Friday, February 23, 2018

World News Briefs -- February 23, 2018



Reuters: U.N. Security Council delays vote on Syria ceasefire resolution

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday delayed a vote on a demand for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria, where pro-government warplanes have been pounding the last rebel bastion near Damascus in one of the deadliest bombing campaigns of the seven-year civil war.

A draft resolution aimed at ending the carnage in the eastern Ghouta district and elsewhere in Syria will be put up for a vote in the 15-member council at noon (1700 GMT) on Saturday, Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi said.

Al-Otaibi said negotiations were centered on the language of one paragraph that specifically demands a cessation of hostilities for 30 days, possibly starting 72 hours after adoption, to allow aid access and medical evacuations.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Strikes pound Syria's Eastern Ghouta as world fumbles for response.

Syria war: UN Security Council truce vote delayed.

Sergey Lavrov: Russia to vote for Syria truce at UN.

Russia's peace plan in Syria is a 'farce,' says State Department.

Russia rejects UN condemnation of Iran over missiles to Yemen.

Iran warns of 'nuclear crisis' if JCPOA deal is scrapped.

Turkey slams Dutch 'Armenian genocide' vote.

Saudi Arabia minister tells Germany it will find weapons elsewhere.

US to open Jerusalem embassy 'in May 2018'.

ASIA

Trump announces new North Korea sanctions. Trump administration to target North Korea with new sanctions on Friday.

North Korea slams UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres for praising sanctions, siding with US.

Moon Jae-in, Ivanka Trump stress need for peace, differ on strategy.

Kim Yong-chol: North Korea's controversial Olympics delegate. South Korean MPs demand execution of North's Olympic delegate.

Myanmar accused of 'bulldozing' proof of crimes against Rohingya. Myanmar bulldozed scores of Rohingya villages, says human rights group.

Maldives warns India against interfering as ties fray.

Trump says China ties 'best ever' but trade a problem.

Trump, Turnbull put on show of 'mateship' at the White House.

Barnaby Joyce quits as Australia's deputy prime minister and Nationals leader.

Trudeau in India: The Canadian PM meets Modi after diplomatic dance. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Canada's Justin Trudeau amid talks of 'snub'.

Modi talks tough on separatists after meeting Trudeau.

AFRICA

Double bombing rocks Somalia's Mogadishu. 18 killed by car bombs in Somali capital.

Three dead, 7 hurt as armed groups clash in C.Africa flashpoint.

Egypt military's anti-terror campaign raises doubts.

South Sudan military officers may have committed war crimes: U.N.. UN identifies South Sudan military officers accused of war crimes.

Children 'forced to watch rape' in South Sudan.

'105 girls missing' in NE Nigeria after Boko Haram school attack.

Missing Nigerian girls declared ‘national disaster’ by president. Nigerian president apologises for Boko Haram schoolgirl kidnap.

Central African Republic: Half the population needs aid.

African countries ban secondhand clothes imports.

EUROPE

Brexit: EU leaders debate financial impact of UK's departure. EU leaders meet to discuss post-Brexit budget gap and new EC president election.

Support for independence drops to four-year low in Catalonia.

Winter Olympics: Second Russian tests positive for banned substance.

Navalny briefly detained, could be jailed ahead Of Russian election.

New French immigration bill provokes backlash.

Begging for bread: A Greek family under austerity.

One French woman in eight has been raped, study says.

AMERICAS

Donald Trump's former campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates face new charges in Mueller probe.

Florida school shooting: Armed deputy waited outside as gunman slaughtered children.

After shooting, Florida to station police officer at every school.

Trump directs Pentagon to schedule military parade for Veterans Day.

Venezuelan President asks banks to mine the national cryptocurrency. Unions are aghast.

Oxfam sex scandal: Haiti suspends charity's operations.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Fates vary of foreign jihadists held in Iraq and Syria.

EU doubles funds for G5 Sahel military anti-terror security force.

Money laundering watchdog places Pakistan back on terrorist financing list with potentially painful consequences.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Dow rallies 347 points as stocks close higher for the week.

Chinese billionaire Li Shufu buys biggest single stake in Daimler.

US Fed report tamps down concerns over wage gains.

China seizes control of insurance giant Anbang.

Editor's Note

Traveling today. Blogging will return later this afternoon.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- February 23, 2018



CBS: Putin ally's private army behind attack on U.S.-backed forces?

