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WAR 01-12-2019-to-01-18-2019___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
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    3 01-12-2019-to-01-18-2019___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****

    (350) 12-22-2018-to-12-28-2018___****THE****WINDS****of****WAR****
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    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world...cid=spartandhp

    Thai security forces kill two linked to deadly shooting at school

    7 hrs ago

    Two insurgents believed to be tied to a motorcycle drive-by shooting at a school in Thailand's south were shot dead Saturday, police said, as UNICEF warned of trauma for children near the scene of the lunchtime violence.

    Since 2004 clashes between Malay-Muslim rebels and the Buddhist-majority Thai state that annexed the area over 100 years ago have killed nearly 7,000 people, mostly civilians of both faiths.

    The conflict rarely makes global headlines but is a reality for residents of border provinces where security forces maintain a large footprint, aided by poorly paid defence "volunteers" drawn from local communities.

    The four men killed in Thursday's shooting were all Muslims and were guarding a school in Pattani province when the attackers struck just before lunchtime with students mere metres away.

    Pattani provincial police commander Piyawat Chalermsri told AFP Saturday that two people with alleged ties to the school violence were killed in a shootout Saturday morning.

    Though he did not give information about their identities or affiliation, he said he was "confident that they are the same group who carried out the attack Thursday" by driving by on motorbikes.

    Authorities have also detained one suspect and are questioning five others, while a military source said an eight-year-old had been grazed by a bullet but not seriously injured.

    UNICEF Thailand representative Thomas Davin said Friday that one child at the Bukoh school attack was reportedly injured by debris and some who may have witnessed the attack could face long term psychological trauma.

    "This attack has undoubtedly put the school children, the teachers and school personnel in harm's way. It has put children at grave risk of injury or death," he said.

    "Such violence could also affect parents' willingness to send their children to school -- potentially to the detriment of many children's learning and future development."

    The 15-year insurgency has seen scores of teachers killed, slain for their perceived collaboration with the Thai state, which led to the use of armed guards at schools.

    The death toll in the conflict dropped to a record low last year as Thailand's junta tightened its security operations.

    But recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence, as rebels show they remain able to carry out more pinpointed operations.

    In a rare statement dated January 4 the main rebel group -- the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) -- swore to "keep fighting" while warning people not to help or support the state.

    But Thai authorities as well as the Malaysian facilitator of the talks have recently expressed confidence they will make progress soon.

    Former 4th Army commander Udomchai Thammasarorat said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Thailand on Friday that he "wants to find a solution to exit from the violence" and he has urged the southern army commander to try and ensure public safety.

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    https://www.brookings.edu/research/a...curity-forces/

    Report

    Afghanistan after Mattis: A revised strategy to focus on counterterrorism and the Afghan Security Forces

    Michael E. O’Hanlon
    January 2019

    Download
    Download the full policy brief

    Executive summary

    The center of gravity in the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan should be modified. The focus should not be on nation-building writ large. Nor should it be on helping the Afghan government extend its control over more of the country’s territory—a desirable, but nonessential, objective. Rather, the emphasis should be squarely on making the Afghan security forces more resilient and capable. Doing so will likely keep the country’s cities and main roads in government hands, allowing the United States to preserve counterterrorism capacities in South Asia for the long haul.

    This goal would be more readily achieved by keeping U.S. force totals near their current 14,000 troop level for some time to come. But it can also be attempted, with reasonable prospects, at smaller deployment figures if necessary, given President Trump’s potential interest in reducing the American military presence in Afghanistan by perhaps a quarter to half soon. To pursue these objectives, Washington should support Afghan policies like the following:

    — Take the Afghan National Army Territorial Force concept to scale in 2019-2020, ultimately building dozens or even hundreds of company-sized formations of perhaps 200 soldiers or so each. Since many Afghans prefer to defend their home territories rather than distant parts of the nation, this concept should help greatly with army recruiting and retention.

    — Emulate the rotation and rest policies of the Afghan special forces within the regular army and police, who at present rarely get leave time or down time—even at the cost of temporarily giving up protection of some remote regions of the country.

    — Consolidate police checkpoints into fewer, better defended outposts so they are less vulnerable to being overrun by Taliban ambush. In some cases, remote sensing with technology can partially replace the role of the closed checkpoints.

    — Help the Afghan government acquire more battlefield medical evacuation capacity (including with helicopters) as a top priority, so that it can keep more of its wounded forces alive.

    — Provide members of the Afghan parliament and other officials modest funds to hire small personal security details so they will make fewer demands on the regular police to protect them.

    Related Content

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    After Defense Secretary Jim Mattis leaves, what then? Some ideas for Afghanistan
    Michael E. O’Hanlon
    Saturday, December 22, 2018

    Order from Chaos
    Ballots and bullets in Afghanistan
    Vanda Felbab-Brown
    Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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    https://www.yahoo.com/news/12-civili...012849963.html

    12 civilians killed in jihadist attack in Burkina Faso

    AFP • January 11, 2019

    Ouagadougou (AFP) - Twelve civilians were killed on Thursday during a jihadist attack in the north of Burkina Faso, which has been battling a wave of Islamist violence, officials said Friday.

    The west African country declared a state of emergency in several provinces at the end of last year and on Thursday replaced its army chief as it struggled to put a stop to a spate of such attacks.

    In the latest violence, gunmen attacked a village market in broad daylight, the security ministry said in a statement issued late Friday.

    "Around 30 armed individuals perpetrated... a terrorist attack in the village of Gasseliki," it said, giving a toll of 12 dead and two wounded.

    "A barn, a cart and six shops were also set alight," it added.

    A local source told AFP that the attackers "ransacked stores and opened fire on people who had gathered for the weekly market".

    Jihadist attacks began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 but then spread to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

    The country is part of the vast Sahel region and one of the poorest states in the world.

    The region turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness after chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, which was followed by an Islamist insurgency in northern Mali and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

    Most attacks in Burkina Faso itself have been attributed to the jihadist group Ansarul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the JNIM (the Group to Support Islam and Muslims), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

    Ansarul Islam emerged as violence spilled over from Mali, where radical Islamists seized key Sahara towns in 2012 before being ousted by French troops.

    Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources.

    The groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015. The capital Ouagadougou has been hit three times and almost 60 people have died there.

    The jihadists extend their hold gradually, forcing government workers and others who oppose them to flee. The violence has so far displaced some 40,000 people.

    In the north, armed groups move freely through the country's porous borders.

    The jihadists mainly target the security forces, but also attack government officials and local chiefs who oppose them.

    Teachers are vulnerable due to the jihadists' fierce opposition to secular, French education, with their threats and attacks sparking the closure of hundreds of schools in the north and the east.

    As the country struggles to get on top of the violence, army chief Major General Oumarou Sadou was replaced on Thursday by General Moise Minoungou, according to a presidential decree read on public television.

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    https://jamestown.org/program/burkin...l-west-africa/

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    Burkina Faso and the Looming Jihadist Threat to Coastal West Africa

    Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 16 Issue: 24
    By: Jacob Zenn
    December 19, 2018 07:49 PM Age: 3 weeks

    Ten years ago, the prospect that Nigeria would become a jihadist hotspot—let alone the world’s third “most terrorized” country after Iraq and Afghanistan—received hardly any consideration (Africanews.com, December 6). Nevertheless, much has changed in ten years. Today the situation in northeastern Nigeria is worse than any predictions made a decade ago. Moreover, the violence from Nigeria has spilled over into neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. This begs the question—are there “peaceful” countries today in West Africa that ten years from now could spiral into jihadist violence?

    This article examines the security situation in southern Burkina Faso, which shares borders with “peaceful” countries on the West African coast, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin. Those countries have largely been spared from jihadist violence, with the exception of the 2016 Grand Bassam attack in Côte d’Ivoire that left 16 dead. Now, however, they appear to be on the verge of suffering from jihadist spillover from Burkina Faso into the northern regions of their countries. This article first reviews recent attacks that have occurred in southern Burkina Faso and discusses the networks of groups operating there. It then highlights certain structural factors in coastal West African countries that jihadists could exploit to launch attacks similar to what they have done in Nigeria, if not Burkina Faso and Mali as well.

    Attacks Spreading Towards Coastal West Africa
    Geographically, Burkina Faso is the only country that borders all of the following coastal West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Therefore, those countries’ border security inevitably depends on Burkina Faso. A sampling of recent attacks in southern Burkina Faso demonstrates that jihadists in the country are gradually becoming stronger and moving closer towards those countries’ northern borders. For example:
    On August 22, militants attacked a customs post in Batié, Noumbiel province, which is at the far tip of Burkina Faso and in between the borders of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (com, August 22).

    On August 28, a roadside bomb that, “bore the hallmark of attacks attributed to jihadists,” killed seven members of the security forces in Pama, Kompienga province, Burkina Faso, which is only a few kilometers from the borders with Togo and Benin (Gulf Times, August 28).

    On August 31, militants attacked a police office in Galgouli, Poni province, Burkina Faso, which sits directly on the border with Côte d’Ivoire; the police compared the militants’ tactics to the operation in Batié one week earlier (net, August 31; Twitter.com/Menastream, August 31).

    On November 15, militants in Pama, which is near Togo and Benin, erected a checkpoint on a road for several hours to inspect for indicators of government personnel but let passengers travel onwards if they were civilians, which led to apprehension among civilians in the area about a lack of government presence (Actuburkina, November 15).

    On December 12, militants engaged in gunfire with the Burkinabe police in Nadiagou, Kompienga province, which, like Pama, is near Togo and Benin (com/Menastream, December 12).

    On the same day, on December 12, a police post in Bourom Bourom, Poni Province, which is less than 50 kilometers to the border with Ghana, was attacked (net, December 12).

    Who is Behind the Attacks?
    Most of these attacks have been unclaimed and reported to be carried out by “unidentified armed men” (hommes armés non encore identifies). In theory, the attacks could have been carried out by regular bandits. The targets, frequency, and tactics, however, suggest a level of capability and organization similar to more formal jihadist groups or networks. Moreover, an arrested militant from Burkina Faso in Mali, Adama Konate, was described as a “coordinator” on the tri-state border between Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso. Another militant, Abdallah Sawadogo, had been ordered by Ansar Dine in Mali to set up a branch in Burkina Faso (Fasozine.com, December 13; Twitter.com/Menastream, December 13).

    Another cell that was broken up in Koutiala, Mali led to the arrest of Sawadogo’s brother. That cell had reportedly been targeting the capitals of Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso (crossainceafrique, December 12; Twitter.com/Menastream, December 12). Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its respective Fulani-oriented Malian and Burkina Faso-based affiliates, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) and Ansaroul Islam, have already been involved in attacks on foreigners near Abidjan (Grand Bassam), Bamako, and Ouagadougou (Terrorism Monitor, February 10, 2017). Notably, however, these arrested militants were from the majority Mossi ethnic group in Burkina Faso that does not have the same historical narratives of jihad as Fulanis, who have been the primary recruitment targets of jihadists in Mali and Burkina Faso to date (Terrorism Monitor, November 13, 2015).

    It becomes evident, therefore, that AQIM networks have begun penetrating Burkina Faso and probably have cells that have reached the borders of coastal West African countries or operate there. Nevertheless, there are also Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants active in those areas, with that group having, among others, attacked a school and a bar not far from the border with Benin in Tapoa province, Burkina Faso, in November and December (Twitter.com/Menastream, November 23; Lefaso.net, November 24; Twitter.com/Menastream, December 9). Those attacks, like the ones frequently seen in northern Burkina Faso on schools of Western education—which have led to the closure of 220 schools—appear to be ideologically oriented (Jeuneafrique, October 23). That again would suggest jihadists, not bandits, are involved, although in some cases jihadists may double as bandits and vice-versa. Crossover between militants in ISGS and AQIM groups in Burkina Faso also likely exist, considering they do not appear to be fighting each other; they come from a similar historical lineage with AQIM; and are operating in the same places.

    The Operational Environment
    It is also worth bearing in mind that the populations in the northern regions of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin are predominantly Muslim and some people—especially in northern Benin and parts of the other three countries—are ethnically and linguistically linked with northern Nigerian Hausas. These populations could enable not only positive trade exchanges but also the spread of negative jihadist ideologies. Shaykh Jaafar Mahmud Adam, who was a mentor of former Boko Haram leader Muhammed Yusuf, for example, conducted preaching (dawa’) in Benin, Togo, and Ghana (kubanni.abu.edu, 2009). Such exchanges have certainly continued with other less prominent Wahhabist preachers since his assassination by Boko Haram in 2007 after he fell out with the group. Ghana, for example, has also witnessed similar trends to Nigeria since the 1990s where hardline Wahhabist groups, such as one called Ahl as-Sunna, which was incidentally the same name as Adam’s group in Nigeria, have clashed with Sufis. [1] Jihadist groups, therefore, could find ideologically similar Wahhabist adherents in the northern regions of these countries even if such adherents have not been prone to violence yet.

    In Burkina Faso, it is also important to recall that jihadist activities only occurred after the country’s political turmoil in 2015. Prior to then, the Burkinabe leader, Blaise Compaoré, had dealings with AQIM mediators. The country, however, lost those relationships after the coup. The breakdown of “deals” with jihadists may have contributed to the spike in terrorist attacks since 2015 (Jeuneafrique, November 26, 2014).

    The spillover and expansion of jihadist activity from Mali into Burkina Faso and now from there toward the borders of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin is a trend worth monitoring. Once across the borders, the jihadists will likely seek their fellow kin ethnically or ideologically as well as other communities that are alienated or politically marginalized where jihadist narratives of Muslim-Christian rivalry can resonate. In Mali, for example, jihadists have exploited intra-Muslim ethnic tensions between Fulanis and Dogons. Even more apparent religious differences would presumably be easier for them to exploit, especially because—like in Nigeria—the country’s coastal Christian populations tend to be better off economically than the Muslim populations (rfi.fr, May 4, 2016).

    Ten years ago, few suspected Nigeria would become a land of jihad, and only several years ago Burkina Faso was off the jihadism radar. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin are currently considered to be relatively immune from jihadism, but it appears, on the contrary, that they are on the cusp of being on the receiving end of attacks.

    Notes
    [1] David Owusu-Ansah’s Interview with al-Hajj Ibrahim Umar, Accra, Ghana, July 14, 2005: kora.matrix.msu.edu
    TM-Dec.-19-2018-Issue.pdf
    Last edited by Housecarl; 01-12-2019 at 08:16 AM. Reason: added article

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    https://www.stripes.com/news/china-m...a-sea-1.563971

    China mobilizes anti-ship missiles after Navy patrol in South China Sea

    By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES
    Published: January 11, 2019

    China has mobilized a missile designed to target American warships following a patrol by a Navy destroyer through disputed waters in the South China Sea, according to a state-run broadcaster.

    “China’s far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missile the DF-26 has been mobilized to Northwest China’s plateau and desert areas,” China’s Global Times newspaper reported Wednesday, citing China Central Television.

    The mobilization followed a patrol by the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell near the Paracel Islands, which the newspaper said “trespassed into China’s territorial waters” in the South China Sea on Monday.

    The missile, which experts have called the “Guam killer,” can strike targets 3,400 miles away, placing Andersen Air Force Base within range.

    “McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” U.S. Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Lt. j.g. Rachel McMarr said in a statement forwarded by 7th Fleet on Friday.

    “U.S. Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” she said. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows. That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe.”

    The Navy will continue to conduct regular, routine freedom-of-navigation operations, she said. The patrols “are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

    article continues below

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    The Global Times quoted an unnamed Beijing-based military expert saying that the DF-26 missile mobilization “is a good reminder that China is capable of safeguarding its territory.”

    Last month, Chinese Rear Adm. Lou Yuan told an audience in Shenzhen that sinking a pair of U.S. aircraft carriers would settle issues of sovereignty in the South China Sea.

    “What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” he said, noting that 5,000 servicemembers would die on each sunken carrier.

    The DF-26 would place carrier task forces at considerable peril if it could accurately target them, according to Paul Buchanan, an American security analyst based in Auckland, New Zealand.

    “There’s been no testing observed by outsiders, so the U.S. Navy is unclear if it can go operational anytime soon,” he said in a phone interview Friday.

    Freedom-of-navigation exercises, including those that involve other nations, won’t change what’s going on in the South China Sea, Buchanan added.

    “The horse has bolted,” he said. “The days of confronting the Chinese are long gone. It should have been done 10 years ago. Island-building has enabled [China] to claim possession of the South China Sea.”

    Chinese efforts to claim the South China Sea threaten international law and U.S. interests, foreign policy experts Zack Cooper and Gregory Poling wrote in an article published this week by Foreign Policy magazine.

    “China now has three large air and naval bases in the Spratlys and another in the Paracels, along with numerous smaller military outposts. These facilities support a round-the-clock Chinese air, naval, coast guard, and paramilitary presence throughout the South China Sea,” they wrote.

    The Spratlys and Paracels are small island chains claimed by multiple nations bordering the South China Sea.

    If the South China Sea becomes a Chinese lake in which the Navy can sail but smaller states are unable to pursue their rights, “Beijing will have seized a maritime entitlement five times larger than permitted by … international law, carving out an illegitimate sphere of influence,” they wrote.

    Rotating U.S. forces through Philippine military bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement would help address challenges posed by nearby Chinese bases.

    However, plans to do that have been sidetracked under maverick Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and it’s unclear if and when that will happen, the article said.

    robson.seth@stripes.com
    Twitter: @SethRobson1
    previous coverage

    USS Chancellorsville patrols near disputed South China Sea islands after Hong Kong visit

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    The Sangorian: Weakening the Taliban from Within

    Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 1
    By: Sudha Ramachandran
    January 11, 2019 05:25 PM Age: 16 hours

    On October 17, Abdul Jabar Qahraman, a former member of the Afghan parliament, was killed when a bomb placed in his office at Lashkar Gah in Helmand went off. Qahraman was among ten candidates who were killed in the run-up to the October 21 parliamentary elections (Tolo News, October 17, 2018). The Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) had called for a boycott of the election and threatened to “disrupt” it (Salaam Times, September 28, 2018). So, was Qahraman killed for defying their diktats and contesting the election?

    More factors than his contesting of the election were at play. An “honest politician” who was vocally anti-Pakistan and staunchly anti-Taliban, Qahraman had many enemies, several of whom wanted him dead. In January 2016, he set up an anti-Taliban militia called Sangorian to infiltrate and weaken the Taliban from within. The Sangorian has been “a great threat to the Taliban.” [1] This would have put him in the Taliban’s crosshairs, culminating in his death.

