Friday, May 29, 2015

Editor's Note

Have to take care of guests tonight. Blogging will return tomorrow morning. Sighhh .... its been a long week.

Tonight's Movie Is 'Ronin' (1998)



From Wikipedia: Ronin is a 1998 American spy thriller action film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce. Written by J.D. Zeik and David Mamet, the film centers on a team of hired operatives trying to steal a mysterious and heavily-guarded case while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties and alliances. The film is noted for its car chases through Nice and Paris.

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



Ivan Nechepurenko, Moscow Times: Putin Classifying Troop Losses Proves They're in Ukraine – Analysts

Legal amendments introduced Thursday that classify as state secrets any losses sustained during peacetime special operations are further confirmation of Russia's direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict, legal and military experts told The Moscow Times.

The amendments, signed by President Vladimir Putin, make "information disclosing the loss of personnel … during special operations in peacetime" a classified state secret.

Putin has repeatedly denied any involvement of Russian troops in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Asked to explain Putin's move Thursday, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov had no immediate comment, Reuters reported.

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

Killed in Action in Ukraine: Putin’s Secret Funerals -- Melinda Haring, Newsweek

A Bizarre Tale of Russia Concealing Its Soldiers’ Deaths in Ukraine -- Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times

Vladimir Putin's week of muscle-flexing -- Ben Brumfield, CNN

The 12 people who ruined Ukraine -- Linda Kinstler, Politico

US-China tensions rise over Beijing's 'Great Wall of Sand' -- Jonathan Marcus, BBC

The Middle East's Future Looks a Lot Like Iraq -- Tom Wilson, Real Clear World

A Political Strategy Against the Islamic State in Iraq -- David Romano, RUDAW

‘Obama at War’ Shows How Syria Was Lost -- Jeff Stein, Newsweek

Why the Islamic State’s annihilation of ancient cultures matters -- Michael Danti, Washington Post

In Islamic State fight, radically changed Pentagon view of civilian casualties -- Anna Mulrine, CSM

Islamic State Is Rapidly Expanding in Southeast Asia -- Josh Rogin, Bloomberg

What’s Happening With Boko Haram? -- John Campbell, Council on Foreign Relations

Top US Officials Heat Up Rhetoric on China's South China Sea Behavior -- Ankit Panda, The Diplomat

The Jailed Leader Who Might Hold the Key to Venezuela's Future -- Marco Aponte-Moreno & Lance Lattig, Real Clear World

Tomorrow’s Wars -- Victor Hanson, City Journal

Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Reign of Shame -- Roger Cohen, NYT

Could The Islamic State Win?

John McLaughlin, Washington Post: How the Islamic State could win

Let’s think the unthinkable: Could the Islamic State win?

I say “unthinkable” because, discouraged as everyone has become, most commentary stops short of imagining what an Islamic State victory in the Middle East would look like. The common conviction is that the group is so evil it simply must be defeated — it will just take time.

But let’s test that proposition and think for a minute about what it would take for the group to win. What would success look like for the Islamic State? Essentially, it would amount to the group holding, for the foreseeable future, the core of what it has conquered — roughly half of Iraq and Syria — and exercising a rudimentary sort of governance there, in what it calls its “caliphate.”

WNU Editor: John McClaughlin nails it when he makes the following remark on training Iraq's military ....

.... People don’t fight because they’ve been trained; they fight because they believe in something. At present, the biggest believers in the region are with the Islamic State.

Indeed.

Update: An interesting analysis from the Economist .... The state of the caliphate: The fortunes of war (The Economist)

A Map Of The World According To The Islamic State


Swati Sharma, Washington Post: Map: The world according to the Islamic State

The Islamic State had one of its most successful weeks recently with the capture of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria. But another statement about the group is also quite disturbing: The militants established 10 networks outside of Iraq and Syria, according to the Soufan Group.

What's more: These Islamic State strongholds are only the ones that the jihadists have publicly accepted as part of their growing caliphate. Several others have pledged allegiance to the group, but only these were actually acknowledged.

The theory behind this speaks to the Islamic State strategy. The networks — "three in Libya, two in Saudi Arabia, and one each in Sinai, Nigeria, Yemen, Algeria, and Khorasan in Pakistan and Afghanistan" — are seen as liaisons that won't easily become lost or overtaken by other forces, according to the Soufan Group.

