Thursday, August 28, 2014

Iran Now Arming The West Bank, Conflict Escalating In Ukraine

Iran said Wednesday it was stepping up efforts to arm West Bank Palestinians for battle against Israel, with Basij militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi saying the move would lead to Israel’s annihilation, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.

“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” Naqdi, who heads the nationwide paramilitary network, said.

“The Zionists should know that the next war won’t be confined to the present borders and the Mujahedeen will push them back,” he added. Naqdi claimed that much of Hamas’s arsenal, training and technical knowhow in the recent conflict with Israel was supplied by Iran.

Tehran will “accelerate” arming Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in retaliation for Israel deploying the spy drone over Iran, a military commander said.

In late July, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published statements condemning Operation Protective Edge and saying that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza.
The more recent warning came a day after the Guards said they had brought down the Israeli “stealth drone” above the center of the country.

The skies above Sderot may have been quiet for the first time in two months on Wednesday, the first day of the open-ended ceasefire, but inside, residents in the relentlessly rocket-battered Gaza border town were seething at what they consider a half-finished operation that changed nothing from the situation before Operation Protective Edge.

“I have no faith in this ceasefire; [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has no influence there at all,” said Keren Turgeman. “Look at the people living on the border of Gaza where rockets are falling like rain. They need to put an end to this. With all of the pain of soldiers dying, we must go and occupy Gaza completely.”

Turgeman lost her job this summer after being too scared to leave her home to go to work. For the time being, the seven-year Sderot resident says she is staying in the area, but the moment the next round of fighting begins, she will leave. “I’m still so scared, I don’t believe in this ceasefire,” she said. “You can’t raise kids here. I have a year-old daughter and she understands when we have to grab her and run that something is not okay. But people are in debt and they can’t leave, they don’t know what to do.”

On Wednesday, Sderot was eerily quiet for a weekday afternoon. Some people began to trickle into coffee shops and stores around the downtown area, but many stores in the shuk were closed as war-weary residents weighed whether or not to trust the 12th truce attempt of the summer.

“You should have been here yesterday. Yesterday was terrible. There must have been 10 code red alerts, one right after the other,” said Sian Avner, the owner of Sian’s Bakery in Sderot.
Behind him, half a dozen shops in the shuk were shuttered. “There’s no foot traffic, so there’s no reason for people to open,” said Avner. Though today might be quiet, he said, everyone believes the rockets will return at any moment. “You can’t sleep, so you’re just always exhausted. You don’t feel like eating. I’m still in trauma. Every time the door slams I jump, every time I hear a bus going by I think it’s the shriek of a rocket.”
Now, of course, there’s also a new fear of tunnels from Gaza. “I’m worried I’ll be strolling one evening and a terrorist will pop out of the ground,” he said.
“We’re getting to the point where suddenly the center of the country is starting to understand what we’re going through,” said Shimon Kadvig, a resident of Kiryat Malachi who works at the same supermarket. “If I am sitting and drinking coffee with my wife at night, I always have to think about where we can run to, who grabs what kids. I have six kids, two sets of twins, so we have to have a plan.”
“We’re in the same situation that we were at the beginning of this war, and before the last war and the war before that,” Kadvig added. “It needs to be like the West Bank: We need to control the entire Strip.”

Hamas suffered a near-fatal military and diplomatic blow during Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, but he acknowledged that he could not guarantee sustained quiet for Israel — the key goal of the operation. He said the Islamist group had achieved none of its stated objectives after 50 days of fighting, assessed it would be wary of initiating another round of violence, and indicated that planned indirect negotiations on a long-term arrangement next month might go nowhere.

Netanyahu warned that if Hamas were to resume attacks against Israel in any form, the IDF would strike back “sevenfold.”

A group of Russian soldiers has crossed the Ukrainian border in armoured infantry carriers and trucks and entered the eastern town of Amvrosiyivka, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman.
A convoy of "up to 100" tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers was seen travelling on a road toward Telmanove, a town about 80 kilometres south of rebel stronghold Donetsk and 20 kilometres from the Russian border, Ukraine's army said in a statement.
The army did not give details about the personnel on board the vehicles or when the column was thought to have entered Ukraine.
A military source said the convoy had come from Russia.
"We believe that this is Russian equipment. You cannot buy 100 tanks at a market in Donetsk or Lugansk," the source said.
"Of course they have been moved from across the border."
Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said government forces had killed about 200 separatists and destroyed tanks and missile systems in clashes in the towns of Horlivka and Ilovaysk further north.
Mr Lysenko said 13 Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the latest fighting and 36 people had been wounded.
If it turns out Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine it could further deepen the country's crisis — the focus of talks this week between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk.
US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said in a Twitter post: "The new columns of Russian tanks and armour crossing into Ukraine indicates a Russian-directed counter-offensive may be underway."

Russian soldiers and Ukrainian soldiers are now shooting at each other in eastern Ukraine.  Could this conflict ultimately lead us down the road to World War 3?  This week, a very robust force of "tanks, artillery and infantry" has opened up a "third front" in the Ukrainian civil war in a part of southeastern Ukraine that had not seen much fighting yet.  Exhausted Ukrainian forces are suddenly being pushed back rapidly and many outsiders are wondering how the nearly defeated rebels were able to muster such impressive military strength all of a sudden.  But it really isn't much of a mystery.  The tanks, artillery and infantry came from inside Russia.  In recent days, Ukrainian units have captured ten Russian paratroopers and there have even been funerals for Russian paratroopers that have been killed in action back home in Russia.  Even though it has become exceedingly obvious that Russia is now conducting a stealth invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is still choosing to deny it.  But if he did publicly admit it, that would be even more dangerous.  Barack Obama would be forced into a position of either having to do something about the Russian invasion or look weak in the eyes of the public.  And as the Russians have already shown, they are more than willing to match any move that the Obama administration makes.

There has already been much written about who is to blame for all of this, and I am sure that much more will be written about who is to blame in the future.  The western world is blaming "Russian aggression" for the mess in Ukraine.    In return, the Russians point out that it was westerners that funded and organized the groups that violently overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine.  To the Russians, the current government of Ukraine is made up of neo-Nazi terrorist usurpers that are attempting to brutally oppress millions of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
So the Russians seem themselves as "the good guys" in this conflict and so does the western world.  But that is how most wars start.  Both sides usually feel morally justified at the start of a conflict.
In the final analysis, however, is it really going to matter very much who was "right" and who was "wrong" if the end result is World War 3?
If the rebels in eastern Ukraine had been able to defeat the Kiev government forces on their own, Putin probably would have been content to let them do that.  But instead, they had been pushed back to two major cities and seemed on the verge of defeat.
Sadly, most Americans are not paying much attention to this conflict.
Most Americans are not really going to care much about a war on the other side of the planet that does not directly involve us.
But they should care.
Because things are about to escalate to a level that we rarely saw even during the darkest moments of the Cold War.  Relations between the United States and Russia are spiraling downhill, and that could end up having a huge impact on all of our lives.
For example, in my previous article entitled "Russia Is Doing It – Russia Is Actually Abandoning The Dollar", I discussed how this tug of war over Ukraine was causing Russia to think about moving away from the petrodollar.  Well, it turns out that now the Russians are actually taking concrete steps toward abandoning the petrodollar for good...
As relations between the United States and Russia continue to decline precipitously, both sides will be looking for ways to hurt one another.
And that won't be good for any of us.
So let us hope that cooler heads prevail.
But ultimately, this current conflict could end up taking us to a destination that the Cold War never did.
World War 3 will probably not happen next week, next month or even next year, but right now we are on a road which could eventually lead to the unthinkable.
Let us pray that our politicians are able to find the exit ramp at some point.

Germany and the US have lent weight to Ukraine’s claim that Russian troops are directly involved in opening up a new front in the conflict.
The fresh Western concern comes after Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian army spokesman, told press in Kiev on Wednesday (26 August) that Russian soldiers took part in a rebel attack on the town of Novoazovsk, near Crimea, in south-east Ukraine.
He added that Russian soldiers and armoured vehicles also crossed the border further north, near the Ukrainian town of Amrosievka.
Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, said Merkel called Russian leader Vladimir Putin the same day to ask him if it is true.
“The latest reports of the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory must be explained. She emphasised Russia's major responsibility for de-escalation and for watching over its own frontiers”, his statement said.
The Kremlin’s communique on the Merkel call said nothing on the subject, however.
Instead, it “announced the intention of the Russian side to provide new supplies of humanitarian aid to Luhansk and Donetsk” - two rebel-held areas where Russian "aid" trucks recently came and went without approval from Ukraine or the Red Cross.
The US was more explicit.
Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, told media in Washington on Wednesday that “these [new] incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk”.
She added: “Russia is sending its young men into Ukraine … We also note reports of wounded Russian soldiers in a St. Petersburg hospital and that other Russian soldiers are returning home to Russia for burial”.
Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, said on Thursday morning: “An increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory. Russia … is now directly involved in the fighting”.

The number of Islamic State recruits is much higher than that estimated by foreign observers – around 100,000, says one of Iraq’s foremost security experts with unique access to intelligence. The terrorists are swallowing up other insurgent groups.
Foreign estimates put the figure between 20,000 and 50,000.
“[The] Islamic State didn’t come from nowhere,” according to Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Iraq’s intelligence services and analyzes raw information gathered on the ground. He has studied the group’s progression for years.
The organization “is an extension of groups that existed before – historically and ideologically,” al-Hashimi told Mashable.
And with the capture of Iraq’s Mosul – a Sunni stronghold – in June, the group gained access to thousands of new recruits, among them former officers from Saddam Hussein’s army, vehemently opposed to the current Shiite-majority government. Those who didn’t join up voluntarily were forced to do so, al-Hashimi says.

Recruitment has never been easier, according to al-Hashimi. The organization’s leader, “Baghdadi carries now the flag of the jihadi against the crusader.”

A recent rise in Shiite militias has also contributed to sectarian fear and some joining up with the IS (formerly ISIS/ISIL) as a result.
“Most of those who joined — and I know them personally — are either former army officers or their sons,”said another expert and former intelligence officer, Salem Aljomaily.
A third specialist in the field, also an intelligence officer, Ibrahim al-Sumaidei, backs al-Hashimi’s assessment, giving a grim forecast.
“The Islamic State’s members have multiplied in a very dangerous way… Having plenty of arms and funding has made the Islamic State swallow the fighters of the other Sunni insurgent groups,” he said.
UN investigators on Wednesday voiced on concern that children are increasingly coerced into enlisting, with many popping up in Syrian training camps.
The terrorist group is divided roughly equal parts between Syria and Iraq, and involves professionals in various other areas, such as logistics and business. They put themselves to work in controlling the illicit flow of oil and in other financial activities.
A Harvard University fellow, Harith Hassan, has likened the organization to Al-Qaeda, “replacing [it] as the most prominent Jihadist group.” And the ethnic composition, aside from the obvious Middle Eastern origins, is all over the place – Europe, Chechnya, Britain, North Africa.

Princeton University professor Robert George warned Wednesday that the Islamic State will carry out “mass slaughter in the United States” if it is not soon “destroyed as a fighting force.”
“They have every intention of getting [to the United States], and these are people who achieve what they set out to achieve,” George said on The Glenn Beck Program with guest host Dana Loesch. “Unless somebody stops them, they make good on their threats. They have threatened to carry out activity in the United States — killing people, mass slaughter in the United States.”
“Believe me, I plead with you, I want your listeners to believe me — these people will do it if they can,” George continued. “And they will be able to do it unless we stop them.”

The Princeton professor described the Islamic State as “genocidal,” saying: “They mean to wipe out entire communities, and there is nothing they will stop short of when it comes to achieving their goal.”
“Our well-being, our security, our place in the world are vitally threatened by ISIS and ISIL,” he said. “They will stop at nothing … in order to destroy anyone standing in their way so that they can establish the caliphate.”
George advocated working with the international community to supply air support, as well as strategic and intelligence support, to Kurdish forces, Sunni tribesmen, and other local forces resisting the Islamic State. He also advocated airstrikes against Islamic State strongholds.
George said “we’re going to have to fight them eventually.” The only question is whether we do it in Iraq, or wait “until they’re carrying out terrorist activity within the United States.”

Two earthquakes measuring more than magnitude 5 hit Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano overnight and another quake shook a nearby volcano, with overall seismic activity staying high, the country's Meteorological Office said on Wednesday.
The rumblings at Iceland's largest volcano system have raised worries of an eruption that could spell trouble for air travel. In 2010, an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano closed much of Europe's airspace for six days.
"During the night we have had three larger events, two of them in the Bardarbunga caldera. Those were 5.2 and 5.3, and very similar to the events that we have seen there before," said Palmi Erlendsson, a geologist at the Met Office.
He said there had also been a 4.5 magnitude quake at the Askja volcano, 50 kilometres to the north, probably because of magma from Bardarbunga moving in that direction.

The night before saw a magnitude 5.7 quake - the biggest earthquake yet at Bardarbunga.
On Sunday, Iceland lowered its warning code for possible volcanic disruption to the aviation industry to orange from red, after concluding that seismic activity had not led to a volcanic eruption under the glacier.
A red alert, the highest warning level, indicates an eruption is imminent or under way, with a significant emission of ash likely. 

A leading American health official has warned that the Ebola outbreak sweeping West Africa will get worse.
The disease has already killed more than 1400 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and Doctors Without Borders warned the tremendous influx of patients in Liberia, in particular, is overwhelming their treatment centers there.
"I wish I didn't have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better," Dr Tom Frieden, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the outbreak at the end of a visit to Liberia. He described the situation as dire.

Liberia has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths of any of the four countries. Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that a new treatment center recently opened in the country's capital with 120 beds filled up almost immediately.

The tremendous number of patients means the medical charity is not able to provide those patients with intravenous treatments, a primary way doctors keep people who are losing a tremendous amount of fluid alive.
The group did not mention Frieden's visit or recent UN ones, but it said discussions happening now about international coordination are coming too late and that there are countries that could make a dramatic difference if they provided more expertise and resources. It did not name the countries.

"This is not only an Ebola outbreak - it is a humanitarian emergency, and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response," Lindis Hurum, the group's emergency coordinator in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, said in the statement.
Frieden travels next to Sierra Leone, where the loss of a third senior doctor has raised concerns about the country's ability to fight the outbreak.
Dr Sahr Rogers had been working at a hospital in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted Ebola, Sierra Leonean presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said.
Rogers' death marks yet another setback for Sierra Leone, a country still recovering from years of civil war, where there are only two doctors per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By comparison, there are 245 doctors per 100,000 in the United States.
Health workers have been especially vulnerable because of their close proximity to patients, who can spread the virus through bodily fluids. The WHO has said that at least 240 health workers have been infected in the current outbreak, more than in any other.
One of those is an epidemiologist working with the WHO in Sierra Leone, who has been evacuated for treatment in Germany.
"The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits," said Christy Feig, director of WHO communications.
This week a team of two experts was sent to investigate how the Senegalese epidemiologist became infected, said Feig. In the meantime, the WHO has pulled out its team from Kailahun, where he was working.
The epidemiologist had been doing surveillance work for the UN health agency, Feig said.
The position involves coordinating the outbreak response by working with lab experts, health workers and hospitals, but does not normally involve direct treatment of patients.

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