Tag Archives: Flynn

March 25, 2017

Mosul’s children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

Coalition bombs buried more than a hundred people in the ruins of three houses and raised fresh questions about US rules of engagement

 

By the time rescuers finally arrived no one was left alive. For almost a week desperate neighbours had scraped through the rubble, searching for as many as 150 people who lay buried after three homes in a west Mosul suburb were destroyed by coalition airstrikes.

The full picture of the carnage continued to emerge on Friday, when at least 20 bodies were recovered. Dozens more are thought to remain buried in what could turn out to be the single most deadly incident for civilians in the war against Islamic State (Isis).

Rescuers at the scene in the suburb of Mosul Jadida said they had driven the 250 miles from Baghdad but had not been able to enter the area until Wednesday, five days after airstrikes hit the houses where local residents had been sheltering from fierce fighting between Iraqi forces and Isis.

Neighbours said at least 80 bodies had been recovered from one house alone, where people had been encouraged by local elders to take shelter. Rescuers were continuing to dig through the ruins, and the remains of two other houses nearby, which had also been pulverised in attacks that were described as “relentless and horrifying”.

The US military said it was launching an investigation. Cololnel Joseph Scrocca, from the US-led command in Baghdad, said “the coalition has opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation” from Mosul.

The destruction took place in a district that was last week a frontline in the battle for Mosul. Locals said militants had positioned a sniper on the roof of the home that had sheltered the largest number of people. It has raised fresh questions about rules of engagement in the war against the terror group, after two recent US airstrikes in Syria resulted in at least 90 casualties, nearly all of them thought to be civilian.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/24/mosuls-children-were-shouting-under-the-rubble-nobody-came

Was Westminster terrorist guided by a mastermind? Killer’s phone was STILL connected to another on Whatsapp when he died raising fears he was taking instructions

  • Khalid Masood murdered four and injured at least 29 in Westminster attack
  • Jihadist Masood, 52, drove 4×4 into pedestrians along Westminster Bridge 
  • MailOnline revealed that Massod was on Whatsapp minutes before the attack
  • Police are now focusing their investigation on the killer’s online communications
  • However WhatsApp messages  are visible only to the person who has sent them and the individuals that were meant to receive

The Westminster attacker’s online communications have now become the core of the investigation around the terror raid with security forces keen to ascertain if he was receiving instructions from a jihadist master moments before he unleashed carnage.

Khalid Massod was on WhatsApp at 2.37pm on Wednesday, approximately two minutes before ploughing into people on Westminster Bridge and four minutes before he was shot dead by armed officers outside the Palaces of Westminster, the MailOnline exclusively revealed yesterday.

Now, Masood’s messages with others on the encrypted messaging service have prompted police to up their search for jihadist associates of the killer.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4348392/Was-Masood-guided-terror-mastermind-WhatsApp.html#ixzz4cL3OI0rb

Saudi embassy confirms UK attacker had been in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi Embassy statement released late Friday said that Khalid Masood taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009.

The embassy said that he had a work visa. It said he returned for six days in March 2015 on a trip booked through an approved travel agent.

The Saudi Embassy said that he wasn’t tracked by the country’s security services and didn’t have a criminal record there.

Before taking the name Masood, he was known as Adrian Elms. He was known for having a violent temper in England and had been convicted at least twice for violent crimes.

Masood drove his rented SUV across the crowded Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, striking pedestrians. Then he jumped out and attacked police officer Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament, fatally stabbing him before being shot dead by police.

In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized, including some with what have been described as catastrophic injuries. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/25/saudi-embassy-confirms-uk-attacker-had-been-in-saudi-arabia.html

Thousands attend funeral of slain Hamas terrorist as group vows revenge

Organization claims Israeli agents assassinated Mazen Faqha, in an attempt to ‘wage clandestine war’ against it

 

Thousands attended the funeral of a top Hamas terrorist in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, as leaders of the terror group continued to blame Israel for his killing and threatened retribution.

Mazen Faqha, a Hamas official freed as part of the 2011 deal to release captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and deported to Gaza, was assassinated on Friday evening by unknown gunme.

A Hamas official quoted by Army Radio said Israel was “trying to force a new model of a clandestine war on Hamas, as it has failed in the open war model.” He said Hamas would know how to respond to such tactics.

Khalil al-Haya, Hamas’s deputy chief in the Gaza Strip, said at the funeral that Israel “will bear responsibility for the killing.” On Friday al-Haya said that only the Jewish state would have had something to gain from the death.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/thousands-attend-funeral-of-slain-hamas-terrorist-as-group-vows-revenge/

Syria said threatening to fire Scud missiles at Israel

Assad regime says attacks by IDF on Syrian targets will be met with counter strikes on military bases, Haifa port

The Syrian leadership has sent messages to Israel warning that any further strikes by the IDF on targets within Syria’s borders would be met with Scud rockets fired deep into the Jewish state, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar reported Saturday.

The Assad regime conveyed the message to Israel via Russian mediators, the report said.

According to the report, Syria warned that Israeli strikes on Syrian military targets would be met with the firing of Scud missiles capable of carrying half a ton of explosives at IDF bases, while an attack on civilian targets would see Syria launching a counter strike on the Haifa port and the petrochemical plants in the area.

The report warned that Syria has over 800 Scud missiles and that Syria would not issue any warnings before the missile strikes because Israel does not warn before it hits.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syria-threatens-to-fire-scud-missiles-at-israel-report/

 

Two charged over arms supply to French airport attacker

Remanded suspects indicted for weapons possession and ‘association with terrorist criminals’ in connection with attack on Paris airport

March 25, 2017, 2:31 pm

PARIS — French anti-terrorism judges have charged two men suspected of involvement in supplying a weapon to the gunman killed at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking soldiers, a judicial source said Saturday.

The suspects, aged 30 and 43, were charged Friday for “association with terrorist criminals” over the March 18 attack and are being held in custody, the source said.

The younger one was also charged with arms possession related to a terror plot. They are both from the Paris area and lived close to the assailant, Ziyed Ben Belgacem, according to a preliminary investigation.

Ben Belgacem, 39, was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he attacked the capital’s second busiest airport, according to judicial sources.

Ben Belgacem, born in France to Tunisian parents, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly’s southern terminal and put a gun to her head and seized her rifle, saying he wanted to “die for Allah.”

His father insisted his son — who had spent time in prison for armed robbery and drug-dealing — was not an extremist.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/two-charged-over-arms-supply-to-french-airport-attacker/

Flynn, Turkish officials talked about removal of Erdogan foe from US, former CIA boss says

Retired Army Lt. Mike Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, met last summer with top Turkish officials to discuss removing the cleric Turkey blamed for last year’s failed coup and delivering him to Ankara, a former Central Intelligence Agency director told The Wall Street Journal.

James Woolsey said the meeting occurred in September inside the Essex House hotel in New York. Woolsey told the paper that he arrived in the middle of the conversation, but said the basic idea was a “covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” The group as reportedly refering to Fethullah Gulen.

Woolsey told the paper he found the conversation startling and possibly illegal. But he did not say anything because there were no specifics. Woolsey said he notified Vice President Biden through a mutual friend.

People briefed on the meeting told The Journal that the ideas were raised hypothetically. Woolsey, who served under President Clinton, told The Journal that the conversation “seemed to be naïve.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/24/flynn-turkish-officials-talked-about-removal-erdogan-foe-from-us-former-cia-boss-says.html

Putin meets French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at Kremlin

Putin meets with Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin

  • French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has sought closer ties with Russia
  • Vladimir Putin spokesman: Russia isn’t trying to influence upcoming French election

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed the “great importance” of ties between his country and France as he met French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin on Friday, Russian state-run news agency Tass reported.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Russia was not seeking to influence the upcoming French election but had the right to communicate with French politicians.

Russia had no intention of “interfering in anyone’s internal business or electoral processes,” Peskov said.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/24/europe/putin-le-pen-kremlin/

Russia denies supplying Taliban after Scaparrotti claim

Moscow rejects NATO commander’s remark that it is ‘perhaps’ aiding the Taliban in fighting against US and allied forces.

Russia’s foreign ministry has dismissed a US general’s allegations that it may be supplying Taliban fighters in Afghanistan as “fabrications”.

Curtis Scaparrotti, the top US general in Europe, said on Thursday that he had witnessed Russia’s influence grow in many regions, including in Afghanistan.

In a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Scaparrotti, who is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, said Moscow was “perhaps” supplying the Taliban in fighting against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/russia-denies-supplying-taliban-scaparrotti-claim-170324173505618.html

Iran TARGETS weapons at US warships that scramble deadly helicopters in FIERCE stand-off

ALARM are ringing in Washington after American warships were “harassed” by “aggressive” Iranian forces – who trained their weapons against the vessels.

The incident was condemned by US security forces who said Iran had been acting increasingly provocatively and unpredictably in recent months.Despite being in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, the American ships were aggressively approached by members of the Iranian Navy on Tuesday.

Iranian forces trained their weapons on the US flotilla, which was made up of five ships and included the huge aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/783548/iran-usa-navy-military-warships-strait-of-hormuz

US-backed Syrian fighters reach IS-held dam in north Syria

U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached a major dam held by the Islamic State group in northern Syria Friday as Syria’s U.N. ambassador said hundreds of American personnel are “invading my country,” insisting that any effort to liberate the city of Raqqa — the de facto capital of the Islamic State group — should be done in coordination with the Damascus government.

The push toward the Tishrin Dam came three days after U.S. aircraft ferried Syrian Kurdish fighters and allies behind IS lines to spearhead a major ground assault on the IS-held town of Tabqa where the dam is located. Tabqa is west of the city of Raqqa.

IS has been pounded in Syria in recent months with attacks against the extremists from three fronts, the U.S.-backed fighters, Turkish troops and their allies near the border with Turkey, and government forces in the northern province of Aleppo.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said government forces captured late Friday the town of Deir Hafer, the last IS stronghold in Aleppo province, after troops stormed the town under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/french-defense-chief-battle-syrias-raqqa-days-46344501

Muqtada al-Sadr threatens to boycott Iraq elections

Powerful Shia leader demands changes to electoral law at Baghdad demonstration attended by thousands of supporters.

Influential religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has told thousands of supporters in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, that he will boycott upcoming elections unless the country’s electoral law is changed.

Supporters of the Shia cleric have repeatedly rallied for changes to the law and the country’s electoral committee, which is dominated by affiliates of powerful political parties.

If “the law remains … this means that we will order a boycott of the elections,” Sadr said in remarks televised at Friday’s demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Iraq is set to hold holding provincial elections later this year, and parliamentary elections in 2018.

Sadr, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, did not specify the specific changes he wants to take place, but the current law has been criticised as being biased towards large political parties over smaller ones.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/muqtada-al-sadr-threatens-boycott-iraq-elections-170324152533689.html

Central Congo militia decapitates 40 police officers in ambush

Militia fighters in central Democratic Republic of Congo decapitated about 40 police officers in an ambush, local officials said on Saturday, the deadliest attack on security forces since an insurrection in the region began last August.

The Kamuina Nsapu militants attacked the police on Friday as they drove from Tshikapa to Kananga. The militia members stole arms and vehicles, Francois Kalamba, speaker of the Kasai provincial assembly, told Reuters.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-congo-violence-idUSKBN16W0HN

 

Turkey threatens again to take actions regarding Cyprus’ natural gas

Turkey has condemned Cyprus’ research for natural gas in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in a statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“These contacts clearly demonstrate yet again how the Greek Cypriot Administration disregards, in its unilateral pursuit of hydrocarbon-related activities, the inalienable rights on natural resources of the Turkish Cypriot people, the co-owners of the Island,” the statement reads, about meetings President Nicos Anastasiades had with natural gas companies in the US on March 22.

Ankara has also condemned the fact contracts were signed in the Republic of Cyprus for exploration of the EEZ, and that the Greek Cypriot side “is still not able to grasp the win-win-based potential for economic cooperation that can ensue on the Island and in the Eastern Mediterranean from a comprehensive settlement, towards which the Turkish Cypriot side and turkey have been expending intensive efforts.”

http://www.tornosnews.gr/en/tourism-businesses/new-investments/24162-turkey-threatens-again-to-take-actions-regarding-cyprus%E2%80%99-natural-gas.html

Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report

U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign. The shift followed a VOA report that the company misrepresented data published by an influential British think tank.

In December, CrowdStrike said it found evidence that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, contributing to heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

VOA reported Tuesday that the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which publishes an annual reference estimating the strength of world armed forces, disavowed the CrowdStrike report and said it had never been contacted by the company.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has stated that the combat losses and hacking never happened.

CrowdStrike was first to link hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors last year, but some cybersecurity experts have questioned its evidence. The company has come under fire from some Republicans who say charges of Kremlin meddling in the election are overblown.

After CrowdStrike released its Ukraine report, company co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch claimed it provided added evidence of Russian election interference. In both hacks, he said, the company found malware used by “Fancy Bear,” a group with ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

http://www.newdelhitimes.com/cyber-firm-rewrites-part-of-disputed-russian-hacking-report123/

Serbia says no to NATO on alliance’s airstrikes anniversary

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s prime minister pledged on Friday that the Balkan country will never join NATO or any other military alliance as Serbia marked the 18th anniversary of the start of NATO airstrikes that stopped its crackdown in Kosovo.

Aleksandar Vucic spoke at a ceremony near a railway bridge in southern Serbia where the Western military alliance’s missiles struck a passenger train, killing at least 28 people and injuring dozens.

“We will never be part of the alliance which killed our children, nor of any other alliance,” Vucic said. “They wanted to destroy and humiliate small Serbia and kill its children.”

Anti-NATO sentiments run high in Serbia since the 78-day bombing in 1999 over a bloody crackdown by Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanian separatists. Serbian officials claim that more than 2,000 people were killed in the airstrikes while independent estimates put that figure at about 800, mostly soldiers and police.

Some 10,000 people died and 1,660 are still missing from the 1998-1999 Kosovo war that ended with the NATO intervention and the withdrawal of Serbian troops from its former, majority ethnic Albanian-populated province. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, which Serbia doesn’t recognize.

Although it is a member of a NATO outreach program and is formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has lately been boosting its military cooperation with Russia, which has agreed to deliver fighter jets, tanks and anti-aircraft systems.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/serbia-says-no-to-nato-on-alliances-airstrikes-anniversary

N. Korea invents ‘quantum code communication’ tech: Naenara

Quantum communication system would make hacking or eavesdropping more difficult

North Korea claims it has invented a system for secure quantum-cryptographic communications, according to a report from the state-run Naenara news outlet published on Friday.

Quantum cryptography leverages the intrinsic properties of quantum theory to secure communications against outside interference or hacking.

“The scientists of Kim Il Sung University have succeeded in developing a quantum code communications technology, which makes it possible to open up a bright prospect for blocking various kinds of hacking and wiretapping from their sources by taking hold of its core technologies,” the Naenara report claims.

The article adds that DPRK scientists have solved “all the problems” associated with the technology, having designed bespoke circuits, and go on to say they can securely encode “all communications concerning images, sound and documents.”

“I’m guessing they are talking about quantum key distribution.  These systems are used to establish the cryptographic keys between two parties,” Dr Matthew Rose-Clarke, former Ph.D. researcher at CERN told NK News.

https://www.nknews.org/2017/03/n-korea-invents-quantum-code-communication-tech-naenara/

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March 18, 2017

‘Radicalised Muslim’ is shot dead at Paris Orly airport after snatching a soldier’s gun and shooting at three police officers from a car as Kate and William meet Bataclan and Nice terror victims

  • Convicted criminal, 39, was shot dead at the airport’s south terminal 
  • Less than two hours earlier he had shot at three police officers during a routine stop-and-search
  • Authorities believe he had been radicalised in prison, and his father and brother had been arrested 
  • Witnesses recounted hearing ‘four or five’ shots, and the airport was evacuated
  • It comes at the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit the French capital 

A convicted criminal with links to radical Islam has been shot dead at Paris Orly airport after trying to wrestle a soldier’s gun from her and fleeing into a McDonald’s.

Less than two hours earlier he had shot a female police officer in the head in a northern Paris suburb during a routine stop-and-search.

The man’s father and brother have been taken into custody, judicial sources have confirmed, and the attacks are being investigated by France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor.

After the police shooting in the suburb of Stains, at around 6.55am, the 39-year-old fled in a Renault Clio, which was found abandoned 11 miles away.

He then hijacked a woman’s Citroen Picasso at gunpoint, and this second car was later found parked at the airport.

Today’s incidents come as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Paris, where they have met with victims of terrorism.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4326276/Paris-Orly-airport-evacuated-shooting.html#ixzz4bgDTftf4

US admits Syria airstrike that killed 46 but denies targeting mosque

  • Rescue workers search for survivors amid rubble into the night
  • US military: ‘We are going to look into any allegations of civilian casualties’

 

The US has said it carried out an airstrike in Syria against an al-Qaida meeting but denied deliberately targeting a mosque where 46 people were reportedly killed.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of the dead were civilians in the Thursday evening raid on the village of Al-Jineh, in the northern province of Aleppo.

The US has been bombing jihadists in war-torn Syria as part of an international coalition since 2014, with hundreds of civilians unintentionally killed in the country and in neighbouring Iraq.

“We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target – which was where the meeting took place – is about 50ft (15 metres) from a mosque that is still standing,” said Col John J Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command.

According to a Centcom statement: “US forces conducted an air strike on an Al-Qaeda in Syria meeting location March 16 in Idlib, Syria, killing several terrorists.”

The Centcom spokesman later clarified that the precise location of the strike was unclear – but that it was the same one widely reported to have hit the village mosque in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/syria-mosque-airstrike-kills-dozens-of-civilians-near-aleppo

Suspected Hack Attack Snagging Cell Phone Data Across D.C.

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

Adam Kredo

An unusual amount of highly suspicious cellphone activity in the Washington, D.C., region is fueling concerns that a rogue entity is surveying the communications of numerous individuals, likely including U.S. government officials and foreign diplomats, according to documents viewed by the Washington Free Beacon and conversations with security insiders.

A large spike in suspicious activity on a major U.S. cellular carrier has raised red flags in the Department of Homeland Security and prompted concerns that cellphones in the region are being tracked. Such activity could allow pernicious actors to clone devices and other mobile equipment used by civilians and government insiders, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon.

