Monday, December 31, 2018

Picture Of The Day

Assault on the positions of soldiers of the Daesh terrorist organisation (outlawed in Russia) near a former Palestinian refugee camp Yarmuk in a southern suburb of Damascus. © Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresenskiy

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Sputnik's Best Photos of 2018 (Part 1).

Some Of The Developers Behind Russia's Hypersonic Weapons Program Have Been Accused Of Being Spies

MiG-31K with hypersonic missile "Kinzhal" /

Anna Nemtsova & David Axe, Daily Beast: Putin Claimed His Hypersonic Missiles Were Invincible. Then He Jailed the Developers.

Back in the ‘re-set’ era, Russian scientists collaborated with the West to develop hypersonic re-entry vehicles. Now the FSB claims some of those scientists were spies.

MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin frequently boasts about this country’s new hypersonic nuclear weapons, intercontinental missiles capable of flying 20 times faster than the speed of sound. The Russian leader reminds the world again and again that because of these weapons no anti-missile system can deprive Russia of its military power, simply because nobody has “invincible” missiles as fast as Russia’s and nobody else has its secret technology.

But when Putin praises the scientists who design the rockets he neglects to mention that some of the most brilliant minds behind Russian hypersonic research are behind bars, under investigation for treason and accused of leaking secrets to foreign colleagues now classified as enemies of the Motherland.

Read more ....

WNU editor:  These Russian scientists are being used by the Kremlin as an example to other scientists that collaborating with Western scientists may have a price.

U.S. Strategic Command Apologizes For Tweet About Dropping Nuclear Bombs

An official Twitter account run by the United States military posted and then deleted a video on Monday bragging about dropping massive bombs

Daily Mail: 'We are ready to drop something much bigger': U.S. military sparks outrage after posting New Year's Eve video bragging about thermonuclear bombs in bizarre joke about the Times Square ball drop

* United States Strategic Command operates nuclear-armed stealth bombers
* USSTRATCOM posted video on Twitter on New Year's Eve
* Video showed B-2 Spirit stealth fighter unleashing heavy bombs
* The clip was meant for New Year's Eve and made reference to the ball drop
* 'We are ready to drop something much bigger,' the tweet bragged
* Twitter users were outraged over military's 'joke about nuclear armageddon'
* Later on Monday evening, USSTRATCOM posted another tweet apologizing

An official Twitter account run by the United States military posted and then deleted a video on Monday bragging about dropping massive bombs.

The tweet, which was posted as Americans get ready to ring in the New Year, noted that the ball was set to drop in Times Square when the clock strikes midnight late Monday.

The tweet by U.S. Strategic Command then goes on to brag: ‘If ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.’

Read more .....

More News On U.S. Strategic Command Apologizing For Tweet About Dropping Nuclear Bombs

U.S. Strategic Command apologizes for tweet about dropping bombs -- Reuters
U.S. Strategic Command deletes New Year's Eve joke about dropping something 'bigger -- NBC
US military tweets, deletes New Year's Eve message about dropping bombs -- CNN
US military apologizes for New Year's tweet about dropping bombs -- The Hill
U.S. Strategic Command Helpfully Reminds World It Could Still Annihilate Everyone Before Midnight -- Gizmodo

Apple Believes It Is Not OK To Kill The Taliban In A Video Game

Apple Removes Video Game That Portrays Taliban As the Enemy

Michael Peck, Task & Purpose/The National Interest: Apple Removes Video Game That Portrays Taliban As the Enemy

The U.S. government says it's okay to kill Taliban insurgents battling American troops in Afghanistan.

Apple says it's not okay to kill the Taliban in a video game.

The technology giant pulled a wargame simulating the current war in Afghanistan from its App Store last month. “Afghanistan '11 is a simulation of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan (an expansion pack features Britain's Royal Marines). It's a detailed simulation where players assume the role of a U.S. military commander, who must perform counterinsurgency operations such as hunt and destroy Taliban fighters while not antagonizing the local population."

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  It is just a game.

China's Railgun Goes Out To Sea

Popular Mechanics: China’s Railgun Has Reportedly Gone to Sea

China has beat America in placing railguns on ships, but how far ahead it actually is, that’s a good question.

According to a new report, China may have beaten the U.S. to mounting a railgun on a ship.

A naval vessel called the Haiyangshan, carrying what appears to be a railgun on the bow, allegedly left the confines of the Yangtze River and is being tested on the Pacific Ocean. First spotted in January of 2018, the railgun appears to be the first put on a warship by any country—the United States included. Whether or not China is actually ahead of the U.S. in the world of railgun tech is an open question.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: It is hard to believe that The U.S. was once the leader in this technology.

Chinese Has Set Up A Massive Communications Grid To Keep Long-Range Communications Open With Its Submarines

A US Navy chart showing various submarine communications options and their relative risk. The "bell" icon for VLF/ELF "stealth" transmissions reflects that these are one-way only "bell ringers" typically used to alert a submarine that it needs to find a safe place to get closer to the surface to receive additional information. USN

Warzone/The Drive: China's NYC-Sized 'Earthquake Warning System' Array Sounds More Like A Way To Talk To Submarines

With the largest submarine force on Earth, the Chinese increasingly need long-range communications options that don't require the boats to surface.

