Tag Archives: Syria

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/

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

China issues warning to US bomber flying in East China Sea

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Marines said to land behind Islamic State lines in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ISIS Supporters Are Tracking Americans In Ramadi

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

Mar 22, 2017 at 8:14 AM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lawyer for family of Russian whistleblower ‘thrown from building’

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

in Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nunes Says Trump Team Conversations Caught in Surveillance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 congressional staffers in criminal probe over unauthorized computer access

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

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

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

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

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

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The IAI Super Heron (screen capture: YouTube)

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

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

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

Syrian rebels report fresh Israeli airstrikes near Damascus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airstrike reportedly kills 33 civilians sheltering in school

[This story is NOT confirmed.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyber Firm at Center of Russian Hacking Charges Misread Data


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jonathan Saul, Parisa Hafezi and Michael Georgy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia underplayed losses in recapture of Syria’s Palmyra

 By Maria Tsvetkova | GELENDZHIK, RUSSIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intelligence official says Russia must contain Iran in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trudy Rubin: Iran deepens presence in Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Germany blocks arms sales to Turkey – report

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

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

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

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

Turkey’s AKP cancels campaign rallies in Germany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Enough is enough’

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

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

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

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

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

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

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

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

NSA Official Suggests North Korea Was Culprit in Bangladesh Bank Heist

China Expands Its Spying Against Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hackers claim to have breached hundreds of millions of Apple accounts

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

March 21, 2017

Military Cooperation Between Russia, China Hits Three-Decade High

Expanded coordination poses significant threat to U.S., allies in Asia Pacific

Russia and China are displaying the highest level of military cooperation in three decades, posing an escalated threat to the United States and its allies, according to a government report released Monday.

U.S. air superiority in the Asia Pacific is particularly vulnerable due to sustained Russian arms sales to Beijing and a new focus between the two militaries on missile defense, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission detailed in its new report.

Russian deliveries of Su-35 strike fighter jets to China, which began in December 2015, along with deliveries of its S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, which are set to begin in 2018, will expand Beijing’s reach in the Taiwan Strait and threaten air assets of U.S. allies in the South China and East China Seas.

 Ethan Meick, a policy analyst in security and foreign affairs at USCC who authored the report, predicted missile defense cooperation between Moscow and Beijing would continue for years to come. The two militaries held their first joint missile defense exercise in May 2016 and have announced a second exercise to be conducted in 2017.

Sweden preparing nuclear fallout bunkers across the country amid fear of Russian war

War preparations come as Nordic country reintroduces military conscription

NUCLEAR war shelters are being readied in Sweden to prepare for a surprise Russian attack, according to reports.

The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has reportedly been ordered to carry out a review this year of bunkers the coming weeks as the Scandinavian country also reintroduces military service.

A system of 65,000 bunkers was established in the Cold War to protect the population from nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

According to MSB, the bunkers currently protect against blast and radiation as well as chemical or germ warfare.

With a distinctive logo, they can easily be located by civilians seeking shelter.

But with fears growing over threat posed by Vladimir Putin and his resurgent Russia they are being reviewed to make sure they are ready.

Russian military drills in the region have raised fears among neighbouring nations that an attack could happen in the coming months.

Civil defence measures are therefore being stepped up, especially in the Island of Gotland where Sweden has already re-opened a garrison.

Swedish broadcaster Sveriges Radio reported that Mats Berglund had ordered a review of the island’s 350 civilian bunkers.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3140359/sweden-nuclear-fallout-bunkers-russian-war-threat/

 

FBI Confirms Counterspy Probe Into Trump Aides’ Links to Russian Election Influence Operation

Comey: ‘Russians will be back’ to create ‘chaos, division, doubt’ in American democracy

James Comey

James Comey, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation / Getty Images

BY:
March 20, 2017 6:09 pm

FBI Director James Comey said during a contentious House hearing Monday that FBI counterspies are investigating whether aides to Donald Trump coordinated activities with Russia’s intelligence services during last year’s operation to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

Comey, testifying with National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers, also said he has seen no evidence supporting President Trump’s claim that the Obama administration spied on Trump and his campaign.

The director and the nation’s top electronic intelligence official appeared before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where Republicans and Democrats presented competing political narratives during more than five hours of testimony.

 Trump has stated in a tweet he “found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower” just before the Nov. 8 election. The president then stated, “Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.”

RSAF’s new drone Heron 1 now combat-ready

SINGAPORE – It can fly as high as 6km in the sky, cruise at speeds as fast as 130kmh, and can be deployed up to 200km away from a remote location.

This drone – or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – can also fly for more than 24 hours continuously, and take off and land automatically.

It is no ordinary drone though, but the Singapore airforce’s latest “eye-in-the-sky” – the Heron 1, which was declared combat-ready on Wednesday (March 15) by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

It is a milestone which places the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) on a par with other advanced militaries in intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

In a ceremony held at Murai Camp, Dr Ng marked the Heron 1’s achievement of the Full Operational Capability (FOC) status by the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) 119 and 128 Squadrons.

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/rsafs-new-drone-heron-1-now-combat-ready

 

EXCLUSIVE: Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev turned on America when his citizenship application was rejected because he was an informant for the U.S. government and felt ‘double crossed’, bombshell book claims

  • Award-winning Boston journalist Michele McPhee claims that the federal government may have played a ‘direct role in creating the monster that Tamerlan Tsarnaev became’ in new book
  • She theorizes that Tsarnaev was a federal informant who turned on America after his citizenship was denied
  • The government recruited Tamerlan as he was the ‘perfect candidate’ – he was broke, had a new wife and a baby, spoke fluent English, Russian and Chechen
  • McPhee told DailyMail.com that the CIA were ‘running Tamerlan’ while he was in Russia, and that the FBI were in charge of him when he returned to America
  • Tamerlan, 26, died during a shootout on the streets of Boston after killing a cop
  • His brother, Dzhokhar, now 23, was captured alive and put on trial and ultimately sentenced to death by a Boston jury
  • McPhee took three years to research Maximum Harm: the Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI and the Boston Marathon Bombing, which will be released in April

In her book Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Nrother, the FBI and the Road to the Marathon Bombing  to be published in April, she tells how U.S. authorities believed Anzor Tsarnaev’s claimed his life was in danger due to his Chechen heritage and his family was granted political asylum.

McPhee’s theory – which she admits she cannot definitively prove – is that Tamerlan was a federal informant and that he turned on America after his citizenship application was rejected.

McPhee writes that Tamerlan expected to be granted citizenship quickly and his anger grew when the process was delayed.

He was initially told to come in for his swearing in ceremony in October 2012 but it was put off.

The U.S. Immigration service wrote to Cedarleaf, the FBI terrorism chief in Boston, and asked if he was a ‘national security concern’. Cedarleaf replied that there was ‘nothing I know of’.

In January 2013 Tamerlan tried again to get his citizenship and had another interview where he was asked about his arrest related to a domestic violence charge.

McPhee says that Tamerlan ‘fully expected to walk way’ with his citizenship’. Instead. his status was delayed again due to paperwork issues.

Two weeks later, on February 6 2013, an ‘angry Tamerlan walked into Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and asked for the “biggest and loudest” pyrotechnics in the story’, McPhee writes.

McPhee, an Emmy-award nominated reporter with the ABC News investigative team, writes  that he felt ‘double crossed’ and that he turn

Tillerson reportedly to skip NATO meeting, visit with Russia in April

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip a semiannual meeting of NATO foreign ministers in April and will reportedly stay behind to meet with China President Xi Jinping and will go to Russia later in the month.

Tillerson would miss the first meeting of the 28 NATO allies, which takes place on April 5 and 6 in Brussels, in order to attend President Trump’s meeting with Xi at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on April 6 and 7, U.S. officials told Reuters Monday. Tillerson will also attend the G7 meeting in Italy before traveling to Moscow.

U.S. officials added that Tillerson will meet NATO diplomats this week in Washington for a conference on defeating the Islamic State, suggesting there was no need for him to attend the Brussels meeting. Instead, the State Department Under Secretary Tom Shannon will represent t the U.S. at the meeting.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/21/tillerson-reportedly-to-skip-nato-meeting-visit-with-russia-in-april.html

Israeli drone crashes in Syria, circumstances unclear

The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone crashed in Syria earlier this week in unclear circumstances.

In a statement, the military said the “Skylark” went down on Sunday and that the incident was being investigated. Tuesday’s statement said there is “no risk of a breach of information.”

Hezbollah’s media arm published photographs of what it said was a drone it had shot down after infiltrating Syrian airspace in the Golan Heights.

Although Israel is not actively fighting in the Syrian civil war, it keeps close tabs on its enemies Iran and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group, which are both backing Syrian government forces.

Last week, Israel shot down a Syrian anti-aircraft missile fired at an Israeli aircraft carrying out an airstrike on a suspected Hezbollah weapons convoy in Syria

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/21/israeli-drone-crashes-in-syria-circumstances-unclear.html

Israeli Air Force to host 7 nations in its largest-ever air drill

TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli Air Force will host flying forces from seven nations later this year in the largest and most complex air exercise in its history.

Nearly 100 aircraft and several hundreds of air warriors and support crews from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy will converge here in the autumn for Blue Flag, a biennial, two-week drill aimed at honing the type of planning, targeting and coordinated command and control demanded by coalitions operating in high-threat theaters.

“It will be a massive exercise; the biggest ever for the IAF. Seven nations plus Israel,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the Israeli Air Force’s chief of international affairs.

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/israeli-air-force-to-host-7-nations-in-its-largest-ever-air-drill

Moscow ‘knows nothing about’ reported April visit by Tillerson

Moscow diplomats say they are not aware of any preparations for a visit by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson. Reuters said the American would arrive in Russia in April.

When asked about the reported visit on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Interfax: “I know nothing about it.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said she could not confirm Tillerson’s visit either.

“At this stage, we do not intend to neither confirm nor refute the information which emerged [in the media],” Zakharova wrote on her FB page, pointing out that the information had initially been leaked.

“It is time for US political elites to decide: have ‘the Russian hackers’ hacked the US State Department servers again or is the threat to the security of US information of an American origin?” she joked.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dodged the question about the news agency report.

“Let’s wait for the official statements on the matter rather than those of Reuters. For the State Department and the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to announce the visit,” he said.

https://www.rt.com/news/381579-tillerson-visit-moscow-april/

Shin Bet: Hamas stealing Gaza aid from Turkish charities

Security service arrests one, accuses another of funneling reconstruction money to terrorist group’s military wing

Muhammad Murtaja, 40, arrested by the Shin Bet for allegedly helping funnel money from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group. (Coordinator of the Government's Activities in the Territories)

Muhammad Murtaja, 40, arrested by the Shin Bet for allegedly helping funnel money from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group. (Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories)

The Shin Bet security service accused two Palestinian men of funneling Gaza reconstruction funds from Turkish charities to the Hamas terrorist group.

The manager of the Gaza branch of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), Muhammad Murtaja, was arrested last month on suspicion that he was working on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet announced on Tuesday.