It remains unclear who is behind the attacks, but the sophistication and amount of time indicates it could be a foreign nation, sources said.

Mass amounts of location data appear to have been siphoned off by a third party who may have control of entire cell phone towers in the area, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon. This information was compiled by a program that monitors cell towers for anomalies supported by DHS and ESD America and known as ESD Overwatch.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/hack-attack-cell-phone-data-dc/

Netanyahu: Syria raids targeted ‘advanced’ Hezbollah arms

After unprecedented missile clash, PM says Israel will continue to operate against weapons transfers from Assad regime to Shiite terror group

AFP — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday the Israeli strikes on several targets in Syria earlier that day targeted weapons bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and that the Jewish State would do the same again if necessary.

The Israeli airstrike prompted retaliatory missile launches, in the most serious incident between Syria and the Jewish state since the Syrian civil war began six years ago.

Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.

The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar unfounded claims in the past.

“The safety of Israeli civilians or the Israeli air force aircraft was at no point compromised,” Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner told AFP.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-syria-raids-targeted-advanced-hezbollah-arms/

Russia summons Israeli envoy following IDF strikes in Syria

(JTA) — Russia summoned its ambassador to Israel for clarifications following Israeli airstrikes in Syria.

Russia, which backs Syria’s embattled president, Bashar Assad, summoned its envoy, Gary Koren, on Friday less than 24 hours after the Israeli military action on Thursday night, according to The Times of Israel.

In a rare statement, the Israel Defense Forces confirmed to having carried out aerial strikes in Syria and intercepted missiles launched at its aircraft from the ground.

No Israelis were hurt during the strikes Thursday night or from the anti-aircraft fire, according to a statement by the IDF spokesman.

Israel is believed to have carried out several attacks on Syrian soil in recent years, but usually refrains from confirming or denying reports on its alleged actions there.

According to the nrg news site, the strikes were against targets affiliated with Hezbollah, possibly on a weapons shipment to the Shiite terrorist group, which is based in Lebanon but is fighting in Syria alongside Assad’s forces against rebels and Sunni militants.

Israeli “aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria. Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF Aerial Defense Systems intercepted one of the missiles. At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF aircraft compromised,” the IDF spokesman wrote.

The missiles were launched at the airplanes minutes after they had left Syrian airspace, according to nrg. Debris from the missiles, which were intercepted by the Arrow defense system over Jordan, landed on residential homes in the west of that country near Inba and Irbid.

http://www.jta.org/2017/03/17/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/russia-summons-israeli-envoy-following-idf-strikes-in-syria

Russia announces deepest defence budget cuts since 1990s

Figures released by the Russian Federal Treasury have confirmed that Russia’s defence budget has been cut by 25.5% for 2017, falling from RUB3.8 trillion (USD65.4 billion) to RUB2.8 trillion.

The reduction represents the largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s.

The reduction follows an extended period of large increases to Russian defence spending with growth having achieved an average rate of 19.8% a year since 2011 in nominal terms. Despite the cut, the 2017 budget will remain about 14.4% higher than the level of defence spending seen in 2014 in nominal terms.

The Russian government initially outlined plans to reduce defence expenditure in the draft of the three year budget for 2017 to 2019 released in October 2016.

http://www.janes.com/article/68766/russia-announces-deepest-defence-budget-cuts-since-1990s

 

Analysis What Role Did Russia Play in the Israel-Syria Missile Clash?
Syria’s missile fire at Israeli warplanes may indicate that Assad and his Russian protectors are not fully coordinated.

Anshel Pfeffer Mar 18, 2017 1:00 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, Russia on March 9, 2017. Pavel Golovkin, AP

After Israeli attack in Syria: Russia summons Israel’s envoy for clarifications
Israeli Air Force strikes targets in Syria; Assad forces threaten ‘direct’ retaliation
Analysis Putin is the Middle East’s new boss

Analysis Israel-Syria clash: With missile fire, Assad is trying to change the rules of the game

Over the six years of the Syrian war, dozens of airstrikes carried out against Hezbollah targets there have been ascribed to Israel. Until now the government has refused to acknowledge or deny them. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have stated publicly that Israel does attack in Syria to defend its strategic interests – in other words, preventing Hezbollah obtaining “balance-breaking” weapons for its arsenal in Lebanon. The attacks that took place early Friday were the first to be confirmed officially by the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. While it remains unclear what the target or targets were – was it a Hezbollah convoy, a weapons factory or storage, and whether a senior Hezbollah commander was killed in the airstrike as some reports in the Arab media have claimed – a series of important questions arise from the little information that has been published.

With missile fire, Assad is trying to change the rules of the game | Analysis

First, why has Israel changed its policy and suddenly acknowledged an attack? Syria’s air-defense forces launched a long-range missile in an attempt to shoot down Israel’s fighter-jets. The missile was fired much too late to endanger the planes, but could have fallen on civilian areas within Israel and was therefore intercepted by an Arrow 2 missile. The loud explosion which was heard as far as Jerusalem and the missile parts that fell in Jordan meant that some explanation had to be given. But a statement on the missile intercept would have been sufficient. The decision to take responsibility for the attacks as well would have been made by the prime minister and may have been made for other reasons.

http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.777965

How Russia Is Turning Syria into a Major Naval Base for Nuclear Warships (and Israel Is Worried)

During the 1970s, the Syrian naval base of Tartus became a major port servicing warships of the Soviet Union’s Fifth Mediterranean squadron.

The Soviet Union is gone, and so is Syria as a unified nation. But Russia is back, and it’s building up Tartus again as a naval base that can handle Russia’s largest nuclear-powered ships.

Already, Israel says the Tartus base is affecting its naval operations. U.S. and NATO operations could be next.

Under the forty-nine-year agreement inked late last year by Russia and Syria, “the maximum number of the Russian warships allowed at the Russian naval facility at one time is 11, including nuclear-powered warships, providing that nuclear and ecological security rules are observed,” according to Russia’s RT news site. Russia will also be allowed to expand port facilities to accommodate the vessels.

The specification allowing nuclear-powered warships means that Russia wants to be able to base in Syria large surface ships, namely Kirov-class nuclear-powered battle cruisers, as well as nuclear submarines.

In addition, the treaty allows “Russia is allowed to bring in and out any kind of ‘weaponry, ammunition, devices and materials’ to provide security for the facility staff, crew, and their families throughout the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic ‘without any duties or levies,’” according to RT.

Expansion of the port will take about five years, according to an anonymous source cited in Russia’s Sputnik News. “The source added that the works would focus on dredging operations to allow cruisers and even possibly aircraft carriers to use the facility’s infrastructure,” Sputnik News reported. “According to the source, Russia also needs to develop the facility’s ground infrastructure, through construction of canalization, electricity generation facilities and barracks for the servicemen.”Sputnik News also listed other provisions of the agreement. These include:

• Russia will be responsible for sea and air security of the base, while Syria handles the land defenses.

• Russia can deploy “temporary mobile outposts” beyond the base, as long as they coordinate them with the Syrians.

• Russia can renovate the base at will, including underwater construction, and build offshore platforms.

• Upon Syrian request, Russia will send specialists to service Syrian warships, conduct search and rescue in Syrian waters, and organize the defense of Tartus.

• Syria agrees not to “make any objections related to the military activities of the base, which will also be beyond Damascus’ jurisdiction.”

• “Syria also pledges to solve any conflicts that may arise if a third party objects to the activities of the base.”

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/how-russia-turning-syria-major-naval-base-nuclear-warships-19813

Iran Challenges Need to Ship Out Excess Material Under Nuclear Deal

By Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran has challenged the need for it to ship sensitive material abroad if its stock exceeds a limit set by its nuclear deal with major powers.

The challenge raises the prospect of a confrontation with the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump because diplomats say Iran is only months away from reaching that cap.

The 2015 deal restricts Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Tehran. One restriction is on its stock of heavy water, a moderator used in a type of reactor that can produce plutonium, like an unfinished one at Arak that had its core removed under the accord.

Iran has already exceeded the 130-tonne limit on its heavy water stock twice. The latest standoff with Washington over the issue was only defused in December when Iran shipped the excess amount to Oman, where the heavy water is being stored until a buyer can be found.

In a letter to the U.N. nuclear watchdog circulated to member states on Thursday and posted on the agency’s website, however, Iran argued that the deal does not require it to ship excess heavy water out of the country.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-03-17/iran-challenges-need-to-ship-out-excess-material-under-nuclear-deal

French Oil Giant Seeks 50% Stake In Iran’s $4B South Pars

Total signed a preliminary deal for the project last year, and today stated its intentions in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The move makes Total the first Western supermajor to sign a deal with Iran on energy following the easing of sanctions.

According to Total’s SEC filing, the company would finance 50.1 percent of the South Pars 11 project, which requires a total investment of US$4 billion.

If this deal goes through, Total would be the operator of the project, while China’s CNPC would hold a 30-percent interest through a subsidiary, while Iran’s Petropars would hold 19.9 percent.

A final investment decision is expected from Total this summer, while Iran is expected to finalize contracts in April, according to Reuters.

It gets tricky, though, with the possibility that the new regime at the White House may not renew sanctions waivers.

The Persian Gulf South Pars field will begin production by the end of the fiscal year, according to Iranian officials. The first stage of production will see output of 35,000 barrels per day, while the second stage will increase to 100,000 bpd.

http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/French-Oil-Giant-Seeks-50-Stake-In-Irans-4B-South-Pars.html

US places Bahrainis backed by Iran on terrorist list, imposes sanctions

The US government has imposed sanctions on two men from Bahrain and has placed them on a terrorist list on Friday.

The US government has imposed sanctions on two men from Bahrain and has placed them on a terrorist list on Friday.

The two, Ahmad Hassan Yousuf and Mortada Majid Ramadan Alawi, have been placed by the US Treasury Department on the list of economic sanctions and banned financial dealings with them.

The US state department said in a statement that the two have been placed on the terrorist list in accordance with a previous executive order for those who pose threats to US interests.

The US foreign ministry explained that the decision to place the two on the list came “after the escalation of rebel attacks in Bahrain, where Iran has provided arms, funding and training the rebels.”

It added that this was “a further step in the ongoing effort to forcefully confront Iran’s activities that seek to destabilize the region and promote activities relating to terrorism.”

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/18/US-places-Bahrainis-backed-by-Iran-on-terrorist-list-imposes-sanctions.html

Turkish opposition TV starts broadcasts from Germany

A Turkish opposition television channel has started broadcasting from Germany. The channel hopes to highlight anti-democratic practices in Turkey.

Türkei Istanbul Demonstranten protestieren gegen Verhaftung von Reportern ohne Grenzen (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Suna)Protesters in Turkey have called for the release of jailed journalists

 

A group of Turkish opposition journalists has started television broadcasts from the German city of Cologne in an effort to provide independent and objective news in Turkey.

Arti TV, Turkish for Plus TV, went live on Friday evening with the slogan “for a free and independent media and a democratic Turkey.”

The channel brings together several prominent opposition journalists, academics and politicians.

Among those at the station are journalists who lost their jobs and fled to Germany amid a crackdown on media under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More than 100 journalists in Turkey are in prison, around 150 media outlets have been shut and nearly 3,000 journalists have lost their jobs in a sweeping crackdown on freedom of speech in the wake of last July’s failed coup attempt. Germany’s attention has recently focused on German journalist Denis Yucel, who is among the reporters imprisoned in Turkey.

The immediate goal of the opposition broadcaster is to prevent a referendum from passing next month. Voters will decide on a set of constitutional changes designed to dramatically expand Erdogan’s powers.

Arti TV is available online and via satellite.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-opposition-tv-starts-broadcasts-from-germany/a-38004868

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

Former minister of foreign affairs and the first Montenegrin ambassador to the USA Miodrag Vlahovic told Pobjeda it was now up to the leader of the Senate majority, Senator Mitch McConnell, to include the discussion on Montenegrin protocol on the Senate’s agenda, as soon as next week.

Pobjeda’s Washington-based source agrees with him and says that McConnell is the only one who has the right to put the accession protocol on the agenda of the Senate without prior consent from other senators.

Thus, the majority leader in the Senate can do it directly and the adoption would then take the votes of a two-third Senate majority.

On Wednesday, the Republican senator John McCain called on colleagues in the Senate to consider and unanimously vote on the protocol, but the senator Rand Paul objected that and left the meeting without explanation.

The surprise move has caused sharp criticism of Senator McCain and his colleagues Democrats Ben Cardin and Jeanne Shaheen. McCain has even said that the senator Paul “is now working for Vladimir Putin”.

Absolute US support

Vlahovic believes that “the statements of senators McCain, Cardin and Shaheen confirmed that there was almost absolute support for Montenegrin accession, and that there is a deep and detailed understanding of the Montenegro’s position and the importance of the enlargement, development and strengthening of NATO had for the United States in the context of relations in Europe and, in particular, to Russia”.

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

Trump says Germany owes ‘vast sums’ to NATO

President Donald Trump says Germany owes “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. “must be paid more” for providing defense.

In a tweet from his Florida resort, where he is spending the weekend, Trump wrote that he had a “GREAT” meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite reports to the contrary.

But he reiterated his stance that Germany needs to meet its end of the bargain if it is to continue benefiting from the military alliance.

Trump wrote, “Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

He added, “Nevertheless, Germany owes … vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/18/trump-says-germany-owes-vast-sums-to-nato.html

 

Russian company that paid Flynn deemed ‘unsuitable’ by Pentagon

 

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March 12, 2017

Al-Qaeda ally claims twin bombings in Damascus

An al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for twin blasts near holy shrines frequented by Shiites in the Syrian capital Damascus that killed at least 40 people.

The Levant Liberation Committee said in a statement Sunday that the attack was carried out by two of its suicide attackers, claiming that they targeted pro-Iranian and pro-government militiamen.

Saturday’s attack also wounded over 100, most of them Iraqis, according to Syrian and Iraqi officials. The al-Qaida-linked group said the blasts were a message to Iran — a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The attacks came two weeks after members of the same group stormed two different security offices in the central city of Homs, killing and wounding scores of people, including a top Syrian security official.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-march-12-2017/

Police blast protesters with water cannons in Rotterdam after Turkish ministers are refused entry to Holland, prompting Erdogan to label the Dutch ‘Nazi fascists’

  • Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was flying to a rally in Rotterdam for expats
  • But Dutch authorities stopped the plane from landing as the rally was banned 
  • Erdogan called the Dutch ‘Nazi remnants’ for refusing to let the plane land
  • Turkey’s family affairs minister also expelled and escorted to German border  

Turkish ministers have been forced out of Holland sparking mass riots on the streets of Rotterdam as protesters and police became embroiled in violent clashes.

Water cannons were fired at demonstrators in an attempt to control the crowds who were seen to be kicking police officers on the ground as well as throwing stones and metal railings.

The ugly scenes were in reaction to two Turkish ministers being blocked from entering the country by officials, which prompted Tayyip Erdogan to label the Dutch ‘Nazi remnants and fascists’.

Syria warns it will ‘down Turkish planes next time,’ calls bombing of Kurds ‘flagrant aggression’

Damascus has reacted harshly to the bombing of Kurdish militias in northern Syria on Thursday morning by Turkey’s air force, vowing to intervene next time Ankara sends its planes over its border.

In a statement, the Syrian Defense Ministry accused Turkey of “flagrant aggression, which targeted innocent citizens,” saying that it considers it “a dangerous development that could escalate the situation.”

“Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available,” warned Damascus, whose planes, which have flown in concert with a Russian expeditionary force, have been avoiding direct confrontation with unauthorized NATO jets.

Turkish artillery guns have been firing at Kurdish militias, who are now fighting against Ankara-backed rebels over territory won back from Islamic State in northern Turkey on Wednesday. Turkey said that the airstrikes took out up to 200 Kurds, though the YPG, the Kurdish militia, initially put its losses at 15.

https://www.rt.com/news/363579-syria-warns-turkey-bombing-kurds/

Russia begins modernization of naval facility in Syria

Russia has launched a modernization project of it’s naval facility in the Syrian port city of Tartus.

According to the head of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Viktor Ozerov, the plans were presented during a visit of Russian senators to the base in October 2016.

The work is expected to include extra piers and structures to facilitate naval logistics vessels and warships.

In January this year, Russia and Syria signed an agreement to expand the territory of the Russian naval facility in Tartous. The signed document refers to an agreement of 49 years.

The agreement also makes provisions for free use of the territory – officially Russian – with conditions of immunity from the jurisdiction of the Syrian state.

The agreement, according to Viktor Ozerov, is subject to ratification by the Russian parliament in Spring, as it will be “a higher level of consolidation of existing agreements.” 

As the destination of much of Russia’s manpower in Syria — the Russian naval supply route from the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol — Tartus has long served as a kind of beachhead for Russian arms and equipment deliveries to Syria.

Tartus has been an entry point for Russian arms deliveries to Syria since 1971, when it was leased to Moscow, but the base was doubly significant for serving as a home away from home for the Soviet Mediterranean flotilla.

http://www.geopolmonitor.com/russia-begins-modernization-naval-facility-syria/

Iran using civilian flights to transfer soldiers, ammunition

Iran smuggling soldiers and military equipment to battle zones on civilian flights to Syria and Yemen.

Arutz Sheva Staff

The Iranian security agencies are secretly transferring soldiers, wounded and dead soldiers and ammunition from the battle sectors in Syria and Yemen via civilian flights. This according to a report by an Iranian military official belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

These smuggling activities were reported by the official on the anti-government “Amed News” site and were translated and published by the MEMRI institute which tracks media outlets in the Middle East.

According to the reports, the flights by the Iranian airline Mahan Air to Damascus in Syria and Sana’a in Yemen are utilized for transporting large quantities of ammunition in the cargo department which are then sent to battle zones.

The same official reported that one of these airliners, whose cargo hold was packed with weapons, attempted to land at Sana’a but was threatened by two Saudi bombers, and that due to the bombing of the Sana’a airport, it was unable to unload the military cargo in question. Apparently this is a reference to an event that took place on May 3, 2015, when two Saudi bombers escorted an Iranian airliner and prevented it from landing in Yemen by bombing the Sana’a airport. Iran claimed the airliner was loaded with aid including food and drugs, but this senior military source said it was actually transporting weapons for the Houthis.

