Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Editor's Note

Finishing up on a contract right now (It has been a busy 4 days .... and I have to pay the bills). Therefore blogging will be light today. Military and Intelligence News Briefs and World News Briefs will return tomorrow morning.

Iran Is Threatening To Retaliate Against Saudi Arabia For Hajj Stampede Disaster

CNN: Iran's Khamenei threatens 'harsh' retaliation over Hajj stampede at Mina

(CNN)Iran's Supreme Leader is threatening Saudi Arabia with "tough and harsh" retaliation after saying that the bodies of Hajj stampede victims are not being repatriated swiftly.

"Saudi Arabia failed to fulfill its duties concerning the desperate wounded (pilgrims)," said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Iran's official PressTV.

"Should we decide to show any reaction, our reaction will be tough and harsh," it quoted him as saying at a military academy Wednesday.

WNU Editor: The Iranians are not saying what they will do .... but considering what is happening in the Middle East right now ....speculation is becoming rife and all the worse case scenarios are being discussed among the pundits and social media.

More News On Tensions Soaring Between Iran And Saudi Arabia

Top Iran Leader Warns of 'Harsh' Measures Over Hajj Disaster -- AP
Iran's leader condemns Saudi Arabia over haj crush, demands bodies of Iranian pilgrims -- Reuters
Iran-Saudi tensions soar over hajj stampede, arms boat -- AFP
Saudi-Iran Spat Escalates as Arms Intercept Follows Hajj Crush -- Bloomberg

U.S. Warns Of New Concerns In Syrian Conflict As Russia Begins Air Operations

Washington Post: Russia begins airstrikes in Syria; U.S. warns of new concerns in conflict

MOSCOW — Russian warplanes began airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, adding an unpredictable new element to a multi-layered war that has already drawn in the United States and allies, created millions of refugees and expanded the reach of the Islamic State.

Washington quickly criticized the airstrikes — warning that they bring added risks to Syria — but said Moscow’s moves would not change a U.S.-led air campaign targeting Islamic State strongholds in Syria.

The Russian strikes also sharply raised the stakes over competing visions for Syria outlined earlier this week at the United Nations, with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin insisting that Syria’s embattled government is the key to stability, and President Obama saying the “status quo” cannot stand after more than four years of bloodshed.

WNU Editor: Do not be surprise me if in the coming weeks we start hearing reports that F-22s are now giving regular cover for U.S. air raids in Syria (if not already).

Weapons Laden Ship Believed Headed To Yemen Intercepted In The Arabian Sea By Saudi-led Coalition Forces

Weapons, said to be seized by Saudi-led coalition forces on an Iranian boat, are seen in this undated handout released by the media office of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The vessel, seized on September 26, 2015, was carrying various types of shells and rockets and other equipment for Houthi forces, a coalition statement said. PHOTO: REUTERS

Wall Street Journal: Saudi Coalition Seizes Iranian Boat Carrying Weapons to Rebels in Yemen

The coalition says the boat was carrying 14 Iranians and was laden with missile launchers and antitank weapons

RIYADH—A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition that has been fighting Iran-supported rebels in Yemen said Wednesday that it had stopped an Iranian boat carrying arms to the war-torn country.

The boat carried 14 Iranians and was laden with missile launchers and anti-tank weapons, the coalition said in a statement, including firing guiding systems.

It was seized around 1pm local time Saturday, Sept. 26 in the Arabian Sea, about 150 miles southeast of the Omani port of Salalah. Oman shares a border with Yemen.

More News On This Weapons Interception In The Arabia Sea

Weapons bound for Yemen seized on Iran boat: coalition -- Reuters
Weapons believed to be from Iran seized in Arabian Sea -- AP
Saudi-Iran Spat Escalates as Arms Intercept Follows Hajj Crush -- Bloomberg
Arab coalition seizes Iranian boat carrying weapons -- Saudi Gazette

Taliban Militants Pose For Selfies In Kunduz

BBC: Taliban selfies: Why militants posed for photos in Kunduz

The Afghan Taliban long ago perfected the art of propaganda. But as BBC Afghan's Mohammad Zahid explains, Monday's assault on Kunduz gave them the opportunity to show themselves in real time mingling on the streets.

As much as prisoners rushing out of unlocked jails, the Taliban posing for just a few selfies on the streets is one of the most striking and revealing moments of the assault on Kunduz.

WNU Editor: The Taliban are definitely giving out the impression that they are in charge of the city.

The Afghan Assault To Retake Kunduz Has Collapsed (Update)

FOX News: Afghan assault to retake Kunduz from Taliban collapses as militants surround airport

A promised counterattack by Afghan forces aimed at retaking the strategic city of Kunduz from Taliban militants collapsed early Wednesday as hundreds of soldiers and civilians reportedly fled to the city's airport, where they were surrounded by insurgent forces.

The New York Times reported that the assault on Kunduz, a city of 300,000 in northern Afghanistan, may have been just the first part of a broader offensive by the Taliban. The paper reported that several military checkpoints and government buildings in Takhar Province, east of Kunduz, had also come under attack by militants.

The Associated Press reported that Taliban fighters began fanning out across Kunduz itself Tuesday, closing roads, throwing up checkpoints and torching government buildings as fearful residents huddled indoors. Afghan forces attempting to retake the city were stalled by roadblocks and ambushes, unable to move closer than about a mile toward their target.

WNU Editor: NATO and U.S. Special Forces are now involved in the fight .... US special forces join fight against insurgents outside Kunduz (Stars and Stripes). More here .... U.S. special forces join Afghans in fight to retake Kunduz (CBC/Reuters)

The Battle To Retake The Afghan City of Kunduz Intensifies

Reuters: Troops from U.S.-led mission fight Taliban near Afghan city

Special forces from the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan battled insurgents on Wednesday near the northern city of Kunduz that was captured by the Taliban this week, a coalition spokesman and Afghan official said.

It was the first report of on-the-ground clashes between Taliban militants and foreign troops supporting their Afghan allies during three days of sometimes heavy fighting for control of the strategic city of 300,000.

Kunduz is the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the hardline Islamist movement was toppled from power in 2001.

WNU Editor: The Taliban are preparing for a bloody battle .... Taliban tighten grip on Afghan city of Kunduz (BBC).

More News On The Battle For The Afghan City Of Kunduz

U.S. Strikes Taliban-Held Land Near Kunduz Airport as Afghan Crisis Deepens -- NYT
U.S. troops dispatched to Kunduz to help Afghan forces -- Washington Post
Coalition troops arrive amid US airstrikes in push to take back Afghan city -- AP
Afghan forces struggle to regain control of Kunduz -- AFP
Taliban widen offensive as Nato special forces join fight for Kunduz -- The Guardian
Fighting Rages as Afghan Forces Try to Retake Kunduz -- VOA
Battle for Afghan city seized by Taliban continues -- USA Today
Kunduz Battle Rages, With U.S. Airstrikes Backing Afghan Push -- NBC
Afghan forces counterattack Taliban-controlled city of Kunduz -- UPI
NATO forces bolster Afghan troops in battle for Kunduz -- Al Jazeera
Afghan Forces Await Reinforcements For Kunduz Counteroffensive -- Radio Free Europe
NATO forces bolster Afghan troops against Taliban in Kunduz -- AFP
Taliban Seize Strategic Hill from Afghan Government Troops in Kunduz -- WSJ
Afghan forces face tough task in retaking Kunduz from the Taliban -- Euronews
Taliban audacity trumps Afghan forces' weak defenses in Kunduz -- Reuters
Taliban takeover in Kunduz echoes IS rout of Mosul -- AFP

My Take On Russia Launching Air Strikes On Syria

WNU Editor: I was woken up this morning by a friend in Moscow who called me wanting to know what was my take on Russia launching air strikes on rebel positions in Syria. My immediate reaction .... why get involved in a quagmire that will not be severely impacted by such air strikes. After-all .... the U.S. has launched thousands of air strikes on ISIS positions in both Syria and Iraq for a year now .... and the conflict is only getting worse. So how can Russia change that with its limited (and probably not as accurate) air campaign? My guess that it is all about international politics, Russian internal politics, and fulfilling certain national security interests. Unfortunately .... this is only going to make the situation in Syria far worse .... it will prolong the conflict, escalate the flow of jihadists into Syria who now want to fight against the Russians, and exacerbate the Sunni - Shiite conflict in both Iraq and Syria. But my big worry is what would happen if Russian and U.S. air forces end up shooting at each other (deliberately or accidentally) over Syria. There is no coordination between the two powers, and I am even more worried that no back-channels have been set up in the event that everything goes all wrong. To say that we are entering a dangerous time is an understatement.

Russian Miltiary Operations Over Syria Will Impact Israeli And Turkish Military Air Operations

WNU Editor: The following two articles sum up what Russian military operations will have on Israeli and Turkish military objectives and operations over Syria ....

What Does Russia’s Power Move in Syria Mean for Turkey? -- US News and World Report
Putin Hints Russia Will Clip Israel’s Wings Over Syrian Skies -- Haaretz

Russian Three-Star General Requests U.S. To Leave Syrian Air Space

WNU Editor: In this FOX News report .... Russia launches airstrikes in northern Syria, senior military official says (FOX News) .... there is an eye opening statement ....

.... The development came after Pentagon officials brushed aside an official request from Russia to clear air space over northern Syria, where Moscow intends to conduct airstrikes against ISIS on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to sources who spoke to Fox News.

The request was made by a Russian three-star general who spoke with U.S. officials at the American embassy in Baghdad, sources said. The general, who was not identified, used the word "please" when delivering the verbal request, known as a "demarche," according to the written transcript of the exchange.

"If you have forces in the area we request they leave," the general said.

A senior Pentagon official said the U.S., which has also been conducting air strikes against ISIS, but does not support Assad, said the request was not honored.

This tells me that U.S. - Russian talks to have a "coordinating framework" for military operations over Syria have not succeeded. The Russians are now forcing the U.S. to make a decision.

Update: The above FOX News video report has more details on this Russian demand that U.S. air assets leave Syrian air space.

Russia Launches Air Strikes In Syria

RT: Russian military forces start airstrikes in Syria - Ministry of Defense

The Russian Air Force has begun carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the country’s Defense Ministry said.

"In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, warplanes of the Russian Air Space Forces today [Wednesday] have started an aerial operation, involving pinpoint strikes on ground targets of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists in Syria,” spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said.

The Russia airstrikes are targeting military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, arms and fuel depots, belonging to IS terrorists, Konashenkov added.

WNU Editor: Russian President Putin is saying that these actions are only temporary .... Putin Says Russian Engagement in Syria 'Temporary' (Sputnik) .... but I do not see anything that is temporary about this.

More News On Russia Launching Air Strikes In Syria

Defense Ministry Confirms Russia Began Airstrikes Against ISIL in Syria -- Sputnik
Russia launches air strikes in Syria -- Reuters
Russian jets join Syria war -- CBS/AP
Russia carries out first air strikes in Syria: US -- AFP
Syria crisis: Russia begins air strikes against Assad foes -- BBC
Russian Pilots Launch First Airstrikes in Syria, Officials Say
Russia begins conducting airstrikes in Syria, U.S. official says -- Washington Post
Russia launches first airstrikes against targets in Syria, says US -- Guardian
US Confirms Russian Airstrikes in Syria -- ABC News
Reports: Russia launches first airstrikes in Syria -- USA Today
Official: Russia conducts first airstrike in Syria -- CNN
Russia Begins Conducting Airstrikes In Syria, After Assad's Request -- NPR
Russia to Aid Assad in First Mideast Deployment Since 1980s -- Bloomberg
Only aviation support will be provided to regular Syrian army — Russian lawmaker -- TASS
Russian parliament unanimously approves use of military in Syria to fight ISIS -- RT
Putin wins parliamentary backing for airstrikes in Syria -- Reuters
Russian parliament authorises use of troops abroad -- Al Jazeera
Syria’s Assad welcomes Russian decision on sending troops -- Washington Post/AP
Syria's Assad wrote to Putin over military support: statement -- Reuters
Syria Confirms Requesting Military Aid From Russia -- Sputnik
Russia's Expanded Role in the Syrian Conflict -- Krishnadev Calumur, The Atlantic

Hollywood Takes On The Islamic State

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wendy Day, 4th Combat Camera, March Air Reserve Base, films the operations of the Integrated Training Exercise on May 18, 2015, at the Integrated Training Exercise 3-15 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Steven A. Orti

Asawin Suebsaeng, Daily Beast: U.S. Turns to ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Writer for Anti-ISIS Propaganda

The State Department says it’s losing the information war to ISIS—and is tapping HBO, Snapchat, and a screenwriter with deep CIA connections to help turn things around.

The Obama administration is turning to HBO, Snapchat, and a controversial, Oscar-winning screenwriter to help them fight ISIS.

Earlier this year, the State Department convened a group of friends in the U.S. film industry, social media, and premium cable TV to brainstorm ways to counter jihadist propaganda.

In June, State Department officials and counterterrorism advisors traveled to Sunnylands (nicknamed the “Camp David of the West,” due to its history of being a super-exclusive vacation spot for celebrities and politicians) in Rancho Mirage, California, for a summit on how to effectively fight a propaganda and media war against extremist networks abroad. ISIS, for instance, has already mastered the art of ripping off Hollywood techniques to make recruiting and propaganda films, and basically has its own Twitter army. The June meetings were essentially a sequel to a three-day summit convened by the White House in February on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) through community-based strategies.

WNU Editor: Will this impact the war against the Islamic State .... we shall see.

Did China Achieve A Major Breakthrough In Aviation Speed?

A capture of a Chinese television report on a US Army hypersonic vehicle. (CCTV via The Washington Free Beacon)

Daivd Axe, Daily Beast: Did China Just Hit Mach 5?

A news report describes a landmark event: the flight of an airplane that can go twice as fast as the Concorde. Then, just as quick, the report vanishes. What just happened?
On a night apparently in early September, at a flight test center somewhere in China, a dark-painted airplane reportedly took off on a momentous mission—to fly faster than five times the speed of sound then return safely to Earth.

The airborne experiment, allegedly involving a manned aircraft with a human pilot aboard, marked a huge leap forward for China as it competes with the United States to develop warplanes and missiles capable of so-called “hypersonic” flight—so fast that they’re almost impossible to shoot down or dodge.

Yes, the September test was a massive technological step. But only if ... it actually happened. For as suddenly and dramatically as the news of the aerial trial broke, it quickly evaporated. Now it’s not clear what, if anything, actually occurred in the sky over that Chinese airfield.

WNU Editor: The Russians are also trying to achieve a breakthrough in hypersonic technology .... Russia and China are building hypersonic missiles and it's 'complicating' things for the US (Business Insider/Washington Free Beacon).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Editor's Note

I am taking the evening off. Blogging will return tomorrow morning.

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

Ian Black, The Guardian: Syria crisis: where do the major countries stand?

Efforts to end the war in Syria have been under intense global focus, and were the subject of a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York. Attention has been galvanised by the refugee crisis in Europe, continuing alarm over Islamic State, and Russia’s deployment of combat aircraft to Syria and its seizure of the initiative to take advantage of US and western disarray. The US, UK and others have subtly shifted positions or sent out mixed messages. Iran and Saudi Arabia, like Russia, are holding firm. It remains hard to see a route out of the bloodshed and deadlock.

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

A chilling handshake between Obama and Putin, while Syria disintegrates -- Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

A Gift to Putin -- John E. Herbst, Atlantic Council

Obama has turned Putin into the world’s most powerful leader -- Benny Avni, New York Post

Putin’s New Axis of Resistance: Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Hezbollah -- James Miller, Daily Beast

Vladimir Putin steals Barack Obama's thunder on the world stage -- Stephen Collinson, CNN

Putin and Obama Have Profound Differences on Syria -- New York Times editorial

'It's classic Putin': Russia's big move in the Middle East goes beyond Syria -- Natasha Bertrand, Business Insider

Any review of Syria and Iraq strategy needs realistic reappraisal -- Brian Michael Jenkins, The Hill

United Nations, Divided World: Obama, Putin, and World Order -- Stewart Patrick, Real Clear World/Internationalist

Yemen's south hopes victory over Houthis will bring separation -- Angus McDowall, Reuters

Is the World Paying Attention to Afghanistan Anymore? -- Catherine Putz, The Diplomat

The Battle for Kunduz -- Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic

China's $3 Billion Message to the UN: Yes, We Are a Responsible Power -- Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat

War looms in the South Caucasus -- Richard Giragosian, Al Jazeera

Generation ISIS: The Western Millennials Stocking the Terror Army -- Kimberly Dozier, Daily Beast

World News Briefs -- September 29, 2015

Reuters: Afghan forces battle to regain control of city after stunning loss

Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support battled Taliban fighters for control of the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, after the militants seized a provincial capital for the first time since their ouster 14 years ago.

The sudden fall of Kunduz on Monday was a major setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which marked its first year in power on Tuesday, and raised questions over how ready Afghan forces were to tackle the Islamist insurgency alone.

Ghani announced in a televised address that more reinforcements were on their way to regain the city, which he said had fallen partly because government forces had shown restraint to avoid civilian casualties.


Syria war dominates UN as strained ties hamper Obama, Putin.

Obama, Iran's Zarif shake hands in New York, Iranian official says.

Coalition fighting Islamic State launch 17 airstrikes in Syria, Iraq.

Islamic State claims responsibility for car bomb attack in Baghdad: statement.

Yemen conflict: Wedding attack death toll rises to 130. UN chief condemns deadly air strike in Yemen.

Turkey's Erdogan says over 30 Kurdish militants killed in cross border raids on Friday.