    Situation in Helmand
    Qahraman set up Sangorian when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani appointed him in January 2016 as operational commander of all Afghan forces in Helmand. He remained at this post until 2017. Located in southwest Afghanistan, Helmand is Afghanistan’s most fertile province. It is near Iran and shares a border with Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, where several of the Taliban’s top leaders are based. The province is also the center of poppy cultivation and opium production that finances the Taliban’s insurgency. Understandably, the government is keen to control Helmand to deny the Taliban these advantages.

    The situation in Helmand in early 2016 was precarious. Following the withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan in late 2014, the Taliban focused attention on wresting back control over Helmand; in 2015, it carried out more attacks in Helmand than any other province in Afghanistan (Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 28, 2015). During this period, it adopted the quet’a strategy, which involves the deployment of small and mobile commando forces. This strategy was successful and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan Local Police (ALP), and militia commanders—who managed to consolidate control over large parts of Helmand following the 2010 surge—crumbled in the face of the Taliban advance in 2015. By the end of that year, the Taliban was in control of ten of Helmand’s 14 districts while the government was in control of only three districts, including the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. Control over Nad Ali district was split between the government and the Taliban (Afghan Analysts Network, March 11, 2016).

    With the Taliban advancing towards Lashkar Gah, the possibility of it overrunning the entire province loomed. It was in the context of this grave situation in Helmand that Ghani dispatched Qahraman to oversee security in Helmand.

    Kabul’s plan was to counter the Taliban’s advance by arming local communities to defend themselves. This has been tried before. In 2010, for instance, the Afghan government armed local groups called ALPs to defend their communities. Only now these were called ‘patsunian’ (uprising forces) (Afghan Analysts Network, March 11, 2016). Locals were recruited to these groups to hold areas recaptured from the Taliban, freeing the army for offensive operations. Simultaneously, the government set up Sangorian.

    Enter Sangorian
    Sangorian, a pro-government militia, draws its name from a Turkish television soap opera about covert operatives. It comprises local residents, Taliban dissidents, and those who were previously part of the Taliban regime. Its activities are rarely reported in the Afghan or foreign media. [2] Afghan government officials deny its existence and claim that it is a creation of Pakistani propaganda. [3]

    Most government-affiliated militias like the ALP, for instance, are defensive formations that come under the Afghan Ministry of Interior. Sangorian, however, is deployed in offensive operations and its fighters are recruited and trained by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Defense. Sangorian fighters are in touch with their handlers in the NDS during operations. [4] Since they are sent on offensive operations, they need intelligence, transportation, and directives, which the NDS likely provides. [5] Sangorian fighters also live in NDS facilities—a suicide attack on an NDS facility in July 2017 resulted in the death of fighters identified as being Sangorian.

    Sangorian reportedly has 500-1,000 fighters. Fighters sport flowing beards, dress like the Taliban and are equipped with weapons similar to the ones used by the Taliban (Gandhara, February 15, 2018). This enables Sangorian fighters to blend in easily with the Taliban and fight it from within by triggering divisions within the insurgent group.

    Unlike ANSF personnel who suffer from low motivation and morale, Sangorian “have an incentive to fight.” They are convinced that they are doing the right thing in fighting the Taliban. They have local sympathy and support. [6] However, there is concern among Helmand’s residents that, like other government-affiliated covert militias, they will engage in future widespread abuse of civilians (Gandhara, February 15, 2018).

    Rattling the Taliban
    Listing Sangorian’s achievements in terms of attacks “is hard as its operations are quiet and rarely reported in the media.” [7] However, it is credited with having played “a major role” in preventing the fall of Helmand to the Taliban in 2016 and, more recently, helping recapture the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah and portions of Nad Ali (Pajhwok, December 11, 2018; Salaam Times, June 6, 2018). In mid-2016, Lashkar Gah was under a virtual siege by the Taliban for over four months.

    According to Qahraman, it was Sangorian’s operations behind Taliban lines in their strongholds of Sangin and Musa Qala districts that prevented the insurgent group from capturing Lashkar Gah (Gandhara, February 15, 2018). The Sangorian has also been more successful than the ALP in taking on the Taliban. [8] Sangorian’s infiltration of the Taliban is said to have triggered suspicions and mistrust among its members, prompting Taliban commanders to surround themselves with bodyguards (Gandhara, February 15, 2018).

    The Taliban has never mentioned the Sangorian by name or issued statements on its attacks on the insurgent group. Soon after the killing of Qahraman, for instance, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing him (Khaama Press, October 17, 2018). It was silent on the reason for doing so, only describing him as “a prominent communist commander” (Voice of Jihad, October 17, 2018). [9] There was no mention of his founding of the Sangorian. It is possible that the Taliban was reluctant to link its killing of Qahraman to his founding of Sangorian, as that would be perceived as an admission of its concerns over the group.

    That the Taliban takes the threat posed by the Sangorian seriously is evident from the fact that the son of Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada was sent to carry out a suicide attack on the NDS headquarters at Gerishk district in Helmand in July 2017. [10] The target of that attack was the Sangorian fighters being housed in the NDS facility.

    Fights between the Taliban and defectors are known to be, “vicious with no quarter given.” [11] Consequently, the Taliban uses extreme violence to deal with Sangorian members. Captured Sangorian fighters are tortured brutally and killed by the Taliban. [12] The Taliban also uses heavy weapons in its attacks on Sangorian units (Gandhara, February 15, 2018). Since many Sangorian fighters are former Taliban members and working within the Taliban to weaken it, they are an intimate enemy and thus not only seen to be more dangerous but also, in the perception of the Taliban, deserving the worst punishment.

    Conclusion
    Sangorian’s success will depend on how focused it remains in its activities. It was set up to undermine the Taliban from within. Should it become yet another militia that unleashes violence on civilians or acts as a private army for NDS officials, it will lose public support, which the Taliban will be quick to exploit.

    Although the government has poured in resources and set up a variety of militias, including the Sangorian, to weaken the Taliban in Helmand, it has achieved only limited success. The Sangorian have inflicted losses on the Taliban and kept it at bay, but three years after it came into being, the Taliban continues to control a large portion of Helmand. In early 2018, the Taliban was said to be in control of seven of Helmand’s 14 districts and contesting government control in the rest.

    Militias like the Sangorian have a small and specific role in fighting an insurgent group like the Taliban. They can, at best, be useful in deepening divisions and perhaps eliminating some fighters. Qahraman himself came to believe that military operations alone could not defeat the Taliban. Indeed, it was this conviction that prompted him to step aside as overall security chief of Helmand in 2017.

    Notes
    [1] Author Interview with Hekmatullah Azamy, Acting Head of the Kabul-based Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, December 5, 2018.
    [2] Azamy, n.1.
    [3] Author Interview with an Afghan government official, November 29.
    [4] Azamy, n.1.
    [5] Former Indian intelligence official, November 26.
    [6] Azamy, n.1.
    [7] Azamy, n.1.
    [8] Azamy, n.1.
    [9] A former general in the Afghan National Army, Qahraman was known for his counterinsurgency operations against the mujahideen in the 1982-92 period.
    [10] Azamy, n.1.
    [11] Former Indian intelligence official, n. 5.
    [12] Azamy, n.1.

    TM-Jan.-11-2019-Issue.pdf

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    https://www.yahoo.com/news/russia-co...132831293.html

    World

    Russia condemns UK foreign army base plans, says ready to defend interests

    Reuters 23 hours ago

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia on Friday condemned British plans to open military bases in south-east Asia and the Caribbean and said it stood ready to take retaliatory measures if its own interests or those of its allies were threatened.

    British defense minister Gavin Williamson told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper last month that London was working on plans to build two new foreign bases "within the next couple of years" after it left the European Union.

    Williamson did not specify where the bases might be built, but the newspaper reported that options included Singapore or Brunei near the South China Sea and Montserrat or Guyana in the Caribbean.

    Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia's foreign ministry, on Friday described Williamson's comments as baffling and warned such plans could destabilize world affairs.

    "Of course, Britain like any other country is independent when it comes to its military construction plans. But against the backdrop of overall rising military and political tensions in the world ... statements about the desire to build up its military presence in third countries are counter-productive, destabilizing and possibly of a provocational nature," she said.

    "In the event of any measures that pose a threat to Russia's security or that of its allies our country reserves the right to take appropriate retaliatory measures."

    Russia has military bases in several countries across the former Soviet Union and operates military facilities in Syria and has spoken of re-opening Soviet-era bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

    (This story has been refiled to restore dropped words in final paragraph.)
    (Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Tom Balmforth)

    View reactions (421)

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    Does Russia Have 2-to-1 Advantage in Deployed Strategic Nuclear Weapons?

    By Mark B. Schneider
    January 12, 2019

    Every year in November and December the Russian government releases substantial information about the Defense Ministry’s yearly accomplishments and its plans for next year. A main focus of the information release is military intimidation of the West. I did not expect much this year because at the November meetings in Sochi President Putin’s public speeches provided virtually no new information.[1] Also, Russia was then trying to moderate its threat profile in the West in an effort to end sanctions, end NATO defense preparations and exercises against Russian aggression and terminate U.S. nuclear modernization.[2] I was wrong. Russia turned on a dime (apparently because of the Trump administration’s effort to enforce Russian compliance with the INF Treaty) and went back into high nuclear threat mode. This is President Putin’s default response when the West does or says things he doesn’t like.

    In 2007, the Russian nuclear missile targeting threat was first employed by the then-commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Force Colonel General Nikolay Solovtsov who said that “if need be, our missiles would be targeted on the new [U.S.] ABM facilities, if they are built.”[3] Then and now, there is no indication in open sources that the Russian ICBM force has anything other than a nuclear capability. Putin unleashed new nuclear threats, including a targeting threat in October 2018.[4] By late December 2018, five more targeting threats were made by President Putin and his senior military leadership – two more by President Putin, and one each by the Chief of the General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov, by the Strategic Missile Force Commander Colonel General Sergei Karakayev and by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.[5] Additionally, there were also chilling statements by President Putin about the enhanced risk of nuclear war.[6] Significantly, senior Russian officials threatened a nuclear arms race,[7] gloated about Russia’s new super nuclear weapons,[8] and warned about the end arms control.[9] Moreover, Russia conducted bomber provocations, including the deployment of Tu-160s nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela, with its implied threat of a new Cuban Missile Crisis.[10]

    In December 2018, Russia released a great deal of information concerning its military accomplishments and plans with emphasis on the nuclear superweapons revealed by Putin in his infamous March 1st Duma address, particularly those that are now operational or will soon become operational (the Kinzhal and the Avangard hypersonic missiles, the bomber upgrades including their new nuclear-capable cruise missiles and the Sarmat heavy ICBM with a 2021 IOC.).[11] Russian Defense Minister General of the Army Sergey Shoigu stated that: 1) “The modernity level of the Strategic Nuclear Forces has reached 82%...”: 2) the new Sarmat heavy ICBM had been successfully tested in a “pop-up test”; 3) in 2019 “the first missile regiment equipped…with [the] Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle” would become operational; 4) in 2019 a total of 31 Yars and Avangard nuclear ICBMs would be put “combat duty”; 5) in 2019 the first Borey A ballistic missile submarine would become operational; 6) four Tu-95 nuclear-capable bombers would be modernized, and 7) Russia had conducted a salvo launch of 12 nuclear capable Kh-101 cruise missiles from a Tu-160 heavy bomber.[12] This adds up to the modernization in a single year of about 10 percent of the declared Russian strategic nuclear force under the New START Treaty.[13] TASS also reported that the new version of the Tu-160 (the Tu-160M2), which will add 500 additional deployed warheads to the Russian strategic nuclear force, is now being manufactured.[14]

    On December 24, Defense Minister Shoigu said Russia had achieved “an unprecedented level of equipment with modern weapons,” surpassing all other nations.[15] Two days later, President Putin presided over a successful test of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and stated that “We will continue to work according to the plans that were designed for this system and other promising systems for equipping the army and the fleet.”[16]

    One of the most important of the December revelations, but one that has been completely ignored in the West, was the statement by General Karakayev that “…the nuclear potentials of the sides have [been] reduced more than 66% since the signing of START I.”[17] This is a major departure from the Russian position. At the United Nations in April 2018, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the U.N Dmitry Polyanskiy declared that “Russia cut its nuclear arsenal by over 85 percent as compared to its stockpiles at the height of the Cold War.”[18] If one uses the late Soviet declared number of over 10,000 deployed strategic nuclear warheads for the calculations,[19] the difference between an 85% reduction and a 66% reduction is almost 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads above the supposed New START Treaty allowed level of 1,550. This is much higher than any previous unclassified Western estimate of currently deployed Russian strategic nuclear warheads. For example, in 2018, Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris estimated that Russia has 2,522 deployed strategic nuclear warheads.[20]

    While the New START Treaty warhead limit is not real because of loopholes, a force of over 3,300 Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads (a two-to-one and growing Russian advantage in strategic nuclear weapons) is very significant and could impact Putin’s future decisions regarding war or peace. To deploy more than 3,300 strategic nuclear warheads, it takes more than simple exploitation of the New START Treaty bomber weapon counting rule which counts a bomber load of nuclear weapons as one warhead.[21] The Kristensen and Norris number already does this. A current level of over 3,300 warheads requires a substantial covert force of heavily MIRVed mobile ICBMs and/or cheating on warhead numbers on declared delivery vehicles.

    The existence of a covert mobile ICBM force is consistent with General Karakayev’s repeated statements that he has about 400 operational ICBMs when he cannot legally have more than about 300 consistent with Russia’s declared New START Treaty data on delivery vehicles.[22] He was very explicit about this in 2014 when he said the Strategic Missile Force “…has around 400 missiles with warheads on combat duty.”[23]

    During the Cold War, there were covert Soviet mobile missile deployments detailed in State Department reports to the Congress. This included the SS-16 mobile ICBM banned by the SALT II Treaty and the SS-23 mobile short-range missile banned by the INF Treaty.[24] Recently, the Russian Federation has attempted to covertly deploy the SSC-8/9M729 intermediate-range nuclear capable ground-launched cruise missile.[25] Thus, there is no apparent reason why there could not be a covert Russian deployment of the heavily MIRVed mobile SS-27 Mod 2/RS-24 Yars ICBM.[26] Cheating with mobile ICBMs is facilitated by the fact that the New START Treaty omitted almost the entire START Treaty verification regime for mobile ICBMs.[27] Most significantly, permanent on-site monitoring of mobile ICBM production has not happened since the expiration of the START Treaty in 2009. Even with the comprehensive START Treaty verification regime, the Senate Select Committee report on the monitoring of the START Treaty concluded that “…U.S. intelligence will have less than high confidence in its monitoring of such areas as non-deployed mobile ICBMs….”[28] It is much easier to cheat with mobile ICBMs than with INF-range missiles because production and testing of mobile ICBMs were allowed by the START Treaty (with an extensive verification regime) and is allowed by the New START Treaty without any significant verification regime.

    Another problem pointed out by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s START Treaty report was counting the number of warheads on deployed missiles.[29] Subsequent to this report, there were Russian violations of START Treaty verification provisions related to counting the number of warheads on deployed missiles as detailed in a State Department report.[30] The New START Treaty made the situation worse by increasing the time allowed to get inspectors to an inspection site from nine hours in the START Treaty to 24 hours in the New START Treaty, [31] thus reducing the value of the inspections at mobile ICBM bases, making cheating easier by providing the Russians more time to remove the offending missiles.

    If Russia now has over 3,300 deployed strategic nuclear warheads and programs underway to increase this number, Russia has obtained a substantial strategic nuclear advantage over the U.S made worse by the decade-old advantage they have had in non-strategic nuclear weapons.[32] The Russians believe this is very important. Indeed, then-Kremlin Chief of Staff Colonel General Sergei Ivanov linked Russia’s refusal to engage in new strategic nuclear arms control negotiations after 2010 to the asymmetry in nuclear modernization: “When I hear our American partners say: ‘let’s reduce something else’, I would like to say to them: ‘excuse me, but what we have is relatively new’. They [the U.S.] have not conducted any upgrades for a long time. They still use Trident [missiles].”[33] If General Karakayev is correct, they now have a 2-to-1 advantage in deployed strategic nuclear weapons. This could encourage a Russian belief that the U.S. will back down in a future confrontation with Russia, and hence, result in more aggressive behavior by Russia.

    Dr. Mark B. Schneider is a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. Before his retirement from the Department of Defense Senior Executive Service, Dr. Schneider served in a number of senior positions within the Office of Secretary of Defense for Policy including Principal Director for Forces Policy, Principal Director for Strategic Defense, Space and Verification Policy, Director for Strategic Arms Control Policy and Representative of the Secretary of Defense to the Nuclear Arms Control Implementation Commissions. He also served in the senior Foreign Service as a Member of the State Department Policy Planning Staff.