The official also reported that ‘Last year, one of these airliners transported regular passengers [as well as] military forces and ammo from Iran to Syria, and on its way back to Iran, it brought dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, Afghanis, and Pakistanis for treatment or burial in Iran.’ He added: ‘On the return trip from Syria, these airliners carry people in Zone C, which is in the rear of the plane and the regular passengers cannot see it. They disembark via the rear door and occupy a separate part [of the plane] from the regular passengers. These are the same people Iran trains in armed combat and guerilla warfare at IRGC bases. In fact, the IRGC commanders use the regular passengers on Mahan Air flights as a cover to transfer weapons, ammo, and [fighters] trained [to wage] guerrilla warfare in the region.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/226531

Iran and Iraq to ramp up oil production despite OPEC cuts

Though OPEC has managed to achieve a high standard of compliance, it has mostly been due to the oversized cut by the largest member of the group—Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the actions and statements of the second and third largest producers in OPEC are throwing worrying signs at the oil bulls.

As the defacto leader of OPEC, Saudi Arabia is left to implement most of the production cuts to ensure a high level of overall group compliance. Saudis know that OPEC might not get another chance if it doesn’t adhere to its production cuts.

Another reason is the forthcoming IPO of Saudi Aramco. Without higher oil prices, Saudi Arabia might not get the valuation it is expecting for its crown jewel. Aramco’s successful listing is vital for reaching Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’ objective.

However, two OPEC members, Iran and Iraq, are exploiting Saudi Arabia’s precarious position by taking steps to boost production. The Kingdom will have to contend with increased production from Iran and Iraq, along with tackling the U.S. shale oil producers. According to the IEA, Iraq will increase its output to 5.4 million barrels per day by 2022, which is significantly higher than the earlier estimates of an increase to 4.6 million bpd by 2021. Similarly, Iran is expected to boost production by 400,000 bpd to reach 4.15 million bpd production in 2022. The Iraqi Oil Ministry and the Iranian Oil Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding to bury their differences on joint oil fields and build a pipeline to export crude oil from the Kirkuk fields, in the north of Iraq, through Iran, reported the Al Monitor. Iraq, which produced 4.47 million bpd in January, well above its quota of 4.35 million bpd, is capable of raising its output to 5 million bpd in the second half of this year, said Iraq’s Minister of Oil, Jabbar Ali Al-Luiebi. “We achieved this great achievement of 4 million barrels per day … middle of 2016, and now we have climbed up and we are reaching about 5 million barrels per day beginning of second half of this year,” Al-Luaibi said during an interview at CERA Week by IHS Markit, reports CNBC.

http://vestnikkavkaza.net/analysis/Iran-and-Iraq-to-ramp-up-oil-production-despite-OPEC-cuts.html

As Foreign Agent For Turkey, Flynn Agreed To Form Elite Investigation Team, Make ‘Criminal Referrals’

CHUCK ROSS

While serving as a top adviser on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Michael Flynn signed a contract in which he agreed to utilize an “investigative laboratory” made up of elite former intelligence officials, including a former CIA director, to conduct research and make “criminal referrals” on behalf of a Dutch shell company linked to the Turkish government, federal records show.

But Flynn appears to have over-promised on the contract, which was signed on Aug. 9 between his firm, Flynn Intel Group, and Inovo BV, the shell company.

R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director identified by his title in the contract as a member of Flynn Intel’s “investigative laboratory,” says he was not aware of and never agreed to perform any of the work laid out in the contract.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/11/as-foreign-agent-for-turkey-flynn-agreed-to-form-elite-investigation-team-make-criminal-referrals/

 

Germany rebuffs Trump’s call for a big jump in military spending

After months of uneasy, long distance skirmish, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel will meet for the first time on Tuesday. USA TODAY

BERLIN — Europe’s most populous and economically powerful country can easily afford to spend more on its military defense, as NATO requires and President Trump demands. Yet Germany, still haunted by the horrors of World War II, simply doesn’t want to do that.

Even in today’s dangerous world, Germany is a largely pacifist nation, security analysts say.

“It’s clear that the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) just can’t realistically achieve these goals,” said Sönke Neitzel, a professor of military history at the University of Potsdam. “The institution has really fallen behind. We’re very far away from being fit for combat on a small scale, let alone on a large one.”

The world’s fourth-largest economy spent $37 billion — 1.2% of its economic output — on defense last year, according to government figures. That is far short of the 2% set by NATO and a third of the 3.6% of gross domestic product that the United States spent in 2016, according to NATO figures.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/12/germany-rebuffs-trumps-call-big-jump-military-spending/98871940/

 

Deadly attack on security forces in southern Tunisia

Four attackers on motorcycle attacked on Sunday a security checkpoint in the southern Tunisian city of Kebili, killing one guard, according to the country’s interior ministry. Two attackers were killed in the ensuing shootout.

Tunisian authorities said the attack took place early Sunday at around 00.40 local time.

“There was a terrorist attack on a checkpoint just outside Kebili. Four alleged terrorists on two motorcycles that were armed with explosives arrived on the scene. They killed one of the security agents. There were only three of them present manning the checkpoint,” Sarah Souli, a freelance journalist in Tunis, told FRANCE 24.

Two attackers out of four were then killed by security forces. A third attacker was wounded and is now in hospital. The fourth one managed to escape, according to Tunisian authorities.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170312-deadly-attack-security-forces-southern-tunisia-terrorism-kebili

 

US-Led Coalition, NATO Training Kurdish Peshmerga Forces in Northern Iraq

Peshmerga military units related to the Kurdish National Council (ENKS) are trained by NATO and United States-led international coalition instructors to fight against Daesh terrorists, council representative Kawa Azizi said.
According to Azizi, all operational costs for Peshmerga forces are paid by the government of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The ENKS is a Syrian Kurdish political organization established in 2011, under the sponsorship of the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The so-called Rojava Peshmerga group is a paramilitary wing of the ENKS. The group, reportedly of 6,000 fighters, is affiliated with Turkey which allegedly trained and funded the Rojava Pashmergas to fight against the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the biggest Kurdish party in Syria.

Azizi said that NATO training programs for Peshmerga forces are carried out in northern Iraq.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703121051493712-us-nato-training-peshmerga/

US accuses Moscow of aiding warlord in battle for Libya oil ports

Pentagon says Russia has intervened to support opponents of the western-backed government

in Tunis

Saturday 11 March 2017 Last modified on Sunday 12 March 2017

A fierce battle for control of Libya’s oil ports is raging this weekend as worried American officials claim that Russia is trying to “do a Syria” in the country, supporting the eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar in an attempt to control its main source of wealth.

The fighting between Haftar’s forces and militias from western Libya is focused on Sidra, Libya’s biggest oil port, and nearby Ras Lanuf, its key refinery. Together they form the gateway to the vast Oil Crescent, a series of oilfields stretching hundreds of miles through the Sahara containing Africa’s largest reserves. Haftar’s forces have launched airstrikes against militias around the oil ports themselves, with social media showing pictures of corpses and burning vehicles. No casualty figures have yet been released.

Capturing the glittering prize of the Oil Crescent has become the focus of a bitter civil war now in its third year and US officials fear that Russia has now entered the conflict, with Haftar the likely beneficiary.

Asked by Senator Lindsey Graham whether Russia was “trying to do in Libya what they are doing in Syria”, Waldhauser said: “Yes, that’s a good way to characterise it.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/11/us-says-russia-backs-libya-warlord-in-oil-ports-battle

Anxiety grows over North Korea’s arsenal: ‘Danger now is miscalculation’

On the day of North Korea’s first atomic test in 2006, aides to President George W. Bush began phoning foreign capitals to reassure allies startled by Pyongyang’s surprising feat. The test, aides said, had been mostly a failure: a botched, 1-kiloton cry for attention from a regime that had no warheads or reliable delivery systems and would never be allowed to obtain them.

“The current course that they are on is unacceptable,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said publicly at the time, “and the international community is going to act.”

A decade later, that confidence has all but evaporated. After a week in which Pyongyang successfully lobbed four intermediate-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, U.S. officials are no longer seeing North Korea’s weapons tests as amateurish, attention-grabbing provocations. Instead, they are viewed as evidence of a rapidly growing threat – and one that increasingly defies solution.

Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and Korea experts. Pyongyang’s growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-north-korea-weapons-arsenal-20170311-story.html

Taiwan court detains Chinese spy

According to the court, Zhou is suspected of violating the national security law for building networks and gathering confidential information from several government units and schools.

Katharine Chang, minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s top China policy body, said that the policy of admitting visiting Chinese students will not change.

“However, we strongly urge Chinese students studying here not to violate laws,’’ Chang warned.

https://www.businessdayonline.com/taiwan-court-detains-chinese-spy/

Taiwan Air Force hero charged with spying for China

Officer recruited by Chinese spy ring: prosecutors

Chinese spy Zhen Xiaojiang (right). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A former Air Force officer who was once involved in a direct confrontation with China was charged Tuesday with passing on military secrets to a Chinese agent.

Retired Colonel Ko Chi-hsien (葛季賢) and Lieutenant Colonel Lou Wen-ching (樓文卿) were recruited into the spy ring set up by former People’s Liberation Army Captain Zhen Xiaojiang (鎮小江), who was sentenced to four years in prison last year, prosecutors said.

Zhen traveled to Taiwan as a tourist and contacted serving and retired military officers whom he offered trips to Southeast Asia and other enticements in return for secrets, investigators said.

The Taipei District Prosecutors Office said Tuesday it was indicting Ko and Lou for leaking secrets under military law, though it did not specify which kind of confidential information had been passed on.

In 1990, Ko was one of four F-104G pilots involved in a tense confrontation with Chinese fighters over the Taiwan Straits, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported Tuesday.

http://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3110600

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March 10, 2017

CHINA WARNS OF NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE IN RESPONSE TO THAAD DEPLOYMENT

“US must pay the price”

China warns that it is reconsidering its policy not to use nuclear weapons against South Korea in response to the U.S. deploying the THAAD missile system and sending B-52 bombers to protect its ally.

THAAD is being deployed to shield South Korea from North Korean ballistic missiles after several tests by the Stalinist state in recent months. Beijing is furious because the system will also be capable of detecting and tracking missiles launched from China.

It was also reported yesterday that the U.S. will send B-1 and B-52 nuclear bombers to South Korea in order to display a stern show of strength.

300,000 South Korean troops and 15,000 US personnel have also started their annual Foal Eagle military exercise. The USS Carl Vinson nuke-powered aircraft carrier will join the drill – carrying dozens of fighter jets.

An article in the Global Times, which is widely regarded as the voice of the Chinese government, says that Beijing will respond to America’s “strategic provocations” by actioning a “rapid increase in the number and quality of China’s strategic nuclear weapons” and that China isn’t worried about starting a limited “arms race”.

Asserting that “the US must pay the price for the THAAD deployment,” the piece goes on to warn that, “If the US further intensifies its anti-missile attempts and strategic containment, China may reconsider its pledge of not being the first to use nuclear weapons.”

https://www.infowars.com/china-warns-of-nuclear-first-strike-in-response-to-thaad-deployment/

Defiant Iran Conducts More Ballistic Missile Tests; This Time From Naval Vessel

As tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to mount, the semi-official news agency Tasnim is reporting that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has successfully conducted yet another ballistic missile test, this time from a navy vessel.  Called the Hormuz 2, these latest missiles are designed to destroy moving targets at sea at ranges up to 300 km (180 miles).

Reports on the latest test quotes Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, who confirmed that “the naval ballistic missile called Hormuz 2 successfully destroyed a target which was 250 km away.”

The missile test is the latest event in a long-running rivalry between Iran and the United States in and around the Strait of Hormuz, which guards the entrance to the Gulf. About 20% of the world’s oil passes through the waterway, which is less than 40 km wide at its narrowest point.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-09/defiant-iran-test-fires-naval-ballistic-missile

Terror fears over hundreds of ‘ghost ships’ turning off their tracking devices while sailing close to hotspots including Syria and Libya before entering European waters

  • Vessels entering Europe routinely turn off their GPS tracking to ‘disappear’ 
  • Often become ghost ships after making dubious stops near terrorist hotspots
  • It is fuelling concerns they are smuggling people and weapons to the continent
  • 2,850 ships ‘went dark’ before entering Euro waters in first two months of 2017

Hundreds of ‘ghost ships’ turn off their tracking devices and sail suspiciously close to terror zones before entering European waters – including dozens who ended up off the British coast, it was revealed today.

Large vessels entering Europe routinely turn off their GPS tracking to ‘disappear’ from monitoring systems after making dubious stops close to terrorist hotspots.

It is fuelling concerns they are smuggling people and weapons to the continent, especially on the route between Libya and Greece.

Data from Windward, an Israeli-based maritime analytics company, shows that in total, 2,850 ships ‘went dark’ by halting transmission of their location before entering European waters in the first two months of this year.

Around 45 did this off the British coast for up to 24 hours – 50 other entered British waters without proper paperwork.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4300170/Terror-fears-hundreds-ghost-ships-turning-GPS.html#ixzz4avbL4SCQ

Park Geun-hye: South Korean court removes president over scandal

Park loses immunity from prosecution over corruption claims after constitutional judges uphold impeachment vote

in Tokyo and agencies in Seoul

Friday 10 March 2017 First published on Thursday 9 March 2017

Park Geun-hye has become the first democratically elected South Korean president to be forced from office, after the country’s constitutional court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach her over a corruption and cronyism scandal that could see her face criminal charges.

Friday’s dramatic judgement brings an abrupt and ignominious end to Park’s four years in office – the most dramatic development yet in a scandal that has gripped and horrified South Koreans in equal measure. Two died in protests after the ruling.

Park will immediately forfeit the executive immunity she enjoyed as president, meaning prosecutors can summon, question and possibly arrest her.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/10/south-korea-president-park-geun-hye-constitutional-court-impeachment

Donald Trump unaware Michael Flynn was a ‘foreign agent’, Sean Spicer says

Former national security adviser retroactively disclosed that he lobbied for firm linked to Turkish government while working as Trump’s campaign adviser

in New York

Donald Trump was unaware his former national security adviser Michael Flynnwas working as a “foreign agent” when he gave him the job, according to his press secretary.

“I don’t believe that was known,” said Sean Spicer, when asked by reporters at his regular press briefing on Thursday.

Flynn resigned in February after just four weeks as national security adviser when it came to light that he had misled the vice-president, Mike Pence, about phone conversations with the Russian ambassador about sanctions in December. The resignation came after a flow of intelligence leaks revealed that he had secretly discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and then tried to cover up the conversations.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that from September to November last year, while he was working as a top adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, Flynn was lobbying for a firm linked to the Turkish government, earning $530,000. He and his company Flynn Intel Group Inc filed retroactive documents with the Department of Justice two days ago to register as a foreign agent.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/09/michael-flynn-foreign-agent-sean-spicer

Poland reacts with fury to re-election of Donald Tusk

Almost all EU nations back his second term as European council president but Poland’s opposition leaves it isolated in Europe

in Brussels

Donald Tusk has won a second term as European council president, overcoming bitter opposition from Poland that has left the country isolated in Europe.

Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, was re-elected on Thursday with overwhelming support to lead the council, the body that organises EU leaders’ meetings, for a second term lasting two and a half years. His reappointment until the end of 2019 means he will play a crucial role in Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU.

The Pole, from the pro-European centre-right Civic Platform party, overcame strong resistance from his own government, led by the Eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS). The outcome was never in doubt, but is a blow for the Warsaw government, which responded with fury.

“We know now that it [the EU] is a union under Berlin’s diktat,” the Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, told Polish media, echoing persistent claims by PiS that the EU is controlled by Berlin.

Despite its anger, however, Poland was left isolated as other countries including traditional central European allies lined up to back Tusk, a popular choice to guide the EU through difficult Brexit talks and tense debates on migration

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/donald-tusk-re-elected-as-european-council-president-despite-polish-opposition

Man arrested after injuring seven people in Düsseldorf axe attack

Police say there is no indication of terrorist motive after detaining 36-year-old from the former Yugoslavia

and agency

A man was arrested after injuring seven people with an axe at Düsseldorf’s main train station on Thursday night, police have said.

In a statement, they described the man as a 36-year-old from the former Yugoslavia who apparently had mental health problems. Police said three of the victims were seriously injured, with the others suffering minor injuries. The suspect was also injured.

Police said there was no indication of a terrorist motive behind the attack.

The station remained closed while crime scene specialists carried out their work but police are not searching for any other attackers.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/man-arrested-after-injuring-five-people-in-duesseldorf-axe-attack

Five people including four Russian businessmen are killed as a helicopter crashes into a TV tower moments after taking off in Istanbul

  • It is being reported the helicopter hit a television tower as it flew in dense fog
  • The helicopter belonged to the Eczacibasi group of companies, it has been said 
  • Four Russians, two pilots and a Turkish official were all travelling on the chopper
  • The Russians make up four of the five killed, and the other two are injured 

A helicopter has crashed on a motorway in the outskirts of Istanbul killing at least five people.

It is understood the Sikorsky S-76 chopper was flying in dense fog when it hit a television tower which caused it to plunge into the road.

There were seven people on board – four Russian guests, a Turkish official and two pilots.

A Twitter account for a crisis centre confirmed that four of the victims were Russian nationals.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4300598/Five-killed-helicopter-crash-Istanbul.html#ixzz4avaXChQF

 

 

Is Alexa working for the CIA? Video shows owner asking Amazon’s smart assistant if it is connected to the intelligence agency – causing it to shut down repeatedly

  • Video shows anonymous woman asking Amazon’s Alexa a series of questions
  • Started with ‘would you lie to me’ and then asked what is the CIA
  • Then asked if Alexa was connect to the CIA and the virtual assistant shutdown
  • Amazon said it was a glitch and now Alexa says ‘no I work for Amazon’

With the CIA’s ability to ‘breach almost anything connected to the internet’ made public, many citizens have begun questioning their devices.

A clip has surfaced showing an anonymous woman asking Amazon‘s Alexa a series of questions – starting with ‘would you lie to me’ and finishing with ‘Alexa, are you connected to the CIA?’

