March 27, 2017

North Korea conducts another missile engine test, US officials say

One thing to know about North Korea’s missiles 01:03

Story highlights

  • Two US defense officials say it’s the third such test in recent weeks using similar technology
  • US Marines deployed F-35Bs to South Korea for the first time as part of an exercise Friday

(CNN)Two US defense officials told CNN Monday that North Korea conducted another ballistic missile engine test Friday.

The officials said the latest engine trial is the third such test in recent weeks using similar technology.

One official said that the initial assessment indicates that the engine technology could possibly be used in an eventual intercontinental ballistic missile.

It was not clear whether the engine would require some adjustment to be used in an ICBM, if it can indeed be used that way at all.

Possession of an intercontinental ballistic missile could allow North Korea to threaten the continental United States. ICBM technology is considered difficult to develop, with advanced rocket design being a necessary step.

The US is also not sure whether North Korea’s military is capable of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead so that it could be mounted on a rocket, such as an ICBM, though Pyongyang has claimed this capability and US officials have said that they incorporate that ability in their planning assumptions.

In a separate move, the US announced Monday that the US Marines have deployed F-35Bs to South Korea for the first time as part of an exercise that began Friday.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/27/politics/north-korea-missile-engine-test/

London terrorist linked to remote-controlled car bomb plot to blow up Army base

The Islamist behind the Westminster terror outrage was investigated by MI5 as part of a plot to blow up an Army base using a remote-controlled car, The Telegraph can reveal.

Adrian Ajao, 52, who killed four people, including a police officer in last Wednesday’s attack, is understood to have been probed six years ago over alleged connections to four al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists.

Zahid Iqbal, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, Syed Hussain and Umar Arshad, were jailed for a total of 44 years in 2013 after admitting plotting to launch an audacious bomb attack on a Territorial Army base in their hometown of Luton.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/26/westminster-terrorist-linked-remote-controlled-car-bomb-plot/

New details reveal stealthy, professional hit on Hamas terror leader

Killers reportedly lay in wait for hours in Mazen Faqha’s garage, acted so quietly family nearby didn’t know what had happened for hours

The gunmen who killed Hamas military leader Mazen Faqha Friday night had broken into his garage, and lain in wait for hours, before carrying out the assassination, which left no trace but the dead body, a Palestinian daily reported on Sunday.

According to the report in Al Quds, Faqha — a former prisoner in Israel who oversaw Hamas’s efforts to instigate terror attacks in the West Bank — drove home around 6 p.m., with his wife and daughter in the car.

They had been away from home for a few hours. The two family members exited the car at the front door, and the Hamas leader went to park the car alone.

He was killed almost immediately after the electric garage door closed behind his vehicle.

Earlier reports said Faqha was killed outside his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra, said on Friday that Faqha had been shot in the head, and later added he had been shot “from point-blank range.”

An hour and a half passed before Faqha’s corpse was found by one of the residents of his apartment tower, the Al Quds report said.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-details-reveal-stealthy-professional-hit-on-hamas-terror-leader/

Bahrain alleges Iran-backed group planned assassinations

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain is alleging a 14-member group backed by Iran planned assassinations in the island kingdom.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying 11 members of the group “are suspected of receiving overseas military training under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Iraq.”

It says police had arrested 14 suspects in raids that saw officers seize weapons and explosives. It says the group’s two leaders are abroad in Iran.

Iran’s government called the allegation a “futile and baseless lie.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/bahrain-alleges-iran-backed-group-planned-assassinations/2017/03/26/a3fb8b1c-129f-11e7-bb16-269934184168_story.html?utm_term=.710dfad7a531

Syria fighters ‘take control’ of IS-held airbase near Raqqa

A US-backed force of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters has taken control of an Islamic State-held airbase west of the jihadist group’s stronghold of Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and a monitoring group said Tabqa airbase had fallen on Sunday evening.