Mehmet Kaya, the head of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, known by its acronym IHH, was also implicated in the Shin Bet investigation. However, Kaya has not yet been arrested.

“The egotistical Hamas terror organization has robbed funds that are meant for the needy of Gaza from international organizations. Hamas prospers at the expense of the residents of the Strip and uses donations meant for them to finance terror,” said Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories.

Palestinian children play in abandoned vehicles in an impoverished area in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on April 26, 2016. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/shin-bet-hamas-stealing-gaza-aid-from-turkish-charities/

Syria war: Russia denies aiding Kurds to set up a military base

Russia is helping Syrian Kurdish YPG forces to establish a military base in northern Syria that will be used to train its fighters, the militia says.

But Russian officials have insisted there are no plans to open new bases in Syria and the one near Afrin serves as a “reconciliation centre”.

Russia says the role of the base is to negotiate local truces between the various warring sides in Syria.

Meanwhile fighting between the military and rebels has continued near Damascus.

Government forces are reportedly bombarding eastern areas of the capital, Damascus, a day after rebel fighters launched a surprise offensive.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39335029

Poland hands 4-year prison term for spying for Russia

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

March 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US admits Syria airstrike that killed 46 but denies targeting mosque

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malicious entity could be tracking phones of domestic, foreign officials

Adam Kredo

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu: Syria raids targeted ‘advanced’ Hezbollah arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia summons Israeli envoy following IDF strikes in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia announces deepest defence budget cuts since 1990s

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Anshel Pfeffer Mar 18, 2017 1:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran Challenges Need to Ship Out Excess Material Under Nuclear Deal

By Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish opposition TV starts broadcasts from Germany

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arti TV is available online and via satellite.

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

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

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

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

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

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

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

Absolute US support

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

Montenegro accession to NATO: It is McConnell’s move

Trump says Germany owes ‘vast sums’ to NATO

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Russian company that paid Flynn deemed ‘unsuitable’ by Pentagon

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

March 17, 2017

Laptop holding Trump Tower floor plans, Hillary Clinton email investigation info stolen from Secret Service agent

A laptop computer containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information was stolen from a Secret Service agent’s vehicle in Brooklyn, police sources told the Daily News.Authorities have been frantically searching for the laptop since it was stolen Thursday morning.

Some items stolen along with the laptop — including coins and a black bag with the Secret Service insignia on it — were later recovered.

But the laptop, along with other documents described as “sensitive,” were still being sought.

The thief stepped out of a car, possibly an Uber, on a street in Bath Beach and stole the laptop from the agent’s vehicle, which was parked in the driveway of her home.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/laptop-trump-tower-floor-plans-stolen-secret-service-article-1.3001078

 

31 Somali refugees killed in helicopter attack off Yemen coast

[Editor’s Note: The number has grown higher with some 42 dead, 80 survivors rescued. The boat was filled with women and children.]

Boat carrying refugees was travelling to Sudan when it was hit by airstrike from Apache helicopter, coastguard says

While the identity of the helicopter was not immediately clear, Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition in the war in Yemen, has US-built Apache A-64 Longbow attack helicopters.

The kingdom’s Al-Madinah class frigates, one of which was damaged in an attack by a Houthi militia in January, is also capable of carrying a single helicopter. Other naval forces operating in the area are also equipped with helicopters, including the US military.

The International Organization for Migration’s spokesman, Joel Millman, told a UN news briefing in Geneva that he was unable to confirm news reports indicating that an Apache helicopter strike was responsible for the attack.

He said: “Our confirmation is that there are dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/somali-refugees-killed-helicopter-attack-off-yemen-coast

Israeli fighter jets fired upon during Syria mission in clash with pro-Assad forces

Israeli fighter jets targeting sites inside Syria came under anti-aircraft missile fire but returned unharmed, says military

Two Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighters
Two Israeli Air Force F-16I jet fighters. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Israeli and pro-Assad forces have had their most serious clash since the beginning of the civil war in Syria after Israeli military jets on an operation over Syria were targeted by anti-aircraft missiles.

Israeli said none of the aircraft was hit, but one of the missiles was intercepted north of Jerusalem by an Israeli missile defence system.

The first indications of the exchange of fire came in the middle of the night with air raid sirens in the Israeli-occupied Jordan valley and reports of an explosion, which was later confirmed as the sound of one of the missiles being brought down by Israeli air defences.

In its own account of the incident the Syrian army said that four Israeli jets had entered Syrian airspace, and that one had been shot down and a second hit, a claim denied in the Israeli military statement.

Lebanese media and websites affiliated with Hezbollah, said the strike had killed Badie Hamya, a veteran of the Shia militant group, who was described as a “mujahedin leader”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/israeli-fighter-jets-fired-upon-missiles-syria-mission-assad

IAF ‘Arrow’ battery intercepts Syrian missile, in first reported use of the system

Syria fires three anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets; one knocked down by defense system, reportedly over Jordan; other two land in Israel, cause no damage

Israel shot down an incoming Syrian anti-aircraft missile with the Arrow defense battery early Friday morning, military officials said, in the first reported use of the advanced system.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., Israeli “aircrafts targeted several targets in Syria,” the Israel Defense Forces said, prompting a Syrian attempt to down the Israeli jets.

According to Arab media, the target of the IAF strikes was a Hezbollah weapons convoy.

“Several anti-aircraft missiles were launched from Syria following the mission and IDF aerial defense systems intercepted one of the missiles,” the army said in a statement.

The anti-aircraft missiles were fired from eastern Syria by Bashar Assad’s military, traveling over Jordan and toward the Jerusalem area. They were apparently SA-5 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

The Arrow is primarily designed to shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere, intercepting the weapons and their conventional, nuclear, biological or chemical warheads close to their launch sites.

Surface-to-air missiles are designed to detonate at high altitudes to bring down aircraft or other missiles, and so do not pose much of a threat to people on the ground other than the possibility of being directly hit by falling shrapnel or the remains of the missile.

Therefore, it was not immediately clear why the IDF used the Arrow against a SAM, possibly indicating a misidentification of the type of weapon being fired from Syria.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/iaf-arrow-battery-intercepts-syrian-missile-in-first-reported-use-of-the-system/

UN chief’s spokesman: He ‘cannot accept’ officials publishing reports without consultation

Head of UN body resigns as her group’s anti-Israel report is withdrawn

Rima Khalaf cites pressure to remove document accusing Jewish state of apartheid; Israeli envoy says her departure was ‘long overdue’

The head of a Lebanon-based United Nations agency that promotes development in Arab countries resigned Friday, after the body she led was ordered by the UN secretary-general to remove from its website a controversial report that charged Israel has established an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians.

Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who served as executive secretary of the Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), announced her resignation at a hastily arranged press conference in the Lebanese capital.

She said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s insistence that the document be removed from the agency’s website led her to quit.

“The secretary general asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN,” Khalaf said.

Turkish daily depicts Merkel as ‘Frau Hitler’ on front page

Turkey furious over refusal in Germany, the Netherlands to allow rallies in support of expansion of President Erdogan’s powers

A Turkish pro-government newspaper depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache on March 17, 2017

A Turkish pro-government newspaper depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache on March 17, 2017

ANKARA, Turkey — A Turkish pro-government newspaper on Friday depicted Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front page in Nazi uniform with a Hitler-style mustache, labeling the German leader “Mrs. Hitler” amid a bitter war of words between Ankara and Berlin.

Right-wing tabloid-style daily Gunes (“Sun”) printed the picture along with the words in German: “#Frau Hitler” and called her an “ugly aunt.”

The mocked-up image took up most of the front page of the daily, with a Nazi swastika on Merkel’s “uniform” and another swastika next to her head while she is shown holding a gun.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/turkish-daily-depicts-merkel-as-frau-hitler-on-front-page/

Sirens Blare As Japan, Fearing North Korea, Holds First Missile Drill

OGA:  Sirens blared and loudspeakers broadcast warnings in Japan’s first civilian missile evacuation drill on Friday, conducted in a fishing town by officials wary about the threat of North Korean missiles.

The exercise comes more than a week after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest coast, with one rocket landing about 200 km (124 miles)from the town of Oga.

Friday’s drill played out a scenario in which North Korea had fired a ballistic missile on the Japanese islands.

“The missile is seen to have landed within a 20-km (12-mile) boundary west of the Oga peninsula,” a speaker blared during the evacuation. “The government is currently examining the damage.”

Residents of the largely rural peninsula jutting into the ocean about 450 km (280 miles) north of the capital, Tokyo, made their way to a designated evacuation centre equipped with emergency kits and protective gear.

http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/sirens-blare-as-japan-fearing-north-korea-holds-first-missile-drill-1670596

Russian spy ship steers clear of U.S. waters while passing near Kings Bay, Mayport

Government officials insist a Russian spy ship steered clear of U.S. waters Wednesday as it moved north in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida’s Mayport Naval Station and Georgia’s Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, according to the Department of Defense.

“The ship has not entered U.S. territorial waters,” said Maj. Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the Department of Defense. “We respect freedom of navigation exercised by all nations beyond the territorial sea of a coastal state consistent with international law.”

Davis said the Vishnya-class intelligence ship Viktor Leonov was about 20 miles south of Kings Bay on Wednesday. He said the same ship was spotted off the coast of Connecticut last month, and it has travelled up the Atlantic Coast before in 2014 and 2015.

http://jacksonville.com/news/military/2017-03-16/russian-spy-ship-steers-clear-us-waters-while-passing-near-kings-bay

Delegation of French MPs visit Russia, wanting stronger ties

A delegation of French MPs starts the second day of its two-day visit to Russia on Friday. They are from the ‘French-Russian Dialogue association’ — a group of French MPs who are friendly to Russia and who have visited the country several times over the past few years. They have also visited Crimea in the past and several of them have stated that Russia had the right to annex Crimea in 2014.

This group of MPs is known for thinking that the West is too harsh on Russia, and that France could benefit from restoring ties. Many of them feel that France has common interests with Russia – notably in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“Russia is not an enemy in Europe; it should be a partner,” says Jacques Myard, a politician in France’s right-wing party Les Republicans, who is not part of the current delegation, but is widely considered to be relatively pro-Russian.

Myard acknowledges that “we have differences with Russia”, he highlights that “in combatting the Islamic State, we have good relations with Russia”, because “you cannot avoid that we have a common enemy”.

http://en.rfi.fr/europe/20170316-delegation-french-mps-visit-russia-wanting-stronger-ties

It’s time for the US to quit enabling Iran in Syria

If the Trump administration is serious about taking on Iran in the Middle East it must transform its strategy in Syria for fighting the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).  Our current strategy will only continue to strengthen Tehran’s grip on the region.

The US needs a new approach that gives it the independence and leverage it needs to begin pushing back successfully.

It won’t be easy. The strategy the administration inherited from President  Obama sees Iran as a partner in the fight.  The U.S. has therefore done nothing to contain the dramatic and alarming Iranian expansion of military power in Syria.

Yet the expansion was avoidable.

