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WEAPONS PROLIFERATION

 

 

THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

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The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

The ancient people called Magog are commonly believed to have been the ancestors of the Russian nation. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of an invasion of Israel by Russia, which has not yet been fulfilled. What could cause Russia to come against the tiny nation of Israel -- which has no oil and no real strategic value? This question has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. However, recent developments in the Middle East have for the first time in history lent credence to this long-awaited prophecy.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]
 
 
 

Behold a Red Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 


•What does the Bible say about “wars”?
•How can the classic literature of centuries ago impact todays (and tomorrow’s) tactics and strategies?
•Which technologies are predicted in the Bible? Which ones have yet to be witnessed?
•In what ways have the economies of scale in violence been reversed?
•What is the threat assessment and risk analysis pending today?
•In what ways can a country be regarded as a “one-bomb target”?
•What are the likely implications of trans-humanism in the quests for the “Super-Soldier”?
•How could electromagnetic pulses emerge to become the “Great Equalizer”?
•Where is the safest place to be?
 Dr. Chuck Missler, an honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, with an international background including three decade’s experience in the board rooms of the defense industry, reviews the major Biblical references to warfare, the trends in modern weapons technology, and some of the current preparations for war among the major powers.
 

Behold a White Horse

 

 

Price R 249.00

 

 

 

The final world dictator seeking global domination will also be an “Assyrian” who is here characterized by a bow, riding a white horse. It is interesting how many confuse this counterfeit with the rider of the white horse in Revelation 19. In chapter 6, however, this rider is among some very bad company!
 “Behold a White Horse” explores the career of the first of these “Four Horsemen” who seems to have at least 33 titles in the Old Testament and 13 in the New Testament and the common term “AntiChrist” really isn’t one of them. We also explore the only physical description of him in the Scripture!
 • Why is he a “mistaken identity”?
 • How do we know this is NOT the Christ?
 • What is the precedent condition(s) for his appearance?
 • What is the precedent condition for the unsealing of the Seven Sealed Book? What is the Seven Sealed Book?
 • Is his “bow” a pun? How? Why?
 • How can he “go forth to conquer” if he is a “peace maker”?
 • Is the Church on the earth at this time? How do we know?
 • Is He alive today? How do we know?
 • How can he be the “Seed of the Serpent”?
 Join Chuck Missler as he looks at the first of the Five Horsemen.

 

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

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Assad supporters see domino effect in Aleppo government win

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Assad supporters see domino effect in Aleppo government winALEPPO, Syria (AP) — Aleppo shakes with explosions and gunfire day and night in both the government- and rebel-held sides of the divided Syrian city. But for supporters of President Bashar Assad, there is a growing sense of imminent victory.
 
 

Ties between Russia and the Taliban worry Afghan, U.S. officials

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
File picture of members of the Taliban at the site of the execution of three men in Ghazni ProvinceBy Hamid Shalizi and Josh Smith KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and American officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and Taliban militants fighting to topple the government in Kabul could complicate an already precarious security situation. Russian officials have denied they provide aid to the insurgents, who are contesting large swathes of territory and inflicting heavy casualties, and say their limited contacts are aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Leaders in Kabul say Russian support for the Afghan Taliban appears to be mostly political so far.
 
 

Macedonian nationalist ex-PM set to win election in test for EU

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
The leader of the biggest opposition party SDSM Zaev greets supporters during a pre election rally in SkopjeBy Kole Casule and Georgina Prodhan SKOPJE/BELGRADE (Reuters) - Macedonia's veteran nationalist leader Nikola Gruevski looks set for a comeback in Sunday's parliamentary election, posing a challenge to the European Union and its strategy of coaxing Balkan nations to make painful reforms in exchange for aid. Gruevski, who led the tiny ex-Yugoslav republic for almost a decade as head of the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE, stepped down in January as part of an EU-brokered deal to end a crisis that began in early 2015, when the opposition accused the government of widespread wiretapping and exposed recorded conversations that appeared to show corruption at the highest levels. The EU has long criticized Gruevski's record on safeguarding democracy and the rule of law in Macedonia, but it needs Skopje's cooperation in tackling Europe's migrant crisis, in which more than one million people, mostly Muslims fleeing wars in the Middle East, have entered the bloc in the past 18 months.
 
 

Israel's Netanyahu gives conditional 'No' to meeting Abbas in Paris

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:44:32 PMGo to full article
By John Irish and Ori Lewis PARIS/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he had told French President Francois Hollande he would not meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas if France pushed ahead with an international peace conference in Paris later this month. France has been trying to convince Netanyahu, who has repeatedly rejected the conference proposal, to meet with Abbas in Paris to try to revive moribund peace talks between the two sides, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Wednesday. "Netanyahu told Hollande that if there will not be an international conference in Paris, he will come to meet Abu Mazen (Abbas) for direct talks without preconditions," the statement said Netanyahu told Hollande.
 

NATO commander says 150 Turkish officers have left post-coup

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:04:05 PMGo to full article
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, center, prior to a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday will discuss closer EU-NATO cooperation. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, Pool)BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO's top military officer said Wednesday that about 150 Turkish officers have been recalled or retired from the alliance's high command since a failed coup attempt in Turkey, placing a significant burden on his staff.
 
 

In West Bank, Fatah vote shows politics an old man's game

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎9:39:32 PMGo to full article
This photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, shows Fatah members talk ahead of the opening session of the Fatah party seventh conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Arabic in the background reads "Palestine, Ramallah." The recent conference of the ruling Fatah party sent a disheartening message to young Palestinians: Most of those elected to top positions were in their 60s and 70s, signaling that politics under octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas is an old man's game and that it is unlikely that fresh ideas on winning statehood will emerge from this group of veteran loyalists. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The recent conference of the ruling Fatah party sent a disheartening message to young Palestinians: Most of those elected to top positions were in their 60s and 70s, signaling that politics under octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas is an old man's game and that it is unlikely that fresh ideas on winning statehood will emerge from this group of veteran loyalists.
 
 

CIA director visits Albania for counterterrorism talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:55:58 PMGo to full article
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The United States embassy in Tirana says Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan visited Albania to discuss terrorism along with a variety of other bilateral and international issues.
 

US envoy to UN sees security risk if refugees not rescued

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:53:05 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, migrants arrive at the new reception center in Paris. Samantha Power, the United States' U.N. ambassador says Wednesday Dec.7, 2016 that Western nations may face a security challenge down the road if they fail to do their share in sheltering arriving refugees today(AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)PARIS (AP) — As Western nations dig in to protect their own citizens, their territory and their way of life, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned on Wednesday that a security challenge may await them down the road if they fail to do their share in sheltering refugees today.
 
 

Around 1,500 European jihadists return from Mideast: report

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:30:27 PMGo to full article
Belgium expressed concern last month that jihadists were increasingly returning to Europe as US-backed coalition forces drive the Islamic State (IS) group from territory in Syria and IraqAround a third of the estimated 5,000 European jihadists who went to Syria and Iraq have returned to Europe, and some may have orders to attack, an EU report warned Wednesday. Up to 2,500 fighters from Europe remained on the battlefield but their massive return in the short term seemed unlikely, according to the report seen by AFP. Belgium expressed concern last month that jihadists were increasingly returning to Europe as US-backed coalition forces drive the Islamic State (IS) group from territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
 

Britain's May says to help Gulf leaders 'push back' Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:22:06 PMGo to full article
Saudi King Salman meets Theresa May during the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Manama on December 6, 2016London (AFP) - Prime Minister Theresa May told Gulf leaders on Wednesday that Britain would help "push back" against Iranian aggression as they agreed on a strategic partnership to deepen ties.
 
 

Germany urges Israel to scrap 'illegal' settlement bill

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎3:05:17 PMGo to full article
Germany urged Israel in unusually strong language on Wednesday to scrap legislation that would legalize Israeli settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, saying this would break international law. Germany tends to be more reserved than other European nations in its criticism of Israel due to the legacy of the Nazi Holocaust, but it has objected in the past few years to Israeli settlement expansion on land Palestinians want for a state. Israel's parliament gave initial approval on Monday to a revised bill on the settlement homes, a move that has drawn international condemnation and follows the victory in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump, one of whose aides has hinted at a more tolerant U.S. stance on settlements.
 

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:35:11 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during battle to retake a village from the Islamic State on the eastern bank of the river TigrisBy Dominic Evans, Maher Chmaytelli and Patrick Markey BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - In the early days of the assault on Islamic State in Mosul, Iran successfully pressed Iraq to change its battle plan and seal off the city, an intervention which has since shaped the tortuous course of the conflict, sources briefed on the plan say. The original campaign strategy called for Iraqi forces to close in around Mosul in a horseshoe formation, blocking three fronts but leaving open the fourth - to the west of the city leading to Islamic State territory in neighboring Syria.
 
 

Trump lays out non-interventionist U.S. military policy

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:43:19 AMGo to full article
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North CarolinaBy Steve Holland FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump laid out a U.S. military policy on Tuesday that would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts and instead focus heavily on defeating the Islamic State militancy. In the latest stop on a "thank you" tour of states critical to his Nov. 8 election win, Trump introduced his choice for defense secretary, General James Mattis, to a large crowd in this city near the Fort Bragg military base, which has deployed soldiers to 90 countries around the world. "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with," Trump said.
 
 

Suitors, husbands spurn Middle Eastern women disfigured by war

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:01:02 AMGo to full article
By Lin Taylor AMMAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ahzan was shopping in a market in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad when an explosion ripped through the street, lifting her off her feet and shattering her lower body.
 

Libyan forces clear last Islamic State holdout in Sirte

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎12:41:46 AMGo to full article
Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government celebrate after they finished clearing Ghiza Bahriya, the final district of the former Islamic State stronghold of SirteBy Hani Amara SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan forces backed by U.S. air strikes finished clearing the last Islamic State holdout in Sirte on Tuesday after a near seven-month battle for the militant group's former North African stronghold. The forces gained full control over a final patch of ground in Sirte's Ghiza Bahriya district after hours of clashes. As celebrations erupted among the Libyan forces, which are dominated by brigades from the city of Misrata, a spokesman said the military campaign would continue until the wider area was secured.
 
 

Israel knew of Iran link in sub deal: minister

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:35:00 PMGo to full article
Before reports of Iran's link to ThyssenKrupp, Israel's attorney general had already ordered police to examine allegations of improper conduct in the planned purchase of the submarinesIsrael knew its arch-enemy Iran held a stake in ThyssenKrupp when it planned to purchase submarines from the German firm, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday. "We have known Iran was a shareholder in the German company since 2004," the minister said in comments broadcast by public television, referring to the year of a previous order. Lieberman said Israel "had no other alternatives" apart from the German company to buy new submarines.
 
 

Saudi condemns 15 to death for spying for Iran

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:57:13 PMGo to full article
Human Rights Watch has dismissed the Saudi trial as "a mockery of justice"A Saudi court Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death for spying for the kingdom's rival Iran, local media and a source close to the case said, in a move likely to heighten regional tensions. The source told AFP that most of the 15 Saudis were members of the kingdom's Shiite minority. Tehran swiftly denied the espionage charges and urged Saudi Arabia not to "seek to bring baseless accusations against Iran with the intention of political gains and increasing tensions in the region".
 
 

British PM joins Gulf summit for post-Brexit talks

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎7:58:37 PMGo to full article
British Prime Minister Theresa May will be the first British premier and the first woman to attend the annual summit of the six oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council statesBritish Prime Minister Theresa May is to meet Gulf leaders who on Tuesday opened their annual summit in Bahrain, for talks on trade ties after Britain leaves the European Union. King Salman of Gulf heavyweight Saudi Arabia opened the summit with a call for "doubling of efforts" to face regional challenges.
 
 

Ransomed: The freeing of 226 Christians from Islamic State

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎6:39:37 PMGo to full article
Zammo Marza, Sherineh Marza, Charli Kanoun and Abdo Marza, from left, kneel at the grave of Marza Marza in Saarlouis, Germany in this Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 photo. The Marza family were among 226 Assyrian Christians taken captive by the Islamic State group in a February 2015 attack on their villages in Syria’s Khabur River valley. It took a year to free the hostages, and only after three were killed and millions of dollars gathered by the Assyrian diaspora worldwide was paid to the militants, and in the end the Khabur region has been totally emptied of the tiny, centuries-old minority community. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)SAARLOUIS, Germany (AP) — The millions in ransom money came in dollar by dollar, euro by euro from around the world. The donations, raised from church offerings, a Christmas concert, and the diaspora of Assyrian Christians on Facebook, landed in a bank account in Iraq. Its ultimate destination: the Islamic State group.
 
 

German police arrest Iraqi rape suspect, leaders warn against backlash

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:32:44 PMGo to full article
German police have detained an Iraqi migrant for suspected rape only days after an Afghan refugee was held in a separate rape and murder case, and the government warned against a political backlash to such crimes. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has grown in support while Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity has suffered. The 17-year-old Afghan was detained on Friday on suspicion of raping and murdering a 19-year-old German student as she cycled home from a party in the southwestern city of Freiburg.
 

Factbox: Trump fills top jobs for his administration

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:41:32 AMGo to full article
(Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Monday he would name retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The following is a list of Republican Trump's selections for top jobs in his administration. All the posts but that of national security adviser require Senate confirmation: DEFENSE SECRETARY: JAMES MATTIS Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general known for his tough talk, distrust of Iran and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

Israeli far right hails bill to legalise settler homes

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎2:41:23 AMGo to full article
The international community considers all settlements in the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, to be illegal, whether they are authorised by the government or notIsraeli far-right politicians on Tuesday welcomed initial approval of a bill to legalise some 4,000 settler homes in the West Bank, calling it a step towards annexation of most of the Palestinian territory. The bill was given preliminary approval by parliament late on Monday despite a chorus of international criticism that it was an illegal land grab with dangerous implications for Middle East peace. Preliminary approval had been expected following an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a right-wing rival, though Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said he will not be able to defend it before the courts.
 
 

Merkel's conservatives meet to prepare for 'toughest' election

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:15:29 AMGo to full article
German Chancellor and leader of the conservative CDU Angela Merkel poses with CDU leaders in EssenBy Paul Carrel ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel will rally her conservatives at a party conference on Tuesday to gird for a German election next year that she expects to be "tough like no other". Seeking a fourth term in office, Merkel must unite her Christian Democrats (CDU) and try to recapture some of her personal popularity, undermined by the crises that have rocked Europe. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's referendum defeat on Sunday and the impending departure of French President Francois Hollande underline Merkel's status as Europe's most experienced leader, but she needs to win back disgruntled voters at home.
 
 

Israeli legislators advance revised bill to legalize settlements

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎11:34:51 PMGo to full article
An Israeli boy holds his bicycle near homes in the Jewish settler outpost of Amona in the West BankBy Ori Lewis JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's parliament gave initial approval on Monday to a revised bill that would legalize Israeli settlement homes built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The proposed law has already drawn sharp international condemnation and strained relations within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing right-wing coalition. Israeli critics and Palestinians have called it a land grab that would further distance prospects for a two-state solution that would end the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
 

Draft law on settler homes passes first hurdle in Israel

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎10:38:47 PMGo to full article
A draft law that could lead to the legalisation of nearly 4,000 settler homes has already attracted strong international criticismA controversial draft law that could lead to the legalisation of nearly 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank passed a preliminary vote in Israel's parliament on Monday. The draft is the fruit of a compromise between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the bill's main backer, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who has called it the start of Israel's eventual annexation of most of the West Bank. Bennett, from the religious nationalist Jewish Home party, is among members of Netanyahu's coalition who have made no secret of opposing a Palestinian state.
 
 

Libyan forces close to securing last Islamic State holdouts in Sirte: officials

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎10:12:02 PMGo to full article
Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government gather atop the ruins of a house as they are close to securing last Islamic State holdouts in SirteBy Ayman al-Sahli MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan forces said on Monday they were close to securing a final patch of land where Islamic State militants have been holding out in their former North African stronghold of Sirte. Islamic State took over Sirte in early 2015, setting up its most important base outside the Middle East and extending its control along about 250 km (150 miles) of Mediterranean coastline. Forces led by brigades from the western city of Misrata launched a counter-attack against the jihadist group in May, and since Aug. 1 the United States has carried out more than 490 air strikes to support them.
 
 

Israel closes in on deal that could legalise 4,000 settler homes

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎8:13:37 PMGo to full article
A draft law that could lead to the legalisation of nearly 4,000 settler homes has already attracted strong international criticismIsrael Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closed in on a deal with a key rival Monday that could lead to approval of controversial legislation legalising nearly 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank. The bill has drawn harsh criticism internationally, with its main backer, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, calling it the start of Israel's eventual annexation of most of the West Bank. It would still need preliminary approval and three full votes at Israel's Knesset, or parliament, but an agreement between Netanyahu and Bennett would likely assure passage.
 
 

What does Jammeh's defeat mean for future of aid and development in Gambia?

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎7:43:59 PMGo to full article
People tear a poster of former Gambian president Yaya Jammeh in BroussbiBy Kieran Guilbert and Emma Farge DAKAR/BANJUL (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gambia's shock election result, which saw veteran leader Yahya Jammeh defeated after 22 years in power, could mend the West African nation's ties with Europe, boost its development, and halt an exodus of migrants to the West, analysts said on Monday. Jammeh, who has ruled with an iron hand since seizing power in a coup, stunned observers and sparked wild celebrations across Gambia on Friday when he accepted his surprise election loss to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.
 
 

Somali forces say killed three in attack on Islamic State-linked fighters

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎6:46:03 PMGo to full article
By Abdiqani Hassan BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Soldiers allied to the Western-backed Somali government killed three fighters loyal to the Islamic State in northern Somalia on Monday as they pressed ahead toward the insurgents' main stronghold, officials said. The troops, alongside militia fighters, launched an offensive last week to wrest back control of the port town of Qandala in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The insurgents launched counterattacks away from their stronghold, in areas along the route to Qandala, and that led to the fighting on Monday in an area west of the port.
 

U.N. refugee chief warns EU against carrot-and-stick approach to migration

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎4:56:41 PMGo to full article
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Grandi speaks during a news conference in AmmanBy Gabriela Baczynska BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Linking aid for countries in the Middle East and Africa to how they manage migration can create dangerous precedents, the United Nations top refugee official warned the European Union on Monday. Overwhelmed by the arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants in 2015, the EU has tightened its external borders and sought to strike deals with countries along main migration routes to contain the flow of people. Under the most prominent such collaboration, it promised Turkey an initial 3 billion euros in aid for Syrian refugees living there, accelerated EU accession talks and visa-free travel to Europe for its citizens.
 
 

In Jordan hospital, mental trauma scars children blown apart by bombs

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎4:37:46 PMGo to full article
Young girls play puzzles as an occupational therapist assesses their cognitive development inside a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in AmmanBy Lin Taylor AMMAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As soon as the bombs exploded outside his house in the Iraqi town of Falluja, Rachid Jassam rushed onto the street to rescue the injured. "I lost five centimeters of my bone from my right leg and I couldn't move it anymore." More than 20 per cent of all patients at the MSF hospital are children just like Rachid - blown apart, severely burned and disfigured by conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza. Since it opened in 2006, the hospital has treated almost 4,400 patients free of charge, and remains the only hospital in the Middle East to perform advanced reconstructive surgery on victims of war.
 
 

China warns against obstruction of Iran nuclear deal

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎9:56:12 AMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after a joint press conference in Beijing, on December 5, 2016Implementation of the Iran nuclear deal should not be "affected by any changes in the domestic situations" of countries involved, China's foreign minister warned Monday, as US president-elect Donald Trump threatens to abandon it. The agreement, signed in Vienna in July 2015 and in force since January, was the signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama's second term. Trump has promised to tear up the nuclear deal once in office, calling the agreement under which it was implemented -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- the "worst deal ever negotiated".
 
 

In Jordan hospital, mental trauma scars children blown apart by bombs

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎8:09:52 AMGo to full article
By Lin Taylor AMMAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As soon as the bombs exploded outside his house in the Iraqi town of Falluja, Rachid Jassam rushed onto the street to rescue the injured. "I lost five centimetres of my bone from my right leg and I couldn't move it anymore." More than 20 per cent of all patients at the MSF hospital are children just like Rachid - blown apart, severely burnt and disfigured by conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza. Since it opened in 2006, the hospital has treated almost 4,400 patients free of charge, and remains the only hospital in the Middle East to perform advanced reconstructive surgery on victims of war.
 

U.S. reshaping budget to account for Russian military threat

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎6:45:57 AMGo to full article
FILE PHOTO - Secretary of the Air Force James talks to members of the 341st Missile Wing during a visit to Malmstrom Air Force Base, MontanaBy Andrea Shalal SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (Reuters) - Russia's increasing military activities around the world have unsettled top U.S. military officials, who say they are reshaping their budget plans to better address what they now consider to be the most pressing threat to U.S. security. "Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States. James, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson and Pentagon chief arms buyer Frank Kendall, all voiced growing concern about Russia's increasingly aggressive behavior in interviews late on Saturday.
 
 

Netanyahu to discuss 'bad' Iran deal with Trump, Kerry stresses settlements

 
‎Monday, ‎December ‎5, ‎2016, ‏‎1:33:46 AMGo to full article
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem officeBy Jeffrey Heller and Arshad Mohammed JERUSALEM/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would discuss with Donald Trump the West's "bad" nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. president-elect enters the White House. Speaking separately to a conference in Washington, Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry clashed over the Iran deal and Israel's settlement construction on the occupied West Bank, which Kerry depicted as an obstacle to peace. "Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
 

Women, children leave Islamic State holdout in Sirte: Libyan forces

 
‎Sunday, ‎December ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎9:49:43 PMGo to full article
Fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government receives as forces advance against Islamic State holdouts in Ghiza Bahriya district in SirteLibyan forces said at least 10 women and children left the last cluster of buildings controlled by Islamic State in the group's former stronghold of Sirte on Sunday, adding that they had edged closer to taking full control of the city. Forces led by brigades from Misrata and backed by U.S. air strikes have surrounded Islamic State fighters in a small patch of ground close to Sirte's Mediterranean sea front. Several groups of women and children, as well as male civilian captives, have either escaped or been released from the shrinking area held by Islamic State in recent weeks.
 
 

New controversy hits Israel sub deal over Iran link

 
‎Sunday, ‎December ‎4, ‎2016, ‏‎6:36:44 PMGo to full article
Israel is replacing its existing Dolphin submarine fleet, which entered service in 1999Israel was embroiled in fresh controversy on Sunday over its purchase of submarines from German company ThyssenKrupp after reports that the country's arch-enemy Iran holds a stake in the firm. The attorney general had already ordered police to look into allegations of improper conduct in the planned purchase of the submarines, and reports of Iran's link to the company have fuelled more criticism. Israel sees Iran as its main enemy in the region, and suggestions that the Islamic republic would benefit from the Jewish state's defence purchases have made headlines.
 
 

Somali forces kill seven in clash with faction loyal to Islamic State

 
‎Saturday, ‎December ‎3, ‎2016, ‏‎3:58:05 PMGo to full article
By Abdiqani Hassan BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Soldiers allied to the Western-backed Somali government said they killed seven insurgents from a faction loyal to the Islamic State group in a clash in northern Somalia on Saturday. The soldiers from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland are part of a force headed to the port town of Qandala, which has been under the control of the insurgents since November. The Puntland forces were attacked in the village of Bashaashin, which is 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Qandala.
 

Stowaway migrants found crushed under trucks in Austria

 
‎Saturday, ‎December ‎3, ‎2016, ‏‎1:01:28 PMGo to full article
Two migrants who had apparently hidden on a train bringing trucks from Italy to Austria were found dead early on Saturday, either of cold or because they were crushed when the vehicles were unloaded, the police said. Having been swept up in Europe's migration crisis last year, Austria led a coordinated effort with Balkan countries to shut down what was then the main route into the heart of Europe for hundreds of thousands of people, many of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere. As the flow of people into Europe shifted this summer toward the sea route linking North Africa to Italy, Austria threatened to introduce border checks at the Brenner crossing, a vital transport link connecting Italy to northern Europe, if too many migrants headed its way.
 

China expresses concern as Yemen's Houthis form government

 
‎Saturday, ‎December ‎3, ‎2016, ‏‎3:19:52 AMGo to full article
China's Foreign Ministry has expressed concern after Yemen's armed Houthi movement and its political allies formed a new government, in what appeared a blow to U.N.-backed efforts to end 20 months of war in the country. Diplomats had hoped the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, would hold off on putting together a cabinet of their loyalists and instead form a unity government with their Yemeni foes, whom they pushed into Saudi exile. The Houthis, who control territory with more than half of Yemen's population, previously said forming a government with their allies did not mean abandoning the U.N.-sponsored peace process.

 

 

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Iran minister says in U.S. interest to stay committed to nuclear pact

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎1 minute agoGo to full article
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attend a joint news conference in TokyoBy Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday it was in the interest of the United States to remain committed to a multilateral nuclear treaty. The U.S. Senate voted last week to extend the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for 10 years, and Iran vowed to retaliate, saying it violated last year's agreement with six major powers to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international financial sanctions. A diplomatic thaw between the United States and Iran over the past two years appears in jeopardy with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump taking office next month.
 
 

British foreign minister says Saudi and Iran stoking proxy wars in Middle East

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎17 minutes agoGo to full article
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson attends the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues forumBritish Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that Saudi Arabia and Iran are stoking proxy wars across the Middle East while some politicians in the region are abusing Islam, the Guardian newspaper reported. Britain has a long alliance with Saudi Arabia which is a major customer for British defense companies, though Britain's ties with Iran have been tumultuous since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
 
 

Assad supporters see domino effect in Aleppo government win

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎2 hours agoGo to full article
Assad supporters see domino effect in Aleppo government winALEPPO, Syria (AP) — Aleppo shakes with explosions and gunfire day and night in both the government- and rebel-held sides of the divided Syrian city. But for supporters of President Bashar Assad, there is a growing sense of imminent victory.
 
 

Ties between Russia and the Taliban worry Afghan, U.S. officials

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎6 hours agoGo to full article
File picture of members of the Taliban at the site of the execution of three men in Ghazni ProvinceBy Hamid Shalizi and Josh Smith KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and American officials are increasingly worried that any deepening of ties between Russia and Taliban militants fighting to topple the government in Kabul could complicate an already precarious security situation. Russian officials have denied they provide aid to the insurgents, who are contesting large swathes of territory and inflicting heavy casualties, and say their limited contacts are aimed at bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Leaders in Kabul say Russian support for the Afghan Taliban appears to be mostly political so far.
 
 

Rebels seek ceasefire with Syrian army closer to retaking Aleppo

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Rebel fighters ride on a pick-up truck mounted with a weapon as they drive in a rebel-held area of AleppoBy Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels in besieged eastern Aleppo called on Wednesday for an immediate five-day ceasefire and the evacuation of civilians and wounded, but gave no indication they were ready to withdraw as demanded by Damascus and Moscow. The Syrian army and allied forces have made rapid gains against insurgents in the past two weeks and look closer than ever to restoring full control over Aleppo, Syria's most populous city before the war, and achieving their most important victory of the conflict now in its sixth year. In a statement calling for the truce, the rebels made no mention of evacuating the several thousand fighters who are defending an ever shrinking area of eastern Aleppo.
 
 

Syrian government advances despite rebel cease-fire offer

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:10:11 PMGo to full article
Smoke rises after rebel fighters launch a mortar shell on residential neighborhood in west Aleppo, Syria, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The government seized large swaths of the Aleppo enclave under rebel control since 2012 in the offensive that began last week. The fighting was most intense Monday near the dividing line between east and west Aleppo as government and allied troops push their way from the eastern flank, reaching within less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the citadel that anchors the center of the city.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's government ignored a rebel cease-fire proposal for Aleppo on Wednesday as its forces captured new neighborhoods around the city center and squeezed some 200,000 tired and frightened civilians into a shattered and rapidly shrinking opposition enclave.
 
 

Israel's Netanyahu gives conditional 'No' to meeting Abbas in Paris

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:44:32 PMGo to full article
By John Irish and Ori Lewis PARIS/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he had told French President Francois Hollande he would not meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas if France pushed ahead with an international peace conference in Paris later this month. France has been trying to convince Netanyahu, who has repeatedly rejected the conference proposal, to meet with Abbas in Paris to try to revive moribund peace talks between the two sides, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Wednesday. "Netanyahu told Hollande that if there will not be an international conference in Paris, he will come to meet Abu Mazen (Abbas) for direct talks without preconditions," the statement said Netanyahu told Hollande.
 

US, Western leaders calling for immediate Aleppo cease-fire

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎9:00:09 PMGo to full article
Smokes rise in a east Aleppo neighborhood during a battle between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. A Syrian war monitoring group says government forces have captured large parts of Aleppo's central-eastern al-Shaar neighborhood from rebels. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says government forces took most of the once-populous neighborhood Tuesday following intense clashes. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and five other Western powers called Wednesday for an immediate cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo and accused Russia of blocking efforts to halt the bloodshed.
 
 

British premier, Gulf Arab nations pledge to counter Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:16:49 PMGo to full article
In this Tuesday Dec. 6, 2016 photo released by Bahrain News Agency, and made available today, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, leaders meet during the Arabian Gulf countries summit in Manama, Bahrain. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders from six Gulf Arab countries agreed Wednesday to counter Iran's "destabilizing activities," a pledge meant to calm nerves following the nuclear deal with world powers.
 
 

Turkey's Erdogan says battle to shore up lira same as fight against Islamic State

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:36:19 PMGo to full article
Turkish President Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in AnkaraBy Ercan Gurses and Humeyra Pamuk ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan drew parallels on Wednesday between Turkey's battle against Islamic State militants in Syria and efforts to shore up the lira, urging citizens to continue selling dollars and blaming speculators for the lira's decline. Erdogan has called for Turks to convert forex into gold or lira after the currency saw its worst month in November since the 2008 financial crisis, hit by a strong dollar and concern about political stability after July's failed coup. "Our economy is being targeted through foreign exchange speculation," Erdogan said in a speech to provincial administrators in the presidential palace in Ankara, adding that he saw no financial reason for the currency's latest slide.
 
 

Free weddings, gravestones in Turks' plan to boost lira

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:33:37 PMGo to full article
Istanbul baker Gokhan Kuk (left) gives free bread to anyone converting $250 to liraConvert your hard currency to Turkish lira and you could enjoy a free wedding package, a meal and a loaf of bread. Gokhan Kuk, a baker in Istanbul, told AFP he started offering free bread to those changing $250 into Turkish lira. "With the help of God, we will raise the lira and annihilate the dollar," he said, sitting in his office decorated with several portraits of Erdogan.
 
 

Britain's May says to help Gulf leaders 'push back' Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:22:06 PMGo to full article
Saudi King Salman meets Theresa May during the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Manama on December 6, 2016London (AFP) - Prime Minister Theresa May told Gulf leaders on Wednesday that Britain would help "push back" against Iranian aggression as they agreed on a strategic partnership to deepen ties.
 
 

Western states press Syrian government, Russia, Iran to agree to U.N. plan

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:51:33 PMGo to full article
The leaders of six major Western nations called on Wednesday for an immediate ceasefire in the Syrian city of Aleppo and condemned Russia and Iran for supporting the Syrian government. "The most urgent goal remains an immediate ceasefire so that the United Nations can bring humanitarian aid to people in East Aleppo," said the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, the United States, Canada and Britain in a statement released in Berlin.
 

Britain plans to deepen security cooperation with Gulf

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:47:16 PMGo to full article
Britain's Prime Minister May joins other leaders for a family photo at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in ManamaAddressing a meeting on the sidelines of the Gulf Cooperation Summit in Bahrain, May said Britain would invest more than 3 billion pounds in defence spending in the region over the next decade. "Gulf security is our security," May said. Britain is trying to build on traditionally strong ties with conservative, oil-wealthy Gulf Arab monarchies before its planned departure from the European Union.
 
 

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:35:11 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during battle to retake a village from the Islamic State on the eastern bank of the river TigrisBy Dominic Evans, Maher Chmaytelli and Patrick Markey BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - In the early days of the assault on Islamic State in Mosul, Iran successfully pressed Iraq to change its battle plan and seal off the city, an intervention which has since shaped the tortuous course of the conflict, sources briefed on the plan say. The original campaign strategy called for Iraqi forces to close in around Mosul in a horseshoe formation, blocking three fronts but leaving open the fourth - to the west of the city leading to Islamic State territory in neighboring Syria.
 
 

Iran moves to change its currency unit back to the toman

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:05:29 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's official IRNA news agency says that President Hassan Rouhani's administration is proposing changing the name and denomination of the country's currency.
 

UN agency says Iran no longer in violation of nuclear deal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎1:51:04 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — A U.N. agency says Iran is no longer in violation of its nuclear agreement with six world powers because it has reduced its store of heavy water.
 

Ship with 64 passengers on board sinks off Yemen coast: shipping sources

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:57:41 AMGo to full article
A passenger ship carrying more than 60 passengers, including women and children, sank while sailing to Socotra island in the Indian Ocean from Hadramout province in mainland Yemen, shipping sources said on Wednesday. The fate of the rest of the passengers, or what caused the ship to sink, was not known. The Yemeni fisheries minister, Fahad Kaffen, appealed to the Saudi-led Arab alliance, which maintains a naval presence in the area, to help with search and rescue efforts.
 

Yemen says U.N. roadmap to end conflict sets 'dangerous precedent'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎3:10:44 AMGo to full article
Tribesmen attend a gathering held to show support to the new government formed by Yemen's armed Houthi movement and its political allies, in Sanaa, YemenYemen on Tuesday appeared to reject a U.N. plan to end its civil war, saying the roadmap would create a "dangerous international precedent" by legitimizing the rebellion against the country's internationally recognized government. Yemen's position deals a major setback to international efforts to end the 20-month conflict, which has unleashed a humanitarian disaster and killed more than 10,000 people. A Dec. 6 letter to the Security Council from Yemen's U.N. mission, seen by Reuters, called U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh's plan a "free incentive to the Houthi-Saleh rebels, legitimizing their rebellion, their agenda." "The Ould Cheikh Roadmap creates a dangerous international precedent, encouraging coup trends against elected authorities and national consensus.
 
 

Syrian troops enter Aleppo's Old City, poised for war's biggest victory

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎1:14:51 AMGo to full article
The sun rises while smoke is pictured near Aleppo's historic citadel, as seen from a government-controlled area of AleppoBy John Davison and Stephanie Nebehay BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) - Syria's army and allies pushed into rebel-held parts of Aleppo's Old City on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, looking closer than ever to achieving their most important victory of the five-year-old civil war by driving rebels out of their last urban stronghold. A rebel official said they would never abandon Aleppo, after reports that U.S. and Russian diplomats were preparing to discuss the surrender and evacuation of insurgents from territory they have held for years. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talks with the United States on a rebel withdrawal would begin in Geneva as soon as Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
 
 

Iran president: Trump won't be able to harm the nuclear deal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎12:20:30 AMGo to full article
In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, center, Science Minister Mohammad Farhadi, right, and head of the President's office Mohammad Nahavandian, left, listen to the national anthem at the start of a ceremony marking Student Day at Tehran University in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Rouhani said Tuesday his country will not allow incoming U.S. President Donald Trump to "tear up" Tehran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers. His remarks underscore Iranian leaders' attempts to calm concerns over the future of the deal in the wake of Trump's election. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's president said on Tuesday that his country will not allow incoming U.S. President Donald Trump to "tear up" Iran's landmark nuclear deal with world powers and also warned Tehran will react to any extension of American sanctions.
 
