Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Rise Of 'Gray-Zone' Wars And How Some Future Conflicts Will Not Be Decided On The Battlefield

Protests in Egypt. Photo from Bikyamasr

Peter Pomerantsev, The Atlantic: Brave New War

A new form of conflict emerged in 2015—from the Islamic State to the South China Sea.

From China in Asia to Russia in Europe and the Middle East, and ISIS just about everywhere, 2015 has seen the flourishing of conflicts that exist in a gray zone, one which is not quite open war but more than regular competition, which is attuned to globalization, which liberal democracies are ill-equipped to deal with, and which may well be the way power is exercised and conflict conducted in the foreseeable future.

Described by scholars as “hybrid,” “full-spectrum,” “non-linear,” “next-generation,” or “ambiguous”—the variations in the description indicate the slipperiness of the subject—these conflicts mix psychological, media, economic, cyber, and military operations without requiring a declaration of war.

WNU Editor: I disagree with Peter Pomerantsev's use of Ukraine in explaining his analysis .... Russia may not have helped the situation, but the Ukrainians did more than enough to mess up their country independent from Moscow. But having said that .... it is true .... some of the conflicts around the world involves the manipulation of legal understandings, media/communications, and psychology .... and China is doing it masterly in the South China Sea. The Islamic State is also a master of this .... and their weapon platform of choice is social media.

Did Chuck Norris Bring Down Communism?

Chuck Norris. YouTube

Lewis Beale, Daily Beast: How Chuck Norris Helped Bring Down Communism

At a time when travel and video players were illegal in Romania, smuggled Chuck Norris tapes gave people a window to the West.

In the 1984 Chuck Norris film Missing In Action, there’s a scene in which Norris, as a former POW who has returned to Vietnam looking for MIAs, is captured and strung upside down by Vietnamese soldiers. One ties a bag over his head with a rat in it. But when the bag is untied, they discover that instead of the rat chewing Norris’ head off, it’s Our Hero who has killed the rat by biting into its neck.

In Soviet-era Romania, they loved scenes like this.

WNU Editor: Growing up I had my share of watching "banned" western movies. And yes .... they did have a huge impact throughout the eastern bloc. People quite often were more focused on the cars, clothes/fashion, homes, and how people interacted than on what the movie was all about.

Update: Speaking of Chuck Norris .... Top 100 Chuck Norris Jokes - Facts

The Old World Order Is Being Challenged By Lower Oil Prices

Khaled al Otaiby, an official of the Saudi oil company Aramco, watches progress at a rig at the al-Howta oil field near Howta, Saudi Arabia, in this Feb. 26, 1997, photo. LJWorld

The Telegraph: The collapse in the price of oil is a challenge to the old world order

We’re awash with the black stuff – so we should celebrate the fact that the pessimists got it wrong

It is one of life’s mysteries that being wrong about everything has never been much of a barrier to success. Take Thomas Malthus, the British theologian: his big idea was that the number of human beings would necessarily grow faster than the supply of food, leading to calamity. There was little difference, in his mind, between people and rabbits: both were doomed to over-breed, over-consume and starve.

Yet this theory, expounded in 1798 in An Essay on the Principle of Population, one of the most influential books ever written, and now also routinely applied to oil and other resources, is bogus. Unlike rabbits, who are powerless to control their environment, the more we need, the more we eventually find a way of producing: the availability of food and oil are determined by technology and economics, not by some law of nature. Modern techniques (such as fertilisers, genetic selection or fracking) mean that agriculture and the extraction of commodities have become hugely more efficient.

WNU Editor: The big economic story for 2016 will be debt and rising interest rates. That (I predict) will be shaking the "Old World Order" more than oil.

President Obama: 'Many World Leaders Are Completely Out Of Their Mind'



Daily Beast: Obama Tells Jerry Seinfeld How He Blows Off Steam: ‘I Curse’

President Barack Obama drives a Corvette, drinks coffee, and talks about nothing with Jerry Seinfeld.

As he does at the beginning of every episode of his popular Web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld gave his latest guest a call on the way to pick him up.
“White House,” a familiar voice answered.

“Yes, may I speak with the president please?” Seinfeld asked politely.

“Speaking,” President Barack Obama said, delivering the first laugh of an entertainingly candid conversation between the two men.

Seinfeld rolled up to the White House in a cool blue 1963 Corvette Stingray for the episode, taped Dec. 7, and the pair did a couple of laps around the South Lawn. They didn’t make it too far, trading in the typical public café experience for a sit-down talk over coffee in the staff dining room to avoid the inevitable security concerns.

WNU Editor: You can watch the full episode at comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com.

More News On President Obama And Jerry Seinfeld

President Obama tells Jerry Seinfeld he thinks most world leaders are 'completely out of their mind' as he makes appearance on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee -- Daily Mail
Obama-Seinfeld show: 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee' airs -- AP
President Obama goes for a drive with Jerry Seinfeld -- CBS
Obama 'Drives' With Seinfeld for a Coffee at the White House -- NBC
Seinfeld and Obama, Chatting in a Corvette -- NYT
Watch President Obama’s guest spot on Seinfeld’s ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ -- Washington Post
Nachos, underwear and football: Highlights from Obama's talk with Jerry Seinfeld -- CNN
Barack Obama gets chummy, coffee with Jerry Seinfeld -- CSM
Here's Obama’s appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” -- VOX
6 gems from President Obama's abrupt ride with Jerry Seinfeld -- USA Today
Obama to Seinfeld: 'I always wanted to be in a show about nothing' -- Politico
Obama charms Jerry Seinfeld in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee -- The Guardian
President Obama Tells Jerry Seinfeld About the Downside of Fame -- Vanity Fair
Obama Tells Jerry Seinfeld Many World Leaders “Insane” In New Crackle Coffee Klatsch -- Deadline
Watch Barack Obama's Hilarious Chat With Jerry Seinfeld -- Rolling Stone

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 31, 2015



The Guardian: What will happen in 2016?

Space explorers, genetic scientists, US voters, terrorists and hackers look set to dominate our world next year – but don’t rule out the odd pleasant surprise

Never make predictions, especially about the future. So said Mark Twain, Yogi Berra or Niels Bohr – or possibly all three.

But if you must, there are really only two options: play safe and go for the obvious, or come up with forecasts so giddily optimistic that no one will take you seriously.

Using the former approach, 2016 will produce more tragedy in Syria and Yemen, an uninterrupted stream of refugees into Europe, another iteration of the Grexit crisis, deepening drought in the Chinese east and American west, and further hacking misadventure on both state and corporate levels. And an awful lot of summits to try to deal with all of the above.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 31, 2015

Our World in 2016 -- VOA

Annual Forecast 2016 -- Stratfor

Life After Islamic State -- Seth Frantzman, National Interest

The bad news about ISIS's defeat in Ramadi -- James Poulos, The Week

Iran's Plan for Syria Without Assad -- Joyce Karam, National Interest

Middle East still rocking from first world war pacts made 100 years ago -- Ian Black, The Guardian

Israel Was Targeted by US Intelligence for Obama Political Purposes -- David R. Shedd, Daily Signal

Iran Shot Beside Aircraft Carrier Shows U.S. Isn't Feared -- IBD Editorial

Hungry China sees more riches than war in Afghan future -- Kate Drew, CNBC

An Advance for South Korea and Japan, At Last -- Bloomberg editorial

The year ahead in East Asia: North Korea nukes and Taiwan elections -- Robert Marquand, CSM

Central African Republic, what must come next -- Thierry Vircoulon, Al Jazeera

Burundi Crackdown Puts Hutus and Tutsis, and the West, on Edge -- Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT

The EU Proves It's Here to Stay -- Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

Three Areas Where U.S. Foreign Policy Went Wrong in 2015 -- Michael Singh, WSJ

World News Briefs -- December 31, 2015 (Evening Edition)



BBC: New Year: Celebrations mark start of 2016

Countries around the world are marking the New Year, with festivities currently under way in parts of Europe and Africa.

Egypt, Greece and Turkey are among the latest countries to usher in 2016.

Earlier in Japan, people released balloons by Tokyo Tower, while South Koreans celebrated with fireworks and traditional bell-ringing ceremonies.

Revellers in Australia and New Zealand were some of the first to welcome the New Year.

Crowds counted down at Auckland's Sky Tower in New Zealand, with a laser show and fireworks display. Fireworks also lit up Sydney harbour in Australia.

In one of the more innovative celebrations, four divers equipped with musical instruments and breathing apparatus performed an underwater "concert" in a fish tank in Yantai, east China.


MIDDLE EAST

'People were shoving each other down the stairs and climbing over each other': Panic in Dubai as inferno rips though 63-storey hotel... but fails to halt New Year firework celebrations just 500 yards away.

Dozens killed, wounded in multiple suicide bombings in Kurdish-controlled Syrian city.

Before Mosul, Iraqi army may face fight at the gates of Baghdad.

Rescued Ramadi residents recount horrors of life in grip of IS. UN offers to help Iraqi refugees return to Ramadi.

Iraq says Turkey not honouring pledge to remove troops.

Erdogan vows no respite in Turkey's war on Kurdish militants.

Rouhani expands Iran's missile program despite U.S. sanctions threat.

Iran denies claims of rocket launch near US warships as 'psychological war'.

US planning new Iran sanctions over ballistic missile programme – report.

Iran-US tensions flare over new sanctions threat.

Iran warns against new 'illegal' US sanctions.

Kuwait to send troops to join Saudi war in Yemen.

Palestinian shot dead after ramming car into Israeli troops: army.

Israeli military admits destroying Gaza crops on border.

ASIA

Afghan leader says end to terrorism a condition for peace talks.

Pakistan-Afghanistan hotline set up to reduce tension.

Afghan protesters demand Kabul step up fight against IS, Taliban.

Philippine troops kill 10 suspected Islamist militants.

China sends Japan a ‘don't meddle’ message via an Ex-Navy ship.

Chinese shares end turbulent year down.

Two sentenced to death for murdering Bangladesh blogger.

AFRICA

Defections from Burundi army highlight ethnic divisions amid looming threat of war.

Mali extends state of emergency.

CAR defies the odds, holds peaceful poll.

Chibok girls: Nigeria ready for Boko Haram negotiations.

Morocco plays key role in Europe's security, but has jitters.

Republic of Congo sets presidential election date.

King of Mandela's clan jailed in South Africa: media.

EUROPE

Arrests, security fears dampen New Year spirit in Europe.

Munich police warn of imminent terror threat.

Brussels police arrest six over 'New Year terror plot'.

France deploys over 100,000 police for New Year's Eve.

Paris scales back New Year celebrations after November attacks.

Putin calls for cooperation with US in message to Obama.

Ukraine: Leaders focus on elections, cease-fire in East.

Crimea loses power as Ukraine line cut.

Germany's Merkel calls refugee influx ‘an opportunity’.

Spain gets 600 tip-offs about possible Islamic extremists.

Trump may be barred from Britain for 'public good' as petition gains 556k signatures.

AMERICAS

Security tight as terror threat looms over New York, Los Angeles New Year's celebrations. U.S. warily eyes New Year's threats in cities abroad.

S America: Over 160,000 flee worst floods in 50 years.

Venezuela top court bars 4 lawmakers from taking office.

Two UN police officers found dead in Haiti.

Mexico missing students: Mayor charged over 'gang ties'.

Brazilian Real weakens to nearly 4 reais to the dollar.

Texas 'affluenza' teen delays extradition, mother deported from Mexico.

Turbulence on Air Canada flight from China injures 21.

Rising floodwaters close parts of interstate highways near St. Louis.

El Nino weather 'could be as bad as 1998', says Nasa.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

ISIS are preparing for a ‘final battle’ against the West as air strikes and the loss of key towns force the group to change tactics, claims terror expert.

Syria ceasefire plan struggles to define a 'terrorist'.

Russia attack: IS claims shooting in Dagestan.

Ramadi residents fleeing ISIS: 'They wanted to use us as human shields.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Apple turns in first negative year since 2008.

Sky-high stocks book fourth year of gains, tipped for more.

Oil ends 2015 in downbeat mood; hangover to be long, painful.

Exclusive: Microsoft to warn email users of suspected hacking by governments.

Hamas Bans New Years Celebrations In Gaza For Being Incompatible With Islamic Values

Palestinians celebrate New Year's Eve in the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2012 (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

IBTimes: New Year's Eve Banned In Gaza: Hamas Rules Holiday Celebrations 'Incompatible' With Islamic Values

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has reportedly banned all New Year’s Eve celebrations this year, the Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday. Hotels and restaurants that requested permits to hold public parties Thursday night were denied the right to do so, and the police have vowed to clamp down on unlicensed celebrations.

Hamas leaders determined such celebrations were “incompatible with our customs, traditions, values and the teachings of our religion,” police spokesman Ayman al-Batinji told AFP. Parties for the holiday were also seen to contravene with “solidarity with the families of the martyrs of the Jerusalem intifada,” he said. The comment referred to turmoil that has spilled across much of the West Bank in recent months.

More News On Hamas Banning New Years Celebrations In Gaza For Being Incompatible With Islamic Values

Hamas bans New Year's celebrations in Gaza -- DW
Hamas bans New Year’s Eve parties in Gaza -- AFP
Hamas bans New Year’s Eve celebrations in Gaza -- RT

The Borders Of The Middle East Are Being Redrawn


Liz Sly, Washington Post: How the battle against the Islamic State is redrawing the map of the Middle East

AMIRIYAT FALLUJAH, Iraq — Along the vast, zigzagging perimeter of the Islamic State’s self-styled state, the militants are steadily being pushed back as the forces­ ranged against them gain in strength.

In the process, new borders are being drawn, new fiefdoms are being carved out and the seeds of potential new conflicts are being sown.

A war seen by the United States as primarily aimed at preventing future terrorist attacks in America is being prosecuted for very different reasons by the diverse assortment of Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni fighters battling in both Iraq and Syria, often in pursuit of competing agendas that work to subvert the goal of defeating the militants.

In northern Iraq and Syria, Kurds are busily carving out the borders to new Kurdish enclaves. Shiite militias, now the most powerful force in Iraq, are extending their reach deep into traditionally Sunni areas of northern Iraq. The Syrian government is focusing its energies on reclaiming land seized by its opponents during the five-year-old rebellion against it, while deeply divided Syrian rebels in turn are fighting a two-front war to hold their ground against both the government and the Islamic State.

WNU Editor: A sobering assessment on what is happening in Iraq .... but this analysis can also be applied to Syria, Libya, Yemen .... and who knows after that.

After Retaking Ramadi The Next Battle For The Iraqi Government Will Be To Retake The City Of Falluja

Reuters: Before Mosul, Iraqi army may face fight at the gates of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces may face a big battle near Baghdad before they can try to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul: Falluja, a long-time bastion of Sunni Muslim jihadists at the capital's western gates.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government and the U.S.-led coalition backing it have been cagey so far in plans for Falluja, which lies between Baghdad and Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province that the Iraqi military recaptured this week from the militants.

Falluja was the first Iraqi city to fall to Islamic State in January 2014, six months before the group that emerged from al Qaeda swept through large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.Abadi said on Monday the army would head next to Mosul, the biggest urban center under Islamic State control. He said its capture would mark the end of the "caliphate" proclaimed from the northern city's main mosque in June 2014.

Update #1: Iraqi Forces Capture Ramadi From ISIS, Look Toward Fallujah, Mosul -- IBTimes
Update #2: After Ramadi gain, Iraqi army eyes next ISIL stronghold -- MWC News
Update #3: The War Against ISIS After Ramadi -- Zalmay Khalilzad, National Interest

WNU Editor: The last time the U.S. and its allies fought for Fallujah (7 November – 23 December 2004) they had 10,500 US soldiers, 850 British soldiers, and 2,000 Iraqi soldiers. When the fight was over .... almost 100 US soldiers were dead, 600 wounded. Rebel losses were between 1,500 and 2,000 (Wikipedia). Bottom line .... if I was a betting man i would say that the fight for Fallujah is probably going to be more bloodier than Ramadi.

Iran Warns The U.S. On Any New Sanctions



Reuters: Iran says any U.S. sanctions on missiles illegal

Iran condemned on Thursday as arbitrary and illegal reported U.S. plans for new sanctions on international companies and individuals over Tehran's ballistic missile program.

"As we have declared to the American government ... Iran's missile program has no connection to the (nuclear) agreement," state television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari as saying.

In Washington, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday the U.S. government was preparing the sanctions, which the Wall Street Journal said would target about 12 companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their suspected role in developing Iran's missile program.

Previous Post: U.S. Preparing Fresh Sanctions Against Iran

More News On Iranian Warnings Against New Sanctions From The U.S.

Iran warns US against sanctions over missile program -- Press TV
Iran blasts talk of new U.S. sanctions -- Politico
Iran Vows to Respond to Any New U.S. Sanctions -- WSJ
Iran denounces US over reports of 'arbitrary and illegal' new sanctions -- The Guardian
Iran Warns Against New 'Illegal' US Sanctions -- VOA

Iran Denies Firing Rockets Near The U.S. Aircraft Carrier Harry S. Truman

IRGC's Brig. Gen. Ramezan Sharif dismisses US claims of a rocket test by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

FARS News Agency: IRGC Denies US Claims of Firing Missiles in Strait of Hormuz

TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps which is in charge of Iran's security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz denied US claims that its naval forces have fired missiles and rockets near the US warships in the waterway in recent days.

"The IRGC Navy has staged no drills in the Strait of Hormuz in the current week and the time claimed by the Americans and hasn’t fired any missile or rocket," IRGC Public Relations Chief General Ramezan Sharif said on Thursday.

"Releasing such fake news under the current conditions is more like a psychological warefare and should be given thought," he added.

Stressing that establishment of security and tranquility in the strategic region of the Persian Gulf is one of Iran's serious strategies, Sharif said, "The IRGC will stage its drills based on the timetables of its units in specified time and dates to enhance the necessary preparedness in this field."

Previous Post #1: U.S. Surprised By Iranian Military Exercise That Resulted In Rockets Being Fired Close To The US Aircraft Carrier Harry S. Truman (Updated)
Previous Post #2: Could Iran Actually Sink A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier?

More News On Iran Denying That It Fired Rockets Near The U.S. Aircraft Carrier Harry S. Truman

IRGC rejects rocket test near US warships -- Press TV
Iran denies threatening US warships by rocket shooting -- Trend News
Iran denies firing rockets near U.S. warships -- CBS/AP
Iran denies rockets fired near US carrier -- AFP
Iran denies test-firing rockets near US carrier -- Middle East Eye
Iran denies it fired rockets near US aircraft carrier in Gulf, brands claim 'psychological warfare' -- RT
Iran Denies Claims of Rocket Launch Near US Warships as 'Psychological War' -- Sputnik

A Look At Why The SR-71 Was Retired


Dave Majumdar, National Interest: SR-71: Why Is the World's Fastest Plane in a Museum?

Capable of cruising at speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft to ever to see operational service. But even though its performance has never been matched, the SR-71 was retired as the Cold War drew to a close.

The Blackbird was initially retired in 1990, even before the fall of the Soviet Union. Eventually, however, three of the jets were reactivated by the Air Force—at the insistence of Congress—for a brief period between 1995 and 1998. Meanwhile, NASA flew research missions with the aircraft until 1999. In the end, the Blackbird was retired without a true replacement. But why?

WNU Editor: Its always the same story ... something better comes around and the costs of maintaining older models no longer makes any sense.

In Two Years Russian President Putin's Son-In-Law Became A Billionaire

PRESIDENTIAL VISIT: Russian leader Vladimir Putin inspects a Sibur plant in Voronezh, Russia, in May 2013. On the far right is Kirill Shamalov, a major shareholder in Sibur and son-in-law of Putin. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin

Reuters: Putin's son-in-law boosted by $1.75 billion Russian state loan

The son-in-law of Vladimir Putin stands to benefit from $1.75 billion in cheap finance from the Russian state, a Reuters examination of public documents shows. The money will help fund a petrochemical project at a company in which Kirill Shamalov, husband of Katerina Tikhonova, the Russian president's younger daughter, has a significant interest.

Shamalov is a major shareholder in Sibur, Russia's largest processor of petrochemicals. This month Sibur obtained $1.75 billion from Russia's National Wealth Fund to help build a huge new plant in Tobolsk, Siberia.

According to corporate documents, Sibur was able to borrow the money at a current interest rate of 2 percent. That is a bargain, according to financial analysts. Artyom Usmanov, an analyst at investment firm BCS, said borrowers on the Russian bond market would expect to pay over 7 percent interest for such a loan. Irina Alizarovskaya, an analyst with Raiffeisenbank called the financing "quite cheap."

Shamalov did not respond to a request for comment.

WNU Editor: As I commented two weeks on the same topic .... 

.... Kudos to Reuters for doing this series on how business is done in Russia .... unfortunately .... they are not even touching the tip of the iceberg.

Corruption In Ukraine Is Now Reaching Unbelievable Levels

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko attends a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (unseen) at the EU Council in Brussels, Belgium, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Josh Cohen, Reuters: Corruption in Ukraine is so bad, a Nigerian prince would be embarrassed

United States Vice President Joe Biden has never been one to hold his tongue. He certainly didn’t in his recent trip to Kiev. In a speech before Ukraine’s Parliament, Biden told legislators that corruption was eating Ukraine “like a cancer,” and warned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Ukraine had “one more chance” to confront corruption before the United States cuts off aid.

Biden’s language was undiplomatic, but he’s right: Ukraine needs radical reforms to root out graft. After 18 months in power, Poroshenko still refuses to decisively confront corruption. It’s time for Poroshenko to either step up his fight against corruption — or step down if he won’t.

When it comes to Ukrainian corruption, the numbers speak for themselves. Over $12 billion per year disappears from the Ukrainian budget, according to an adviser to Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. And in its most recent review of global graft, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International ranked Ukraine 142 out of 174 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index — below countries such as Uganda, Nicaragua and Nigeria. Ordinary Ukrainians also endure paying petty bribes in all areas of life. From vehicle registration, to getting their children into kindergarten, to obtaining needed medicine, everything connected to government has a price.

Previous Post #1: Ukraine's Future Does Not Look Bright
Previous Post #2: Questions Raised On Ukaine President Poroshenko's Land Deals

WNU Editor: With all of this corruption (plus the imploding economy and the war in the east) it is not surprising that Ukraine President Poroshenko's poll numbers are now worst than his predecessor who had to flee the country during the height of the Maidan revolution in 2014 .... Another Regime Change "Success": Ukraine President Less Popular Than State Dept-Ousted Predecessor (Zero Hedge). As I have mentioned more than once .... the conditions to produce the last revolution are now back .... and in many cases far worst than what it was 2 years ago. All that it will take is a small spark to ignite the fire all over again.

Russia Expects To Sell $16 Billion In Arms Exports For 2016

© Sputnik/ Artem Zhitenev

IBTimes: Russia Arms Exports Crossed $15B In 2015, Moscow Plans Similar Sales For 2016

Russia exported over $15 billion worth of arms in 2015 and plans to sell similar volumes of military equipment in 2016, an official from the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation reportedly told Ria Novosti on Wednesday. The sales figures come despite several economic sanctions against Russian companies by Western powers over the Ukraine conflict.

“The plan for 2015 has been completed with the production of military equipment delivered with a total of $15.2 billion and deliveries are continuing,” the official told Ria Novosti, according to Sputnik News, adding: “Next year’s main goal is to retain the second place [after the United States] in exporting weapons in the world.”

Update #1: Russia Plans Arms Export Sales of $15 Billion in 2016 -- Sputnik
Update #2: Russia plans more than $15bn arms exports in 2016 -- RT

The U.S. Knows How To Sell Weapons To The World

The US accounted for more than half of the global arms market last year. (file photo)

Ben Norton, Salon: Nothing to be proud of: The real American exceptionalism is selling the most weapons in the world — by far

By selling weapons at alarming levels, the U.S. is further fueling the extremism it purports to be fighting

American exceptionalism — the notion that the U.S. is somehow an exceptional country, with no parallels in the world — is largely a myth. There is, however, one way in which it is absolutely true: The U.S. sells more weapons than any other country.

The U.S. has just 5 percent of the global population, but sells more than half of its weapons. And this number is increasing.

A new congressional study found that foreign arms sales by the U.S. increased by almost $10 billion in 2014 — up 35 percent.

No other countries even come close to the U.S. in weapons sales. As much as politicians and the media fear-monger about Russia, it sold just $10.2 billion in weapons in 2014 — a decrease from 2013. This pales in comparison to the $36.2 billion in arms sales the U.S. made in the same year.

Previous Post: U.S. Foreign Arms Sales Are Booming

WNU Editor: Aside from Ben Norton's remarks on American exceptionalism .... which he does not understand even though he is an American (my commentary on American exceptionalism is here) .... he is spot-on correct on America's unique ability to sell weapons around the world. My prediction .... 2016 is going to be a banner year for U.S. arms exporters, and what may limit this growth will be concerns that maybe we are also selling weapons to our future enemies. On a side note .... you sometimes have to wonder on how corrupt our international institutions are .... all of this explosive growth occurred during the tenure of a President who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

World News Briefs -- December 31, 2015

A Belgian soldier on patrol in Brussels, where official New Year’s Eve celebrations have been cancelled. Photograph: Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The Guardian: Cities around world tighten New Year's Eve security amid terror attack fears

London, Paris, Moscow, Brussels, Ankara, Madrid and New York among cities taking extra precautions for end-of-year celebrations

Brussels has cancelled its official celebrations, Paris called off an annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées and London increased the numbers of firearms officers on the streets as authorities across the world stepped up security measures for New Year’s Eve.

Belgian police detained six people during house searches in Brussels on Thursday in an investigation into an alleged plot to carry out an attack in the city. Earlier in the week two other people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks on “emblematic sites” in Brussels during the celebrations. Another man was questioned over links to last month’s Paris attacks.

MIDDLE EAST

Dozens killed, wounded in multiple suicide bombings in Kurdish-controlled Syrian city.

Rescued Ramadi residents recount horrors of life in grip of IS. UN offers to help Iraqi refugees return to Ramadi.

Iraq says Turkey not honouring pledge to remove troops.

Erdogan vows no respite in Turkey's war on Kurdish militants.

Iran denies claims of rocket launch near US warships as 'psychological war'.

US planning new Iran sanctions over ballistic missile programme – report.

Iran warns against new 'illegal' US sanctions.

Kuwait to send troops to join Saudi war in Yemen.

Palestinian shot dead after ramming car into Israeli troops: army.

Israeli military admits destroying Gaza crops on border.

ASIA

Afghan leader says end to terrorism a condition for peace talks.

Pakistan-Afghanistan hotline set up to reduce tension.

Afghan protesters demand Kabul step up fight against IS, Taliban.

Philippine troops kill 10 suspected Islamist militants.

China sends Japan a ‘don't meddle’ message via an Ex-Navy ship.

Chinese shares end turbulent year down.

Two sentenced to death for murdering Bangladesh blogger.

AFRICA

Defections from Burundi army highlight ethnic divisions amid looming threat of war.

Mali extends state of emergency.

CAR defies the odds, holds peaceful poll.

Chibok girls: Nigeria ready for Boko Haram negotiations.

Morocco plays key role in Europe's security, but has jitters.

Republic of Congo sets presidential election date.

King of Mandela's clan jailed in South Africa: media.

EUROPE

Brussels police arrest six over 'New Year terror plot'.

Paris scales back New Year celebrations after November attacks.

Putin calls for cooperation with US in message to Obama.

Ukraine: Leaders focus on elections, cease-fire in East.

Crimea loses power as Ukraine line cut.

Germany's Merkel calls refugee influx ‘an opportunity’.

Spain gets 600 tip-offs about possible Islamic extremists.

Trump may be barred from Britain for 'public good' as petition gains 556k signatures.

AMERICAS

Security tight as terror threat looms over New York, Los Angeles New Year's celebrations. U.S. warily eyes New Year's threats in cities abroad.

S America: Over 160,000 flee worst floods in 50 years.

Venezuela top court bars 4 lawmakers from taking office.

Two UN police officers found dead in Haiti.

Mexico missing students: Mayor charged over 'gang ties'.

Brazilian Real weakens to nearly 4 reais to the dollar.

Texas 'affluenza' teen delays extradition, mother deported from Mexico.

Turbulence on Air Canada flight from China injures 21.

Rising floodwaters close parts of interstate highways near St. Louis.

El Nino weather 'could be as bad as 1998', says Nasa.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Syria ceasefire plan struggles to define a 'terrorist'.

Russia attack: IS claims shooting in Dagestan.

Ramadi residents fleeing ISIS: 'They wanted to use us as human shields.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Sky-high stocks book fourth year of gains, tipped for more.

Oil ends 2015 in downbeat mood; hangover to be long, painful.

Exclusive: Microsoft to warn email users of suspected hacking by governments.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 31, 2015



Dan Lamothe and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post: Why success against the Islamic State in Ramadi hints at U.S. military strategy to come

As the red, white and black flag of the Iraqi government was raised over the government compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Monday, leaders of the U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State faced a new question: How do they and the Iraqi military recapture that success in other cities, some of which could be even tougher to win?

Ramadi, a city of about 220,000 people, fell to the Islamic State in May 2015, after months of the militants attacking Iraqi security forces, and eventually overwhelming them and prompting survivors to flee. Iraqi military efforts to take back the city began a few months later, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks that it seemed like possession of the city, the capital of Anbar province, was poised to change.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 31, 2015

Australian military praised for 'vital' role in Iraqi recapture of Ramadi from Isis -- The Guardian

Coalition Sees Success in Targeting ISIL leaders -- Defense News

The Israel Defense Forces: The Only Army ISIS Truly Fears -- FOX News

Iranian rocket passes within 1,500 yards of US aircraft carrier -- FOX News

Iran denies it fired rockets near US aircraft carrier in Gulf, brands claim 'psychological warfare' -- RT

Expert: Iran likely to seek more confrontations in 2016 with U.S. Navy -- Defense News

US Navy Admits Russia's Defense Capacity Growing due to Kalibr Missiles -- Sputnik

Robo army: Russian MoD sets its 1st-ever robotization conference for 2016 -- RT

Russian Armed Forces Complete Transition to New Field Uniforms -- Sputnik

Over 147,000 drafted into Russian armed forces this autumn -- TASS

China says consulted widely on army reform, Xi closely involved -- Reuters

Senior Chinese military officer sacked after drink binge death -- Reuters

PLA general who helped Xi battle graft in military retires -- South China Morning Post

Northrop Grumman Wins Japan Order for Hawkeye Surveillance Aircraft -- Sputnik

India Test-Fires Long-Range Missile System Developed With Israel -- Sputnik

Will Pakistan Land a Deal With US for New F-16s? -- Defense News

Top US general: Delay Afghan withdrawal as long as possible -- The Hill

Afghanistan, Pakistan Set Up Hotline Between Military Commanders -- RFE

Sri Lanka: Colombo’s Military Build-Up: A Strategy of Deterrence -- The Diplomat

Somalia: Somali National Army Formed to Take Over When KDF Leaves -- AllAfrica.com/Daily Nation

Russia to Supply Egypt With 46 Ka-52K Naval Attack Helicopters -- Sputnik

Poland To Cut Caracal Order, Reconsider Black Hawk, AW149 -- Defense News

Critical Missile Defense Decisions in NATO Europe Expected in 2016 -- Defense News

The Perils of an EU Army -- Adriel Kasonta, National Interest

Four new military aircraft took to the skies in 2015 -- FOX News

US Air Force Pays Lockheed Martin $1Bln for 32 Super Hercules Aircraft -- Sputnik

Republicans seek answers from NSA on snooping -- The Hill

Army needs volunteers to eat only MREs for 21 days straight -- Army Times

Pentagon's women-in-combat push faces chilly headwinds -- The Hill

Hundreds Mourn NYPD Detective Killed in Afghanistan Attack at Funeral -- NBC

Declassified: US Military's Secret Cold War Space Project Revealed -- Space.com

Are China's Drones Based On Stolen US Blueprints?

CH-4 in flight. Sinodefense

Asia Times: China’s armed drones appear built from stolen data from US cyber intrusions

China’s vibrant military blogosphere presented a video this month revealing a missile-firing unmanned aerial vehicle in action, dropping bombs against ground targets.

The Caihong-4, or CH-4, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is a testament to the remarkable success of China’s military in copying vital high-technology weapons that currently are considered among the most cutting edge arms systems used in modern combat operations for both ground strikes and intelligence-gathering.

WNU Editor: The above Chinese drone certainly looks like a Reaper.

China Confirms That It Is Building A Second Aircraft Carrier

China's first aircraft carrier, which was renovated from an old aircraft carrier that China bought from Ukraine in 1998, seen docked at Dalian Port, in Dalian, Liaoning province, in 2012.

Bloomberg: China Building Second Aircraft Carrier With Domestic Technology

China is building a second aircraft carrier, with the new ship being designed and constructed domestically, the Defense Ministry said, marking the first time the government has confirmed the long-rumored project.

The vessel is being built in the northern port of Dalian and will carry Chinese-made J-15 fighter jets, the ministry said on its website, citing spokesman Col. Yang Yujun. The ship will have a displacement of approximately 50,000 tons, Yang said. The country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned in 2012 and built in a hull purchased from the Ukraine.

More News On China Confirming That It Is Building A Second Aircraft Carrier

Amid maritime disputes, China confirms building second carrier -- Reuters
China building second aircraft carrier -- AFP
China says it is building its second aircraft carrier, this time with domestic technology -- AP
China Begins Building Second Aircraft Carrier: The carrier will be equipped with Chinese-built J-15 jet fighters -- WSJ
China says it's building new homegrown aircraft carrier -- CNN
China to Build Second Aircraft Carrier, Use Domestic Technology -- VOA
China building 2nd aircraft carrier with domestic technology -- Asia Times
Naval Power: China Building Second Aircraft Carrier -- Sputnik
China confirms building 2nd aircraft carrier -- Yonhap News Agency
China to build new aircraft carrier, move likely to inflame tensions -- The Australian

China Prepares For Space Warfare


Washington Times: China preps for space warfare

Following recent tests of anti-satellite missiles and near-space hypersonic vehicles, China’s military will soon create a new Space Force within the People’s Liberation Army, a sign Beijing is preparing for future space warfare.

Military analysts say there has been no official announcement of the new space warfare unit; however, unofficial sources in China revealed the unit will be part of a new Strategic Support Forces service that will include nuclear missiles — currently under the Second Artillery Force — along with an electronic information forces, cyber warfare units and electronic and signals intelligence.

The shift to space and information warfare is part of a major military reorganization that has been underway in China for the past several years. It’s designed to transform the once ground forces-heavy PLA into a high-technology force.

WNU Editor: The Chinese are not the only ones who are investing in space warfare .... Russia Flight Tests Anti-Satellite Missile (Washington Free Beacon). More on Russia's space "warfare program" is here.

Update: Maybe, maybe not .... Could a war in space really happen? (Chris Bowlby, BBC).

China Preparing To Manufacture Its First Stealth Fighter (Ahead Of Schedule)


The Diplomat: China's First Stealth Fighter Is About to Enter Production

Chinese media reports suggest the J-20 is ready for production, ahead of schedule.

A report posted online by China’s Xinhua News Agency suggests that the J-20 – China’s fifth-generation stealth fighter jet – has entered the mass production stage. The evidence is a photograph of a J-20 on the tarmac, coated with yellow primer paint and bearing the serial number “2101.”

Previous versions of the J-20 have been numbered in the 2000s (with the first prototype labeled 2001 and the most recent 2017). The appearance of a number in the 2100s hints to China’s online military enthuasists that production has entered the production stage – although Xinhua cautions that the initial production run for the J-20 may be limited at first. In particular, unnamed experts cautioned that the software used in fifth-generation fighters will need additional testing, even if the body of the aircraft is finalized.

More News On China's J-20

China’s Lethal New J-20 Warplane Takes Off -- National Interst
China appears ready to begin mass production of first stealth fighter jet, state media suggest -- South China Morning Post
China's New 5th Generation Jet Rumored to Have Entered Production -- Sputnik
Chinese stealth fighter J-20 starts production -- Popular Science
China Has Started Building the J-20 Stealth Fighter -- Popular Mechanics
China J20 stealth fighter should start low rate initial production in 2016 -- Next Big Future

Tracking Global Migration Trends

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Zero Hedge: Tracking People Flows: Global Migration Summarized In 7 Charts

With the topic of global (im)migration getting increasingly more prominence as we get ever closer to the presidential elections, not to mention Europe's ongoing plight with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, here is a handful of factual, and bias-free, charts summarizing the key aspects of global human mobility.

WNU Editor: I concur with the Zero Hedge's analysis .... global migration is going to be a big news story for the next few years (if not longer).

Marine Corps Cancels Robotic Dog/Mule Project



Washington Times: Marines shelve Google’s $42M robot ‘AlphaDogs’ because they are too noisy

Marines will not be using robotic mules called “AlphaDogs” any time soon because the machines were deemed too noisy to be useful in a combat situation.

Boston Dynamics, the robotics company owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, has been working with DARPA, the Pentagon’s research division, to build the robots designed to carry supplies for troops.

The AlphaDog robots, also called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), were designed to carry up to 400 pounds and provide much-needed relief for soldiers, Military.com reported.

WNU Editor: I concur .... it was too noisy.

More News On The Marine Corps Cancels Robotic Dog/Mule Project

Marine Corps Shelves Futuristic Robo-Mule Due to Noise Concerns -- Military.com
U.S. Marine Corps rules out robotic dog, mule -- UPI
Robot Mule Put Out to Pasture by Marine Corps -- NBC
Noisy Robotic Mule Sidelined by Marines -- VOA
Hee-Haw! DARPA’s noisy robotic ‘pack mule’ mothballed over fears it could spill the beans -- RT
The Marines Are Shelving Their Robot Dogs -- Inverse
The US Marines won’t be using Google’s robot dogs because they fail a pretty basic test -- Quartz
US military says robotic pack mules are too noisy to use -- Verge
US Marine Corps doesn’t want Google’s ‘Alpha Dog’ LS3 robots because they’re too loud -- Digital Trends
AlphaDog Robot Sidelined by the Marines Because It’s Way Too Noisy -- Epoch Times
Marines’ LS3 robotic mule is too loud for real-world combat -- Ars Technica
U.S. Military Puts Down Its Robot Mule for Being Too Loud -- Popular Mechanics

Photo Gallery (And Video) Of The U.S. Navy Salvaging A Sunken F/A-18

U.S. Navy

Popular Mechanics: Stunning Pics of the Navy Salvaging a Sunken F/A-18

Well, technically half a Super Hornet.

The Aviationist blog has found a great series of images of the U.S. Navy salvaging one of its own aircraft from the Arabian Sea.

On May 12, 2015 a F/A-18F Super Hornet from the USS Theodore Roosevelt crashed into the Arabian Gulf. The two crewmen ejected and were safely rescued. The Super Hornet and the Roosevelt had been participating in anti-Islamic State operations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. According to reports at the time, the crash was "not a result of hostile activity." The Navy has apparently ruled out pilot error and settled on mechanical failure, because two months later USNS Catawba, a salvage ship, was hauling the Super Hornet out of the Arabian Sea to find out what went wrong.

Update: Here’s why the U.S. Navy recovered this F/A-18F Super Hornet wreckage from the sea (Aviationist).

WNU Editor: The video of the operation is here.

How 3D Printing Will Revolutionize The Military


T.X. Hammes, War On The Rocks: 3-D Printing Will Disrupt The World In Ways We can barely Imagine

In the last few years, additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, has transformed from an interesting hobby to an industry producing a wide range of products. It is on the path to causing major disruptions in global trade — and changing the international security environment. The explosion of additive manufacturing means it is virtually impossible to provide an up-to-date list of materials that can be printed, but a recent top ten list includes: metals, such as stainless, bronze, steel, gold, nickel steel, aluminum, and titanium; carbon fiber and nano-tubes; stem cells; ceramics; and food. Researchers are exploring the application of 3-D printing to fields from agriculture and biology to design and manufacturing. MIT developed a $7,000 multi-material printer than can print ten materials in the same object during a single fabrication process. As businesses learn to use these multi-material printers, the range of products they will be able to print will expand exponentially.

WNU Editor: The part of this report that caught my attention was its analysis on the implications for the military (and it is a must read) ....

.... The implications of additive manufacturing for the battlefield are immense. Researchers at the University of Virginia have 3-D-printed a drone in a single day and by adding an Android phone made it autonomous — all for $2,500. Using artificial intelligence available today, such a drone could identify a distinct object such as an aircraft or fuel truck using on board multi-spectral imaging before engaging it with an explosively formed projectile. In short, autonomous, cheap weapons systems will range for miles, hunting and engaging specific targets. Think of them as IEDs that hunt you. If aspirations for greater printing speed are met, a factory with only 100 printers and sufficient raw materials could produce 10,000 such autonomous drones a day. The implications for ground forces are obvious — thousands of drone strikes on vehicles, ammunition dumps, fuel trucks, and other soft targets. This threat will not be limited to short-range drones. Long-range air and undersea autonomous drones are being produced today, and manufacturers are competing hard to reduce the price. Thus naval and air forces will also be at risk from cheap, smart, long-range weapons.

North Korea Has Its Own Computer Operating System

A North Korean operating system is seen in this screen shot taken in Seoul December 23, 2015. REUTERS/JAMES PEARSON

Reuters: Paranoid: North Korea's computer operating system mirrors its political one

North Korea's homegrown computer operating system mirrors its political one, according to two German researchers who have delved into the code: a go-it-alone approach, a high degree of paranoia and invasive snooping on users.

Their research, the deepest yet into the secretive state's Red Star OS, illustrates the challenges Pyongyang faces in trying to embrace the benefits of computing and the internet while keeping a tight grip on ideas and culture.

The researchers, Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess of German IT security company ERNW GmbH, spoke to Reuters before presenting their findings to the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg on Sunday, a gathering of hackers and security researchers.

Update #1: Analysis of North Korea's computer system reveals spy files (BBC)

WNU Editor: I have experienced the major Russian and Chinese operating systems .... "groan" is the only word that comes to my mind. Software is a decidedly Western advantage ... and will probably be the case for the foreseeable future.

Update #2: Russian Operating System to Launch in Next Decade (Moscow Times)
Update #3: A first look at the Chinese operating system the government wants to replace Windows (Quartz)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

U.K. Army To Form A Special Unit That Will Be Dedicated To Saving Treasures From War-Zones


The Telegraph: Army sign up 'Monument Men' to save treasures from warzones

Army sign up 'Monument Men' to save treasures from warzones.

Expert team to travel to warzones to advise on how locating and saving cultural treasures in echoes of George Clooney film.

The Army aims to recruit a ‘Monuments Men’ team of art and archaeology experts to help protect priceless cultural treasures in war zones and choke off terrorist funding from antiquities smuggling.

The specialist unit of up 40 advisers will be staffed by expert reservists with backgrounds in museums, archaeology, the art world or criminal investigations, according to proposals seen by the Telegraph.

The cultural property protection unit will mirror the ‘Monuments Men’ team of British and American art experts who saved priceless European art treasures carried off by the Nazis and were portrayed in a recent George Clooney film.

WNU Editor: I know someone who served in such a unit for the South Korean Army during the Korean war. As he told me .... it was extremely dangerous. They were usually the last ones to leave a town/city before it became occupied by the enemy .... grabbing whatever valuables that they could get their hands on .... literally minutes before the enemy shows up.

Islamic State In Jesus's Hometown?

Shira Rubin, Daily Beast: ISIS of Nazareth: Terror Group Arrives in Jesus’s Hometown

The radicalization of Jews and Muslims is squeezing Christians out of the Holy Land—and ISIS’s reported arrival in the biblical city is just the latest sign.

NAZARETH, Israel — At the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, on the site where it is believed the Angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she would carry the next messiah, Jesus Christ, both Christian and Muslim residents of the city are reflecting on recent news that the so-called Islamic State has come into their midst.

This month, the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, announced the arrest of five Nazareth residents who, it said, had declared their allegiance to ISIS. They had been training with arms, meeting covertly, and preparing for a jihad on “infidels,” the agency said.

Over the past few years, 40 Arab Israelis, often from marginalized communities, reportedly have crossed the border in order to join the fight in Syria and Iraq.

WNU Editor: As bad as it is today in the Middle East for Christians, one cannot help but feel that  it is going to get worse.

The Real Story On How Ramadi Was Retaken From The Islamic State



Nancy A. Youssef & Shane Harris, Daily Beast: How ISIS Actually Lost Ramadi


Iraqi commandos and U.S. airstrikes drove the terror army from much of the city. But that war plan could backfire the next time around.

Pentagon officials hailed the U.S.-trained Iraqi army this week for retaking much of the western Iraq city of Ramadi from the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

But privately, Defense Department officials tell The Daily Beast the fight for Ramadi was a long slog led not by the army, known as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), but by an elite counterterrorism force, which itself was only able to beat ISIS with U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The ISF, which have been the beneficiaries of years of U.S. training and funding, didn’t lead the battle, but served in a support role, pointing out ISIS positions for air attacks and holding the roads that led to the city center where troops Monday flew the Iraqi flag.

WNU Editor: This analysis makes sense. This blog on numerous occasions could not understand how a few hundred ISIS fighters could hold-out (for months) against 10,000 Iraqi soldiers backed by Western air-strikes .... now we know why. This campaign took a long time (5 months) because the men who were actually doing the fighting were Iraqi Special Forces .... and all they did was order in air-strikes to destroy ISIS positions. It is also telling that after the battle there are not many ISSI bodies to show to the media .... nor prisoners. So where did they go? Or were they there in the first place?