Russia in search of a new strategy in Syria

Al Jazeera

For the second time in months, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said "we will fight on to liberate every inch of our land". The last time Assad made a similar statement, he was scolded by the Russian ambassador to the UN who said this was not in line with the Kremlin's policies. At the time, it wasn't - Russia was pushing for a political settlement and was involved in efforts with the United States to bring about a cessation of hostilities to create a conducive atmosphere for peace talks. This time around, however, Assad has so far not been told off. Instead, Russia sent its defence minister to Iran's capital Tehran to take part in talks with his Syrian and Iranian counterparts.


Watch as the U.K.'s defense secretary gets 'heckled' by Siri during a speech

#artificialintelligence

Apple's digital assistant left a leading member of the U.K. government red-faced on Tuesday, July 3, after it unexpectedly piped up during a speech he was giving to lawmakers in the British Parliament. Perhaps a little too keen to offer help, Siri interrupted a statement that defense secretary Gavin Williamson was giving to the House of Commons about the situation in Syria. Evidently keeping his phone in always-listening mode, Apple's digital assistant should really only have responded upon hearing "Hey, Siri." But, with his iPhone in his pocket, it seems the word "Syria" prompted the assistant to spring into action. As Williamson addressed lawmakers, Siri got back to the defense secretary with its findings, with the response picked up by the Commons' microphones: "I found something on the web for Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces supported by coalition … " Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson'heckled' by Siri at the despatch box https://t.co/CQlxXm5KAa


An Israeli Startup Raises $12.5 Million To Help Governments Spy On IoT

Forbes - Tech

Surveillance companies are showing an increasing interest in hacking into IoT devices like the Amazon Echo. With an impressive seed raise of $12.5 million and ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as co-founder, alongside an "all-star" leadership team, Tel Aviv-based Toka Cyber can certainly claim to have nailed the definition of an auspicious beginning. But, as it comes out of stealth Monday, Toka is revealing itself as an atypical force in the digital security sphere, acting as a one-stop hacking shop for intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Whatever spy tool they need, Toka will try to craft it for them. Privacy activists are hoping the company follows through on its promise to operate ethically.


Chemical arms team to assign blame for Syrian attacks despite Russia, Iran opposition

The Japan Times

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS – The global chemical weapons watchdog will in February begin to assign blame for attacks with banned munitions in Syria's war, using new powers approved by member states but opposed by Damascus and its key allies Russia and Iran. The agency was handed the new task in response to an upsurge in the use of chemical weapons in recent years, notably in the Syrian conflict, where scores of attacks with sarin and chlorine have been carried out by Syrian forces and rebel groups, according to a joint United Nations-OPCW investigation. A core team of 10 experts charged with apportioning blame for poison gas attacks in Syria will be hired soon, Fernando Arias, the new head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told the Foreign Press Association of the Netherlands on Tuesday. The Syria team will be able to look into all attacks previously investigated by the OPCW, dating back to 2014. The OPCW was granted additional powers to identify individuals and institutions responsible for attacks by its 193 member states at a special session in June.


Member States Allow Chemical Arms Watchdog to Assign Blame for Attacks

U.S. News

From 2015 to 2017 a joint United Nations-OPCW team had been appointed to assign blame for chemical attacks in Syria. It found that Syrian government troops used nerve agent sarin and chorine barrel bombs on several occasions, while Islamic State militants were found to have used sulfur mustard.