The virtual assistant swiftly responded to the first question, but shutdown after it was interrogated about its connections with the US government agency.

US deploys 2,500 paratroopers to Kuwait, ready for missions in Syria & Iraq – report

The deployment of 2,500 personnel will include units of the Fort Bragg-based 82nd Airborne Division 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2nd BCT), Army Times reported on Friday, adding that 1,700 troops from the 2nd BCT have already been deployed to the region, spreading between Iraq and Kuwait.

On Thursday, an unnamed military official told Reuters the Pentagon wants to have a rapidly deployable Kuwait-based force as part of the ongoing change in the US strategy to defeat IS.

Army Lieutenant General Joseph Anderson, the US Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations, told House members on Wednesday that the additional troops will be “postured there to do all things Mosul, Raqqa, all in between,” as cited by the Army Times, referring to the Islamic State’s two main bastions in Iraq and Syria respectively.

https://www.rt.com/usa/380111-us-troops-deployment-kuwait/

Less than half of Marine Corps aircraft are ready to fly

Less than half of the Marine Corps’ aircraft are ready to fly, far short of the 75 percent goal by the service, the deputy commandant for programs and resources told Congress on Friday.

Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas said that, while readiness across the Marine Corps is on an upward trend, readiness in the aviation community is “still much lower than we would like.”

The service’s goal is to have 75 percent of its aircraft on the flight line ready to go, a number he called “reasonable” since routine maintenance will always take some aircraft out of commission.

But the actual number now is just 45 percent, mostly due to aircraft exceeding their planned service life, Thomas said. The statistic seemed to shock Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/less-than-half-of-marine-corps-aircraft-are-ready-to-fly/article/2617014

 

‘Giant leap’: China’s 5th-gen stealth fighter enters service

‘Giant leap’: China’s 5th-gen stealth fighter enters service
Months after unveiling its first fifth-generation J-20 fighter jet, China’s People’s Liberation Army announced that the advanced aircraft has entered service. The jet is meant to counter the US and its regional allies in a potential battle for air superiority.

The brief announcement on Friday made on state broadcaster CCTV’s military and agricultural affairs channel said the J-20 had entered service in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). The report did not provide further details.

The announcement did not come as a big surprise; in November, the Chinese military demonstrated two J-20s during a pre-announced brief fly-past at the Zhuhai Air Show in Guangdong province, signaling that the aircraft was about to enter service.

The development of the Chengdu J-20 began in the late 1990s, with the first prototype taking flight in January 2011. Eight prototypes have been built so far, with two being LRIP, or low rate initial production – an indicator that the aircraft design was generally fixed. The J-20 is yet to receive its designated engine, the Xian WS-15, but has been reportedly tested with China’s advanced PL-15 and PL-10 air-to-air missiles.

https://www.rt.com/news/380147-china-j20-fighter-service/

China to intercept ‘intruding’ aircraft, follow military vessels amid efforts to strengthen navy

China is building a “first-class navy” which will intercept “intruding aircraft” and follow any military vessels traveling within its controlled areas, an official has stated, adding that sailors should “stay vigilant.”

“We will intercept any intruding aircraft and follow every military vessel in areas under our responsibility,” Wang Weiming, deputy chief of staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

“Our sailors should stay vigilant and be able to deal with emergencies at all times,” he added.

Wang’s statements come as China looks to strengthen its navy, expanding its fleet of naval destroyers and frigates and stepping up air and sea patrols.

The senior official noted that the country’s second aircraft carrier – a refitted Soviet Union-made carrier – is taking shape, with the hull blocks having been joined.

The carrier will have a displacement of 50,000 tons and will be a base for J-15 fighters and other aircraft, according to a Defense Ministry spokesperson. It is expected to enter service around 2020.

https://www.rt.com/news/380135-china-navy-aircraft-vessels/

Get Ready, Russia and China: America’s F-22 Raptor Is Getting More Stealth and More Firepower

The Air Force has contracted Lockheed Martin to perform essential maintenance to the F-22’s low-observable stealth coating to ensure it is equipped to manage fast-emerging threats.

Lockheed Martin completed the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline, a company statement said.

“Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor’s Very Low Observable radar cross-section,” Lockheed stated.

The increase in F-22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support and antenna calibration.

The Air Force is performing key maintenance on the F-22 Raptor’s stealth materials and upgrading the stealth fighter with new attack weapons to include improved air-to-air and air-to-surface strike technology, service officials said.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/get-ready-russia-china-americas-f-22-raptor-getting-more-19735

 

Pentagon: Russia, China Able to Launch Catastrophic Cyber Attacks on U.S. Infrastructure for Next 10 Years

Defense Science Board calls for new cyber deterrence plan targeting foreign leaders

Critical American infrastructure like the electric grid will remain vulnerable to catastrophic cyber attacks from Russia and China for at least 10 years, according to a Pentagon study.

A report by a Defense Science Board task force concludes that the decade-long cyber vulnerabilities must be mitigated while the Pentagon quickly creates new cyber deterrence capabilities, including offensive cyber weapons designed to inflict damage on adversaries and their leaders.

The 44-page report, “Task Force on Cyber Deterrence” was made public Feb. 28. It is based on a two-year study by a panel of military and defense experts.

 The report presents a dire picture of weaknesses in both military and civilian information and control systems that are being exploited by advanced cyber warfare states such as China and Russia, along with second-tier cyber threats from states such as North Korea and Iran.

Hezbollah Missiles Aimed at Israel’s Nuclear Reactor

Terror leader boasts of ability to strike Dimona reactor

BY:
March 9, 2017 1:42 pm

The Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah currently has advanced missiles capable of hitting Israel’s nuclear reactor, according to Hassan Nasrallah, the terror group’s leader, who boasted in a recent interview that the terror group is prepared to strike the reactor and cause nuclear havoc across the Middle East.

Nasrallah, speaking to an Iranian interviewer, disclosed that the Islamic Republic has smuggled a variety of new missiles to Hezbollah operatives and that the group is prepared to strike the Israeli nuclear reactor, which is located near the southeastern city of Dimona.

“We are ready to carry it out and we have the courage to do so,” Nasrallah is quoted as saying in the interview, which was translated into English by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, or ITIC, an Israel-based security organization.

 Israeli experts who compiled the report warned that Hezbollah has upgraded its weapons capabilities with the help of Iran and stands ready to inflict heavy damage on Israeli civilians.

Nasrallah boasted that a strike on the Dimona nuclear reactor would cripple Israel.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/hezbollah-missiles-aimed-israels-nuclear-reactor/

Syrian government urges U.N. to make Turkey withdraw from Syria

The Syrian government has called on the United Nations to force Turkey to pull “its invasion forces” out of Syria, state media said on Friday.

Turkey’s military shelled Syrian government forces and their allies in northern Syria on Thursday, causing deaths and injuries, state-run SANA news agency reported.

Turkey launched its first major military incursion into Syria in August, deploying tanks and air power in support of rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey’s operation aims to drive Islamic State from the border and stop Kurdish militias from gaining ground in their wake.

Syria’s foreign ministry urged the U.N. secretary general and security council to “force Turkey to withdraw its invasion forces from Syrian land and stop the attacks”, SANA said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-government-idUSKBN16H1JP

Shi’ite Militia in Iraq & Syria Offers to ‘Liberate’ Golan Heights

A Shi’ite “resistance movement” fighting the Islamic State terrorist organization in Iraq says it has formed a brigade to “liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.”

Hezbollah al-Nujaba spokesperson Seyed Hashem al-Moussavi announced the establishment of the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’ on Wednesday, after what he called “recent victories,” quoted by the Iranian Fars News Agency. “If the Syrian government requests, we are ready to take action to liberate Golan,” he told FNA.

The group’s leader, Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi said last month the presence of Hezbollah al-Nujaba in Syria was aimed at “resisting the plot” of the Islamic State (ISIS / Da’esh) terrorist organization, which he claimed was implementing an Israeli-initiated road map “under the supervision of the U.S., with the cooperation of Turkey and Arab states of the Persian Gulf in the region,” according to Fars.

U.S. troops have been fighting alongside Iraqi soldiers and members of the Kurdish security forces and Shi’ite militia members to oust the Islamic State terrorist group from its stronghold in Mosul. A radical Shi’ite cleric called Moqtada al Sadr has called for American troops to leave Iraq, Fox News reported.

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/shiite-militia-in-iraq-syria-offers-to-liberate-golan-heights/2017/03/09/

 

Turkey-PKK conflict: UN report tells of ‘2,000 dead’ since truce collapse

When a man in the Turkish town of Cizre was told his sister had been killed, his family was invited to pick up her remains from the public prosecutor’s office.

But all they received were three small pieces of charred flesh – and no information on how she died.

His account from February 2016 is among many included in a new UN report on Turkish government operations in the country’s mainly Kurdish south-east.

UN investigators found some 2,000 people were killed in 18 months of fighting, and accuse Turkish forces of serious human rights violations.

The killings, disappearances and instances of torture documented in the report took place during a surge in violence after the ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down in July 2015.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39228548

France to adapt civil rotorcraft for French military missions

PARIS — Following the recent pick of the Airbus Helicopter H160 for France’s joint light helicopter, work will now begin to study modifications to adapt the civil rotorcraft to military missions, according to Laurent Collet-Billon, the head of the French Direction Générale de l’Armement acquisition office.
This work includes fitting the Anti-Navire Léger anti-ship missile for the Navy and a machine gun for the Army.
That work is expected to lead to a program launch in 2019 for 160-190 units, said DGA Director of Operations Monique Legrand Larroche, who declined to give an estimated value of an eventual order. Such information would handicap the office’s negotiations on the deal, she said.

France rebukes construction firm’s offer to help build Trump’s border wall

The logo of French building material Lafarge is seen on cement trucks at a production plant in Paris, France, February 22, 2016.

The logo of French building material Lafarge is seen on cement trucks at a production plant in Paris, France, February 22, 2016.  (Reuters)

France’s top diplomat is pressing a French-Swiss cement manufacturer to rethink its bid to sell the United States material to build President Trump’s proposed border wall.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday that while construction giant LafargeHolcim can do what they want as a private company, the company should consider the social responsibility it has and the fact that the move could hurt its business with other clients.

“It should reflect upon what its interests are. There are other clients who will be stunned by this,” Ayrault told France Info radio. “Lafarge says it doesn’t do politics. … Very well, but I would say companies … also have social and environmental responsibilities.”

British govt admits to secret Syria war fund but refuses to identify ‘non-extremist’ fighters

Responding to questions from the Defence Committee, the government refused to identify the forces it is training in Iraq and Syria but appeared to confirm it has increased the amount of cash available for the conflict from a secretive war fund.

The committee asked a number of questions about the supposed 70,000 moderate fighters available to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), cited by then Prime Minister David Cameron to make the case for British intervention in Syria in December 2015.

The committee said it had been forced to examine the claim with the help of outside sources because the government had previously refused to name the groups.Critics say the figure was either made up or consisted of groups similar to IS and Al-Qaeda.

It would not be appropriate for the government to release or confirm such information on individual groups in Syria,” the official response said.

The government insisted “there are significant numbers of non-extremist fighters in Syria opposing both the Assad regime and terrorist groups like Daesh [IS].

It disclosed that infantry and tactical training is being provided to some groups in the region and that money had been pooled from the controversial and highly secretive Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to pursue UK aims in the region.

https://www.rt.com/uk/380032-syria-iraq-fighters-funding/

DUTCH ARMED FORCES SERIOUSLY NEGLECTED: ADVICE COUNCIL

Dutch soldiers

Dutch soldiers. Photo: Countrymaster / Wikimedia Commons

The state of the Dutch armed forces is extremely worrying, according to advisory council on international affairs AIV in an advice report to the cabinet titled ‘Russia and the Dutch defense efforts’. According to the report, the “employability of the armed forces was further undermined this government term” and if the policy is not changed, the basic readiness of the army will only be back in order in 2021, NU.nl reports.

According to the AIV, the government continually paints an overly optimistic picture on the state of the armed forces. “These positive framings may serve a political purpose, but creates a false picture”, the report states.

The AIV calls on the next government to ensure that the Defense budget is increased to at least the NATO average. Over 8 years 2 percent of the gross domestic product must be spent on defense – the standard mutually agreed upon by NATO countries.

http://nltimes.nl/2017/03/10/dutch-armed-forces-seriously-neglected-advice-council

The Latest: Dutch PM tells Turkey minister: ‘Don’t show up!’

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on the growing tensions between Germany and Turkey

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says that apart from arresting a Turkish minister on arrival in the Netherlands, his government is giving the strongest possible hints to Ankara to not send its representatives to address any rallies on the upcoming Turkish referendum.

Rutte says any planned weekend visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu could only stir trouble between the two NATO allies.While attending a European Union summit on Thursday, Rutte said: “This is the most serious thing we can do. You tell the foreign affairs minister of a NATO ally, ‘We know you will come to the Netherlands: Don’t show up!'”

Rutte added that local authorities would be unlikely to authorize any rally Cavusoglu would attend.”

And if you still decide to come, you won’t have a chauffeur driven car, no escort, no support,” he said.Rutte says that while “there are people who will say, ‘you have to arrest him at Schiphol,’ but we will stop just short of that.”

http://kdwn.com/2017/03/09/the-latest-dutch-pm-tells-turkey-minister-dont-show-up/

 

Pentagon hires former lobbyist for Peter Thiel’s company

The Department of Defense has hired a former lobbyist for the Peter Thiel-founded data company Palantir.

Justin Mikolay will serve as a special assistant to Defense Secretary James Mattis, BuzzFeed reported Thursday. In the position, Mikolay will help prepare Mattis for meetings foreign and White House officials.

At Palantir, Mikolay worked as an “evangelist” the firm’s title employees who met with the government to pitch them on their software.Mikolay had played a major part in Palantir’s ongoing efforts to get a $200 million contract on the Army’s battlefield intelligence system.

At the Pentagon, he will avoid working on anything directly related to Palantir, a spokesman said.

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/323282-dod-picks-up-former-palantir-employee

STRATCOM: Pentagon ‘Going Too Slow’ to Counter Commercial Drone Threats to Nuclear Sites

U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee he needed to accelerate arming those protecting nuclear sites with tools to disable or destroy errant drones, as well as developing the legal framework to interdict a drone.

“We’re going too slow,” Hyten said in response to a question from Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

“We have to get the right policies and authorities out there so our defenders know exactly what to do, and then we have to give them material solutions to allow them to react when they see a threat and identify that there is a threat so they do they right things. We’re just going way too slow across policy, authorities and material solutions.”

https://news.usni.org/2017/03/09/counter-commercial-drone-threats-to-nuclear-sites

Satellite Images Show Preparations for Nuclear Test at North Korean Site

Satellite imagery released by the 38 North monitoring website shows that DPRK could be preparing for a new nuclear test.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – North Korea could be preparing for a new nuclear test, satellite imagery released by the 38 North monitoring website shows.

“New commercial satellite imagery of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from March 7 indicates activity at the North Portal, Main Administrative Area and Command Center. The sum of these activities supports an assessment that North Korea continues to prepare the tunnels at the North Portal for a future nuclear test,” 38 North said in its Thursday analysis accompanying the satellite images.

The images reflect a changing patter of equipment and supplies and continuing work at the location over the past six months.

According to the analysis of the images, Pyongyang is capable of carrying out a sixth nuclear test “on short notice,” 38 North said.

On Monday, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles, explaining a day later that the launches were a test of its ability to strike US military facilities located in Japan.

Last year, North Korea carried out two nuclear tests and over two dozen of test launches using ballistic missile technology. Previously, the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea for three nuclear tests it carried out in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

In late April, 2016, the 38 North monitoring website released commercial satellite imagery showing that North Korea was resuming excavation operations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, with similar activity observed at the facility as that seen three days prior to the February 12, 2013 nuclear test.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201703101051431294-dprk-nuclear-test-preparations/

Exclusive: Japan to vet bidders in Toshiba chip sale for national security risks – sources

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japanese government, fretting over the future of Toshiba Corp’s flagship memory chips unit, is prepared to block a sale to bidders it deems a risk to national security, sources said, a stance that gives U.S. suitors a major advantage.

The government would use Japan’s foreign exchange and foreign trade laws to control the auction if need be, one of the sources said. The sources are directly involved in the sale process, but declined to be identified because it is not public.

“The United States is the only feasible partner from Japan’s national security standpoint,” said another source, noting that cutting-edge chips are at the heart of robotics, artificial intelligence and connected devices.

Seeking to plug an upcoming $6.3 billion writedown for its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse and create a buffer for future potential losses, Toshiba is rushing to sell most or even all of the unit – world’s second-biggest NAND chip producer – which it values at at least $13 billion.

With Westinghouse woes deepening to the point of it hiring bankruptcy lawyers to explore a possible Chapter 11 filing, the Japanese industrial conglomerate is also leaning towards U.S. suitors given the potential for friction with the United States.

“It’s obvious U.S. players are more suitable bidders,” a Toshiba executive said. “We’ll probably need to fight over Westinghouse (with the U.S.), so we could cooperate over chips in exchange.”

http://whtc.com/news/articles/2017/mar/10/exclusive-japan-to-vet-bidders-in-toshiba-chip-sale-for-national-security-risks-sources/

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March 9, 2017

REVEALED: Russia is now suspected of giving WikiLeaks documents about CIA hacking which US officials say contain ‘authentic information’

  • Senior US officials say the WikiLeaks documents on CIA hacking are authentic
  • Officials also believe that Russia may have played a part in obtaining documents
  • WikiLeaks has denied accusations that it is a tool of the Russian government
  • FBI has launched criminal probe aimed at finding source of leaked documents 

The documents released by WikiLeaks that purport to show how the CIA hacks into electronic devices are authentic – with Russia being eyed as the possible culprit behind the leak.

A senior US official says that the WikiLeaks documents do contain authentic information about CIA hacking techniques, NBC News reported.

The report also quotes US intelligence sources as saying that the Russian government is believed to be behind the revelations.