China has reportedly constructed a massive extremely low frequency, or ELF, antenna array the size of New York City, as well as a smaller system and associated data processing and signal transmission facilities at various locations throughout the country. Officially, the entire system, known as Project Wireless Electromagnetic Method or Project WEM, will support the Chinese resource extraction industry and provide early warning about potential earthquakes. However, there is significant evidence that its primary function may actually be to provide long-range communication with Chinese submarines, a critical capability to support its growing number of nuclear-armed ballistic missile boats.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China is thinking global.

Watch Fighter Jets Zoom Through “Star Wars Canyon” In Death Valley, California

Popular Mechanics: Watch Fighter Jets Zoom Through “Star Wars Canyon”

Located in Death Valley, California, Star Wars Canyon is one of the best places in the world to see fighter planes flying at low level.

No, this isn't the desert world of Tatooine. It just looks like it.

The now-famous "Star Wars Canyon" in Death Valley, Calif., is so named for its resemblance to Luke Skywalker's home. Among aviation enthusiasts, though, the place is best known as the best place in the Western U.S., if not the whole of the North America, to watch fighter jets and even transport aircraft practice flying low and fast.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Watching videos like this one never gets old.

Protests Against The Rule Of Sudanse President Omar al-Bashir's Continue

Al Jazeera: Sudan police fire teargas, live ammunition at Khartoum protesters

Omar al-Bashir marks independence day in televised speech, as protesters continue to call for his resignation.

Sudanese security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition at hundreds of demonstrators in central Khartoum on Monday as demonstrators attempted to march to President Omar al-Bashir's palace calling on him to step down.

Crowds of men and women chanting "freedom, peace and justice" and "revolution is the people's choice" gathered in the capital's downtown area where they were quickly confronted by anti-riot police, witnesses told AFP.

Read more ....

More News On The Growing Protests In Sudan

Security forces fire teargas at protesters in Khartoum: witnesses -- Reuters
Sudan riot police stop march on presidential palace -- AFP
Dozens have been killed by the regime. But Sudan’s protesters march on -- The Guardian
Chaos in Khartoum as Sudanese forces break up protest against Omar Al Bashir -- The National
Rights group urges Sudan to halt use of lethal force -- FOX News/AP
The uprising in Sudan may have started over bread prices, but it's really about so much more -- Yassmin Abdel-Magied, The Independent
Rebellion brewing in Sudan over Bashir rule -- East African
Anger over dictatorship, not bread, fueling Sudan uprising -- DW
Janjaweed, ghost squads and a divided nation: How Sudan's Bashir stays in power -- Yousra Elbagir and Nima Elbagir, CNN

Iranian Security Forces Clash With Students At Tehran’s Azad University

Reuters: Iranian security forces clash with students at bus crash protest

LONDON (Reuters) - Security forces clashed with students in Iran on Monday in the third day of protests over a deadly bus crash, online videos showed, adding to officials’ fears that rising public unrest could threaten national security.

President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation into the accident at Tehran’s Azad University that killed 10 students last week. Students have protested over the aging transport fleet and lack of accountability from the authorities.

A video on Twitter showed students at a campus in Tehran chanting slogans and demanding the resignation of the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Read more ....

More News On Iranian Security Forces Clashing With Students At Tehran’s Azad University

Iranian Students Clash With Protesters Over Campus Bus Crash -- RFE
WATCH: Casualties caused by bus collision spark protests at Iranian university -- Al Arabiya
Azad University students continue to protest over deaths of classmates -- NCRIran

Burkina Faso Declares Partial State Of Emergency Following Islamist Attacks

DW: Burkina Faso: Islamist attacks prompt state of emergency

A deadly ambush in a northern province on the border to Mali has prompted Burkina Faso's president to declare a state of emergency. Burkina Faso is battling increased attacks by Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

Officials in Burkina Faso announced Monday that President Roch Marc Christian Kabore is declaring a state of emergency in northern provinces following intensified attacks from Islamist groups in the area.

"The president has decided to declare a state of emergency in certain provinces of Burkina Faso," Communications Minister Remis Fulgance Dandjinou said after a special cabinet meeting. "He has also given instructions for specific security measures across the country."

Read more ....

More News On Burkina Faso Declaring A Partial State Of Emergency Following Islamist Attacks

Burkina Faso declares state of emergency in north following attacks -- Reuters
Burkina Faso declares emergency in violence-hit provinces -- AFP
Burkina Faso declares partial state of emergency -- RFI

Chinese President Xi Delivers His New Years Eve Speech To The Nation

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a New Year speech on the eve of the year 2019 in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

Xinhua: Xinhua Headlines: President Xi delivers New Year speech rallying nation for great cause

BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- President Xi Jinping delivered a New Year speech Monday evening, calling on the whole nation to strive for "an unprecedented and great cause" in the year 2019, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Chinese people, who are self-reliant, hardworking and enterprising, have created a China miracle recognized by the world, he said, vowing to rely on the people and push forward the cause step by step.

