Sunday, April 30, 2017

Iran In Syria: A Gathering Storm? Netanyahu's Bold Move Against Europe, U.S. Carrier Carl Vinson Stages War Drills With S Korean Navy

Iran in Syria: A Gathering Storm?

The Iranian regime, as it has made clear in countless threats, rallies, and missile displays, wants to destroy Israel, the “Little Satan.” 

Given Israel’s military might and, according to foreign reports, nuclear arsenal, Iran’s goal is probably unattainable. But the nearer Iran gets—or perceives itself to get—to that goal, the more warfare and instability is likely to ensue.
At present, thanks to Syria’s collapse into civil war and the Obama administration’s—at best—inept policy there, Iran is within reach of establishing a permanent military presence to Israel’s north—a surefire recipe for ongoing struggle and menace.
Israeli officials, Reuters reports, now estimate that Iran “commands at least 25,000 fighters in Syria, including members of its own Revolutionary Guard, Shi’ite militants from Iraq and recruits from Afghanistan and Pakistan.” 
Iran is also reportedly seeking a naval base in Syria, and, if it gains a lasting foothold in Israel’s northern neighbor, will undoubtedly want an airbase there as well. 
The Reuters report notes that Israeli intelligence minister Yisrael Katz has been on Capitol Hill urging stepped-up U.S. threats and sanctions on Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hizballah. Israel wants Russia to rein in Iran, too—though whether Russia is willing is still in dispute. 

Of particular concern are Iran’s efforts to establish a beachhead for itself and Hizballah on the northern Golan Heights, directly across the border from the Israeli-controlled southern Golan. 
Two years ago an Israeli airstrike on the northern Golan killed both Hizballah and Iranian commanders seeking to build a terror network there. Israel remains acutely concerned that such efforts will continue.
Iran’s naked aggression toward Israel was in evidence this week in a different kind of attack. The Israeli daily Haaretz reports:
Cybersecurity experts are convinced that Iran is behind the large-scale cyberattack revealed Wednesday by Israel’s Cyber Defense Authority. The attacks have been identified as being carried out by a hacker group known as OilRig, which has been tracked to Iran and is believed to be financed and directed by one of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence agencies.
OilRig…is known to have attacked in both government and private sector targets the past, focusing primarily on Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States and Israel.
The recent attacks were aimed at at least 120 Israeli targets, including private companies, government departments, research institutes and hospitals…. It is unclear at this point whether the attack had any specific targets beyond creating damage in Israeli computer networks, and the extent of that damage is still being assessed. 

Other reports, like this one, claim the cyberattack was successfully thwarted.
What is not in doubt is that the—for now—low-level war between Iran and Israel is not only continuing but intensifying. On Thursday it was reported that Israeli missiles fired from the Golan Heights hat hit and destroyed Iranian arms supplies in a Hizballah depot near Damascus International Airport. 
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, mentioned above, appeared to confirm that Israel was behind the strike, saying it “exactly matches our declared policy.”
Iran’s harassment of a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf this week suggests that its cockiness toward the “Great Satan,” too—after a period when it seemed to have waned—is returning. 
A cyber attack on Israel, arms shipments to Hizballah, and provocative moves against the U.S. navy are—among much else—all in a week’s work for Iran. 
Israeli officials are, though, well aware that the current administration has a much more sober view of the problem than the previous one, and more hopeful that, this time around, the forces of civilization will push back against a regime that has been sowing discord and death for almost four decades.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted a new strategy for managing Israel’s diplomatic relations with the West. Long in the making and increasingly urgent, Israel’s new strategy is very simple. Foreign governments can either treat Israel in accordance with international diplomatic norms of behavior, or they can continue to discriminate against Israel.
If they act in accordance to international diplomatic norms, Israel will respond in like fashion. If they choose instead to discriminate against Israel and treat it in a manner no other democratic state is treated, Israel will abandon diplomatic convention and treat foreign governments as domestic critics.
On Monday, after his repeated requests for Germany’s visiting Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to cancel his plans to meet with Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem, Netanyahu gave Gabriel an ultimatum. Gabriel could meet with Netanyahu, or he could meet with Breaking the Silence.

Gabriel refused to cancel his meeting with Breaking the Silence. So Netanyahu canceled their meeting.

To understand the strategic significance of Netanyahu’s decision and what further steps are now required to ensure the success of his strategy, it is necessary to understand what Breaking the Silence represents. It is then important to recognize how it is used by Berlin and other foreign governments.

