Friday, December 19, 2014

Iraqi Kurds Claim To Have Broken The Islamic State Siege Of Mount Sinjar



Iraqi Kurds Say Siege Of Mount Sinjar Broken -- Al Jazeera

Peshmerga forces claim breakthrough against ISIL, reaching mountain where hundreds of Yazidis are trapped.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have fought their way to Iraq's Sinjar Mountains where hundreds of people have been trapped for months by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, a Kurdish official said.

"Peshmerga forces have reached Mount Sinjar, the siege on the mountain has been lifted," Masrour Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurdish region's national security council, told reporters from an operations centre near the border with Syria on Thursday.

Read more ....



More News On Iraq's Kurds Claiming To Have Broken The Islamic State Siege Of Mount Sinjar

Mount Sinjar: Islamic State siege broken, say Kurds -- BBC
Backed by U.S. Airstrikes, Kurds Reverse an ISIS Gain -- NYT
ISIS in Iraq: Yazidis freed from Mount Sinjar after being trapped since August -- CBC/Reuters
Iraqi Kurds celebrate breaking of ISIL siege around Mount Sinjar -- Euronews
Victory for thousands of Yazidis trapped on Iraqi mountains since August after Kurdish forces claim they have ended ISIS's siege of Mount Sinjar -- Daily Mail
Iraqi Kurds Break IS Siege of Mount Sinjar: Reports -- Sputnik
Kurdish Forces Say Break Siege Of Sinjar -- Radio Free Europe
Video Shows Kurdish Fighters Breaking Islamic State Siege of Iraq's Mount Sinjar -- VICE News

After Tuesday's School Massacre, Pakistan Prepares To Execute The First Of 3,000 Terrorists Convicted Of Terrorism

Rescue team members go through debris inside the Army Public School, which was attacked by Taliban gunmen, in Peshawar, December 17, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

Pakistan’s Gallows Await 3,000 Convicted Terrorists; First Will Hang ‘Within Days’ -- McClatchy News

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s government fast-tracked warrants of execution for convicted terrorists Thursday, moving swiftly on its promise to crack down on militants after a Taliban massacre of 132 schoolchildren Tuesday in the northern city of Peshawar.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had lifted a six-year moratorium on capital punishment Wednesday, vowing to eliminate terrorists in Pakistan irrespective of whether they targeted it or neighboring Afghanistan or India.

On Sharif’s orders Thursday, the country’s ceremonial president, Mamnoon Hussain, rejected 17 mercy petitions that convicted terrorists on death row had filed earlier. The army chief of staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, who’s no relation to the prime minister, also signed six so-called “black warrants” for the execution of soldiers convicted of terrorism offenses by military courts.

Officials said those 23 terrorists would be executed within days, and they’re likely to be followed by dozens more hangings at prisons around the country.

Read more ....

Update: The death warrants have already been signed .... Pakistani military chief signs death warrants for six ‘hard-core terrorists’ (Washington Post). Not surprising .... the militant leader who organized the school massacre is promising more killings .... Pakistan Massacre Organizer Vows More Killings (WSJ)

Pakistan Launches Airstrikes Against Taliban Militants



Pakistan Targets Militants After School Massacre -- Voice of America

Pakistani officials say jets and ground forces have killed 58 militants days after Taliban fighters attacked a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 149 people, mostly children.

As Pakistan began a third day of mourning, the troops ambushed and killed at least 50 militants in Khyber near the Afghan border. Another eight were killed in southwestern Baluchistan province, including a senior Taliban commander.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan Launching Airstrikes Against Taliban Militants

Pakistan: 77 militants killed after school massacre -- AP
Pakistan: 77 militants killed after school massacre -- USA Today
Dozens of Militants Killed in Pakistan in Wake of Taliban Attack on School -- New York Times
In expanding offensives, Pakistan military kills at least 67 suspected militants -- Washington Post
Pakistani Taliban: Army kills '59 militants' -- BBC
Pakistan army kill 77 Taliban 'monsters' in deadly airstrikes after Peshawar school attack -- Express
Pakistan army 'kills dozens of Taliban' -- Al Jazeera

World News Briefs -- December 19, 2014



Iraqi Kurds Claim Major Victory Over Islamic State -- Voice of America

Kurdish forces in northern Iraq pressed forward Friday with their largest offensive to date against the Islamic State group, moving to secure territory reclaimed from IS fighters in a two-day offensive and to capitalize on news of several IS leaders’ deaths.

Officials said roughly 8,000 Kurdish peshmerga troops, aided by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, on Thursday recaptured a large amount of territory and broke a siege on Iraq's Mount Sinjar. Thousands of civilians and soldiers from the Yazidi religious minority sect had been trapped there for months, AFP news agency reported.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Rocket fired from Gaza hits southern Israel, military says.

One million people wounded, diseases spreading in Syria: WHO.

Mount Sinjar: Islamic State siege broken, say Kurds. Iraqi Kurds say siege of Mount Sinjar broken.