Read more ....

More News On Chinese President Xi Delivering His New Years Eve Speech To The Nation

Xi Jinping’s New Year’s address: pace of reforms won’t stagnate but challenges lie ahead for China -- SCMP/Reuters
China's President Xi Jinping pledges to continue reforms and open markets in 2019 New Year speech -- AFP
China's Xi Jinping calls on Donald Trump for trade compromise -- Guardian
China’s Xi Wishes Happy New Year to Russia’s Putin -- Sputnik
China’s Xi Urges Self-Reliance Amid Change ‘Unseen in 100 Years’ -- Bloomberg
China will resolutely defend sovereignty, push ahead with BR in 2019: Xi -- Times of India

Iran Boasts That Its New Speedboats Will Have Stealth Abilities

Iranian boats take part in naval war games in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, off southern Iran, April 22, 2010.

Press TV: IRGC speedboats to become radar-evading with new missiles: Top commander

The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)’s Navy says new speedboats operated by the IRGC will be radar-evading and equipped with new missiles.

Rear admiral Alireza Tangsiri made the remarks in an interview with IRNA on Monday, noting that the IRGC’s Navy attaches great importance to high speed and maneuverability in its missions.

“We are planning to equip the IRGC’s speedboats with radar-evading stealth technology while increasing their speed in order to conduct their missions,” the Iranian commander said, adding that “new missiles moving at very high speed are being installed on the IRGC’s naval vessels.”

Read more ....

More News On Iran Boasting That Its New Speedboats Will Have Stealth Abilities

Iran's Revolutionary Guards plan to upgrade speed boats with stealth technology -- Reuters
Iran Decks Out Elite Naval Forces With Stealth, Missile Systems -- Bloomberg
Iran to Equip Its Speed Boats With Missiles and Stealth Technology - Report -- Sputnik

U.N. Accuses Houthi Rebels Of Stealing Food Aid Putting At Risk Millions With Famine

BBC: Yemen war: WFP accuses Houthi rebels of diverting food aid

The World Food Programme has demanded Yemen's rebel Houthi movement stops diverting desperately needed food aid from people in areas under its control.

A survey by the UN agency said people in the capital Sanaa had not received rations to which they were entitled.

The WFP said lorries were illegally removing food from distribution areas, with rations sold on the open market or given to those not entitled to it.

There was no response from the Houthis, but they have denied diverting aid.

The UN says some 20 million Yemenis are food insecure and that 10 million of them do not know how they will obtain their next meal.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The UN is blunt in its report. They are basically saying the Houthis have broken their agreement on withdrawing from the port of Hodeida .... UN Calls out Yemen's Houthi Rebels over Peace Gestures (VOA/AP)

More News On The Growing Food/Famine Crisis In Yemen

Corruption robs Yemenis of food as country nears famine -- AP
UN threatens to slash Yemen food aid over theft by rebels -- AP
Cholera and malnutrition in Yemen threatens millions -- Relief Web
Fighting, starvation and disease yield grim crisis in Yemen -- PBS News Hour

Report: 2018 Syrian Death Toll Is Under 20,000

Among those killed in 2018 were 6,349 civilians, 1,437 of them children, Observatory chief Abdel Rahman said. (AFP)

TRT World: Syria war leaves nearly 20,000 dead this year – monitor

According to figures released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this year's annual death toll is the lowest in the country's close to eight-year civil war but the misery persists for its people as the conflict continues.

Syria sees another deadly year with 19,666 people killed including 6,349 civilians, 1,437 of them children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Monday.

"2018 was the lowest annual toll since the start of the conflict," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The death toll for 2017 stood at more than 33,000 and the highest annual figure was reached in 2014 – the year that Daesh proclaimed a so-called "caliphate" over large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq – when 76,000 people were killed.

Read more ....

Update #1: Syria deaths at wartime low in 2018 as Assad made gains (AP)
Update #2: 2018 death toll Syria war's lowest at under 20,000: monitor (AFP)

WNU Editor:  The total number killed after almost 8 years of war stands at around 400,000.

World News Briefs -- December 31, 2018

BBC: Syria conflict: Trump slows down troop withdrawal

US President Donald Trump has now said the abrupt withdrawal of US troops from Syria he announced earlier this month will be carried out "slowly".

"We're slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting Isis [Islamic State] remnants," he tweeted on Monday.

His clarification confirmed remarks by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

When Mr Trump first announced the move, he had said: "They're all coming back and they're coming back now."

Read more ....


2018 death toll Syria war's lowest at under 20,000: monitor.

With U.S. departure, Syria's Manbij braces for upheaval.

Iraqi warplanes strike Islamic State leaders in Syria - military.

Iraq hints at bigger role in Syria after U.S. withdrawal.

Houthi shelling in Hodeidah reported after handover accord.

Corruption robs Yemenis of food as country nears famine.

