Thursday, March 31, 2016

U.S. Sending Brigade Combat Teams To Europe, Blames Russia, Russian Nuclear-Capable Iskander Missiles Deployed In Syria



U.S. sending brigade combat teams to Europe, blames Russia





The U.S. military said on Wednesday that it would deploy rotations of U.S.-based armored brigade combat teams to Europe, part of a wider effort to counter what the United States sees as Russian aggression on the continent.
The teams will be on nine-month rotations starting in February 2017, and will conduct military exercises across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, according to a statement from U.S. European Command.w
Their presence in Europe will be continuous and bring the total U.S. Army presence on the continent to three fully manned brigades, the military said.
Each unit rotating in will bring equipment that is more modern and up-to-date and will ultimately replace the current training equipment in Europe. A typical U.S. Army armored brigade has about 4,500 soldiers.
The decision means U.S. allies will “see a more frequent presence of an armored brigade with more modernized equipment in their countries,” said General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command.
The United States has budgeted to sharply boost military training and exercises aimed at reassuring European countries concerned about Russia, which seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has worried NATO allies with its strategic bomber flights.

Current equipment used in Europe will be upgraded and stored in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, and will allow for “additional combat power, if and when needed,” the military said.





Russian military jets take off from the country's air base in Hmeymin, Syria to head back to Russia, part of a partial withdrawal ordered by President Vladimir Putin, in this still image taken from video March 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Russian Ministry of Defence via REUTERS TV


Russian military jets take off from the country’s air base in Hmeymin, Syria to head back to Russia, part of a partial withdrawal ordered by President Vladimir Putin, in this still image taken from video March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russian Ministry of Defence via REUTERS TV









Russia has deployed its most advanced tactical missile system, the Iskander-M, in Syria in the last few days. The Russian Iskander is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and has never been made available to any foreign army for operational use.

No nuclear-capable surface missiles were deployed in any Arab country bordering on Israel since 2007 when Chinese DF-21 missiles were installed in Saudi Arabia.

The Russian missiles (NATO codenamed SS-26) have a range of 500 kilometers (see map).
The Iskander’s transfer to the Kaliningrad enclave in the Baltic Sea in 2015, putting it in range of Central and Western Europe, was a mark of heightened tensions with the West over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

Its deployment in Syria, amid a bloody five-year civil war, is a game changer in terms of the balance of strength in the Middle East. Its range - from the Russian Hmeimim base in western Syria - covers all of Israel up to the southern town of Beersheba, points in Turkey up to the outskirts of Ankara and the eastern and central Mediterranean including Cyprus.

The Russian decision to scale down its forces in Syria was only part of the picture: Warplanes and bombers are being pulled out, but as fast as they leave, they are being replaced by the most advanced missile systems in the Russian arsenal.

On March 15, Moscow announced that the formidable S-400 ground-to-air missiles would stay in Syria after the withdrawal. Ten days later, on March 25, the Iskander-M systems were in place. The Iskander-M is rated the top short-range ballistic missile in the world.



Its mobile launching vehicle carries two missiles. It only takes a few minutes to prepare them for launch; each may be fired separately. In flight, its operating team can retarget the weapon, adjusting it if necessary to hit  moving targets such as missile launchers, tank columns or supply convoys.

Another special feature of the Iskander-M is the control of its warhead by an encoded radio signal that even UAVs or AWACS cannot intercept. The missile can therefore lock on the target without being shot down. The missile’s computer receives an image of the target, locks on it and zooms toward the target at supersonic speed.

The Iskander-M is adaptable for use against small or large targets and can easily evade air defense batteries. Its targets can be set by satellites, surveillance planes, intelligence mechanisms or even field soldiers directing artillery fire from images scanned to their computers. Furthermore, its independent navigation system is not affected by poor weather conditions, including fog or darkness, like other ballistic missiles. It is moreover almost impossible to pre-empt the launch of the Iskander-M due to the mobility of its launching system.









The Obama administration recently gave a $270,000 grant to an Islamic charity that has been banned by Israel and the United Arab Emirates because of alleged financial ties to the terrorist group Hamas and to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided the funds last month to the U.K.-based Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) for its work in Kenya, according to the federal spending database USASpending.gov.
The funds are earmarked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s global health security partner engagement initiative.
The program is aimed at fighting infectious diseases and promoting “global health security as an international priority,” according to the CDC website.
But IRW has been at the center of other security concerns.
In 2014, Israel and United Arab Emirates banned IRW, which is headquartered in Birmingham, England, from operating within its borders alleging that the group supports and funds Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s military arm in Palestine.
Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon alleged in July 2014 that IRW’s chapters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were being run by members of Hamas.
“The IRW is one of the sources of Hamas’s funding and a means for raising funds from various countries in the world,” Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon said in a July 2014 statement. “We do not intend to allow it to function and abet terrorist activity against Israel.”
In 2006, the Israeli Security Agency arrested Iyaz Ali, a Pakistani-born British national who worked as project director of IRW’s operations in the West Bank.
“He worked to transfer funds and assistance to various Hamas institutions and organizations, including the Al Wafa and Al Tzalah associations, which have been outlawed in Israel,” reads a 2006 statement from Israel’s defense ministry. Ali also admitted that he had worked and cooperated with Hamas operatives in Jordan.
“The IRW provides support and assistance to Hamas’s infrastructure,” the statement continued, alleging that IRW’s operations are “controlled and staffed by Hamas operatives.”
“The intensive activities of these associations are designed to further Hamas’s ideology among the Palestinian population.”


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