Turkey says training of Syrian opposition may start before March.

Iran honors nuclear deal with powers, IAEA report shows.

Gulf braces for tough times over oil price plunge.

Turkey issues arrest warrant for top Erdogan rival Fethullah Gulen – state media.

ASIA

Pakistan: 77 militants killed after school massacre. Pakistan military kills 67 militants after Taliban school massacre. In expanding offensives, Pakistan military kills at least 67 suspected militants.

Pakistan to appeal bail for 'Mumbai plotter'.

North Korea behind Sony hack, with possible China link: U.S. official.

Communist snub: China not invited to North Korea anniversary.

China to set up satellite, radar network to strengthen maritime power.

China arrests aid worker in sign of crackdown on Christian activists.

China revises up size of its economy in 2013.

Cairns deaths: Eight children found in Australian home.

AFRICA

Millions face acute hunger in South Sudan next year.

Boko Haram unrest: Nigerian militants 'kidnap 200 villagers'.

Libya's two biggest oil ports were not damaged during clashes: workers.

Kenya security law: President Uhuru Kenyatta signs bill.

Tunisia's old regime hopes makeover can win it the election.

UN chief visits Ebola-hit nations.

EUROPE

Five more Ukrainian soldiers killed despite truce - Kiev military.

Russia warns US over sanctions bill.

Russia's parliament rushes through bill boosting banking capital.

Manufacturers face 'bloodbath' in Russia, says Renault Nissan boss.

Vladimir Putin invites Kim Jong-un to Moscow.

Russia to seek 10 years in prison for opposition activist.

EU leaders prepare for long confrontation with Russia.

France's Hollande and pro-reform allies get poll boost.

Most Catalans would vote to stay in Spain: poll.

AMERICAS

Obama signs Russia sanctions bill, no plans to use it for now.

President Obama signs bill authorizing sanctions against Venezuela.

GAO report finds US unprepared for catastrophic disaster.

Cubans imagine new, more prosperous life without an old foe.

No word yet from Fidel amid historic US-Cuba shift.

As US-Cuba relations warm, fuming Venezuelan president left in the cold.

U.S. sanctions mother-in-law of Mexican Sinaloa cartel leader.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Several 'high-value' ISIS leaders killed in Iraq, Pentagon officials say.

Cuba thaw won’t change Gitmo.

U.S. backed talks with ISIS over American hostage: newspaper.

Harsh interrogations can’t be ruled out, new US Senate Intel chief suggests.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Apple 'deeply offended' by BBC investigation.

Global markets rejoice as oil prices stabilize to near $60/bbl.

FIFA to release World Cup corruption report.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 19, 2014



U.S. to Continue Push for Stronger Military Ties With China -- Wall Street Journal

Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the Next U.S. Pacific Commander, Says North Korea Poses Biggest Threat to Security in Asia

SINGAPORE—The next commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific said Thursday he wouldn’t deviate from his predecessor’s strategy of seeking stronger military ties with China and other countries in the region despite conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who currently commands U.S. Navy forces in the Pacific and was confirmed last week as the next chief of the Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command, said China has been increasing tensions in the South China Sea in recent years, pushing several of the region’s countries to seek the U.S. as their security ally.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 19, 2014

US-China Military Relations: The Great Debate -- Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat

Leaked CIA report: Targeting Taliban leaders 'ineffective' -- BBC

US-Led Coalition Eliminates Islamic State Senior Leaders: Pentagon -- Sputnik

Pentagon calls ISIS 'Daesh' for first time -- The Hill

Arab Allies Now Want U.S. to Call ISIS, ‘Daeshi’ -- DoD Buzz

Intel report: North Korea planned attacks on US nuclear plants -- FOX News

For North Korea's cyber army, long-term target may be telecoms, utility grids -- Reuters

White House threatens ‘proportional’ response to North Korea cyberattacks on Sony Pictures -- Washington Times

Government hacks and security breaches skyrocket -- CNN

Russia's defense spending to grow despite economic problems — official -- ITAR-TASS

3rd Russian Borei-class nuclear sub raises its colors -- RT

Russian Defense Ministry to get several hundred T-72B3 tanks -- ITAR-TASS

Dependence on import technology in defense industry must be overcome — Putin -- ITAR-TASS

Putin Row Leaves France Holding Two Carriers It Doesn’t Need -- Bloomberg

Sale of US Warships to Taiwan Violates China-US Agreements: Beijing -- Sputnik

Iran to Hold Military Drill Near Strategic Passage -- AP

Military aircraft crashes in joint UAE-Egypt military exercise -- Al Arabiya

Turkey’s military goes entrepreneurial, sells draft exemptions -- World Tribune

Defence secretary: Now is not the time to get rid of Trident -- Scotland Decides

U.K. May Use Women in Military Combat Roles in 2016 After Review -- Bloomberg

KC-46A Tanker: First Test Flight Next Week -- Defense News

Video: Raytheon Test-Fires New GPS-Guided Mortar for Marines -- Defense Tech

Congress Again Buys Abrams Tanks the Army Doesn't Want -- Military.com

State Dept: U.S. Nukes Down 85%, From 31,255 to 4,804 -- Weekly Standard

US Military Facilities Vulnerable To Spying -- Daily Caller

Spy helped unmask 3 Cuban spy networks, U.S. officials say -- Washington Post

Military could release Bergdahl court martial determination -- CNN

Military Analysts: Bergdahl Report to Show He Deserted -- Newsmax

Pentagon Could Make Combat Action Badge Retroactive to World War II -- Military.com

