the Philippines who are also affected.” Tikoitoga said: “We will not shy away from that responsibility under these circumstances. We will continue to work very hard for the release of our men and at the same time we will put all our men on alert to ensure that no further incidents of this sort happen to them.”

In the United States, President Barack Obama on Thursday said “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the violent militant group seeking to establish a caliphate in the Middle East, Julie Pace reported, Obama tamps down prospect of strikes in Syria. The president spoke shortly before a meeting with his national security advisers on a range of Pentagon options for confronting the group and said his strategy will require not only military action but regional strategy that include political support from other countries in the region. Obama said, hinting to the group’s announcement last week it had killed American journalist James Foley and threatened to kill other U.S. hostages: “They have no ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people.” The U.S. already is striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and the president is considering similar action in Syria in the wake of Foley’s death as militants move between the two countries with ease. The main focus, however for now, the president said Thursday was to roll back militant gains in Iraq where they pose a threat to U.S. personnel in Ebril and Baghdad. Obama said any military action will be discussed with members of Congress when they return to Washington in early September. “The suggestion has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress, still out of town, will be left in the dark. That’s not what’s going to happen,” Obama said. Ryan Gorman reports, Britain raises terror threat level, will begin revoking passports of those who travel to Syria, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday at a press conference that U.K. authorities will soon revoke passports of citizens traveling to Syria. Cameron declared: “We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous extremist ideology.” British authorities raised the terror threat level Friday to one below critical, the highest alert, as it felt an attack is likely. Cameron explained: “What we’re facing in Iraq and Syria now with ISIL is a deeper and greater threat to our security than we have ever known before. Islam is a religion observed peacefully by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a poisonous ideology observed by a minority. [ISIL is] a terror threat seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terror state. We could face a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO state.” Cameron emphasized that Britain will not send in ground troops, but will provide intelligence to the U.S. while they conduct airstrikes in the region and provide humanitarian air drops as well as help arm Kurdish forces in their fight against the terror state. He said: “We support the U.S. airstrikes aginst ISIL in Iraq. Even if you solve the problems, of ISIL, Iraq and Syria – you still have the problem of poisonous Islamist extremism.”

Meanwhile in eastern Europe, Ukraine’s president called an emergency meeting of the nation’s security council Thursday to declare that “Russian forces have entered Ukraine” as concerns grow of a new front in the conflict, the Associated Press reports, Strategic Ukraine town under rebel control. President Petro Poroshenko convened the meeting as the southeastern Ukraine town of Novoazovsk appeared firmly under the control of Russia backed separatists. Russian markets took a dive as fears grew that the country has escalated its role in the conflict which could provoke U.S. and European Union to impose more sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals. Poroshenko said: “I have decided to cancel my visit to Turkey because of the sharp escalation of the situation in the Donetsk region… as Russian forces have entered Ukraine.” The Associated Press explains what such a move could mean and why Novoazovsk is a strategic move: “The new southeastern front raised fears that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. If successful, it could give them or Russia control over the entire Sea of Azov and the gas and mineral riches that energy experts believe it contains. Ukraine already has lost roughly half its coastline, several major ports and significant Black Sea mineral rights in March when Russia annexed Crimea.” In a statement, Donetsk city administration said 11 people were killed by shelling during the night. The U.S. government accused Russia of the new military campaign in Ukraine that is helping rebel forces expand their fighting and sending in tanks, rocket launchers and armored vehicles. “These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday. She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in St. Petersburg hospital. The same day, the U.N. Security Council met in an emergency meeting to discuss the Ukraine crisis, according to the Associated Press, U.N. Security Council meets on Ukraine crisis. U.N. undersecretary-General of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the members that the latest developments mark a “dangerous escalation in the conflict,” but the international body had no way of verifying the latest “deeply alarming reports.” Statements from NATO, Poroshenko ,the separatists, the United States and the president of the Security Council left no doubt that Russia had invaded Ukraine. A NATO officials said 1,000 Russian troops have entered Ukraine with sophisticated equipment and have been in direct contact with Ukrainian soldiers resulting in casualties. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power tld the council: “Every single one has sent a straightforward, unified message: `Russia, stop this conflict. Russia is not listening.’ Russia has come before the council to say everything but the truth. We will continue working with G-7 partners to rachet up consequences on Russia.” UK Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters: “Russia will be asked to explain why Russia has its troops inside Ukraine. It’s very clear that Russian regular troops are now in Ukraine.”