MOSCOW -- We are learning more about who was likely behind an attack earlier this month on a rebel base in northern Syria, where American forces were embedded with the fighters. The Russian mercenaries who carried out the siege -- which was repelled by U.S. airstrikes -- were reportedly working for oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin and the same man accused of running a troll factory that targeted American voters.

As CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, the attack took place on Feb. 7, and the U.S. response resulted in a number of Russian mercenaries being killed. There were no U.S. casualties.

When the U.S. soldiers called in airstrikes to defend themselves, they had no idea they would end up killing dozens Russian civilians.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- February 23, 2018

Russian mercenary boss spoke with Kremlin before attacking US forces in Syria, intel claims -- The Telegraph

Russian oligarch indicted by Mueller reportedly told Putin before mercenaries in Syria attacked US forces -- Business Insider

Pentagon Says U.S. Was Told No Russians Involved In Syria Attack -- RFE

Has Russia Deployed Latest-Generation Stealth Warplanes in Syria? -- VOA

New Russian Su-57 Stealth Jets Deployed to Syria Despite Putin Promise of Drawdown -- Newsweek

Mission Possible: Here's What Those Russian Su-57 Jets May Be Doing in Syria -- Sputnik

Russia's Su-57 Deployment in Syria Is a Dangerous Farce -- Tom Cooper, National Interest

Turkey’s Syria Operation Showcases Domestic Weapons Industry -- VOA

Afghanistan Unveils Plans for Controversial Militia Force -- VOA

P-8 Poseidon: Countering Chinese Aggression in the Indo-Pacific -- RCD

The Toolset of an Elite North Korean Hacker Group On the Rise -- Wired

Panel: Japan Should Look to Conventional Deterrents to Curb North Korean Threat -- USNI News

Donors pledge $500 million for troops in West Africa's Sahel -- Reuters

G5 Sahel military force still needs money -- Al Jazeera

Russia’s Baltic Fleet to get advanced S-400 air defense missile systems in 2018 -- TASS

UK Royal Navy Monitor Russian Naval Force Passage in English Channel -- Sputnik

State Department approves $3.2B missile sale to Sweden -- UPI

France, US are negotiating ISR capability for Reaper drones, official reveals -- Defense News

In a first, US Navy carrier to visit Vietnam since war -- Defense News

Air Force replaces T-38C with T-X for pilot training -- UPI

Northrop Grumman gets production, support contracts for E-2D Hawkeye -- UPI

Infantry Officer Course lowers requirement for hikes -- Marine Times

United Technologies Aerospace Systems awarded $2.5B for spare parts -- UPI

2nd Expeditionary Sea Base USNS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Delivers to Navy -- USNI News

Hand-Me-Down Drones: US Navy May Pick Up Air Force’s Retiring Predators -- Sputnik

Army Research Lab awards $25 million contract for Internet of Battlefield Things -- Fifth Domain

Top Oversight Dem pushing for White House documents on Niger ambush -- The Hill

Mattis to recommend Trump allow transgender troops stay in the military: report -- Military.com

First woman in history takes helm of US nuclear weapons arsenal -- Washington Examiner

How The Top 10 Strongest Militaries Got There May Surprise You -- Cheat Sheet

Protecting Our Warrior Ethos Tomorrow -- U.S. Naval Institute

Pakistan To Be Placed Back On Terror-Financing Black List

Reuters: Global watchdog to put Pakistan back on terrorist financing watchlist: sources

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A global money-laundering watchdog has decided to place Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, a government official and a diplomat said on Friday, in a likely blow to Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the United States.

The move is part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure Pakistan to cut alleged links to Islamist militants unleashing chaos in neighbouring Afghanistan and backing attacks in India.

It comes days after reports that Pakistan had been given a three-month reprieve before being placed on the list, which could hamper banking and hurt foreign investment.

The United States has spent the past week lobbying member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan on a so-called grey list of nations that are not doing enough to combat terrorism financing.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: So much for Pakistan's claims that they had a reprieve .... Pakistan claims it got three-month reprieve over terror financing watchlist, US refuses to confirm (Scroll.in), and they are now reacting .... Pakistan slams report of FATF putting it on terror financing watchlist (Indian Express). As to what is my take .... I am not surprised. Pakistan's has been playing a double game on this issue for years, and their time has now run out.

