By Parisa Hafezi ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Wednesday many Iranians have volunteered to fight in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad's war against "terrorism", the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. Shi'ite-dominated Iran is Assad's main regional ally and has provided military and economic support for his conflict with range of Sunni Muslim rebel and militant groups including Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. "Many young Iranians from different parts of the country and of different ethnicities have volunteered to go to Syria ... to help the Syrian government and the Syrian people in their fight against terrorism...," Tasnim quoted the head of the IRGC's public relations office, General Ramezan Sharif, as saying. Sharif gave no figures for the number of volunteers. Assad's government has branded all those seeking his removal - whether Islamist or relatively secular insurgents, as well as the pro-democracy demonstrators whose peaceful uprising launched Syria's conflict in 2011 - as "terrorists". The Islamic Republic denies having any conventional armed forces in Syria, but has acknowledged having military advisers and volunteers from the IRGC there to help Assad's forces. Last month, however, Tehran said military commandos had also been dispatched to Syria as advisers, suggesting it was using its regular army as well as forces from the IRGC. However, Iran's army chief later said those personnel were volunteers working under IRGC supervision, and that the regular army was not directly involved. Iran has two distinct armed forces - a regular army serving as a national defense force, and the IRGC that was created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Islamic Republic against both internal and external adversaries. In the past few months Iran has sustained serious losses in Syria, including several high-ranking members of the IRGC. Iranian media have reported the death of over 100 members of the IRGC and its affiliated volunteer, the Basij militia, in Syria. The United States, Saudi Arabia and some other Western and Gulf states plus Turkey back rebels fighting to remove Assad, who has military support from Russia and Iran. "Syria is the golden ring of resistance front," Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Iran's Student News Agency ISNA. "If Assad and the Syrian people fail in their fight against Takfiri (hardline Sunni Islamist) groups..., their next target will be (Shi'ite-led) Iraq, followed by Iran," he said. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)
- Yahoo News
Fresh off his inauguration Wednesday, President Biden began his term with executive orders on measures ranging from curbing the coronavirus pandemic to addressing racial inequality, many of which roll back measures enacted by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- The Week
The evenly split Senate is having a hard time agreeing who's in charge.Georgia's two new Democratic senators were sworn in Wednesday, giving Republicans and Democrats 50 senators each, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a Democratic tiebreaker. The two parties are now working out a power-sharing agreement, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) commitment to the filibuster is standing in the way.McConnell on Thursday formally acknowledged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the chamber's new majority leader. But as he has been for days, McConnell again implored Democrats to preserve the filibuster that lets a senator extend debate and block a timely vote on a bill if there aren't 60 votes to stop it. Democrats "have no plans to gut the filibuster further, but argue it would be a mistake to take one of their tools off the table just as they're about to govern," Politico reports; More progressive senators do want to remove the option completely.If his filibuster demands aren't met, McConnell has threatened to block the Senate power-sharing agreement that would put Democrats in charge of the body's committees. But Democrats already seem confident in their newfound power, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) telling Politico that "Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader." Giving in to McConnell "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) echoed.Other Democrats shared their resistance to McConnell's demands in tweets. > McConnell is threatening to filibuster the Organizing Resolution which allows Democrats to assume the committee Chair positions. It's an absolutely unprecedented, wacky, counterproductive request. We won the Senate. We get the gavels.> > -- Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 21, 2021> So after Mitch McConnell changed the Senate rules at a blistering pace during his 6 years in charge, he is threatening to filibuster the Senate's organizing resolution unless the Democratic majority agrees to never change the rules again.> > Huh.> > -- Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2021More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Joe Biden needs to get real Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan
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With the Senate poised to begin debate on Donald Trump's impeachment charge, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said some Republican House members might also face consequences over their actions leading up to the riot at the Capitol.
A Nigerian court threw out two blasphemy convictions on Thursday that had caused an international outcry, freeing a teenager from a 10-year prison sentence and ordering a new trial for a man sentenced to death. The two had been convicted in August by a sharia court in Nigeria's northern, mainly Muslim state of Kano. Teenager Omar Farouq was accused of making blasphemous comments during an argument, while Yahaya Aminu Sharif was accused of having shared a blasphemous message on WhatsApp.
- The Independent
Change came just hours after President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony
- Architectural Digest
800 feet up in the sky, the Dreamy 6,000 square foot space offers panoramic views from the East River to the HudsonOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump spent his first hours as a private citizen scrambling to find lawyers to represent him in his upcoming impeachment trial, as he settled into his new home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. One of Mr Trump’s first calls after leaving office was to Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator and staunch ally, telling him he was now “looking for some lawyers” for the imminent Senate hearing. "[Trump] said, 'I really don't know the lay of the land here,' and he's looking for some lawyers," Mr Graham told Punchbowl News. "I'm trying to help him there, and he's just trying to put together a team." Mr Trump will not be drawing on his usual litigators: Rudy Giuliani, his longtime personal lawyer, is likely to step aside as he could be called as a witness, while attorneys who represented him at the first impeachment hearing have declined.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved Avril Haines as the Director of National Intelligence, the nation's top intelligence job, making her the first of President Joe Biden's nominees to be approved. The vote was 84-10, with all the "no" votes coming from Republicans. Both Democrats and leading Republicans issued statements praising the nominee.