But first, Netanyahu’s move has to be seen in a general context.

Today’s Western democracies are in a furor over the notion that foreign governments would dare to interfere in their domestic affairs. The uproar in the US over Russia and in Europe over Turkish efforts to drum up support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among Turkish nationals in Europe make clear how roundly democracies decry attempts by foreign governments to influence their internal politics.

This then brings us to Israel, and the unique rules that the West applies in its dealing with the Jewish state.
The playing field between Israel and Europe has shifted in recent years. Today, the EU is fighting for its life. Donald Trump’s victory in November, Britain’s decision to exit the EU, and the growing power of anti-EU forces in Europe have all had a debilitating impact on Brussels’ ability to throw its weight around in the global arena.

Moreover, over the past several years, the government has actively promoted expanding Israeli trade to Asia. One motivation for the policy is the desire to diminish Europe’s economic leverage over Israel.

The diminishment of Europe’s power advantage over Israel set the conditions for Netanyahu’s adoption of his strategy for dealing with Europe’s war against it.

And just in a nick of time. Because as Europe becomes less powerful, Europe’s policies toward Israel become more toxic.

Seoul: The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on Saturday started a joint naval drill with the South Korean Navy in the East Sea amid heightened tensions from North Korea`s failed ballistic missile launch earlier in the morning, defence officials here said.
"South Korea and US strike forces began a drill in the East Sea from 6 p.m. today against the backdrop of the current security situation," the South Korean Navy said.
No specific schedule for the rendezvous was released to the media yet, but the exercise is expected to continue until sometime next week, Yonhap news agency reported.
At the core of the naval exercise lies the missile warning informational link exercise (LINKEX) that monitors, traces and intercepts any intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) from North Korea.
"The exercise is the follow-up of the naval exercise in the Yellow Sea between the two navies on Tuesday. It is aimed at deterring North Korea`s provocations and strengthening the military readiness of the Korea-US alliance," the Navy said.
It would mark the Vinson`s second operation in South Korean waters in less than two months, an unusual move that comes amid military tensions in Korea.
The nuclear-powered flattop reportedly carries almost 100 aircraft. Its strike group also includes guided-missile destroyers and cruisers.
Earlier this week, the Vinson had joint drills with Japan`s naval forces.
North Korea is said to be fearing the powerful US strike group but its state media publicly claimed the Communist nation`s troops are ready to sink the aircraft carrier with a single strike.

Quakes, Volcanos, Famine, Preview Of EMP Threat

Large cluster of aftershocks grows to almost 100 off the coast of Chile reminiscent of build up to massive mag 9.1 quake which hit Honshu, Japan in 2011

On Tuesday I gave a “heads up for Chile” after a cluster of 16 large fore and aftershocks could be a trigger for a massive quake in the days to come, that cluster has now grown to almost 100 mid to large quakes in a 50km square area off the coast of Valparaiso Chile.

After the massive mag 7.1 quake which has since been downgraded by USGS to a mag 6.9. An astonishing 88 mid to high strength aftershocks have struck, including two mag 5.9’s, a mag 5.7, with a further 15 mag 5 or higher.

What is happening off the coast of Chile is reminiscent of the build up to the massive mag 9.1 quake hit Honshu, Japan in 2011, killing more than 18,000 people and causing the Fukushima disaster, see map below.

A powerful explosive eruption occurred at the Showa crater of Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan at 02:01 UTC on April 28, 2017 (11:01 JST). Several smaller eruptions followed.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said it is the first such eruption this year and the first of such strength since July 2016.
According to the Tokyo VAAC, the volcanic ash cloud produced by the eruption at 02:01 UTC reached an altitude of 4.3 km (14 000 feet) above sea level and drifted southeast. JMA warned similar explosive eruptions might occur in the future.
JMA maintains Level 3 (orange alert), signifying the volcano is active and should not be approached. 

Mt. Sakurajima, a volcano in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan, erupted on Friday, the weather agency said.

According to Japan's Meteorological Agency, the eruption occurred at 11:01 a.m. local time.
Ash and smoke was recorded as billowing as high as 3 kilometers into the sky, the weather agency said.

The agency warned that similar eruptions could occur, although there have been no immediate reports of injury or damage as a result of the latest eruption.
The last major eruption occurred at the mountain on July 26 last year and the volcano is under Level 3 (orange alert) by the Japan Meteorological Agency, signifying the volcano is active and should not be approached.