Mass grave discovered in Iraq's northern Kirkuk province.

Saddam Hussein's daughter publishes last message before his death.

Palestinian superbug epidemic could spread, say doctors.


Taliban holds talks in Tehran on ending Afghan war.

Kim Jong-un writes to S.Korean and U.S. leaders.

S. Korean presidential top secretary refutes civilian surveillance claim.

Hasina wins Bangladesh elections as opposition rejects polls.

China's President Xi Jinping pledges to continue reforms and open markets in 2019 New Year speech.

China says it is 'ready to work with US'.

Vietnam seeks to curb Beijing's South China Sea actions: report.


Burkina Faso: Islamist attacks prompt state of emergency. Burkina Faso declares emergency in violence-hit provinces.

Sudan riot police stop march on presidential palace.

10 troops killed in Niger border clash with 'bandits'.

DRC vote: Opposition says ruling party win would be 'provocation'.

DR Congo election: Internet shut down after presidential vote.

Zambia's president fires army chiefs.

Alleged CAR militia leader Ngaissona to be transferred to ICC.

Fears of Zimbabwe health crisis as row over doctors' pay continues.


Vladimir Putin sends Donald Trump New Year 'greeting message', says Kremlin is 'open to dialogue'.

Russia detains US citizen suspected of spying.

Four dead and 40 missing after Russian tower block collapse.

Brexit: US ambassador to UK Johnson warns on trade deal. US Ambassador: Major trade deal with UK may not be possible.

In France, protests planned amid New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Angela Merkel: Germany to take on greater global responsibility.

UK and France to step up patrols as boat with 12 Iranians lands in Kent.


House Democrats ready bills to reopen government with $1.3 billion for border.

Trump insists an ‘all concrete Wall’ was never abandoned.

Poll: 8-in-10 call illegal immigration a ‘problem,’ 58% say ‘serious’.

Trump's approval holding steady in poll, despite shutdown drama.

Warren announces White House bid, getting early jump on 2020 race.

Populist leaders to attend Jair Bolsonaro's inauguration in Brazil.

Colombia probes alleged plot to assassinate President Iván Duque.


US acknowledges additional civilian deaths in fight against ISIS.

Iraq sentenced 616 foreigners for IS links in 2018.

Egypt police 'kill 40 militants' in raids after tourist bus blast.

Russia brings back children of IS fighters from Iraq.


Global markets in worst year since 2008.

Canada, Japan, Mexico, others ratify successor to failed TPP.

Revised U.S.-S. Korea free trade deal takes effect.

Cyber-attack disrupts distribution of multiple US newspapers.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 31, 2018

Sputnik: Half Of French Syria Bases Have Gaps in Defence as US Troops Leaving – Reports

US troops pulling out of Syria would be leaving their posts from half of the French bases in the region, Turkish media reported Sunday, while exposing the locations of 9 French-occupied sites.

There are at least nine French bases scattered across northern Syria, the investigation carried out by Anadolu Agency revealed, noting that France had expanded its presence in the region since March when the media counted only five French bases.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 31, 2018

Turkish media reveals half of French bases in Syria to get gaps in defenses once US troops withdraw -- RT

US army withdraws from military base in Syrian city of Hasakah -- Al Arabiya

Trump 'orders US troops to slow down Syria withdrawal' -- SKY News

Trump defends Syria troop withdrawal as 'doing what I said I was going to do' -- The Hill

Trump hasn't ordered Afghan troop withdrawal, White House says -- Bloomberg

Pentagon Prioritises Offensive Hypersonic Weapon Amid Russia's Advance – Report -- Sputnik

Navy Pushes Hypersonic Weapon Plan as Putin Boasts He Already Has Them -- Defense Tech/

Mach 5 Arms Race: The U.S. Military Is Racing to Build Hypersonic Weapons -- National Interest

Airport: US Military jet slides off runway during training -- Air Force Times

Four big questions for the Air Force in 2019 -- Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Huntington Ingalls awarded contract for additional work on carrier USS Enterprise -- UPI

Soldiers In Texas Are Putting The Army's Newest Marksman Rifle Through Its Paces -- Warzone/The Drive

Army's Search for Robots Sparks Industry Battle -- AP

DARPA program blending robots in the squad to find and destroy threats -- Military Times

Tickling atoms, Captain America shields and jumping robots: Here are some of the top tech advances from Army scientists in 2018 -- Army Times

Should the Army look at creating heavy-light infantry combinations for the near-peer fight? This captain thinks so. -- Army Times

Mattis farewell: Our department is ‘at its best when times are the most difficult’ -- The Hill

Shanahan poised to rewire the Pentagon with Mattis out -- Defense News

US urges Pacific allies to boost their military presence in South China Sea -- Stars and Stripes

Russia Military News 2018: Historic Year for Vladimir Putin as New Weapons, Strategy Aim to Challenge U.S. -- Newsweek

Russia eyes missile defense buildup on disputed isles near Hokkaido -- The Japan Times