- Associated Press
Indonesian authorities on Thursday ended the search for remaining victims and debris from a Sriwijaya Air jet that nosedived into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board. Transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi said retrieval operations have ended after nearly two weeks, but that a limited search for the missing memory unit from the cockpit voice recorder will continue. The memory unit apparently broke away from other parts of the voice recorder during the crash.
- Yahoo News
CIA Director Gina Haspel is marking the end of a tenure that was often publicly quiet, but often included behind-the-scenes resistance to some of President Trump’s controversial moves.
A British prosecutor hired by the Hong Kong government to lead a case against democracy activists has pulled out after coming under pressure in Britain including 'disgraceful' comments by its foreign minister, city authorities said on Wednesday. David Perry, a Queen's Counsel, was due to lead the case against tabloid media magnate Jimmy Lai and several others, including veteran democracy activists Martin Lee and Margaret Ng. But Hong Kong's Department of Justice noted "growing pressure and criticism" of Perry in Britain for taking the case, adding in a statement that he had "concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine" and "indicated that the trial should proceed without him".
- The Independent
Michael Flynn’s brother reveals he was involved in Capitol riot response after Army denied it, report says
Apparent U-turn by Pentagon officials could pose questions about police response
- Yahoo News
The fantasy ended at noon on Jan. 20, when President Biden took the oath of office, while the erstwhile QAnon hero, now just Donald Trump, ex-president, skulked off to his estate in Florida without even a Twitter account to his name.
- Yahoo News Video
Former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama delivered a recorded message to President Biden on Wednesday night.
- Associated Press
A powerful earthquake shook parts of the southern Philippines on Thursday night, but authorities said it was too deep to cause major damage and no tsunami warning was issued. The quake measured magnitude 7.0 and was located 95.8 kilometers (60 miles) below the sea and about 210 kilometers (130 miles) southeast of Pondaguitan in Davao Occidental province, the U.S. Geological Survey said. In Davao city, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, some residents ran out of their houses as the ground shook and power cables and business signs swayed, but there were no reports of damage or injuries.
European Union lawmakers passed a resolution on Thursday calling for the bloc to stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to take Russian natural gas to Europe, in response to the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was detained at the weekend and later jailed for alleged parole violations after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by a military grade nerve agent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has continued to back the pipeline between Germany and Russia despite criticism elsewhere in the EU, said on Thursday her view of the project had not changed despite the Navalny case.
- The Week
Biden's team reportedly realized after inauguration that Trump really had no vaccine distribution plan
It's been more than a month since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for distribution, and nearly a year since it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would require a vaccine to fully end. But former President Donald Trump's administration still failed to arrange a usable plan for distributing COVID-19 vaccines to Americans, as President Biden's incoming administration reportedly just discovered.Biden's team expected to find major flaws in Trump's distribution plans when they arrived at the White House on Wednesday, sources with direct knowledge of the administration's COVID-19 work tell CNN. But "one of the biggest shocks that the Biden team had to digest during the transition period was what they saw as a complete lack of a vaccine distribution strategy," CNN reports. As one source put it, "There is nothing for us to rework. We are going to have to build everything from scratch."Biden campaigned on the promise of swiftly reversing the Trump administration's hands-off approach to handling the virus. The new president did take a small step in that direction Wednesday, signing an executive order mandating people wear masks on federal property and moving to make the federal government the command center for vaccine and testing distribution and administration. But Wednesday's reported discovery reveals it's going to be a lot harder than just changing attitudes around social distancing. And as one source told CNN, the lack of a plan "is just further affirmation of complete incompetence" by the Trump administration.Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 czar, said as much on Wednesday, telling reporters that "what we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined." Still, as one official leading the COVID-19 response conceded to The Daily Beast, "At least we won't have a president that's actively fighting those rules on national television."More stories from theweek.com 7 brutally funny cartoons about Trump's White House exit Joe Biden needs to get real 30 Rock star Jane Krakowski denies 'secret nine month romance' with the MyPillow guy
- Associated Press
India began supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighboring countries on Wednesday, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots. India's Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives on Wednesday. India's ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, said Wednesday that New Delhi would supply Nepal with 1 million doses free of charge, with the first to arrive as early as Thursday.