Tehran had used Syria as a base for Lebanese Hezbollah, HAMAS, and its own subversive activities for decades at no cost.  The 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar al Assad was a blow to its position.  Therefore Iran rushed to support Assad, sending in special Qods Force operatives, then advisors from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

As the revolt against Assad deepened, Tehran added thousands of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq’s Shi’a militias. Conventional combat forces of the IRGC joined in when a Russian air campaign in support of Assad started in late 2015.

Today, Iran commands tens of thousands more fighters in Syria than it did before the Arab Spring uprising.  It has established its own military headquarters and embedded troops and advisors so deeply in the Assad regime that it cannot survive without them.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/16/its-time-for-us-to-quit-enabling-iran-in-syria.html

Iran, Pakistan to hold joint naval drills in east of Hormuz Strait

The Pakistani flotilla comprising Navy ships Tippu Sultan and PNS Jurrat and a chopper on Wednesday left the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas for the east of the Hormuz Strait where the drills will be held, Tasnim quoted Commander of Iran’s First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad as saying.

He added that Iranian Navy’s Jamaran Destroyer besides a missile-launching frigate and a helicopter will join the Pakistani fleet.

The commander noted that some 800 personnel of the Iranian and Pakistani navies will participate in the drills.

The Pakistani flotilla berthed at Bandar Abbas on Sunday and was officially received by the Iranian Navy’s officers, Tasnim reported.

Speaking at the welcoming ceremony, Admiral Azad said the visit was in line with efforts to boost security cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/134531-Iran-Pakistan-to-hold-joint-naval-drills-in-east-of-Hormuz-Strait

U.S. Denies Striking Syrian Mosque After Dozens Reported Killed

Image: Rescuers who were trapped under the debris

The organization said it didn’t know who launched the attack.

Some human rights activists and monitors alleged that the United States hit the mosque. But a senior U.S. military official told NBC News that while there was a mosque about 50 feet from the U.S. target, the United States has photographic evidence that the mosque was not hit and was still standing.

The official wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the mosque may have been struck or blown up later by someone else.

Al-Jinnah is located in one of the main rebel-held parts of Syria, the northwest that includes Idlib province and the western parts of Aleppo province, and its population has been swollen by refugees, U.N. agencies have said.

Rebels in northwest Syria fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad also include groups supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The conflicting reports come one day after at least 25 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the main court complex in Syria’s capital, Damascus, on the sixth anniversary of the start of the uprising against Assad.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/u-s-denies-striking-syrian-mosque-after-dozens-reported-killed-n734696

Iraq, U.S. offer differing accounts of progress in Mosul

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alex Manne/Army)

MOSUL, Iraq — Iraqi and U.S. commanders offered conflicting accounts Thursday of progress in western Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have been battling the Islamic State group for nearly a month as they try to retake the remainder of the city.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the American commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said the troops had recaptured “a little over a third” of neighborhoods west of the Tigris River, while Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman, said they had retaken up to 60 percent, with fighting still underway. Iraq declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January.

Iraqi officials have overstated gains in the past, declaring areas liberated from ISIS militants only to see the resumption of fighting or militant attacks. The extremists have targeted eastern Mosul with bombings and other attacks on several occasions in recent weeks.

Front-line commanders meanwhile said progress has been slow over the past week, with troops advancing just a few hundred meters (yards) in the face of ISIS car bomb attacks.

Turkey is about to take another step toward dictatorship

  March 16 at 4:11 PM

Seyla Benhabib is a professor of political science and philosophy at Yale University.

On April 16, Turkish voters — some 58 million of them — will take part in a constitutional referendum proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though the referendum will have all the appearances of democratic legitimacy, the reality could not be more different. At issue is a sweeping program of constitutional changes that, if passed, will establish a new form of autocracy with Erdogan at its top. Parliament gave its approval to the referendum this year, albeit by the narrowest of majorities, with only nine more votes than were needed for the required two-thirds majority. That result came only after a long and intensive campaign of government-sponsored intimidation. (The leaders of one of the main opposition parties, which appeals to a mainly Kurdish constituency, are still in jail.)

Now Turkish voters find themselves confronting an even broader system of state-orchestrated pressure and coercion as they prepare to go to the polls. If the referendum passes, the effect will be to transform a multiparty, parliamentary democracy into an authoritarian presidential regime in the model of Kazakhstan or Russia. It is no exaggeration to say that the vigorous if flawed parliamentary Turkish republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk — one that long granted me and millions of other citizens wide-ranging rights and freedoms — will be no more.

If the referendum passes, the office of prime minister will be abolished. The number of representatives in a newly powerless National Assembly will increase from 550 to 600 (a cynical bit of democratic window-dressing). In a stark break with the republican principles of the past, which dictated that the head of state should remain politically neutral, the president will be permitted to retain direct ties to a political party — in Erdogan’s case, the ruling Justice and Development Party, which first brought him to power in 2003. The referendum plan will give the president the power to appoint and remove ministers and exert even greater control over the judiciary than he does now.

NUCLEAR TURKEY? Imam close to Erdogan calls for weapons NOW amid tensions with EU

TURKEY should ignore rules set by ‘the West’ and build its own NUCLEAR WEAPONS – an Imam close to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has advised – as the fallout between Brussels and Ankara deepens.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been told he should invest in nuclear weapons
The worrying advice has been called weeks ahead of a Turkish referendum aimed at giving more power to President Erdogan – and in the midst of a keeping fallout between Ankara and EU leaders.Hayrettin Karaman, the Turkish AK Party’s go-to religious leader, attacked ‘the West’ in a letter which insisted Erdogan should immediately invest in weapons of mass destruction.In the online post the imam accused Christian countries in the West of egotism and racism – stating the bad attitude towards Turkey has been “accelerated”.

President Erdogan is in the midst of a deep fall out with European nations including Germany and the Netherlands after both countries banned rallies and kicked out his ministers who had sworn to campaign for his referendum.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/780240/TURKEY-Imam-Erdogan-nuclear-weapons-NOW-EU-tension-Germany-Netherlands

Bulgaria accuses Turkey of election meddling, recalls ambassador

Sofia hauled in Turkey’s envoy after he openly backed the new pro-Turkish Dost party, which is running in the Bulgarian election on March 26. 

Bulgaria on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, days after accusing Ankara of meddling in upcoming snap elections.

The foreign ministry did not provide any further details around the move, a traditional sign of diplomatic anger.

Last week, Sofia hauled in Turkey’s envoy after he openly backed the new pro-Turkish Dost party, which is running in the Bulgarian election on March 26, in a campaign video.

It also slammed Ankara for encouraging the 60,000 or so Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey to vote for Dost, calling the move “direct interference in Bulgarian domestic affairs”.

For its part, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has accused Bulgaria of hindering ethic Turkish Bulgarians from voting, according to the Anadolu Agency.

Last year, changes to the Bulgarian Election Code imposed restrictions on voting rules. Critics argue that the reforms will deny millions of citizens abroad the right to vote.

Bulgaria has limited the number of ballot boxes in Turkey for this year’s election to 35, a move Turkey sees as limiting the political rights of minorities in the country.

Full tech transfer could derail Indo-Russian fifth-gen fighter program

March 16, 2017 (Photo Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — The Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft under joint development and production by the two countries has taken a hit, with Russia showing reluctance to fully transfer the aircraft technology, particularly stealth capabilities, despite repeated reminders, according to a top Indian Air Force official.
After the preliminary agreement on the particulars of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program in 2010, and with both sides having paid $295 million each, the final agreement that enables India to release more than $4 billion, is pending.
The Air Force has worked out its requirements for the FGFA, but the crucial “work sharing and technology sharing draft has yet to be finalized,” the IAF official said.
“The project is likely to get delayed further unless the issue of transfer of technology is finalized,” offered Daljit Singh, a defense analyst and retired Indian Air Force air marshal. India should insist on technology transfer in specified fields, he added, as “full technology transfer may not be feasible.”

Russia’s United Shipbuilding, Goa Shipyard In Pact To Build Frigates

Our Bureau

India’s Union defence ministry has officially approved Goa Shipyard Limted’s (GSL) partnership with Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corp to develop two guided-missile stealth frigates for the Indian Navy.

“The Naval HQ has written to the Russian authorities seeking technical and cost details for building guided-missile stealth frigates. Thereafter, GSL will start discussions. The private sector may have the capacity, but it is yet to prove its capability,” an official was quoted as saying by Times of India today.

The defence ministry was forced to turn to GSL and the two private sector shipyards as the major public sector shipyards were tied up executing current orders.

Russian delegations have already visited the Vasco-based shipyard and cleared its facilities for construction of the frigates, which will be equipped with sensors and weapons, including the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

During a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the 2016 Brics Summit, the two countries signed a deal to purchase four guided-missile stealth frigates from Russia.

Under the agreement, two of the frigates will come from Russia, while the other two will be constructed in India, official said.

http://www.defenseworld.net/news/18743/Russia_s_United_Shipbuilding__Goa_Shipyard_In_Pact_To_Build_Frigates#.WMvW4JArJD8

Germany’s Merkel to make rare Russia visit for Putin talks

Germany’s Angela Merkel will visit Moscow for talks on May 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, for the first bilateral visit since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

There is no immediate prospect that Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis will be lifted, but Merkel’s visit sends a signal that Germany, the European Union’s foremost power, is willing to engage with the Kremlin.

The agenda of Merkel’s visit has yet to be made public, but talks are likely to focus on Ukraine, EU sanctions, trade ties and German concerns that Russia may try to meddle in a parliamentary election in September.

Germany is also president of the G20 group of leading nations this year and Merkel will need to meet with key members ahead of an upcoming summit.

“Give my best wishes to the federal chancellor,” Putin told Horst Seehofer, Bavaria’s prime minister, who was in Moscow for talks on Thursday. “We are waiting for her to visit on May 2.” Seehofer confirmed Merkel was planning to visit that day.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-germany-visit-idUSKBN16N24S

Here’s what the Pentagon plans to do with its ‘historic’ budget increase

US President Donald Trump’s budget proposal is in, and it calls for a “historic” $54 billion increase in defense spending, and an additional $30 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations spending this year.

“This is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mick Mulvaney told reporters at a Wednesday briefing. “And that was done intentionally. That’s what our allies can expect. That’s what our adversaries can expect.”

So what does Trump want to spend the additional $84 billion on?

The Army wants $8.3 billion, which includes $871 million for increasing readiness, $1.3 billion for “enhanced and more realistic training,” $2.8 billion to restore and modernize equipment in aviation, armor, drones, and air and missile defense systems, and another $1.2 billion for US combat commanders to fight ISIS.

Additionally, more than $2 billion will go to addressing shortfalls, infrastructure readiness, and ammunition.

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-defense-budget-2017-3

SWIFT Messaging System Cuts Off Remaining North Korean Banks

They are “no longer compliant with SWIFT’s membership criteria.”

SWIFT, the inter-bank messaging network which is the backbone of international finance, said it planned to cut off the remaining North Korean banks still connected to its system, as concerns about the country’s nuclear program and missile tests grow.

SWIFT said the four remaining banks on the network would be disconnected for failing to meet its operating criteria.

