Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

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 16, 2017

Don’t Fight Saudi Arabia’s War

It would be a mistake to get more involved in the Yemeni conflict that poses no risk to national security.

By Daniel DePetris | Contributor

March 15, 2017, at 1:45 p.m.

The civil war in Yemen has created one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters. According to United Nations estimates, more than two-thirds of Yemen’s entire population need some kind of assistance. Seven million people are hungry, 10,000 have been killed in the war and the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator recently reported to the Security Council “the Yemeni people now face the spectre of famine.”

While all parties in the war have violated international law during hostilities, most of the misery Yemenis have forcibly endured over the past two years were perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.

Most important, the U.S. has no vital national security interests at risk in this conflict.

Why, then, is the United States reportedly preparing to assist the Saudis to an even greater extent than when the conflict began?

The State Department recently signed off on a $350 million package of smart bombs to the Saudi-led military coalition currently combating the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. And in the event one thought this was an isolated sale to merely generate business, Foreign Policy magazine reported just last month that the Trump administration is searching for ways to escalate America’s part in the civil war “[t]o counter Iran’s proxies in Yemen.” It continues, “the administration is considering ramping up drone strikes, deploying more military advisors and carrying out more commando raids.”

This would be a mistake with potentially huge ramifications.

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/world-report/articles/2017-03-15/the-us-shouldnt-fight-saudi-arabias-proxy-war-with-iran-in-yemen

[Editor’s Note: This is an Iranian news source.]

This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.
This photo provided by the media bureau of the Joint Operations Command in Yemen shows the site where a Saudi helicopter was brought down in Hudaydah province, Yemen, March 16, 2017.

Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from Popular Committees have shot down an Apache helicopter operated by Saudi Arabia in the western province of Hudaydah, a report says.

The chopper was brought down in Hudaydah’s Bayt al-Faqih district on Thursday, Arabic-language al-Masirah television network reported.

On January 25, the Yemeni forces shot down another Apache helicopter belonging to the so-called Saudi-led coalition in Dhubab neighborhood of Yemen’s Ta’izz province.

Ten Saudi soldiers slain

Separately on Thursday, al-Masirah reported that a Saudi trooper had been killed in the al-Dukhan military base in the kingdom’s southwestern Jizan region.

Nine other Saudi soldiers lost their lives in several places across Saudi Arabia’s southern region, including Jizan’s al-Dafinah village.

According to later reports, one of the slain soldiers came form the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/03/16/514582/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-Hudaydah

 

Al Houthis interception of relief ships causes famine in Yemen, government says

Al Houthis abducting aid workers and stealing relief goods, minister says

Image Credit: AP
A World Food Programme ship is docked in Aden. Hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to Al Houthi-held areas have been seized by the militia and the goods sold on the black market, Yemen’s government said.
Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent

Al Mukalla: The internationally supported Yemeni government has said Al Houthi rebels have intercepted 63 ships and 223 convoys carrying humanitarian aid to areas under their control since ejecting President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from Sana’a in early 2015.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency on Friday, Abdul Rageeb Fateh, the minister of local administration and head of supreme relief committee, said rebels seize relief ships immediately after docking at Hodeida and Saleef seaports and supply goods to their fighters battling government forces across Yemen.

Fateh also said hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to rebel-held territories have also been seized by Al Houthis and goods sold in the black market.

The minister accused Al Houthis of abducting 30 aid workers from areas under their control, including several Norwegian Refugee Council staff, in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. He said Al Houthi supporters in Taiz’s Khader district abducted seven aid workers. He said harassment of aid workers and interception of humanitarian convoys by Al Houthis is causing famine in areas under their control. He said humanitarian situation would deteriorate if rebels continued confiscating aid convoys.

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/yemen/al-houthis-interception-of-relief-ships-causes-famine-in-yemen-government-says-1.1992019

Saudi-led coalition’s port op would cut off Yemen from food & aid supplies, Russia warns

The coalition’s “plans to storm Yemen’s biggest port of Hudaydah give rise to serious concerns,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement published on the ministry’s official website.

She added that battles in this area “would not only inevitably lead to a mass exodus of the [local] population but would also de facto cut the [Yemeni] capital of Sanaa from… food and humanitarian aid supplies.

Zakharova called the humanitarian situation in Yemen “catastrophic,” citing the UN who earlier said that the Yemeni people “face the specter of famine” while their country suffers from “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

https://www.rt.com/news/380524-russia-yemen-saudi-op/

One of Libya’s Rival Governments Asks Russia for Military Assistance

March 15, 2017 6:00 PM

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

A member of Libyan security forces gestures after armed groups aligned with a U.N.-backed government took over a compound occupied by a self-declared rival prime minister in heavy fighting, in Tripoli, Libya, March 15, 2017.

An interview in Russian state media Tuesday indicates that one of Libya’s rival governments is looking increasingly to Moscow as a patron, a move that’s concerning U.S. military commanders in the region.

Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), told RIA Novosti, a Kremlin-controlled news agency, that he’s asked Russia to help train Libyan National Army fighters led by General Khalifa Haftar and has invited Russian lawmakers to visit eastern Libya.

“Most of our officers were trained in Russia and many speak Russian, and they know how to use Russian equipment,” Saleh is reported as saying. He promised Libya will pay $4 billion in Gadhafi-era military debt owed to Russia and added the Kremlin has promised to help “in the fight against terrorism.”

http://www.voanews.com/a/libya-rival-government-asks-russia-for-military-assistance/3767870.html

Moldova sees Russian plot to derail money-laundering probe

By Matthias Williams | CHISINAU

Two months ago, Moldova’s Deputy General Prosecutor Iurie Garaba traveled to Moscow with an invitation to attend an official function for Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Day.

The visit didn’t go as planned.

Garaba was stopped by border guards at Moscow’s airport and taken in for questioning. He said one guard rifled through his passport for 15-20 minutes while another asked what he was doing in Russia – despite his official invitation and a document naming him as the head of the Moldovan delegation.

“I was asked questions that have absolutely nothing to do with border document checks. For example, ‘How do I pronounce my last name?’, or ‘How to write it correctly?’, Garaba told Reuters by telephone.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm his version of events.

But some Moldovan officials say the incident is part of a campaign by members of Russia’s security apparatus to humiliate officials from the ex-Soviet state as they travel to or through Russia.

The primary aim, four top Moldovan officials including Garaba’s boss Eduard Harunjen told Reuters, is to derail a Moldovan probe into a Russian-led money laundering operation that funneled $22.3 billion of Russian money through the Moldovan financial system between 2011-2014.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-moldova-russia-insight-idUSKBN16M1QQ

Russian Bribe Jumps 75 Percent, Anti-Corruption Tsar Tells Newspaper

MOSCOW — Graft is a booming business in Russia, where the average bribe has grown by 75 percent year-on-year, according to the country’s anti-corruption tsar.

Greasing the palm of a Russian official cost 328,000 rubles ($5,600) on average in 2016, leading business daily Kommersant quoted Lt. Gen. Andrei Kurnosenko as saying on Thursday.

“But often the bribes are much higher,” the policeman said, according to the paper.

The total amount of money spent on bribes was 298 billion rubles ($5.1 billion) in 2016, Kurnosenko said. But this is only the corruption uncovered by law enforcement agencies, which opened 69,000 cases involving graft and fraud last year, he added.

Kurnosenko did not explain the reasons for the increase. The ruble has lost half its value against the dollar since 2014 in the wake of international sanctions imposed as punishment over Russian meddling in Ukraine and plummeting oil prices.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russian-bribe-jumps-75-percent-anti-corruption-tsar-tells-newspaper-n734246

Iran behind Yemeni rebels’ explosive boats

– – Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels working to take power in Yemen are using a new weapon that is raising fears of seaborne attacks on both military and commercial shipping in the region.

The weapon is an Iranian-designed remotely piloted small boat filled with explosives, a defense official told Inside the Ring.

The exact number of the explosive drone boats is not known, but the rebels are believed to have enough to threaten ships that pass through the strategic sea lanes off the Yemeni coast. The Navy has intelligence photos of the deadly boats but declined a request to release them. The boats were first detected after one was used in an attack Jan. 30 on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea.

Iran is backing Houthi rebels as part of a strategy of seeking to encircle its rival, Saudi Arabia, and ultimately to take control of the peninsula.

One strategic objective of the Iranians is to control the strategic Bab el-Mandeb or Mandeb Strait on the southern Red Sea that is a major shipping passage.

Iran already has a major influence in Iraq and in the past has threatened to shut down shipping in the Persian Gulf by targeting traffic passing through the Hormuz Strait.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/15/inside-the-ring-iran-behind-yemeni-rebels-explosiv/

Pentagon Deploys B-52 Bombers, 400 Airmen for Iraq, Syria Air Campaign

© AFP 2017/ Paul CROCK

The Pentagon has sent to Iraq and Syria more than 400 airmen along with B-52H Stratofortresse jets for day-to-day combat operations in a first event of a kind in over twelve years.

WASHIGTON (Sputnik) — B-52 bombers at Minot Air Force Base in the US State of North Dakota have been deployed, along with more than 400 airmen, to the air campaign in Syria and Iraq against the Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), the Department of Defense stated in a press release on Wednesday.

“The 23rd Bomb Squadron sent a number of B-52H Stratofortresses to take over day-to-day operations, which will be the first time in 12 years aircraft from the base have deployed in support of combat operations,” the release stated.

The B-52 is a subsonic long-range bomber that can fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet and deploy the widest range of weapons in the US aerial arsenal.

The aircraft has been operated by the US Air Force since the 1950s.

The US-led coalition of 69 nations has conducted an air campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2014. However, the coalition’s actions in Syria have not been approved by the country’s government of President Bashar Assad or the UN Security Council.

It was also reported that the United States may deploy an additional 1,000 troops into northern Syria in a matter of weeks to aid the offensive against Daesh in Raqqa.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201703161051627659-pentagon-b52-syria-iraq/

 

F-35 firing boosts ASRAAM sales prospects

[Editor’s Note: MBDA is owned by BAE Systems and Airbus Group which each have 37.5% shares and Leonardo – Finmeccanica which has a 25% share.  The group was formed by a merger of French Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles (of EADS, now Airbus Group), Italian Alenia Marconi Systems (now Leonardo) and British Matra BAe Dynamics (of BAE Systems) in December 2001.]

Lockheed Martin F-35s have fired their first non-US-produced missiles in testing, with the activity providing a boost to MBDA’s sales efforts for the ASRAAM.

Announcing the development on 15 March, MBDA said flight trials and air-launched firings have taken place using test aircraft operating from Edwards AFB, California and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland.

The short-range, infrared-guided ASRAAM is being integrated with the short take-off and vertical landing F-35B variant for the UK. “The effort is progressing to plan, and these integration activities will allow the initial operating capability of the aircraft” for the nation, MBDA says.

The European company hopes that other F-35 customers could opt to acquire its weapon, in preference to the Raytheon AIM-9X. Australia already uses the Mach 3-capable missile on its Boeing F/A-18A/B strike aircraft, and has previously expressed some interest in also using it with its Joint Strike Fighters.

“The fact that it is a real firing that has taken place is important, because that allows the other F-35A and B users to now have a choice,” says Dave Armstrong, MBDA’s executive group director for sales and business development.

Meanwhile, Armstrong says the company remains hopeful that the US military could acquire its Brimstone air-to-surface missile to provide some of its fast jet platforms with an “off-the-shelf” precision strike capability against moving targets, despite the business uncertainty raised by US President Donald Trump’s buy-American agenda.

“We know that the US military still aspires to have Brimstone on [Boeing] F-15 and F-18,” he says. “It’s a question of economics and programme management.”

MBDA on 15 March reported its receipt of new orders worth €4.7 billion ($5 billion) in 2016, against sales totalling €3 billion. This compares with respective figures of €5.2 billion and €2.9 billion in 2015, and chief executive Antoine Bouvier notes that the company’s book-to-bill ratio over the past four years has been 1.6, due to “an exceptional order track record”.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/f-35-firing-boosts-asraam-sales-prospects-435233/

 

Top Indonesian fighter with IS killed in Syria

Followers of the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia for the second time in less than a year have lost a leader with the reported death of Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian militant fighting in Syria who is said to have died on a suicide mission in the war-torn country.

Bahrumsyah’s death comes only four months after IS Indonesian jihadist Abu Jandal al Yemeni Al Indonesi alias Salim Mubarak Atamimi was killed during a US-led international coalition assault in Mosul, Iraq, in November 2016.

The death of Bahrumsyah leaves Bahrun Naim as the only Indonesian IS fighter in Syria with a reputable position in the terrorist organisation.

http://news.asiaone.com/news/asia/top-indonesian-fighter-killed-syria#sthash.nn3ibUYy.dpuf

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

After six years of conflict, Syria and its people have been completely transformed. The effects of a crisis that has killed nearly a half-million people and forced nearly 11.5 million more from their homes are now etched into the many identities to which Syrians attach themselves. While a majority of Syrians vigorously resist the formal breakup of their country, it is impossible to ignore how the brutal and protracted war has instilled deep divisions in a once-cohesive society.

In many areas of the country, battle lines remain physically drawn among villages that once lived in harmony. And the sectarian dynamic that was once supported only by extremist fringes has started to decisively shape the mainstream opposition.

