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  • Rebels claim downing US drone over Yemen

    Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed they shot down a U.S. drone over the country's north, as a leading rights group said Wednesday the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis killed at least 47 Yemeni fishermen in bombing attacks on fishing boats last year. Yahia Sarie, a military spokesman for the Iran-backed Houthis, said in a statement their air defenses downed a U.S. MQ-9 drone on Tuesday over the northern city of Dhamar. The U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement that it was investigating the Houthi claims that they attacked an unmanned U.S. drone "operating in authorized airspace" over Yemen.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 11:21:00 -0400
  • Iran-backed forces blame US for attacks on bases in Iraq

    Golocal247.com news

    Iraqi paramilitary forces backed by Iran said Wednesday they hold the United States ultimately responsible for a series of attacks targeting their bases in the country, pledging to defend themselves against any future attack. The rare statement issued by the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, said the group has accurate information that shows the U.S. brought in four Israeli drones this year to work as part of the U.S. fleet in Iraq and target militia positions in Iraq.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 11:16:35 -0400
  • Sudan's top general sworn in as leader of new ruling body

    Golocal247.com news

    Sudan's top general was sworn in Wednesday as the leader of a joint military-civilian body created to rule Sudan during a three-year transition period toward democratic elections. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan was sworn in before the country's top judge and will lead the 11-member Sovereign Council for 21 months, followed by a civilian leader appointed by the pro-democracy movement for the next 18. The long-waited move came after more than four months of tortuous negotiations between the ruling military council and the pro-democracy movement following the army's removal of longtime autocratic president Omar al-Bashir in April.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 11:03:53 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-France now sees 'no deal' as baseline Brexit scenario - Elysee source

    France believes 'no-deal' is now the most likely Brexit scenario after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded the European Union reopen the divorce deal and drop the Irish backstop, an official in President Macron's office said on Wednesday. Johnson said on Tuesday that the backstop - an insurance policy to keep the Irish border open after Britain leaves the European Union - was "anti-democratic", and demanded its removal from the stalled divorce deal. Johnson, a Brexiteer who entered No. 10 Downing Street a month ago, hopes the threat of 'no-deal' Brexit turmoil will persuade European leaders that the EU should do a last-minute divorce deal to suit his demands.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:46:56 -0400
  • The Latest: Iran-backed militias blame US for attacks

    Iran-backed militias in Iraq have said they hold the United States responsible for a series of attacks targeting militia bases across the country. In a statement issued Wednesday, the deputy head of the militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, says the group has accurate information that shows the U.S. brought in four Israeli drones this year to work as part of the U.S. fleet in Iraq and target militia positions in Iraq.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:46:30 -0400
  • Trump considers abandoning proposed $4B in foreign aid cuts: Report

    If the cut were imposed, it would affect the United Nations the most.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:46:25 -0400
  • State TV: Iran to unveil air defense missile system

    Iran's state TV is reporting that the country will unveil an Iran-made air-defense missile system. Since 1992, Iran has developed a homegrown defense industry that has produced light and heavy weapons ranging from mortars and torpedoes to tanks and submarines. The U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran after it pulled out of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers over concerns about Iran's missile program and regional influence.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:39:49 -0400
  • Trump Talk About ‘Disloyal’ Jews Isn’t Just Anti-Semitic—It’s Anti-American

    Golocal247.com news

    Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/GettyPresident Donald Trump’s latest remark about American Jews – that the 79% of us who support Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” – isn’t just anti-Semitic. It’s anti-American. On the one hand, obviously, accusing Jews of disloyalty is an age-old anti-Semitic canard, dating back not only hundreds of years in Europe but literally to the dawn of the Jewish people itself. In Exodus 1:9, the Egyptian Pharaoh tells his followers: “let us deal wisely with them… lest they join themselves unto our enemies and fight us against us.”On the other hand, the way that accusation is normally phrased is the way Pharaoh put it: that Jews are more loyal to their own interests than to the nations in which they find themselves. That’s why left-wing accusations against AIPAC, Sheldon Adelson, and the so-called “Israel Lobby” must carefully avoid that ancient canard, and are called out when they fail to do so. As in the case, most recently, of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comment that American support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.”Trump, however, has inverted this accusation.His claim – besides being absurd, offensive, manipulative, and reprehensible – is that American Jews are being disloyal by not supporting Israel enough. The problem isn’t that we’re betraying America. The problem is that we’re betraying Israel.American Jews, long suspected of “dual loyalty,” are now being accused of not being dual-loyal-enough.Yes, as everyone has noticed by now, Trump’s remarks are the latest salvo in a half-canny, half-mad attempt to peel Jews away from the Democratic Party by associating the party with its most critical-of-Israel members, who just so happen to be Muslim and young women of color. But the comments reveal something much more profound. It’s not that Trump doesn’t understand American Jews. It’s that he doesn’t understand America. In the nationalist mind, nation equals ethnicity equals race equals language equals (more or less) religion. Jews should put Israel first, and fight for our group’s interests (as defined by the nationalist Right, of course), because that’s what groups do. Judaism isn’t a system of ethical values that, among other things, condemns the oppression of foreigners and marginalized people (see Exodus 22:21-22). It’s a volk, a national-religious-ethnic people, in competition with others for dominance and power. The same is true for Britons, (Hindu) Indians, (Jewish) Israelis, Russians, (non-indigenous) Brazilians, and other national groups now governed by nationalists. The Steve Bannon-Vladimir Putin world is one in which selfish national groups compete against one another externally and purify themselves internally. That’s how they make their countries great again.This is a reflexive, gut-level identification. Trump can deny being a white supremacist because, on a conscious level, he probably isn’t one. Ethno-nationalism is more of an unconscious, almost primal understanding of what it means to be an American that erupts in various “tells”: chanting “send her back” about a Muslim member of Congress; describing non-white communities as “infested”; looking out at a nearly all-white stadium of supporters and saying that they are the real America.This is why the debate about whether Trump is a racist or not is so misguided. To many people, especially conservatives, “racist” means having conscious, negative beliefs about racial minorities: believing people of color are less intelligent than white people, for example.But nationalist racism is different. It’s about the gut-level sense that non-whites (and non-English-speakers) are not really American in the first place. Real America is the imagined white, suburban ideal of the 1950s. The people oppressed by Jim Crow at the time are simply invisible. They’re not part of America.Jews, of course, used to be “othered” in the same way. Sometimes Jews were explicitly racialized as non-white, while other times they – like Catholics – were depicted as disloyal “others” who placed foreign interests above American ones. So, ironically enough, were Trump’s German ancestors.Why Trump’s Vile Plan to Rope Israel Into His War With the Squad Will BackfireThis still happens today: the far-right marchers in Charlottesville two years ago, some of whom Trump described as “very good people,” chanted “Jews will not replace us” in reference to the slander that Jews were scheming to replace whites with non-white migration. But it tends to happen only on the fringe. The conservative mainstream now includes Jews, including, of course, Trump’s own family, as well as Catholics, Germans, Irish, Italians, Cubans, and even a handful of African Americans, as long as they don’t talk too much about four centuries of slavery and Jim Crow.Yet the logic of Trump’s nationalist worldview has no place for American Jews. As we’ve seen before, Trump is an anomaly: an American nationalist with Jews in his family. In principle, if nations are defined as ethno-religious-linguistic units, then Jews have no place in a Christian nation. Indeed, some antisemites have said as much: that Jews should go live in Israel, where we belong.What’s anti-Semitic in Trump’s latest remark isn’t its invocation of Jewish disloyalty. What’s really anti-Semitic is the worldview it reveals, in which nations are defined monolithically by their majority groups.That worldview is profoundly anti-American, even as it wraps itself in the American flag and preaches America First. Because just like Trump misunderstands the essence of Judaism, he misunderstands the essence of America. America isn’t a volk. It is something different, and better. It’s a radical, often-failed experiment in civic democracy whose ideals—as yet un-realized—are the exact opposite of Trumpist nationalism: a multicultural nation defined not by race but by values like democracy, the rule of law, and the basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.To say it plainly, Representatives Omar and Tlaib are better Americans than Donald Trump. They understand America. He does not. They are our future. He is a dark, last gasp of our racist past.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:08:14 -0400
  • Turkey: 30 detained in protest over elected mayors' ouster

    Turkish media reports say police have used water cannons to disperse crowds protesting a government decision to oust three elected mayors in Turkey's mainly Kurdish-populated southeast and replace them with government appointees. The private DHA news agency said at least 30 people were detained in the city of Diyarbakir Wednesday, on the third day of protests over the mayors' dismissal. The government removed the mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van from office over alleged links to militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, citing ongoing investigations or trials against them.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 10:01:17 -0400
  • Merkel warns of Brexit economic pain before Johnson visit

    Golocal247.com news

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday of the economic impact of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, hours before she was to receive British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his first foreign visit. "The economic sky is not cloudless", and global tensions and Britain's impending departure from the European Union "are already causing us headaches", Merkel told an aviation industry conference. "That's why I will talk with the British prime minister, who is visiting me today, about how we can avoid friction as much as possible as Britain exits the EU because we have to struggle to achieve economic growth," the leader of the bloc's biggest economy added.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:47:37 -0400
  • Jew-baiting is part of the Trump playbook. It's a feature, not a bug

    Golocal247.com news

    Donald Trump used an antisemitic trope about disloyal Jews in a tweet about Democrats. Old habits die hard‘Religion and ethnicity were fair game for Trump from start to finish, and Jews were not off-limits.’ Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesOn Tuesday, Donald Trump announced that American Jews who voted Democratic were either stupid, disloyal or both. As Trump framed things: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Disloyal to Trump, the US or Israel, the president did not specify. But he didn’t have to, the message was clear enough: American Jews are now a cross between political props and piñatas.Almost on cue, Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, eagerly whitewashed Trump’s comments. According to Brooks, Trump’s goal was really about communal therapy, and what Trump actually meant was: “You’re being disloyal to yourself to say, ‘Hey, I support somebody who is known to espouse antisemitic comments.’”Realizing that he may have bitten off more than he wanted to chew, Brooks later enthusiastically retweeted: “I don’t think for a min he’s questioning our loyalty to America or country.” Sure, he isn’t.So once again, Jew-baiting will be part of the Trump playbook, just as it was in 2016 and 2018, even if Trump’s allies now proclaim that Jexodus is just around the corner. Old campaign habits die hard, and sometimes not at all.Three years ago, thinly veiled antisemitic messages from Team Trump were features, not bugs. Pepe the Frog was a constant campaign meme. In July 2016, Trump tweeted out an image of the star of David, Hillary Clinton and piles of money. After the initial stir, the six-pointed star was replaced by Trump with a circle. Still, folks “got it”, on both sides, just like in Charlottesville.Then just days before the election, George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein took center stage in Trump’s closing ad. Back then Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were not on the stage – someone else would have to make do.Said differently, religion and ethnicity were fair game for Trump from start to finish, and Jews were not off-limits. As one of Trump’s lawyers told me, it was about expedience, that’s all; nothing personal, just look at Jared Kushner. Or as Steve Bannon confided to Michael Wolff, he couldn’t vouch that Trump wasn’t a racist, but Bannon could say that Trump “probably wasn’t an antisemite”.History not only rhymes, it can repeat itself. When last year’s midterms rolled around it was pretty much the same story, that is until the Shabbat morning massacre in Pittsburgh. No less than Kevin McCarthy, then the House majority leader, had tweeted and then deleted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. MAGA”. The song had remained the same.The fact that Soros and Steyer had already been targeted by the now convicted pipe bomber, Cesar Sayoc, made no difference to McCarthy. The specter of Nancy Pelosi as House speaker meant that mores could be disregarded, and if that line of attack was good enough for Trump, it was definitely fine for McCarthy. Unlike Paul Ryan, McCarthy was never thought by Trump to be a boy scout. In the congressional midterms, Jews cast between 72 and almost 80% of their votes for Democrats.Yet Trump has definitely gained traction with segments of America’s Jews. The latest Siena poll of New York’s voters show Trump’s approval among Jews in the Empire state at 57%, a figure higher than Trump’s standing among whites overall, Catholics or Protestants. Likewise, a majority of New York’s Jews say they plan to vote for Trump. With the exception of Republicans and conservatives, Trump’s numbers are underwater with everyone else.By that measure, the breach within the American Jewish community is not disappearing anytime soon. Instead, expect it to grow. Trump delivered on his promises to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and in shredding the Iran deal struck by Barack Obama. With New York’s large Orthodox Jewish population, these issues possess particular resonance.The reality also is that Trump has a difficult time putting distance between himself and white nationalists, and takes unvarnished pride in turning up the rhetorical heat. The Proud Boys are his latest love object, and Trump struggled to disavow David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.Even with low unemployment Trump feels compelled to scorch the social fabric. On the other hand, ethnic arson is a longtime Trump specialty. Can you say “Obama’s birth certificate”?Like a Rorschach test, American Jews along with all Americans will see what they want to see, with 2020 looming as another flashpoint. In the midst of our not-so-cold civil war, division is the operative coin of the realm. Expect the president to stomp on these deepening fissures daily without any hesitation or remorse. * Lloyd Green was opposition research counsel to George HW Bush’s 1988 campaign and served in the Department of Justice from 1990 to 1992