United Arab Emirates unveils new migrant labor reforms.

Saudi royal calls for regime change in Riyadh.

Hajj disaster: Foreign officials question Saudi death toll.

Palestinians, Israeli forces clash amid holy site tensions.


Afghan forces fight to retake Kunduz from Taliban. U.S. warplanes carry out airstrike in northern Afghanistan.

Taliban vow to bring Sharia law, welcome defectors in captured city.

Japan's Abe calls for 'amicable' and 'stable' China relationship.

Vietnam prepares for Asian economic integration.

China's Xi says to prioritize energy cooperation with Iran.

Joblessness rising in China as economy slows.

Asia's richest man Li voices support for China's leadership.

Nepal blocks Indian TV channels over 'blockade'.

New Zealand to establish massive marine reserve.


'Severe violence' paralyses CAR capital Bangui.

Central African Republic prisoners escape in Bangui.

CAR leader leaves UN early due to violence at home.

Burkina Faso army launches operation near presidential guard camp.

Don't 'betray and disappoint,' UN chief urges S.Sudan.

Egypt’s President Sisi calls on world to stand against ‘plague of terrorism’.

Tanzania election nears with voters seeking faster changes.

South African murder rate soars to 49 a day.


Putin says he can work with Obama despite trading barbs on Syria and Isis.

Russia all talk, no substance in fighting Islamic State: France.

Austria warns migration crisis could lead to use of force on borders.

Croatian leader dismisses Hungary's plan to build fence.

Moldova protesters pledge tougher action if demands ignored.

Britain to host China's Xi on first state visit.

Ukraine crisis: Two 'Russian soldiers' in Kiev terror trial.

On trial for corruption, Romanian PM survives no-confidence vote.

Northern Ireland says Gerry Adams won't face prosecution over 1972 murder.


Obama, Cuba's Castro meet as two countries work toward thaw.

US Congress nears passage of temporary spending bill.

Colombia justice deal does not address possible jail time: FARC rebels.

Venezuela to allow return of deported Colombians.

Accused businessman in Guatemala customs scam incriminates Perez.

Jamaicans demand billions in slavery reparations ahead of British PM Cameron visit.

Peru anti-mining protest sees deadly clashes.


Thousands enter Syria to join ISIS despite global efforts.

U.S. sanctions Islamic State supporters, targets finances. New US sanctions illustrate sprawling Islamic State network.

Broad coalition against Islamic State hardly possible now — expert.

Isis claims responsibility for death of Italian man in Bangladesh.

Obama to host terrorism summit at U.N..


Facebook down for second time in a week.

Volkswagen facing £4.3 BILLION bill after revealing it will recall 11 MILLION cars to be refitted because of emissions testing scandal.

Seat says 700,000 cars have 'cheat' emissions software.

Inside the 2015 Forbes 400 List: Facts and figures about America’s wealthiest.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- September 29, 2015

Reuters: Russia establishes seaborne lifeline for Syrian allies

The Alexandr Tkachenko, an ageing ferry with a canary-yellow hull, usually carries people across the Kerch Strait, a bustling sea route and the only connection between Russia and Crimea, the peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine last year.

But the crossings stopped abruptly in late August when the Russian government chartered the ship, according to an employee at the ferry company. It was destined for another mission of possibly greater strategic importance - expanding Russia's supply line to areas held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- September 29, 2015

Syria conflict: Russia considers joining anti-IS air strikes -- BBC

Moscow hopes list of participants in coordination center in Baghdad to grow -- TASS

Obama, Putin agree militaries to hold talks to avert conflicts in Syria -- Reuters

Russia’s Military Buildup in Syria Targets US: NATO Chief -- DoD Buzz

NATO General Worried About Russian Military Build-Up In Syria -- Defense News/AFP

Deepening Russian Involvement in Iraq Complicates U.S. Airstrikes on Islamic State -- WSJ

Turkey May Request NATO’s Help to Counter Threats From Syria, ISIL -- Sputnik

Centcom: US did not train commander who gave al Qaeda weapons -- The Hill

U.S. House Intelligence chairman: Middle East strategy ‘destined to fail’ -- The Hill

Russian troops conduct some 2,000 tactical drills in 2015 — defense minister -- TASS

Sloppiness, Not Moles, Led to KGB's Exposure of CIA Agents During Cold War -- Sputnik

Danish defense minister steps down in blow to new government -- Reuters

Georgia Joins NATO Rapid Response Force -- Sputnik

Revealed: Why China Is Selling Submarines to Pakistan -- The Diplomat

India and the US Sign $3 Billion Deal for New Attack Helicopters -- The Diplomat

Afghanistan’s Newest Attack Helicopter a ‘Total Mess’? -- The Diplomat

Germany says no rigid deadlines for troops' stay in Afghanistan -- Reuters

China's Xi says to commit 8,000 troops for U.N. peacekeeping force -- Reuters

Colombia to Deploy Up to 5,000 Personnel to UN Peacekeeping Forces – President -- Sputnik

Countries pledge 40,000 U.N. peacekeepers at U.N. summit -- Reuters

Inside India's New and Deadliest Warship -- NDTV

Trident is useless. That’s why we must debate its renewal -- Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

U.S. admiral signals wider role for powerful Third Fleet in Western Pacific -- Fiscal Times

Pentagon Blocks JSTARS Move To Demo Phase -- Defense News

Lockheed Martin forges ahead on 'space fence' as U.S. Air Force OKs design -- Washington Business Journal

House Readies Emergency Bill to Continue Paying Troops During Shutdown --

Navy SEALs ready to open jobs to women -- The Hill

Army Denies that Ranger School was Fixed so Women Could Pass --

Recruiters face gender quotas, new challenges in 2016 -- Marine Times

Here's Why Most Americans Can't Join the Army -- Blake Stilwell, We Are The Mighty

USAF Confirms Creation of A-10 Video, Explains Suppression -- John Q. Public

The Pro-carrier Argument The U.S. Navy Cannot make -- Bryan McGrath, War On The Rocks

President Obama: I lead the strongest military the world has ever known -- Washington Times

U.S. Intelligence Director not optimistic On U.S. - China Anti-Hacking Deal

Nominee for Director of National Intelligence retired Gen. James Clapper speaks alongside President Barack Obama in the White House Rose Garden Saturday June 5. Newscom

The Hill: Spy chief skeptical of Obama's anti-hacking deal with China

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper doesn’t have high expectations for the recently inked agreement between the U.S. and China to not hack private companies.

