Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Registers to Run for President

Former leader insists he will not run in the May 19 poll, saying his registration aims to support a political ally.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a surprise move, has registered as a candidate for next month's presidential election. He had previously said he would not run, after being so advised by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Ayatollah suggested Ahmadinejad throw his support behind his former deputy, Hamid Baghaie.

RELATED: Russia, Iran Say U.S. Crossed 'Red Line' in Syria, Vow Response

Ahmadinejad said he remained committed to his "moral promise" to Khamenei of not running for the May 19 election. At the registration center, the former leader stated that the Khamenei's "advice was not a ban. I repeat that I am committed to my moral promise [of not running] and my presence and registration is only to support Mr. Baghaie."

Ahmadinejad left office in August 2013 after two troublesome four-year terms, which left Iran divided, isolated and struggling to find its footing economically.

His 2009 re-election was followed by one the largest protests to hit the country since the Islamic revolution three decades before. Two candidates backed by reformists Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi - who have been under house arrest since February 2011 - contested the results. Both Ahmadinejad's terms also sparked anti-Western and anti-Israeli rhetoric, including skepticism towards the Holocaust.

But, Ahmadinejad approach and humble roots make him a popular figure among the poorer sections of society.

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Trump Very Likely Profited From Syria Attack — Here’s How

U.S. President Donald Trump owns stocks in Raytheon, the weapons manufacturing corporation that produced the Tomahawk missiles used in the attack.

When U.S. President Donald Trump announced missile strikes against the Shayrat Syrian airbase last Thursday, he alleged that the attack was in the country’s “vital national security interest.”

RELATED: Trump's 'Beautiful' Syria Airstrike and What It Means

Claiming to support Syrian lives, he also said the attack “would prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

What Trump conveniently forgot to mention, however, is that he may have profited handsomely from the missile strikes he ordered, which left up to 15 people dead.

Trump owns stocks in Raytheon, the weapons manufacturing corporation that produced the Tomahawk missiles used in the attack, Raw Story reports. His 2015 financial disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission revealed that his stock portfolio includes investments in defense firms, with Raytheon leading the charge. 

The company, worth almost US$30 billion, has seen its stocks surge since the attack. The attack itself also raked in millions for the company, given that the 59 Tomahawk missiles used cost taxpayers an estimated US$1.4 million apiece, Democracy Now reports. 

Although Trump’s reported Raytheon stocks are valued between US$1,000 to US$15,000, some believe he could have deeper financial ties to the wealthy defense corporation.

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“Of course, as with all things Trump, there’s a black box here, because he’s not reporting his tax returns, he hasn’t done a blind trust,” Center for International Policy official William Hartung told Democracy Now. 

“Virtually anything he does, not just in the military sphere, could benefit him, his family, his inner circle financially.”

RELATED: How 'Anti-Trump' Liberal Media Cheered Syria Attack

Trump justified the missile strikes by claiming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was allegedly responsible for the chemical weapons attack two days prior that killed upwards of 70 people. His administration, however, has not presented any evidence of al-Assad’s complicity. 

Moreover, the destruction of the Shayrat Syrian airbase has made it increasingly difficult for experts to carry out an independent investigation of the chemical weapons attack.

Organizations like Raytheon that form the broader military-industrial complex have frequently served as cheerleaders of war, since the U.S. government contracts those companies to produce weapons. 

The 192 cruise missiles that were used to bomb Libya in 2011, for example, made the company over US$290 million alone.

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Exaggerated Dangers in Venezuela

Caracas, Apr 10 (Prensa Latina) Exaggerating the dangers that exist today in Venezuela seems to be part of the strategy to root the image of insecurity in order to justify a foreign intervention that will allegedly save the country's stability.

How true or false is the situation they are trying to sell to the large masses who are alarmingly observing the manipulated domestic situation, as part of a scenario that has been described as catastrophic by people like the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro?

A communiqué issued by Almagro refers to 'a killed demonstrator and dozens of wounded and arrested as the initial result of repression (on Friday), aimed at suffocating the demand for free elections, the only solution for a country devastated by the political crisis and looting.'