But Syria’s armed opposition is also changing as a result of internal pressures. Al Qaeda’s Syrian representatives — rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) in July 2016 and then renamed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) after subsuming several other groups in January — have been relentless, and patient, in pursuing their long-term objective: a merger of all armed Syrian opposition groups under its broad transnational Islamic umbrella. Al Qaeda has commonly called this goal a “uniting of the ranks.”

Largely free of any government instruction, and spurred on by the gradual weakening of the opposition’s most moderate base, al Qaeda spent much of 2012 to 2015 building the trust of Syria’s opposition under the guise of Jabhat al-Nusra, which means literally “support front.” This was the first phase of al Qaeda’s attempt to embed itself in the opposition. The group positioned itself as merely one component of a broad Syrian revolutionary movement, using controlled pragmatism, a clearly defined military strategy, and an emphasis on localism to socialize Syrians into accepting, then supporting, its presence. By rebranding itself as JFS in mid-2016 and by telling Syrians that it had broken its external ties to al Qaeda, the group sought to overcome the only remaining hurdle to uniting the ranks by convincing enough of Syria’s opposition that it was a fundamentally Syrian movement, dedicated to a local cause and not to a transnational jihadi project.

Al Qaeda Is Starting to Swallow the Syrian Opposition

Moscow lends Turkey credit card to buy Russian missiles

Turkey is looking to pay for a new Russian missile defence system with a loan from Moscow, according to the Russian CEO responsible for the deal.

The loan required to buy a new S-400 missile system was being considered by the Kremlin, Sergey Chemezov told Russia’s state-owned news channel, Rossiya-24.

“They have expressed a wish to get a loan, but the issue has not yet been resolved,” the CEO of Rostech said.

“The Finance Ministry is holding talks, as soon as they sign this and take a decision on allocating a loan, we will sign contracts on supplies, including the S-400.”

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/3/15/moscow-lends-turkey-credit-card-to-buy-russian-missiles

Greek group claims it mailed parcel bomb to German finance minister

The militant Greek group Conspiracy of Fire Cells has claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb mailed to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, police said on Thursday.

The parcel was mailed to Schaeuble from a post office branch in Athens but was intercepted by the German finance ministry’s mail department.

The group has previously claimed responsibility for a wave of parcel bombs sent to foreign embassies in Athens in 2010.

“We still have the rage. We sent the package to Germany’s finance minister as part of the second act of Nemesis Plan,” the group said in a statement on the internet. “Nothing is over, everything continues.”

It did not specify what Nemesis Plan was. Police consider the claim as credible.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-greece-schaueble-parcelbomb-idUSKBN16N1BA

Letter bomb explodes at France office of IMF, injuring 1

A letter bomb exploded Thursday at the French office of the International Monetary Fund, lightly injuring one person, according to Paris police.

Staff from the IMF office were evacuated and armed military officers and police guarded the area, in a chic district of western Paris. The World Bank office in France is in the same compound.

It is unclear who sent the homemade explosive, which was like a “big firecracker” and sent by regular mail, said Paris police chief Michel Cadot. He said the IMF office had received threatening phone calls in recent days but they were not necessarily linked to Thursday’s incident.

IMF director Christine Lagarde, who is French, said in a statement that she was informed about the explosion while on a trip to Germany. “I condemn this cowardly act of violence and reaffirm the IMF’s resolve to continue our work in line with our mandate,” she said.

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/business/article138830503.html#storylink=cpy

S-400 missile systems will not be integrated into NATO system, Defense Minister says

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
emAA Photo/em

AA Photo

Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said that Russia’s S-400 missile systems would not be integrated into the NATO system during a televised live interview Thursday.

Işık said that Turkey preferred to purchase the long-range missiles from a NATO member, but added that Turkey had not seen desired cooperation.

The defense minister stated that if the two countries agree upon the sale of S-400 missile defense systems, then there would not be any obstacles.

Işık emphasized that the S-400 missiles would be placed under national control, adding that Turkey could produce its own missile defense system within five to seven years, which would then be integrated into the NATO system.

Turkish officials confirmed Wednesday that the talks between Turkey and Russia concerning the sale of S-400 missile defense systems have been positive, also noting that negotiations on the details of the deal are ongoing.

The sale of the missile system was also discussed during a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow during Erdoğan’s visit to Russia March 10.

https://www.dailysabah.com/defense/2017/03/16/s-400-missile-systems-will-not-be-integrated-into-nato-system-defense-minister-says

 

Russia Military To Practice Detecting Missiles Amid NATO Tensions

Amid growing tensions with NATO, a division of Russia’s Aerospace Force will practice detecting ballistic missiles during launches carried out by the Strategic Missile Force, Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Viktor Bondarev said Wednesday, in an interview with Russian daily Krasnaya Zvezda.

Space Troops, the division of Aerospace Force, is expected to launch 15 carrier rockets this year and about 40 tactical exercises with subordinate military units will also be conducted, Bondarev reportedly said.

“The Space Troops will team up with other branches and services of the Russian Armed Forces to practice detecting ballistic missiles, using the forces and resources of the (Special Designation) Aerospace Army during the demonstrative launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the Strategic Missile Force,” Bondarev told the Russian-language newspaper, according to Tass news agency.

“For the purpose of building up the orbital grouping of satellites, 15 launches of space carrier rockets have been planned to deliver more than 20 satellites into orbit,” Bondarev added.

http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-military-practice-detecting-missiles-amid-nato-tensions-2509521

Kuwait approves NATO use of its territory

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari (not seen) hold a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation cooperation in Baghdad, Iraq, on 28 December 2016. [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah attends a press conference after signing an agreement on border gates, security and aviation

The Kuwaiti National Assembly approved on Tuesday an Agreement between the State of Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on the transit of troops and members of the alliance across Kuwaiti territory.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly explained in a report that the agreement works on a legal basis and provisions which permit the transit of forces and members of the NATO alliance through the State of Kuwait if a request is made.

Kuwait News Agency reported First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, saying that Kuwait is “one of the first countries to join the Istanbul iInitiative, which seeks to see security and stability in the region in 2004”.

Sabah stressed on the importance of cooperating with 28 countries represented in the alliance for the sake of the country’s security and stability.

He noted Kuwait has cooperated with NATO in several areas such as counter-terrorism, natural calamities and in areas of maritime security and military training.

Al-Sabah said his country’s cooperation with NATO came in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions which stipulate helping NATO forces and facilitating their tasks to help in Iraq and Afghanistan.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170316-kuwait-approves-nato-use-of-its-territory/

14 Obama Holdovers Still at the PentagonDrew Angerer – Pool/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – There are 14 Obama holdovers still at the Pentagon, two months into the Trump administration.

Currently, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the only presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed appointee at the Pentagon, out of 53 such positions.

Obama holdovers are filling four of those positions: Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work remains in his position; Robert Speer is serving as Acting Army Secretary; Sean Stackley is serving as Acting Navy Secretary; and Lisa Disbrow as Acting Air Force Secretary.

The Pentagon said there are 10 other Obama holdovers still serving, but has declined to name who they are or what positions they are filling.

Trump has filled an additional 32 slots for non-Senate confirmed positions, for a total of 33 hires, including Mattis. That number is less than a fourth of the 163 political appointees at the Pentagon on election day.

The White House was expected to announce a handful of names for top political positions at the Pentagon as soon as this week, a defense official told Breitbart News. The White House declined to give a time frame for the announcement.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/16/14-obama-holdovers-still-at-the-pentagon/

Espionage risk to US heightened as China’s military presses its domestic tech firms

China is taking a page from the Pentagon’s playbook under the Obama administration: it’s partnering with tech companies to develop more cutting-edge weapons.

But China’s innovation-focused strategy could elevate the espionage risk to the U.S.

Ironically, this new threat emerges as the Trump administration is expected to slow its outreach to the tech firms.

Over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an address to the country’s national legislature where he urged the People’s Liberation Army “to speed up” the application of advanced technologies, according to the Chinese military’s official web portal. Jinping sees “integrated military and civilian development” as one of the drivers of science-tech innovation and key to upgrading China’s military capabilities.

‘Trump’s presidency is an opportunity for Xi’  Tuesday, 14 Mar 2017 | 7:27 PM ET | 01:23

“If you were to look at reports like Chinese military power over time, it’s obvious that China is closing the gap more quickly than, for example, we probably would have estimated five or three years ago,” said Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert and Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, D.C.

The communist nation’s military has made major technology strides in the past decade in missile, laser weapon, advanced sensor and stealth aircraft development with the help of Chinese firms in the civilian sector.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/15/espionage-risk-to-us-heightened-by-china-military-innovation-push.html

Donald Trump gives Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen after botched operation

Similar permission is being sought by military leaders to carry out operations in Libya and Somalia 

  • Ben Kentish
  • Donald Trump has reportedly given the Pentagon permission to carry out more raids in Yemen – despite a botched mission in January that resulted in the deaths of 20 civilians and a US Navy Seal.

The White House told military leaders they can carry out missions in the Gulf state without specific presidential approval.

Negotiations about extending similar permissions to raids in Libya and Somalia are also taking place, CNN reported.

Instead of needing Mr Trump to sign off on specific missions, officials told the broadcaster that military leaders will be given the freedom to carry out operations providing they are in line with a broader strategy agreed by the President.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-yemen-raids-permission-botched-death-navy-seal-ryan-owens-a7631126.html

Trump’s ‘Reaffirming the Right of CIA to Decide Whom to Kill and Where’

US President Donald Trump has authorized the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday citing anonymous US officials. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Laurie Calhoun, the author of the book “We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age.”

US drone campaigns have been repeatedly criticized for civilian casualties. Now there are concerns that the authorization of the CIA to carry out drone strikes against terrorists will lead to even more controversy.

Trump reportedly extended the authority of the agency shortly after his inauguration. The intelligence agency will now be able to use unmanned aircraft and target terrorists without permission from the Pentagon or the White House.

https://sputniknews.com/us/201703151051619733-trump-reaffirming-cia/

North Korean Hackers Were Behind a Recent Major Cyber Attack

A North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus was likely behind a recent cyber campaign targeting organizations in 31 countries, following high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea, cyber security firm Symantec said on Wednesday.

Symantec said in a blog that researchers have uncovered four pieces of digital evidence suggesting the Lazarus group was behind the campaign that sought to infect victims with “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

“We are reasonably certain” Lazarus was responsible, Symantec researcher Eric Chien said in an interview.

The North Korean government has denied allegations it was involved in the hacks, which were made by officials in Washington and Seoul, as well as security firms.

http://fortune.com/2017/03/15/north-korea-hackers-cyber-attack/

Taiwan military to upgrade fighters, seek stealth capability

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan is planning to upgrade its F-16 fighter jets and will seek cutting-edge stealth aircraft from the United States in the face of a growing military threat from rival China, the Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The announcement follows the release of this year’s $11.4 billion defense budget, an increase of less than 1 percent from last year, reflecting strains on the government’s finances resulting from a heavy entitlements burden and slowing growth in the high-tech, export-oriented economy.

That compares to China’s 7 percent rise in defense spending, announced this week, bringing its defense budget to about $151 billion, the world’s second largest after the United States.

In response, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers that Taiwan is focusing on inexpensive but effective “asymmetric warfare” techniques to combat threats in the air and seas.

http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/taiwan-military-to-upgrade-fighters-seek-stealth-capability/

Take your best shot: Iraqi soldiers are now using SHUTTLECOCK grenades attached to drones to bomb jihadis (after stealing the idea from ISIS)

  • Feathered tails usually found on badminton courts being attached to explosives
  • They are fitted in order to keep them balanced when they fall ensuring accuracy
  • ISIS had previously been using the tactic, which is now employed by Iraqi troops 

The Iraqi army is giving ISIS a taste of its own medicine by bombing them with shuttlecock grenades attached to drones.

The feathered tails, usually found on badminton courts across the world, are being attached to the grenades in order to keep them balanced when they fall to ensure a more accurate explosion.

ISIS had previously been using the tactic to drop bombs on coalition forces and civilians in Iraq, but after seeing their effectiveness, the weapons are now in the hands of their opposition.

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

A member of the Iraqi forces carries two grenades carrying feathers, which are to be fired from a drone in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight 

Two Iraqi soldiers prepare the drone on the street next to a heavily-armoured vehicle for the test flight

Terrorists have used small commercial drones to drop explosives on advancing Iraqi forces since they launched the offensive to retake Iraq’s second city in October.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4319902/Iraqi-soldiers-using-SHUTTLECOCK-grenades-target-ISIS.html#ixzz4bVjDlw5b

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

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

 

BY:
March 16, 2017 12:50 pm

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

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

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

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

Cell phone information gathered by the program shows major anomalies in the D.C.-area indicating that a third-party is tracking en-masse a large number of cellphones. Such a tactic could be used to clone phones, introduce malware to facilitate spying, and track government phones being used by officials in the area.

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

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February 22, 2017

Marine Le Pen’s bodyguard and chief of staff are arrested over claims they were paid for fake jobs at the EU Parliament

  • Thierry Legier and Catherine Griset were taken into police custody today
  • The suspects, including National Front candidate Le Pen, face imminent charges
  • Ms Le Pen’s lawyers have branded the arrests a ‘conspiracy’
  • The European Anti-Fraud Office says it has compelling evidence of fake payments 

Two senior aides to Marine Le Pen were today taken into police custody as the fraud enquiry that could see the far-right French presidential candidate jailed for up to 10 years deepened.

Thierry Legier, who is Ms Le Pen’s bodyguard, and Catherine Griset, her chief of staff, were escorted to the judicial police station in Nanterre, the Paris suburb, in the late morning.

A raid was also carried out at the home of Mr Legier, Ms Le Pen’s 51-year-old bodyguard who is nicknamed ‘The Gorilla’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4249970/Marine-Le-Pen-s-bodyguard-chief-staff-arrested.html

Kim Jong-nam’s body targeted in morgue break-in, say police

Malaysian authorities seek to question senior North Korean diplomat and man connected with Air Koryo, while dismissing claims that assassins were duped

Kim Jong-nam, left, and Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-nam, left, and Kim Jong-un Photograph: Shizuo Kambayashi, Wong Maye-E/AP

Malaysian police investigating the murder of Kim Jong-nam say attempts were made to break into the morgue where his body is being held and have demanded to question a senior North Korean diplomat.

The announcements by police chief Khalid Abu Bakar throw further suspicion on Pyongyang over the apparent assassination of the exiled half-brother of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

Khalid said another man wanted for questioning and identified as Kim Uk-il was linked to North Korea’s state airline, Air Koryo. Both he and the high-level embassy official, named as Hyon Kwang-song, 44, remained in Malaysia, Khalid said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/22/kim-jong-nams-body-targeted-in-morgue-break-in

North Korean suspects in Kim Jong-nam murder ‘hiding’ in Pyongyang’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur

Hyon Kwang-song, left, and Kim Uk-il
Hyon Kwang Song, left, and Kim Uk Il

Two North Koreans suspects in the murder of Kim Jong-nam are believed to be “hiding” inside Pyongyang’s embassy in Malaysia, security sources have told the Telegraph.

Tensions between the two countries are high following the killing of the half-brother of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader”, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Monday.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/22/exclusive-north-korean-suspects-kim-jong-nam-murder-hiding-pyongyangs/

Possible mole in security detail of Dutch frontrunner Wilders

A Dutch secret service agent who was part of the team responsible for protecting Geert Wilders, the frontrunner in next month’s election, has been suspended on suspicion of leaking details to a criminal organization, the secret service said on Wednesday.

Wilders, who campaigns on an anti-Islam platform that includes closing mosques and banning immigration from Muslim countries that has led to the protection, condemned the alleged breach, saying he cannot function without adequate security.

Dutch newspapers De Telegraaf and NRC Handelsblad and the country’s national broadcaster NOS identified the suspect as an experienced officer in his mid-30s, using his first name and last initial.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-election-wilders-idUSKBN1611LB

Iran Renews Destructive Cyber Attacks on Saudi Arabia

Tehran strategy seeks takeover of oil-rich U.S. ally

After a four-year hiatus, Iran recently resumed destructive cyber attacks against Saudi Arabia in what U.S. officials say is part of a long-term strategy by Tehran to take over the oil-rich kingdom and regional U.S. ally.

Late last month, the Saudi government warned in a notice to telecommunications companies that an Iranian-origin malicious software called Shamoon had resurfaced in cyber attacks against some 15 Saudi organizations, including government networks.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/iran-renews-destructive-cyber-attacks-saudi-arabia/

Planes, tanks, ships: Russian military gets massive upgrade

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military received a sweeping array of new weapons last year, including 41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the wide-ranging military modernization will continue this year, the defense minister said Wednesday.

Minister Sergei Shoigu told lawmakers the air force will receive 170 new aircraft, the army will receive 905 tanks and other armored vehicles while the navy will receive 17 new ships this year.

Amid tensions with the West, the Kremlin has continued to spend big on new weapons despite Russia’s economic downturn.

Also this year, three regiments of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will receive new intercontinental ballistic missiles, Shoigu said. Each regiment has up to 10 launchers.

The rising number of new weapons has raised demands for new personnel. Shoigu said the military currently needs 1,300 more pilots and will recruit them by 2018.

http://www.bigstory.ap.org/article/8b7532462dd0495d9f756c9ae7d2ff3c/russian-military-continues-massive-upgrade

 

Christian father is shot dead and his son is burned alive in Egyptian ISIS hotbed days after the group vowed Christians were its ‘favourite prey’

  • The father, in his 60s, was found with multiple gunshot wounds in North Sinai
  • His son, who was a Coptic Christian like his dad, was burned alive on Wednesday
  • The area of North Sinai has become a stronghold for Islamic State in Egypt
  • Their bodies were discovered at dawn behind a school in the city of  El-Arish

The two Coptic Christians were found murdered Wednesday in Egypt’s North Sinai, a stronghold of the terror group.

They said the son was found having apparently been burnt alive while the father, a man in his 60s, had shot multiple times.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4250292/Christian-father-burned-alive-son-shot-dead.html

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4250292/Christian-father-burned-alive-son-shot-dead.html#ixzz4ZRgb6diK
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GOP Lawmaker Urges Trump to Buy New Icebreakers Amid Russian Buildup in Arctic

Russia set to debut the world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the only U.S. ship capable of breaking through Antarctica’s thick ice / AP

BY:

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) urged President Donald Trump on Tuesday to pursue funding for the U.S. Coast Guard to purchase new ice-capable vessels to counter Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic.

Hunter, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, warned in a letter to Trump that Russia is set to debut the world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker, Arktika, while the United States struggles to maintain its two 1970s-era icebreakers.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/gop-lawmaker-urges-trump-buy-new-icebreakers-amid-russian-buildup-arctic/

Report: China nearly finished building South China Sea structures to house missiles

May 21, 2015: Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft.  (U.S. Navy)

China is reportedly nearing completion of more than 20 buildings on its artificial islands in the South China Sea that are capable of housing long-range surface-to-air missiles.

The concrete structures have retractable roofs and at about 66 feet long and 33 feet tall. They are located on three islands: Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross.

Fox News reported exclusively in December that the U.S. intelligence community was monitoring whether surface-to-air missiles would be shipped to the reefs to protect China’s three airstrips.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/22/report-china-nearly-finished-building-south-china-sea-structures-to-house-missiles.html

Military plane cost hits Airbus profits

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus reported a drop in 2016 profits, mainly because of a charge on the A400M military plane.

Its net income fell by 63% to 995m euros (£838m), although revenue went up 3% to 66.5bn euros (£56bn).

The results are the first since Airbus started simplifying the company by mixing its European business with the parent company, previously called EADS.

Chief executive Tom Enders said: “We’ve delivered on the commitments we gave a year ago.”

He added: “We achieved our guidance and objectives, with one exception, the A400M, where we had to take another significant charge totalling 2.2bn euros (£1.85bn) in 2016.

The A400M has suffered a number for setbacks over the years.

Earlier this month, one A400M broke down on the ground while carrying German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-39049318

Ildar Dadin: Russian activist jail term quashed

Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of opposition activist Ildar Dadin, who was the first person to be convicted under new laws on protests.

The court said the criminal case against him should be dismissed and he had a “right to rehabilitation”, Russian media report.

Mr Dadin, jailed in December 2015, has been serving two-and-a-half years for a series of protests.

Last November he said he was tortured in prison in north-west Russia.

The authorities denied the claims, but transferred him to another prison.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39050949

 

Montenegro Coup Suspect ‘Was Russian Spy in Poland’

A Russian suspected by Montenegro of masterminding the recent alleged coup attempt was a military officer who was expelled from Poland amid an espionage scandal in 2014, a Polish diplomat told BIRN.

Natalia Zaba, Dusica Tomovic

 

Edvard Shirokov, currently on the Interpol’s red notice, based on a warrant issued by Montenegrin authorities. Photo: Interpol.

The Polish ambassador to Podgorica, Irena Tatarzynska, told BIRN that Russian military officer Eduard Shishmakov, one of the leading suspects in the alleged coup plot in Montenegro, was thrown out of Poland due to a spying accusation.

Tatarzynska said Shishmakov was a deputy military attache at Russia’s embassy in Warsaw, but was declared persona non grata in Poland in June 2014, along with three other Russian citizens, because it was believed that they were involved in spying.

“For us [in Poland] it was a really unpleasant case, a deputy military attache was declared persona non grata. But for the Polish state, this case is over,” Tatarzynska said.

http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/montenegro-coup-suspect-was-russian-spy-in-poland–02-21-2017#sthash.MsKQ4wGH.dpuf

Israeli warplane attacks Syrian Army in west Damascus

BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:45 A.M.) – Minutes ago, an Israeli warplane conducted an airstrike over the western countryside of Damascus, targeting the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions in the Qalamoun Mountains near the Lebanese border.

A Syrian Army source told Al-Masdar this morning that the Israeli warplane had crossed into Syria after flying over Lebanon’s ‘Arsal Barrens, where both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) are headquartered in the eastern Beqa’a Governorate.

The Syrian Army source added that the specific location of the attack was in the Al-Quteifah area of the Qalamoun Mountains.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-israeli-warplane-attacks-syrian-army-west-damascus/

With US support, Saudi Arabia ready to send special forces to Syria

In cooperation with the United States, Saudi Arabia is “ready to send ground troops” to Syria to fight against Daesh, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung German newspaper on Tuesday, Al-Jubeir said: “The Kingdom and other Gulf countries said it was ready to allocate forces to fight on the US side.”

He noted that discussions with the US forces are underway to “find out what the plan is and what you need to implement it.” He explained that the plan would be announced “soon”.

The foreign minister affirmed that the liberated territories from Daesh, must be handed over to the Syrian opposition. “The basic idea is to free the region from the IG [Daesh] and not to allow their controlled Hezbollah, Iran or the Syrian regime,” he said.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170221-with-us-support-saudi-arabia-ready-to-send-special-forces-to-syria/

Turkey Defense Talks With Russia on S400 Missiles Have Progressed, Minister Says

ANKARA (Reuters) – Talks between Turkey and Russia for Ankara to procure S400 missiles for a domestic air defense system have “progressed significantly”, Turkey’s Defence Minister Fikri Isik, said on Wednesday.

Isik also said that Turkey’s preference was to originally buy a NATO system but that wasn’t possible. He was speaking in an interview with broadcaster NTV.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk)

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-02-22/turkey-defense-talks-with-russia-on-s400-missiles-have-progressed-minister-says

 

Greek FM: Turkey close to crossing Greece’s red lines

Turkey came very close to crossing Greece’s red lines in the Aegean last week, when a Turkish coast guard vessel fired shots in Greek territorial waters east of the islet of Farmakonisi, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told Skai Television’s “Istories” program Tuesday night. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s executive editor, Alexis Papachelas, Kotzias spoke also about Greece’s determination to protect its sovereign interests, the Cyprus issue, the case of the eight Turkish servicemen whom the Supreme Court refused to extradite to Turkey, and NATO’s operations in the Aegean.

http://www.ekathimerini.com/216392/article/ekathimerini/news/greek-fm-turkey-close-to-crossing-greeces-red-lines

India may forego offset package for S-400

22 February 2017 MIKHAIL NEKRASOV
An offset package could delay deliveries by up to two years.
S-400 Triumf is Russia’s long-range anti-aircraft missile system that went into service in 2007. Source: Mikhail Voskresenskiy/RIA Novosti
India’s Defence Ministry may forego the offset clause to speed up deliveries of the S-400 Russian air defence system, The Economic Times reported on Feb. 21.

The offset clause mandates foreign companies to invest at least 30 per cent of the contract value in the Indian aerospace and defence sectors.

Viktor Kladov, director of international cooperation at Rostec holding, told the paper that the purchase of the S-400 is a strategic project and delivery should not be delayed by offset packages.

According to Kladov, the offset package may delay delivery by up to two years. A deal with no offset package is the best choice, he added.

http://in.rbth.com/economics/defence/2017/02/22/india-may-forego-offset-package-for-s-400_707448

Germany to expand Bundeswehr to almost 200,000 troops

Germany’s Defense Ministry has announced it will increase the number of professional soldiers by around 10 percent. It comes amid increasing pressure for Germany to reach its NATO-mandated defense spending target.

Since the end of the Cold War, Germany had been reducing its military scope and manpower. Recent years, however, have marked a major shift in its defense policy, as it pledged once again to expand the Bundeswehr.

“The Bundeswehr is under demand like never before,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (a Christian Democrat) said on Tuesday, as she announced plans to increase the number of Germany’s professional soldiers from 178,000 to 198,000 by the year 2024. “In light of these increasing responsibilities, the Bundeswehr must be allowed to grow accordingly.”