Moscow, which has been blamed by the US for attempting to influence the results of the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic Party computers, has been accused of having ties to WikiLeaks.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4295870/US-says-WikiLeaks-CIA-documents-authentic-information.html#ixzz4arrqXc6c

Drones threatened nuclear facilities

– The Washington Times – Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Drone aircraft recently carried out unauthorized intrusions over Air Force and Navy nuclear facilities, and the incidents pose a growing threat, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command disclosed to Congress Wednesday.

Gen. John E. Hyten revealed the drone threats in written testimony before the House Armed Services Committee for a hearing on nuclear deterrence.

“Of recent concern have been the unauthorized flights of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) over Navy and Air Force installations,” Gen. Hyten said. “These intrusions represent a growing threat to the safety and security of nuclear weapons and personnel.”

Currently, the Navy and Air Force are planning to deploy counter-unmanned aerial system defenses that Gen. Hyten said will “effectively detect, track and, if necessary, engage small UAS vehicles.”

The commander said protecting U.S. nuclear forces and facilities is a top priority.

“We are continually assessing threats to ensure our security apparatus is capable of denying unauthorized access or use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/8/inside-the-ring-drones-threatened-nuclear-faciliti/

Russia denies deploying cruise missile in treaty breach

Story highlights

  • Russia sticks to international obligations, even against its interests, Kremlin spokesman says
  • US Gen. Paul Selva says Russia violated the “spirit and intent” of the 1987 INF Treaty

Moscow (CNN)Russia rejects claims it has deployed a cruise missile in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday.

“Russia has been, remains and will remain committed to all international obligations, including those arising from the INF Treaty,” Peskov said.

“I want to remind you of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s words about the fact that Russia sticks to the international obligations, even if in situations where sometimes it doesn’t correspond to Russia’s interests. Russia still remains committed to its obligations, so we disagree and reject any accusations on this point.”

Peskov was responding to an allegation from Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/09/europe/russia-us-cruise-missile-treaty/

Israel worried IS could launch chemical attack in Europe — report

Counter-Terrorism Bureau to highlight threats from jihadists returning to their home countries; warning to travelers to remain alert during upcoming holidays, particularly in Europe, India and Thailand

Israel is concerned that Islamic State terrorists facing defeat in the Middle East are planning to return to their home countries and carry out attacks there, including a possible chemical attack in Europe, Channel 2 TV news reported Thursday.

The report said Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau is poised to issue a series of travel warnings ahead of the Passover holidays calling on Israelis travelling to Western Europe, India and Thailand to exercise extreme caution.

The report stressed that the warnings have not yet been issued.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-concerned-that-is-could-launch-chemical-attack-in-europe-report/

US sends hundreds of marines to Syria to support fight against Isis

Boots on the ground near Raqqa a sign that the White House will give military chiefs more freedom to tackle Islamic State

A few hundred marines with heavy artillery have been deployed to Syria in preparation for the fight to oust Islamic State from its self-declared headquarters of Raqqa, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

The deployment is temporary but is a sign Donald Trump’s White House is leaning toward giving the Pentagon greater flexibility in making routine combat decisions in the fight against Isis.

Military commanders frustrated by what they considered micromanagement under the previous administration have argued for greater freedom to make daily decisions on how best to fight the enemy.

The marines moving into Syria are positioning howitzers to be ready to help local Syrian forces, said the official, who was not authorised to discuss the deployment publicly.

In addition, the US is preparing to send hundreds of troops to Kuwait to be ready to fight Isis there if needed, the official said. The number would be fewer than 1,000, the official said.

The latest troop movements come on the heels of the recent temporary deployment of dozens of army forces to the outskirts of Manbij, Syria, in what the Pentagon called a “reassure and deter” mission. Flying American flags and moving in large, heavily armoured vehicles, the troops were there to keep a lid on tensions in the area, the Pentagon said.

It appeared the forces were largely there to ensure Turkish fighters and Syrian opposition groups focused on battling Isis rather than each other.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/09/us-sends-hundreds-of-marines-to-syria-to-support-fight-against-isis

Russian destabilisation of Balkans rings alarm bells as EU leaders meet

Top MEP David McAllister says bloc must be more visible in the region to counter Kremlin’s growing influence 

in Brussels

The European Union needs to be more visible in the western Balkans to counter Russian attempts to destabilise the region, a leading MEP has said, as EU leaders gather for a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

“Geopolitics has returned to the Balkans,” said David McAllister, a German MEP and chair of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

“We are seeing the growing Russian influence, we are seeing growing Turkish influence, the United States is a player, the European Union is a player, so there are different interests at stake,” he said.

But it was Russia’s role that he described as negative, citing the Kremlin’s suspected involvement in a failed coup in Montenegro and Moscow’s support forhardline nationalist leaders in the region.

Russia was also exerting influence on political debate by organising anti-western, and anti-EU propaganda, McAllister said, especially in Serbian-language media outlets that promoted the Kremlin’s world view, as well as “conspiracy theories and Serbian ultranationalism”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/08/top-mep-says-eu-must-do-more-to-stop-russia-destabilising-balkans

Angela Merkel hits back at Turkish claims of ‘Nazi-style practices’

Chancellor criticises comments by Turkish president, who attacked Germany for cancelling rallies for Turkish citizens

Turkey’s accusations of “Nazi-style practices” in Germany cannot be tolerated and need to stop, Angela Merkel has said.

In her strongest reaction so far, the German chancellor told parliament that comments by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and other Turkish officials had saddened her “because comparisons with Nazi Germany always lead to misery, to the trivialisation of the crimes against humanity committed by national socialism”.

Merkel described the comments as “misplaced” and “unjustifiable”, but also warned of the dangers of breaking off diplomatic relations with Turkey. “We want to live our basic values in the way we think it right”.

“We will not allow the victims of the Nazis to be trivialised,” she said. “These comparisons with the Nazis must stop.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/09/angela-merkel-hits-back-at-turkish-claims-of-nazi-style-practices

Top Generals: U.S. Has ‘Squeezed’ the Life Out of Aging Nuclear Deterrence Systems

Nuclear triad depending on ‘just-in-time’ modernization

The U.S. military is relying on zero-hour modernization to maintain its aging nuclear arsenal as an effective deterrent against adversaries, according to two top U.S. generals.

Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee that the United States cannot defer nuclear modernization without “significant risk” to its deterrent capabilities, particularly as other countries like Russia and China are working to revolutionize their forces.

“These systems will not remain viable forever. In fact, we are now at a point where we must concurrently recapitalize each component of our nuclear deterrent,” Selva testified Wednesday.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/top-generals-u-s-squeezed-life-aging-nuclear-deterrence-systems/

WikiLeaks, CIA probe to focus on outside contractors

Investigators working to find the source of this week’s Wikileaks dump are likely set to focus on outside contractors for the CIA, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

A disaffected insider– not a foreign government—is believed to be behind the leak of thousands of documents on the CIA’s cyberspying capabilities, investigators told The New York Times.

The FBI is hunting to find the responsible party for the leak and is set to interview possibly more than a thousand people who may have had access to the leaked information, the paper reported. The scope of the investigation will even reach contractors outside the CIA, The Times report said.

Documents released Tuesday by WikiLeaks allege a CIA surveillance program that targets everyday gadgets ranging from smart TVs to smartphones to cars.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/09/outside-contractors-for-cia-reportedly-eyed-in-wikileaks-dump-probe.html

WikiLeaks will give tech firms access to CIA hacking tools: Assange

In the wake of WikiLeaks’ massive document dump belonging to the CIA, Washington is scrambling to figure out the source. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@fantasticmrnate) has the latest.

WikiLeaks will allow tech companies access to much more detailed information about CIA hacking techniques so they can “develop fixes” before the information is widely published, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Thursday.

Assange spoke two days after WikiLeaks published thousands of documents it said revealed hacking tools the CIA developed to break into servers, smartphones, computers and TVs. The online news conference took place at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where Assange has been holed up since seeking asylum in 2012.

“The Central Intelligence Agency lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal,” Assange said. “This is an historic act of devastating incompetence to have created such an arsenal and stored it all in one place and not secured it.”

Assange said the website hasn’t published the tools themselves because it doesn’t want “journalists and people of the world, our sources, being hacked using these weapons.” He said some companies have approached The best way to avoid that, he said, is to give companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung access first.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/03/09/wikileaks-provide-tech-firms-access-cia-hacking-tools-assange/98946128/

Berlin concerned over possibility of new arms race in Europe – German FM

“We are concerned that a new spiral of the arms race may emerge in Europe,” he said, as cited by TASS. “It’s too early to say how and in what direction we could advance to prevent this.”

“Germany has demonstrated that it is a reliable partner,” Gabriel added. “We talk and do what we say. This applies to both complex decisions and decisions that we are embracing again.”

“Germany keeps its promise, and this is necessary for the whole of Europe,” Gabriel stressed. “German-Russian relations are extremely important for us.”

Russia and Germany should strive for disarmament in Europe, despite the likelihood of the resumption of the arms race, Gabriel said.

“Germany and Russia know better than many others that such arms races do not meet the interests of people in our countries,” Gabriel stressed. “Despite all the complex issues and disagreements, one must strive for the goal of disarmament in Europe. Despite all the problems, this goal remains one of the main concerns in Europe.”

https://www.rt.com/news/379965-gabriel-german-lavrov-meeting/

#Vault7: ‘Pocket Putin’ – CIA’s covert listening tool revealed

WikiLeaks’ massive ‘Year Zero’ release on the CIA’s secret hacking techniques has revealed a covert listening post used by agents which may be named after Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to the confidential data release, the CIA has five secret “listening posts” called ‘Pocket Putin.’

Listening posts are used to monitor devices, such as computers and phones, which have been hacked with the CIA’s malware implants. Malware is a malicious software used to disrupt or infiltrate computers and mobile devices.

The ‘Pocket Putin’ listening posts are virtual and are stored on a CIA server.

The posts named after the Russian leader are used by the Operational Support Branch (OSB) of the CIA, which acts as a middleman between CIA operational staff and the agency’s technical support staff.

CIA case officers make requests to the OSB who then help turn those requests into hacking attacks on CIA targets.

The Putin listening posts are stored on the OSB’s big server, known as the ESXi, which is used to deploy and service an array of virtual computers operated by the spy agency.

While the documents don’t detail where the ‘Pocket Putins’ are used, or the content they collect, listening posts are used to monitor and communicate with malware which has already infected computers and other devices.

According to the documents, the OSB boasts that its projects have “the dankest Trojans and collection tools.”

https://www.rt.com/viral/379864-vault7-pocket-putin-cia/

Netanyahu tells Putin that Iran must not replace IS in Syria

On whirlwind visit to Moscow, PM seeks to counter Tehran’s entrenchment in region, also to discuss ongoing coordination in Syria’s skies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

 

“One of the things that we are fighting against together is radical Islamic terrorism. Of course, there was significant progress last year in the fight against the terrorism of radical Sunni Islam led by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and Russia has a very important contribution,” Netanyahu said ahead of his meeting with the Russian president.

“It’s obvious that we wouldn’t want this terror to be replaced by radical Islamic Shiite terror led by Iran,” he said.

While Russia has played a major role over the last year in Syria combating the Islamic State and the Syrian rebels, Israel is concerned that the Kremlin not allow Iran, Russia’s ally in supporting Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, a permanent foothold in the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their meeting in Moscow on March 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Pavel Golovkin)

Later, at the Kremlin, Netanyahu thanked Putin for his wishes ahead of the Jewish festival of Purim, which starts Saturday night, noting that modern Iran now threatens the Jews as the ancient Persians did then.

“Twenty-five hundred years ago in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jewish nation that was unsuccessful, which is being marked with this holiday,” the prime minister said.

“Here today in Persia’s successor, Iran, there is another attempt to wipe out the Jewish state. They say this as clearly as possible. They inscribe it on their ballistic missiles,” he said.

Netanyahu said that Iran was a threat not just to Israel, but to the whole region.

“Today, Israel is a state with an army and we are able to defend ourselves. But the threat of Shiite Islamic extremism is not just a threat to us, but rather to the entire region and world peace. I know that we share the desire to prevent any victory for radical Islam from any direction,” he said.

During the meeting, Putin said he was “very pleased” with his “close and trusting contact” with Netanyahu.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-tells-putin-that-iran-must-not-replace-islamic-state-in-syria/

 

China developing military drones that can evade radar, anti-aircraft weapons – media

“As military reforms are drastically changing armed forces around the world, drones have become an indispensable weapon in modern warfare because they can play an important role in high-resolution reconnaissance, long-distance precision strikes, anti-submarine operations and aerial combat,” Wei Yiyin said.

The new products will be used to tap domestic and international markets.

The company also intends to make multi-purpose, stealth target aircraft to be used for training purposes, according to Wei.

CASIC is also interested in developing near-space drones, which would travel in Earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 20 to 100km, above the top altitudes of commercial airliners but below orbiting satellites.The company is already selling its UAVs on the international market. The most popular are CH family drones, which have been sold to 10 countries’ armed forces.

https://www.rt.com/news/379990-china-military-stealth-drone/

US considering sending 1,000 troops to Kuwait to expand ‘options’ in IS fight – report

Move seen as part of broader effort to give US military leaders freer hand to deploy in Syria, Iraq against jihadist group

The US is considering sending 1,000 American soldiers to Kuwait as a contingency force in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Reuters reported Wednesday.

According to the report, advocates of the plan say that it will grant US military commanders in the region the ability to respond swiftly to changes on the ground as groups backed by the US continue their advance on IS strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

“This is about providing options,” an unnamed US official told Reuters.

It is not known if US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who in his final role in the military as head of US Central Command was in charge of US forces in the Middle East, is in favor of the plan or is considering alternative options to grant commanders on the ground greater flexibility.

US officials who spoke with Reuters said the proposal is part of the review ordered by US President Donald Trump of the US military’s plans to defeat IS, which could include sending more ground troops to battle the terror group in Iraq and Syria.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-considering-sending-1000-troops-to-kuwait-report/

Huntsman offered job of ambassador to Russia, White House official says

March 9 at 3:15 AM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has offered former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman the position as U.S. ambassador to Russia, a high-profile and sensitive post amid investigations into contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Trump made the offer to Huntsman earlier this week, according to a White House official not authorized to discuss the move publicly until it is announced. Huntsman has indicated that he will accept the post, the official said Wednesday. The former governor did not immediately return a request for comment.

Huntsman has twice before served as an ambassador. He was the nation’s top diplomat to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and then served in that role in China under President Barack Obama. Huntsman, who ran for president in 2012, was also briefly under consideration to be Trump’s secretary of state.

The former governor, a Mormon, had an up-and-down relationship with Trump during last year’s campaign. He was slow to endorse any candidate for the Republican nomination though he did back Trump once he became the presumptive nominee. But Huntsman then called for Trump to drop out after the October release of a 2005 video in which Trump is captured on a hot microphone making lewd comments about women.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/ap-source-huntsman-offered-job-of-ambassador-to-russia/2017/03/08/b97004a2-0465-11e7-9d14-9724d48f5666_story.html?utm_term=.ccc7d8f72bec

Former top spy chief: ‘No evidence’ Trump campaign aides recruited by Russia

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told ABC News he did not see anything to suggest that Russia successfully infiltrated Donald Trump’s presidential campaign or recruited any of Trump’s advisers – at least as of Jan. 20, when the retired three-star general left office.

“There was no evidence whatsoever, at the time, of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” Clapper, a career intelligence officer, told ABC News’ Brian Ross in an interview Monday for “World News Tonight.”

The Clapper comments came amid a fight between the Trump administration and the FBI over the wiretapping claim the President made in a series of early morning tweets Saturday from his Palm Beach getaway, in which he accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. The president compared it to the Watergate scandal but without backing that up with any explanation as to why he believes the eavesdropping occurred.

Clapper denied in the same interview that there were any wiretaps on Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign, saying “there was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the National Intelligence Community.”

“None at all…including the FBI,” he said.

FBI Director James Comey asked the Trump Department of Justice — his supervisors — to publicly refute that claim, a senior official told ABC News. Comey felt Trump’s allegation had impugned the FBI’s reputation by suggesting agents conducted illegal or politically-motivated surveillance.

But the Justice Department has remained silent this week, leaving Comey, a Republican career law enforcement official appointed by Obama to a 10-year term, in an ethical bind. Two weeks ago, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to do something similar, to publicly refute the months’ of stories suggesting collusion between the Kremlin’s agents and Trump campaign operatives, but Comey had refused, White House aides acknowledged.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/top-spy-chief-evidence-trump-campaign-aides-recruited/story?id=46013305© Sputnik/ Alexei Druzhinin

This is When Russia is Going to Start Churning Out Fifth-Gen T-50 Jets

Russia may start producing Sukhoi T-50 air superiority jets en masse after 2018, a deputy defense minister said.

The T-50 jet
© PHOTO: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

KOMSOMOLSK-ON-AMUR (Sputnik) — The Russian Defense Ministry will consider the issue of Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) fifth-generation fighter aircraft procurement under the new state armament program for 2018-2025, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov said on Thursday.

 

“The aircraft is undergoing scheduled tests,” Borisov told reporters.

He added that Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft manufacturing plant would continue to supply prototypes of the aircraft for testing.

“Three new aircraft, which the company will deliver in 2017, will join the first stage of the testing program,” the official pointed out.

The T-50 is designed by the Russian Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer as part of the PAK FA, a fifth-generation fighter program of the Russian Aerospace Forces. It is a single-seat, twin-engine multirole fighter jet designed for air superiority and attack roles and equipped with advanced avionics system and an active phased array airborne radar. The first flight of the aircraft took place in 2010.

PAK FA (Advanced Tactical Air Sistem) T-50
https://sputniknews.com/military/201703091051396161-russia-t-50-pak-fa/

US, Russia counter Erdogan in Syria as Kurds get shield

By HENRY MEYER AND SELCAN HACAOGLU | Bloomberg | Published: March 8, 2017

 

The U.S. and Russia have found themselves teaming up for the first time in the war in Syria — against a country both call an ally: Turkey.

The U.S. and Russia moved this week to block a threatened drive by Turkey to seize Manbij, a town in northern Syria about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Turkish border. A U.S. deployment and a Russian-brokered deal with Syrian forces created buffer zones that headed off any Turkish campaign against the Kurdish forces who hold the town — seen by Washington as key allies against Islamic State and by Turkey as terrorists.

