Tag Archives: Iraq

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 22, 2017

Parliament in lockdown: Police open fire outside Westminster and shoot knife-wielding man amid reports of explosion and ‘at least 12 pedestrians mowed down on bridge’

  • Several shots have been fired at the House of Commons in Westminster
  • At least three people have been hit and emergency teams are on the scene 
  • Reports aslo suggest a car ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge
  • The Prime Minister has been evacuated and staff told to stay inside

Armed Police have opened fire and shot an intruder inside the grounds of the Houses of Parliament amid reports a car drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

An intruder with a knife managed to break into the grounds of Parliament and stabbed a police officer before he was shot, reports suggest.

More than 10 people are said to have been hit by a car on Westminster Bridge after a vehicle described as a ‘4×4’ reportedly drove into pedestrians and cyclists.

Three bodies were visible on the floor outside Parliament and the Palace was placed on an immediate lock down.

Prime Minister Theresa May is said to have been bundled into a car by a plain-clothes police officer and driven quickly from the scene.

Emergency teams were seen carrying out CPR inside the palace grounds in New Palace Yard, the main thoroughfare in and out of Parliament 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4338998/Police-open-fire-outside-House-Commons.html#ixzz4c4HvpJta

FOUR people are dead – including police officer and terrorist – and 20 more injured – after killer mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before killer is shot attacking police in Parliament grounds

  • Four-wheel drive was driven over Westminster Bridge knocking down pedestrians this afternoon
  • Victims were said to have been left scattered in the road, with one woman knocked into the River Thames
  • Emergency services  treated at least 20 injured people on the bridge, with one woman dead under a bus 
  • ‘Asian’ knifeman got into the grounds of Parliament where he stabbed and killed a police officer
  • The ‘middle-aged’ attacker was then shot by armed officers and died after being taken to hospital
  • Parliament was suspended and the Prime Minister was rushed from the scene in her official car

At least 20 people were hit when a 4×4 drove along the pavement on the crowded bridge, knocking down and seriously injuring pedestrians before crashing into a fence below Big Ben.

The killer, described by witnesses as ‘middle-aged and Asian’, then managed to break into the grounds of the Parliament where he fatally stabbed a police officer with two knives.

The policeman died at the scene. The attacker, who was shot by armed officers, died after he was taken to hospital.

It is currently believed one attacker was involved and he killed three people, including the policeman, and left at least 20 pedestrians and three other police officers seriously injured.

Prime Minister Theresa May was bundled into her car by a plain-clothes police officer and driven quickly from the scene as the attack unfolded. She will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra Committee tonight.

Scotland Yard said the attack, which comes a year to the day after the terrorist atrocities in Brussels, is being treated ‘as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise’.

A police officer was killed by a knifeman (pictured on stretcher) before the attacker was shot by other officers outside Parliament today. The suspected terrorist is also dead, along with two pedestrians killed when the attacker drove a 4x4 across Westminster Bridge, ploughing down and seriously injuring at least 20

A police officer was killed by a knifeman (pictured on stretcher) before the attacker was shot by other officers outside Parliament today. The suspected terrorist is also dead, along with two pedestrians killed when the attacker drove a 4×4 across Westminster Bridge, ploughing down and seriously injuring at least 20.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4338998/Police-open-fire-outside-House-Commons.html

Isil supporters cheer Westminster attack as ‘revenge’ for British air strikes on Syria

Injured suspect is taken away on a stretcher by emergency services
Injured suspect is taken away on a stretcher by emergency servies CREDIT: PA

Isil supporters have cheered the attack on Westminster, suggesting it was “revenge” for the UK’s airstrikes on the terror group in Syria and Iraq.

Followers on pro-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant channels on the social media service Telegram posted messages applauding the knife-wielding suspect and called the attack “blessed”.

One said the UK was paying “blood for blood” for its involvement in the US-led coalition’s campaign against the jihadists.

“Our battle on your land is only just beginning,” read one poster next to a photoshopped image of Big Ben being blown up.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/isil-supporters-cheer-westminster-attack-revenge-british-air/

 

 

China issues warning to US bomber flying in East China Sea

The Chinese military issued a warning to a U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber flying in the East China Sea Wednesday morning amid escalating tensions in the region, two U.S. officials told Fox News.

The Chinese said the U.S. bomber was flying in Chinese airspace. Both American officials said the bomber was flying in international airspace and continued on its mission.

The Chinese warning came over the emergency radio frequency known as “guard,” according to one official. The incident occurred when the American bomber was flying 70 miles southwest of the South Korean island of Jeju.

The episode occurred amidst rising tensions with North Korea, which tried to launch another ballistic missile Wednesday, but failed.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/22/china-issues-warning-to-us-bomber-flying-in-east-china-sea.html

 

North Korea missile test ends in failure as projectile “explodes within seconds” of launch

The launch made near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, was detected by Japanese, South Korean and American systems

North Korea’s latest missile launch ended in catastrophic failure as it appeared the projectile exploded within seconds, say US officials.

The launch made near the city of Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, was detected by Japanese, South Korean and American systems, leaving those countries scrambling to find out more about the type of missile that was launched and why it failed.

Neighbouring countries were preparing for the possibility of additional launches after the failed weapons test.

North Korea has launched a series of tests in recent months, with Wednesday’s launch coming after the nuclear-armed state claimed it had made a major breakthrough in its rocket programme.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/north-korea-fires-several-missiles-10072049?service=responsive

US Marines said to land behind Islamic State lines in Syria

Reported deployment of American troops to territory held by terror group part of offensive to retake city of Raqqa

An American-backed Syrian Kurdish coalition said Wednesday that the US had landed infantry behind Islamic State lines to spearhead an assault on the town of Tabqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces said the US airlifted several Marines and SDF fighters by helicopter into Islamic State-held territory, capturing four villages, and cutting the main artery running between the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and the western countryside.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the deployment with US commanders.

The group said in a statement on social media Wednesday that the operation was in preparation for an assault on Tabqa, an IS redoubt 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.

The activist-run group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said 500 US and Syrian Kurdish forces were deployed in the operation Wednesday morning. The group relies on local contacts to smuggle information out of IS territory.Earlier this month, a couple of hundred Marines were deployed into Syria with heavy artillery guns, as part of the preparations to oust the IS from Raqqa.

The Marines moving into Syria were pre-positioning howitzers to be ready to assist local Syrian forces, a senior US official said at the time.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-marines-said-to-land-behind-islamic-state-lines-in-syria/

 

ISIS Supporters Are Tracking Americans In Ramadi

Pro-ISIS followers are threatening Americans who are helping restore the city that was once an ISIS stronghold

Mar 22, 2017 at 8:14 AM ET

Images of Americans inside the Iraqi city of Ramadi have roiled ISIS supporters, who are calling online for anyone near the western city to attack them.

A pro-ISIS channel on Telegram posted that over 60 American soldiers are in Ramadi, specifically seen inside Anbar University and being escorted by Iraqi security forces and tribal militiamen.

“They tour and walk inside the university like it is their own land,” someone in the channel posted. ‘Wake up and attack them.” Earlier this month the same channel reported “Americans are walking freely” in the area and that “civilians are greeting them, taking pictures and laughing with them.”

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs tweeted earlier this week that it was “demining work targets stockpiles of homemade explosives, IEDs, and improvised ordnance” and “clearing the mess” in one of Ramadi’s schools.

While ISIS was routed out of Ramadi nearly a year ago, the terror group has sympathizers and former members in towns on its outskirts. The presence of U.S. officials has been keenly monitored on the ground.

http://www.vocativ.com/413621/isis-supporters-are-tracking-americans-in-ramadi/

 

Fillon ‘was paid €50k to fix meeting between Vladimir Putin and Lebanese billionaire’

Beleaguered presidential candidate faces fresh allegations over 2015 meeting as prosecutors widen fake jobs inquiry

in Paris

The French presidential candidate François Fillon has been hit by allegations he was paid $50,000 (£43,000) to arrange a meeting between a Lebanese billionaire and Vladimir Putin as prosecutors investigating whether his wife was paid for fake jobs widened their inquiry into whether she had signed forged documents.

The latest accusations came a week after Fillon, 63, was formally put under investigation for a misuse of public funds over the €700,000 of taxpayers’ money British-born Penelope Fillon earned for acting as his parliamentary assistant.

French media reported on Tuesday that the inquiry was examining suspected “aggravated fraud, forgery and use of forgeries” to claim she had worked when she had not, which her lawyer denies.

The allegations of Fillon’s role in a meeting between the Russian president, Lebanese businessman Fouad Makhzoumi and Patrick Pouyane, the chief executive of energy giant Total, were made in the latest issue of the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, which broke the alleged ‘fake jobs’ scandal in January.

The article said Fillon’s consultancy company 2F Conseil had earned $50,000 for setting up the 2015 meeting.

Fillon’s spokesman vigorously denied the allegation, saying Canard Enchaîné’s “insinuations” were “completely without foundation”. The Kremlin dismissed the report as “fake news”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/22/fillon-paid-50k-to-fix-meeting-vladimir-putin-lebanese-billionaire-allegation

Lawyer for family of Russian whistleblower ‘thrown from building’

Nikolai Gorokhov, who represents family of Sergei Magnitsky, is in intensive care after falling from fourth floor of apartment block

in Moscow

A Russian lawyer who represents the family of Sergei Magnitsky is in intensive care after falling from the fourth floor of his apartment building, according to unconfirmed reports.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggested Nikolai Gorokhov had fallen after a winch snapped as he tried to lift a bath to a fourth-floor apartment, though details of the incident remained murky.

Magnitsky uncovered a massive fraud that implicated government officials, but was himself arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009, amid allegations he had been tortured and medical care had been withheld. Russia later put him on trial posthumously for tax evasion.

Gorokhov, 53, has represented the Magnitsky family since 2011, and was due in court on Wednesday as part of a case brought by Magnitsky’s mother against some of those allegedly involved in the fraud he uncovered.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/22/lawyer-for-family-of-russian-whistleblower-seriously-injured-after-fall

World leaders gather to discuss ‘secret plan’ to defeat Isil after laptop terror threat prompts UK flight ban

World leaders will gather for talks on how to defeat the Islamic State today after it emerged that an aircraft cabin ban on electronic devices was prompted by warnings of a new terrorist threat.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he had a “secret plan” to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil) and pledged to “bomb the hell out of” the terror group.

He has ordered his administration to “develop a comprehensive plan”, but is yet to set out the details.

Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, will today host the first full meeting of the international coalition against Isil since 2014.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is attending the major 69-nation conference in Washington DC.

It comes as British passengers on holiday flights from the Middle East and North Africa were told they would be banned within days from carrying laptops, tablets and other electronic devices on board the aircraft.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/laptop-terror-threat-prompts-uk-flight-ban-world-leaders-gather/

Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was paid $10 million yearly in secret deal to help Vladimir Putin

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/22/trumps-former-campaign-chairman-paul-manafort-paid-10-million/

Laptop ban on flights ‘is based on intelligence about an ISIS plot to target the West gathered during the raid on Yemen which killed Navy SEAL’

[Editor’s Note: The press and members of Congress and others in Europe owe Donald Trump an apology for criticizing his decision to carry out the raid.]

  • The intelligence centered around al-Qaeda’s ‘successful development’ of compact battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices, sources claimed
  • Bombs would reportedly be manually triggered which explains cabin luggage ban
  • The US and the UK have instituted similar bans on large electronics in carry-on bags for direct flights from certain Middle East and North African nations
  • The US ban applies to 10 airports in Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates 
  • Britain’s restrictions apply to flights originating from the countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia 
  • Electronics cellphone sized and small will still be permitted in passenger cabins 
  • Restrictions come a year after the bombing of Daallo Flight 159, in which a bomber used an explosive hidden inside a laptop  

The ban of carry-on electronics on flights was prompted by intelligence gathered about an ISIS plot to target the West.

The US and UK announced restrictions on large electronics in carry-on baggage for direct flights from certain Middle Eastern and North African nations on Tuesday.

The move is allegedly based on the suspicion that Islamic State are working on ways to smuggle explosives on to planes by hiding them in electronics.

Information was gathered during a raid against al Qaeda in Yemen in January that killed Navy SEAL senior chief petty officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens.

The intelligence centred around al Qaeda’s ‘successful development’ of compact battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices, sources claimed.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4337982/Laptop-ban-based-intelligence-ISIS-plot.html

 

Nunes Says Trump Team Conversations Caught in Surveillance

  • Republican says ‘I’m actually alarmed’ conversations picked up
  • Disclosure may bolster Trump’s claim he was under surveillance
Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 27, 2017.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said Wednesday that the U.S. intelligence community collected multiple conversations involving members of Donald Trump’s transition team after he won the election last year.

He said the intercepts he’s seen appear to be legal and weren’t targeted at the transition team or related to an investigation of Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election. But he said he was troubled by the collection — which he described as part of unrelated foreign surveillance — and that the intelligence community reported the names of transition team members internally.

“I’m actually alarmed by it,” Nunes, a California Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. “Details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in an intelligence community report,” he said. He said he didn’t know if Trump’s “own communications were intercepted.”

The disclosure may bolster Trump’s effort to back up his disputed claim in Twitter postings that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones, which his spokesman later said shouldn’t be taken literally and referred generally to having his team under surveillance. FBI Director James Comey testified before the House committee this week that “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

Nunes told reporters outside the White House, where he briefed the president on his findings, that “it is possible” Trump’s tweets were correct concerning surveillance.

It was previously disclosed that U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up conversations between Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn was fired in February after making contradictory statements to Vice President Mike Pence about those discussions.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-22/nunes-says-trump-team-communications-caught-in-u-s-surveillance

 

5 congressional staffers in criminal probe over unauthorized computer access

Five people employed by members of the House of Representatives remain under criminal investigation for unauthorized access to Congressional computers. Former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz employed at least one of those under investigation.

The criminal investigation into the five, which includes three brothers and a wife of one of the men, started late last year, as reported by Politico in February. The group is being investigated by US Capitol Police over allegations that they removed equipment from over 20 members’ offices, as well as having run a procurement scheme to buy equipment and then overcharge the House.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said last week Capitol Police are receiving additional help for the investigation. “I won’t speak to the nature of their investigation, but they’re getting the kind of technical assistance they need to do that, this is under an active criminal investigation, their capabilities are pretty strong but they’re also able to go and get the kind of help they need from other sources,” Ryan said.

The brothers, Abid, Jamal and Imran Awan, worked as shared employees for various members of the House, covering committees relating to intelligence, terrorism and cybersecurity, which included the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces of the Armed Services Committee.

Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, and Rao Abbas, both of whom worked as House IT employees, are also under investigation.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ

The group were banned from accessing the computers as a result of the investigation but, as of earlier this month, Imran Awan remains as an “technology adviser” to former Democratic National Committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign in July following revelations that she worked to further Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Democratic primary at the expense of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

https://www.rt.com/usa/381692-congressional-staffers-criminal-investigation/

Moscow extends Turkish food ban in response to heavy tax on Russian agriculture

Russia will not lift the import ban on Turkish vegetables, fruit, and meat, according to agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor. Last week, Turkey imposed stiff tariffs on Russian wheat and corn, making exports unprofitable

According to watchdog spokeswoman Yulia Melano, “the issue of full or partial removal of restrictions on Turkish fruit and vegetable products for the Russian market should be discussed in conjunction with the removal of counter restrictions on Russian products from the Turkish side.”

Last week, the Russian media reported that Turkey had imposed a 130 percent tariff on wheat, corn and sunflower meal that is making deliveries highly unprofitable for local businesses.

Turkey’s Trade Ministry denied the reports, but a representative of the Russian trade mission in Ankara said Turkey had excluded Russia from a list of countries with zero rates of customs duties. Turkey is the second largest buyer of Russian wheat after Egypt. Russia will keep the ban on Turkish frozen meat and poultry as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, apples, pears, strawberries and other fruit and vegetables.

In March, Rosselkhoznadzor lifted the restrictions against Turkish onions, cauliflower, broccoli and some other vegetables, explaining there is a lack of these food items in Russia.

Food imports from Turkey were blocked in response to the downing of a Russian jet in Syria in November 2015. There were other restrictions, including the cancellation of charter flights to Turkey, the introduction of a visa regime, and a ban on hiring Turkish citizens. At the request of the Kremlin, Russian travel agencies suspended sales of package tours to the country.

Moscow-Ankara relations began to improve after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized over the jet incident. Russia lifted the flight ban, but the food ban has remained.

https://www.rt.com/business/381728-russia-turkey-food-ban/

Minister’s son reportedly arrested as probe into IAI defense firm expands

Police confirm 2 suspects detained, 10 more questioned as part of investigation into corruption at Israel’s largest state-owned company

Police arrested two people, including, reportedly, the son of a minister, as part of an ongoing probe into corruption suspicions at Israel Aerospace Industries, one of the country’s largest defense firms.

Another 10 people were hauled in for questioning, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

The two suspects were arrested early in the morning and their homes searched, police said. They are expected to appear at an arraignment hearing at Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court later Wednesday to determine if they will remain in custody, police said.

One of the suspects is the son of a Likud minister, Channel 10 news reported. Police did not divulge the identities of those arrested Wednesday.

Suspicions of of corruption, fraud, and breach of trust surrounding IAI became public last week when police raided the defense contractor, arresting 14 people.

The labor union at IAI, which employs some 16,000 people and is Israel’s largest state-owned company, is known as a Likud stronghold.

The IAI Super Heron (screen capture: YouTube)

The suspects detained last week were from IAI and private companies who either supplied or were supplied by IAI, along with a former senior Israel Defense Forces officer, who police said was “well known in the defense establishment.”

“This is an extensive investigation, with a wide scope, which includes a number of sub-scandals, and raises suspicions of a range of charges — corruption, aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by public officials, illegal business practices, fraud and breach of trust,” police said in a statement last week.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/ministers-son-reportedly-arrested-as-part-of-probe-into-iai-defense-firm/

Syrian rebels report fresh Israeli airstrikes near Damascus

Raids reportedly target regime posts in Mount Qasioun region; no immediate reports of casualties, damage

Israeli jets were reported to have carried out airstrikes near the Syrian capital early Wednesday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue hitting weapons convoys and rebuffed claims Russia had ordered the strikes halted.

Syrian opposition news outlets reported that the airstrikes took place in the Mount Qasioun region near Damascus overnight.

The Israeli raids targeted Syrian army posts in the area, the reports said, in the fourth round of airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria in less than a week.

There was no immediate confirmation from Jerusalem, nor any information on casualties or damage.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/syrian-rebels-report-fresh-israeli-airstrikes-near-damascus/

Airstrike reportedly kills 33 civilians sheltering in school

[This story is NOT confirmed.]

A London-based activist and monitoring group said Wednesday that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike had hit a school in ISIS-held territory in northern Syria that was being used to shelter displaced families, killing dozens of civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on an extensive network of contacts on the ground in Syria and which generally proves a reliable source of information on the war, said coalition aircraft “most likely” carried out the strike but did not explain how it reached that conclusion.

In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition said it had no evidence yet to back up the claim of a strike hitting civilians, but that all such reports were taken seriously and investigated.

“At this time the Coalition has no indication that an airstrike struck civilians near Raqqah as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims,” a statement from the Operation Inherent Resolve public relations office said. “However, since we have conducted several strikes near Raqqa we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation.”

The coalition has targeted ISIS militants and infrastructure in and around the northern Syrian city of Raqqa for months. It is the terror group’s last major urban stronghold in Syria and its self-declared capital.

Russian aircraft have also carried out one or two strikes in the area in recent months, but have largely focused on targeting groups other than ISIS. Both U.S. and Russian-backed factions on the ground are battling ISIS in an effort aimed at eventually retaking Raqqa.

The Wednesday strike reportedly hit a school in the town of Mansoura, about 15 miles southwest of central Raqqa.

“We can now confirm that 33 people were killed, and they were displaced civilians from Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs,” SOHR director Rami Abdel Rahman told the French news agency AFP. They’re still pulling bodies out of the rubble until now. Only two people were pulled out alive.”

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/syria-alleged-us-coalition-airstrike-school-raqqa-mansoura-shelter-civilians/

Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data


U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind Democratic National Committee hacks that aimed to boost Donald Trump's chances of beating Hillary Clinton (file photo).

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind Democratic National Committee hacks that aimed to boost Donald Trump’s chances of beating Hillary Clinton (file photo).

An influential British think tank and Ukraine’s military are disputing a report that the U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has used to buttress its claims of Russian hacking in the presidential election.

The CrowdStrike report, released in December, asserted that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, resulting in heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with Russian-backed separatists.

But the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) told VOA that CrowdStrike erroneously used IISS data as proof of the intrusion. IISS disavowed any connection to the CrowdStrike report. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has claimed combat losses and hacking never happened.

The challenges to CrowdStrike’s credibility are significant because the firm was the first to link last year’s hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors, and because CrowdStrike co-founder Dimiti Alperovitch has trumpeted its Ukraine report as more evidence of Russian election tampering.

Alperovitch has said that variants of the same software were used in both hacks.

The Russian government has denied covert involvement in the election, but U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hacks were meant to discredit Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump’s campaign. An FBI and Homeland Security report also blamed Russian intelligence services.

While questions about CrowdStrike’s findings don’t disprove allegations of Russian involvement, they do add to skepticism voiced by some cybersecurity experts and commentators about the quality of their technical evidence.

Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war – sources

By Jonathan Saul, Parisa Hafezi and Michael Georgy

LONDON/ANKARA/DUBAI, March 22 (Reuters) – Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its Shi’ite ally in a civil war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources say.

Iran’s enemy Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in the impoverished state on the tip of the Arabian peninsula – part of the same regional power struggle that is fuelling the war in Syria.

Sources with knowledge of the military movements, who declined to be identified, said that in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support. This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.

A senior Iranian official said Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force – the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – met top IRGC officials in Tehran last month to look at ways to “empower” the Houthis.

“At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support,” the official said.

“Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East.”

Iran rejects accusations from Saudi Arabia that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis in the struggle for Yemen, blaming the deepening crisis on Riyadh.

But Iran’s actions in Yemen seem to reflect the growing influence of hardliners in Tehran, keen to pre-empt a tougher policy towards Iran signalled by U.S. President Donald Trump.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4338066/EXCLUSIVE-Iran-steps-support-Houthis-Yemens-war–sources.html

Russia underplayed losses in recapture of Syria’s Palmyra

 By Maria Tsvetkova | GELENDZHIK, RUSSIA

Russia’s force in Syria has suffered losses since late January more than three times higher than the official toll, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, a tally that shows the fight in Syria is tougher and more costly than the Kremlin has disclosed.

Eighteen Russian citizens fighting alongside Moscow’s allies, the Syrian government forces, have been killed since Jan. 29 — a period that coincided with intense fighting to recapture the city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group.

The Russian defense ministry has publicly reported only five servicemen’s deaths in Syria over the same period, and its officials’ statements have not mentioned any large-scale Russian ground operations in the fight for Palmyra.

Military casualties abroad are not as politically sensitive in Russia as in some other countries but send a negative message ahead of a presidential election next year which is expected to give President Vladimir Putin a fourth term.

The toll was revealed in interviews with relatives and friends of the dead men, cemetery workers, local media reports of funerals and evidence collected by a group of investigative bloggers, Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT).

In each case, Reuters has independently verified information about the death by speaking to someone who knows the dead man.

The casualties since the end of January represent one of the highest tolls for the Russian contingent in Syria since the start of Moscow’s military intervention 18 months ago.

An official with the Russian foreign ministry referred questions about them to the defense ministry. The Russian defense ministry did not respond to Reuters questions about the casualties and about military operations in Syria. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Most of the dead were not regular Russian soldiers but Russian civilians working as private military contractors under the orders of Russian commanders. Moscow has not officially acknowledged the presence of the contractors in Syria.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia-casualtie-idUSKBN16T0S4

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian insurgents seized several government positions on the outskirts of Damascus on Tuesday in the third day of their most ambitious offensive in the capital in years, sending a sharp reminder that the war in Syria is far from over.

Fierce fighting broke out on the northeastern edge of Damascus, as a mix of Islamist rebel groups and hard-line Qaeda-linked jihadists seized an industrial area about a mile from the historic Old City near the heart of the Syrian capital. Rebel offensives erupted in several other parts of the country.

Government forces have been scrambling to repel the attack since it began on Sunday, bringing troops and allied militias from other front lines to hold their territory in Damascus, as government warplanes pummel rebel-held suburbs with scores of strikes. Rebel shells hit the city, wounding 15, and the authorities shut down many of the main roads.

After the government seized the eastern half of Aleppo from rebels last year, it worked hard to create the impression that the war was essentially over. The recent activity, including a series of suicide bombings in Damascus and a rebel attack Thursday on the northern city of Hama, seemed to indicate that the war might be entering a new phase instead.

Intelligence official says Russia must contain Iran in Syria

Chagai Tzuriel says Moscow has interest in preserving regional stability, warns that Iran is seeking to expand its military presence in Syria

 Russia must work to ensure that Iran is unable to establish a military presence in Syria that poses a threat to Israel and the region, the director-general of the Intelligence Ministry told Reuters on Tuesday.

Chagai Tzuriel, who told The Times of Israel last month “the most important strategic issue we’re currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria,” warned that Iran is seeking to exploit its status as one of the main backers of the Syrian regime in order to establish a long-term military presence in the country.

“Iran is in the process of putting together agreements, including economic agreements, with Syria to strengthen its hold, its ports and naval bases there,” he said.

He added: “There is a need for Russia and other powers to work to avoid the threat that Iran ends up with military, air and naval bases in Syria.”

According to Tzuriel, the six-year long Syrian civil war has undermined the balance of power in the region to Iran’s advantage, which poses a threat to both Russia and other world powers’ interests in the Middle East.

“When it comes to Iran, the United States, Russia and other powers need to understand that (growing Iranian influence in Syria) is going to be a constant source of friction,” he said.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/intelligence-official-says-russia-must-contain-iran-in-syria/

Trudy Rubin: Iran deepens presence in Iraq

Washington should regard the black flags as a warning signal. Even before the Islamic State is fully defeated, Shiite Iran is laying the groundwork to expand its deep penetration of Iraq. Tehran wants to control the Baghdad government through its Shiite political and militia proxies, marginalizing Sunnis, including in Mosul.

But judging by history, repression in Sunni areas of Iraq will provide fertile ground for the next jihadi movement to take root.

So the Shiite flags at Mosul’s gateway signal that a military defeat of the Islamic State is insufficient. There must also be a political plan (although none is yet evident in Baghdad or Washington) to assure Sunnis of a role in a post-Islamic State Iraq.

That plan is needed sooner rather than later. So far, the Shiite militias are not entering the city proper, Mosul residents tell me. “Right now they are not pushing people out,” says an elementary school teacher who lives in East Mosul. He says, however, that sectarian Shiite political parties linked to the militias are already opening offices in the city.

In other contested parts of Iraq, hardline Shiite militias are ethnically cleansing Sunnis from towns and villages to create a Sunni-free corridor from Iran across Iraq to the Syrian border. These militias receive extensive Iranian support and Iraqi government funds.

Maslawis (as Mosul natives are called) view the Iraqi military far more positively than they do the militias, even though Iraqi forces are composed heavily of Shiites (who make up a majority of the population). That’s because Iraqi forces are loyal to the state, not to Shiite political parties or Tehran.

I heard nothing but praise for the behavior of the Iraqi military units that entered the city, especially the U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service, or CTS. “The only force people like is the CTS and (its) Golden Division,” the prominent Sunni Sheikh Abdullah al-Yawar told me. “It did not force people to leave their homes.”

Although the militias are technically under military control, no one knows their future after the Islamic State is defeated. Sunnis fear they will act as armed wings of competing Shiite parties or an Iraqi version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, which took over Iran’s army from within.

And Sunnis rightly fear Iran’s long-term intentions. They know Tehran still remembers Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran, when Sunnis ran Iraq, and the decade-long war that followed. “Iran wants to see Iraq’s Sunnis weak and divided,” one Sunni politician told me, “so the 1980s can never happen again.”

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/mar/22/trudy-rubin-iran-deepens-presence-in-iraq/

Germany blocks arms sales to Turkey – report

The German government has refused approval for military exports to NATO partner country Turkey on a growing number of occasions. Ministers are concerned the weapons could be used to oppress the local population.

Berlin has rejected more than 10 applications for arms exports to Turkey in recent months, the German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) reports, citing a letter from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The ministry was answering questions by the left-wing MP Jan van Aken.
As a NATO partner, Turkey is rarely subject to restrictions on arms exports. But there are concerns that since last July’s coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a far-reaching purge of political opponents.

“The importance of observing human rights will be particularly important in respect to arms export approvals,” a ministry official reportedly said in his reply to van Aken. Since the failed coup, “the federal government’s foreign security policy review” has given special consideration “to the risk of an intervention in the context of internal repression of the Kurdish conflict.”

http://www.dw.com/en/germany-blocks-arms-sales-to-turkey-report/a-38059815

Turkey’s AKP cancels campaign rallies in Germany

Turkish politicians have abandoned plans for more campaign events on German soil ahead of the April referendum, says the ruling AKP party. Previously, Angela Merkel threatened to ban such events over Nazi insults.

The decision to halt referendum events was made in Ankara, a Cologne-based representative of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party said on Tuesday.

“All future events that were planned have been cancelled,” she told the AFP news agency.

The move was a “gesture of goodwill” towards Germany, said rally organizers from the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) who confirmed the cancelation to German news agency DPA.

Turkish AKP politicians are eager to gain votes of Turkish citizens living in Germany ahead of the April 16 referendum. Roughly 1.4 million of them are eligible to vote. The controversial plebiscite would approve a constitutional reform to give the Turkish president more power.

However, their attempts to hold campaign events in Europe sparked a thunderous diplomatic row that saw Erdogan compare German and Dutch officials with Nazis.

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had warned that Germany could ban all AKP campaign events if Ankara continued with Nazi jabs.

‘Enough is enough’

Despite the AKP’s announcement on Tuesday, it remains unclear whether President Erdogan – who continued with the harsh rhetoric on Tuesday, urging his supporters to vote “yes” on the constitutional reform as a response to a “fascist” Europe – would also stay home.

According to German media reports, Erdogan was planning to visit Germany. When asked about the reports, however, UETD General-Secretary Bulent Bilgi said that his organization “cannot determine” the president’s actions.

http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-akp-cancels-campaign-rallies-in-germany/a-38050660

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

A senior National Security Agency official appeared to confirm that North Korean computer hackers were behind a multi-million dollar heist targeting Bangladesh’s central bank last year.

Computer hackers attempted to steal $951 million, but only got away with $81 million, some of which was later recovered. After the theft, security firms quickly pointed the finger at North Korea. Other experts disputed that finding. But on Tuesday, NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett appeared to say North Korea was the culprit during a cryptic exchange at a Washington forum.

Speaking at an Aspen Institute roundtable, Ledgett pointed out that private sector researchers had linked the digital break-in in Bangladesh to the 2014 hack on Sony Pictures, which the U.S. government attributed to Pyongyang.

“If that linkage from the Sony actors to the Bangladeshi bank actors is accurate — that means that a nation state is robbing banks,” Ledgett said. “That’s a big deal.”

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

China Expands Its Spying Against Taiwan

The recent discovery that a former Chinese university student in Taiwan has likely been spying for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) may at first glance appear to be just another entry in a long list of PRC espionage cases against Taiwan. After all, Chinese espionage against Taiwan has been an ongoing security problem. Some estimates have identified as many as 60 cases of Chinese espionage against Taiwan since 2002, and this may represent only be the tip of the iceberg. However, the March 10 arrest of 29-year-old Zhou Hongxu for breaching Taiwan’s security laws suggests that China is expanding its espionage campaign against Taiwan in a number of ways.

Zhou’s case is the first known instance of a Chinese student being used to spy in Taiwan since the island opened its universities to Chinese students in 2009. Zhou Hongxu first came to Taiwan in 2009 and enrolled in Tamkang University as an exchange student. In 2012, Zhou enrolled in a business administration program at National Chengchi University in Taipei. After graduating in 2016, Zhou left Taiwan in August that same year, but returned to Taiwan shortly afterwards under the pretext of business. After returning, Zhou sought out a junior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whom he had become acquainted with as a student, and allegedly attempted to obtain classified information in return for a free trip to Japan and an unspecified amount of money.

According to prosecutors, it is believed that Zhou was instructed by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office to enroll at National Chengchi University for the purpose of spying. National Chengchi University is an ideal choice for identifying and recruiting future government officials and leaders. The school is one of Taiwan’s top social science universities and produces many of Taiwan’s government officials. It is home to Taiwan’s only diplomacy program, from which over 100 of Taiwan’s ambassadors have graduated, and it hosts a number of professional programs, such as the Master’s Program in National Security and Mainland China Studies, which is reserved for military officers and government officials.

http://thediplomat.com/2017/03/china-expands-its-spying-against-taiwan/

Apple’s iPhones and Apple IDs are a tough nut to crack for hackers, but it’s not be impossible. At least that’s what a group of hackers seem to suggest, as they’re currently attempting to blackmail Apple for up to $100,000 before they start remotely wiping millions of iPhones. Can they actually do it? Should you be worried? It’s unclear at this point.

The hackers apparently engaged in conversations with the media to force Apple’s hand. The Turkish Crime Family hacker group, which spoke to Motherboard, want either $75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum, or $100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards.

“I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing,” one of the hackers said.

Apparently, the hackers have been in contact with Apple’s security team for quite a while now. They even posted a video on YouTube to prove they have actual access to iCloud accounts, access which can be used to remotely wipe iPhones.

Apple, understandably, doesn’t appear to be willing to pay up the ransom. “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law,” a screenshot of a message purportedly coming from an Apple security team member reads.

The hackers say they have access to more than 300 million Apple email accounts, including @icloud and @me domains. The number is the source of some confusion though, because a different hacker from the group claimed they had 559 million accounts in all. They have not explained how they gained access to Apple ID credentials.

The hackers are threatening to move forward with remotely wiping Apple devices on April 7th, unless Apple pays up. Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the matter at this point. On the off-chance that the hackers are indeed holding access to millions of iCloud accounts, you might consider changing your password to protect your Apple ID.

Hackers claim to have breached hundreds of millions of Apple accounts

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March 20, 2017

Kim Jong-Un vows to reduce the US ‘to ashes’ with nuke strikes if Donald Trump fires ‘even a single bullet’ at North Korea

The rogue state threatened to use its ‘invincible Hwasong rockets’ to rain down nuclear destruction on its enemies

KIM Jong-un has threatened to reduce the US “to ashes” as tensions with North Korea continue to increase.

The secretive state released a statement earlier this month warning Donald Trump of nuclear destruction if America fires “even a single bullet” towards Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un has threatened to reduce the US 'to ashes' with nuclear strikes

The statement said: “The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK.”

The menacing talk came as South Korea warned that its northern neighbour’s latest rocket-engine test showed “meaningful” progress.

The North’s KCNA news agency said on Sunday the engine would help the country achieve world-class satellite-launch capability – indicating a new type of rocket engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3131278/kim-jong-un-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-north-korea/

 

SECRET SERVICE THEFT CAUGHT ON VIDEO

Thief Knew What He Was After

EXCLUSIVE

0317-secret-service-agent-laptop-tmz-gettyThe thief who swiped a Secret Service agent’s laptop targeted the agent in question and knew exactly what he was after … law enforcement sources tell TMZ.

Our sources say the thief — whom they say is a man — was caught on surveillance video pulling up to the agent’s driveway in an Uber at around 3 AM Thursday.

The video shows the man make a beeline for the agent’s car, removing a backpack with the computer inside and then walking off. As we reported, the hard drive contained Trump Tower floor plans and evacuation protocols, but the agency insists there was no classified info inside.

The thief also made off with a passport and several Secret Service lapel pins.

It’s unclear what the thief was looking for if all the content was non-sensitive.

We’re told the video is grainy so it’s hard to make out the thief’s features, but it’s definitely a lead.

http://www.tmz.com/2017/03/20/mystery-thief-secret-service-laptop/

 

Electronics banned from cabins on some Middle Eastern and African flights to U.S.

Airlines that fly from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the U.S. must require passengers to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin, said a U.S. official.

The official told CNN that there is a security concern regarding passengers boarding non-stop flights to the U.S. from some specific countries. The directive is to ensure enhanced security measures at select airports for a limited duration.

The source said it will impact over a dozen airlines flying into the US. Another US administration official says this covers devices larger than a cellphone.

In a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said, “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”

A State Department officials says embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines.

An aviation official said U.S. carriers are not impacted because none flies directly from the countries in question to the U.S. Neither source would specify what airlines were impacted beyond Royal Jordanian Airlines, which tweeted Monday that it will ban most electronics from the cabins on its flights to and from its North American destinations.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/20/news/companies/middle-east-airline-electronics-ban/index.html

 

3 US soldiers shot in Afghanistan ‘insider attack’

Three U.S. Army soldiers were shot and wounded Sunday when an Afghan Army soldier opened fire on them inside a base in southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province, officials told Fox News.

The attack occurred around 1:30 p.m. local time at Camp Antonik in Washer District in Helmand.

“Coalition security forces on the base killed the soldier to end the attack,” Capt. Bill Salvin, spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, told Fox News. “The U.S. soldiers are receiving medical treatment at this time and we will release more information when available.”

The severity of the soldiers wounds was not immediately clear. Salvin declined to offer more details.

There are roughly 8,400 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan — more than in Iraq and Syria combined.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/19/3-us-soldiers-shot-in-afghanistan-insider-attack.html

Russian space official found dead with stab wounds while awaiting embezzlement trial

Russian space official found dead with stab wounds while awaiting embezzlement trial
A top-tier official of Russian space agency Roscosmos has been found dead at a pre-trial detention center where he was being held on charges of embezzlement. Stab wounds were found on his body, but no suspects have been identified so far.

Vladimir Evdokimov, 56, was found dead on Saturday in his cell at a pre-trial detention center in Moscow, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. Investigators found two stab wounds on Evdokimov’s chest and one on his neck, and also retrieved a knife from the crime scene, committee spokesperson Yulia Ivanova said.

Later in the day, Roscosmos, where Evdokimov served as executive director in charge of quality control and reliability issues, confirmed his death in a brief statement published on the space agency’s Twitter account.

In December last year, Evdokimov was jailed on charges of embezzling 200 million rubles ($3.1 million) from the MiG aerospace corporation, an indictment he strongly denied.

Eleven people in Evdokimov’s cell have already been questioned, and investigators are now trying to identify a suspect, the Investigative Committee says.

https://www.rt.com/news/381382-roscosmos-official-stabbed-prison/

Israel explains Arrow intercept of Syrian SAM

March 20, 2017 (Photo Credit: Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV — A senior Israeli Air Force officer on Monday provided operational context to the unusual March 17 Arrow intercept of a Syrian SA-5 surface-to-air missile, which the jointly developed U.S.-Israel anti-ballistic missile system was not designed to fight.

Briefing reporters here, the officer said the Syrian SAM launched against Israeli fighter aircraft following a bombing mission in Syria “behaved like a ballistic threat” with “an altitude, range and ballistic trajectory” that mimicked the Scud-class targets the Arrow 2 interceptor was designed to kill.

“It wasn’t a Scud-class ballistic threat. But from our perspective, it doesn’t matter if it was a SAM. Once it behaved like a ballistic missile weighing tons and with a warhead of hundreds of kilograms, we couldn’t allow it to threaten our cities and towns,” the officer said.