US helicopters airlifted hundreds of fighters behind IS lines at the start of the assault last Wednesday.

The airbase’s capture is seen as a significant step in the campaign to drive IS militants out of Raqqa.

The SDF is also aiming to seize the nearby town of Tabqa and the Tabqa dam, which the US-led multinational coalition has denied damaging in air strikes.

What is the SDF?

Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Armenian militias opposed to IS established the umbrella group in northern Syria in October 2015.

Since then, its 50,000 fighters have seized about 6,000 sq km (2,300 sq miles) of territory with the help of coalition air strikes and special forces personnel.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39401326

Another escalation in Iraq: The U.S. Army sends new reinforcements to Mosul

March 26, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alex Manne/Army)
WASHINGTON — An unspecified number of combat soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division have been ordered to northern Iraq, marking the Pentagon’s latest escalation in what’s been a slow-moving campaign to flush Islamic State fighters from their stronghold in the city of Mosul.

“Additional members of 2/82 BCT are deploying to Iraq on a non-enduring temporary mission to provide additional ‘advise and assist’ support to our Iraq partners as they liberate Mosul,” U.S. officials in Baghdad told Military Times on Sunday. The unit designation refers to the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, a force of more than 4,000 based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

A brigade combat team comprises infantry, artillery and cavalry troops, plus their supply pipeline. About 1,700 soldiers from the same unit are overseas now, spread between Iraq and Kuwait. It’s unclear whether the full remainder — approximately 2,500 paratroopers — will receive deployment orders. Earlier this month, a top Army general told Congress there were plans to do precisely that, and distribute those personnel within Iraq and Syria.

On Sunday, U.S. officials would say only that this new surge in Mosul will not reunite the entire brigade.

The U.S. is sending 2,500 troops to Kuwait, ready to step up the fight in Syria and Iraq

It’s a sensitive topic for several reasons, not the least of which centers around a deepening desire in Washington to limit the perception abroad that America’s military footprint is growing in Iraq and Syria. The Trump administration also has expressed a desire to limit what information it telegraphs about military strategy.

There are 5,262 U.S. troops authorized to be in Iraq, and another 503 in Syria, officials told Military Times on Sunday. But the numbers have been considerably larger for quite some time as commanders leverage what they call temporary — or “non-enduring” — assignments like this one involving the 82nd Airborne in Mosul.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/82nd-airborne-mosul-iraq-islamic-state

Tensions flare as Greece tells Turkey it is ready to answer any provocation

War of words between neighbours prompts defence experts to express fears of accident in region spiralling out of control

 

Fears of tensions mounting in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Seas reignited after the Turkish president raised the prospect of a referendum on accession talks with the EU and the Greek defence minister said the country was ready for any provocation.

Relations between Ankara and European capitals have worsened before the highly charged vote on 16 April on expanding the powers of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Western allies have argued that a vote endorsing the proposed constitutional change would invest him with unparalleled authority and limit checks and balances at a time when they fear the Turkish leader is exhibiting worrying signs of authoritarianism. Erdoğan has been enraged by recent bans on visiting Turkish officials rallying “yes” supporters in Germany and the Netherlands.

Highlighting growing friction between Ankara and the bloc, he raised the spectre of a public vote on EU membership at the weekend.

“We have a referendum on 16 April. After that we may hold a Brexit-like referendum on the [EU] negotiations,” he told a Turkish-UK forum attended by the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. “No matter what our nation decides we will obey it. It should be known that our patience, tested in the face of attitudes displayed by some European countries, has limits.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/27/tensions-flare-greece-turkey-answer-provocation-erdogan

New Delhi Eyes Manufacturing Israeli Heron TP Drone Under ‘Make in India’

Our Bureau

Heron TP drone

India is exploring possibilities to manufacture Heron TP drone offered by Israel under “Make in India” with total transfer of technology.