“Hope springs eternal,” Clapper told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday morning. “I think we will have to watch their behavior and it will be incumbent on the intelligence community to depict to policymakers what behavior changes, if any, result from this agreement."

Asked by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) whether he was optimistic that the agreement would result in a reduction of hacks on U.S. companies, Clapper replied with one word: “No.”

Update: US intel official not optimistic about cyber deal with China -- AP

WNU Editor: He is probably right.

Trump Supports Russian And Iranian Efforts Against The Islamic State

Reuters: Trump backs Russia, Iran efforts to fight Islamic State

Leading Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump on Tuesday said he supported Russian efforts to fight Islamic State militants in the Middle East, including Syria.

Asked whether he backed those like Russia who supported Syrian President Bashar al Assad or those who see him as the source of Syria's current crisis, Trump told NBC's "Today" program: "I side with the group that says if Russia wants to go and fight ISIS, you should let them as opposed to saying were jealous we don't want you to do that."

Update: Trump: 'Let Russia fight ISIS' -- The Hill

WNU editor: Donald Trump is echoing what many Americans feel when it comes to the Syrian conflict .... it is a quagmire .... best to stay out. As to what is my take .... he is probably right.

Russian Public Support For Putin's Syrian Policy Is Low

RT: 39% of Russians approve Putin policies on Syria

Currently 39 percent of Russians approve of Moscow’s support of Syrian government, with the share of those who disapprove being at just 11 percent, the latest opinion poll has shown.

The research was made by independent agency Levada-Center in the third week of September and analysts released the results on Tuesday.

Thirty percent of those who took part in the poll said they think by supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad Russia wants to protect its own interests in the Middle East. Twenty-eight percent of responders hold that Moscow’s ultimate objective was to fortify its leading position among world nations. About 22 percent said that support for the Syrian government was launched in order to counter the Islamic State terrorist group and the spreading of radical Islamism in general.

WNU Editor: Talking to my friends and family in Russia, checking out Russian social media .... I have found that there is little if any support for Russian involvement in Syria. This 39% result .... if true .... is probably very "soft".

Update: Poll: Russians oppose sending troops to Syria -- UNIAN

Is Russia Looking For A Syrian Proxy?

Barbara Starr, CNN: U.S.: Russia may be seeking proxy in case Syria's Assad falls

Washington (CNN)The U.S. intelligence community now thinks Russia may have embarked on its military buildup in Syria because Moscow believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may not be able to hang onto power and it wants to position itself to back a proxy if the regime were to collapse. It is a view shared by the Pentagon, Defense officials told CNN.

This is one theory, but there is not a firm conclusion within the Obama administration about why Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending aircraft, tanks and missiles into the wartorn country, several senior U.S. officials told CNN.

On Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations, President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Putin for the first time in nearly a year to discuss the latter's plans in Syria.

WNU Editor: I do not see this happening. If Assad falls the entire region will be in chaos. There will be no "proxies" strong enough to support.

Why Are Egyptian And Chinese Military Delegations Arriving In Russia Now?

Airborne drop during the joint battalion tactical exercise of airborne troops from Russia. Sputnik

Sputnik: Egyptian, Chinese Military Delegations Arrive in Russia

According to the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service, Military delegations from China and Egypt have arrived in Russia to discuss planned exercises.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Military delegations from China and Egypt have arrived in Russia to discuss planned exercises, the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service said Tuesday.

WNU Editor: The excuse is to talk about joint exercises .... but the timing is raising eyebrows everywhere .... and the fact that both of them are arriving at Moscow at  the same time is really making everyone wonder.

Picture Of The Day

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

VOX News: This awkward photo of Obama and Putin locking eyes at the UN speaks volumes

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin's relationship has always been, shall we say, fraught, but on Monday they shared a toast at the United Nations that looks to have been, even by their high standards, pretty weird.

There's so much to take in here. The nuclear powers side-eye. Putin's almost triumphalist smirk; Obama's undisguised loathing (there's an unmistakable "let's get this over with" look on his face) of the man with whom he's touching glasses. The discrepancy in size between the two men — look at how much farther Obama's arm reached than Putin's — adds another layer to it all. But their eyes sure are locked.

WNU Editor: Yup .... I can confirm it now .... the U.S. - Russian reset is dead.

The Putin - Obama Summit -- A News Round-Up

Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg: Obama and Putin may seek compromise on Syria

In conflict resolution, the best path is usually the one that makes more sense, not the most emotionally attractive one. By that standard, Russian President Vladimir Putin got the better of U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. It also suggests there will probably be a compromise in Syria.

Obama and Putin made speeches to the Assembly on Monday, setting out their positions before sitting down for their first formal meeting in two years. Obama's 42-minute speech was heavy on emotion and rhetoric. Putin's 23-minute one was bleak and to the point.

WNU Editor: What to take out of this meeting .... they agreed to disagree. But the above analysis by Leonid Bershidsky is probably correct .... they are going to look for a compromise.