WNU Editor: This is a lot of territory. A map of the world according to Al Qaeda can be seen here.

Calm Before The Storm As The Islamic State Prepares To Defend Ramadi Against An Iraqi Government Assault

Shi'ite paramilitaries riding military vehicles travel from Lake Tharthar toward Ramadi to fight against Islamic state militants, west of Samarra, Iraq May 27, 2015. Reuters/Stringer

Reuters: Islamic State settles into Ramadi, but the lull unlikely to last

The blind man with just one hand arrived at the main mosque in the centre of the Iraqi city of Ramadi at dusk on Wednesday, flanked by Islamic State fighters.

When the evening prayer was over, the man, whose head was shrouded in black, delivered a speech to the faithful, hailing the Islamic State's capture of the capital of Anbar Province - its greatest victory over Iraqi forces in almost a year.

Ali Attiya al-Jubouri, widely known as "the blind judge", is one of Islamic State's most senior figures and his presence in the mosque signalled the group's dominance over the city, which it seized on May 17 from hapless government forces.

More News On The Islamic State Preparing To Defend Ramadi Against An Iraqi Government Assault

Islamic State planting IEDs, improving defenses in Ramadi ahead of counterattack -- Washington Times
Pentagon: Iraqis, Islamic State sizing each other up for new Ramadi battle -- Stars and Stripes
No U.S.-trained troops in Iraq's new fight for Ramadi -- Military Times
Iraqi military moves closer to Ramadi liberation -- USA Today
Baghdad: Iraqi forces have Ramadi 'surrounded' -- Rudaw
Islamic State suicide bombings kill troops in Iraq's Anbar -- BBC
Islamic State suicide attacks hinder Iraq's Anbar push -- USA Today
Truck bombs: Islamic State’s ‘air force’ -- Times of Israel/AFP
General Allen: ‘Pretty Good’ ISIS Forces Took Ramadi -- CBS
Islamic State 'blind judge' shows up in Ramadi as Iraqi forces make slow advance -- Reuters
Senior Islamic State cleric, ‘the blind judge,’ gives speech in Ramadi -- Washington Times
Isil targets Sunni families in Ramadi with revenge killings -- The Telegraph
Ramadi's Displaced Find Restrictions, Not Refuge, in Baghdad -- Al-Monitor
U.N.: 85,000 flee Ramadi since ISIS capture -- AFP
Analysis: Growing sense that airstrikes alone will not dislodge the Islamic State group -- FOX News
The Long Battle Ahead Against Islamic State -- Aaron David Miller, WSJ
The Islamic State Wages A Smart, Inspired War As U.S. Falters -- Investors Business Daily

Islamic State Militants Have Seized A Major Libyan Airport


BBC: Islamic State militants in Libya 'seize Sirte airport'

Islamic State militants in Libya say they have seized the airport in the city of Sirte, as the group continues to make advances in the country.

The news was announced by the group and by a Libyan militia that withdrew from the coastal city's airport on Thursday.

Most of Sirte, former leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown, fell to IS last week.

In a statement, the group said it had also seized the Great Man Made River water project.

The irrigation project, the world's largest, supplies fresh water to Libyan cities and was also the base for the opposition Battalion 166, which has now fled.


Update #1: Isis-affiliated fighters have captured a key airport in central Libya -- The Independent
Update #2: ISIS seizes control of airport in Libya’s Sirte -- Al Arabiya/AFP

WNU Editor: The focus is on what the Islamic State is doing in Iraq and Syria .... but they are definitely making gains in Libya.

Has Russia Abandoned Two Of Its Soldiers In Ukraine?

A man, according to Ukraine's state security service (SBU) is named Yevgeny Yerofeyev and is one of two Russian servicemen recently detained by Ukrainian forces, is examined by medics at a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine, May 28, 2015. Picture taken May 28, 2015. Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko

Reuters: Special Report: Russian fighters, caught in Ukraine, cast adrift by Moscow

From his hospital bed in the Ukrainian capital, Russian fighter Alexander Alexandrov feels abandoned by his country, its leaders and even the local Russian consul.

Alexandrov, 28, says he's a Russian soldier who was captured in east Ukraine after being sent there on active duty with Russian special forces to help separatists fighting Kiev. He said he was serving on a three-year contract. "I never tore it up, I wrote no resignation request," he said. "I was carrying out my orders."

Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the face of widespread evidence to the contrary, has repeatedly said there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine – only volunteers who have gone to help the separatists of their own accord.


WNU Editor: Russia has a long history of having its operatives/spies/soldiers captured or killed in other countries .... but they have always gone to great lengths to get them back. When a Russian reconnaissance platoon was caught near Mariupol during the height of last years fighting in Ukraine .... I was not surprised to hear Moscow quickly claim these solders as their own, and they quickly got them back after a prisoner exchange. Flash forward to today .... everyone in both Russia and Ukraine know that Russian spies and some special forces are in Russia .... and the remarks from these captured soldiers that there are 200 Russian special forces in Ukraine confirms the information that I have been getting (and no, there are no 10,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine). But this is why this case is unique .... I do believe that these men are Russian special forces .... but a decision has been made to set them adrift .... the question that needs to be answered is why. My best answer .... a rogue operation .... but I am the first to admit that I am speculating here .... and I am probably wrong.

U.S. Formally Removes Cuba From Its List Of State Sponsors Of Terrorism



New York Times: U.S. Removes Cuba From State-Sponsored Terrorism List

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama’s push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba’s designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list.

More News On The U.S. Formally Removes Cuba From Its List Of State Sponsors Of Terrorism

U.S. drops Cuba from list of state sponsors of terrorism -- Reuters
Cuba removed from US terror sponsor list -- FOX News/AP
U.S. takes Cuba off list of state sponsors of terrorism -- Washington Post
Cuba Officially Removed From U.S. State Sponsor of Terrorism List -- WSJ
Cuba officially off U.S. terror blacklist -- CNN
U.S. Takes Cuba off Terror List, Paving the Way for Normal Ties -- Bloomberg
US Drops Cuba from State Terrorism List, Paving the Way for Embassies -- ABC News
U.S. Officially Removes Cuba From State Sponsors of Terrorism List -- NBC News
US removes Cuba from list of state sponsors of terror -- BBC
US formally drops Cuba from terrorism 'black list' -- The Guardian

Israel's Air Chief: Nothing Can Stop Our Air Force

Photo: Israel Air Force chief Amir Eshel (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

Defense News: Israel Air Chief: Nothing Can Stop Our Air Force

S-300s to Iran "More a Strategic than an Operative Issue"

Israel's top Air Force officer said Wednesday that Russian S-300 air defense systems, if or when deployed by Iran, would constitute more of "a strategic issue than an operative issue" because it would embolden Tehran to "even more aggressive" behavior.

"It's a huge challenge," Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Israel Air Force commander conceded, when asked about a May 26 announcement — following meetings in Moscow between Russian and Iran officials — that the systems would be delivered to Iran at an unspecified time.

"But it's more a strategic issue… because whoever has the S-300 feels protected. He can allow himself to do things even more aggressively, because he thinks he's defended," Eshel told Defense News.

Update: Israel said unfazed by sale of S-300 missiles to Egypt -- Times of Israel

WNU Editor: He sounds very confident on what the Israeli air force can do.

World News Briefs -- May 28, 2015



VOA: FIFA President Calls for Unity in Face of Scandal

FIFA President Sepp Blatter called for unity among members of football's governing body and promised to work to overcome its corruption scandal if he is re-elected.

Addressing the 65th FIFA annual congress in Zurich, Switzerland ahead of the vote Friday, Blatter said that the events of this week “have cast a long shadow over football and this Congress” and appeal for concerted actions to “try and take it away,” aiming to restore “the reputation of football and FIFA.”

MIDDLE EAST

Islamic State suicide attacks in Iraq's Anbar kill 17 troops.

Kurdish fighters in Syria on the march against IS militants.

Retaking Iraq’s Ramadi from Islamic State will take time: Shia militia spokesman.

Deadly car explosion near Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia. ISIS claims 2nd Saudi mosque attack.

Fighters battle Houthis in Yemen's Aden.

Iranian aid plane bound for Yemen lands in Djibouti.

UN nuke agency report shows Iran probe essentially stalled.

U.S. allies not waiting for Iran’s sanctions to come down.

ASIA

U.S. surveillance on island in South China Sea reveals Chinese arms.

India's heat wave tests water supply; death toll over 1,800.

U.S. says China agrees "pressure" key on North Korea.

Carter: China isolating itself in Pacific.

Asia migrants: Bangkok meeting to debate crisis.

SE Asia vows to rescue 'boat people'; Myanmar seizes migrant vessel.

Civilians emerge as pawns in South China Sea legal chess game.

China agrees to phase out its ivory industry to combat elephant poaching.

AFRICA

Fighting in northern Mali forces tens of thousands to flee: U.N..

Chad says 33 Boko Haram militants, three troops killed in clash.

Nigeria's Buhari vows intense campaign against Boko Haram. Muhammadu Buhari takes over Nigeria in crisis.

Nigerian economy in 'deep trouble', Buhari says.

South African families among ISIL's newest recruits.

South Africa frees anti-apartheid hero murder mastermind.

Tighter border controls block African migrants in Italian Alps.

EUROPE

Merkel not ruling out EU treaty change after Cameron talks.

Putin denies Russian troops are in Ukraine, decrees certain deaths secret. Putin fears mounting Russian casualties In Ukraine, passes law to keep them secret.

Special Report: Russian fighters, caught in Ukraine, cast adrift by Moscow.

Russia's Gazprom says Ukraine's total gas debt is $29.5 bln.

Gazprom will increase its share in EU market by 2015 end — Gazprom CEO Miller.

Belgium launches investigation into German and U.S. spying.

Greece could use 'Zambia' option as progress on deal unclear.

Cyprus leaders agree on new crossings on divided island.

AMERICAS

US economy fell at 0.7 pct. rate in winter but is rebounding.

US Lawmakers demand answers on anthrax scare.

Islamic State sympathizers may have made airline threats: U.S. officials.

Exclusive - Mexican president misrepresented personal land deal, records show.

Colombian rebel peace negotiator among dead in military raid.

Venezuela and Russia's Rosneft agree '$14bn oil deal'.

US bikers to hold Muhammad cartoon contest outside Mosque.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

No exit: For female jihadis, Syria is one-way journey.

Young Australian women trying to join IS, say police.

‘Bigger and badder’: US volunteers head to fight ISIS.

US and Russia-trained Tajik special police head defects to ISIS, swears jihad.

Lawmakers warn travel ban on Taliban freed for Bergdahl will soon end
.
ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Banks could face questions in FIFA probe.

Power of gold: China establishes its largest gold-investment fund.

Successful Qatar bid for World Cup aroused suspicion among U.S. officials.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- May 29, 2015



VOA: Defense Chiefs Meet in Singapore Amid Rising Maritime Tension

SINGAPORE - Defense chiefs from 26 countries gathered in Singapore Friday at a time of escalating tension in the South China Sea.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, which runs through Sunday, occurs just days after the release of an assertive Chinese defense white paper and a blunt reaction from the top Pentagon official, leading to increased fears of a maritime clash between China and the United States.

The annual security meeting in Singapore allows countries to discuss “how the tensions in the South China Sea might be better managed and how escalation can be prevented,” said Tim Huxley of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), in a VOA interview. IISS is the organizer of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- May 29, 2015

South China Sea Tensions Simmer Ahead of Security Summit -- WSJ

Changing security paradigms in East and Southeast Asia -- Deutsche Welle

'Pivot towards Asia' will continue: US secretary of defense -- Want China Times

Carter defends US military flights over China's artificial islands -- FOX News

Defense secretary’s warning to China: U.S. military won’t change operations -- Washington Post

China land reclamation in South China Sea creates 'new facts': U.S. -- Reuters

Analysis: China Grapples With the Realities of Global Power -- Strategy Page

Moscow: NATO to Practice Interception of Russian Missiles in Atlantic -- Sputnik

Russia concerned over upcoming missile defense drills involving US -- ITAR-TASS

Russia Will Respond to NATO's Missile Defense Buildup in Europe – General -- Sputnik

Russia’s new Armata tank may require two years’ crew training — expert -- ITAR-TASS

Russian 5th generation fighter to surpass US analogues — Air Force chief -- ITAR-TASS

Russia steps up propaganda push with online "Kremlin trolls" -- AP

U.S. to probe allegations that Iran, North Korea are linked in nuclear and missile research -- Washington Times

North Korea: New Construction at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station -- 38 North

North Korean hackers 'could kill', warns key defector -- BBC

US institute: N Korea upgrading rocket launch site -- Al Jazeera

Osborne wields the knife: Chancellor orders ministers to slash spending by an extra £3BILLION sparking military backlash -- Daily Mail

Israel Air Chief: Nothing Can Stop Our Air Force -- Defense News

US likely to boost defence aid to Israel in wake of Iran nuclear talks – reports -- The Guardian

U.S. ready to send military trainers to Nigeria in Boko Haram fight -- Reuters

Congress Seeks to Arm U.S. Allies in the Pacific to Counter China -- DoD Buzz

No Acquisition Strategy Yet for LCS Frigates -- Defense News

The Feasible Four: Odierno Wants Army To Launch New Combat Vehicles -- Breaking Defense

Army studies new vehicles, capabilities for the future -- Army Times

US Army chief backs Senate approach to reforming Pentagon weapons buys -- The Hill

Air Force Developing Swarms of Mini-Drones -- Defense Tech

Anthrax Shipments Came From Military Site in Utah Desert -- ABC News/AP

If NSA surveillance program ends, phone record trove will endure -- L.A. Times

Odierno Says More Women May Attend Army Ranger School -- Military.com

Family of Rafael Peralta, fallen Iraq war hero, to accept Navy Cross award after long refusal -- Washington Post

Secret Service Test Out Spikes for White House Fence


WNU Editor: I know that we live in a very dangerous world .... but every year I always feel sad when I see access to our government and to our elected leaders becoming more limited and restricted.

Claim: North Korea Has 6,000 Hackers Who Are Able To 'Destroy Cities'

REUTERS/KCNA

The Independent: North Korea's hacker army 'could kill people and destroy cities', says defector who trained them

Thousands of military hackers in North Korea could launch cyber attacks that could “kill people and destroy cities”, a defector has warned.

Professor Kim Heung-Kwang saw his brightest computing students picked for Bureau 121 to become “cyber warriors” for Kim Jong-un before he fled the country in 2004.

“The size of the cyber-attack agency has increased significantly, and now has approximately 6,000 people,” he told BBC Click.

“The reason North Korea has been harassing other countries is to demonstrate that North Korea has cyber war capacity.

“Their cyber-attacks could have similar impacts as military attacks, killing people and destroying cities.”

More News On North Korea's Bureau 121

North Korean hackers 'could kill', warns key defector -- BBC
A defector says North Korea's hacker army is capable of 'destroying cities' -- Business Insider
North Korea is capable of launching lethal cyber attacks that could destroy cities with 6,000-strong army of hackers claims professor who defected in 2004 -- Daily Mail
N Korea Military Hackers Could Launch Deadly Attacks – Prominent Dissident -- Sputnik
Bureau 121: North Korea's elite hackers and a 'tasteful' hotel in China -- BBC
Bureau 121: How good are Kim Jong-un's elite hackers? -- Dave Lee, BBC

A Look Inside Russia's Internet Troll Factory



Moscow Times: Soldier in Russia's Troll Army Sues Her Ex-Employer

A former Internet "troll" who had been hired to promote political views online is suing her former employer in an attempt to draw attention to Russia's "information war" technologies, a news report said Friday.

The grounds for the lawsuit filed by Lyudmila Savchuk, which is expected to be heard by a St. Petersburg city court next month, is the employer's failure to provide any labor contract or other paperwork supporting her hiring and eventual dismissal, Kommersant reported.

Savchuk said she was fired after speaking to the media about her employer, Internet Research, which she described as part of Russia's "troll factory," according to the report.

Update: Russia steps up propaganda push with online "Kremlin trolls" -- AP

WNU Editor: When I am on Russian social media sites .... you can always spot the "troll" .... or at least most of the time. The sites that I go to are always the ones who state what is their personal opinion on a subject (at least that way I know where they stand), and those who identify their news sources .... a practice that I also employ for War News Updates.

Israeli Military: A Nuclear Iran Is Not Our Most Dangerous Threat

Israeli soldiers clean the barrel of a tank near the border with Lebanon January 20, 2015. Reuters/Baz Ratner

Zacharey Keck, National Interest: Israeli Military: Iran Is Not Most Dangerous Threat

Israel’s military doesn’t consider Iran to be the greatest threat to the Jewish state, according to a new report.

Earlier this week, the Jewish weekly, Forward, reported that the “Israel’s military General Staff and intelligence services are in the midst of a series of formal discussions” about the major threats facing the country. According to the report, the discussions— which are being “chaired by the deputy chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Major General Yair Golan, under the supervision of the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot”—are not focusing on a nuclear Iran.

WNU Editor: Israeli PM Netanyahu has a different opinion .... Benjamin Netanyahu: Nuclear-armed Iran 1,000 times 'more destructive' than Isis (IBTimes). What's my take .... the next Israeli war will be against Hamas. The next MAJOR Israeli war (I emphasize the word MAJOR meaning a high casualty rate) will be against Hezbollah.

Update: Analysis: Israeli defence chiefs see reduced local threat, but fear Iran's growing power -- IHS Jane's 360

More Doubts On The U.S. Air War Against The Islamic State Are Being Raised

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force handout photo taken early in the morning of September 23, 2014.
Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout/Files

Eli Lake, Bloomberg: U.S. Saw Islamic State Coming, Let It Take Ramadi

The U.S. watched Islamic State fighters, vehicles and heavy equipment gather on the outskirts of Ramadi before the group retook the city in mid-May. But the U.S. did not order airstrikes against the convoys before the battle started. It left the fighting to Iraqi troops, who ultimately abandoned their positions.

U.S. intelligence and military officials told me recently, on the condition of anonymity, that the U.S. had significant intelligence about the pending Islamic State offensive in Ramadi. For the U.S. military, it was an open secret even at the time.

WNU Editor: I am reading too many reports of targets not being hit, air strikes not being called in, and installations that are "untouchable". From my perspective .... someone is micro-managing this conflict, and if I was a betting man, my eyes would be on the Oval Office.

Update: US military pilots complain hands tied in ‘frustrating’ fight against ISIS -- FOX News

President Obama Iraq Startegy Now Involves Forming Alliances With Extremist Shiite Militias

Iraqi Shia paramilitary forces ride towards Ramadi, May 27, 2015. Photo: Reuters

Michael Crowley, Politico: To fight the Islamic State, Obama joins hands with Iran's proxies

U.S. officials, stunned by the Islamic State’s gains, are making a risky bet on Shiite militias in Iraq.

For weeks, the Obama administration insisted it was winning the war against the Islamic State, telling reporters that its pinpoint airstrikes and military advice were rolling back the terrorist group’s stunning territorial gains in Iraq.

But now, Obama’s foreign policy team finds itself relying on Iran-backed Shiite militias in a high-stakes bid to retake Ramadi, a provincial capital where dozens of American soldiers once died battling hordes of Sunni insurgents.

Victory in Ramadi, if it comes, could undermine the very thing President Barack Obama is trying to achieve: a unified, stable Iraq where Iran doesn’t call the shots.

WNU Editor: This is not going to end well. And while I understand why President Obama decided to pursue a minimalist policy in this conflict, siding with one side in a sectarian religious conflict is going to produce blow-back for years to come. In hindsight .... starting with U.S. military and intelligence officials warning in 2009 - 2010 that a complete U.S. withdrawal would produce this sectarian mess .... President Obama's Iraq policy .... exemplified by his administration now reaching out to extremist Shiite militias .... has all but collapsed.

More Evidence Emerges On China's MIlitary Buildup In the South China Sea

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. Photo: Reuters

Reuters: U.S. says China has placed mobile artillery on reclaimed island

The United States said on Friday that China had placed mobile artillery weapons systems on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea, a development that Republican Sen. John McCain called "disturbing and escalatory."

Brent Colburn, a Pentagon spokesman traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, said the United States was aware of the weapons.

McCain, chairman of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said the move would escalate tensions but not lead to conflict.

More News On China's Military Buildup In the South China Sea

US surveillance reportedly shows Chinese artillery on artificial islands -- FOX News
US surveillance shows China positioning weapons on contested island -- The Telegraph
U.S. says China has artillery vehicles on artificial island -- AP
U.S. Surveillance on Island Reveals Chinese Arms -- WSJ
U.S. hopes Chinese island-building will spur Asian response -- Reuters
Carter defends US military flights over China's artificial islands -- FOX News
China land reclamation in South China Sea creates 'new facts': U.S. -- Reuters
China More Assertive Than Ever About South China Sea, Island Building Escalates Tension With US -- IBTimes

Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Drone Strikes


Politico: Poll: Americans overwhelmingly support drone strikes

The American public overwhelmingly supports drone strikes that target extremists in countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, a new poll from Pew found.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents expressed approval of U.S. drone strikes, while only 35 percent disapproved. This included nearly three-fourths of Republicans, slightly more than half of Democrats and 56 percent of independents.

Only 48 percent of respondents said they were “very” concerned that drone strikes could endanger innocent civilians — another 32 percent said they were somewhat concerned, while nearly 20 percent said they were “not too” or “not at all” concerned about the prospect.

WNU Editor: The details of this poll are here .... Public Continues to Back U.S. Drone Attacks (PEW Research)

More News On A Recent PEW Poll That Shows Americans Overwhelmingly Support Drone Strikes

Majority of US Citizens Support Drone Strikes Conducted Abroad - Poll -- Sputnik
Poll: Only millennials oppose drone strikes, Americans see Afghanistan as a failure -- Sun Times
Nearly 60% of Americans Back Drone Strikes Overseas -- AFP
Poll finds strong support for drone strikes among Americans -- Al Jazeera

Top Commander Of Tajikistan’s Special Forces Has Joined The Islamic State

Gulmorad Halimov's relatives say he disappeared on April 23 after telling his wife he would be traveling on business for three days

Washington Post: The U.S.-trained commander of Tajikistan’s special forces has joined the Islamic State

In late April, the chief of an elite police unit in Tajikistan disappeared. Relatives said Col. Gulmurod Khalimov, who commanded the Tajik Interior Ministry's special forces, had gone on a business trip. Other rumors suggested he had vanished after falling out with colleagues at a high-level meeting.

Now, there appears to be more clarity: Khalimov is in Syria and has defected to the Islamic State

That's according to a recent video that emerged online showing Khalimov clad in black and espousing the cause of the jihadist organization. It's hard to tell where the footage was shot, but in the video, Khalimov claims to have joined the Islamic State, making him one of the most high-profile central Asians to travel to Syria and enter the extremists' ranks. He also made clear he's not alone.

More News On The Top Commander Of Tajikistan’s Special Forces Joining The Islamic State

Tajikistan special forces chief Gulmurod Khalimov 'joins IS' -- BBC
Missing Tajik Police Commander Appears On Internet, Says Has Joined IS -- Radio Free Europe
Missing Tajikistan police chief defects to the Islamic State -- The Telegraph
Tajikistan police chief defects to Isis -- The Guardian
US and Russia-trained Tajik special police head defects to ISIS, swears jihad -- RT

Top U.S. Army General Is Open To The Idea Of Embedding US Troops With Iraqi Forces

Gen.Ray Odierno

Defense One: US Army Chief Opens Door To Embedding US Troops With Iraqi Forces

After the fall of Ramadi, the Iraqi Security Forces need military and political leadership, Gen. Raymond Odierno says.

The U.S. military should continue training and advising Iraqi Security Forces to fight Islamic State militants, but American combat troops should not be deployed, Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff said Thursday.

Odierno, speaking at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, said he is okay with more Army trainers deploying to Iraq, and even to accompany Iraqi forces onto the battlefield. “Embedded advisors, with increased risk to our soldiers, probably would make this more effective,” Odierno said.

Update: Odierno ‘Fine’ With Embedding Advisers, Opposed to U.S. Ground Combat Troops in Iraq -- Seapower

WNU Editor: General Odierno admits the obvious .... Odierno on Iraq: 'It's incredibly disappointing to me' (Army Times). He also states the obvious .... Odierno: Iraqi Army Faces Leadership Issues (National Defense). But embedding U.S. forces with Iraqi units .... if this is not mission creep .... I do not know what is.