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Sun, 04 Dec 2016
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Chess

Justifying the Pentagon budget: US army general says military unprepared for war with big powers

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
U.S. Army General Mark Milley
Despite his confidence in US troops to fight insurgencies, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley voiced "grave concerns" at a congressional budget hearing about the military's capability if it found itself in a war with Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea.

Gen. Milley's testimony on Wednesday to the House Armed Services Committee assured legislators of the military's "good, current capability and capacity" to combat Islamic State and other terrorist insurgencies in countries like Afghanistan. But after nearly 15 years of such missions along with more recent troop cuts, the top general said readiness for a "great power war" had been depleted.

Comment: America's defense spending compared to the rest of the world


Fire

Explosion in central Istanbul main shopping street kills 5, injures 36

© Murad Sezer / Reuters
Police secure the area following a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul March 19, 2016



Comment: Reports so far coming from Turkish officials are claiming that this was a 'suicide bombing' linked to either ISIS or the PKK. But consider the context and the timing for a better idea of who might be responsible, and what they would stand to gain from this "attack".


At least five people, including the attacker, have been killed, and at least 36 others wounded after a suicide bombing rocked the main shopping street in central Istanbul, according to the local governor.

Photos from the scene in Taksim district that have emerged online show badly maimed bodies and body parts lying in the street. Dozens of ambulances and emergency workers are on the spot.

Bad Guys

Clinton says she supported the invasion of Iraq because Bush pledged billions of aid to NYC

© Unknown
"Part of what certainly influenced me" to support the Iraq war was George Bush pledging billions to rebuild New York after 9/11 a year before her vote, Hillary Clinton said last night. The comment is getting a lot of attention: folks are asking whether Hillary Clinton got bribed to support the Iraq war.

Last night on MSNBC, Chris Matthews quizzed the former secretary of state and NY senator about why she supported the war in Iraq, and Bernie Sanders didn't. And she said they came to the issue from different perspectives. "Why was Bernie Sanders right and you were wrong?" Matthews asked. "What do you think was in him that allowed him to see what you couldn't see?" Clinton said:
Clinton: Look, that was a mistake and I've said it was a mistake. And I had good friends like Vice President Biden who were with me, and I had good friends who were on the other side. And I think part of what certainly influenced me is after 9/11 you know I went to New York with Chuck Schumer, the next day, my fellow senator. We were the only plane in the sky and we flew over Ground Zero and we saw the devastation, and we were briefed fully on all of the threats that were still out there.

We get back to Washington I go and see then Senator Byrd, get him to commit to helping New York. Because the first request out of the White House was for 20 billion dollars for the Pentagon, for Homeland Security. Not a penny for New York. So I went and said, Look we have to get money for New York.

When I went to the White House, there were about four of us senators, the two from Virginia, the two of us from New York And I knew that the Republicans in the White House and in the Senate didn't want to rebuild New York or at least they weren't willing to put money into it. So I'm sitting there in the Oval Office, and Bush says to me, 'What do you need?' And I said, 'I need $20 billion to rebuild, you know, New York,' and he said, 'You got it.' And he was good to his word.

So my experience with him on something of great import to our country was positive. Because literally, that same day, I get back to the Capitol, and the Republicans are trying to take that money away. We kept calling the White House, Bush kept saying, "I gave them my word, I'm going to stick with it."

So, you know, I had a different set of experiences.
Matthews said, "But you know we have 100,000 people dead in Iraq because of that war. We invaded." Matthews then quizzed Clinton about why she is so keen on "constantly" knocking off regimes in the Middle East....

Comment: There are over a million dead in Iraq because of the US invasion, and Clinton says she supported it because Bush promised her money to rebuild New York City? That's not a 'different set of experiences', that's a bribe. This woman isn't a presidential candidate, she's an international war criminal.