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:47:31 -0400
  • More Rohingya families say they will not return to Myanmar

    Golocal247.com news

    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Members of about 200 Rohingya Muslim families interviewed Wednesday by officials from the U.N. refugee agency and the Bangladesh government all said they do not want to return to Myanmar unless their citizenship and safety are ensured, an official said. Khaled Hossain, a senior official with the Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner's office, said they discussed the families' concerns with them ahead of a planned repatriation scheduled to start Thursday. The repatriation is unlikely to proceed if no one comes forward voluntarily, a condition Bangladesh says it will follow.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 09:30:02 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Merkel aims to work out friction-free Brexit with British PM

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would discuss how to make sure Britain's divorce from the European Union is as smooth as possible when she holds talks later on Wednesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. "Today I will talk with the British prime minister, who is visiting me, about how we can get the most friction-free British exit from the European Union possible as we must fight for our economic growth," said Merkel in a speech at conference on air transport. Merkel also made clear that Britain would lose its rights in the EU's air transport market, saying a new agreement on air traffic would have to be negotiated after Brexit.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:52:36 -0400
  • Trump: Any Jew voting Democratic is uninformed or disloyal

    Golocal247.com news

    Trump's claim triggered a quick uproar from critics who said the Republican president was trading in anti-Semitic stereotypes. It came amid Trump's ongoing feud with Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are Muslim. Trump has closely aligned himself with Israel, including conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while the congresswomen are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:42:38 -0400
  • Democrats Should Care More About Russia

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- When the poll-analysis website FiveThirtyEight surveyed the Democratic presidential candidates to get their views on key foreign policy issues, it decided not to ask about Russia, because it couldn’t formulate a provocative question on the subject. That’s a problem — not for FiveThirtyEight, but for the Democratic field.“It’s a safe bet that any of the Democratic candidates, if elected president, would be more critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin than President Trump has been,” FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. wrote, “but it’s hard to design a question that would illustrate the differences between the candidates on that subject. So there are some major foreign policy issues (like how the U.S. should deal with Russia) that are not represented.” Some of the questions the survey did ask, however, found no differences among the candidates, either. For example, all 15 who answered the questionnaire have said they favor ending U.S. military involvement in Yemen and repealing the 2001 congressional authorization for troop deployments wherever a president perceives a terrorist threat. So why is it more difficult to ask a meaningful question about Russia?The problem, I think, is that a kind of Pavlovian reflex has formed in American political circles since 2016, when Russian trolling and hacking operations against the Democrats were first widely reported. Years of “Russiagate” and unrealistic expectations from the Mueller investigation have strengthened it. Now, whenever Russia is mentioned, the associative chain immediately drags up “Russian election interference” and “Trump is a Putin stooge.” OnTheIssues, an organization that tracks politicians’ publicly expressed positions, includes Russia among its topics. Most of the Democratic candidates have said something about Russian attacks on U.S. democracy. Some of their claims — including those from Joe Biden about Putin “undoing elections” in the U.S., Hungary and Poland — are too outlandish to even start unpicking.As Samuel Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, wrote in a Twitter thread on the subject, Russiagate turned Russia from a foreign policy issue into a U.S. domestic one. “As a result,” Greene wrote, “all of the oxygen has gone out of conversations about Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, about the occupation of Crimea, about the challenges posed to the future of the European project (in which we also have a stake), about the Balkans, about gas pipelines....”One could add more issues to Greene’s list. How about Russia’s increasingly tight relationship with Saudi Arabia, based on their ability to set the oil price together? Russia’s bid for dominance in the Arctic? Russia’s asymmetrical responses to U.S. sanctions, like its de-dollarization, which is setting an uncomfortable example for other developing countries? Russia’s development of new weapons meant to breach U.S. anti-missile defenses? And, while we’re on the subject, how about arms control, an area in which a major U.S.-Russian treaty has just collapsed?The FiveThirtyEight survey shows that 12 out of 15 Democratic candidates want to cut U.S. defense spending. But Russia-related issues should serve as a litmus test of that anti-war stance. How would these candidates respond if Russia moved to swallow up Belarus? Would they sit on their hands if Russia closed what it calls the Northern Sea Route for U.S. shipping? How would they react to a Russia-instigated coup in one of the African countries where Russian mercenaries, supplied by a Putin crony, have recently established a presence?Thanks in large part to Donald Trump, prevented by Russiagate from pursuing any coherent Russia policy, and to the previous three American presidents, who tended to write off Russia as a waning regional power, the U.S.-Russia relationship has become not just adversarial but also deeply dysfunctional. Any post-Trump U.S. leader will face a dilemma: Should he or she take an implacable stance while waiting for Putin to die and his system to collapse — or pursue an active Russia policy aimed at least at laying down basic rules of interaction, perhaps even locating common interests? (For example, both Russia and U.S. allies recently welcomed a government change in Moldova.)It’s difficult to ponder this dilemma amid the Russiagate scenery, which stagehands appear to have forgotten to put away. A responsible leader can’t really avoid it, though, especially not after the election. But then, the winning candidate — should Trump be displaced in 2020 — may have to rethink most of his or her current foreign policy positions, because Russia has a hand in every one of the global crises in which the U.S. is involved, including in North Korea, Venezuela, Afghanistan and China.Sooner or later, candidates and voters alike will have to wake up to the real Russia issues; hacking and propaganda are nowhere near the top of the list.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:30:05 -0400
  • Democrats Should Care More About Russia

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- When the poll-analysis website FiveThirtyEight surveyed the Democratic presidential candidates to get their views on key foreign policy issues, it decided not to ask about Russia, because it couldn’t formulate a provocative question on the subject. That’s a problem — not for FiveThirtyEight, but for the Democratic field.“It’s a safe bet that any of the Democratic candidates, if elected president, would be more critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin than President Trump has been,” FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. wrote, “but it’s hard to design a question that would illustrate the differences between the candidates on that subject. So there are some major foreign policy issues (like how the U.S. should deal with Russia) that are not represented.” Some of the questions the survey did ask, however, found no differences among the candidates, either. For example, all 15 who answered the questionnaire have said they favor ending U.S. military involvement in Yemen and repealing the 2001 congressional authorization for troop deployments wherever a president perceives a terrorist threat. So why is it more difficult to ask a meaningful question about Russia?The problem, I think, is that a kind of Pavlovian reflex has formed in American political circles since 2016, when Russian trolling and hacking operations against the Democrats were first widely reported. Years of “Russiagate” and unrealistic expectations from the Mueller investigation have strengthened it. Now, whenever Russia is mentioned, the associative chain immediately drags up “Russian election interference” and “Trump is a Putin stooge.” OnTheIssues, an organization that tracks politicians’ publicly expressed positions, includes Russia among its topics. Most of the Democratic candidates have said something about Russian attacks on U.S. democracy. Some of their claims — including those from Joe Biden about Putin “undoing elections” in the U.S., Hungary and Poland — are too outlandish to even start unpicking.As Samuel Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, wrote in a Twitter thread on the subject, Russiagate turned Russia from a foreign policy issue into a U.S. domestic one. “As a result,” Greene wrote, “all of the oxygen has gone out of conversations about Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, about the occupation of Crimea, about the challenges posed to the future of the European project (in which we also have a stake), about the Balkans, about gas pipelines....”One could add more issues to Greene’s list. How about Russia’s increasingly tight relationship with Saudi Arabia, based on their ability to set the oil price together? Russia’s bid for dominance in the Arctic? Russia’s asymmetrical responses to U.S. sanctions, like its de-dollarization, which is setting an uncomfortable example for other developing countries? Russia’s development of new weapons meant to breach U.S. anti-missile defenses? And, while we’re on the subject, how about arms control, an area in which a major U.S.-Russian treaty has just collapsed?The FiveThirtyEight survey shows that 12 out of 15 Democratic candidates want to cut U.S. defense spending. But Russia-related issues should serve as a litmus test of that anti-war stance. How would these candidates respond if Russia moved to swallow up Belarus? Would they sit on their hands if Russia closed what it calls the Northern Sea Route for U.S. shipping? How would they react to a Russia-instigated coup in one of the African countries where Russian mercenaries, supplied by a Putin crony, have recently established a presence?Thanks in large part to Donald Trump, prevented by Russiagate from pursuing any coherent Russia policy, and to the previous three American presidents, who tended to write off Russia as a waning regional power, the U.S.-Russia relationship has become not just adversarial but also deeply dysfunctional. Any post-Trump U.S. leader will face a dilemma: Should he or she take an implacable stance while waiting for Putin to die and his system to collapse — or pursue an active Russia policy aimed at least at laying down basic rules of interaction, perhaps even locating common interests? (For example, both Russia and U.S. allies recently welcomed a government change in Moldova.)It’s difficult to ponder this dilemma amid the Russiagate scenery, which stagehands appear to have forgotten to put away. A responsible leader can’t really avoid it, though, especially not after the election. But then, the winning candidate — should Trump be displaced in 2020 — may have to rethink most of his or her current foreign policy positions, because Russia has a hand in every one of the global crises in which the U.S. is involved, including in North Korea, Venezuela, Afghanistan and China.Sooner or later, candidates and voters alike will have to wake up to the real Russia issues; hacking and propaganda are nowhere near the top of the list.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:30:05 -0400
  • Greece says it won't assist Iranian tanker sought by US

    Golocal247.com news

    Greece said on Wednesday it won't endanger its relations with the United States by aiding an Iranian supertanker sought by the U.S. but released by Gibraltar that's currently in the Mediterranean Sea, believed heading for a Greek port. Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said Athens is under pressure from U.S. authorities, which claim the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1 is tied to a sanctioned organization. The vessel can still enter Greek waters or anchor offshore, in which case Athens will "see" what it will do, Varvitsiotis added.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:24:08 -0400
  • Golocal247.com news

    Syrian activists: Airstrikes hit hospital in rebel village

    No description related. Click here to go to original article.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:22:37 -0400
  • No one can secure Gulf other than Iran and countries of the region - Guards deputy commander

    No one can secure the Gulf other than Iran and countries of the region, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, a deputy commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, said on Wednesday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. "Securing the Persian Gulf is the responsibility of Iran and the countries of the region," Fadavi said.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 08:14:38 -0400
  • More Rohingya families say they will not return to Myanmar

    Golocal247.com news

    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — A Bangladeshi refugee official says the heads of some 200 Rohingya families interviewed by officials from the U.N. refugee agency and the government have told them they will not go back to Myanmar unless their demands for citizenship and safety are ensured. Refugee official Khaled Hossain said Wednesday that they discussed the families' concerns and asked them why they don't want to go back. Myanmar has cleared 3,450 refugees from 1,056 families to start the repatriation from Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, where about 1 million Rohingya refugees are sheltered.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 07:56:18 -0400
  • US warns Greece not to give safe harbour to Iranian tanker

    Golocal247.com news

    The US has warned Greece that it risks facing American sanctions if it gives safe harbour to Iran’s Grace 1 oil tanker, in the latest standoff between the US and EU over the ship’s fate.  The Iranian oil tanker left Gibraltar over the weekend after a month in British detention and is now heading towards the Greek port of Kalamata.  "We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” said Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state.  The Grace 1, now renamed the Adrian Darya 1, has not officially confirmed it is heading to Greece and the Greek government said it was monitoring the situation. "The vessel is cruising at low speed and there is still no formal announcement that it will arrive at Kalamata. The Merchant Marine Ministry is monitoring the matter along with Greece's Foreign Ministry," a Greek Shipping Ministry spokesman said. If it does seek to dock at Kalamata, the Greek government will face a choice between turning it away and risking US sanctions. The US said it had conveyed its “strong position” to Athens.  The US government says the ship and its 2 million barrels of oil are being used to support Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which Washington considers a terrorist group. Mike Pompeo warned Greece not to accept the tanker Credit: JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images The Trump administration made a failed attempt to get Gibraltar to further detain the ship but the British territories said it had no legal grounds to do so and so let the tanker sail.  The EU has not designated the Guard as a terror group and EU states say they will only move against the ship if it attempts to carry its oil to Syria, which is under European sanctions.  Iran is unlikely to release the Stena Impero, a British-flagged tanker it seized in July, until it has reassurances that the Grace 1 is not in danger of interception by the US.  Iran initially indicated that the Stena Impero had been seized in retaliation for the Grace 1 but now claims that the ship violated maritime rules in the Persian Gulf.  Mohammad Rastad, Iran’s deputy transport minister, said a court in the southern port of Bandar Abbas would rule on the ship's fate but no court date has been announced.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 07:40:49 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Iran's Zarif warns U.S. that Tehran may also act "unpredictably"