Just a week ago a volcanic bomb shot up about 100 meters into the sky and molten rock rolled down toward the sea on April 21 on Nishinoshima island, about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo, erupted for the first time in 17 months.

"Intensive volcanic activity will continue for a while.
Brown smoke mixed with ash was tossed out of the ground intermittently and lava poured out near the top of the island's round vent, as well as at another spot.

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced the eruption on April 20 and warned it would likely continue for some time.

The number of people in need of food aid in Ethiopia's drought-hit regions has surged to 7.7 million, over two million more than an estimate earlier this year, state media reported on Friday.

The National Disaster Risk Management Commission said in January that failed rains would leave 5.6 million people in need of emergency food this year in three of the country's nine regions: Oromia, Amhara and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region.

Public relations director Ababe Zewdie told the state-run Ethiopian News Agency that cold snaps as well as localised flooding in some areas have further decimated what crops had managed to grow, causing them to revise upwards their estimates.

"Over $742m is needed to support the people affected by drought and more than 432 000 tons of additional food up until early July," the news agency reported.

Ethiopia is prone to droughts, and the lack of rains in the country's highlands forced 10.2 million people to seek food assistance last year.

The United Nations has warned that this year's drought in East Africa could lead to 17 million people going hungry across the region.

Russia has launched a push to show off its growing military presence in the Arctic in the past two months, even inviting foreign journalists on a rare tour of one of its bases in the region.
The Alakurtti base, which ABC News and several other foreign media organizations were invited to see this week, is above the Arctic Circle, about 250 miles from the northern port Murmansk and on the border with Finland.
A Soviet-era base, surrounded by forest and around 8 foot of snow in April, Alakurtti was presented to foreign journalists as an example of Russia’s wider military expansion back into the Arctic.
The Soviet Union had deployed huge forces to the Arctic Circle as part of its strategic defenses; the peninsula on which Alakurtti is located is nicknamed the “unsinkable aircraft-carrier” because of the number of airbases there.

Now, however, Russia is returning. In the past two years, Russia has launched a major effort to build up its military presence, constructing a string of new bases, as well as refurbishing Soviet ones and building up its communications infrastructure along its northern coast.
The reason is new: as ice around it recedes, uncovering resources and opening up shipping routes, the Arctic is emerging as a new arena for geopolitical competition. With the U.S. Geological Survey estimating 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its gas to be located there, jostling to claim the resources has already begun.

At least 88,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers were left without power for most of the workday.
Employees in the city’s financial district had to go home for the day as they found themselves unable to do business. Many retailers shut their doors as well, unable to accept credit card payments using their electronic card readers. Major traffic jams plagued the city as motorists were forced to treat every intersection as a four-way stop.
However, there were no reported deaths or major injuries associated with the outage, and all power was restored to customers within eight hours.
But what if next time is different? What if next time, the power goes out not for seven hours, but seven days? What if it goes out not merely in part of San Francisco, but the entire Western half of the United States?
That scenario is very plausible in the increasingly dangerous world in which we live, according to energy expert Jeffrey Yago.
“Hopefully you realize that this government just does not have the resources, expertise or leadership to feed and shelter millions of people if a real disaster strikes, and there have been multiple examples to drive this point home,” Yago warns.
“Aging power systems, malicious computer hacking, decommissioned power plants that could not meet new EPA regulations, grid terrorist attacks, and the increased risk of an EMP all but guarantee future power outages will last much longer and occur more frequently.”
Michael Maloof, a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense, estimates a large city like San Francisco could only survive two or three days at most without electricity before devolving into chaos. All public transportation would be gone, as would the ability to refuel cars. The grocery stores would likely run out of food after three days.

“It can be rather devastating in very short order, just in a matter of days, not weeks and months,” Maloof told WND.
In his book “A Nation Forsaken,” Maloof warned of the threat an EMP, in its various forms, poses to the vulnerable American power grid. While EMPs can be man-made, they can also arise from natural causes, such as solar flares and accompanying coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
NASA observed a large coronal mass ejection from a sunspot late on April 18, according to If CMEs can take between 42 and 208 hours to reach the Earth, as NASA says, this particular CME could have passed near Earth on the morning of April 21, at the very time power went out in San Francisco.
San Francisco was not the only American city to experience a power outage that morning. In New York City, power went down at one subway station at 7:20 a.m., and later that morning, across the country, power went out at Los Angeles International Airport and many other locations around the city.
Maloof acknowledged the possibility extreme space weather may have been behind the widespread outages. He said power failures have a way of spreading throughout the electrical grid.
“Once something goes down in one area, there is a cascading effect to other areas within the surrounding area. So you shut down power in one area, it could affect power outage in contiguous areas,” he said. “So it’s conceivable that you had a cascading effect within the cities as a result of the solar flare, and they’re in the right latitude for where that flare could have hit approximately. And they’re all on approximately the same latitude, which makes it so very interesting.”
The ever-present threat of solar flares and other extreme space weather, combined with the threat of a weaponized EMP from a hostile nation such as North Korea, leads Maloof to believe EMP defense should be one of the U.S.’s top national security priorities. However, the Trump administration has not yet taken steps to harden the U.S. power grid against a possible EMP. It has not even declared it one of its top priorities.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Russia's Clear Signal To The U.S., Pyongyang States 'War Imminent', Russia Leads Superweapons Arms Race

Russia's Clear Signal to US: Think Twice Before Using Your Nukes

Russian parliamentarian Frants Klintsevich, who recently criticized British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon's remarks about using nuclear weapons in a first strike attack in "the most extreme circumstances," has now sent a tough warning to the US in case of any similar aggression.

Russia will be able to provide a tough response to a possible nuclear strike of the US, Russian parliamentarian Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, said on his Facebook page.

His latest remark comes in the follow up to the statement of first deputy chief of the General Staff's Main Operational Department, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir that the US missile defense system in Europe allows a covert nuclear missile strike against Russia.

"The presence of US missile defense bases in Europe, missile defense vessels in seas and oceans close to Russia creates a powerful covert strike component for conducting a sudden nuclear missile strike against the Russian Federation," Poznikhir said on Wednesday.

The results of computer simulation confirm that the US missile defense is directed against Russia and China, Poznikhir said.

"Russian representatives have often appealed to the US side, drawing their attention to the danger the global missile defense system poses to the strategic balance of forces in the world. But facts are ignored. The US claims its missile defense system is not directed against Russia and China. But… the results of computer simulations testify to the contrary," he said.

Commenting on the above remarks, senior fellow at the Center for European Studies of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of Russia's Academy of Sciences Viktor Olenchenko told Radio Sputnik that they were prompted by the alarming escalation of aggressive rhetoric of the US military and some US allies in NATO.

An undated file photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, on 07 March 2017, shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location

An undated file photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea, on 07 March 2017, shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location CREDIT:KCNA

On Friday, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, warned that failure to curb North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to "catastrophic consequences".
He called for a greater enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea and requested the help of the rest of the world in pressuring North Korea to step back from its military threats.
North Korea's deputy UN ambassador responded by stating US efforts to get rid of his country's nuclear weapons through military threats and sanctions were "a wild dream".
Mr Trump told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The top US military commander in the Pacific warned earlier this week that North Korea could strike American soil.
"I don't share your confidence that North Korea is not going to attack either South Korea, or Japan, or the United States ... once they have the capability," Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command, told Congress.
He was defending the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system by the US in South Korea.
The move was “in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threat”, a US military statement said, amid concerns that Pyongyang was planning its sixth nuclear test since 2006.

While the arms control regime is going through the hardest times ever, a superweapons arms race is on. This month, the US demonstrated its capability to deliver long-range precision strikes in Syria. It also used its most powerful non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast can obliterate everything within a 1,000-yard radius. The US military started testing the new B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb in Nevada. A fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets arrived in Europe. Today, railguns and directed-energy weapons systems are counted upon to sustain America’s precision strike advantage. But there is an area where the US appears to be lagging behind.

The emergence of hypersonic weapons is a revolution that seriously affects the global balance of power. For instance, when the new $15 billion US Ford-class aircraft carrier is commissioned, it will become vulnerable to hypersonic missiles.

On April 15, Russia successfully tested the 5-ton 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile that will travel at eight times the speed of sound at 6,136mph.

The hypersonic missile is a quantum leap in technology. It requires no electronic countermeasure warfare and complex trajectory of flight. The sheer speed makes any contemporary anti-aircraft defenses obsolete. The only air defense system that can strike targets capable of speeds of around Mach 5.0-Mach 6.0 is the Russian S-500.

The weapon is designed to be carried by advanced and modernized warships and submarines, including those of the Husky-class. Production of the missile is expected to be launched next year. The Admiral Nakhimov and the Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered missile cruisers will be the first to receive the new weapon in 2018 and 2022 respectively. The Russian Navy plans to refit the two giant warships with ten 3S-14 vertical launch systems – each of which carries eight rounds. The addition of the 3S-14 would enable each ship to carry eighty cruise missiles onboard.

