The deployment, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump, would potentially double the number of U.S. forces in Syria and increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement in a conflict that has been characterized by confusion and competing priorities among disparate forces.
Trump, who charged former president Barack Obama with being weak on Syria, gave the Pentagon 30 days to prepare a new counter-Islamic State plan, and Mattis submitted a broad outline to the White House at the end of February. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, has been filling in more details for that outline, including by how much to increase the U.S. ground presence in Syria. Votel is set to forward his recommendations to Mattis by the end of the month, and the Pentagon secretary is likely to sign off on them, according to a defense official familiar with the deliberations.
The US prepares to ‘incapacitate’ Kim: USS Carl Vinson carrying huge fleet of fighter jets arrives in South Korea as military sources reveal plan to ‘remove’ Jong-un’s war chiefs
- USS Carl Vinson arrived at the southern port of Busan, in South Korea, to join the annual joint military exercise
- South Korea military source says heightened presence is part of plan to decapitate North Korean leadership
- Pyongyang has long condemned the annual joint drills – called Foal Eagle – between South Korea and the US
- Tensions have escalated with missile launches from North and assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother
A growing US presence off the Korean Peninsula is reportedly part of a plan aimed at ‘incapacitating’ Kim Jong Un’s despotic regime in Pyongyang should conflict break out.
A nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Wednesday for joint military exercises in the latest show of force against the North.
The USS Carl Vinson arrived at the southern port of Busan as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a tour of the region, where tensions have escalated in recent weeks with missile launches from the nuclear-armed North and the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s estranged half-brother in Malaysia.
More than 80 aircraft, including the fighter aircraft F/A-18F Super Hornet, the E-2C Hawkeye and the carrier-based EA-18G Growler are on board the supercarrier.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency claims the heightened military presence is part of a plan to decapitate North Korean leadership.
They claim a military official, who wished to remain anonymous, told them: ‘A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities.’
Another Syria? US eyes warily as Russia positions forces near Libya
IS RUSSIA PULLING A SYRIA IN LIBYA? The U.S. is watching warily as Russia appears to be positioning forces to possibly intervene in Libya, a fractured country with a barely working “Government of National Accord.” This morning, Moscow is denying that Russian special forces have deployed to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya, as reported by Reuters. And U.S. aerial reconnaissance assets have spotted Russian transport aircraft and a large Russian drone at the Sidi Barrani airbase in Egypt, about 60 miles from the Libyan border, and unnamed U.S. officials are saying it’s an indication that Russia is interfering in Libya, CNN reports.
The concern, raised last week at the Senate Armed Services Committee, is that Russia may be moving to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar in the same it way moved into Syria to prop up Bashar Assad in 2015. “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya. They’re working to influence that decision,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. Africa Command, testified Thursday. When Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested, “They’re trying to do in Libya what they’ve been doing in Syria?” Waldhauser replied, “That’s a good way to characterize it.”
Hackers to be charged in Yahoo security breach
U.S. officials are planning to unveil charges Wednesday related to the theft of personal data that affected hundreds of millions of Yahoo users and disrupted the company’s sale to Verizon, according to people familiar with the matter.
At least some of the alleged hackers have ties to the Russian government, said the people, who added the national security division of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation plan to announce the charges Wednesday morning.
In September, Yahoo revealed hackers penetrated its network in late 2014 and stole personal data on more than 500 million users. The company concluded that it had been breached by “a state-sponsored actor.” The 2014 incident was separate from another much larger theft, affecting more than a billion accounts, that Yahoo disclosed in December and that dated back to 2013.
Police arrested 13 people, including a former high-ranking IDF officer, on Wednesday morning, following a months-long “deep corruption” probe into the Israeli Aerospace Industries, police said.
They are suspected of a wide range of corruption charges, including fraud and money laundering.
The suspects came from IAI and private companies who either supplied or were supplied by IAI, along with the aforementioned former senior Israel Defense Forces officer, who police said was “well known in the defense establishment.”
A number of other people were “detained for investigation,” but not formally arrested, police said.
IAI said it would cooperate with the probe.
Syria conflict: Suicide bomber targets Damascus courthouse
[Syrian state-owned television says at least 25 people have been killed after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives’ vest inside the main judicial building in the capital Damascus. http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article138584288.html#storylink=cpy%5D
Dozens of people have been killed or injured in a suicide bomb attack at the main court building in the Syrian capital Damascus, state media report.