The peaceful protest and the right to the freedom of peaceful association, he noted, are universal rights that any government, especially the democratic governments, must respect. That shows again that there is no democracy in Venezuela and that human rights are violated regularly, the OAS chief said.

None of this fits reality. First, there is freedom to demonstrate, but authorities have the right to limit the places to prevent clashes between opposite forces, according to observers.

The violent demonstrations, according to what this correspondent has observed, are promoted by groups opposed to the government that are closely linked to 'the democrats of the continent', as Almagro calls those who 'will not accept to pay with Venezuelan blood the debts of democracy, freedoms, prosperity, the Constitution and the rights that its rulers have contracted at the people's expense,' something that these advocates cause and manipulate.

The communiqué, which was issued after Almagro met on Thursday in Washington with the speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly, the opposition leader Julio Borges, shows that the so-called soft coup against President Nicolas Maduro is being cooked in the U.S. capital, with support from local opponents.

Big media organizations have described events that do not match reality, as they are trying to depict an explosive image throughout the country.

For example, here, at the foot of Mountain Avila, there were sporadic expressions of violence in the areas of Altamira and Chacaito, known as the capital's bastions of the country's right-wing opposition and the bourgeoisie, while in other zones in the east, west and south, there is tension, but there is no violence as predicted and announced by media opposed to the government.

That atmosphere of insecurity and violence is fueled by events like this one: 'Venezuelan tennis players had to go to Miami to compete in the Davis Cup against El Salvador. Not a single game will take place in Venezuela, because the International Federation considered that it was dangerous. But no one, either the International Tennis Federation or the IND or Min-Deportes say anything', the commentator Eleazar Diaz Rangel said.

Logically, the manipulation of the situation contributes to the atmosphere of insecurity. Everything can have an interpretation here.

For example, at 08:00 hours, local time, on Sunday, a squad of soldiers wearing the olive green uniforms of the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) was deployed at the steps of the Financiero Latino building, in Urdaneta and Avenida Fuerzas Armadas.

Anyone would think that it was a scenario of violence, because the headquarters of the Ombudsman is located nearby, but it was merely a preventive exercise. The danger does not exist.

It does not mean that the country is not in tension, there is tension, ordinary people are concerned about their country and the threats coming from abroad, but so far, it has not gone beyond that, unless foreign forces attack the homeland of Simon Bolivar and Hugo Chavez. Then, there will be a dangerous situation.

However, there are still voices like that of UNASUR Secretary-General Ernesto Samper, who noted that an explicit electoral program is the best way to solve the political crisis. It was said by someone who participated in the talks between the two parties and who has promoted dialogue.

Likewise, but on the opposite direction, there is howling like that by Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who speaks about 'violations of human rights' in Venezuela and calls 'to exert pressure' to cause the explosion of a bomb that can affect the entire Latin America.

In that regard, the interpretation of the dangers may change, everything depends on being at the wrong moment and at the wrong time in the sequence of a situation.

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Nicaragua Condemns Proposed Imperial US Sanctions as Irrational

The reintroduction of the “Nica Act” in U.S. Congress is seen as part of an ongoing threat to destabilize Nicaragua's government.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a statement to reject U.S. financial sanctions on the country, known as the “Nica Act,” which is seen as an attack to destabilize the country and President Daniel Ortega’s government.

RELATED: Here We Go Again: Washington's War on Democracy in Nicaragua

The statement against the sanctions was approved by 91 members of the National Assembly, from both members of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation, FSLN, and the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

“The Nica Act appears as a proposal, blind, deaf, and irrational, conceived by insensitive minds, troublemakers, and completely closed to recognize the rights of Nicaraguans to live away from the conflicts of the past,” the Nicaraguan statement read.

On Wednesday, a group of Congress members in the U.S. reintroduced the Nicaraguan Investment Act Conditionality Act, which will aim to slap Ortega's government with financial sanctions for alleged human rights violations and an erosion of democratic standards. The 71-year-old Ortega, a former Sandinista guerrilla who won with 72.5 percent of the vote in his November re-election, has been in Washington's crosshairs since the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan was in office.

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Sanctions could block Nicaragua from requesting loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, which currently contributes around US$250 million dollars annually to the country.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo labeled the move to reintroduce the act “reactionary and interventionist” and sought to “undermine the right of Nicaragua to continue developing the socialist model.”