President Barack Obama on Thursday said the U.S. night impose new economic sanctions on Russia blaming the warfare in eastern Ukraine solely on them and ruled out military options or proposed no shift in American led strategy to convince Moscow to halt its operation, Bradley Klapper, Obama puts Ukraine violence squarely on Russia. Obama spoke via phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led diplomatic efforts to end the fighting between Ukraine and Russian backed rebels: “We agree, if there was ever any doubt, that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.” Russia continued to deny allegation saying there is no proof its troops are operating in Ukraine. Obama said regarding his strategy: “What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia. But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.” On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Russian separatists to release Ukrainian soldiers in eastern Ukraine, according to Nataliya Vasilyeva, Russia’s Putin urges release of Ukrainian soldiers. Putin’s statement came hours after Ukraine accused Russia of entering the territory with tanks, artillery and troops, and Western powers accused Moscow of lying about its role and dangerously escalating the conflict. In his state released early Friday published on the Kremlin’s website, Putin said: “I’m calling on insurgents to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian troops who were surrounded in order to avoid senseless deaths.” Putin did praise the efforts by what he called “insurgents” against the Kiev government, but did not address the accusations. A top rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko said on Russia’s state Rossiya 24 televisions: “With all our respect to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the president of a country which gives us moral support, we are ready to open humanitarian corridors to the Ukrainian troops who were surrounded with the condition that they surrender heavy weaponry and ammunition so that this weaponry and ammunition will not be used against us in future.” The U.N. human rights office said Friday the death toll stands at 2,220 in eastern Ukraine with a rate of three dozen a day and accused both sides of deliberately targeting civilians. Vasilyeva reports: “Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have carried out murders, torture and abductions along with other serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, according to the mission’s field work between July 16 and Aug. 17. The report also said Ukraine’s military is guilty of human rights violations such as arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture.” U.N. Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic who visited Kiev Friday said the death toll reached 2,600 by Aug. 27 and described the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine as alarming. European Union foreign ministers met in Milan Friday to weigh the 8 nation bloc’s stance on beefing up economic sanction against Russia in order to prepare for further steps to be announced at the summit of the bloc’s leaders Saturday in Brussels.

Israeli Citizens Flee the Border, Ukraine Faces New Challenges, and New Threats to U.S. Security

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Tens of thousands of Israelis are fleeing their homes near the border of Gaza as fear and frustration grow in a war between Israel and Hamas that appears to have no end in site. The government on Monday has offered assistance in the first large scale voluntary evacuation in the eight week war with the school year fast approaching, Ian Deitch reports, Gaza attacks triggers Israeli exodus from border. Officials estimate 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left including hundreds on Monday. According to Gaza officials, the fighting has killed 2,100 Palestinians, leveled thousands of buildings and left tens of thousands displaced. The death toll on the Israeli side has remained low due to air raid sirens, bomb shelters and the Iron Dome missile defense system. In a TV interview Sunday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, “It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions. The state of Israel will not run away from terror organizations. It fights terror organizations.” Israeli education officials said the children will be absorbed into areas schools, but Tamir Idan, a regional council head in southern Israel, said schools will not open next week if rocket fire persists. The fighting in Gaza has caused more disruption to students as officials have delayed the start of classes which should of started on Sunday.The Israeli military said it carried out 65 airstrikes Monday, while the Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel. Palestinian health officials said seven people were killed, while one Israeli was wounded by Palestinian fire.

