Sunday, May 31, 2015

Qatar Extends Travel Ban For 'Taliban 5' Who Were Released For Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl



CNN: Qatar extends travel ban for 'Taliban 5'

(CNN)Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend a travel ban for the five senior Taliban leaders who have lived there since being released in a prisoner exchange with the United States, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

The ban will stay in place while discussions between the United States, Qatar and Afghanistan continue for a long-term solution. The Taliban members, who were traded for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, will still not be able to travel and will be subject to monitoring, the official said.

The prisoner swap happened in May 2014.

Bergdahl, who was captured and held by the Taliban for five years, was charged with desertion in March and could face a life sentence.

More News On Qatar Extending The Travel Ban For The 'Taliban 5'

Qatar to maintain travel ban on Taliban Five -- Washington Post
Qatar extends travel bans on ex-Gitmo detainees traded for Bergdahl as talks with US continue -- FOX News/AP
Qatar to extend restrictions on ex-Taliban detainees: U.S. official -- Reuters
U.S., Qatar Extend Talks About Former Taliban Detainees -- WSJ
Qatar Extends Travel Ban for Taliban Leaders Released from Guantanamo -- VOA
Qatar extends travel ban for Taliban 5 swapped for Bowe Bergdahl -- CBS
Qatar extends travel ban on 'Taliban Five' Guantanamo Bay inmates who were released in exchange for Sgt Bowe Bergdahl -- Daily Mail
For Swapped Taliban Prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Few Doors to Exit Qatar -- NYT

75 Percent Of U.S. Bombing Runs Targeting The Islamic State Have Returned To Base With Their Bombs

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014. (Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew)

Washington Times: U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout

Nearly 75 percent of U.S. bombing runs targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria returned to base without firing any weapons in the first four months of 2015, holding their fire mainly because of a lack of ground intelligence and raising questions about President Obama’s key tactic in pushing back an enemy that continues to expand its territory in the war zone.

Key lawmakers are growing increasingly frustrated by the slow rate of U.S. bombing sorties, a frustration shared by a former Navy pilot who said in an interview that U.S. forces are clearly needed on the ground in Iraq to help provide targets for these pilots to hit.

Without ground forces, argues Cmdr. Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy helicopter pilot, U.S. airmen are essentially flying half-blind and, as a result, are returning to base with their bombs still in the bay.

WNU Editor: This is what happens when you do not have boots on the ground and rules of engagement that prohibits bombing targets when there are doubts in the mission.

With Default Looming A Sense of Panic And Chaos Is Growing in Greece



Financial Times: Tsipras accuses bailout monitors of making ‘absurd’ demands

Greece’s chances of striking a deal to access a much-needed €7.2bn in rescue aid looked even bleaker on Sunday after Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, accused bailout monitors of making “absurd” demands and seeking to impose “harsh punishment” on Athens.

Mr Tsipras’s accusations, made in Le Monde newspaper, came only days after his government claimed an agreement was imminent. They have increased the sense of chaos around negotiations in the week many believe a deal is needed to avoid a Greek default.

On Friday, Athens is scheduled to make a €300m loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund that is being closely watched by creditors after some Greek ministers hinted that it might not be met without bailout aid. A further €1.2bn of IMF payments fall due over the subsequent two weeks.

WNU Editor: What is very telling to me is the massive outflow of money that is now occurring by depositors who want their money out of Greek banks .... Greek Bank Run Continues; Greek Domestic Deposits Lowest In Decade (Forbes). If the Greeks themselves do not have confidence in their country ... why should outside creditors. AS I have said more than once .... this is not going to end well.

More News On The Greek Debt Crisis

Greece, creditors agree on need for quick deal as talks continue -- Reuters
Alexis Tsipras lambasts 'absurd proposals' for Greece debt-deal failure -- The Guardian
Greece's Tsipras attacks creditors over 'absurd' reforms -- AFP
Greece’s Endgame Nears as Tsipras Warns Bell May Toll for Europe -- Bloomberg
Little Progress On Greece Rescue Talks; Agreement Failing Over The Same Old Things -- Forbes
Whether Greece does a deal or defaults, the prospects seem equally grim -- The Guardian

A Look At What U.S. Nuclear Tests Have Done To The Marshall Islands



Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: The Marshall Islands and the NPT

Tony DeBrum, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) provided a dose of reality to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference recently by asking: “How many in this room have personally witnessed nuclear weapon detonations?”

On March 1, 1954, a 9-year-old DeBrum was fishing with his grandfather near the Likiep atoll, one of the islands in the Marshalls group. As his grandfather cast his net, there was a sudden intense flash that lit up the pre-dawn sky, followed by a terrifying shock wave. “Everything turned red—the ocean, the fish, the sky, and my grandfather’s net. And we were 200 miles away from ground zero. A memory that can never be erased.”

WNU Editor: The legacy of U.S. nuclear tests is going to last a long time .... especially in places like The Marshall islands. Sadly .... Soviet nuclear tests and their aftermath are even worse .... The Tragic Story of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (io9).

India Warns That The Islamic State Could Get A Nuclear Weapons From Pakistan


Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Are Not Safe: Former Foreign Minister -- DNA

The Independent: Isis could obtain nuclear weapon from Pakistan, warns India

Comments by Defence Minister Rao Inderjit Singh follow Isis's own 'far-fetched' claims it could obtain a Pakistani nuclear device via corrupt officials


India's defence minister has voiced concern that the radical Islamist group Isis could obtain a nuclear weapon from "states like Pakistan".

Rao Inderjit Singh made the comments on the sidelines of the Shangri-La regional security conference in Singapore, Bloomberg has reported.

"With the rise of Isis in West Asia, one is afraid to an extent that perhaps they might get access to a nuclear arsenal from states like Pakistan," Bloomberg quoted him as saying.

Earlier in the month Isis suggested it could attempt to buy its first nuclear weapon within a year and that it might come from Pakistan.

Previous Post: Islamic State Claims That They Are Close To Purchasing A Pakistani Nuclear Weapon That They Will Then Smuggle Into The U.S.

WNU Editor: It will be hell for Pakistan if such a transfer takes place.

More News On India Warning That The Islamic State Could Obtain A Nuclear Weapon From Pakistan

India Concerned ISIS May Get Access to Pakistan’s Nuclear Arms -- Bloomberg
Isis: India warns Islamic State can obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan -- IBTimes
India ‘afraid’ Islamic State may get access to Pakistan’s nuclear arms -- Pakistan Today
India warns ISIS could get nukes from Pakistan -- RT

U.S. Army Shifts Its Training To Fighting Big Wars

U.S. Army Soldiers participate in tactical range training using M-9 Berretta handguns on Normandy Range Complex in Basra, Iraq, July 15, 2009. The Soldiers are assigned to Company B, 445th Civil Affairs Battalion. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Chrissy Best

Norwalk Reflector: Army Begins Training for Next War, Which May Be Much Different, Bigger

For more than a decade, troops here have been schooled in counterinsurgency.

"Mission-specific" training, they call it: going house to house, busting down doors, rooting out terror cells, recognizing crude explosives.

Now, after a pair of mission-specific wars, an Army in transition aims to get back to the future.

The training needed to fight full-scale, more conventional battles has suffered, Army leaders contend. So Fort Riley is putting soldiers such as Staff Sgt.Gilbert Monroe back into big tanks and simulating wars on a scale grander than Iraq or Afghanistan.

"This is what I signed up for," Monroe said.

He began his military career 14 years ago in an M1A2 Abrams tank. But he spent tours in Iraq commanding more nimble armored vehicles, rolling on eight tires and lacking the heft to blast a target from 2 miles out.

WNU Editor: Events in Ukraine have made everyone realize that big wars do have a tendency to happen .... and it is best to be ready for one.

B-52s Conduct A Massive Carpet Bombing Exercise In Jordan



Joseph Trevithick, War Is Boring: B-52s in Massive Mid-East Carpet Bombing Exercise

But don’t expect the heavy bombers to join the war in Iraq

On May 18, two American B-52H bombers flew non-stop from Louisiana to a range in Jordan, dropped a massive payload of bombs, then turned around and flew back home.

The non-stop round trip — 30 hours and 14,000 miles in total — culminated in the twin bombers blasting a target range in full view of observers and public affairs cameras.

It was a rare display of the bomber’s full combat power. B-52s often fly training missions around the globe, but rarely drop dozens of live bombs. What’s all the more interesting is that it happened a hop and a skip away from Syria and Iraq.

Since August 2014, the United States has led an international air campaign over the two countries. But the U.S. Air Force hasn’t sent any B-52s — for good reasons. Instead, fighter aircraft and B-1 bombers armed with missiles and guided bombs have done most of the work.

WNU Editor: When you deploy B-52s on bombing runs during a Middle Eastern exercise .... you are sending a message. In this case .... the message is to everyone.

Future Chairman Of The NATO Military Committee: 'Russia Could Occupy The Baltics In 2 Days'

Czech General Petr Pavel

Noviny: Russia would be able to occupy Baltics in two days- Czech general

Prague - Russia would be able to occupy the Baltic countries in two days, a period during which NATO would not be capable of reacting adequately, Czech general Petr Pavel, who will take up the post of the NATO Military Committee head in June, said at a Prague conference on security affairs today.

Pavel warned that NATO´s political representation is incapable of reacting to a changed situation fast enough.

He said the measures Europe has taken in face of the threats of Russia and Islamic State are "embarrassingly ineffective."

"On the one hand, one of [NATO´s] disadvantages is its complex process of decision making. It is because NATO has 28 members who have to reach consensus on all conclusions," Pavel told CTK.

Update: Incoming NATO Military Committee Chairman: Russia could occupy the Baltics in 2 days if it wanted to -- Business Insider

WNU Editor: Russian media is adding Kiev in the "Russia can occupy the Baltics in 2 days" discussion .... NATO Believes Russia Can Take Over Kiev, Baltic Countries Within Two Days (Sputnik). I doubt that Russia would be able to take Kiev in two days, and as for the Baltics .... that would mean war against NATO .... a prospect that I can say with a certain level of confidence is on no one's dinner plate in Moscow.

Terror Suspect Arrested In Cyprus Linked To Hezbollah Leader

A policeman stands guard at a house where police discovered almost two tonnes of ammonium nitrate, in Larnaca, Cyprus, May 29. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Jerusalem Post: Cyprus arrest of Hezbollah man 'uncovered large-scale Iranian terror plot across Europe'

Israeli security sources believe Hezbollah kept a storeroom hiding massive quantity of explosives in Cyprus for an Iranian-orchestrated terror campaign against Israel.

Israeli security sources are closely monitoring the arrest and investigation of a suspected Hezbollah operative in Larnaca, Cyprus, who was caught in possession of a massive quantity of explosive material.

Cypriot police suspect that a man arrested on Wednesday was planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island after they found almost two tons of ammonium nitrate in his basement, newspapers on the island reported Friday.

The 26-year-old man, who is Lebanese-born and has a Canadian passport, was detained after authorities discovered the stockpile.

Update #1: Bomb Suspect in Cyrus Linked to Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah -- Algemeiner
Update #2: Cyprus : Lebanese bomb suspect ‘linked to Hezbollah chief -- Ya Liban

WNU Editor: You would think that with Hezbollah being fully engaged in the Syria and Iraq wars that their focus would not be on starting a terror campaign in Europe .... but it appears that this is not the case.

Iran Is Looking For Ways To Block 'Nuclear Inspections' In Current Talks On Its Nuclear Program

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pose for a photograph before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear programme in Lausanne March 16, 2015.

Reuters: Iran says will discuss 'other solutions' to nuclear inspections deadlock

Iran will discuss "other solutions" to Western demands that it allow U.N. inspectors access to its military sites and to interview its nuclear scientists, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted on Sunday as saying.

The question of access for international inspectors has become one of the main sticking points between Tehran and six world powers as they try to overcome obstacles to a final nuclear agreement one month before of a deadline.

"We have decided to discuss other solutions to resolve this issue," Zarif was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency, after holding six hours of meetings on Saturday with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry.

WNU Editor: Nuclear inspections have always been a cornerstone for all nuclear agreements .... if you cannot verify an agreement, what is the point of having one. But it appears that this is Iran's "red-line" .... and they are not going to budge on the principle that permitting nuclear inspections will only permit intelligence agencies to gather information on Iran's other military capabilities.

China Indicates That It May Set Up An Air Defense Zone In The South China Sea



New York Times: China Says It Could Set Up Air Defense Zone in South China Sea

BEIJING — A Chinese admiral said on Sunday that Beijing could set up an air defense zone above disputed areas of the South China Sea if it felt it was facing a large enough threat, according to Chinese news media.

Adm. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told a regional security forum in Singapore that China had not said it would create a so-called air defense identification zone, but that any decision would be based on an aerial threat assessment and the general security situation. He also said other nations should not overemphasize the issue.

The creation of an air defense zone would be viewed by the United States and Southeast Asian nations as a huge provocation. In recent years, foreign officials have speculated whether one of Beijing’s next moves in the South China Sea would be to set up such a zone, whose existence would further solidify China’s military presence in the waters.

Update: China, U.S. tone down rhetoric but far from South China Sea solution -- Reuters

WNU Editor: Setting up an air defense zone is the South China Sea is going to raise red flags throughout the Asian continent. What also does not help the situation is that many are now starting to question U.S. commitment to settling this dispute .... Ash Carter Talks Tough on China, But It's Just Talk (Josh Rogin, Bloomberg).




Travel Ban For 'Taliban 5' Set To End Today



Voice of America: Travel Ban Ends Sunday for 5 Taliban Freed for US Soldier

ISLAMABAD - A travel ban on five senior Afghan Taliban officials freed by the United States in a prisoner exchange last year will expire Sunday.

The five Taliban officials have been in Qatar since last year, when they were released in exchange for the return of an American soldier held by insurgents in Afghanistan for nearly five years.

The approaching end of the travel ban has concerned American lawmakers and Afghan peace negotiators who worry that the former Taliban fighters will return to the battlefield in strife-torn Afghanistan.

WNU Editor: These Taliban operational commanders are very dangerous .... and 4 of the 5 have already indicated that they want to go back to join their comrades. To put it bluntly .... nothing good is going to come out of this release.



More News On Travel Ban For 'Taliban 5' Set To End Today

Travel ban for Taliban leaders swapped for Bergdahl ends soon -- CNN
‘Taliban Five’ travel ban set to expire; ex-Gitmo detainees exchanged for Berghdal -- Washington Times
Lawmakers warn travel ban on Taliban freed for Bergdahl will soon end -- The Hill
Can the Taliban Five Be Kept from Leaving Qatar? -- Bridget Johnson, PJ Media
As five Taliban officials walk free, Bergdahl deal stink grows -- New York Post editorial

Islamic State Now Targeting Saudi Arabia



Kristin Roberts, National Journal: The Coming ISIS Assault on Saudi Arabia Means Awful Things for Washington

ISIS has its next target, and it’s one that threatens U.S. interests in the region more than anything you’ve seen from the terrorist group so far.

Two weeks. Two suicide bombings. Both targeting Shiites in a Sunni land. And both claimed by ISIS.

If this were Iraq or Syria, these attacks—sadly—wouldn't be surprising. But it's not. It's Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's most precious sites and the region's most powerful Sunni rulers—a relatively vast territory, kept remarkably stable by the ruthless application of authoritarian rule while its neighbors teeter under the destabilizing weight of popular revolution and terrorist intervention.

And that's just the way the U.S. government likes its friend, Saudi Arabia. Because Washington needs stability there more than it needs to feel good about how the House of Saud achieves it.


WNU Editor: The Islamic State's focus appears to be on stirring a sectarian war in Saudi Arabia .... ISIS is trying to stir up sectarian war in Saudi Arabia (Business Insider/Reuters). Will they succeed .... considering the fact that the Islamic State does control territory that borders Saudi Arabia .... they have the means to send in terror cells to stir up trouble .... and if there is one thing that we have learned since the Arab Spring, it does take much for a revolution/civil-war to break-out in these Middle Eastern countries.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Suffers Broken Leg In Bike Accident In France



New York Times: Secretary of State John Kerry Cuts Trip Short After Bike Crash

GENEVA — Secretary of State John Kerry has cut short his trip to Europe after suffering an accident while bicycling on Sunday and is returning to Boston for medical care.

The State Department said that Mr. Kerry, 71, had suffered a broken leg when his bike struck a curb while cycling near Scionzier, France. He was transported to a hospital in Geneva and never lost consciousness.

Mr. Kerry had been scheduled to fly to Madrid this afternoon for an official visit there. He was then set to travel to Paris for a meeting on Tuesday of foreign ministers from the coalition the United States has assembled to confront the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Those travel plans have been canceled, but Mr. Kerry plans to participate in the Paris event remotely by a videoconference.

WNU Editor: I can relate to this. I broke my arm in a bike accident about 20 years ago in Moscow. But a leg fracture (he broke his right femur) is far worse than an arm, and at Kerry's age .... he is going to be laid up for awhile. Will this impact U.S. foreign policy .... definitely. Case in point .... I am willing to predict that this will be used as an excuse (among many) to delay the Iranian nuclear talks for a month or two.

More News On U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Suffering A Broken Leg In A Bike Accident In France

Kerry breaks leg in bike crash; ends overseas trip early -- AP
U.S.'s Kerry breaks leg in cycling accident in Alps, returns home -- Reuters
John Kerry cuts short week-long trip after bicycling accident -- Washington Post
Secretary of State John Kerry Breaks Leg in Bike Accident -- ABC News
John Kerry Suffers Broken Leg in Bike Accident in France -- NBC
John Kerry in Geneva hospital after bike accident in nearby France -- CNN
John Kerry suffers broken leg in cycling accident -- RT

There Is No White House Plan To Stop The Islamic State

Larry Downing/Reuters

Nancy A. Youseff, Daily Beast: Obama’s New ISIS War Plan: Nothing

Defeats? What defeats? The terror group may have romped in Ramadi and Palmyra, but the Obama administration isn’t changing its strategy, despite growing doubts in the Pentagon.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State has claimed a major provincial capital in Iraq and taken over another strategically key city in Syria. In response, the Obama administration plans to do—well, not much of anything new.

Four defense officials told The Daily Beast that there’s still strong resistance within the Obama administration to making any serious changes to the current strategy for fighting ISIS—despite mounting skepticism from some in the Pentagon about the current U.S. approach to the war.

Although the Obama administration’s public messaging is that it still wants to “degrade and ultimately defeat” ISIS, in reality, many in the Pentagon view the real objective as just running out the clock.


WNU Editor: In my opinion .... the White House plan has been to minimize U.S. participation .... i.e. no ground troops, targeted air strikes, focus on training and providing intelligence. In short .... escalation has never been an option for this White House .... at least for now.

Update: The U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State is raising doubts that the White House is serious in waging war against the Islamic State .... What the U.S. Bombed Before Ramadi Fell (Eli Lake, Bloomberg).

Islamic State Is Targeting OPEC Arab States



The Telegraph: Opec under siege as Isil threatens world's oil lifeline

As the bloc’s 12 oil ministers meet in Vienna, the march of Isil jihadists in the Middle East is putting Iran and Saudi Arabia on a collision course with explosive consequences.

Thick black smoke rising from the Baiji oil refinery could be seen as a dirty smudge on the horizon as far away as Baghdad after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) set fire to the enormous processing plant just over 100 miles north of the capital last week.

The decision to torch the refinery, which once produced around a third of Iraq’s domestic fuel supplies, was made as the insurgents prepared to pull out of Baiji, which they captured last June in a victory that sent shock waves across world oil markets.

A year on from the start of the siege and a shaky alliance of the Middle East’s major Arab powers, with the limited support of the reluctant US government, has failed to contain the expansion of Isil.

WNU Editor: From the Islamic State's point of view .... oil is the lifeline for its enemies .... therefore a legitimate target .... a realization that OPEC member are starting to realize.

The Islamic State Has Perfected The Use Of Multiple Massive Car Bomb Attacks To Overrun Cities



Jeremy Bender, Business Insider: ISIS' favorite tactic for overrunning cities is brilliant, devastating, and insane

Since ISIS exploded onto the scene in Iraq in June 2014, the group has managed to overrun cities garrisoned by contingents of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were multiple times larger than the attacking militant forces.

In May, ISIS seized control of Ramadi after months of battles against the ISF, Iraqi police, and members of Sunni tribes who opposed ISIS.

Altogether, the ISF had assembled a force of about 2,000 soldiers in Ramadi who were fighting against between 400 and 800 militants. Despite having many more troops, ISIS still managed to take control of the city due to their devastating and insane tactic of using waves of multiton suicide car bombs.

WNU Editor: These truck bombs pack an enormous amount of fire-power (see above video). For more on the Islamic State's use of car bombs go here .... Truck bombs: the Islamic State's 'air force' (AFP).

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Report: US Anti-Missile Ground-Based Interceptors Have Serious Technical Flaws

An interceptor missile being hoisted at Fort Greely, Alaska. U.S. Army

L.A. Times: Serious flaws revealed in U.S. anti-missile nuclear defense against North Korea

Two serious technical flaws have been identified in the ground-launched anti-missile interceptors that the United States would rely on to defend against a nuclear attack by North Korea.

Pentagon officials were informed of the problems as recently as last summer but decided to postpone corrective action. They told federal auditors that acting immediately to fix the defects would interfere with the production of new interceptors and slow a planned expansion of the nation's homeland missile defense system, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

As a result, all 33 interceptors now deployed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County and Ft. Greely, Alaska, have one of the defects. Ten of those interceptors — plus eight being prepared for delivery this year — have both.

Update: GAO Report: US Anti-Missile Interceptors Have Serious Technical Flaws -- Newsmax

WNU Editor: You cannot make this stuff up .... the Pentagon knows that there are serious flaws n these missiles .... but who cares .... lets spend the money and deploy them anyway.

Life On The Front Lines In Ukraine



BBC: Ukraine's stubborn frontline civilians defy bombardment

It was a perfect afternoon in early summer.

Somebody had placed a garland of fresh flowers on the rusting wreckage of a tank. Men died here and were remembered. Although the fields were empty it was possible to imagine them filled with workers harvesting the sunflower crop.

This was the lull, the space between bombardments when the land reminded us of its true purpose: not a battlefield but a place of abundance.

I remarked to a colleague that the calm was our greatest enemy here. It lulled us into a false sense of ease.

And then it started. I heard shouts of "Go, go, go" in English and Ukrainian.

WNU Editor: This video impacted me. Seeing the surroundings, the homes, the people, the countryside, the night sky .... sighhh .... it makes me homesick. Kudos to the BBC for posting this report that shows the suffering and struggles of the civilians who now find themselves living on the front lines.

Diplomacy To Settle The Ukraine Crisis Is Failing

A woman with a boy looks at a tank as it drives through the settlement Khutor Chkalova on its way to the Russian military training ground ‘Kuzminsky’ on the Russians side of the border with Ukraine, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

Lucian Kim, Reuters: Vladimir Putin is not planning annexation of Ukraine enclaves, but diplomacy is flailing

Karl-Georg Wellmann, a representative in the German parliament, flew to Moscow Sunday night on a behind-the-scenes mission to help break the deadlock in eastern Ukraine. But when he landed at Sheremetyevo Airport, border officials denied him entry, without any explanation, until 2019. Wellmann, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, had to spend the night in a transit lounge and was escorted onto the first flight home the next morning.

Wellmann raised a storm in German and Russian media, and Merkel’s government lodged an official complaint with the Kremlin. Although he was known as a critic of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict, Wellmann said he had been invited by Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s committee on foreign affairs, and Sergei Glazyev, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin. He didn’t have plans to meet with Russian opposition leaders.

WNU Editor: Lucian Kim's opening remarks in her Reuter's post on how the the back channels of German diplomacy are clogging up when it comes to Russia and Ukraine is very revealing to me on how messed-up diplomacy has become between Russia and the West. Even during the height of the Cold War there were multiple back-channels .... today .... I would have to say that there are none. As to the Reuters post itself .... the typical "Russia bad, Eastern Ukraine rebels bad, Poroshenko is trying his best to save the situation, its all Putin's fault" type of analysis.

Update: A few months ago I asked some former Russian colleagues if it made sense for Russia to do an annexation of eastern Ukraine as they did with Crimea .... their answer .... they thought the whole idea was crazy. Crimea is not Donetsk and Luhansk .... especially now. The entire region has been destroyed, and to return it to some form of stability with a functional economy would take tens of billions of dollars and years of reconciliation ... something that no one in Moscow is interested in. That is why I have always said that the Russian factor in Ukraine has been exaggerated ....that this is a conflict primarily involving Ukrainians. I have also stated that the solution to the crisis in Ukraine does not go through Moscow .... it goes through Kiev and the rebel enclaves in the east. Unfortunately .... no one in Ukraine is interested in having talks and making compromises .... a year of war has hardened altitudes and positions to where we are today .... an impasse.

Russian Fighter Jets Warn U.S. Destroyer To Not Approach Russian Waters

© Flickr/ CNE CNA C6F

Sputnik News: Russian Jets Force US Navy Destroyer Away From Territorial Waters

Russian Navy jets forced a US Navy ship into the eastern Black Sea after it was noticed heading into Russia's territorial waters.

Russian Navy Su-24 jets forced US Navy destroyer USS Ross to go into neutral waters in the Black Sea, a source in Crimea's security forces told RIA Novosti.

The US Navy ship was noticed heading directly toward Russian waters after leaving the Romanian port of Costanta. The incident comes on the same day as fugitive Georgian ex-leader Mikheil Saakashvili's appointment as governor of Ukraine's Black Sea-bordering Odessa region.

Update: Russian aircraft head off U.S. destroyer in Black Sea: RIA -- Reuters

WNU Editor: The international game of "cat and mouse" continues.

Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Appointed Governor Of The Ukraine Region Of Odessa



CNN: Ukraine gives former Georgian president citizenship, governor's job

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN)Ukraine's leader has given former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Ukrainian citizenship and appointed him governor of the country's southwestern Odessa province, in a move that may needle Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Photographs posted on President Petro Poroshenko's official website showed the pair smiling as he welcomed Saakashvili to the role in Odessa on Saturday.

Presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko told CNN that Poroshenko had suggested that the Cabinet nominate Saakashvili as Odessa governor. Governors are nominated by the Cabinet and appointed by the President in Ukraine.

WNU Editor: This appointment reminds me of a quote from American writer Ray Bradury .... "The gargoyles have taking over the cathedral".

More News On Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Being Appointed Governor Of The Ukraine Region Of Odessa

Ex-Georgian president, wanted at home, becomes governor in Ukraine -- RT
Ex-Georgian leader appointed Odessa region governor -- ITAR-TASS
Fugitive Georgian Ex-President Appointed Governor of Odessa Region -- Sputnik
Georgian Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili Named Regional Governor in Ukraine -- WSJ
Georgian ex-President Saakashvili named Ukraine regional governor -- BBC
Ukraine appoints Georgia ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili governor of Odessa -- The Guardian
Ex-Georgian president named governor of Ukraine region -- AP

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials On The War Against The Islamic State -- May 30, 2015

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect flee violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State. (Reuters/Rodi Said)

Jesse Rosenfeld, The Nation: Massacre and Reprisal in a Shattered Iraq

The refugee crisis is growing as civilians flee a war that is drawing ethnic and religious borders in blood.

Erbil— Ali Ahmed Hassan, 31, sits on the floor of his one-room portable metal home in the sprawling Baharka refugee camp on the northern outskirts of Erbil, reflecting on the sectarian warfare that has forced him to flee with his family to the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. Horrific bloodshed and reprisal killings—inflicted by the Sunni extremists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, as well as the Shia militias—has torn apart his homeland and is leaving long-term, festering wounds, he says. Now he would rather build a future as a minority under Kurdish control than return to his home. Indeed, the muddy streets of refugee camps like this one are some of the last places in Iraq where you can still find multi-ethnic and religious coexistence.

An emergency-room doctor by training, Hassan, a Sunni Arab, first fled Iraq’s Diyala province after the Iranian-backed Shia militia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq carried out a bloody campaign of attacks against Sunni civilians in 2012. He then settled in the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit, until the atrocities that followed the 2014 blitzkrieg by ISIS forced him to escape once again, to the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials On The War Against The Islamic State -- May 30, 2015

What a new Iraq ‘surge’ could look like -- Michael Crowley, Politico
ISIS Wins No Matter What Happens Next -- Michael Weiss, Daily Beast
The U.S. must do more to help Iraq fight the Islamic State -- Washington Post editorial
Jihad, the Failed ‘Surge,’ and the Abandonment of Iraq’s Non-Muslim Minorities -- Andrew G. Bostom, PJ Media
Recognize Kurdistan and Arm It, against ISIS in Northern Iraq -- Andrew Doran, NRO
How to defeat ISIS -- David L. Phillips, CNBC
Kurds In Iraq And Syria Move Closer Together In ISIS Fight Because Blood 'Trumps Everything' -- Huffington Post
No One Really Knows What Is Happening in Iraq -- Steven A. Cook, Newsweek
Syria and Iraq can’t be solved by western boots on the ground -- Mary Dejevsky, The Guardian
How Disbanding the Iraqi Army Fueled ISIS -- Mark Thompson, Times
Iraq Has Imploded -- Fareed Zakaria, Newsmax
Emboldened in Syria and Iraq, Islamic State may be reaching limits of expansion -- Peter Graff, Reuters
Iraq's Sunni-Shiite divide: Does US experience show how it can be bridged? -- Howar Lafranchi, CSM
Did Iraq's Army Genuinely 'Collapse' In Ramadi (And Mosul)? What Really Happened. -- Melik Kaylan, Forbes
Why Republicans can't blame Obama for Iraq or ISIS -- H.A. Goodman, The Hill
The opposite of ISIS: Compassion flows freely in refugee camp -- Arwa Damon and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN

The Islamic State Has A Better Intelligence Network Than The U.S. In Iraq And Syria


VOA: Experts: IS Skilled at Gathering Intelligence, Adjusting Tactics

While U.S. and coalition partners pluck intelligence on Islamic State extremists from the militants’ communications or movements and then bomb them from the air, the militant group is gathering its own intelligence from city streets and preparing the ground for its next battlefield moves.

The result, according to experts, is that Washington is consistently lagging behind in its effort to destroy the Islamic State group.

“We are about 60 to 90 days behind ISIS,” former intelligence officer and military adviser Michael Pregent told VOA, referring to the Islamic State by one of its acronyms.

WNU Editor: The U.S. gets its intelligence from surveillance drones/satellites and intercepted communications. The Islamic State gets its intelligence on the ground and through informers and/or supporters in the Iraqi government/military. With these dynamics at play, it is not hard to figure out who is ahead in this "intelligence game".

Iraq's War Against The Islamic State -- News Updates May 30, 2015



VOA: Thousands Fleeing Ramadi Are Stuck at Baghdad Checkpoint

GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency reports thousands of Iraqis who have fled the bloody takeover of Ramadi by so-called Islamic State militants are stuck at checkpoints in Anbar province and barred from entering the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The UNHCR is appealing to Iraqi authorities to ease restrictions.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates 85,000 people have fled the latest escalation of violence by IS militants in Ramadi since May 15. It says the majority of this latest wave of displaced individuals remains in Anbar governorate, boosting the numbers of homeless people in this area to 180,000.

Iraq's War Against The Islamic State -- News Updates May 30, 2015

Sunnis Fleeing ISIS Find Few Doors Open Elsewhere in Iraq -- NYT
US Central Command Says Iraqis Making Progress Against ISIS -- Military.com
Iraq forces edge towards Ramadi -- Al Arabiya/AFP
Iraq Launches Offensive Against Islamic State -- VOA
Iraq's Shiite Militias Rename Their Offensive Against ISIS After Controversy -- Huffington Post
Nearly 500 bodies exhumed from graves in Iraq, morgue official -- CNN
Iraq 'exhumed 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves' -- AFP
U.S., allies conduct 22 air strikes against Islamic State militants: combined joint task force -- Reuters
U.S. loses drone in Iraq -- USA Today
Carter: US to 'Fine Tune' Iraq Strategy in Light of Ramadi Debacle -- AP
White House: US won't be 'responsible' for 'security situation' in Iraq -- FOX News
UK may expand military support mission in Iraq -- ITV
Britain may expand mission in Iraq -- Press Association
Qatar to open embassy in Baghdad as Iraq’s ties with Gulf improve -- Al Arabiya/Reuters
Iraq Doses The Market With Oil -- Forbes
Iraq to increase oil export to new record high, price war intensifies - media -- RT

Video Shows Turkish Intelligence Shipping Arms to Syria



Reuters: Video purports to show Turkish intelligence shipping arms to Syria

A Turkish newspaper published video footage on Friday which it said showed security forces discovering weapons parts being sent to Syria on trucks belonging to the MIT state intelligence agency.

The footage shows gendarmerie and police officers opening crates on the back of the trucks which contain what newspaper Cumhuriyet described as weapons and ammunition. Cumhuriyet said the video was from Jan. 19, 2014 but did not say how it had obtained the footage.

Reuters reported last week that witnesses and prosecutors have alleged that MIT helped deliver arms to parts of Syria under Islamist rebel control during late 2013 and early 2014, quoting a prosecutor and court testimony from gendarmerie officers.

WNU Editor: Instead of investigating if these reports are true, the Turkish government is investigating the newspaper that revealed the video .... Turkey Opens Terrorism Probe on Report of Arms Trucked to Syria (Bloomberg). The video is here.

More News On A Video That Shows Turkish Intelligence Shipping Arms to Syria

Turkish daily accuses government of sending arms to Syrian rebels -- AFP
Turkish paper probed over images of alleged Syria-bound spy agency convoys carrying ammunition -- FOX News/AP
Turkey paper investigated after Syria arms claims -- BBC
Newly-released video alleges Turkey is sending weapons to Syria -- Euronews
Turkey: Newspaper investigated for publishing 'evidence of weapons shipments to Syrian rebels' -- IBTimes
Turkish daily accuses government of arming Syrian rebels -- Deutsche Welle
Turkish Daily Accuses Govt. of Sending Arms to Syria Rebels -- Naharnet

As Syria Burns The Country's 'Elites' Continue To Enjoy Life



Vocativ: Syria’s Elites Find Time For Fun As Country Burns

The ruling minority sect has tried to shield itself from the death and violence other Syrians have been enduring for years.

From their Instagram feeds they appear to be just like other young people enjoying the summer time: backflipping into water, chilling at a pool bar, basking in a sundrenched meadow. But the photos belong to a group of Syrians who have maintained their privileged lives, despite the war ravaging their country.

They’re Alawites, the country’s minority sect and its elite. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and many in his ruling government belong to the group, which comes from a strand of Shiite Islam. They dwell in Tartous and Latakia, perched on the Meditteranean on the Syrian coast, where there are few scenes of war or famine or retribution from the Assad regime to haunt them. Still, some insist the war is never far away. Vocativ found their photos through geo-located Instagram images.

WNU Editor: Recent reports are giving the impression the Syrian government is starting to lose this war .... if true .... these "good times" are probably going to come to an end for Syria's privileged few .... and probably sooner rather than later.

Civil War In Syria -- News Updates May 30, 2015



Al Jazeera: Syria barrel bomb attacks 'kill scores' in Aleppo

At least 75 people reported killed after government forces carry out raids in Aleppo province, monitoring group says.

A series of barrel bombs dropped by Syria's government has killed at least 75 people and wounded dozens others in Aleppo province, according to medical sources and a monitoring group.

The deaths occurred in two separate incidents on Saturday when helicopters dropped explosives-filled barrels, which are deemed illegal under international law.

One barrel bomb hit the rebel-held Shaar neighbourhood of the city of Aleppo, killing at least 20 people, most of them from the same family, local activists have told Al Jazeera.

Civil War In Syria -- News Updates May 30, 2015

Regime barrel bombs kill 71 civilians as Syria army in retreat -- AFP
Syria crisis: 'Barrel bomb strikes kill 71' in Aleppo province -- BBC
Syrian air raids kill dozens of civilians in north - monitoring group -- Reuters
Syria: Assad regime bombs claim 85 lives in Aleppo -- Middle East Monitor
Syria rebels take Idlib province as army retreats -- Al Jazeera
Syrian Islamist rebels 'seize Ariha in Idlib province' -- BBC
ISIS posts photos of appalling conditions in Syria's Palmyra Prison -- YNet News
Isis fighter in Syria was 'beheaded in revenge attack' -- The Guardian
Former U.S. Intel Analyst: Syria ‘Descending into Hell’ -- Washington Free Beacon
Outgoing U.N. aid chief paints harrowing portrait of Syria war -- Reuters
Al Qaeda's strategy in Syria is working -- Armin Rosen, Business Insider
What Syria needs now -- David Miliband, CNN

U.S. And Iran Meet To Discuss A Nuclear Deal One Month Before The Deadline



VOA: US, Iran Meet One Month Before Nuclear Deal Deadline

The top U.S. and Iranian diplomats are meeting in Switzerland in an attempt to hammer out a historic nuclear deal that could give international inspectors access to Iran's military sites and scientists.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif Saturday in a bid to overcome the remaining obstacles to a final nuclear agreement, a month ahead of a June 30 deadline for a deal between Tehran and world powers.

The meeting in Geneva is the first substantive talks since Iran and the six world powers – Britain, France, the United States, Russia, China and Germany – struck an interim deal April 2. Negotiators have been working on the details of a final agreement to scale back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

WNU Editor: If this is the position that Iran is going to hold (and Iran is very adamant that they are not going to compromise) .... Iran rejects military site inspections in nuclear deal (Al Jazeera) .... these talks are doomed. My prediction .... expect an extension to the the talks beyond the June 30 deadline.

More News On U.S. And Iranian Negotiators Meeting To Discuss A Nuclear Deal One Month Before The Deadline

U.S. and Iran address obstacles to nuclear deal as deadline nears -- Reuters
Iran nuclear talks snag on access to military sites -- AFP
US and Iran resume nuclear talks in Geneva ahead of deadline -- The Guardian
US and Iran speed up nuclear talks -- Irish Times
Pressure on Iran Nuclear Talks Builds Ahead of June 30 Deadline -- Bloomberg

Yemen War News Updates -- May 30, 2015



Al Arabiya: Saudi-led strikes pound Yemen capital

Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded Houthi positions across Sanaa overnight, only hours after the U.N. envoy to Yemen arrived in the militia-held capital, residents said Saturday.

Among the air strike targets was a house of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh in his home town of Sanhan, south of the capital.

The latest air raids also hit the militia-held air force headquarters in Sanaa, arms depots in Sanhan, as well as the Dailami air base, also in the capital, witnesses told Agence France-Presse.

Other raids targeted Houthi militia positions in the oil-rich eastern province of Marib and the western region of Hodaidah.

Yemen War News Updates -- May 30, 2015

UN envoy arrives in Yemen amidst heavy fighting -- Al Bawaba
Coalition Pounds Yemen Capital Despite UN Envoy Arrival -- AFP
Fighting rages in Yemen's strategic port city -- Reuters
Fighters battle Houthis in Aden -- Arab News
Over 1,000 civilians died in Yemen conflict: UN -- Business Standard
Saleh claims Saudis offered him millions to fight Houthis -- Middle East Monitor
Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule -- VOA
Yemen faces catastrophe without vital supplies: Red Cross -- Reuters
Houthi rebels in Yemen are holding multiple Americans prisoner -- Washington Post

US Tried A Stuxnet Cyber Attack On North Korea Five Years Ago



Reuters: Exclusive: U.S. tried Stuxnet-style campaign against North Korea but failed - sources

The United States tried to deploy a version of the Stuxnet computer virus to attack North Korea's nuclear weapons program five years ago but ultimately failed, according to people familiar with the covert campaign.

The operation began in tandem with the now-famous Stuxnet attack that sabotaged Iran's nuclear program in 2009 and 2010 by destroying a thousand or more centrifuges that were enriching uranium. Reuters and others have reported that the Iran attack was a joint effort by U.S. and Israeli forces.

More News On Reports That The U.S. US Tried A Stuxnet Cyber Attack On North Korea Five Years Ago

Report: U.S. cyberattack on N. Korea nuke program failed -- USA Today
U.S. launched failed cyber attack against N. Korea's nuke program in 2010: report -- Arirang
Report: U.S. failed to sabotage North Korean nuclear program with Stuxnet-twin -- Fortune
US Reportedly Launched Stuxnet Attack Against North Korea -- Ubergizmo
US launched massive Stuxnet cyber attack on North Korea that bombed -- IBTimes

U.S. Defense Secretary: China's Island-Building Erodes Security



Reuters: U.S. says China's island-building erodes security; Beijing angered

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday that China's island-building in the South China Sea was undermining security in the Asia-Pacific, drawing a scathing response from the foreign ministry in Beijing.

Carter, speaking to top defense officials from the Asia-Pacific at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, acknowledged that several countries had created outposts in the region's disputed islands, but he said the scope of China's activity created uncertainty about its future plans.

"China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other claimants combined ... and China did so in only the last 18 months," Carter told the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum. "It is unclear how much farther China will go."

WNU Editor: The Chinese are not impressed with "U.S. concerns" .... China Says Carter’s Sea Comments ‘Foment Dissension’ (Bloomberg). China's neighbors have a different point of view .... Vietnam says reports of China artillery on reclaimed land 'bad sign' (Reuters).

More News On The Growing Dispute Over The South China Sea

Defense Chiefs Clash Over South China Sea -- WSJ
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warns China on South China Sea island-building -- L.A. Times
US issues strong warning to China over 'land-grab' island in South China Sea -- The Independent
U.S. defense chief to China: End South China Sea expansion -- CNN
Carter vows U.S. will continue, even step up operations over disputed South China Sea island -- FOX News

U.S. Patriot Act Set To Expire This Sunday



Reuters: Obama says 'handful of senators' blocking surveillance reforms

U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Friday that surveillance powers used to prevent attacks on Americans could lapse at midnight on Sunday unless "a handful of senators" stop standing in the way of reform legislation.

Obama said he had told Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators that he expects them to act swiftly on a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would renew certain powers and reform the bulk collection of telephone data.

WNU Editor: This is a bitter pill for many Senators .... primarily Democrats .... to swallow. They have never liked many of the provisions of the Patriot Act .... but we are now seeing them vote for their extension.

More News On The U.S. Senate Blocking An Extension In The Patriot Act

A look at the expiring surveillance provisions -- AP
Administration warns terror-fighting tools set to expire Sunday, as Senate battles over Patriot Act -- FOX News
Obama Warns of Dangers of Inaction on Patriot Act -- Time
Murky Future for NSA Data Sweep as 'Sunset' Looms -- AFP
Obama: 'Senators blocking US surveillance act amendments' -- Deutsche Welle
Disagreement over impact if US surveillance laws do expire -- AP
Rand Paul declares surveillance 'war' and hints at filibuster for NSA reform -- The Guardian
Rollback of U.S. spy powers would mark post-9/11 watershed -- Reuters
Mass surveillance under the microscope -- Al Jazeera
The Patriot Act May Be Dead Forever -- Shane Harris, Daily Beast

Friday, May 29, 2015

Editor's Note

Have to take care of guests tonight. Blogging will return tomorrow morning. Sighhh .... its been a long week.

Tonight's Movie Is 'Ronin' (1998)



From Wikipedia: Ronin is a 1998 American spy thriller action film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce. Written by J.D. Zeik and David Mamet, the film centers on a team of hired operatives trying to steal a mysterious and heavily-guarded case while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties and alliances. The film is noted for its car chases through Nice and Paris.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- May 29, 2015



Ivan Nechepurenko, Moscow Times: Putin Classifying Troop Losses Proves They're in Ukraine – Analysts

Legal amendments introduced Thursday that classify as state secrets any losses sustained during peacetime special operations are further confirmation of Russia's direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, legal and military experts told The Moscow Times.

The amendments, signed by President Vladimir Putin, make "information disclosing the loss of personnel … during special operations in peacetime" a classified state secret.

Putin has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Asked to explain Putin's move Thursday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate comment, Reuters reported.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- May 29, 2015

Killed in Action in Ukraine: Putin’s Secret Funerals -- Melinda Haring, Newsweek

A Bizarre Tale of Russia Concealing Its Soldiers’ Deaths in Ukraine -- Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times

Vladimir Putin's week of muscle-flexing -- Ben Brumfield, CNN

The 12 people who ruined Ukraine -- Linda Kinstler, Politico

US-China tensions rise over Beijing's 'Great Wall of Sand' -- Jonathan Marcus, BBC

The Middle East's Future Looks a Lot Like Iraq -- Tom Wilson, Real Clear World

A Political Strategy Against the Islamic State in Iraq -- David Romano, RUDAW

‘Obama at War’ Shows How Syria Was Lost -- Jeff Stein, Newsweek

Why the Islamic State’s annihilation of ancient cultures matters -- Michael Danti, Washington Post

In Islamic State fight, radically changed Pentagon view of civilian casualties -- Anna Mulrine, CSM

Islamic State Is Rapidly Expanding in Southeast Asia -- Josh Rogin, Bloomberg

What’s Happening With Boko Haram? -- John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations

Top US Officials Heat Up Rhetoric on China's South China Sea Behavior -- Ankit Panda, The Diplomat

The Jailed Leader Who Might Hold the Key to Venezuela's Future -- Marco Aponte-Moreno & Lance Lattig, Real Clear World

Tomorrow’s Wars -- Victor Hanson, City Journal

Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Reign of Shame -- Roger Cohen, NYT

Could The Islamic State Win?

John McLaughlin, Washington Post: How the Islamic State could win

Let’s think the unthinkable: Could the Islamic State win?

I say “unthinkable” because, discouraged as everyone has become, most commentary stops short of imagining what an Islamic State victory in the Middle East would look like. The common conviction is that the group is so evil it simply must be defeated — it will just take time.

But let’s test that proposition and think for a minute about what it would take for the group to win. What would success look like for the Islamic State? Essentially, it would amount to the group holding, for the foreseeable future, the core of what it has conquered — roughly half of Iraq and Syria — and exercising a rudimentary sort of governance there, in what it calls its “caliphate.”

WNU Editor: John McClaughlin nails it when he makes the following remark on training Iraq's military ....

.... People don’t fight because they’ve been trained; they fight because they believe in something. At present, the biggest believers in the region are with the Islamic State.

Indeed.

Update: An interesting analysis from the Economist .... The state of the caliphate: The fortunes of war (The Economist)

A Map Of The World According To The Islamic State


Swati Sharma, Washington Post: Map: The world according to the Islamic State

The Islamic State had one of its most successful weeks recently with the capture of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. But another statement about the group is also quite disturbing: The militants established 10 networks outside of Iraq and Syria, according to the Soufan Group.

What's more: These Islamic State strongholds are only the ones that the jihadists have publicly accepted as part of their growing caliphate. Several others have pledged allegiance to the group, but only these were actually acknowledged.

The theory behind this speaks to the Islamic State strategy. The networks — "three in Libya, two in Saudi Arabia, and one each in Sinai, Nigeria, Yemen, Algeria, and Khorasan in Pakistan and Afghanistan" — are seen as liaisons that won't easily become lost or overtaken by other forces, according to the Soufan Group.

WNU Editor: This is a lot of territory. A map of the world according to Al Qaeda can be seen here.

Calm Before The Storm As The Islamic State Prepares To Defend Ramadi Against An Iraqi Government Assault

Shi'ite paramilitaries riding military vehicles travel from Lake Tharthar toward Ramadi to fight against Islamic state militants, west of Samarra, Iraq May 27, 2015. Reuters/Stringer

Reuters: Islamic State settles into Ramadi, but the lull unlikely to last

The blind man with just one hand arrived at the main mosque in the centre of the Iraqi city of Ramadi at dusk on Wednesday, flanked by Islamic State fighters.

When the evening prayer was over, the man, whose head was shrouded in black, delivered a speech to the faithful, hailing the Islamic State's capture of the capital of Anbar Province - its greatest victory over Iraqi forces in almost a year.

Ali Attiya al-Jubouri, widely known as "the blind judge", is one of Islamic State's most senior figures and his presence in the mosque signalled the group's dominance over the city, which it seized on May 17 from hapless government forces.

More News On The Islamic State Preparing To Defend Ramadi Against An Iraqi Government Assault

Islamic State planting IEDs, improving defenses in Ramadi ahead of counterattack -- Washington Times
Pentagon: Iraqis, Islamic State sizing each other up for new Ramadi battle -- Stars and Stripes
No U.S.-trained troops in Iraq's new fight for Ramadi -- Military Times
Iraqi military moves closer to Ramadi liberation -- USA Today
Baghdad: Iraqi forces have Ramadi 'surrounded' -- Rudaw
Islamic State suicide bombings kill troops in Iraq's Anbar -- BBC
Islamic State suicide attacks hinder Iraq's Anbar push -- USA Today
Truck bombs: Islamic State’s ‘air force’ -- Times of Israel/AFP
General Allen: ‘Pretty Good’ ISIS Forces Took Ramadi -- CBS
Islamic State 'blind judge' shows up in Ramadi as Iraqi forces make slow advance -- Reuters
Senior Islamic State cleric, ‘the blind judge,’ gives speech in Ramadi -- Washington Times
Isil targets Sunni families in Ramadi with revenge killings -- The Telegraph
Ramadi's Displaced Find Restrictions, Not Refuge, in Baghdad -- Al-Monitor
U.N.: 85,000 flee Ramadi since ISIS capture -- AFP
Analysis: Growing sense that airstrikes alone will not dislodge the Islamic State group -- FOX News
The Long Battle Ahead Against Islamic State -- Aaron David Miller, WSJ
The Islamic State Wages A Smart, Inspired War As U.S. Falters -- Investors Business Daily

Islamic State Militants Have Seized A Major Libyan Airport


BBC: Islamic State militants in Libya 'seize Sirte airport'

Islamic State militants in Libya say they have seized the airport in the city of Sirte, as the group continues to make advances in the country.

The news was announced by the group and by a Libyan militia that withdrew from the coastal city's airport on Thursday.

Most of Sirte, former leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown, fell to IS last week.

In a statement, the group said it had also seized the Great Man Made River water project.

The irrigation project, the world's largest, supplies fresh water to Libyan cities and was also the base for the opposition Battalion 166, which has now fled.


Update #1: Isis-affiliated fighters have captured a key airport in central Libya -- The Independent
Update #2: ISIS seizes control of airport in Libya’s Sirte -- Al Arabiya/AFP

WNU Editor: The focus is on what the Islamic State is doing in Iraq and Syria .... but they are definitely making gains in Libya.

Has Russia Abandoned Two Of Its Soldiers In Ukraine?

A man, according to Ukraine's state security service (SBU) is named Yevgeny Yerofeyev and is one of two Russian servicemen recently detained by Ukrainian forces, is examined by medics at a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine, May 28, 2015. Picture taken May 28, 2015. Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

Reuters: Special Report: Russian fighters, caught in Ukraine, cast adrift by Moscow

From his hospital bed in the Ukrainian capital, Russian fighter Alexander Alexandrov feels abandoned by his country, its leaders and even the local Russian consul.

Alexandrov, 28, says he's a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. "I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request," he said. "I was carrying out my orders."

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine – only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.


WNU Editor: Russia has a long history of having its operatives/spies/soldiers captured or killed in other countries .... but they have always gone to great lengths to get them back. When a Russian reconnaissance platoon was caught near Mariupol during the height of last years fighting in Ukraine .... I was not surprised to hear Moscow quickly claim these solders as their own, and they quickly got them back after a prisoner exchange. Flash forward to today .... everyone in both Russia and Ukraine know that Russian spies and some special forces are in Russia .... and the remarks from these captured soldiers that there are 200 Russian special forces in Ukraine confirms the information that I have been getting (and no, there are no 10,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine). But this is why this case is unique .... I do believe that these men are Russian special forces .... but a decision has been made to set them adrift .... the question that needs to be answered is why. My best answer .... a rogue operation .... but I am the first to admit that I am speculating here .... and I am probably wrong.