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Sat, 22 Jul 2017
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Puppet Masters


'Soft Brexit': Free movement of EU citizens to Britain will continue years after Brexit

© Luke MacGregor / Reuters
The free movement of EU citizens to Britain could continue for up to two years after Brexit as part of a "soft landing" transitional deal, it has been reported.

Senior sources have suggested that a major shift in opinion is underway in cabinet that will delay the full implementation of a Brexit deal until 2022.

Leading Brexiteers in cabinet, including Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, and Michael Gove, have now signed up to the idea of a substantial "implementation phase" after the UK leaves in 2019, in order to give business and government time to adjust to leaving the bloc, sources say.

In return, Remainers such as Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd have reportedly finally accepted the idea that the UK will ultimately leave both the single market and the customs union.

Light Saber

Lavrov: Russia gave US data on N. Korea missile launch on same day of Trump-Putin G20 meeting

North Korea did not launch an intercontinental missile, the Russian Defense Ministry gave its data on the issue to the Pentagon the day Russian and US presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, respectively, met in Hamburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

On July 4, North Korea announced it had successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it traveled 580 miles and reached an altitude of 1,740 miles during its 39-minute flight before accurately hitting a targeted area in the Sea of Japan. The test immediately prompted sharp criticism from the international community.

Following the launch, the Russian Defense Ministry disputed Pyongyang's claim, saying the missile's flight parameters indicated it reached an altitude of 535 kilometers (332 miles) and traveled 510 kilometers before falling in central Sea of Japan.

However, US officials believe that Pyongyang had successfully launched an ICBM for the first time.

"By the way, we provided to the US on that very day that the presidents spent in Hamburg, our military provided to the Pentagon our objective data we received from our radars located just on the border with North Korea, and according to that data, it is not an intercontinental missile," Lavrov told the NBC network in an interview.


North Korea: Origins of the present crisis and a possible solution

North Korea recently successfully tested an ICBM capable of reaching Alaska, possibly the northwestern United States, and northern Australia. This has sparkled immediate reactions, ranging from direct threats of unilateral military action (US) to demands that China should "do more" to rein in its unruly neighbor (Australia).

In Australia, the usual hawkish voices have been raised, demanding that Australia needs to have a missile defense system to "protect" Australia. As is almost invariably the case with western reactions to actions by the North Koreans, the comments and demands are devoid of any historical context, ignoring as they do the role of the western powers in creating and sustaining the conditions for crisis. They are also unrealistic in their view of how the present crisis might be resolved, either making demands as to what third parties such as China "must do", or expecting the North Koreans to capitulate.


Putin: Russia will continue to work with Europe on Mars exploration

© Pixabay
Russia will continue to join study of Mars with Europeans, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday at a meeting with children in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Russia will continue to participate in a joint study of Mars with Europeans, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday at a meeting with children in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"We are planning to participate together with our European colleagues in the study of Mars, by the way, we are already taking part [in this exploration]," Putin said.

"I do not remember exactly, probably, in 2020 we plan together with them, with the Europeans, to make another attempt [to land on Mars]. This time we will be making a landing system. And I hope that we will do it well, we will succeed," the president added.

Heart - Black

Duterte fires back: 'I've seen America, it's lousy', vows never to visit US

© Romeo Ranoco / Reuters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has fired back at US senators who criticized abuses during his 'war on drugs.' While the US lawmakers opposed any possible trip by Duterte to America, the leader said he had no intention of visiting the "lousy" country.

"There will never be a time that I will go to America during my term, or even thereafter," Duterte said on Friday, as quoted by Reuters.

The Philippine leader was also surprised that the senators would think he was willing to go to the US.

"I've seen America and it's lousy," Duterte said.

The statement came in response to Thursday's hearings at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the US Congress, where senators accused Duterte's domestic anti-drug campaign of widespread abuses and casualties.

Comment: See also: Duterte approval rating rises despite human rights abuse accusations - report

Snakes in Suits

Pompeo feels threatened by RT and Sputnik because they are thrifty

© Eric Thayer / Reuters
CIA Director Mike Pompeo has accused RT and Sputnik of being valuable money-saving tools for the Kremlin, fighting information wars instead of shooting ones.

During a lengthy interview at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Pompeo said the two news outlets were operating as part of the so-called "Gerasimov Doctrine," which the CIA boss states was developed by Valery Gerasimov, now Russia's chief of the general staff, in the early 1970s.

"His idea was that you can win wars without firing a single shot, with firing a very few shots in ways that are decidedly not militaristic. And that's what happened," Pompeo said.

"What changes is the cost which effectuates change through cyber and through RT and Sputnik, the news outlets, and through other soft means has just really been lowered. It used to be expensive to run an ad on the television station. Now you simply go online and propagate your message, so they have found an effective tool, an easy way to go reach into our system, into our culture to achieve the outcome they are looking for."

Comment: More on Pompeo's rants: CIA Director Pompeo complains 'Russians find any place they can make our lives more difficult'


Intelligence report: UAE backing for Southern Yemen secession threatens rift in Saudi-led coalition

© Sputnik/ Alexander Yuryev
A secessionist movement in Southern Yemen has placed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at odds with Saudi Arabia, threatening to unravel the Saudi-led coalition and the coalition's backing for President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the private intelligence firm Soufan Group said in a report on Friday.

The Soufan Group cited local reports suggesting that the UAE would like to see the US- and Saudi-backed Hadi government removed from office.

"The [local] reports highlight the shaky political ground on which the Hadi government rests, both in terms of its domestic political support and its regional and international backing," Soufan stated.


Putin envoy: Washington and Moscow in talks to to create cybersecurity group

© Florian Kopp / Global Look Press
Moscow and Washington are in talks to create a cybersecurity working group, Andrey Krutskikh, a presidential envoy on the issue, has said. The US formally asked Russia about vote-hacking one week prior to the 2016 election and Moscow replied the next day, he added.

"In the week leading up to the elections, the US finally found a way [through diplomatic channels] to ask us about hackers. We supplied them with a preliminary response the following day," Krutskikh stated on Thursday.

"In January, when [Barack] Obama was still in office, before the inauguration [of Donald Trump], we gave a detailed answer,"he added.

In June, Trump said that former US President Barack Obama had done nothing about Russia's alleged meddling, as reported by the CIA, as he had hoped that fellow Democratic Hillary Clinton would win the election.

Snakes in Suits

'Trojan horse' rhetoric: Top US commander in Europe says Russia might use Belarus drills to move weapons

© Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik
The top US general in Europe has speculated that the upcoming Russia-Belarus drills could be a "Trojan horse" exceeding their planned scale. Minsk and Moscow refute the claims and point to the ongoing NATO build-up and eastward expansion.

"People are worried, this is a Trojan horse. They say, 'We're just doing an exercise,' and then all of a sudden they've moved all these people and capabilities somewhere," Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe, told Reuters on Thursday.

Hodges was referring to the Zapad 2017 exercises involving Russian and Belarus troops, which is to take place in Belarus in September. While acknowledging that there are no indications that Russia has any plans beyond the drills, he repeated his previous call on Moscow to be more open to calm NATO allies.

Such allegations are aimed to "artificially justify" the NATO military build-up around Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Interfax.


Kurdish fighters report heavily-armed US vehicles flowing into Syria

© MSgt Benjamin Bloker - Defense Imagery
Over the last week videos and pictures posted by Kurdish activists on social media show flatbed trucks delivering U.S.-made MRAP, M-ATVs, and up-armored bulldozers into Syria.

Military officials say these vehicles are not part of the U-S.-led coalition's aid to Kurdish allies on the ground who are currently engaged in a tense street-by-street urban battle in Raqqa — ISIS's self-proclaimed capital.

The images of heavily armored American vehicles flowing into Syria emerge as the Kurdish fighters attempt to push closer to Raqqa's city center and their progress has slowed in recent days.

"The SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] has reportedly encountered intensified resistance and 'better-emplaced defenses' over the past four weeks following initial rapid gains in districts on the outskirts of Ar-Raqqa City," according to a report of the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War.

Nevertheless, progress continues, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.