On Tuesday, meanwhile in Ukraine, Ukrainian military reportedly captured a group of Russian paratroopers who crossed into Ukrainian territory on a mission, but Moscow claims they ended up there by mistake, Andrei Makhovsky and Alessandra Prentice report, Ukraine Releases Footage Of Captured Russian Soldiers. In addition, the military reports pro-Russian separatist forces were shelling the town of Novoazovsk and buildings were ablaze with 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed and 19 wounded in the past 24 hours, according to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko. Earlier, the security services released video footage claiming that it shows testimonies from Russian paratroopers detained by the Ukrainian government forces while fighting with pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine. The video provides the strongest evidence so far to back up claims by Kiev that Russia is involved in the conflict and the intensified fighting in the east overshadowed the meeting of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Russia denies giving military help and a Russian defense source, quoted by RIA Novosti, said the servicemen had strayed into Ukrainian territory by mistake during border patrol. Lysenko in a briefing stated, “It wasn’t a mistake, but a special mission they were carrying out.” In the footage posted to Kiev’s Anti-Terrorist Operation Facebook page, one of the soldiers who identified himself as Ivan Milchakov listed his personal details including the name of the paratroop regiment based in the Russian Town of Kostroma. In the video, he said: “I did not see where we crossed the border. They just told us we were going on a 70-kilometer march over three days. Everything is different here, not like they show it on television. We’ve come as cannon fodder.” Another man named Sergeant Aleksei Generalov said: “Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren’t here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves.” Social network pages appear to corroborate the men’s story that they are active in the Russian military. The Russian soldiers were detained with personal documents and weapons near Amvrosiyivka in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian state security service reports. Lysenko said Russian Mi-24 helicopters has fired on a border post Monday killing four border guards, while rebel forces backed by an armored column allegedly moved across the border from Russia attacked Novoazovsk on Monday aiming to open up a new front. In a Facebook post, Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey said: “Officially they are on military exercises in various corners of Russia. In reality they are involved in military aggression against Ukraine.” The same day, Tuesday, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine sat down for talks meeting fact to face for the first time since June to discuss the fighting that has engulfed Ukraine’s east. Nataliya Vasilyeva reports, Putin sits down with Ukrainian president for talks, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko were joined by the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and three senior officials from the European Union in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. As talks began, Poroshenko said: “The fate of my country and Europe is being decided here in Minsk today. The interests of Donbass (eastern Ukraine) have been and will be taken into account.” Opening the meeting, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko urged both sides to “discard political ambitions and not to seek political dividend.” Ukraine wants the rebels to hand back the territory they captured in eastern Ukraine, while Putin wants to retain leverage over the mostly Russian speaking region so Ukraine does not join NATO or the European Union. THe fighting in eastern Ukraine began in April and has killed 2,000 people, 726 Ukrainian servicemen and forced 340,000 to flee, according to the U.N.

While internationally Ukraine has faced many challenges and criticism from rivals and allies, internal conflict has forced Poroshenko to dissolve parliament and call for new elections to take place quickly. Jim Heintz reports, Ukrainian president dissolves parliament, Ukraine’s president on Monday announced in a statement via his website that he has dissolved parliament and called for early elections on October 26. He said the move was in coherence with the Ukrainian constitution commenting that the ruling coalition collapsed several weeks ago. Poroshenko stated: “Many deputies who are in the Rada (parliament) are direct sponsors or accomplices, that is to say allies of the militant separatists….I have decided to prematurely end the authority of parliament.” Under the law, the election must be held within 60 days of the decree being published.

Back in the Middle East, the Associated Press reported, The US has begun surveillance flights over Syria, the White House and U.S. officials have announce surveillance flights over Syria following President Barack Obama approval, but has yet to approve military actions inside Syria due to lack of intelligence on the militants. Pentagon officials have drafted potential options for the president that include airstrikes, while one official said the administration needs reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights important to obtain data. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday the U.S. wants more clarity on the militants in Syria. Dempsey explained: “Clearly the picture we have of ISIS on the Iraqi side is a more refined picture. The existence and activities of ISIS on the Syrian side, we have … some insights into that but we certainly want to have more insights into that as we craft a way forward.” The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month with Obama citing the threat to American personnel in the country and the humanitarian crisis in the north, while top Pentagon officials said the only way the threat from militants can be eliminated is to attack the group in Syria as well. The president has tried to avoid getting involved in Syria’s long standing bloody civil war, however, due to the execution of American journalist James Foley in Syria and the group threatening to kill other U.S. citizens held in Syria, the president has changed his tune. Dempsey said the U.S. has been meeting with allies in the region to help develop a better understanding of the threat and believes those talks are setting “the conditions for some kind of coalition to form.” Dempsey believes key allies in the region will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Prior to the airstrikes in Iraq, the U.S. had already stepped up air surveillance of the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this year. In addition the administration run some surveillance missions over Syria when an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages failed earlier this summer. A top Syrian official said Monday any U.S. airstrikes without consent from Syria would be considered an aggression. Speaking in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters his government is ready to cooperate and coordinate with any side including the U.S. or join any regional or international alliance against the Islamic group. However, any action taken would be coordinated with the Syrian government adding: “Any strike which is not coordinated with the government will be considered as aggression.” He said Damascus has long warned of the threat of terrorism and the need to cut off resources and funding, but no one listened. In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the west will “have to choose what is more important: to change the regime and satisfy personal antipathies with the risk that the situation will crumble, or find pragmatic ways to join efforts against the common threat, which is the same for all of us – terrorism.” Moscow and Damascus have been close allies for decades providing it will weapons and funding to help support Assad through the current conflict. Mustafa Alani, the director of the security and defense department at the Gulf Research Center in Geneva, said: “The Syrian government is trying to say they are on the same side as the international community. The old claim from Day 1 that the Syrians have tried to make is that they are fighting pure terrorism. There’s no revolution, no rebels, no opposition. I don’t see this sort of call being acceptable, especially on the regional level. The Americans might find themselves forced to cooperate under the table with the Syrians. But I don’t think Arab countries will accept Syria as a member of the club fighting the Islamic State.” Referring to the failed attempt at rescuing U.S. citizens held by the militant group, al-Moallem said: “Had there been prior coordination that operation would not have failed.” The minister did condemn the killing of James Foley, but asked: “Has the West ever condemned the massacres by the Islamic State … against our armed forces or citizens?”