India is seeking to manufacture the drone through a joint venture with Israel Aerospace Industries. “The decision on acquisition will be taken before the Prime Minister visits Tel Aviv in July on his return from the G-20 meeting in Hamburg,” an official was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times today.

Israel has offered to sell India its armed unmanned aerial vehicles Eitan or Heron TP in order to strengthen its stand-off strike as well as long-range strategic strike capability.

The offer is still being discussed as the India is keen to bring it under unmanned weapon through “Make in India” route.

New Delhi has been keen in acquiring armed medium-high altitude, long-endurance UAVs with payload capability in the form of laser-guided bombs or air-to-ground missiles with the security establishment convinced that long range stand-off weapons would perform major role during direct engagement in future conflicts.

In this context, Indian military has been eyeing towards the US and Israel for acquiring Predators or Heron TPs.

While the US is expected to allow sale of General Atomics-developed Guardian UAV as a first step towards either the Predator or Reaper Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) to India, Tel Aviv has already made a formal offer for the Heron TP to the defense ministry.

http://www.defenseworld.net/news/18832/New_Delhi_Eyes_Manufacturing_Israeli_Heron_TP_Drone_Under__Make_in_India_#.WNj47JArJD8

India-Russia Aircraft Deal Terminated

India and Russia decided to terminate a bilateral defense program to develop and produce a new medium-airlift military transport aircraft for the Indian and Russian air forces, according to a senior Russian official.

Russia’s Minister for Industry and Trade, Denis Manturov, was quoted by TASS news agency on March 24, as saying that India and Russia failed to find a solution beneficial to both countries. “Not all projects yield results,” the minister said. “During the execution of the project, which lasted five years, we did not manage to find such a solution that would be beneficial for the two countries.”

He was quick to add that “this does not mean that the relations have been broken off.”

The so-called Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) program — an Indo-Russian joint venture for which Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) co-founded a new company, Multi Role Transport Aircraft Ltd. — aimed to co-develop and produce a new transport plane, the UAC/HAL II-214 Multi-role Transport Aircraft by 2019.  Both countries earmarked $300 million each for the first phase of the project.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/03/india-russia-aircraft-deal-terminated/

 

Giuliani To Help Defend Accused Iran Money Launderer

President Trump’s “cyber czar,” ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, has joined the defense team of a gold trader who is under federal indictment for fraud, money laundering and evading sanctions on Iran, and who has ties to Turkish President Recep  Erdogan.

Reza Zarrab, 33, was arrested March 19 in Florida. He‘s accused of ducking sanctions by moving hundreds of millions of dollars for the Iranian government and Iranian firms via offshore entities and bank accounts.

Prosecutor Joon Kim sent a letter notifying the judge in Zarrab’s case that Giuliani had joined the defense, and that Zarrab had also hired ex-U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Kim said he was “advis[ing] the Court of potential conflicts of interest,” since Giuliani and Mukasey’s firms also represent some banks Zarrab used in transactions.

Erdogan defended Zarrab when the dual Turkish-Iranian citizen was fingered in a 2013 Turkish corruption scandal that also implicated Erdogan associates. The Turkish leader called Zarrab, who had given his wife’s charity $4.5 million, a philanthropist. All charges against Zarrab and Erdogan’s pals were dropped.

http://www.nbcnews.com/card/giuliani-help-defend-accused-iran-money-launderer-n739181