The bank-owned co-operative declined to specify what the banks’ shortcomings were or if it had received representations from any governments.

Experts said the decision to cut off banks which were not subject to European Union sanctions was unusual and a possible sign of diplomatic pressure on SWIFT.

Belgium-based SWIFT has previously refused to cut off Burmese, Russian or Syrian banks which were subject to sanctions by other countries, such as the United States, citing a policy of remaining politically neutral.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/swift-bank-north-korea_us_58caf2d7e4b0ec9d29da2859

Japan launches new spy satellite to keep eye on North Korea

Japan launched a new spy satellite Friday, the country’s space agency said, as the region grows increasingly uneasy over North Korea’s quickening missile and nuclear programs.

The Radar 5 unit was carried into space on Japan’s mainstay H-IIA rocket from a launch site in the country’s southwest.

It is meant to replace an existing satellite that is approaching the end of its mission.

Japan began putting spy satellites into orbit in 2003 after North Korea fired a midrange ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Western Pacific in 1998.

The threat has steadily accelerated and just last week Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles, with three landing in waters provocatively close to Japan.

Tokyo currently maintains three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. Two of those are backups.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/17/national/japan-launches-new-spy-satellite-keep-eye-north-korea/#.WMvaP5ArJD8

 

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

March 15, 2017

U.S. military likely to send as many as 1,000 more ground troops into Syria ahead of Raqqa offensive, officials say

The U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops into northern Syria in the coming weeks, expanding the American presence in the country ahead of the offensive on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to U.S. defense officials familiar with the matter.

The deployment, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump, would potentially double the number of U.S. forces in Syria and increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement in a conflict that has been characterized by confusion and competing priorities among disparate forces. 

Trump, who charged former president Barack Obama with being weak on Syria, gave the Pentagon 30 days to prepare a new counter-Islamic State plan, and Mattis submitted a broad outline to the White House at the end of February. Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, has been filling in more details for that outline, including by how much to increase the U.S. ground presence in Syria. Votel is set to forward his recommendations to Mattis by the end of the month, and the Pentagon secretary is likely to sign off on them, according to a defense official familiar with the deliberations.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/03/15/u-s-military-probably-sending-as-many-as-1000-more-ground-troops-into-syria-ahead-of-raqqa-offensive-officials-say/?utm_term=.ddec14ff9b90

The US prepares to ‘incapacitate’ Kim: USS Carl Vinson carrying huge fleet of fighter jets arrives in South Korea as military sources reveal plan to ‘remove’ Jong-un’s war chiefs

  • USS Carl Vinson arrived at the southern port of Busan, in South Korea, to join the annual joint military exercise
  • South Korea military source says heightened presence is part of plan to decapitate North Korean leadership
  • Pyongyang has long condemned the annual joint drills – called Foal Eagle – between South Korea and the US
  • Tensions have escalated with missile launches from North and assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother 

A growing US presence off the Korean Peninsula is reportedly part of a plan aimed at ‘incapacitating’ Kim Jong Un’s despotic regime in Pyongyang should conflict break out.

A nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Wednesday for joint military exercises in the latest show of force against the North.

The USS Carl Vinson arrived at the southern port of Busan as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a tour of the region, where tensions have escalated in recent weeks with missile launches from the nuclear-armed North and the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s estranged half-brother in Malaysia.

More than 80 aircraft, including the fighter aircraft F/A-18F Super Hornet, the E-2C Hawkeye and the carrier-based EA-18G Growler are on board the supercarrier.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency claims the heightened military presence is part of a plan to decapitate North Korean leadership.

They claim a military official, who wished to remain anonymous, told them: ‘A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4315150/US-carrier-South-Korea-force-North.html#ixzz4bOaHktcz

Another Syria? US eyes warily as Russia positions forces near Libya

IS RUSSIA PULLING A SYRIA IN LIBYA? The U.S. is watching warily as Russia appears to be positioning forces to possibly intervene in Libya, a fractured country with a barely working “Government of National Accord.” This morning, Moscow is denying that Russian special forces have deployed to an airbase in western Egypt near the border with Libya, as reported by Reuters. And U.S. aerial reconnaissance assets have spotted Russian transport aircraft and a large Russian drone at the Sidi Barrani airbase in Egypt, about 60 miles from the Libyan border, and unnamed U.S. officials are saying it’s an indication that Russia is interfering in Libya, CNN reports.

The concern, raised last week at the Senate Armed Services Committee, is that Russia may be moving to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar in the same it way moved into Syria to prop up Bashar Assad in 2015. “Russia is trying to exert influence on the ultimate decision of who becomes and what entity becomes in charge of the government inside Libya. They’re working to influence that decision,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. Africa Command, testified Thursday. When Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested, “They’re trying to do in Libya what they’ve been doing in Syria?” Waldhauser replied, “That’s a good way to characterize it.”

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/us-eyes-warily-as-russia-positions-forces-near-libya/article/feed/2176579

 

Hackers to be charged in Yahoo security breach

U.S. officials are planning to unveil charges Wednesday related to the theft of personal data that affected hundreds of millions of Yahoo users and disrupted the company’s sale to Verizon, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least some of the alleged hackers have ties to the Russian government, said the people, who added the national security division of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation plan to announce the charges Wednesday morning.

In September, Yahoo revealed hackers penetrated its network in late 2014 and stole personal data on more than 500 million users. The company concluded that it had been breached by “a state-sponsored actor.” The 2014 incident was separate from another much larger theft, affecting more than a billion accounts, that Yahoo disclosed in December and that dated back to 2013.

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/03/15/hackers-to-be-charged-in-yahoo-security-breach.html

13 arrested for ‘deep corruption’ at Israeli Aerospace Industries

Months-long covert probe yields suspicions of fraud, money laundering against employees of IAI, former senior IDF officer

Police arrested 13 people, including a former high-ranking IDF officer, on Wednesday morning, following a months-long “deep corruption” probe into the Israeli Aerospace Industries, police said.

They are suspected of a wide range of corruption charges, including fraud and money laundering.

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

A number of other people were “detained for investigation,” but not formally arrested, police said.

IAI said it would cooperate with the probe.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/13-arrested-in-deep-corruption-probe-at-israeli-aerospace-industries/

Syria conflict: Suicide bomber targets Damascus courthouse

[Syrian state-owned television says at least 25 people have been killed after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives’ vest inside the main judicial building in the capital Damascus. http://www.kansascity.com/news/nation-world/article138584288.html#storylink=cpy%5D

Dozens of people have been killed or injured in a suicide bomb attack at the main court building in the Syrian capital Damascus, state media report.

State TV said a militant had blown himself up inside the Palace of Justice in the central Hamidiya district.

An AFP news agency journalist reported seeing ambulances and fire engines parked outside the building.

It comes on the sixth anniversary of the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39277179

US demands UN pull report accusing Israel of apartheid

Envoy Nikki Haley says Washington outraged by publication, calls for UN chief to scrap it; Israel slams document as ‘despicable’

The United States on Wednesday demanded that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres withdraw a report by a UN body accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians and of racially dominating them.

Guterres distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) but US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it should be scrapped altogether.

“The United States is outraged by the report,” said Haley in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

Based in Beirut, ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab countries, according to its website, which lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-demands-un-pull-report-accusing-israel-of-apartheid/

 

Second Damascus suicide bomb attack hit restaurant, several casualties: state media

The second suicide bomber to attack the Syrian capital of Damascus on Wednesday set off an explosive device inside a restaurant in the al-Rabweh area, to the west of an earlier suicide attack, state media said.

State-run SANA news agency said there were several casualties. No further details were immediately available.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-bomb-idUSKBN16M1S6?

 

Retired admiral, 8 others charged in latest ‘Fat Leonard’ indictments

Navy officers indicted for fraud, bribery

Christopher P. Cavas, Defense News , WVEC 7:17 AM. EDT March 15, 2017

WASHINGTON — Retired US Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, four retired Navy captains, a Marine colonel and three other individuals were arrested and charged Tuesday in the latest indictments related to the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) bribery scandal. The investigation is also known as the “Fat Leonard” case, after a nickname for GDMA’s former chief executive officer, Leonard Francis.

The latest federal indictment charges the individuals with accepting luxury travel, elaborate dinners and the services of prostitutes from Singapore-based GDMA, according to the US Department of Justice, all in exchange for classified and internal US Navy information.

Glenn Defense Marine Asia was one of the biggest husbanding firms in the western Pacific, handling a large variety of services for ships visiting ports throughout the region.

With Tuesday’s arrests, a total of 25 individuals have been charged in connection with the corruption and fraud investigation into GDMA, the Justice Department said in a press release. Of those charged, Justice said, 20 are current or former U.S. Navy officials and five are GDMA executives. Thirteen of those charged already have pleaded guilty.

http://www.13newsnow.com/news/military/retired-admiral-8-others-charged-in-latest-fat-leonard-indictments/422706226

 

Palestinian woman shot during suspected car-ramming attempt

No serious injuries reported as female assailant tries to drive into bus stop at West Bank’s Etzion Junction

A car that was driven into a bus stop in an apparent terror attack in the Etzion Junction in the West Bank on March 15, 2017. (Screen capture: Facebook)

A car that was driven into a bus stop in an apparent terror attack in the Etzion Junction in the West Bank on March 15, 2017. (Screen capture: Facebook)

No Israelis were seriously injured in the incident, though a 28-year-old woman in advanced stages of pregnancy was taken to the hospital after experiencing a panic attack, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

The Palestinian woman’s condition was not immediately known, but she was receiving treatment from the Israel Defense Forces, MDA said.

The incident occurred shortly before 4:00 p.m.

A photograph from the scene, posted on social media, showed the Palestinian woman inside her car, which was pressed up against the metal bollards surrounding a bus stop.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-woman-shot-during-suspected-car-ramming-attempt/

Iran vows to ‘liberate’ Golan Heights

New Hezbollah-backed group aims to help Syria reconquer Golan Heights.

Contact Editor

Chana Roberts

A new Iran-funded Iraqi Hezbollah “brigade” aims to “liberate” the Golan Heights from Israel, spokesman Seyed Hashem Moussavi last week said last week at a news conference in Iran.

According to Iranian news agency Tasnim, Moussavi, who heads the Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba terror sub-group, said, “After the latest victories [in Syria and Iraq], we established the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’.

“This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan. We will not permit Arab and Islamic countries in the region to remain in the grasps of the occupiers.”

According to Moussavi, the new terror group is well-trained and equipped with Iranian rockets and Russian-made T-90 tanks.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Secretary-General Akram al-Kabi said, “The declaration regarding the formation of the Liberation of the Golan Brigade is not only a media campaign, but the real goal of the movement.”

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/226732

Iran sends destroyer and warship to the Gulf of Aden

In a provocative move, Iran announced sending the “45 Group” of the Iranian Naval Force, which consists of a ship and a destroyer to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab. The tension caused by the continued friction between the Iranian gunboats and US forces located in international waters is due to the persistent attempts of Iran to assist and provide the Yemeni militia with weapons.

Tasnim news agency, the subsidiary to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claimed that “Iranian warships are going to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al Mandab “in an effort to maintain the Iranian merchant ships,” currently docked at the Omani ports. Ever since Operation Decisive Storm, launched by the Arab coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia in March 2015 to regain legitimacy in Yemen, the Iranian navy has stepped up its provocative moves against US forces in the region.

According to observers, Iran aims to control the corridors of international navigation in order to continue to tamper with and send weapons to its allies in the region like the Houthi Militia in Yemen, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Hezbollah Militia in Lebanon.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/03/14/Iran-sends-destroyer-and-warship-to-the-Gulf-of-Aden.html

Explosion hits security convoy in southeast Turkey

Highway blast targeting security forces kills two soldiers on a road linking the cities of Mardin and Diyarbakir.

At least two soldiers have been killed in an explosion on a highway in southeast Turkey, according to security sources.

The troops on Wednesday were carrying out operations to detect mines in the region when suspected fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) detonated a previously planted mine, Turkey’s private Dogan news agency reported.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which targeted a vehicle loaded with soldiers as it passed by a road linking the cities of Mardin and Diyarbakir.

Ambulances rushed to the scene following the blast.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/explosion-hits-security-convoy-southeast-turkey-170315065259074.html

EU says Turkey ‘completely detached from reality’

‘The European Union is not joining Turkey, Turkey is joining the EU,’ European Commission president said.

Two top EU leaders on Wednesday slammed the Turkish government for comparing some EU countries to Nazis and said Ankara was moving further away from membership of the bloc.

EU-Turkey ties soured further last week when Dutch authorities barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from landing in Rotterdam after a political rally at which he was slated to appear was canceled. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by saying “Nazism is still widespread in the West.”

Speaking to a debate at European Parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Erdoğan’s comments had “scandalized” him, and would keep Turkey far from its goal of EU membership.

“I will never accept this comparison,” Juncker said. “If you are establishing that comparison — the one who is doing this is taking distance from Europe, not trying to enter the EU.”

“The European union is not joining Turkey, Turkey is joining the EU,” he added.

http://www.politico.eu/article/eu-says-turkey-completely-detached-from-reality/

High-profile Twitter accounts including BBC, Amnesty and Forbes are hacked with Nazi jibes by Erdogan supporters as part of Turkish diplomatic row with Holland and EU

  • Accounts hijacked included the European Parliament and UK health department

  • Several news outlets also had there verified accounts hacked 

  • The attack appears to have come through a third party app,  Twitter Counter

Dozens of high profile Twitter accounts have been hacked, with swastikas and messages in support of Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.The escalating diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands spread online with a large number of Twitter accounts, many with no apparent connection to the dispute, were hijacked and replaced with anti-Nazi messages in Turkish.The attacks, which appeared to be simply a form of political vandalism, used the hashtags #Nazialmanya or #Nazihollanda, took over accounts of high-profile CEOs, publishers, government agencies and also some regular Twitter users.

The verified Twitter account for Forbes.com was among those hacked. Its profile pictures were changed to the Turkish flag and a symbol of the Ottoman Empire

The verified Twitter account for Forbes.com was among those hacked. Its profile pictures were changed to the Turkish flag and a symbol of the Ottoman Empire

Several non-profit agencies including Amnesty International and UNICEF USA were also targeted by hackers. Messages were posted in Turkish on their accounts 

Several non-profit agencies including Amnesty International and UNICEF USA were also targeted by hackers. Messages were posted in Turkish on their accounts

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4315458/High-profile-Twitter-accounts-hijacked-Turkish-Dutch-protest.html#ixzz4bQadp2DM

Taiwan says Chinese military threat grows, U.S. regional strategy unclear

By J.R. Wu
TAIPEI (Reuters) – China’s accelerated military development and recent activity by its military aircraft and ships around Taiwan pose an increased threat to the self-ruled island, according to a Taiwanese government defense report draft reviewed by Reuters.The 2017 Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) also highlights the uncertainty over the future strategic direction of the United States in the region, the impact of Japan flexing its military capabilities and “conflict crisis” potential in the disputed South China Sea.”The recent activity of Chinese jets and ships around Taiwan shows the continued rise in (China’s) military threat capabilities,” highlighting the importance of Taiwan’s need to defend itself, the review will say.”In addition to posing a military threat to our country, it also has a negative impact on regional stability.”The document is due to be presented to parliament on Thursday by Taiwan defense minister Feng Shih-kuan. The defense ministry had no comment on the report on
Wednesday.https://uk.news.yahoo.com/exclusive-taiwan-says-chinese-military-threat-grows-u-032609804.html

On Monday morning, North Korea launched four missiles from the northwest corner of the country that traveled 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan.While none of the launches were the long-awaited test of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile — the sort of weapon that could reach the United States — the salvo was a big deal in its own way. Pyongyang very vividly demonstrated the warnings from Thae Yong-ho, a high-ranking North Korean diplomat who defected last year and described how the country was taking the final steps to arm its missile units with nuclear weapons. North Korea is developing an offensive doctrine for the large-scale use of nuclear weapons in the early stages of a conflict. When combined with what we know about U.S. and South Korean war plans, this fact raises troubling questions about whether a crisis on the Korean peninsula might erupt into nuclear war before President Donald Trump has time to tweet about it.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/09/north-korea-is-practicing-for-nuclear-war/   Christian pastors accused of smuggling North Korean defectors out of ChinaFoxNews.com

China arrested two South Korean Christian pastors for allegedly helping to smuggle North Korean defectors out of China, the latest in a string of detentions and expulsions aimed at South Korean Christians in the past several months.One of the pastors was arrested with his wife as the pair tried to board a flight from China to South Korea and the other was arrested at a Chinese hotel, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korean groups.The pastors remained under arrest Wednesday, however, their wives had been released, Reuters reported.The arrests come on the heels of a mass expulsion of South Korean missionaries from the Jilin province – which borders North Korea – in just the past few months, according to media reports noted by Christianity Today. Anywhere from 30 to 70 pastors have been kicked out of the area.http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/03/15/christian-pastors-accused-smuggling-north-korean-defectors-out-china.html

McCain: Rand Paul ‘Is Now Working for Vladimir Putin’

[Editor’s Note: It violates all rules of Senatorial courtesy for a Senator to attack another with an allegation that suggests a lack of patriotism.  Where this will lead is still uncertain, but McCain has been leading personal attacks against the President and now against a sitting Senator.] 
Sen. John McCain on Wednesday directly accused fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of working for Russian President Vladimir Putin. While speaking from the Senate floor in support of a bill advancing Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, McCain noted objection from the Kentucky senator, saying, “You are achieving the objectives of Vladimir Putin… trying to dismember this small country which has already been the subject an attempted coup.” He continued: “If they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin and I do not say that lightly.” Several moments later, after McCain asked for unanimous consent to move the bill forward, Sen. Paul raised his objection and then exited the room. This set off McCain, who railed against Paul: “I note the senator from Kentucky leaving the floor without justification or any rationale for the action he has just taken. That is really remarkable, that a senator blocking a treaty that is supported by the overwhelming number, perhaps 98—at least—of his colleagues would come to the floor and object and walk away.” He then directly connected Paul to the Russians: “The only conclusion you can draw when he walks away is he has no justification for his objection to having a small nation be part of NATO that is under assault from the Russians. So I repeat again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2017/03/15/mccain-rand-paul-is-now-working-for-vladimir-putin.html?via=desktop&source=copyurl

Is Russia helping China build hypersonic weapons?

As the U.S. ramps up its military presence in Asia, Beijing is increasingly interested in Moscow’s hypersonic glide developments.
The race to build the world’s fastest nuclear delivery system – the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) – has gained steam. While the United States is clearly in the lead, Russia and China aren’t too far behind, with reports suggesting that Moscow – in a reprise of the friendly 1950s – is influencing Beijing’s HGV programme.In a new study titled ‘Factoring Russia into the US-Chinese Equation on Hypersonic Glide Vehicles’, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says Russia is a factor that is shaping Chinese hypersonic research.In the backdrop of the growing intersection between China’s and Russia’s strategic postures and threat perceptions – particularly in the Asia-Pacific – it is possible that there is some correlation between their hypersonic programmes.

According to SIPRI, two signs point to a Russia-China nexus. One, there are as many as 872 Chinese-language texts on HGVs that mention Russia, constituting 52 per cent of the total number of Chinese articles and papers on hypersonic glide. Secondly, China’s flight test of its DF-ZF hypersonic glide system in April 2016 occurred just days after Russia carried out its own test.

“This is more than mere coincidence. A review of more than a decade of Chinese writing on hypersonic and boost-glide technologies reveals growing interest in and research on Russia’s hypersonic glide vehicle programme,” says the SIPRI report.http://rbth.com/blogs/continental_drift/2017/03/14/russia-china-hypersonic-weapons-719186

New helicopters join Russian Navy amid quest for ‘radically new’ weapons

New helicopters join Russian Navy amid quest for ‘radically new’ weapons
Ka-52K attack helicopters, Ka-31R radar surveillance helicopters, and Ka-226T shipborne helicopters will join the Russian Navy as part of the military modernization program that will run through 2025, the navy said Wednesday. In addition, the navy will receive a modernized version of the Ka-27PL choppers already in use.“In the period until 2025, Russian naval aviation will be equipped with the new generation ship-based helicopters and helicopters that have undergone a profound modernization,” the navy said in a press release.The navy hopes that alongside “newest frigates, corvettes, and patrol ships,” that are designed to carry choppers, the latest arsenal will “significantly improve” the efficiency of assigned naval tasks throughout the world.The Ka-52K ship-based reconnaissance and combat helicopter is set to become the cream of the crop of the Russian naval force. The chopper, made by the Kamov rotorcraft manufacturing company, made its first flight in March 2015 before being unveiled in Russia at the International Maritime Defense Show in July of the same year.https://www.rt.com/news/380818-russian-navy-new-helicopters/

TASS: A Russian expert also commented on media rumors about the involvement of a private Russian military company in Libya

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. The greatest flow of weapons and other military hardware to the Middle East is from Ukraine’s territory, the president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, told TASS in an interview.”The greatest flow of weapons to the Middle East is from Ukraine, of course, and to a certain extent, from Belarus,” he said.Satanovsky also commented on media rumors about the involvement of a private Russian military company in current events in Libya.”I’ve never heard anything about any private Russian military companies from any trustworthy source,” he said. “There are private military companies around the world. The Chinese have them, and so do the British, the French and many others. Private military companies or the French Foreign Legion have had many employees of Russian descent since 1991,” he said.Satanovsky recalled that the activity of many foreign military units in Libya failed to receive proper media coverage.”In Libya today French and Italian commandoes fight on the Khalifa Haftar’s side, but everybody keeps quiet about that. There are British and US units on his opponents’ side. There is everybody,” Satanovsky said.”It is very likely there may be some people who can be heard using Russian swear words. But swear words are no way to tell between, say a Ukrainian mercenary or a Russian born in the Smolensk Region. The so-called ‘Russian hackers’ turned out to be Ukrainian just recently. Is there anything else to say?”http://tass.com/world/935614

Poland’s new weapons and delayed tenders

Hubschrauber Mil Mi-24D (Grzegorz Polak)
Poland’s government, eyeing Vladimir Putin’s moves elsewhere in the region, is purchasing new military hardware. But Warsaw is not only seeking the best possible products.”Polish workers will be given the opportunity to build state-of-the-art helicopters,” said Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz a month ago in parliament in Warsaw. Three companies were invited to submit their bids for 16 utility helicopters. “They have until March 13,” Macierewicz said at the time. But now, an armed forces spokesman has announced that this deadline cannot be met. They ministry is waiting for one of the bidders, until March 27.
Previous tender with Airbus controversially scrapped
The tender was only up for grabs in the first place because the government unexpectedly canceled the purchase of 50 European Airbus helicopters in the autumn of 2016. The Airbus group failed to meet Warsaw’s requirements for investments in Poland, the government said when explaining its decision. After the deal was shot down, the French manufacturer was so upset that French President Francois Hollande canceled a visit to Poland at short notice.