    Notes:
    [1] Even when Russian leaders are on relatively good behavior with regard to official high-level nuclear threats, the they still use the state media to make nuclear threats.
    [2] Mark B. Schneider, “Putin’s Arms Control Gambit,” Real Clear Defense, October 18, 2018, available at https: //www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2018/10/13/putins_arms_control_gambit 113891.html.
    [3] Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Examining the Proper Size of the Nuclear Weapons Stockpile to Maintain a Credible U.S. Deterrent, 112th Congress, 2nd sess., July 25, 2012, Statement of Keith B. Payne, PhD., p. A-1, available at https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/ doc/hearings/07_25_12% 20E& W%20Nuclear%20Weapons%20Stockpile%20as%20Deterrent %20GPO%20rec ord.pd.
    [4] “News conference following Russian-Italian Talks,” Kremlin.ru, October 24, 2018, available at http://en.kremlin. ru/events/president/news/58889.
    [5] “Russia to target any US missiles deployed in Europe after INF treaty terminated — Kremlin,” TASS, December 21, 2018, available at http://tass.com/defense/1037260.: “Russia Threatens to Target U.S. Allies If Trump Exits Treaty,” Bloomberg.com, December 5, 2018, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/artic...ty-ultimatum.; “Russian Missile Forces Taking Into Account US Possible Withdrawal INF Treaty,” Sputnik News, December 17, 2018, available at https://sputnik news.com/military/201812171070744334-russia-missile-forces-us-withdrawal/.; “Putin: Russia has enough missiles without violating treaty, and nobody has hypersonic weapons like,” The Associated Press, December 18, 2018, available https://www.militarytimes.com/ news/your-military/2018/12/18/putin-russia-has-enough-missiles-without-violating-treaty-and-nobody-has-hypersonic-weapons-like-theirs/.
    [6] “Putin Issues Chilling Warning on Rising Nuclear War Threat,” Voice of America, December 20, 2018, available at https://www.voanews.com/a/putin-issu...t/4709008.html.
    [7] “U.S.’ withdrawal from INF Treaty to trigger new arms race - Deputy FM Morgulov (Part 2),” Interfax, October 26, 2018, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...unted=155509.: “Russian to boost armed forces amid ‘escalating arms race’,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, December 4, 2018, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...ccounted=55509.
    [8] “Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation attends extended session of the Russian Defence Ministry board session,” Russian Federation Defense Ministry, December 18, 2018, available at http://eng.mil .ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12208613@egNews.: “Russian Defence Ministry Board Session -- Activity of Russian Defence Ministry in 2018,” Russian Federation Defense Ministry, no date (late December 2018), available at https://itogi2018.mil.ru/eng.html.; “Defence Ministry Board meeting,” Kremlin.ru, December 18, 2018, available at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59431.
    [9] “Corridors of Power; Foreign Ministry warns of ‘uncontrollable arms race’ if U.S. withdraws from INF Treaty,” Interfax, October 29, 2018, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professional/docview/212688 2547? accountid=155509.: “Russian to boost armed forces amid 'escalating arms race,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, December 4, 2018, available at Interfax news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0803, 0810 and 0815 gmt 4 Dec 18/BBC.
    [10] “Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers of the Aerospace Forces and Tu-142 long-range ASW airplanes of the Russian Naval Air Force have successfully completed a scheduled flight over neutrals waters of the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk,” Russian Federation Defense Ministry, December 5, 2018, available at http://eng. mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12175129@egNews.: “Norway says Russian bombers increased activity amid Nato drill,” BBC Monitoring European, November 8, 2018, available at https://dialog. proquest.com/ professional/docview/2130767820?accountid=155509.; “Two Russian Tu-160 bombers, now in Venezuela, perform 10-hour flight over Caribbean Sea - Russian Defense Ministry,” Interfax, December 13, 2018, available at https:// dialog.proquest.com/professional/docview/2127832404?accountid=155509.
    [11] “Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation attends extended session of the Russian Defence Ministry board session,” op. cit.: “Defence Ministry Board meeting,” op. cit.; “Chief of General Staff General of the Army Valery Gerasimov holds briefing for foreign military attaches,” Russian Federation Defense Ministry, December 5, 2018, available at http://eng.mil.ru/en/news_page/count...06849@egNews.; “Delivery of Sarmat ICBM to Russian Strategic Missile Forces to begin in 2021 – commander,” Interfax, December 17, 2018, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...counted=155509.
    [12] “Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation attends extended session of the Russian Defence Ministry board session,” op. cit.: “Meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu,” Kremlin.ru, December 8, 2015, available at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50892.
    [13] “New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms,” (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, September 1, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/286466.htm.
    [14] “Russia launches production of upgraded Tu-160 strategic bombers,” TASS, December 20, 2018, available at http: //tass.com/defense/1037133.
    [15] “Russia’s Armed Forces Surpass All World Armies in Modern Weapons,” Russian Federation Defense Ministry, December 24, 2018, available at http://eng.mil.ru/en/newspage/countr...tm?id=12209498 @egNews.
    [16] “Russian authorities to take additional measures to develop new weapon systems, says Putin,” TASS, December 26, 2018, available at http://tass.com/defense/1038018.
    [17] “U.S. to seek ways of leveling capacities of Russian strategic nuclear forces - Gen. Karakayev,” Interfax, December 17, 2018, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...72?Accounted=1.
    [18] “Statement by Mr. Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the
    UN, during General Debate at the UN Disarmament Commission 2018,” Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, April 2, 2018, available at http://russiaun.ru/en/news/desarm0204.
    [19] “FACTBOX – Strategic Missile Forces Day in Russia,” Sputnik, December 17, 2018, available at https://dialog .proquest.com/professional/docview/2157472585?accountid=155509.
    [20] Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris, “Russian nuclear forces, 2018,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April
    30, 2018, p. 186, available at https://thebulletin.org/2018/05/russ...r-forces-2018/.
    [21] “New START,” (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, no date), available at https://www.state.gov/t/avc/ newstart/index.htm.
    [22] Pavel Podvig estimated 311 ICBMs were deployed in January 2014. See Pavel Podvig, “Russian strategic forces in January 2014,” RussianForces.org, January 15, 2015, available at http://russianforces.org/blog/2014/01/russian_ strategic_forces_in_20.shtml. Regarding General Karakayev’s statement that he has about 400 ICBMs on combat duty, see “Some 400 ICBMs are on combat duty in Russia – RVSN commander,” Interfax, December 16, 2014, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...untid=155509.: “Russian Strategic Missile Troops have about 400 ICBM launchers – commander,” BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union, December 17, 2003, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/professi...ew/1468597532? accountid=155509.; “Russia’s RVSN has some 400 ICBMs on duty – commander,” Interfax, December 15, 2016, available at https://dialog. proquest.com/professional/docview/1849129740?accountid=155509.; “Ordnance; Russian Strategic Missile Forces comprise approx. 400 ICBMs – commander.” Interfax, December 17, 2017, available at https://dialog.proquest.com/ professional/docview/1975954122?accountid=155509.; Mark Schneider, “Russian Violations of the INF and New START Treaties,” Information Series Issue No. 410, Natioanl Institute for Public Policy, August 15, 2016, available at http://www.nipp.org/2016/08/15/schne...tart-treaties/.
    [23] “Some 400 ICBMs are on combat duty in Russia – RVSN commander,” op. cit.
    [24] The President’s Report to the Congress on Soviet Noncompliance with Arms Control Agreements, (Washington
    D.C.: The White House, January 23.1984), p. 5.: “Case Study: SS-23 Missiles in Eastern Europe,” U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, October 1, 2005, available at http://2001-2009.state.gov/t/vci/rls/prsrl/57238.htm.
    [25] “Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats on Russia’s INF Treaty Violation,” November 30, 2018, available at https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsro...eaty-violation.
    [26] Charles P. Vick, “A Highly Modified Topol-M/SS-27,” Globalsecurity.org, October 10, 2013, available at http:// www.global security.org/wmd/world/russia/rs-24.htm.
    [27] The New START Working Group, “New START: Potemkin Village Verification,” The Heritage Foundation, June 24, 2010, available at http://www.heritage.org/research/rep...e-verification.
    [28] Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “CAPABILITY OF THE UNITED STATES TO MONITOR
    COMPLIANCE WITH THE START TREATY, (Washington D.C.: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, September 29, 1992), p. 3, available at https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/...cations/102431. pdf.
    [29] Ibid.
    [30] Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control and Nonproliferation Agreements and Commitments, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of State, August 2005), pp 12-13, available at http://www.state.gov/t/ avc/rls/rpt/c15720.htm.
    [31] The New START Treaty, Protocol, Section 5, paragraph 7.
    [32] “Obama Advisor Gary Samore, ‘The Ball is Very Much in Tehran’s Court’,” Radio Free Europe, April 14, 2011, available at http://www.rferl.org/content/interview samore_russia_iran_us_policy/3557326.html.
    [33] “Russia not interested in U.S.-proposed arms reduction - Russian presidential chief-of-staff,” Russia Beyond the Headlines, March 5, 2013, available at https://www.rbth.com/news/2013/03/05...nti_23504.html.

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    Brazil says it recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader as president

    by Reuters
    Saturday, 12 January 2019 14:07 GMT

    SAO PAULO, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Brazil's government on Saturday issued a statement saying it recognized Venezuela's Congressional leader, who opposes President Nicolas Maduro, as the rightful president of Venezuela.

    Maduro, who started a second term as president this week, has found himself increasingly isolated as countries around the world have called his continued leadership illegitimate.

    Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela's opposition-led Congress, said this week he was prepared to assume the country's presidency on an interim basis and call elections. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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    23,000 Nicaraguans Have Fled to Costa Rica. 50 Fugitives Are Hiding Here.

    By FRANCES ROBLES 2 hrs ago

    The patio is cluttered with mattresses and suitcases, clothes spilling out of them. Sheets separate families from strangers, gentlemen from the ladies.

    Women cook over an open fire fueled by freshly cut wood because the kitchen in this modest three-bedroom ranch home in the Costa Rican countryside cannot possibly accommodate food preparations for 50 hungry fugitives.

    This is a secret safe house for Nicaraguan protesters who are trying to avoid capture by the country’s authorities. It was not designed for crowd comfort.

    Even though the ranch is across an international border, those living here take turns on nightly guard duty, concerned about agents from Nicaragua infiltrating their haven.

    The woman who runs the refuge, who goes by the pseudonym “the Godmother,” looked around while a compatriot slammed a machete against a tree stump to cut more firewood.

    “We consider our stay here to be temporary,” she said. “We are tired already. We want to go home.”

    The Godmother’s real name is Lisseth Valdivia. She used to own three clothing stores in Matagalpa, a city north of Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. A 39-year-old mother of two, she liked working out at the gym. She rode a new scooter. She was earning a decent living.

    Then her life, and the lives of tens of thousands of other Nicaraguans, were upended in April, when first the elderly, and then the young, took to the streets to demand the removal of the president, Daniel Ortega, and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

    Many Nicaraguans long viewed Mr. Ortega, in office since 2007, as increasingly dictatorial. But what finally drew masses of demonstrators to the streets were wildly unpopular social security cutbacks.

    The police and pro-government mobs responded with deadly force, even against unarmed protesters, according to human-rights observers, shooting and killing people across the nation.

    Ms. Valdivia said she wondered why nobody helped them. First one fell in her neighborhood, then a second. After the third was shot, she hopped on her new moped and came to their assistance herself.

    Ms. Valdivia spent two months running what she considered a humanitarian command post, administering first aid and providing lunch to protesters who were snarling traffic with improvised road blocks. She learned how to use homemade mortars, she said, although she mostly left the weaponry to the men.

    Then a relative phoned with a warning: “Don’t even think of coming here. There are about 25 police officers in your house, and they are destroying it.”

    She fled and never looked back, leaving behind three shuttered businesses, a house, a car, the scooter — and, for his own safety, her 7-year-old son, put in the care of his father, who has sided with the government and sometimes sends Ms. Valdivia angry text messages about her allegiances.

    “For now, I have to be with my people,” she said, referring to her fellow fugitives. “In the future, when Nicaragua is free, my son is going to enjoy all of that.”

    Ms. Valdivia now lives with her teenage daughter and dozens of people she only recently met, including a radio announcer accused of setting fire to a government station, eight minors and several college students.

    She is in charge of vetting newcomers to the ranch, turning away anyone who has been in jail, because she fears they could have been released on the condition they become informers.

    In the protests’ early days, with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, many observers thought Mr. Ortega — who had also led Nicaragua for most of the 1980s — would be forced from office. But the government’s brutal response, with hundreds killed, appears to have only solidified his grip on power.

    Still, those who fled try to remain optimistic.

    “We did not surrender,” said Samuel A. Gutiérrez, 13, who arrived at the ranch in Costa Rica by bus and on foot after he fled Nicaragua with his parents. Samuel, who survived a government attack on a church that killed two people, is missing his freshman year of high school as he hides out at the ranch.

    “We are all going back,” Samuel’s father, Orlando Gutiérrez, 50, said as a group of fugitives roasted marshmallows. “All of us.”

    In the Nicaraguan government’s version of this story, the protesters are terrorists and murderers. Those students who paralyzed commerce when they broke off bricks from the streets and used them to build roadblocks at intersections across the country were armed and aligned with well-financed right-wing coup-plotters, including the Catholic Church.

    Of the 322 people killed since the uprising began, 22 were police officers and about 50 were affiliated with the government’s leftist Sandinista Front party, according to a Nicaraguan human rights organization that the government has now banned. Protesters believe many of those people died from friendly fire, or in cynical attempts to cast blame on a citizenry that had been armed mostly with rocks and slingshots.

    By the summer, the government regained the upper hand. In July, the Nicaraguan police, with assault rifles blazing, demolished more than 100 roadblocks. Friends turned out to be infiltrators, the police intelligence better than anyone imagined, and activists were arrested at their homes and underground hiding spots around the nation.

    At least 565 people are still jailed, some of them on murder charges and others for what the government calls terrorism. Another 23,000 people, like the Godmother, retreated to neighboring Costa Rica.

    Ms. Valdivia, hiding at first in Nicaragua’s mountains, escaped across the border in August after a surprise phone call. “I’m going to help you get out,” the voice on the other end said.

    The caller was a Nicaraguan businessman, Jorge Estrada, who had fled to Costa Rica three years earlier after the government confiscated a housing development he was building.

    Mr. Estrada now runs something of an underground railroad. He has arranged for the hasty departure of about 600 people, he said, and pays the rent for three safe houses including this one in Costa Rica.

    The fugitives call him “Comando.”

    “You know what happens when they are caught: torture and murder,” Mr. Estrada said. “How do you turn your back on something like that?”

    On a December day, Mr. Estrada pulled up to the safe house with three giant trays of eggs. He said he spends about $200 a day on food alone. The former protesters go through 20 pounds of rice and 17 pounds of beans every day at this hide out, Ms. Valdivia said.

    Everyone huddled around Mr. Estrada, eager for any news they had not already gleaned from Facebook and WhatsApp, where fake news about the crisis circulates.

    President Trump had just signed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, or NICA, which promises to squeeze Nicaragua with tough sanctions until the rule of law is restored.

    “If all of this that the United States is doing, all this pressure, does not work for this man Ortega to react and leave, then one of the bloodiest wars Nicaragua has ever seen is coming,” Mr. Estrada said. That is, the war would come, if only the opposition had guns.

    “There are no weapons,” Mr. Estrada lamented. “The United States are the only ones who can help us with that, and they still haven’t given the green light, so to speak.”

    Like Mr. Estrada, Ms. Valdivia holds out a wistful hope that Mr. Trump will intervene, that the Republican leader will rescue Nicaragua from the socialist Mr. Ortega.

    “We believe in him,” Ms. Valdivia said. “The United States, upon seeing us getting killed, will come.”

    But if international help does not materialize, Nicaraguans are not interested in political asylum in Costa Rica, she said.

    “Almost everyone is going back,” she said, “even if it’s only with rocks.”

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    https://www.france24.com/en/20190112...9-yellow-vests

    Tens of thousands take to streets in Act 9 of ‘Yellow Vest’ protests

    Date created : 12/01/2019 - 14:00
    Latest update : 12/01/2019 - 20:20

    Text by:
    FRANCE 24

    Around 84,000 protesters -- up from 50,000 the previous week -- took to the streets in "Yellow Vest" rallies across France on Saturday for a ninth straight weekend of protests against President Emmanuel Macron's economic policies.

    Paris police fired water cannon and tear gas to repel “Yellow Vest” demonstrators around the Arc de Triomphe as scuffles broke out between police and protesters near the monument. Police established a car ban on the nearby Champs-Élysées avenue.

    Around 84,000 demonstrators took to the streets of French cities and towns, said French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, adding that 244 people were detained.

    Many sang the "Marseillaise" national anthem, while others shouted "Macron resign!" or "Free Christophe," a reference to the ex-boxer filmed viciously beating two officers during last week's protest.

    For the first time organisers of the Paris march deployed teams wearing white arm bands to corral the march that began near the Place de la Bastille.

    Meanwhile, around 4,800 yellow vest protesters, according to local authorities were marching in Bourges, a provincial capital with a renowned Gothic cathedral and picturesque wood-framed houses. Online groups mounted calls over the past week for actions in the town because of its location in the center of France.

    Authorities deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for the anti-government protests.

    The protesters began to disperse as night fell, however, and police began removing armoured vehicles and trucks in an atmosphere of relative calm.

    The movement waned over the holidays but appears to be resurging, despite Macron's promises of billions of euros in tax relief and an upcoming "national debate" to address demonstrators' concerns. Protesters want deeper changes to France's economy and politics, seen as favoring the rich.

    'Condescending and arrogant'
    The yellow vest movement, which began as protests over high fuel taxes, has snowballed into a wholesale rejection of Macron and his policies, which are seen as favouring the wealthy at the expense of rural and small-town France.

    Officials had feared bigger and more violent protests than last week, when demonstrators rammed a forklift truck through the main doors of a government ministry in Paris.

    But many demonstrators say the violence cuts both ways, pointing to social media footage of a police officer repeatedly striking an unarmed man on the ground during a protest last week in Toulon.

    Macron has called for a national debate starting next week to hear voters' grievances, hoping to sate demands for more of a say in national law-making and tamp down the protesters' anger.

    He has already unveiled a 10-billion-euro ($11.5 billion) financial relief package for low earners, and axed the planned fuel tax hike.

    But the public consultations risk being hobbled by record levels of distrust towards politicians and representatives of the state.

    A poll by the Cevipof political sciences institute released Friday showed 77 percent of respondents thought politicians inspired "distrust", "disgust" or "boredom".

    And Macron may not have endeared himself to many voters on Friday, when he told a gathering at the Elysee Palace that "too many of our citizens think they can get something without making the necessary effort."

    "I work 60 hours a week and don't even make the minimum wage!" said Maurice, a 60-year-old carpenter at a protest in Strasbourg.

    "Macron goes too far, he's condescending and arrogant. We want the system to change," added his wife, declining to give her name.


    (FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

    --------------------

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.france24.com/en/20190112...-death-threats

    French MPs face unprecedented death threats from 'Yellow Vest' protesters

    Date created : 12/01/2019 - 18:26

    Text by:
    Henrique VALADARES
    As thousands of 'Yellow Vests' took to the streets for a 9th Saturday of demonstrations in France, some 50 MPs have been the target of attacks, including death threats and gunshots, which have raised concerns about the state of democracy in France.

    Threatening letters, homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist and misogynist messages, and gunshots fired near their homes. For the last two months, around 50 members of French President Emmanuel Macron's La République en Marche (LREM) party have faced unprecedented threats from the "Yellow Vest" movement.

    LREM’s spokesperson Aurore Bergé and her colleague Marie Lebec have been threatened multiple times since early December with “death by decapitation or hanging”.

    “This violence is growing, so are death threats, but there are also concrete violent acts,” Paris deputy Laetitia Avia told Sud Radio on January 8.

    MPs say that even though they are used to being occasionally insulted, this time a line has been crossed. “This is beyond limits,” MP Bruno Questel told FRANCE 24. In mid-December, around 40 “Yellow Vest” protesters fired six shotgun rounds in front of his home and he received many threatening letters, telling him his “death is near”.

    Torture and sexual assault threats
    On January 4, MP Jean-François Mbaye received a typed letter with racist insults. “You will get a bullet in the head” or “You are going to die,” said the letter, which also named other MPs of African origin such as Laetitia Avia and Hervé Berville.

    Given the unprecedented number of violent acts and messages, most LREM MPs decided to strike back through court, filing regular complaints. On Wednesday, LREM’s Gilles Le Gendre wrote an editorial in French daily Le Monde called “Enough is enough!”, and calling for “respect towards the Republic and its representatives”.

    “We were not able to file a class action, but we have all filed complaints. We help each other and even political opponents support us,” Questel told FRANCE 24. “These acts are actually more violent towards our female colleagues than their male counterparts,” he added. Like other women MPs, Bergé has received multiple torture and sexual assault threats.

    Targeted MPs also question other parties such as the far-right’s National Rally (RN, formerly known as National Front) and leftist La France Insoumise (LFI) for their silence on these violent acts. “Everybody knows that the 'Yellow Vest' movement is also manipulated by RN and by LFI, some of their leaders were there at the beginning,” said Questel.

    “These are parties that were defeated over and over again and they are trying to fight the same battle again, which they are not able to win... but independently, it is complicated when people think they have the right to condemn you to death and that they have also the right to openly tell you so,” added Questel.

    Crisis in democracy?
    Some people think these threats represent a democratic crisis. According to historian Christophe Bellon, this kind of violence “can be found in various moments in the 20th century, moments of extreme tension”.

    But since 1958, “these acts of violence against representatives of the state had no equivalent”, he adds. “There were acts of violence (…), but never with a social movement such as this one,” Bellon told Le Monde.

    “I don’t think it illustrates a crisis in our democracy,” said Questel. “Each and every one is free to vote. The real democratic crisis is the fact that most of the 'Yellow Vests' have never voted or have not done so for the past 30 years. The real democratic crisis is the fact that 50% of the voters didn’t express their opinions during the second round of the presidential election (in 2017),” he added.

    Nevertheless, many of his colleagues are under police protection, a measure the government says it will not be able to maintain indefinitely.

    Text by:
    Henrique VALADARES
    Last edited by Housecarl; 01-13-2019 at 12:42 AM. Reason: added article

  11. #11
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    Tick, tick, tick....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.france24.com/en/20190111...ax-food-bashir

    Sudan police fire tear gas at protestors amid call for week of action

    Date created : 11/01/2019 - 19:26
    Latest update : 12/01/2019 - 08:17

    Text by:
    FRANCE 24

    Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters in the capital Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman after midday prayers on Friday as organisers urged nationwide demonstrations over the next week against President Omar al-Bashir.

    Crowds chanting "freedom, peace, justice" demonstrated in two areas of Khartoum and in Omdurman just across the Nile, witnesses said.

    They were quickly confronted by volleys of tear gas from riot police.

    Video footage from Sudan purportedly showing worshippers chanting anti-government slogans inside a Khartoum mosque spread online on social media later Friday. The footage could not be independently verified.

    Friday's protests came after organisers called for nationwide demonstrations over the next week demanding Bashir's resignation.

    Protests that first erupted on December 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread have swiftly escalated into broader demonstrations widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir's rule in his three decades in power.

    "We will launch a week of uprising with demonstrations in every Sudanese town and village," the Sudanese Professionals' Association said.

    The group called for a major rally in Khartoum North on Sunday, to be followed by further demonstrations in the capital during the week.

    The association, which has mobilised its membership to keep up the momentum of the protests, has also called for a rally later on Friday in the eastern town of Atbara, where the demonstrations first began.

    At least 22 people have been killed during the protests, including two security personnel, according to the authorities.

    Rights groups have put the death toll much higher.

    Human Rights Watch said on Monday that at least 40 people had been killed, including children and medical staff.

    Analysts say the challenge now for organisers is to get protesters onto the street in numbers.

    "Right now, some of the opposition groups and trade unions are trying to mobilise more protests, and probably they are thinking of how to escalate," said Matt Ward, senior Africa analyst at Oxford Analytica.

    "But so far there hasn't been an escalation, they are persistent but they haven't risen in intensity in a significant way."

    Economic crisis
    Although the immediate trigger for the protests was the price of bread, Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

    Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported in several cities, including the capital Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.

    Bashir and other officials have blamed Washington for Sudan's economic woes.

    Washington imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017. It restricted Sudan from conducting international business and financial transactions.

    Sudan’s economy has struggled for most of the nearly three decades Bashir has been in power. The situation has rapidly deteriorated since the secession of the south of the country in 2011, which deprived Khartoum of the oilfields there.

    But critics of Bashir say his government's mismanagement of key sectors and its huge spending on fighting ethnic minority rebellions in the western region of Darfur and in areas near the South Sudan border has been stoking economic trouble for years.

    The president has remained defiant telling thousands of loyalists at a Khartoum rally on Wednesday that his government would not give in to economic pressure.

    "Those who tried to destroy Sudan... put conditions on us to solve our problems, I tell them that our dignity is more than the price of dollars," Bashir said.

    Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, including opposition leaders, activists and journalists as well as demonstrators.

    The crackdown has drawn international criticism with Britain, Canada, Norway and the United States warning Khartoum that its actions would "have an impact" on its relations with their governments.

    Sudan has dismissed their concerns as "biased" and has insisted it is "committed to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations".

    (FRANCE with AFP and REUTERS)

  12. #12
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    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.insightcrime.org/news/an...ational-guard/

    Mexico’s New National Guard Unlikely To Stem Crimewave

    Analysis
    Written by Patricio R. Estévez-Soto* - January 11, 2019

    Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO), was sworn in on December 1, after a five-month transition period following his landslide electoral victory.

    Faced with an unassailable crime wave that has ravaged the country since 2007 – when then-president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) declared an all-out war on organized crime – López Obrador outlined his security strategy shortly before taking office, after months of speculation.

    Against a background of nearly 30,000 intentional homicides a year (the worst rate in recent history), the plan contains some sensible – though vague – proposals, such as an overhaul of the prison system, and a rethink of drug prohibition. But his plan has drawn intense criticism for proposing the creation of a new national guard under military control as the main tool to fight crime across the entire country.

    *This article was originally published by The Conversation. It was translated, edited for clarity and reprinted with permission, but does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original version here.

    The national guard would combine battalions from the army and navy, as well as the civilian Federal Police, into a new security force under the control of the Ministry of Defense. Furthermore, a recruitment drive aims to grow the fledgling force to 150,000 troops within three years. Though the new force will be nominally under civilian control, its training, discipline, values, hierarchy and daily operations will be under military command.

    Boots on the Ground
    During the campaign, López Obrador promised to send the military back to the barracks. A decade of troops on the frontline of the drug wars has left a string of human rights abuses and a piling body count. So the announcement of a new national guard – which came shortly after the Supreme Court struck down a controversial law that permitted the use of the armed forces in policing duties – left many of his supporters in shock.

    SEE ALSO: What is Behind AMLO’s Security U-Turn in Mexico?

    As the security plan would in effect dissolve the Federal Police – a civilian agency – and eschews any mention of improving the country’s weak municipal and state police agencies, the national guard is seen by many as a permanent step towards military control of the security sector.

    This was extensively condemned by Mexican civil society, as well as by international organizations. Amnesty International said the proposal “essentially imitates the failed militarised security model [that] has allowed serious human rights violations to be committed by the armed forces”, while Human Rights Watch called it a “colossal mistake.”

    In addition, the proposed force is unlikely to be a panacea. On the one hand, it simply perpetuates the current security strategy that has so far failed to curb violence in the country. On the other, the national guard would still be too small to police a country as large and complex as Mexico, even assuming that it reaches its overly optimistic recruitment targets.

    The Great Paradox of Police Reform
    Most worrying, however, is that the proposed national guard – the fourth new national police force to be created in as many presidencies – is a perfect example of what Daniel Sabet called “one of the great paradoxes of police reform in Mexico”. That “seemingly dramatic changes, such as dissolving one police force and creating an entirely new one, might in practice amount to very little reform of how policing is done”.

    To justify the national guard, López Obrador claims that there have been no improvements whatsoever in the quality of the police services in the past 12 years. This is not precisely true. While most police agencies are far from perfect, there have been notable improvements. The Federal Police has vastly improved its technical and human capabilities since 2006, and several state and municipal forces have become successful case studies in their own right.

    It is true that such improvements are sparse and have not yet made a notable improvement in security conditions across the country. Yet this is due to the complex nature of the criminal phenomenon, and the underwhelming commitment to institutional building by incoming politicians, who prefer flashy new policies over sticking to a plan.

    SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

    It is also true that corruption and abuse persist across police departments. But the armed forces are hardly immune to corruption. Studies have shown that the armed forces are more prone to commit torture and human rights abuses, and more lethal than the police. Thus, it is unlikely that militarization itself will lead to a more effective, incorruptible police force.

    Remaking the security institutions every time a president takes power is incredibly counterproductive. Creating new institutions is costly and slow. Everything from the legislation (creating the national guard requires 13 constitutional amendments and a score of secondary rules) to the mundane (such as uniforms and the colors of patrol cars) must be defined and approved. This process tends to take much longer than anticipated, wasting resources at the expense of actual police work.

    A better alternative would focus on a long-term commitment to improving Mexico’s fledgling civilian police agencies. Corruption is an inherent risk of all police agencies, yet there is evidence that corrupted police agencies can be successfully reformed. By creating a new force, rather than solving Mexico’s security crisis, López Obrador will be setting the country back in its long and arduous road towards capable policing.

    *This article was originally published by The Conversation. It was translated, edited for clarity and reprinted with permission, but does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See the original version here.

  13. #13
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    Hummm….Arguably that "crisis" is already on going....besides, Taiwan and South Korea have and are building more of their own GLCMs and Japan can go there quite easily as well.....The use of "arsenal ships" like the article earlier posted about containerized weapons on containerships or fleet auxiliaries could easily fill that niche....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/start-sec...090000523.html

    How to Start a Second Cuban Missile Crisis (In Asia): America Puts Cruise Missiles in Taiwan

    Robert Farley, The National Interest 22 hours ago

    Robert Farley
    Security, Asia

    In a few years, the U.S. may have new ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with the capacity to strike at intermediate ranges. And if relations between China and the United States continue to deteriorate, Washington may go looking for places to station those missiles. GLCMs in Taiwan are simultaneously China’s greatest fear, and the last card that the United States can play before war begins. They would also spark the most dangerous nuclear standoff since 1962.

    How to Start a Second Cuban Missile Crisis (In Asia): America Puts Cruise Missiles in Taiwan
    In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union nearly turned the Cold War hot because of the Soviet decision to deploy nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to Cuba. A few years before that, China and the United States came perilously close to war over a few Taiwanese-controlled islands off the coast of the mainland.

    In the next decade, as tensions grow between Beijing and Washington, and as the United States sloughs off the restrictions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, we could see a replay of both crises. In a few years, the United States may have new ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with the capacity to strike at intermediate ranges. And if relations between China and the United States continue to deteriorate, Washington may go looking for places to station those missiles. GLCMs in Taiwan are simultaneously China’s greatest fear, and the last card that the United States can play before war begins. They would also spark the most dangerous nuclear standoff since 1962.

    What Has Gone Before:
    The United States has threatened China with cruise missiles before. In 1958, the United States sent several batteries of MGM-1 “Matador” cruise missiles to Taiwan. The missiles, equipped with a 40 kt nuclear weapon, could hit targets at a range of up to 1000 km, putting a significant portion of the mainland at risk. The United States withdrew these missiles because of obsolescence in 1962, and withdrew its entire military presence in 1979 upon the normalization of diplomatic relations with the PRC.

    These missiles posed a clear threat to the survival of the PRC, as they could strike crucial regime military and urban targets with minimal warning, and with no meaningful possibility of defense. The missiles also represented a clear commitment on the part of the United States to the survival of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, and potentially to its re-establishment on the mainland. The withdrawal, first of the missiles and then of the rest of the U.S. military presence, reflected the acquiescence of the United States in the existence of the PRC, and just as importantly in the strategic role the PRC could play in the Cold War.

    Operational Logic:
    The biggest objection that defenders of the INF have made with respect to deployments of GLCMs in the Pacific involves basing. The United States has very limited territory upon which it can station cruise missiles; indeed, only on Guam can the United States deploy missiles without host nation permission. While the merits of a deployment on Guam have probably been understated, distance and size limit its strategic relevance.

    Formosa is altogether different. Missiles based in Taiwan can strike over a wide range of the PRC, the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Even unmodified TLAMs could put a substantial portion of China at risk. Moreover, while Formosa is small compared to the mainland, it is not “small” in any kind of conventional sense. Road-mobile GLCMs with pre-prepared bunkers and resupply depots could easily evade most Chinese air and missile strikes. Several batteries of such missiles could multiply the ability of the United States to hit targets deep in China, as well as Chinese naval vessels operating in the ESCS. If the United States decided to equip the missiles with nuclear warheads (as it did in the 1950s) it could put China’s nuclear deterrent and command-and-control system at risk.

    Of course, Taiwan already operates GLCMs and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) that threaten the mainland, and is developing more. At the moment, the United States does not have intermediate and short-range cruise missiles to deploy, although this could change in the next few years. When the United States does develop GLCMs, they are likely to be more numerous and more sophisticated than what Taiwan can build on its own, and thus of significantly greater concern to Beijing.

    Diplomatic and Strategic Fallout:
    Putting GLCMs in Taiwan would have obvious tactical and operational benefits. However, the strategic implications would be stark. The United States today enjoys a troubled, but still mutually profitable, relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Since 1979, that relationship has been premised upon a narrow degree of engagement with Taiwan. The United States formally recognizes the PRC and has adopted a policy of ambiguity regarding Taiwan’s legal status while still retaining the right to transfer military equipment to the RoC. The deployment of U.S. GLCMs to Formosa would upend this entire strategic situation.

    Consequently, in almost any scenario, the deployment of GLCMs to Taiwan would be diplomatically disastrous. The United States has not stationed active military units in Taiwan since the formal breaking of military ties in 1979. Even a symbolic deployment of forces would enrage Beijing and very possibly precipitate war. Deploying GLCMs with the capability of degrading China’s A2/AD system, and indeed of threatening China’s nuclear deterrent, would be a provocation of the highest order.

    Thus, the United States would either have to be mad to engage in such behavior, or it would have to have concluded that military confrontation with China was inevitable to the point where only the pursuit of operational advantage mattered. And indeed, at this juncture there is no indication that Taiwan would have an appetite for hosting GLCMs. But the RoC’s judgment on this matter depends on its assessment of the balance of capabilities with the PRC, as well as Beijing’s intentions.

    Parting Shots:
    Under almost any conceivable scenario, deploying U.S. GLCMs to Taiwan would be a terrible idea. In the very few scenarios where such a deployment would make sense, the diplomatic relationship between Washington and Beijing will already have decayed to such an extent that war would be virtually inevitable.

    But just because missiles in Taiwan would mean something awfully bad is about to happen doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. In 1962 the Soviet Union saw fit to deploy nuclear tipped ballistic missiles to Cuba, in the hope that it could escape US scrutiny and re-establish the strategic balance. That effort very nearly led to war, but it is hardly impossible that U.S. and Taiwanese policymakers might think, at some point, along similar lines. It simply depends upon their desperation regarding the balance of military power, and their beliefs in the inevitability of conflict.

    Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College. The views expressed here are his personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the Army War College, or any other department or agency of the U.S. government.

    Read full article: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/bu...s-taiwan-41342

    View reactions (17)

    -------------------

    Taiwan's own systems....


    https://michalthim.files.wordpress.c..._ranges_v2.png

    South Korea's


    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-wl_lUiafWV...ile_ranges.jpg

    and for the heck of it India's....


    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OjBIusrMbz...6%2Branges.jpg

  14. #14
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    53m53 minutes ago

    #BREAKING: US National Security Advisor Bolton asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike #Iran.


    Guy Elster
    ‏Verified account @guyelster
    45m45 minutes ago

    White House Sought Options to Strike #Iran, State and Pentagon officials were rattled by the request: WSJ

    posted for fair use and discussion
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-h...an-11547375404

    White House Sought Options to Strike Iran
    State and Pentagon officials were rattled by the request


    John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, had asked for military options to strike Iran.

    John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, had asked for military options to strike Iran. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

    By Dion Nissenbaum
    Jan. 13, 2019 5:30 a.m. ET

    WASHINGTON—On a warm night in early September, militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the U.S. Embassy.

    The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot, harming no one. But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where President Trump’s national security team conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response.

    As part of the talks, Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, led by John Bolton, asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, generated concern at the Pentagon and State Department, current and former U.S. officials say.

    “It definitely rattled people,” said one former senior U.S. administration official. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

    The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran, the officials said. But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, here visiting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad this month, joined forces with national security adviser John Bolton to develop a more aggressive policy aimed at weakening the government in Tehran.

    Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the body “coordinates policy and provides the president with options to anticipate and respond to a variety of threats.”

    “We continue to review the status of our personnel following attempted attacks on our embassy in Baghdad and our Basra consulate, and we will consider a full range of options to preserve their safety and our interests,” he said.

    Mr. Bolton’s request reflects the administration’s more confrontational approach toward Tehran, one that he has pushed since taking up the post last April.

    As national security adviser, Mr. Bolton is charged with providing a range of diplomatic, military and economic advice to the president.

    Former U.S. officials said it was unnerving that the National Security Council asked for far-reaching military options to strike Iran in response to attacks that caused little damage and no injuries.

    Mira Ricardel, who was ousted as Mr. Bolton’s deputy in November, described the attacks in Iraq as ‘an act of war.’

    Last year, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued against strikes that might hit Russian and Iranian forces when Mr. Trump and his national security team were looking at ways to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical-weapons attack, according to people familiar with the debate. Mr. Mattis, who resigned last month amid a dispute with Mr. Trump over the president’s national security decisions, pushed for a more modest response that Mr. Trump eventually embraced.

    In talks with other administration officials, Mr. Bolton has made it clear that he personally supports regime change in Iran, a position he aggressively championed before joining the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the discussions.

    As a think-tank scholar and Fox News commentator, Mr. Bolton repeatedly urged the U.S. to attack Iran, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled, “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

    After taking the White House post, Mr. Bolton joined forces with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to develop a more aggressive policy aimed at weakening the government in Tehran. Mr. Bolton has said that his job is to implement the president’s agenda, which doesn’t include regime change in Tehran. The State Department declined to comment.

    Mr. Bolton worked last year to quickly pull the U.S. out of former President Barack Obama’s nuclear-containment deal with the country and to tighten economic sanctions on Tehran, moves eagerly sought by Mr. Trump. In a September speech, Mr. Bolton warned Tehran that there would be “hell to pay” if Iran threatened America or its allies.

    Mr. Bolton and his deputy at the time, Mira Ricardel, were pressing for new ways to confront Iran militarily.

    The Sept. 6 mortar attack in Baghdad generated little news coverage. The city’s Green Zone has been a frequent target for insurgents since the U.S. invasion in 2003. A Shiite militia group aligned with Iran eventually claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Two days later, amid anti-Iranian protests in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, unknown militants fired three rockets that hit relatively close to the American consulate, but caused no serious damage.

    No one claimed responsibility for the second attack, but White House officials decided they needed to send a clear message to Iran.