Israel issues travel warning for Turkey, Jordan and Egypt

In warning ahead of Passover holiday, Counter-Terrorism Bureau advises Israelis to avoid countries close to ISIS conflict zones, some Western countries, particularly Russia, France, Belgium and Germany, and India.
Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Monday issued a travel warning for Middle Eastern countries bordering ISIS conflict zones, urging its citizens not to travel to Turkey, Jordan and Egypt.
In an advisory was issued ahead of the Passover holiday, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned against possible terror attacks and attempts to kidnap Israeli citizens in these countries.
The bureau stated there were terror threats in some Western countries as well, particularly in Russia, France, Belgium and Germany, as well as India.
Israelis are therefore advised to be vigilant when they are in crowded places, such as tourist spots, sports stadiums, cultural sites, shopping centers, hotels, airports, public transportation terminals, houses of prayer and other large events.
“The more the Islamic State (ISIS) is backed into a corner, the more it would try to execute attacks across the world on every possible front: against Christians, crusaders and Jews,” said Eitan Ben-Dror, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau. “Israel is not at the center of the threats, but Israelis are required to be vigilant. There are no specific warnings, but we definitely call on Israelis to be careful, remain alert and avoid large crowds.”

The travel warning for Sinai is at the highest level, a very high concrete threat, and the Counter-Terrorism Bureau advised Israelis to avoid traveling to Sinai altogether, urging those already there to leave immediately.

Ben-Dror said that in light of the increased ISIS activity in Sinai in recent months, including against Israel, its calls for the murder and abduction of Israelis, and its vow to avenge an attack allegedly carried out by Israeli drones in Sinai, there is an immediate, grave threat to tourists in Sinai, including Israelis.

Israelis cross the border to the Sinai Peninsula to visit resorts and beaches on the Sinai’s Red Sea coast every year despite terror alerts. During the High Holiday Days in the fall of 2016, some 17,000-20,000 Israelis crossed the border into Egypt, half of them Israeli Arabs

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4941135,00.html

 

Unexpectedly strong win for Merkel’s party in German elections

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party showed surprising strength Sunday against its main opponent in a state election that also produced a good result for an anti-immigrant party.

Preliminary results showed Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union won 40.7% of the vote in tiny Saarland state, in southwestern Germany. That was up from 35.2% in 2012 and better than the 29.6% won by the Social Democrats led by Martin Schulz.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), an anti-EU and anti-immigration party, won 6.2% of the vote, enough for it to gain representation in its 11th state parliament.

There are 16 state parliaments in Germany. AfD is not represented in the country’s national parliament. Last year polls showed support for AfD hit a record-high 16% nationally but it has lost momentum since then.

The unexpectedly strong win for Merkel’s party over Shulz’s center-left group comes ahead of a general election in September that could test Merkel’s hopes for a fourth term. AfD is also expected to enter Germany’s federal parliament for the first time.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/27/german-election-mekel-schulz/99679214/

NATO to Seek Bids for $3.2 Billion in Satellite, Cyber Security

  • Alliance earmarks most funds for satellite communications
  • Funding projects show adjustment to new security threats

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans to open the way next month for businesses to bid for about 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in orders for satellite communications, air and missile defenses, cyber security and advanced software.

The planned NATO contracts, due to be outlined at an industry conference in Ottawa April 24-26, reflect the alliance’s adjustment to new security threats including Russian meddling in eastern Europe, Mideast migration, Islamic terrorism and cyber attacks.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-27/nato-to-seek-bids-for-3-2-billion-in-satellite-cyber-security

 

U.S. weighs bigger role in Yemen’s war, boosting aid to allies

By Phil Stewart | WASHINGTON

The United States is considering deepening its role in Yemen’s conflict by more directly aiding its Gulf allies battling Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, officials say, potentially relaxing a U.S. policy that limited American support.

The review of potential new U.S. assistance, which includes intelligence support, would come amid increasing evidence that Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to the Houthi movement, a Shi’ite ally.

Any elevation in U.S. support could be seen as a sign that President Donald Trump’s administration has made confronting Iran and its allies an early priority.

For the moment, however, any increase in direct U.S. assistance may be restricted to non-lethal measures and there was no sign the United States was considering waging strikes on Houthi targets, for example.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-yemen-military-idUSKBN16Y2NW

Houthi forces turn the tides in the battle for western Yemen – full report

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (8:40 P.M.) – Over the past 24 hours, Houthi-led troops have intensified their operations against Saudi-backed forces in the embattled province of Taiz, targeting the strategic Mocha port area.