 

Israel knew of Iran link in sub deal: minister

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:35:00 PMGo to full article
Before reports of Iran's link to ThyssenKrupp, Israel's attorney general had already ordered police to examine allegations of improper conduct in the planned purchase of the submarinesIsrael knew its arch-enemy Iran held a stake in ThyssenKrupp when it planned to purchase submarines from the German firm, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday. "We have known Iran was a shareholder in the German company since 2004," the minister said in comments broadcast by public television, referring to the year of a previous order. Lieberman said Israel "had no other alternatives" apart from the German company to buy new submarines.
 
 

As US and Iran knock heads again, Tehran hard-liners feel vindicated

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:07:00 PMGo to full article
In newspapers and on the airwaves at least, Iran’s hard-liners are feeling vindicated in their visceral anti-Americanism as the post-Obama world begins to take shape. The hard-liners who despise America as an enemy, the nuclear deal as a sell-out, and President Hassan Rouhani for his outreach to the West are now reveling in what a Trump presidency may mean for their agenda of perpetual US-Iran hostility. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to “dismantle” the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, under which Iran shrank its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
 

Iran back under nuclear deal limit, says UN watchdog

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:04:54 PMGo to full article
Heavy water is not itself radioactive, but is used in certain types of nuclear reactorsThe UN's atomic watchdog has verified that Iran has exported enough nuclear-grade heavy water to come back into line with last year's landmark deal with the West, a diplomatic source said Tuesday. The International Atomic Energy Agency has told member states that it has "verified that 11 metric tonnes of nuclear-grade heavy water have arrived at its destination," the source told AFP. This brings Iran's stock of heavy water back below the 130-tonne level set out in the nuclear accord with world powers that came into force in January, the watchdog told its members.
 
 

Saudi condemns 15 to death for spying for Iran

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:57:13 PMGo to full article
Human Rights Watch has dismissed the Saudi trial as "a mockery of justice"A Saudi court Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death for spying for the kingdom's rival Iran, local media and a source close to the case said, in a move likely to heighten regional tensions. The source told AFP that most of the 15 Saudis were members of the kingdom's Shiite minority. Tehran swiftly denied the espionage charges and urged Saudi Arabia not to "seek to bring baseless accusations against Iran with the intention of political gains and increasing tensions in the region".
 
 

US commitment to NATO 'unwavering' despite Trump: Kerry

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:46:49 PMGo to full article
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) listens to US ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute during a meeting in Brussels on December 6, 2016The US commitment to NATO will remain "unwavering" despite the change of administration following the election of Donald Trump as president, outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday. "The change of the administration will not change the unwavering commitment of the US to... our NATO obligations," Kerry said after talks with his NATO counterparts in Brussels. "The US commitment to NATO and Article Five transcends politics," added Kerry, referring to the military alliance's collective defence policy in which an attack on one member is an attack on all.
 
 

Saudi court sentences 15 people to death for spying for Iran

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:40:27 PMGo to full article
A Saudi court on Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death for spying for the kingdom's arch-adversary Iran, Saudi-owned media reported, a ruling that could heighten antagonism between the regional powers. The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh sentenced 15 other defendants to prison terms ranging from six months to 25 years, and acquitted two of them, the Arabic-language al-Riyadh newspaper said on its website. The defendants - comprising 30 Saudi Shi'ite Muslims, one Iranian and an Afghan - were detained in 2013 on charges of espionage for Iran and went on trial in February.
 

Investigation urges coalition apology for Yemen hospital attack

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:25:29 PMGo to full article
Damage is seen inside a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres after it was hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike in the Abs district of Hajja province, YemenAn investigative body set up by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said on Tuesday it should apologize for a deadly attack on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in August that the group said killed 11 people. A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in a civil war in Yemen in March 2015 and has launched thousands of air strikes against the Iran-allied Houthi movement. The campaign aims at restoring the internationally recognized government of Yemen back to power from Saudi exile but has failed to dislodge the Houthis from the capital Sanaa.
 
 

Probe finds coalition 'mistake' in Yemen MSF strike

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:21:39 PMGo to full article
Yemeni workers clear debris at a hospital operated by the Doctors Without Borders on August 16, 2016 in Abs, a day after the hospital was hit by an air strike by the Saudi-led coalitionThe Saudi-led coalition made a mistake when it carried out a deadly bombing next to a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders in northern Yemen, an "independent" probe said Tuesday. In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in Yemen against Iran-supported Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies after the rebels overran much of Yemen. The coalition has faced repeated allegations of killing civilians in its campaign to support Yemen's internationally recognised government led by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
 
 

U.N. nuclear watchdog confirms Iran shipped sensitive material abroad: diplomat

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎8:59:40 PMGo to full article
An Iranian flag flutters in front of the IAEA headquarters in ViennaIran has shipped 11 tonnes of heavy water abroad to bring its stock back under a limit set by its landmark nuclear deal with major powers, according to a diplomat citing a confidential U.N. nuclear watchdog report. The shipment is a step toward resolving a dispute with Western powers including the United States that are keen to prevent Iran from testing the deal's terms. The report substantiated an Iranian statement last month about a transfer to Oman but does not identify the destination, the diplomat said on Tuesday.
 
 

Saudi court sentences 15 to death in Iran spy cell trial

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎8:41:18 PMGo to full article
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A court in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sentenced 15 people to death and several others to prison terms in a case involving an alleged Iranian spy cell, a sign of the continuing tension between the two Mideast powers.
 

Syrian army seizes areas of Aleppo from rebels: state media, monitors

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎6:35:30 PMGo to full article
Syrian government forces recaptured several areas near Aleppo's Old City from rebels on Tuesday, state media and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The areas captured were mostly to the east and northeast of the Old City, but the army and its allies were also pressing forward to its southeast, state television and the Observatory reported. If government forces close the less than one-mile gap between the Old City's citadel and a neighborhood to the east, it will seal off another pocket of rebel control and significantly reduce opposition-held territory that has shrunk rapidly in recent weeks.
 

Iranians accused of filming office of Kenya's president

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:48:29 PMGo to full article
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Two Iranian nationals and a Kenyan accused of collecting information to facilitate a terrorist act after allegedly being found with video footage of the Israeli embassy also filmed the office of Kenya's president, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
 

Emaciated Yemeni woman now smiles but recovery patchy

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:28:33 PMGo to full article
A Picture and Its Story: Saida now smiles but recovery patchyBy Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) - Images of 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili's emaciated body shocked the world and turned a spotlight on the worsening humanitarian crisis across war-torn Yemen. Now, after weeks of specialist hospital care in the capital Sanaa, though she can still barely speak and sometimes finds eating more difficult than ever, she can at least smile.
 
 

Helicopter crash in Tehran kills 2

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:23:45 PMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV is reporting that a rescue helicopter carrying eight people has crashed into a lake in western Tehran, killing two people.
 

Sanctions renewal shows US still 'enemy': Iran's Rouhani

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:54:49 PMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has faced a barrage of criticism from conservatives who say his team made too many concessions in the nuclear deal for minimal economic gain Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Congress's decision to renew US sanctions for 10 years would elicit a "harsh reaction" and proved the United States was still an enemy. The Americans want to put as much pressure on us as they can," Rouhani said in a speech to students at Tehran University. The Iran Sanctions Act passed the US Senate 99-0 last week, after easily clearing the House of Representatives in November.
 
 

Rouhani says Iran will not let Trump rip up nuclear deal

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎11:16:50 AMGo to full article
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks while submitting his next year's budget bill in an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that President Hassan Rouhani submitted a $83 billion budget bill to parliament for the next fiscal year, beginning in March. The budget is seven percent more than the current budget in Iranian rials. But it is less in U.S. dollars due to the recent drop in the rial against the dollar. The current year's budget is $97 billion. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin BEIRUT (Reuters) - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday he would not let U.S. President-elect Donald Trump rip up a global nuclear deal, warning of unspecified repercussions if Washington reneges on the agreement. Trump had said during campaigns for the White House that he would scrap Iran's pact with world powers - under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in return for lifted sanctions - describing it as "the worst deal ever negotiated". "[Trump] wants to do many things, but none of his actions would affect us," Rouhani said in a speech at University of Tehran broadcast live on state television.
 
 

By accident or design, Trump signals tougher China policy

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎10:31:23 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. With Trump's latest tweets touching on sensitive issues, China must decide how to handle an incoming American president who relishes confrontation and whose online statements appear to foreshadow shifts in foreign policy. China awoke Monday, Dec. 5, to criticism from Trump on Twitter, days after it responded to his telephone conversation with Taiwan's president by accusing the Taiwanese of playing a "little trick" on Trump. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — Whether by accident or design, President-elect Donald Trump is signaling a tougher American policy toward China, sparking warnings from both the outgoing Obama administration and Beijing.
 
 

U.S. seeks to reassure Beijing after Trump call with Taiwan leader

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:56:07 AMGo to full article
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a costume party at the home of hedge fund billionaire and campaign donor Robert Mercer in Head of the HarborBy Roberta Rampton and Ben Blanchard WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday it had sought to reassure China after President-elect Donald Trump's phone call with Taiwan's leader last week, which the Obama administration warned could undermine progress in relations with Beijing. The statement from a spokesman for U.S. President Barack Obama highlighted concerns about the potential fallout from Trump's unusual call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, which prompted a diplomatic protest from Beijing on Saturday.
 
 

Iran says UN atomic agency chief to visit Tehran again

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:42:11 AMGo to full article
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's top nuclear official says the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog will visit Iran later this month.
 

World leaders face risks in reconciling with past enemies

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎9:40:11 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Friday, May 27, 2016, file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama walks to lay a wreath at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western, Japan. U.S. President Barack Obama risked criticism at home when he decided to visit the memorial to the 140,000 killed in the atomic bombing of the Japanese city during World War II. Japanese generally welcomed his visit and praised his speech which called on humankind to prevent war and pursue a world without nuclear weapons. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama, File)Reconciliation can be tricky. It took 70 years for an American president to visit the site of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and nearly 75 for a Japanese leader to announce he would visit Pearl Harbor, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did Monday.
 
 

Factbox: Trump fills top jobs for his administration

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎4:41:32 AMGo to full article
(Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Monday he would name retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The following is a list of Republican Trump's selections for top jobs in his administration. All the posts but that of national security adviser require Senate confirmation: DEFENSE SECRETARY: JAMES MATTIS Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general known for his tough talk, distrust of Iran and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 

Aleppo's fall would be win for Russia, defeat for U.S. in Mideast

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:56:20 AMGo to full article
Smoke rises after strikes on the rebel-held besieged neighbourhoods of eastern AleppoBy Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-backed moderate rebels' loss of the eastern half of Syria's largest city Aleppo to Russian-backed government forces would be a defeat for President Barack Obama's efforts to promote democracy and defeat terrorism in the Middle East, U.S. officials conceded on Monday. The defeat would leave President-elect Donald Trump with less influence over the course of the more than five-year-long civil war that is likely to grind on, fueling greater instability, violent extremism, refugee flows and regional rivalries, the officials said.
 
 

Suspense builds over Trump secretary of state search

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:44:55 AMGo to full article
No US president or president-elect has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since Donald TrumpDonald Trump on Monday spent another day sequestered in cabinet-building talks as international suspense grew over who he will pick for secretary of state having already defied diplomatic protocol and provoked China. Vice president-elect Mike Pence told reporters that Monday's meetings had resulted in decisions that would be made public in the days ahead. The world is keenly awaiting what will be Trump's most prestigious appointment -- America's next top diplomat -- scrutinizing the process for clues as to the direction US policy will take after the Republican is sworn in on January 20.
 
 

Russia, China veto UN resolution demanding Aleppo truce

 
‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎1:12:21 AMGo to full article
A Russian soldier inspects the damage at a field hospital that was reportedly destroyed by rebel shelling in the Furqan neighbourhood of the government-held side of west AleppoRussia and China on Monday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a seven-day ceasefire in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. The vote marked the sixth time Russia has blocked a council resolution on Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, and the fifth for China. In an eleventh-hour effort, Russia tried to postpone the vote until at least Tuesday, when the Americans and Russians are set to meet in Geneva.

 

 

 

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Iraqi official: Anti-IS airstrike killed, wounded civilians

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎6 minutes agoGo to full article
An Iraqi Special Forces member stands near the main road from Erbil to Mosul with his unit, in the village of Bartala, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. A senior Iraqi commander says special forces captured a new neighborhood from Islamic State militants in eastern Mosul, the latest gain in a massive government military operation now in its seventh week. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament speaker said an airstrike targeting the Islamic State-held town of Qaim in western Iraq near the Syrian border killed and wounded "dozens" of civilians, and that he is holding the Iraqi government responsible.
 
 

Deadly strike in western Iraq, fierce battles in Mosul

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎7 hours agoGo to full article
Iraqi forces are battling jihadists deep inside Mosul, edging closer to the River Tigris that divides the cityAn air strike in Iraq has killed dozens of civilians in an area near the Syrian border still controlled by the Islamic State group, officials said. The deadly strike came as Iraqi forces battled jihadists deep inside Mosul, edging closer to the River Tigris that divides the city and looking for a breakthrough in the seven-week-old offensive. The speaker of Iraq's parliament, Salim al-Juburi condemned the air strike "that targeted a market area for civilians and resulted in the death and injury of dozens of them" in the town of Al-Qaim.
 
 

Immigration, disasters, borders: the essential Homeland Security Department

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
The Department of Homeland Security is the third largest US government department, pulling together 22 federal agencies with 240,000 employeesThe Department of Homeland Security was created in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks to coordinate dozens of disparate government operations and better protect security in the United States. This will be the challenge for former Marine General John Kelly, US President-elect Donald Trump's reported choice to lead the department beginning in January. The third largest US government department, DHS pulls together 22 federal agencies with 240,000 employees who do everything from patrolling the coastline and land borders to protecting the president and visiting dignitaries.
 
 

Factbox: Trump fills top jobs for his administration

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
(Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate wrestling magnate Linda McMahon as his choice to head the Small Business Administration, Trump's transition team said in a statement on Wednesday. The following is a list of Republican Trump's selections for top jobs in his administration. All the posts but that of national security adviser require Senate confirmation: TREASURY SECRETARY: STEVEN MNUCHIN Mnuchin, 53, is a relatively little-known but successful private equity investor, hedge fund manager and Hollywood financier who spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs before leaving in 2002.
 

Trump taps Kelly for Homeland Security, third general for top post

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎8 hours agoGo to full article
Retired Marine Corps general John Kelly is escorted by Madeleine Westerhout (R) as he arrives at Trump Tower to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New YorkBy Steve Holland and Warren Strobel NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate a third retired general for a top job in his new administration with the choice of a battle-hardened Marine commander to lead the agency set up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to protect the U.S. homeland. Trump is expected to name former Marine General John Kelly, 66, as head of the Department of Homeland Security, a source familiar with the decision told Reuters on Wednesday. Kelly told Fox News on Wednesday that he has "been asked and would consider it an honor." If confirmed by the Senate, Kelly will be in charge of the agency tasked with securing borders against illegal immigration, protecting the president, responding to natural disasters, coordinating intelligence and counterterrorism.
 
 

UN scrambling for land to shelter displaced outside Mosul

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. is scrambling to find enough land to shelter those displaced by the fighting to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group as humanitarians brace for the exodus of as many as 700,000 people from the city, an official said Wednesday.
 

Trumps taps retired Marine general for homeland security

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎9 hours agoGo to full article
Trumps taps retired Marine general for homeland securityRetired Marine Gen. John Kelly carved out a reputation as a highly respected, but often outspoken commander who could roil debate with blunt assessments or unpopular directives on issues ranging from women ...
 
 

U.N. chief to appoint New Zealand lawmaker as South Sudan envoy

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
By Michelle Nichols UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to name New Zealand lawmaker David Shearer as head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, which has been wracked by violence since 2013. Ban notified the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday of his decision to choose Shearer to succeed Ellen Loj of Denmark, who stood down at the end of November. Ban said Shearer would bring to the role "extensive political and humanitarian experience." He is currently New Zealand's opposition Labour party spokesman for foreign affairs and was Labour party leader in opposition between 2011 and 2013.
 

John Kelly, the Marine General to head Homeland Security

 
‎Today, ‎December ‎8, ‎2016, ‏‎10 hours agoGo to full article
President-elect Donald Trump has decided to name retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, a veteran of combat in Iraq, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, US media said December 7, 2016John Kelly, the Marine Corps general reportedly picked by Donald Trump to be Homeland Security secretary, will be the new administration's lead figure as it pursues the president-elect's goal of boosting the fight against Islamic extremists and illegal immigration. The third general chosen for Trump's cabinet, Kelly spent 45 years in the Marines, holding a range of positions from field commands in Iraq to political liaison in Congress before finishing his career as commander of the US armed forces Southern Command covering Central and South America.
 
 

The real battle in Aleppo and Mosul

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:37:17 PMGo to full article
The world’s main body for protecting civilians in war zones, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), is closely watching two tense and pivotal battles in the Middle East. One is Iraq’s assault on Islamic State forces in Mosul. The other is Syria’s attack on pro-democracy rebels in Aleppo.
 

Officials outline steps for resolving Guard bonus scandal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:26:00 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior U.S. military officials sought to assure a House oversight panel Wednesday that they're taking aggressive steps to ensure that thousands of soldiers who received enlistment bonuses and served in combat won't be forced to return the money.
 

John Kelly, Trump’s Homeland Security pick, gave a remarkable speech 4 days after his son died serving in Afghanistan

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:25:40 PMGo to full article
John Kelly, Trump’s Homeland Security pick, gave a remarkable speech 4 days after his son died serving in AfghanistanFour days earlier, Kelly’s 29-year-old son, Marine 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, stepped on a land mine while leading a patrol in southern Afghanistan. John Kelly, President-elect Donald Trump’s reported pick for Homeland Security chief, never spoke of his fallen son by name during the speech to the Semper Fi Society that he had committed to give long before his son’s death. “We are in a life-and-death struggle, but not our whole country,” Kelly said in his speech.
 
 

Iraqi forces face fierce IS attacks after new Mosul push

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:13:26 PMGo to full article
An Iraqi soldier from the 9th Infantry Division holds his machine gun while heading to the frontline in Shyma district in Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Iraqi forces, backed the U.S.-led international coalition, launched a campaign in October to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city and IS's last major urban bastion in Iraq. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Significant Islamic State group counterattacks in southeastern Mosul inflicted heavy losses on Iraqi forces overnight after a new push deeper into the city this week, according to an Iraqi Army officer.
 
 

New Zealander to head UN mission in South Sudan

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎11:06:53 PMGo to full article
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent a letter informing the Security Council of his intention to appoint David Shearer, pictured in 2012, as the UN envoy to South Sudan and head of UNMISSA New Zealand lawmaker who has led UN aid efforts worldwide is to be named UN mission chief in South Sudan, one of the world's toughest peacekeeping jobs, diplomats said Wednesday. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent a letter informing the Security Council of his intention to appoint David Shearer as the UN envoy to South Sudan and head of UNMISS, succeeding Ellen Margrethe Loj of Denmark.
 
 

Ohio GOP official's US Senate bid could mean bitter rematch

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:59:34 PMGo to full article
Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel will again challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018, setting up what could be a rematch of what was one of the country's most bitter, expensive and closely watched Senate races four years ago.
 

All They Do is Nguyen: Two Brothers Go All-in for Wounded Warrior Project

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:15:00 PMGo to full article
LAS VEGAS, Dec. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It was the 364th hand of the final table when Qui Nguyen (fittingly pronounced "win") beat out Gordon Vayo to take the title of champion at The World Series of Poker®. Qui, a former nail salon owner, endured nine grueling hours of one-on-one play to take home over $8 million in winnings and the coveted gold bracelet. Gathered behind him in the stands was his family – all wearing matching shirts emblazoned with Qui's name, face, and the logo of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
 

AP Explains: What next after the downfall of IS in Sirte?

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎10:14:01 PMGo to full article
FILE -- In this Sept. 29, 2016 file photo, fighters of the Libyan forces affiliated to the Tripoli government, look from their vantage point as plumes of smoke rise after an airstrike over an Islamic State militant held area of Sirte, Libya. On Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2016, the Islamic State group lost the battle for the city of Sirte, its only foothold in Libya, essentially ending the militants’ ambition to expand its self-styled “caliphate” beyond Syria and Iraq. But that victory only opens the door for Libya’s multiple armed factions to potentially turn on each other in a new showdown. It is likely to be over control of oil, the North African nation’s only real source of revenue. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File)BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — The Islamic State group this week lost the city of Sirte, its only foothold in Libya, essentially ending its ambition to expand its self-styled "caliphate" into the North African nation, at least for now.
 
 

Ohio man linked to Islamic State appeals sentence in U.S. Capitol plot

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎9:58:09 PMGo to full article
An Ohio man has appealed his sentence of 30 years imprisonment for plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol in Washington with guns and bombs in sympathy with Islamic State militants, court documents showed. The appeal was filed on Tuesday by lawyers for Christopher Lee Cornell the day after he was sentenced by a federal judge. Cornell, 22, of Green Township, near Cincinnati, was arrested in January 2015 and accused of planning to travel to Washington to attack the U.S. Capitol during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
 

Dozens killed in west Iraq air strike, MPs and medics say

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎9:57:20 PMGo to full article
Air strikes killed dozens of people, including many women and children, in an Islamic State-held town near Iraq's western border with Syria on Wednesday, two parliamentarians and local hospital sources said. The hospital sources said 55 civilians were killed, including 12 women and 19 children, in three air strikes.
 

CIA director visits Albania for counterterrorism talks

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:55:58 PMGo to full article
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The United States embassy in Tirana says Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan visited Albania to discuss terrorism along with a variety of other bilateral and international issues.
 

Trump to name retired general Kelly as Homeland Security chief: reports

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:40:59 PMGo to full article
US President-elect Donald Trump meets with retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, his pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, on November 20, 2016President-elect Donald Trump has decided to name retired Marine Corps general John Kelly, a veteran of combat in Iraq, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, US media said Wednesday. Kelly would be the third retired general to be named to cabinet-level positions in Trump's administration. The impending appointment was widely reported in the US media but not confirmed by Trump's transition office, apparently because Kelly is out of the country.
 
 

Around 1,500 European jihadists return from Mideast: report

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:30:27 PMGo to full article
Belgium expressed concern last month that jihadists were increasingly returning to Europe as US-backed coalition forces drive the Islamic State (IS) group from territory in Syria and IraqAround a third of the estimated 5,000 European jihadists who went to Syria and Iraq have returned to Europe, and some may have orders to attack, an EU report warned Wednesday. Up to 2,500 fighters from Europe remained on the battlefield but their massive return in the short term seemed unlikely, according to the report seen by AFP. Belgium expressed concern last month that jihadists were increasingly returning to Europe as US-backed coalition forces drive the Islamic State (IS) group from territory in Syria and Iraq.
 
 

Status of main battle fronts in Iraq and Syria

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎8:18:09 PMGo to full article
A general view taken from Aleppo's citadel show fumes rising following shelling on neighbourhoods in the old city on December 7, 2016Rebels in Aleppo called for a five-day truce and the evacuation of civilians after losing more territory including the Old City to a Syrian army offensive. Regime forces scored another important victory when the rebels retreated from the Old City, the historic heart of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Pro-government forces now control around 80 percent of east Aleppo, the Observatory said, and at least 80,000 residents have fled their homes.
 
 

Trumps taps retired Marine general John Kelly for DHS

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:20:35 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump is tapping another four-star military officer for his administration. He has picked retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to lead the Homeland Security Department, according to people close to the transition.
 

British premier, Gulf Arab nations pledge to counter Iran

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:16:49 PMGo to full article
In this Tuesday Dec. 6, 2016 photo released by Bahrain News Agency, and made available today, Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, leaders meet during the Arabian Gulf countries summit in Manama, Bahrain. (Bahrain News Agency via AP)DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders from six Gulf Arab countries agreed Wednesday to counter Iran's "destabilizing activities," a pledge meant to calm nerves following the nuclear deal with world powers.
 
 

UAE calls Ohio police killing of Emirati 'painful incident'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:26 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates has called the police killing of an Emirati man in Ohio a "painful incident" that the country's diplomats would investigate, just months after another citizen of the U.S.-allied Arab nation was wrongly accused in Ohio of being an Islamic militant.
 

Eyeing re-election, Germany's Merkel takes tougher tone on migrants

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:04:08 PMGo to full article
German Chancellor and leader of the conservative CDU Merkel leaves the CDU party convention in EssenBy Paul Carrel ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives toughened their tone on integrating migrants on Wednesday, passing a resolution on tackling forced marriage and honor killings, and cracking down on dual citizenship. A day after Merkel called for a ban on full-face Muslim veils "wherever legally possible", her Christian Democrats (CDU) endorsed that message and stressed the values they want the 890,000 migrants who arrived in Germany last year to adopt. Merkel, who implored the party on Tuesday to help her win a fourth term in office at federal elections next year, told N-TV at the end of a two-day CDU party conference that individual criminals among the migrants must be found and prosecuted.
 
 

Married under 'caliphate', Iraq couples say 'I do' again

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎5:04:37 PMGo to full article
Iraqis wait to receive official documents outside the Qayyarah tribunal on December 6, 2016In Qayyarah, Iraqis are thronging a civil court to get married a second time, register births and replace the documents they were delivered during two years of jihadist administration. "Do you take Ahmad as your lawful husband?", the judge asked Salma in the civil court that recently reopened in Qayyarah, a town on the Tigris river south of the city of Mosul. The young lady said yes, a year after exchanging vows before a Muslim cleric in Mosul, the large northern city where Iraqi forces are battling the Islamic State group.
 
 

Mosul campaign could take two more months, Islamic State to remain a threat: U.S. coalition chief

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:35:52 PMGo to full article
By Michael Georgy ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE (Reuters) - The offensive against Islamic State in Mosul could take two more months, and even if the group is defeated there it will still pose a threat to Iraq and the West, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against it said. U.S. Lieutenant-General Stephen Townsend said Iraqi forces had made significant progress since the ultra-hardline militants rampaged through the north of the country in 2014 and then declared a caliphate that also straddled parts of Syria. "I think they are going to be working on Mosul for a number of weeks more, maybe a couple of months more probably," Townsend told Reuters in an interview aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle during a visit with senior military officers.
 

Amid battle with IS, Iraq parliament approves next budget

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:17:40 PMGo to full article
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament has approved next year's budget of about 100.67 trillion Iraqi dinars, or nearly $85.17 billion.
 

EU urged to share data better to detect militants returning from Syria, Iraq

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:03:47 PMGo to full article
The European Union must improve information-sharing internally and with the United States and Turkey to better track Europeans returning from fighting with Islamic State, the EU's counter-terrorism official will tell interior ministers. EU home affairs chiefs will discuss in Brussels on Friday how to increase their ability to intercept such returnees after Islamic State sent back radicalised Europeans to carry out attacks on targets in their home countries. Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, estimates there are some 2,000-2,500 European "foreign terrorist fighters" still in Syria and Iraq.
 

Islamic State attacks Iraqi soldiers in Mosul

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:47:05 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during battle to retake a village from the Islamic State on the eastern bank of the river TigrisBy Ahmed Rasheed BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants attacked Iraqi soldiers near a hospital in southeast Mosul on Wednesday, an army officer and the jihadist group's new agency said, trying to repel the army's deepest advances of the seven-week Mosul campaign. The fighting came a day after the army's operations commander for Mosul said soldiers surged into the city and took over the Salam hospital, less than a mile (1.5 km) from the Tigris river which divides eastern and western Mosul. It said a suicide bomber blew himself up near the hospital, killing 20 soldiers.
 
 

Kazakhstan detains suspected oil thieves linked to Islamists

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:39:46 PMGo to full article
Kazakhstan's state security service has detained several people suspected of stealing oil and fuel from a refinery and being linked to radical Islamists, it said on Wednesday. The large-scale raid took place in the city of Aktobe, the National Security Committee said in a statement, the site of a deadly Islamist attack last June in which 25 people, including 18 attackers, were killed. The security service said it had seized several tanker trucks loaded with oil and oil products.
 

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:35:11 PMGo to full article
Iraqi forces backed by tribal militias during battle to retake a village from the Islamic State on the eastern bank of the river TigrisBy Dominic Evans, Maher Chmaytelli and Patrick Markey BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - In the early days of the assault on Islamic State in Mosul, Iran successfully pressed Iraq to change its battle plan and seal off the city, an intervention which has since shaped the tortuous course of the conflict, sources briefed on the plan say. The original campaign strategy called for Iraqi forces to close in around Mosul in a horseshoe formation, blocking three fronts but leaving open the fourth - to the west of the city leading to Islamic State territory in neighboring Syria.
 
 

Today in History

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎7:01:22 AMGo to full article
Today in History
 

Bangladesh extremist to hang for attack on UK envoy

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎6:54:08 AMGo to full article
Bangladesh's highest court has upheld a death sentence on Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami leader sentence on Mufti Abdul Hannan (C) and two other militants after a 2004 attack that left three deadBangladesh's highest court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence handed down to a top militant and two of his followers for a 2004 attack on the British ambassador that left three people dead. The Supreme Court rejected the appeals by Mufti Abdul Hannan, head of Harkatul Jihad Al Islami (HuJI) and two members of the banned militant group.
 
 

Trump lays out non-interventionist U.S. military policy

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:43:19 AMGo to full article
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a USA Thank You Tour event at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North CarolinaBy Steve Holland FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump laid out a U.S. military policy on Tuesday that would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts and instead focus heavily on defeating the Islamic State militancy. In the latest stop on a "thank you" tour of states critical to his Nov. 8 election win, Trump introduced his choice for defense secretary, General James Mattis, to a large crowd in this city near the Fort Bragg military base, which has deployed soldiers to 90 countries around the world. "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with," Trump said.
 
 

Iraqi army launches fresh assault toward Mosul center

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:10:38 AMGo to full article
Iraqi army fires towards Islamic State militant positions in Mosul from the village of AdhbahBy Ahmed Rasheed and Patrick Markey BAGHDAD/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi army units surged toward the center of Mosul on Tuesday in an attack from the city's southeastern edges that could give fresh impetus to the seven-week-old battle for Islamic State's Iraqi stronghold. Campaign commander Lieutenant General Abdul Ameer Rasheed Yarallah was quoted by Iraqi television as saying troops had entered Salam Hospital, less than a mile (1.5 km) from the Tigris river running through the city center. If confirmed, that would mark a significant advance by the Ninth Armoured Division, which had been tied up for more than a month in close-quarter combat with Islamic State on the southeastern fringes of the city.
 
 

Suitors, husbands spurn Middle Eastern women disfigured by war

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎4:01:02 AMGo to full article
By Lin Taylor AMMAN (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ahzan was shopping in a market in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad when an explosion ripped through the street, lifting her off her feet and shattering her lower body.
 

Ransomed: The race to free 226 Christian hostages in Syria

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:43:38 AMGo to full article
Zammo Marza, Sherineh Marza, Charli Kanoun and Abdo Marza, from right, stand at the grave of Marza Marza in Saarlouis, Germany in this Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 photo. The Marza family were among 226 Assyrian Christians taken captive by the Islamic State group in a February 2015 attack on their villages in northern Syria. Members of the Assyrian diaspora, including Kanoun, led a year-long campaign to raise ransom money that in the end succeeded in winning the captives’ freedom but put millions of dollars in IS pockets. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)SAARLOUIS, Germany (AP) — Deep inside Syria, a bishop worked secretly to save the lives of 226 members of his flock from the Islamic State group — by amassing millions of dollars from his community around the world to buy their freedom.
 
 

Military doctor denies Chelsea Manning's request to have records reflect gender change

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:33:59 AMGo to full article
U.S. Army handout photo shows Chelsea ManningThe decision further stymies Manning's attempts to be treated as a woman while imprisoned at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas, said the document filed on Monday in federal court in Washington in relation to on ongoing lawsuit. Manning has been the focus of an international debate over government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
 
 

Obama: Terror fight needs coalitions, no 'false promises'

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎2:31:44 AMGo to full article
US President Barack Obama ordered the successful raid against Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011President Barack Obama on Tuesday used his final address on global terror to defend his approach to the fight, calling for coalition-building to continue battlefield successes while rejecting the use of torture. Highlighting the lines drawn during his eight years as commander in chief, Obama did not mention Donald Trump by name, but he clearly addressed his successor, who has yet to spell out his own counterterrorism strategy. "Rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs or deploying more and more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat," Obama said.
 
 

Syrian troops enter Aleppo's Old City, poised for war's biggest victory

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎1:14:51 AMGo to full article
The sun rises while smoke is pictured near Aleppo's historic citadel, as seen from a government-controlled area of AleppoBy John Davison and Stephanie Nebehay BEIRUT/GENEVA (Reuters) - Syria's army and allies pushed into rebel-held parts of Aleppo's Old City on Tuesday, a monitoring group said, looking closer than ever to achieving their most important victory of the five-year-old civil war by driving rebels out of their last urban stronghold. A rebel official said they would never abandon Aleppo, after reports that U.S. and Russian diplomats were preparing to discuss the surrender and evacuation of insurgents from territory they have held for years. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said talks with the United States on a rebel withdrawal would begin in Geneva as soon as Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
 
 

Obama defends counterterrorism plan before handover to Trump

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎12:58:19 AMGo to full article
President Barack Obama waves before speaking at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, about the administration's approach to counterterrorism campaign. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Closing out two terms as a president at war, Barack Obama staunchly defended his counterterrorism strategy as one that rejected torture, held to American values and avoided large-scale troop deployments, in an implicit effort to shape the strategy his successor might employ.
 
 

Obama defends record on terrorism in national security speech

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎7, ‎2016, ‏‎12:51:08 AMGo to full article
Obama visits MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FloridaBy Ayesha Rascoe TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned that the United States would not be able to wipe out terrorism with military might as he offered a sweeping defense of his administration's national security record. In his final major speech on counterterrorism as president, Obama argued that his administration had been able to make al Qaeda "a shadow of its former self" and had put Islamic State on its heels, but said terrorism would remain a threat to the United States. "Rather than offer false promises that we can eliminate terrorism by dropping more bombs or deploying more and more troops or fencing ourselves off from the rest of the world, we have to take a long view of the terrorist threat and we have to pursue a smart strategy that can be sustained," Obama said during a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
 

US wants Mosul offensive on IS in April-May

 
‎20 ‎February "‎2015", ‏‎10:00:50 AMGo to full article
Smoke billows after an US air strike near the Mosul dam, Iraq's largest, on the Tigris river, on August 17, 2014The US wants Iraq to launch its offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group in April or May, military officials said. Mosul is believed to be held by 1,000-2,000 IS fighters and 20,000-25,000 Iraqi troops are needed to carry out the offensive, an official with US Central Command said on Thursday. US-led coalition aircraft have recently focused air strikes in the area of Mosul and Kurdish forces have made inroads on the ground nearby. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched successful offensives against IS-held roads near Mosul, which is in the north of the country.

 

 


 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

 
 

Watchdog warns 'nuclear terrorism' can strike anywhere

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Dec 5, 2016 - "Nuclear terrorists" can strike anywhere, the head of the UN atomic watchdog warned Monday at the start of a week-long ministerial conference on preventing misuse of radioactive materials and attacks on facilities.

"Ensuring effective nuclear security is important for all countries, including those which possess little or no nuclear or other radioactive material," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said.

"Terrorists and criminals will try to exploit any vulnerability in the global nuclear security system. Any country, in any part of the world, could find itself used as a transit point. And any country could become the target of an attack," he said in Vienna.

Countries all over the world have stepped up their investment in nuclear security with support from the IAEA, and have been working to reinforce staffing levels with more than 10,000 police, border guards and other specialists trained in the past six years, Amano said.

The IAEA has given countries over 3,000 instruments for detecting nuclear material and this year provided radiation detection equipment and other assistance to Brazil during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

This year, the IAEA also hosted the International Conference on Computer Security in a Nuclear World looking at the growing issue of cybersecurity as the reliance on digital systems within nuclear facilities grows.

 

 

China warns against obstruction of Iran nuclear deal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Dec 5, 2016 - Implementation of the Iran nuclear deal should not be "affected by any changes in the domestic situations" of countries involved, China's foreign minister warned Monday, as US president-elect Donald Trump threatens to abandon it.

The agreement, signed in Vienna in July 2015 and in force since January, was the signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama's second term. It calls on Tehran to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief from the US and other nations.

Trump has promised to tear up the nuclear deal once in office, calling the agreement under which it was implemented -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- the "worst deal ever negotiated".

The agreement's implementation is the "joint responsibility and duty of all parties" and "should not be affected by any changes in the domestic situations of the countries concerned", Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told a press conference after meeting his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

"What is important is to honour commitments and place emphasis on good faith when it comes to differences or possible differences" over the deal, he said.

In another stumbling block for the deal, the US Congress last week voted to renew longstanding sanctions linked to Iran's ballistic missile tests and human rights record. These pre-date the controversy around Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Washington says these 10-year sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear agreement, but Iran says the continuing restrictions breach its spirit, particularly since they have discouraged international banks from returning to the country.

"We will not allow any party to unilaterally undertake any actions that are in violation of the nuclear agreement," Zarif said.

He also said he spoke with Wang about increased cooperation on energy, transport, science and technology, national defence and counter-terrorism initiatives.

"We have no reservation and no ceiling for our relations with China, because we share common principles and a common agenda for the future of the global system," Zarif said.

President Xi Jinping visited Iran in January on what both foreign ministers hailed as a "historic" visit, signing a series of agreements that aim to build economic ties worth up to $600 billion within the next 10 years. It was the first such trip to Iran by a Chinese president in 14 years.

Beijing has long taken a back seat to other diplomatic players in the Middle East. But analysts say the region is crucial to Xi's signature foreign policy initiative -- known as "One Belt One Road" and touted as a revival of ancient Silk Road trade routes.

China, the world's second-largest economy, also relies heavily on oil and gas from the Middle East.

 

 

Why Russia's revived 'Ghost Trains' fuel so much fear in the West

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Dec 06, 2016 - Commenting on the recent successful pop-up launch tests of a Russian-made intercontinental ballistic missile on the advanced Barguzin rail-based strategic missile complex, German media have sounded a clear alarm, calling it "a nightmare," however noting that it comes only in response to the west's build-up on Russia's borders. The testing took place at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in early November, and paves the way for full-scale flight development tests.

"Pop-up launch tests are conducted to determine whether the complex is operational. The missile and the transporter-launcher container were developed some time ago, but the launching platform is a novel solution. The trials are meant to test its performance," Russian Defense analyst Victor Murakhovsky told Radio Sputnik earlier in November.

The test marks the revival of the nuclear-trains project originally dating back the Soviet-era. In 1987, the USSR decided to place its missiles on railways, taking advantage of its large and diverse railroad network, in which a train could hide from satellite reconnaissance. Each of the 12 Soviet 'nuke trains' was armed with three RT-23 Molodets (SS-24 Scalpel) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying 10 warheads. From space, the trains looked like ordinary refrigerator cars.

In accordance with the START II treaty, Russia removed these trains from operational use in 2005 and completely decommissioned them in 2007. The new project, codenamed "Barguzin" after a strong Baikal wind, is not subjected to the treaty and surpasses its predecessors in capabilities. Every "Barguzin" train will be armed with six ICBMs RS-24 Yars (a land equivalent of the submarine-launched Bulava).

The new "nuke train" is similar to a nuclear-capable submarine in its function. The cars are so solid that they can resist the explosion of a nuclear warhead just several hundred meters away. A train can run for a month autonomously and travel up to 1,000 kilometers per day.

The system is expected to be developed by 2018. Five "Barguzin" regiments are expected to enter Russia's Strategic Missiles Forces by 2020. "Soviet-era platforms employed railway cars, different in size from standard rail carriages. The new missile complex fits onto the standard rail gauge. The wagons carrying [the recently tested] missiles resemble a freight refrigerator car for instance," Murakhovsky explained. Commenting on the recent tests, German news website Welt.de and news magazine Stern have called the train "a nightmare."

However the outlets note that the revival of the so-called "ghost trains" comes in response to what Moscow sees as the "West's crossing of the red line" in Eastern Europe, right on Russia's borders.

The outlets point to NATO's military build-up in Eastern Europe and in the Baltic states. In a separate comment on the issue, Russian military commentator Vasily Sychev noted that Barguzin emerged only in response to the US' Prompt Global Strike (PGS) project, which is a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour, in a similar manner to a nuclear ICBM.

Such a weapon would allow the US to respond far more swiftly than is possible with conventional forces.

In September 2014, President Putin mentioned PGS among a number of the new threats Russia faced, along with the US Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system in Alaska, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System in Europe, and increased NATO activity in eastern Europe.

Deputy Prime Minister in charge of defense industry Dmitry Rogozin warned that Russia would upgrade its strategic nuclear forces and aerospace defenses in response to the PGS system. Victor Murakhovsky said that those who refer to the train as "a sheer nightmare" for foreign intelligence services have every reason for such a reference.

"I would agree with this since there are no attributes which could be used to detect this rail-based missile complex," he said.

"There is a new launching platform and a new combat control system which uses protected digital communication channels. There are new input programs for missions," he detailed. Hence the German media is right in its alarm that the feared Russian trains will be able to capture any strategic targets in the West. The trains however will remain solely on the Russian territory as the size of Russia's railway gauge is broader than that of Europe.

Rail tracks in the territories of Russia and the former Soviet Union were constructed using broad-gauge track (1,520 millimeter, or roughly 5 feet).

Most European railways west of the Baltic states, as well as 60 percent of the railways in the world, use standard-gauge track (1,435 millimeter). The origins of the difference in rail gauges between Europe and the former Soviet Union extend back to the 19th century. For Russia, the different rail gauge served a strategic military purpose by complicating the ability of hostile militaries to move troops and materiel into the country by rail.

Source: Sputnik News

 

 

N. Korea artillery drill targets South, Seoul unveils sanctions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 2, 2016 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un conducted a large-scale artillery drill simulating an attack on the South Korean capital and other targets, as Seoul and Tokyo on Friday unveiled fresh unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

The military exercise, involving multiple batteries of frontline heavy artillery units, targeted five border islands, as well as "reactionary ruling organs" in Seoul and other cities, the North's official KCNA news Agency said.

It took place on Thursday, just hours after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution imposing tough new sanctions on North Korea following its fifth nuclear test in September.

The UN resolution, which was spearheaded by the United States and came after three months of tough negotiations with fellow veto-wielding council member China, caps the North's annual coal exports -- its top external revenue source.

"If a war breaks out, such a deadly strike should be inflicted upon the South Korean forces to completely break their will of counteraction at the start and make a clean sweep of them," KCNA quoted Kim Jong-Un as saying during the artillery drill.

"Nobody and nothing would survive," the young leader added.

South Korea on Friday unveiled its own sanctions against Pyongyang, adding dozens of individuals and organisations to a blacklist of those suspected of involvement in the North's nuclear programme.

Given the absence of any trade links or meaningful contact of any sort between the two Koreas, the South's measures are largely symbolic, and more aimed at "raising awareness", senior government policy official Lee Suk-Joon told a press briefing.

The expanded blacklist included the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea and two of Kim's closest aides, Choe Ryong-Hae and Hwang Pyong-So -- additions clearly aimed at riling the leadership in Pyongyang.

South Korea also named the Chinese company Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development, which was placed on a US sanctions blacklist in September for allegedly supporting the North's nuclear programme.

It marks the first time Seoul has sanctioned a Chinese firm in connection with North Korea, although Lee noted that Dandong Hongxiang had no existing transactions with any South Korean company.

The US sanctions announcement had accused Dandong Hongxiang of making up a "key illicit network supporting North Korea's weapons proliferation".

Japan also signalled a toughening of its unilateral sanctions, expanding a ban on port calls by vessels that had visited North Korea, and new additions to its own sanctions blacklist of North Korean individuals and entities.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests so far this year. With the fifth test, it claimed major strides in its efforts to fit a miniaturised warhead on a missile that could reach the United States.

Wednesday's UN Security Council resolution demanded that North Korea "abandon" its nuclear weapons programme, but Pyongyang said the sanctions would only trigger "tougher countermeasures for self-defence".

 

 

Iran says it will respond to US sanctions renewal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Dec 2, 2016 - Iran said on Friday that Congress's decision to renew US sanctions for 10 years was a violation of last year's nuclear agreement and promised an "appropriate" response.

"As repeatedly stated by high-ranking Iranian officials, the recent bill passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate to renew sanctions against Iran is against the (nuclear deal)," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said.

"Iran has proved that it sticks to its international agreements but it also has appropriate responses for all situations."

The Iran Sanctions Act passed the Senate 99-0 on Thursday, after easily clearing the House of Representatives last month.

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure, a White House official said, adding that the administration does not believe the extension violates the nuclear deal.

The legislation does not directly address the nuclear pact. But some say the restrictions in the bill go against the spirit of the agreement, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief from the United States and other nations.

The bill includes penalties against Iran's banking sector, as well as its energy and defence industries.

Senate Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Tim Kaine, who both backed the nuclear deal, said that while the president was currently waiving some sanctions as part of the agreement, "sanctions legislation must remain in place to allow an immediate snap-back" in the event of any violation by Iran.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the US sanctions legislation "does exist but its effect has been currently neutralised by the US president".

"If it becomes operational again, it's a clear violation," he told state television.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month that he considered the sanctions bill a breach of the nuclear deal and warned Iran would "react against it".

US President-elect Donald Trump heavily criticised the pact as he campaigned for the White House over the past year. Several fellow Republicans have called for its termination.

 

 

China to 'seriously' implement N. Korea UN sanctions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Dec 1, 2016 - Beijing will "seriously" implement new United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes, it said Thursday, with the measures set to hit Pyongyang's lucrative Chinese coal exports hard.

UN Security Council resolution 2321, passed on Wednesday, caps the North's annual coal exports at little more than four months of current sales to China, Chinese government data shows.

Spearheaded by the United States, the response to the hermit state's latest nuclear test in September was approved 15-0 after extended negotiations.

It limits North Korea's coal exports next year to 7.5 million tonnes or just over $400 million, down 62 percent on 2015.

The cap represents a fraction of the North's current annual exports to China, the isolated country's sole ally and its main provider of trade and aid.

China imported 1.8 million tonnes of coal worth $101 million from North Korea in October alone, according to the most recent figures available on the Chinese Customs website. The volume was up nearly 40 percent year-on-year.

Beijing will "serious" implement the resolution, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a regular briefing.

China, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, had a "responsible attitude", he added, and had always implemented UNSC resolutions and fulfilled "its international obligations according to the UN charter".

Trade with the world's second largest economy is crucial for the isolated and impoverished North, which has suffered regular food shortages and an outright famine in the mid-1990s.

The North's coal exports to the Asian giant have continued unabated despite previous UN sanctions, which included exemptions allowing trade to continue for "livelihood" purposes but did not set criteria for the determination.

"The point here is not the figures", but the legality of the imports, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said last week.

The limit in the latest sanctions resolution applies even if the sales are for livelihood purposes.

Although Beijing has traditionally protected Pyongyang diplomatically, believing that Kim Jong-Un's regime is preferable to its collapse, it has grown frustrated by its neighbour's defiance.

Beijing regularly says it "firmly opposes" the North's nuclear tests, but analysts believe it has resisted targeting the country's fragile economy for fear of provoking the regime's collapse.

 

 

N.Korea hits out at new UN sanctions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Dec 1, 2016 - North Korea on Thursday condemned tough new sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile programme as a violation of its sovereignty which would escalate tensions.

A foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement that North Korea "strongly censures and categorically rejects it as another excess of authority and violation of the DPRK's sovereignty by the UNSC acting under instructions of the US," the official KCNA news agency reported.

The statement said September's nuclear test, its fifth and biggest, was taken to "tackle the nuclear threat and sanctions by the US".

Noting that the Security Council had not prevented its permanent members from conducting nuclear tests and rocket launches, it said sanctions would not force North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme.

It added that sanctions would trigger "tougher countermeasures for self-defence" and would "inevitably escalate tensions", KCNA reported.

The Security Council on Wednesday unanimously imposed its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea, placing a cap on its key coal exports after the state's defiant nuclear tests.

The new sanctions resolution, which was spearheaded by the United States and came after three months of tough negotiations with fellow veto-wielding council member China, passed by a 15-0 vote.

The resolution demands that North Korea "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes" and takes aim at the state's exports of coal -- its top external revenue source.

 

 

UN Security Council hits N.Korea with toughest-ever sanctions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 30, 2016 - The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously imposed its toughest sanctions on North Korea, placing a cap on the hermit state's key coal exports after its defiant nuclear tests.

The new sanctions resolution -- which was spearheaded by the United States and came after three months of tough negotiations with fellow veto-wielding council member China -- passed by a 15-0 vote.

The resolution demands that North Korea "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" and takes aim at the state's exports of coal, its top external revenue source.

Under Resolution 2321, North Korea will be restricted from exporting more than 7.5 million tonnes of coal in 2017, a reduction of 62 percent from 2015.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution would strip the regime of more than $700 million in hard currency, dramatically reducing the money it can spend on nuclear and ballistic weapons.

Speaking to reporters with her counterparts from US allies South Korea and Japan, she said the move marked "the strongest sanctions regime the Security Council has imposed on any country in more than a generation."

"So long as the DPRK makes the choice it has made, which is to pursue the path of violations instead of the path of dialogue, we will continue to work to increase the pressure and defend ourselves and allies from this threat," Power said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

- China joins in pressure -

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all countries to enforce the resolution.

"It sends an unequivocal message that the DPRK must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations," said Ban, who has flirted with entering politics in his native South Korea after his term ends in a month.

Ban said he was still committed to "sincere dialogue" to resolve the nuclear issue and stood by calls to provide humanitarian assistance to ease the suffering of ordinary North Koreans.

China is North Korea's primary ally and one of the few markets for its coal.

Although Beijing has traditionally protected Pyongyang diplomatically, believing that Kim Jong-Un's regime is preferable to its collapse, it has grown frustrated by the neighboring state's defiance.

China's UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, reiterated that Beijing "strongly opposes" the North Korean nuclear tests -- but also made a veiled criticism of joint exercises between the United States and South Korea.

"Certain parties increase their military presence and scale up military exercises, thus intensifying the confrontation," he said at the Council.

"This situation must be changed as soon as possible," he said.

- Expanding breadth of sanctions -

The UN Security Council resolution condemns "in the strongest terms" North Korea's nuclear test on September 9 -- the communist state's second this year.

Pyongyang claimed at the time that it had made major strides in its efforts to fit a miniaturized warhead on a missile that could reach the United States.

North Korea, which insists its nuclear weapons are a deterrent to US "aggression," brushed aside earlier sanctions that targeted its weapons exports, access to financial markets and imports of luxury goods.

In addition to coal, the Security Council on Wednesday banned North Korea from exporting certain metals, including copper, silver, zinc and nickel, that bring in an estimated $100 million a year.

The Security Council also added 10 companies and 11 individuals --including the former North Korean ambassadors to Egypt and Myanmar -- to a blacklist under which their travel is restricted and assets frozen due to their alleged role in Pyongyang's military programs.

Although the outgoing US administration of President Barack Obama has generally favored dialogue over conflict, it has taken a tough line on North Korea after Pyongyang rebuffed early overtures.

Power said the latest resolution is groundbreaking because it also takes North Korea to task for its human rights violations.

In another rare clause, the resolution threatens North Korea with some losses of diplomatic rights at the United Nations if it violates resolutions.

But Japan's UN envoy, Koro Bessho, voiced willingness to return to dialogue if North Korea shows a "serious commitment."

"We are introducing sanctions not for the sake of introduction sanctions," he said, "but in order to change the course of DPRK policy."

 

 

CIA chief warns Trump against ripping up Iran deal

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
London, United Kingdom (AFP) Nov 30, 2016 - CIA director John Brennan warned Wednesday that tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, as US President-elect Donald Trump promised during his election campaign, would be "disastrous".

"I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement," Brennan told the BBC, adding: "It would be disastrous, it really would."

He said it would be "almost unprecedented" for one administration to tear up an agreement made by a previous one.

Brennan warned "it could lead to a weapons programme inside of Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programmes, with military conflict".

Since his election, Trump has been more circumspect, not publicly discussing the international deal with Tehran aimed at preventing the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

But his pick to succeed Brennan as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo, is a strident critic of the agreement.

In the BBC interview, Brennan also expressed hope there would be an improvement in relations between Washington and Moscow.

But he warned: "I think President-elect Trump and the new administration need to be wary of Russian promises. Russian promises in my mind have not given us what it is they had pledged."

Trump had said he might authorise the torture of detainees, including waterboarding, to gain information, but has since said he had received advice that made him rethink his approach.

"I would counsel my successor not to go down that road any more," Brennan said.

"Without a doubt the CIA really took some body blows as a result of its experiences in the detention interrogation programme.... I think the overwhelming majority of CIA officers would not want to get back into that business."

 

 

UN to vote on tighter N. Korea sanctions

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:34:13 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 29, 2016 - The United Nations is readying tighter sanctions on North Korea that would limit its coal exports to China, in response to Pyongyang's fifth and biggest nuclear test, US diplomats said Monday.

The resolution, spearheaded by the United States and negotiated with Beijing for three months, should go to a Security Council vote early Wednesday, according to diplomats who expect it will pass.

"This resolution would impose a hard, binding cap that will cut the DPRK's coal exports, which are its largest single source of external revenues, by more than 60 percent," said a US official familiar with the text, using the formal acronym for the North.

The tightening aims to cut $700 million from Pyongyang's coal earnings -- or a 62 percent reduction from last year.

"It would dramatically reduce the regime's access to hard currency used for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs," the diplomat stressed.

"We do not claim that this resolution is going to cause the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons program... but this resolution would make it significantly more difficult."

And China, North Korea's lone ally, is also among the few potential markets for that coal.

The draft text says that the Council "condemns in the strongest terms" the North's September 9 test. Pyongyang claimed at the time it had made major strides in its efforts to fit a miniaturized warhead on a rocket that could reach the United States.

"The measures imposed by this resolution are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK," the draft text adds.

US President Barack Obama reportedly told his incoming successor Donald Trump that confronting the nuclear threat from North Korea represents the top US national security priority.

The reclusive regime has carried out more than 20 missile tests this year, one of which reached Japanese-controlled waters after a launch in August.

 

 

Cuban missile crisis among Castro legacies

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Havana (AFP) Nov 26, 2016 - Fidel Castro was the last of the three main protagonists in one of the Cold War's scariest episodes: The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which raised fears of a global nuclear war.

Castro, who died Friday night at the age of 90, was aligned with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev when a 13-day showdown with US president John F. Kennedy began in October 1962.

Kennedy was assassinated a year later, on November 22, 1963, while Khrushchev died in 1971.

The Cold War heated up as never before when the United States found out Moscow was secretly building nuclear missile launchpads in Cuba.

On October 14, 1962, US reconnaissance aircraft took photographs of Soviet work on intermediate-range missile launch sites on the island.

Unwilling to allow the Soviets to position their nuclear arsenal so close to US shores, Kennedy, in unprecedented, nerve-jangling brinkmanship, warned Khrushchev that the United States would attack the Soviet Union if it did not withdraw the missiles.

The tensest days came after October 22, when Kennedy went public with what was happening, ordered a naval blockade of Cuba and mobilized 140,000 troops.

He pledged that any missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union, and demanded the Soviets remove all offensive weapons from Cuba.

Castro put 400,000 of his own people on alert, anticipating a military invasion that -- it emerged years later -- was not in any of Kennedy's immediate plans.

But Kennedy at one point ordered low-level reconnaissance missions once every two hours.

On October 26, Khrushchev offered to withdraw the missiles if the United States promised not to invade Cuba and took its Jupiter missiles out of Turkey.

Castro, meanwhile, tried to set his own conditions.

He demanded the end of the US embargo on Cuba, a halt to anti-Castro attacks from the United States, a stop to US violations of Cuban airspace, and the return of the US naval base in Guantanamo, on the southeastern tip of Cuba.

Ignoring Castro's demands, Kennedy wrote on October 27 a letter to Khrushchev in which he proposed an immediate withdrawal of Soviet missiles in exchange for an end of the naval blockade.

Privately, the United States told the Soviets it would remove its missiles from Turkey once the crisis was over.

The next day, Khrushchev gave into the US terms behind Castro's back, agreeing to take the missiles out in exchange for a US pledge not to invade Cuba.

With the US giving ground only by pulling its missiles from Turkey, Castro was most unhappily left out of the deal.

 

 

Iran says 11 tonnes of heavy water sent to Oman

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 22, 2016 - Iran said on Tuesday it had sent 11 metric tonnes of heavy water to Oman as part of its obligations under last year's nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said the heavy water has been sold to an unnamed third country.

Heavy water is not itself radioactive, but is used in certain types of reactor which can produce plutonium that is used in a nuclear bomb.

"Eleven tonnes of heavy water has been sent to Oman and the other party has announced its readiness for the purchase," Salehi said, according to the IRIB news agency.

In a report this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran's stocks of heavy water had crept 100 kilos above the 130-tonne level set out in the nuclear deal with world powers that came into force in January.

Tehran denied last week that this breached the agreement.

"Iran has fulfilled its obligations on heavy water stockpiles," Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said on Friday.

"We were required to put on the international market any excess over 130 tonnes, and so far we have sold 70 tonnes," he said.

The IAEA report said Iran has met its other obligations under the deal.

Tehran complains that it has not yet seen the expected benefits of the deal since sanctions were lifted in January.

Continuing US sanctions linked to Iran's ballistic missile tests and human rights record mean that international banks remain wary of doing business with the Islamic republic.

 

 

US, China agree on tougher UN sanctions against North Korea

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 23, 2016 - The United States and China have agreed on a new raft of tougher UN sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang's fifth and biggest nuclear test, a Security Council diplomat said Wednesday.

Although Russia has expressed reservations about the draft resolution, they should not stand in the way of a Security Council vote on the new package of punitive measures as early as next week, the diplomat said.

The key provision of the proposed new sanctions would be a cap on North Korea's coal exports to China, Pyongyang's main trading partner and ally, that could deprive the communist hermit state of tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

"The key thing is that China and the US have gotten to a position where they can agree on," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"The Russians are trying to hold it up, the Chinese are comfortable with it in terms of the content," he added.

The diplomat described the proposed resolution as a "very meaty" document that would close loopholes from the measure the council adopted in March, the toughest sanctions yet imposed on North Korea.

They would target coal exports, allowed under the previous measure for "livelihood purposes" if the revenue does not go toward financing Pyongyang's nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

Chinese coal imports from North Korea have surged in recent months amid fears that the funds are helping bankroll Pyongyang's military programs prohibited under UN resolutions.

New names of officials and entities linked to North Korea's ballistic and nuclear programs would be added to the UN sanctions blacklist, which provides for a global travel ban and an assets freeze.

"It is high time for the Security Council to come together to tighten up the sanctions regime against DPRK, to impose additional measures," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said.

The new measures would be introduced next week, he added.

- Number one security threat -

China and the United States have spent three months negotiating the latest measures, which would be the sixth set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since its first nuclear test in 2006.

President Barack Obama reportedly told his successor Donald Trump that confronting the nuclear threat from North Korea represents the top US national security priority.

The breakthrough on the new sanctions followed a meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the weekend during which the US president pressed for tougher measures against Pyongyang.

North Korea carried out its fifth and biggest nuclear test on September 9, claiming it had made major strides in its efforts to fit a miniaturized warhead on a rocket that could reach the United States.

The reclusive regime has carried out more than 20 missile tests this year, one of which reached Japanese-controlled waters after a launch in August.

 

 

Iran will retaliate if US renews sanctions: Khamenei

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 23, 2016 - Iran will retaliate if the United States renews sanctions next month, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Wednesday.

"In the issue of the nuclear deal, the current administration has committed several violations, the latest of which is the renewal of the 10-year sanctions," Khamenei said in a televised speech to thousands of members of the Basij Islamist volunteer militia.

"If these sanctions happen, it is absolutely a breach of the JCPOA," he added, referring to last year's deal with world powers under which sanctions were eased in exchange for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme.

"They must know that the Islamic republic will react against it."

The US Congress last week voted to renew long-standing sanctions linked to Iran's ballistic missile tests and human rights record that pre-date the controversy around Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The 10-year sanctions must still be approved by the Senate and President Barack Obama by the end of the year.

Washington says these sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear deal, but Iran says the continuing restrictions go against the spirit of the agreement, particularly since they have discouraged international banks from returning.

"The JCPOA must not become a tool for pressuring the Iranian people," Khamenei said.

 

 

South Korea, U.S. sign defense industry info-sharing pact

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Nov 21, 2016 - Defense acquisition officials from the United States and South Korea will sign an industry cooperation agreement to deepen their relationship.

The pact facilitates the trade of information, weapons, and additional military equipment between the two allies. South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration head Chang Myoung-jin plans to sign the memorandum of cooperation alongside U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce H. Andrews.

"We have had some difficulties in obtaining credible information on the U.S. and other foreign countries' weapons companies. The bilateral pact will help us sign agreements with weapons firms," Myoung-jin told the Yonhap News Agency.

Under the agreement, the agencies will meet each year to discuss information regarding their respective defense industries. The first meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., ahead of the signing. South Korea plans to ink similar deals with other countries.

"The country is also planning to sign a similar pact with countries, such as France, Britain and Israel," DAPA programming and support director Kim jong-chool explained. "It will not only help secure credible weapons partners but increase weapons exports."

News of the upcoming agreement follows DAPA's announcement of a new round of procurements including a long-range rocket and a next-generation frigate. IHS Janes reports the agency has approved the local development of a 230 mm long-rocket as a protective measure against North Korea. Officials estimate the project to be completed by 2020.

 

 

Iran denies any breach of nuclear accord

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 18, 2016 - Iran denied on Friday that it had in any way breached its nuclear deal with world powers, insisting it was meeting its commitment to cap its stocks of controlled materials.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week showed that Iran's stocks of so-called heavy water had inched above the 130-tonne level set out in the agreement.

Heavy water is not itself radioactive but is used in certain types of nuclear reactor, which can in turn produce plutonium that can be used in an atomic bomb.

The July 2015 deal with world powers sets Iran's heavy water "needs" at 130 tonnes and states that any excess must be "made available for export".

Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said arrangements were in hand to export the excess.

"Iran has fulfilled its obligations on heavy water stockpiles," state broadcaster IRIB quoted him as saying.

"We were required to put on the international market any excess over 130 tonnes and so far we have sold 70 tonnes," he said.

"Negotiations are under way with interested countries, in particular European," to sell the rest.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano had chided Iran on Thursday for exceeding the agreed limit on its stockpiles for a second time.

"It is important that such situations should be avoided in future in order to maintain international confidence in the implementation," he said.

Washington has played down concerns about Iran's exceeding of the stockpile limit.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that it was "important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this" and that he was "not sure whether that constitutes a formal violation".

In all other respects, the IAEA found that Iran was continuing to abide by the agreement's terms.

 

 

N. Korea slams South's deal with 'sworn enemy' Japan

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 18, 2016 - North Korea lashed out Friday at a new South Korea-Japan intelligence-sharing accord, accusing Seoul of a gross act of betrayal with the "sworn enemy" of the Korean people.

The deal to share defence intelligence -- largely driven by the growing threat of the North's nuclear and missile programmes -- was reached and provisionally signed in Tokyo on Monday.

It was a controversial move in South Korea, where the legacy of Japan's harsh 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula is a deep well of anti-Japanese sentiment and a belief that Tokyo has never properly atoned for the abuses of that era.

Tensions between South Korea and Japan are welcomed and even encouraged by North Korea, which seizes any opportunity to drive a wedge between the two key US military allies in the region.

A spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee in Pyongyang called the intelligence agreement a "hideous act of treachery aimed to stifle fellow countrymen in the north in league with the sworn enemy of the nation".

In a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news, the spokesman said it was a "dangerous act" that would further raise already-elevated tensions on the Korean peninsula and open a door to Japanese "re-invasion."

The amplified rhetoric will strike a chord in the South, where the main opposition party called Monday's agreement "unpatriotic and humiliating".

 

 

North Korea to top US agenda at final Obama-Xi meeting

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Lima (AFP) Nov 17, 2016 - President Barack Obama will use his final meeting with China's President Xi Jinping Saturday to press for an increase in the pace and severity of sanctions against North Korea.

With Pyongyang launching test after provocative test to develop a miniaturized nuclear warhead and a missile capable of delivering that deadly payload to the United States, Obama's White House wants to ratchet up the pressure before he leaves office in January.

Contributing to the tensions as the United States undergoes a transfer of power to President-elect Donald Trump, is the possibility that North Korea will see it as a prime opportunity to test an inexperienced new US commander in chief.

In an interview ahead of Obama's last foreign trip, his National Security Advisor Susan Rice told AFP that the United States would work with allies and at the UN to "put increased and maximum pressure on North Korea."

"We don't view their progressive development of their capabilities as being anything other than a significant threat to our interests and that of our allies."

This pressure, she said, "has been building and will continue to build, certainly through the duration of this administration."

A second US official said the issue would be high on the agenda when Obama and Xi meet on the margins of an Asia-Pacific summit in Lima, Peru.

The US intelligence estimate of North Korea's nuclear-missile program is classified. But military officials have said its "prudent" to assume North Korea could already have some capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests this year and test-fired a series of missiles.

Sanctions are already in the works at the United Nations to target North Korea's coal exports to China, diplomats said -- a vital source of revenue for the regime.

- Screw tightening -

Pyongyang has used loopholes in previous sanctions to increase coal exports by as much as 60 percent, netting more than 100 million dollars a month in much needed income.

North Korea's reclusive leaders are estimated to have spent billions of dollars on weapons programs, while as many as 18 million of North Korea's 25 million people face food shortages, according to the Japanese government.

Washington is advocating "robust new sanctions measures designed to curtail the North Korean regime's ability to fund its nuclear and missile programs," a senior US administration official said.

"The goal is not pressure for pressure's sake. We are trying to compel North Korea to make the right choice."

While many sanctions have been in place for years, the last two years have seen the screw tighten considerably.

Beijing has long dragged its heels on sanctioning its allies in Pyongyang, fearing a flood of refugees if North Korea's economy collapses.

But earlier this year Beijing moved to sanction a conglomerate based in China's frontier city of Dandong that did an estimated $530 million in trade with North Korea between 2011 and 2015.

"You can make a compelling argument that China has taken unprecedented steps to increase pressure on North Korea so as to compel North Korea's leadership to make the right choice," said the US official.

In parallel with UN sanctions, American officials are looking at other unilateral and multilateral measures, including possible sanctions targeting Chinese and other financial institutions that do business with the north.

"The object is to take all necessary steps to constrain North Korea's ability to fund its nuclear missile programs and I would say we are open to any and all measures to get that done."

"Given the urgency of the challenge and the fact that North Korea continues to carry out these unlawful provocative acts, our shared responsibility is to continue to increase the pressure," the senior administration official told AFP.

Also on the agenda for this final meeting will be the treatment of US companies, including IT companies, in China.

 

 

UN watchdog chides Iran on nuclear deal

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Nov 17, 2016 - The head of the UN watchdog chided Iran on Thursday for exceeding for the second time an agreed upper limit for nuclear material set out in last year's atomic accord.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last week showed that Iran's stock of so-called heavy water had inched above the 130-tonne level set out in the landmark deal.

Heavy water, a modified form of normal water, is used in certain types of nuclear reactor. Plutonium for use in nuclear weapons can be extracted from fuel rods used in heavy water reactors.

"Iran has since made preparations to transfer a quantity of heavy water out of the country," which will bring it below the ceiling, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told the agency's board.

"It is important that such situations should be avoided in future in order to maintain international confidence in the implementation" of the deal, he said in Vienna.

The July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers states that Iran's "needs" are 130 metric tonnes of heavy water and that any excess must be "made available for export".

The confidential IAEA report, seen by AFP, said that Iran exceeded this level --- for the second time -- by 100 kilos but that Iran had undertaken to ship abroad five tonnes.

Reza Najafi, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, said Thursday that Iran was "making the preparations" for doing so, telling reporters that the amount to be sold abroad may even exceed five tonnes.

He also questioned whether the 130-tonne level was a strict limit.

US ambassador Laura Holgate urged Iran to complete the process of exporting the extra material "without delay".

"Nothing short of full implementation will assure the international community that Iran continues to uphold its commitments," Holgate told the IAEA board of governors meeting.

"Simply notifying states that this heavy water is for sale without removing it from Iran does not fulfil" Iran's commitments under the deal, Holgate added.

- 'No effort to hide' -

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last week that it was "important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this" and that he was "not sure whether that constitutes a formal violation".

Otherwise the IAEA's quarterly report, the fourth since the nuclear deal entered into force in January 2016, confirmed that Iran continues to abide by the deal.

The number of uranium centrifuges in operation and Iran's uranium stockpile -- seen as much bigger areas of concern than heavy water -- were below agreed limits.

The deal also saw Iran slash the number of centrifuges and its uranium stockpile, as well as remove the reactor core from its planned heavy water reactor at Arak.

US president-elect Donald Trump during his campaign labelled the deal, which saw painful economic sanctions on Iran lifted, a "disaster" and threatened to tear it up.

The deal was endorsed by the UN Security Council. The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has sought to remind Trump that the deal is a "multilateral accord".

Amano, whose monitors on the ground in Iran have the job of policing Iran's adherence to the deal, on Thursday told reporters that it would be "premature" to comment on what Trump might do.

 

 

UN slams North Korea for diverting funds to missiles

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2016, ‏‎5:25:21 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 15, 2016 - UN member states on Tuesday condemned widespread human rights violations in North Korea and expressed concerns that funds needed to ease the dire humanitarian crisis are spent on Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.

A resolution drafted by Japan and the European Union was adopted by a consensus vote in the General Assembly's committee on humanitarian affairs.

Following the vote, diplomats from China, Pyongyang's ally, Russia, Syria, Iran and Cuba took the floor to state they were disassociating themselves from the outcome.

The full General Assembly is expected to vote on the measure next month.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests this year and test-fired a series of missiles, even as 18 million North Koreans out of a total population of 25 million are facing food shortages, Japan's ambassador said.

"The authorities of the DPRK (North Korea), without regard to the plight of their own citizens, divert their limited resources to develop weapons of mass destruction," said Ambassador Koro Bessho.

"Such institutional decision itself is a human rights violation," he told the committee.

North Korean counsellor Ri Song Chol responded: "Japan should mind its own business."

Pyongyang "categorically rejects" the resolution, said the North Korean diplomat, describing it as one-sided and an "extreme manifestation of politicization."

The resolution for the third year encourages the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for war crimes investigation.

Such a step appears unlikely, however, with China widely expected to use its veto to block such a measure.

The vote came as the United States and China were locked in negotiations on a new Security Council draft resolution to tighten sanctions on North Korea following Pyongyang's missile and nuclear tests.

The new sanctions are expected to target North Korean exports of coal to China among other measures, UN diplomats said.

The UN's new rights expert on North Korea, Argentine Tomas Quintana, is to travel to South Korea and Japan this week, his first visit to the region.

 

 

EU urges all sides to stand by Iran nuclear deal

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Nov 14, 2016 - The EU on Monday urged all parties to the landmark Iran nuclear accord to stick to their commitments after US President-elect Donald Trump said he might ditch the deal.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels said the deal signed last year with Iran by the United States, three EU powers as well as Russia and China must be respected as the bloc seeks to expand economic and other ties.

"The upholding of commitments by all sides is a necessary condition to continue rebuilding trust and allow for continued, steady and gradual improvement in relations between the European Union, its member States and Iran," the ministers said in their conclusions.

The EU welcomed the fact that the US government was now issuing licences for the export of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran and said it hoped they would continue.

Such sales "will be an important signal" for the deal's implementation and contribute to a safer commercial aviation environment, the ministers said.

Under the deal, all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted in return for Tehran accepting curbs on a programme that Western powers feared would pave the way for atomic weapons.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, the signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama's second term, but he has been more circumspect since winning last week's election.

The EU said it is committed to lifting nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions against Iran while engaging with banks and other economic operators "to promote growth in trade and investment."

It said it "remains concerned" with the human rights situation, especially over the frequent use of the death penalty, and underlined the need for equal rights for women and minorities.

The EU, voicing concern about Iran's missile programme, urged Tehran to refrain from ballistic missile tests and urged Iran to "to use its influence on the Syrian regime" of President Bashar al-Assad to end attacks on civilians.

 

 

Citywide test of DARPA's radioactive threat detection system complete

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Nov 14, 2016 - The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has completed the first citywide assessment of its SIGMA radioactive threat detection system.

SIGMA is designed to aid defense personnel with responding to potential nuclear and radiological threats such as dirty bombs. The recent deployment test involved 1,000 detectors and over 100 mobile sensors, marking the largest demonstration of its kind in the program's history.

"The SIGMA system performed very well, and we collected and analyzed a huge amount of streaming data as we watched in real-time as participants covered a large portion of D.C.," DARPA program manager Vincent Tang said in a press release. "The data collected is already proving invaluable for further development of the system, and we're excited that SIGMA is on track to provide U.S. cities an enhanced layer of defense against radiological and nuclear threats."

During the test, several hundred volunteers equipped with smartphone-sized radiation detectors were tasked with walking around Washington, D.C. to search for simulated threats, which included small quantities of radioactive material.

The detectors used in the scenario do not emit radiation, and convey information using networked smartphones. Volunteers in the test carried detectors in backpacks, allowing SIGMA researchers to assess their functionality.

DARPA officials say they plan to continue test the program using citywide scenarios in the future, and upgrade to wide-area monitoring in 2017. The agency hopes to transition the operational system to local, state and federal entities in 2018.

 

 

Next-Gen S-500 to Defend Russia Against Hypersonic Weapons and ICBMs

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Sputnik) Nov 14, 2016 - The next-generation S-500 Prometey surface-to-air missile system, also known as the 55R6M Triumfator-M, will allow Russia to protect large areas from the most lethal offensive weapons, including hypersonic weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, defense analyst Victor Murakhovsky told Radio Sputnik.

Murakhovsky described the S-500 as an advanced, unified, multi-purpose, integrated anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile defense system, which is meant to replace the S-300 and complement the S-400 complex.

"This is the next step. These are air defense capabilities on operational and strategic levels," he said. The S-500 "allows us to protect entire regions from intercontinental ballistic missiles and other advanced weapons, including hypersonic glide vehicles currently under development in the United States."

The analyst added that the S-500 will also be capable of hitting targets in near space, including satellites outfitted with electro-optical surveillance systems.

Murakhovsky further said that the S-500 has canceled out multi-billion dollar advanced weapons programs which the United States has pursued. The S-500 has "displeased" the Pentagon since the US Department of Defense "has spent so much on creating the so-called Prompt Global Strike (PGS) initiative, as well as hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles," the analyst said.

"All of this has gone down the drain. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars!" In addition, Russia's newest air defense system "has made Americans nervous taking into account that the S-500 is a purely defensive system and the fact that the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty," he observed.

Washington decided to withdraw from the ABM treaty in 2001, rendering one of the key international arms agreements void.

The S-500, designed by Almaz Antey, is said to have a range of 600 kilometers (more than 370 miles). The system can simultaneously intercept up to ten ballistic and hypersonic missiles traveling at a speed of 7 kilometers per second.

The Prometey is capable of engaging targets at an altitude of up to 200 kilometers (more than 120 miles). The system is capable of intercepting aircraft and UAVs, as well as destroying low-earth-orbit satellites, space destruction devices and orbital weaponry.

The S-500 will be a major upgrade to the state-of-the-art S-400 complex that is already in service.

"It is clear the S-500 is intended to serve as a high-altitude antiballistic missile system for home defense, and that its very long range could make it useful for anti-access/area denial and antisatellite tasks. It is also evident that it is designed to be mobile and hard to detect or hack into, so as to resist air-defense suppression strikes," Sebastien Roblin wrote for the National Interest.

The analyst added that it remained unclear when the S-500 will become fully operational and whether it would "live up" to its stated capabilities.

 

 

Can Trump rip up the Iran deal? Easier said than done

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Nov 13, 2016 - As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, the signature diplomatic breakthrough of Barack Obama's second term.

As president-elect, Trump has been more circumspect, and the United States would face serious international fallout if he made good on his threat.

Signed in Vienna in July 2015 and in force since January, the agreement was made possible by 18 months of back-channel talks between Washington and arch-foe Tehran in 2012 and 2013.

But it was also, after the negotiations became public, a two-year joint effort for the so-called P5+1 -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

And, once these powers and Iran signed it, the United Nations Security Council endorsed it as international law.

It was not uncontroversial. US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular feared it would only delay Iran's alleged quest for a bomb while emboldening it in other domains.

But neither these naysayers nor the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, has caught Tehran's Islamist regime undermining it, and it has become a key plank of world counterproliferation efforts.

In Washington, however, the deal is still a political football and Obama's Republican opponents -- now led by President-elect Trump -- have been scathing.

- 'Worst deal ever' -

Trump has called the agreement under which the Iran deal was implemented, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, the "worst deal ever negotiated."

And he has vowed to review provisions to return to Tehran tens of billions of dollars in funds frozen in Western banks in return for restrictions on its nuclear program.

The JCPOA is not a treaty ratified by Congress as US law and -- as American officials confirmed this week after Trump's election -- there is no legal reason he could not abrogate it.

But it would offend the other allies with whom the deal was concluded and who trusted the United States to uphold it, and it would almost certainly trigger a Middle East arms race.

One of Trump's foreign policy advisers, Walid Phares, told the BBC that "ripping up is maybe a too strong of word" but that the deal would be renegotiated by the incoming administration.

Whether this would amount to anything concrete remains to be seen.

Supporters of the accord -- those who hoped it would lead to a broader "rebalancing" of US ties in the region in Tehran's favor and Riyadh's cost -- are adamant.

"The United States cannot unilaterally void or amend the agreement without violating international law," argued Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council.

"Any effort to directly kill the deal -- or even renegotiate it -- will isolate the United States, and not Iran," he wrote in an op-ed for the Foreign Policy website.

Even less partisan voices agree.

George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said Washington's closest allies would see a unilateral bid by Washington to renegotiate as a "rogue action."

"They would consider the United States to be in violation of the deal and would not feel bound to reimpose or tighten sanctions on Iran, as the United States might wish," he wrote.

- Where blame would fall -

"Meanwhile, Iran could exploit such a US move and threaten to, or actually stop, observing nuclear restraints," he added.

"The rest of the world would blame the resultant global crisis directly on the new US president. This would not be a good bargaining position for the United States."

The European Union's head of international affairs, Federica Mogherini, has already sought to remind Trump that the Iran deal is a "multilateral accord," not a US bargaining chip.

But the US electorate has chosen a leader with no foreign policy experience. What he decides to do will only become clear after his inauguration, in January.

 

 

N. Korea urges shift from US, Seoul says it has Trump's support

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 10, 2016 - North Korea on Thursday warned the incoming Donald Trump administration will have to acknowledge it as a nuclear state, as the South said the maverick billionaire had pledged to protect it.

The United States maintains it cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear power, despite it conducting five nuclear tests -- including two in 2016 -- and has pushed harsh international sanctions against the Pyongyang regime.

"If there is anything the Obama administration has done... it has put the security of the US mainland in the greatest danger," said an editorial carried by North Korea's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

"It has burdened the new administration with the difficulty of facing the Juche nuclear state," it said, referring to the North Korean ideology usually translated as "self-reliance".

The editorial, which did not mention Trump by name, follows growing calls for the United States to change tack on North Korea, with US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last month labelling attempts to denuclearise the North a lost cause.

President Barack Obama has made talks with the North conditional on Pyongyang first making some tangible commitment towards denuclearisation, but Thursday's editorial called the goal an "outdated illusion".

Although Trump has not laid out a clear direction for his policy on North Korea, he has indicated that he would be open to negotiations with its leader Kim Jong-Un in the US to talk him out of his nuclear ambitions.

Trump caused consternation during his campaign when he threatened to withdraw the troops unless Seoul paid more for their upkeep, and suggested South Korea and Japan develop their own nuclear weapons to counter threats from Pyongyang.

But in a phone call with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Thursday, Trump vowed that US commitment on protecting its ally against the North "will not waver".

"We are going to be with you 100 percent," Trump said, according to a statement from South Korea's Blue House.

"We will be steadfast and strong with respect to working with you to protect against the instability in North Korea," Seoul quoted him as saying.

North Korea has been hit by five sets of UN sanctions since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.

After Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January, the Security Council adopted the toughest sanctions resolution to date, targeting North Korea's trade in minerals and tightening banking restrictions.

Council members are currently debating a fresh resolution after the North's fifth nuclear test in September.

According to Security Council diplomats, the negotiations are focused on closing loopholes and zeroing in on North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile technology industry.

 

 

Iran's Rouhani: Trump cannot reverse nuclear deal

 
‎Friday, ‎November ‎18, ‎2016, ‏‎6:15:56 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Nov 9, 2016 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday there was "no possibility" of its nuclear deal with world powers being overturned by US president-elect Donald Trump despite his threat to rip it up.

"Iran's understanding in the nuclear deal was that the accord was not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government," Rouhani told his cabinet, according to state television.

Last year's accord with world powers saw international sanctions on Iran lifted in exchange for guarantees that it would not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.

During the election campaign, Trump described the deal as "disastrous" and said it would be his "number one priority" to dismantle it.

Rouhani, a moderate who has pushed for closer ties with the West, said the United States' standing in the world had been weakened due to its "wrong policies".

"The United States no longer has the capacity to create Iranophobia and to create a consensus against Iran," he said.

"The constructive engagement policies of Iran towards the world, and the fact that international sanctions have been lifted, have placed the Iranian economy on a road where there is no possibility of going backwards."

- UN watchdog report -

The latest quarterly report from the UN atomic watchdog, released on Wednesday, meanwhile confirmed that Iran was sticking to its commitments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has not enriched uranium above low purities, its uranium stockpile stayed below agreed levels and it "has not pursued the construction" of its heavy water reactor at Arak.

After the deal came into force in January, Iran reduced by two-thirds the number of uranium enrichment centrifuges, slashed its uranium stockpile and removed the core of the Arak reactor.

Before January Iran had several tonnes of uranium, in theory enough for several bombs if further processed. Arak could have given Iran weapons-grade plutonium.

The removed centrifuges remain in storage in Iran and are under IAEA monitoring. The excess uranium was shipped to Russia.

The report added however that Iran's stock of heavy water had risen to 130.1 tonnes, 100 kilos above the maximum of 130 tonnes, the second time it has exceeded the limit.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano "expressed concern" to Iran and Tehran has undertaken in a letter to the watchdog to transfer five tonnes outside the country, the report said.

This will happen "within days," a senior official in Vienna said.

 

 

The next US president's N. Korea dilemma

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎3:41:50 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Nov 2, 2016 - Among the many challenges facing the next occupant of the White House, few will be more pressing, or more complex, than that posed by North Korea's seemingly inexorable drive to nuclear statehood.

As adamant as Washington is about never accepting the North as a nuclear weapons state, the ground reality is of a country rapidly closing in on its strategic goal of possessing a direct and credible nuclear strike threat against the US mainland.

Pyongyang's weapons programme has accelerated sharply in this US election year, with two nuclear tests and around 25 missile tests in defiance of multiple UN resolutions and sanctions.

"Every single day that goes by, North Korea becomes a more and more acute threat," US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in Seoul last week.

Whatever the outgoing administration's policy was with regard to curbing the North's nuclear ambitions, it has clearly failed.

The question for the incoming administration, whether headed by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, is why it failed and, more urgently, what to do about it.

The one thing the new president will not lack is vocal advice from any number of think-tanks, policy wonks, former diplomats and retired generals who believe they have the solution.

The last few months have witnessed an avalanche of op-eds, research papers and studies laying out the path the new White House incumbent should take and issuing dire warnings about the disastrous consequences of doing otherwise.

- Ahead of the curve -

"The first hundred days in office will be critical," said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

"Rather than wait for events on the ground to narrow down choices and dictate policy, the new administration needs to get ahead of the curve. It needs to shape events itself -- not be shaped by them," Wit told AFP.

The policy argument essentially pits those who favour threatening the North Korean regime's very existence with crushing sanctions backed by military threat, against those who prefer a cocktail of measures in which tough sanctions and military strength provide a base for offering talks and incentives to denuclearise.

Some analysts say the debate smacks of desperate "do-somethingism" and suggest that dealing with the North Korea threat should be more about problem-containment than problem-solving.

In a stark assessment delivered to a Washington think-tank last week, the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said convincing North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons was "a lost cause".

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton followed the Obama administration's sanctions-based policy of "strategic patience" -- refusing to talk with the North unless it takes steps to denuclearise.

Critics say that boiled down to sitting back and watching North Korea's nuclear weapons programme slip into high gear.

- Tough choices -

Those who back dialogue include Jane Harman and James Person of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who wrote a recent op-ed in the Washington Post titled: "The US Needs to Negotiate with North Korea."

They argued for entering into direct talks with the stated goal of negotiating a freeze of all North Korean nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Negotiations would then move towards verifiable dismantlement, with Washington offering possible concessions such as a non-aggression pact or a suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea.

"Done right, there is a way out of the insanity," they wrote.

The opposite view was put in a briefing paper from the Brookings Institution that called on whoever the next president might be to "steer clear of illusory outcomes that offer no hope of success".

The paper advocated intensified sanctions -- backed by "a strong foundation of military measures" -- that would starve the regime of foreign currency, cut Pyongyang out of the international financial system, and squeeze its trade networks.

"The next president should make clear to Pyongyang that the United States is prepared to put at risk the one thing that North Korea holds even more dearly than its nuclear weapons -- the preservation of its regime," it said.

- Lack of experience -

Analysts say the gamut of opinion on North Korea runs particularly wide, given the lack of verifiable intelligence on, or real understanding of, a country that remains remarkably isolated.

"There are a lot of myths and misconceptions that have taken hold in the minds of people, and these are very difficult to counteract," Wit said.

"In any new US administration there will be people making decisions who have no direct experience of dealing with North Korea -- who have never even met a North Korean.

"Can you imagine a similar scenario when it comes to making decisions about somewhere like Russia?" he said.

The only real area of consensus on North Korea is that time is fast running out.

Its nuclear and missile testing programme has accelerated to the point where previous estimates -- once seen as alarmist -- that it could have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States by 2020, are now seen as soberly prudent.

 

 

Swiss probe confirms spying during Iran nuclear talks

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎3:41:50 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) Nov 3, 2016 - A large number of computers at a Geneva hotel that hosted delicate Iranian nuclear talks last year were infected with malware used for espionage, Swiss prosecutors said Thursday.

The Swiss Attorney General's office (OAG) however said it had closed its investigation, since it had failed to determine who was behind the spying.

Swiss investigators launched a probe in May last year based on "suspicion of illegal intelligence services operating in Switzerland," searching a hotel that hosted the nuclear talks and seizing computer equipment.

Those talks, which were held at a range of luxury hotels in Switzerland and Austria, concluded on July 14, 2015 with a landmark deal to rein in Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

The agreement between Tehran, Washington and five other major powers came into force in January.

Israel, which was vehemently opposed to the nuclear deal, was accused of espionage after a Russian-based security firm said a computer worm widely linked to the Jewish State was used to spy on the negotiations.

Israel flatly denied the accusations.

"Investigations revealed that a significant number of computers (servers and clients) at a hotel in Geneva had been infected with a form of malware," the OAG said in a statement Thursday, without divulging the name of the hotel.

"This malware was developed for the purposes of espionage, and is basically used to gather data from the computers infected," it said.

Investigators had however turned up "no evidence as to the identity of the perpetrators," it said.

"Accordingly, although there is evidence of criminal activity, it cannot be attributed to specific persons," OAG said, explaining why it had decided to close the case.

 

 

Lottery of misery: Bleak choices for North Korea's women

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎3:41:50 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 3, 2016 - Stay and endure a life of privation and oppression or escape and risk being sold into sexual slavery: this is the stark choice facing many women in North Korea, bestselling author and activist Hyeonseo Lee warns.

The daughter of a military official, she is not your typical defector -- it was curiosity not desperation that pushed her to venture beyond its borders. Almost 20 years on she has become a powerful voice of dissent, laying bare the reality of life under the totalitarian regime in her memoir The Girl with Seven Names.

Now she is campaigning for greater protection for North Koreans who manage to flee -- particularly women -- warning that many are captured in China and sold into prostitution or end up in forced marriages.

"All but the lucky few will live the rest of their lives in utter misery," she tells AFP.

"They will be repeatedly raped day in and day out by an endless supply of customers who enrich their captors at their expense."

Horrified by 'survivor testimony' she is launching a new NGO, North Star NK, which has agents in the field across South East Asia and China helping those trafficked in the sex trade to escape.

Lee says: "They are so humiliated and broken, they don't want to speak out, so I decided I should try to help."

- Sex trafficking -

The Tumen and Yalu rivers act as a border with China. In some parts the water is navigable, while in winter they are frozen over completely. For many the physical act of crossing is the easiest bit.

There is no asylum once they reach the other side, they are regarded as illegal migrants and face deportation if caught and then severe punishment in North Korea.

The women are in an incredibly vulnerable position Lee says. They have little choice but to trust the brokers smuggling them out. But there is no one to turn to if things go wrong.

"North Korean women and girls run a gauntlet of forced marriage, and sexual abuse, in China as a de facto requirement to escape to a third country," says Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia.

Lee herself narrowly avoided being forced into the sex trade when she crossed into China. She was told she was being trained to work in a hair salon but on arrival she discovered it was a brothel, and managed to run away.

North Korean women are also trafficked as 'forced brides', she says, usually sold to men in the countryside. The combination of China's one-child policy and a historic preference for boys has now led to a shortage of women of marriageable age. Families are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for brides for otherwise ineligible bachelors.

This too can end in abject misery.

"One trafficked woman I know was severely beaten by her husband and his family. To prevent her from escaping, they chained her inside a shed when they weren't monitoring her," Lee recalls.

"Some of these trafficked North Korean women commit suicide, while others hold onto a sliver of hope that they will eventually escape. Almost none of them succeed."

- Accidental defector -

Her own story is one of remarkable survival against the odds.

From public executions and corpses lying on the streets to family gatherings and playing with friends, Lee's memories of her childhood are a patchwork of the ordinary and the horrifying -- and yet, she says, it was all normal in North Korea.

"The sad truth for most North Koreans is that they are brainwashed to think that their complete lack of freedom and human rights is normal," she says.

For her the coil of indoctrination unravelled gradually. She grew up on the border -- the neon lights of China visible just across the Yalu River.

"My country was completely dark, even though we were supposedly superior," she explains. "Living so close to China also allowed me to secretly watch Chinese TV channels, which opened my eyes to a whole new world."

A nationwide famine, known as the "Arduous March", also forced her to reconsider the rhetoric of the regime.

"In my hometown of Hyesan I could see dead bodies on the streets. The smell of decomposing flesh made me feel sick and gave me goosebumps," she recalls.

It is estimated hundreds of thousands died.

Lee was just 17 when she crossed illegally crossed the river into China, planning on just a short visit. Instead she ended up on a decade-long odyssey, during which she assumed multiple identities, evaded state crackdowns on North Koreans, and endured betrayals and beatings.

She says: "I've had many low points throughout my life, but I remember crying so much when I was living by myself in China, because I never thought I would see my family again. I hated myself."

In 2008 she arrived in Seoul and was granted asylum, before going on to guide her family from North Korea to freedom too. She is happily married to American, who she met in the city.

Now she is determined to use her experiences to bring about change.

She says: "It's essential that the people who have been oppressed speak out. It's the most effective way to compel the international community to help."

* Hyeonseo Lee is speaking at Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which runs Nov 4-13

http://www.festival.org.hk/

 

 

Clinton warns against Trump's finger on nuclear button

 
‎Monday, ‎November ‎14, ‎2016, ‏‎3:41:50 AMGo to full article
Cincinnati (AFP) Nov 1, 2016 - Hillary Clinton tried to pivot away from attacks on her protection of US secrets Monday, warning against her White House rival Donald Trump being allowed control of US nuclear launch codes.

In a barnstorming final push before the November 8 presidential vote, Trump has seized upon a renewed FBI inquiry into Clinton's controversial use of a private email server while secretary of state.

But, with no sign anything concrete will come of the FBI probe before polling day, Clinton believes she can face down the challenge and return to the issue of Trump's fitness to lead a nuclear power.

In Kent, Ohio, she was introduced by Bruce Blair, a former US missile launch officer who organized a joint letter from former colleagues arguing that Trump should not be trusted with nuclear codes.

Clinton, pointing to Trump's numerous angry blowups on the trail and often confused responses to questions on security issues, painted him as a dangerous hothead who could trigger Armageddon.

"Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis," the 69-year-old Democrat said of her Republican rival Trump, a 70-year-old New York property mogul turned reality television star.

"Imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody got under his very thin skin. I hope you'll think about that when you cast your vote."

- 'Daisy girl' -

In parallel to the blood-curdling new stump speech, Clinton issued an ad recalling the renowned 1964 "Daisy Girl" television spot that then president Lyndon Johnson used to paint his challenger Barry Goldwater as a danger to all human life.

Trump meanwhile, has done nothing to moderate his own rhetoric, storming through a series of usually Democratic states in an effort to break Clinton's apparent lock on the electoral college.

His attacks on Clinton's private email server -- which he alleges put US secrets at risk -- are aimed at undermining the advantage the former secretary of state has in terms of experience.

But the first major poll to have been partly conducted after Friday's bombshell news that the FBI is re-opening its email probe, showed little movement in his direction -- with eight days to go.

An NBC News/SurveyMonkey weekly poll showed Clinton's six percentage point national lead remained essentially unchanged since last week.

Trump nevertheless campaigned in Michigan, where Clinton has led every poll since the race began, hoping to capitalize on the controversy over the renewed focus on a newly uncovered batch of emails.

Allegations Clinton put America at risk by using a private server were thrust back into the spotlight when FBI Director James Comey said the bureau would study the messages to see if they are "pertinent."

The bombshell announcement could shift the momentum in a race where Clinton was increasingly seen as the prohibitive favorite -- with leads in more states than she would need to secure victory.

Clinton and her supporters were furious that Comey made his announcement without providing any new evidence of wrongdoing but, after three days of rage, Clinton took a more emollient tone Monday.

"I made a mistake. I'm not making any excuses," she said, inviting the FBI to pursue its probe and suggesting that the agency would again find, as it had in July, that she has no case to answer.

"It wasn't even a close call," she said, "And I think most people have moved on, They're looking and focused on 'OK, who is going to be the next president and the commander-in-chief?'"

- Constitutional crisis -

True to form, Trump wasn't letting go, adding the threat of constitutional crisis to his oft-stated claim that Clinton's email use was criminal in intent and the worst scandal since Watergate.

A Clinton victory, he warned supporters, "would mire our government and our country in a constitutional crisis that we cannot afford."

He predicted "a criminal trial for a sitting president," and chastised Clinton for seeking to blame others for a scandal that has lasted for 20 months: "She has brought all of this on herself."

University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato said the FBI development has indeed changed the race's dynamics.

"She would have been running a victory lap this week, running up the score," he told AFP. "Instead, she's trying to hold on."

But Sabato added that Trump's strategy of touring Democratic-leaning states reflects a stark truth: he needs to flip at least one of them in order to win -- and even that may not be enough.

"He is going to have to turn a blue state or two in addition to winning the battlegrounds," he said. "He has to win almost everything. If he wins all the battlegrounds, he needs one more blue state."

According to US media reports, Comey's FBI probe was renewed after agents seized a laptop used by Clinton's close aide, Huma Abedin, and her now estranged husband, Anthony Weiner.

The disgraced former congressman, who resigned in 2011 after sending explicit online messages, is under investigation over allegations he sent sexual overtures to a 15-year-old girl.

Clinton campaigned Monday for a third straight day without Abedin by her side.

 

 

 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 
 
 
 
 

Raids kill dozens in Syria's Idlib, UN to vote on ceasefire

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:35:15 AMGo to full article
Aleppo, Syria (AFP) Dec 5, 2016 - Suspected Russian air strikes have killed at least 46 people in opposition-held parts of Syria, a monitor said, as the UN Security Council prepares to vote Monday on a resolution demanding a temporary ceasefire in Aleppo.

Syria's government is waging a fierce offensive to recapture all of second city Aleppo, and it has so far captured more than 60 percent of eastern districts that fell to rebels in 2012.

In Idlib province, in northwest Syria, at least 26 civilians were killed in suspected Russian strikes on the town of Kafr Nabel, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

An eyewitness told AFP warplanes hit several places in the town, including a market.

The Observatory says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to their type, location, flight patterns and the munitions involved.

The group said 18 people were also killed in suspected Russian strikes on the town of Maaret al-Numan, where an AFP photographer saw rescue workers and residents trying to pull survivors from rubble at a market.

The monitor reported two additional deaths, one in an earlier strike on Maaret al-Numan and another in Al-Naqir, also in Idlib.

It said six civilians, four of them children, had been killed in a government barrel bomb attack on the town of Al-Tamanah in the same province.

Russia, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad's government, began a military intervention in support of Damascus in September 2015.

Moscow says it is targeting "terrorists" and has dismissed reports of civilian casualties in its strikes.

- Army advances in Aleppo -

Following lengthy negotiations with a highly resistant Russia, the UN Security Council will Monday vote on a text -- drawn up by Egypt, New Zealand and Spain -- calling for a truce of at least seven days in Aleppo and humanitarian access to residents trapped in the fighting.

It remains uncertain whether Moscow will use its veto in the council to torpedo the measure after it proposed a renewable truce of only 24 hours, and for militant groups such as the Al-Nusra Front to be excluded.

In east Aleppo, government forces advanced against rebels, taking three neighbourhoods and pushing into a fourth, state media and the Russian defence ministry said.

The army and allied forces are nearly three weeks into an operation to recapture all of the city, divided between regime and rebel forces since 2012.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled the offensive, which has made steady gains and threatens to deal Syria's opposition its worst defeat in the five-year civil war.

State television said late Sunday the army had captured the districts of Karm al-Tahan and Myessar and advanced into the Qadi Askar neighbourhood.

The Russian defence ministry said regime forces had also taken the district of Karm al-Katurji.

Rebels are increasingly under pressure in the remaining southeastern districts they control.

State news agency SANA said the air force was dropping leaflets over rebel-held areas urging "militants to abandon their weapons and... allow civilians and the sick and wounded to leave".

Damascus says rebels are preventing civilians from leaving the east and trying to use them as human shields.

But tens of thousands of residents have fled the east as the army has advanced, with some heading south to remaining rebel territory and others going to areas under government or Kurdish control.

At least 311 civilians, including 42 children, have been killed in east Aleppo since the government assault began, the Observatory says.

- Nothing but rubble -

Rebel fire on west Aleppo in the same period has killed 69 civilians, including 28 children, it says.

On Sunday, the bombardment of rebel districts was so fierce it shook buildings in the west as well as in the east, AFP correspondents on both sides said.

The Observatory said a woman and two children were killed in the eastern neighbourhood of Fardos in government artillery fire.

The latest assault has added to the massive destruction in east Aleppo, which has seen some of the worst violence in the conflict that began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

The army has encouraged residents to return to recently recaptured neighbourhoods, but many who have ventured across to see their old homes have found nothing but rubble.

"This is all we found, this photo of my niece. It is precious to us, and we found a copy of the Koran, so we brought that too," said Um Yayha, 55.

The Russian defence ministry also said Syrian government forces took control of the town of Al-Tal outside Damascus after a local truce.

Despite international outcry over the conflict, successive attempts to end it have failed.

 

 

Japanese navy veteran recalls Pearl Harbor 75 years on

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:35:15 AMGo to full article
Osaka, Japan (AFP) Dec 5, 2016 - Navy aircraft mechanic Kuniyoshi Takimoto watched as Japanese planes roared off the aircraft carrier Hiryu to attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The shock assault 75 years ago Wednesday in Hawaii sparked patriotic celebration in Japan but left Takimoto feeling uneasy.

"I wondered if such a poor country would be all right fighting such a big one," the former real-estate agent, now 95 and one of the few Japanese participants still alive, told AFP at his home in Osaka.

This attack brought America into World War II -- though it was already well underway for Europe, and China.

This year's anniversary comes after President Barack Obama's visit in May to Hiroshima, the Japanese city pulverised by a US atom bomb in the closing days of the conflict.

Japan's Pearl Harbor blitz fired up resolve in the US, with president Franklin Roosevelt declaring the day would "live in infamy."

"It was just a start... and more or less a deceptive attack," Takimoto said, stressing that given its surprise nature some success was virtually guaranteed.

He and other crew members were stunned when first informed of the mission after their flotilla departed towards Hawaii.

Reaching an area 460 kilometres (285 miles) from target, the first wave of some 180 planes, including nimble Zero fighters, roared off the Hiryu and other carriers, followed later by a second swarm.

- 'Rolling the dice' -

Pilots and mechanics were phlegmatic throughout, as aircraft took off one by one minus any special rituals or even "banzai" cheers.

"What you see in kamikaze movies never happened on aircraft carriers," Takimoto said firmly. "We had to do our jobs, rolling the dice against death."

Despite his misgivings about the risks of attacking the US, Takimoto was proud to support the pilots.

"We built relations of trust that went beyond words," he said.

Japan also attacked the Philippines, Hong Kong, Guam, Singapore, Malaya, Burma and the Dutch East Indies, in one fell swoop overturning what had seemed an eternal Western colonial order.

But despite such initial success, the tide was fated to quickly turn -- confirming Takimoto's fears.

In June 1942 at the epic Battle of Midway a US aerial blitz engulfed the Hiryu in massive flames.

A thousand crew members died, while 500 survivors, including Takimoto, were barely rescued by nearby Japanese ships, a scene he described as "hell."

- Tunnel vision -

After Midway, US-led forces began to reconquer the Pacific, island by island on battlefields in Guadalcanal, Saipan, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Japan finally surrendered but only after the US dropped two atomic bombs -- the second on Nagasaki -- and the Soviet Union declared war.

Takimoto has no plans to personally commemorate Pearl Harbor this year, calling it just one of many momentous episodes in the war.

For himself, he calls Midway "much more important."

Indeed, Pearl Harbor draws little attention compared with annual events marking the atomic bombings, solemn, nationally televised memorials attended by the prime minister.

Among the few instances of remembrance are brief fireworks in Nagaoka, the hometown of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who masterminded the attack but was killed after the US targeted his plane in 1943.

In the US, meanwhile, every December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, while the atomic bombing anniversaries are not officially commemorated.

Such historical tunnel vision on both sides is no surprise, said Yujin Yaguchi, professor of American cultural studies and Hawaiian history at the University of Tokyo.

- 'No emotion' -

"People more naturally remember getting a beating rather than meting one out," he said.

Both Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima have mythic symbolism in their respective countries and are deeply intertwined in historical justifications.

Without Pearl Harbor there would have been no Hiroshima, goes one argument. Another is that a conventional attack on a military base is not the moral equivalent of targeting civilians with nuclear weapons.

Obama's visit to Hiroshima, the first by a sitting American leader, was generally well-received in Japan, and seemed to be an attempt at seeking common ground, though no apology was offered.

The trip sparked debate on whether nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should return the gesture and visit Pearl Harbor.

Abe on Monday made a surprise announcement that he would visit the site this month when he goes to Hawaii for talks with Obama.

Abe's wife Akie made a quiet offering of flowers and prayers at Pearl Harbor in August.

Before Monday's announcement, Takimoto, who has over the years denounced the war and the leaders who started it, said Abe would go only if he thought it would boost his popularity.

"I know his purpose -- I won't be moved at all," he said.

 

 

Raids kill dozens in Syria's Idlib, army advances in Aleppo

 
‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎6, ‎2016, ‏‎5:35:15 AMGo to full article
Aleppo, Syria (AFP) Dec 4, 2016 - Suspected Russian air strikes killed at least 46 people in opposition-held parts of Syria Sunday, a monitor said, as government forces advanced in fierce clashes with rebels in east Aleppo.

Syria's government is waging an offensive to recapture all of second city Aleppo, and it has so far captured more than 60 percent of eastern districts that fell to rebels in 2012.

In Idlib province, in northwest Syria, at least 26 civilians were killed in suspected Russian strikes on the town of Kafr Nabel, the Britai