Insular US Secret Service needs external boss - report -- BBC

Pentagon's IED unit improperly collected intel -- USA Today

Super Sub: Why The Navy's Next 'Boomer' Is The Most Important Program In The Pentagon Budget -- Loren Thompson, Forbes

Why the Pentagon Wants to Use Blimps for Missile Defense -- Popular Mechanics

Railguns: The Next Big Pentagon Boondoggle? -- Mike Fredenburg, NRO

German researchers discover a flaw that could let anyone listen to your cell calls. -- Washington Post

CIA interrogations: 'No place' for psychologists? -- Echo Chambers, BBC

Guantanamo Bay and beyond: How the U.S. military could change in Cuba (and not) -- Dan Lamonthe, Washington Post

A Look At The Global Conflicts That Matter To The U.S.

Center for Preventive Action/Council on Foreign Relations

The Global Conflicts To Watch In 2015 -- Uri Friedman, The Atlantic

A survey shows which countries matter more to U.S. policymakers—and which matter less

Foreign policy often involves making difficult and debatable choices about which parts of the world matter more to a given country—and which, by extension, matter less. It's about defining national interests and determining where those interests are most evident and endangered. This is why the United States has done far more to stop ISIS in Syria and Iraq than, say, sectarian war in the Central African Republic.

Read more ....

My Comment: I expect more countries will be added to this list as 2015 unfolds.

So Much For The U.S. Rule Of Not Negotiating With Hostage Takers



US Backed Talks Between Jihadi Clerics And Isis In Effort To Save Hostage’s Life -- The Guardian

Exclusive: Talks with leadership of Isis to secure release of Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig ran for several weeks with knowledge of FBI
Long read: the full story behind the race to save Peter Kassig
Revealed: the secret talks US hostage – video

US counter-terrorism officials backed a high-stakes negotiation involving two of the world’s most prominent jihadi clerics as well as former Guantánamo detainees in an attempt to save the life of an American hostage held by Islamic State, the Guardian can reveal.

Emails seen by the Guardian show how tentative talks with the spiritual leadership of Isis to secure the release of Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig began in mid-October and ran for several weeks, with the knowledge of the FBI.

Read more ....

Update: U.S. backed talks with ISIS over American hostage: newspaper -- Reuters

My Comment: The American families who were threatened by U.S. officials to not negotiate for their family members are not going to be happy when they learn that the U.S. was singing a different song when it came to negotiating the release of Peter Kassig.

White House Is Open To A Castro Visit



US-Cuba Ties Thaw, White House Open To Castro Visit -- AFP

Washington (AFP) - A US visit by Cuban President Raul Castro is a possibility, the White House said, a day after he and US President Barack Obama announced a historic bilateral rapprochement.

With developments proceeding apace, a high-level US diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, revealed she will travel to Havana in late January for the first direct talks to "begin the process of restoration of diplomatic relations."

But amid celebrations on Havana's streets and plaudits ringing out from China to Chile over the prospects of burying a final vestige of the Cold War, American lawmakers smothered prospects of any rapid roll-back of the trade embargo at the heart of the dispute.

Read more ....

My Comment: I have kept quiet on this news story because everything about the Fidel brothers and the corrupt and wretched system that they and their supporters have imposed on the Cuban people just makes me sick. For as long as I can remember .... ... and this is from a Soviet perspective .... I never understood the Soviet Union's lavish and unquestionable support for Cuba and the Castro brothers. Billions of dollars spent every year to prop up those thugs .... just to be in a position to poke the U.S. in the eye and to aggravate the occupant of the White House. I got into countless arguments over Cuba when I was working in the FO .... and no one ever gave me a satisfactory explanation on why so much money was being spent, and what was the geopolitical benefit from it. No one.

Today .... the left in America are overjoyed that President Obama has decided to restore diplomatic relations with a regime that has a long history of murder, imprisoning political prisoners for decades, torture, the banning of independent unions, complete state control of the media, wide spread internet and communications restrictions, a brutal internal police force, and .... well you get the picture. And while the U.S/ is hoping that this will lead to long term political changes in Cuba .... I am willing to bet that nothing of the sort will happen .... especially now ... because there will be no motivation for the Cuban regime to change. The Cuban regime agreed to the restoration of ties because they want to receive U.S. aid and investment .... aid and investment that they badly need to prop up their government and to pay off their supporters. They have now accomplished this, and what is now left are the details .... details that I am willing to bet that the White House is going to be very open about .... and very accommodating. And as for the Cuban people .... they will get the crumbs .... if they are lucky.