Led by a missile battalion and the Popular Committees, dozens of soldiers loyal to the rival Aden-based government were killed in rural Taiz, according to Yemeni reporter Hesham Al-Kibsi. The source also claimed Houthi tribesmen combatted ISIS fighters in the area.

In addition, Saudi-backed forces at the town of Dhu Bab were bombarded Katyusha rocket launchers, destroying three armored vehicles according to Houthi reconnaissance units.

Elsewhere in the central province of Marib, Houthi tribal fighters killed 18 hostile soldiers amid intense clashes in the Sirwah District over the weekend.

Near the border with Saudi Arabia, Houthi contingents battled it out with Saudi soldiers while fierce clashes were reported in the Al-Masloob, Al-Ghail, and Al-Motoon districts along with the Al-Khalifain area in the desert governorate of Al-Jawf. The military source said Saudi proxies sustained at least 8 casualties while an AFV was destroyed in the process.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/houthi-forces-turns-tides-battle-western-yemen-full-report/

 

Bumbling NATO Instructors on the Brink of Getting Laughed Out of Ukraine

NATO instructors training Ukrainian troops in the art of war have been accused of incompetence. Recently, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry decided to show off fresh photos of NATO troops training their Ukrainian counterparts for battle. However, eagle-eyed observers pointed out that all they ended up showing off was the NATO trainers’ ineptitude.

Last week, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry published photos from the latest training exercises in Lviv region, where Ukrainian servicemen are being trained up to NATO standards by instructors from the United States, Canada, Poland and Lithuania.

The Defense Ministry proudly reported that the foreign soldiers were training troops from a Ukrainian mechanized brigade under the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine mission.

However, as one observant Ukrainian soldier pointed out, all the pictures actually served to prove was that the NATO ‘experts’ have no clue about how to handle the weapons used by the Ukrainian military.

As a result, following the instructional course conducted with the NATO instructors’ help, Ukrainian machine gunners don’t even know how to properly load their heavy machineguns’ ammunition belts, says volunteer fighter Roman Donik.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201703261051978949-ukraine-nato-instructors-criticism/

King Stallion poised to win Pentagon approval

Mar. 27, 2017 7:35 AM ET|By: , SA News Editor

The Pentagon is poised to review – and probably approve – a new helicopter from Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) to transport heavy cargo for the Marine Corps in a program valued at as much as $29B.

The Defense Acquisition Board has scheduled a March 30 meeting to review whether to approve low-rate production for the first 24 of a planned 200 King Stallion helicopters, Bloomberg reports.

The “big” revenue potential for the helicopter designated the CH-53K was the primary incentive for Lockheed’s $9B acquisition of Sikorsky in 2015, CFO Bruce Tanner said in an interview.

https://seekingalpha.com/news/3253493-king-stallion-poised-win-pentagon-approval

CHINA COMPLAINS AFTER JAPANESE MINISTER VISITS TAIWAN

China said on Monday it has complained to Japan after a Japanese minister visited self-ruled Taiwan over the weekend, warning this could hurt relations between Beijing and Tokyo.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said Deputy Minister Jiro Akama went to Taiwan to attend a tourism promotion event in his official capacity, leaving Japan last Friday and returning the following day.

Japanese media said Akama was the highest-level government official to officially visit Taiwan since Japan broke diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1972 and established them with Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the visit clearly ran contrary to Japan’s promises to only have non-governmental and local level exchanges with Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.

“China is resolutely opposed to this and has already made solemn representations to Japan,” Hua told a daily news briefing. Japan has said it respects its promises on the Taiwan but actually it has been provocative, she added. “This has caused serious disturbance to the improvement of Sino-Japanese ties.”

http://www.newsweek.com/china-complains-japanese-minister-visits-taiwan-574504

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