More News On Reports That Pakistan To Be Placed Back On Terror-Financing Black-List

Money laundering watchdog places Pakistan back on terrorist financing list with potentially painful consequences -- Business Insider
Pakistan to Be Placed Back on Terror-Financing List, Source Says -- Bloomberg
Global watchdog puts Pakistan on terror financing watchlist: Reports -- Scroll.in
Pakistan back on global terror watch list after China withdraws objection: Reports -- India Today

Massacre Of Christians In Nigeria Goes Unreported

Fifteen villages were attacked in the state of Nasarawa

Express: Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria

ARMED men stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion in Nigeria.

Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.

Houses belonging to believers have also been razed with authorities doing little to help, an anti-persecution watchdog claimed.

Open Doors spoke to one Christian who described the broad daylight attack carried out by a group of Fulani - one of Africa’s largest ethnicities.

A spokeswoman said: “One attack took place in broad daylight, as people were about to go to church.

“The assailants chased and killed the villagers and burned down nine churches and many more houses.”

Read more ....

Update: A slaughter in Nigeria goes unreported (Toronto Sun)

WNU Editor: With the exception of the Express, why is the main stream media ignoring this story?

Southeast Asia’s Arms Race Continues

Felix Heiduk, East Asia Forum/Asia Sentinel: Southeast Asia’s Arms Race

While countries in many parts of the world are reducing their military spending, Southeast Asian countries are bucking the trend. Total defense spending of ASEAN states doubled over the last 15 years in absolute terms, with countries like Indonesia and Thailand witnessing military expenditure growth rates of 10 percent on a year-by-year basis.

Tightly interlinked with this rise in defense spending is an increase in arms procurements. Several Southeast Asian countries are going on arms spending sprees and buying new frigates, tanks, helicopters, fighter jets and submarines. Vietnam’s arms imports increased by almost 700 percent over the last decade, shifting Hanoi from the world’s 43rd largest arms buyer to the top 10.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China's South China Sea claims has spooked almost everyone. And here is an easy prediction .... this arms buildup is not going to stop in the foreseeable future.

British Think Tank Warns That U.S. Military Advanatges In Technology Are Eroding



Defense One: New Report Notes Erosion of Pentagon’s Technological Advantage

The evidence ranges from a new long-range Chinese missile to ramped-up European defense spending, an annual assessment of the world’s militaries finds.

The U.S.’s latest national security documents aren’t alone in warning that many of the technical military advantages America and its allies have taken for granted the last two decades are eroding. More evidence is marshalled in the latest edition of The Military Balance, an annual quantitative assessment of the world’s armed forces by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank.

“The second thing that comes out of the data in The Military Balance is that the great powers are getting ready for great-power wars,” said IISS Deputy Director-General Kori Schake. “That too, is a recent phenomenon, and one that I think we’re still limbering up our minds about.”

Read more ....

Update #1: China and Russia are catching up with military power of US and West, say leading defence experts (The Independent)
Update #2: Are China and Russia challenging US military dominance? (DW)

WNU Editor: The IISS report on the "Military Balance" can be read here.

Tonight's Free Ebook Offering Is Sun Tzu's 'The Art Of War


WNU Editor: The link to download the ebook is here.

Massive Amount Of Cocaine Seized At Russian Embassy In Argentina



Daily Mail: Police seize 400kg of cocaine worth £35 million from the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires 'after busting gang using diplomatic couriers to traffic drugs to Europe'

* Russian ambassador tipped of the authorities after luggage found in embassy
* A sting operation was mounted with drugs intercepted and replaced with flour
* Operation resulted in the arrest of two suspects in Argentina and three in Russia
* High purity drugs destined for Russia as well as Germany, where gang boss lives

A police officer and a former Russian diplomatic official are among those arrested after authorities seized a large cocaine shipment at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that 860 pounds (389 kilograms) of the drug were hidden inside diplomatic luggage.

The investigation began after Victor Koronelli, the Russian ambassador to the South American country, and three members of the Russian federal security service, reported to Bullrich that they had suspicions about the luggage found at a school annex of the embassy.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Russia already has a growing problem with heroin, but apparently cocaine is still popular.

