Thursday, May 25, 2017

Abbas Top Adviser: There Is No Regional Peace Plan, Manchester Bomb Maker At Large - Could Strike Again, China Warns U.S. To Leave Disputed Waters, Signs Of Military Action In N Korea

Abbas's top diplomatic adviser: There is no regional peace plan 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s top diplomatic adviser on Thursday poured cold water on swirling media reports regarding a US-led regional peace process that would see Arab states partially thawing their relations with Israel as a first step toward restarting peace talks.

“There is no regional peace process or anything like it,” Majdi al-Khalidi told The Times of Israel. “No one is talking about it with us, or with anyone.”

The latest report, on Thursday in the Hebrew-language daily Israel Hayom, quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian official revealing ostensible details of what US President Donald Trump conveyed to Abbas when the two men met in Bethlehem earlier this week.

According to that report, Trump’s approach appears to fall in line with that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been promoting a so-called “outside-in” approach that would see ties normalized between Israel and moderate Arab states as a way to promote peace with the Palestinians.

By contrast, Palestinian leadership has insisted on the time-honored formula, first laid down in a 2002 Saudi-led peace initiative, that sees a peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians as a prerequisite for normalization with the entire Arab and Muslim world.

Khalidi stressed on Thursday that the PA had in no way changed its stance.
“First the two-state solution must exist and be implemented. And once the Palestinians will have their own state beside the State of Israel, then the Arab peace initiative can be implemented,” he said in a phone interview.

The person who made the bomb that blew up Manchester Arena is still at large and could strike again at any time.
Intelligence services now believe that Salman Abedi who detonated the nail bomb in the foyer of the venue was a ‘mule’ using a device made by someone else.
The bomb was a major step up from the crude but lethal attacks using vehicles at Westminster this year and in atrocities in Nice and Berlin in 2016.
There are fears that whoever made the Manchester Arena bomb is on the run and could carry out one last attack.
A police source told the M.E.N.: "They don't waste bomb makers. The reason we have gone to critical is because he is still out there and the fear is that he will strike again before they get caught."
On Tuesday night Prime Minister Theresa May increased the UK terror threat level from severe to critical.
Earlier today armed forces carried out a raid at an address in Granby Row near Piccadilly Station. The operation was part of the investigation into the bombing.
Fire crews were on standby during the raid. It is not clear whether their presence indicated that the swoop was connected to the search for the bomb maker or bomb-making equipment.
ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack.
As part of their inquiries police are trying to establish who Abedi met before he went to the Arena - and how he travelled there. Much of this is expected to have been caught on CCTV.
Abedi had returned to his home city of Manchester after vsiting Libya - the original home of his parents.

The Chinese Navy has warned a US warship to leave, as it sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea “without permission.” Beijing says that the latest US move disrupts the peace process in the region. 
After the USS Dewey guided missile destroyer entered waters near the disputed land “without permission from the Chinese government,” the country’s navy “warned it to leave,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a news conference on Thursday, as cited by AFP.
China slammed the recent US patrol, saying that it “undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.” Beijing urged Washington to “correct this mistake” and refrain from further provocations that can undermine the “peace and security of the region” as well as bilateral cooperation between the US and China.
“Stop taking further provocative actions that hurt China’s sovereignty and maritime interests, so as to avoid hurting peace and security of the region and long term cooperation between the two countries,” Lu Kang stated. He added that these patrols can “cause unexpected air and sea accidents,” Reuters reports.

On March 8, we wrote an analysis that said North Korea appeared to be crossing a red line set forth by the United States. And now, there are signs that military action on the Korean Peninsula is increasingly likely.
It’s no secret that the USS Carl Vinson has been near the peninsula for a few weeks. But now the USS Ronald Reagan, which is based near-theater in Japan, has joined it. The USS Nimitz, which is based in Washington state, is back in port, having recently completed a training exercise, as is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, farther south in San Diego. The U.S. Navy has said that the Roosevelt would deploy again soon, though it neglected to mention a destination. Dispatching three carrier groups is sensible, if not necessary, for military action against North Korea, but it’s not actually clear what role the Navy would play in the mission.

But the mission itself is clear: If it were to attack North Korea, the United States would try to destroy its nuclear facilities and eliminate the southern artillery batteries aimed at Seoul. And it would do so primarily through the air.
In fact, the United States already has some 100 F-16 fighter aircraft in South Korea. They have been conducting exercises in South Korean airspace regularly for some time — notable insofar as these kinds of exercises often take place before an attack. Such was the case before Operation Desert Storm.

Airstrikes by F-16s alone, however, are a foreboding prospect. North Korea has ample surface-to-air missiles, and it would be dangerous to send non-stealth aircraft such as the F-16 over target sets without first suppressing its air defenses and command and control centers. It would also imperil Seoul, which would quickly bear the brunt of North Korea’s response to U.S. military action. But here, too, the United States is prepared. Strikes would likely be carried out in part by stealth bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, which is located nearby in Guam. (As it happens, the Guam Chamber of Commerce will soon be briefed on civil defense, terrorist threats and North Korea, according to a report published May 22. Tellingly, no attempt was made to hide the preparations, nor was any concern paid to how North Korea might respond.) The United States could, moreover, deploy the F-35 stealth aircraft it has had stationed in Japan since January. This way, the United States could attack artillery targets, and therefore mitigate the damage against Seoul, before it attacked air defense targets. The F-16s in theater are equipped with weapons systems that are designed to target anti-aircraft capabilities, so they would extend their strikes to destroy air defenses, opening the door for non-stealth defense aircraft.

It’s unclear whether the United States would deploy ground forces; doing so would almost certainly incur U.S. causalities. If the air campaign against North Korea failed to destroy its intended targets, Washington would have to consider sending in special operations forces.

Any attack would begin by striking North Korean command centers, including political command centers. With this in mind, the North Koreans have probably developed a system by which command would be delegated to the field in the event top commanders were killed.

We also don’t know how exactly North Korea would counter an attack. Its leaders are well prepared, even seemingly cocky in their behavior, which has all but dared Washington to attack. Either they are bluffing or they have viable options for a counterattack. Maybe they have a robust offensive capability. Maybe they can destroy U.S. ships and aircraft. Maybe they are further along in their nuclear program than the U.S. thought. Maybe their ballistic missiles can reach Guam.

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