    Related

    White House Blames Iranian-Backed Militias for Attacking U.S. Facilities in Iraq (Sept. 11)
    Rockets Fired Toward U.S. Diplomatic Missions in Iraq (Sept. 8)
    Trump and Iran Leader Swap Taunts (July 23)
    Trump Withdraws U.S. From Iran Accord (May 8)
    Trump Taps Bolton for NSA Post (March 22)


    Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks.

    In one meeting, Ms. Ricardel described the attacks in Iraq as “an act of war” and said the U.S. had to respond decisively, according to one person familiar with the meeting.

    Ms. Ricardel, who was forced out of her job in November after a feud with first lady Melania Trump, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Current and former U.S. officials said there have been discussions about her taking a new job at the Pentagon.

    As the administration discussed the U.S. response last fall, the White House issued a two-paragraph statement on Sept. 11 that seemed to warn of a possible military strike.

    “The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States government facilities,” the White House said.

    Two weeks later, Mr. Pompeo made it clear the U.S. was willing to target Iran for the actions of its allies in Iraq.

    “Iran will be held accountable for those incidents,” he said in a Sept. 21 CNN interview.

    “Even militarily?” asked CNN’s Elise Labott.

    “They’re going to be held accountable,” Mr. Pompeo replied. “If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re going to go to the source.”

    The Trump administration has kept up the public threats. Earlier this month, Mr. Pompeo again warned Tehran when it announced plans to launch two satellites into space, a move the Trump administration said would help the country advance its missile-launching abilities.

    “We won’t stand by while the regime threatens international security,” Mr. Pompeo said in a tweet on Jan. 3.

    During a trip to Israel earlier this month, Mr. Bolton suggested that Mr. Trump was willing to strike Iran if he thought Tehran was close to developing a nuclear weapon.

    “The president looks at all his options constantly,” Mr. Bolton said in an interview with talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt that aired on Friday. “On a subject of this seriousness, this is something we coordinate very closely with Israel on, but for reasons I’m sure you can understand, we have to keep our cards close to the vest.”

    Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com
    Nana to two "little bits", one not-so-little "little bit" and one 6' college bound "little bit"

  15. #15
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    For links see article source.....
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    https://www.theatlantic.com/internat...-hoxha/550508/

    A New American Leader Rises in ISIS

    A two-year investigation identifies one of the very few Americans in the Islamic State’s upper ranks—and sheds light on the dynamics of radicalization.

    Seamus HughesAlexander Meleagrou-HitchensBennett Clifford
    Jan 13, 2018

    The clues are out there, if you know where to look. Scattered across far-flung corners of the internet, there is evidence that Zulfi Hoxha, the son of an Albanian-American pizza-shop owner from New Jersey, had sinister plans.

    First there’s the defunct Twitter profile, which at one point engaged in a conversation with a State Department counter-propaganda account about the Islamic State. Then there’s the fact that he used the social-networking site Paltalk, a communications platform reportedly popular among Western jihadis. But none of it compares to the ISIS propaganda video that, according to multiple law-enforcement officials, shows Hoxha beheading captured Kurdish soldiers. If they are right about his identity, Hoxha is the first American Islamic State member known to be beheading individuals in such a video.

    Hoxha is now known to have become a senior commander of Islamic State and one of the faces of the group’s recruitment efforts, according to federal court records. Hoxha left the United States on April 6, 2015. Four days later, he was in an Islamic State training camp. Within just six months, according to multiple law-enforcement officials, he was featured in that gruesome video.

    As cases of Islamic State supporters continue to trickle through the American justice system, details are slowly emerging of both the extent of American involvement in the upper echelons of the group and the role of recruitment and mobilization networks in the country. Investigations have already uncovered the stories of Americans like John Georgelas and Abdullah Ramo Pazara, both of whom were part of wider jihadi networks in America and eventually reached relatively high-ranking and influential positions within the Islamic State hierarchy.

    While the ISIS presence in America is often characterized by so-called “lone wolves,” attackers who claim allegiance to the Islamic State but show little formal connections either to its operatives overseas or other likeminded Americans, stories like that of Zulfi Hoxha are a reminder of the existence and importance of jihadist recruitment networks in the United States. The extent of these networks does not compare to those in Europe, but they nonetheless play a crucial role in recruiting and mobilizing American foreign fighters for ISIS, who number in the dozens. Indeed, the majority of American foreign fighters we have identified had close connections to other American supporters of ISIS prior to their departure. Some, like Hoxha, made these connections through the internet and, via their new contacts, were able to liaise with ISIS facilitators who helped them travel to Syria.

    As the physical caliphate quickly disappears, media reports speak of foreign fighters, including Americans, attempting to lay low in Turkey before deciding their next move. Others have returned to their home countries, much to the concern of law-enforcement officials who sometimes lack the personnel and legal tools to address the issue. However, for the time being, the once-feared “wave” of returning Western foreign fighters has only amounted to a trickle. Yet even from afar, Western ISIS recruits wield influence on their sympathizers back home.

    * * *

    In May 2017, the Islamic State media office in Iraq’s Nineveh province released a 45-minute video entitled “We Will Surely Guide Them To Our Ways.” Like many Islamic State media productions, the video includes cameos of foreign fighters from several countries. One of the masked men depicted in the video is an American going by the name of “Abu Hamza al-Amriki.” Speaking in an inflected American accent, he criticizes the United States-led efforts against Islamic State and exhorts the “muwahiddin [believers]” in America to carry out domestic attacks: “Are you incapable of stabbing a kaffir [non-Muslim] with a knife, throwing him off of a building, or running him over with a car? Liberate yourself from hellfire by killing a kaffir.” Later, he shows off American-made rocket launchers, reportedly taken from Shia and Kurdish militias after Islamic State defeated them on the battlefield. During a two-year investigation on the cadre of Americans who successfully travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the group, federal records revealed that Abu Hamza al-Amriki is Zulfi Hoxha.

    By the time of the video’s release, the U.S. Department of Justice was already knee-deep in the prosecution of several domestic Islamic State supporters who allegedly assisted Hoxha in his travel to join the group. One of these individuals, David “Daoud” Wright, was sentenced in December 2017 to 28 years in federal prison, after being convicted of providing material support to Islamic State and conspiring to murder U.S. citizens. As a result of evidence introduced at Wright’s trial, a number of details about Hoxha, his connections to Wright and his co-conspirators, and his role in Islamic State quietly became available.

    At the time of the video’s filming, Hoxha was around 25 years old. Records of his travel from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, filed as court exhibits, show Hoxha departing the United States for Istanbul, Turkey on April 6, 2015. He arrived in Islamic State-held territory in Syria shortly thereafter. According to its sentencing memorandum in the Wright case, U.S. law enforcement now assesses that Hoxha “has become an ISIS senior commander,” but the filing provides no further details as to his role or current whereabouts. However, the May 2017 video puts him in northwestern Iraq.

    This is so far the only instance in which the U.S. government has confirmed the name (and American citizenship) of an Islamic State member who appears in one of the group’s media products. While a number of Americans have appeared in terrorist propaganda videos over the years, law enforcement rarely comments on their identity. Moreover, the government does not often publicly release its assessments of American Islamic State members’ role or rank. Hoxha’s apparent status in the group places him in an elite category of the group’s American members who have risen to some level of leadership. Most American Islamic State supporters never made it to Syria. In the last three years, more than 50 were arrested attempting to the make the journey. Still others were charged for activities ranging from raising money for the group to planning attacks.

    Following the Wright trial, we made repeated attempts to gain more information on Hoxha from official channels. A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts declined to comment, as did the FBI’s national office. Matthew Reilly, spokesman for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office stated, “no defendant by that name has been charged in the District of New Jersey.”

    Unofficially, intelligence sources confirmed a rumor we had quietly chased for months. In October 2015, a video was released by the Islamic State of a purported American brutally beheading a Kurdish peshmerga soldier. The 15-minute video, shot from multiple camera angles, features four individuals dressed in black and standing behind captured Kurdish soldiers. Its subject speaks with the same accent and inflection as Hoxha in the May 2017 release. Multiple law-enforcement officials told us that the individual who says he is “delivering a message to Obama” and then commits the first execution is Hoxha. If officially confirmed, it would be the first case of an American Islamic State member beheading someone in a propaganda video.

    * * *
    Little is known about Hoxha’s personal background. A search for his online activity finds a defunct Twitter account bearing his name, which interacted with other Islamic State supporters, as well as detractors. In October 2014, for example, the account engaged in conversation with the State Department’s “Think Again Turn Away” account, which at the time was trying to counter Islamic State messaging on the platform. He was actually not the first American jihadi to do so. Around the same time, a 17-year-old, Ali Amin, was also trolling the State Department Twitter account. A short time later, he was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 11 years for encouraging his high school friend to join the Islamic State.

    Hoxha’s presence elsewhere online also reveals links to how he connected with his future co-conspirators. An account on the gaming website Steam bearing the username “Hohxa77” lists his favorite titles, including Splinter Cell, Mortal Kombat, and Left 4 Dead. Indeed, this shared interest in video games may have been one of the first things that brought Hoxha together with David Wright, who was listed as a friend on his Steam account under the name “d.sharifwright.”

    During Wright’s trial, prosecutors argued that he used several video games, including Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and other titles to “virtually prepare” for jihad. His defense attorneys, however, painted Wright, who weighed over 400 pounds at the time of the conspiracy, as a “fat, failed loser” who used video games as a substitute for real-life violent activity, according to the trial transcript. Unfortunately, one can be both a gamer who veers towards violence and weigh in at 400 pounds of loneliness and isolation. Islamic State’s 2015 instructional manual for its Western supporters, “How to Survive in the West,” includes references to video games as a method of training to join the group. More importantly, it may have brought together Wright and Hoxha, who unlike Wright successfully followed through on his intentions to support the Islamic State using violence.

    At the trial, investigators claimed that Wright and Hoxha’s conspiracy began in November 2014, although the two may have virtually met one another as early as 2010. The two most revealing elements of Wright and Hoxha’s online interactions are their use of Skype and the social-networking site Paltalk. According to court records, at the time, Wright (under the alias Umar Mukhtar Abdul-Qadir) and Hoxha were both members of chatrooms on Paltalk called “The Solution for Humanity” and “Road to Jannah.”

    During Wright’s interrogation, which was recounted at trial in testimony by a local police officer, he claimed that Hoxha reached out to him via Paltalk and asked him if he was interested in Islamic State. Wright told the officer that he responded three weeks later after conducting research, telling Hoxha that he believed that Islamic State’s’ mission was legitimate and necessary. From this point on, Hoxha and Wright were in frequent contact via Paltalk and Skype’s instant messenger service, sharing videos, issues of Islamic State’s official magazine Dabiq, and news articles about the group and its activities.

    These conversations between Wright and Hoxha continued until April 2015, when Hoxha left the U.S. to join Islamic State. Among the subjects of most interest were the best options for joining and what would ensure the maximum religious reward. Some early Western travelers believed that they could migrate to Islamic State-held territory (an act that the group refers to as hijrah), but only participate in the societal aspects of the self-declared Caliphate while avoiding combat and violence. Neither Wright nor Hoxha appear to have held that naïve delusion. According to trial exhibits of their conversations, Wright cautioned Hoxha that “if you want to travel and live under a dawla [Islamic state] there is no harm in that, but you won’t receive the reward from Allah like those who are assembled in the ranks unless you assemble in the ranks.”

    Hoxha and Wright’s respective commitments to violence are demonstrated elsewhere in their conversations, which were introduced into the trial exhibits. The two men sent each other links to Islamic State propaganda material, including the February 2015 video that depicted the burning of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh. They also exchanged information about how to buy guns online.

    As with most known cases of Americans travelling to join Islamic State, the internet proved a useful tool for Hoxha. While it is often tempting to assume that individuals are “radicalized online” through their consumption of propaganda, this is rarely the case. More commonly, the internet allows people to make contacts with and plug themselves into pre-existing, real-world recruitment and radicalization networks. In Hoxha’s case, the network he found would encourage and eventually facilitate his travel to Islamic State territory.

    The court records show that prior to Hoxha’s departure, David Wright put him in touch with another American Islamic State supporter, his uncle Usaamah Rahim, and together they began helping Hoxha as he prepared to travel in the spring of 2015. The two men raised money for Hoxha’s plane ticket to Istanbul by selling Rahim’s laptop on Craigslist. Hoxha departed for Istanbul on April 6. A day earlier, Rahim contacted Wright on Skype with instructions from Hoxha. “AsSalaamu A'laikum Zulfi asked me if you could delete his name off Skype,” Rahim writes. “But before you do it, if you have any saved messages to him go to ‘tools,’ go to ‘options,’ then click on ‘privacy,’ and click ‘clear history.’” These steps removed the interactions between Hoxha and Wright on Skype, but did not clear the metadata that would later be used in Wright’s trial.

    Throughout his journey, trial exhibits show, Hoxha remained in contact with Rahim via various encrypted messengers, confirming his arrival at a safe house and then dropping out of contact after saying he was leaving for training. Thereafter, Rahim kept tabs on Hoxha’s activity via another Islamic State member who he contacted on encrypted messengers: the influential British Islamic State facilitator and virtual attack planner Junaid Hussain. In later conversations between Hussain and Rahim, Hussain comments on Hoxha’s location and whereabouts, saying that he was “in training” at an Islamic State camp. This indicates that Hussain may have helped Hoxha cross into the group’s territory.

    Wright, Rahim and a third member of the group, Nicholas Rovinski, eventually decided on a different path than that taken by Hoxha. They were in the early stages of a plot to kidnap and behead the anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller when, on June 2, 2015, Rahim was stopped by police outside of CVS in Roslindale, Massachusetts. They wanted to question him after wiretapping a conversation between Rahim and Wright that morning during which they discussed attack plans. Refusing to co-operate, Rahim pulled a hunting knife on the officers and was shot dead. Wright and Rovinski were arrested shortly afterward and charged with a range of offences; in 2016,Rovinski pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to the plot . He testified against Wright, who was convicted in 2017 and is now serving a 28-year sentence.

    At the time of his death, Rahim was portrayed as just another incompetent “lone wolf” Islamic State supporter with no serious connections to any real-world group members. Even after investigators arrested Wright, who at the time was unemployed and essentially immobile due to his weight, and Rovinski, who had cerebral palsy, this “cell” of Islamic State supporters is still viewed largely as an isolated group of three friends acting on deluded fantasies. While Rahim, Wright, and Rovinski were undoubtedly amateurs, we now know that they formed part of a wider network that was in communication with Islamic State operatives in Syria and had facilitated the travel of Hoxha, who would go on to rise in the group’s ranks.

    Hoxha’s case helps illustrate the dynamics of radicalization and recruitment in the United States, and the extent of American involvement in jihadist groups. While the internet is a crucial tool for extremists, it is important not to underestimate the role of personal and social networks in the facilitation of jihadist activity. Hoxha’s network of support provided him with both financial and logistical assistance, funding his travel and connecting him with a key ISIS facilitator based in Syria. Wright and Rahim’s conversations with Hoxha also show how he was given the necessary moral and ideological support he needed as he made his journey from New Jersey to Nineveh.

    It is also becoming clear that a small but surprising number of American Islamic State members have been able to sufficiently impress the group’s leadership so as to be given more senior roles. It is still rare for Westerners to become anything more than foot soldiers or, in some cases, propagandists. They do not usually possess the battlefield experience or other skills required to attain senior positions.
    But in Zulfi Hoxha’s case, a seemingly inexperienced American youth managed to climb the ranks, and appear as one of the Western faces of Islamic State in its propaganda. It is unclear how he achieved this, although he may have impressed his commanders with his apparently immediate willingness to take part in such acts of brutality as the beheading of an enemy soldier.

    High-ranking and capable American members of the group present a unique threat. It is these figures who often act as nodes for terrorist networks, using their connections and influence to help recruit as well as plan attacks in their home countries. Fortunately, so far, very few Americans have returned home from stints in the Islamic State. The majority of those who did come back have expressed an apparent disillusionment with the Islamic State and are also under indictment by the U.S. government. Islamic State’s American commanders may be limited in number— but the trajectory of the group shows that small numbers can wreak great damage.

    We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

    related video

  16. #16
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    Urgent: Russia warns U.S. that using military force against Venezuela would have "catastrophic consequences." -Sputnik
    1:37 AM · Jan 13, 2019
    ·
    14m
    Replying to
    @EndGameWW3
    So all that stuff with the border is preparing for the conflict in the region, nothing more
    ·
    3h
    Replying to
    @EndGameWW3
    Russia can’t intervene effectively if they wanted to

    ·
    5h
    Replying to
    @EndGameWW3
    The opposition leader wants to hold a major protest against the dictatorship. One hour later the Kremlin screams of ARMED INTERVENTION and CATASTROPHIC CONSQUENCES.

    Politicans hurting the people even in other countries always.!


    ·
    3h
    Are you nuts. USA wants to bomb the shit out of Venezuela and you put the blame on Russia. Sure, the opposition leaders wants to hold a major protest, but we can all be sure that's not what the US wants. Have you been paying attention to Bolton and Pompeo recently?

    ·
    3h
    What's your point? My understanding is that the U.S. supports the opposition to take over the country. that's what they plan to do on January 23.

  17. #17
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    ·
    8h
    Juan Guaidó: On January 23, the streets of Venezuela will scream for the rescue of freedom and democracy

    The president of the National Assembly, deputy Juan Guaidó,
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    ·
    8h
    participated in the Conflict Committee of the Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre FAVL, held this Saturday, to refine the details of the organization of the national protest called for next January 23,
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    ·
    8h
    where he affirmed that day Venezuela will scream from the streets, for the rescue of freedom, democracy and the cessation of the usurpation of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro.
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    During his speech, Guaidó said that "today we have all the pieces of the puzzle, we have the social support and the international accompaniment, now it is time to put the puzzle together and the protest of this January 23 is fundamental for that,
    10:51 PM · Jan 12, 2019 · Twitter Lite
    2
    Likes
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    ·
    8h
    Replying to
    @EndGameWW3
    because it is the day where the people in full will require Nicolás Maduro to cease the usurpation and respect the will of Venezuelans. "

    (link: http://www.asambleanacional.gob.ve/n...s-de-venezuela) asambleanacional.gob.ve/noticias/_juan…

  18. #18
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    Guy Elster
    ‏Verified account @guyelster
    2m2 minutes ago

    #BREAKING #Venezuela|n intelligence agents have detained opposition leader Juan Guaido: guaido's wife via twitter
    Nana to two "little bits", one not-so-little "little bit" and one 6' college bound "little bit"

  19. #19
    EndGameWW3
    EndGameWW3
    @EndGameWW3
    Russia plans to place over 30 Poseidon underwater nuclear drones on combat duty

    Russia plans to place over 30 Poseidon underwater nuclear drones on combat duty
    defence-blog.com
    12:58 PM · Jan 13, 2019 ·https://t.co/qMB6r4HrL4?amp=1

  20. #20
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    Taiwan is getting design help just fine.