When asked to identify the specific threat, the officer confirmed that the Arrow 2 had indeed scored its first operational intercept against a Syrian SA-5.

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/israel-explains-arrow-intercept-of-syrian-sam

China to ax military corps of disgraced generals amid downsizing of world’s biggest army – sources

China’s People’s Liberation Army will reportedly disband five of its 18 army corps, including two that served as the power base of two disgraced generals, sources with knowledge about the ongoing shakeup told the South China Morning Post.

Two years ago, Beijing announced that it would lay off 300,000 members of its 2.3 million-strong military as part of a major reform, which is meant to turn the PLA into a more efficient and flexible modern fighting force. The country’s top brass has since been overhauled, and China has restructured its military and investigated generals for alleged corruption.

Among the dozens of senior officers caught in the anti-corruption probes were two former vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong. According to the newspaper’s sources, among the five army corps slated to be disbanded are the 16th and the 47th, which had served as the disgraced generals’ power base.

“The axing of the 16th and 47th army groups is a decision made by [President] Xi [Jinping] to further clean up all the pernicious influence left by Guo and Xu, paving the way for Xi to assign his men amid the ongoing leadership reshuffle ahead of the party’s congress in autumn,” one of the sources said.

https://www.rt.com/news/381350-china-army-cut-sources/

Israeli airstrike in Syrian Golan said to kill pro-Assad fighter

IDF refuses to confirm reported drone strike near Quneitra, as tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus ratchet up

An Israeli drone strike reportedly killed a member of a Syrian pro-regime militia Sunday afternoon, amid spiraling tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli aircraft struck a truck driving near the town of Khan Arnabeh in the Quneitra province, on the road to Damascus.

The National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia set up in 2012, claimed the man killed was from among its ranks.

It named the man as Yasser Hussien Assayed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-airstrike-said-to-kill-driver-in-syrian-golan-heights/

Assad: Oscar-feted White Helmets are part of Al-Qaeda

“White Helmets are Al Qaeda members and that’s proven on the net,” Assad told RT during an interview with Russian journalists in Damascus. “The same members are killing or executing or celebrating over dead bodies, at the same time they are humanitarian heroes, and now they have an Oscar.”

The White Helmets, which calls itself a civil defense organization, operates in rebel-controlled parts of Syria, where they say they are involved exclusively in peaceful activities such as rescuing civilians after bombing raids. They are part-funded by donations, and by Western governments.

An eponymous British-made film about their work was given an Oscar for Best Documentary at last month’s Academy Awards.

Both Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly accused them of functioning as a propaganda operation that stages videos and manipulates coverage to generate sympathy abroad for the rebel cause, and as a jihadist rescue service that operates in tandem with Al Nusra and other radical groups in Syria.

https://www.rt.com/news/381542-white-helmets-al-qaeda-members/

 

Israel to Declare Air Defense Shield Fully Operational: Officer


File - This Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense shows a launch of David's Sling missile defense system. A senior Israeli air force official says a joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor will be operational soon, completing the country's multi-layer defense system.

File – This Monday, Dec. 21, 2015 file photograph provided by the Israeli Ministry of Defense shows a launch of David’s Sling missile defense system. A senior Israeli air force official says a joint U.S.-Israeli missile interceptor will be operational soon, completing the country’s multi-layer defense system.

Israel’s multi-tier air defense missile system will be fully operational early next month with the deployment of the David’s Sling interceptor, a senior Israeli air force officer said on Monday.

David’s Sling, designed to shoot down rockets fired from 100 to 200 kilometers away, will be the final piece of a shield that already includes short-range Iron Dome and long-range Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 missiles.

“In the next two weeks we will declare operational the David’s Sling and at that time we will have completed our multi-tier (defense capability),” said the officer who could not be identified under military rules.

“I’m sure that together with the Iron Dome and the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 it will enhance our ability to deal with threats,” he added.

Israel used Iron Dome extensively to intercept rockets fired by Palestinian militants in the 2014 Gaza war, and the Arrow missiles were developed with an Iranian missile threat in mind.

David’s Sling, developed and manufactured jointly by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and the U.S. Raytheon Co, would likely be used to intercept projectiles fired by the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, which last fought a war with Israel in 2006.

The Israeli military said it used an Arrow-2 on Friday to destroy an anti-aircraft missile fired from Syria after Israeli aircraft carried out strikes there.

http://www.voanews.com/a/israel-to-declare-air-defenses-shield-fully-operational-officer-says/3773961.html

 

Turkish buyers put Russia wheat deals on hold, despite denial of ban: sources

Turkish buyers have put purchases of Russian agricultural products – mainly wheat, maize (corn) and sunflower oil – on hold, despite denials from Ankara that it has effectively banned imports from Moscow, trade and industry sources said on Monday.

Last week, import licenses issued by the Turkish government no longer included Russia in a list of accepted tax-free origins, the sources said, suggesting an import tariff of 130 percent could be applied to supplies from Russia.

Turkey’s Economy Ministry said on Friday media reports it had banned imports of certain products from Russia were wrong.

However, one trader, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Reuters: “The exports from Russia to Turkey remain suspended. My understanding is that Turkish customs have instructions not to allow the discharge of vessels with Russian wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other grain and agricultural products.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-wheat-russia-idUSL5N1GX1J7

 

IRAN LOSES THOUSANDS, 10 GENERALS IN SYRIA-IRAQ WARS

BY 

A report released by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center assesses that Iran has lost thousands of fighters and more than 10 generals while engaging in the Syria-Iraq wars.

Iran has lost thousands of fighters and more than 10 generals during its engagement in the Syria- Iraq wars, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported on Sunday.

The report from the Glilot-based center analyzed the different estimates of Iranian losses that have been recently announced.

At a conference on martyrdom in Iranian culture on March 6, Mohammad Ali Shahidi, director of the Martyrs Foundation, estimated Iranian losses in the Syria-Iraq wars at 2,100.

The report noted that Washington Institute for Near East Policy researcher Ali Alfoneh recently put the number of Iranian losses at 2,603.

The center broke down the 2,603 as 511 actual Iranians, 1,045 Hezbollah fighters and 1,047 Afghan, Pakistani and other Shi’ite militia fighters – all under Iranian command.

Notably, more than 10 Iranians of the rank equivalent to a brigadier- general have been among those killed.

The intelligence report claimed that the high losses, especially of so many senior officers, is the reason Iran’s military footprint in Syria and Iraq has fallen from thousands to hundreds.

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Iran-loses-thousands-10-generals-in-Syria-Iraq-wars-484611

REVEALED: Turkey’s Plan To ‘Camouflage’ Its Lobbying Activities In The US

CHUCK ROSS
Reporter

The government of Turkey planned to use front groups and operatives “camouflaged” as journalists to gain access to Capitol Hill and the U.S. security apparatus, hacked emails released by WikiLeaks reveal.

The documents, which are from the Gmail account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and the son-in-law of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, show the nascent plan for what has turned into a sprawling lobbying and PR campaign undertaken by the Turkish government.

Turkey’s lobbying efforts catapulted into the news last week after Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn registered as a foreign lobbyist for Turkey.

Flynn was paid $530,000 for three months of work by Inovo BV, a Dutch shell company owned by a businessman with deep connections to Ankara.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/15/revealed-turkeys-plan-to-camouflage-its-lobbying-activities-in-the-us/#ixzz4bsB2o2KS

Iran’s third Airbus delivery postponed

ایرباس321
News ID: 3936371 – Mon 20 March 2017 – 15:26
TEHRAN, Mar. 20 (MNA) – An informed resource said, most probably, banking issues have caused a delay in delivery of the third Airbus aircraft to Iran Air.

As quoted by IRIB from Paris, the informed resource said Iran’s third purchased aircraft from Airbus Airbus Aerospace company was not delivered according to the schedule mainly due to banking restrictions rather than technical issues.

An A330 aero plane was scheduled to be handed over to Iran Air, the Iranian national flag carrier, prior to beginning of the new Persian calendar year Nowruz though the process has been postponed to following days.

“Banking restrictions rather than technical issues have most probably caused the delay in the delivery process,” he underlined.

In a lucrative deal, Iran Air (Homa) has purchased 100 Airbus aircraft though only two airplanes have been so far delivered to the Iranian airline.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/124342/Iran-s-third-Airbus-delivery-postponed

Iraq buys fighters with Israeli radars

According to the website Israel Defence, Iraq bought 24 ‘T-50IQ’ fighter jets made in South Korea and equipped with radars made in an Israeli factory.

The Israeli website, according to Safa, said that Iraq had bought the fighter jets which are similar in performance to the F-16s.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170320-iraq-buys-fighters-with-israeli-radars/

TURKEY S-400 TALKS PROGRESSING

Following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to Moscow, Turkish and Russian officials have their respective media outlets that talks regarding the sale of Almaz-Antey S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Turkey are progressing.

Sergey Chemezov, the CEO of Rostec (the overarching firm involving Russia’s state-owned industries), told the Russian broadcaster Rossiya-24 that Ankara requested a loan to back an S-400 purchase (via Russian News Agency TASS). Chemezov added that the Russian Ministry of Finance is actively engaged in the talks, indicating that Moscow is eager to finalize a sale to Turkey.

Turkish Minister of Defence Fikri Işık told A Haber that “there is progress in the discussions.” Responding to questions regarding the S-400’s place in NATO’s air defence environment, Işık reportedly stated (via the Daily Sabah) that the S-400 “will not be integrated into the NATO system.”

Işık also confirmed that Turkey’s homegrown long-range SAM is under development, and is expected to enter production “within five-to-seven years.” Earlier reports indicated that Turkey is also seeking Russia’s technical support for the domestic SAM program.

http://quwa.org/2017/03/20/turkey-s-400-talks-progressing/

Juncker warns Turkey death penalty is ‘red line’ issue

Turkey and Europe are locked in a diplomatic crisis
Turkey and Europe are locked in a diplomatic crisis

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Turkey that any return of the death penalty would be a “red line” in the country’s stalled EU membership bid.”If the death penalty is reintroduced in Turkey, that would lead to the end of negotiations,” he told Sunday’s edition of Germany’s Bild newspaper, calling it a “red line”.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday he expected parliament to approve the restoration of capital punishment after next month’s referendum on controversial consitutional changes to expand his powers.Mr Juncker nevertheless said he was opposed to a complete halt to all membership negotiations with Turkey.”It makes no sense to try to calm (Erdogan’s) nerves by stopping negotiations that are not even taking place.”German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel went even further, saying in an interview with Der Spiegel: “We are farther away than ever from Turkey’s accession to the EU.”

https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2017/0319/860931-turkey-death-penalty/

Outrage as Juncker boasts that no-one else will want to leave the EU after they see how badly the UK is punished for Brexit

  • EU commission president says ‘example’ of Brexit will discourage other states
  • Warns that Theresa May will have to accept divorce bill demand from Brussels
  • But Brexiteers deride Juncker for living in a ‘fool’s paradise’ as EU ‘crumbles’
  • Comes as PM announces she will triggers the Article 50 process on March 29
Eurosceptics have reacted with fury after Jean-Claude Juncker boasted that no-one else will want to leave the EU after they see how harshly Britain is punished.The European Commission chief crowed that the ‘example’ of the UK would ensure the survival of the Brussels club.He also threatened that Theresa May will have to accept demands from the EU for a divorce bill.But his bullish stance was derided by Brexiteers who branded him ‘out of touch’ and accused him of living in a ‘fool’s paradise’.No 10 played down the intervention, pointing out negotiations were yet to begin.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4330846/UK-example-stop-states-leaving-EU-boasts-Eurocrat.html#ixzz4buFDnx4c

Why Chabahar Deal is so Important for India?

The Chabahar deal is an extremely important strategic decision which would help India to get a transit route to Afghanistan and further to Central Asian region and beyond. This 500 million $ investment would give India a much wanted access to the region’s resources bypassing the land route via hostile Pakistan. Secondly, this port is located very close (around 100kms) to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which has been developed by China. Therefore, a geo-strategic game is at play between the two regional powerhouses (India and China) in the region.India’s trade relations and economic relations with Central Asian region in future depends a lot on the utilisation of Chabahar Port because it provides direct sea-land route access for India to reach Central Asia via Iran. The distance between India’s Kandla Port and Chabahar Port is quite short, thereby reducing the transportation costs of the goods. It can be inferred that this is a win-win situation for India. The Chabahar deal would also help in countering the China’s string of Pearl of strategy against India.https://defenceaviationpost.com/chabahar-deal-important-india/Germany owes zero debt to NATO – defense ministerGermany’s defense minister has rejected US President Donald Trump’s assertion that Berlin owed “vast sums of money” to NATO. Relations between the two allies have soured over Germany’s military spending commitments.

Verladung Panzer nach Litauen (Getty Images/S. Gallup)

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Sunday that “there is no account where debts are registered with NATO,” responding to accusations by US President Donald Trump that the Berlin government was in debt to the military alliance.The German defense minister also questioned how military spending was calculated, arguing that a country’s financial commitment to the military alliance shouldn’t be the only measure.Trump: Germany owes ‘vast sums’ for NATO

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that Germany owed NATO “vast sums of money,” just hours after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington for the first time since taking office.US demands more cashThe billionaire added that Washington “must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany.”Since he began his campaign for the US presidency, Trump has regularly used Twitter to make sweeping and contentious remarks in which he outlines changes of direction in domestic and foreign policy. But the lack of clarity often leaves other politicians and world leaders guessing.http://www.dw.com/en/germany-owes-zero-debt-to-nato-defense-minister/a-38015228

Fierce fighting erupts in Damascus as rebels, government forces clash

Syrian rebels launched a major offensive on Sunday that brought them close to the heart of the Old City of Damascus, and government forces responded with intense bombardments of rebel-held areas.The escalation, reported by witnesses, state TV, rebel sources, and a monitoring group, marked a bid by the rebels to relieve army pressure on besieged areas they control to the east of the capital.Moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) and jihadist groups were both involved in the assault on the districts of Jobar and Abbasiyin, some 2 km (1.2 miles) east of the Old City walls. Syrian state television said the army had repelled an infiltration attempts by the militants and bombarded them with artillery, inflicting heavy losses.

Witnesses said the army deployed tanks in some adjacent neighbourhoods, and troops could be seen patrolling on foot.
 

HUNGARY BOOSTS GEORGIA’S NATO AND EU INTEGRATION, FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ON VISIT TO TBILISI

Hungary fully supports a visa waiver for Georgian citizens to the EU by the end of the month. It also maintains its role in the UN Observer Mission in Georgia, providing six police officers and five army officers, Szijjártó told Hungarian news agency MTI. Szijjártó held talks with his counterpart Mikheil Janelidze, and met President Giorgi Margvelashvili (featured above), Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Chairman of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze. Hungary’s top diplomat also signed an agreement with Natia Loladze, head of the Georgian Red Cross, of 10 million forints’ (EUR 32,422) support to alleviate flood damage.

http://hungarytoday.hu/news/hungary-supports-georgia-nato-eu-integration-foreign-minister-says-visit-tbilisi-36048

Taiwan confirms China’s deployment of DF-16 missiles

2017/03/20 16:15:21

Taipei, March 20 (CNA) Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) on Monday confirmed that there is a growing military threat from China, which he said has been deploying a new type of medium-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Taiwan.

Since 2016, China has been pushing military reform, including streamlining its armed forces to improve joint combat capabilities, Feng said in a report to the Legislature on Taiwan’s responses to the changing situation in East Asia since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

In recent years, China’s air and naval forces have built main and auxiliary combat ships and produced the J-10, J-11 and J-15 fighter jets, bought Russian Su-35 fighter jets and unveiled their most advanced stealth J-20 fighter jets, Feng said.

As part of the weapons modernization program to strengthen its combat power, China has also been deploying Dong Feng-16 (DF-16) ballistic missiles capable of launching precise attacks on Taiwan proper, Feng said.

http://focustaiwan.tw/news/acs/201703200015.aspx

 

 

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March 7, 2017

Wikileaks Reveals Massive CIA Cyber Spying Operation

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/

 

Wikileaks: CIA ‘Stole’ Russian Malware, Uses It to ‘Misdirect Attribution’ of Cyber Attacks

“Russian” hacking? It could have just as easily been the CIA

From the Wikileaks “Year Zero” dump:

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch‘s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Everyone knew it. Now we have proof.

“Fingerprints” are meaningless.

http://russia-insider.com/en/wikileaks-cia-stole-russian-malware-uses-it-misdirect-attribution-cyber-attacks/ri19134

Malaysia foils ‘Yemeni attack on Arab royals’

Malaysian police say they have foiled a planned attack on Arab royals by suspected militants from Yemen.

Four Yemenis and three other suspects including a Malaysian and an Indonesian were arrested ahead of Saudi King Salman’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur.

The monarch is currently touring Asia with 25 princes in his entourage.

Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition against the Houthi insurgent group in Yemen for the last two years.

However, it is unclear what group – if any – the Yemeni nationals were aligned with.

A senior police source told news agency Reuters the four were believed to be Houthi insurgents. However, other sources say the suspects were linked to so-called Islamic State.

It is also unclear whether the other three arrested were part of the same group.

The seven suspects were arrested between 21 and 26 February – the day King Salman arrived in the Malaysian capital.

National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told journalists the group were “planning to attack the Arab royalties during the visit in Kuala Lumpur”.

“We got them in the nick of time,” he said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39193173

Kim Jong-un takes Malaysians ‘hostage’ and bans anyone from the country from leaving North Korea after Kuala Lumpur embassy is sealed off in hunt for assassins

  • Pyongyang banned Malaysians from leaving North Korea in escalating dispute
  • Measure imposed to ensure ‘safety of the diplomats and citizens’ of North Korea
  • Malaysia responded by closing its borders to North Koreans wanting to leave
  • Tit-for-tat measures are latest in escalating row over death of Kim Jong-nam

North Korea has banned all Malaysians from leaving the country in a dramatic escalation of the row over the death of Kim Jong-Un‘s half brother.

Malaysia likened the travel ban to hostage taking and then responded in kind, closing its borders to North Koreans who want to leave.

The tit-for-tat directives come as relations between the two countries disintegrate over the poisoning of Kim Jong Nam in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13.

Pyongyang’s extraordinary move came as it faced growing international condemnation for a volley of missiles it fired into the Sea of Japan, defying stringent global sanctions aimed at halting its weapons programme.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4288644/N-Korea-Malaysia-ban-citizens-leaving.html#ixzz4aeXhp2dK

 

Missile defense system that China opposes arrives in South Korea

  • THAAD is designed to take down North Korean missiles
  • China says it will take measure to preserve its interests

Seoul (CNN)The first pieces of a US-built missile defense system designed to mitigate the threat of North Korean missiles arrived at the Osan Air Base in South Korea Monday night, according to the US military.

The announcement comes just a day after North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
China has voiced opposition to the proposed placement of the military hardware known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which it sees as a threat to its own security.
“We will firmly take necessary measures to preserve our own security interest, and the US and South Korea must bear the potential consequences,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday.

North Korea is ‘training for an attack on US bases in Japan’: Kim Jong Un is pictured applauding missile launch as Trump warns him of ‘dire consequences’ and sends anti-missile system to the South

  • North Korea said Tuesday its missile launches were training for a strike on US bases in Japan
  • Three of four missiles shot landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone
  • The US has also begun deploying a missile defense system in South Korea to protect against North Korea
  • China said such US interference poses a ‘clear, present and substantive threat to China’s security interests’
  • The UN Security Council will have an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss these developments
  • Donald Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe say North Korea threat has ‘entered a new stage’

Nuclear-armed North Korea said Tuesday its missile launches were training for a strike on US bases in Japan, as President Trump warned Kim Jong-Un of ‘dire consequences’ and deployed missiles to South Korea.

The latest declaration from Pyongyang comes the day after it launched four ballistic missiles 600 miles into the Sea of Japan, in an alarming show of strength.