 

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

March 12, 2017

Al-Qaeda ally claims twin bombings in Damascus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia begins modernization of naval facility in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran using civilian flights to transfer soldiers, ammunition

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

Arutz Sheva Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran and Iraq to ramp up oil production despite OPEC cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHUCK ROSS

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deadly attack on security forces in southern Tunisia

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Tunis

Saturday 11 March 2017 Last modified on Sunday 12 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taiwan court detains Chinese spy

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

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

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

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

Taiwan Air Force hero charged with spying for China

Officer recruited by Chinese spy ring: prosecutors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

March 10, 2017

CHINA WARNS OF NUCLEAR FIRST STRIKE IN RESPONSE TO THAAD DEPLOYMENT

“US must pay the price”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

in Tokyo and agencies in Seoul

Friday 10 March 2017 First published on Thursday 9 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

in New York

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

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

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

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

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

Poland reacts with fury to re-election of Donald Tusk

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

in Brussels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man arrested after injuring seven people in Düsseldorf axe attack

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

and agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less than half of Marine Corps aircraft are ready to fly

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hezbollah Missiles Aimed at Israel’s Nuclear Reactor

Terror leader boasts of ability to strike Dimona reactor

BY:
March 9, 2017 1:42 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France to adapt civil rotorcraft for French military missions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DUTCH ARMED FORCES SERIOUSLY NEGLECTED: ADVICE COUNCIL

Dutch soldiers

Dutch soldiers. Photo: Countrymaster / Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pentagon hires former lobbyist for Peter Thiel’s company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satellite Images Show Preparations for Nuclear Test at North Korean Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drones threatened nuclear facilities

– The Washington Times – Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia denies deploying cruise missile in treaty breach

Story highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel worried IS could launch chemical attack in Europe — report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian destabilisation of Balkans rings alarm bells as EU leaders meet

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

in Brussels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WikiLeaks, CIA probe to focus on outside contractors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu tells Putin that Iran must not replace IS in Syria

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The T-50 jet
© PHOTO: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

US, Russia counter Erdogan in Syria as Kurds get shield

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iran arrests two Catholics in new wave of brutality against Christians

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

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

Flynn discloses lobbying that may have helped Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macron consolidates lead over Le Pen in French election polls

By Leigh Thomas and Sudip Kar-Gupta | PARIS

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

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

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

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

UK sticks with US systems on P-8

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

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

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

NATO, US warn Kosovo against move to form army

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Army eyes new bases in Europe as Pentagon reviews force structure

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

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

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

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

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

Rebecca Fannin, special to CNBC.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 8, 2017

ISIS fanatics dressed as DOCTORS in white lab coats storm military hospital in Afghanistan shooting dead four patients and staff as dramatic siege breaks out

  • Three gunmen stormed the Sardar Daud Khan hospital in Kabl, Afghanistan
  • They gained entry to after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a rear entrance
  • Terrorists surged into the hospital dressed as doctors and armed with AK-47s
  • Four militants now dead after police shot dead three gunmen who opened fire 

Terrorists dressed as doctors in white lab coats stormed a military hospital in Afghanistan shooting dead four patients and staff and injuring dozens more.

ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack on Sardar Daud Khan hospital in Kabul and one of the gunmen appeared to wave the terror group’s flag out of the window before he and his fellow assailants were shot dead.

Hospital administrators said three gunmen wearing white lab coats ran riot in the hospital after a suicide bomber on foot blew himself up at the backdoor entrance, sparking chaos inside the 400-bed facility.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4292378/Blast-gunfire-hit-Kabul-military-hospital-officials.html#ixzz4ajcUN8MY

At least 30 killed in attack on Kabul military hospital

At least 30 people have been killed in an attack on a hospital. 02:25

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN)Attackers dressed in medical uniforms stormed a military hospital in the heart of the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday, killing more than 30 people and wounding at least 50, said Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

A suicide bomber set off an explosion at the south gate to the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan hospital before three gunmen entered the building and made their way to the second and third floors, said Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman.
The gunmen killed and wounded doctors and hospital employees and injured Afghan soldiers, according to an Afghan Defense Ministry statement.
Afghan security forces and police mounted a six-hour siege at the hospital, which is the biggest and best-equipped facility in the country. They killed the attackers around 3:30 p.m. local time (6 a.m. Wednesday ET).
The facility, known locally as the “400 bed” hospital, is located only a few hundred meters from the US embassy and the diplomatic quarter of Kabul. Other recent attacks in Kabul have targeted important public buildings, such as the Afghan Supreme Court and national parliament.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un lights fire across Asia, raising dilemma for Trump

The stakes for Donald Trump are potentially higher than Obama, given North Korea’s progress in developing an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear warhead

This picture was released by North Korea’s KCNA on 7 March, 2017 showing the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People’s Army during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Photo: AFP/

This picture was released by North Korea’s KCNA on 7 March, 2017 showing the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People’s Army during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

 

Hong Kong: Murder in Malaysia. Protests in China. And missiles flying toward Japan. All can be traced back to North Korea and show how Kim Jong Un is managing to stir up tensions in the region while trying to provoke a reaction from US President Donald Trump.

The question for Trump, Xi Jinping and other leaders is how to respond, given sanctions, cajoling and military pressure have all failed to rein Kim in. While Trump initially signalled he’d be open to talks, more recently he’s indicated he could follow Barack Obama’s lead in insisting North Korea abandon its nuclear programme before negotiations can occur.

The stakes for Trump are potentially higher than Obama, given Pyongyang’s progress in developing an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear warhead. The recent events are probably Kim’s way—after a hiatus in his provocations—to try and force Trump to the table with concessions, analysts said.

http://www.livemint.com/Politics/FxjnuBMLgKGWtE2In1fuSP/North-Koreas-Kim-Jong-Un-lights-fire-across-Asia-raising-d.html

 

Islamic State leader Baghdadi abandons Mosul fight to field commanders, U.S. and Iraqi sources say

By Isabel Coles, John Walcott and Maher Chmaytelli | MOSUL, IRAQ/WASHINGTON

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battle of Mosul, and is now hiding out in the desert, focusing mainly on his own survival.

It is impossible to confirm the whereabouts of the Islamic State “caliph”, who declared himself the ruler of all Muslims from Mosul’s Great Mosque after his forces swept through northern Iraq in 2014.

But U.S. and Iraqi intelligence sources say an absence of official communication from the group’s leadership and the loss of territory in Mosul suggest he has abandoned the city, by far the largest population center his group has ever held.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-baghdadi-idUSKBN16F1DF

 

Kim Jong-Un is preparing for ANOTHER missile test as China warns North and South Korea are like ‘two trains accelerating towards a head-on collision’

  • China has stepped into the escalating tensions between the US and North Korea
  • Superpower suggested North Korea could suspend nuclear and missile activities
  • US and South Korea could then halt joint military drills, Chinese minister said
  • In the past week, North Korea has fired off four ballistic missiles in what it called a training exercise for a strike on US bases in Japan

Kim Jong-Un is preparing for another missile test despite moves by China to diffuse growing tensions between North and South Korea.

Beijing wants North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint military drills conducted by the US and South Korea.

Minister Wang Yi said that escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula were like ‘two accelerating trains, coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way.’

Wang asked: ‘Are the two sides really ready for a head-on collision?’

But despite the warning, Kim has lined up yet another test of a new medium-range missile.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4292664/Kim-Jong-prepares-missile-test-tensions-rise.html#ixzz4ajcv5Rds

North Korea Could Soon Launch Attack on Hawaii

Experts call for immediate upgrade in state’s missile defenses

BY:
March 8, 2017 5:00 am

North Korea could soon have the capacity to launch an attack on Hawaii that would devastate America’s Pacific military bases, accelerating the need for the United States to upgrade missile defenses in the area.

The United States today relies on ground-based ballistic missile interceptors deployed in California and Alaska to protect Hawaii, but these defenses would do little to guard U.S. territory in the Pacific against a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which officials believe is nearing completion.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency in February test fired a new SM-3 Block IIA missile from Hawaii that successfully intercepted an incoming ballistic missile, but the Pentagon does not maintain a permanent missile defense installation or detection capabilities on the Hawaiian Islands.

The Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii hosts an experimental, land-based ballistic missile defense system called Aegis Ashore. The facility served as a prototype for the U.S. missile defense facility in Romania, which was declared operational last year, and another in Poland that will be completed in 2018.

Ariel Cohen, director of the Center for Energy, Natural Resources, and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday that the Defense Department needs to immediately upgrade the Aegis Ashore facility in Hawaii from experimental to operational to guard against North Korean aggression.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/north-korea-soon-launch-attack-hawaii/

U.S., Russia Counter Erdogan in Syria as Kurds Get Shield

  • Buffer zones set up to prevent assault on Kurdish-held town
  • Putin to meet Erdogan, Netanyahu this week as battle spreads
The U.S. and Russia have found themselves teaming up for the first time in the war in Syria — against a country both call an ally: Turkey.

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

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

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

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

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-08/u-s-russia-counter-erdogan-in-syria-as-fight-scrambles-allies

To security establishment, WikiLeaks’ CIA dump is part of US-Russia battle

WikiLeaks says documents about CIA’s computer hacking tools came from US, but many perceive group as pro-Russia following role in 2016 election 

in Washington

The latest WikiLeaks document dump about the CIA’s computer hacking toolshighlights the intelligence agency’s penetration of everyday consumer electronics, heightening profound fears about privacy aroused in 2013 by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In the Washington security establishment, however, the leaks are being viewed more as the latest battle in a struggle between US and Russian intelligence services being played out in the US political arena – a fight in which WikiLeaks is widely seen as sitting firmly in Moscow’s corner.

The latest leaks land amid an ongoing and very public feud between the US president and the country’s intelligence agencies over Kremlin efforts to influence the election in Donald Trump’s favour. In recent months, the president has repeatedly denigrated US intelligence agencies – going as far as comparing them to the Nazi regime – while openly cheering on WikiLeaks activities. He has also alleged, so far without any evidence, that the Obama administration spied on himand his election campaign.

The apparent CIA hacking tools published by WikiLeaks feed directly into that struggle. Some Trump supporters have claimed that the apparent Russian hacking attacks could be a “false-flag” operation, hinting it was carried out by the new president’s domestic foes, and the “Vault 7” documents published on Tuesday give them potential ammunition.

The WikiLeaks press release highlights the CIA’s “Umbrage” group, said to collect a library of hacking tools used by intelligence agencies of foreign countries, “including the Russian Federation”, allowing them to conduct false flag operations.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/07/wikileaks-cia-documents-us-russia-conflict

Did The US Military Just Invade Syria?

Several days ago, a convoy of U.S. troops was spotted crossing the border into Syria from Iraqi Kurdistan. The convoy, comprised mostly of hulking Stryker armored fighting vehicles, was en route to the Syrian village of Manbij, which was recently liberated from ISIS. It’s the most overt U.S. military action on the ground in Syria to date. In fact, each vehicle in the convoy was outfitted with a large American flag. The soldiers were meant to be seen. It didn’t take long for photos to surface on the internet, and the Department of Defense was prepared with an explanation.

According to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, the soldiers were deployed to Syria to keep peace among the myriad militias and other forces who have temporarily set aside longstanding feuds to focus on repelling ISIS from Manbij. “It’s a visible reminder, for anybody who’s looking to start a fight, that the only fight that should be going on right now is with ISIS,” Davis told the Associated Press.

Until now, the American mission in Syria has been limited to training, advising, and equipping local forces, and the occasional clandestine raid. But the troops who just arrived in Syria do not specialize in standing up or bolstering indigenous armies (a mission set known as Foreign Internal Defense, which is exclusive to certain units under the military’s Special Operations Command). They’re not Green Berets, or Navy SEALs, or MARSOC Raiders. They are members of the U.S. military’s premier raid force — the 75th Ranger Regiment.

http://taskandpurpose.com/us-military-just-invade-syria/

Trump Admin Blasted for Continuing Obama Admin Effort to Sell Iran Planes

Leading Republican calls for moratorium, questions admin priorities

BY:

The Trump administration is under increasing criticism from Republican lawmakers for continuing Obama-era policies to provide material support to the Iranian regime, including airplanes, which many have warned could be used to illegally ferry weapons across the Middle East on behalf of the Islamic Republic’s war effort, according to lawmakers and veteran congressional insiders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Trump administration’s Treasury Department informed the Free Beacon on Monday that it would continue to grant licenses to companies such as Boeing so that they can pursue multi-billion dollar deals with Iran.

This policy, started by the Obama administration as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, is opposed by many on Capitol Hill and runs counter to campaign trail promises by President Donald Trump to end such agreements.

Iran announced in February that it had found a “foreign company” to finance the country’s purchase of at least 77 new planes from Boeing and Airbus.

The Treasury Department would not provide the Free Beacon with the name of this foreign entity, despite multiple requests, stating only that licenses making these sales legal “will be issued the same as any other specific license,” according to a Treasury Department official. The sales are set to be approved per guidelines set forth in the Iran nuclear agreement.

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/trump-admin-blasted-continuing-obama-admin-effort-sell-iran-planes/

Palestinian gun dealers ordering parts off the internet, army says

In an illegal weapons crackdown, IDF seizes hundreds of firearm components, arrests 9 suspects in Nablus

Hundreds of gun parts seized by the IDF as part of a raid in the Balata refugee camp, outside Nablus, on March 8, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Since the beginning of last year, the Israel Defense Forces has been focused on thwarting the manufacture and sale of guns in the West Bank, with the hope of preventing such weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals.

The army has raided dozens of alleged gunsmithing workshops and seized hundreds of weapons in the past 15 months. But in the overnight raid, the army set its sights on a new aspect of the gun trade: online markets.

The army found that Palestinians had been using websites to purchase firearm components, an intelligence officer in the army’s West Bank Division told reporters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-gun-dealers-ordering-parts-off-the-internet-army-says/

Germany warns Turkey over Nazi jibes amid referendum rowComparisons with Nazi Germany are “lines that should not be crossed”, the German foreign minister has warned his Turkish counterpart as they met to try to defuse a bitter row.

But Sigmar Gabriel also emphasised his wish to return to “friendly relations”.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Germany of “Nazi practices” because of the cancellation of rallies involving Turkish ministers.

He is seeking new constitutional powers in a 16 April referendum.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated the Nazi comparison on a visit to Hamburg aimed at drumming up support among some of the 1.4m Turkish voters who live in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the Nazi jibe as “unacceptable” and Mr Gabriel echoed her sentiment after a breakfast meeting in Berlin with Mr Cavusoglu.

“The Turkish side said it wanted to be treated equally with respect but I believe both sides have a responsibility and there are lines that must not be crossed and any comparison with Nazi Germany is one of them,” Mr Gabriel said.

But Mr Gabriel was also keen to stress the “success” of the two nations’ ties, and stressed his intention to avoid lasting damage to them.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39203624

Turkey gets additional drones to fight ISIS, Kurds

ANKARA — Kale-Baykar, a privately owned Turkish venture specialized in drones, has delivered a batch of six armed drones to the Turkish military.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Bayraktar TB-2 unmanned aerial vehicles, indigenously developed by Kale-Bayraktar, would be stationed at an air base in Elazig in eastern Turkey. Two of the drones are armed, the statement said.
Turkey last year successfully tested the Bayraktar, which hit a target at the Konya fire test field in central Anatolia from a distance of eight kilometers. The Bayraktar uses the MAM-L and MAM-C, two mini smart munitions developed and produced by the state-controlled missile maker Roketsan. Roketsan’s mini systems weigh 22.5 kilograms including a 10-kilogram warhead.
Turkey’s local industry also is developing BSI-101, a SIGINT system, for the Bayraktar in order to end Turkey’s dependence on U.S.-made SIGINT systems for drones.
The Bayraktar can fly at a maximum altitude of 24,000 feet. Its communications range is 150 kilometers. The aircraft can carry up to 55 kilograms of payload.
Turkey plans to extensively use a fleet of various drones in its anti-insurgency fight against Kurdish militants in the country’s eastern and southeastern regions as well as in neighboring northern Iraq and northern Syria.

Alleged Iranian spy set to be tried in Germany

BERLIN (AP) ” A 31-year-old Pakistani man is going on trial in Berlin on allegations he spied for Iran on Israeli and Jewish institutions in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Syed Mustufa H., whose full name was not giving for privacy reasons, is due in court Wednesday on espionage charges.

H., who came to Germany in 2012 to go to university, is accused of having collected information on a professor at a university in Paris, the former president of the German-Israel Society and others in Western European countries.

Prosecutors say he then passed the information to a contact person with the Iranian intelligence agency. He’s alleged to have received at least 2,052 euros ($2,170) for his spying activities.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11814673

German bank blacklist of Yemeni nationals widens

The decision by German banks to cancel the accounts of 100 Yemeni nationals now has wider implications, DW can reveal. The entire state of Yemen has been blacklisted by Commerzbank.

Commerzbank (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler)

Last month, Deutsche Welle reported that several German credit institutes, including Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, have been terminating the bank accounts of close to 100 Yemeni students, businesspeople and diplomats in Germany without giving any reason.

But now, based on a letter from Commerzbank, obtained by DW, it is now clear that this wave of cancellations isn’t just targeting individuals from the Middle Eastern country, but the state of Yemen itself.

Commerzbank-Schreiben an den jemenitischen Botschafter in Deutschland NEU (Jemenitische Botschaft Berlin)

The letter, dated February 17 and addressed to Yemen’s ambassador Yahia Mohammed Abdullah Al-Shaibi, reads: “Due to changes in business policy we will no longer support or transact business with Yemen.” When approached by DW for a response, Commerzbank replied it was not going to further comment on the issue.

The latest revelation is a major setback for the estimated 2,000 Yemeni nationals living in Germany, as they attempt to find new banking facilities in their host country.

http://www.dw.com/en/german-bank-blacklist-of-yemeni-nationals-widens/a-37839413

New revelation hits France’s scandal-plagued Fillon

PARIS – Scandal-plagued French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon was hit by a new revelation on Tuesday, this time over an interest-free, undeclared loan he received from a billionaire friend.
The conservative candidate “did not deem it necessary” to report the 50,000 euros (R685745.80) loan he received from Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere in 2013 to a state transparency watchdog, the Canard Enchaine weekly said in its edition to appear Wednesday.

“The ‘oversight’ may be costly for the presidential candidate,” said the investigative and satirical newspaper, which also made the allegations in January about the fake jobs scandal that has threatened to derail Fillon’s candidacy.

Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fillon’s lawyer Antonin Levy had confirmed the loan had been repaid in full, but did not say when.

https://www.enca.com/world/new-revelation-hits-frances-scandal-plagued-fillon

Britain beefs up defenses in the Falkland Islands

LONDON – Britain has awarded £153 million (US $187 million) worth of contracts to equip the Falkland Islands with a new ground-based air-defense system known as Sky Sabre, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. 
A clutch of deals agreed around the turn of the year but only now becoming public includes award of a contract by the British to an Israeli company to supply a key battlefield command-and-control network to defend the South Atlantic island from potential Argentinian aggression.

The main contract award, which the MoD valued at £78 million (US $95 million), was signed Jan. 9 with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, to develop a battle management, command, control, communications, computers  and intelligence (BMC4I) network.

Missile builder MBDA and surveillance radar supplier Saab have also been awarded contracts to integrate other, already ordered, ground-based air-defense system elements into the BMC4I.

Trump to Pick Former UN Spokesman Grenell for NATO Post, Official Says

  • Grenell will be among highest-ranking openly gay officials
  • Former Fox commentator was a Trump loyalist from early on

President Donald Trump will nominate Richard Grenell to be his ambassador to NATO, according to a White House official, a selection that would make the longtime loyalist and former U.S. spokesman at the United Nations the highest-ranking openly gay person to serve in the administration.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Grenell, 50, declined to comment. The White House official asked not to be identified because the position hasn’t been formally announced.

A spokesman under John Bolton and three other Republican-administration ambassadors at the UN from 2001 through 2008, Grenell has been a Fox News contributor for four years and a Trump supporter since the start of the campaign.

The founder of Capitol Media Partners, he frequently tangles with journalists on his Twitter feed, accusing reporters of being unfair to Trump and Republicans. His name had circulated as a candidate for Trump’s ambassador to the UN, though the job ultimately went to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-08/trump-said-to-pick-former-un-spokesman-grenell-for-nato-post

NATO, Russia reach rare consensus on issues of airspace security in Baltic Sea

HELSINKI, March 7 (Xinhua) — Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said here on Tuesday that NATO and Russia had reached a consensus on some issues of airspace security in the Baltic Sea region.

At a press conference held after a meeting with visiting Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid on Tuesday, Niinisto said that NATO and Russia shared the same opinions on some issues at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s airspace security meeting in Helsinki at the beginning of March.