As part of its enlargement plans, the Bundeswehr will also expand its non-combat civilian employees to over 61,000 in response to the growing threat of cyber and hacking attacks.

http://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-expand-bundeswehr-to-almost-200000-troops/a-37655018

Industrial control systems top threat to UK cyber security

Most organisations understand cyber security readiness, but lack response and resilience capabilities – especially regarding industrial control systems in the UK, says RSA cyber defence expert Azeem Aleem

Vulnerabilities in industrial control systems commonly used by suppliers of critical national infrastructure are potentially the biggest threats to UK cyber security, according to a cyber defence expert.http://www.computerweekly.com/news/450413471/Industrial-controls-systems-top-threat-to-UK-cyber-security

 

Alexandria visits Sasebo during Indo-Asia-Pacific deployment

by: Chief Yeoman (Submarine) Ben P. Warren | .
USS Alexandria Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) — Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Alexandria (SSN 757) arrived at Fleet Activities Sasebo for a visit as part of its Indo-Asia-Pacific deployment, Feb. 19.

The visit strengthens the already positive alliance between the U.S. and Japan through the crews’ interaction with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. It also demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s commitment to regional stability and maritime security in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

http://japan.stripes.com/news/alexandria-visits-sasebo-during-indo-asia-pacific-deployment#sthash.nHclSyCd.dpuf

China gives Lotte ‘severe’ warning on THAAD

3:39 am, February 22, 2017

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) — South Korea’s Lotte Group will face severe consequences if it allows the South Korean government to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system on land that now forms part of a golf course it owns, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has warned.

The comments come soon after Lotte said this month that Chinese authorities had halted work at a multi-billion-dollar real estate project following a fire inspection, amid South Korea’s worries that Beijing is retaliating for its plans to host the system.

China has repeatedly expressed opposition to South Korea’s planned deployment later this year of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which Seoul and Washington say is needed to defend against North Korea.

China worries the system’s powerful radar can penetrate its territory.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003534761

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 20, 2017

Trump names McMaster new national security adviser

President Trump has picked Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be his new national security adviser, filling a key vacancy left by the ouster of former top security aide Michael Flynn.

The president called McMaster, a career Army officer, “a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”

Trump made the announcement Monday at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been interviewing a number of candidates for the job.

His decision comes one week after he dismissed Flynn for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and others about whether he discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador during the transition.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320367-trump-names-new-national-security-adviser

 

Pence says NATO defense costs must be ‘shared fairly’ by Europe – and warns that America’s patience ‘will not endure forever’

  • Said European nations need to speed up plans to contribute two percent of their gross national income to NATO
  • With NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s position that NATO costs are not shared fairly
  • The U.S. leader declined to make new threats to nations that don’t pay up, but he warned, ‘The patience of the American people will not endure’
  • Capping the European trip aimed at allaying fears, Pence said Washington’s backing for the EU remained ‘steadfast and enduring
  • Pence said the United States would remain ‘full partners’ with the EU in fighting terrorism – a Trump priority 

Vice President Mike Pence says European nations need to speed up plans to contribute two percent of their gross national income to NATO and encourage other member nations to do the same.

At a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday in Brussels, Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s position ‘that for too long, for too many’ the burden of paying for NATO has ‘not been shared fairly among our NATO allies.

‘That must come to an end,’ the vice president said.

The U.S. leader declined to make new threats to nations that don’t pay up, but he warned, ‘The patience of the American people will not endure.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4240972/Pence-takes-charm-offensive-EU-NATO.html#ixzz4ZHqhTPKE

Gallup poll: Greece would choose Russia as ally over NATO

A divide between Orthodox and Catholic west appears, according to poll

According to a multi-nation Gallup poll published, Greece and three other NATO member-states would prefer Russia fighting on their side! By far the largest number of countries polled by WIN/Gallup International chose the U.S. for their go-to defense partner, suggesting that it remains the world’s only military power with truly global reach and alliances, but Greece, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Turkey, all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chose Russia as their fighting partner. Another interesting finding showed that Russia and China would pick each other as allies in the event of military conflict.

The findings revealed how the geopolitical security concerns had shifted, with Greece and Bulgaria seeing Turkey, a partner of both in NATO, as the number one threat for their security. Although Turkey is also a NATO member and so theoretically an ally, its invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974 showed that these countries cannot rely on NATO to protect them, so they look to Russia. The Gallup poll also broadly reflects a divide between the Orthodox Christian world and Western Christianity, with Orthodox Greece and Bulgaria opting for Russia, while Ukraine and Bosnia Herzegovina — which are also religiously divided — split down the middle.

http://www.tornosnews.gr/en/greek-news/politics/23217-gallup-poll-greece-would-choose-russia-as-ally-over-nato.html

 

TSA allows JFK passengers to walk through security checkpoint without being screened

Eleven passengers. some of whom set off metal detectors, were never checked by TSA agents at JFK airport, according to sources.

Eleven unidentified passengers walked through a security lane without being screened at Kennedy Airport early Monday because the TSA left the area open and unattended, law enforcement sources said.A security camera captured a metal detector going off three times as the travelers walked through the screening lane, the sources said.There was no one present to operate the magnetometer, the x-ray machine and do the pat downs and secondary screening, the sources said.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/tsa-jfk-passengers-bypass-security-checkpoint-article-1.2977418

 

U.S. Air Force deploys WC-135 nuclear sniffer aircraft to UK as spike of radioactive Iodine levels is detected in Europe

Feb 19 20173 Comments

The USAF WC-135C Constant Phoenix might be investigating a spike in radioactive levels in Norway. Someone speculates the release of this radionuclide could be the effect of a Russian nuclear test.

On Feb. 17, 2017, U.S. Air Force WC-135C Constant Phoenix Nuclear explosion “sniffer,” serial number 62-3582, using radio callsign “Cobra 55” deployed to RAF Mildenhall, UK.

As we have already reported the WC-135 is a derivative of the Boeing C-135 transport and support plane. Two of these aircraft are in service today out of the ten examples operated since 1963. The aircraft are flown by flight crews from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron from Offutt Air Force Base while mission crews are staffed by Detachment 1 from the Air Force Technical Applications Center.

The WC-135, known as the “sniffer” or “weather bird” by its crews, can carry up to 33 personnel. However, crew compliments are kept to a minimum during mission flights in order to lessen levels of radioactive exposure.

Effluent gasses are gathered by two scoops on the sides of the fuselage, which in turn trap fallout particles on filters. The mission crews have the ability to analyze the fallout residue in real-time, helping to confirm the presence of nuclear fallout and possibly determine the characteristics of the warhead involved: that’s why the aircraft is important to confirm the type of explosion of today’s test.

https://theaviationist.com/2017/02/19/u-s-air-force-deploys-wc-135-nuclear-sniffer-aircraft-to-uk-after-spike-of-radioactive-iodine-levels-detected-in-europe/

 

Russian MIG corporation plans to sell MIG-35 fighter jets to Middle East

Russian MiG-35 fighter
Russia’s MiG corporation, incorporated into United Aircraft Corporation, or UAC, plans to sell its new-generation MiG-35 fighter jets on the Middle Eastern markets, MiG’s Director General Ilya Tarasenko said on Feb. 19.”MiG plans to promote its MiG-35 fighter jets in the Middle East. These aircraft may satisfy the region’s demand in terms of both the flying range and other characteristics. We plan to market the Mig-35 in the Middle East,” he told TASS on the sidelines of the IDEX 2017 international defense exhibition.http://rbth.com/news/2017/02/19/mig_705443

 

Armata T-15 and Kurganets-25 IFVs Will Get ‘Smart Ammunition’ Starting Next Year

On Monday, Tekhmash, the company developing shells for the Armata T-15 and Kurganets-25 infantry fighting vehicles, announced that all-new smart munitions will be delivered by next year.

Speaking to RIA Novosti on the sidelines of the IDEX-2017 defense exhibition in the UAE on Monday, Tekhmash director Sergei Rusakov said that smart ammunition for the T-15 heavy IFV, and the Armata platform-based Kurganets-25 IFV, will be delivered in 2018, the same year that mass production of the T-14 main battle tank is expected to begin.

Tekhmash is now engaged in preparatory work on the integration of the smart munitions technology into heavy armored vehicles, Rusakov explained, and is doing so with the help of JSC Pribor, a Moscow-headquartered defense concern engaged in the production of automatic guns, ammunition and other military products. “Given the significant amount of work involved in the preparation and carrying out of state tests, adopting these munitions may not occur before 2018,” the official said.

https://sputniknews.com/military/201702201050881203-armata-ifv-kurganets-ifv-smart-bombs/

 

Global arms trade reaches highest point since cold war era

Middle East almost doubles weapons imports, as US and Europe remain the main suppliers and China joins top-tier exporters

Iran correspondent

The global transfer of major weapons systems rose over the past five years to the highest volume since the end of the cold war as the Middle East nearly doubled its imports, according to an annual report on arms sales.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday that more weapons were delivered between 2012 and 2016 than any other five-year period since 1990. Saudi Arabia, which leads a military intervention in Yementhat has cost hundreds of civilian lives, was the world’s second largest importer after India, increasing its intake by 212%, mainly from the US and the UK.

Asia was the main recipient region in the world as India dwarfed regional rivals, China and Pakistan, by accounting for 13% of the global imports. While India received most of its arms from Russia, the Saudis relied heavily on US arms. US and Russia together supplied more than half of all exports. China, France and Germany were also among the top five exporters.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/global-arms-weapons-trade-highest-point-since-cold-war-era

Rockets fired into southern Israel from Egypt’s Sinai

No casualties as two handmade rockets land in Eshkol region day after Isis claims four members were killed by Israeli drone

in Jerusalem

Two rockets, apparently fired by Islamic militants in Egypt’s northern Sinai, have landed in southern Israel. The attack came a day after an Isis affiliate claimed that several of its members had been killed by an Israeli drone.

The incident is the second within the space of a month after four missiles were fired towards the Israeli Red Sea city of Eilat, suggesting an increase in tensions on Israel’s southern border.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/rockets-fired-into-southern-israel-from-egypts-sinai

Israel boosts missile defenses against Hezbollah

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Israel’s midlevel anti-missile system known as David’s Sling is close to becoming operation­al just as tensions are building once more between the United States and Iran.

The system passed its final tests in January amid expectations that it could soon be deployed to de­fend sensitive sites in Israel against Hezbollah’s arsenal of missiles and rockets, estimated by Israel at about 140,000 of all types.

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Voices/2017/02/20/Israel-boosts-missile-defenses-against-Hezbollah/6251487596746/

Arab Israeli charged with planning TA bus bombing, teaching IS how to make nerve gas

Anas Haj Yihya allegedly intended to blow up bus full of soldiers on Dizengoff Street on behalf of Islamic State

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

Anas Haj Yihya, a 35-year-old Arab Israeli man accused of planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel on behalf of the Islamic State. (Shin Bet)

An Arab Israeli man was charged with planning terror attacks on behalf of the Islamic State group, including bus bombings directed against IDF soldiers, according to an indictment filed against him on Monday. He also allegedly distribute information to IS members on how to create a deadly nerve gas.

The suspect, Anas Haj Yihya, was charged in a Tel Aviv court with belonging to a terrorist organization and with multiple counts of contact with a foreign agent.

In May, one of Yihya’s Islamic State contacts, Muhammad Abdel Rawi, told him to carry out attacks against soldiers, including blowing up a bus filled with soldiers on central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, which he agreed to, according to the charge sheet.

Three months later, Yihya apparently attempted to create an explosive device, asking a gardener to get him fertilizer, but his request was denied, according to the indictment.

Yihya also allegedly used the Telegram messaging application to distribute information to IS members on how to create sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent, how to manufacture explosive belts and bombs with cellphone triggers, and which poisons can be added to explosives in order to make them more lethal.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-israeli-charged-with-joining-is-planning-tel-aviv-bus-bombing/

UAE Buys New Ship Saving Missiles

 UAE Navy buys Raytheon-made RAM Block 2s

The UAE Navy has signed a multi-million dollar direct commercial sale for an undisclosed amount of American defence giant Raytheon’s highly sophisticated Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs), which are amongst the most advanced ship-defence weapons in existence.

The supersonic, lightweight, quick reaction missiles will be used to protect the UAE’s Baynunah-class corvettes – which are used for surveillance, interception and coastal patrol missions – from anti-ship missiles, helicopters, aircraft and enemy surface vessels.

 

In an interview with Khaleej Times, Alan Davis, Raytheon’s Program Director for Short Range Defence Systems, Naval and Area Mission Defense, noted that versions of the RAMs systems are currently already being used by eight navies, including America’s.

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/abu-dhabi/uae-buys-new-ship-saving-missiles

 

French music festival is cancelled at the last minute after a ‘credible’ tip-off that a ‘bloodbath’ was about to take place

  • The Lignerock Festival, in west-central France, was cancelled on Saturday night
  • The show was called off just minutes before doors were opening for the show
  • It came after a caller told the local police station in an anonymous call: ‘There will be a bloodbath in Saint-Christophe-du-Ligneron tonight’ 
  • Festival organisers received two similar phone calls before the start of the show
  • Four bands were expected to perform at the show: Apes O’Clock, Les Bidons De L’An Fer, Les Cameleons and Eugene De Rastignac

A music festival in France was cancelled at the last minute this weekend over fears of a terror attack after organisers received a series of phone calls threatening a ‘bloodbath’.

The Lignerock Festival, which was scheduled to take place in the Vendée department of Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France, was cancelled just minutes before showtime on Saturday night.