There was a time when the U.S. stood for something .... even when the entire world disagreed with them .... but those days are gone .... long gone. And when Raoul Castro (and maybe his brother Fidel) are invited to the White House and into the Oval Office .... for me .... it will be the final nail in the coffin that the U.S. is not the country that I knew decades ago .... it has morphed into something else .... and with the full support of it's political elite and most of it's voters.

China's Military Is On The Verge Of Having A Global Presence

Militia take part in a parade during an anti-terrorism drill in Taiyuan, Shanxi province August 1, 2009. The drill was held to mark the 82nd anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). (Reuters)

China's Military Is About To Go Global -- Oriana Skylar Mastro, National Interest

The burgeoning need to protect commercial assets and Chinese nationals abroad will inevitably lead Beijing to develop new military capabilities and take on missions further afield.

THE CHINESE armed forces are on the move—but to where? For over a decade, academics, policy wonks and government officials have been engaged in a relentless debate about Beijing’s military capabilities and intentions. To some, China is an expansionist country akin to Wilhelmine Germany. Others argue that while China’s assertive behavior in its regional island disputes is disconcerting, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is completely focused on domestic stability and therefore lacks global ambition.

This debate about current Chinese capabilities and intentions is widespread, fervent—and beside the point. While the Chinese leadership would prefer to stay focused on internal development and regional issues, facts on the ground will increasingly compel the CCP to develop some global operational capabilities. Specifically, the burgeoning need to protect commercial assets and Chinese nationals abroad will lead the country to develop some global power-projection capabilities, regardless of its current plans. Even though the Chinese leadership will embark on this path with very limited goals in mind, Chinese thinking on how and when to use force could change once its strategy, doctrine and capabilities evolve to incorporate these new roles.

Read more ....

My Comment: China's economy already has a global presence .... so it is only natural that the military will soon follow.

China Is Developing And Testing Multi-Warhead Nuclear Missiles

A Chinese media depiction of the potential destructive effect of a MIRV-capable ICBM on Los Angeles. Defense News

China Tests ICBM With Multiple Warheads -- Washington Free Beacon

Clinton-era tech transfer aided multi-warhead program

China carried out a long-range missile flight test on Saturday using multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, according to U.S. defense officials.

The flight test Saturday of a new DF-41 missile, China’s longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile, marks the first test of multiple warhead capabilities for China, officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

China has been known to be developing multiple-warhead technology, which it obtained from the United States illegally in the 1990s.

However, the Dec. 13 DF-41 flight test, using an unknown number of inert maneuvering warheads, is being viewed by U.S. intelligence agencies as a significant advance for China’s strategic nuclear forces and part of a build-up that is likely to affect the strategic balance of forces.

Read more ....

More News On China's DF-41 Missile

China Test Launches Deadly DF-41 Multi War Head Super Ballistic Missile: Threat Perceptions Up For USA -- IBTimes
Chinese DF-41 missile can penetrate US air defense: German expert -- Want China Times
DF-41 missile can wipe out 3 US cities in one attack: report -- Want China Times
US Report: China's Nukes Getting Bigger and Better -- Defense News
Photo of China's DF-41 ICBM uploaded to internet -- Want China Times
China 'confirms new generation long range missiles' -- The Telegraph
Chinese Government Website Confirms New Multi-Warhead ICBM -- Washington Free Beacon

Are Fears Of Russia Losing Control Of It's Nuclear Arsenal In The Event Of An Economic Collapse Realistic?

Photo: Soviet/Russian tactical nuclear warhead being loaded in the field. Nuclear Weapon Archive

Could Russia's Economic Meltdown Lead To Loose Nukes? -- The Hill

Senior lawmakers alarmed by Russia's collapsing economy fear some of the nuclear power's atomic arsenal could fall into the wrong hands.

While officials say there's no immediate reason to think Russia's weapons could be sold off to the highest bidder or stolen, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) intends to hold hearings next year on what Moscow is doing to keep its nukes safe.

“We’re going to be taking on that whole issue in Armed Services Committee and we’ll be figuring out what needs to be done,” McCain, who will chair the panel in the next Congress, told The Hill. “Particularly, the state of the nuclear inventory.”

Read more ....

My Comment: I asked that question when the Soviet Union was collapsing .... and I asked the same question in 1993 when the Russian constitutional crisis erupted in bloodshed .... in both cases the answer (from people who know these things) was the same .... no. Flash forward to today .... the restrictions and protections on Russia's nuclear weapons are even more extensive (thanks to U.S. cooperation since the fall of the Soviet Union) .... so the possibility of even one nuclear device disappearing is inconceivable. But I will concede that if history is any indication .... even the inconceivable has a habit of becoming conceivable .... much to the surprise of those who believed that it would never happen. I look forward to Senator McCain's hearings .... and I hope that it will be done in a non-political and open minded manner.