The Putin - Obama Summit -- A News Round-Up

Obama and Putin: Awkward moments, few breakthroughs -- AP
Obama, Putin Talks 'Surprisingly Open' After Frosty Beginning -- NBC
Putin: Meeting with President Obama 'very constructive and surprisingly open' -- UPI
After U.N. Speeches, Obama And Putin Discuss Syria In 'Business-Like' Meeting -- NPR
Obama and Putin Play Diplomatic Poker Over Syria -- NYT
Putin, Obama Meet On Syria, But Sharp Disagreements Remain -- NPR
‘Constructive & surprisingly frank’: Putin meets Obama on UNGA sidelines -- RT
Putin and Obama trade barbs at Syria-focused UN meeting -- Al Jazeera
Putin says he can work with Obama despite trading barbs on Syria and Isis -- The Guardian
Official: Obama, Putin Have 'Shared Desire' to Solve Syrian Crisis -- VOA
Russia, US agree on key principles of Syria crisis resolution — Kerry -- TASS
Stole Obama’s Thunder, Showed Who’s in Charge – West About Putin’s Speech -- Sputnik
Russian analysts cast Putin as rescuing Syria from Western bungling -- L.A. Times
Verbal duel: How Putin & Obama sparred at UN -- RT
Putin and Obama Have Profound Differences on Syria -- New York Times editorial
A chilling handshake between Obama and Putin, while Syria disintegrates -- Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

Why The Fall Of The Afghan City Of Kunduz To Taliban Forces Is A Big Deal

Jethro Mullen, CNN: Why the Taliban takeover of Kunduz is a big deal

(CNN)The loss of the major city of Kunduz to the Taliban is a stunning reversal for the Afghan government, deepening worries about the ability of its security forces to take the fight to the Islamic militants.

Afghan officials vowed to quickly drive the Taliban back out again from the northern provincial capital where the insurgents freed hundreds of inmates from a prison and raised their white flag at points around town.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry reported some areas had already been reclaimed and promised "a big military operation" to come. The United States also appeared to join the fray, carrying out an airstrike in Kunduz province.

As the world watches, the embattled Afghan government can't afford to let the Taliban hang on to a key population center.

Here are the main reasons why the fall of Kunduz is a big deal:

WNU Editor: CNN's Jethro Mullen does make the case on why the fall of Kunduz is significant. What is also disturbing about this city capture is that the Afghan security forces apparently outnumbered the Taliban 7:1 .... but were defeated anyway. For more on this disaster, the following AFP is a must read .... 'Disaster' in Kunduz: the resurgence of the Taliban (AFP).

Update: The Taliban offensive continues .... Taliban claims it seized 2 districts in Takhar province (Threat Matrix).

The Battle For The Afghan City Of Kunduz -- News Updates September 29, 2015

Daily Mail: Afghan forces launch operation to retake the city of Kunduz a day after the Taliban storm the town and free hundreds of prisoners

* Government forces hit back against the Taliban in northern Afghanistan
* Hardline Islamists overran Kunduz after surprise offensive on Monday
* Hoisted their flag over main square just 200m from governor's compound
* Released hundreds of prisoners from the northern city's main jail
* United Nations evacuated its compound soon after the dawn assault began
* Afghans battling largely without NATO's support after it withdrew last year

Afghan forces have clashed with Taliban fighters in Kunduz as the government launched an operation to retake the centre of the northern city.

The Taliban assault was the second time this year that the hardline Islamist movement has besieged Kunduz city, defended by Afghan forces battling largely without NATO's support after it withdrew most of its troops last year.

The fall of the city centre on Monday was a major setback for the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which marks its first year in power today.

The Battle For The Afghan City Of Kunduz -- News Updates September 29, 2015

Afghan forces battle to regain control of city after stunning loss -- Reuters
Afghan forces fight to retake Kunduz from Taliban -- BBC
Taliban Display Force, Afghan President Vows to Retake City -- NYT/AP
As Taliban take key city, ISIS attacks Afghan troops too -- CBS/AP
U.S. military launches airstrike on Kunduz after Taliban assault on the key city -- Washington post
US strike targets Taliban as Afghan troops mount Kunduz counterattack -- The Guardian
U.S. Warplanes Carry Out Airstrike in Northern Afghanistan -- WSJ
Afghan Forces Fight to Retake Kunduz From Taliban -- VOA
Afghan forces ready to take Kunduz back from Taliban, official says -- CNN
US Launches Air Strikes After Taliban Takes Over Afghan Town of Kunduz -- ABC news
Afghan forces move to drive Taliban out of northern city with backing of US airstrike -- FOX News
US-backed Afghan forces fighting to retake Kunduz from Taliban -- CSM
Afghan forces mobilise for Kunduz counteroffensive -- Al Jazeera
US starts bombing Kunduz area after Taliban captures the city -- RT
GOP rep: Fall of Afghan city shows need for U.S. troops -- The Hill
The Taliban Take Kunduz: An Eyewitness Account -- The Diplomat
Battleground Kunduz: The city the Taliban seized -- BBC
The Battle for Kunduz -- Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic
Kunduz seized by Taliban: pictures from Afghan city -- BBC

Thie Lack of Precision Munitions Is The Big Weakness For Russia If It Should Launch Air Operations In Syria

Russian air force Su-35. Sukhoi photo

David Axe, War Is Boring: The Big Thing the Russian Air Force Still Can’t Do

Moscow lags in precision munitions

After two decades of neglect, the Russian air force is enjoying a petrodollar-funded renaissance. In 2010, the air force and naval aviation bought just 19 new fixed-wing airplanes. The number of new planes swelled to 24 in 2011, 35 in 2012, 51 a year later and a whopping 101 in 2014. This year the Kremlin expects to acquire 91 new fixed-wing aircraft.

But for all this modernization, there’s one big thing the Russian air force still can’t do. Nearly 30 years after the United States and its closest allies ushered in an era of precision guided munitions, wherein almost every combat plane packs laser-, radar-, infrared- or GPS-guided bombs and missiles, Russia still lags behind in the development, acquisition and employment of such “smart” air-to-ground munitions — especially long-range ones.

WNU editor: In regards to precision munitions .... the Russian air force is at least a decade behind. In event that Russia decides to intervene directly in Syria .... I do see the possibility that these aircraft will be used over Syria, but it will be artillery that Russian forces will prefer to use when it comes to targeting ISIS or rebel positions.