Eye 1

A 'behind-the-scenes' look at how the West is preparing to rob Libya blind...again

© Reuters
Libya, post-NATO.
There are currently two governments in Libya. A "moderately Islamist" one in the west in Tripoli and one in the east in Tobruk. The eastern one is internationally recognized and "secular" but also supported by some Salafist groups. Both governments have their own parliament and various supporting militia. In the middle of the long east-west coastline the Islamic State led by some cadres from Iraq and Syria has taken a foothold in Sirte. It is recruiting followers from north Africa and moving to capture nearby oilfields to finance its further expansion.

The "west" is alarmed about this development and wants to intervene with military force. Special forces from several countries are already on the ground. But both governments and their parliaments do not want such foreign intervention.

The UN or someone came up with the glorious idea of creating a third government which is supposed to supersede the two existing ones. The task of this third government will be to "invite" foreign forces and to rubber-stamp whatever they will do. That third government is now constituted in Tunisia and has zero power on the ground in Libya:
[T]here is no guarantee that the other factions will back down. So what is a war between two rival governments backed by militias risks becoming a war among three rival governments, none of which recognize the others ..

Comment: Further reading: Western forces train al Qaeda-related groups in Libya, prepare for expanded military ops


Dollar Gold

Carter defends $583bn defense budget by saying Russia is now 'number one challenge'

© Yuri Gripas / Reuters
Russia is now the US' number one threat, followed by China, North Korea, Iran and Islamic State, Pentagon Chief Ash Carter said at a Senate hearing on the DoD's budget request. It comes as the Pentagon struggles to keep the budget to 2017 levels.

Challenges arising from the "great power competition" and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) still require a $583-billion military budget, Carter said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the 2017 defense budget request, according to a Pentagon press release.

"The first such challenge is in Europe, where we're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression - we haven't had to devote a significant portion of our defense investment to this possibility for 25 years, and while I wish it were otherwise, now we do," Carter argued.

Bad Guys

Kurdish Syrian federation: Kerry's Plan B, Brzezinski's Plan A

© AFP 2016/ DELIL SOULEIMAN
Kurds in Northern Syria have declared a federal system in Syria, with the areas they have seized in the northern part of the country designated to act as an autonomous zone. The official declaration came on March 16, with reports like those coming from the BBC reaching Western audiences on March 17. According to reports, the conference at which the federation of three Kurdish entities in Syria took place was located in Rmeilan.

Kurdish journalist Barzan aIso confirmed the initial rumors surrounding the Kurdish declaration to RT earlier on March 16 when he stated that "Now the conference has just started in Rmelan, about 200 representatives of Rojava have joined [the event]. They represent different ethnicities and nationalities. There are Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians and Chechen. Also we have representatives from the Syrian democratic forces, YPG, women defense units. This conference is supposed to announce a federation as a political project for Rojava region in northern Syria."

The "new project" is designed to replace the currently autonomous zone of Rojava by formally creating a Federation of Northern Syria incorporating the 250 miles of Kurdish-held territory along the Syria-Turkey border with the section of the northwestern border near the Afrin area. At least, this is the plan as relayed by Idris Nassan, an official working in the Foreign Affairs Directorate of Kobane (Ayn al-Arab). The new system entails "widening the framework of self-administration which the Kurds and others have formed," he said.


Comment: With any hope, Turkey will be terrified enough at the prospect of a Kurdish federation that they will allow Kurds to the Geneva negotiating table... Further reading:


Gold Seal

Vladimir Putin's speech to Russian military serving in Syria

© Artiom Korotaev/TASS
At a meeting in the Kremlin's St George Hall, Vladimir Putin presented state decorations to service personnel and defence industry specialists who distinguished themselves in the performance of special missions in the Syrian Arab Republic. More than 700 officers and men of the Aerospace Forces, the Ground Forces and the Navy attended the ceremony, along with representatives of the military-industrial complex.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Comrade officers, friends,

I would like to welcome you - all the service personnel who took part in the operation in Syria.

All of you - pilots, sailors, service personnel of control bodies, of special purpose units, intelligence, communication and procurement, military advisers - acted consistently and with precision.