Russian army to get new missile complex S-350 Vityaz in 2019 -- Reuters

Russian security agency arrests 'US spy' in Moscow -- BBC

After heavy investment, China’s next generation of weapons and military equipment nears readiness -- SCMP

China's Navy Now Has a Super Weapon America's Navy Lacks: A Railgun -- National Interest

Experts criticize Japan's radar claim -- UPI

Finally declassified: Swedish pilots awarded US Air Medals for saving SR-71 spy plane -- Air Force Times

The Biggest Nuclear Threats of 2018 Will Follow Us into the New Year -- Joe Cirincione, Defense One

Report: North Korea's Kim Sent Message To President Trump On Nuclear Talks

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

CNBC/Reuters: Amid stalled nuclear talks, North Korea's Kim reportedly sends message to Trump

* North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's "letter-like" message to U.S. President Donald Trump was delivered on Friday through an unspecified channel, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.
* Both sides have struggled to make progress on denuclearization since the two leaders met earlier this year in Singapore.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent a "conciliatory message" to U.S. President Donald Trump amid stalled nuclear negotiations, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Monday.

Kim's "letter-like" message to Trump was delivered on Friday through an unspecified channel, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed diplomatic source. The report did not include details about the substance of the message but said they related to U.S-North Korea talks.

Read more ....

Update: Kim Jong-un Writes to S.Korean and U.S. Leaders (Chosun Ilbo)

WNU Editor: The White House has not confirmed receiving this letter.

CIA-Backed Afghan Forces Accused Of Terrorizing The Public And Undermining The War Effort

A member of the 02 strike force in the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar Province.CreditJim Huylebroek for The New York Times

New York Times: C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger

The fighters hold the line in the war’s toughest spots, but officials say their brutal tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the U.S. mission.

NADER SHAH KOT, Afghanistan — Razo Khan woke up suddenly to the sight of assault rifles pointed at his face, and demands that he get out of bed and onto the floor.

Within minutes, the armed raiders had separated the men from the women and children. Then the shooting started.

As Mr. Khan was driven away for questioning, he watched his home go up in flames. Within were the bodies of two of his brothers and of his sister-in-law Khanzari, who was shot three times in the head. Villagers who rushed to the home found the burned body of her 3-year-old daughter, Marina, in a corner of a torched bedroom.

The men who raided the family’s home that March night, in the district of Nader Shah Kot, were members of an Afghan strike force trained and overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency in a parallel mission to the United States military’s, but with looser rules of engagement.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: These CIA forces may be brutal in how they conduct operations, but even the New York Times admits that they are the only ones who are now holding the line against the Taliban and the Islamic State ....

.... At a time when the conventional Afghan military and police forces are being killed in record numbers across the country, the regional forces overseen by the C.I.A. have managed to hold the line against the most brutal militant groups, including the Haqqani wing of the Taliban and also Islamic State loyalists.

American Arrested In Russia By The FSB For Spying

RFE: Russia's FSB Says It Has Detained A U.S. Citizen For Suspected Spying

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) says it has detained a U.S. citizen in Moscow over suspected spying.

The American -- identified as Paul Whelan -- was detained on December 28 and a criminal probe had been opened, the FSB was quoted as saying by the state-run TASS news agency on December 31.

The TASS report said Whelan could face between 10 to 20 years in prison if found guilty but disclosed no further details.

The announcement comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remained open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year's greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Read more ....

More News On An American Arrested In Russia By The FSB For Spying

‘Caught in the act of spying’: US citizen detained in Moscow ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations -- RT
US citizen detained in Moscow on suspicion of espionage - FSB -- TASS
Russia's FSB Detains US Citizen in Moscow During Spy Action -- Sputnik
Russia detains American citizen in Moscow for suspected spying -- Reuters
'Putin wants a hostage for leverage': Kremlin foe Bill Browder raises suspicion after American is arrested for espionage in Russia for being 'on a spy mission' -- Daily Mail
Russia reportedly detains American over suspected spying -- FOX News
Russia detains US citizen on suspicion of spying -- CNN
American nabbed during a 'spying action,' Russia says -- NBC
Russian security agency arrests 'US spy' in Moscow -- BBC
Russia detains US citizen suspected of spying -- DW
Russia detains US citizen accused of being on 'spy mission' in Moscow -- The Independent

Iran Confirms Hosting Taliban Delegation For Peace Talks

AFP: Iran says Afghan Taliban were in Tehran for peace talks

Tehran (AFP) - Iran said Monday that the Afghan Taliban have visited Tehran for a second round of peace talks in just a few days aimed at bringing an end to 17 years of conflict.

Iran has made a more concerted and open push for peace in neighbouring Afghanistan since US President Donald Trump indicated there would be a significant withdrawal of American troops.

"Yesterday (Sunday), a delegation of Taliban were in Tehran and lengthy negotiations were held with Iran's deputy foreign minister... (Abbas) Araghchi," said spokesman Bahram Ghasemi at a televised news conference.

Read more ....