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday Tehran may act "unpredictably" in response to the United States' "unpredictable" policies under U.S. President Donald Trump. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since President Trump’s administration last year quit an international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and began to ratchet up sanctions. President Trump cannot expect to be unpredictable and expect others to be predictable.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 07:18:33 -0400
  • UPDATE 2-Budge on Brexit, British PM Johnson to tell Merkel in Berlin

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that unless she agrees to change the Brexit deal, Britain will leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without one. More than three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, it is still unclear on what terms - or indeed whether - the bloc's second largest economy will leave the club it joined in 1973.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 07:12:43 -0400
  • Hong Kong’s Historic Protest Movement: Your Questions Answered

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Protests that began in Hong Kong in June over a bill that would allow extraditions to China have spawned near-daily events that have focused global attention on the city and its relationship with Beijing. The world watched as protesters clogged the airport, forcing authorities to cancel flights. The civil disobedience could affect U.S.-China trade-war negotiations, and many people—including White House officials—have wondered if China will mobilize its forces to gain control.The political paralysis and unrest has already taken a toll on the economy. And it has also left readers with many questions, from how this all started to how long it will last—and how it will end. Here are the top questions asked by readers through our WhatsApp service.Was there a trigger that really caused things to escalate?Yes. In February, Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government proposed legal changes to allow the transfer of criminal suspects between jurisdictions with which it lacks formal extradition agreements—including the mainland. Lawyers, activists and members of the city’s vaunted business community quickly expressed alarm and cautioned that it threatened both Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing and its status as a safe place for international firms.Authorities scaled the bill back but still aimed to push it through by the end of the legislative period in July. On June 9, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the city’s financial hub in opposition to the proposal, kicking off the movement.Are there other reasons people protest?Economic frustration is a big one: Hong Kong is one of the world’s most densely packed cities with some of the highest living costs anywhere, particularly when it comes to property. Since their inception, the protests have morphed into a wider anti-government movement with a list of demands that include Lam’s resignation, an independent inquiry into police violence while dispersing people and the release of demonstrators detained at rallies throughout the summer—dozens of whom face up to 10 years in prison on a colonial-era rioting charge. Some activists are also making a push for electoral reform, a subject that triggered the Occupy movement back in 2014. They want direct elections for the chief executive, who is currently selected by a group of political and business elites.Is Hong Kong’s time as a premier business hub over?The political crisis risks pushing Hong Kong deeper into an economic slowdown that had already been triggered by the U.S.-China trade war. Beyond GDP, the worry is that the conflict also damages Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe and reliable commercial hub. The city sells itself as a business-friendly environment and one of the world’s most open economies, so anything that challenges that narrative would be a setback. Still, Hong Kong has bounced back from past crises, such as the SARS scare or Asia financial crisis, and it remains an important source of capital for China.Will its currency get unpegged from the U.S. dollar? There are no indications that the pegged currency arrangement is set to change. The system that pegs the Hong Kong dollar to the greenback at a rate of about HK$7.80 has been in place since 1983, with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervening when the trading band is tested.Are money and people starting to move out?It’s not clear how much money is leaving Hong Kong, because any shift has yet to show up in official data. What we do know is that the real estate market is mixed. While office vacancy rates in central Hong Kong soared to a three-year high in July, demand for residential property is holding up. There’s no evidence of a mass exodus from the city at this point, but some citizens who have the means to leave are headed to neighboring Taiwan. Hong Kong’s large expatriate community could also see numbers decrease if people decide it’s become too unstable to do business.How do the protests stack up with others in Hong Kong’s history?The protests have drawn the largest crowds and worst violence in the city since it was returned from British rule in 1997. Police are using more tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue demonstrators compared with what was used during the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014, the last major bout of unrest to grip the city. Back then, officers fired 87 canisters of tear gas at protesters over 79 days. This time around, they’ve deployed more than 1,800 tear gas rounds from June 9 to Aug. 6, along with about 300 rubber bullets—some at close range. Demonstrators have also upped the ante, shutting down the city’s main airport.What are the demographics of the protests?They’ve largely been fueled by young people, including students on summer break from local universities and even high schools. But the makeup of any given demonstration depends on its nature. Initial peaceful mass marches called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a more moderate organizer, saw hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of Hong Kong life take to the streets: families, the elderly, children, students, professionals, even some expats. As the movement evolved, rallies became smaller and more frequent, and, in recent weeks, more violent. While people as young as 15 have been arrested, families, children and seniors tend to keep their distance.What are China’s options moving forward?Despite fears among some Hong Kongers that Chinese forces will be dispatched to restore order, a repeat of Beijing’s bloody crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago is unlikely. President Xi Jinping could, in theory, do away with Hong Kong’s autonomy and activate the thousands-strong People’s Liberation Army garrison in the city. But the fallout of such a move could be a lot higher than dealing with the political and economic repercussions of the protests. One major factor is his trade war with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has linked Hong Kong’s unrest to negotiations, as well as threats from American lawmakers to end the city’s special trading status.How might things end?With no end in sight to the movement, that depends on how much each side is willing to concede. Demonstrators have said they won’t stop until Lam has met their key demands, including:her resignation an independent inquiry into police tactics the release of detained protesters and the extradition bill’s formal withdrawal.China’s top agency overseeing Hong Kong rejected such an inquiry into the unrest in early August, even though it was one of the few protester demands supported by the city’s business leaders. Lam extended an olive branch on Aug. 20 by pledging to establish a platform for dialogue, investigate complaints against police and institute a wide-ranging fact-finding study into the summer’s events. But protests are still planned for the coming weeks.To contact the authors of this story: Karen Leigh in Hong Kong at kleigh4@bloomberg.netEnda Curran in Hong Kong at ecurran8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten KateLisa FleisherFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:47:06 -0400
  • North Korea: 5 Ways the U.S. Marines Would Crush Kim in a War

    Golocal247.com news

    The LAV-25’s combination of firepower and portability makes it dangerous foe for those opposing an amphibious invasion. The LAV-25 can arrive by sea or air, and once on location it can quickly roll out to perform armed reconnaissance missions. LAV-25s were recently upgraded to the standard which included LAV-25A2 included improved armor protection, improved suspension, a new fire suppression system, and a new thermal imaging system for the commander and gunner.In the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. and South Korean forces will root and and destroy the regime of Kim Jong-un. The need to properly secure the country’s weapons of mass destruction will necessitate an invasion of North Korea, much of which will come by sea. Leading the way will be the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Here are five USMC weapon systems necessary in Korean War II.(This first appeared back in 2017.)1 - Amphibious Assault Vehicle Any seaborne landing by the Marine infantry will involve Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs). First introduced in the early 1970s, AAVs carry up to twenty-one marine infantry and their equipment. Their amphibious nature means they can float out of the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship such as Wasp-class assault ships, swim to shore on their own power and disgorge troops on the beachhead. Alternately, it can use its tracks to transport infantry farther inland.Recommended: Could Iran Sink a U.S. Aircraft Carrier? AAVs are capable of traveling up to eight miles an hour in the water and up to forty-five miles an hour on land. They are lightly armed, typically carrying both a 40mm grenade launcher or .50 caliber machine gun. AAVs are lightly armored, at best capable of repelling 14.5mm machine gun fire or artillery shrapnel. This, combined with their large troop carrying capacity makes them vulnerable on the modern battlefield.Recommended: 5 Reasons No Nation Wants to Go to War with Israel2 - MV-22 OspreyModern amphibious assaults move marines as much by air as by sea. Aircraft can move faster and farther than AAVs and landing craft, even landing miles away from the nearest beachhead. This vastly increases the amount of terrain enemy forces must actively defend.Recommended: How North Korea Could Start the Unthinkable: War Between America and ChinaA MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, rotate its engine nacelles ninety degrees forward, and fly like a conventional aircraft. This gives it the best advantages of both types of aircraft, all the while carrying up to twenty-four combat-ready Marines, support weapons, supplies or vehicles. The Osprey has a top speed of 277 miles an hour, making it a third faster than helicopters in its weight class. It has range of up to 500 miles—or much more with midair refueling.In a North Korea scenario a marine air assault force led by MV-22s would land a force miles from the enemy beachhead, presenting the enemy commander with the dilemma of which landing to respond to. After a securing the beachhead MV-22s could lead the way, leapfrogging from one landing zone to another, the enemy not knowing if it intends to land five or five hundred miles away.3 - CH-53E Super StallionUntil an amphibious invasion force seizes an airfield or port, reinforcements and supplies will have to come in via helicopter. While the MV-22 Osprey can transport infantry, it’s limited in the size and weight of the cargo it can carry.The CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest helicopter in U.S. military service, is capable of carrying a sixteen-ton load, fifty-five marines or any combination thereof. The helicopter has a typical range of 500 miles, but heavy loads cut that down considerably. Fortunately it has a midair refueling probe, giving it almost unlimited range.The USMC uses Super Stallions to haul heavy equipment, particularly artillery and LAV-25 light armored vehicles from U.S. Navy ships at sea to a secure airhead. The helicopter is also used to move casualties off the battlefield to medical facilities on navy ships.4 - LAV-25The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25 is a eight-by-eight armored vehicle that mounts a 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon. The vehicle can carry up to four scouts to conduct armed reconnaissance missions. The LAV-25 is unique in being capable of landing by sea via LCAC hovercraft, under its own power via waterjet propulsion, or by CH-53 heavy lift helicopter. LAVs are assigned to USMC armored reconnaissance battalions and variants include antitank, command and control, mortar, logistics carrier and recovery versions.The LAV-25’s combination of firepower and portability makes it dangerous foe for those opposing an amphibious invasion. The LAV-25 can arrive by sea or air, and once on location it can quickly roll out to perform armed reconnaissance missions. LAV-25s were recently upgraded to the standard which included LAV-25A2 included improved armor protection, improved suspension, a new fire suppression system, and a new thermal imaging system for the commander and gunner.5 - High Mobility Armored Rocket System (HIMARS)The acquisition of the HIMARS rocket system in the mid-2000s gave marine artillery a big boost. HIMARS takes the proven 227mm rocket system from the U.S. Army’s tracked MLRS system and puts it on a five-ton truck, providing a firing platform for up to six rockets (or one jumbo-sized ATACMS rocket) at a time.HIMARS can be quickly moved ashore via Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and within minutes can carry out precision fire missions to ranges of up to forty-three miles. The Gimler, or Guided Multiple Launch System - Unitary (GMLS-U) GPS-guided rocket allows HIMARS to engage targets with first round precision. Recently, the marines experimented with chaining HIMARS trucks to the flight deck of amphibious assault ships, providing invasion troops with their own long range, extremely precise naval artillery support.Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:45:00 -0400
  • Russia’s Last Nuclear Mishap Shows Cover-Ups Are Becoming Harder