Putin Reveals He Is In A Relationship A Year After His Divorce

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, wouldn’t say if he’s dating Russian gymnast Alina Kabayeva, right, during his annual three-hour press conference. ITAR-TASS/Reuters

From Russia With Love: Putin Reveals He Is In A Relationship A Year After His Divorce... But Refuses To Confirm Whether Former Olympic Gymnast Is Lucky Lady -- Daily Mail

* Putin was asked by journalist whether he 'had time for the opposite sex'
* Replied 'I tell you I do', before going on to say that he 'loves' and 'is loved'
* Putin is rumoured to have a secret family with athlete Alina Kabayeva

Vladimir Putin on Thursday admitted he is in love, fuelling rumours over a relationship with Olympic gymnast Alina Kabayeva.

Denying he had 'completely gone wild' in his romantic life, the divorced strongman revealed that he 'loves' and is loved in return, but refused to disclose the identity of his mystery partner.

If true, it could mean that Russia's 'most eligible man' is no longer available.

Read more ....

Update: Putin in love? Russian president says he loves and is loved at press conference -- New York Daily News

My Comment: This is the worst case secret in Russia. Yes ... they have been a couple for a few years .... and yes .... Putin in the past few years became a father again with a son and daughter from this relationship.

Now .... can we move on to more important things?

As The Russian Economic Meltdown Continues, Wealthy Russians Are Fleeing With Their Money

The home of Roman Ambrovich in Kensington Palace Gardens, London. Source: Neil Hall / Rex Features

Russian Economic Meltdown Sparks Wave Of Panic Buying London Homes -- The Telegraph

Russians protect their wealth from currency crisis by sinking it into London property

Wealthy Russians, desperate to get their money out of Moscow in the wake of the Russian economic crisis, are panic-buying in London this week, according to high-end estate agents.

Russia has lost control of its economy in the last few days after an interest rate hike by the central bank failed to stem the collapse of the rouble, accelerating the trend of Russian buyers in the UK capital.

Beauchamp Estates said it has seen as much as a 10pc uptick in sales of luxury London homes to Russians since the rouble started to spiral a year ago.

"I currently have half a dozen Russian clients urgently looking to spend over £20m each on buying a new home in central London. For them the address must be Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Regents Park, it's got to be a prestigious postcode and ideally a park side or leafy address," said Gary Hersham, founder of Beauchamp Estates.

There has also been a rise in Russians looking at investment properties, he continued.

Read more ....

My Comment: The Telegraph is a few weeks late .... but their reporting is spot on. The money is pouring out of Russia .... something that I first notice late October. Here are two examples ....

Being from Russia and having a large family that is sill involved in Russian business and politics means that I have a lot of contacts in Russia .... and (yes) some of them are extremely well off. All of them also know I live in Canada, and each year one or two of them do ask me on what are the investment opportunities in Canada .... but nothing ever comes out of it. That has now changed. In the past month I have received a dozen requests .... all of them serious .... from people who want to know if Canada is a safe place for their money (it is), and what are the investment opportunities (primarily in real estate) for them. They are all making plans to come to Canada (and the U.S.) in the New Year .... and it looks like I am going to be busy host in January/February even though I am one of those who prefers to hibernate during winter.

My cousin's daughter is a registered real estate agent in Miami. She is in her mid-twenties and her sole (and only) job right now is to handle real estate transactions for Russian/Ukrainian clients .... an easy job since all of these clients are from her mother (my cousin) who has extensive contacts in both Russia and Ukraine and is extremely well known back home (she is being constantly interviewed on the Russian equivalent of CNBC/Bloomberg/etc.). In the past month my daughter's cousin has closed 5 sales involving million dollar plus homes in the Miami area .... and she is booked for the next two months exclusively taking care of Russian/Ukrainian clients who want to invest and buy expensive properties in the Miami/Florida area.

So yes .... Russia's elites are now sending their money out .... and my read on this is simple .... these people have lost confidence in Putin and in the Russian economy, and they want to protect some of their assets. And while I do believe that Russia's economy will bounce back .... probably sooner rather than later .... for those who have a lot of money .... they are all telling me the same thing .... they just do not want to take the chance.

Update #1: Some are arguing that Russian money is not fleeing .... or at least not to London .... Russians Quit London Luxury Homes as Only Super-Rich Stay (Bloomberg).

Update #2: I agree .... Data show Russian cash has already fled (CNBC).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

After $28 Billion In Aid, The U.S. Is Still Unable To Get Pakistan To Confront Its Radical Militants

Despite Billions In Aid, U.S. Unable To Get Pakistan To Confront Militants -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Since 2001 the United States has tried virtually every strategy available to persuade Pakistan's army to take the threat of militancy more seriously, but 12 years and $28 billion in aid later, all the American approaches are widely viewed as having failed.