As the outside powers fighting in Syria step up the fight to crush Islamic State, the battle is laying bare their often-conflicting loyalties. With all sides pushing into terrorist-held territory, the potential for clashes between the players is rising.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a central player thanks to his military campaign, but he must keep allies like Syria and Iran on his side even as tries to cooperate with the U.S. and Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes to Moscow on Thursday with his defense minister for talks with Putin.

“This is a unique circumstance when the U.S. and Russia have found themselves thrown together against Turkey because of the Kurds, who are directly sponsored by Washington and get Russian support too,” said Alexander Shumilin, head of the Middle East Conflict Center at the Institute for U.S. and Canada Studies, a government-run research group in Moscow.

http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/us-russia-counter-erdogan-in-syria-as-kurds-get-shield-1.457627#.WMFYOZArJD8

ESTONIAN FM IN ISRAEL: ‘WE’RE CONCERNED BY RUSSIA’S COLLUSION WITH IRAN IN SYRIA’

BY

Sven Mikser’s comments to the ‘Post’ come just ahead of Netanyahu-Putin meeting in Moscow.
Estonian FM Sven Mikser

Estonian FM Sven Mikser. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Estonia stands with Israel on security issues, including opposing Russia’s role in supporting both Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iran’s military presence there, its Foreign Minister Sven Mikser told The Jerusalem Post.

“The role that the Russians play [in Syria] by way of trying to keep Assad in power and by the apparent collusion with the Iranians, yes, that is a shared concern,” Mikser said.

He arrived Tuesday night for a two-day trip and met Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Thursday the Israeli leader flew to Moscow to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the importance of halting Iranian activities in Syria.

The small former Soviet bloc country that borders Russia has a population of only some 1.3 million people and a long history of resisting Russian expansionist drives.

“We have seen the expansionist ambitions of the leadership in the Kremlin,” said Mikser, including Russia’s recent activity in “illegally annexing Crimea.”

“We can say with some confidence that they [Russia] will not shy away from using military force to achieve political aims,” Mikser told The Jerusalem Post during a Wednesday interview in Jerusalem.

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Estonian-FM-in-Israel-Were-concerned-by-Russias-collusion-with-Iran-in-Syria-483729

Iran arrests two Catholics in new wave of brutality against Christians

“Our hearts are broken by this turn of events, which comes after five years of cooperation with the government of Turkey and other local partners,” Mercy Corps said in a statement.

It said Turkish officials had provided no explanation for the move, which forced Mercy Corps to “shut down our operations in Turkey, effective immediately.”

Flynn discloses lobbying that may have helped Turkey

Michael Flynn, who was fired from President Donald Trump’s national security team last month, has retroactively registered with the Justice Department for work he did that may have benefited the government of Turkey.

His now-defunct firm, the Flynn Intel Group, notified the government on Wednesday that it had done work for Inovo BV, a privately owned consulting firm in the Netherlands run by Turkish businessman Kamil Alptekin, beginning in August 2016.

From August through mid-November, the Flynn Intel Group received $530,000 from Inovo, according to the forms filed with the Justice Department. Flynn shut down his firm in November.

The firm then sub-contracted with S.G.R. LLC Government Relations and Lobbying — who also retroactively registered with the Justice Department this week — paying it $40,000. Disclosures also list Flynn’s firm paying out others, in “consultancy fees,” and for “administrative support,” videography and editing services.

At the time, Flynn was a military adviser to the Trump campaign.

http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/323087-flynn-discloses-lobbying-that-may-have-helped-turkey

Macron consolidates lead over Le Pen in French election polls

By Leigh Thomas and Sudip Kar-Gupta | PARIS

Centrist Emmanuel Macron saw his position as favorite to win France’s presidential election boosted on Thursday in two polls, with one showing him ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of the two-stage contest.

A monthly Cevipof survey, seen as the most authoritative because it has a far bigger sample size than most polls, put Le Pen well ahead in the April 23 first round though Macron was seen easily beating her in a May 7 runoff.

However, a Harris Interactive poll showed Macron winning the first round with 26 percent of votes, with Le Pen taking second place on 25 percent, setting him up to trounce her in the run-off with a score of 65 percent.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-election-idUSKBN16G095

UK sticks with US systems on P-8

There will be no UK-specific test and evaluation in relation to the Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) being procured by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) because the United Kingdom is buying the “same capability as the US”, a senior RAF officer told Jane’s on 8 March.

“There are no current plans to develop any additional or bespoke UK capabilities,” said the officer, adding by way of example that “the P-8 that will come to the RAF will be able to use current and future sonobouys, such as the Multi-static Active Coherent [MAC] [capability], as standard”.

http://www.janes.com/article/68593/uk-sticks-with-us-systems-on-p-8

NATO, US warn Kosovo against move to form army

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he told Kosovo’s leaders by telephone “that unilateral steps such as these are unhelpful.” He warned that if Kosovo goes ahead as planned “NATO will have to review its level of commitment, particularly in terms of capacity-building.”

A U.S. embassy statement said “adoption of the current proposed law would force us to re-evaluate our bilateral cooperation with and longstanding assistance to Kosovo’s security forces.”

The move must be carried out through an “inclusive and representative political process,” the statement added.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/nato-chief-warns-kosovo-army-move-45988186

 

US to Send B-52 Strategic Bombers to S Korea Amid N Korea’s ‘Provocations’

The United States will send two B-52 strategic power projection bombers to South Korea in light of growing nuclear and missile threats coming from the North, local media reported on Tuesday, citing an official source.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The strategic bombers are due to arrive at the US Osan Air Base located in the city of Pyeongtaek, 43 miles south of Seoul, this week, the source told the Yonhap News Agency.

“They may stay at the US air base for several days for a possible unveiling to the public during the Osan base’s opening event this weekend,” the source said, as quoted by the media outlet.

Earlier on Tuesday, the North Korean state media said that Pyongyang had successfully tested a high-power rocket engine, which would allow Pyongyang boost its capabilities at space exploration.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201609201045506501-bombers-korea-provocations/

Pentagon: Islamic State has lost access to Iraq’s oil

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPESPublished: March 8, 2017

WASHINGTON – The Islamic State group has lost almost all access to Iraqi oil, though the terrorist organization has thousands of fighters protecting its remaining oil-rich territory in Syria, a U.S. defense official said Wednesday.

The official, who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on the condition of anonymity, said there are roughly 15,000 Islamic State fighters left in Iraq and Syria. About half of them are in or near Mosul or Raqqa, the terrorist group’s two remaining urban strongholds in Iraq and Syria, respectively.

The remaining Islamic State fighters are concentrated along the Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria, where the group is still able to extract and sell oil, the official said.

https://www.stripes.com/news/pentagon-islamic-state-has-lost-access-to-iraq-s-oil-1.457675#.WMFibJArJD8

Army eyes new bases in Europe as Pentagon reviews force structure

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. Army is scouting locations in Germany for potentially basing more soldiers in Europe, where a post-Cold War period of military downsizing is undergoing a reappraisal.

A team from U.S. Army Europe recently visited two military facilities in northern Germany, the Army said, a region without a current U.S. military presence.

“The purpose was to assess the sites if there was growth in permanently assigned U.S. Forces in Germany,” USAREUR said in a statement. “At this time no decisions have been made; we are engaged in prudent planning only.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/army-eyes-new-bases-in-europe-as-pentagon-reviews-force-structure-1.457553#.WMFis5ArJD8

China’s tech giants are pouring billions into US start-ups

Rebecca Fannin, special to CNBC.com

Joe Chen, CEO of Chinese social networking service Renren, first met SoFi CEO Mike Cagney in Palo Alto in 2011 and, over coffee, decided to invest in the fast-growth, disruptive online finance start-up. That initial $4 million investment helped SoFi get its start and led to two more financings within three years, with Renren contributing a major chunk of some $230 million raised.

Fast-forward, and SoFi last month topped it off with a $500 million investment from private-equity powerhouse Silver Lake.

SoFi is just the kind of deal that Chen has been pursuing: His NYSE-listed company, once known as the Facebook of China, has been investing in fast-growth tech start-ups to broaden its revenues and boost its stock price. That connection with Renren has also boosted SoFi.

“Joe is a great investor and was our investor from the early days. He saw the vision early on and pushed us to grow faster and be more aggressive,” said Dan Macklin, a co-founder of SoFi in San Francisco.

Similarly to Renren, China’s tech titans Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are leading a surge of Chinese investment in cutting-edge U.S. technology start-ups with bold ambitions to expand their footprint, attract top talent and gain an edge in innovation.

Collectively known as the BAT, China’s giant technology companies that dominate search, e-commerce and mobile messaging in their home market are going global. The United States is their primary shopping place to diversify and build out their brands. The hunt is on to acquire or buy into fast-growing young companies in a broad range of the hottest tech sectors, such as virtual reality, fintech, social media, video games and mobile apps. Their deals include such well-known American brands as image messaging app Snap, ride-sharing service Lyft and virtual reality player Magic Leap.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/08/chinas-tech-giants-are-pouring-billions-into-us-start-ups.html

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February 17, 2017

Cruz to Trump: Name John Bolton as national security adviser

 “One person I think would be very, very strong is John Bolton,” Cruz told CNN
The comment comes as Trump’s national security council is facing turmoil

Washington (CNN)Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is urging President Donald Trump to name John Bolton as his national security adviser, a move that would win conservative support but would anger other Republicans over the former United Nations ambassador’s role during the Iraq War.

“One person I think would be very, very strong is John Bolton,” Cruz told CNN. “He’s someone who understands the world, he understands the threats of radical Islamic terrorism.”
The comment comes as Trump’s national security council is facing turmoil following the sudden forced resignation of Michael Flynn and the decision by retired Vice Adm. Bob Harward to turn down the job.

Trump to interview trio of candidates to replace Flynn

President Trump will interview three candidates this weekend for White House national security adviser, a position left vacant after the president called for Gen. Mike Flynn’s resignation on Monday.

Similar to the manner in which Trump conducted interviews during his transition, the president asked all three men to meet at Mar-a-Lago for separate sit-downs with him and his aides to discuss the position, according to an administration official.

Those invited include former UN Ambassador John Bolton, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Kellogg was spotted boarding Air Force One with Trump on his way to his beachside club in West Palm Beach, Fla. and was praised by the president in a tweet early Friday morning.

Bolton was thrown into the mix on Friday after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz floated his name in an interview with CNN. The former Bush administration official had previously been under consideration for secretary of state.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-to-interview-trio-of-candidates-to-replace-flynn/article/2615206

 

Give us Kim family’s DNA or no body, Malaysian police tell North Korea

  • North Korea says it will reject autopsy results
  • Three arrests have been made after Kim’s death but no autopsy results
(CNN)In the latest twist in the bizarre murder of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Malaysia says it won’t release the body to North Korea without DNA from the Kim family.

Selangor Police Chief Abdul Samah Mat said without DNA from a next of kin, they won’t hand over Kim Jong Nam’s body or release the autopsy report, which could reveal the cause of death.

But North Korea says it will “reject” the results of a “forced” autopsy which was not witnessed by its officials, according to a statement from the country’s ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol. The ambassador demanded the immediate release of the body.

France vows to retaliate if Kremlin meddles in its elections as presidential candidate is forced to deny he’s gay following Russian media ‘smear campaign’

  • French Foreign minister says France ‘won’t accept any interference’ in elections
  • Jean-Marc Ayrault warned of ‘retaliatory measures’ in event of Russian influence
  • Comes after a leading candidate in elections accused Moscow of cyber attacks
  • Warnings come amid heightened tensions between Vladimir Putin and the West 

Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault threatened ‘retaliatory measures’ in the event of interference in upcoming presidential elections in April.

His warning comes after American intelligence accused Moscow hackers of helping Donald Trump win the US presidency.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4234538/France-vows-retaliation-Russia-meddles-elections.html#ixzz4YwmgZEI4

Trump’s choice to replace fired Mike Flynn TURNS HIM DOWN as national security advisor position remains vacant for now

  • Robert Harward was Donald Trump’s pick to succeed Mike Flynn
  • ‘Harward is conflicted between the call of duty and the obvious dysfunctionality’
  • Said to be concerned about reports Flynn’s deputies were told they could stay 

The man President Donald Trump has chosen to be his national security adviser isn’t eager to accept the offer.

Robert Harward, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and a long-time special forces veteran, is Trump’s pick to succeed retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, whom he fired on Monday.

But Financial Times reported Thursday afternoon that Harward has said no.

Citing two unnamed sources, the newspaper published a story describing Trump in crisis mode, trying to persuade Harward to take over a National Security Council left in limbo with Flynn’s unexpected departure.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4233168/Trump-s-choice-replace-fired-Mike-Flynn-TURNS-DOWN.html#ixzz4YwnXZ3Na

NATO Interested in Normalizing Relations With Russia – German Defense Minister

NATO is interested in establishing a stable relationship with Russia, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Friday.

MUNICH (Sputnik) — A stable relationship between the sides is important for fighting international terrorism, she asserted.

“We are interested in establishing reliable relations with Russia again,” von der Leyen said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference.

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the bloc is strongly in favor of dialogue with Russia from the predictable position.

Relations between Russia and NATO, which started in 1991 with Russia joining the North Atlantic Cooperation Council and the Partnership for Peace program, deteriorated in 2014 after Crimea rejoined Russia. With the start of military conflict in Ukraine, all civil and military cooperation between NATO and Russia was frozen.

Since then, the Alliance has increased its military presence in Eastern Europe, using Russia’s alleged aggression as a pretext. Moscow has repeatedly criticized NATO for deploying military facilities and troops near Russian borders.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced its protests against the NATO military buildup saying that will undermine regional stability and result in a new arms race.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702181050805503-nato-interested-russia-ties/

 

There Is No Solution in Afghanistan

Analysis: The road to Kabul goes through Islamabad and New Delhi

BY:

The American predicament in Afghanistan is at once ridiculous and tragic. More than 8,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, prosecuting the longest war in our nation’s history. Overlapping networks of insurgent groups—most prominently the Taliban—had a good year in 2016, seizing terrain and conducting terror strikes to destabilize the U.S.-backed Kabul government. The American commander in the country wants a “few thousand” more troops. Despite the supporting role that the U.S. contingent is meant to play, casualties are still being sustained, sometimes in places with depressingly familiar names—as in Sangin, seized from the Taliban a few years ago at the expense of gallons of British and U.S. Marine blood. Two Americans were wounded there last week.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/no-solution-afghanistan/

U.S. Adversaries Closing Gap With American Aircraft Capabilities

Pentagon official: F-35 fighter jet program still vulnerable to cyber threats

A F-35 Fighter performs at the 2016 Chicago Air and Water Show in Chicago / AP

BY:
February 16, 2017 4:15 pm

U.S. adversaries are rapidly catching up to America’s fifth generation fighter aircraft capabilities—a risk that has exacerbated given ongoing cyber vulnerabilities in the F-35 fighter jet program, according to an Air Force major general.

Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris Jr., the vice commander of Air Combat Command at the Langley, Va., base, said Thursday that while the United States maintains an advantage in the stealth and weapons capacities inherent in fifth generation fighter aircraft models, adversaries are “quickly closing the gap.”

“We are trying to maximize our ability to procure fifth generation airplanes and go from a 100 percent fourth generation fleet to a significant mix of fifth generation [planes] so that we have the opportunity to operate in these hostile environments against these threats that are catching us faster than we thought they would,” Harris testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/u-s-adversaries-closing-gap-american-aircraft-capabilities/

CIA Director Pompeo denies agency hides intelligence from Trump

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday denied allegations that the agency was hiding intelligence from President Trump.

Pompeo called reports that the agency was keeping intelligence from Trump “dead wrong.” He added that the reports damage the “integrity of thousands of professional intelligence officers.”

“The CIA does not, has not, and will never hide intelligence from the president, period. We are not aware of any instance when that has occurred,” Pompeo said in a statement Thursday in an attempt to dispute reports that the spy community is withholding information from the commander in chief.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/17/cia-director-pompeo-denies-agency-hides-intelligence-from-trump.html

Pentagon found no documents approving Flynn’s pay for Russia TV appearances

The Pentagon hasn’t found any documents indicating that Mike Flynn received authorization to accept money from a foreign government before traveling to Moscow in 2015 for a paid Russian state TV event, according to a letter from the acting Secretary of the Army.

The Pentagon finding came after lawmakers raised questions about whether the former White House national security adviser and retired U.S. Army general violated Pentagon rules that require retired officers to report income from foreign states.

Mr. Flynn accepted an invitation to Moscow in late 2015 to give a paid, sit-down interview with Russian state television network RT and to attend the channel’s 10-year anniversary gala, where he sat beside President Vladimir Putin.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/17/pentagon-found-no-documents-approving-flynns-pay-for-russia-tv-appearances.html

EU must not let US push it to increase military spending – Juncker

EU must not let US push it to increase military spending – Juncker
Europe mustn’t be pushed by the US to increase its military spending, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. Modern politics is also about humanitarian assistance and development, not only “raising defence spending,” he added.

“It [increasing military spending] has been the American message for many, many years. I am very much against letting ourselves be pushed into this,” Juncker said, speaking on the sidelines of the international Munich Security Conference on Wednesday.

Juncker added that he does not like “our American friends narrowing down this concept of security to the military.”

https://www.rt.com/news/377691-juncker-us-europe-military-demands/

In China, a sense of betrayal after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam

February 17 at 5:13 AM
China’s Foreign Ministry has been at its stonewalling, non-committal best this week after news of the dramatic assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’S leader, repeating the mantra that it has “noticed relevant media reports and is closely following developments.”But behind the scenes there is a sense of shock and dismay in Beijing, officials and experts say: if indeed Kim Jong Nam was assassinated on the orders of the North Korean leader, it would be seen as an affront to the country that has afforded him protection for many years.

“China’s inner circle of government is highly nervous about this,” said Wang Weimin, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“Kim Jong Nam’s assassination makes China more aware of how unpredictable and cruel the current North Korean regime is, as well as Kim Jong Un’s willingness to abandon China and sell it for his own benefit at any second.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-china-a-sense-of-betrayal-after-the-assassination-of-kim-jong-nam/2017/02/17/434d7626-f4f0-11e6-8873-a962f11835fb_story.html?utm_term=.b193301e7301

Russia send shockwaves to the West as Putin unveils new fighter jet in terrifying clip

RUSSIA has released footage of an advanced fighter-jet capable of travelling at more than twice the speed of sound.