Words of special gratitude go to the female service personnel. You serve alongside men, with persistence and dignity. Your choice in life brings you our deep respect.

Thank you all for your dedication to our Fatherland.

Russia is proud of you, of its soldiers and officers who protect the interests of their homeland with a great degree professionalism and courage.

Comment: Putin has laid it out there. He is pulling out troops, but he is not abandoning Syria. If anyone tries to undermine the work that has been done to stabilize the country, Russia will bring those attempts to a swift end. He is giving the West and their allies an out to save face, and a warning of what will happen should they persist in interfering with Syrian attempts at self-determination. The Syrian conflict has been a proving ground for Russian military capabilities and determination, and it would behoove the West to take notice.


Light Saber

Syrian army received essential help to defeat ISIS armed groups in Palmyra

© Mikhail Voskresenskiy / Sputnik
All conditions are in place to surround and defeat Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in Palmyra, Syria, Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, told reporters. "Everything necessary has been provided for the encirclement and definitive defeat of IS armed groups in Palmyra," Rudskoy said, adding that the Syrian Army had already taken control over all dominant heights and major roads around the city. The terrorists' logistical support has also been cut off.

The Syrian army and patriotic opposition fighters, backed by the Russian Air Force, are conducting a large-scale operation to liberate the city. The Russian Air Force make an average of 20-25 sorties per day lending support to the operation aimed at liberating Palmyra, the spokesman said, stressing that Russia will continue to carry out airstrikes targeting IS and Al Nusra Front in Syria. Last week, Syrian government forces and people's militia groups backed by Russian airstrikes managed to come close to the city. On Thursday, they reportedly entered the Palmyra museum complex.

Comment: From Day One (2011), the Islamist "freedom fighters" were supported, trained and equipped by NATO and Turkey's High Command:
(2011) NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish high command are meanwhile drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating the tanks and helicopters spearheading the Assad regime's crackdown on dissent. ... NATO strategists are thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-air rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns into the protest centers for beating back the government armored forces. (DEBKAfile, NATO to give rebels anti-tank weapons, August 14, 2011)



Network

Iran may agree to oil production freeze only after it reaches 4 mln barrels per day

© Reuters
According to self-imposed conditions, Iran may join the initiative to freeze oil extraction, but only after Tehran's daily oil output reaches four million barrels. Iran could join the initiative to freeze oil extraction, only after Tehran's daily oil output reaches four million barrels, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh said Sunday.

In February, the energy ministers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela, and Russia discussed the current oil market in the Qatari capital of Doha and agreed to freeze oil production at its January levels if other countries followed the suit. Iran did not take part in the meeting.

"Until the oil output reaches four million barrels per day, they should not work with us in this regard, we will cooperate only after this," Zangeneh said, as quoted by the Iranian ISNA news agency.

In mid-January, the sanctions imposed on Tehran were removed after the International Atomic Energy Agency verified Tehran's compliance with the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six international mediators. The move makes it possible for Iran to become an active player on the global oil market. According to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Tehran is currently producing about 3.1 million barrels per day.

Bad Guys

ISIS relience on child jihadists increases amid mass losses and desertion

Islamic State tries to fill up its dramatically dwindling ranks with children recruiters, RT's Gayane Chichakyan reports. With fighters' salaries slashed in half and an ongoing witch hunt for defectors, terrorists are desperate for manpower.

"The use of minors shows not only how brutal the terrorist group is but also how desperate," says Chichakyan.

The dire situation in which IS finds itself - under attack from both Russian and US air forces for the past 6 months - prompted it to count more on homegrown fighters, namely young children, some no older than 8. Many of them were kidnapped. It was reported that around 400 Yazidi children were abducted in Iraq by IS militants in January alone.

"Reports that we're getting from the ground that there are more and more defectors, but also that increasingly Daesh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State) is relying on child soldiers,"US State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday, adding that it indicates that "they are struggling with their ability to recruit and to retain manpower."