It came after a caller told the local police station in an anonymous call: ‘There will be a bloodbath in Saint-Christophe-du-Ligneron tonight.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4241982/French-music-festival-cancelled-bloodbath-threats.html#ixzz4ZEHD0uIf

Four million people could flee to Europe if Britain pulls out of Afghanistan, warns defence minister

  • Sir Michael Fallon admitted Britain and Nato cannot pull troops from Afghanistan
  • Migrants could travel to the UK if the war-ravaged country is left abandoned
  • If Afghanistan collapses Europe would feel the consequences directly, he said 
  • Troops must remain there because terror groups from 2001 still pose a threat 

Sir Michael Fallon admitted the UK and Nato cannot pull troops out of Afghanistan because the terrorist groups that existed there when soldiers deployed in 2001 remain and ‘still pose a threat’.

As the Ministry of Defence considers sending more troops to the country, Sir Michael warned that if Afghanistan collapses, Europe ‘will feel the consequences, very directly’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4240580/4m-flee-Afghanistan-Britain-pulls-country.html#ixzz4ZEIDWUyR

White House Fires Senior NSC Aide for Harsh Trump Criticism

February 18, 2017 9:05 pm

The White House on Friday fired a senior National Security Council aide after learning that he severely criticized President Donald Trump and his top aides, including daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, at an event in Washington, D.C.

The aide, Craig Deare, was dismissed by the Trump administration after he castigated the administration’s senior officials at an off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a think tank based in the nation’s capital, Politico reported Saturday.

Deare served as the NSC’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs and was previously the dean of administration at National Defense University.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/white-house-fires-senior-nsc-aide-trump-criticism/

‘We see a president who’s pragmatic and practical, a businessman, problem-solver’

Praising Trump, Saudi FM urges progress toward peace with Israel

Days after Trump and Netanyahu talk of regional deal, Adel al-Jubeir says his country ready to stand with others in Arab world ‘to promote’ a deal

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he is optimistic that Arabs and Israelis can reach a peace deal in 2017.

Speaking four days after US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a White House press conference about the possibilities of a regional peace agreement, Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian accord were clear, and that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would work to bring it to fruition.

“I believe progress can be made in the Arab-Israel conflict, if there is a will to do so,” he said. “We know what the settlement looks like, if there is just the political will to do so. And my country stands ready with other Arab countries to work to see how we can promote that.”

He said the new US administration made him optimistic that this and other regional challenges could be resolved.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/praising-trump-saudi-fm-urges-progress-toward-israeli-arab-peace/

Hezbollah said to have obtained ‘game-changing’ anti-ship missiles

Russian-made Yakhont would give Lebanese terror group the ability to strike Israeli gas platforms and ships in the Mediterranean

A Yakhont missile at a Russian air show in 1997 (photo credit: CC BY-SA, JNO, Wikimedia Commons)

A Yakhont missile at a Russian air show in 1997 (photo credit: CC BY-SA, JNO, Wikimedia Commons)

The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah has obtained advanced Russian-made anti-ship missiles, potentially threatening Israeli gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea and the Israeli Navy’s ability to operate in the area, according to a report published Sunday.Hezbollah’s possession of the Yakhont missiles was revealed by unnamed Western intelligence officials over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference, where world leaders and defense ministers are meeting to discuss major security issues, according to a report in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. The report did not reveal in what forum the revelations were made.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-said-to-have-obtained-game-changing-anti-ship-missiles/

Russia rejects claim of Montenegro plot

Russia has denounced as absurd and unsubstantiated allegations that “Russian state bodies” were involved in an attempted coup in the Balkan state of Montenegro.

The alleged plot dates back to a series of arrests hours before Montenegro’s elections in October 2016.

At the time, Serb paramilitaries and Russian nationalists were blamed.

But prosecutor Milivoje Katnic has now named a Russian military figure as behind the alleged mission.

He said a Serb nationalist figure had been invited to Moscow by Eduard Sismakov, a former deputy military attache to Poland, with the aim of preventing Montenegro from joining Nato.

The alleged plotters are said to have planned to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39027315

Iran launches ‘advanced’ rockets during military exercises

An Iranian semi-official news agency is reporting that the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard has launched sophisticated rockets during military exercises.

The Monday report by Tasnim, an agency considered to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, said the launch of “smart and advanced” rockets came during an annual three-day maneuver which began on Monday in Iran’s central desert.

The report did not elaborate on the model of the rockets…

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/20/iran-launches-advanced-rockets-during-military-exercises.html

4 Russian servicemen killed in car blast in Syria – MoD

Four Russian servicemen were killed in Syria on February 16, when a radio controlled bomb targeting a Syrian military convoy exploded, the Russian Defense Ministry has said in a statement.

Two other Russian servicemen were injured in the blast, the Ministry added.

The vehicle had been part of a Syrian Army convoy traveling to the city of Homs from the Tiyas airfield in central Syria’s Homs Province.

Russian military advisers were in the car when it blew up, according to the ministry’s statement.

https://www.rt.com/news/377947-russian-servicemen-killed-syria/

BRITISH TROOPS FRESH OFFENSIVE

SAS troops to fight alongside Iraqi and Kurdish fighters to free Iraq’s second largest city from ISIS

British Special Forces lead fresh offensive to liberate 650,000 Iraqi civilians in Mosul

BRITISH Special Forces led a fresh offensive yesterday in a bid to liberate western Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq.

SAS troops along with the U.S. Green Beret and Delta Force commandos are aiming to retake the area from Islamic State.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2905894/sas-troops-to-fight-alongside-iraqi-and-kurdish-fighters-to-free-iraqs-second-largest-city-from-isis/

Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces storm key village near airport

  • Iraqi forces storm village overlooking Mosul airport
  • Long-awaited operation to retake western part of city began Sunday

(CNN)US-backed Iraqi forces have stormed a key village overlooking Mosul’s airport “and are continuing to clear it” of ISIS fighters, the Iraqi army said Monday, less than 48 hours after an offensive was launched to retake control of the western part of the city.

Iraqi Commander of the Operation General Abdal Amir Yar Allah said in a statement that the federal police and the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Deployment Force were battling ISIS in Albu Saif village, less than 2 kilometers from the airport.

‘President Erdogan assassination plot’ trial opens in TurkeyText

by FRANCE 24

A trial of almost 50 suspects accused of plotting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the botched July 15 coup opened Monday in southern Turkey.

Forty-four suspects — mainly soldiers — face possible life sentences on charges that include attempted assassination, overthrow of the constitutional order and other crimes against the state during the 2016 coup attempt.

“Most of them are soldiers up to the rank of brigadier general, three of them are still at large, including the number one accused, Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and who is alleged to be the mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt,” explained FRANCE 24’s Jasper Mortimer, reporting from the southwestern Turkish city of Mugla.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170220-turkey-erdogan-assassination-plot-trial-coup-gulen

Turkey dismisses 227 more judges, prosecutors in post-coup probe: AA

Turkey dismissed 227 more judges and prosecutors on Monday as part of investigations into last July’s failed coup, the state-run Anadolu agency said, meaning close to 4,000 members of the judiciary have now been purged.

Turkish authorities have detained, sacked or dismissed more than 100,000 people from the police, military, public service, judiciary, and elsewhere since the abortive coup over suspected ties to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the putsch.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-judges-idUSKBN15Z1PG?il=0

 

Terror fears in France after knifeman goes berserk in town where al-Qaeda killed two Muslim soldiers

The 32-year-old struck in the town of Montauban, north of Toulouse where a terror attack two years ago left France stunned

 

A knife-wielding attacker was shot by police in south west France today (sun) after wounding a woman in the shoulder.

The unnamed assailant, who is said to be 32 and from the French overseas territory of Reunion Island, struck in the town of Montauban, north of Toulouse.

It is where an al-Qaeda operative killed two Muslim French soldiers five years ago, prompting fears that today’s incident might be terrorist related.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/terror-fears-france-after-knifeman-9850941

Star of postwar German cinema was Soviet spy, declassified files show

Marika Rökk revealed as Soviet agent working from 1940s onwards for network passing Third Reich secrets to Moscow

Marika Rökk
Marika Rökk, whose career began during the Nazi era, went on to star in almost 40 films until her death at the age of 90 in 2004. Photograph: Ronald Grant
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February 5, 2017

Breaking: Ballistic missile strikes Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

According to emerging reports from Yemen, a surface-to-surface missile fired by the Yemeni Army has hit the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The missile was launched on Sunday evening, and sources in Yemen have described the missile test as successful.  It is unclear exactly what missile was used, and casualty figures, if any, are yet to be reported.

Saudi Arabia intervened military in the Yemeni Conflict in 2015, leading a coalition of almost 10 Middle Eastern countries. In October 2016, a Yemeni activist warned that Riyadh was the next target for a Yemeni missile attack.

Update 1: More information has emerged, suggesting that the missile was a variant of a Russian Scud missile, known as the “Borkan” surface-to-surface missile.

Update 2: Sources indicate that the missile struck a military base West of Riyadh, in Mazahimiyah.

Update 3: On social media, a Saudi attempts to cover-up the attack, saying that the sound of the explosion in Riyadh was an earthquake or meteor.

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-ballistic-missile-strikes-riyadh-saudi-arabia/

Hamas explosives chief said killed in accidental blast

Terror group says Muhammad Walid al-Quqa, 37, died of wounds sustained while ‘preparing equipment’ in northern Gaza

A senior Hamas field commander died Sunday of wounds incurred a day earlier in an accidental blast, the Gaza-based terror group said.

Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, said in a statement posted to its official website that high-ranking field commander Muhammad Hemada Walid al-Quqa, 37, died Sunday morning. Other reports from Gaza said he was 44 years old.

According to the statement, Quqa was “preparing equipment” in the field when he was injured in an explosion.

 

http://www.timesofisrael.com/senior-hamas-commander-said-killed-in-accidental-blast/

Hezbollah targeted Israeli diplomats in Brazil in 1989, declassified files show

Terror group planned to kidnap Israelis in Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Correio Braziliense reports, citing newly revealed documents

RIO DE JANEIRO – The terrorist group Hezbollah sent operatives to Brazil in order to commit attacks on diplomatic representatives of Israel, according to previously classified documents.

Latin America’s largest nation was targeted by the Lebanese terrorist group at least twice, most recently in 1989, reported the Correio Braziliense newspaper on Saturday. Hezbollah operatives planned to kidnap Israeli diplomats in both the capital city of Brasilia and in Sao Paulo. The information had been restricted to the military and top-level officials in Brazil and Israel until last month, and has now been made public.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-targeted-israeli-diplomats-in-brazil-in-1989-declassified-files-show/

 

 

The U.S. military’s stats on deadly airstrikes are wrong. Thousands have gone unreported

By: Andrew deGrandpre and Shawn Snow, February 5, 2017 (Photo Credit: Capt. Jarrod Morris/Army)

The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/airstrikes-unreported-syria-iraq-afghanistan-islamic-state-al-qaeda-taliban

 

Video reveals the moment a suicide boat rams Saudi Arabian warship

The Saudi Arabian defence force video, obtained by Al Arabiya News, showing the suicide-boat strike.

Staff writers, agenciesNews Corp Australia Network

DRAMATIC video has emerged of the moment a suicide boat rammed a Saudi frigate last week — an attack believed to have been intended for a US warship.

The Al Arabia news network has released the footage, taken from the frigate’s air operations observation platform overlooking the helicopter pad on the rear of the ship.

It had been previously reported that the ship had been hit by a guided missile. But the footage reveals a Yemeni rebel speed boat dashing over the horizon and into the warship’s stern.

The Saudi warship has returned to its home port in Jeddah on Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s national news agency said.

“The frigate, which was attacked by the Huthi militia while on patrol in the Red Sea, has returned to Jeddah as planned,” the Saudi Press Agency reports.

Saudi Arabia said last week that two sailors were killed and three wounded when battleship Al-Madinah was hit by a Yemeni rebel “suicide” boat strike off the Red Sea port of Hodeida.

http://www.news.com.au/world/video-reveals-the-moment-a-suicide-boat-rams-saudi-arabian-warship/news-story/9b170528b37adc119bb7dd057737ffbb

 

Western navies hold major drill off coast of Iran

British-led ‘United Trident’ exercises come in light of increased Iranian harassment of naval vessels in Persian Gulf

File: The USS Stennis on its way to the Persian Gulf in 2012. (Department of Defense/Randi R. Brown, US Navy)

File: The USS Stennis on its way to the Persian Gulf in 2012. (Department of Defense/Randi R. Brown, US Navy)

Western navies held a series of drills off the coast of Iran last week, in a show of force in light of increased Iranian harassment of foreign military vessels.

The exercises, dubbed “United Trident,” were led by the United Kingdom and included ships from the US, France and Australia. The navies practiced fighting off enemy aerial incursions and mine clearing, as well as live fire drills, according to the British daily Telegraph.

The final drill featured 13 ships from the allied navies sailing in formation, with helicopters flying overhead.

British naval officials told the Telegraph that the drills had been planned for some time and were not connected to US President Donald Trump’s recent adoption of a more hardline stance against Iran, which resulted in the imposition of sanctions Friday on a number of individuals and entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile program. Rather, they said, they were rather meant to promote stability in the Persian Gulf and to ensure “the free flow of commerce” through the Strait of Hormuz.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/western-navies-hold-major-drill-off-coast-of-iran/

 

 

NORAD Exercise in Washington DC

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region, will conduct exercise Falcon Virgo 17-05 Monday night into Tuesday morning in the National Capital Region, Washington, D.C., with flights scheduled to take place between approximately midnight and 2:30 a.m. (EST).