“I think it is very remarkable that NATO and Russia were in agreement with this. We haven’t seen it for years. Even though they are minor things, if we can enhance airspace security in the Baltic Sea area, it will hopefully be the start of finding out bigger (issues) to agree on also,” said Niinisto.

Kaljulaid also emphasized the importance of the small steps made by NATO and Russia, saying the development of airspace security was a good example of that.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-03/08/c_136110321.htm

In first, missile launched from unmanned Israeli ship

Rafael defense contractor lauds achievement as proof of remote-controlled boats’ potential for naval security

An unmanned Israel Navy ship test fires missile off the coast of Ashkelon on March 7, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)

An unmanned Israel Navy ship test fires missile off the coast of Ashkelon on March 7, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)

For the first time, a missile has been fired from a remote-controlled, unmanned ship during an exercise, the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems contractor announced Tuesday.

The missiles were fired by a new version of Rafael’s “Protector” series of unmanned ships, which had only previously been capable of small arms fire.

The unmanned ship fired Spike missiles, a Rafael-made guided missile. They reportedly struck all of the simulated targets successfully during the tests.

The tests were carried out off the coast of Askhelon by the Navy’s 916th Squadron, which operates off the Gaza coast.

The Israel Defense Forces currently has a small fleet of “Protector” ships, which are used to complement its manned patrol boats around Israel’s coastal waters.

This version of the “Protector” model is referred to by the Israel Navy as the “Sea Knight.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-first-missile-launched-from-unmanned-israeli-ship/

“Serbia to get Russian MiGs on NATO aggression anniversary”

Russian President Vladimir Putin should sign a degree on the delivery of six MiG-29s to Serbia during his meeting in Moscow with Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic.

SOURCE: VECERNJE NOVOSTI /

Belgrade-based Vecernje Novosti is reporting this, and adding that there is a great chance that the warplanes will officially join the Serbian Armed Forces “symbolically” on March 24 – the 18th anniversary of the start of NATO’s aggression against Serbia.

The MiGs will land at the military airport in Batajnica at the end of the month. The handover ceremony will be attended by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the newspaper writes, and adds that “the details of the arrival of the MiGs” are not published officially for the time being.

According to the article, two possibilities are under consideration.

“The option of the MiGs flying directly from Russia to Serbia is being considered. That has not been quite confirmed yet, because it would also have a delicate political note. One of the ideas is to, in this case, have the planes salute Serbia by flying vertically across its entire territory. The other option is to deliver the aircraft aboard Russian transport planes, most likely Ilyushins,” an unnamed source from top military circles has been quoted as saying.

http://www.b92.net/eng/news/politics.php?yyyy=2017&mm=03&dd=08&nav_id=100707

Kosovo moves to create national army despite Serb opposition

by Reuters
* Kosovo says new army would help cement peace

* Serbia warns of regional instability

* Serb deputies to boycott Kosovo parliament session

By Fatos Bytyci

PRISTINA, March 8 (Reuters) – Kosovo signalled on Wednesday plans to turn its security force into a national army, a move strongly opposed by its ethnic Serb minority and by Belgrade which said it would cause instability in the region.

Nearly two decades after the Kosovo war, relations between Belgrade and Pristina remain strained and Serbia continues to regard Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, as a renegade province.

The Kosovo government ordered the creation of a national army three years ago but Serbian deputies said they would block the required changes to the constitution.

On Wednesday parliament indicated it would bypass that opposition by preparing amendments to an existing law that would allow the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) to buy heavy weapons, effectively turning it into an army.

A vote is expected in the coming days. Serb deputies, who number just 11 in the 120-strong chamber but whose support would be needed to change the constitution, said they would boycott the session.

“This is a decision in the interests of our country for completely peaceful purposes … to have good relations with all our neighbours but also to protect our country,” the speaker of parliament, Kadri Veseli, said during a visit to a KSF barracks.

http://news.trust.org/item/20170308122417-el9l6

The Pentagon got caught trying to hide embarrassing cost overruns on Navy ships

(PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) 


If the data you need to release to the public is potentially embarrassing, there’s always classification review to the rescue.

The US Government Accountability Office deleted details of cost overruns on two of the Navy’s littoral combat ships from a report on shipbuilding contracts, at the request of the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review.

The review referred to the financial tidbit on the USS Milwaukee and the USS Jackson as “sensitive but unclassified” in a footnote, according to Anthony Capaccio of Bloomberg News, who first reported the news.

“The department failed to consider the public interest in knowing that cost targets were being exceeded, and by how much,” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told Bloomberg. “Instead, it looks like DoD is trying to keep unfavorable facts out of the public eye. In the long-run, that’s not a smart move.”

The Navy’s push to field littoral combat ships has come under sharp criticism from defense experts and members of Congress. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, for example, last year called out the $12.4 billion for the Navy’s requested 26 littoral combat ships as “an unfortunate and classic example” of the problems of defense acquisition, according to AP.

That’s not to mention the problems with the ships themselves, which have been plagued with mechanical issues. In 2016, four LCS’s experienced engineering difficulties, forcing the Navy to halt all further operations of the ships.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pentagon-got-caught-trying-hide-221424491.html

Report casts doubt about Pentagon adding third missile defense site

This after a recent New York Times article indicated that the two exiting sites–located in Alaska and California–have a poor rate of success.

Furthermore, the report stated that more recently the military has concentrated on using other forms of cyber defense.

However, north country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik continues to push for Drum to get a missile interceptor. Stefanik’s office telling 7 News that adding a site to the east coast would increase “reliability.”

Two other locations are up for consideration along with Fort Drum, but it’s not yet known whether the Pentagon will ever actually green light the costly project.

http://www.informnny.com/news/local-news/report-casts-doubt-about-pentagon-adding-third-missile-defense-site/667891739

As North Korea missile threat grows, Japan lawmakers argue for first strike options

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo | TOKYO

Rattled by North Korean military advances, influential Japanese lawmakers are pushing harder for Japan to develop the ability to strike preemptively at the missile facilities of its nuclear-armed neighbor.

Japan has so far avoided taking the controversial and costly step of acquiring bombers or weapons such as cruise missiles with enough range to strike other countries, relying instead on its U.S. ally to take the fight to its enemies.

But the growing threat posed by Pyongyang, including Monday’s simultaneous launch of four rockets, is adding weight to an argument that aiming for the archer rather than his arrows is a more effective defense.

 “If bombers attacked us or warships bombarded us, we would fire back. Striking a country lobbing missiles at us is no different,” said Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister who heads a ruling Liberal Democratic Party committee looking at how Japan can defend against the North Korean missile threat. “Technology has advanced and the nature of conflict has changed.”

For decades, Japan has been stretching the limits of its post-war, pacifist constitution. Successive governments have said Tokyo has the right to attack enemy bases overseas when the enemy’s intention to attack Japan is evident, the threat is imminent and there are no other defense options.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles-japan-idUSKBN16F0YE

Study Finds India Is Asia’s Most Corrupt Country, While Japan Comes In Last

One of the main objective of the current Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been to make India corruption free. But it seems the country still has a long way to go. A recent survey by Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption global civil society organization, states that India has the highest bribery rate among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Nearly seven in 10 people who accessed public services in India had paid a bribe. In contrast, Japan has the lowest bribery rate, with 0.2% respondents paying a bribe.

Approximately 900 million — or over one in four — people across 16 countries in Asia Pacific, including some of its biggest economies like India and China, are estimated to have paid a bribe to access public services. For its report titled “People and Corruption: Asia Pacific”, TI spoke to nearly 22,000 people in these countries about their recent experiences with corruption.

One of the main objective of the current Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been to make India corruption free. But it seems the country still has a long way to go. A recent survey by Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption global civil society organization, states that India has the highest bribery rate among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Nearly seven in 10 people who accessed public services in India had paid a bribe. In contrast, Japan has the lowest bribery rate, with 0.2% respondents paying a bribe.

Approximately 900 million — or over one in four — people across 16 countries in Asia Pacific, including some of its biggest economies like India and China, are estimated to have paid a bribe to access public services. For its report titled “People and Corruption: Asia Pacific”, TI spoke to nearly 22,000 people in these countries about their recent experiences with corruption.

 

Even massive economic players like China aren’t that far behind India. The biggest economy in the region has a lot to do in terms of fighting corruption. Nearly three quarters of the people surveyed in the country said corruption has increased over the past three years, suggesting people don’t see much work happening against corruption.

People in the survey were also asked to rate their government in terms of how it was performing in fighting public sector corruption. More than half the people living in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia felt that their government was doing a good job in fighting corruption. In contrast people in South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia didn’t think highly of their government in its fight against corruption.

Services people pay for

Across the region, nearly two in five said that they thought most or all police officers were corrupt. Unsurprisingly, just under a third of people in the region who had come into contact with a police officer in the past 12 months had paid a bribe. While citizens of Pakistan were the most likely of any country to be asked for bribes in law and order institutions (around seven in 10), for India the police bribery rate is 54% and for China a low 12%.

India had the highest bribery rates of all the countries surveyed for access to public schools (58%) and healthcare (59%), suggesting serious corruption risks when people try to access these basic services. In comparison these numbers for Pakistan and China for public schools are 9% and 29% respectively. In terms of healthcare, the rate for China is 18% and for Pakistan 11%.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/suparnagoswami/2017/03/08/study-finds-india-is-asias-most-corrupt-country-while-japan-comes-in-last/#52468ccf1201

 

Air Force Orders Rheinmetall Ammo for F-35 Fleet


Rheinmetall
has received a $6.5 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to produce four lots of ammunition for the service branch’s fleet of Lockheed Martin-built F-35 aircraft.

The company said Monday it will begin to deliver Frangible Armor Piercing rounds to the Air Force in December 2017.

Rheinmetall will manufacture the ammunition at a company facility in Switzerland and expects its joint venture with Day and Zimmermann‘s munitions business to assemble ammunition in the U.S. under future follow-on contracts.

The FAP round was originally developed for NATO air forces as part of an effort to boost the F-35’s lethal capacity in comparison with modern infantry fighting vehicles.

Dusseldorf, Germany-based Rheinmetall provides mobility and threat-appropriate security technology platforms to military customers.

http://blog.executivebiz.com/2017/03/air-force-orders-rheinmetall-ammo-for-f-35-fleet/?utm_source=ExecutiveBiz+Daily+RSS+Feed&utm_campaign=26ce0ab718-Mailchimp_ExecutiveBiz_RSS_10_23_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_378117c9e8-26ce0ab718-81843969

Stolen Apple IDs can hold your iPhone hostage

“The problem is, Apple IDs are used with too many services,” Xiao said as he showed a slide listing 20 different Apple services accessible with an Apple ID, including the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple Online Store, iCloud, Find My iPhone, iMessage and the Mac App Store. “Every feature can be abused to make a profit.”

He explained that Apple IDs can be exploited to squeeze money out of almost any aspect of the Apple ecosystem, from deceiving users with spam Apple Messages, to locking users out of their devices and demanding ransom, to artificially pumping up the user ratings of dodgy apps so that they rank in the Top 10 on the App Store.

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/02/14/stolen-apple-ids-can-hold-your-iphone-hostage.html

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: