Friday, March 31, 2017

Tonight's Movie Is 'Decision Before Dawn'

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 31, 2017



Whitney Eulich, Christian Science Monitor: Venezuela knocks over its democracy. The region pushes back.

For years, Venezuela has flirted with authoritarianism. This week, it bid goodbye to any pretense that it remained a democratic country.

The nation’s Supreme Court announced Wednesday it would take over legislative powers and essentially dissolve the National Assembly, the only government pillar controlled by the political opposition. President Nicol├ís Maduro “is now the National Assembly,” the body’s president, Julio Borges, told the Associated Press after the decision was announced. “It’s one thing to try and build a dictatorship and another to complete the circuit.”

But the crumbling of Venezuela’s democracy isn’t a challenge confined to those living there. Problems caused by drug-trafficking and Venezuela’s increasingly dysfunctional economy are beginning to spill over into neighboring countries. And despite the region’s sensitivity to foreign meddling, given its rich history of US-backed coups, those countries are beginning to speak up.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 31, 2017

Why Syria’s Kurds Are America’s Key Ally -- Frtiz Lodge, Cipher Brief

Pakistan Is No Friend to America -- C. Christine Fair, National Interest

India May Be Rethinking Nuclear First Strikes -- Max Fisher, New York Times

The Two Sides of India's Prime Minister -- Kanchan Chandra, Foreign Affairs

Why Is Alexei Navalny Still Free in Putin's Russia? -- Frida Ghitis, World Politics Review

How a 40-year-old lawyer could help reset U.S.-Russia relations -- John Lloyd, Reuters

Anger over Brexit will not get Ireland anywhere -- Noel Whelan, Irish Times

Montenegro Joining NATO Is Against U.S. Interests -- Sen. Rand Paul, Time

How Marine Le Pen could win -- Nicholas Vinocur, Politico

Ecuador Isn't an Easy Win for Latin America's Right Wing -- Mac Margolis, Bloomberg

3 Maps That Explain Why South America Is Politically Isolated -- George Friedman, Mauldine Economics

Top US nuclear commander says banning nukes would make wars worse -- Jacqueline Klimas, Politico

Is the Russia Investigation Turning the Left Into Conspiracy Theorists? -- Jeet Heer, New Republic

Privacy Is the Price We Pay for Our Internet Lives -- Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg

World News Briefs -- March 31, 2017 (Evening Edition)



The Guardian: Mike Flynn indicates he would testify in Trump-Russia inquiry in exchange for immunity

Ousted for misleading White House about discussions with Russian ambassador, ex-national security adviser may have offered to testify before FBI and Congress

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has all but confirmed that he offered to testify before the FBI and congressional committees about potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

White House says U.S. must accept 'political reality' in Syria.

Lebanon near 'breaking point' over Syrian refugee crisis: PM Hariri.

Belgium probes devastating Mosul airstrikes that killed 200 civilians after admitting its F16 fighter jets were involved.

Civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria undercut US victories.

Syria: Kurdish YPG fighters dominate Turkey-US talks.

Turkey will maintain military presence in Syria: army.

Syria's warring sides trade insults after Geneva talks.

UN reports Palestinian population decline in Syria.

U.N. special envoy warns against military operation on Yemen port.

Egg thrown at Saudi general in protest against military campaign in Yemen.

UN agency suspends Gaza missions after Hamas restrictions.

Israel blasted for approving Emek Shilo settlement.

ASIA

Exclusive: Rohingya rebel leader challenges Myanmar's Suu Kyi, vows to fight on.

U.S. sanctions North Koreans it links to weapons, financial networks.

Malaysia, North Korea exchange 'hostages,' resolving weeks of tensions. Kim Jong-nam: Body 'arrives in Pyongyang' in exchange deal.

Park Geun-hye: South Korea's former president arrested over corruption allegations.

North Korea attempts to influence South's presidential elections.

China downplays tensions with U.S. as Xi prepares to meet Trump.

Blast rocks city in northwest Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban faction kills 22 in Shiite mosque bombing.

Russia resurrects interest in Afghanistan.

Foreigners in Japan face major discrimination, language not the problem – poll.

Japan's whaling fleet returns after killing 333 minke whales in Southern Ocean.

China's militarization in South China Sea harms reefs, U.S. scientist says.

China to create 'giant' giant panda reserve to boost wild population.

AFRICA

South Africa: ANC in chaos after Jacob Zuma sacks finance minister. Zuma under fire for sacking finance minister.

Trump seeks to 'reboot' U.S. relationship with Egypt in Monday talks.

UN renews smaller DR Congo peackeeping force.

ICC prosecutor warns on spiralling DR Congo violence.

South Sudan’s people are starving, and fighters are blocking aid.

Cholera spreads in famine-threatened Somalia.

Cameroon’s Anglophones call for secession or federalism.

Aid groups cut death toll from migrant shipwreck off Libya.

EUROPE

Poland expects to ink $7.6 billion deal for Patriot systems by end-2017.

EU rules out early trade talks with UK in Brexit process.

Future of Gibraltar at stake in Brexit negotiations.

Scotland makes official bid for new independence vote.

Muslims protest with street prayer in Paris suburb.

Russia is a ‘strategic competitor' to the west, says James Mattis.

Germany rejects US pressure for Nato spending rise.

Questions surround German government's refugee phone surveillance law.

OSCE to manage Serbia's presidential election in Kosovo.

AMERICAS

White House invites Congress investigation leaders to view documents.

Trump sets himself on collision course with China ahead of Xi meeting.

Colombia's FARC rebels give up guns in disarmament camps.

Venezuela bonds crash as political standoff escalates.

Venezuela 'coup' slammed across the world.

Venezuela's court move breaks law, Maduro ally says.

Bolivia's president Evo Morales to undergo throat surgery in Cuba.

Americans are increasingly blocked at Canada border - report.

Julian Assange waits for Ecuador's election to decide his future.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

US court blocks release of Guantanamo force-feeding videos.

Video shows ISIS trying to bait US into killing civilians, military says.

Three suspected Al Qaeda members killed in Yemen drone strike.

State lists 5 terrorists linked to Islamic State, al Qaeda.

Danish court strips Islamic State fighter of citizenship.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Wall Street's rock-solid quarter ends with a loss.

Boeing's newest, largest Dreamliner jet makes first test flight.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now world's second-richest person.

Trump to attack foreign 'trade cheats'.

Russia-Gate News Updates -- March 31, 2017



NBC: Obama Officials Made List of Russia Probe Documents to Keep Them Safe

Obama administration officials were so concerned about what would happen to key classified documents related to the Russia probe once President Trump took office that they created a list of document serial numbers to give to senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a former Obama official told NBC News.

The official said that after the list of documents related to the probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election was created in early January, he hand-carried it to the committee members. The numbers themselves were not classified, said the official.

Related: Flynn and Nunes Fallout Grows Ominous For Trump White House

The purpose, said the official, was to make it "harder to bury" the information, "to share it with those on the Hill who could lawfully see the documents," and to make sure it could reside in an Intelligence committee safe, "not just at Langley [CIA hq]."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The above NBC report is saying the same thing that Evelyn Farkas said a few days ago .... Did A Former Obama Intelligence Official Admit That President Trump`s Staff Was Under Surveillance? (March 30, 2017). And talk about timing .... we are now learning that the top Democrat on the House intel community is going to the White House to review these documents .... Adam Schiff headed to White House to review surveillance reports (Washington Examiner). Here is an easy prediction .... expect more anonymous sources in the coming days and weeks saying the same thing .... and I do expect these intel documents will be made public in the coming weeks.

Update: Expect a lot of media and Democrat opposition/discomfort if this is pursued .... White House wants Congress to dig deeper on snooping after Obama official comments (FOX News).

Update #2: If this is true .... this will become the bombshell that will shift the attention away from the Trump's teams ties to Russia .... to who ordered surveillance and unmasking (and why) on members of the Trump team, and who gave this intel to the media .... Intelligence official who 'unmasked' Trump associates is 'very high up,' source says (FOX News).

Update #3: Just a personal observation ,,,, but why are all the big stories always happening late Friday afternoon.

Russia-Gate News Updates -- March 31, 2017

Obama officials created list of Russia probe docs before Trump took office: report -- The Hill
Report: Obama Admin Officials Made List Of Documents For Senate Russia Probe -- TPM
Senate Intel panel tells WH to send Russia information directly -- The Hill
How the House, Senate Russia probes are headed down different paths -- ABC News
Senate Intel Chiefs Project Harmony in Face of House Committee Infighting -- US News and World Report
Michael Flynn: new evidence spy chiefs had concerns about Russian ties -- The Guardian
Adam Schiff: Mike Flynn immunity request a ‘grave and momentous step’ -- Washington Times
Too soon to discuss immunity for Flynn, investigators say -- AP
Michael Flynn’s Immunity Request Rejected By Senate Intelligence Committee -- NBC
Flynn lawyer: Client wants assurances against 'witch-hunt' prosecution -- USA Today
Trump: ex-adviser Flynn should seek immunity in Russia probe -- Reuters
Trump: Flynn should seek immunity in Russia probe ‘witch hunt’ -- Politico

Pentagon Will Not Disclose Troop Deployments To Iraq And Syria

U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (Photo By: Cpl. Andre Dakis)

L.A. Times: Trump administration stops disclosing troop deployments in Iraq and Syria

Even as the U.S. military takes on a greater role in the warfare in Iraq and Syria, the Trump administration has stopped disclosing significant information about the size and nature of the U.S. commitment, including the number of U.S. troops deployed in either country.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon quietly dispatched 400 Marines to northern Syria to operate artillery in support of Syrian militias that are cooperating in the fight against Islamic State, according to U.S. officials. That was the first use of U.S. Marines in that country since its long civil war began.

In Iraq, nearly 300 Army paratroopers were deployed recently to help the Iraqi military in their six-month assault on the city of Mosul, according to U.S. officials.

Neither of those deployments was announced once they had been made, a departure from the practice of the Obama administration, which announced nearly all conventional force deployments.

The decision appears to be making good on Trump’s promise as a candidate to insist on more of an “element of surprise” in battle tactics.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: As to what is my take .... I do understand the need for the public to know .... but if I was a soldier being deployed to a specific conflict zone, I would want the specifics kept secret and the enemy ignorant as long as possible. My prediction .... some middle ground will be found on what can .... and cannot .... be reported.

US Military Advisers Spotted On Raqqa Frontline (Video)



RT: RT spots US ‘advisers’ on Raqqa frontline on visit to Syria’s strategic Euphrates Dam (EXCLUSIVE)

An RT crew has gained access to the strategic Tabqa dam, partially recaptured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces with the help of US troops who were deployed to Syria to “train, advise and assist” but who were spotted just miles away from Raqqa frontline.

While exploring the northern side of the SDF-controlled part of the Tabqa dam, the RT crew – which became the first international news channel to film there – managed to catch a glimpse of US soldiers embedded with the Wrath of Euphrates operation.

Read more ....

WNU Editor
: Considering how important the Tabqa dam is to the entire region .... having U.S. forces there should not surprise one. What i am surprised about is that the Islamic State still controls part of the structure.

Is Gibraltar At Risk In The Brexit Talks?



The Guardian: Future of Gibraltar at stake in Brexit negotiations

EU guidelines make clear bloc will not overrule Spain in any trade or sovereignty dispute involving British overseas territory

The EU has put the future of Gibraltar at stake in the coming Brexit negotiations, effectively backing Spain in its centuries-old dispute with the UK over the British overseas territory.

After lobbying from Spanish diplomats, the EU’s opening negotiating position for the Brexit talks presents the British government with the choice of reaching agreement with the Spaniards about Gibraltar’s future, or exposing its citizens to economic peril by pushing “the rock” outside any EU-UK trade deal.

“The union will stick up for its members, and that means Spain now,” a senior EU official said. Residents of Gibraltar, which Spain has sought to reclaim almost since it was ceded to Britain in 1713, voted 96% to remain in the EU.

Read more ....

Update #1: EU offers Spain veto right over Gibraltar in Brexit talks (Reuters)
Update #2: EU Draft Guidelines say no Brexit deal can apply to Gibraltar without Spain's agreement (GBC)
Update #3: Brexit: Gibraltar angered by Spain's EU 'veto' (BBC)

WNU Editor:
It looks like the fix is in.

AP State Department Reporter Says Sensational Washington Post Claim On Tillerson Is 'Not True'





Washington Free Beacon: AP Reporter Calls Out WaPo for False Rex Tillerson Story

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's political aides were instructed to avoid eye contact with him. The story was picked up by several news outlets, but was then refuted by an Associated Press reporter on Friday.

The Washington Post claimed that Tillerson has kept a tight-knit circle with his political aides, but has been slacking in his duties while being hard on his employees.

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: In today's Washington this is rare .... a main stream news organisation criticising and denouncing the reporting from another main stream news organisation. The post in question is from the Washington Post .... Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spends his first weeks isolated from an anxious bureaucracy (Washington Post) .... and when I read it I said to myself .... c'mon .... this is garbage. But .... it was covered extensively and treated as news. Now we know it is a bogus story, and in response we are now being told that the real fault lies with the US Secretary of State because he limits his press access .... Diplomats Say They Were Told Not to Make Eye Contact With Rex Tillerson (NYMag). If they can screw up this story .... you have to wonder how many stories are out there that are also false .... and more to the point .... how much of it is really fake news.

Libya's Foreign Minister: EU And NGO Naval Operation 'Encourages' Migrants

Six years since a revolution that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Libya has become a key departure point for migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean to Europe

AFP: Libya says EU naval operation 'encourages' migrants

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamad Taher Siala on Friday urged the EU to rethink its naval operation in the Mediterranean, saying it comes with the side effect of encouraging migrants to attempt the perilous crossing to Europe.

The European Union launched Operation Sophia in 2015 to crack down on smugglers on the high seas, after hundreds of migrants died when their rickety boats sank off southern Italy.

The operation's vessels are charged with intercepting smugglers' boats and destroying them, but they often end up rescuing the migrants trying to make their way to Europe -- many of whom depart from Libya.

Read more ....

Update: This story has been circulating since last year .... Are we helping desperate migrants — or just people smugglers? Shocking claims in Italy about collusion between people smugglers and NGOs (Nicholas Farrell, Spectator).

WNU Editor: Duh!!!!

Update #2: Only one million? .... More than ONE MILLION migrants hoping to cross to Europe are 'in the pipeline' in Libya: Senior diplomat warns EU has done 'too little, too late' to tackle the crisis (Daily Mail).

U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis Says Russia Is A 'Strategic Competitor' To The West



The Guardian: Russia is a ‘strategic competitor' to the west, says James Mattis

US defence secretary speaks out against Russia’s interference globally – contrasting sharply with Trump, who has praised Putin.

The US defence secretary, James Mattis, has described Russia as a “strategic competitor” after meeting his UK counterpart Sir Michael Fallon in London, despite Donald Trump’s White House seeking to work with Vladimir Putin.

Mattis spoke about the extent of Russian interference globally, from other people’s elections to engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan and its development of a new missile.

“Right now Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor,” he said, accusing Moscow of interfering in other people’s elections, though he did not specifically mention the the 2016 US presidential race.

Read more ....

More News On U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis Remarks On Russia

UK and US accuse Russia of 'interfering in other parts of the globe' -- The Independent
In London, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis takes aim at Moscow -- Washington Examiner
Michael Fallon and James Mattis strike hawkish tone on Russia -- Financial Times
Mattis says response coming soon on Russia arms treaty violation -- The Hill
Mattis Says U.S. Concerned By Russia's Actions In Afghanistan -- RFE
U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis: Russia's actions in Afghanistan are a concern -- CNBC/Reuters
US Concerned Over Russia’s Position on Taliban - Defense Secretary Mattis -- Sputnik
US Defence Secretary James Mattis accuses Russia of 'mucking around' in elections -- International Business Times

US Defense Secretary Mattis Says North Korea's Reckless Has 'Got To Be Stopped'



DW: US Defense Secretary Mattis: North Korea has 'got to be stopped'

In London, the US defense secretary also underlined the threat posed by Iran and expressed concern about Russia's ties to the Taliban. Mattis hedged over whether the Kremlin is actually arming the Taliban.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis slammed North Korea's actions as ‘reckless,' referring tothe totalitarian regime's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

His comments came during a Friday news conference with his British counterpart Michael Fallon in London. Asked by a journalist about the threat posed by Iran, the US defense secretary pivoted to North Korea, saying the hard-line regime has "got to be stopped."

Read more ....

Update #1: Mattis: North Korea’s ‘reckless’ behavior must be stopped -- The Hill
Update #2: Defense Sec. James Mattis: North Korea ‘Has Got to Be Stopped’ -- NBC

WNU Editor: His remarks follow this announcement .... U.S. sanctions North Koreans it links to weapons, financial networks (Reuters)

World News Briefs -- March 31, 2017



Reuters: Top Venezuela official breaks with government, protests escalate

Venezuela's powerful attorney general on Friday rebuked the judiciary’s takeover of congress, breaking ranks with President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government as protests and international condemnation grew.

"It constitutes a rupture of the constitutional order. It's my obligation to express my great concern to the country," said Luisa Ortega, usually considered a key ally of the Socialists who have ruled Venezuela for the last 18 years.

While various prominent political figures have leveled criticism after leaving the government, it is extremely rare for a senior official to make such criticism. It may be interpreted by opponents that Maduro's internal support is cracking.

From early morning, several dozen students marched in Caracas to the Supreme Court, which this week assumed the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly.

They were pushed back by soldiers with riot shields.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Belgium probes devastating Mosul airstrikes that killed 200 civilians after admitting its F16 fighter jets were involved.

Civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria undercut US victories.

Syria: Kurdish YPG fighters dominate Turkey-US talks.

Turkey will maintain military presence in Syria: army.

Syria's warring sides trade insults after Geneva talks.


Egg thrown at Saudi general in protest against military campaign in Yemen.

UN agency suspends Gaza missions after Hamas restrictions.

Israel blasted for approving Emek Shilo settlement.

ASIA

Malaysia, North Korea exchange 'hostages,' resolving weeks of tensions. Kim Jong-nam: Body 'arrives in Pyongyang' in exchange deal.

Park Geun-hye: South Korea's former president arrested over corruption allegations.

North Korea attempts to influence South's presidential elections.

China downplays tensions with U.S. as Xi prepares to meet Trump.

Blast rocks city in northwest Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban faction kills 22 in Shiite mosque bombing.

Russia resurrects interest in Afghanistan.

Foreigners in Japan face major discrimination, language not the problem – poll.

Japan's whaling fleet returns after killing 333 minke whales in Southern Ocean.

China's militarization in South China Sea harms reefs, U.S. scientist says.

AFRICA

UN renews smaller DR Congo peackeeping force.

ICC prosecutor warns on spiralling DR Congo violence.

South Sudan’s people are starving, and fighters are blocking aid.

Cholera spreads in famine-threatened Somalia.

Cameroon’s Anglophones call for secession or federalism.

Aid groups cut death toll from migrant shipwreck off Libya.

Zuma under fire for sacking finance minister. South Africa cabinet bloodbath exposes ANC generational divide.

EUROPE

EU rules out early trade talks with UK in Brexit process.

Future of Gibraltar at stake in Brexit negotiations.

Scotland makes official bid for new independence vote.

Russia is a ‘strategic competitor' to the west, says James Mattis.

Germany rejects US pressure for Nato spending rise.

Questions surround German government's refugee phone surveillance law.

OSCE to manage Serbia's presidential election in Kosovo.

AMERICAS

White House invites Congress investigation leaders to view documents.

Trump sets himself on collision course with China ahead of Xi meeting.

Venezuela 'coup' slammed across the world.

Venezuela's court move breaks law, Maduro ally says.

Bolivia's president Evo Morales to undergo throat surgery in Cuba.

Americans are increasingly blocked at Canada border - report.

Julian Assange waits for Ecuador's election to decide his future.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Video shows ISIS trying to bait US into killing civilians, military says.

Three suspected Al Qaeda members killed in Yemen drone strike.

State lists 5 terrorists linked to Islamic State, al Qaeda.

Danish court strips Islamic State fighter of citizenship.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Boeing's newest, largest Dreamliner jet makes first test flight.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos now world's second-richest person.