Update #1: Taliban Held Talks On Afghan Peace In Tehran (TOLO News)
Update #2: Taliban Delegation Held 'Comprehensive' Peace Talks With Iran - Tehran (Sputnik)

WNU Editor: The Taliban are now clearly going full-out in building an international consensus on how the region should react to a Taliban government in Kabul. And the region is hedging its bets that they may succeed.

News And Analysis On The Incoming Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan

The Hill: Five challenges awaiting Mattis's successor

Patrick Shanahan, who will become acting Defense secretary on Jan. 1, will immediately find himself with a full plate of challenges.

The issues that led to Defense Secretary James Mattis’s resignation — troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan — will still be fresh, with several questions about what comes next for Shanahan to answer.

Other geopolitical hotspots and domestic issues alike threaten to flare up shortly after Shanahan takes the reins. And there’s always the possibility of something unexpected emerging from President Trump or a volatile world scene.

Read more ....

News And Analysis On The Incoming Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan

U.S. holds breath as ex-Boeing exec Shanahan, criticized for lack of foreign policy chops, takes Pentagon's reins -- AFP
During a time of chaos, the next Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan brings his corporate style to America's largest bureaucracy -- CNBC
After Mattis, Shanahan takes Pentagon helm at critical time -- AFP
Who Is Mattis' Replacement, Patrick Shanahan? -- NPR
The Trouble With Patrick Shanahan -- John Nichols, The Nation
Replacing Mattis: 4 Things Trump Needs In His Next Secretary of Defense -- National Interest
Meet the Pentagon’s Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Known as a ‘Fix-It Guy’ -- Breitbart

U.S. Secretary Of Defense Jim Mattis’ In His Own Words

Secretary of Defense James Mattis meets with Lithuania's Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis at the Pentagon on Nov. 28, 2018. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/DoD)

Military Times: Mattis’ two years at the Pentagon, in his own words

On his first day on the job, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spent four hours at the Pentagon. He had in-briefings, met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford. He even had to take a urine test, like every other service member and civilian employee.

He also sent out a carefully thought-out message to every service member and defense civilian employee.

“We are the sentinels and guardians of our nation,” Mattis wrote. “We need only look to you, the uniformed and civilian members of the Department and your families, to see the fundamental unity of our country. You represent an America committed to the common good; an America that is never complacent about defending its freedoms; and an America that remains a steady beacon of hope for all mankind.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is how the transfer of authority will occur .... On New Year's Eve, A Brief Phone Call Will Mark The End Of Mattis' Tenure As Defense Secretary (Task & Purpose).

Tweets For Today

Picture Of The Day

Soldiers wait to rappel from UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters during an air assault course at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Sept. 20, 2018. Army photo by Spc. Rolyn Kropf

WNU Editor: The above picture came from this photo-gallery .... Soldiers Conduct Rappelling, Ruck March During Air Assault Course in Germany (US Department of Defense).

U.S. Senator Graham: President Trump Is 'Slowing Down' Syria Withdrawal

Business Insider: Lindsey Graham suggests Trump may have changed his mind on pulling troops out of Syria: 'I think the president's going to finish the job when it comes to ISIS'

* Senator Lindsey Graham may have changed President Trump's mind about pulling troops out of Syria.
* "I think the president's going to finish the job when it comes to ISIS," Graham told reporters after meeting with President Trump Sunday.
* Trump's decision earlier this month to order his staff to execute the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US military from Syria was met with harsh criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

"We are in a pause situation," said Senator Lindsey Graham on pulling out US troops from Syria.

After a White House lunch with President Trump, Graham indicated that Trump may have changed his mind on on the highly criticized decision to pull out of Syria.

Read more ....

More News On U.S. Senator Graham's Remarks That President Trump Is 'Slowing Down' A Syria Withdrawal

Graham says Trump slowing down planned withdrawal from Syria -- AP
Lindsey Graham Suggests Syrian Troop Drawdown Will Take Longer Than 30 Days -- The New York Times
Graham more upbeat on Syria troop withdrawal after Trump meeting -- Reuters
Top Republican says Trump vows to 'destroy' IS before leaving Syria -- AFP
Graham: Trump still wants to leave Syria, but will reevaluate plan to attack ISIS -- CNN
Graham says 'I feel pretty good' about Syria after lunch with Trump -- FOX News
Lindsey Graham says Trump is 'slowing down' Syria withdrawal -- NBC

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Iraq Preparing For A Bigger Role In Syria After The U.S. Withdrawal

Iraqi forces in the past pounded ISIL positions inside Syria after getting the green light from Syrian authorities [Reuters]

Reuters: Iraq hints at bigger role in Syria after U.S. withdrawal

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s prime minister said on Sunday that top security officials from Baghdad had met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, and hinted at a bigger Iraqi role fighting Islamic State militants as U.S. troops withdraw from Syria.

“This issue has a lot of complications,” Adel Abdul Mahdi told reporters, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement this month that he will withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq’s neighbor.

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WNU Editor: The Syrian government has given the authorization to Iraq to launch air strikes against ISIS targets in eastern Syria .... Syria's Assad authorizes Iraqi forces to strike IS in Syria (AP). More here .... Damascus allows Iraq to hit ISIL targets in Syria: State media (Al Jazeera). This announcement comes after this meeting .... Assad Receives Iraqi National Security Adviser in Damascus (Sputnik).