The thunderous jet performs a striking demonstration of what the Su-35S is capable of.In the dramatic footage, released by the Russian Ministry of Defence, the pilot can be seen jumping into he deadly machine before shooting off into the sky.

As it speeds through the air, the pilot twists the jet with chilling manoeuvres as blasts through the air.

As the jet touches down a parachute shoots out to help it slow after reaching speeds of up to 1,500mph in the sky.

Russia fighter jetRUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

The jet has the ability to rip through the air at around 1,500mph

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/768452/Russia-send-shockwaves-west-unveil-new-fighter-jet

Turkey says almost taken Syria’s Bab, war monitor cites heavy toll

By Tulay Karadeniz and Angus McDowall | ANKARA/BEIRUT

Turkey’s military said on Friday it was close to taking Syria’s al-Bab from Islamic State, but a war monitor said the jihadists still controlled 90 percent of the town itself and that shelling and air strikes had killed dozens of civilians in recent days.

Al-Bab, an Islamic State stronghold 30 km (20 miles) from the Turkish border, has been a prime target since Turkey launched an incursion last August to push the jihadists from its frontier and prevent gains by a Kurdish militia also fighting them.

Taking control of the town would deepen Turkish influence in an area of Syria where it has already effectively created a buffer zone and allow Turkish forces to press on towards Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

“The operation to gain complete control of the al-Bab region has neared its end and the resistance of the Daesh terror group has largely been broken,” the Turkish military statement said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization that monitors the war using a network of contacts, said Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” forces had not made much progress.

Islamic State still controls 90 percent of al-Bab town itself and Turkish shelling and air strikes had killed 45 civilians, including 18 children, during the past 48 hours, the Observatory said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-idUSKBN15W0PQ

Iran Reaches Lease Financing Deal For 77 Boeing, Airbus Planes

I write about business and economics in the Middle East

Details of the deal remain opaque at this stage and it is not clear who it has been signed with or when it will come into force. However, it is likely to be just the first of several large contracts in the coming weeks and months.

Tehran has signed deals for 100 planes from Airbus, a further 80 from Boeing and 40 turboprops from French/Italian manufacturer ATR. Local airlines have also held discussions with Russia’s Sukhoi and Brazil’s Embraer. All of the deals need to be financed in some way.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2017/02/17/iran-lease-finance-boeing-airbus/#5ff649163c51

Israel warns Hezbollah after threats to hit reactor

Israel warned Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Thursday against attacking the Jewish state after the leader of the Iranian-backed militant group threatened to strike its nuclear reactor.

The comments by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah marked the first time his group explicitly threatened to target the reactor in the southern Israeli town of Dimona.

Israel and Hezbollah battled to a stalemate during a month-long war in the summer of 2006. The war broke out after Hezbollah gunmen crossed into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers. The ensuing conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis before ending in a United Nations-brokered cease-fire.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/hezbollah-state-israel-palestine-peace-45534607

Israeli soldiers hit in cyberespionage campaign using Android malware

More than 100 soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces had their Android phones infected with malware by a cyberespionage group

The attack campaign started in July and continues to date, according to researchers from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab, who cooperated in the investigation with the IDF Information Security Department.

The Israeli soldiers were lured via Facebook Messenger and other social networks by hackers who posed as attractive women from various countries like Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. The victims were tricked into installing a malicious Android application, which then scanned the phone and downloaded another malicious app that masqueraded as an update for one of the already installed applications.

http://www.cio.com/article/3171267/security/israeli-soldiers-hit-in-cyberespionage-campaign-using-android-malware.html

Grenade-dropping jihadist death drones are ‘insidious’ threat in Iraq – general

As the intense fighting to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul continues, Major General Rupert Jones has warned of the “insidious” threat posed by the low-tech aerial attacks employed alongside more conventional methods.

The enemy has tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate back into the east of the city and has indiscriminately fired mortars, rockets and artillery into liberated areas on more than 300 occasions in the last week with a characteristic disdain for human life,” he said in a briefing from Baghdad seen by the Daily Mail.

This tactic, together with their continued use of off-the-shelf commercial drones is all they have left with which to attack the east as they await their fate.

https://www.rt.com/uk/377684-iraq-mosul-isis-drones/

Will the US leave Syrian Kurdish partners for Turkey?

U.S. Chief of Joint Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford is set to visit Turkey on Feb. 17. Following the Feb. 9 visit of CIA head Michael Pompeo, Dunford is the second high-ranking U.S. official’s visit to Turkey, as part of a Middle Eastern tour.

As Pompeo’s visit was announced after a telephone conversation between President Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump, the Dunford visit was announced after a meeting between Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Feb. 15 on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels.

After Dunford’s discussions with Turkish Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar on Feb. 18, more high-ranking discussions are expected to take place between the two NATO allies: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to meet in Munich on Feb. 18 during the annual Munich Security Conference.

There is one single issue in common in all those meetings. The Turkish government wants to convince the U.S. administration to change its fighting partner in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) before Trump announces his country’s new strategy on it. Trump has given a 30-day deadline to the Pentagon to draft a new anti-ISIL strategy, with the date set to expire on Feb. 28.

Turkey says the fighting partner of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is the Syrian sister of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. for many years. It was thanks to CIA support that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was able to capture the PKK’s founding leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999. Now Ankara is telling Washington that it was “wrong to fight a terrorist organization with the help of another one” and that if they end the collaboration with the PYD, the Turkish army and the Turkey-backed Free Syria Army (FSA) will join the U.S. to deliver a coup de grace to ISIL at their headquarters in Raqqa.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/will-the-us-leave-syrian-kurdish-partners-for-turkey.aspx?PageID=238&NID=109851&NewsCatID=409

German parents told to destroy Cayla dolls over hacking fears

An official watchdog in Germany has told parents to destroy a talking doll called Cayla because its smart technology can reveal personal data.

The warning was issued by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), which oversees telecommunications.

Researchers say hackers can use an insecure bluetooth device embedded in the toy to listen and talk to the child playing with it.

Manufacturer Genesis Toys has not yet commented on the German warning.

The Vivid Toy group, which distributes My Friend Cayla, has previously said that examples of hacking were isolated and carried out by specialists. However, it said the company would take the information on board as it was able to upgrade the app used with the doll.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

Turkish imam spy affair in Germany extends across Europe

A German investigation into Turkey’s religious officials collecting information on its enemies may be the tip of the iceberg. DW has obtained several documents revealing Turkish activities in Germany and European states.

Stuttgart DiTiB-Moschee (picture-alliance/dpa/D. Naupold)

German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four imams alleged to have spied on the opposition for the Turkish government. The police action is part of an investigation into what documents obtained by DW show to be a broader Turkish effort to collect information across Europe on supporters of the religious movement Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

The raids targeted the homes of four Turkish imams affiliated with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.

The Federal Prosecutors Office (GBA) said in a statement no arrests were made in the raids in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Pfalz, which aimed to collect evidence into imams conducting alleged espionage against supporters of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.

The prosecutor’s office said the reason for the raids was related to a September order from Diyanet, a religious body tied to the Turkish prime ministry, for imams to pass information to diplomatic missions on Gulen supporters.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-imam-spy-affair-in-germany-extends-across-europe/a-37590672

NATO: Russia targeted German army with fake news campaign

Emails accusing German soldiers stationed in Lithuania of rape were sent to local news outlets and the parliamentary president. NATO officials allege that Russia is targeting the military alliance.

Litauen Bundeswehrsoldaten landen in Kaunas (picture-alliance/AP Images/M. Kulbis)

German soldiers stationed in Lithuania have been the target of false rape claims, German news magazine “Spiegel” first reported on Thursday. NATO diplomats told Spiegel that they viewed this as an attack aimed at undermining the presence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Eastern Europe, likely perpetrated by Russia.

Emails claiming that German soldiers had raped an underage Lithuanian girl were sent to the president of the Lithuanian parliament and various Lithuanian media outlets on February 14.

Lithuanian authorities investigated the charges and found no evidence that any of the claims made in the emails were true. “To our knowledge, Lithuanian police investigations came to the conclusion that there were neither a victim nor possible witnesses nor any perpetrators”, a spokesperson for the German ministry of defense said.

Some smaller local news outlets reported on the charges, according to Spiegel, but Lithuanian officials quickly discounted the accusations.

Lithuanian police is investigating the incident. The address from which the emails accusing the soldiers were sent no longer exists, according to the German defense ministry, but authorities are looking to track the IP-address.

http://www.dw.com/en/nato-russia-targeted-german-army-with-fake-news-campaign/a-37591978

NATO, Finland deepen cooperation on cyber defense

NATO and Finland on Thursday signed a political framework agreement on cyber defense cooperation that will allow them to better protect and strengthen their networks.

“We look forward to enhancing our situational awareness and exchanging best practices with Finland, including through dedicated points of contact for rapid information exchange on early warning information and lessons learned,” Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, said.

http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/319872-nato-finland-deepen-cooperation-on-cyber-defense

Libya requests NATO help to rebuild security institutions

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO’s chief says he has received a formal request from conflict-torn Libya to help strengthen its security institutions and that the alliance is looking into exactly what can be done.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that the 28 allies could help build up the Libyan defense ministry and military command structure.

He told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels that “Libya needs that framework to be able to develop the forces and stabilize the country.”]

Stoltenberg didn’t say when the effort might start or what exactly it might entail.

http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/news-wire/libya-requests-nato-help-to-rebuild-security-institutions/article_6053d834-8f9e-5cce-831a-33945f4cfac1.html

Melted Nuclear Fuel Search Proceeds One Dead Robot at a Time

  • Third robot abandoned in search of fuel at Japan’s Fukushima
  • Melted fuel still needs to be located before removal begins

The latest robot seeking to find the 600 tons of nuclear fuel and debris that melted down six year ago in Japan’s wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant met its end in less than a day.

The scorpion-shaped machine, built by Toshiba Corp., entered the No. 2 reactor core Thursday and stopped 3 meters (9.8 feet) short of a grate that would have provided a view of where fuel residue is suspected to have gathered. Two previous robots aborted similar missions after one got stuck in a gap and another was abandoned after finding no fuel in six days.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-17/race-for-japan-s-melted-nuclear-fuel-leaves-trail-of-dead-robots

Exclusive: Japan to speed up frigate build to reinforce East China Sea – sources

By Nobuhiro Kubo | TOKYO

Japan plans to accelerate a warship building program to make two frigates a year to patrol the fringes of the East China Sea, where it disputes island ownership with China, three people with knowledge of the plan said.

Japan previously was building one 5,000-ton class destroyer a year, but will now make two 3,000-ton class ships a year, beginning from the April 2018 fiscal year, the people said, declining to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to the media.

It aims to produce a fleet of eight of the new class of smaller, cheaper vessels, which may also have mine-sweeping and anti-submarine capability.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-navy-frigates-idUSKBN15W13S

Spy network active in region (Malaysia)

PETALING JAYA: North Korean spies have been operating in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia over the last two decades.

According to an intelligence source, their operation in the three countries is believed to be one of the biggest networks outside North Korea, with Malaysia and Singapore being the preferred choice of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).

The RGB is North Korea’s intelligence agency which manages the country’s clandestine operations.

To blend in and disguise themselves in Malaysia and Singapore, the highly qualified spies would double-up as engineers and technical consultants in the construction industry, and also operate Korean restaurants.

“They used the restaurants as a main front to conduct intelligence gathering and surveillance, targeting Japanese and South Korean poli­ticians, diplomats, top corporate figures and businessmen who visited or were based in these countries,” the source said.

The RGB comes under the jurisdiction of the North Korean State Security Department or State Security Ministry and reports directly to the supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/02/17/spy-network-active-in-region-north-koreas-rgb-spread-wings-over-last-two-decades/#RllGpAkZA2OTLJTd.99

China Blacklists Carfentanil, Closing A Deadly Loophole

AP

The drug is so strong and deadly, it’s been researched as a chemical weapon of warfare; police officers are warned to handle it with extreme care. The opioid carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine — but until now, it hasn’t been a controlled substance in China, where producers have been exporting it abroad.

U.S. officials are welcoming the news that China will now list carfentanil as a controlled substance, putting it in the same category as fentanyl — the less powerful opioid of which carfentanil is a variant. Fentanyl was blamed for the death of Prince last year.

Potent and addictive, fentanyl and carfentanil have played deadly roles in the opioid epidemic that has swept the U.S. and killed thousands of Americans in recent years, as the drugs have been mixed into heroin or used to create an alternative to that less powerful drug. From 2010 to 2014, officials say, heroin overdoses more than tripled in the U.S. — and part of the problem, they add, is that drug users may not realize how strong the adulterated drugs are.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/16/515544874/china-blacklists-carfentanil-closing-a-deadly-loophole

 

US and Russia agree to boost military communications: Pentagon

The US and Russian militaries agree to “enhance communications” after a meeting between their top commanders in Azerbaijan on Thursday, the Pentagon says.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford and his Russian counterpart Valery Gerasimov discuss military relations between the two countries as well as security in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere during their meeting in the capital Baku.

The two sides “have undertaken efforts to improve operational safety of military activities in order to decrease the prospects for crisis and avoid the risk of unintended incidents,” the Pentagon says in a statement. “The leaders further agreed to enhance communications on such stabilizing measures.”

The United States and Russia already maintain a permanent military communications line over their air operations in Syria to avoid incidents between their aircraft.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/us-and-russia-agree-to-boost-military-communications-pentagon/

 

 

A Chip Flaw Strips Away Hacking Protections for Millions of Devices

FOR THE LAST decade or so, hackers have faced a daunting challenge when they try to break into a computer: Even when they get malicious code running on a victim’s machine, they have to figure out where in the computer’s memory that code has ended up. That’s because a security protection used in Windows, Android, and every other modern operating system randomizes where programs run in a device’s memory. It turns the process of digital intrusion into something like an attempt to burglarize a house in total darkness.

But now a team of Dutch researchers has found a technique that undermines that so-called address space layout randomization, creating the You Are Here arrow that hackers need to orient themselves inside a stranger’s computer. That means any of the common memory corruption bugs found in software applications on a daily basis could lead to a much deeper takeover of a target PC or smartphone. And because the attack exploits not software but hardware, it leaves millions of devices at risk regardless of their operating system—and it can’t be fully fixed with any mere software update.

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/flaw-millions-chips-strips-away-key-hacking-defense-software-cant-fully-fix/

 

 

Dopo le forti dichiarazioni del Segretario alla Difesa americano, Jim Mattis, in occasione della riunione della Nato a Bruxelles lo scorso 15 febbraio, pubblichiamo un’anteprima dell’articolo di Stephen Bryen, già Sottosegretario alla Difesa ed ex Presidente di Finmeccanica Nord America, che comparirà nel numero in uscita del Nodo di Gordio “Le Tre Torri. Usa, Cina e Russia: i tre poli dello scacchiere geopolitico”. Il saggio di Bryen anticipa la nuova strategia relativa all’Alleanza Atlantica della nuova Amministrazione di Donald Trump.

La NATO combatterà? E per cosa?

di Stephen Bryen *

L’unica cosa di cui sono certo è che i Russi possono fare la differenza. Conoscono abbastanza bene l’entità e la capacità delle forze NATO dispiegate negli Stati Baltici e in Polonia, e sanno che la NATO, nonostante la recente frenetica attività e l’invio di carri armati e armamenti, è molto lontana dall’essere pronta. I Russi hanno scelto di fare pressione sull’area Baltica e persino su Finlandia e Svezia (entrambe fuori dall’Alleanza NATO) soprattutto per rivelare la vulnerabilità della NATO e metterne in dubbio la pretesa di proteggere i propri membri più recenti.

http://www.nododigordio.org/in-evidenza/bryen-la-nato-combattera-e-per-cosa/

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February 14, 2017

Flynn Departure Leaves Trump National Security Team in Turmoil

  • Retired Army General Kellogg named acting security adviser
  • Resignation comes as U.S. confronting security challenges

White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday amid a snowballing controversy over whether he lied about his contacts with a Russian official, throwing President Donald Trump’s security team into turmoil just weeks into his term.

Flynn’s resignation came as Trump struggles to cement his national security apparatus as the president and his cabinet officials are preparing for a series of meetings and summits with foreign leaders in the coming months, starting this week in Europe.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who had been Flynn’s chief of staff, was named acting national security adviser, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement announcing the resignation.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-14/flynn-departure-leaves-trump-national-security-team-in-turmoil

Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say

February 13 at 11:17 PM
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-warned-white-house-that-flynn-could-be-vulnerable-to-russian-blackmail-officials-say/2017/02/13/fc5dab88-f228-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html?utm_term=.a7324c21ab9a

Trump, GOP lawmakers eye ‘illegal’ leaks in wake of Flynn resignation

In the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser, President Trump and Republican allies on Capitol Hill are turning their attention to the potentially “illegal” leaks that revealed Flynn’s politically fatal discussions with a Russian diplomat and other sensitive details from inside the administration.

Fox News first reported Monday night that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., wants the FBI to conduct an assessment of recent media leaks. The president, after accepting Flynn’s resignation overnight, tweeted Tuesday morning that, “The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?”

The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?

Flynn echoed that point. Asked Tuesday morning whether the leaks were targeted, coordinated and possibly a violation of the law, Flynn told Fox News: “Yes, yes and yes.”

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/14/trump-gop-lawmakers-eye-illegal-leaks-in-wake-flynn-resignation.html

 

FBI needs to explain why Flynn was recorded, Intelligence Committee chairman says

Here’s why Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned after just 24 days

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the most significant question posed by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the press.

“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”

Flynn resigned Monday night, days after The Washington Post reported that intelligence officials had recorded Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office. Those recordings, The Post reported, appeared to contradict Flynn’s own claims that he had not discussed easing U.S. sanctions on Russia

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/02/14/fbi-needs-to-explain-why-michael-flynn-was-recorded-gop-intelligence-chairman-says/?utm_term=.e78fca6c37b8

 

Russian spy ship off East Coast of US, officials say

A Russian spy ship was spotted patrolling off the East Coast of the United States on Tuesday morning, the first such patrol since President Trump took office, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

The Russian spy ship was 70 miles off the coast of Delaware, heading north at 10 knots, according to one official. That location means the ship is in international waters. The U.S. territory line is 12 nautical miles.