State TV said a militant had blown himself up inside the Palace of Justice in the central Hamidiya district.
An AFP news agency journalist reported seeing ambulances and fire engines parked outside the building.
It comes on the sixth anniversary of the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Guterres distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) but US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it should be scrapped altogether.
“The United States is outraged by the report,” said Haley in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”
Based in Beirut, ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab countries, according to its website, which lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.
“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.
Second Damascus suicide bomb attack hit restaurant, several casualties: state media
The second suicide bomber to attack the Syrian capital of Damascus on Wednesday set off an explosive device inside a restaurant in the al-Rabweh area, to the west of an earlier suicide attack, state media said.
State-run SANA news agency said there were several casualties. No further details were immediately available.
Retired admiral, 8 others charged in latest ‘Fat Leonard’ indictments
Navy officers indicted for fraud, bribery
WASHINGTON — Retired US Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, four retired Navy captains, a Marine colonel and three other individuals were arrested and charged Tuesday in the latest indictments related to the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) bribery scandal. The investigation is also known as the “Fat Leonard” case, after a nickname for GDMA’s former chief executive officer, Leonard Francis.
The latest federal indictment charges the individuals with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and the services of prostitutes from Singapore-based GDMA, according to the US Department of Justice, all in exchange for classified and internal US Navy information.
Glenn Defense Marine Asia was one of the biggest husbanding firms in the western Pacific, handling a large variety of services for ships visiting ports throughout the region.
With Tuesday’s arrests, a total of 25 individuals have been charged in connection with the corruption and fraud investigation into GDMA, the Justice Department said in a press release. Of those charged, Justice said, 20 are current or former U.S. Navy officials and five are GDMA executives. Thirteen of those charged already have pleaded guilty.
No Israelis were seriously injured in the incident, though a 28-year-old woman in advanced stages of pregnancy was taken to the hospital after experiencing a panic attack, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.
The Palestinian woman’s condition was not immediately known, but she was receiving treatment from the Israel Defense Forces, MDA said.
The incident occurred shortly before 4:00 p.m.
A photograph from the scene, posted on social media, showed the Palestinian woman inside her car, which was pressed up against the metal bollards surrounding a bus stop.
Iran vows to ‘liberate’ Golan Heights
New Hezbollah-backed group aims to help Syria reconquer Golan Heights.
A new Iran-funded Iraqi Hezbollah “brigade” aims to “liberate” the Golan Heights from Israel, spokesman Seyed Hashem Moussavi last week said last week at a news conference in Iran.
According to Iranian news agency Tasnim, Moussavi, who heads the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba terror sub-group, said, “After the latest victories [in Syria and Iraq], we established the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.
“This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan. We will not permit Arab and Islamic countries in the region to remain in the grasps of the occupiers.”
According to Moussavi, the new terror group is well-trained and equipped with Iranian rockets and Russian-made T-90 tanks.
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Secretary-General Akram al-Kabi said, “The declaration regarding the formation of the Liberation of the Golan Brigade is not only a media campaign, but the real goal of the movement.”
Iran sends destroyer and warship to the Gulf of Aden
In a provocative move, Iran announced sending the “45 Group” of the Iranian Naval Force, which consists of a ship and a destroyer to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab. The tension caused by the continued friction between the Iranian gunboats and US forces located in international waters is due to the persistent attempts of Iran to assist and provide the Yemeni militia with weapons.
At least two soldiers have been killed in an explosion on a highway in southeast Turkey, according to security sources.
The troops on Wednesday were carrying out operations to detect mines in the region when suspected fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) detonated a previously planted mine, Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which targeted a vehicle loaded with soldiers as it passed by a road linking the cities of Mardin and Diyarbakir.
Ambulances rushed to the scene following the blast.
Two top EU leaders on Wednesday slammed the Turkish government for comparing some EU countries to Nazis and said Ankara was moving further away from membership of the bloc.
EU-Turkey ties soured further last week when Dutch authorities barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from landing in Rotterdam after a political rally at which he was slated to appear was canceled. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by saying “Nazism is still widespread in the West.”
Speaking to a debate at European Parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Erdoğan’s comments had “scandalized” him, and would keep Turkey far from its goal of EU membership.
“I will never accept this comparison,” Juncker said. “If you are establishing that comparison — the one who is doing this is taking distance from Europe, not trying to enter the EU.”
“The European union is not joining Turkey, Turkey is joining the EU,” he added.