First, the Bush administration heaped praise on former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, agreed to reimburse the Pakistani army for anti-Taliban military operations and launched drone strikes that killed al Qaeda leaders and militants wanted by the Pakistani government.

Adopting a more confrontational stance, the Obama administration unilaterally carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, vastly increased aid to Pakistan’s weak civilian institutions and, at times, cut off aid to the Pakistani military.

Read more ....

My Comment: After $28 billion I would say that it is now time to think of a new strategy .... my suggestion .... cut off the funds completely, and start to find new and more reliable allies.

Was North Korea Planning To Attack U.S. Nuclear Plants In The 1990s?

This photo of Kim Jong Un and his military advisors was released last week as North Korea announced it was preparing strikes against mainland U.S.

DIA: North Korea Planned Attacks on US Nuclear Plants -- Washington Free Beacon

Five commando units trained for strikes, sabotage

North Korea dispatched covert commando teams to the United States in the 1990s to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in a conflict, according to a declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report.

The DIA report, dated Sept. 13, 2004, reveals that five units of covert commandos were trained for the attacks inside the country.

According to the report, the “Reconnaissance Bureau, North Korea, had agents in place to attack American nuclear power plants.”

The document states that the North Korean Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, the ministry in charge of the military, “established five liaison offices in the early 1990s, to train and infiltrate operatives into the United States to attack nuclear power plants and major cities in case of hostilities.”

Read more ....

My Comment: Over the years I have read numerous reports on U.S. military/special forces/etc. conducting training exercises to infiltrate North Korea. Would the North Koreans do the same .... if the above report is accurate, I would have to say yes. But this should surprise no one .... the North Koreans themselves have been very blunt and public that they are prepared to wage nuclear war against the U.S. .... and they have been saying that for years .... North Korea says it has approval to use its 'cutting edge' nuclear weapons against America in a 'merciless' attack hours after U.S. warns of 'clear and present danger' (Daily Mail).

Has Hollywood Compromised The Tactics Used By U.S. Special Forces To Islamic Extremists?

U.S. Special Forces soldiers and Afghan commandos move through an open field toward a compound while clearing Bahlozi village in the Maiwand district of Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Jan. 1, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

Hollywood Endangers U.S. Special Forces By Revealing Tactics To Islamic Extremists -- Washington Times

Tweaks needed for hostage rescue, terrorist targeting missions with element of surprise lost

In the secretive special operations community, officials are debating whether to tweak tactics for daring and risky missions involving hostage rescue and terrorist targeting that have been compromised by years of detailed news accounts and Hollywood portrayals.

Some believe Islamic extremists have gone to school on special operations forces. The classroom is the U.S. media.

Special operations forces’ three most recent attempts to rescue American hostages failed. Last year, SEALs attempted a beach insertion to capture a terrorist leader in Somalia but were spotted and repelled. There was also the horrific loss of SEALs in a helicopter shoot-down that some family members believe was an ambush.

Read more ....

My Comment: Leaks from the White House have also not helped. But bottom line .... after recent failed rescue attempts by special forces .... the solution is now clear .... time to change tactics.

Senior Iranian Cleric: Iran Has Attained The Knowledge To Build A Nuclear Bomb

Tehran interim Friday Prayers leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami. Press TV

Senior Cleric: Iran Has Knowledge To Build A Nuclear Bomb -- The Guardian

The Islamic republic has reached the expertise to enrich uranium not just to the 5% and 20% levels required for civilian uses but to higher levels required for a bomb, says Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami

An official site belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has quoted a senior conservative cleric as saying that Iran has attained the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb but doesn’t want to use it.

The IRGC site of Kurdistan province today quoted Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leading cleric who often leads Friday prayers in Tehran, as telling a group of IRGC commanders in Iran’s Kurdistan province that Iran had the expertise to enrich uranium not just to the 5% and 20% levels required for civilian uses but to higher levels required for a bomb. “[We] can enrich uranium at 5% or 20%, as well as 40% to 50%, and even 90%,” he was quoted as saying. But he said the Islamic republic believed that the building of a bomb is religiously forbidden.

Read more ....

My Comment: After this Iranian admission the question needs to be asked .... what will be the White House's response to this threat? My prediction .... they will ignore it and hope that the P5 + 1 nuclear talks will produce something in the months ahead .... and if not .... they will do everything in their power to kick the can down the road for the next administration to face and handle.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 18, 2014

KCNA/Reuters

U.S. Should Make North Korea Pay for Sony Hack -- Gordon G. Chang, Daily Beast

Pyongyang has given the Obama administration no choice but to retaliate now by imposing sanctions or even an embargo.

The New York Times today reported that the American intelligence community has determined that the regime of Kim Jong Un was “centrally involved” in the unprecedented hacking campaign against Sony Pictures Entertainment. CNN reports that the Justice Department will announce, perhaps as early as tomorrow, that hackers working for North Korea were behind the attacks, apparently intended to stop the release of The Interview, the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy about the assassination of the regime’s supremo.

