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High-gear diplomacy aims to avert U.S.-Iran conflict

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – A flurry of diplomatic visits and meetings crisscrossing the Persian Gulf have driven urgent efforts in recent days to defuse the possibility of all-out war after the U.S. killed Iran's top military commander. Global leaders and top diplomats are repeating the mantra of "de-escalation" and "dialog," yet none has publicly laid out a path to achieving either. The United States and Iran have said they do not want war, but fears have grown that the crisis could spin out of Tehran's or Washington's control. Tensions have careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad on Jan. 3 was seen as a major provocation.


Israel hints it could hit Iran's 'air force' in Syria

The Japan Times

JERUSALEM – Israel released details on Tuesday about what it described as an Iranian "air force" deployed in neighboring Syria, including civilian planes suspected of transferring arms, a signal that these could be attacked should tensions with Tehran escalate. Iran, along with Damascus and its big-power backer Russia, blamed Israel for an April 9 airstrike on a Syrian air base, T-4, that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members. Iranian officials have promised unspecified reprisals. Israeli media ran satellite images and a map of five Syrian air bases allegedly used to field Iranian drones or cargo aircraft, as well as the names of three senior IRGC officers suspected of commanding related projects, such as missile units. The information came from the Israeli military, according to a wide range of television and radio stations and news websites.


Electronic devices banned on US-bound flights from 8 countries

New Scientist

Passengers travelling to the US on flights from eight different countries will be banned from carrying laptops, iPads, cameras and most other electronics in their carry-on luggage. The reason for the ban is not immediately clear. The ban was revealed on Monday in statements from Royal Jordanian Airlines and the official news agency of Saudi Arabia. It will apply to non-stop flights to the US from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt; Amman in Jordan; Kuwait City in Kuwait; Casablanca in Morocco; Doha in Qatar; Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul in Turkey; and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to a US official. Royal Jordanian said mobile phones and medical devices were excluded from the ban.


Hackers steal 1.5 million people's personal data in cyber attack on Singapore's health service

The Independent - Tech

Hackers have stolen personal information about 1.5 million people in a major cyber attack on the Singapore government's health database. More than a quarter of the city state's population was affected by the "deliberate, targeted and well-planned" attack, in which data on patients who visited clinics between May 2015 and 4 July this year was illegally accessed and copied. "It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs," the government said, adding those responsible had been looking to obtain personal details about the prime minister and the medicines he had been proscribed. "The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon's personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines," said a joint statement by the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Communications and Information. In a statement on his Facebook page, Mr Lee said: "I don't know what the attackers were hoping to find.


Airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria apparently kill 18; Hezbollah claims downing of Israeli drone

The Japan Times

BEIRUT – Unknown warplanes targeted overnight an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least 18 fighters, Syrian opposition activists said Monday. The strikes come amid rising tensions in the Middle East and the crisis between Iran and the U.S. in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. An official with an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal. There was no immediate comment from Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran has no immunity anywhere and that the Israeli military "will act -- and currently are acting -- against them."