    They will likely be MUCH more a poison pill than a thorn to the Mandarins.

  21. #21
    ELINT News Retweeted
    DEFCONWarningSystem Staff
    DEFCONWarningSystem Staff
    @Drumboy44DWS
    Poland to build an artificial island in the Kaliningrad Bay to ensure security in the region as part of a waterway construction program connecting the Gulf of Kaliningrad with the Gdansk Bay.
    (link: https://www.defconwarningsystem.com/...hp?f=6&t=12959) defconwarningsystem.com/phpBB3/viewtop…

    4:35 PM · Jan 13, 2019 ·

  22. #22
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    Another "dot"....

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific...lling-1.564113

    B-2 stealth bombers return to Hawaii for second round of training, patrolling

    By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES
    Published: January 11, 2019

    FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Three B-2 Spirit bombers and more than 200 airmen arrived Thursday at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to support U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission, the Air Force said.

    This is the second time B-2 bombers, based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., have rotated to Hawaii to support the task force, the service said in a statement Friday.

    In August, the stealth bombers flew multiple local and long-duration sorties out of Hawaii, conducted rapid “hot-pit” refueling and trained with F-22 Raptors operated by the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron.

    B-2 bombers routinely rotate to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for training and regional patrols.

    “Deploying to Hawaii enables us to showcase to a large American and international audience that the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ready to protect our country and its allies,” Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr, 393rd Bomb Squadron director of operations, said in the statement.

    “It affords us the opportunity to work with our allies in joint exercises and validates our always-ready global strike capability,” he said.

    The B-2 Spirit can carry conventional or nuclear weapons. Its design makes it difficult to be detected by radar, allowing it to penetrate sophisticated enemy defenses.

    olson.wyatt@stripes.com
    Twitter: @WyattWOlson

    ---------------------

    Hummm…...

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.yahoo.com/news/atomic-wa...110000127.html

    Atomic Warrior: How the B-2 Stealth Bomber Is Getting Ready for Nuclear War

    Kris Osborn, The National Interest • January 13, 2019

    Kris Osborn
    Security, Asia

    The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, which has origins as far back as the 1960s, is engineered as a low-to-medium yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon, according to nuclearweaponsarchive.org, which also states the weapon has a “two-stage” radiation implosion design.

    Atomic Warrior: How the B-2 Stealth Bomber Is Getting Ready for Nuclear War
    The testing and integration of the B61-12 is one piece of a massive, fleet-wide B-2 upgrade designed to sustain the bomber into coming years, until large numbers of the emerging B-21 Raider are available. A range of technical modifications are also intended to prepare the 1980s-era bomber for very sophisticated, high-end modern threats.

    The Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber has test-dropped an upgraded, multi-function B61-12 nuclear bomb which improves accuracy, integrates various attack options into a single bomb and changes the strategic landscape with regard to nuclear weapons mission possibilities.

    (This first appeared several months ago.)

    Earlier this summer, the Air Force dropped a B61-12 nuclear weapon from a B-2 at Nellis AFB, marking a new developmental flight test phase for the upgraded bomb, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Hope Cronin told Warrior Maven earlier this year.
    “The updated weapon will include improved safety, security and reliability,” Cronin said.

    The B61-12 adds substantial new levels of precision targeting and consolidates several different kinds of attack options into a single weapon. Instead of needing separate variants of the weapon for different functions, the B61-12 by itself allows for earth-penetrating attacks, low-yield strikes, high-yield attacks, above surface detonation and bunker-buster options.

    The latest version of the B61 thermonuclear gravity bomb, which has origins as far back as the 1960s, is engineered as a low-to-medium yield strategic and tactical nuclear weapon, according to nuclearweaponsarchive.org, which also states the weapon has a “two-stage” radiation implosion design.

    “The main advantage of the B61-12 is that it packs all the gravity bomb capabilities against all the targeting scenarios into one bomb. That spans from very low-yield tactical “clean” use with low fallout to more dirty attacks against underground targets,” Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, Federation of American Scientists, told Warrior Maven.

    Air Force officials describe this, in part, by referring to the upgraded B61-12 as having an “All Up Round.”

    “The flight test accomplished dedicated B61-12 developmental test requirements and “All Up Round” system level integration testing on the B-2,” Cronin said.

    The B61 Mod 12 is engineered with a special “Tail Subassembly” to give the bomb increased accuracy, giving a new level of precision targeting using Inertial Navigation Systems, Kristensen said.

    “Right now the B-2 carries only B61-7 (10-360 kt), B61-11(400 kt, earth-penetrator), and B83-1 (high-yield bunker-buster). The B61-12 covers all of those missions, with less radioactive fallout, plus very low-yield attacks,” he added.
    The evidence that the B61-12 can penetrate below the surface has significant implications for the types of targets that can be held at risk with the bomb.

    By bringing an “earth-penetrating” component, the B61-12 vastly increases the target scope or envelope of attack. It can enable more narrowly targeted or pinpointed strikes at high-value targets underground - without causing anywhere near the same level of devastation above ground or across a wider area.

    “A nuclear weapon that detonates after penetrating the earth more efficiently transmits its explosive energy to the ground, thus is more effective at destroying deeply buried targets for a given nuclear yield. A detonation above ground, in contrast, results in a larger fraction of the explosive energy bouncing off the surface,” Kristensen explained.

    Massive B-2 Upgrade:

    The testing and integration of the B61-12 is one piece of a massive, fleet-wide B-2 upgrade designed to sustain the bomber into coming years, until large numbers of the emerging B-21 Raider are available. A range of technical modifications are also intended to prepare the 1980s-era bomber for very sophisticated, high-end modern threats.

    The B-2 is getting improved digital weapons integration, new computer processing power reported to be 1,000-times faster than existing systems and next-generation sensors designed to help the aircraft avoid enemy air defenses.

    One of the effort’s key modifications is designed to improve what’s called the bomber’s Defensive Management System, a technology designed to help the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defenses, using various antennas, receivers and display processors.

    The Defensive Management System is to detect signals or “signatures” emitting from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons, Air Force officials have said. Current improvements to the technology are described by Air Force developers as “the most extensive modification effort that the B-2 has attempted.”

    The modernized system, called a B-2 “DMS-M” unit, consists of a replacement of legacy DMS subsystems so that the aircraft can be effective against the newest and most lethal enemy air defenses.

    "The upgraded system integrates a suite of antennas, receivers, and displays that provide real-time intelligence information to aircrew," a service official told Warrior Maven.

    Upgrades consist of improved antennas with advanced digital electronic support measures, or ESMs along with software components designed to integrate new technologies with existing B-2 avionics, according to an Operational Test & Evaluation report from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

    The idea of the upgrade is, among other things, to inform B-2 crews about the location of enemy air defenses so that they can avoid or maneuver around high-risk areas where the aircraft is more likely to be detected or targeted. The DMS-M is used to detect radar emissions from air defenses and provide B-2 air crews with faster mission planning information - while in-flight.

    Air Force officials explain that while many of the details of the upgraded DMS-M unit are not available for security reasons, the improved system does allow the stealthy B-2 to operate more successfully in more high-threat, high-tech environments – referred to by Air Force strategists as highly “contested environments.”

    Many experts have explained that 1980s stealth technology is known to be less effective against the best-made current and emerging air defenses – newer, more integrated systems use faster processors, digital networking and a wider-range of detection frequencies.

    The DMS-M upgrade does not in any way diminish the stealth properties of the aircraft, meaning it does not alter the contours of the fuselage or change the heat signature to a degree that it would make the bomber more susceptible to enemy radar, developers said.

    Many advanced air defenses use X-band radar, a high-frequency, short-wavelength signal able to deliver a high-resolution imaging radar such as that for targeting. S-band frequency, which operates from 2 to 4 GHz, is another is also used by many air defenses, among other frequencies.

    X-band radar operates from 8 to 12 GHz, Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, sends forward and electromagnetic "ping" before analyzing the return signal to determine shape, speed, size and location of an enemy threat. SAR paints a rendering of sorts of a given target area. X-band provides both precision tracking as well as horizon scans or searches. Stealth technology, therefore, uses certain contour configurations and radar-absorbing coating materials to confuse or thwart electromagnetic signals from air defenses.

    These techniques are, in many cases, engineered to work in tandem with IR (infrared) suppressors used to minimize or remove a "heat" signature detectable by air defenses' IR radar sensors. Heat coming from the exhaust or engine of an aircraft can provide air defense systems with indication that an aircraft is operating overhead. These stealth technologies are intended to allow a stealth bomber to generate little or no return radar signal, giving air dense operators an incomplete, non-existent or inaccurate representation of an object flying overhead.

    The absence of vertical structures more likely to generate a return signal from enemy radar is another key element of stealth strategy; this is why the B-2 is flat, with an internal engine designed to limit heat emissions. The idea is to make a B-2 appear to be equivalent to a bird or insect to enemy radar.

    The B61-12 is also being prepared for the F-35 and a few other Air Force platforms.

    Also, the B-2 is slated to fly alongside the services’ emerging B-21 Raider next-generation stealth bomber; this platform, to be ready in the mid-2020s, is said by many Air Force developers to include a new generation of stealth technologies vastly expanding the current operational ranges and abilities of existing stealth bombers. In fact, Air Force leaders have said that the B-21 will be able to hold any target in the world at risk, anytime.

    The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

    The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

    Kris Osborn became the Managing Editor of Warrior Maven in August of 2015 . Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at CNN and CNN Headline News.

    This first appeared in Warrior Maven here.

    Read full article
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  23. #23
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    Hummm…..

    For links see article source.....
    Posted for fair use.....
    https://nationalinterest.org/feature...ionalism-41182

    January 10, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Tags: AfghanistanTroopsWarTalibanTerrorism

    The Taliban and the Changing Nature of Pashtun Nationalism
    The resurgent Taliban are driven only partly by religion. They are motivated equally, if not more, by the search for Pashtun dignity and revenge.

    by Mohammed Ayoob

    With American withdrawal from Afghanistan distinctly on the cards, it is imperative that one makes an objective assessment of the future of Afghanistan by factoring in the variable of Pashtun nationalism now primarily represented, even if in distorted fashion, by a resurgent Taliban. What has given the Taliban’s appeal potency is its ability to couch in religious terminology traditional Pashtun aspirations for dominance in Afghanistan as well as the tribes’ aversion to foreign interference in their land. Both these factors have been constants in Afghan politics going back at least to the nineteenth century. They are likely to continue to assert themselves with great vigor following the American withdrawal.

    Most Pashtuns, who comprise over forty percent of the population of Afghanistan, believe that they are the rightful rulers of the country based on the history of the past three hundred years when Pashtun dynasties ruled Afghanistan most of the time. While the Persian-speaking Tajiks, who form around a quarter of the population, are more urban and educated than the Pashtun tribes and staffed a substantial portion of the Afghan bureaucracy, the ruling dynasties were invariably Pashtun.

    What many Pashtuns considered to be the “natural” political order in Afghanistan was radically altered, first by the Soviet invasion of 1979 and then by American assault in 2001 that was aided by the largely Tajik Northern Alliance that became the de facto ruler of the country in the initial period after the invasion. These events rankled the Pashtun tribes and the elites representing them and were in part responsible for the emergence of the Pashtun Taliban in 1994. The immediate causes for the advent of the Taliban were a reaction to the fear of Tajik domination and the mayhem and anarchy produced by the “mujahedin” factions fighting each other for control of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban imposed a degree of order and ruled approximately three-quarters of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Despite their distorted interpretation of Islam and violent behavior, they succeeded in providing a degree of dignity to the Pashtuns who appeared in control of the country’s destiny once again.

    Pashtun resentment against foreign intervention, which drove their opposition to the Soviet invasion and now fuels antipathy towards American military presence, has a long history going back to their resistance to British intrusion during the nineteenth century. It was heightened by the British success in dividing the Pashtun lands in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan by drawing the Durand Line that attached a large portion of Pashtun populated territory to British India, now Pakistan. This drastically reduced the Pashtun demographic superiority in Afghanistan. Opposition to the Durand Line was the principal reason why Afghanistan cast the lone vote against Pakistan’s admission to the United Nations in 1947.

    Traditionally, Pashtun nationalism in Afghanistan was based on ethnicity, tribal loyalties and the commitment to Pashtunwali, the traditional tribal code of ethics. It was not driven primarily by religious beliefs. This explains Afghanistan’s antagonism toward fellow-Muslim Pakistan in the first three decades of the latter’s existence.

    Before the Daoud coup of 1973 that overthrew the monarchy, the government was normally restrained in its hostility toward Pakistan, which was mostly limited to bouts of anti-Pakistani rhetoric. However, Pashtun parties, such as the Afghan Millat, were far more uninhibited in their expressions of animosity toward Pakistan over the irredentist “Pashtunistan” issue. Nonetheless, the two countries came to the verge of armed conflict several times, especially after Sardar Daoud Khan, who represented a much more Pashtun nationalist position, took power in Kabul in 1973.

    The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 fundamentally changed the nature both of Pashtun nationalism and its relationship with Pakistan. It led to American and Saudi support for the Afghan insurgency with Pakistan acting as the conduit for American arms and Saudi financial support to the tribes fighting the Soviets and their proxy government in Kabul. It also led to the import of Saudi-Wahhabi ideology through madrasas set up with Saudi funding for refugee children on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Taliban (literally students) were products of these madrasas. These madrasas preaching the Wahhabi form of Islam infused Pashtun nationalism with an extremist version of political Islam that combined with Pashtun fears and aspirations came to define the Taliban phenomenon. This had far reaching implications for the nature of Pashtun nationalism in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Simultaneously, the Soviet invasion altered the nature of Pakistan’s relationship with Pashtun nationalism, turning it from hostility to support and sustenance. Pakistan’s support to the tribal insurgency against the Soviet invasion made the Pashtun tribes dependent on Pakistani goodwill and also changed Pakistan’s image among Pashtuns from potential enemy to reliable friend. Pakistan saw the mayhem in Afghanistan following the Soviet withdrawal as a great strategic opportunity and extended military and political aid to the Pashtun Taliban that emerged from Kandahar in 1994. This strategy culminated in the installation of the Taliban regime in Kabul with Pakistan’s military help in 1996.

    The Taliban in power provided Pakistan with strategic depth in the event of a future conflict with India that Pakistan had been seeking since its dismemberment by Indian arms in 1971. It also offered Pakistan the opportunity to use Afghan territory and tribal manpower to establish and train terrorist organizations that were used in Indian-administered Kashmir that has been in turmoil since 1990. Equally important, Pakistan’s support to this religiously inspired manifestation of Pashtun nationalism largely solved the problem of Pashtun sub-nationalism within Pakistan by portraying Islamabad not as a suppressor of Pashtun ethnic aspirations but as the natural ally of Pashtun political ambitions.

    Although Pakistan ostensibly changed course under American pressure in 2001 and joined Washington’s “War on Terror”—thus once again alienating the Pashtuns—it clandestinely kept supporting Taliban factions within Afghanistan that were combating American and allied forces thus keeping some of its credibility among the Pashtuns intact. It also gave refuge to the Taliban leadership who made Quetta in Baluchistan its new headquarters. Despite American anger at Islamabad’s duplicity, this strategy paid Pakistan good dividends that are likely to increase with the anticipated American withdrawal. Pakistan is likely to end up as the primary power broker in Afghanistan in the wake of the American departure.

    Although polls show that the majority of Afghans do not support the Taliban, the divided and infirm nature of the nominally ruling dispensation and its corruption and inefficiency has helped the Taliban gain renewed support among parts of the Pashtun population. Added to this is the vicarious satisfaction that many Pashtuns feel at the Taliban’s defiance of what they consider to be the American installed government in Kabul. This makes the Taliban a viable political force in Afghanistan.

    The resurgent Taliban are driven only partly by religion. They are motivated equally, if not more, by the search for Pashtun dignity and revenge. While they are not in a position to rule over the entire country, and certainly not the urban areas, they do control large swaths of the rural areas in the predominantly Pashtun provinces of eastern and southeastern Afghanistan. In other words, they are in a position to make the country ungovernable and indefinitely continue the civil war especially because of their control of the drug trade that finances their military activities and helps them buy acquiescence if not active support. The withdrawal of American forces will provide the Taliban greater opportunity to expand their area of operations and will give them larger bargaining clout within the fractured Afghan polity.

    Therefore, it is important that the Taliban must be consulted and included in the construction of any future dispensation in Afghanistan if it is to remain viable. The Trump administration is cognizant of the fact that the Taliban cannot be wished away and that a durable peace in Afghanistan can only be constructed on the basis of their participation. Washington has reached this conclusion both on the basis of the Taliban’s demonstrated staying power and its ability to disrupt any political order that does not satisfy at least some of its goals.

    Consequently, the U.S. president’s special envoy for Afghan Peace, Zalmay Khalilzad, has met with representatives of the Taliban in Qatar twice in recent months. Whether these meetings will bear fruit is anybody’s guess. But it is a healthy sign that Washington has finally woken up to the fact that the Taliban is an indispensable part of the Afghan political landscape and must be included in the fashioning of the country’s political future. However, the U.S. administration has to go beyond merely recognizing the disruptive capacity of the Taliban and realize that they do genuinely express the political goals of a substantial segment of the Pashtun population, by far the largest ethnic formation in Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan cannot be ruled effectively without adequately satisfying Pashtun aspirations.

    Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and a senior fellow for the Center for Global Policy. His books include The Many Faces of Political Islam and, most recently, Will the Middle East Implode and editor of Assessing the War on Terror.
    Image: Reuters

  24. #24
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    Snapshot
    January 10, 2019
    TurkeyReligion

    Turkey’s Bid for Religious Leadership

    How the AKP Uses Islamic Soft Power

    By Gonul Tol

    Under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) has Islamist roots, religion has become a critical instrument of Turkish foreign policy. In countries from Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey is building mosques, financing religious education, restoring Ottoman heritage—and advertising its unique brand of Islamic leadership along the way.

    Fusing Sunni Islam with Turkish nationalism, the state institutions and civil society organizations behind the country’s religious outreach promote Turkish language and culture alongside religious curricula, and they erect the Turkish flag at the sites of new projects. In the minds of those executing the policy, Turkey, as heir to the Ottoman Empire, is Islam’s last fortress and the natural leader of a revival of Muslim civilization.

    Turkey is not the only regional power using Islam in a bid for hegemony. Iran and Saudi Arabia also disseminate their respective versions of Islam by funding organizations and mosques. Turkey is attempting to position its brand of Islam as a more tolerant, less extreme Sunni alternative to Saudi Wahhabism—and therefore more fit for regional leadership. In contrast to the conservative Hanbali school of Islam, the foundation of Wahhabism, the Hanafi school that predominates in Turkey is relatively liberal and provides considerably more space for the interpretation of religious law.

    But the nationalist tinge in Turkey’s religious diplomacy could stand in the way of its success. It already irks European countries, which see Turkey’s actions as polarizing and detrimental to the integration of Turkish immigrants, and Middle Eastern states, which view Turkey through an imperial lens. The AKP has taken Turkey’s religious outreach to unprecedented levels, but in this international context, suspicion of its intentions could well limit its prospects for success.

    MOSQUE DIPLOMACY
    One of the most visible means through which Turkey has broadcast its religious credentials has been by constructing megamosques around the world. In 2015, Erdogan inaugurated one in Tirana, the capital of Albania. In the spring of 2016, he attended the.... (rest behind a paywall...HC)

  25. #25
    Four killed, 44 wounded in Kabul car bomb attack : officials A car bomb exploded near a heavily fortified foreign compound in Kabul on Monday, killing at least four people and wounding 44, officials said, in the latest attack to rock the Afghan capital.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the huge blast, which shook the city, but it comes as diplomatic efforts to end the 17-year war with the Taliban gather pace.

    Militants targeted Green Village, located near a busy road in the east of the city and where some foreign workers are based, said interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish.

    At least 10 children were among the wounded, he added.

    Until recently some United Nations’ staff had lived and worked at the highly secure compound, but Danish said the area was now largely empty and “only a number of guards” were left.

    “Residential houses nearby have sustained heavy damage,” Danish said.

    “Special police forces’ units have been deployed to the site to check if there are more attackers.”

    The explosion happened in the early evening when traffic is normally heavy.

    The last assault on a foreign compound was in late November when a Taliban-claimed vehicle bomb exploded outside the compound of British security firm G4S, killing at least 10 people.

    Five G4S employees were among the dead.

    That was followed by a suicide and gun attack on a government compound in Kabul on December 24 that killed at least 43 people, making it one of the deadliest assaults on the city last year.

    The latest bombing comes as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visits the region for meetings aimed at bringing an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan, which by some estimates was the world’s deadliest conflict zone in 2018.

    Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is travelling to Afghanistan as well as China, India and Pakistan on the trip lasting through January 21.

    The leaking of US President Donald Trump’s plan to slash troop numbers in Afghanistan, however, has threatened to derail those efforts.

    The recent flurry of activity to get the Taliban to the negotiating table has caused disquiet in Afghanistan, with the government feeling sidelined from the discussions.

    The Taliban has repeatedly refused to talk to Kabul, which it sees as a US puppet and ineffective.https://www.24matins.uk/topnews/asia...ficials-134609

  26. #26
    Vietnam risks Beijing’s ire as it uses US freedom of navigation exercise to stake its claim in South China Sea Hanoi typically performs a balancing act in its relations with Beijing and Washington, but opportunity presented by row over USS McCampbell was too good to miss
    PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2019, 2:04am
    UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2019, 9:57am As China and the United States continue to wrestle over trade disputes and geopolitics, Vietnam is performing a balancing act in the stormy South China Sea as it seeks to maintain its strong ties with Washington while not upsetting Beijing, experts said.


    Earlier this week, Hanoi used the latest row over a US freedom of navigation operation in the disputed waterway to not only show its support for its Western ally but also reaffirm its territorial claims there.

    “Vietnam has sufficient legal grounds and historical evidence testifying to its sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa [Paracel] and Truong Sa [Spratly] archipelagoes in conformity with international law,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said on Wednesday.Derek Grossman, a senior defence analyst at Rand Corporation, said that while the statement was fairly typical of the way Vietnam tended to align itself with Washington on issues like freedom of navigation, its timing was surprising given the current high levels of tension between the US and China.

    “The growing closeness of US-Vietnam defence ties is remarkable as Hanoi typically likes to remain below the radar to avoid unnecessarily antagonising Beijing,” he said.

    US warship sails near disputed Paracels in South China Sea
    Last Monday, Beijing slammed Washington after the USS McCampbell, a guided missile destroyer, sailed near the disputed Paracel Islands, which are claimed not only by Vietnam, but also mainland China and Taiwan.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing that Beijing had issued “stern representations” to Washington as a result of the US operation, which, he said, violated China’s law.

    US Pacific Fleet spokeswoman Rachel McMarr said in a statement that the freedom of navigation operation, which saw the McCampbell sail within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel chain, was intended to “challenge excessive maritime claims”.Collin Koh, a maritime security specialist at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said that while Hanoi’s support for the US freedom of navigation exercise came as no surprise, it was influenced by the fact that it took place close to islands it claims.

    “Vietnam’s response to exercises in the Spratlys, for example, tend to be more muted, in part because the disputes [over them] are multilateral and Hanoi doesn’t want to get involved in a complicated situation.”

    The Spratly Islands are claimed by Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Malaysia.

    US Admiral John Richardson to hold talks with China’s top military leaders
    While Hanoi had used the McCampbell incident to restate its claims in the South China Sea, it did not want to antagonise or upset China, its largest trading partner, said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales and an expert on the Vietnam.

    Hanoi wanted to remain “equidistant in its relations with the major powers”, he said.A recent study by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore found that among Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam was the biggest supporter of US power in the region.

    Of the 1,000 academics, analysts and other experts polled, more than half of the respondents from Vietnam expressed either “strong” or “some” confidence in the US as a strategic partner and provider of regional security.

    On Tuesday, Washington’s ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink met Vietnam’s deputy prime minister Pham Binh Minh and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh to discuss trade, diplomacy and security cooperation.

    He said the US hoped to strengthen collaboration on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/dipl...dom-navigation

  27. #27
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    How the US and China collaborated to get nuclear material out of Nigeria — and away from terrorist groups

    By: Aaron Mehta
    5:00 AM

    Photo by Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images; Illustration by Brandon-Mykal Rambus/Staff


    WASHINGTON — At a staging ground in Ghana, a group of nuclear experts watched the clock and nervously waited for the news.

    The team — a mix of American, British, Norwegian and Chinese experts, along with Czech and Russian contractors — were supposed to head into the Kaduna region of Nigeria to remove highly enriched uranium from a research reactor that nonproliferation experts have long warned could be a target for terrorists hoping to get their hands on nuclear material.

    But with the team assembled and ready to go on Oct. 20, 2018, the mission was suddenly paused, with the regional governor declaring a curfew after regional violence left dozens dead. As American diplomats raced to ensure the carefully calibrated window of opportunity didn’t shut, the inspectors were unsure if the situation would be safe enough to complete the mission.

    “Frankly speaking, yeah, I was nervous for my people on the ground and everyone else who was on the ground. It was important, but we had to go at it in a prudent way” said Peter Hanlon, assistant deputy administrator for material management and minimization, an office within the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. “As someone responsible for this organization, I was nervous.”

    Moving the nuclear material out of Nigeria has been a long-sought goal for the United States and nonproliferation advocates. But the goal has taken on increased importance in recent years with the rise of militant groups in the region, particularly Boko Haram, a group the Pentagon calls a major terrorist concern in the region.

    Underscoring the importance of the operation: the key role China played in transporting and storing the plutonium, with the operation happening just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump made an explicit threat to China about growing America’s nuclear arsenal.

    For those gathered in Ghana that evening, however, the focus was on watching the clock and hoping that the negotiators could come through and allow them to finally get the material out of Nigeria — and get everyone home safely.

    ‘Material that is attractive to terrorists’
    It was the mid-1990s when Nigeria, with technical support and backing from China, began work on what would become Nigerian Research Reactor 1, located at Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna. The location opened in 2004, and is home to roughly 170 Nigerian workers.

    NIRR-1 is classified as a miniature neutron source reactor, designed for “scientific research, neutron activation analysis, education and training,” per the International Atomic Energy Agency. Essentially, the reactor powers scientific experiments, not the local grid.


    NNSA administrator: Strengthening America through nuclear security
    While our infrastructure must be revitalized, one key part of the nuclear security enterprise is as capable as it has ever been.
    By: Lisa Gordon-Hagerty

    The design, however, used highly enriched uranium, or HEU, a type of nuclear substance often referred to by the general public as weapons-grade uranium. This kind of uranium forms the core of any nuclear weapons material, and the Nigerian material was more than 90 percent enriched, making it particularly attractive for anyone looking to use it.

    Since NIRR-1 went online, however, improvements in technology meant that experiments involving highly enriched uranium could now be run with a lesser substance. Across the globe, the IAEA and its partners have worked to swap out weapons-grade material with lightly enriched uranium, or LEU, which is enriched at less than 20 percent, and hence unusable for weapons. In all, 33 countries have now become free of HEU, including 11 countries in Africa.

    With just over 1 kilogram of HEU, the Nigerian material, if stolen, would not be nearly enough to create a full nuclear warhead. However, a terrorist group would be able to create a dirty bomb with the substance or add the material into a stockpile gathered elsewhere to get close to the amount needed for a large explosion.

    In a statement released by the IAEA, Yusuf Aminu Ahmed, director of the Nigerian Centre for Energy Research and Training, was blunt about his concerns over keeping the weapons-grade material in his country. “We don’t want any material that is attractive to terrorists," he said.

    And the nature of these types of reactors, used primarily for research, means they are ideal targets for terrorist groups looking for nuclear material, said Jon Wolfsthal, a nuclear expert who served as senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the U.S. National Security Council from 2014 to 2017.

    Recruits undergo training at the headquarters of the Depot of the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State in north-central Nigeria, on Oct. 5, 2017. The Nigerian Army train recruits to tackle the threat of the Islamist group Boko Haram. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images)

    “They’re small reactors, they’re not power reactors where the fuel is so radioactive it kills you,” he said. “This is very attractive to a proliferation point of view, and they are research reactors, so they are often at universities without high security.”

    All of which gave the governments involved incentive to get the material out of Nigeria sooner rather than later, and which led to the group of experts sitting in Ghana, waiting for a call.

    The day of
    It wasn’t until Oct. 22 — two days after the initial delay — that American diplomats, working with their Nigerian counterparts, were able to get an exemption to the curfew in Kaduna and prepare to roll out. But for security reasons, an operation that usually took days would have to happen in just one 24-hour period.

    At 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 23, a Russian Antonov An-124 cargo plane touched down in Nigeria. Aboard were the team of experts, but also a TUK-145/C — a 30-ton cargo container designed specifically for moving such uranium from place to place and doing so securely.

    From the outside, the TUK-145/C looks like a large, silver cylinder, designed to keep its precious cargo safe even in the event of a plane crash — as part of the safety testing before certification, the container is put into a pool of jet fuel, with the whole thing then lit on fire for 60 minutes. If you somehow could cut it down the middle, the container would appear to be two parts — an outer shell for security, and an innermost cask containing the spent uranium rods.

    Both the plane and the TUK-145/C are owned and operated by the Russian Sosny Research and Development Company, a specialty firm that has been used in other HEU removal procedures.

    Loading the equipment off the plane took hours, as did the trip from the airstrip to the reactor. But finally, the team arrived at the reactor around 9 a.m. The group now included U.S. State Department security and Nigeria’s Army First Division, considered a top-end unit of the Nigerian military.

    Tiffany Blanchard-Case, a nuclear expert from the National Nuclear Security Administration, was one of the officials on the ground to oversee the transfer. She described a “grueling” day as the team rushed to condense what needed to be done into the secure window.

    Technical experts from Nigeria's Centre for Energy Research and Training stand over the miniature neutron source reactor and prepare to load the HEU reactor core into an interim transfer cask. (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration)

    “No one was concerned about breaks, no one was concerned about lunch, everyone was just working 100 percent in order to make sure we could meet this schedule,” she said. “A long day for everyone.”

    Getting at the uranium is tricky business. The reactor core, which holds the actual material, is located at the bottom of a six-meter-deep pool. Above the pool, technicians have to create a platform and then center a vessel, known as the interim transfer cask, above the core. The cask contains a grapple, which reaches into the reactor and lifts out the core; when the core is loaded in, a plug is placed over the core and the cask is sealed, loaded onto the Skoda shipping cask, and then that unit is sealed inside the TUK-145/C.

    Replacing HEU with LEU in research reactors naturally requires caution, as anything nuclear-related comes with risks. But the Nigerian mission was particularly difficult because of security concerns, Hanlon said. He noted that Boko Haram, while not in the Kaduna region, has been operating in Nigeria for quite some time.

    “We had concerns about the security on the ground, in the region. Working very closely with the U.S. embassy, there were additional security requirements put upon us and limitations for us on having people on the ground at the facility itself,” Hanlon said.

    Hanlon and Blanchard-Case declined to discuss details of the security, other than to say it was heavy and that the U.S. State Department added extra forces as part of the agreement to allow the team to go in.

    Alice Hunt Friend, a regional expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Boko Haram is not necessarily “active” in the region, but added that an attack by the group in that area shouldn’t be ruled out.

    “The city is a transport hub, pretty much right between Abuja and Kano on the main route. It is also in the belt that has experienced a lot of communal violence over the past 10 years, so I can also imagine that security for HEU sites would be of concern more generally, even absent a specific threat,” she said. “With much of the Nigerian military concentrating on the northeast, I would imagine security for sites in Kaduna is inconsistent.”

    Boko Haram is just one threat that worries security teams on the ground, said Peter Haynes, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

    “Fueled by ethnic and religious differences, there has been lots of violence in the Kaduna region in the last six months, but that has been between Fulani Muslim herders and Christian villagers,” said Haynes, adding that it is not “uncommon as of late to have curfews to dampen the communal violence.”

    While the technicians were able to leave the country once their daylong mission was complete, security on site remained thick for the next five weeks as administrators worked the logistics and clearances needed to fly nuclear material over other nations' airspace. Asked about the security level during this down period, Dov Schwartz, an NNSA spokesman, said that “extensive planning went into ensuring the removed highly enriched uranium was safe and secure prior to transport."

    "All of our partners understood that operational security was paramount,” Schwartz said. "The world is a safer place today as a result of the determined work to remove this weapons useable Uranium from Nigeria.”

    Finally, on Dec. 4, the HEU was escorted by the Nigerian military toward the An-124, loaded onto the aircraft and sent on its way to its final destination.
    The material was heading for China.

    The TUK-145/C, carrying a load of highly enriched uranium from the Nigerian reactor, is loaded onto a plane headed for its final destination: China. (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration)

    China’s role
    The removal operation cost roughly $5.5 million, with the United States contributing $4.3 million. The United Kingdom ($900,000) and Norway ($290,000) also chipped in. But while it didn’t contribute money, China’s role in the operation was outsized — and occurred as the war of words from the Trump administration toward Beijing was reaching a fever pitch, one that did not die down in the weeks to come.

    As the October operation was just hours from starting, U.S. President Donald Trump took to the press to discuss nuclear material and China.

    “Until people come to their senses, we will build [the nuclear arsenal] up," Trump told reporters just hours before the Nigeria operation was to begin. "It’s a threat to whoever you want. And it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me.”

    By the time the Antonov plane — carrying the HEU, along with American inspectors and security — arrived at Shijiazhuang airport in China on Dec. 6, the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Canada had inflamed fears of a trade conflict between the two countries.

    Once the material landed in China, local officials took possession of the uranium, marking the end of the Nigerian mission — but not necessarily the end of the material.

    Hanlon acknowledged the United States doesn’t know what China will do with the material, noting they could dispose of it in whatever way they see fit. But Wolfsthal, the former National Security Council staffer, doesn’t think Beijing will let it go to waste.

    “My guess is China will reprocess it and then recycle some of the materials,” Wolfsthal said. “It could end up in China’s stockpile after being reprocessed, or used for civilian fuel. But getting it out of Nigeria is the biggest thing.”

    In a statement released by the IAEA, Shen Lixin, deputy director general of the department of business development and international cooperation at the China National Nuclear Corporation, said the project “manifests the determination and joint effort of several governments and organizations in preventing nuclear proliferation."

    Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, greets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari during a plenary session of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit on April 1, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The summit was organized to highlight accomplishments and make new commitments toward reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    “This is also a demonstration of CNNC’s meeting its social responsibilities and the commitment to peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” the statement continues. “CNNC is more than willing to work together and cooperate whole heartedly with relevant parties to facilitate other MNSR conversion projects.”

    That the United States and China were able to ignore politics to get the HEU removal done shouldn’t be a surprise, Wolfsthal said. Traditionally, countries that supply uranium to partners around the world take that material back if needed.

    “Even though the national level conversation is really poor because of trade and other issues, the technical collaboration between laboratories, between nuclear engineers, that’s generally gone pretty well,” he said. He added that China has invested heavily in LEU over the last decade, and therefore also has an interest in encouraging others to switch to that technology.

    Whether that cooperation continues if relations between the two nations continue to deteriorate will be a true test going forward. On Jan. 3, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for China, urging American citizens to use caution when traveling, as the Chinese government may detain Americans.

    And an agreement to develop new nuclear technology between CNNC and TerraPower, an American nuclear firm led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, appears doomed due to American restrictions on technology sharing with China.

    Hanlon, for his part, is optimistic that China and the U.S. will continue to work on nuclear security.

    “These nuclear security efforts of removing this dangerous material, most countries agree with that,” he said. “That work has continued unabated.”

  28. #28
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    Snapshot
    January 10, 2019
    TurkeyReligion

    Turkey’s Bid for Religious Leadership

    How the AKP Uses Islamic Soft Power

    By Gonul Tol

    Under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) has Islamist roots, religion has become a critical instrument of Turkish foreign policy. In countries from Latin America to sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey is building mosques, financing religious education, restoring Ottoman heritage—and advertising its unique brand of Islamic leadership along the way.

    Fusing Sunni Islam with Turkish nationalism, the state institutions and civil society organizations behind the country’s religious outreach promote Turkish language and culture alongside religious curricula, and they erect the Turkish flag at the sites of new projects. In the minds of those executing the policy, Turkey, as heir to the Ottoman Empire, is Islam’s last fortress and the natural leader of a revival of Muslim civilization.

    Turkey is not the only regional power using Islam in a bid for hegemony. Iran and Saudi Arabia also disseminate their respective versions of Islam by funding organizations and mosques. Turkey is attempting to position its brand of Islam as a more tolerant, less extreme Sunni alternative to Saudi Wahhabism—and therefore more fit for regional leadership. In contrast to the conservative Hanbali school of Islam, the foundation of Wahhabism, the Hanafi school that predominates in Turkey is relatively liberal and provides considerably more space for the interpretation of religious law.

    But the nationalist tinge in Turkey’s religious diplomacy could stand in the way of its success. It already irks European countries, which see Turkey’s actions as polarizing and detrimental to the integration of Turkish immigrants, and Middle Eastern states, which view Turkey through an imperial lens. The AKP has taken Turkey’s religious outreach to unprecedented levels, but in this international context, suspicion of its intentions could well limit its prospects for success.

    MOSQUE DIPLOMACY
    One of the most visible means through which Turkey has broadcast its religious credentials has been by constructing megamosques around the world. In 2015, Erdogan inaugurated one in Tirana, the capital of Albania. In the spring of 2016, he attended the.... (rest behind a paywall...HC)
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    Posted for fair use.....
    https://www.realcleardefense.com/art...ds_114104.html

    Trump Says U.S. Will Hurt Turkey Economically If It Hits Kurds

    By Deb Riechmann

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s warning that if Turkey attacks U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, the United States will “devastate Turkey economically” has drawn a sharp response from Ankara and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman.

    Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria has left the United States’ Kurdish allies in the war against the Islamic State group vulnerable to an attack from Turkey. Ankara views the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces as terrorists aligned with insurgents inside Turkey.

    Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin responded to Trump on Twitter by saying: “Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies.” He also insisted that Turkey “fights against terrorists, not Kurds” as a people.

    In Sunday’s tweet, Trump also warned the Kurdish forces not to “provoke Turkey.”

    The U.S. withdrawal has begun with shipments of military equipment, U.S. defense officials said. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart even as the White House says it will keep pressure on the IS network.

    Once the troops are gone, the U.S. will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the militants, also known as ISIS, a lasting defeat.

    “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions,” Trump tweeted. “Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”

    Trump’s decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked U.S. allies and angered the Kurds in Syria. It also prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a “betrayal of our Kurdish partners.”

    Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

  29. #29
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    Guy Elster
    ‏Verified account @guyelster
    2h2 hours ago

    #BREAKING #Iran says it has launched satellite that didn't reach orbit



    Observer IL -
    ‏ @Obs_IL
    2h2 hours ago

    Observer IL -

    Retweeted MJ Azari Jahromi

    #IRAN ICT minister revealed that the #satellite launch last night at Imam #Khomeini Space launchpad went sour after stage 2 due to a communication failure. A few hours before the launch he tweeted about "great news", now he's being trolled by thousands users.



    Instant News Alerts
    ‏ @InstaNewsAlerts
    17m17 minutes ago

    #Iran tried to launch a satellite into space but failed. Iranian Communications Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari said the rocket carrying the satellite "failed to reach the required speed in the third stage, even though it succeeded in the first two stages of the launch"
    Nana to two "little bits", one not-so-little "little bit" and one 6' college bound "little bit"

  30. #30
    CHINA’S XI JINPING HAS OPENED THE DOOR TO WAR WITH TAIWAN From war towards peace and peace towards war. This is how relations across the Taiwan Strait have evolved over the past 40 years. Efforts to seek peace have instead culminated in a greater threat of war.

    Beijing’s “Message to compatriots in Taiwan” on January 1, 1979 is seen by many as having ushered in a new era after decades of hostility. The policy statement not only declared an end to Beijing’s routine artillery bombardment of Taipei-controlled islands, it marked a shift in its basic approach to Taiwan – from one of “liberation” (which implies the use of force) to one of “peaceful unification”.

    However, a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of that message has been widely interpreted as opening the door to an eventual war.

    Editorials across the world ran with headlines such as “Will China go to war over Taiwan?” and “Is Taiwan’s military really ready to take on China?”.



    In his speech, Xi appeared to redefine the 1992 consensus – an unofficial agreement reached that year between representatives of Beijing and Taipei that there is only “one China”, but each side may have its own interpretation of what constitutes “China”.

    He exhorted Taiwan to accept it “must and will be” unified with the mainland under Beijing’s concept of “one country, two systems”, which is overwhelmingly unpopular in Taiwan.

    The speech prompted a rarely seen unity in parties across Taiwan’s political spectrum. Leaders of the ruling – and independence-leaning – Democratic Progressive Party, including President Tsai Ing-wen, rejected Xi’s suggestion, as did the main opposition party – the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang or KMT – and three other opposition parties.


    The current and former KMT leaders Wu Den-yi and Ma Ying-jeou also took issue with Xi’s speech. Ma, who held a historic meeting with Xi in 2015, said in a radio interview there was no market for “one country, two systems” in Taiwan. Ma, during his presidency from 2008 to 2016, implemented a “three nos” policy – no reunification, no independence and no war.

    A survey, taken between December 27 and 28 last year, found 81.2 per cent of Taiwanese could not accept the 1992 consensus. Another survey published last August by National Chengchi University found the vast majority of Taiwanese wanted to maintain their own identity, with only 3 per cent of respondents wanting unification now.

    China has a lot to celebrate in 2019, but it also has old wounds to heal
    The 1992 consensus laid the political foundation for talks between Beijing and the KMT, which was in power at the time it was agreed. It does this by acknowledging the dispute and by maintaining an ambiguity that allows the two sides to communicate. In redefining it, Xi may have closed the door on talks with the KMT should it be voted back into power in the 2020 presidential elections.

    Successive Chinese leaders have sought to reunify Taiwan with the mainland but none have been as impatient as Xi, who has described the endeavour as an “inevitable requirement” for his politically ambitious programme of “national rejuvenation”.



    Xi has said the “problem” cannot be put off for another generation and has called on the military to be prepared to fight “bloody battles” for every “single inch” of its territory.

    Despite increasing exchanges in trade, investment, culture and people, the disagreement over sovereignty threatens an indefinite delay in negotiating the political issue.

    Xi’s speech appears to reflect a loss of faith in Beijing at the prospect of a peaceful resolution. Beijing once assumed the Taiwanese would eventually decide to reunite with the mainland.

    The Taiwanese, too, may have lost faith – they once widely forecast that communist rule would collapse after the mainland’s capitalist market reform, with the KMT insisting reunification would take place only under a democratic system.

    The KMT’s election win in Taiwan has nothing to do with Beijing
    Neither forecast has come to pass. The mainland’s communist regime survived the worldwide collapse of socialism in the early 1990s and seems to have become only more robust under an increasingly authoritarian government. And in Taiwan, separatist sentiments have grown stronger as a result of the island’s rush to embrace free democracy.

    Now Xi has revived a civil war strategy by declaring the inevitability of reunification and threatening that “separatist” sentiments or foreign intervention will be met with force.

    The reality that 40 years of endeavour have not narrowed the political gap in the 180km-wide strait, but widened it. Indeed, it is now the world’s most dangerous flashpoint for conflict.

    As the door to talks closes, the door to war opens. ■
    Last edited by danielboon; 01-15-2019 at 08:31 AM.

  31. #31
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    Amichai Stein
    ‏Verified account @AmichaiStein1
    4m4 minutes ago

    #BREAKING: Explosions & gunshots reported at Dusit Hotel in Riverside, Nairobi #Kenya
    Nana to two "little bits", one not-so-little "little bit" and one 6' college bound "little bit"

  32. #32
    Russian media threatens Europe with 200-megaton nuclear 'doomsday' device Russian media appeared to threaten Europe and the world by saying that a new nuclear torpedo could create towering tsunami waves and destroy vast swaths of Earth's population.
    A Russian professor told a Russian paper that the new torpedo could create waves 1,300 to 1,600 feet high and wipe out all life nearly 1,000 miles inland with an alleged 200-megaton nuclear warhead.
    The US has no defenses against such a weapon.
    Russia and its media often overstate the capability and meaning of their nuclear weapons, but Russia really did build this new nuclear weapon, which suggests they take the hype seriously.
    Russian media appeared to threaten Europe and the world with an article in MK.ru, saying that a new nuclear torpedo could create towering tsunami waves and destroy vast swaths of Earth's population.

    Russia's "Poseidon" nuclear torpedo, which leaked in 2015 before being confirmed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018, represents a different kind of nuclear weapon.

    The US and Russia have, since the end of World War II, fought to match and exceed each other in a nuclear arms race that resulted in both countries commanding fleets of nuclear bombers, submarines, and silos of intercontinental missiles all scattered across each country.

    But Russia's Poseidon takes a different course.



    "Russia will soon deploy an underwater nuclear-powered drone which will make the whole multi-billion dollar system of US missile defense useless," MK.ru said, according to a BBC translation, making reference to the missile shield the US is building over Europe.

    "An explosion of the drone's nuclear warhead will create a wave of between 400-500 (1,300-16,00 feet) meters high, capable of washing away all living things 1,500 (932) kilometers inland," the newspaper added.

    Previously, scientists told Business Insider that Russia's Poseidon nuke could create tsunami-sized waves, but pegged the estimate at only 100-meter-high (330 feet) waves.

    While all nuclear weapons pose a tremendous threat to human life on Earth because of their outright destructive power and ability to spread harmful radiation, the Poseidon has unique world-ending qualities.

    What makes Poseidon more horrific than regular nukes
    minuteman iii 3 icbm nuclear missile us dod
    An LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile being serviced in a silo.Department of Defense via Federation of American Scientists
    The US designed its nuclear weapons to detonate in the air above a target, providing downward pressure. The US' nuclear weapons today have mainly been designed to fire on and destroy Russian nuclear weapons that sit in their silos, rather than to target cities and end human life.

    But detonating the bomb in an ocean not only could cause tsunami waves that would indiscriminately wreak havoc on an entire continent, but it would also increase the radioactive fallout.



    Russia's Poseidon missile is rumored to have a coating of cobalt metal, which Stephen Schwartz, an expert on nuclear history, said would "vaporize, condense, and then fall back to earth tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles from the site of the explosion."

    Potentially, the weapon would render thousands of square miles of Earth's surface unlivable for decades.

    "It's an insane weapon in the sense that it's probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon," Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.

    Can Russia take over the world with this weapon? No.
    Russian status 6 nuclear torpedo dirty bomb
    A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.BBC
    MK.ru quoted a professor as saying the Poseidon will make Russia a "world dictator" and that it could be used to threaten Europe.

    "If Europe will behave badly, just send a mini-nuclear powered submarine there with a 200-megaton bomb on board, put it in the southern part of the North Sea, and 'let rip' when we need to. What will be left of Europe?" the professor asked.

    While the Russian professor may have overstated the importance of the Poseidon, as Russia already has the nuclear firepower to destroy much of the world and still struggles to achieve its foreign-policy goals, the paper correctly said that the US has no countermeasures in place against the new weapon.

    US missile defenses against ballistic missiles have only enough interceptors on hand to defend against a small salvo of weapons from a small nuclear power like North Korea or Iran. Also, they must be fired in ballistic trajectories.



    But the US has nuclear weapons of its own that would survive Russia's attack. Even if Russia somehow managed to make the whole continent of Europe or North America go dark, submarines on deterrence patrols would return fire and pound Russia from secret locations at the bottom of the ocean.

    Russia's media, especially MK.ru, often use hyperbole that overstates the country's nuclear capabilities and willingness to fight.

    But with the Poseidon missile, which appears custom-built to end life on Earth, Russia has shown it actually does favor spectacularly dangerous nuclear weapons as a means of trying to bully other countries. https://www.businessinsider.com/russ...e-world-2019-1

  33. #33
    Kleck ITS ON THE MONEY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dke9zpeOTOA ten minute video describing false flag events that have happened or possible future events found on U.S currency

  34. #34
    Brazil Recognizes Venezuelan Assembly Leader as Rightful President Brazil announced this weekend it will recognize the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s new president, dismissing dictator Nicolás Maduro as illegitimate.
    Guaidó, a 35-year-old deputy from the left-leaning but anti-Maduro Popular Will party, was last week declared the interim President of Venezuela by the democratically elected National Assembly after Maduro was inaugurated for another six-year term. Maduro “won” that term in an election where the government banned opposition figures from running and the population refused to vote, yielding record low turnout.

    In a statement Saturday, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, under the direction of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, expressed its “full support” for the National Assembly’s right to appoint Guaidó as interim leader:Considering that on January 10, 2019, Nicolás Maduro did not meet the demands of the Lima Group expressed in its January 4 Declaration, and so began a new illegitimate presidential term, Brazil reiterates its full support for the National Assembly, a democratically elected constitutional institution, at present responsible for the executive power in Venezuela according to the country’s legitimate Supreme Court of Justice.

    “Brazil confirms its commitment to continue to work for the reestablishment of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela and will continue to coordinate with all actors committed to the freedom of the Venezuelan people,” they continued.

    The United States backed the sentiment. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino called on the Venezuelan military, the most important backers of the Maduro regime, to accept Guaidó as the constitutional leader.

    “We commend the courage of the National Assembly’s leadership, particularly its president, Juan Guaidó, and his decision to invoke the authorities of the Venezuelan Constitution,” he said in a statement.

    “We call on all Venezuelans to uphold and respect the role of the National Assembly, as established in the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999, and, in particular, for the security forces and the armed forces to respect all protections the constitution affords to Guaidó and the other members of the National Assembly, especially their safety and welfare,” he continued.International recognition of Guaidó as the rightful President of Venezuela is likely to infuriate the Maduro regime, which has brought the country under the control of Cuba’s Castro regime. Scores of democratic nations across Latin America and around the world have already said they no longer recognize Maduro as a legitimate president, in large part because many of his leftist allies have been replaced by conservative administrations.

    On Sunday, members of Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Intelligence Agency (Sebin), the nation’s secret police, arrested Guaidó on the motorway as he was traveling to a rally, but released him shortly afterward. After making it to the rally, he urged supporters to focus more on solving the country’s deepening economic and humanitarian crisis than his own welfare.

    “What happened today will not make us forget that yesterday, a hospital spent more than 5 hours without electricity, a mother had no food to feed her child,” he declared. “Before this crisis we will remain at the vanguard of this struggle until we restore the constitutional order.”https://www.breitbart.com/national-s...ful-president/
    Last edited by danielboon; 01-15-2019 at 11:31 AM. Reason: fix title

  35. #35
    EndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    11m11 minutes ago
    More
    Breaking: Donald Trump is considering recognizing Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela-CNNEndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    9m9 minutes ago
    More
    This will mean an armed conflict is coming.EndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    8m8 minutes ago
    More
    Sen. Marco Rubio, on Tuesday, tweeted that he asked Trump to recognize Guaidó as "the legitimate transitional president of Venezuela if the National Assembly invokes Article 233 of the Constitution."

  36. #36
    UPDATE 1-Venezuela congress seeks freeze on Maduro gov't foreign accounts - document CARACAS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition-run congress is considering a measure that would ask dozens of foreign governments to seek a freeze on bank accounts controlled by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, according to draft documents seen by Reuters.

    Congress is also preparing to formally declare Maduro a usurper following his inauguration on Jan. 10 to a disputed second term, according to a second draft document, which says all of his actions will be null and void. The United States and many Latin American nations say his leadership is illegitimate or that he has become a dictator.

    Congress will formally request that governments instruct regulatory agencies to "prohibit any movement of liquid assets by the Venezuelan state in local bank accounts" due to the Maduro government's lack of legitimacy, according to one of the documents.

    The governments include those in the United States, European Union, and Latin American neighbors such as Chile and Brazil.

    The legislature is preparing to formally declare that Maduro has usurped power, according to a second draft document, following a 2018 election that the opposition widely boycotted on the grounds that it was rigged and many governments refused to recognize. Congress would consider all of Maduro's decisions null and void.

    Both documents were on the legislature's agenda for Tuesday's session, and legislators told Reuters they expected both measures to be approved in the afternoon.

    Venezuela's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The pro-government Supreme Court, which has been in open conflict with the legislature since the opposition took it over in 2016, has ruled that all laws that the institution passes are null.https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/15/reut...r&par=sharebar

  37. #37
    AFP news agency

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    @AFP
    Follow Follow @AFP
    More
    #BREAKING: Russia in 'material breach' of key nuclear treaty: US

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by danielboon View Post
    EndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    11m11 minutes ago
    More
    Breaking: Donald Trump is considering recognizing Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela-CNNEndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    9m9 minutes ago
    More
    This will mean an armed conflict is coming.EndGameWW3


    @EndGameWW3
    8m8 minutes ago
    More
    Sen. Marco Rubio, on Tuesday, tweeted that he asked Trump to recognize Guaidó as "the legitimate transitional president of Venezuela if the National Assembly invokes Article 233 of the Constitution."
    Wow!
    While the US is not up to speed yet as far as our preparedness for such a war, Brazil, our new found friend, would have a lot of boots available, We can supply air power, stuff and fancy gadgets.
    With low oil prices and abundant supply, we could fight a real war for several months.
    I don't think it would take long to topple a .gov as incompetent, corrupt, and unpopular as the current Mad Socialist Venezuelan government.
    SS
    “Then the creatures of the high air answered to the battle, .., and the woods trembled and the wind sobbed telling them, the earth shook,; the witches of the valley, and the wolves of the forests, howled from every quarter and on every side of the armies, urging them against one another.”
    ― Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan and the Fianna of Ireland

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shacknasty Shagrat View Post
    Wow!
    While the US is not up to speed yet as far as our preparedness for such a war, Brazil, our new found friend, would have a lot of boots available, We can supply air power, stuff and fancy gadgets.
    With low oil prices and abundant supply, we could fight a real war for several months.
    I don't think it would take long to topple a .gov as incompetent, corrupt, and unpopular as the current Mad Socialist Venezuelan government.
    SS
    Particularly when most everything is on the coast. The problems come from whatever got away and faded into the jungle. They'd likely as not hook up with what's left in the field of FARC. That kind of a COIN issue is something for later, in the minds of TPTB and milked accordingly.

  40. #40
    I have a hunch (that I have no way to verify, Housecarl or someone else may) that at this point The Bus Driver is hold up in his Presidential palace which is in the middle of a military base and unable to leave or too terrified to do so.

    Otherwise, the Venezuelan Congress (originally set up something like the US one) would not be able to pass things like this and get away with it.

    It sounds to me like an increasingly attacked and underpaid military may have had about enough of Maduro and be willing to sack him or slab him if they possibly can figure out a way to do so and come out on top themselves.

    A slightly left-leaning, handsome, charismatic young upstart probably looks easy for them to control and may very well attract the saner of Chavez's former supporters (aka the very poor, the gangs etc) into going along with things better than a "right" leaning Military Strong man (there is always time for the military to install one later if required).

    The military replacing Presidents and/or enforcing elections is a traditional response to these types of situations in Venezuela (and most of Latin America) going back about 500 years; I really hope they can manage it without a war with Brazil (and/or Colombia) along with US backing.

    A lot of Venezuelans even today are still very patriotic and things will likely go a lot smoother (and probably faster) if the military possibly combined with a popular uprising; nix this jerk and replace him with either a hand-picked politician or one of their own.

    By backing a politician (if they do this) they are signaling they wish to continue at least the appearance of a return to being a Republic.
    expatriate Californian living in rural Ireland with husband, dogs, horses. garden and many, many cats

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