In the event of inclement weather, the exercise will take place the following morning. If bad weather continues, officials will then make a decision to postpone or cancel the exercise.
The exercise is comprised of a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Capital Region Coordination Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, and the Western Air Defense Sector.

Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD’s intercept and identification operations as well as operationally test the NCR Visual Warning System and training personnel at the JADOC. Two Civil Air Patrol C-182 aircraft and a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter will participate in the exercise.
These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure CONR’s rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

 

Russia tells Britain give back Gibraltar & Falklands before telling US what to do

RUSSIA has told Britain it should “clean its conscience” and give back Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands before it criticises them over their involvement in Ukraine.

Vitaly and Churkin and Matthew Rycroft clashed during a UN security council

Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin made the shocking remarks when responding to his British counterpart Matthew Rycroft at a UN security council meeting in New York.Speaking about the 2014 ousting of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych, he said: “I can only remind you that everything began with a coup, largely supported from outside the country.”

Laying into Britain, he said: “As for the position of the UK representative, I would liket to advise: give back the Malvinas [Falkland] Islands, give back Gibraltar, return the Chagos archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which you turned into a huge military base.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/763255/Russia-Britain-Gibraltar-Falkland-Islands-Crimea-Ukraine

Serbian Defense Ministry to Receive Six MiG-29 Jets From Russia by May

Russian specialists would help Belgrade modernize six aircraft to be received from Russia, as well as four fighter jets from the Serbian Air Force fleet, according to local media.

BELGRADE (Sputnik) — The Serbian Defense Ministry will receive six Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia before the end of April, Serbian media reported Sunday.

According to the Tanjug news agency, citing the ministry, Russian specialists would help Belgrade modernize six aircraft to be received from Russia, as well as four fighter jets from the Serbian Air Force fleet.

Belgrade expects that after the modernization the aircraft would begin service as part of the country’s 204th Air Brigade by 2018, the media outlet added.
https://sputniknews.com/military/201702051050367942-serbia-russia-mig-29/

Jordan hits ISIL targets in southern Syria

Military strikes armed group two years after a Jordanian pilot was captured and burned alive in a cage.

Jordan said its forces used drones and precision-guided munitions in the operation [File: EPA]

Jordan said late on Saturday that its warplanes bombed positions held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in southern Syria, two years after one of its pilots was captured and killed by the armed group.

Friday’s strikes came on the second anniversary of ISIL’s release of video showing pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh being burned alive in a cage after his aircraft crashed in Syria in December 2014.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/jordan-isil-syria-170205054336070.html

NATO to Start Training Soldiers in Iraq

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will begin its training effort in Iraq on Sunday, as the alliance looks to step up its efforts to assist in the fight against Islamic State, according to NATO’s secretary-general.

The effort to train Iraqi soldiers in how to better counter the threat of improvised explosive devices inside Iraq will be small at first, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it is an effort that could expand.

 http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/nato-to-start-training-soldiers-in-iraq

US embarrassed after deadly Yemen raid video outed as fake

In an awkward reversal, the US military promptly withdrew an old video by unidentified Yemeni militants it had released yesterday as evidence that a fatal raid in Yemen by American special forces this week that led to the deaths of at least 16 women and children was a counterterrorism success.

An expert in radical Muslim media said the footage by unknown militants appeared to be part of videos first released by extremists online some ten years ago, undermining the Pentagon’s explanation about its value.

A US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman confirmed that the video was removed from the website because the contents were old.

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170204-us-embarrassed-after-deadly-yemen-raid-video-outed-as-fake/

Turkey detains some 400 IS suspects in nationwide raids: Reports

#TurkeyAtWar

Even in the usually peaceful city of Izmir, nine people suspected of travelling to Syria and planning attacks in the city were detained

Turkish police on Sunday detained hundreds of suspected members of the Islamic State group in nationwide raids, just over a month after an attack on an Istanbul nightclub claimed by the militants.

Among around 400 detained in the biggest operation so far against IS after the New Year attack were foreigners and those suspected of planning attacks in Turkey, the Dogan and Anadolu news agencies reported.

The operation around the country saw 150 suspects detained in Sanliurfa in the southeast and 47 in the nearby city of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border, Dogan said

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-detains-400-suspects-nationwide-raids-1423083348

Sweden to consider military partnership with UK

As well as the UK, six other Nato countries – Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands – are Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) members.
“We have also held discussions with Finland and will undertake a joint analysis of potential participation in JEF. We will coordinate our position on this,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
JEF has no standing forces, but participating countries provide various units that can respond in a crisis situation.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron offers refuge to US scientists who are ‘afraid’ of Trump

  • Emmanuel Macron encouraged US scientists to move to France on Saturday
  • He offered his homeland to innovators who could help rebuild the country
  • Macron didn’t name Trump but referenced the American president in his speech
  • The former economy minister said those ‘who were fighting obscurantism and afraid, will have a new homeland’ 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron called on U.S. scientists who were ‘afraid’ and at odds with Donald Trump’s administration to move to France.

The former economy minister urged U.S.-based scientists working on climate change, renewable energy or health issues to seek refuge across the Atlantic on Saturday.

He offered his homeland up to the inventive minds who were wary of the new political situation, so they could help rebuild a more innovative France.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4192728/Emmanuel-Macron-offers-refugee-scientists-France.html#ixzz4XoqaTX6b

German Social Democrats leader wants to send refugees back to North Africa

The chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD) has said a comprehensive approach to the migrant crisis had to involve the return of refugees to North Africa. His words echoed sentiments made by Germany’s interior minister.

Deutschland Thomas Oppermann, Fraktionsvorsitzender der SPD (picture-alliance/dpa/B.v. Jutrczenka)

Marking a shift in his party’s rhetoric, the chairman of the SPD-Parliamentary Group, Thomas Oppermann, spoke out in favor of sending refugees arriving on boats back to North Africa. In an editorial he penned in the Sunday edition of the German daily newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, Oppermann justified his view arguing that this would be an important step to curb human trafficking.

http://www.dw.com/en/german-social-democrats-leader-wants-to-send-refugees-back-to-north-africa/a-37418869

US and Japan carry out missile launch drills in Pacific – Tokyo

A test launch of US/Japan-made anti-ballistic SM-3 missiles in the Pacific Ocean has gone off successfully, Japanese officials said. The test was conducted in cooperation with the United States.

The SM-3 Block IIA missiles were launched from a US warship equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and successfully hit a hypothetical target – a ballistic missile, Japan’s Logistics Agency under the Defense Ministry said, according to Japan’s state newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

The drills took place in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday, the agency added.

https://www.rt.com/news/376325-japan-us-drills-missile/

North Korea Possibly Supplying Missile Technology to Iran — Did Obama Know

– The Washington Times 

Speculation is mounting that North Korea is supplying missile technology to the real Islamic State, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Recent missile tests coming out of Tehran have caused the Trump administration to once again apply targeted sanctions against the regime.  For its part, Iran has declared that it will continue the missile tests and that they do not violate the agreement reached with the Obama administration.

The North Korean analysis site, 38North.org, reported on the recent Iranian test, saying, “[Some analysts have ] speculated that it relies on a liquid-fueled engine originally developed by the Isayev Design Bureau for the Soviet R-27 submarine-launched ballistic missile … The ramifications of such a connection would be significant, not only because it would signify ongoing close Iranian-North Korean missile cooperation, but also because such an engine would be a foundation for Iran to develop a viable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”

The website went on to say very forcefully that the reports of such collaboration are unconfirmed.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/4/north-korea-possibly-supplying-missile-technology-/?

S Korea opens €100mn LOC for Iranian producers

News ID: 3896318 – Sat 4 February 2017 – 19:32
TEHRAN, Feb. 04 (MNA) – EDBI head said South Korea had allocated a Line of Credit (LOC) worth 100 million euros for imports of raw materials manufactured in Iran.

Ali Salehabadi, Managing Director of the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI), pointed to arrival of a cargo for equipment of Chabahar Port Phase one saying “Indians are extremely eager to make presence in the Iranian port and the Leader has also urged inclusion of sustainable development of Mokran Shores in the Sixth National Development Plan.”

“Cargos worth 350 million dollars have been received for development of Chabahar port in partnership with EDBI,” he added.

http://en.mehrnews.com/news/123255/S-Korea-opens-100mn-LOC-for-Iranian-producers

Two-thirds of British people think selling arms to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable

Findings come days before judicial review into UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen

May Bulman

 

Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK oppose exporting arms to Saudi Arabia, a survey has found.

An Opinium poll of 2,000 UK adults found 62 per cent of them disagreed with the arms sales from the UK to the Middle Eastern nation, with only 11 per cent supporting them.

Nearly one in four respondents — 71 per cent — meanwhile opposed arms exports to countries that have been accused of violating international humanitarian law, with the same proportion opposing arms exports to countries with poor human rights records. Less than six per cent of people supported these acts.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudi-arabia-two-thirds-oppose-arms-sales-uk-british-people-a7563576.html

British warships ‘so noisy’ Russian submarines can hear them 100 miles away, investigation finds

Britain’s ability to defend itself against a major attack has been called into question after an investigation found serious shortcomings in the country’s military capabilities.

The Navy’s Type 45 destroyers are so loud they can be heard 100 miles away by Russian submarines, it has emerged.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry said the six warships, which cost £1 billion each, sounded like “a box of spanners” underwater.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/05/british-warships-noisy-russian-submarines-can-hear-100-miles/

Revealed: UK defence ‘at risk’ due to billions wasted on trophy kit including warships that ‘sound like a box of spanners’ and can be heard by Russian subs 100 MILES away

  • The nay’s six Type 45 destroyers, which cost £1billion each, are ‘as noisy as hell’ 
  • The Ajax tank has to be dismantled before it is transported by air in the A400m 
  • And 54 reconnaissance drones have not been used since order 12 years ago
  • MoD defended blunders by saying defence budget is the biggest in Europe 

The Ministry of Defence was criticised last night for leaving Britain vulnerable to attack due to a series of equipment blunders.

New tanks are too big to fit in the planes that will get them to warzones and our ships and can be heard by Russian submarines 100 miles away, it has emerged.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry described the navy’s Type 45 destroyers, which cost £1billion each, as sounding like ‘a box of spanners’ underwater.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry described the navy’s Type 45 destroyers, which cost £1billion each, as sounding like ‘a box of spanners’ underwater

He said they were ‘noisy as hell’ and slammed the MoD for not ‘thinking about the anti-submarine element’.

They also suffer frequent engine problems which cause them to break down in warm seas despite being designed to function between 50C and -20C.

All six are having new diesel generators installed which involves cutting a hole in the side of the ships and will take around nine years.

Meanwhile, the Army’s Ajax tanks, which cost £3.5bn each, can’t fit on board the A400m transport aircraft without needing to be dismantled.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4192894/Britain-vulnerable-attack-defence-blunders.html#ixzz4XouLbpvS

Sources: Feds identify Philly woman in probe of secret recordings at GOP retreat

[Editor’s Note: While this is a political story it indicates that the Secret Service failed to properly control access to a place where the Vice President was speaking. ]

by Jeremy Roebuck & Jonathan Tamari – Staff Writers

Federal authorities have identified a Philadelphia journalist as the woman who infiltrated and might have secretly recorded a closed-door discussion of congressional Republicans at their Center City retreat last week, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the matter.

After a probe involving multiple agencies, they said Emily Guendelsberger is unlikely to face federal charges in Philadelphia, despite getting past security and into a room in the Loews hotel where Vice President Pence met privately with senators and representatives.

Navy decommissions ‘legendary’ carrier that shaped history

USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.  (U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy has officially decommissioned the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

During Friday’s ceremony at a Newport News shipyard, the USS Enterprise was described as a “legendary” vessel that helped shape history. It served more than 50 years, playing a role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Affectionately called the “Big E,” the ship retired from service in 2012. The Navy has spent the last few years defueling its reactors. The ship will eventually be taken apart and its metal recycled.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/03/navy-decommissions-legendary-carrier-that-shaped-history.html

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Has Putin Blundered in Iran?

By EllsworthSK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By EllsworthSK (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By Stephen Bryen

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia may have finally blundered in his latest move supplying Antey 2500s, an upgraded version of the air and missile defense S-300 system to Iran.

The Antey is a capable, mobile air defense missile system and can fire two types of missiles known respectively as the SA-12A Gladiator and the SA-12B Giant (NATO terminology).

Iran obviously wants the Antey system to protect its nuclear weapons program, especially its large underground facilities including Fordow and Parchin. Fordow is one of Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facilities; Parchin is a military complex that produces conventional weapons and is used for testing implosion devices for nuclear weapons.

Iran will also need to protect its long range missile bases because it is likely that Iran is moving in the direction of mounting nuclear warheads on missiles.

Clearly neither Putin nor the Iranians have any expectation that the Iran nuclear deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, leading to the obvious conclusion that Iran will need to protect its nuclear assets from an attack either from Israel, Saudi Arabia or the United States.