More News On The Massive Amount Of Cocaine Seized At The Russian Embassy In Argentina

Two Argentines arrested in Russian embassy cocaine probe -- Reuters
Argentina foils diplomatic luggage cocaine plot -- BBC
Argentina: Drug seizure at Russian embassy leads to arrests -- ABC News/AP
Russian Embassy in Argentina Caught Up in Cocaine Smuggling Probe -- Moscow Times
5 Arrested After 14-Month-Long Probe Into Russian Embassy Cocaine Smuggling -- International Business Times
An Embassy, 850 Pounds of Cocaine and Now 6 Arrests -- New York Times

Report: Kremlin Gave Approval For Russian Mercenary Attack On U.S. Base In Syria

An image shared on social media of Russian mercenaries operating in Syria (Twitter)

Denver Post/Washington Post: Putin ally said to be in touch with Kremlin, Assad before his mercenaries attacked US troops

A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had “secured permission” from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a “fast and strong” initiative that would take place in early February.

Prigozhin made front-page headlines last week when he was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of bankrolling and guiding a long-running Russian scheme to conduct “information warfare” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

He is known to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, forged when he was a restaurateur in St. Petersburg and expanded through what became Prigozhin’s wide-ranging business empire, including extensive contracts with Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: If the above Washington Post story is true .... the minister who gave the approval for such an attack would have to be Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu. And if Putin's chief of staff Anton Vayno and deputy chief of staff Vladimir Ostrovenko were also involved in the discussions .... Russian President Putin would have been in the loop. A part of me is skeptical of this report .... the current focus of everyone in the Kremlin has been (for the past few months) doing everything to secure a resounding victory for Putin in next month's Russian Presidential election. Launching a risky military operation against U.S. forces in Syria is a prescription for disaster .... and a story to divert attention away from all the "accomplishments" that Putin is now running on in Russia. But I am also the first to admit that Putin has done some incredibly stupid things, and this will not be the first time that he has screwed up. I am sure that in the coming days and weeks more information will be coming out .... and as I had mentioned more than once in the past week .... this is a big story (especially in Russian social media and Russian independent media), and it is not going die down anytime soon.

More News On Reports That The Kremlin Gave Approval For Russian Mercenary Attack On The U.S. Base In Syria Earlier This Month

WaPo: Key Russian oligarch in touch with Russia, Assad before mercenaries attacked US troops -- CNN
Russian mercenary boss 'spoke to Kremlin' before attack on US allies in Syria -- Middle East Eye
Report: Kremlin, Assad alerted before attack on U.S. troops in Syria -- Axios
Kremlin ally behind Russia troll farm tied to mercenaries in Syria: report -- The HIll

Tweets For Today






The Political Commissars Are Returning To The Russian Military

Sergey Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov (Source: RIA Novosti)

Aleksandr Golts, RCD: The Return of the Commissars

The Russian Army is planning to recreate the Main Political Directorate that existed in the Soviet Army (GlavPUR), according to the Deputy Chairman of the Public Council at the Russian Ministry of Defense, Alexander Kanshin. “The role of the moral and political unity of the army and society is increasing immensely at the time of global informational and psychological confrontation. Therefore, it is necessary to fundamentally reform and significantly strengthen the armed force’s entire [political] structure, which will organize, conduct and be responsible for the moral and ideological aspect of the Russian Army,” Kanshin said (Interfax, February 5).

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is my take on this development .... !?@#$%#$&$

Picture Of The Day

Exit Prep
Emerson Kovalanchik, a member of the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, prepares to exit a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during joint rescue hoist training with soldiers during Patriot South 2018 at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 15, 2018. Patriot South is a domestic training exercise sponsored by the National Guard that focuses on increasing the understanding of coordination, policies and procedures required to conduct a joint inter-agency domestic response. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea

WNU Editor: The above picture is from the following photo-gallery .... Guardsmen Conduct Helicopter Hoist Training During Patriot South (US Department of Defense).

The Pizza MRE Is Back!

Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado, try the pizza MRE in 2014. After more recent modifications, now it's ready to be packaged into MREs. (David Kamm/U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center)

Army Times: It's official: The pizza MRE is back!

The Holy Grail of downrange eating is becoming a reality after last year’s news that the pizza MRE was facing an indefinite delay.

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat was slated for MRE No. 38, which is set to roll out this year.

Nearly a year ago, in March 2017, the Combat Feeding Directorate at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center said there was a problem with mass production.

Meals, Ready-to-Eat must have a shelf life of at least three years when stored at 80 degrees or below, but during testing, the pizza MRE had turned brown.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: A small confession. I love cold pizza in the morning.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Russia's Su-57 Fighter Jets Are Not Combat Ready, But They Have Been Spotted In Syria

(L) Su-57 multirole figher jet © Sputnik / A still from a video by Syrian Military Capabilities/Facebook

Business Insider: Russia appears to have deployed its most advanced fighter jet to Syria.

* An expert told Business Insider that it could be used to spy on the US's F-22 stealth fighter.
* Russia often uses Syria as a showroom for new hardware, and it most likely wants to market the Su-57, which is still a prototype, as having been combat-tested.
* But the Su-57 isn't ready for combat, and Russia has only 12 of the jets on order as it seeks funding to expand the program.

Videos on social media appear to show Russia's Su-57, a prototype of a new, fifth-generation fighter jet, operating in Syria — and it could be a direct threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22.

Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that initial attempts to geolocate Su-57s shown in the video indicated the deployment may be authentic.

He also said any deployment could be a cynical move to boost Russia's military sales while gaining valuable intelligence on the F-22.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That Russia's Su-57 Fighter Jets Are Now In Syria

Russia Just Sent Its Best Fighter Plane to Syria -- Popular Mechanics
Pentagon Won't Confirm Russia's Su-57 Stealth Jet Arrival in Syria -- Military.com
Russia sends new stealth fighters for combat trials in Syria as Putin uses civil war to test latest military technology -- Daily Mail
Russia tests new stealth fighter over war-weary Syrian skies -- Washington Times
New Russian stealth fighter spotted in Syria -- The Guardian
Russia's Su-57 Stealth Fighter in Syria: “This Is Testing in Actual War" -- The National Interest Online
Russia is flaunting its fancy new stealth fighter jets -- VICE News
Russia's Newest, Mysterious Fighter Jet Just Showed Up In Syria -- Task & Purpose

Head Of Russia's Parliamentary Defense Committee: Russia Tested ‘Over 200 New Weapons’ In Syria

© Sputnik/ Michael Klimentyev

Times of Israel: Russia tested ‘over 200 new weapons’ in Syria: MP

Ex-commander of country's air force boasts that many countries now seeking to purchase its arms, as Moscow accused of participating in Assad assault in Ghouta.

MOSCOW — Russia has tested over 200 new types of arms in Syria during its campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad, a senior lawmaker said Thursday, as Moscow was accused of taking part in airstrikes against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

“As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” said Vladimir Shamanov, a former commander of Russia’s airborne troops who now serves as head of the Russian Duma’s defense committee.

“It’s not an accident that today they are coming to us from many directions to purchase our weapons, including countries that are not our allies,” he said.

“Today our military-industrial complex made our army look in a way we can be proud of,” he said.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The person who is making this claim is head of the Russian Duma’s defense committee ....but 200 new weapons?!?!?!

Hat tip to Fred for this link.

Are Russia-Linked Internet Bots Making The World An Angrier Place?

ABC News Online: Russia-linked internet bots trying to make the world an angrier place

When a big contentious story breaks, chances are hundreds of Russia-linked bots and trolls will soon be tweeting about it.

Moscow denies meddling in the 2016 US presidential election that brought Donald Trump to power, despite fresh claims from American intelligence agencies continuing to build a case that they did.

But there's also an increasing body of evidence to suggest Russian agents don't need a US election to keep themselves busy stirring the pot in other parts of the world.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I feel very angry right now. :)

This Is Why Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau Is Being Snubbed In India



Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic: Why Justin Trudeau Is Being Snubbed in India

The Canadian prime minister’s trip could nonetheless help him with a voting bloc he covets.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn’t hidden his fondness for foreign leaders. He has embraced them, tweeted at them, and sent them birthday wishes—all in an effort to make India a global player in international affairs. So when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he of the perfect coiffure, high-voltage smile, and beautiful family arrived in New Delhi this week for a state visit, it should have been a perfect photo-op. Instead, neither Modi nor any of his senior ministers showed up to receive the Trudeaus.

Trudeau has smiled his way through India, however, meeting with business executives, signing billions of dollars worth of business deals, posing for photographs with Bollywood actors, and donning Indian attire befitting his own Indian wedding reception. The Indians, for their part, have denied the Canadian prime minister is being snubbed (one unnamed official went as far as to call it “protocol”). But a snub it is—and the diplomatic brush-off has its roots in an Indian separatist movement from the 1980s and present-day Canadian domestic politics.

Read more ....

WNU editor: For those who follow Canadian politics .... could not have said it any better.

Update: I would not call his trip a disaster .... but this week has definitely not been one his better weeks .... Trudeau's India trip is a total disaster — and he has himself to blame (Barkha Dutt, Washington Post).