    (Bloomberg) -- The shroud of mystery surrounding Russia’s latest deadly nuclear accident will become increasingly difficult to maintain once the data starts to roll in.That’s the lesson of a team of scientists who showed last month -- days before the Aug. 8 explosion that killed five Russians -- that “a sizeable, yet undeclared nuclear accident” had occurred two years earlier in Russia, possibly from a nuclear-fuel facility once used to manufacture plutonium for weapons.In a report for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published July 26, the team reconstructed data to demonstrate why it’s becoming harder to suppress information about nuclear accidents. New radiation-detection networks, satellite constellations and even social-media streams all help to open novel pathways to pry into states’ most closely held secrets.“Here we see the powerful nature of an independent, science-based network,” said Georg Steinhauser, one of the report’s lead authors.Cold WarRadio-chemistry techniques used to reverse-engineer nuclear incidents are nothing new. During the Cold War they were the domain of intelligence programs that operated under code names like Dragon Return or Bluenose. They deployed global detection networks to sniff out and collect radioactive particles released by atomic tests in order to get restricted information out from behind the Iron Curtain.What’s changed since the demise of the Soviet Union is that new layers of highly-sensitive detection technologies have been added to global monitoring networks and that much of the data being generated is available to researchers, according to Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.“We live in an era of data ubiquity,” said Lewis, who routinely uses satellite imagery and models once only available to intelligence services. “Researchers can use different streams to confirm each other and build a surprisingly comprehensive picture based on public information.”One of the most powerful detection networks available is run by the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization. The Vienna-based body operates a $1 billion international array of some 320 stations spread around the globe, which monitor the air, land and sea for signs of nuclear explosions. CTBTO data was instrumental in both the National Academy of Science report about the 2017 Russian incident, as well as this month’s accident 1300 kilometers (800 miles) north of Moscow.Russia has provided little information about this month’s blast involving a failed missile test, which killed five atomic scientists and was followed by reports of a brief spike in local radiation levels. President Vladimir Putin’s chief spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed a simulation tweeted by the CTBTO chief showing how the nuclear particles would have moved across Russia, telling reporters this week that “a map of how a radioactive plume could spread after the accident -- the wording itself is quite absurd.”Chernobyl DeceptionToday’s network of radiation-detection monitors are largely as a result of Russian deception following the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl, according to Steinhauser. European researchers responded by setting up an independent network they call the Ring of Five that “will always remain online and ready,” he said.The National Academy of Sciences report used data compiled by the CTBTO and European regulators to trace the origins of a 2017 plume of radioactive material that spread across Eurasia. While the cloud of Ruthenium-106, a rare stable isotope used in some medical procedures, didn’t threaten public health outside Russia, its source remained a mystery until Steinhauser and his team concluded it came from a Russia, most likely the Mayak nuclear complex.Rosatom, the state-owned nuclear company to which Mayak belongs, has denied any accident took place. Russia earlier suggested the Ruthenium spike could have been caused by an old satellite burning up on reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, a conclusion now definitively rejected by the scientists who authored the report.Skyfall Accident“While the general public may certainly benefit from as much openness and transparency as possible about incidents involving radioactive material and especially radioactive releases, each state finds its own way to balance that openness against its national security considerations,” wrote Vitaly Fedchenko of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.That point was underscored this week when four CTBTO monitoring stations in Russia fell offline and stopped transmitting radiation data to researchers about the so-called Skyfall accident, which people including U.S. President Donald Trump believe to involve testing of a new missile system. But cutting the lines to one system won’t necessarily disrupt researchers from eventually getting to the bottom of the event.“Taking a few stations offline didn’t stop four stations in other countries from detecting the explosion,” wrote Lewis, the Monterey, California-based researcher. “There is also social media information, which forced the authorities to acknowledge the dead nuclear scientists, as well commercial satellite data.”To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, Alan Crawford, Gregory L. WhiteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:42:26 -0400
  • German finmin: Brexit deal will not be changed

    German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday that Britain should not expect changes to the existing Brexit deal, adding that the situation had not changed with the change of government in Britain. "We have prepared a treaty and nobody should expect any of its provisions to be changed," Scholz told a news conference. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin later on Wednesday and tell her that unless she agrees to change the Brexit deal, Britain will leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without a deal.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:35:39 -0400
  • Germany seeks more active role in Arctic amid climate change

    Golocal247.com news

    Germany says it plans to take a more active role in Arctic affairs, citing the far north's growing ecological, political and economic significance as a result of climate change. Cabinet passed a resolution Wednesday declaring its intention to send German experts to advise the Arctic Council. It also plans to campaign for an expansion of environmental protection areas in the Arctic and explore the potential that the increasingly ice-free Northwest and Northern Passages have for shipping during the summer.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:35:34 -0400
  • Stealth Is Overrated: This Plane Might be The Most Important to the U.S. Navy

    Golocal247.com news

    If Beijing wanted to, it could probably develop a carrier-based equivalent to the J-16D. The J-15 Flying Shark fighters on China’s two Type 001 carriers also share common heritage in the Flanker family of aircraft, and pursuing a similar upgrade of the two-seat J-15SD seems plausible. However, one limitation would be the lower payload that the J-15s can carry, due to the maximum takeoff weight limitations imposed by the Chinese carriers’ ski-jump-style decks. In any case, it is not even clear to what extent the J-16D will be adopted.The United States Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic attack fighters are one of a small number of military aircraft types dedicated to the task of jamming—and potentially destroying—hostile radars that could guide deadly surface-to-air missiles against friendly aircraft. This mission is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). Basically, if a modern air force wants to attack an adversary with significant antiaircraft defenses, it needs an effective SEAD game to avoid insupportable losses.(This first appeared several months ago.)The Growler is derived from the F-18 Super Hornet fighter, and is faster, more maneuverable, and more heavily armed than preceding aerial jamming platforms based on transport and attack planes. This allows the Growlers to contribute additional firepower to strike missions, keep up with fighter planes they are escorting, and potentially approach a bit closer to hostile air defenses.China’s aviation engineers have never been too proud to copy a good idea from abroad, usually modified with “Chinese characteristics.” Perhaps it is not surprising that they appear to have devised a Growler of their own.Recommended: How Israel Takes U.S. Weapons and Makes Them Better.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes. Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.The aircraft in question is a variant of the two-seat J-16 Red Eagle strike plane—itself a Chinese copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKK Flanker. The two-seat Red Eagle is roughly comparable to the American F-15E, and improves upon the Russian original with new avionics including an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar (AESA), the current state of the art in fighter-based radar technology. While China has had major problems developing reliable high-performance jet engines, it’s more successful at producing advanced electronics, perhaps due to crossover with its civilian electronic sector.The J-16D variant—the “D” in the designation comes from the Chinese word for “electronic,” diànzǐ—made its first flight on December 18, 2015. Photos were released to the public three days later. Let’s go over the admittedly short list of what the photo tells us.The J-16D has had its thirty-millimeter cannon and infrared sensor removed; this is not a plane intended to get into short-range dogfights! Instead, there are several new antennas and conformal electronic-warfare arrays along the fuselage. The J-16D’s nose radome is reshaped, possibly to accommodate a more advanced AESA radar. Most importantly, new electronic-warfare pods are mounted on the wingtips that resemble the American ALQ-218 electronic support measure pods on the wingtips of the EA-18G Growler. These are electromagnetic sensors that can analyze radar frequencies and help determine the position of radar-transmitting devices—data that would be highly useful both for jamming radars and for targeting them for destruction.That’s all that’s known for sure—the PLAAF, after all, is not in the habit of giving detailed briefings about its latest fighters. Let’s move on now to the realm of plausible speculation.If the J-16D’s airframe has integrated hardware to make jamming and anti-radar missiles more effective, it probably is designed to use jammers and anti-radar missiles. Most likely, it would carry two to three jamming pods the under the wings and fuselage, each optimized versus different radar frequencies. It is thought that these jammers may also use AESA technology.Even with a maximum load of electronic-warfare gear, the J-16 would have six of its twelve hardpoints free to carry weapons. China has three different types of anti-radiation missiles (ARM), which are designed to home in on enemy radars from afar. The CM-103 missile has a range of sixty-two miles and is probably accurate enough to hit naval and ground targets with its 176-pound warhead. China also has a indigenously developed copy of the Russian Kh-31P missile, known as the YJ-91, which has slightly longer range and also has antiship applications. Finally, there is an LD-10 ARM missile derived from the PL-12 antiaircraft missile. Of course, the J-16D could carry most of the other armaments that the basic Red Eagle fighter can carry on its underwing hardpoints.China already flies another fighter bomber with electronic warfare capabilities, the domestically designed two-seat JH-7 Flying Leopard, around 240 of which serve in the PLA Air Force and Naval Air Force. Capable of long-range operations and maximum speed of Mach 1.75, the Flying Leopard can carry about twenty thousand pounds of munitions, including anti-radar missiles. Both the base JH-7 and upgraded JH-7A have been photographed with jamming pods, which boast multiple jamming transmitters. However, the Flying Leopard lacks electronic warfare equipment integrated in the airframe, and is thus more limited as an electronic-warfare platform than a purpose-designed aircraft.China also maintains a modest fleet of larger, slower aircraft that can provide jamming support at standoff range. These include a couple dozen Y-8GX and Y-9GX transports equipped with tactical jammers and other electronic-warfare gear, and HD-6 electronic-warfare planes based on the H-6 bomber. New Xianglong “Soaring Dragon” drones may also have application as tactical jammers.If Beijing wanted to, it could probably develop a carrier-based equivalent to the J-16D. The J-15 Flying Shark fighters on China’s two Type 001 carriers also share common heritage in the Flanker family of aircraft, and pursuing a similar upgrade of the two-seat J-15SD seems plausible. However, one limitation would be the lower payload that the J-15s can carry, due to the maximum takeoff weight limitations imposed by the Chinese carriers’ ski-jump-style decks. In any case, it is not even clear to what extent the J-16D will be adopted.After all, China is more famous for how its own missile systems serve in its antiaccess/area-denial strategy. Where might China actually confront enemy air defenses? Of course SEAD aircraft would have application in a conflict with Taiwan or, more unlikely, Japan. However, the electronic-warfare aircraft may be most oriented at countering U.S. Navy surface warships, which bristle with SM-2, SM-6 and Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles for shooting down both hostile aircraft and antiship missiles. These are especially potent when their firepower and sensors are coordinated by the Aegis combat system, which include vessels in the American, Japanese, South Korean and (soon) Australian navies.For example, this Chinese article argues that JH-7ss using a combination of YJ-91 anti-radar missiles and electronic warfare would pose a “nightmare” for Aegis-equipped ships. Of course, using radar jamming alone is not an automatic “win button” against air defenses. However, jamming does degrade their effective radar detection and targeting ranges, making a swarm of attacking missiles or aircraft more likely to overwhelm the defenses.Beijing is not interested in foreign wars at this time. However, it does seek to alter the military balance of power in the Pacific Ocean. Aircraft like the J-16D suggest the People’s Liberation Army is interested in developing specialized aircraft that will offer China a full spectrum of air-warfare capabilities—just like those of the U.S. military.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:24:00 -0400
  • G-7 Wonders Which Boris Johnson Will Show Up

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.With Boris Johnson you never know who you’re going to get.He can be the joker whose gaffes and flippant asides can deceive someone into not taking him seriously. But he’s also the man who, on becoming British prime minister, coldly dispatched enemies in the biggest cabinet purge in decades and who seems dead set on executing Brexit whatever the cost.The question of “which Johnson” matters: He debuts at the Group of Seven summit this weekend in France, where, as Alex Morales reports, he could tip the geopolitical scales on key issues from keeping alive Iran’s nuclear deal to containing China’s influence. He also stops off in Berlin and Paris en route to Biarritz.U.S. President Donald Trump has cut an isolated figure at G-7s to date, but that could be about to change. Johnson is his kind of guy, and persuading the U.K. to break ranks with Germany and France (with the promise of a great free-trade deal after Brexit) on things like Iran seems part of the Trumpian plan.It remains to be seen how Johnson will play this round, but the fact he is considering pushing a U.K. candidate to lead the International Monetary Fund despite a European contender already being put forward shows a willingness to defy allies close to home and cast aside convention.Global HeadlinesProtesting too much? | For a president who rebuffs forecasts that his trade war and slowing global growth risk a U.S. recession, Trump — with an eye on his re-election bid — is spending a lot of time outlining policies to avert a downturn. He said yesterday he’s open to a payroll tax cut or bypassing Congress by indexing levies on capital gains, an idea that Democratic front-runner Joe Biden quickly dismissed.Trump said Jews who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal after two congresswomen were blocked from entering Israel for supporting a boycott of the country over its treatment of Palestinians.Republican Susan Collins is caught in the cross-fire that’s defining U.S. politics, turning her from a shoo-in to one of the most vulnerable senators seeking re-election in 2020.Another detention | China confirmed it’s holding an employee of the U.K. consulate in Hong Kong, a move that’s fueling concerns about foreign diplomatic staff operating on the mainland. Simon Cheng was reported missing after he didn’t return from a meeting this month in the border city of Shenzhen. Tensions have risen between the U.K. and China after the British government defended the rights of protesters in its former colony.Read how the Hong Kong protests are entering a crucial phase before a key anniversary for China.About face | Qatar withdrew its signature from a letter supporting China’s human-rights record following international condemnation of Beijing over its detention of as many as two million ethnic Muslim Uighurs. Thirty-seven countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, signed the missive defending President Xi Jinping’s government in the face of a crackdown in the western province of Xinjiang.Continuing threat | Islamic State has been battered in Iraq and Syria and declared defeated by Trump. But as Glen Carey writes, its affiliates have proven they can still carry out deadly strikes, gain support and establish footholds from Sri Lanka to Nigeria.Catch-22 | Zimbabwe’s rulers are finding they can’t escape the trap they themselves set with two decades of economic mismanagement and repression. As Antony Sguazzin, Godfrey Marawanyika and Ray Ndlovu report, pursuing a democratic path to win international financial support for the southern African nation's economy could see voters oust them from power, while worsening hardship may spark a popular uprising.What to WatchItalian President Sergio Mattarella begins consultations with leaders of various parties to see if he can carve out a new majority, after the coalition government crumbled yesterday. Trump has agreed to drastically scale back plans to slash billions in foreign aid at Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s urging, Nick Wadhams and Jordan Fabian report. A rule that would let U.S. immigration agencies detain families longer while they await court proceedings is set to be unveiled today.And finally...Trump called off a state visit to Denmark (he’d been invited by the Queen), blaming Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s unwillingness to discuss the purchase of Greenland after he recently floated the idea of a “large real estate deal” to acquire the island from the Danes. He’d been due to visit Denmark — a NATO ally which supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq — in two weeks. “Deeply insulting,” thundered former premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Morten Ostergaard, leader of a party within the government bloc, tweeted that “reality has surpassed fantasy.” \--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Karen Leigh, Karl Maier and Alan Crawford.To contact the author of this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in London at fjackson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:10:47 -0400
  • Why Bitcoin May Have Doomed Facebook's Libra Cryptocurrency