RELATED: Meet the Sex Workers Replacing Cops in Sandinista-Run Nicaragua

Second Secretary of the National Assembly Wilfredo Navarro warned that the sanctions could roll back the achievements of the Ortega government, which has been able to reduce poverty, improve security, lower crime, stamp out illiteracy and boost economic growth. 

The Organization of American States last year urged U.S. Congress to reconsider the Nica Act, arguing that it would not be a “constructive contribution” to strengthen democracy in Nicaragua. OAS head Luis Almagro again reiterated these concerns on Wednesday in light of the act being introduced, even though he is leading efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela. 

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US missile strike in Syria: What we know so far about target, victims & reactions

The US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase, killing at least six people, including civilians, and wounding several others. Reactions to the operation continue to roll in, with Russia condemning it while EU countries and others express support.

US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on an airfield in Shayrat, near Homs, which resulted in a Friday pre-dawn strike in which 59 Tomahawk missiles were deployed.

Six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the operation, along with a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen and a radar station, according to Russia's Ministry of Defense (MoD).

READ MORE: 1st footage of destruction at US-hit Shayrat airbase in Syria (VIDEO)

However, the airfield's runway remained intact, according to the MoD, which described the operation's efficiency as “quite poor.”

Syrian officials have so far confirmed that six people were killed and several others wounded in the operation.

However, the governor of Homs told RT that at least five people had been killed, three of whom were Syrian soldiers. He also stated that at least seven people had been wounded.

Meanwhile, Syria's SANA news agency has reported nine civilian deaths, including four children. 

Global reaction 

The office of Syrian President Bashar Assad called the US strike “reckless”,“irresponsible” and “shortsighted,” claiming the motives the strike weren't based on true facts.

 

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syria on April 7, 2017. © Ford Williams / Courtesy U.S. Navy / Handout via REUTERS

The Syrian Army called the strike “blatant aggression,” stating that it makes the US a partner of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist organizations.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi told Syrian state television that Syria's leadership and policy will not change as a result of the missile attack, pledging that the targeted airfield will be rebuilt and continue to play a role in fighting terrorists.

Russia also condemned the strike, saying it is suspending an agreement with the US to prevent incidents and ensure flight safety during military operations in Syria. Under the agreement, the two sides had exchanged information about planned flights in the area.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that strike reminds him of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was launched without approval from the UN Security Council. He went on to state that Washington has not presented any evidence to back its allegation that Damascus was behind the chemical attack.

Iran, a key ally of Assad, called the strikes “dangerous” and “destructive,” saying they violate international law.

Meanwhile, European countries have expressed support for the assault, including France, Germany, the UK and Italy.

@DefenceHQ Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has welcomed US strikes on a Syrian airfield last night, saying they were 'limited and appropriate'.

French President Francois Hollande said Assad bears full responsibility for the strike, and said Russia should take it as a “warning” to push for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk says the strike is a needed action against “barbaric” chemical attacks, adding that the EU will work with the US to end the Syrian conflict.

@eucopresident US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has also voiced support for the operation, with Ankara accusing Damascus of “humanitarian crimes.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the operation "positive" and a "concrete step taken against the war crimes of the Assad regime," but said it isn't enough on its own. He added that "serious steps" are needed for the protection of innocent Syrians, Reuters reported.

The prime minister of Israel, a staunch ally of the US, said Trump has sent a message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Benjamin Netanyahu went on to say that he hopes the message will extend not only to Damascus, but to other countries, including Iran and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia called the strike a “courageous decision” by Trump, expressing its full support, SPA news agency reported, citing a statement from Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also expressed support for the strike.

Japan has also voiced support for the operation.

China, which has historically sided with Russia at the UN in opposing condemnation of Assad's government, said it had “noted” the latest developments, but did not mention the missile attack specifically. It went on to state that the most urgent task to was to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Further steps 

Following the strike, Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he regards the strike as an “aggression against a sovereign nation,” according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He also said Putin believes the strike was carried out “in violation of international law” and “under an invented pretext.”

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Moscow also vowed to take “a number of measures” to strengthen and improve Syria's air defense system in order to protect “vital parts of Syrian infrastructure,” according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov.