Trump to attack foreign 'trade cheats'.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 31, 2017

Soldiers stand at attention during the training for the military parade of the 60th National Day celebration, Beijing, September 7, 2009. [Xinhua]

Newsweek: The Chinese Military is Getting Rid of 300000 Troops to Pay for New High-Tech Weapons

China wants to buy new high-tech weapons for its navy and air force, but to do that, it needs to lay off 300,000 troops. The Chinese Defense Ministry announced Thursday that Beijing's plan to reduce troop levels would be completed by the end of the year.

Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said there were "detailed arrangements" to ensure the layoffs would be carried out without delay, Reuters reported. "This year it will achieve its set aims on schedule," Wu told a regular monthly news briefing, without providing further details.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 31, 2017

Analysis: The Pace of Chinese Military Modernization is Getting Attention at the Pentagon and in Congress -- Kris Osborn, Scout Warrior

China's Military Says Taiwan Is 'Doomed' and Trump's Weapons Will Be Useless -- Newsweek

From Green to Purple: Can the Chinese Military Become More Joint? -- Joel Wuthnow and Phillip C. Saunders, War on the Rocks

Russian military makes rare visit to Pakistani tribal region -- AP

Russian Military Deal with Serbia Counters Influence of NATO and EU in Balkans -- Newsweek

Russia adds 'Kazan' to its nuclear attack submarine fleet -- Defense News

Royal Marines face frontline axe as military chiefs are forced to make £10BILLION cuts over the next decade amid escalating costs of ships and jets -- Daily Mail

Top Canadian soldier says military not hurting for money -- CTV News/Canadian Press

Finns Mull Co-Housing Male, Female Conscripts to Boost Equality, Morale -- Sputnik

Australia issues tender request for new frigates -- UPI

US gives NATO allies 2 months for defense spending plans -- AP

Tillerson gives NATO two-month deadline on defense spending -- The Hill

Fallon and Mattis discussing Nato spending -- BBC

Britain and U.S. tell NATO allies to 'raise their game' on defense spending -- Reuters

Trump gives military more authority to launch Somalia strikes -- The Hill

US military now authorized to conduct offensive airstrikes in Somalia -- ABC News

Pentagon Responds to Criticism Over Civilian Deaths in Mosul Blast -- VOA

Mosul shows difficulty of removing militants from urban areas -- Military Times

Trump administration stops disclosing troop deployments in Iraq and Syria -- Los Angeles Times

Air Force secretary nominee backs stealth of F-35 jets -- The Hill

Future V-22 Weapons May Range from Lasers to Sonic Waves -- DoD Buzz

Lockheed nears $27 billion helicopter deal with Pentagon -- Reuters

General: Air Force might 'have to stop flying' for six weeks -- Washington Examiner

Military sharply warns Congress against punting on spending -- Jeremy Herb, CNN

Marines to field new revolutionary radar -- C4ISRNET

Army Shows Off Its Lightest Combat Helmet Ever -- Military.com

General Dynamics, U.S. Ordnance share U.S. Army contract for M2 machine guns -- UPI

Air Force Needs Disposable Aircraft, Official Says -- Defense Tech

DoD prepares for more advanced armed drones amid ISIS threat -- C4ISRNet

A more connected military means new battlefield glitches, too -- Aliya Sternstein, Christian Science Monitor

Top U.S. Military Official Says We Need to Prepare for Space Battles -- Futurism

Inside the Ring: Pentagon Tightens Security on China Contacts -- Washington Free Beacon

Pentagon puts Trump’s cost cutting promises to work -- The Hill

U.S. Marines Send F-35 Fighters To South Korea -- And A Signal To The North -- Loren Thompson, Forbes

Marines are once again 'The Few, The Proud' -- Marine Times

Rising Concerns Over High Civilians Casualties In The War Against The Islamic State



L.A. Times: U.S. military officer in charge of approving airstrikes defends procedures used to prevent civilian deaths

As the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State faces increasing criticism for killing civilians in airstrikes on the dense neighborhoods of west Mosul, a senior U.S. military officer in Iraq defended the procedures used to prevent such deaths.

“We are very careful about how much collateral damage we are going to cause,” Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe, who is responsible for approving strikes in many parts of Iraq, said Thursday.

“We’re here to defeat them,” he said of the Islamic State militants, “and we’re going to do it the moral way.”

To illustrate the procedures — and the difficulties Iraqi forces and their international backers face in targeting militants without hurting civilians — Uribe played two black-and-white surveillance videos for The Times during a visit to the coalition’s joint operations center and “strike cell” in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Both were taken within the last month in west Mosul and show militants using people as shields.

Read more ....

More News On High Civilians Casualties In The War Against The Islamic State

The rising civilian death toll in the campaign against Islamic State -- Los Angeles Times
CENTCOM: Avoiding civilian casualties in Mosul will become more difficult -- Stars and Stripes
U.S. military says difficult to avoid Mosul casualties, probes blast -- Reuters
US Generals Warn of More Civilian Casualties, As ISIS Wages Desperate Fight in Mosul -- Foreign Policy
Investigation of Mosul civil casualties expanded -- CNN
Dem rep demands answers from Mattis on civilian casualties -- The Hill
Defeating ISIS and protecting civilians in Raqqa -- Frederic C. Hof, Defense News
US Generals Warn of More Civilian Casualties to Come in Mosul Invasion -- Antiwar.com
High-tech US weaponry can't prevent civilian deaths in Iraq -- Middle East Eye
Civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria undercut US victories -- AP
Why the Spike in Civilian Casualties of US Military Action? -- Newsweek
Civilian casualties are not inevitable. The military sets an acceptable number in advance -- L.A. Times

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Warns NATO Members That They Must Boost Their Defense Budgets



VOA: Tillerson: NATO Allies Must Boost Their Defense Budgets

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meeting with his NATO allies' counterparts, said Friday in Brussels that they must increase their countries' defense budgets.

