Thursday, June 22, 2017

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- June 22, 2017


The Drive: Missile Laden Su-27 Gets Between NATO F-16 And Russian Defense Minister's Jet

The intercept is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat interactions that are only likely to increase in the coming months.

An F-16 Viper has intercepted a Russian aircraft carrying the country’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, briefly escorting the Tu-154 VIP plane as it flew over the Baltic Sea. Soon after, a fully armed Su-27 Flanker zoom in and appeared to warn off the NATO fighter jet. The incident follows a significant uptick in aerial incidents in the region amid a flurry of military maneuvers and cool relations between Moscow and Washington and other NATO members.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- June 22, 2017

Watch This F-16 ‘Air Pirate’ Make The Russian Defense Minister’s Plane Very Nervous -- Task & Purpose

Russian bombers intercept two US reconnaissance aircraft over Baltic Sea -- TASS

NATO-Russian Aerial Intercepts Intensify Amid Escalation in Europe -- Sputnik

Russia retaliates for NATO drills, U.S. sanctions -- CBS

NATO's Buildup Pushes 'Situation at Russian Border Toward Deterioration' -- Sputnik

Defense chief notes Russia’s western borders heating up as NATO activity surges -- TASS

Russia To Beef Up Military Forces On Western Flank, Citing NATO Threat -- RFE

Around 20 military bases to be established in western Russia before year-end -- TASS

Russia anticipates final flight tests for MiG-35 this year -- Defense News

Sale of 'Formidable' Ka-52 to Egypt Boosts Russia's Middle East Market Clout -- Sputnik

Israeli commanders reveal plans for mass evacuation of Lebanese civilians in next war -- Defense News

Watch: Indian Army Tests Its New Howitzer M-777 Guns -- Swarajyamag

For Second Year In A Row, Assault Rifles Made In India Rejected By Army -- NDTV

China Cancels Military Meeting With Vietnam Over Territorial Dispute -- New York Times

China's J-10B fighter jet to join competition of int'l military game -- Xinhaunet

Pentagon Chief 'Committed to Improving US-China Defense Relationship' -- Sputnik

Air Force chief hopes for 'return to normalcy' after shootdown of Syrian fighter -- Air Force Times

US Navy ballistic missile intercept test fails -- Navy Times

New Version of US-Japan Interceptor Fails to Shoot Down Missile -- Sputnik

"Ready to fight tonight": How the U.S. Army counters North Korea threats -- CBS

Republican lawmakers set to introduce legislation calling for a 355-ship Navy -- Defense News

Navy needs more aircraft carriers, subcommittee says -- Navy Times

Investigators Believe USS Fitzgerald Crew Fought Flooding For An Hour Before Distress Call Reached Help -- USNI News

US Navy changes female ball cap and earring rules -- Navy Times

Army Tanks Slowly Going Green in Europe -- Military.com

The F-22 Fighter Jet Restart Is Dead: Study -- Military.com

US industrial base at risk for key rocket motor ingredient -- Defense News

Launch of military’s new space-based satellite tracker delayed two months -- Space Flight

Space Corps: Lawmakers Lay Groundwork for New Military Branch -- Popular Mechanics

Air Force knocks House plan for new military space branch -- Washington Examiner

House Budget Republicans agree to boost military funding -- Military Times/AP

Civilian oversight of military: How Trump is testing its minimum levels -- Peter Grier, CSM

Former Navy SEAL testifies about wound during Bowe Bergdahl search -- Army Times

Bowe Bergdahl's lawyers want to know if potential jurors voted for Trump -- Washington Examiner

Global Demand for US Weapons ‘Busier Than Ever’ in Trump Era, So Far -- Defense One

After 10 Years Someone Has Finally Realised That The Afghan Army Uniform Is Not Suitable For The Terrain Of Afghanistan



New York Times: A Dumb Decision’: U.S. Said to Waste $28 Million on Afghan Army Camouflage

The United States spent up to $28 million more than it had to on camouflage uniforms for the Afghan National Army because of the sartorial tastes of a single Afghan official, an American government watchdog said on Wednesday.

A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that the Pentagon needlessly spent millions to license a proprietary camouflage pattern that replicates lush forests. Most of Afghanistan’s landscape, however, is desert, and the Defense Department owns dozens of similar patterns it could have used free, the report said.

“They picked the pattern based on a fashion preference, not by experts, but by the minister of defense,” said John F. Sopko, the special inspector general. “That was a dumb decision.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have seen this Afghan Army camouflage pattern for years .... and I have commented before that it never made sense to me on why were these soldiers wearing a uniform that did not blend in at all with what Afghanistan looks like. To say that this was an unbelievably dumb decision is an understatement. And blaming it on an Afghan official is even dumber. The U.S. paid for these uniforms .... they knew what they were buying .... or at least they should have stopped the contract immediately when they realised what they were buying. But apparently no one wanted to do anything ....  even senior U.S. generals who saw first hand what the Afghan soldiers were wearing but choose to say nothing .... AND THIS WENT ON FOR 10 YEARS!!!!!

More News On The SIGAR Report On Afghan Army Uniforms

These Afghan army uniforms cost American taxpayers $28 million 'in the name of fashion' -- Military Times
Pentagon Accused of Wasting Up to $28M on ‘Inappropriate’ Afghan Soldier Uniforms -- NBC
US watchdog decries pricey woodland uniforms for Afghan army -- AFP
Pentagon wasted $28million on woodland camouflage uniforms for Afghan soldiers - even though most of the country is desert -- Daily Mail
Watchdog: Pentagon may have wasted $30 million on buying the wrong pattern of Afghan army uniforms -- FOX News
Pentagon wasted $28 million on uniforms for Afghan soldiers, report says -- USA Today
Pentagon 'wasted $28m' on Afghan camouflaged uniforms -- BBC
Botched Choice For Afghan Army Uniforms Wasted Tens Of Millions Of U.S. Dollars -- NPR
IG Report: U.S. Spent $100 Million on Camouflage That May Make Afghan Army Better Targets -- Washington Free Beacon

President Trump's Afghan Policy Will Be Different From President Obama's



Eli Lake, Bloomberg: How Trump's Afghan Policy Is Different From Obama's

A new approach would aim to empower the government without telegraphing a withdrawal date for U.S. troops.