A Look At Asia's Flash Points And Arms Races In 2019

The Diplomat: Flashpoints and Arms Races to Watch in 2019

Will 2019 see an increased chance for military confrontation in Asia?

The 2019 security outlook for Asia, as in past years, is dominated by a number of regional flashpoints that include the Korean Peninsula, the South and East China Seas, as well as the Taiwan Strait, all of which have the potential to trigger a military confrontation. Nonetheless, there appears to be a reduced risk for open military clashes in all of the four cases in the next 12 months.

Simultaneously, 2019 will likely see an intensification of the war in Afghanistan, amid ongoing peace negotiations and the suggested withdrawal of 7,000 U.S. troops from the country; the presidential election scheduled for the spring may be postponed. Other areas our readers should watch include: a possible uptick in violence in Jammu and Kashmir as a result of the 2019 Indian general elections, the usual chance of South Asian border disputes getting out of control, and increased naval competition between India, China, and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. Naval competition is especially noteworthy as all three states are in the process of fielding, or already have deployed, nuclear-armed submarines.

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WNU Editor: The world has seen many arms races in its history, but I think there is a very real possibility that in the next decade Asia will dwarf all past arms races .... including what happened during the Cold War. What does not help the situation is the history and cultures of the region. While culturally Asia is very old, politically they are still immature. They do not have the alliances and safeguards that Europe and the U.S. have put in place since the Second World War that has kept (more or less) the peace in Europe. Absent these political and international structures in Asia, there is no way that flash points and disputes can be brokered amicably and without the use of violence. And while past conflicts were limited, today's advanced weaponry and destructive capabilities can make a small border conflict escalate into something far bigger and devastating. In the middle of all of this is China. They want to be the super power in Asia. Will they use their military dominance to achieve this .... that is a question that still remains unanswered.

Could North Korea and Iran Could Acquire Hypersonic Weapons?


Zachary Keck, National Interest: Forget Russia: North Korea and Iran Could Acquire Hypersonic Weapons

It is extremely likely that Tehran and Pyongyang will acquire hypersonic missiles, according to a senior U.S. general.

Hypersonic weapons for everyone?

It is extremely likely that Iran and North Korea will acquire hypersonic missiles, according to a senior U.S. general.

Back in April, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, testified to the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. During the hearing, Sen. Susan Collins asked Greaves about the risk that China and Russia’s hypersonic missile technology will be proliferated to countries like North Korea and Iran. “I assess that risk as extremely high,” Greaves responded. “I don’t see what will prevent it from happening.” He added that this is the reason why “the hypersonic threat is something that we need to address expediently.”

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WNU Editor: Only three countries are currently developing hypersonic weapons (U.S., Russia, and China), and they are doing so at great cost while overcoming many technical and engineering difficulties. Can North Korea and Iran develop and deploy hypersonic weapons .... for the moment no. But in the future .... anything is possible.

North Korea Continues To Develop Its Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during the long-range strategic ballistic rocket test launch. KCNA via Reuters

Daily Mail: North Korea continues to develop its intercontinental ballistic missiles, despite vowing to put a stop to launches as leader Kim Jong-un calls for more peace talks with the South

* Radio signals detected from North Korea are said to have come from an ICBM
* Kim Jong-un previously called a halt to the nuclear programme in June this year
* It comes as he penned a letter to South Korea asking for further peace talks

North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear missiles, despite pledging to ditch the weapons programme earlier this year - it has been revealed.

The hermit kingdom is said to have conducted a missile-linked radio wave experiment earlier this month after signals were picked up which are known to have been emitted from warhead equipment - according to the Japan News.

Leader Kim Jong-un declared an end to missile launches earlier this year after a crunch summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

The U.S. military, Japan Self-Defense Forces and South Korean military are constantly monitoring North Korea for radio waves.

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More News And Analysis On North Korea's Missile Program

N. Korea continues missile development -- Japan News/The Yomiuri Shimbun
North Korean Missile Tests: A Wary Pause -- Council on Foreign Relations
Kim Jong Un set for key speech after a missile-free year of talks -- Nikkei Asian Review
Get ready for a new North Korean missile test -- Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

China Is On Its Way To Become The Global Superpower In Space

A Long March 2D rocket lifts off Saturday from the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China’s Inner Mongolia region. Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Global Times: China on the way to becoming a major space power

While commercialization has become a common noun in a world that's being propelled by business innovation, its usage in the space sector remains something new, which is especially true with China's space missions. Nonetheless, with the country's Long March carrier rocket series and an array of space start-ups gaining increased global attention, space commercialization is springing into a high frequency phrase. In an exclusive interview with Global Times reporter Li Qiaoyi (GT) earlier in December in Zhuhai, Yang Yiqiang (Yang), the first commander-in-chief of the Long March 11 solid-fuel carrier rockets project, described policy priorities and to-do lists toward turning China into a major space power.