    Golocal247.com news

    Unlike Bitcoin, Libra's blockchain will also be run by a corporate umbrella composed of payment processors, tech and telecommunication companies, venture capitalists, nonprofits and other cryptocurrency companies known as the "Libra Association." In June, Facebook made waves when it confirmed it was planning to launch its own cryptocurrency in 2020. Called Libra, the system will be connected to Facebook's massive user base, granting it the immediate potential of rivaling such established systems as Google Pay and PayPal. Indeed, Libra hopes to become the world's most widely adopted digital currency — sparking the kind of economic revolution that cryptocurrency has long promised, but has so far largely failed to deliver. Unlike other digital coins, however, Libra's main barrier to success won't be its technology, but its image.The privacy concerns associated with Facebook, along with the general skepticism associated with notoriously volatile cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are hardly relevant to Libra's platform and functionality. But that won't erase regulators' prejudices. Libra's ability to enamor and educate already highly skeptical and generally misinformed legislators around the world — and in particular, in the West — will mean the difference between joining the ranks of global currencies or sharing the same fate of other high-profile cryptocurrency busts that have come before it.Libra vs. Bitcoin: A False Analogy New cryptocurrencies are almost always compared to Bitcoin, the world's biggest and best-known cryptocurrency that launched in 2009. And Libra is no exception. Each coin, perhaps to both their detriment, will likely always be linked. In reality, however, Libra has an entirely different structure and thus requires different regulations. First, Libra will be an equity-backed asset. This paradigm is getting somewhat more popular in the cryptocurrency space, as evidenced by the growing number of coins backed by precious metals. By being backed by conventional goods, such coins — known commonly as "stablecoins" — minimize the volatility often seen in unbacked cryptocurrencies (which currently dominate the market).Unlike Bitcoin, Libra's blockchain will also be run by a corporate umbrella composed of payment processors, tech and telecommunication companies, venture capitalists, nonprofits and other cryptocurrency companies known as the "Libra Association." These companies will not only manage Libra but will also receive payouts upon the initial coin offering (ICO) and earn interest on its equity basket. But perhaps most importantly, the association will govern who can and cannot interact with Libra's blockchain — creating what's called a "permissioned" network.A centralized membership body lends tremendous credibility to Libra's ability to control who is using the currency and how within the present financial frameworks. Bitcoin's blockchain, by contrast, is considered "permissionless," which means there is no approval process to "mine" for the coin and manage its ledger. As a result, Bitcoin's public infrastructure is notoriously slow and inefficient because of the sheer number of people who are allowed to operate on its system at any given time, which increases the computational power needed to complete transactions. In essence, Libra is trading the conventional conception of cryptocurrencies for increased dependency, function and security, all of which on paper should create a far more accommodating regulatory environment.The Rocky Road to RegulationLibra has a strong interest in working with governing bodies, expressed both in its white papers and Facebook's decision to announce its currency without an actual product. Its success, hinges on ubiquitous acceptance. Ensuring that the proper systems are in place in key markets will thus be paramount to quickly secure the type of global traction needed upon its launch. While most punditry around the currency will be fixated on regulating privacy or its blockchain in general, Libra's exploitable points will be more standard financial measures. Simple regulations — namely, wallet or vendor restrictions, spending limits or international fees — could quickly sink the currency's hopes of joining and eventually disrupting the global economy.Europe: Widespread adoption in Europe will be critical to Libra's long-term success there. To become a viable currency, the coins need to mimic the euro in that they cannot be immediately rendered useless upon entering another country.Switzerland: Given their relatively small economic size and openness toward cryptocurrency, Switzerland is unlikely to restrict Libra's growth. The Libra Association will be headquartered in Geneva, which is fitting as Switzerland is one of the few countries that has passed coherent legislation for coin offerings. Under its current framework, Libra will most likely be regulated as both a payment token and a security token in Switzerland — placing it under the purview of the country's anti-money laundering and banking security requirements. Such regulations will not overly hamper Libra's use case and may, in fact, offer a regulatory blueprint for other countries. Thus, Switzerland will likely provide a welcome regulatory reprieve and home base in what is sure to be an otherwise tricky continent to navigate.The EU: The European Union will certainly be involved in the political aspect of Libra because of its interest in setting standards for the Continent's emerging tech regulations. That said, the bloc has yet to pass any specific cryptocurrency legislation. Supervisory authorities have issued joint warnings, but have taken little concerted action beyond money laundering directives. This is most likely the result of cryptocurrency's clumsy fit within EU regulations. Resting somewhere between a currency, a commodity and a derivative, cryptocurrencies could fall within the confines of monetary policy at the EU level, or as fiscal and economic policy on the national level. An EU-wide decision on cryptocurrency would also require the approval of the bloc's 28 member states — an unlikely proposition on a generally low priority subject.Germany: Specific regulation toward Libra is thus much more apt to occur on a state-by-state basis, which will likely make Germany the most important European market to win over. Home to Europe's largest economy, Germany wields tremendous influence in Brussels and often speaks on behalf of the entire European Union. But Berlin is also a staunch skeptic of U.S. tech companies — including Facebook — which may not bode well for Libra's adoption in the country and thus other EU members.The U.K.: The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of cryptocurrency-related technology, and was the earliest European adopter of PayPal's online payment system (which, at the time, was revolutionary in its own right). The government's relatively new cryptocurrency taskforce has named digital coins as a potentially disruptive field, but one still far too small to regulate. Until the U.K. cryptocurrency market grows to a size London deems worthy of oversight, the Financial Conduct Authority (the country's regulatory body) has been tasked with simply promoting general safety and prudence over cryptocurrencies, instead of imposing strict rules.Such a lax regulatory environment could make the United Kingdom Libra's biggest ally. However, the country's past three years of political crisis surrounding Brexit has largely diminished its trendsetting influence. Libra's success in the country would nonetheless be considered a victory. But London's adoption of the technology is less likely to prompt its neighbors to follow suit — making it much less strategically important market to secure for the coin's European longevity.Developing Countries: One of Libra's key use cases is providing a new and stable currency in under-banked areas of the world. Thus, while less influential in deciphering the global regulatory environment, developing countries will still be critical in securing the currency's long-term adoption.India: India currently has the highest proportion of Facebook users in the world. And indeed, securing high usage rates and normative backing in such a massive market could catapult Libra's proliferation elsewhere. But capturing the imagination of the hundreds of millions of Indian users needed to do so will be easier said than done. In addition to having some of the most active measures against illicit use of virtual currency, India's central bank has banned regulated banks from trading in cryptocurrency. On top of New Delhi's cryptocurrency-adverse regulatory environment, the country's limited tech infrastructure further limits its prospects as a launching ground for Libra. According to a 2017 World Bank survey, the vast majority (70 percent) of Indians still don't own smartphones — meaning only 30 percent of the country even has access to the mobile payment technology needed to use Libra. In other words, before Libra can revolutionize India's currency system, a similar revolution in mobile finance would need to take shape first.Brazil: When it comes to other emerging markets, Brazil is likely the next best bet for Libra's widespread adoption. Yet compared with New Delhi, the South American country offers roughly one billion fewer potential users.The United States: But while Libra is not explicitly billed for the Western world, it cannot exist without its approval. Like any other commodity, the coin stands no chance of survival if it can't be traded for dollars or euros. Given the mix of legislative weakness and cryptocurrency-animosity in emerging markets like Brazil and India, Libra's future will largely hinge on its ability to win over the West — and in particular, the United States.Although the European Union may be equally loud in terms of its political messaging around digital coins, the United States is far more equipped to deal with cryptocurrencies on a legal level. Washington is armed with arguably the world's most comprehensive regulatory framework, which revolves around the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC). But the overlap in authority among these three entities has led to more incoherence than coordination, evidenced by the fact that only one coin has so far jumped through all the hoops needed to register with the SEC.According to statements released by the legislative and executive branches, Libra actually satisfies the majority of U.S. concerns. Its consortium construction limits security and identification issues, while privacy will naturally be less of a concern within a blockchain than with Facebook's social media platform. Libra's ability to communicate these intricacies, however, will be its true test. The spate of controversies that have shrouded the social media company in recent years has tainted its reputation among Americans and U.S. legislators alike. Shortly after the Libra announcement, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown declared it "delusional" that users would trust Facebook with their money. It is thus reasonable to assume that this scrutiny over Libra's parent company — compounded by a general misunderstanding of its differences from Bitcoin — will create a hostile environment. And thanks to Facebook's entrance, the cryptocurrencies that have so far benefitted from the relative lack of oversight may also now face undue attention. Indeed, at this point, Libra may be just as likely to carry the cryptocurrency market as it is to destroy it.For Facebook’s Cryptocurrency, the Well May Already Be Poisoned is republished with the permission of Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm.Image: Reuters

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 06:06:00 -0400
  • German president: Reopening Brexit talks on backstop unlikely

    Germany's president said on Wednesday it was unlikely that negotiations over the so-called Irish backstop, a key point of discord between London and the European Union on Britain's exit from the bloc, would be reopened. Speaking hours ahead of a meeting in Berlin between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Angela Merkel, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that all possible alternatives for the backstop had already been discussed.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:51:06 -0400
  • Why Is China Thinking of Sending Its Mighty Warships to Patrol off the Coast of Iran?