Life Aboard A U.S. Nuclear Submarine

(Click on Image to Enlarge)
The Navy’s Virginia-class fast-attack submarine is its newest and most technologically advanced. Its quiet nuclear-powered propulsion system and sensitive sonar are designed for tracking other subs and warships. The Navy has 12 of the subs and plans to acquire at least 30.

L.A. Times: Aboard a U.S. nuclear sub, a cat-and-mouse game with phantom foes

America's most advanced nuclear submarine was slicing through the water off Hawaii last month, 400 feet under the surface, when a sonar operator suddenly detected an ominous noise on his headphones.

It was a faint thump … thump … thump — the distinctive sound of a spinning, seven-bladed propeller on a Chinese attack submarine called a Shang by the Pentagon and its allies.

A neon green stripe on his sonar screen indicated that the Shang was only a few thousand yards off the U.S. sub's bow.

"Sonar contact!" he yelled to 15 officers and crew in the dimly lighted control room. "All stations, analyze!"

Within seconds, the 377-foot-long Mississippi banked right and gunned its nuclear-powered propulsion system for one of the Navy's most difficult maneuvers: sneaking up behind another submarine and shadowing it without being detected.

WNU Editor: The Pacific is becoming the key region for these subs to now operate .... The Navy now has 43 of its 71 submarines in the Pacific.

Air Strike On Yemen Wedding Party Kills Over 130

VOA: Civilian Death Toll in Yemen Wedding Attack Rises to at Least 130

The United Nations and local medics said Tuesday the death toll from a reported airstrike on a wedding party in southwestern Yemen has risen to at least 130 people.

A Saudi-led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes in Yemen targeting Houthi rebels since March denied that it was responsible for the attack Monday on the village of Wahijah.

A spokesman, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri, called the allegation "totally false."

WNU Editor: Everyone is denying responsibility .... but the Saudi coalition have complete control of the airspace over Yemen .... they are the only ones who could have been responsible for this air-strike.

More News On The Air-Strike That Killed Over 130 In Yemen

Death toll from air strike on Yemen wedding party rises above 130: medics -- Reuters
Saudi-led coalition denies bombing Yemen wedding -- AFP
Yemen Officials Raise Death Toll to 131 From Strikes in Taiz -- AP
Yemen Houthis say airstrikes killed 131 at wedding -- CNN
Yemen conflict: Wedding attack death toll rises to 130 -- BBC
Medics: 131 killed in airstrike on Yemen wedding party -- USA Today
Yemen Wedding Attack: Saudi-Led Airstrikes Kill At Least 131, Mostly Women And Children -- IBTimes

Islamic State Wants Enough Nuclear Weapons To Launch A 'Religious Cleansing' That Will Claim Hundreds Of Millions Of Lives

Washington Time: ISIS planning ‘nuclear tsunami’

Nuclear annihilation across the globe. This is what a German reporter who successfully embedded with the Islamic State says the terror group is planning. Jurgen Todenhofer released his findings in a book titled “Inside IS - Ten Days in the Islamic State,” reports the UK’s Daily Express.

“The terrorists plan on killing several hundred million people. The west is drastically underestimating the power of ISIS. ISIS intends to get its hands on nuclear weapons,” says Todenhofer, calling the group a “nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history.”

“They now control land greater in size than the United Kingdom and are supported by an almost ecstatic enthusiasm the like of which I’ve never encountered before in a war zone. Every day hundreds of willing fighters from all over the world come. They are the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life. I don’t see anyone who has a real chance to stop them. Only Arabs can stop IS. I came back very pessimistic.”

WNU Editor: This is actually old news. War News Updates posted on Jurgen Todenhofer's warnings last year ....

German Journalist Embeded With Islamic State Fighters: 'They Want To Kill Hundreds Of Millions In A 'Religious Cleansing' (January 15, 2015)
The Islamic State Is Preparing The 'Largest Religious Cleansing In History (December 23, 2015)

But even though this is "old news", Jurgen Todenhofer's warnings are appropriate. The Islamic State are fanatics .... and they have shown more than once a religious ferocity that should give everyone pause.

Growing Dissension In The Saudi Royal Family

Saudi Arabia's King Salman, right, meets with U.S. President Barack Obama at Erga Palace in Riyadh, January 27, 2015. Reuters

The Guardian: Saudi royal calls for regime change in Riyadh

Plea by grandson of state’s founder comes as falling oil prices, war in Yemen and loss of faith in authority buffet leadership of King Salman.

A senior Saudi prince has launched an unprecedented call for change in the country’s leadership, as it faces its biggest challenge in years in the form of war, plummeting oil prices and criticism of its management of Mecca, scene of last week’s hajj tragedy.

The prince, one of the grandsons of the state’s founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, has told the Guardian that there is disquiet among the royal family – and among the wider public – at the leadership of King Salman, who acceded the throne in January.

The prince, who is not named for security reasons, wrote two letters earlier this month calling for the king to be removed.

WNU editor: Dissension in the Saudi Royal family is nothing new .... but you do not want dissension when your own country is involved in a war (Yemen), and your entire northern border is facing countries that are now deeply involved in a very bloody sectarian conflict.

Saudi Arabia Is Running Out Of Money

IBTimes: Saudi Arabia Withdraws Billions Of Dollars From Asset Managers To Cut Deficit From Falling Oil Prices

Saudi Arabia has withdrawn tens of billions of dollars from global asset managers in recent months in an effort to cut its massive deficit caused by falling oil prices over the past year, Financial Times reported Sunday. The country's banks are borrowing in the bonds and loans market because of the cash squeeze.

The price of crude oil has halved in the past year and now stands at about $50 a barrel. The slump in oil prices forced governments to fund spending through bond sales and to use cash accumulated during the boom.