It was not immediately clear where the Russian spy ship is headed.

The ship, the SSV-175 Viktor Leonov, last sailed near the U.S. in April 2015, an official said. The ship is capable of intercepting communications or signals, known as SIGINT, as well as measuring U.S. Navy sonar capability, a separate official said.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/14/russian-spy-ship-off-east-coast-us-officials-say.html

 

 

Russia secretly deploys cruise missile violating arms treaty

Russia has deployed a new cruise missile despite complaints by US officials that it violates an arms-control treaty banning ground-based American and Russian intermediate-range missiles, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The US concluded in 2014 that Russia had violated the 1987 treaty banning ground-launched intermediate range missiles by testing the experimental new cruise missile, Reuters reported.

US officials have now concluded the SSC-8 missile is operational and has been secretly deployed, the Times reported.

The deployment presents a major challenge for President Trump, who has vowed to improve relations with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and to pursue future arms accords.

http://nypost.com/2017/02/14/russia-secretly-deploys-cruise-missile-violating-arms-treaty/

 

US ADMITS USING TOXIC DEPLETED URANIUM AGAINST ISIS IN SYRIA

Depleted uranium leads to major birth defects

More than 5,000 rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were used in two attacks on Islamic State oil tankers in eastern Syria, the US military has confirmed. The US-led coalition previously pledged it would not use the controversial ordnance.

A spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) told Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing DU rounds were used in November 2015, during two air raids against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tanker convoys in the Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.

A-10 ground attack aircraft fired the projectiles from their 30mm rotating cannons, destroying about 350 tanker trucks, according to CENTCOM spokesman Major Josh Jacques.

 

http://www.infowars.com/us-admits-using-toxic-depleted-uranium-against-isis-in-syria/

Moroccan man, 33, is arrested in Gran Canaria on suspicion of planning a terror attack after ‘posing with his wife and young son with ISIS badge’

  • The 33-year-old Moroccan had been under surveillance for the past five years
  • Spanish police arrested him over fears he was about to launch a terror attack 
  • Police admitted the suspect is believed to represent a significant threat 
  • The man was arrested in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria by anti-terror officers  

Police in the Canary Islands have arrested a 33-year-old Moroccan whose hatred for the west was so great that he was prepared to ‘execute a terrorist attack with great repercussions’.

The man, said to be a ‘violent jihadist supporter’, had been under constant watch since 2012 because of his potentially dangerous profile.

But as part of the fight against terrorism, officers said they could no longer allow him to walk free because of the threat he represented.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4223420/Spanish-police-arrest-Moroccan-ISIS-suspect.html

Two thirds of Germans want Merkel ousted as Chancellor as she suffers another hammer blow in the polls

  • Sixty-four percent of citizens have said they want a new face in the hotseat
  • Only eight% believe Angela Merkel is definitely the right person for the job
  • Polls have swung away from Merkel Since SPD chose Martin Schulz as candidate
  • Most recent gauge of public opinion was conducted and published by YouGov 

Two thirds of Germans want Angela Merkel ousted as the country’s Chancellor as she suffered her latest hammer blow in the polls.

Sixty-four percent of citizens want a new face in the hotseat when the nation heads to the polling stations for September’s election, according to the most recent gauge of public opinion.

YouGov’s figures revealed that only eight percent of Germans think Merkel should definitely keep the title she has held for the past 12 years.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4224026/Two-thirds-Germans-want-Merkel-ousted-Chancellor.html

SOROS FUNDS GOOGLE TO STOP POPULIST LE PEN

Google launches “CrossCheck” in France to censor pro-Le Pen news

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though largely not reported by the mainstream media, George Soros has invested in Google as it stepped up its “Fake News” campaign designed to depress the vote of anti-globalist Marine Le Pen, leading candidate of the conservative National Front (FN) party in the French presidential election scheduled for April 23.

On Nov. 15, 2016, Market Watch reported George Soros’ hedge fund, Soros Fund Management LLC, invested in Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.

On Feb. 16, 2012, Forbes reported that Soros had been trading in Google prior to 2007, but had completely sold out in the second quarter of 2011, at $550 a share.

Then, in the fourth quarter 2011, Soros bought his largest share in Google to date, purchasing 258,900 shares at about $592 per share for a total investment of $154 million.  Soros’ investment in Google in 2011 was made by Soros’ predecessor Quantum Fund, then the best-performing hedge fund in history that in 2011 was closed to the public, focusing only on managing assets held by Soros and his family

http://www.infowars.com/soros-funds-google-to-stop-populist-le-pen/

 

South Korean prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Samsung chief

South Korean special prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday it is seeking an arrest warrant for Samsung Group [SAGR.UL] leader Jay Y. Lee as part of its investigation into a graft scandal that could topple President Park Geun-hye.

The special prosecution said it would also seek an arrest warrants for Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> President Park Sang-jin. It did not elaborate or say what charges it planned to bring against the two executives.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2017/02/14/south-korean-prosecutor-seeks-arrest-warrant-for-samsung-chief.html

Chinese weapons reaching ‘near-parity’ with West: study

China is beginning to export its own weapon designs, including armed drones, worldwide and is reaching “near-parity” with the West in terms of military technology, according to a report on Tuesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies said that China’s official defence budget of $145 billion (137 billion euros) last year was 1.8 times higher than those of South Korea and Japan combined.

It also accounted for more than a third of Asia’s total military spending in 2016, the IISS annual Military Balance report said, adding that spending in Asia grew by five to six percentage points a year between 2012 and 2016.

Total global military spending instead fell by 0.4 percent in real terms in 2016 compared to 2015, largely due to reductions in the Middle East.

“China’s military progress highlights that Western dominance in the field of advanced weapons systems can no longer be taken for granted,” IISS director John Chipman said at a presentation in London.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/chinese-weapons-reaching-near-parity-west-study-135238342.html

Greece considers ditching the Euro in favour of the US dollar in devastating move which would ‘freak out’ Germany and humiliate Brussels

  • Donald Trump’s pic for EU ambassador Ted Balloch made the comments on TV
  • He told a Greek broadcaster the country’s officials were looking into EU options
  • Greece’s spiraling financial crisis has led to EU bosses threatening expulsion 
  • If the country does drop out of the union it will be seen as a blow by Germany 

Greece is said to be considering ditching the Euro in favour of the US dollar in a devastating move which would humiliate Brussels.

Donald Trump‘s pick for EU ambassador Ted Malloch claimed senior Greek economists are looking into taking on the American banknotes if the country turns its back on the European currency.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4222990/Greece-considers-ditching-Euro-favour-dollar.html#ixzz4Yf0wjmPB

BREAKING NEWS: Kim Jong-Un’s playboy half-brother ‘is killed by two female assassins with poisoned needles at an airport in Malaysia’

  • Kim Jong-nam died on way to hospital ‘after being poisoned in Kuala Lumpa’
  • The 45-year-old was killed by two female assassins, reports in Malaysia claim
  • There are reports he was the target of assassination attempts in the past
  • Kim was overlooked for succession to dictator by former leader Kim Jong-il

Kim Jong-nam, the oldest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, died on his way to hospital after collapsing at Kuala Lumpur airport.

The 45-year-old was poisoned by two female assassins believed to be North Korean operatives who are still at large, according to television reports in Malaysia.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4223088/Half-brother-Kim-Jong-dies-Malaysia.html#ixzz4Yf1HyX4n

US blacklists Venezuela’s vice president as drug trafficker

Reuters

The United States blacklisted Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami for drug trafficking, the first crackdown by the Trump administration against a top official in President Nicolas Maduro’s government for money laundering and the drug trade.

The U.S. Department of Treasury said it designated El Aissami for sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. His associate, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, was targeted for providing material assistance and financial support for El Aissami’s activities, Treasury said in a statement.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/14/us-blacklists-venezuelas-vice-president-as-drug-trafficker.html

Syrian forces used chemical weapons in final push for Aleppo: HRW

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – Syrian government forces carried out at least eight chemical attacks during the final weeks of the battle for Aleppo, killing nine people, among them four children, and injuring hundreds more, Human Rights Watch said Monday.

The rights group said it interviewed witnesses, collected photos and reviewed video footage indicating that chlorine bombs were dropped from government helicopters during the offensive from November 17 to December 13.

Around 200 people were injured by the toxic gases used on opposition-controlled areas of the northern city, according to HRW.

One of the deadliest bombings hit the neighborhood of Sakhur on November 20, killing six members of the same family including four children whose lifeless bodies were shown on a video taken by the Shabha press agency.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/syrian-forces-used-chemical-weapons-final-push-aleppo-162324390.html

UK ‘fails to meet’ Nato national defence spending pledge

The UK’s spending on defence has dipped below the Nato target of 2 per cent of national spending, according to a new report.

Military spending was 1.98 per cent of GDP in 2016, as a result of the British economy growing faster than the defence budget, said the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

However, the Ministry of Defence has rejected the claims,  branding the figure “wrong”, pointing to official Nato statistics which put the UK’s defence spending for 2016 at 2.21 per cent.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/14/uk-dips-nato-target-2pc-national-defence-spending/

‘We are READY’ Russia issues warning to NATO after military tests conducted in Black Sea

RUSSIA issued a stark warning to Nato after it claimed it was “ready to take on these challenges” after four member states from the Western military alliance conducted a naval military drill in the Black Sea.

Russia has warned Nato after the latest military test
The joint military PASSEX 2017 exercise between Canada, Spain, Romania and Bulgaria was carried out in the body of water which borders part of the Russia’s coastline.

According to a report from the Bulgarian ministry of defence, “tactical manoeuvring, air defence, repelling asymmetric attacks from an enemy above water, delivery of cargo by helicopter, and other manoeuvres” were carried out.

Russian defence minister Sergey Shoigu claimed Moscow was monitoring the Sea Shield drills.

He said: “At present, we are watching and monitoring everything that is happening there.

“We hope that the exercise will be conducted in the safest possible environment, without any challenges to Russia. In any case, we are ready to take on these challenges.”http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/766974/russia-issues-warning-nato-military-tests-black-sea-sergey-shoigu-vladimir-putin

Germany’s AfD votes to expel lawmaker who criticised Holocaust memorial

Right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) members voted on Monday to expel one of the party’s state leaders who criticised a memorial in Berlin to victims of the Nazi Holocaust and said history should be rewritten to focus on German victims.

The AfD, which has lawmakers in 10 of Germany’s 16 regional parliaments, is expected to become the third-largest party in the Bundestag federal lower house after an election on Sept. 24.

Some senior AfD members say speeches like the one by Bjoern Hoecke, the party leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, damage its image and dent its chances in the election.

http://www.reuters.com/article/germany-afd-idUSKBN15S18A

Russia sends more military police to Syria

(South Front) Moscow has deployed another military police battalion to Syria.

The battalion was sent from the Russian republic of Ingushetia in order to boost security of military personnel during operations in the war-torn country, according to Ingushetia leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov said on Monday.

According to Yevkurov, servicemen will focus on protecting personnel of the Russian air group and the Center for Syrian reconciliation.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/russia-sends-military-police-syria/

Why Kim Jong Nam was Murdered by Poisoned Needles

 

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January 23, 2017

(CNN)President Donald Trump on Monday will unravel the behemoth trade deal he inherited from his predecessor, as two sources familiar with the matter told CNN he plans to sign an executive order to withdraw from the negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That executive order will send signals to Democrats and leaders in foreign capitals around the world that Trump’s rhetoric on trade during the campaign is turning into action. Trump vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal, commonly known as TPP, which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.

The executive order is expected to be the first Trump will issue Monday, a senior White House official said, and will amount to the administration’s first major action on foreign policy.

Syrian peace talks get off to shaky start after rebels refuse direct negotiations with government

Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan got off to a rocky start on Monday after rebel groups refused face-to-face negotiations with the government, which in turn labelled its delegation terrorists.

The landmark talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, are the first between armed opposition groups and the regime since war erupted in the country in 2011.

They are a showcase of the new power brokers in the region, with an increasingly disengaged Washington left sidelined.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/23/syrian-peace-talks-get-shaky-start-rebels-refuse-direct-negotiations/

China just made VPNs illegal

The Great Firewall just got more impenetrable.

Chinese authorities block access to big-name websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and numerous others, and to thwart these restrictions, many residents on the mainland use virtual private networks. Starting this week, that could be a crime. Use of VPNs and special cable connections in China must now be approved by the government, essentially making these services illegal in the country.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/23/china-vpn-illegal-internet-censorship-government-approval/

Key port town in Yemen liberated

The recapture of Mocha by Yemeni forces cuts off Iran-backed Al Houthi militants from vital weapons shipments

Yemeni loyalist forces patrol a highway near the Red Sea port town of Mocha on January 20, 2017.
Gulfnews

Mocha: Yemeni government forces captured on Monday the key port of Mocha as they pushed to oust Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels from the Red Sea coastline, an AFP journalist said.

The Iran-backed rebels have received weapons shipments from Iran through this port and liberating it delivers a major blow to the militants.

Government forces were combing the port, a journalist accompanying the troops said, almost three weeks after Yemeni forces launched an offensive against the rebels and their allies on Yemen’s southwestern coast.

An official statement said government forces recaptured the whole city, but a military commander in the field told AFP that the army was still fighting the rebels on the southern outskirts of Mocha.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/key-port-town-in-yemen-liberated-1.1966642

Counterintelligence officials probe Flynn’s links to Russia

 

U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Treasury Department to determine the extent of Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump.

A key issue in the investigation is a series of telephone calls Mr. Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., on Dec. 29. That day, the Obama administration announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacks on Democratic Party officials to try to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/23/counterintelligence-officials-probe-flynns-links-to-russia.html

Trump picks former congresswoman and Air Force veteran Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary

January 23 at 1:11 PM

President Trump will nominate a former congresswoman and veteran who served on the National Security Council during President George H.W. Bush’s administration to be his Air Force secretary, the White House said Monday.

Former representative Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.) is currently the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a science and engineering university in Rapids City, S.D. She was the first female veteran elected to a full term in Congress, and left the House in 1999 after a failed primary run for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). She served in the Air Force in the 1980s after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, leaving as a captain, and was a Rhode Scholar.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/01/23/trump-picks-former-congresswoman-and-air-force-veteran-heather-wilson-as-air-force-secretary/?utm_term=.c8a2e8659d73

Syrian Democratic Forces condemn their exclusion from Astana peace talks

SDF leaders speak to a press conference in Raqqa countryside. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Qamishli – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a main group fighting Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants in northern Syria, have been excluded from the Russian-led peace negotiations in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

Starting on Jan. 23, the talks are supposed to bring parties to conflict in Syria to the table of negotiations.

“Despite all the victories we’ve achieved against ISIS terrorism in northern Syria, we have been excluded from the Astana talks,” the Kurdish-led SDF said in a statement on Sunday.

The SDF condemned the exclusion, saying it was a violation to their sacrifices in the fight against ISIS, stressing that they’ve “liberated key Syrian territories from terrorist groups”.

http://aranews.net/2017/01/syrian-democratic-forces-condemn-exclusion-astana-peace-talks/

Iran welcomes Russian participation in the $2.5 billion construction of a pipeline to transfer Iranian gas to Europe, a deputy oil minister says.

IGAT-9 is a 35 billion cubic meter per year pipeline that Iran plans to use to send gas from its giant South Pars field to Europe via Turkey.

Russian companies have indicated interest in Iran’s gas development projects, with state-run Gazprom recently signing a letter of intent with the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC).

“We are welcoming Russians’ participation in the project to build Iran’s IGAT-9 with $2.5 billion of investment,” Deputy Minister of Petroleum Hamid Reza Araqi said in remarks published by the Mehr news agency on Monday.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/23/507398/Iran-gas-exports-Russia-Europe-pipeline

Most wanted French jihadist charged with terrorist offences in France

One of the UN’s most wanted jihadists has been charged with terrorist offences in France after being transferred from Turkey where he had turned himself in.

Kevin G., 24, is a high-profile French jihadist who converted to Islam 10 years ago, and who was placed on a blacklist in 2014 and is suspected of being a major recruiter for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

The suspect’s reported role was to attract young French people to join IS in Syria and Iraq. The jihadist is also thought to have had connection with some of the perpetrators who carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.

“He spent four years in Syria amongst jihadists, first with former al-Qaeda affiliate the Fateh al-Sham Front, and then the IS group,” according to France 24.

https://www.rt.com/news/374728-un-wanted-jihadist-charged/

Taiwan’s Ancient Submarine Will Reach an Astounding 80 Years in Service

On Jan. 21, 2017, Taiwan announced that the 72-year-old SS-791 Hai Shih, or Sea Lion, will receive a retrofit allowing it to continue sailing until 2026. The $19 million retrofit will be to improve the hull and the diesel vessel’s “navigational elements,” Taiwan News reported.

Eight-zero. That’s a remarkable lifespan for a submarine, and the Hai Shih is already the oldest submarine still in service with a navy anywhere in the world — she looks like she traveled decades into the future through a wormhole.

Before she was Hai Shih, she was the U.S. Navy submarine USS Cutlass, a 1,570-ton Tench-class vessel that launched on Nov. 5, 1944 during World War II. Her wartime service was brief, and Cutlass didn’t reach her first patrol zone near the Kuril Islands until the day after Japan capitulated.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/taiwans-ancient-submarine-will-reach-astounding-80-years-19150

The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) will discipline one of its state leaders over remarks he made criticizing Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Bjoern Hoecke, AfD head in eastern Thuringia state, triggered anger across Germany with a comment about the memorial. He told party members in a speech in Dresden last week: “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.” AfD co-leader Frauke Petry told German broadcaster MDR on Monday that its executive committee had concluded Hoecke’s statements harmed the reputation of the party. The party considered it necessary to take disciplinary action, said Petry, who had already distanced herself from Hoecke’s remarks. Hoecke said his remarks were misrepresented by the media. (Reuters)

https://www.rt.com/news/line/

 

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