Every disclosure about the Trump administration's forthcoming Afghanistan strategy triggers a chorus like a Passover seder: Why is this strategy different from all other strategies?

The goal is the same. Like President Barack Obama's initial Afghanistan surge, the objective for Trump's strategy is to force the Taliban into peace talks and to push for a negotiated settlement to the conflict on terms favorable to the elected government.

The means are essentially the same. Like Obama in setting his second-term policy, President Donald Trump has signaled he does not want to send a large force to take back the country, province by province.

The bright line is the same. Like most American politicians since George W. Bush, Trump does not want to get sucked into a money pit of even more nation building.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is one of the best analysis I have read (so far) on what will be the new U.S. approach and strategy towards Afghanistan .... and it falls in line with what I have been saying for the past month on what will be this new U.S. policy/strategy. There has to be a realisation that this is a long term war .... and the U.S. role in cooperation with its allies must focus on provide training and material under the umbrella of the international community (or at least a good part of it) for the Afghan government to fight it. Withdrawal dates and public announcements that the U.S. would leave would only serve (as it has in the past) to embolden the Taliban to continue the war. The involvement of India as a counter to Pakistan is also a good strategy in that it gives the U.S. some leverage on Pakistan and it's support of safe havens for Taliban groups like the Haqqani network. And while I do expect Pakistan to react strongly (and violently) against this U.S. strategy .... in the end it will be Pakistan's interest to change its own policies .... especially if they see themselves isolated if other regional powers (like China) become involved .... which I expect they will do so in time. If I have to hazard a guess .... this new strategy has US Secretary of Defense John Mattis' and Secretary of State Tillerson's fingerprints all over it.

Former MI6 Chief John Sawers: U.S. Declining World Role Under President Trump Is Today's Greatest Menace

Former MI6 Chief John Sawers

AFP: US declining role the biggest threat to global security, says ex-spy chief

Jerusalem (AFP) - A former head of Britain's foreign intelligence agency told an Israeli security conference Wednesday that the United States' declining world role under President Donald Trump is today's greatest menace.

"The biggest threat the world faces is how we all adjust to the progressive withdrawal of responsible American leadership and the network of alliances that America maintained with Europe, with Asian countries and the pattern of alliances and partnerships they had across this region," John Sawers said.

"It's going to have a major disruptive effect and no one is yet adjusting to it," he added.

"It is now having a major impact in the security world, and I think it's how we adjust to that -- the behaviours of other countries trying to take advantage of it -- which poses the biggest threat in the world."

Read more ....

Update: Former MI6 boss: America's declining global leadership under Trump is 'biggest menace to the world' (The Independent)

WNU Editor: There is a lot of blame to go around on why the network of alliances that America maintained with Europe and Asia are in decline .... to begin .... this trend has been ongoing for a very long time. But blaming President Trump for this decline and calling it "the biggest threat to security" .... especially in view of the enormous defence commitments that the White House has dedicated itself to while calling for allies to keep their own promises on their own defense commitments and support .... now that is a stretch.

What The Russian Media Is Saying About U.S. - Russian Relations

Canadian Sniper Makes World Record-Breaking Kill Shot In Iraq


Globe And Mail: Canadian elite special forces sniper makes record-breaking kill shot in Iraq

A sniper with Canada's elite special forces in Iraq has shattered the world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in military history at a staggering distance of 3,450 metres.

Sources say a member of Joint Task Force 2 killed an Islamic State insurgent with a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq. It took under 10 seconds to hit the target.

"The shot in question actually disrupted a Daesh [Islamic State] attack on Iraqi security forces," said a military source, who stressed the operation fell within the strictures of the government's advise and assist mission. "Instead of dropping a bomb that could potentially kill civilians in the area, it is a very precise application of force and because it was so far way, the bad guys didn't have a clue what was happening."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The distance was an incredible 3,450 metres .... almost 1,000 meters over the previous record.

Is President Trump Ready To Handle A Crisis?

President Donald Trump is shown in an official White House handout image meeting with his National Security team and being briefed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford via secure video teleconference after a missile strike on Syria while inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. April 6, 2017. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that this image has been digitally edited for security purposes when he released the photo via Twitter on April 7, 2017. The White House/Handout via REUTERS

Douglas Lute, Politico: Trump’s Not Ready for a Crisis

The White House national security team is still in transition, nearly five months on.

Innside the 18-acre White House compound, the National Security Council process—making key decisions and overseeing their execution—is still in transition nearly five months after President Donald Trump took office. The sooner this transition concludes, the better for our security. In the long run, getting this transition right is far more important than any of the administration’s discrete decisions that have dominated the news since January 20. Based on my firsthand experience in the White House coordinating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last such transition—the departure of the Bush administration and the arrival of the Obama team in 2009—there are two fundamental challenges.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I am not worried .... yet.

A New Ukraine Ceasefire To Start On June 24

7 News/AFP: New East Ukraine ceasefire set for Saturday: separatists

Kiev (AFP) - A fresh ceasefire between pro-Russian separatists entrenched in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian forces will come into force this weekend, Ukraine and the separatists said Wednesday.

The truce, set to start at midnight local time on Saturday, was agreed at a meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine attended by the separatists, said spokeswoman Viktoria Talakina.