Why would the White House delay an announcement? The administration, the Times reports, “was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign.” The concern is that a public accusation would result in an escalation.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- December 18, 2014

As 'The Interview' is pulled, does this mean North Korea wins? -- Timothy Stanley, CNN

Hollywood's complete moral surrender -- Jeff Yang, CNN

Hollywood Surrenders to North Korea -- Marlow Stern, Daily Beast

Sony hack: No more North Korean bad guys? Or Russian? Or ...? -- Michael Holtz, CSM

As Washington and Havana talk, a question: Where is Fidel Castro? -- Nancy San Martin and Nora Gamez Torres, Miami Herald

Cubans imagine new, more prosperous life without an old foe -- Daniel Trotta, Reuters

As Cuba and U.S. mend ties will Venezuela follow their lead? -- Jim Wyss, Miami Herald

Syria: where modern and medieval warfare combines -- The Guardian

The Arab World’s Vanishing Christians -- Christian C. Sahner, Project Syndicate

How will Pakistan deal with armed groups? -- Inside Story/Al Jazeera

Avenging the Children of Peshawar: The Taliban's Massacre in Peshawar Must Be Its Last -- Mira Sethi and Shehrbano Taseer, NYT

Two Days After School Attack, Pakistan Court Lets Terrorists Walk Free -- Chris Allbritton, Daily Beast

Putin says Russia economy will be cured, offers no remedy -- Timothy Heritage and Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters

Putin’s Christmas Show -- John Cassidy, New Yorker

Oil Price Scenarios For 2015 And 2016 -- OilPrice.com

Here's How Much Oil The World's Biggest Oil Players Are Sitting On -- Shane Ferro, Business Insider

World News Briefs -- December 18, 2014 (Evening Edition)



Backed by U.S. Airstrikes, Kurds Regain Ground From ISIS -- New York Times

BAGHDAD — Kurdish forces, backed by a surge of American airstrikes in recent days, recaptured a large swath of territory from Islamic State militants on Thursday, opening a path from the autonomous Kurdish region to Mount Sinjar in the west near the Syrian border.

The two-day offensive, which involved 8,000 fighters, known as pesh merga, was the largest one to date in the war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, according to Kurdish officials. It was also a successful demonstration of President Obama’s strategy for battling the extremist group: American airpower combined with local forces doing the fighting on the ground.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Top Islamic militants killed; more US troops going to Iraq. 3 senior ISIS leaders killed in U.S. airstrikes.

Islamic State fight to take at least three years: U.S. general.

IS siege of Mount Sinjar broken: Iraqi Kurd official. Kurds 'retake ground' from ISIL in Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga forces launch offensive to retake Isis held areas.

U.N. appeals for $8.4 billion for humanitarian relief to Syrians.

Suicide bombers kill at least seven in Yemen port: sources.

Iran nuclear negotiations resume in Geneva. At U.N., Iran urged to show more flexibility in nuclear talks.

Palestinians set deadline for Israeli occupation.

Netanyahu: Palestinian move at UN will lead to Hamas takeover in West Bank.

Yemen's new cabinet wins parliament approval.

ASIA

Thailand welcomes China's Li as U.S. ties cool over coup.

U.N. General Assembly condemns N. Korean abuses. N. Korea debate set for UN Security Council after assembly vote.

Pakistani school attackers ‘were told to kill soldiers’ after massacre of pupils. Pakistan angry at school killings, moves to execute convicted terrorists.

Some Pakistan militants denounce school attack, amid national outrage.

Pakistan grants bail to Mumbai attack accused.

Pakistan, Afghanistan vow to unite against militants.

New control center to fight rise in attacks in Afghan capital.

Chinese criminals blamed for record Japan Bank cybertheft.

Decades of complications and cleanup remain at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

AFRICA

Fighting in Libya's Benghazi kills 25 in eight days: medics.

Militant video claims Tunisia politician assassinations in name of Islamic State group.

Amid fist fights, Kenya parliament passes controversial antiterror law.

Officials: Boko Haram kidnaps 185 women and children, kills 32 people. Women seized in Boko Haram raid on Nigerian village.

Cameroon army kills 116 Boko Haram militants, defense ministry says.

Official: 28 die in clashes in Central African Republic.

Armed groups recruit 10,000 child soldiers in Central African Republic: NGO.

South Sudan factions to discuss peace yet again.

South Sudan hires Ex-Blackwater chief to restore war-damaged oil facilities.

Ebola: 11th Sierra Leone doctor dies; fire destroys supplies.

EUROPE

OSCE extends observer mission at Russia-Ukraine border until March.

Putin seeks to ease fears over Russian economic crisis. Putin press conference: 'economy will rebound within two years'. Putin: I feel no responsibility for collapse of rouble.

Putin says Russia determined to protect interests, U.S. creates threats. Putin comments on possibility of peace in Ukraine during press conference.

Kiev reports 162 military personnel killed since September 5 ceasefire.

Russian sailors leaving France without warship.

EU leaders meeting about Russia, jump starting growth.

Greek presidential vote enters second round, fuelling economy fear.

Swiss National Bank will cut interest rate to minus 0.25%. Switzerland has so much money it pays consumers for bank loans.

Spain's state prosecutor steps down after spat over Catalonia.

AMERICAS

U.S. will respond to North Korea hack, official says.

IRS warns of possible shutdown.

U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years. U.S., Cuba make historic move to ease Cold War stance.

Obama and Raúl Castro thank pope for breakthrough in US-Cuba relations.

Sea boundary talks between U.S., Mexico, Cuba to take years: Mexico.

Latin America welcomes Obama's move to restore US-Cuba ties. US-Cuba rapprochement complicates LatAm politics.

Mexico troops sent to La Ruana after vigilante shoot-out.

Colombian gov't praises FARC cease-fire, rejects monitoring. Colombia rejects FARC's verification demand for ceasefire. Colombia's government rebuffs rebel truce.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Al Qaeda car bombs target Houthi fighters in Yemeni port city.

US backed talks between jihadi clerics and Isis in effort to save hostage’s life.

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in court.

Islamic State penal code promises crucifixion, lashing for unbelievers.

US airstrike targets Pakistani, Afghan Taliban in Nangarhar.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Dow jumps 421 points. Best day since 2011.

Sony hacking fallout puts all companies on alert.

Oil tumbles after brief rebound; Brent back below $60.

Oil price fall is temporary, says Saudi minister.

UK oil industry ‘close to collapse’ as price plunges below $60 per barrel. North Sea oil industry 'close to collapse'.

The Interview: Sony shelves worldwide release.

Russian President Putin Discusses Ukraine In Today's News Conference



Putin Says He Is Seeking Resolution of Conflict in Ukraine -- Bloomberg

Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled no change in his approach to the conflict in Ukraine while saying that he is seeking a negotiated resolution to the crisis.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is “of course” attempting to restore peace and Russia is ready to be an intermediary in talks with separatist rebels, Putin said at his annual media conference in Moscow today.

Poroshenko “wants to resolve the situation but he is not alone,” and others in Ukraine are more militaristic, Putin said. The country needs dialogue to ensure a single political space is maintained in Ukraine.

Read more ....

More News On Russian President Putin's Remarks On Ukraine In Today's News Conference

Ukrainian journalist to Putin: "When will you stop punitive operation in eastern Ukraine?" -- Charter 97
Putin signals he will not back down over Ukraine -- The Telegraph
Ukraine wouldn’t have civil war if not for West - Putin -- RT
Ukraine in 'punitive' war against rebels says Putin -- AFP
Vladimir Putin: Ukraine must remain 1 entity -- CBC/AP

My Comment:
The above video is from today's Putin news conference and it is from a Ukrainian reporter who holds back no punches in his question(s).

Airplane Graveyard: Donetsk International Airport In Ruins (Video)



Apocalyptic Donetsk Airport Video Reveals Aftermath Of E. Ukraine Standoff -- RT

Footage has emerged of Donetsk International Airport resembling an airplane graveyard. Strewn everywhere are torn parts, fuselages split in half and other debris – a remnant of months of fighting between the Kiev government and the Donetsk opposition.

The airport witnessed some of the heaviest fighting during the uprising in East Ukraine.

When RT visited the scene in October, it witnessed what correspondent Roman Kosarev described as “complete devastation.” The entire infrastructure of the airport had been replaced by a garbage heap of concrete and metal.

Read more ....

My Comment: According to my sources and news reports the front in eastern Ukraine is still quiet (relatively speaking) .... giving everyone a chance to assess what will happen next if this lull in the fighting stops .... Ukraine ceasefire leaves frontline counting cost of war in uneasy calm (The Guardian).

Are Islamic State Fighters Now At The Borders Of Israel?

A black flag belonging to the Islamic State is seen near the Syrian town of Kobani, as pictured from the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Israeli Lookouts Scanning Syrian Landscape For Islamic State Flag -- Washington Free Beacon

Three groups close to border pledged fealty to IS

JERUSALEM—Israeli lookouts on the Golan Heights are scanning the Syrian landscape for the black flag of the Islamic State after three small jihadi groups close to the border this week pledged fealty to the radical group.

The jihadist militias are among a number of rebel groups, both Islamist and secular, fighting the Damascus regime of Bashar al-Assad in the area opposite the Golan Heights. During the three years of the Syrian civil war, none of the groups in this loose coalition has attacked Israeli border positions, focusing instead on their battles with regime forces. These skirmishes, sometimes only a few hundred yards from the border, are easily visible from Israeli positions on high ground.

Read more ....

My Comment: I give the Islamic State credit for being brash and cocky .... 'Jerusalem will be under Islamic State control in 8 years' (i24 News).