Many thought that Israel and Russia had reached a tacit agreement a few years ago whereby Russia would not supply any advanced air defense system to Iran. In turn Israel would not supply weapons to Ukraine. It is, therefore, far from surprising that in Putin’s comments on the missile deal he went out of his way to warn Israel not to supply weapons to Ukraine.

This is not the first time that the Russians have played roulette with Israel. On a number of occasions the Russians supplied missiles to Syria (some destined for Hezbollah) and these shipments were destroyed by Israel. The Russians never openly complained about the Israeli countermeasures.

Putin’s decision to send missiles to Iran is not a cost-free exercise for Russia. While Putin has been energetically exploiting the vacuum in US leadership and the weakness of NATO, he should know that this is a finite problem. The infamous American “sleeping Giant” will awaken, and the Russians will pay a price for their adventurism.

In the short term, Russian credibility as an arbiter in any brokered deal with Iran on nuclear weapons has now gone from positive to strongly negative. Taken in measure with Russian military operations in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to former Russian Republics such as Latvia and extreme nervousness in Poland, the Russian “forward” posture could expose rather quickly the limited capability of Russia’s armed forces. Even in the Ukraine the Russian “separatists” and the Russian army behind them has not been nearly as successful as Putin must have hoped. Somehow the Ukrainians have rallied and at least are holding their own against a much better equipped opposition supported by a logistics chain and intelligence gathering system far more sophisticated than anything in the hands of Ukraine.

So far neither Europe or America has provided military equipment to Ukraine. Israel too has been hands off. But if the Saudis, for example, understand that Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine isn’t much different than Russia’s support of aggression from Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, the Saudis may put the Ukraine on their “must help” list. There is virtually nothing the Russians could do about Saudi support to Ukraine and it would confer on Saudi Arabia substantial leverage over the Russians vis a vis Iran. The under-the-table relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel could assure the right pipeline, the right planning and the right intelligence support to bolster the Ukrainians.

In short, Russia has stuck its nose out pretty far, and backtracking won’t be either easy or pleasant.

There are already signs of rebellion inside Russia. The erosion of the economy and the loss of life of Russian soldiers seconded to the “separatists” in Ukraine does not sit well with the majority of Russians. Are er at the start of a repeat of Afghanistan in Ukraine? It is foolish to believe that the Russian people are really behind Putin’s aggression: in fact, all the signs point in the reverse direction. The murder of Putin’s top political challenger Boris Nemtsov, the crackdown on journalists, and other repressive actions inside Russia are signs of a frightened leadership, not a confident one. Everything suggests Putin is in increasing trouble. His recent disappearance for reasons still unexplained suggest that he is living on borrowed time.

Most of all, there is very little concrete reason for Putin to support the radical regime in Iran, anymore than there is any reason for Obama to do so. One of the modern mysteries is how two world leaders could bet so much on such a repressive and dangerous regime. It is especially tragic for the United States that could have easily and purposefully supported the Iranian opposition that could have led to a pro-Western government.

In strategic terms, Russian supply of missiles to Iran and Russian support for Syria and the parallel Iranian military intervention in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (with a new one developing in Yemen) does not make Iran safe for Russia. In fact it is a pit that will suck up Russian resources with no discernible return on investment. If the only purpose of Russia’s game is to give the United States a black eye and damage America’s prestige in the Middle East, the Russians need not have bothered. Washington is doing a more than competent job of it all by itself.

While Russia is desperate for money and will do almost anything to get it, supplying missiles to Iran combined with her other aggressive activities in the end will bleed Russia’s economy even more and set back any progress to the normalization of Russia in the world community. Once again the Russians will have squandered their wealth and resources in unprofitable and dangerous ventures.  Finally Putin has stumbled and his missile deal is the capstone of a series of blunders that in the end will chase him from office.

CLIMBING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN

Twenty four hours after the above article was written Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper, carried the following headline: “Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says ‘a political and legal decision’ needs to be reached before the missiles can be shipped.” He added that the missiles would not be shipped “anytime soon.”
So the Putin has found out that he went too far and has intelligently backed away with an appropriate face saving gesture
.

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Iraq– A National Security Disaster

Iraq is in crisis, and the crisis is fatal.  The administration, without any support at all from the American people, is privately asking the Iranians to help the Iraqi regime.  The Iranians will extract a huge price, but in fact Iran cannot do anything much to help the rapidly collapsing situation.  Iraq is no longer a single country –what it will actually become is still in doubt.

All of this has been brought about largely through the deliberate ignorance of  the current administration.  Thinking they somehow could defeat Saddam and, following that, al-Qaeda in Iraq, Obama pulled U.S. troops out of the country and declared victory.

From the start the post Saddam reconstituted Iraq state did not have a chance.  To begin with there are massive sectarian hatreds that are still sorting out.   U.S. training and equipment supply to Iraq’s army and police made it look like we were accomplishing something.  But no one asked the obvious questions: are the Iraqi military and police coherent organizations and will they fight for the new government?  The answer is now crystal clear.  The military and police did not fight.  The only fighting force willing to fight, outside of the Sunni al-Qaeda like insurgents,  are the Kurdish forces.  The Kurds, who have always been despised by Washington because their cause was not “convenient”, have a real territorial claim, a genuine sense of identity, and deep historical ties to the land.  They are not, unlike all the other players, the pawn of some foreign regime (whether American, Saudi, Turkish, Syrian or Iranian).

The goal of the al-Qaeda-like insurgency is to create a Caliphate that will stretch across Syria, Iraq and Jordan for starters.  If they are successful they will form a powerful and dangerous force.  They are determined, very well equipped (and now helping themselves to stores of equipment and ammunition generously provided by the American taxpayer),  rich, absolutely ruthless and inflexible in the extreme.

These are Islamic Jihadis.  They are the same people the Obama administration has been playing footsie with for far too long, destabilizing the Middle East, alienating virtually all the allies we have in the region. Single handedly the Obama administration has destroyed America’s relationship with Egypt, made a total mess of their constant pounding on Israel, and showed themselves as both toothless and worthless at every turn.  The constant hectoring by both former Secretary of State Clinton and her successor, the none-too-adept, John Kerry have just poured napalm onto the fire.  The President, who has a strange romantic notion about Islam and Muslims, has made it far worse.  By now he has lost the respect of the foreign leaders he needs to work with, such as Merkel in Germany and Putin in Russia.   So too has his “team” been discredited.  Senator John McCain has gone so far as to call for the resignation of the entire National Security Council.  He should extend his argument to large parts of the State Department and CIA, who have proven themselves unsuitable to run U.S. national security policy.

Should the Jihadists get control of Baghdad, their next task will be to try and consolidate territorial gains.  This may take some time and it will mean that the lower third of Iraq, which is Shi’ia, probably will form an independent breakaway state.  The Kurds too will have virtual independence.

So what should the U.S. do.  By all means there is no chance at this late moment to defend a failed government in Baghdad which is currently under practical Shi’ia control.  The remnants of the Baghdad government will probably retreat to the south and try and reestablish itself in Basra (itself a key oil port).  Whether it can do so, and get the backing of the various Shi’ia factions, some pro-Iranians, others not, is far from certain.

The Pentagon must vigorously resist any proposed suicide-type military missions to save and unsaveable Baghdad government.

The Kurds will probably, under these circumstances, declare their independence.  If the U.S. was smart, which is in serious doubt, it would recognize a Kurdish state provided agreement can be reached on boundaries, especially the sensitive boundary with Turkey, which has a large, restless, Kurdish population.

Jordan and Israel also need to be more strongly supported.  If Jordan comes under Jihadi attack, as seems highly probable, Jordan may need help.  Israel has bailed out Jordan before, most notably in 1970 when the Syrians threatened King Hussein.  They may need to help again by providing tactical support and real time intelligence.

It bears mentioning that Israel also has to be prepared for a Palestinian threat, from Hamas and from the now clearly compromised West Bank government.

The U.S. also has to significantly improve its tattered relationship with Egypt.  Like it or not, Egypt is a big power.  If it is cast adrift, as now seems the case, it will inevitably be another tinder box for the Jihadis.

America’s relationship to Saudi Arabia also is in a mess.  The Saudis feel they were not really supported in the fight in Syria, which is true.  But even worse has been the U.S. policy to Iran, which has left the Saudis totally exposed to nuclear extortion.  Anyone who believes the nuclear deal in Iran is real probably also likes smoking dope.   We need to realize that thanks to our machinations with the Iranians, Saudi Arabia’s stability and its future is now deeply in doubt.

Finally we have to realize that this is a massive defeat for the United States which put all its support into the Baghdad government.  The U.S. defeat is well understood in the region, and will trigger trouble far and wide.

 

 

 

 

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The Klos-C Missiles-Target Israel or Egypt?

On early Wednesday morning (Israel time), March 5th, an Israeli commando force known as Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) stormed on board a freighter, the Klos-C, in the Red Sea sailing under a Panamanian flag.  Shayetet 13 is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy Seals –its motto is Never Again.   Jamie Frater counts this naval commando force as one of the “Top Ten Badasses of the World’s Special Forces.”    The raid on the Klos-C was the result of extensive intelligence gathering including close cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.

The Klos-C shadowed by an Israeli naval vessel

The Klos-C shadowed by an Israeli naval vessel

Hidden on board the vessel, sandwiched under bags of cement with “Made in Iran” stamped on them, were some forty M-302 missiles, 181 120mm mortars and 400,000 rounds of 7.62 ammunition.

According to Israel and fully supported by the U.S., the missiles originated in Syria.  They were air-shipped to Iran (probably on Russian-made IL-76 aircraft), put on the Klos-C freighter, which departed Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas, sailed on to Iraq and planned to drop off the weapons on the Sinai coast where they would eventually be smuggled to Gaza or, alternatively, set up in the Sinai but aimed at Israeli cities.   According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from launching sites in Gaza or Sinai, the rockets are in range of most of Israel.

The M-302 covers most of Israel if launched from Gaza

The M-302 covers most of Israel if launched from Gaza

The M-302 is manufactured in Syria and previously was supplied to Hezbollah.  In 2006 a number of these rockets were fired at northern Israel.  The M-302 is available in different versions, has a range in excess of 125 miles, and a fairly large warhead coming in at over 144kilograms (318 pounds).

The M-302 is otherwise known as the Khaibar.  Khaibar (or Khaybar) is an Oasis located near Medina in Saudi Arabia. Khaybar itself was the scene of an important series of battles starting in a.d. 629 between the Jewish community living in that area and an invasion force launched under the guidance of Mohammed.  Known as the Battle of Khaybar, it is an interesting and complex story that resulted in the defeat of the Jewish community and a negotiated surrender.  Under the surrender terms, the Jews were to be allowed to continue living in the Khaybar area, said protection agreed under a signed treaty. However, in a.d. 642 the Jewish community was expelled from the area, violating the treaty terms.

It is hard to miss the significance of the name of the missile.

Ruins of the expelled Jewish Community of Khaybar, Saudi Arabia

Ruins of the expelled Jewish Community of Khaybar, Saudi Arabia

Still unanswered is why Iran sponsored such a hostile operation directed against Israel at this particular moment in time.

Iran is sponsoring the Syrian regime, along with the Russians, against insurgent groups and seem to be gaining the upper hand in the conflict.  Thanks to a weak and indecisive U.S. administration, and the shadow of nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration has not intervened in Syria (despite so-called red lines) and has provided only cursory support to the rebels.  The U.S. all but jettisoned its vital oil-producing ally, Saudi Arabia, who supported the rebels in Syria, creating a potential vulnerability that also has untoward echoes in the Ukraine, where the Russians were bold enough to occupy the Crimea, and have threatened to cut off oil supplies to the Ukraine as another step in trying to dismantle the Ukrainian revolution.

So why take a chance on toppling the apple cart –especially when the cart is tilted so much in favor of the Iranians and their Russian backers?

Some have suggested that the Iranians were trying to check mate a possible Israeli raid on Iran’s nuclear facilities and thus the placement of these rockets either in Gaza or Sinai could be aimed at Israel’s strategic systems including its reactor at Dimona.  This is a possibility, but the chosen tool –the M-302– is a wobbly choice because the rockets are inaccurate and the warheads would need pinpoint accuracy to destroy strategic targets.

Other have also said that the M-302 rockets exploit a vulnerability in Israel’s rocket defense system based on the Iron Dome system.  The Iron Dome intercepts incoming rockets.  Whether it is capable of destroying the rather larger size M-302 compared to the typically small rockets fired off by Hamas or by Hezbollah, is unclear.  But Israel’s Air Force could rapidly obliterate the launch sites for these rockets, making their strategic value less than planned by Iran.

There is an outside chance that these rockets were not destined to attack Israel at all.  They could, for example, be used against Egyptian military installations or even hit Cairo.  In this case it would be the Egyptians on the wrong end of the stick, not Israel.

One would think there would be a lot less risk for Iran, Syria and Russia if Egypt instead of Israel was the target.  But right now the Israeli leadership thinks they are the target and that this Iranian provocation may have crossed the line.  If that is the case, for sure Israel will retaliate, which will also please Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  It could be a step in the right direction in restoring the balance of power in the region,  a step that is sorely needed.