The missile strike, which Trump said was in America's national interest in order to prevent the use of chemical weapons, came after a chemical attack took place in Idlib, Syria, earlier this week. The US operation took place before any investigations were concluded.

Up to 86 people, including 26 children, are alleged to have been killed in the chemical attack, with images showing civilians choking and fainting, and some foaming at the mouths.

Washington has accused the Syrian government of being behind the “barbaric” attack.

However, Russia's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the chemical release was the result of the Syrian Army destroying a rebel warehouse where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq. The ministry called the information “fully objective and verified.”

The Syrian Army also completely denied deploying chemical or toxic material, stating that it “has not used nor will use” such materials “in any place or time, neither in the past or in the future.”

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6 MiG-23 aircraft destroyed in US strike on Syrian airfield, runway undamaged – Russian MoD

Six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the US missile strike on a Syrian airfield in Homs province, but the runway remained intact, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on US missile strike against Syria 

The strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s Homs Province destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station.

 
© Россия 24

The runway, taxiways and the Syrian aircraft on the parking apron remained undamaged, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The ministry described the combat efficiency of the strike as “quite poor.”

“On April 7, 2017, between 3:42am and 3:56am Moscow time, two US Navy destroyers (USS Porter and USS Ross) fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in Homs Province, Syria, from an area near the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.

“According to our sources, only 23 of them reached the Syrian airbase,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that the points of impact of the other 36 cruise missiles remain unknown.

The ministry also slammed the US actions as “a gross violation” of the memorandum of understanding signed by Moscow in Washington back in 2015 to prevent flight incidents in Syrian airspace.

READ MORE: Russia suspends flight safety memorandum over Syria after US missile strike – Foreign Ministry

All justifications for the strike are “groundless claims,” the ministry continued.

 
U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syria on April 7, 2017. © Ford Williams / Courtesy U.S. Navy / Handout via REUTERS

“Russia made an earlier statement that the Syrian forces did not use chemical weapons. We are waiting for clarification from the US on undisputed – as they claim – evidence that it was the Syrian Army that deployed chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.”

The ministry also pointed to the events that followed the strikes, a large-scale offensive against the Syrian Army carried out by Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front terrorists.

“We hope that this offensive was in no way coordinated with the US,” the ministry said.

"A number of measures aimed at strengthening and improving the effectiveness of the Syrian air defense system will be implemented in the near future in order to protect the vital parts of the Syrian infrastructure," Konashenkov said.

Aftermath Footage: Shayrat airbase in Syria after US missile strike

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Venezuelans on Alert in Light of Coup

Caracas, Apr 5 (Prensa Latina) The people and authorities of Venezuela on Tuesday showed that they are prepared to counter the coup plans designed in a script written by several authors who want to break the country's constitutional order.

It could be said that the opposition took to the streets en masse, or rather to a small portion of the capital's streets, where Henrique Capriles, the governor of the state of Miranda who visited Washington recently to receive orders and coordinate plans, has his domain.

However, the Chavist peaceful demonstration was larger and responded to the attacks by opposition sectors, who are trying to create an atmosphere of violence 'to justify' an intervention by its foreign protectors and supporters, as denounced by the popular leader Diosdado Cabello, when he warned against recent dangers for the country.

Evidence of the macabre plot against Venezuela is evident.

According to Marcos Roitman Rosenmann, a Chilean-Spanish essayist, university professor and a Ph.D. in political sciences and sociology, the conspiracy to break Venezuela's constitutional order is under way.

After the conversations between Admiral Kurt Tidd, who at the time was the commander-in-chief of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, and the incumbent secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in January 2016, anything can be expected.

In that meeting, they talked about the coup plans and coordinated the action of regional bodies with one end: to undermine the legitimate power of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, Roitman pointed out.

Intelligence services, non-governmental organizations, private media corporation, radio, television, social networks, those that are involved today, must synchronize their actions to deal the final blow, the academic warned.

So far, everything goes as planned, according to the latest developments in the OAS and here in Venezuela.