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    Washington might similarly fear that China could use participation in Operation Sentinel to justify an expansion of its presence in the Persian Gulf region that could include securing basing rights there.China has become the latest country to voice interest in becoming involved in the proposed U.S. naval security plan for the Persian Gulf. On Aug. 6, Chinese Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Ni Jian said China is considering having its navy escort its commercial ships in the region, and that Beijing is also looking at the U.S. proposal for Gulf escorts. Ni hedged that China would only move in this direction in the event of a "very unsafe situation" in the Persian Gulf. If the Chinese decide to proceed, this would mark a significant step forward in China's military and naval presence in the region.Extending Its Maritime ReachChina has long wanted to extend its maritime reach. And its substantial naval forces would mesh well with the effort proposed by the United States dubbed Operation Sentinel that aims to ensure safe passage for commercial vessels through the Persian Gulf. In addition to having a large fleet, China has gained substantial experience in the past decade in escorting commercial maritime traffic, having dispatched more than 30 fleets since 2008 to the Gulf of Aden to guard against Somali pirates. Chinese involvement would significantly broaden the U.S.-led mission, which thus far counts only the United Kingdom as an official partner. It would also satisfy the oft-stated U.S. policy priority of getting other countries to do more to shoulder the global security burden.But whether the United States has actually asked, or would ever consider asking, Beijing to join Sentinel remains unclear. China is neither an ally nor a U.S. partner. Instead, Washington sees China, and in particular its navy, as its strongest potential adversary in the great power competition.First the Gulf of Aden, Now the Persian Gulf?Initial U.S. enthusiasm for China's Gulf of Aden escort missions has transitioned into wariness of the substantial experience the Chinese navy has gained through carrying out missions so far from China. The United States has also been alarmed at the way Beijing has used its Aden operations to justify securing its first overseas base in Djibouti in the strategic Horn of Africa, saying it needed it for logistics support. Washington might similarly fear that China could use participation in Operation Sentinel to justify an expansion of its presence in the Persian Gulf region that could include securing basing rights there.From the Chinese perspective, possible participation in the U.S-led coalition mission would represent a low-cost way to expand its overseas naval operations and make initial inroads into a region dominated by the U.S. security architecture. It is also an ideal means by which to deflect longtime accusations by Washington that Beijing enjoys the benefit of the U.S. security umbrella without bearing any of the burdens. Moreover, China has critical economic interests that participation in the multilateral maritime coalition would help safeguard. About 43 percent of China's total crude oil imports pass through the Persian Gulf, making it imperative for China that the vital sea lanes remain open — something Beijing has tried to accomplish via diplomacy, remaining a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (better known as the Iran nuclear deal).Even so, other considerations mean Beijing might well hold off from getting involved in Operation Sentinel. The first is the significant mistrust that currently exists between the United States and China given their trade war and escalating strategic rivalries; Ni's suggestion represents a rare glimmer of potential Chinese-U.S. cooperation that China could highlight during trade talks. The second is Chinese fears of involvement in a military operation that could result in clashes with Iran, one of its major suppliers of oil. For even if participation in Sentinel gave China some sway over the operation's trajectory, it would still have only a limited power to stop an open conflict between Iran and the United States.For these reasons, China would much prefer involvement in a regional escort operation not led by the United States. To this end, Beijing recently backed a Russian-proposed collective security arrangement for the Persian Gulf, though the lack of significant European backing for the Russian proposal means it is unlikely to gain much traction. So if tensions continue to escalate in the Persian Gulf, Beijing may find it has no choice but to join Operation Sentinel if the United States agrees, or perhaps launch its own escort effort in coordination with other outside players and perhaps even with Tehran. China's growing economic interests and its desire to enhance its capability to secure these interests mean the benefits of greater security involvement in the volatile Middle East outweigh the risks.China May Set Its Navy on Course for the Persian Gulf is republished with the permission of Stratfor Worldview, a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm.Image: Reuters

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:49:00 -0400
  • Arms Race Redux! A U.S. Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Test Shows Russia Was Right to Worry

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    Scott HoweThe U.S. military has test-fired a new kind of nuclear-capable cruise missile. A weapon that, just 16 days earlier, was banned from the American and Russian arsenals under a 1987 treaty.The successful test on Sunday of an intermediate-range, ground-launched Tomahawk cruise missile reintroduces a previously defunct type of atomic weapon, effectively reversing 32 years of successful arms-control. It also appears to confirm Russia’s fears about American intentions as Washington and Moscow backslide into Cold War-style mutual mistrust. A Missile Explosion, a Radiation Spike, and Kremlin Secrecy Bring Back Memories of ChernobylThe Pentagon tried to portray the Sunday launch in California as just a boring trial. “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform [the Defense Department’s] development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the military stated. But to Russia, the trial launch was a huge insult. It was what Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, called the “arms-control equivalent of a ‘Murica gif,’” a jingoistic internet meme featuring, say, a bald eagle firing a machine gun. And it’s likely to raise further the already elevated risk of nuclear war.The test-firing involved a ground-launched version of the Tomahawk cruise missile, for decades a staple of the Pentagon’s high-tech arsenal. Most Tomahawks are non-nuclear, however. The military dismantled the ground-launched, nuclear models back in 1991 in order to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty that U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev negotiated in the mid-1980s and President Donald Trump finally ditched this month.The INF treaty banned from Europe all nuclear-tipped missile with ranges between 310 and 3,400 miles. The U.S. and Soviet governments considered these small, quick-striking missiles —1,500 on the Soviet side and 400 on the American side in 1987— particularly destabilizing and more likely than larger, farther-flying and slower-reacting rockets to trigger atomic Armageddon.But a few years ago the INF began to fray. In 2011, the Obama administration warned that new, intermediate-range nuclear-armed cruise missiles—under development in Russia since 2008—could violate the terms of the treaty. In mid-2013 the U.S. State Department first raised the issue with the Kremlin. Later the same year, the White House formally announced that Russia was in violation of the accord.U.S. moves helped to accelerate Russian developments. In 2015 the Pentagon began installing so-called “Aegis Ashore” missile defenses in Romania and Poland. The non-nuclear SM-3 missile-interceptors are designed to hit ballistic missiles launched by Iran at the United States.But many Russians believed the United States planned to secretly add nuclear weapons to the European missile-defense sites, all in violation of the INF treaty and as preparation for an atomic sneak-attack on the motherland. Robert Gates, defense secretary under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, had warned about that dangerous perception as far back as 2009.The Russians’ belief wasn’t unfounded. The SM-3 sites in Romania and Poland feature land-based versions of the U.S. Navy’s Mk. 41 vertical-launch system, a kind of generic metal box that can launch almost kind of missile that physically can fit inside it. Navy ships fire non-nuclear Tomahawks from Mk. 41 launchers. It always has been entirely possible for the Pentagon to equip the European sites with nuclear-tipped Tomahawks. And the Russians always have known it. “Although it was never U.S. intent to slip intermediate-range nukes through the back door of Aegis Ashore, the Russians were justifiably concerned,” Bruce Blair, a Princeton University nuclear expert, told The Daily Beast.Russia responded to this apparent threat by developing a new, treaty-busting nuclear system of its own -- the SS-C-8 cruise missile. Moscow deployed the first battery of operational SS-C-8s to its western frontier in 2017, U.S. officials claimed. A little over a year later, the Trump administration announced its intention to withdraw from the INF. “The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” the State Department stated at the time. The Trump administration completed the withdrawal process on Aug. 2. The State Department told The Daily Beast it was not yet prepared to comment further.But from the Russian point of view, it was the United States that first violated INF when, in the final years of President George W. Bush’s administration, it began the process of installing Mk. 41 launchers in Eastern Europe. “The recent Tomahawk test only bolsters their argument,” Blair said of the Russians.It’s unfair solely to blame hawkish Republican presidents for bending INF, backing the Russians into a nuclear-arms corner and then canceling a treaty that both countries seemed determined to undermine. Obama’s administration also embraced Aegis Ashore and its provocative launchers. “Obama had to know, or should have known, that the decision was a violation of the terms of the INF treaty,” Ted Postol, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Daily Beast. “Either the president wasn’t informed, or his advisors were either brain-dead or complicit in making a very bad decision.” “It would be interesting to hear what Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have to say about this matter,” Postol added.In fairness to successive U.S. administrations, Postol said Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland would make poor nuclear-launch sites, as their fixed locations and proximity to Russia make them vulnerable to Russian attack. Spies, Lies, and Radioactivity: Russia’s Nuke Missile Mishap, DecodedBut the potential foolishness of arming the sites with nukes doesn’t necessarily diminish how dangerous they seem from the Russian perspective. Sunday’s missile test adds insult to injury, seemingly making a mockery of years of American claims that it was Russia alone that wanted to roll back decades of successful arms-control.The whole world could pay the price for America’s nuclear negligence and Russia’s acute sensitivity to even the theoretical possibility of U.S. nukes on its European border. Thanks to a decade of missteps and mutual mistrust, quick-striking nukes are back, in a big way. “No matter how one looks at this situation,” Postol said, “it makes no sense and must be considered a strategic blunder that has substantively increased the chances of an accidental nuclear war.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:46:14 -0400
  • By Pushing Out Filthy Rich Vladimir Plahotniuc, Moldova Takes the Lead in Ending the Era of the Oligarchs

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Vadim Denisov/GettyCHISINAU, Moldova—Vladimir Plahotniuc was the richest man in Europe's poorest country. Before he fled, allegedly to the United States, his tentacles seemed to be everywhere. He ran a political party, a bank, a scrap metal business and was inclined, his critics say, to post sex tapes of his opponents on the internet. American diplomats had cultivated Plahotniuc as a force to stand up against Russia, but law enforcement also accused him of laundering money for Russians. Whatever the facts of the matter, to millions of Moldovans he embodied the power of the wealthy and corrupt capitalist class—the oligarchs—and seemed like he would keep his grip on their country forever, until suddenly it slipped.As Elections Approach, Moldova’s President Tries to Prove He’s Putin’s Mini-Me No MoreA big smile illuminates the face of Moldova’s new prime minister, Maia Sandu, when she speaks about her government’s plans to cleanse the country of oligarchs, investigate their shadowy schemes and find billions of dollars of stolen or laundered here.“People want Plahotniuc to pay for all the abuses and crimes he has committed,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast. “Our people want him in prison and of course the court will decide for how many years.”Nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, extraordinarily wealthy insider businessmen hold sway in many former Soviet republics. But popular outrage against them has swelled, in a trend of so-called “de-oligarchization.”Thousands of protesters in Tbilisi, Georgia,  marched recently to the residence of the shadowy oligarch Bedzina Ivanishvili demanding anti-corruption actions from the man known as Georgia’s unofficial leader.Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky and his Servant of the People party declared new rules for Ukraine’s most powerful billionaires: “If there is a crime, we will imprison,” Zelensky said in a press conference for TV channels last month. “We won’t allow them to be monopolists.”In Russia, President Vladimir Putin replaced an earlier generation of oligarchs with his cronies, and they have been in power now for decades. But a vibrant anti-government protest movement is growing bigger, in spite of brutal police beatings and thousands of detentions. But Moldova, so little noticed and yet so strategically placed at the core of Eastern Europe, offers one of the most dramatic and perhaps instructive examples of change.And what’s especially interesting is the confused, or at least confusing, role of the United States, where the Trump administration and other powerful Republican politicians, notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have a conspicuous weakness for a certain oligarch.In the case of Plahotniuc, he escaped Moldova by a private jet on June 14, a few hours after U.S. Ambassador Dereck J. Hogan visited the office of his Democratic Party. According to reports in the local press, the 57-year-old oligarch has at least three citizenships—Moldovan, Russian and Romanian—and might be traveling anywhere in the world. Sandu, the prime minister, said she believes he is in Miami. The Daily Beast could not confirm his whereabouts independently.A shift in political alliances forced him out. Sandu told The Daily Beast that her “intuition” pushed her to make a coalition with Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. Surprisingly, American, European and Russian diplomats wound up supporting the coalition and the new government. This appears to have been diplomacy practiced far below Trump’s radar, and it had a certain inescapable logic. Professionals in Washington, Moscow and Brussels, regardless their competition for sway in the region, realized that if Plahotniuc and his Democratic Party stayed in power, Moldova risked becoming a failed state.Sandu said that the United States, though it had aligned with Plahotniuc before, might be willing to give him up now. “The United States have expressed their willingness to issue the extradition, as soon as there is an official request from our prosecution," she said.Plahotniuc’s ally Ilan Shor and at least three more members of his Democratic Party also hopped on their jets and escaped Moldova, Sandu said.  Moldovan police reported on Sunday that Plahotniuc’s close friends businessman Yuriy Lunkashu had shot himself without leaving any suicide note.Before Plahotniuc's escape, he and his allies controlled Moldova’s media, law enforcement agencies, business and government institutions for more than a decade. “Earlier this year we managed to get ahold of an official order for surveillance on me and my colleagues,” Vladimir Solovyev, the founder of Moldova’s online publication Newsmaker, told The Daily Beast.Journalists complained of Plahotniuc’s secret agents spying on their private lives, shooting videos with hidden cameras to try to discredit them and locking opponents in jail. “State companies financed his business empire, he tried to create a gray zone out of Moldova, while our banks channeled laundered billions coming from Russia to many countries around the world,” Sandu said. “Plahotniuc took businesses from people, persecuted critics, put several men in prison.”Sandu, a 47 year old Harvard educated economist, looked casual and youthful in her pants and sneakers as she quickly walked into the government building in downtown of Chisinau last Sunday. She’s a petite woman often underestimated, to their regret, by many rich and powerful men. Sandu has the spirit of a revolutionary reformer. She says she is convinced that one day Moldova can be a healthy and wealthy European state. “But before that we need to track down the stolen billions, recover at least some of the disappeared money and put in prison the guilty ones,” she said.“Every day we are astonished to discover new cases of corruption involving Plahotniuc in banking, scrap metal, media and communication sectors, criminal schemes for billions of dollars, involving several countries,” Sandu said.The money laundering schemes amounting to more than $15 billion dollars involved Russia and several European countries. Moldova’s entire GDP is only about $8.1 billion.Russia has opened three criminal cases against Plahotniuc including one for drug trafficking. In 2017 Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism began to investigate the oligarch, too. “Currently this multi-billion theft is too huge for us to investigate on our own,“ PM Sandu told The Daily Beast. “We need help from the international community and it is encouraging that at least one Western country indicates readiness to investigate the assets of our corrupt politicians.”Could a Billion-Dollar Heist Bring Down a European Government?Yet Sandu said she had to keep the name of that country secret for the benefit of the investigation. “We know exactly where the corrupt assets are,” she added.The revolt against Plahotniuc started four years ago, when nearly $1 billion disappeared from three Moldovan banks, causing an economic and banking crisis. Shadowy schemes flourished. Just last year Moldova started selling dozens of Moldovan passports, which could allow any crook to travel to Europe without a visa.The U.S. supported Plahotniuc, at least until recently. Back in 2016 Victoria Nuland, the Assistant Secretary of State responsible for Eastern Europe, received Plahotniuc in Washington. “Continue at the current pace, and we will support you,” Nuland told Plahotniuc, who at the time did not hold any political post but still controlled Moldova from the shadows. Plahotniuc and his allies deny all the allegations. “Vladimir Plahotniuc will come back, when people call for him and not just the Democratic Party. I don’t doubt that people will call for him,” parliament member Vladimir Chebotar told journalists on Thursday.So far no Plahotniuc supporters are seen on the streets of Moldova’s capital. There are plenty of witnesses willing to speak in court against him, however. One of them, former member of parliament Kirill Luchinsky, said that he was a victim of Plohotniuc’s after turning down a huge bribe. “People coming from Plahotniuc offered me $2.5 million dollars in cash, an immense sum of money for Moldova, as a bribe for quitting the Liberal Democrat party—in other words for loyalty,” Luchinsky told The Daily Beast on Thursday. “Plahotniuc should be on trial for usurpation of power; the entire people of Moldova will act as witnesses.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:42:16 -0400
  • German cabinet agrees to end reunification tax for most taxpayers