Many years ago (1978 to be exact) I wrote an article suggesting that Israel was a strategic asset for the United States.  A cartoonist for the Camden NJ Courier Post that ran the article, drew a map of Israel to look like an aircraft carrier, with fighter jets coming off its deck.   I continue to believe in the fundamental thesis I advanced then.  Right now, with America making so many wrong moves and with American global credibility at an all time low. the aircraft carrier could come in handy.

 

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Saudi and Israeli Options After the US-Iran Deal

 [Editor’s Note: Since the article below was written, the high level talks designed to approve the US-Iran deal have stalled because of French objections.  Reportedly the talks will continue at a lower “technical” level, but for now the U.S. attempt to achieve a fait accompli deal with the Iranians is temporarily stopped.  The French objections, concerning the Iranian Arak nuclear reactor and elimination of Iran’s 20% enriched nuclear fuel, is a show stopper because the Iranians will not agree to any real limit that will block their nuclear weapons program.  The French move reportedly shocked the other participants –mostly the U.S., UK, Germany and Russia –forget about the Chinese who are a false player– who were looking to dump the sanctions on Iran for economic and political reasons.  The U.S. can, and may, try a bilateral deal with the Iranians, but the storm is far from subsided because President Obama’s appeasement of the Iranians has little Congressional support, and even the Pentagon, now highly politicized, is wary of the deal.  After all, the key Pentagon client, Saudi Arabia, on which many in the military leadership count on for their future remuneration, face losing the Saudis to other suitors, especially France.  More seriously, the collapse of America’s position in the Middle East is signed, sealed and delivered by the Obama -Iran deal.  The Russians meanwhile are delighted, even though the long term consequences for the Russians are dire.] 
The United States has decided to cut its own deal on Iran’s nuclear program, leaving in the dust both Israel, Saudi Arabia and their neighbors including Egypt and Jordan. The U.S. already has abandoned Egypt, has cut off military aid, and has proven to be an unreliable friend. It has also abandoned Saudi Arabia, because for the Saudi state to survive it must now balance Iran’s soon-to-be demonstrated nuclear weapons threat. This process, if it can be called that, has been evolving for some time.
The Saudis, like Israel, understand the threat and have been working for many years to be able to respond.  For that reason Saudi Arabia has put in place an intermediate range ballistic missile system and reportedly has contracted with Pakistan for the delivery of nuclear warheads for these missiles.
IRBM Bases in Saudi Arabia

IRBM Bases in Saudi Arabia

Exactly when, and if, nuclear weapons will appear in Saudi Arabia is anyone’s guess, but the US rapprochement with the Iranian regime is very far advanced and a “deal” is likely to be signed fairly quickly.  At that point, sanctions on Iran will evaporate and there will be a mad rush by European governments and manufacturers to sell advanced technology to the Iranians.  Europe has lots of nuclear-related and conventional weapons technology, and has been selling equipment to Iran under the table for some time, while trying not to arouse the ire of the U.S. government.  Now the gloves are off, and both technology and bank credits will flow from Europe in a race to capture the Iranian market.  Expect the Germans to be first in line, with the British, French and Italians just behind them.  It will look like the kind of wanton transfer of technology, primarily by the Europeans, to Saddam Hussein of Iraq.  Then everything went –nuclear reactors, poison gas technology, missile technology, communications and command and control equipment, systems for manufacturing nuclear and biological weapons.  We are on the threshold of even bigger technology transfers to Iran.
As a result of these machinations, the U.S. has all but lost any influence it may have in the region.  This was demonstrated, most clearly, by the decision of the U.S. not to enforce a Presidential “red line” on Syria and not to provide real support to Saudi Arabia in the Syrian civil war.  President Assad has survived because of substantial assistance from Russia and Iran and a well armed Syrian Army and Air Force fighting against poorly equipped and disorganized foes, who sometimes fight each other.  Now any settlement, if there is to be one, is in the hands of the Russians and Iranians.  The U.S. will go along with whatever they cook up and will be grateful for anything that will “end” the conflict.
U.S. policy is, to say the least, incoherent.  It is unprecedented that in the space of a few years the United States has managed to jettison critical relationships and surrender strategic assets that remain important to American global influence and to the American economy.
All of this leaves open what the former U.S. allies in the region plan to do in the wake of these actions.
Israel has already said it rejects the US-Iranian deal.  Saudi Arabia has done the same.
Israel’s options, at the moment, are few.  It can attempt to destroy Iran’s growing nuclear capability, but this will not be easy to accomplish and carries many risks.
Israel can continue to try and sabotage Iran’s nuclear program and its missile delivery systems.  Unfortunately, Israel will get no help from the U.S. because the U.S. has vested itself in the Iranian deal.  Nor will any help be forthcoming from the Europeans, if there ever was any.  Nor will Israel get any help from Turkey, which –with the help of Washington– burned a number of Israeli agents in Iran, costing their lives.  In fact, the U.S. has been leaking vital intelligence information to the chagrin of Israel’s leaders, in an attempt to undermine Netanyahu and weaken his efforts to derail the US-Iranian rapprochement.  Trying to deal with the threat through Israeli covert operations, therefore, is already becoming difficult and may become nearly impossible because of U.S. objections.
Israel can also more proactively challenge Iran’s growing regional power by hitting Iran’s operations outside its borders.  This type of challenge might provoke Iran to try and respond prematurely, which could lead to a conventional conflict.  The U.S. can be expected to oppose all of these actions by Israel and will reject any claim by Israel that it is trying to protect its security.
Israel can also seek either covert or overt alliances.
One “alliance” that is possible, but extremely tricky, is between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  There is already, some experts contend, Saudi-Israeli cooperation under the table.  But there are strong ideological differences and considerable mistrust on both sides.Saudi Arabia is still sponsoring many terrorist groups who threaten Israel.  Israel still has not achieved a settlement with the Palestinians, angering the Saudis. In addition, there are vast cultural differences between Israel and Saudi Arabia.  These differences are serious and heavy.  Even so, the most likely scenario is that Israel will provide intelligence on Iranian military activities to the Saudis, and help them understand Iranian deployments and grasp fully the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.  It will, however, be more difficult for the Saudis to reciprocate.
Saudi Arabia, like Israel, knows that it cannot rely on the U.S. for protection and that security promises from Washington are no longer credible.  This is the driver that sends the Saudis in a search for help.   One possible source of help comes from Israel’s military and the fact that Israel already has a nuclear deterrent.  How this can be “translated” and demonstrated given the political circumstances will require serious courage by Saudi leaders, more than by Israelis.  A possible trigger will be whether Pakistan will, in fact, deliver the weapons the Saudis have ordered and already paid.  If they are not delivered, Israel could be Saudi Arabia’s only real option.  Could one anticipate a secret mutual defense pact between them?
An alternative option that Israel and the Saudis have been exploring is trying to get Russian protection.  For the most part this is just a show to try and motivate American policy makers to change course.  Any real deal will be very costly to both countries and will weaken them at a critical moment.
Israel most of all, but also Saudi Arabia, will face substantial pressure from the U.S. trying to take down their nuclear programs.  Over the years the Israelis have never declared they have nuclear weapons.  One of the likely consequences of the Iranian rapprochement will be strong Iranian demands to dismantle Israel’s nuclear arsenal.  The Iranians will want American and European sanctions until the Israelis comply.  Israel, of course, will not do so –but with a hostile U.S. and a hostile Europe, Israel will face new political and economic threats.
On the whole the U.S. has truncated and abandoned a security policy that has been in place since the end of the Yom Kippur war in 1973.  That policy served both Democratic and Republican administrations.  It is now gone.  The result is a period of maximum risk and destabilization.
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The Nuclear Tide Comes In

by Stephen Bryen and Shoshana Bryen

[From American Thinker, http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/the_nuclear_tide_comes_in.html]

President Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly contained his annual diplomatic overtures to the government of Iran, pointing to letters he has written to Iran’s supreme leader and to President Rouhani and disavowing “regime change.”  Declaring “our” preference for the diplomatic path, President Obama enjoined Secretary of State Kerry to meet directly with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif to begin the process of improving relations.  His own attempt at diplomacy, however, was rebuffed when Iranian President Rouhani declined the American president’s offer of a meeting at the U.N., calling it “complicated.”

At the same time, the president told the General Assembly, “We are determined to prevent [Iran] from developing a nuclear weapon.”  But his “determination” carries little weight following the on-again-off-again American response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the broad sense that Russia is the rising power in an area that had been America’s domain.  With a weakened United States, the impact of its newest diplomatic overture is likely to be a scramble for nuclear weapons — with important consequences for global stability.

Iran has already announced that it will not give up its quest for nuclear capability.  It has invested far too much; it has a huge supporting infrastructure and a large set of international technology feeders, as well as a strongly ingrained belief that it is entitled.  President Obama doesn’t entirely disagree, saying it is “weapons,” not “capabilities” that he forbids, insofar as he can forbid anything.  But as enrichment continues and Iran’s missile program continues, the space between nuclear capability and nuclear weapons capability shrinks.  Iran is closing in on what Israel called “the zone of immunity,” the point at which Iran no longer needs outside assistance to pursue its nuclear goals.

The first country likely to react to Iran’s nuclear progress and America’s regional diminution is Saudi Arabia, presently locked in a proxy battle with Iran in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.  Sunni and virulently opposed to Shi’ite Iran, the Saudis will do everything they can to acquire nuclear weapons.  Expect them to hook up with countries that already have nuclear know-how.  After all, if Pakistan could get nuclear support from corrupt European governments and predatory companies, and Iran gets similar support, why not Saudi Arabia?  Thanks to “diplomacy,” the chances of American military intervention against Iran have gone to zero, and of Israeli intervention nearly to zero, leaving the Saudis on their own.  While Saudi Arabia is still more likely to trust Israel than to put any faith in the United States, if it is to survive, it has to have a counterpunch.

Other American dependencies are also reading the tea leaves.  Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman all fear Iranian hegemony. If the U.S. is not going to defend its vital Middle Eastern interests, and has recklessly abandoned a large and important client such as Egypt, how can smaller states and sheikdoms expect the United States to guarantee their security?  Oddly enough, American pressure on Israel at the behest of the Palestinians also makes the Gulf States nervous.  If the U.S. won’t protect its political, social, and religious ally, Israel, how can states with essentially only a shared interest in oil claim American attention?

Any country that wants to survive will have to figure out how to do it on its own, or expect that its days will be numbered.

Farther east, Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban, and fairly soon.  The Afghan government is engaged “peace talks” while the Taliban continues to attack both government and allied installations.  Without Western troops and money to prop up President Karzai in Kabul, he is on his way out, whether he like it or not.  Iraq, which is fissured, may explode in a new civil war unless a new dictator emerges and the Iraqi army is strong enough to beat back its “enemies.”  In Syria, Assad will likely hold a third or more of the country, and the rest will remain in chaos.  He will keep his chemical arsenal.

In Asia there will be some surprises.  The United States sees China — like Russia — as a superpower competitor in economic and military terms.  But China, like Iran, operates not only at the level of superpower confrontation.  China, like Russia, has a “near abroad.”  Its regional interests are the capture of resources in the Western Pacific and the ouster of the United States from its “backyard,” as Iran hopes to oust American from the Persian Gulf.  China has begun to build on a disputed shoal in Philippine-claimed waters.  Manila hopes the U.S. will deter China’s sprawl in the region, but with the U.S. Navy shrinking, additional resources and a firm posture from the U.S. are unlikely.  With that, democratic Taiwan may be forced by circumstances to make a final deal with the mainland and end its independent journey.

These are conventional responses to China’s conventional rise, but Japan poses a different set of issues.  It will need to reconfigure itself to deal with China and take into account America’s failure to divest North Korea of its nuclear program; both China and Korea are historic adversaries of Japan.  Although it is living through a disaster in its nuclear power industry, Japan has lots of plutonium and solid-fueled long-range rockets, and may not be far from being able to become a nuclear weapons power.  This can happen only with a right-wing political revolution in Japan, but Japanese sources note that conversations have already taken place in the government.

A U.S. “deal” that leaves Iran capable of producing nuclear weapons will serve as a warning to the Japanese.

The Koreas, too, may see the American retreat as opening the possibility of a deal between North and South, as far-fetched as that may seem.  North Korea is rapidly becoming a nuclear power, and satellite imagery shows that the Yongbyon reactor, capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, has been restarted.  China appears concerned and has announced restrictionson nuclear-related exports to North Korea.  Rather than remaining a Chinese protectorate, the North Korean military could overthrow the Kim regime and look for a deal for power-sharing with the wealthy South, leading to reunification.  Undersecretary of Defense Fred Ikle during the Reagan administration predicted that ultimately, North and South Korea would merge into an economically powerful, nuclear-armed, united peninsula.  The decline of the United States in Asia might make South Korea more amenable.

These changes are massive, and it is unlikely that they all will happen, but with the absolute retreat of the United States, the natural inclination of smaller countries is to seek self-preservation and to maintain regional and local balances of power.  Each country will weigh its weapons programs — conventional and non-conventional — and its alliances against the understanding that the American protective umbrella is folding.  President Obama insisted to the U.N. General Assembly that the United States will not withdraw and not retreat.

Whether he is believed is another matter.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/09/the_nuclear_tide_comes_in.html#ixzz2gNgSGpXp

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