The conspirators insist on inaugurating a parallel State, headed by the Parliament, in the hands of the opposition. The immediate work is to lay the foundations to make it viable. The strategy is to pressure the Judicial Power, to discredit its resolution and to force the government to take exceptional measures, so that they can justify the intervention to safeguard, curiously, the constitutional order, Roitman said in his analysis.

Of course, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas plays a key role in that labyrinth, as many conspirators go there to meet Tenny Smith, a high-ranking military officer who belongs to the defense intelligence agency, and Rita Buck Rico, who works at the political affairs section of U.S. foreign services, to receive instructions.

Meanwhile, a domestic campaign, focused on Parliament, which is in the hands of the opposition, is being prepared to request a foreign intervention, refusing to comply with its legislative function, which is to approve and develop laws. The maneuver is aimed at turning the National Assembly into the Executive Power.

However, so far, the enemies of the Revolution initiated by Commander Hugo Chavez have not counted on the civic-military unity of Venezuelans, so they will not be able to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.

The plans to enforce the so-called OAS Democratic Charter have not materialized, despite the servility of some governments that have knelt to the new orchestra director in the United States, Donald Trump.

Notwithstanding, the setback in the so-called Ministry of Colonies may speed up the sedition, so the warnings made by the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Cabello, against a foreign intervention and future bombings are important, because preparations for the coup are under way.

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Israel conducts military drill to get ready for next ‘real war’ with Hezbollah

Israel is conducting a large-scale military drill at a base in the north of the country, in what commanders say could always be the “last training before the war” with Hezbollah.

“We are trying to give the commanders and the soldiers the environment that looks like the real war so that they can have the feeling, when they will have to go to war, they will feel that they did it before. This is the purpose of the training – to prepare for the real thing,” Col. Kobi Valer, commander of the Elyakim Military Base in northern Israel, told AP.

“The forces need to know that this could be their last training before the war,” he added.

Armed with paintball pellets to stage a mock battle, the troops raided structures featuring murals of Hezbollah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, and other top Hezbollah figures, and opened fire at fellow officers playing the roles of guerrillas, AP reported.

“Undoubtedly, doing this a few weeks every year makes people more confident about fighting in a real war,” Capt. Ofek Sinai, a 26-year-old reserve platoon commander, said.

Israel said last week that its ‘David’s Sling’ system, designed to intercept medium-range missiles from Hezbollah, is due to become operational by early April.

“We will finish a long process of testing a new weapons system that will join the air force,” Lt.-Col. Kobi Regev, the David’s Sling battalion commander, said, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.

“The new and more advanced system, which is connected with our two older systems, the Iron Dome and Arrow Missile Defense System, is more relevant to the threats posed to Israeli citizens,” he added.

Israel will never hesitate to intervene to prevent potential arms transfers to Hezbollah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month, commenting on Israel’s air raid in Syria in which the intruding jets were targeted by Syrian air defense systems. Four Israeli jets breached Syrian airspace and targeted military sites, prompting Damascus to activate its air defense systems. According to the Syrian military, one of the Israeli jets was shot down over the occupied Golan Heights, while another was damaged. The IDF denied that any of its jets were hit, saying that Syrian anti-aircraft missiles either missed or had been intercepted by Israel’s own air defenses.

 
While Israel is not actively fighting in the Syrian war, it keeps close tabs on Iran and Hezbollah, both of which are backing Syrian government forces.

In December of last year, Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, shed some light on Tel Aviv’s policy on Syria, stating that it is working to prevent chemical weapons from reaching Hezbollah. The statement came shortly after a rocket attack on a Damascus air base was blamed on Israel.

The defense minister said that while Israel has “absolutely no interest” in getting involved in the Syrian war, it will defend itself.

'“Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: We won’t allow any harm to the citizens of the State of Israel, we won’t allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel and we will not allow the smuggling of high-quality advanced weapons and chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah,” Liberman said, as cited by The Times of Israel.

The defense minister’s office refused to elaborate on the type of weapons of mass destruction Hezbollah may be trying to obtain.

Tel Aviv last fought a war with Hezbollah in 2006. That conflict included rocket strikes inside Israel and an Israeli air and ground offensive in Lebanon. Israeli leaders have stated that since then, Lebanon-based Hezbollah has built up and improved its range of rockets, which can now strike deep inside the Jewish state.

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