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government agreed on Wednesday to exempt most taxpayers from the solidarity tax that was introduced after the county's reunification. Under a draft law drawn up by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, some 90% of taxpayers will from 2021 no longer be subject to the 5.5% levy, which has been added to income tax. The amount payable will be reduced for a further 6.5% of taxpayers.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:33:21 -0400
  • Germany Moves to Cut Reunification Tax for All But the Wealthy

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday agreed to abolish a tax that was used to help finance reunification for all but the very wealthy.From 2021, the so-called “Solidarity Surcharge” will be eliminated for 90% of those currently paying it and another 6.5% will receive partial relief, the finance ministry said in a statement. As a result, expected revenue will decline by 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in 2021, rising to an annual 12 billion euros by 2024, the ministry added."Today is an important day in the process of completing German reunification.” - German Finance Minister Olaf ScholzThe move, which needs parliamentary approval, is a victory for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who stood firm against demands from some in Merkel’s Christian Democratic party to abolish the tax completely. It also comes just a few months before November’s 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.Scholz said it’s fair for high-income groups to continue paying and that the decision would withstand any potential legal challenges. Germany still has to finance some unfinished work linked to reunification, he added.Scholz is due to formally announce his candidacy to become co-head of his Social Democratic party, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, later on Wednesday. The cabinet accord also coincides with preparations in the government for a fiscal stimulus package in case the economy heads into a deep recession.The tax phaseout is a small boost for the economy but already priced into growth forecasts, Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said when Scholz detailed the plan last week.To contact the reporter on this story: Raymond Colitt in Berlin at rcolitt@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Iain Rogers, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 05:23:47 -0400
  • As warm welcome chills, Turkey clamps down on Syrians

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    Mustafa, a 21-year-old Syrian in Turkey, was at the shoe factory in Istanbul where he worked making army boots when three policemen stormed in, asking if everyone had their papers. Within a day, Mustafa and a busload of other refugees would be driven to Turkey's southern border and forced to go back to their war-torn country. "They told us things like, 'Don't come back to Turkey' and 'Go liberate your country'.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 04:57:12 -0400
  • US 'prepared to engage' with N. Korea in nuclear talks: envoy

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    The United States is ready to sit down with North Korea to resume long-awaited working-level nuclear talks, a US envoy said Wednesday. Nuclear discussions between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since a second summit in Hanoi in February ended without an agreement over differences on the extent of denuclearisation and sanctions relief in return. "We are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea," said Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, after his meeting with South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon in Seoul.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 04:05:09 -0400
  • Yemen Vows to Confront U.A.E.-Backed 'Coup' as Infighting Rages

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    (Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s government vowed to confront a “coup” attempt by separatist forces it said were backed by the United Arab Emirates, in a sign that a conflict casting a shadow over a crucial alliance between the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia is set to escalate.The internationally-backed government, meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said it will use “all means” to restore order and blamed the U.A.E. for “the armed rebellion by the so-called Southern Transitional Council,” which backs the division of Yemen. The U.A.E. denied the charge.Clashes between STC forces and government troops spread to other parts of southern Yemen on Tuesday despite Saudi efforts to halt the conflict and refocus efforts on battling Iranian-backed rebels in northern Yemen. The infighting is threatening to tear apart a country already reeling from one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.Martin Griffiths, the UN Yemen special envoy, told the Security Council on Tuesday that the fragmentation of Yemen “is becoming a stronger and more pressing threat” and that the peace process was more urgent than ever.“There is no time to lose,” Griffiths said. “The stakes are becoming too high for the future of Yemen, the Yemeni people and indeed the wider region.”The conflict is also raising questions over whether an alliance between Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. will remain intact. The two countries are a linchpin in U.S. efforts to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East.The Yemeni government called on Saudi Arabia to back its efforts to end the rebellion. A delegation from the Yemeni separatists traveled to Jeddah on Tuesday for talks with the internationally-recognized administration of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Nizar Haitham, the STC spokesman, said in a phone interview.Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. entered the Yemen war in 2015 to restore an allied government ousted by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who come from Yemen’s north. The push by the southern separatists threatens the Hadi government.In a statement to the United Nations Security Council, the Yemeni government said the attacks wouldn’t have occurred “without the full backing” of the U.A.E. In response, the deputy UN permanent representative of the Gulf state denied his government’s involvement and said it would do its best to help de-escalate the conflict, Sky News Arabia reported. Fighting erupted between forces controlled by the STC and the administration of Hadi in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in Yemen’s south, and nearby, local media and residents said, with the separatists seizing a military camp. It followed intense clashes this month in the port city of Aden, where the Hadi government is based.“I hope that all Yemeni stakeholders, from all parts of the country, take events in Aden as a clear sign that the current conflict must be brought to an end – swiftly and peacefully, and in a manner, which addresses the needs of Yemenis across the country,” Griffiths said during a video address from Amman, Jordan.Earlier, he said on Twitter that he condemned “the unacceptable efforts by the Southern Transitional Council to take control of state institutions.”(Updates with U.A.E. reponse in third and 11th paragraphs.)To contact the reporters on this story: Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at mhatem1@bloomberg.net;Glen Carey in Washington at gcarey8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Alaa ShahineFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:59:16 -0400
  • Turkey extends deadline for unregistered Syrians in Istanbul

    A top Turkish official says Turkey has extended by two months a deadline for unregistered Syrian refugees in Istanbul to leave the city. Istanbul insists it cannot accept any more Syrian refugees and demands they return to other areas of Turkey where they were initially registered — or face deportation. The city, Turkey's most populous, already hosts the largest number of registered Syrians, nearly 548,000, out of 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have found a home in Turkey.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:58:48 -0400
  • British PM Johnson urges Merkel to budge on Brexit

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday that unless she agrees to change the Brexit deal, Britain will leave the European Union on Oct. 31 without a deal. More than three years after the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, it is still unclear on what terms - or indeed whether - the bloc's second largest economy will leave the club it joined in 1973. Johnson, a Brexiteer who won the premiership a month ago, is betting that the threat of 'no-deal' Brexit turmoil will convince Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that the EU should do a last-minute divorce deal to suit his demands.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:36:45 -0400
  • Johnson, Merkel to face off in first Brexit talks

    Golocal247.com news

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Berlin on Wednesday to kick off a marathon of tense talks with key European and international leaders as the threat of a chaotic no-deal Brexit looms. On his first foreign visit since taking office, he will seek to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and on Thursday French President Emmanuel Macron, to renegotiate elements of the UK's impending divorce from the European Union -- something the EU leaders have already ruled out. Then, at the weekend, all three will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of Brexit and its champion Johnson, and the leaders of Canada, Italy and Japan at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:17:28 -0400
  • This Picture Means an Aircraft Carrier Just Went to the 'Bottom' (In a Simulation)

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    The public may not fully appreciate submarines’ lopsided combat advantage, but the world’s leading navies sure do. Today Chinese, Russian and American submarines, among others, are busy sneaking up on, tracking and practicing sinking rival fleets’ flattops.A photo depicting an American nuclear-powered submarine poking its periscope above the waves—within shooting distance of a British aircraft carrier during a war game—is a useful reminder of one of the most important truths of naval warfare.(This first appeared in 2016.)For every sailor who’s not in a submarine, submarines are real scary.Stealthy and heavily-armed, subs are by far the most powerful naval vessels in the world for full-scale warfare—and arguably the best way to sink those more obvious icons of naval power, aircraft carriers.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes.Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.Recommended: The World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program.The public may not fully appreciate submarines’ lopsided combat advantage, but the world’s leading navies sure do. Today Chinese, Russian and American submarines, among others, are busy sneaking up on, tracking and practicing sinking rival fleets’ flattops.The provocative photo, see here, depicts the masts of the U.S. Navy attack submarine USS Dallas near the carrier HMS Illustrious during a naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman on Oct. 3, 2013. Six warships including Dallas and Illustrious conducted an anti-submarine-warfare exercise that saw Dallas stalking Illustrious while British and American surface warships and helicopters attempted to locate and “sink” the undersea vessel.Neither navy has published the results of the exercise, so it’s not clear whether Dallas got close enough in the course of the war game to simulate firing Mark-48 torpedoes at the flattop, which at 22,000 tons displacement is one of the largest ships in Royal Navy service.But there are good reasons to assume the 7,000-ton Dallas did succeed in pretend-sinking Illustrious. In 2007 HMCS Corner Brook, a diesel-electric submarine of the Canadian navy, sneaked up on Illustrious during an exercise in the Atlantic.To prove they could have sunk the carrier, Corner Brook’s crew snapped a photo through the periscope—and the Canadian navy helpfully published it.“The picture represents hard evidence that the submarine was well within attack parameters and would have been successful in an attack,” boasted Cmdr. Luc Cassivi, commander of the Canadian submarine division.Corner Brook, a former British submarine displacing only 2,400 tons, is no more capable than Dallas—and probably much less so once crew training is taken into account. American submariners spend far more time at sea than their Canadian counterparts.Dallas and Corner Brook scored their simulated carrier kills against allied warships in the context of a scripted exercise. But many other close encounters between subs and flattops have occurred between rival nations deep at sea, in a usually bloodless duel that is nevertheless deadly serious.To prepare its submarines to hunt and sink American aircraft carriers in some future World War III, during the Cold War the Soviet navy ordered its hundreds of sub captains to get as close as possible to U.S. flattops … and stay there. The U.S. Navy routinely surrounds its multi-billion-dollar carriers with escorts including surface ships and submarines, but the defensive screen is not impenetrable.In 1974 a Soviet Il-38 patrol plane spotted what was later described as the carrier USS Nimitz and its escorts off the U.S. East Coast. The ship’s identity is in doubt, as in 1974 the brand-new Nimitz was in the water at a Virginia shipyard and still being worked on.Whichever carrier it was, Soviet commanders instructed an attack submarine to track the flattop and its escorts. “Three days we [followed] Nimitz [sic],” navigator Pavel Borodulkin told Tom Briggs, an American who visited Russia decades later.Borodulkin implied that the sub spent much of the time at a depth of 120 feet. As for being detected … “We did not worry,” Borodulkin said, explaining that American sonar was not optimized for detecting a target moving on the same course and speed as the vessel doing the searching.“Our stealth was high,” Borodulkin said. To prove his claims, the navigator gave Briggs the above blurry photo of a flattop, snapped through the Soviet sub’s periscope.That wasn’t the only NATO carrier the Soviets tailed. In 1984 a Victor-class Soviet submarine played cat and mouse with the flattop USS Kitty Hawk off the Korean Peninsula. The Americans lost track of the Victor and, in the dead of night, the 80,000-ton carrier actually collided with the 5,000-ton sub.“I felt the ship shudder violently and, going to the starboard side, I could see two periscopes and the upper part of a submarine moving away,” Kitty Hawk Capt. Dave Rogers told The Sydney Morning Herald. A Japanese patrol plane later spotted the apparently damaged Victor limping away at three knots.In November the same year Illustrious, then a young vessel, passed within 500 yards of a Soviet Tango-class submarine during a Royal Navy exercise off the Scottish coast, according to The Robesonian newspaper.When the Soviets introduced their own small aircraft carriers in the mid-1970s, British and American subs no doubt watched them as closely as Soviet undersea boats followed NATO flattops. But there were no public accounts of Western subs getting caught doing so until 2007, when a Russian newspaper reported that warships escorting the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the Atlantic pursued an unspecified submarine for half an hour.The snooping sub reportedly got away by deploying self-propelled decoys.After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, the Russian submarine force shrank considerably and, for a few years at least, was much less aggressive. The Russian carrier fleet declined to a single vessel, the Admiral Kuznetsov.American attention gradually shifted east to the Pacific, where in the early 2000s China had launched a massive naval rearmament program that included refurbishing a former Soviet carrier, a sister ship of the Admiral Kuznetsov that was renamed Liaoning in Chinese service.In addition to their new flattop, the Chinese built several new submarines per year on average, soon boasting a fleet of some 60 undersea boats—about as numerous as American subs.Not nearly as large, advanced or active as U.S. subs, the Chinese boats were at a huge disadvantage. Beijing’s subs struggled to gather intelligence and develop wartime tactics. They enjoyed at least one dramatic success in October 2006, when a Chinese Song-class diesel-electric attack submarine quietly surfaced within nine miles of Kitty Hawk in the waters between Japan and Taiwan.The Song-class vessel, displacing 2,200 tons, was close enough to hit the Kitty Hawk with a torpedo. None of the carrier’s roughly dozen escorting warships detected the Song until it breached the surface. American officers were flabbergasted.“This could well have escalated into something that was very unforeseen,” said Adm. Bill Fallon, then commander of U.S. Pacific forces.But it’s apparent that China is more scared of American submarines than the Americans are scared of Chinese boats. In 2012 Liaoning was finally ready to set sail from the Dalian shipyard. As Beijing’s only carrier facing a fleet of 10 American flattops, Liaoning was widely expected to stage from China’s most modern naval base on Hainan Island in the south, near Taiwan and Vietnam.Instead Beijing announced the 70,000-ton carrier would be heading north to Qingdao. The apparent reason was that the area around Qingdao was already home to a squadron of Song-class submarines plus Type 091 nuclear subs. Those vessels are the best defense China possesses against the American and Japanese subs that will undoubtedly hound Liaoning every time she leaves port, practicing to sink the carrier in the event of war.Doing, in other words, what submarines do best.This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:17:00 -0400
  • US says it's ready to resume nuclear talks with North Korea

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    The United States is ready to restart nuclear negotiations with North Korea, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday, a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries ended their regular drills that North Korea calls an invasion rehearsal. During the 10-day U.S.-South Korean training, largely computer-simulated war games, North Korea raised tensions with its own missile and other weapons tests.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 03:00:46 -0400
  • Trump says Russia should be allowed back in G7

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    Donald Trump has said Russia should be allowed to re-join the G7 group of advanced industrialised countries.Vladimir Putin‘s Russia was pushed out of the then-G8 in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 02:41:53 -0400
  • CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-UPDATE 1-Iranian news agency says tanker leased to shipping firms

    Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency said on Wednesday the Adrian Darya 1 tanker, which was released after being detained in Gibraltar, is currently leased to an Iranian shipping company. The United States has issued a warrant to seize the tanker on the grounds that it had links to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, which it designates as a terrorist organisation.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 02:24:27 -0400
  • The Image No Military Commander Wants to Think About: 1 Million North Korean Troops

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    Meanwhile, North Korea is also modernizing its armored forces—but the mechanized troops are not the main focus of the regime in Pyongyang. While analysts often focus on the so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s arsenal of ballistic missiles, the real threat emanating from the North comes in the form of heavy artillery and special operations forces, which could wreak havoc on the South. In the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang’s ground forces are the greatest threat to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the U.S. forces stationed there—short of nuclear weapons.Recommended: This Video Shows What Happens if Washington, D.C. Is Attacked with Nuclear WeaponsRecommended: 8 Million People Could Die in a War with North KoreaRecommended: Why North Korea Is Destined to Test More ICBMs and Nuclear Weapons“With 70% of the Ground Force positioned south of the Pyongyang-Wonsan line, North Korea is maintaining a military posture capable of conducting a surprise attack at any time,” reads the South Korean Ministry of National Defense 2014 defense white paper. “In particular, the 170 mm self-propelled guns and 240 mm MRLS [multiple launch rocket systems] in forward positions are capable of surprise, massive concentrated fire on the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area (GSMA). The 300 mm MRL currently under test development by North Korea is able to reach the middle part of the ROK considering its maximum firing range.”Additionally, North Korea has reinforced its artillery forces with 122mm towed MLRS systems in the coastal area near the West Sea coast and near the frontlines. The North Korean artillery pieces would be protected by covered trenches to enhance their survivability during combat operations. Altogether, the South Korea estimates that the North has some 8,600 pieces of tube artillery and 5,500 MLRS batteries available to its forces.(This first appeared last April.)Meanwhile, North Korea is also modernizing its armored forces—but the mechanized troops are not the main focus of the regime in Pyongyang. “Equipment modernization is also constantly pursued, such as replacing the existing T-54 and T-55, the main tanks of the armored and mechanized units, with the Chonma-ho and Songun-ho tanks,” the white paper reads. The DPRK has more than 4,300 tanks and 2,500 other armored vehicles at its disposal according to South Korea.Other than North Korea’s massed dug in artillery forces, Pyongyang’s enormous and well training special operations forces are the most dangerous threat facing the United States and the South. According to U.S. military sources, Pyongyang’s special operations troops are well trained and well equipped and pose a significant danger.“Special operation forces are currently estimated at 200,000 strong. The special operation forces have a diverse array of strategic, operational, and tactical units, including the 11th Corps, the light infantry division of the forward corps, and light regiment of the forward divisions,” the South Korean white paper reads. “The role of these special operation forces is extended to cover infiltration into the forward and rear areas to strike major units and facilities, assassinations of key personnel, disruption of rear areas and hybrid operations. Infiltration is to be made during a war through underground tunnels, holding areas for infiltration in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), submarines, Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCACs), AN-2 aircraft, helicopters and various other methods.”Though technologically backwards for the most part—in the event of war—the North Koreans could inflict severe damage to South Korea and the U.S. forces stationed on the peninsula.Dave Majumdar is the former defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.Image: Reuters.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 02:00:00 -0400
  • President Trump Needs Battleships to Wage a War Against China

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    A contemporary battleship would combine advanced armor materials with automated damage control to produce a ship that is virtually unsinkable. Its offensive armaments might be mission-specific, but its key attribute would be survivability.In World War II, the Japanese super-battleships Yamato and Musahi each mounted nine 18.1-inch guns, the largest naval guns ever deployed, but they never sank a single American ship. In a conflict decided by naval aviation, Yamato and Musahi were used mainly as flagships and troop transports. Despite their huge armaments, they were steel dinosaurs from an earlier strategic age.(This first appeared last year.)But how do you sink a steel dinosaur? The answer is: "with difficulty." It took eleven torpedoes and six bombs to sink the Yamato. The Musahi took nineteen torpedoes and seventeen bombs. And at the time they were sunk, both ships were already limping along on patch-up repairs from earlier torpedo strikes. They may have been strategically useless, but the Yamato and Musahi were almost (if not quite) indestructible.Naval construction requires decades of advance planning, and naval planners are always at risk of fighting the last war. Since the end of World War II, U.S. naval planning has revolved around the aircraft carrier. But world wars are few and far between, and other missions abound. When it comes to countering the rise of China, some of the most frequent missions are freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) requiring no fighting at all.Recommended: Why North Korea's Air Force is Total Junk Why Doesn't America Kill Kim Jong Un? The F-22 Is Getting a New Job: SniperOver the last several years China has become increasingly aggressive in asserting illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea. In response, the United States regularly conducts FONOPs, sailing destroyers within twelve nautical miles of China's artificial islands to repudiate Beijing's claims to sovereign territorial waters. So far, China has been sensible enough not to challenge any of these operations.But a destroyer is a fragile fish. In June last year the USS Fitzgerald was put out of action by a collision with a container ship, with the loss of seven lives—on the destroyer. Then in August the USS John S. McCain was nearly sunk by an oil tanker. Ten sailors lost their lives. The tanker suffered no injuries. Leaving aside the issue of poor seamanship, these two collisions illustrated a potentially more serious shortcoming of today's naval ships: poor survivability. Navy ships used to threaten oil tankers, not the other way around.The U.S. Navy certainly needs the firepower provided by its awesome carrier strike groups and its flimsy, but nonetheless formidable, guided missile destroyers. But it also needs ships that can take a punch and keep on sailing. That kind of toughness is likely to become an even more important quality as China develops its precision strike capacities. Soon it may become too dangerous to sail an unarmored ship in the South China Sea.Stealth is one way to keep from getting hit, and the United States leads the way in the development of stealthy destroyers. But stealth defeats the purpose of a FONOP, which is to be seen. An old-fashioned battleship is a ship to be seen—and in a big way. But there's no need for the Navy to build an old-fashioned battleship in the twenty-first century when it can build a new-fashioned battleship instead.A contemporary battleship would combine advanced armor materials with automated damage control to produce a ship that is virtually unsinkable. Its offensive armaments might be mission-specific, but its key attribute would be survivability. It would be a ship that could be put in harm's way in the reasonable expectation of coming home in one piece.This "battleship of the future" could solve the challenge posed by China's emerging anti-access / area denial (A2/AD) strategy for excluding the United States from the western Pacific. China is rapidly expanding and improving its networks of onshore, offshore, undersea, and space-based sensors to the extent that it will soon be able to see everything that moves between the Chinese mainland and the first island chain formed by Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, and the Philippines. And improvements in precision weaponry will increasingly mean that China will be able to hit anything it can see.America's response has been a shifting set of tactical plans successively labeled as AirSea Battle, JAM-GC and Third Offset. What these plans all have in common is the idea that the best defense is a good offense: instead of defending against Chinese A2/AD attacks, they propose that the United States strike first to take out the command-and-control networks that tie China's sensors to its precision munitions. The problem is that this implies the immediate escalation of any A2/AD scenario into a full-scale war.That's where the battleship of the future comes in: it would give the United States a defensive option for limited conflict. For example, a future battleship could respond to Chinese provocations by disabling Chinese seabed sensors or cutting Chinese undersea cables. It could survive being rammed by enemy ships—a favorite tactic of the Chinese and North Koreans. And if A2/AD did escalate into a shooting war, it could operate in the danger zone while U.S. offensive actions turned the tables.The U.S. Navy will never again be a dreadnought fleet of big-gun battleships. But it is time to reexamine the role of armor in naval architecture. Even the most forward-leaning offensive operation needs a few tough linesmen who can take a beating and stay in the game. A future battleship would give the Navy— and by extension the president—warfighting options other than the total annihilation of the enemy. Regular FONOPs already demonstrate the need for such options. The A2/AD threat will likely generate even more dangerous missions that only a durable battleship of the future can safely perform.Salvatore Babones is an associate professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney.Image: Wikimedia.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 01:30:00 -0400
  • Iranian news agency says Adrian Darya tanker leased to Revolutionary Guards

    Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency said on Wednesday the tanker Adrian Darya tanker, which was released after being detained in Gibraltar, is currently leased to the country's elite Revolutionary Guards. The United States has issued a warrant to seize the tanker on the grounds that it had links to the Revolutionary Guards C (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organisation. "It is worth noting that the Grace 1 vessel, renamed Adrian Darya after the seizure, is a Korean-made oil tanker owned by Russia which is currently leased to the Revolutionary Guards," ILNA said, without citing a source.

    Wed, 21 Aug 2019 01:19:41 -0400
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