Putting An End to the Ukraine Conflict

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On Monday, as reported by the Associate Press, the Kremlin confirmed that President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama had talked on the phone agreeing that direct talks between warring parties in Ukraine is necessary to end the conflict. In addition, Putin emphasized the need to end the fighting and start direct talks between the parties involved in order to normalize the situation in eastern Ukraine. In an article entitled Obama and Putin Discuss Ukraine Crisis, the Associated Press explains that, “Putin has welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s declaration of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, but added it can only be viable if the Ukrainian government sits down for talks with insurgents, who have declared their border regions independent and fought government troops for two months.”

On Tuesday, the day after his talk with the POTUS, Putin cancelled his resolution to sanction the use of military force in Ukraine, according to Laura Mill’s article Putin withdraws request to use force in Ukraine. The announcement came after pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine said they would respect the cease fire declared by Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko possibly ending the months of fighting that killed hundreds and driven thousands out of their homes. The Kremlin stated on their website that Putin asked the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament to cancel his March 1 request.  According to RIA Novosti, Russian parliament member Valery Shnyakin confirmed that the house would vote Wednesday on the issue. The news lead to a 1.6 percent gain for Russian markets on Tuesday reaching a four month high. The request was made, according to Mill, after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was ousted in February after months of protest and Russia annexed the Black Sea region of Crimea. However, Putin’s latest move shows an effort to de-escalate the situation ahead of his visit to Vienna Tuesday to meet with Organization for Security and Co-operation officials who have helped broker peace talks between Kiev and Moscow. Both Kiev and western governments in the past have accused Russia of supporting eastern rebels and amassing troops at the border to invade Ukraine, but the announcement by Putin Tuesday has led to praised from Poroshenko. The cease fire in eastern Ukraine has largely held up with some fighting occurring around the rebel stronghold of Slovyansk.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday an already shaky cease fire in Ukraine hit a snag when pro-Moscow separatists shot down a Ukrainian helicopter killing nine service men, according to the Associated Press. Ukraninan President Petro Poroshenko warned he would end the truce early. The attack itself happened only a day after the rebels promised to honor the cease fire which began last Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Ukraine to extend the true and sit down for talks with rebels. However, the cease fire has been broken by sporadic attacks and violated again Tuesday when rebels fired missiles that resulted in the downing of a helicopter in Slovyansk. Poroshenko states that the insurgency had fired on Unkranina positions 35 times since the announcement of a cease fire and instructed soldiers to fire back if attacked. The Associate Press reports that Poroshenko hopes that his phone call on Wednesday with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande would lead to “practical steps by Russia to disarm and recall mercenaries from Ukraine and ensure the reliable protection of the border.” In Vienna, Putin explained that the Ukrainian demand for insurgents to lay down weapons in a week was unrealistic due to fears of government reprisal and urged Ukraine to extend the truce so that peace talks could begin. Speaking about the recent attack, Putin blamed Ukrainian forces claiming that they had launched an airborne raid in Slovyansk on Tuesday before the attack breaking the cease fire. Putin offered to facilitate peace talks with Ukraine, but added that Russia will defend and protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, demands Putin take actions to de-escalate the situation citing recent contradictory behavior such as the return of troops to the border, an increase flow of weapons and military equipment to separatists and Putin’s decision to put combat forces on alert, the Associate Press reports.