The top U.S. diplomat told the foreign ministers the alliance must have "all of the resources, financial and otherwise, that are necessary for NATO to fulfill its mission" in places like Iraq and Syria.

Earlier Friday, Tillerson said he also wanted to discuss "Russia's aggression in Ukraine" with the NATO allies.

Upon arrival in Brussels, the top U.S. diplomat said he sees three important areas to discuss: NATO's resources for its mission, the organization's fight against terrorism, including Islamic State, and NATO's posture in Europe, "most particularly Eastern Europe in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The U.S. Secretary has told NATO members that they have 2 months to propose a plan on how they will be boosting their defense budgets. I know in Canada .... they are not going to do it. And the Germans .... they are signalling no .... Germany balks at Tillerson call for more European NATO spending (Reuters).

More News On U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Warning NATO Members That They Must Boost Their Defense Budgets

Tillerson demands US's NATO allies pay up -- AFP
Tillerson gives NATO two-month deadline on defense spending -- The Hill
US gives NATO allies 2 months for defence spending plans -- Canadian Press
Tillerson Calls NATO Critical in Countering Russian Aggression -- Bloomberg

North Koreans Wanted For Questioning In The Murder of Kim Jong-Nam Return To North Korea With His Body



Reuters: N. Korean murder suspects go home with victim's body as Malaysia forced to swap

Three North Koreans wanted for questioning over the murder of the estranged half-brother of their country's leader returned home on Friday along with the body of victim Kim Jong Nam after Malaysia agreed a swap deal with the reclusive state.

Malaysian police investigating what U.S. and South Korean officials say was an assassination carried out by North Korean agents took statements from the three before they were allowed to leave the country.

"We have obtained whatever we want from them...They have assisted us and they have been allowed to leave," police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told a news conference in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, saying there were no grounds to hold the men.

Read more ....

More News On Malaysia Releasing The North Koreans Wanted For Questioning In The Murder of Kim Jong-Nam 

Kim Jong-Nam's body returned to North Korea -- AFP
North Koreans hiding in Malaysian embassy return to Pyongyang -- CNN
Kim deal chance for N. Korea to bury murder evidence: analysts -- AFP
Park arrest, Malaysia deal: Let the corks pop in Pyongyang -- AP
Malaysia Sends Men Questioned In Murder Back To North Korea, Along With Kim's Body -- NPR
Kim Jong-nam deal: Relief but many unanswered questions -- BBC

President Trump Expects His Meeting With Chinese President Xi At Mar-A-Lago Will Be A 'Very Difficult One'

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and US President Donald Trump © Reuters


Reuters: Trump says trade gap will make China meeting 'a very difficult one'

U.S. President Donald Trump set the tone for a tense first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week by tweeting on Thursday that the United States could no longer tolerate massive trade deficits and job losses.

The White House said Trump would host Xi next Thursday and Friday at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida. It said Trump and his wife, Melania, would host Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at a dinner next Thursday.

In a tweet on Thursday evening, Trump said the highly anticipated meeting between the leaders of the world's two largest economies, which is also expected to cover differences over North Korea and China's strategic ambitions in the South China Sea, "will be a very difficult one."

"We can no longer have massive trade deficits and job losses," he wrote, adding in apparent reference to U.S. firms manufacturing in China: "American companies must be prepared to look at other alternatives."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: President Trump is right. China is dependent on having a trade surplus with the U.S. to finance its growth .... and any alteration in this arrangement will have dire consequences on its future plans and on the promises that the government has made to its civilians that in exchange for social peace, they will have jobs and a better standard of living.

Kremlin Spokesman: Russia-US Relations 'Maybe Even Worse' Than Cold War



ABC News: Kremlin spokesman: Russia-US relations 'maybe even worse' than Cold War

Russian President Vladimir Putin's right-hand man said in an interview today on ABC's "Good Morning America" that current relations between Russia and the United States are "maybe even worse" than the Cold War.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that allegations of Russia's trying to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election are "fake news" and "slander."

"It has no evidence at all," he said of the claims.

The spokesman pointed to then-President Barack Obama's sanctions against Russia in response to the alleged election interference as a reason for relations between the two countries being "maybe even worse" than during the Cold War.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I lived during the Cold War .... today is not even close to the what was happening during the Cold War. But saying it is makes good headlines.

More News On Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov's Remarks That Russia-US Relations 'Maybe Even Worse' Than Cold War

Putin spokesman: US-Russia relations 'maybe worse' now than Cold War -- The Hill
Top Kremlin spokesman says U.S.-Russia relations ‘maybe even worse’ than Cold War -- NYDaily News
Russia-US Relations 'Probably Worse' Than During Cold War - Kremlin -- Sputnik

The U.S. Military Is Running Out Of Bomb Kits

Members of the U.S. Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force construct Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Feb. 9, 2016. The U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, as well as allies, have asked Boeing Co. for more laser-guided bomb kits amid declining stockpiles due to the air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

DoD BUzz: Boeing Ramps Up Bomb Production as Stockpiles Decrease

The Navy and Air Force, as well as U.S. allies, have asked Boeing Co. for more bomb kits, including laser-guided, amid declining JDAM stockpiles due to the air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“We’re ramping significantly across the portfolio, not just with [Joint Direct Attack Munition],” said Cindy Gruensfelder, Boeing’s director of direct attack munitions.