More News on Saudi Arabia Withdrawing Funds From Global Markets

Saudi Arabia withdraws overseas funds -- CNBC/Financial Times
Saudi Arabia Withdrew Billions From Markets, Estimates Show -- Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia Pulls Billions of Dollars From Fund Companies -- Barron's
We just got the first significant sign that Saudi Arabia is hurting for cash -- Business Insider
Saudi Arabia Pulling as Much $70 Billion from Markets -- Oil & Gass 360

World Bank: High Risk Of Another Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Palestinians look at the damage at the Hamas training camp after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

AFP: World Bank warns of 'high risk' of Israel-Palestinian conflict

Jerusalem (AFP) - The World Bank warned of the "high risk" of renewed Israel-Palestinian conflict if the political and economic status quo between the two sides persists, in a report released Tuesday.

"The persistence of this situation could potentially lead to political and social unrest," it said.

"In short, the status quo is not sustainable and downside risks of further conflict and social unrest are high," said the World Bank.

The percentage of the population living under the poverty line has reached 39 percent in Gaza and 16 percent in the West Bank.

WNU Editor: In a region where war has become the norm .... it is not much of a stretch to see another Israeli - Palestinian conflict. But unlike past conflicts .... the Palestinian leadership is in disarray .... Abbas out of options, out of synch with angry Palestinians (AP), and Hamas has its own problems .... A weakened Abbas cannot save Hamas (Al-Monitor).

New U.S.-China Military Rules Fall Short On Disputes Like The South China Sea

A Chinese fighter in international waters buzzed a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft within 20 feet and did a barrel roll over it in an incident that prompted a diplomatic complaint, U.S. officials said today. Source: Pentagon via Bloomberg

Wall Street Journal: New U.S.-China Military Rules Vague on Dealing with Conflicts

Unclear how agreement would apply to disputed islands in South China Sea.

WASHINGTON—The U.S. and China completed an agreement Friday on military air and naval encounters, but defense officials acknowledged it amounts mainly to “confidence building measures,” leaving unclear how it would apply to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Last year, the U.S. and Chinese governments established an agreement establishing what a Pentagon official termed “rules of behavior” for encounters between U.S. and Chinese warships and aircraft to prevent mishaps and misunderstandings.

The portion of that agreement governing naval vessels was completed last year, but a corresponding section on air encounters wasn’t finalized until Friday. Officials said the delay in the air portion of the agreement was because there are fewer international precedents for such accords.

WNU Editor: And it is on these issues where the rules of engagement and behaviour that need to be clarified. Unfortunately .... I do not see any progress on this issue with the current White House .... this is something that is going to be tackled by the next administration.

Disturbing Pictures Being Released That Show Dead Haj Pilgrims Being Bulldozed And Dumped Into A Pile (Warning Graphic)

WNU Editor: If these pics are accurate .... Saudi Arabia deserves the condemnation that many are now voicing.

Update: The death toll is climbing .... Death toll reportedly climbs to at least 1,100 in Saudi Arabia hajj stampede (FOX News).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Steven Spielberg Tried To Make Hillary Clinton Likeable .... And Failed

Photo: Steven Spielberg received a National Humanities Medal in 1999 from then-President Clinton as Hillary Rodham Clinton looked on. (Photo: Win McNamee/Reuters)

New York Post: Spielberg tried – and failed – to make Hillary seem likeable

In his new book, “Unlikeable,” journalist Edward Klein unveils the lengths Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign will go to avoid the mistakes of the 2008 race — when Obama famously said, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.” In an exclusive excerpt to The Post, Klein reveals how Bill Clinton reached out to a famous friend for help.

Hillary was taking lessons on how to be more likeable.

She was doing it for Bill, not for herself. It was all his idea.

One evening while they were having drinks with friends, he turned to Hillary and said, “Let’s ask Steven for help.”

Their old Hollywood buddy Steven Spielberg could supply Hillary with acting coaches to help her when she had to give a speech.

Hillary didn’t think she needed help.

“I get $250,000 to give a speech,” she said, according to one of her friends, “and these Hollywood jackasses are going to tell me how to do it!”
But Bill insisted.

WNU Editor: I love to read up on American politics .... and this post is priceless .... and you just know that it is probably accurate.

Putin's Favorite Muslim Is Insane

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) met with Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 4, 2014. Reuters

Anna Nemtsova, The Daily Beast: The Kremlin’s Favorite Muslim, Kadyrov, Goes Too Far

Putin’s most ambitious and ruthless supporter in Chechnya appears to be spinning out of control, with deadly consequences.

MOSCOW — Earlier this month, the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, informed his more than one million followers on social networks that he had become “the happiest man in this land.” Something had come to pass that he never could have dreamed of, he said. He had had a transfusion, he said, from a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, so now he has the Prophet’s blood flowing through his veins.

In a not-for-attribution conversation last week, a Russian government official told The Daily Beast that the blood transfusion was seen in Moscow, as “something totally insane and wild,” but that it hardly the worst of the bad news about Kadyrov.

The Russian opposition has taken to accusing the Chechen leader, publicly, of murder.

WNU Editor: I have never been a fan of this lunatic .... and Anna Nemtsova nails it in her post. Unfortunately .... he is one of many in Chechnya .... and he is not the worse.

President Obama's Security Doctrine Is Failing

Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal: Syria War Tests Obama’s Security Doctrine

The lack of good options tails the president as he meets world leaders this week at the United Nations.

Every president, it seems, gets one foreign-policy problem from hell, one that defies resolution, that refuses to be ignored, that tests the White House’s strategic theories—and that hangs over the presidential legacy.

Jimmy Carter had Iran, Ronald Reagan had Lebanon, Bill Clinton had the Balkans and George W. Bush had Iraq.

For President Barack Obama, it’s increasingly clear that his problem is Syria. The mess there tails him as he moves around the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week. It will produce some tense moments when he meets Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is taking advantage of the chaos in Syria to establish a bigger foothold for himself in the Middle East.

WNU editor: President Obama's security doctrine is not working .... especially when I read stories like this one .... Syrian rebel commander who turned over equipment to militants says he was threatened (Washington Post). But while the focus is on Syria, today's disaster in Afghanistan may end up eclipsing all the other disasters combined .... Afghan Taliban seize Kunduz city center in landmark gain (Reuters).