Friday, March 24, 2017

Iranian Fast-Attack Boats Take Aim At U.S. Warships, Turkey And NATO Getting 'Closer To Divorce' While Aligning With Russia

Iranian fast-attack boats take aim at US warships

US Navy commanders are claiming Iranian forces “harassed" American warships as they passed through the Strait of Hormuz. The claims come as tensions are on the rise between the two countries.
The incident occurred on Tuesday as a US-led, five-vessel flotilla, which included the aircraft carrier ‘USS George H.W. Bush’, passed through the waters on its way to the Arabian Gulf.
According to the commanders, the flotilla was approached by two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats, some of which came as close as 870 meters (950 yards) from the aircraft carrier.
"What I don't like about that is they (Iranian boats) were in the middle of international transit waters (while) we had a right to be there as we were exercising freedom of navigation on our way into the Arabian Gulf," Rear Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 2, told journalists aboard the aircraft carrier, as quoted by Reuters.
"They also had weapons uncovered as some of the cameras were able to tell. They had some of the weapons manned. We also have aerial data that they were arming all of these weapons."

Whitehall said Iran claimed the US-led flotilla – which also included a Danish frigate and a French destroyer – had breached its international territorial waters. The commander denied that assertion.

Responding to the Iranian Navy, US forces deployed helicopter gunships from the ‘USS George H.W. Bush’ to hover over the speedboats. One of the helicopters was threatened by Iran, according to Captain Will Pennington, the commanding officer of the ‘George H.W. Bush’, adding that it was “certainly unprofessional behavior.”

It comes less than three weeks after Iran's Revolutionary Guards said a US Navy ship changed course toward Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, accusing Washington of “unprofessional actions...(that) can have irreversible consequences.”

In January, a US destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they approached at high speed and apparently disregarded numerous requests to slow down.

Turkey has been a NATO ally since 1952, and US aircraft have used Incirlik Air Base in the south during the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The base is home to a stockpile of US tactical nuclear weapons. A perusal of media reports leads to the conclusion that Turkey and NATO are heading for a major rift or even a breakup – a problem the North Atlantic alliance hasn’t experienced in its nearly seven decades of existence.
Germany and the Netherlands have blocked Turkish ministers from staging rallies to court the vote of expatriate Turks in the April 16 referendum on giving President Erdogan greater powers. Denmark is siding with its north European neighbors. Turkey faces deep differences with the USA, accusing it of being behind the failed plot in 2016. Both countries have opposing views on the role of Kurds in Syria. Former State Secretary John Kerry came close to threatening Turkey with the loss of its NATO membership.

Add to this the perennial tension between Turkey and Greece and the problem of Cyprus to get the whole picture. According to Bloomberg, «All in all, Turkey appears to have more disputes than friendships with its NATO allies. And its engagement with the alliance itself, which it joined in 1952, isn't particularly strong».

The NATO annual report for 2016 says Turkey only took part in four of the 18 key NATO exercises held last year. Despite having the fourth-strongest military in the bloc (after the US, France and the UK but ahead of Germany) and the second-highest number of military personnel (after the US), its involvement in NATO's deployments is small, amounting to just 4 percent of the personnel in the mission to train the Afghan security forces, and 7 percent of the Kosovo force.

Last November, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey could become part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The idea had been discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Established in 1996, the SCO is a political, military and economic organization comprising Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran, Mongolia, Belarus and Afghanistan are granted observer status. India and Pakistan are set to join this year to make the SCO a powerful group with global influence. Turkey’s accession would be a milestone bringing together the Shanghai Pact and the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States (CCTS) - an international organization of Turkic countries, comprising Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey. The General Secretariat is in ─░stanbul, Turkey. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are possible future members of the council.

Turkey is developing military cooperation with Russia. This January, Russian and Turkish air forces launched a joint operation against Islamic State (IS) militants holding the town of al-Bab northeast of Aleppo. The parties have agreed to form a joint military and intelligence mechanism to coordinate their activities in the Middle East. If peace efforts to stop hostilities in Syria succeed, Russia and Turley lead the crisis management process. It could be a start on the way to forming a broader alliance against global terrorism.

Russia and Turkey have been getting increasingly close recently, especially after the two countries brokered a Syria truce in late December to join together in the Astana process. Turkey is in talks with Russia on purchasing the advanced long-range S-400 air defense systems to protect its skies. This issue was on the agenda during the President Erdogan’s visit to Moscow on March 9-10, 2017. Ankara also seeks procurement deals in electronic systems, ammunitions and missile technology.

There was a time when Russophobia served as an effective form of population control – used by the American ruling class in particular to command the general US population into patriotic loyalty. Not any longer. Now, Russophobia is a sign of weakness, of desperate implosion among the US ruling class from their own rotten, internal decay.
This propaganda technique worked adequately well during the Cold War decades when the former Soviet Union could be easily demonized as «godless communism» and an «evil empire». Such stereotypes, no matter how false, could be sustained largely because of the monopoly control of Western media by governments and official regulators.
The Soviet Union passed away more than a quarter of a century ago, but Russophobia among the US political class is more virulent than ever.
This week it was evident from Congressional hearings in Washington into alleged Russian interference in US politics that large sections of American government and establishment media are fixated by Russophobia and a belief that Russia is a malign foreign adversary.
What is increasingly apparent here is a gaping chasm between the political class and the wider public on the matter of Russophobia. This is true for Western countries generally, but especially in the US. The political class – the lawmakers in Washington and the mainstream news media – are frenzied by claims that Russia interfered in the US presidential elections and that Russia has some kind of sinister leverage on the presidency of Donald Trump.
But this frenzy of Russophobia is not reflected among the wider public of ordinary American citizens. Rabid accusations that Russia hacked the computers of Trump’s Democrat rival Hillary Clinton to spread damaging information about her; that this alleged sabotage of American democracy was an «act of war»; that President Trump is guilty of «treason» by «colluding» with a «Russian influence campaign» – all of these sensational claims seem to be only a preoccupation of the privileged political class. Most ordinary Americans, concerned about making a living in a crumbling society, either don’t buy the claims or view them as idle chatter.
Let’s just assume for a moment that the whole Trump-Russia collusion story is indeed fake. That it is groundless, a figment of imagination. There are solid reasons to believe that is the case. But let’s just assume here that it is fake for the sake of argument.
That then means that the Washington seat of government and the US presidency are tearing themselves apart in a futile civil war.
The real war here is a power struggle within the US in the context of ruling parties no longer having legitimacy to govern.
This is an American implosion. An historic Made-in-America meltdown. And Russophobia is but a symptom of the internal decay at the heart of US politics.

Operation Damascus: Over 450 Terrorists Killed In Five Days, Russia Warns Norway Over Missile Defense Plans

Over 450 Terrorists Killed in Five Days of Syrian Army's Operation in Damascus

The Syrian Army reportedly killed over 450 terrorists in five days of an operation in Damascus.

The Jabhat Fatah al Sham (former al-Nusra Front) terrorist group and its allies attempted to break through the government troops’ defense in the Jobar region earlier Friday.

According to the al-Ikhbariyah television channel, the militants were repelled and suffered losses. Numerous extremists were also trying to break through to enter the historic part of Damascus. The army repelled all attacks, according to the media outlet.

The civil war in Syria has been lasting for around six years with government troops fighting against numerous opposition factions and terror organizations such as al-Nusra Front and Daesh, outlawed in Russia.

Russia has warned Norway over consequences of joining NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans. According to Russian ambassador to Oslo, Moscow will retaliate. Norway's possible accession to NATO's missile shield «will be a new factor that will be considered in our strategic planning as the emergence of an additional problem in the Arctic region», Teimuraz Ramishvili told the Norwegian state media network NRK.

In 2017, Norway may become a part of BMD. The Norwegian government has appointed an expert group to consider a possible Norwegian contribution to the missile shield. A detailed report on the issue is currently being prepared by experts from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment and the US Missile Defense Agency to be submitted the year.

Installation of BMD sites might potentially undermine the efficiency of Russian strategic nuclear forces as a means of deterrence.
Norway is executing a drastic change in its military policy towards a far more aggressive posture. Even though the country is small, it has the sixth biggest military budget per capita, after the United States, Israel, Singapore and some ‘monarchies’ in the Persian Gulf. The country spends 7.3 billion dollars on the military, more than Sweden (5.7 billion), a country with twice the population. Its geographic position makes it a key element of NATO military planning. The nation’s leading political parties want an increased focus on ‘strategic assets’ like F-35, capable of striking deep into Russian territory, submarines and surveillance capabilities. 

Norway hosts 330 US Marines in the central areas of the country, formally on a ‘rotating’ basis. The rotation does not change the fact that the forces are permanently present in Norway. They are deployed at the Vaernes military base, about 1,500 km (900 miles) from the Russian territory, but the training program involves traveling closer to the border. Norway and Russia share a small land border far in the north.
The Marines can be easily reinforced. The US forward storage areas have been upgraded to store cutting edge weapons and equipment for about 16,000 Marines. Building up stockpiles is a key part of US strategy to enhance its capabilities in Europe. There are plans to warehouse tanks, artillery and other fighting vehicles at other locations around the Old Continent.
The only purpose for the deployment is preparation for an attack against Russia. The Marines are first strike troops. The provocative move is taking place at the time the Russia-NATO relationship hit a new low as the bloc’s forces deploy in Eastern Europe and tensions run high in the Black Sea and elsewhere. According to Heather Conley, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Europe Program, Northern Europe is now being viewed as a «theatre of operations».
There are other plans to increase US military presence in Norway. According to a report of Washington-based Center for Strategic and international Studies (CSIS), «The former Royal Norwegian Navy base at Olavsvern is ideal for supporting submarine operations in the extreme North Atlantic and Arctic Seas». The think tank believes it may be possible for Norway to nationalize and reopen a portion of the facility to support the rotational presence of US, UK, French, and Norwegian submarines. Olavsvern was NATO’s closest naval base to Russia’s submarine bases along the coast of the Kola Peninsula west of Murmansk.

The deployment of NATO forces to Norway is clearly a provocative act directed at Moscow. Norway shares a 121 mile border with Russia, while the Russian Northern Fleet is based in the Murmansk region, approximately 100 miles from the border.

Regional, World War Possible In Middle East: Full Scale Confrontation Between Syria And Israel

Regional, World War Possible As Israel Continues To Provoke Full-Scale Confrontation With Syria

The war in Syria is heating up yet again with signs that the conflict may soon be about to take greater international dimensions. This is all due to greater Israeli participation and aggression in Syria against the Syrian military and on the behalf of terrorist organizations fighting against the Syrian government. The questions that remain, however, are whether or not the Israelis are willing to tempt the resolve of the anti-terrorist coalition of Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia and how steadfast that resolve of those powers might actually be

In the past week, we have seen an escalation in the Syrian conflict the likes of which we have not seen in decades in terms of Israeli-Syrian tensions as well as the potential for a clash of nuclear world powers in the Middle East as a combat theatre.

After a mobilization of U.S. troops near Manbij – designed to prevent the Syrian military from retaking the city and as a means to stop combat between Turkish and Kurdish forces – Israel launched an air attack on Syrian targets near Palmyra, the Zionist settler state’s farthest penetration into Syria yet.

This time, however, Israel was not able to bomb and bail as they have done eleven times in the past as Syrian air defense systems were mobilized and an Israeli jet shot down as a result. This shoot-down was apparently launched after the Syrian military informed the Russian militaryof its intention to shoot down the Israeli planes. It is assumed that the Russians did not object to the use of force.

Indeed, Russian Marines were only a few kilometers away from where the Syrian military was attacked. After the attack, the Russian government summoned the Israeli Ambassador, Gary Koren, to demand an explanation for the operation. This, in and of itself, is an unprecedented event.

Very soon after the shoot-down, both Syria and Israel engaged in a war of words and threats regarding any future incidents. For instance, Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, stated that, “The next time the Syrians use their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation.”
Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari, also responded to the incident with statements of his own.

“Putin sent a clear message,” he said. “The fact is that the Israeli ambassador [to Russia] was summoned for a conversation only a day after he submitted his credentials [to the Russian Foreign Ministry last Thursday], and was told categorically that this game is over.”

Jaafari pointed out that the attack has changed the rules of the game and that Syria will not sit idly by while Israel attacks its forces.

But, on Sunday, a new incident arose with the Israelis launching an airstrike in Quneitra, located in the Golan Heights. Syrian news media reported the incident first, saying that a militia commander had been killed in the strike. Lebanese television station, al-Mayadeen identified the man killed as Yasser Assayed, member of the National Defense Militia. He was a commander of the Golan Brigade, a Druze militia fighting alongside the Syrian military against terrorists. The assassination was allegedly conducted by virtue of an unmanned Israeli drone.

On March 19-20, Israel launched more airstrikes on the Lebanese-Syria border, supposedly targeting a Hezbollah weapons supply convoy.

On Monday, March 20, an Israeli drone was shot down over the Golan area allegedly by Syrian aerial defense systems. Hezbollah paraded pictures of the downed drone on its social media pages as proof of the shoot down, forcing Israel to admit that the UAV had indeed been brought down.

On Wednesday, March 22, Israel launched more airstrikes deeper inside Syrian territory, targeting Syrian army posts near the capitol, Damascus. This marks the fourth Israeli airstrike operation in Syria within one week.

Syrian President Assad told Russian MPs visiting Syrian that he is counting on Russia to do something about any further Israeli attacks on Syria and to assist Syria in avoiding a real full-scale war with Israel.

Assad’s comments and Israel’s behavior reveals that a full-scale war is bubbling just below the surface, perhaps only hours away. 

Comments coming from a number of Israeli officials only a week ago has made it clear that Israel would naturally draw Hezbollah into such a war as well, perhaps involving Iran if for no other reason than the fact that Iran is the principal patron of the militia group. 

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has commissioned a ship two-and-a-half American football fields long to bolster its fleet as threats loom in the East and South China Seas.

The JS Kaga accompanies another Izumo-class destroyer, the JS Izumo, in the Japanese naval fleet. The ship formally joined the ranks at a ceremony in Yokohama on Wednesday, according to China Topix.
The ship’s namesake, the first Kaga, was a World War II warship that was sunk during the Battle of Midway in 1942, reports the Business Standard, an India-based English language daily news outlet. 
Global Times, a Chinese media outlet, has referred to the ship as "notorious" and "aircraft-like."

"We hope the Kaga’s reappearance is not [a] resurgence of Japanese militarism," said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman at the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Regarding the loss of the original Kaga, Japan should become familiar with “the lessons of history,” the Global Times reported Hua saying. 

"China and its neighbors will never allow Japan to make trouble," the spokeswoman said, adding that the stability of the South China Sea relied on "the joint efforts of China and ASEAN (Association of Southeastern Asian Nations)."

Last Thursday, China warned of retaliation if Japan sent the JS Izumo through the South China Sea. 

The JS Kaga and its accompanying 14 helicopters specialize in anti-submarine warcraft. Moving forward, the helicopter carrier could be outfitted for stationing F-35 short take-off and vertical landing aircraft, China Topix reported. 

WikiLeaks has revealed the CIA’s alleged ability to infiltrate and control iPhones through a tool called NightSkies, which is physically installed onto factory fresh iPhones and allows the CIA to monitor and download files from targets’ phones undetected

The revelation is part of WikiLeaks’ latest Vault 7 release named ‘Dark Matter.

NightSkies works in the background and grants “full remote command and control,” to the CIA, allowing it to upload and download files from iPhones, including details from the owner’s phonebook, text messages and call logs, and to execute actions on the phones as it wishes.

In the press release regarding the latest ‘Vault 7’ leak, WikiLeaks claims that NightSkies “is expressly designed to be physically installed onto factory fresh iPhones.”
A 2008 document featured in the release explains that NightSkies v1.2 must be physically installed and will only start beaconing information once the user starts to use the phone.
Nightskies is made up of three components: an implant, a Listening Post (LP) and a post-processing program.
The implant runs undetected on the phone once it has been physically installed.
The CIA monitors the phone for activity, including its browser history file, YouTube video cache or mail metadata. Once it is used for the first time, NightSkies kicks in and sends information to a preconfigured LP.
LPs are used to monitor devices, such as computers and phones, which have been hacked with the CIA’s malware implants. They can be physical or virtual and stored on a CIA computer server.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

U.S. Aircraft Carrier Shadowed By Russian, Chinese Spy Ships Near S Korea

Exclusive: USS Carl Vinson Shadowed by Russian, Chinese Spy Ships Near South Korea

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, currently deployed in waters near South Korea, is being shadowed by both a Chinese spy ship and a Russian spy ship, a defense official told Breitbart News.

While U.S. ships “generally” have a Chinese shadow while operating in the region, it is uncommon for them to be shadowed by a Russian ship in that area, one official said.
Both the Chinese ship and Russian ship are intelligence-gathering ships, the official said.
The Chinese ship has been identified as the Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship Tianlangxing.
The Russian ship has been identified as the Vishnya-class AGI ship Kurily – the same type of ship that was reportedly patrolling the U.S.’s east coast earlier this year.
The Vishnya-class ships are designed to gather signals intelligence via an extensive array of sensors.
The Chinese ship began shadowing the Vinson as soon as it entered the South China Sea on February 18, but the Russian ship began shadowing it after it headed north near the Sea of Japan, the official said.
The spy ships are staying “at least” a couple of miles away from the Vinson, the official said.
The Vinson is currently exercising with the South Korean navy for the annual Foal Eagle exercise, which North Korea regards as future training for an invasion.
A spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet said regional navies shadowing of the Vinson is “neither surprising nor concerning,” but directed questions on the Russian ship to Russia.
“The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its escorts are conducting routine exercises with the Republic of Korea Navy in the waters around the Republic of Korea. These exercises strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance and improve regional security,” said Navy Cmdr. Clay Doss.
“It’s neither surprising nor concerning that other regional navies may have an interest in our exercises so long as they operate safely and professionally. For information about the presence and intent of Russian naval vessels, we refer you to the Russian Navy,” he said in a statement to Breitbart News.
The Russian surveillance comes as the Trump administration has spoken of seeking to improve the U.S.-Russia relationship. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly planning to go to Russia in April, according to a report by Reuters.
Russia’s presence in the region also adds to what is already a tense situation.
North Korea fired a mid-range missile Wednesday, seen as a message of warning to the U.S. and South Korea. The missile reportedly exploded within seconds of launch.
Earlier this week, North Korea released a video showing a simulated attack on the Vinson as well as a U.S. B-1B Lancer, accompanied by bellicose language. North Korea also recently announced it had tested a new rocket engine. U.S. defense officials told CNN the engine could be used for a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile.
North Korea had launched at least four ballistic missiles in tests earlier this month, which prompted the Trump administration to announce it had begun deploying the first elements of the THAAD missile defense system to South Korea, a move opposed by China.
China’s foreign ministry blamed the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises – expected to last until April 30 – for the heightened tensions.
“‘Everyone with his dagger drawn’ would be a fair description,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.