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WNU Editor: This is very revealing .... China launched more rockets into orbit in 2018 than any other country (MIT Technology Review)

More News On China's Space Program

China Pushes for Primacy in Space -- The Wall Street Journal
The New Space Race -- WSJ
Pentagon report: China’s space program ‘continues to mature rapidly’ -- Space News
China to carry out 35th space launch of 2018 from Jiuquan on December 7 -- GBTimes
China probe reportedly readying to land on the dark side of the moon -- Reuters
China launches two more Long March rockets; another possible before end of year -- Space Flight Now
China debuts new upper stage in final launch of the year -- Space Flight Now
China is infiltrating US space industry with investments -- Sean Kelly, The Hill
China's Space Program Is Coming for Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos -- Bloomberg
The Moon's Far Side and China's Space Strategy -- The Diplomat

New York Times: Saudi Arabia Pays Sudanese Children To Fight In Yemen

A Sudanese militiaman fighting under the command of the United Arab Emirates along the coastal highway leading to the contested port of Hudaydah, Yemen.CreditCreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

New York Times: On the Front Line of the Saudi War in Yemen: Child Soldiers From Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan — The civil war in Darfur robbed Hager Shomo Ahmed of almost any hope. Raiders had stolen his family’s cattle, and a dozen years of bloodshed had left his parents destitute.

Then, around the end of 2016, Saudi Arabia offered a lifeline: The kingdom would pay as much as $10,000 if Hager joined its forces fighting 1,200 miles away in Yemen.

Hager, 14 at the time, could not find Yemen on a map, and his mother was appalled. He had survived one horrific civil war — how could his parents toss him into another? But the family overruled her.

“Families know that the only way their lives will change is if their sons join the war and bring them back money,” Hager said in an interview last week in the capital, Khartoum, a few days after his 16th birthday.

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More News On Reports That Saudi Arabia Is Paying Sudanese Children To Fight In Yemen

Saudi Arabia is reportedly paying up to $10,000 to Sudanese militiamen, including child soldiers, to fight in their brutal war in Yemen -- Business Insider
Saudi Arabia recruited Darfur children for Yemen war: report -- The Hill
Child soldiers from Darfur fighting at front line of war in Yemen, returned soldiers say -- The Independent
Saudi Arabia pays Sudanese children to fight in Yemen, report claims -- Daily Sabah
Saudi Arabia recruited Darfur children to fight in Yemen: NYT -- Al Jazeera
Saudi Arabia is reportedly outsourcing its war in Yemen to child soldiers -- VOX

Talks To Begin Among Southeast Asian Nations On South China Sea

A map shows different nation's claims to the South China Sea.

Reuters: Tough South China Sea talks ahead as Vietnam seeks to curb China's actions

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Tough negotiations lie ahead over a new pact between China and Southeast Asian nations aimed at easing tensions in the South China Sea, as Vietnam pushes for provisions likely to prove unpalatable to Beijing, documents reviewed by Reuters suggest.

Hanoi wants the pact to outlaw many of the actions China has carried out across the hotly disputed waterway in recent years, including artificial island building, blockades and offensive weaponry such as missile deployments, according to a negotiating draft of the ASEAN Code of Conduct (COC) seen by Reuters.

The draft also shows Hanoi is pushing for a ban on any new Air Defence Identification Zone - something Beijing unilaterally announced over the East China Sea in 2013. Chinese officials have not ruled out a similar move, in which all aircraft are supposed to identify themselves to Chinese authorities, over the South China Sea.

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WNU editor: Here is an easy prediction. China is not going to compromise.

More News On The Dispute Over The Yemeni Port Of Hodeida

DW: Yemen government disputes rebel withdrawal from Hodeida port

Shiite rebels said they handed over control of the key Red Sea port of Hodeida to local officials as part of a ceasefire deal with Yemen's Saudi-backed government. But pro-government forces have cast doubt on the claim.

Shiite Houthi rebels have begun to withdraw from the key port in the Red Sea city of Hodeida as part of a deal reached in peace talks in Sweden earlier this month, a United Nations official said Saturday.

But the Yemeni government has disputed the withdrawal claim, calling it a ploy by the rebels to maintain control of the strategic area.

Military and local Hodeida officials loyal to the government have said the Houthis placed loyalist administrators and fighters in both the port management and the coast guard.

"It's a stage play in which the Houthis handed over the port to their fighters after they put on coast guard uniforms," said Hodeida Governor al-Hassan Taher.

Another pro-government official has called on the UN to put in place a "clear mechanism" to ensure a fair recruitment process at these facilities.

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More News On The Dispute Over The Yemeni Port Of Hodeida

U.N. says Yemen Houthis' redeployment in Hodeidah should respect Stockholm deal -- Reuters
UN calls out Houthi rebels over Hodeidah peace plan -- The National
Head of UN team in Yemen ‘angered’ by Houthi redeployment in Hodeidah -- Al Arabiya
Pro-government official casts doubt on rebel withdrawal from Hodeidah port -- Middle East Eye