The Contact Group is made up of representatives from Kiev, Moscow and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

"The ceasefire will last until August 31," Talakina told the pro-separatist DNR agency. The information was confirmed in Kiev.

Read more ....

WNU editor: I have lost count over the years on how many ceasefires have been announced. in this conflict. I expect this ceasefire to be just another one that will be forgotten in a few weeks.

More News On Reports Of A New Ukraine Ceasefire Starting On June 24

Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists agree new ceasefire -- Belfast Telegraph
Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists agree new ceasefire -- Independent.ie
Contact Group on Ukraine Agrees on Donbass Ceasefire From June 24 -- Sputnik
Contact Group on Ukraine agrees on ceasefire from June 24 -- Xinhuanet

Tweet For Today


WNU Editor: Incredible video.

Citing New U.S. Sanctions Moscow Cancels Meeting With U.S. Diplomats



RT: Moscow cancels meeting with top US diplomat over new sanctions batch

Russia has condemned the new round of US sanctions as a “continuation of the trend set by the Obama administration aimed at ruining relations between our countries” and has promptly canceled a scheduled meeting of senior Russian and American diplomats.

The US Treasury expanded the sanction list on Tuesday, adding 38 individuals and organizations over alleged Russian involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.

Russia vowed to undertake “practical retaliatory measures” over the sanctions and canceled a scheduled meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This cancellation is "small potatoes" to what can (and probably will) happen next if trends continue. When you have a crisis in diplomacy .... the end result is always an increase in global tensions and conflicts .... and no common ground to find a consensus to solve them. Ukraine, North Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East .... these are some of the regional conflicts where Russian involvement is essential to find solutions to very difficult problems. Sanctioning Russian officials at this moment in time is only going to result in blow-back to U.S. efforts .... both on the diplomatic level and more importantly on the ground.

More News On Moscow Cancelling Meeting With U.S. Diplomats

Moscow cancels meeting with U.S. diplomat after sanctions -- Reuters
Russia cancels meeting with US on improving relations amid updated sanctions -- ABC News
Russia cancels talks with US over tightening of sanctions -- CNN
Russia cancels talks after US imposes new sanctions over Ukraine conflict -- The Guardian
Russia Cancels Talks With U.S. Over Latest Round of Sanctions -- Bloomberg
Russia Cancels Talks With US After New Sanctions -- VOA
Russian diplomat cancels meeting over new US sanctions -- The Hill

Picture Of The Day

Bomber Refueling
A B-52H Stratofortress bomber receives fuel from a KC-135R Stratotanker during Baltic Operations 2017 over Latvia, June 14, 2017. The Stratofortress crew is assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Airmen Refuel Aircraft During Baltic Operations 2017 (US Department of Defense)

U.S. Air Force Classified Report On Restarting The F-22 Raptor Fighter Program Has Been Given To Congress


Washington Examiner: Air Force gives House classified report on restarting F-22 program

The Air Force has provided the House a classified report on restarting the F-22 Raptor fighter jet program, congressional staff said Tuesday.

The House Armed Services Committee received the report two days ago, but staff said it was still being reviewed.

House lawmakers ordered the report last year to determine what it would take and how much it might cost to begin producing the high-tech, fifth generation aircraft again.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The report is classified .... but I am willing to bet that its recommendation is to not restart the program. Research and development .... coupled with restarting the production line .... will be too expensive to contemplate with current budget limitations.

Update: No surprise .... The Air Force has no plans to restart the F-22 after a report found big costs (Washington Examiner).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lockheed Martin Commits To Building F-16s In India

Tata group and Lockheed Martin executives sign the F-16 agreement. (Courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

CNN: Lockheed Martin says it will make F-16 fighter jets in India

One of the world's best-known fighter jets could soon be built in India.

Lockheed Martin (LMT) said Monday that it will make its classic F-16 aircraft in the South Asian nation, if the Indian government grants it a contract to supply fighter jets to the country's air force. The U.S. firm will build the jets through a partnership with Indian industrial giant Tata, the companies announced at the Paris Air Show.

Maryland-based Lockheed is hoping to see off competition from Swedish manufacturer Saab and its Gripen fighter for the big potential order from the Indian Air Force.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: There is a huge demand for this jet fighter .... European Allies Want Used F-16s, But Are There Enough to Go Around? (Defense One)

More News On Lockheed Martin Committing To Build F-16s In India

Lockheed Martin, Tata Ink Deal To Make F-16 Fighters In India -- NDTV
Lockheed Martin Agrees to Build F-16 Fighter Jets in India -- The Diplomat
PARIS: Lockheed Martin commits to building F-16 in India -- Flight Global
F-16 fighter planes: Tata, Lockheed Martin ink deal days before Modi-Trump summit -- First Post
F-16 deal turns on the afterburners for 'Make in India' -- Nikkei Asian Review
Lockheed Martin Closer To Relocating F-16 Production To India -- Forbes
Why Lockheed May Move F-16 Production To India From Texas -- Investor's Business Daily
Is Lockheed dumping F-16s on India? -- Vineet Khare, BBC

World Population To Hit 8 Billion In 2023, 9.8 Billion In 2050



The Guardian: World population to hit 8bn in 2023, says new UN survey

New findings show more men than women and that there will be 1bn over-60s next year for the first time

The world’s population will break through the 8 billion mark in 2023, there are more men than women, and next year the number of over 60s will top 1 billion for the first time, according to the latest findings and forecasts from the United Nations annual population survey.

More than half of the global population growth by 2050 will come from sub-Saharan Africa, where fertility rates will persist at levels far higher than in the rest of the world, the UN predictions released on Wednesday show.

Read more ....

Update #1: World population to hit 9.8 billion by 2050, despite nearly universal lower fertility rates – UN (UN News Centre)
Update #2: UN says world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050 -- AP

WNU editor: This sums up the trend that we are now seeing ....