“But with JDAM, we’re currently on a path by July of this year to ramp to a 150 weapons a day [rate] or over 36,500 [tail kits] per year — that is two full shifts at our facility,” she told reporters during a media briefing Tuesday at Boeing’s facilities near Washington, D.C.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Another sign on how intense the U.S. bombing campaign has been against the Islamic State.

The Next War In Gaza Is Coming

A huge fireball erupts following Israeli air strikes in the east of Gaza City. (Reuters)

Daniel Shapiro, Bloomberg: All Signals Point Once Again to War in Gaza

The next war in Gaza is coming.

In over five years as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I found no issue more impervious to solutions than Gaza. We were constantly preventing, managing or responding to crises -- trying to head off terror attacks by Hamas and others, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, negotiating ceasefires and working to alleviate human suffering.

I also learned that Gaza wars follow a kind of routine. Hamas upgrades its attack capabilities, and tensions build. Both sides prefer to avoid an escalation, but some incident, perhaps unintended, leads Hamas to increase the rate of rockets fired into Israel. Eventually, Israel deems the provocations intolerable, and launches a heavier response, such as when it conducted a targeted strike on Hamas military wing chief Ahmed Jabari at the start of Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. A full-on conflict ensues, with ceasefire negotiations competing with Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, Israeli airstrikes, and calls from the Israeli public for a ground invasion to “finish the job.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I see the signs of another war also .... probably the end of this year or early 2018. But unlike past conflicts where the U.S. rushed in to defuse and stop the fighting .... I do not see the Trump administration stepping in to stop the next war .... if anything, I think they will tell the Israelis  to do what they feel is necessary, and leave it at that.

Tweet For Today

An Interview With Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Nationnal Interest: Sergey Lavrov - The Interview

An “absolutely artificial hysterical situation was created” in U.S.-Russia relations—but not quite yet a Cold War.

Paul Saunders, associate publisher of the National Interest, interviewed Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, March 24, 2017, in Moscow. Their wide-ranging and blunt conversation, which lasted over an hour, covered topics from Ukraine and Syria to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the future of U.S.-Russia cooperation.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: He definitely sounds like someone who is not optimistic that U.S. - Russian relations will be improving this year.

Picture Of The Day

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
The Sukhoi Su-35S. © Photo: JSC Sukhoi Company

Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev Is Now The Most Hated Man In Russia

August 30, 2015. Vladimir Putin (R) and Dmitry Medvedev during a workout at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi. © Ekaterina Shtukina / RIA Novosti

The Guardian: Dmitry Medvedev: the whipping boy for Russia's discontented

The corruption allegations that led to street protests add to the air of disappointment surrounding the country’s prime minister.

The street protests that swept Russian cities over the weekend were remarkable not just for their unusually large size, but also for their main target: Dmitry Medvedev.

After an investigation by the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition politician Alexei Navalny alleged a network of palaces and vineyards linked to Medvedev, the prime minister has become the focal point of the protests. Angry Russians carried rubber ducks, a mocking reference to a shelter for ducks found on one of his alleged properties.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: First things first .... I first met Dmitry Medvedev when he was the Kremlin Chief of Staff around 2004 .... and I supported him in his 2008 Presidential bid. His appeal to me was that he was a reformer who wanted to impose a just and proper legal system in Russia .... and at the beginning he started to do just that. But after one year in office he changed .... and all the reforms that he had promised were then ignored. We now know today that he has accumulated billions in wealth through shell companies and loyal friends .... and yes .... he has become the poster child on what is wrong with Russia today. Will Russian President Putin still keep him as his Prime Minister .... for the moment yes. But if the anti-corruption movement builds up steam in the coming year .... Putin will cut him loose.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Russian President Putin Warns Of Potential Chaos If Protests Continue



Bloomberg: Putin Takes Tough Stance on Protests, Warns of Arab Spring Chaos

* Russian leader vows to punish violators in line with law
* Opposition exploiting anti-corruption for ‘selfish goals’

Russian President Vladimir Putin took a tough stance on the biggest mass protests of the past five years, comparing them to the bloodshed and chaos unleashed by the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions and uprising in neighboring Ukraine.

“The fight against corruption has become an instrument for selfish political goals,” Putin said at an international forum on the Arctic in the northern city of Arkhangelsk on Thursday, in his first public comments on the March 26 rallies. “I think it isn’t right when certain political forces try to use this tool to promote themselves ahead of some political events, including electoral campaigns.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Russian President Putin has chosen to ignore the anti-corruption message that came out from last weekends protest .... and in my opinion this is a mistake. Everyone is Russia knows what happened last Sunday .... and among the young this has become a unifying message for them .... Generation born under Putin finds its voice in Russian protests (Reuters). And if the Kremlin orders a crackdown .... they will be doing it on the children whose parents have always supported Putin .... Face of anti-Kremlin protests is the son of a Putin ally (Reuters).

More News On Russian President Putin's Remarks On Last Sunday's Protests

Putin blasts opposition politicians for using protests as ‘campaign spin’ -- RT
Calls Over Protesters at Unsanctioned Moscow Rally Politicized - Putin -- Sputnik
Vladimir Putin, in First Remarks on Russian Protests, Warns of Potential Chaos -- New York Times
Putin: Criticism of Russia protest arrests is ‘interference’ -- AP
Putin Says Western Criticism of Russia's Handling of Protests Political -- Reuters
Young Russians are fed up, and the Kremlin has taken notice -- CNN
Russian protests won’t topple Putin but the Kremlin is right to be worried -- The Independent

U.S. To Ramp-Up Military Operations Against Al-Shabaab In Somalia

New recruits belonging to Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebel group march during a passing out parade at a military training base in Afgoye, west of the capital Mogadishu February 17, 2011. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Reuters: Trump grants U.S. military more authority to attack militants in Somalia

The White House has granted the U.S. military broader authority to carry out strikes in Somalia against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, the Pentagon said on Thursday, the latest sign President Donald Trump is increasing U.S. military engagement in the region.

Last Friday, the head of U.S. forces in Africa said that greater ability to fight the militants would lead to more flexibility and quicker targeting.

Al Shabaab has been able to carry out deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government. The group's insurgency aims to drive out the peacekeepers, topple Somalia's western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

The United States has a small presence in Somalia and is allowed to carry out strikes in defense of partnered forces.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Ramping-Up Military Operations Against Al-Shabaab In Somalia

Trump signs off on the Pentagon carrying out offensive strikes in Somalia -- Washington Post
Trump Eases Combat Rules in Somalia -- NYT
Pentagon gets OK for more aggressive airstrikes in Somalia -- AP
US beefs up muscle in Somalia fight -- BBC
Trump approves plan to ramp up Somalia anti-terror campaign -- CNN
Trump gives military more authority to launch Somalia strikes -- The Hill
Trump OKs ramped-up airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia -- FOX News
Trump Approves Increased Precision Strikes Against Al-Shabaab in Somalia -- Sputnik

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Says He Has A Story To Tell On Trump And Russia, And He Wants Immunity From Prosecution




Wall Street Journal/FOX News: Flynn offers to testify in Trump-Russia probe in exchange for immunity

WASHINGTON – Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign-policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.

He has made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees though his lawyer but has so far found no takers, the officials said.

Mr. Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This offer was apparently made to the FBI and to the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer .... but so far there are no takers .... at least that is what the Journal reported. I say accept the deal .... and find out what he has. But I suspect that this offer to testify has more to do with his worry that in the future he will be criminally investigated .... especially after Former CIA Director James Woolsey talked about this .... More details on Flynn working as a foreign agent (CNN) .... and this is his guarantee that he will not have to go through the legal process. As to what does he have .... no one really knows .... but here is an easy prediction .... the speculation is going to run rampant on this one.

More News On Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn Saying He Has A Story To Tell On Trump And Russia, And He Wants Immunity From Prosecution

Michael Flynn discussing immunity with intel committees in Russia probe -- AP
Flynn Seeks Immunity to Testify in Russia Investigations -- Bloomberg
Mike Flynn Willing to Be Interviewed in Return for Immunity -- NBC
Flynn offers to testify on Russia for immunity -- The Hill
Disgraced national security adviser Mike Flynn offers to 'testify about the Trump administration's ties to Russia in exchange for immunity' -- Daily Mail
Former Trump adviser Mike Flynn ‘tells FBI he is willing to be interviewed on President's possible links to Russia' -- The Independent
Ex-Trump adviser Flynn seeks immunity for testimony in Russia probe: WSJ -- Reuters

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes Has 'Screwed-up' The Russia-Gate Investigation



Eli Lake, Bloomberg: Devin Nunes and the Tragedy of the Russia Inquiry

Last week, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes, announced dozens of intelligence reports that inappropriately included details on President Donald Trump's transition. This week, he told me that his source for that information was an intelligence official, not a White House staffer.

It turns out, he misled me. The New York Times reported Thursday that Nunes had two sources, and both worked for the White House. This distinction is important because it raises questions about the independence of the congressional investigation Nunes is leading, which may lead to officials at the White House.

Nunes is leading a double investigation of sorts. His committee is probing ties between the Trump campaign and Russia's influence operation against the 2016 election. It's also looking into whether Barack Obama's White House inappropriately spied on Trump's transition.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: My must read commentary for today. Much of the political and media focus has been on the Trump campaign and Russia's "influence operation" against the 2016 election .... my focus has been on the reports and the growing body of evidence that President Obama's White House inappropriately spied on Trump during the campaign and during the transition. Eli Lake also believes that this is the bigger story .... and I share his frustration on how this has all tarnspired ....

.... Sadly, the merits of this case are undermined by how the White House and Nunes have made it. The chairman is better than this. By misrepresenting how he obtained information worthy of investigation he has handed his opposition the means to discredit it. That's rough justice for Nunes, and a tragedy for the country.

And now we have this bombshell (my next post) .... Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity (WSJ).