On Tuesday, the regime also released pictures of King Jong-Un watching the launch of the missiles and applauding with a wild grin on his face.

Three of the four missiles fired Monday came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump.

In a phone call, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that the threat from North Korea had ‘entered a new stage.’

Meanwhile, Washington and Seoul have agreed to deploy a US missile defense system called THAAD to South Korea, which has infuriated China, the North’s key diplomatic ally and crucial to efforts to persuade it to change its ways.

 North Korea news sources showed the country's leader, Kim Jong-Un, smiling and clapping as the nuclear-armed nation launched three missiles in training for a strike on US bases in Japan

 North Korea news sources showed the country’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, smiling and clapping as the nuclear-armed nation launched three missiles in training for a strike on US bases in Japan

The missiles were launched by the North Korean military

North Korea sources said the missiles were preparation for a strike on Japan

Three of the four missiles fired Monday, pictured, came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4288400/North-Korea-training-attack-bases-Japan.html#ixzz4ae0CT4yj

China’s ZTE to plead guilty, settle with U.S. over Iran, North Korea sales

March 7 at 3:50 PM
Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE will plead guilty and pay $892 million to settle allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea, the company and U.S. government agencies said Tuesday.

ZTE entered into an agreement to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, obstruction of justice and making a material false statement, the Justice Department said.

The settlement was made with Justice, the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department.

The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and software from some of the best-known U.S. technology companies to Iran’s largest telecommunications carrier.

“ZTE acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company,” Zhao Xianming, ZTE’s chairman and chief executive, said Tuesday in a statement.

Between January 2010 and January 2016, ZTE directly or indirectly shipped U.S.-origin items worth approximately $32 million to Iran without obtaining the proper export licenses from the U.S. government. ZTE then lied to federal investigators, insisting that the shipments had stopped, the Justice Department said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/chinas-zte-pleads-guilty-settles-with-us-over-iran-north-korea-sales/2017/03/07/16a0b2c2-0356-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html?utm_term=.b797bf1c04e9

H.R. McMaster, top Trump security adviser, faces questions in rare hearing

– Associated Press 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The senior Army officer tapped by President Donald Trump to be his national security adviser faces questions from senators during a rare closed-door meeting amid intense scrutiny of the White House for alleged Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s appearance before the Armed Services Committee, slated for Tuesday, is unusual because national security advisers aren’t subject to Senate confirmation and typically don’t testify on Capitol Hill. But McMaster’s situation is different. He elected to stay on active duty rather than retire from the military and generals of his grade need the chamber’s approval when they’re promoted or get new assignments.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s Republican chairman, said members will vote at the end of session on whether to recommend to the full Senate that McMaster retain his three-star rank.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/7/top-trump-security-adviser-faces-questions-in-rare/

US, Russian, Turkish military chiefs meet in Antalya to discuss Syria, Iraq (PHOTOS)

US, Russian, Turkish military chiefs meet in Antalya to discuss Syria, Iraq (PHOTOS)
Turkey’s military chief of staff, General Hulusi Akar, is hosting a meeting with the heads of the US and Russian armed forces in the southern Turkish province of Antalya, according to Ankara and Moscow.

The meeting is being attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford Jr., Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov and Turkey’s military chief of staff General Hulusi Akar.

https://www.rt.com/news/379687-russia-us-turkey-meet-syria/

Russian general hit by roadside bomb in Syria loses both legs

Russian Major General Pyotr Milyukhin lost both his legs and an eye when a radio controlled bomb hit a military convoy heading from the Tiyas airfield, west of Palmyra, to the Syrian city of Homs, it has been confirmed.

Milyukhin is in an intensive care unit at Russia’s Main Military Clinical Hospital, medical officials confirmed to RIA Novosti on Friday.

The hospital refused to disclose any details, but said that the high-ranking officer had been placed “in the 56th department.”

The incident occurred in mid-February, Kommersant daily reported, citing sources. Four of the six people traveling in the armored vehicle along with Milyukhin reportedly lost their lives.

https://www.rt.com/news/379597-russian-general-bomb-legs/

A Russian contract soldier died near Palmyra on March 2, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Monday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the soldier was killed during a terrorist offensive on Syrian army’s positions, where Russian military advisers were present.

“Artem Gorbunov died on March 2 near Palmyra when repelling Daesh terrorists’ attempts to advance on the positions of Syrian [government] troops, where Russian military advisers were present.”

The soldier was posthumously awarded. Earlier in the day, Gorbunov was buried at a cemetery in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.

According to the Defense Ministry, 28 Russian servicemen have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703061051314615-russia-serviceman-dies-syria/

2,100 Iranian fighters said killed in Iraq, Syria

Figure doubles earlier death count from November, which only included Syria fighting

More than 2,000 fighters sent from Iran have been killed in Iraq and Syria, the head of Iran’s veterans’ affairs office said Tuesday.

“Some 2,100 martyrs have been martyred so far in Iraq or other places defending the holy mausoleums,” Mohammad Ali Shahidi told the state-run IRNA news agency.

Shahidi, who is head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, was speaking at a conference on martyrdom culture in Tehran.

The figure was more than double the number he gave in November, which referred only to Syria.

Iran is, with Russia, the main military backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and also organizes militias fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq.

Shahidi did not provide details on the nationalities of those killed.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/2100-iran-fighters-said-killed-in-iraq-syria/

War, Violence Cost Iraq $36 Billion

Baghdad- A report released by Iraq’s ministry of planning revealed the disastrous damage done by the gruesome acts of violence and aggression throughout 2004-2016 of fighting terror group ISIS.

Overall infrastructure damage, save for that inflicted on the Iraqi Kurdistan region, has been accounted for by the report. Losses suffered by civilians and their assets, and those registered through local corruption and embezzlement were excluded from the report.

Destruction cited by the report amounted to $36 billion.

All the more, Iraq’s culture ministry said that it was unable to estimate the value of stolen effects belonging to the national body responsible for antiquities and heritage.

http://english.aawsat.com/2017/03/article55368850/war-violence-cost-iraq-36-billion

The multipurpose indigenously-designed and -manufactured Iranian helicopter Saba 248
The multipurpose indigenously-designed and -manufactured Iranian helicopter Saba 248

Iran has unveiled a new utility helicopter capable of serving both military and civilian purposes.

The ceremony to unveil the helicopter, named Saba 248, took place in the presence of Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan on Tuesday.

Iran’s Helicopter Renovation and Logistics Company (PANHA), associated with the Defense Ministry’s Aviation Industries Organization, has designed and manufactured the aircraft.

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/07/513357/Iran-Saba-248-helicopter-Dehqan

Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran, Anti-Semitism in Call

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a long telephone conversation Monday about strategic threats posed by Iran.

“The two leaders spoke at length about the dangers arising from the nuclear deal with Iran and Iranian aggression in the [Middle East] region and the need to work together to deal with those dangers,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Netanyahu has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal signed between Iran and major world powers that went into effect in January. The Israeli leader has said the deal does not go far enough and when some of the clauses of the deal expire in 10 and 15 years, it will leave Tehran on the threshold of building a bomb.

The president had told Netanyahu when the two met at the White House last month that the nuclear agreement was “one of the worst deals” he had ever seen.

http://www.voanews.com/a/trump-netanyahu-discuss-iran-antisemitism-in-call/3752545.html

Iran setting up shell shipping companies to export weapons and illicit goods: investigation

Nearly half of all shipping docks in Iran are operated by the regime’s military, and it is using shell companies to smuggle weapons and other illicit goods, according to a new report.

A total of 90 docks have been taken over by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is using them to circumvent sanctions and fund terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond, according to the anti-regime People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

“Based on the direct order of the current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, no authority is allowed to oversee the activities of the IRGC at border areas, be it on the ground, sea or air, and it can import anything in any quantity without paying any customs fee,” PMOI officials said in a statement provided to Fox News. “The IRGC uses these docks for its unlawful activities.”

The PMOI adds that in order to fund its activities, the Revolutionary Guard engages in smuggling oil, gas, chemical products, cigarettes, narcotics, alcohol, mobile phones, pharmaceuticals, hygiene material and energy drugs and supplements.

The importing and exporting of these illicit goods has allowed the IRGC to net $12 billion annually, the group estimates.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/07/iran-setting-up-shell-shipping-companies-to-export-weapons-and-illicit-goods-investigation.html

 

Iran vs Russia: The Next Natural Gas War

Not everybody attending the Iranian natural gas summit last week in Frankfurt was there for the same reason.

While most were gauging the prospects for an opening of major natural gas reserves and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export prospects, others were there for quite different reasons.

Take the three representatives from Russia’s gas giant Gazprom (OGZPY), for example. They weren’t there to scout new investment packages. On the contrary… They were there to see just how badly their company’s position was under siege.

And it’s no wonder the Gazprom guys looked concerned. From what I saw at the summit, they have every reason to be.

For energy investors, on the other hand, the news is very good…

Gazprom is in Dire Straits

Gazprom may still be the largest natural gas company on the face of the Earth, exporting more gas than anybody else and providing revenues that account for the biggest single chunk of the Russian central budget… But it is facing down some difficult times.

For one, extractions are declining at the primary mature fields the company has depended on for decades. To offset that growing problem, Gazprom needs to move into three very expensive new regions – above the Arctic Circle, onto the continental shelf, and into eastern Siberia.

Moscow is hard pressed to provide the necessary funds for that.

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Iran-vs-Russia-The-Next-Natural-Gas-War.html

Iran’s Crude-Oil Exports Increase to Level Last Seen in 1970s

Iran’s crude-oil exports touched 3 million barrels a day for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

That level, lasting just one day, was reached in the current Iranian month that began Feb. 19, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said, according to state news agency IRNA.

The Islamic Republic’s exports tumbled in 2011 as international sanctions targeted its oil industry, cutting production. Since restrictions ended in January 2016, Iran has recovered quickly, raising output near pre-sanctions levels of about 4 million barrels a day. It’s targeting 5 million a day by 2021 with the help of foreign investors, though none has yet signed a definitive contract.

Iran’s crude exports have averaged 2.45 million barrels a day since Feb. 19, Bloomberg tanker-tracking data show.

The country in November won an exemption from output cuts agreed on by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, saying it was still recovering from sanctions. Production exceeded 6 million barrels a day in the 1970s, before the Islamic Revolution drove away Western investors and prompted a long confrontation with the U.S.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-07/iran-s-crude-oil-exports-increase-to-level-last-seen-in-1970s

Iran Tests New Weapons in Yemen

This was revealed by the Houthi Supreme Political Council (SPS) at the end of last month.

Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, leader of the Houthis in Yemen, said, on February 10, that the Houthis had been able to increase the range and accuracy of their weapons and could now launch attacks on Saudi Arabia, the leader of the coalition forces which are fighting the Houthis in Yemen.

The coalition forces have also intercepted drones with missile firing capabilities that bore Iranian markers.

In January, the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah which was near the Yemeni port of Hudeida was attacked by an unmanned and guided boat, according to Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, U.S. Fifth Fleet commander.

Later reports from the U.S. Naval Institute indicated that the naval craft was provided by the navy of the IRGC.

IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, wrote: “Such vessels pose a new threat to civilian maritime traffic, open a new page in the clashes between Iran and Saudi Arabia in this sensitive arena, and could reach other Iranian-supported terror organizations in the world.”

http://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31340:iran-tests-new-weapons-in-yemen&catid=9:terrorism&Itemid=114

Iran, Italy to hold scientific coop. meeting

TEHRAN, Mar. 07 (MNA) – Iran and Italy will organize the first ever meeting on joint scientific, technological and innovative cooperation in mid-April, deputy head of research at Science Ministry said on Tuesday.

 

According to Vahid Ahmadi, the meeting aims at providing new opportunities for universities, educational institutions, research centers, Technology and knowledge-based companies based at science and technology parks in Iran and Italy.

Other objectives of the meeting include development of connections among research centers and Hi Tech companies for promotion of technology transfer of products, services and innovation capacities; promoting the top scientific and technological trends in both countries through further bilateral dialogues among organizations as well as supporting cooperation in the fields of research, commercialization and development of innovation.

Iran-Italy’s joint meeting on scientific cooperation is slated for 19-20 April 2017 in Tehran.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/124070/Iran-Italy-to-hold-scientific-coop-meeting

Germany delays contract with MBDA for missile defence system-sources

Germany’s defence ministry on Tuesday told lawmakers that it would not complete a contract for a multi-billion euro new missile defence system with European arms maker MBDA during the current legislative period, as planned, ministry sources said.

Ministry officials remain committed to concluding a contract with MBDA for the Medium Extended Air Defence System that will replace the current Patriot air and missile defence system, but said there was still work to do on MBDA proposal, as well as how the overall project would be managed, the sources said.

Regardless of the MEADS outcome, the ministry also plans to spend several hundred million euros to modernise the software and hardware of the German military’s existing Patriot system, which was built by Raytheon Co, the sources said.

The delay in the MEADS project marks another setback for Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who has sought to reform Germany’s troubled weapons procurement process since taking office in late 2013. A second multi-billion euro programme to build a new multi-role ship has also been delayed.

 

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report-germany-delays-contract-with-mbda-for-missile-defence-system-sources-2345107

Conservative Fillon wins ‘unanimous’ support from party leadership

Latest update : 2017-03-07

France’s embattled presidential hopeful Francois Fillon on Monday won “unanimous” support from his Republicans party, putting him firmly back in the driver’s seat after veteran conservative Alain Juppe rejected calls to stand in his place.

“The political committee, after a wide-ranging exchange, unanimously renewed its support for Francois Fillon,” Senate speaker Gerard Larcher told reporters after around 20 party seniors met to “evaluate” the crisis sparked by the fake jobs scandal clouding Fillon’s campaign.

Fillon, 63, had told the meeting that Juppe‘s definitive decision not to run “confirmed that there isn’t a plan B” to his candidacy, according to a text of his remarks sent to AFP.

With just seven weeks to go before the country goes to the polls in a two-stage vote, Fillon said: “We have lost too much time with vain debates, leaving the way open for the far right and candidates on the left who are rubbing their hands over our disunity.”

EU army moves step closer: Ministers APPROVE Brussels defence headquarters

THE EU army came one step closer today after ministers approved plans for a military command centre based in Brussels.

states agreed to open a command centre to run military training missions abroad, a step France and Italy hope is a precursor to an EU defence headquarters in the face of a growing Russian threat.Foreign and defence ministers approved the Brussels-based command, which will be run by some 30 people when it is launched in the next few weeks.

Britain has long opposed the crumbling bloc’s plans for its own army with fears the defence force could undermine operations.

The EU is seeking to match its economic might with an ability to deter militant or Russian threats, as well as using peacekeepers to stabilise failing states on EU borders.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/775843/eu-army-ministers-approve-brussels-defence-command-centre

Pentagon: U.S. airstrike in Yemen killed ex-Guantánamo detainee

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March 5, 2017

Tokyo calls North Korea’s latest missile launch a ‘grave threat to national security’

AP, AFP-JIJI, KYODO, STAFF REPORT

North Korea on Monday launched four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, the Japanese government said.

There were no immediate reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area, Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at a news conference in Tokyo, calling the latest missile launch a “grave threat to national security.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately told reporters that the missiles traveled around 1,000 km. He later said at a Diet session that the remaining missile also fell near the EEZ.

Japan has filed a protest with North Korea over the latest missile launches, according to Abe.

Suga also said the launches are in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted against North Korea, banning it from developing nuclear arms and missile technologies.

In Seoul, Yonhap News Agency reported earlier, citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, that a possible intercontinental ballistic missile had been launched at 7:36 a.m. from North Korea’s northwest in an apparent protest by North Korea against a joint military drill by South Korea and the United States that began last week.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/06/national/tokyo-says-north-korea-fired-three-four-missiles-came-japans-eez/#.WLzMM5ArJD8

 

Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles

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March 1, 2017

Believe in America: Trump reboots his presidency with condemnation of hatred, a rousing vision of what country can be by 250th anniversary of independence and a heartbreaking appearance by the widow of SEAL hero whose father snubbed him

  • President Trump addressed both houses of Congress in a Joint Session just over a month into his presidency 
  • New U.S. leader channeled Kennedy to speak of the ‘courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts’ 
  • But bluntly political speech also tells the House and the Senate to take action on his agenda  
  • He told them to ‘increase funding for our veterans,’ pass ‘historic tax reform’, ‘repeal and replace Obamacare,’ and ‘help ensure new parents have paid family leave’
  • Most electrifying moment of address lasting slightly over one hour was when he paid tribute to William ‘Ryan’ Owens, SEAL killed on raid in Yemen last month
  • The SEAL’s widow Carryn Owens sat beside Ivanka Trump and cried as the divided Congress united for the longest ovation of the evening
  • Trump refused to back down on immigration saying: ‘what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one?’
  • Opening sentences of speech robustly condemned anti-Semitic attacks and allegedly racially motivated Kansas City shooting of two Indian men
  • Democratic women wore white in reference to fight for suffrage and made thumbs down gestures to speech

President Donald Trump took his first mission-critical trip down Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday to address a Joint Session of Congress, telling his political opponents that ‘the time for small thinking is over, the time for trivial fights is behind us.’

At that very moment, a member of the Democratic Party hissed.

But Trump’s 60-minute speech drew 94 interruptions for applause, including a sustained, tear-jerking ovation for the widow of a Navy SEAL killed in action just eight days after Trump took office.

As Carryn Owens wept and Ivanka Trump comforted her, Trump said her husband Ryan was happy that the lengthy applause ‘broke a record.’

The slain sailor’s father made headlines last week when he said he had refused to speak with the president when his son’s remains were returned to the U.S. in a somber ceremony. He also blasted Trump for green-lighting what he called the ‘stupid mission’ that claimed Ryan’s life.

But the president praised Ryan as ‘a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation.’

‘Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity’ Trump said. ‘For as the Bible teaches us, there is no greater act of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Ryan laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom. We will never forget Ryan.’

Trump began Tuesday night with a claim on the role of political peacemaker, saying he wanted to bring Americans who voted for him together with those who didn’t.

‘I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart,’ he said.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4269814/Trump-strikes-presidential-tone-addresses-Congress.html#ixzz4a4kPYlkE

ISIS leader ‘admits DEFEAT in Iraq and orders militants to flee or kill themselves in suicide attacks’

  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is said to have issued a statement called ‘farewell speech’
  • Terror mastermind reported to have told fighters to flee, hide of launch attacks
  • Comes as Iraqi army units seized back the last major road out of western Mosul
  • UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon said he expected to see ISIS expelled from Iraq’s major towns by the end of 2017

The terror mastermind is said to have issued a statement called ‘farewell speech’ which was distributed among ISIS preachers and clerics in parts of Iraq it still controls.

According to local media, he urged supporters to run and hide and told ‘non-Arab fighters’ to either return home or blow themselves up with the promise of ’72 women in heaven’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4270686/ISIS-leader-Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-admits-DEFEAT-Iraq.html#ixzz4a5XlW4mj

Two British medics who joined Islamic State killed in Iraq: BBC

Two British medics who abandoned studies in Sudan to join Islamic State with a group of other students have been killed in fighting in Iraq, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

Ahmed Sami Khider and Hisham Fadlallah died at the weekend, the BBC said, with Khider believed to have been killed in a convoy as it left the city of Mosul, which U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are trying to retake from IS militants.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was unable to confirm the deaths.

The two men had been part of a group of nine mainly British-Sudanese medical students from Khartoum’s University of Medical Sciences and Technology who had joined IS in 2015. Five other Britons from the institution joined them soon afterwards and at least four had now been killed, the BBC said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-britons-idUSKBN1685A1?il=0

Ex-CIA spy freed in Portugal, avoids extradition over kidnapping

 

A former CIA officer convicted of involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Italy was released on Wednesday after winning a last-minute reprieve from extradition.

Sabrina de Sousa, a dual U.S.-Portuguese citizen, was waiting at Lisbon airport to be flown to Italy early on Wednesday when word came she was to be released, after Italy’s president granted her a partial pardon.

“I’m happy with how this worked out here after two years of having this troubling my mind,” a smiling de Sousa told reporters as she left the Judiciary Police headquarters. “But this is not over yet, as I still have the process in Italy, and we have to see how it goes.”

The partial pardon by Italian President Sergio reduced her sentence to three years from four. That means she can apply for alternatives to a prison sentence.

“We will now await the Italian court’s decision on alternative sanctions to prison, which is likely to be community service,” her lawyer, Manuel Magalhaes e Silva, who accompanied de Sousa out of the police building, told Reuters.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-us-cia-pardon-idUSKBN1683ZC

 

PAC-3 missiles deployed on Taiwan’s east coast ‘in response to Chinese military strategy’

One of the world’s most powerful air defense missile systems, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3), has been stationed on Taiwan’s east coast, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said in a report, citing China’s “changing military strategy.”

The ministry confirmed that (PAC-3) missile systems were moved to the area of Hualien and Taitung to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself in the event of an attack, Taiwan’s national news agency, CNA, reported.

It is the first time Taiwan’s military has acknowledged stationing the missiles in the scantly populated Hualien and Taitung areas, according to Taiwan News. Until now, Patriot PAC-3 missile defense systems were believed to have been located close to the populous cities of Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, the newspaper said.

The MND said in a report that Taiwan’s military is determined to boost its combat readiness through innovations in military drills and training, deployment of military forces, and enhanced exchanges between various branches of the armed forces, in light of increased military spending by China, CNA reported.

https://www.rt.com/news/379055-pac-missiles-taiwan-china/

US & South Korea launch large-scale war games amid tensions with North Korea

The US and South Korea have kicked off Foal Eagle, an annual joint military exercise that has been denounced by North Korea as a rehearsal for invasion. The exercise comes amid tensions in the region following North Korea’s recent missile test.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the US military based in the South confirmed the commencement of the joint drills on Wednesday.

The exercise is a field training exercise involving ground, air, and naval forces from both US and South Korea that will run through the end of next month. The two allies are likely to deploy their major strategic assets in the drills to deliver a warning against what they see as North Korean provocations. In March, both countries also plan to separately conduct Key Resolve practice, a computer-simulated command post exercise, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing the South Korean Defense Ministry.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-Koo had a phone conversation early on Wednesday, in which Mattis expressed Washington’s commitment to the defense of its ally.

https://www.rt.com/news/379039-korea-us-drills-tensions/

 

Terrorist breaks into West Bank home, stabs resident

Israeli man lightly wounded, manages to shoot his attacker dead in Havat Mor, near Hebron

A Palestinian stabbed and lightly wounded a resident of the southern West Bank settlement outpost of Havat Mor inside his home on Wednesday, the army said.

The Israeli man drew his gun and shot the terrorist, who was pronounced dead on the scene by a local doctor, a spokesperson for the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

The Palestinian man had broken into the West Bank outpost in the Hebron Hills, the army said.

Israeli troops and Magen David Adom ambulances were called to the scene.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/terrorist-breaks-into-west-bank-home-stabs-resident/

The Air Force Wants a Lightweight Fighter to Do What the F-35 Can’t

By Kyle Mizokmi, PopularMechanics.com

The U.S. Air Force will request funding to test a number of airplanes for a new low-cost fighter concept. The goal is to field a fleet of small, lightweight airplanes capable of flying low and slow against enemies without advanced air defenses, providing support to ground forces fighting low-tech opponents such as the Taliban and the Islamic State.

The service is requesting $8 million to fund the tests, which it hopes will identify suitable candidates for OA-X, or Observation, Attack-Experimental aircraft. OA-X aircraft would be small, typically single-seat aircraft capable of flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions or ground attacks. The plane should be capable of operating from austere environments and airfields. A key requirement is that the aircraft be inexpensive to fly on a per-hour basis.

http://ameriforce.net/air-force-wants-lightweight-fighter-f-35-cant/

Putin’s Russia Seen Dominating European Gas for Two Decades

Elena Mazneva

and

Anna Shiryaevskaya
Energy majors see Russia shrugging off competition from LNG
Gazprom’s gas sales abroad account for 10% of Russia’s exports

Europe has wanted to wean itself from Russian natural gas ever since supplies from its eastern neighbor dropped during freezing weather in 2009. Almost a decade later, the region has never been more dependent.

Gazprom PJSC, Russia’s state-run export monopoly, shipped a record amount of gas to the European Union last year and accounts for about 34 percent of the trading bloc’s use of the fuel. Russia will remain the biggest source of supply through 2035, Royal Dutch Shell Plc said last week, echoing comments by BP Plc in January.

EU lawmakers have had their hearts set on diversifying supplies with liquefied natural gas delivered by tanker from the U.S., where production of the fuel skyrocketed last year. So far, those shipments have failed to materialize amid a lack of firm contracts and higher prices outside Europe. Overall, LNG shipments to the region, led by Qatar, were stagnant last year.

“Russia will for sure remain Europe’s largest gas supplier for at least two more decades,” even if most of the incremental gains in EU imports are met by LNG from somewhere else, said Vladimir Drebentsov, chief economist for Russia and CIS at BP in Moscow.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-01/putin-s-russia-seen-dominating-european-energy-for-two-decades

Russian jets accidentally bomb US-backed forces in Syria

Airstrikes targeting Islamic State jihadists quickly called off after American soldiers communicate error to Russians

In this frame grab provided by the Russian Defense Ministry press service, a Russian long range Tu-22M3 bomber carries out an air strike over Aleppo region of Syria on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP)

In this frame grab provided by the Russian Defense Ministry press service, a Russian long range Tu-22M3 bomber carries out an air strike over Aleppo region of Syria on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service photo via AP)

WASHINGTON — Russian warplanes bombed US-backed fighters in several small villages in northern Syria after they mistakenly thought Islamic State forces were in the area, a top US general said Wednesday.

Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said Russian and Syrian regime aircraft attacked the villages to the southeast of Al-Bab in Aleppo province on Tuesday, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties.

The Russians apparently had observed IS fighters moving out of the area and so wrongly assumed that incoming forces were jihadists.

“We had some Russian aircraft and regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS, yet … actually on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab Coalition forces,” Townsend told reporters in a video call from Baghdad.

The SAC forms part of a broader alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprising Kurdish and other groups that the United States have been training and advising to lead the fight against IS.

Townsend added that US troops were less than five kilometers (three miles) away from the villages and observed the bombing.

The American soldiers communicated the error, which was then quickly passed on to the Russians through a special “deconfliction” hotline the two powers have established to avoid mishaps.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/russian-jets-accidentally-bomb-us-backed-forces-in-syria/

FBI planned to pay spy behind Trump-Russia dossier to continue his research 

The retired British spy who authored the infamous dossier about President Trump’s alleged Russian relations was tapped by the FBI to continue his research with government funds, according to multiple reports.The FBI arranged just weeks before the election to pay former MI6 agent Christopher Steele for more digging on his dossier, sources familiar with the deal told the Washington Post. Sources told CNN the FBI even started reimbursing some of Steele’s expenses shortly before Election Day.

But the arrangement fell through before Trump took office, with Steele ultimately pulling out, a source told NBC News.

Steele apparently got fed up after feeling the U.S. government was not taking his findings seriously — especially after FBI Director James Comey went public with an ultimately fruitless second probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Meanwhile, Comey never disclosed the investigation into Trump.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/fbi-planned-pay-spy-behind-trump-russia-dossier-article-1.2985467

Russia, Turkey hold missile sales talks

Moscow, Ankara yet to strike deal on sale of S-400 air defense system to Turkey, says Russian minister

Moscow and Ankara continued with talks on delivering the S-400 missile system to Turkey, Russia’s deputy defense minister said on Tuesday.

“The talks are still continuing. The delivery is only possible if an agreement is reached and there is no agreement so far,” Alexander Fomin told reporters in comments reported by Russian news agency TASS.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Feb. 22 President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would handle the issue during a High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) meeting expected between March 8 and 9 in Moscow.

Iraq To Be Removed From US Travel Ban List In New Immigration Order: Officials

Donald Trump is expected to sign a new immigration order on Wednesday, a report said

WASHINGTON:  President Donald Trump’s new immigration order will remove Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens face a temporary US travel ban, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday, quoting unnamed US officials.

Four officials say the decision follows pressure from the Pentagon and State Department, the Associated Press reported. They had urged the White House to reconsider Iraq’s inclusion given its key role in fighting the ISIS, it added.President Trump is expected to sign the new order on Wednesday. An earlier order was blocked by federal courts.

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/iraq-to-be-removed-from-us-travel-ban-list-in-new-immigration-order-officials-1664746

Why airplane parts from Miami to Syria just got a company in trouble

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February 25, 2017

Iraqi Kurdish TV reporter killed in Mosul

Shifa Gardi dies after roadside bomb explodes on road in west Mosul; cameraman is injured

“Prominent Rudaw war reporter and journalist Shifa Gardi has been killed in Mosul as she covered clashes,” Rudaw said on social media.
reporter

“Journalism remains male-dominated — Shifa Gardi broke those perceptions and stereotypes — we pay tribute to her courageous journalism,” the channel said.

Rudaw editors told AFP that the 30-year-old reporter, who was born a refugee in Iran, was killed by an explosive device on a road in west Mosul and said that the cameraman working with her was wounded.

https://twitter.com/RudawEnglish/status/835485344384573440/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

 

New National Security Advisor doesn’t believe in “radical Islamic terrorism”?

President Trump’s new National Security Advisor doesn’t believe it is “helpful” to say the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”

President Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser has told his staff that Muslims who commit terrorist acts are perverting their religion, rejecting a key ideological view of other senior Trump advisers and signaling a potentially more moderate approach to the Islamic world.

The adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council on Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting.

Wrong. The tens of thousands of people fighting in the “Islamic State” and Al Qaida and Boko Haram and Hamas and Hizbullah are radical Muslims. To pretend that they are not Muslims is to deny who the enemy is, and to give comfort to Muslim governments like Pakistan and Iraq and Afghanistan who are on the fence about confronting radical Islamists in their own rank.

In his language, General McMaster is closer to the positions of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Both took pains to separate acts of terrorism from Islamic teaching, in part because they argued that the United States needed the help of Muslim allies to hunt down terrorists.

So we are now back to the Obama-era policy of refusing to say who the enemy is?

I don’t blame General McMaster for his Obama-style views.

I blame Donald Trump. He and his staff did a terrible job of vetting for this position, especially since an eminently qualified candidate, John Bolton, was available. McMaster’s view of the fight against radical Islam should have been the very first question that Trump asked him. Now it looks like Trump didn’t ask the question at all. …

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/02/new_national_security_advisor_doesnt_believe_in_radical_islamic_terrorism.html#ixzz4Zi9fuCjZ

Pentagon ditches onerous rules of engagement, gives Mosul troops quicker firepower access

– The Washington Times – Friday, February 24, 2017

Iraqi forces and U.S. coalition troops are no longer burdened by strict rules of engagement, which some say have turned firepower requests into bureaucratic nightmares.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Browning, commander of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, recently spoke with reporters about a Dec. 26 directive that streamlined the process of delivering aid. The order, attributed to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, was confirmed on Thursday by Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the U.S.-led coalition’s spokesman.

“It changed the relationship [between forces],” Lt. Col. Browning told The Associated Press about increased flexibility on the battlefield. “It gives me a better understanding of how I can bring to bear the limited capabilities I have.”

The new rules, which were supplemented with more directives weeks ago, allow U.S. personnel to better assist — physically and logistically — the Iraqi army’s 9th Division. Advisers are increasingly embedded with Iraqis and they can avoid cumbersome requests through a joint command center.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/24/pentagon-ditches-onerous-rules-of-engagement-in-ir/

Iran requests 950 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan

Tehran says it needs the material to help develop its civil reactor program

The request has been made to the body that oversees the nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, told the ISNA news agency that the purchase was supposed to happen “within three years.”

“650 tons will enter the country in two consignments and 300 tons will enter Iran in the third year,” he said.

Salehi said the final shipment of concentrate, known as yellow cake, would be turned into uranium hexafluoride gas and sold back to Kazakhstan — its first international sale of the compound which is used in the uranium enrichment process.

Under the nuclear deal, many of Iran’s centrifuges were mothballed but it has the right to enrich uranium to a level of 3.5 percent and sell it abroad.

Nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to 80% or more.

Salehi said Iran has already received around 382 tons of yellow cake, primarily from Russia, since the nuclear deal came into force in January last year.

Under the deal, Iran is allowed to run around 5,000 “IR-1” centrifuges and has been testing more advanced models that can produce greater quantities of enriched uranium — all under the strict supervision of the UN atomic agency.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-requests-950-tons-of-uranium-from-kazakhstan/

Why Iran’s favorite weapon is the cyber attack

In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.

Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.

Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-iran-favorite-weapon-cyber-attack-2017-2

Unofficial US-North Korea talks dropped after State Dept denies visa to top official – report

The first talks planned between Washington and Pyongyang in years have reportedly been canceled, as the US State Department denied entry to a high-level North Korean diplomat, with the North’s recent missile tests and Kim Jong Nam’s murder also possible factors.

The low-key talks between former US officials and Choe Son Hui, the director-general of the American affairs bureau in the North Korean Foreign Ministry, were set to take place between March 1 and 2 in New York, but Choe was denied a visa, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The rationale behind scuttling the meeting was not immediately clear, but the report said Pyongyang’s latest ballistic missile test and the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, may have played a role.

https://www.rt.com/news/378584-us-north-korea-contacts-cancelled/

Top US commander for Mideast said to make secret Syria trip

Syrian Democratic Forces say General Joseph Votel met with group leaders for first time under Trump, ‘discussed increase in support’

QAMISHLI, Syria — The top US military commander for the Middle East made a secret trip to northern Syria Friday to meet a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group, the alliance’s spokesman said.

General Joseph Votel, who heads US Central Command (Centcom), met with leaders from the Syrian Democratic Forces in the first such trip under the new US administration.

SDF spokesman Talal Sello told AFP that Votel “discussed the increase of coordination and support (to the SDF) in the era of Donald Trump”.

“There were promises of heavy weapons in future stages,” Sello said.

In an online statement, Sello said Votel had met with several SDF commanders.

“The results were positive. We discussed the developments in the Euphrates Rage campaign and shared military matters,” Sello said.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/top-us-commander-for-mideast-said-to-make-secret-syria-trip/

Is Iran Preparing For War In The Middle East? Russia To Send $1B In Weapons To Tehran

White House Says Further Punishment Of Iran Possible After New Sanctions  

Russia was set to send Iran about $1 billion worth of missile defense systems, Russian news agency Tass reported Monday. The deal was the result of a contract Iran signed with Russian defense manufacturer Rostec Corporation in 2007, but it was put on hold by Russia in 2010. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently ended the delay and paved the way for the contractual obligation for the S-300 air defense systems to be met in full starting this past November.

“The S-300 cost about one billion dollars,” Rostec Corporation CEO Sergey Chemezov said. “We were through with the supplies of S-300. No plans for anything are on the agenda.”

http://www.ibtimes.com/iran-preparing-war-middle-east-russia-send-1b-weapons-tehran-2494993

 

 

Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Support Aegis Ashore System in Poland

Lockheed Martin has been awarded additional funding to provide equipment and technical support for Aegis Ashore test and operational systems in Poland.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Lockheed Martin has been awarded additional funding to provide equipment and technical support for Aegis Ashore test and operational systems in Poland as part of a $2.5 billion contract, the Department of Defense said in a press release.

“Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems, Moorestown, New Jersey, has been awarded a $10,396,703 modification to a previously awarded contract to provide equipment and technical support for Aegis Ashore test and operational systems in Poland,” the release explained on Thursday.  “The modification brings the total cumulative face value of the contract to $2,476,786,132 from $2,466,389,429.”

Other services to be provided include combat systems engineering study support for increased capabilities, the release added.

Russia has repeatedly expressed concern over the creation of the ballistic missile defense system in Europe, approved in 2010 during a NATO summit in Lisbon. A group of European countries, including Poland, Romania, Spain and Turkey, agreed to deploy elements of the system on their territories.

Work will be performed in the US state of New Jersey, with an expected completion date of Dec. 31, 2018.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702241050999070-lockheed-contract-aegis-ashore-support/

 

Attack on Syrian security forces kills at least 40

Militants attacked two Syrian security offices in the western city of Homs on Saturday with guns and suicide bombers, killing at least 42 people including a senior officer, a war monitor said.

The attackers killed the head of military security and 29 others at one of its headquarters in the city and 12 more people at a branch of state security in attacks that began early in the morning, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian state television reported that clashes had rocked the districts of al-Ghouta and al-Mohata, where the two targets were located, before three suicide bombers detonated their explosives at each place.

It said that the attacks had killed 32 people including General Hassan Daaboul, the head of the military security branch.

http://nypost.com/2017/02/25/attack-on-syrian-security-forces-kills-at-least-40/

Yemenis’ bank accounts canceled in Germany

It’s hard to imagine life without a bank account. In Germany, it’s a universal right. But many Yemenis living here have now had their accounts terminated – even that of the Ambassador. The banks are on the defensive.

For many Yemeni students and business people in Germany, the year 2017 began with a nasty surprise. For some time now Deutsche Bank and a series of other credit institutes have been canceling the current accounts of dozens of these individuals, without giving any reason. Yemeni diplomats, all of them Commerzbank customers, have also been affected by the wave of cancellations.

“All Yemeni diplomats received the same termination letter from the Commerzbank in mid-October,” Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Al-Shaibi, the Republic of Yemen’s Ambassador to Germany, told DW.

Except for the accounts belonging to the Ambassador himself and the Embassy, which expired on March 15, all accounts were terminated by Commerzbank on December 15.

According to Al-Shaibi, Yemeni representations in other European countries and diplomats representing other countries in Germany are not affected.

http://www.dw.com/en/yemenis-bank-accounts-canceled-in-germany/a-37708148

Germany mulls a real, but unrealistic, pledge on defense spending

Years after it pledged to spend billions more on defense, new pressure from the US is forcing the German government to consider whether it can actually meet its goal.

Pressure from the US to spend more on defense has split Germany’s governing coalition.

The pledge is real. But is it realistic?

Nearly three years after it promised to meet a NATO guideline calling for billions more toward the nation’s defense funding over the coming decade, the German government is sending mixed signals over whether the goal is feasible—or even necessary.

Opposition came this week not just from the foreign minister, whose coalition-member Social Democrats (SPD) will challenge German chancellor Angela Merkel in fall elections. It came from Merkel’s own party, whose parliamentary budget expert called the idea “unreasonable.”

The debate reflects how a symbol of transatlantic cooperation—an expectation that member states spend two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense—has turned into a political tool on both sides of the Atlantic, and one that says little about military capabilities.

“Because it’s a very handy metric, it can be politicized easily,” Jan Techau of the American Academy in Berlin told DW.

http://www.dw.com/en/germany-mulls-a-real-but-unrealistic-pledge-on-defense-spending/a-37709485

France’s deradicalization centers seen as a ‘total fiasco’

A bipartisan report in the French Senate minced no words in describing this country’s efforts to “deradicalize” former and future terrorists.The French government’s attempt — including the controversial opening of a deradicalization center in the middle of the countryside — was a “total fiasco,” in the words of Philippe Bas, a senator from the center-right Republicans party.

Among the most damning elements in the report was a firm condemnation of the planned network of 12 deradicalization centers, perhaps the most widely publicized — and criticized — element of the government’s push to combat homegrown extremism.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/frances-deradicalization-centers-are-a-total-fiasco-lawmakers-say/2017/02/24/218a8072-fa97-11e6-aa1e-5f735ee31334_story.html?utm_term=.f187a94caa3a

NSA snoops told: Get your checkbooks and pens ready for a cyber-weapon shopping spree

US Cyber Command boss lays out plans for next decade

Mike Rogers

Spymaster … Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Commander of the US Cyber Command and Chief of the Central Security Service

NSA and US Cyber Command boss Mike Rogers has revealed the future direction of his two agencies – and for the private sector, this masterplan can be summarized in one word.

Kerching!

Speaking at the West 2017 Navy conference on Friday, Rogers said he is mulling buying up more infosec tools from corporations to attack and infiltrate computer networks. At the moment the online offensive wing of the US military develops most of its own cyber-weaponry, he claimed, and he figures the private sector has plenty to offer.

“In the application of kinetic functionality – weapons – we go to the private sector and say, ‘Build this thing we call a [joint directed-attack munition], a [Tomahawk land-attack munition].’ Fill in the blank,” he said.

“On the offensive side, to date, we have done almost all of our weapons development internally. And part of me goes – five to ten years from now is that a long-term sustainable model? Does that enable you to access fully the capabilities resident in the private sector? I’m still trying to work my way through that, intellectually.”

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/02/25/us_government_to_spend_more_on_online_weapons/

Nuke capable stealth bombers get deadly upgrades to take on North Korea and ISIS

A FLEET of deadly stealth bombers has been fitted with new weapons for attack missions against ISIS and North Korea

By Nicole Stinson / Published 25th February 2017

The US Air Force’s B-2 Spirit “stealth bombers” have been upgraded with high-tech flight-management-control processors and enemy targeting systems as engineers prepare to fit the aircraft with nuclear arsenal.

The upgrades come as Donald Trump vowed to be “top of the pack” for nuclear weapons as tensions continue to rise with North Korea.

Two B-2 stealth bombers were sent to blitz an ISIS terrorist camp last month – killing 100 jihadis.

The fleet of 20 B-2 bombers will be fitted with B-61 Mod 11 weapons – a nuclear bomb designed to penetrate enemy hideouts.

Maj Kent Mickelson, who has served as a B-2 piolot, said: “This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets.

He added: “It [the B-2] is a dream to fly. It is so smooth.”The B-2 bomber has been sent on missions to Korea peninsula and Iraq

“It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”Described as a “digital aircraft” it also features a Synthetic Aperture Radar for creating photo-like images of enemy targets from an altitude of up to 50,000 feet.

The stealth bomber can carry up to 40,000lb of weapons – including nukes.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/591424/North-Korea-Kim-Jong-un-US-upgrade-nuclear-weapons-stealth-bomber-aircraft-fight-ISIS

Indian Air Force rejects British Advanced Hawk aircraft

February 23, 2017 (Photo Credit: BAE Systems)

NEW DELHI — The Indian Air Force says it will not make an acquisition request for the British Advanced Hawk trainer aircraft.

The decision comes after the Ministry of Defence asked the service not request the aircraft following allegations that British company Rolls-Royce bribed officials of India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited between 2005 and 2009 to secure orders for engines to power the British Hawk 132 advanced jet trainers meant for the Indian Air Force.

“We will not make any formal request for the Advanced Hawk to HAL, and the program will be officially shelved. This is because the MoD does not want [to] give additional orders for engines to tainted Rolls-Royce for the Advanced Hawk program,” a senior IAF official said. “IAF has no intentions to place any order for the Advanced Hawk trainers.”

Israeli, Indian defense cos to expand cooperation

11 Israeli companies will participate in the Aero India 2017 exhibition opening Tuesday.

Israeli defense companies taking part in the Aero India 2017 aeronautics exhibition opening tomorrow in Bangalore, India plan to expand their business in the Indian market, while extending their cooperation with local cyber companies. The plan involves joint development, mainly in cyber defense, which the Ministry of Defense International Defense Cooperation Authority (SIBAT) has marked as one of the sectors for development over the coming year, with increased worldwide marketing in addition to systems for Israel’s defense.The Ministry of Defense and the defense companies are aiming a major proportion of their efforts in the cyber industry at the Indian market, in view of the warm relations prevailing between the two countries, accompanied by huge arms deals and partnerships in the development of innovative defense systems.

http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-israeli-indian-defense-cos-to-expand-cyber-cooperation-1001176874

A still image from a CCTV footage appears to show a man purported to be Kim Jong-nam walking into the lobby at KLIA2 on February 13, 2017. — Reuters picA still image from a CCTV footage appears to show a man purported to be Kim Jong-nam walking into the lobby at KLIA2 on February 13, 2017. —

KUALA LUMPUR, — Police seized an undisclosed number of chemicals from a condominium in Jalan Klang Lama on Wednesday, according to an agency source after it was revealed that the VX nerve agent was used to kill Kim Jong-nam.

According to The Star newspaper, police also arrested a Malaysian man during the raid over suspicions that he may be involved in the alleged assassination of the half-brother to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

Police also recovered chemistry equipment and protective gear from the condominium.

“Police are not ruling out the possibility that the Malaysian man might have expertise in chemistry,” a source was quoted as saying.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/kim-jong-nam-killing-chemicals-found-in-kl-condo#sthash.Wi9ONmiz.dpuf

 

Japanese Think Tank Argues for Moving Marines Off

TOKYO — The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit could leave Okinawa without sacrificing its value as a security provider in the Asia-Pacific, a Japanese think tank said following a study of alternatives to building a new runway opposed by the island’s governor.

It’s a point of view speakers from the New Diplomacy Initiative, a Tokyo-based think tank, conceded wasn’t likely to sway the security establishment, during a press conference Friday.

However, the academics, journalists and a former government defense official argued that plans to build a new runway for Marine aircraft are so unpopular on Okinawa that they risk straining the broader U.S.-Japan security agreement.

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/02/25/japanese-think-tank-argues-moving-marines-okinawa.html

Sea of Japan the next target for Chinese military

Confusion on Korean Peninsula fuels tension over sea

TETSURO KOSAKA, Nikkei senior staff writer

 

TOKYO — A growing Chinese military presence in the Sea of Japan is becoming an issue that Tokyo cannot overlook.

On Jan. 5, three Chinese naval vessels sailed through the Tsugaru Strait between Japan’s main island and the northernmost island of Hokkaido into the Sea of Japan. Four days later, a Chinese air force fleet entered the sea by flying over the waters between the southern Japanese island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula.

According to the Joint Staff of the Japanese Defense Ministry, the fleet consisted of six bombers, which are capable of carrying cruise missiles, an early warning aircraft and an intelligence-gathering plane. With an additional fighter jet as an escort and a refueling aircraft, the fleet could have been ready to bomb ground targets.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/Sea-of-Japan-the-next-target-for-Chinese-military

Pentagon Provided Intel for Iraqi Airstrikes in Syria

The United States has been notified in advance of the planned Iraqi airstrikes in Syria and has provided intelligence to guide them, US Department of Defense spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a briefing on Friday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced the launch of airstrikes on Daesh in Syria. According to him, the operation was linked to recent Baghdad attacks.

“We were aware; we supported it as well with information,” Davis said when asked if the United States provided intelligence information to the Iraqi military.

The Iraqi strikes in Syrian Deir Ez-Zor province has been fully coordinated with the Syrian government, Al-Watan reported, citing a source, close to the Syrian Foreign Ministry earlier in the day.

The attack on terrorist positions in Syria’s Al Bukamal city near the border with Iraq has been carried out as a part of the operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which has been under Daesh’s control since June 2014. On Sunday, Abadi announced the start of the operations to free the western part of Mosul.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702241051023005-pentagon-iraq-airstrikes-syria/

 

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February 21, 2017

Ivanka in plea for religious tolerance: First daughter says ‘we must protect our places of worship’ after eleven Jewish centers get bomb threats in a day and FBI opens hate crime probe

  • Ivanka Trump took to Twitter after a wave of bomb threats on JCCs Monday
  • On President’s Day, 11 centers received bomb threats which were later deemed hoaxes
  • She rallied to ‘protect our houses of worship & religious centers’
  • The threats come after the FBI launched a hate crime investigation after 60 threats were received at centers in January
  • Chelsea Clinton also took to Twitter and criticized the President for not yet denouncing anti-Semitic threats

She tweeted: ‘America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC.’

On Monday 11 JCCs were evacuated in Birmingham, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Paul, Tampa, Tulsa, Nashville, Milwaukee, Houston and Buffalo after receiving the threats. All appear to be hoaxes and no one has been injured.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4244062/Ivanka-pleads-tolerance-slew-JCC-bomb-threats.html#ixzz4ZKLDs8MT

Kim Jong-nam had offer to lead N. Korea’s government-in-exile

By Yi Whan-woo

North Korean defectors in Europe and the United States had offered Kim Jong-nam to serve as head of a government-in-exile, if one had been established, but he rejected the offer, according to sources, Tuesday.

“He was concerned that accepting such an offer may not help end hereditary succession of power in the repressive regime,” a source said.

The source said Kim’s paternal half-brother and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have ordered his death with suspicions that he may join the government-in-exile aimed at eventually overthrowing the regime.

One of the defectors’ groups that made the proposals included International North Korean Association for Human Rights and Democracy in London.

The association’s secretary general, Kim Joo-il, said he “regularly contacted” Kim Jong-nam until June after they first met face-to-face in China in December 2014.

Kim Jong-nam, who had been staying outside of North Korea for years, was returning from Pyongyang after attending a ceremony to mark the third anniversary of his late father Kim Jong-il’s death.

Israel to ease regulations on arms and defense exports

As sales increase, some controls on industry to be relaxed but penalties for violations to become stiffer

Israel is set to relax its regulations on the exports of arms and defense products, amid a reform program for the industry undertaken by the Defense Export Controls Agency, a branch of the Defense Ministry.

In a session with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, the agency’s director outlined key concessions to be offered to defense exporters and emphasized that stiffer penalties would be levied on those who violate the new regulations.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-to-relax-regulations-on-arms-and-defense-exports/

Russia increases involvement in Libya by signing oil deal

Libyan national oil corporation says contract with Rosneft to redevelop oilfields lays groundwork for further investment

Diplomatic editor

Russia has significantly boosted its involvement in Libya by signing a potentially major contract to help redevelop Libyan oilfields.

The head of the Libyan national oil corporation (NOC) signed a cooperation agreement with Rosneft, the Russian oil giant, which NOC said on Tuesday “lays the groundwork for investment by Rosneft in Libya’s oil sector”.

“The agreement envisages the establishment of a joint working committee of the two partners to evaluate opportunities in a variety of sectors, including exploration and production,” an NOC statement said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/russia-increases-involvement-libya-signing-oil-deal-rosneft

Russia dismisses ‘absurd’ Ukraine peace plan put forward by Donald Trump’s associates

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman dismisses proposal for Russia to ‘rent’ Crimea as new ceasefire begins

The Russian government has dismissed an “absurd” peace plan for Ukraine put forward by two of Donald Trump’s associates as a new ceasefire holds in the country.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson said he had not heard of the proposal, backed by a Ukrainian opposition politician, until he saw media reports.

The plan would entail Russian forces withdrawing from eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian voters deciding in a referendum whether Crimea would be “leased” to Russia for a term of 50 or 100 years.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-ukraine-peace-plan-absurd-dismiss-donald-trump-proposal-putin-crimea-artemenko-cohen-sater-a7591091.html

Russia feared to have ‘detonated NUKE in Arctic’ as US hunter plane sweeps over Britain

RUSSIA may have detonated a nuclear weapon in a secret Arctic test as the US Air Force send a “nuclear explosion sniffer” plane to Britain.

Vladimir Putin and US nuke sniffer constant phoenixGETTYRUSSIA: Vladimir Putin might have ‘tested a nuclear weapon’ in the Arctic

Fears of a potential Russian nuclear test come as a massive radiation spike was detected across Europe.Pentagon bosses have now dispatched a specialist nuke-hunting plane the WC-135 Constant Phoenix to RAF Mildenhall.

Nuclear explosion “sniffing” is the prime job of the plane, and one of the aircraft was previously deployed over North Korea.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/590260/Russia-nuclear-weapon-Radiation-Vladimir-Putin-Arctic-US-plane-Weapon-WC-135-Iodine-131

Troops warned over Russian honeytraps

Soldiers from 5th Battalion, who will lead the mission, have been warned about Cold War-style spy gamesBEN BIRCHALL/PA

Russia will target hundreds of British troops when they are deployed to Estonia in the coming weeks, the Baltic state’s spy chief has warned. The aim will be to discredit a Nato mission to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank.

Honeytraps, staged pub brawls — designed to make British troops look like thugs — and subversive efforts to penetrate social media accounts to find information for blackmail purposes are expected to be attempted by “the opposite team”, Mikk Marran the head of the Estonian Information Board (EIB), the country’s equivalent of MI6, told The Times in a rare interview.

Estonian and British officials had been discussing the threat for months to prepare the 800 British personnel bound for Estonia to avoid Cold War-style spy games, Mr…

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/british-troops-targeted-by-russian-honeytrap-and-fake-news-ss07crhp2

Philippines Interested in Buying Russia’s Weapons Amid Tensions With US

© AFP 2016/ Noel CELIS / POOL

The Philippines is showing interest to purchasing Russian arms, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Sputnik.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — According to Vorobyova, Moscow and Manila are in talks on forming a legal basis needed for the practical establishment of military-technical cooperation.

“Cooperation in the defense sector is a prospective course in bilateral relations with the Philippines. It is known that our country is one of the greatest producers of military products. Therefore it is not surprising that the Philippine partners are showing interest in purchases,” Director of the ministry’s Third Asian Department Lyudmila Vorobyova said.

“We are working on this. Specific contracts [on Russian arms deliveries to the Philippines] are the matter for the future,” Vorobyova added.

ISIS GROUP EXPANDS IN SOUTHERN SYRIA NEAR ISRAEL BORDER

Islamic State-linked Syrian militant groups on Monday launched a surprise attack on moderate rebels in southwestern Syria near the Golan Heights near where the Jordanian and Israeli borders converge, seizing several villages and a large town, rebels and witnesses said.

Rebels said the militants were able to extend their area of control in territory that forms a natural barrier between Syria and Israel where the Yarmouk River flows after they overran the towns of Tseel, Sahem al Golan, Adwan and Tel Jamoua.

“In a surprise attack Islamic State made an attack on positions held by the Free Syrian Army FSA groups which no one expected to happen so fast,” said Colonel Ismail Ayoub, a Syrian opposition army defector.

http://www.newsweek.com/syria-isis-islamic-state-israel-golan-heights-558970

U.S. troops in Iraq move closer to the front lines in fight for Mosul

The Pentagon is deploying U.S. military advisers closer to the front lines in the campaign against the Islamic State as Iraqi security forces wrestle for control of the city of Mosul, the top U.S. commander here said Monday.Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said that the advisers, numbering about 450, are “operating closer and deeper into Iraqi formations” as a new assault on western Mosul gets underway. U.S. commanders made the adjustment during the fight for the eastern side of the city, which began in October and ended last month, and the deployment has continued with the attempt, beginning Sunday, to capture western Mosul, Townsend said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-advisers-move-closer-to-the-front-lines-in-fight-for-mosul/2017/02/20/056fd3aa-f787-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.8c74137f8e57

Turkish airstrikes target Kurdish PKK in Iraq

Turkish war planes illegally operating in Iraq have targeted Kurdistan Worker Party (PKK) positions.

At least 34 fighters of the PKK, in which Ankara recognizes as a terrorist group, were killed in two separate strikes on Monday.

The first strike took place shortly after midnight, with the second shortly after noon. They both targeted the Zap region of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/turkish-airstrikes-target-kurdish-pkk-iraq/

Russia Considering Iraq’s Request for New Arms Amid Anti-Daesh Fight

 Moscow is addressing the issue of new military equipment deliveries to Iraq’s armed forces.
Participants in a meeting of the Joint Operational Group of Russia, Turkey and Iran to control the ceasefire in Syria, held in Astana
© SPUTNIK/ ILYAS OMAROV

ABU DHABI (Sputnik) — Russia is considering Iraq’s requests for new military equipment deliveries to its armed services, Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Deputy Director Alexei Frolkin said Tuesday.

“Iraq’s requests in the interests of all national armed forces are under consideration,” Frolkin told reporters at the IDEX-2017 exhibition in the United Arab Emirates.

He noted that Russian-Iraqi military technical cooperation “is developing quite effectively.”

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702211050887700-russia-iraq-arms-deliveries/

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Expects Iran, Hezbollah to Leave Syria After War

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said he expected Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to leave Syria after the war.

TEL AVIV (Sputnik) – The forces of Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah movement forces, fighting for Damascus in Syria, will return home as soon as the Syrian civil war is over, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov, presently on a visit to Israel, told The Jerusalem Post.

“I understand the fears of Israel relating to Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Syria, and you of course fear that they will stay in Syria after the war,” Syromolotov, who is in charge of counterterrorism, said Monday, stressing that Iran and Hezbolllah “will leave,” as the war in Syria ends.

Israel demands that Iran be excluded from the Syrian settlement process, saying that its nuclear program, hostile rhetoric, and support of anti-Israel forces in the Middle East, including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, pose a threat to Israeli national security.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702211050891024-iran-hezbollah-syria-israel-russia/%5D

U.A.E. to Build Russian Warplane as Mideast Tensions Rise

  • Plans concerns successor to MiG-29 light fighter, Rostec says
  • Gulf state agrees to procure latest Sukhoi model in interim

The United Arab Emirates signed an outline agreement to buy Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes and will work with Russia to develop a next-generation fighter that could enter service in seven or eight years, according to Moscow-based industrial conglomerate Rostec Corp.

While the latest version of the Sukhoi jet, based on the Su-27 Flanker and previously exported to China, would satisfy the Gulf state’s more immediate requirements, the proposed future model would essentially be “a brand new fighter,” Rostec Chief Executive Officer Sergey Chemezov said Monday.

Though most likely based on the Mikoyan MiG-29, a light warplane known as the Fulcrum in the West, the aircraft would be “highly technological” and feature modern engines, avionics and weapons, Chemezov said at the IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi, the U.A.E. capital. Work could start in 2018, he said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-20/u-a-e-to-build-russian-warplane-as-iran-stokes-mideast-tensions

UAE-Russia sign Dh2.6b anti-armour missile deal

Jasmine Al Kuttab/Abu Dhabi

The contracts today are related to armed forces, not necessarily to combating terrorism.

Day two of the International Defence Conference (IDEX) and Naval Defence Exhibition and Conference (NAVDEX) 2017 saw a whopping Dh6.9billion worth military procurement deals between the UAE and other international entities. It included a contract between the UAE and Russia for anti-armor missiles, which amounted to over Dh2.6 billion.

The contract includes 5,000 anti-armor missiles, as well as training and support with Rosoboronexport, said Brigadier General Rashid Mohammed Al Shamsi, official spokesperson for the 13th edition of Idex during a press hearing on Monday.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/news/general/uae-russia-sign-dh26b-anti-armour-missile-deal-1

Turkey Says it Will Attack Syrian Kurdish Forces at Manbij

February 20, 2017 2:42 PM
  • Dorian Jones

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, right, meets with U.S. Senator John McCain at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Feb. 20, 2017.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, right, meets with U.S. Senator John McCain at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Feb. 20, 2017.

ISTANBUL —

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared his nation’s forces will liberate the Syrian town of Manbij from the Kurdish YPG and hand it back to local Arabs.

Ankara accuses the YPG of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state and is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and much of the international community.

Any move, however, against Manbij threatens to put Ankara and Washington on a collision course. “It would put Turkey against American-supported forces who are fighting with America against ISIS,” says political columnist Semih Idiz, of Al Monitor website. “ISIS is a major target for America at the moment and that would really be a disaster, as far as Turkish-American relations are concerned.”

http://www.voanews.com/a/turkey-says-it-will-attack-syrian-kurdish-forces-at-manbij/3732399.html

France ‘attack plot’: Three arrested

Image captionFrench security forces are on high alert after a series of deadly terror attacks

Three people have been arrested in France on suspicion of plotting a terrorism attack, police sources say.

A bomb disposal squad was called in to sweep the home of one of the suspects, in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, French media say.

The other two arrests were reportedly in Marseille and in the Paris region.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39042196

Suicide bombers conduct deadly attack on Pakistani court

Suicide bombers attacked a court complex in northern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least five people, officials said, in the latest incident in a new surge of Islamist violence.

One bomber was briefly on the loose inside the busy court complex in Charsadda district, but was killed by police some 20 minutes after the attack began, officials said.

A second bomber was shot dead by security forces and a third died when he detonated his vest outside the main gates of the facility in Pakistan‘s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near the Afghan border.

“So far five people have been killed and 15 wounded,” Suhail Khalid, district police chief, told AFP, adding that a lawyer was among the dead.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170221-pakistan-suicide-bombers-attack-court-terrorism-taliban

China orders GPS tracking of every car in troubled region

Hundreds of thousands of vehicles affected by edict covering part of Xinjiang following outbreaks of violence – and no petrol for owners who don’t comply

Security officials in China’s violence-stricken north-west have ordered residents to install GPS tracking devices in their vehicles so authorities are able to keep permanent tabs on their movements.

The compulsory measure, which came into force this week and could eventually affect hundreds of thousands of vehicles, is being rolled out in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, a sprawling region that borders Central Asia and sees regular eruptions of deadly violence.

The move comes amid an apparent spike in killing that authorities blame on Islamist extremists and separatists but experts say is also fuelled by ethnic friction between Han Chinese migrants and members of the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority to whom Xinjiang is home.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/21/china-orders-gps-tracking-of-every-car-in-troubled-region

EXCLUSIVE: House Dem IT Guys In Security Probe Secretly Took $100K In Iraqi Money

Photo of Luke Rosiak

LUKE ROSIAK
Investigative Reporter

Rogue congressional staffers took $100,000 from an Iraqi politician while they had administrator-level access to the House of Representatives’ computer network, according to court documents examined by The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

The money was a loan from Dr. Ali al-Attar, an Iraqi political figure, and was funneled through a company with “impossible”-to-decipher financial transactions that the congressional information technology (IT) staffers controlled.

http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/20/exclusive-house-dem-it-guys-in-security-probe-secretly-took-100k-in-iraqi-money/#ixzz4ZKWMjSkK

U.S. global arms sales surge; China emerges as top-tier supplier

– The Washington Times – 

The sale of American-made weapons to the global community is surging ahead, with the United States controlling nearly one-third of all military-grade arms and equipment fielded by international forces, according to new analysis of the international arms market.

During a four-year period beginning in 2012, American weapons manufacturers increased their overseas sales by 21 percent, compared to sales figures during a previous four-year cycle starting in 2007, analysts at the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, said Monday.

“The USA supplies major arms to at least 100 countries around the world — significantly more than any other supplier state’, said Dr. Aude Fleurant, director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

“Both advanced strike aircraft with cruise missiles and other precision-guided munitions and the latest generation air and missile defence systems account for a significant share of US arms exports,” Dr. Fleuant said in a statement accompanying the report.

China boosted its international sales percentages from 3.8 percent of the market from 2007 to 2011, to 6.2 percent of the world market from 2012 to 2016, the report states.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/20/us-global-arms-sales-surge-china-emerges-top-tier-/

  • The cost in American lives;
  • The nature of the Syrian civil war that encompasses the fight against ISIS, which means we may find ourselves on the battlefield with Russia, Iran, and the genocidal government of Syria;
  • Finding ourselves with the Turks against the Kurds; and
  • Finding ourselves with the Kurds against the Turks.

US Ground Troops for Syria: A Really Bad Idea

The president is being asked by the Pentagon to provide U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS in Syria.  If the president is wise, he will run as fast as he can the other way.

There are four potential traps here:

  • The cost in American lives;
  • The nature of the Syrian civil war that encompasses the fight against ISIS, which means we may find ourselves on the battlefield with Russia, Iran, and the genocidal government of Syria;
  • Finding ourselves with the Turks against the Kurds; and
  • Finding ourselves with the Kurds against the Turks.
  • Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    February 19, 2017

    Russia plotted to overthrow Montenegro’s government by assassinating Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic last year, according to senior Whitehall sources

     

    Russia plotted to assassinate the prime minister of a European nation and overthrow its government last year, according to senior Whitehall sources.

    An election day coup plot to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill the pro-Western leader was directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow, to sabotage the country’s plan to join Nato.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/18/russias-deadly-plot-overthrow-montenegros-government-assassinating/

    North Korean chemistry expert suspected of killing Kim Jong-un’s half-brother is arrested in a dramatic raid

    • Ri Jong-chol, 47, was arrested by Malaysian police in Kuala Lumpar overnight
    • Malaysian police said Jong-chol studied medicine and chemistry in Pyongyang
    • Kim Jong Nam was murdered on Monday using a fast-acting liquid poison 
    • Malaysian police believe he was assassinated on the orders of Kim Jong-un 

    Malaysian police have arrested a North Korean chemistry expert in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half brother Kim Jong Nam.

    Ri Jong-chol, 47, who studied medicine and chemistry in Pyongjang was detained in Kuala Lumpur in connection with the murder.

    Police are also hunting four North Korean men who flew out of Kuala Lumpur the same day Jong Nam was assassinated.

    The four suspects are believed to have been part of a hit squad sent to murder the despotic leader’s half brother on the tyrant’s orders.

    Malaysian police have so far arrested four people – including the chemistry expert – in connection with the murder probe.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/mostread/article-4239240/North-Korean-chemistry-expert-arrested-Kim-murder-probe.html#ixzz4Z8Xzi8M9

    Senior White House Officials Support Bolton To Replace Flynn

    Former U.N. ambassador championed by Flynn loyalists

    John Bolton in 2006. State Department photo.

    BY:
    February 18, 2017 3:26 pm

    Senior White House officials and members of the National Security Council are pushing former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as a replacement for ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

    Among Bolton’s most vocal supporters are senior administration officials loyal to Flynn and who are upset at the general’s firing. Multiple sources described an effort by these Flynn loyalists to ensure that Bolton is selected as his replacement.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/senior-white-house-officials-support-bolton-replace-flynn/

    Sweden ‘covering up’ migrant rape and violent crime for the sake of ‘humanitarianism’

    OFFICIALS in the Swedish government have been accused of “covering up” migrant rape and refugee violence for the sake of appearing politically correct, a commentator has claimed.

    Journalist Ami Horowitz told Fox Newspeople high up in the Swedish government are purposely covering up the perpetrators of rape crimes to protect “vulnerable” migrants.

    During an explosive interview on Friday, Mr Horowitz claimed the refugee violence crisis was out-of-control but that “European virtues” had put a stop to any discussion on the statistics.

    Sweden accepted 160,000 asylum-seekers last year, with Fox News claiming only 500 have managed to gain employment – 0.3 per cent of those who arrived to claim refugee status.

    Tucker Carlson, an anchor at the US news station, called Sweden’s response “grotesque”

    The filmmaker told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson: “Sweden consider themselves a humanitarian superpower, perhaps the only superpower they could possibly qualify for.

    “So they want to open up their borders up to everyone and anyone.

    “From the onset of the refugee crisis, there was a surge in gun violence and rape – the statistics were clear.

    “But locals were just said ‘it was men, not refugees’ so the majority in Sweden still want to have an open door policy. It’s confounding, really.”

    He added: “The Swedish government try to cover up refugee rapes.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/768980/Sweden-cover-up-migrant-rape-violent-crime

     

    Erdogan banks on motley crew of Syrian armed groups

    US not persuaded to ditch Syrian Kurds

    Fehim Tastekin writes this week that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expansive goals for Syria include a “Manbij and Raqqa in a three-phased operation. First will be setting up a ‘terror-free safe zone,’ which must also be covered by a no-fly zone. Second, Arabs and Turkmens will be settled in the safe zone. Finally, a national army will be established through a ‘train and equip’ program.”

    Erdogan’s top priority remains the defeat of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union party (PYD), which Turkey links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August to break the influence of the PYD and PKK, as well as the Islamic State (IS), in northern Syria.

    Erodgan’s war against the Syrian Kurds seems to be the cause of irreconcilable differences with the United States over Syria. The US counts on the YPG as the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its key on-the-ground partner in Syria. US plans for an attack on Raqqa, IS’ ‘”capital” in Syria, reportedly depend on the SDF for the first assault wave.

    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/erdogan-syria-armed-groups-referendum-coup-mattis-russia.html

    Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/erdogan-syria-armed-groups-referendum-coup-mattis-russia.html#ixzz4ZAqmk6th

    Trump hints at ‘big order’ of F/A-18 Super Hornets instead of some F-35s

    Carrier Strike Group 1 Conducts South China Sea Patrol


    Story Number: NNS170218-01Release Date: 2/18/2017 8:03:00 AM

    By From Carrier Strike Group One Public Affairs

    SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) — Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, began routine operations in the South China Sea, Feb. 18.

    Prior to their operations in the South China Sea, ships and aircraft from within the strike group conducted training off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group. The strike group recently enjoyed a port visit to Guam and after departing the Marianas, conducted operations in the Philippine Sea.

    http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=98973

    Hamas condemns 6 ‘informants for Israel’ to death by hanging

    Verdict raises number of people on death row to 10; others given jail term for alleged spying

    Sunday’s verdicts raise the number of people on death row to 10.

    Seven other people were given prison sentences Sunday ranging from 12 to 17 years long for spying for Israel.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-condemns-6-informants-for-israel-to-death-by-hanging/

     

    US will ‘moderate commitment’ to Nato if allies don’t spend more. Can Norway hit the goal?

    US Defence Secretary James Mattis used his first Nato meeting to assure its allies of Washington’s commitment to the alliance but he also delivered an ultimatum to American allies.
    Mattis said that if the other Nato countries don’t live up to their spending commitments, the United States will be forced to “moderate its commitment” to the nearly 70-year-old alliance.
    “I owe it to you all to give you clarity on the political reality in the United States, and to state the fair demand from my country’s people in concrete terms,” Mattis said, according to numerous US media reports.
    “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to the alliance, each of your capitals needs to show its support for our common defence,” he continued.
    Nato has a defence spending target of two percent of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), something only five countries meet.
    Norway currently uses 49 billion kroner on defence, amounting to 1.56 percent of its GDP. Hitting the two percent target would require spending an additional 13 billion kroner but as the Norwegian GDP grows, that price tag will only get larger with every passing year.

    No need to include US in Ukraine peace talks, German FM says

    German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says he sees no need to add the US to the current format of four-way ministerial meetings concerning the Ukraine settlement, noting, however, that close contact with Washington on the matter is “necessary.”

    There must be close contact with the United States, but we think this [Normandy] format… should be maintained,” Gabriel said after he met with his Russian, French, and Ukrainian counterparts on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. The Minister added that the matter had been discussed with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and that he had “agreed with this.”

    https://www.rt.com/news/377854-gabriel-normandy-format-ukraine/

    Pence visits former concentration camp

    Vice President Mike Pence, his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte on Sunday visited Dachau, a former concentration camp built by the Nazis in 1933 near Munich in southern Germany.

    The Pences laid a wreath beneath the international memorial at the center of the camp, according to a reporter traveling with the vice president, and visited Jewish and Catholic memorials on the grounds.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/320276-pence-visits-former-concentration-camp

    Vladimir Putin orders Russia to recognise documents issued in rebel-held east Ukraine

    President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian authorities on Saturday to temporarily recognise civil registration documents issued in separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine, a decision strongly criticized by Ukraine’s president.

    The decision will enable people from the conflict-hit region to travel, work or study in Russia.

    According to Putin’s order, published on the Kremlin website, Russia will temporarily recognize identity documents, diplomas, birth and marriage certificates and vehicle registration plates issued in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/18/putin-orders-russia-recognize-documents-issued-rebel-held-east/

    FBI has three probes looking into Russia’s election hacking

    Each investigation focuses on a different aspect of Russia’s influence campaign.

    It’s no secret that the FBI has been investigating Russia’s alleged bid to influence US elections through hacking, but it’s now clear just how deep that investigation goes. Reuters tipsters understand that there are “at least” three FBI probes into the hacks, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the breaches targeting Democratic Party officials. A Pittsburgh field office wants to identify the people behind those intrusions, while a San Francisco office wants to identify the people behind “Guccifer 2.0,” the persona credited with key leaks and frequently linked to the Russian government. A third investigation in Washington, DC is orchestrating a counterintelligence campaign based on intercepted foreign communications and tips from informants.

    https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/18/fbi-has-three-probes-into-russia-election-hacks/

    Syria regime executes paediatrician for treating Aleppo children

    Syrian paediatrician Mahmoud Satu, executed by the Assad regime.

    Syrian paediatrician Mahmoud Satu, executed by the Assad regime.

    Syrian regime forces have executed the Syrian paediatrician Mahmoud Satu after he was indicted for treating and feeding the children of Aleppo when its eastern districts were controlled by the opposition, the Jordanian Assabeel newspaper reported yesterday.

    Citing the London-based news website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Assabeel said that local sources in Aleppo said that Satu and another Syrian resident called Ahmed Assad were executed two months after they were arrested.

    According to the sources, the two men were executed in the main square of the Al-Sukarri neighbourhood in Aleppo, the area where he and his family had lived.

    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170218-syria-regime-executes-paediatrician-for-treating-aleppo-children/

    Iraq begins battle to free western Mosul from IS

    Iraqi government forces have launched an offensive to liberate the western part of the city of Mosul from the so-called Islamic State.

    Hundreds of military vehicles, backed by air power, rolled across the desert towards IS positions early on Sunday.

    Iraqi forces retook several villages south of the city in the first hours of the operation, taking them within striking distance of Mosul airport.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39018984

    Turkey’s prime minister campaigns in Germany for Turkish constitutional referendum

    Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim told a crowd in Germany that Turkey will not be intimidated by the West. His speech came as Ankara rallies support for a controversial referendum on centralizing presidential power.

    Deutschland Türkei Oberhausen Auftritt Ministerpräsident Binali Yildirim (Getty Images/AFP/S. Schuermann)

    Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim spoke to a crowd of more than 10,000 Turks and Turkish Germans in the western city of Oberhausen on Saturday. He addressed the voters as Ankara vies to whip up support for April’s constitutional referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    http://www.dw.com/en/turkeys-prime-minister-campaigns-in-germany-for-turkish-constitutional-referendum/a-37616213

    Royal Caribbean cancels all cruise stops in Turkey in 2017

    Royal Caribbean has decided to cancel all scheduled stops in Turkey for the 2017 cruise season, citing “unpredictability” in the country.

    In a statement to travel agents, Royal Caribbean said that due to the current unpredictability of Turkey, and taking guests’ and crew members’ safety and wellbeing into account, Royal Caribbean has decided to replace our calls in Ephesus (Kusadasi) with alternate ports-of-call for the 2017 Europe season.

    “We truly regret having to take this action and thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Any decision we make is made in an abundance of caution and safety, as your clients experience in our ports of call is always our utmost priority.”

    This will affect the following ships:

    • Brilliance of the Seas will now call on Mykonos, Greece.
    • Jewel of the Seas will now call on Rhodes, Greece.
    • Rhapsody of the Seas will now call on:
      • Kotor, Montenegro
      • July 14th: Chania, Greece
      • October 7th: Mykonos, Greece

    http://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2017/02/18/royal-caribbean-cancels-all-cruise-stops-turkey-2017

    Germany scrambles fighter planes for Jet aircraft after communication snag

    | TNN |

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Plane’s communication with local ATC broke down temporarily over Cologne, pilots could not respond to instructions
    • German fighters escorted plane till communication was re-established
    • Flight crew de-rostered pending investigations

    )

    NEW DELHI: The German Air Force scrambled two fighter jets for a Jet Airwaysflight after the Cologne air traffic control could not establish contact with the Indian aircraft due to a reported communication failure.

    The Boeing-777 was flying from Mumbai to London on Thursday (February 16) as 9W-118 and was overflying close to the German city Cologne when its cockpit crew did not respond to ATC communications.

    GREECE IN PANIC: Citizens withdraw £2.1bn from banks in 45 DAYS amid default fears

    GREEK citizens have taken more than £2billion out of their bank accounts in just 45 days as they fear the economy is set to crash.

    And they are stashing the cash under their mattreses, in safes and in furniture amid a new run on the banks, it has been claimed.

    Greece faces running out of money in just five months as it faces repayments of more than £5.1bn (€6bn) which they will not be able to achieve without help or restructuring.

    Despite capital controls preventing individuals withdrawing more than £1,540 (€1,800) per month from their accounts, money has been vanishing at an expedited rate, with projections the Government will default when their next payment is due in July.

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/769229/Grexit-bank-withdrawals-billions-EU-Greece-default-ECB-IMF

    Russian Defence Ministry fires a series of cruise missiles at Islamic State targets including military training camps in Raqqa

    • Russian Defence Ministry published video today showing a building being struck
    • They said the Tupolev-95 bombers targeted an ISIS training camp in Raqqa
    • Dramatic footage shows huge explosion followed by clouds of smoke at building 

    The Russian Defence Ministry has published a video showing a building being bombed after saying it had struck an Islamic State base in Syria.

    The ministry said in a statement that the Tupolev-95 bombers had taken off from Russia and flown over Iran and Iraq to get to Syria, where it said they had successfully targeted militant training camps and a command point in the city of Raqqa.

    The aerial video, published by the military today, shows the long-range bombers lining up their target before striking the building.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4238398/Russian-Defence-Ministry-strikes-Islamic-State-base.html#ixzz4Z8gipelS

    Lavrov calls for ‘post-West’ world order; dismisses NATO as Cold War relic

    The Russian world view, as advocated by its foreign minister, sees countries develop bilateral relations. His words were at odds with those of US Vice President Mike Pence – and others at the Munich Security Conference.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments came during a speech at the annual Munich Security Conference, where US Vice President Mike Pence spoke earlier in the day, vowing that the United States would “hold Russia accountable,” even as the White House seeks common ground with the Kremlin.

    http://www.dw.com/en/lavrov-calls-for-post-west-world-order-dismisses-nato-as-cold-war-relic/a-37614099

    Democrats ask for hearings involving Trump’s smartphone security

    By Andrew Blake – The Washington Times

    President Trump’s purportedly lax security practices are the subject of a letter sent from more than a dozen congressional Democrats this week to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

    Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, urged committee leadership this week to investigate “troubling reports” that have emerged recently with respect to Mr. Trump’s operational security, including his apparent use of a consumer-grade Android smartphone to communicate over Twitter, among other items of concerns.

    Those reports, according to Mr. Lieu and 14 colleagues, suggest Mr. Trump “is jeopardizing national security by egregiously failing to implement commonsense security measures across the board.”

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/18/trumps-smartphone-security-democrats/

    U.S. calls on Venezuela to release more than 100 ‘prisoners of conscience’

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    January 27, 2017

    Theresa and Trump’s new era: May prepares for historic day at the White House after landmark speech pledging an end to ‘failed’ wars wins her huge plaudits in the US

    • PM flew to Washington to prepare for today’s White House talks over a future UK-US trade deal post-Brexit
    • Earlier tore up 20 years of ‘failed’ liberal interventionist foreign policy when she spoke to politicians 
    • She said she predicted a close relationship with Donald Trump because ‘sometimes opposites attract’
    • But Mrs May also warned the U.K. could limit intelligence sharing if the new president reintroduces torture
    • Warned Trump to beware of Vladimir Putin and called NATO ‘the cornerstone of the West’s defence’
    Theresa May arrived in Andrews Air Force base outside Washington DC late Thursday US time ahead of Friday's crucial trade talks with President Trump

    Theresa May arrived in Andrews Air Force base outside Washington DC late Thursday US time ahead of Friday’s crucial trade talks with President Trump

    Theresa May is preparing for historic talks with Donald Trump after winning huge plaudits for a speech to top Republicans last night.

    The PM and the President will lay the groundwork for a wide-ranging post-Brexit trade deal when they meet at the White House later.

    Mrs May will also attempt to secure Mr Trump’s commitment to supporting NATO after calling it ‘the cornerstone of the West’s defence’.

    The premier has enjoyed a storming start to her visit, with Republicans lavishing praise on her address to their conference in Philadelphia.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4161818/Theresa-rips-decades-Cameron-Blair-policies.html#ixzz4WxwycvOc

    Chinese Government Engaged in ‘Holistic’ Cyber Effort to Infiltrate U.S. Industries

    Experts call for review of policies to address uptick of Chinese investment in U.S.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping

    Chinese President Xi Jinping / AP

    BY:
    January 27, 2017 4:59 am

    The Chinese government is engaged in a systematic cyber-economic campaign across industries in the United States, according to expert testimony before a congressional commission.

    Jeffrey Johnson, president and CEO of SquirrelWerkz, a company that analyzes these Chinese-affiliated campaigns, described them as a “holistic” attempt by the Chinese government to infiltrate information technology, finance, media, and the entertainment industry.

    “These cyber-economic campaigns are persistent, intense, patiently executed and include the simultaneous execution of such a large and diverse set of legal and illegal methods, individuals and organizations, there’s little chance the targeted U.S. competitors can effectively defend or compete in the future without significant support of the U.S. government,” Johnson said in prepared testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Thursday.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/chinese-government-engaged-in-holistic-cyber-effort-to-infiltrate-u-s-industries/

    Iraqi forces discover terrifying arsenal of weapons including mustard gas and dozens of aging rockets in ISIS arms warehouse

    • Iraqi soldiers say they found mustard gas among a huge cache of weapons
    • Pictures show rockets recklessly piled on top of each other by fleeing jihadists
    • Iraqi forces found haul of missiles in a warehouse in Mosul abandoned by ISIS

    Iraqi forces say they have uncovered a terrifying arsenal of weapons including mustard gas at an ISIS arms warehouse in Mosul.

    The weapons were found among dozens of rockets hidden in a storage unit in the city with Iraqi troops claiming the haul presented a ‘huge chemical threat’.

    Pictures show officials examining piles of missiles which had been recklessly dumped on top of each other by fleeing jihadists.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4163946/Iraqi-forces-discover-mustard-gas-ISIS-warehouse.html#ixzz4WyRPVpK2

    Mattis orders review of F-35, Air Force One programs

    Mattis orders review of F-35, Air Force One programs
    © Getty Images

    Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered the Pentagon to review the F-35 fighter jet and Air Force One replacement programs following President Trump’s criticism of the costs, the Pentagon announced Friday.

    “Yesterday Secretary Mattis directed separate reviews of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. “The purpose of these reviews is to inform programmatic and budgetary decisions, recognizing the critical importance of each of these acquisition programs.”

    Since winning the presidency, Trump has tweeted several times about the costs of the F-35 and the new Air Force One.

    http://thehill.com/policy/defense/316535-mattis-orders-review-of-f-35-air-force-one-programs

    Russia’s new MiG-35 fighter jet to use laser weapons

    Russia's new MiG-35 fighter jet to use laser weapons. 59681.jpeg

    The commander of Russian Air Force, Viktor Bondyrev, stated that Russia’s state-of-the-art fighter jet MiG-35 would be able to use advanced weapons, including laser weapons.

    “The fighter is designed specifically for combat activities in conflicts of high intensity and under conditions of strong air defence. The strong performance of the fighter jet has been achieved with the help of onboard equipment, new optical radar station and reduced radar visibility. We have increased the number of suspension points from six to eight, which allows to use current and future models of aircraft weapons, including laser weapons,” President of the United Aircraft Corporation Yuri Slusar told TASS.

    Earlier, President Vladimir Putin could witness the flight test of the new multipurpose fighter jet MiG-35. Putin observed the flight from the Kremlin, via live video connection.

    “The Innovative multifunctional MiG-35 fighter has better performance characteristics. It is equipped with most modern weapons,” Putin said. “The aircraft can follow from 10 to 30 targets at a time. It can operate not only on the ground but also on the sea,” he added.

    “This is a very interesting, unique machine indeed,” Putin said, pointing out the export potential of the fighter jet. 

    Representatives of Russian Aerospace Forces said on January 27 that the entire fleet of lightweight fighters would be replaced with the latest MiG-35 combat aircraft. The chief of Russia’s Air Force, Viktor Bondarev, said during the presentation of the MiG-35 that the fighter jet will replace all light fighter aircraft.

     

    http://www.pravdareport.com/news/russia/kremlin/27-01-2017/136730-mig_35_laser-0/#sthash.94yHREgi.dpuf

     

    Democratic Leader Shuts Down
    Phones After Pro-Israel Supporters Go on Offense

    Durbin deluged with calls urging him to stop blocking pro-Israel initiative

    Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin / AP

    BY:

    More than a thousand pro-Israel supporters from across the country bombarded the offices of Senate Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) with phone calls, urging the Democratic leader to stop holding up a key congressional initiative to rebuke the United Nations following its recent action against Israel, according to sources familiar with the situation.

    Durbin’s offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago were so overwhelmed by phone calls that staffers were forced to take the phones off the hook for a short time, sources told the Washington Free Beacon.

    http://freebeacon.com/national-security/democratic-leader-shuts-phones-pro-israel-supporters-go-offense/

    Kremlin says Putin-Trump call set for Saturday

    MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to speak by phone with U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend.

    Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the conversation is set for Saturday, according to Russian news agencies. Putin congratulated Trump on his victory shortly after his election, but the Kremlin says they haven’t spoken since then.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/27/kremlin-says-vladimir-putin-donald-trump-call-set-/

    FBI sees bomb threats to JCCs as hate crime, not terrorism

    Calls targeted over 30 Jewish community centers in 20 states in January, but in no case was a bomb found

    A complex in Wilmington, Del., housing four Jewish organizations was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. (Courtesy of Siegel JCC in Wilmington)

    A complex in Wilmington, Del., housing four Jewish organizations was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. (Courtesy of Siegel JCC in Wilmington)

    WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating a rash of bomb threats to Jewish community centers as a hate crime and not a terrorist threat.

    Agents briefed Jewish community leaders across the country through a call Thursday organized by the Anti-Defamation League.

    The agents said the calls targeted over 30 JCCs in 20 states this month and in no case was a bomb found. The FBI does not view the calls as a terrorist threat, the agents said, and they are being investigated by the bureau and the Justice Department as a hate crime.

    Classifying the investigation as a hate crime facilitates federal involvement in tracking the offender or offenders through additional funding and technical assistance provided to state and local authorities. The agents did not say which if any federal criminal statutes would apply. There are federal penalties of up to five years for bomb hoaxes, and 20 years if serious injury results because of the hoax.

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/fbi-sees-bomb-threats-to-jccs-as-hate-crime-not-terrorism/

    Merkel Cabinet Reshuffled as Social Democrats Position for Vote

    • Sigmar Gabriel replaces Steinmeier as foreign minister
    • Zypries, former justice minister, becomes economy chief

    Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel became Germany’s new foreign minister on Friday as Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner prepares to take on the chancellor in September’s election.

    Gabriel this week ceded his party’s candidacy for the September election as well as the SPD party chairmanship to Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament president who polls show has a better chance against Merkel. Gabriel succeeds party colleague Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is the governing coalition’s choice to be electedGermany’s president in a special election next month.

    The reshuffle among Social Democrats comes as the party looks to boost its fortunes against Merkel, whose Christian Democratic-led bloc remains well ahead of the SPD in every poll. Merkel and Schulz were tied at 41 percent in an ARD poll this week that asked who Germans would vote for if the chancellor were to be directly elected rather than appointed by the majority party.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-27/merkel-cabinet-reshuffled-as-social-democrats-position-for-vote

    Gambians celebrate new president’s arrival after veteran ruler flees

    By Lamin Jahateh

    BANJUL (Reuters) – Thousands of people lined the streets of Gambia’s capital Banjul on Thursday to welcome home new President Adama Barrow days after authoritarian leader Yahya Jammeh fled into exile under pressure from regional forces.

    Barrow, a former real estate agent, won a Dec. 1 election but Jammeh refused to step down, forcing his opponent to be inaugurated at the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring Senegal.

    Clad in a long white African tunic, Barrow smiled as he stepped out of a small plane and walked down a red carpet to greet hundreds of diplomats and officials lined up to greet him. Immediately afterwards, fighter jets from the West African ECOWAS regional force passed overhead.

    “A new page in Gambian history is being turned,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, U.N. Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, who helped negotiate Jammeh’s exit, shortly before accompanying Barrow to Banjul.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/gambians-celebrate-presidents-arrival-veteran-ruler-flees-071045388.html

    • Prioritize two groups from the Middle East: those who have worked for the U.S. military as translators (and their families); and Middle East Christians who, according to then-Secretary of State Kerry, were being subjected to genocide in Syria and Iraq.
    • In 2008, Congress authorized 20,000 special visas for Iraqis who served the U.S. for a year or more; and in 2009, authorized 7,500 visas over seven years for Afghan translators. The idea was to get allies who had risked their lives for American troops out as quickly as possible, but thousands have waited for years.
    • Iraq and Afghanistan are countries in which being tagged as helpful to the U.S. military can be, and has been, a death sentence. And worse, in July 2016, an extension of the visa program failed to make it out of the Senate.
    • Of the 10,801 refugees accepted in fiscal 2016 from Syria, only 56 (0.5 percent) were Christian.
    • Making a concerted effort to bring those two desperately threatened groups to the United States would meet our commitment to the translators, give concrete expression to our revulsion at genocide, protect the interests of the American people, and ensure that America remains hospitable to immigrants and refugees.

      https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9848/immigration-translators-genocide

    Geneva talks on Syria postponed, Russia says

    Russia announces delay in UN-sponsored Syria talks as it hosts opposition politicians in Moscow.

    The UN-hosted negotiations on the Syrian conflict planned for February 8 in Geneva have been postponed until the end of that month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

    “The date of February 8 has been put back until the end of next month,” Lavrov said at a meeting on Friday with Syrian opposition groups in Kazakhstan that ended on Tuesday without a major breakthrough.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/geneva-talks-syria-postponed-february-170127074042644.html

     

    Tulsi Gabbard’s Fascist Escorts to Syria

    The Democratic congresswoman used affiliates of a violent, anti-Semitic political party to take tea with Assad.

    Tulsi Gabbard, the self-styled “progressive” Hawaiian congresswoman makes no secret of her recent trip to Damascus to meet Bashar al-Assad. But, as an outspoken opponent of what she presents as America’s pro-terrorist foreign policy, Gabbard certainly accepted some strange companions on what her fellow lawmakers are calling a disgraceful reputation-laundering tour of a bloody dictatorship.

    Gabbard, as her own office has disclosed, took her “fact-finding” trip with a delegation of two men who are affiliated with an anti-Semitic political party accused of using female suicide bombers; of beating up Western and Arab journalists; helping U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hezbollah and the U.S.-sanctioned Syrian regime wage war in the Levant.

    And did we mention the party’s ideology and flag take their inspiration from Nazism?

    Gabbard initially declined to say who financed her trip to Syria. However, in a press release Wednesday Gabbard revealed her delegation (which also included former Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich) had been “led and sponsored by” an outfit called the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS—Ohio). Her statement added she and the rest of the delegation had been accompanied by two men, Elie and Bassam Khawam.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/26/democratic-congresswoman-used-affiliates-of-a-violent-anti-semitic-political-party-to-take-tea-with-assad.html

    What’s Are China’s Stakes in Syria?

    In late January, the Chinese government received important news from Syria. Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said “U.S. manned and unmanned aircraft conducted a precision air strike Jan. 19 against an al-Qaeda training camp in Idlib Province, Syria. More than 100 al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the strike.‎”

    Many of those killed were Uighurs of the Turkestan Islamic Party, who fought under the wing of Jabhat Fateh-al-Sham (JFS). According to Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, during the U.S. bombing of an al-Qaeda training camp in Syria a Uighur jihadist known as Abu Omar al-Turkistani was killed. …

    http://thediplomat.com/2017/01/whats-are-chinas-stakes-in-syria/

     

    Kurds Pleased to See Syria Drop ‘Arab’ From Official Title in Draft Constitution

    A member of the Democratic Union Party said that Syrian Kurds welcome the exclusion of the word “Arab” from the “Syrian Arab Republic” title in the Russian draft of the Syrian constitution.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Syrian Kurds welcome the exclusion of the word “Arab” from the “Syrian Arab Republic” title in the Russian draft of the Syrian constitution, a member of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) said Friday.

    “There are some very positive suggestions among those made by Russia. It includes the removal of the word ‘Arab’ from the Syrian title, so that it reads ‘Syrian Republic’ instead of ‘Syrian Arab Republic’,” Khaled Issa told Sputnik.

    https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201701271050061255-syria-kurds-constitution/

    Translators who worked for the US military in Iraq wonder if their American dream is slipping away

    President Donald Trump’s talk about suspending the flow of refugees into the US hit Farah Marcolla hard.

    The Iraqi linguist who worked side by side with US troops in Baghdad put her life on the line for America’s war effort.

    Now her family is in danger back in Iraq, and she fears her efforts to get them to safety in America are all but doomed.

     

    “I’m scared. The chance to see my family reunited again is very slim now,” she says.

    “People like me and my family who helped and supported America, I believe we should be reunited. The history of the United States is to support people and help them, not to separate the families.”

    https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-01-26/translators-who-worked-us-military-iraq-wonder-if-their-american-dream-slipping

    • The German experience with jihadists posing as migrants serves as a case study on errors for other countries to avoid. German authorities allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants, many lacking documentation, to enter Germany without a security check. German authorities admitted they lost track of some 130,000 migrants who entered the country in 2015.
    • German authorities knew in early 2015 that Walid Salihi, an 18-year-old Syrian who applied for asylum in Germany in 2014, was recruiting for the Islamic State at his asylum shelter in Recklinghausen, but they did nothing.
    • Anis Amri, the Tunisian jihadist who attacked the Christmas market in Berlin, used at least 14 different identities, which he used to obtain social welfare benefits under different names in different municipalities.
    • “We have probably forgotten to take into account what political opponents such as the Islamic State are capable of doing and how they think.” — Rudolf van Hüllen, political scientist.

    https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9837/germany-migrants-jihadistsHillary Clinton is estimated to have collected 81 percent of noncitizen votes, which may have helped her carry a state, a researcher says. (Associated Press) more >

    Trump argument bolstered: Clinton received 800,000 votes from noncitizens, study finds

    – The Washington Times
    Hillary Clinton garnered more than 800,000 votes from noncitizens on Nov. 8, an approximation far short of President Trump’s estimate of up to 5 million illegal voters but supportive of his charges of fraud.

    Political scientist Jesse Richman of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, has worked with colleagues to produce groundbreaking research on noncitizen voting, and this week he posted a blog in response to Mr. Trump’s assertion.

    Based on national polling by a consortium of universities, a report by Mr. Richman said 6.4 percent of the estimated 20 million adult noncitizens in the U.S. voted in November. He extrapolated that that percentage would have added 834,381 net votes for Mrs. Clinton, who received about 2.8 million more votes than Mr. Trump.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/26/hillary-clinton-received-800000-votes-from-nonciti/

    Political World Embraces Encrypted-Messaging App Signal Amid Fears of Hacking

    Aides close to President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton use app as memory of Wikileaks scandal lingers

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he has had the Signal app for a few weeks. The app, which lets users send encrypted messages, is gaining popularity in the political world amid fears about hacking and surveillance.

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he has had the Signal app for a few weeks. The app, which lets users send encrypted messages, is gaining popularity in the political world amid fears about hacking and surveillance. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO

    MARA GAY

    Signal, a smartphone app that allows users to send encrypted messages, is gaining popularity in the political world amid rising fears about hacking and surveillance in the wake of a tumultuous election year.

    Political aides close to President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are users. So are some close to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

    Some say the legion of political types has a singular goal to avoid a repeat of the WikiLeaks scandal, in which the emails of Mrs. Clinton and her closest allies were dumped onto the internet.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/political-world-embraces-encrypted-messaging-app-amid-fears-of-hacking-1485492485

     

    Iraqi troops find over 100 priceless Assyrian artifacts plundered from ancient ruins hidden under the home of an ISIS leader in Mosul

    • Assyrian artifacts have reportedly been found under the home of an ISIS leader
    • It is believed they were plundered from ancient city of Nimrud and ruins there
    • The ancient artifacts including clay pots and pottery are said to be priceless 
    • City of Nimrud had been under control of ISIS but was liberated late last year 

    The ancient clay pots and vases are believed to have come from the Nineveh ruins as well as Nimrud, which has been reduced to ruins by the terror group.

    Nimrud had been under the control of ISIS from 2014 but it was recaptured by Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul in November.

    More than 100 priceless Assyrian artefacts , pictured, that were snatched from ancient ruins in Iraq have reportedly been found hidden under the home of an ISIS leader in Mosul.

    More than 100 priceless Assyrian artifacts , pictured, that were snatched from ancient ruins in Iraq have reportedly been found hidden under the home of an ISIS leader in Mosul.

    Among the artefacts found were said to be a dozen clay pots, large vases, pottery, a hand mill and other small pieces

    Among the artifacts found were said to be a dozen clay pots, large vases, pottery, a hand mill and other small pieces

    Now, the Telegraph has reported that Iraqi authorities have stumbled upon the priceless items while searching a house in the Az-Zirai neighbourhood in the east of Mosul after the ISIS commander claimed he was a civilian.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4163556/Priceless-artefacts-home-ISIS-leader.html#ixzz4WygmqCDB

    There’s Something Very Weird Happening Inside Russia’s Cybersecurity World

    Sheera Frenkel

    A series of surprising arrests of some of Russia‘s top cyber security figures has left the international cybersecurity officials and analysts wondering whether Russia is cleaning house of suspected spies, or going through an internal shakeup of the FSB, Russia’s national security service.

    At some point in December, Ruslan Stoyanov, a well-respected researcher with the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, and Sergei Mikhailov, head of the FSB’s Center of information Security, were arrested by Russian police as part of what Russia’s Kommersant newspaper described as a probe into possible treason. No date of arrest has been made public, though Kommersant reported that Stoyanov last logged into his private social media account on December 4, and Mikhailov on December 5. The Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper cited sources as saying Mikhailov was arrested during a meeting with other FSB officers in Moscow, and was taken from the room with a sack over his head.

    On Thursday, REN-TV, a privately-owned TV channel in Russia, said a second FSB officer had also been arrested in December. They identified the man as Major Dmitry Dokuchayev, and reported he had served under Mikhailov in the the Center for Information Security. In another indication that Russia was seeing a high-level shakedown at the FSB, Kommersant reported that on January 13, the director of the Center for Information Security, Andrei Gerasimov, was fired. He was described as having close ties to cybersecurity companies, including Kaspersky Lab.

    Kaspersky Lab confirmed that Stoyanov was under investigation for activity during a period predating his employment at the company, and added, in a public statement, “We do not possess details of the investigation. The work of Kaspersky Lab’s Computer Incidents Investigation Team is unaffected by these developments.”

    Stoyanov’s LinkedIn page lists his previous employer as the Ministry of the Interior’s Cyber Crime Unit.

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/27/theres-something-very-weird-happening-inside-russias-cybersecurity-world.html

    Alleged hacker held in Prague at center of ‘intense’ US-Russia tug of war

    Yevgeniy Nikulin faces extradition requests from both countries amid lingering disquiet over Moscow’s alleged interference in the US presidential election

    Yevgeniy Nikulin was charged with offences relating to the hacking of computer networks belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring.
    Yevgeniy Nikulin was charged with offences relating to the hacking of computer networks belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring. Photograph: YouTube
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