.... Half the growth in numbers of people will come from just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the US, Uganda and Indonesia. By 2050 seven of the world’s 20 most populous nations will be African.

On a side note .... the above video is a must see on how the human population has grown over the centuries.

News And Commentaries On The Appointment Of Mohammed bin Salman, As The New Crown Prince Of Saudi Arabia





Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg: The New Saudi Heir Is a Dangerous Man

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is too inexperienced and too hotheaded for the fraught situation in the Middle East.

The abrupt change in Saudi Arabia's line of royal succession will probably help maintain the House of Saud's sway over its 31 million people, 70 percent of which are under 30. It is, however, a dangerous move in the context of a new Big Game unfolding in the Middle East, which involves the U.S. and Russia as well as local players.

King Salman named his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, as the new crown prince. This is the second succession reshuffle in which the young heir -- and favorite son of the king -- gained influence. In the last two years, MbS, as the new crown prince is often called, was put in charge of Saudi Arabia's two most important portfolios -- defense and the oil industry. He made the diplomatic rounds last month, visiting President Donald Trump in Washington and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Read more ....

News And Commentaries On The Appointment Of Mohammed bin Salman, As The New Crown Prince Of Saudi Arabia

Saudi king empowers young reformer son in succession shake-up -- Reuters
Mohammed bin Salman: Who is Saudi Arabia's new Crown Prince? -- The Independent
Profile: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- BBC
Profile: Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman -- Al Jazeera
Meet Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the yacht-buying future king of Saudi Arabia -- NYDaily News
What Do We Know About the New Saudi Crown Prince? -- Zainab Fattah, Bloomberg
Who Is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince? -- The Atlantic
The Saudi king named his 31-year-old son his successor — here’s what it means for the kingdom’s future -- Elena Holodny, Business Insider
Game of Thrones: What We Know About Saudi Arabia's Next King Mohammed Bin Salman -- Newsweek
Saudi Arabia’s next king is a young, ambitious risk taker -- Aya Batrawy, AP
5 Things You Should Know About Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince -- Haaretz
New Saudi heir, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, built the right Trump ties -- Margaret Talev and Nick Wadhams, Sydney Morning Herald
The New 'King' of Saudi Arabia -- Simon Henderson, Washington institute Far East Policy
Mohammed bin Salman Will Rule Saudi Arabia for Another 50 Years -- Foreign Policy

The Islamic State Has Blown Up The 845 Year-Old Grand al-Nuri Mosque In Mosul Where Their Cliphate Was Declared

ISIS has blown up the iconic al-Nuri mosque where it announced its own so called caliphate in 2014. Pictured: An image of the destruction release by Iraq's Joint Operation Command today



Daily Mail: ISIS 'blows up' the famous al-Nuri mosque in Mosul where leader al-Baghdadi declared so-called caliphate

* The Iraqi army was moving in on Grand Mosque in Mosul's Old city earlier today
* The soldiers got within 50m of the iconic mosque when ISIS militants blew it up
* 'ISIS terror gangs committed another historical crime,' Iraqi military said today
* ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance there in 2014
* The terrorists' flag has flown on its minaret ever since it captured Mosul that year

ISIS has blown up the iconic mosque where it announced its own so called caliphate in 2014, an Iraqi officer has said.

The terror's group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance on the balcony of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul that year.

Iraq's Joint Operation Command today released a satellite image showing the mosque lying in rubble.

The terror group is said to have blown it up to cover its escape as Iraqi soldiers advanced on the Grand Mosque in the Old City, ISIS's last stronghold in Mosul.

'Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City,' Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said today.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: 845 years of history destroyed in a second. Not surprising .... the Islamic State is now blaming the Americans .... Who Blew Up Mosul's Al-Nuri Mosque? (The Atlantic).

More News On The Islamic State Blowing Up The 845 Year-Old Grand al-Nuri Mosque In Mosul Where Their Cliphate Was Declared

Islamic State blows up Mosul mosque where it declared 'caliphate': Iraqi military. -- Reuters
IS blows up Mosul mosque where Baghdadi announced 'caliphate': commander -- AFP
Battle for Mosul: IS 'blows up' al-Nuri mosque -- BBC
Mosul's Grand al-Nouri mosque 'blown up' by Isis fighters -- The Guardian
ISIS Destroys Historic al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraqi Military Says -- NBC
Isis blows up Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul where caliphate was declared, Iraqi army says -- The Independent
Iconic Grand al-Nuri mosque in Iraq's Mosul 'blown up' -- Al Jazeera
ISIS blows up 845-year-old mosque, tries to blame U.S. -- VICE News
Iraq PM says Mosul mosque destruction means ISIS admitting defeat -- Al Arabiya

Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates June 21, 2017



Reuters: Iraqi forces advance on Mosul mosque where IS declared caliphate

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Wednesday began a push towards the mosque in Mosul where Islamic State declared a self-styled caliphate three years ago, military officials said.

The forces had encircled the jihadist group's stronghold in the Old City of Mosul, where the medieval Grand al-Nuri Mosque is located, on Tuesday, they said.

The Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were 200-300 meters (yards) away from the mosque, an Iraqi military statement said, a view supported by a senior commander of the international coalition fighting Islamic State.

The U.S.-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the Mosul offensive that started on Oct. 17.

Read more ....

Battle For The Iraqi City Of Mosul -- News Updates June 21, 2017

Deep in Mosul, US forces support Iraq's fight -- AFP
IS blows up Mosul mosque where Baghdadi announced 'caliphate': commander -- AFP
Iraqi troops encircle Mosul's Old City -- Al Jazeera
Islamic State stronghold in Mosul 'surrounded by US-backed forces' -- SKY News
Iraqi forces advance on Mosul mosque where Daesh declared "caliphate" -- TRT World
Iraqi forces aim to retake Great Mosque of Mosul -- The Times
EXCLUSIVE: Embedded with Iraqi troops battling to retake Mosul from IS group -- France 24
Over 700,000 civilians displaced from western Mosul since February: Ministry -- Iraqi News
Nineveh council says feuds break out between Mosul civilians and IS families -- Iraqi News
Aid workers readying for Mosul exodus: UNHCR -- AFP
Mosul: Australian nurse describes life on the front line, treating patients caught in crossfire -- ABC News Online
Covering Mosul: a deadly city in a dangerous country -- AFP

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- June 21, 2017



Mohamad Bazzi, The Guardian: The Growing U.S.-Iran Proxy Fight in Syria

The scramble for Islamic State territory is raising the risks of escalation.

On Sunday evening, a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian jet after it bombed American-backed rebels in northern Syria. This marked the first time the United States has downed a Syrian warplane since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011. On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that the United States had shot down an Iranian-made drone in the country’s southeast, where American personnel have been training anti-Islamic State fighters.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- June 21, 2017

‘ISIL has two options – to surrender or to die’ -- Florian Neuhof, The National

The Guardian view on the fall of Raqqa: the deadliest phase -- The Guardian editorial

Assad Still Must Go -- Michael Totten, The Tower

Outcome of battle in Mosul will shape Iraq’s future -- Gulf News editorial

The significance of the battle for Mosul’s Great Mosque: This is where modern Iraqi history meets the medieval -- Thomas Ricks, Foreign Policy

Five takeaways from Iran’s missile strike in Syria -- M.K. Bhadrakur, Asia Times

In Saudi Shakeup, Economics Tops Counterterrorism -- Meghan L. O’Sullivan, Bloomberg

Three things to watch as Saudi names new heir to throne -- AFP

North Korea’s Real Strategy -- Christopher Hill, Project Syndicate

Fear and loathing on the Afghan Silk Road -- Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

The Folly of Sending More U.S. Troops to Afghanistan -- Rob Givens, National Interest

America Must Confront Pakistan's Support of Afghan-Based Terrorism -- Javid Ahmad, National Interest

When will Suu Kyi challenge the military? -- Bertil Lintner, Asia Times

Why are Sahel countries deploying an anti-jihad force? -- Ahamadou CISSE, AFP

Vladimir Putin’s man in the Balkans -- Howard Amos, Politico

World News Briefs -- June 21, 2017 (Evening Edition)

The leaning Hadba minaret is pictured on June 19, 2017 in Mosul

AFP: IS blows up Mosul mosque where Baghdadi announced 'caliphate': commander

Jihadists on Wednesday blew up Mosul's iconic leaning minaret and the adjacent mosque where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" in his only public appearance in 2014, an Iraqi commander said.

The Islamic State group swiftly issued a statement via its Amaq propaganda agency blaming a US strike.

"Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 metres (yards) of the Nuri mosque, Daesh (IS) committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba" mosque, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Islamic State blows up Mosul mosque where it declared 'caliphate': Iraqi military.

Deep in Mosul, US forces support Iraq's fight.

Iraqi forces advance on Mosul mosque where IS declared caliphate.

Aid workers readying for Mosul exodus: UNHCR.

Syria war: Polio paralyses 17 children in Mayadin and Raqqa.

Saudis, allies have list of demands for Qatar: US.

U.S. State Dept. critical of Saudi Arabia's handling of Qatar embargo.

Mohammed bin Salman named Saudi Arabia's crown prince. Saudi king ousts nephew to name son as first in line to throne.

Egypt sends fuel to power-starved Gaza, undercuts Abbas.

Israel boasts of 'unimaginable' power in future Lebanon war.

ASIA

Afghan Taliban release new video of US, Australian hostages.

In high-level talks, U.S. asks China to do more to rein in North Korea.

US spy satellites detect activity at North Korean nuclear test site.

N. Korea is open to moratorium on nuclear, missile tests: report.

'Islamic State'-allied militants attack village in the Philippines. Police: Gunmen holding hostages after raiding village.

Teenager threatens to blow himself up at US base in Afghanistan.

Australia to resume anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria – defense chief.

In unusual move, Xi appoints top party leader to lead daily affairs of key committee.

US warns Chinese firms with ties to North Korea may still face sanctions.

Warmbier’s death looms over US-China talks on North Korea.

North Korea promoting tourism in wake of Warmbier death.

South Korean leader says he shares 'common' goal with Trump.

'Secret recordings' scandal hits New Zealand prime minister months before election.

China invites Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to Beijing, sources say.

AFRICA

Mali delays constitutional referendum to cool tensions.

Congo peacekeepers accused of sex abuse to leave C. Africa: UN.

CAR violence: Deadly clashes in Bria despite ceasefire deal. 'Dozens killed' in CAR's Bria despite ceasefire deal. Around 100 killed in C. Africa after truce deal.

New report blames South Sudan military for civilian deaths.

UN: South Sudan's famine is over, but situation remains dire.

Refugees from war-torn S.Sudan find 'safety' in Darfur.

UN warns against refugee returns to Nigeria from Cameroon.

Egypt court halts verdicts on islands transfer deal.

Nigerian man pleads guilty to taking part in global email scams.

EUROPE

Russia cancels diplomatic meeting in wake of US sanctions.

Ukrainian government, separatists agree on new cease-fire.

Brussels on high alert as extra security deployed at landmarks, events. Narrow escape for Brussels after 'nail bomb misfires'.

Russia regrets new US sanctions, mulls retaliatory moves.

Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu ousted by own party in no-confidence vote. Romanian PM ousted in MPs revolt.

French cabinet: Two more ministers resign.

Greece’s Tsipras lays out prospect of bond market return.

Britain's May promises to listen harder on Brexit: Queen's Speech.

Britain’s Prince Philip admitted to hospital with infection.

AMERICAS

Congress hears sinister tale of Russia election meddling.

Angry Dems turn against leaders after House election losses.

Republican avoids upset in costly Georgia congressional race.

Illinois careens into financial meltdown – and not even the lottery is safe.

Venezuela faces increased regional pressure to end crisis.

Venezuelan president sacks military top brass amid abuses.

'Send in the Marines... but they will be met with a crushing response': Venezuela's foreign minister lashes out at the US over plans to mediate crisis which has left 74 dead.

Brazilian police deliver graft investigation against Temer.

Two-month countdown begins to total solar eclipse across U.S..

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Canada urges Qatar to fight terror financing.

Official: FBI looking at terrorism in Flint airport stabbing.

CENTCOM confirms Islamic State’s ‘Grand Mufti’ killed in airstrike.

Google ramps up efforts to combat online terrorism, recruitment efforts.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines launch joint patrols to tackle ISIS threat.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

S&P, Dow end lower, Nasdaq lifted by healthcare, tech sectors.

George Clooney just sold his tequila business for up to $1 billion.

Oil price at seven month low, equities struggle.

Apple opens new round in battle with Qualcomm.

Uber boss Travis Kalanick resigns under investor pressure.

Commentaries And Analysis On The Possibility Of A U.S. - Russian War Over Syria



DW: Are US and Russia inching toward confrontation in Syria?

The downing of a Syrian military plane by a US fighter jet is the latest - and perhaps most serious - sign of a stepped-up US military role in the war. That could put the United States on a collision course with Russia.

When a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Russian-made Syrian SU-22 warplane after it reportedly attacked US-supported fighters near the embattled city of Raqqa, it did not take long for Moscow to respond to what it viewed as an "aggression" against Syrian government forces, which the Kremlin backs.

Russian officials not only suspended the so-called deconfliction channel with the United States that was set up to avoid potential military incidents between the two countries, but also said the military would shoot down any foreign aircraft west of the Euphrates River, which they consider the Kremlin's area of operations.

Read more ....

Commentaries And Analysis On The Possibility Of A U.S. - Russian War Over Syria

By keeping U.S. focus on Islamic State, Trump risks wider Syria war -- Phil Stewart and Jonathan Landay, Reuters
As Syria’s war enters its endgame, the risk of a US-Russia conflict escalates -- Mary Dejevsky, The Guardian
The US and Russia may be getting closer to a military confrontation -- Alex Ward, VOX
Are Russia and the US About to Go to War Over Syria? -- Mike Pearl, VICE News
Syria war: Tensions between America and Russia escalate as countries clash over drones and airspace -- Mythili Sampathkumar, The Independent
Trump Could Get Us Into a War by Accident: The president’s lack of a coherent Syria strategy is incredibly dangerous. -- Ilan Goldenberg, Slate
After the ISIS War, a US-Russia Collision? -- Patick J. Buchanan, Rasmussen Reports
Is Russia Ready to Fire at US Military Jets in Syria? -- Damien Sharkov, Newsweek
What’s really going on in America’s confrontation with Russia in Syria -- Max de Haldevang, Quartz
Pentagon downplays risk of war with Russia over Syria -- Washington Examiner

U.S. Air Force Pilot Ejects From His F-16 After It Catches Fire On The Ground

NBC

FOX News: Air Force pilot ejects after F-16 catches fire on ground

A military pilot at Houston’s Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base was injured Wednesday after ejecting from an F-16 that caught fire on the ground, the Houston Fire Department said in a pair of tweets.

The pilot was transported to a hospital with minor injuries, officials said.

Fire crews were en route to Ellington “to assist” with the “downed plane,” which reportedly caught on fire just before takeoff around 10:45 a.m. local time.

The field was closed and placed under an evacuation order covering a 4,000 square-foot radius after the incident. Authorities said there was no threat to any nearby residents.

Read more ....

Update #1: F-16 Jet Catches Fire at Houston Airport; Pilot Ejects (AP)
Update #2: Pilot ejects from F-16 at Ellington Airport (KHOU-Houston)
Update #3: Pilot ejects himself from burning F-16 during takeoff at Ellington Field (ABC News)

WNU Editor: Apparently he ejected when he was on the ground and preparing to take-off.

US Spy Satellites Are Detecting Activity At North Korea's Nuclear Test Site





CNN: US spy satellites detect activity at North Korean nuclear test site

Washington (CNN)US spy satellites have detected new activity at North Korea's underground nuclear test site for the first time in several weeks, two US officials told CNN.

The activity appears to involve some modifications around one of the tunnel entrances to an underground test area.

The officials said it is not yet clear if the activity indicates a sixth nuclear test is imminent, but noted there is concern that North Korea could set off a test during Wednesday's visit to Washington by top Chinese diplomats and military officials.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The North Koreans do this every 6 months .... North Korea ‘willing to talk’ with US about nuclear moratorium (News.com.au).

More News On US Spy Satellites Detecting Activity At North Korea's Nuclear Test Site

US-China to meet as ‘activity detected’ at North Korea nuclear test site -- The Telegraph
North Korean nuke test site sees more buildup as tensions rise -- FOX News
As US and China Meet, North Korea Nuclear Activity Spotted at Missile Site -- Newsweek
US detects new activity at North Korean nuclear test site: report -- The Hill
What's Happening With North Korea's Nuclear Site? Activity Overshadows US-China Meeting -- International Business Times

My Take On The Republican Victory In Georgia's Special Congressional Election



Reuters: Trump seizes on Republican victory in Georgia to push agenda

U.S. President Donald Trump knocked Democrats on Wednesday for obstructing his agenda, one day after a fellow Republican won a congressional race in Georgia that was widely seen as a referendum on his young, turbulent presidency.

Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel on Tuesday defeated political newcomer Democrat Jon Ossoff, 52 percent to 48 percent. The 4-point win in the most expensive congressional race in history was a blow to Democrats, who sought to wrest control of a suburban Atlanta district that Republicans have held since the 1970s.

The election will not significantly change the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I do not live in the U.S. .... but here is my take on what I am seeing. After outspending the Republican opponent 7 to 1, and getting (only God knows on how much) massive free advertising from the main stream media .... to lose like this .... with all the energy that was poured into the race and against an opponent who looks like a mom from a 1950s sitcom .... must be devastating for Democrats, and the post-election analysis shows it ....

Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: 'Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump' -- New York Times
Angry Democrats in Blame Game After Georgia Defeat -- NBC
Anguished Democrats bicker over meaning of Georgia loss -- The Boston Globe
Not yet, Democrats, not yet. And maybe not ever. -- Tom Toles (Washington Post)

The polls were wrong (again). Arguing that this was a referendum on President Trump was not enough to swing voters (if it swung anyone at all). And as for Democrat momentum .... there is none. As I had mentioned more than once .... if the Democrats want to defeat Republicans .... they have to change their tactics because they are not working. But here is an easy prediction .... the Democrats  are not going to change their tactics or policies .... they cannot nor do they have any interest in doing so.

Update: In the category that this is something that  I cannot make it up .... some are saying that these recent Democrat loses are actually wins .... Karen Handel victory has silver lining for Democrats (Newsweek)

Update #2: Yup .... Jon Ossoff's $23 Million Loss Shows Dems Have No Idea How to Win in the Age of Trump (Patricia Murphy, Daily Beast).

Update #3: Speaking of young voters, this says volumes on what is the political/social culture among the young in America today .... Millennials say student debt as bad as global warming, worse than North Korea (Washington Examiner).

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Testifies On Russian Interference In 2016 Election



CNN: Jeh Johnson hearing: House Russia probe digs into DNC cyberfailings, voter roll hacks

(CNN)The House Russia investigation hearing Wednesday into Russia's efforts to hack state voting systems quickly turned into a grueling examination of the Democratic Party's extensive failings during the election, as Republicans and Democrats grilled former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, pressed Johnson on why the Democratic National Committee rejected the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to help after Russians hacked them.

"It's not even like it was a Republican administration trying to hack in the DNC," King said.

Read more ....

Update: Jeh Johnson testifies on Russian interference in 2016 election -- live updates (CBS/AP)

WNU Editor: Bottom line .... in today's testimony (from what I have seen so far) Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admits that even though there is evidence of Russian interference, he has no proof that the Russians were successful in interfering in last years election.

Update #2: The Russia interference story continues .... Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. states during election: U.S. official (Reuters).

White House Will Make An Announcement This Week On Comey Tapes



Reuters: Trump to make announcement on any Comey tapes this week: White House

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to make an announcement this week about the existence of any tapes of conversations between him and former FBI Director James Comey, the White House said on Tuesday.

"The president has said that he will make an announcement on this. I expect it this week," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a news briefing.

Spicer was responding to a question about whether there are tapes of the conversations with Comey, whom Trump fired last month, and whether they would be turned over to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is probing allegations of Russians meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Read more ....

Update #1: Spicer: Trump will make announcement on Comey tapes this week (The Hill)
Update #2: Trump likely to reveal this week whether secret Comey tapes exist (FOX News)

WNU Editor: I personally do not believe that these tapes exist .... and this is one of those cases on how we (the public) are getting trolled. But it did serve its purpose (from President Trump's point of view) .... when former FBI Director Comey gave his testimony he had to be very careful on what he said knowing that if he was caught in a (he said - he said situation) .... these tapes (if the exist) may embarrass him.

When Will Former Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page Be Allowed To Testify?


Washington Free Beacon: Democrats Block Witnesses from Testifying in House Intel Probe

Scheduled appearance by key witness Carter Page canceled

House Democrats are continuing to block testimony from about a dozen witnesses who sought to appear before the intelligence oversight panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Congressional officials said one of the key witnesses, former informal adviser to the Trump campaign Carter Page, was scheduled to testify at a closed hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

But Democrats on the committee blocked the testimony, asserting they needed more time to prepare.

Read more ....

Update #1: Carter Page: Committees have 'completely blocked' me from testifying (Washington Examiner)
Update #2: Former Trump aide wants chance to testify about alleged Russia connections (The Hill)

WNU Editor:
Last night I was wondering on when will former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page be testifying in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence .... and then I learned that his scheduled appearance was cancelled almost 2 weeks ago by Democrats on the Committee. The same can be said for two other key witnesses who have expressed a desire to testify but have not been scheduled .... Paul Manafort, who served for a time as Trump's campaign manager, and former Trump adviser Roger Stone. These people have been front and center on the entire Russian-collusion story .... you would think that people would want to have them testify under oath. Apparently not. The excuse is that more time is needed for the committee to gather evidence before any testimony is given .... but this case has been going on for almost a year .... you would think they would have at least something by now. The answer ... apparently .... is not. But what is very revealing to me is that the main stream media did not even bother reporting that Paul Manofort's testimony was cancelled .... I had to do some google searching to find out what happened with his testimony (which never happened). From being the big news story for months .... to now not even being mentioned .... I guess that is why they call the drive-by-media the "drive-by-media".. My prediction .... I would not be surprised if most (if not all) of the allegations that have been made against President Trump in the past few months will also disappear with time. As a good friend who is also a lawyer likes to put it to me .... it is easy to accuse someone of something .... but finding evidence of any illegality .... not so easy to prove. The focus will now shift to Robert Mueller's Special Council and his army of lawyers where the hope is that evidence of wrong doing will be found.

Russian Su-27 Warns Off NATO F-16 As It Approached Russian Defense Minister's Plane Over The Baltic Sea (Video)



Daily Mail: Russian fighter jet warns off NATO aircraft by displaying its weapons after the F-16 'buzzed' plane carrying Moscow defence minister over Baltic Sea

* Plane carrying Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu was reportedly 'buzzed'
* But Sukhoi-27 soon arrived to warn it off - by tilting wings and showing weapons
* Comes as Sweden summons Russian ambassador today over similar incident
* Dramatic footage has been released which appears to show the encounter

A Russian fighter jet chased off a NATO aircraft after it buzzed a plane carrying defence minister Sergei Shoigu over the Baltic Sea, Russian news agencies have said.

The F-16 had tried to approach the aircraft carrying the defence minister even though it was flying over neutral waters, agencies said today, before a Russian Sukhoi-27 turned up to warn it off.

Shoigu was reported to be en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad for a meeting to discuss how well Russia's western flank was defended.

In dramatic footage appearing to show the incident unfolding, a Sukhoi-27 can be seen flying between an F-16 and another plane before tilting its wings. The F-16 then seems to fly off.

Read more ....

More News On A Russian Su-27 Warning Off A NATO F-16 As It Approached The Russian Defense Minister's Plane Over The Baltic Sea

WATCH Su-27 Chase NATO F-16 Away From Russian Defense Minister's Plane -- Sputnik
Russian Su-27 warns off NATO F-16 trying to approach defense minister’s plane over Baltic (VIDEO) -- RT
NATO jet approached plane carrying Russian defense minister, reports say -- Washington Post
Russian defense minister's plane buzzed by NATO jet: agencies -- Reuters
Russia says NATO F-16 approached defense minister's plane -- UPI
Russia says NATO F-16 approached defense minister's plane -- UPI
Reports: NATO jet buzzes Russian defense minister's plane -- USA Today
Russia Says NATO Jet Buzzed Defense Minister's Plane -- VOA

World News Briefs -- June 21, 2017

A military vehicle of SDF in west of Raqqa province,Syria June 18, 2017. REUTERS/ Rodi Said

Reuters: U.S.-backed Syrian forces close in on Raqqa from south

U.S.-backed Syrian militias closed in on Islamic State's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa on Wednesday, taking territory on the south bank of the Euphrates River with the aim of encircling the city, a militia spokesman told Reuters.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which include Arab and Kurdish fighters and are supported with air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition, began an offensive two weeks ago to seize the northern city from Islamic State, which overran it in 2014.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Iraqi forces advance on Mosul mosque where IS declared caliphate.

Aid workers readying for Mosul exodus: UNHCR.

Syria war: Polio paralyses 17 children in Mayadin and Raqqa.

U.S. State Dept. critical of Saudi Arabia's handling of Qatar embargo.

Mohammed bin Salman named Saudi Arabia's crown prince. Saudi king ousts nephew to name son as first in line to throne.

Egypt sends fuel to power-starved Gaza, undercuts Abbas.

Israel boasts of 'unimaginable' power in future Lebanon war.

ASIA

'Islamic State'-allied militants attack village in the Philippines. Police: Gunmen holding hostages after raiding village.

Teenager threatens to blow himself up at US base in Afghanistan.

Australia to resume anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria – defense chief.

In unusual move, Xi appoints top party leader to lead daily affairs of key committee.

US warns Chinese firms with ties to North Korea may still face sanctions.

Warmbier’s death looms over US-China talks on North Korea.

North Korea promoting tourism in wake of Warmbier death.

South Korean leader says he shares 'common' goal with Trump.

'Secret recordings' scandal hits New Zealand prime minister months before election.

China invites Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to Beijing, sources say.

AFRICA

CAR violence: Deadly clashes in Bria despite ceasefire deal. 'Dozens killed' in CAR's Bria despite ceasefire deal. Around 100 killed in C. Africa after truce deal.

New report blames South Sudan military for civilian deaths.

UN: South Sudan's famine is over, but situation remains dire.

Refugees from war-torn S.Sudan find 'safety' in Darfur.

UN warns against refugee returns to Nigeria from Cameroon.

Egypt court halts verdicts on islands transfer deal.

Nigerian man pleads guilty to taking part in global email scams.

EUROPE

Brussels on high alert as extra security deployed at landmarks, events. Narrow escape for Brussels after 'nail bomb misfires'.

Russia regrets new US sanctions, mulls retaliatory moves.

Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu ousted by own party in no-confidence vote. Romanian PM ousted in MPs revolt.

French cabinet: Two more ministers resign.

Greece’s Tsipras lays out prospect of bond market return.

Britain's May promises to listen harder on Brexit: Queen's Speech.

Britain’s Prince Philip admitted to hospital with infection.

AMERICAS

Republican avoids upset in costly Georgia congressional race.

Illinois careens into financial meltdown – and not even the lottery is safe.

Venezuela faces increased regional pressure to end crisis.

Venezuelan president sacks military top brass amid abuses.

'Send in the Marines... but they will be met with a crushing response': Venezuela's foreign minister lashes out at the US over plans to mediate crisis which has left 74 dead.

Brazilian police deliver graft investigation against Temer.

Two-month countdown begins to total solar eclipse across U.S..

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

CENTCOM confirms Islamic State’s ‘Grand Mufti’ killed in airstrike.

Google ramps up efforts to combat online terrorism, recruitment efforts.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines launch joint patrols to tackle ISIS threat.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Oil price at seven month low, equities struggle.

Apple opens new round in battle with Qualcomm.

Uber boss Travis Kalanick resigns under investor pressure.