According to the «A Threat to America's Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power: High-Speed, Maneuvering Weapons», report produced in late 2016 by a blue-ribbon panel of experts for Air Force Studies Board at the National Academies of Science, the US is falling behind in the technology race to develop both defensive and offensive high-speed maneuvering arms. The paper sounds the alarm about an arms race quietly underway for several years to develop hypersonic missiles for both strategic nuclear weapons and conventional rapid strike systems.

Mark J. Lewis, chairman of the panel that produced the report, said the panel concluded that «the United States may be facing a threat from a new class of weapons that will effectively combine speed, maneuverability, and altitude in ways that could challenge this nation’s tenets of global vigilance, reach, and power».

Russia is also leading in hypersonic gliders. For instance, in October 2016 Russia successfully tested Object 4202 – an advanced glider warhead. The test was conducted at midday from a site near the town of Yasny, Orenburg region, in the southern Urals, and the warhead reached the Kura test range in Kamchatka in Russia’s Far East. The hypersonic glider vehicle (HGV) vehicle travels most of the time in the stratosphere rather than in space.

While spending ten times less that the United States on defense, including research and development, Russia has produced weapons that make entire US missile defense effort ineffective, while providing it with technological edge in first strike capability.
This is the time when fantasies come true. Russia has acquired the technology to create real models of hypersonic weapons, including cruise missiles and hypersonic warheads for ICBMs-gliders. Its world leadership in the race is confirmed by successful tests. Nobody else in the world is anywhere near to mass production phase.

American generals and political decision makers are "dizzy" with power and do not understand the true consequences of their rhetoric, according to Frants Klintsevich.
The first deputy chairman of the defence committee in the Federation Council has vowed to provide "the toughest possible response" to any US aggression and with a targeted stoke on North Korea seemingly just moments away all-out war between America and Russia could be on the cards.
Mr Klintsevich was responding to comments made by Lt Gen Viktor Poznikhir, who said: "The presence of US missile defence bases in Europe, missile defence vessels in seas and oceans close to Russia creates a powerful covert strike component for conducting a sudden nuclear missile strike against the Russian Federation.
"Russian representatives have often appealed to the US side, drawing their attention to the danger the global missile defence system poses to the strategic balance of forces in the world. But facts are ignored. 

"The US claims its missile defence system is not directed against Russia and China. But the results of computer simulations testify to the contrary."
Mr Klintsevich then added: "There are no doubts that such statements are addressed to certain receivers. The first addressee is the international community. Secondly, it is a clear signal to the US leadership that any further developments will come as no surprise to us. I think such a reminder won't be excessive. Let them know that we know.
"At this particular moment the most reliable guarantee of further peace is our ability to provide the toughest possible response to any possible aggression. This is what, as I think, first deputy chief of the General Staff's Main Operational Department Lt Gen Viktor Poznikhir meant when making such a statement," Klintsevich said.

Has President Donald Trump outsourced foreign policy to the generals?
So it would seem. Candidate Trump held out his hand to Vladimir Putin. He rejected further U.S. intervention in Syria other than to smash ISIS.
He spoke of getting out and staying out of the misbegotten Middle East wars into which Presidents Bush II and Obama had plunged the country.

Trump no longer calls NATO “obsolete,” but moves U.S. troops toward Russia in the Baltic and eastern Balkans. Rex Tillerson, holder of Russia’s Order of Friendship, now warns that the U.S. will not lift sanctions on Russia until she gets out of Ukraine.
If Tillerson is not bluffing, that would rule out any rapprochement in the Trump presidency. For neither Putin, nor any successor, could surrender Crimea and survive.

The War Party seems again ascendant. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are happy campers. In Afghanistan, the U.S. commander is calling for thousands more U.S. troops to assist the 8,500 still there, to stabilize an Afghan regime and army that is steadily losing ground to the Taliban.
Iran is back on the front burner. While Tillerson concedes that Tehran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, Trump says it is violating “the spirit of the agreement.”
How so? Says Tillerson, Iran is “destabilizing” the region, and threatening U.S. interests in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
But Iran is an ally of Syria and was invited in to help the U.N.-recognized government put down an insurrection that contains elements of al-Qaida and ISIS. It is we, the Turks, Saudis and Gulf Arabs who have been backing the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime.