Friday, June 29, 2018

Iran, Hezbollah Gaining Access To Israel's Border

Trump lets Putin have Syria for a summit, Iranian/Hizballah gain access to Israel’s border on refugee backs

Israel’s armed forces are distributing tents, food, water and medicines to the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees reaching its Golan border in flight from the incredibly brutal Russian and Syrian air strikes on southern Syria. The figures are staggering – 342 air strikes on Thursday night, June 28, against rebel-held towns near the Israeli and Jordanian borders – of which 299 were conducted by the Russian air force and 43 by Syrian pilots. Nawa, a town opposite the Israeli Golan border took the heaviest bombardment.

Israel’s military correspondents, playing ball with the IDF, are withholding these horrific figures from the public, and so people don’t understand how 60,000 refugees fleeing from Nawa are suddenly fetching up on Israel’s northern border and joining the 20,000 already encamped there. While the IDF’s humanitarian conduct is laudable, the reason for the disaster is not. This new human catastrophe could have been prevented had the IDF acted in time to preempt the threat to Israel’s borders, and countered the onslaught on Daraa mounted by Assad’s army and allies with Russian air support 10 days ago.

However, Israeli inaction was part of another development not shared with the Israeli public: President Donald Trump quietly decided to let Syria go to Russia in the interests of a successful summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. Israel, Jordan, the Syrian rebel and Kurdish groups hitherto backed by the United States were left to fend for their own security as best they could. As a last concession, the US turned a blind eye to Putin’s pass for Iranian and Hizballah forces to move in along with the Syrian army.

The Russian president grabbed the opportunity By unleashing heavy air bombardments for clearing the rebels still holding out in southern Syria from the path of Assad’s army – he trampled the pledges he gave Israel and Jordan and triggered an exodus of Syrian refugees who, finding the Jordanian border shut against them, headed for Israel’s Golan border. The tens of thousands settling on Israel’s doorstop could swell, according to some estimates, to 200,000 or 250,000. 

Israel finds itself saddled with a mounting new security and humanitarian burden in the north, on top of the Gaza Strip in the south. Middle East reality is such that the tent encampments the IDF is providing as makeshift havens for refugees will in no time accommodate infestations of dangerous Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah agents

Desperate refugees will accept a few dollars to support their families for donning bomb belts and blowing themselves up against Israeli positions on the border fence.

It is already happening on the Syrian-Jordanian border. Syrian military intelligence has seized control of the large Rubkan refugee camp in Daraa and Jordanian security services are helpless to keep Iranian and Hizballah agents out.

How is the IDF going to prevent this disastrous security calamity from developing on Israel’s northern border? As word spreads across Syria that food, shelter and medical treatment are available, the refugee population sitting on Israel’s border around Quneitra will swell to unmanageable proportions. For Iran and Hizballah, a large refugee camp is the perfect lair from which to reach and terrorize northern Israel.

UN Calls For Armed Groups To Leave Golan Area Separating Israel-Syria Forces

UN calls for armed groups to leave Golan area separating Israel - Syria forces

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously renewed for six months its mission to observe the ceasefire in the Golan Heights, calling for armed groups to leave the area separating Syrian and Israeli forces.
“There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF,” read the resolution drafted by the United States and Russia. UNDOF, which comprises nearly a thousand personnel, was created in 1974 after an agreement on the departure of Israeli and Syrian forces from Golan.

The nearby area has become a focus point in recent days as Syrian government forces have launched an assault on rebels in the area causing tens of thousands of Syrians to flee since the beginning of the offensive. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that nearly 100 civilians have been killed.

Israel transferred several dozen tons of humanitarian aid to refugee encampments in southwestern Syria in an overnight operation late Thursday. The IDF said it would likely continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the area, but insisted it would not allow Syrian refugees to cross the border.

Israel captured most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. In 1981, it annexed the area in a move unrecognized by the international community, while a smaller part of the area is under Syrian control.
The UN text condemned “the continued fighting in the area of separation” and called on “all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cease military actions in the UNDOF area of operations.”
It “stresses the obligation on both parties to scrupulously and fully respect the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement.”

“There should be no military activity of any kind in the area of separation,” either by the Syrian military or opposition forces, it said.
Also Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a new call for “an immediate cessation” to military operations in southwest Syria, where government forces are attacking rebel-held areas.
Guterres is “deeply alarmed by the military offensive in southwestern Syria and its devastating toll on civilians,” said a statement from his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
“The secretary-general recalls that the southwest area of Syria is part of a de-escalation agreement agreed between Jordan, Russia and the United States,” the statement said.
Guterres “calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, protect civilians and facilitate safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access.”

The UN chief had made a similar call earlier this month, after Russian-backed government forces began attacking opposition-held parts of Daraa province on June 19.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said following the IDF aid operation that Israel was “prepared to provide any humanitarian assistance to civilians, women and children,” but stressed that “we will not accept any Syrian refugees into our territory.”

A number of camps have been set up in the area, but these generally lack access to fresh water, electricity and other basic needs. In many cases, these camps are overflowing, without sufficient shelters. Some Syrians are reportedly sleeping outside at night.
The army said it shipped the supplies to four camps simultaneously in the southern and central Syrian Golan Heights.
“In these camps, located near the border, there are several thousand Syrians living in deteriorating conditions, without access to water, electricity, food sources or basic necessities. In recent days, there’s been an increase in the number of Syrians living in these camps,” the IDF said.
Signaling that the humanitarian crisis is likely to deepen, UN officials said that because of the fighting, no aid has entered from Jordan to reach the estimated 50,000 people displaced since Tuesday. Jordan, which is already hosting 660,000 registered refugees, says it cannot accept any more and has sealed its border, despite appeals from aid groups.
Near the Golan Heights, scores of the newly-displaced raised banners in protest. Thousands have fled to the area, saying they thought the proximity to Israeli forces would deter Syrian air raids. One activist said the camps are about three kilometers (two miles) from the frontier.

US Considering Pulling Troops From Germany

US Mulls Pulling Troops From Germany as Trump-Merkel Tensions Mount

The US Defense Department is conducting a study on what the consequences would be of a major withdrawal of US military forces from Germany, media reported.
The analysis is being driven by escalating tensions between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the work.
The studies were initiated after Trump’s expressed his interest in pulling out US forces at a meeting earlier this year with White House and military officials, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials.

Trump was taken aback by the cost and size of the US presence, which includes 35,000 active-duty troops, the report added.

Reports of a hasty US exit from Germany have alarmed officials in Europe who are concerned about America’s future in NATO, the report said.
A US National Security Council (NSC) spokesman said in a statement that the Council had not requested any Defense Department analysis of re-positioning troops in Germany. Also, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said there was no intention to withdraw any existing forces from Germany, the Post reported.
Meanwhile, Trump has reiterated NATO allies need to increase defense spending, ahead of the alliance’s summit in Brussels next month. "Germany has to spend more money, Spain, France, it's not fair what they've done to the United States," he said Friday.

He claimed the United States was paying "much more disproportionately to anyone else" in the alliance, which sets a spending target of 2 percent of a member state’s gross domestic product.

France's Macron Plans Compulsory Military Service 'For Social Cohesion'

France's Macron Plans Compulsory Military Service "For Social Cohesion"

Perhaps he should crack open a history book...

French President Emmanuel Macron is floating the idea of reintroducing compulsory military service. The plan intends on introducing youths to military life and service from the age of 16 for both girls and boys. The unpopular programme is expected to cost the French government nearly $2 billion.

The BBC reports:

The French government has introduced a plan to bring back national service for all 16-year-olds.
It was an idea put forward by Emmanuel Macron in his presidential campaign, to promote a sense of civic duty and national unity among French youth.
But some remain unconvinced of the benefits.
The new national service will cover all 16-year-olds, girls as well as boys, and will be divided into two distinct phases.
National service in two parts

The first phase is a mandatory one-month placement with a focus on civic culture, which the government says will “enable young people to create new relationships and develop their role in society”.

Voluntary teaching and working with charities are among the options being looked at, alongside traditional military preparation with the police, fire service or army.

The second phase is a voluntary placement of at least three months and up to a year, in which young people will be encouraged to serve “in an area linked to defence and security” – but again, they could opt to carry out volunteer work linked to heritage, the environment or social care.

A watered-down plan
It’s not quite the programme Mr Macron initially had in mind.
When he first floated the idea, during the 2017 race for the presidency, it was a sort of military service in miniature, with all French citizens forced to have a “direct experience of military life” for a minimum of one month between the ages of 18 and 21.
That’s now been softened and broadened into what’s being called a Universal National Service – partly because of concerns that it would cost too much and overburden the country’s armed forces.
Even now, the programme is estimated to cost €1.6bn (£1.4bn; $1.8bn) a year to run, with €1.75bn of investment up front.

What is Macron’s aim?
The goal of this new-style national service, the government says, is to encourage young French citizens to take part in the life of the nation, and promote social cohesion.
Consultations will now begin, with a view to rolling out the programme from early next year.
But there is still a lot of detail to be hammered out, not least the legal basis.
A working group, set up to look into the scheme, has warned that the French constitution bans the state from forcing an entire section of the population to spend time away from home, except in the case of national defence.

Is the idea popular?
Even before it was announced, 14 youth organisations objected to the “inconsistencies” in the plan, unhappy with the idea of being forced to take part in a project. “Choosing a commitment is just as important as the commitment itself, if not more so,” they argued, calling for young people to be able to exercise freedom of choice.
More broadly, about 60% of the population are in favour, according to a YouGov poll carried out in March, although the number dips to just below half when younger people are asked for their views.
Mr Macron is the first French president not to have done military service; it was scrapped for the new intake in 1996, when Mr Macron was 18.
Before that, all young French men were expected to serve for the best part of a year in the armed forces. When the old post-war draft ended, in 1997, there was a collective sigh of relief. Amid the nostalgia, many people here recognised that it had become a social exercise rather than a military one.
Twenty years later, it’s that social cohesion President Macron now wants to recapture.

France has increasingly become a multicultural nations with increasing social divides. Macron hopes to provide some sort of social glue to foment social cohesion in the Western European nation with compulsory military service. His neoliberal ideology of a multicultural nation state, however, is little more than a cheap attempt to square a circle.

Culture is an organic phenomenon that requires a certain degree of homogeneity, which is something that the West has been on a crusade to utterly destroy. Empires have managed to rule over various lands with differing cultures by respecting them, instead of forcing them all to fit the same mold, but Macron thinks he can do what no nation or empire in history has managed to accomplish, to erode social identities without offering a replacement, and hoping to preserve social cohesion. Perhaps he should crack open a history book.

Nasrallah: 'Big Victory' Is Near Against Terrorist Forces Supported By US/Israel, Palestinians Say 2 Killed At Gaza Border As 5,000 Protest

Amid reports of south Syria ceasefire, Nasrallah claims 'big victory' is near

Hezbollah leader says Assad and allies will triumph over 'terrorist forces supported by US and Israel'; Jordanian official says truce reached in Daraa province

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday evening the Syrian regime and its allies were nearing a “big victory” over “terrorist forces supported by the US and Israel,” amid unconfirmed reports that a ceasefire had been reached in the country’s south between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
A Jordanian official told Reuters a ceasefire had been reached in Daraa province, though there was no official confirmation.
State media and a monitor said earlier that rebels controlling several towns in southern Syria were considering a deal for a regime takeover in exchange for an end to fierce bombing

Since June 19, Russian-backed government forces have been battering opposition-held parts of Daraa province with air strikes and barrel bombs, simultaneously calling on rebels to surrender.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported that rebels in three towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside had already agreed to a regime takeover in the last two days. On Friday, it carried preliminary reports that rebels in four more towns had “agreed to hand over their weapons… and reconcile.”
Nasrallah — whose Hezbollah terror group, along with Russia and Iran, has supported Assad in the seven-year civil war — said rebel groups in the area were “collapsing” and he expected wide parts of southern Syria would be under government control “within days.”

Two Palestinians were killed Friday in violent demonstrations along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said.
A 13-year-old was fatally shot in the head and a 24-year-old man died of gunshot wounds to his leg and abdomen, the ministry said.
According to some reports, the boy was shot while sabotaging the border fence. A paramedic told AP the teenager was throwing stones “very close to the fence” before he was shot.

Around 5,000 Palestinians demonstrated at five points along the border. Rioters burned tires and attacked Israeli forces with rocks and Molotov cocktails. At one point a bomb was hurled at troops.
Over 100 people were reported wounded during the protests from tear gas and Israeli fire. Several Palestinian medics were also said hurt from smoke inhalation.
The army said that throughout the afternoon, “thousands of Palestinians participated in extremely violent riots and committed various acts of terror in several locations along the Gaza Strip security fence.”
Israeli forces responded with “large amounts of riot dispersal means and in specific cases where these means did not succeeded in negating the threat, resorted to live fire in accordance with the standard operating procedures,” it said.
Fifteen fires broke out in Israel due to incendiary balloons and kites launched from the Gaza Strip. Firefighters doused the blazes.
Police said multiple balloons with writing on them were found in communities near Gaza. They urged residents to avoid touching the balloons and to call law enforcement.


The European Intervention Initiative: A New Military Force Established In Europe

The European Intervention Initiative: A New Military Force Established In Europe

The predictions have come true about the emergence of a new defense group that will change the European security environment.

On June 25, the defense chiefs from nine EU countries signed off on the creation of a new force called the European Intervention Initiative (EII), which is spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron. 

The new organization will have a common budget and a doctrine establishing its guidelines for acting and joint planning for contingencies in which NATO may not get involved. The group includes the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Spain, and Portugal. Italy may join soon. The initiative is not tied to the EU’s Common European Defense, which includes the PESCO agreement as well as NATO. Great Britain has always opposed the idea of creating a European defense alliance, fearing it would undermine transatlantic unity. Now it has done an about-face, as the rifts within the US grow deeper.

The new force is to be much more efficient than anything else the EU has to offer, with a streamlined decision-making process that will permit a quick reaction time. Its relatively small number of members will give it more flexibility in comparison with the EU or NATO. For instance, the EU’s four multinational military battle groups that were created as far back as 2007 have never been deployed.
Its main mission is to offer a rapid response to crises that could threaten European security. 

The operations are to be conducted independently from US control. The UK will remain a member of this European defense entity even after it leaves the EU next year. Denmark, which retains a special opt-out status and has not joined PESCO, is a signatory to the EII. This is a step on the path to creating a real European armed force to unite non-EU participants with those who keep their distance from the European deterrent headed by Brussels. If the process gains traction, Norway, a NATO member that is outside the EU, plus Sweden and Finland, which are EU members outside of NATO, may consider joining the EII as well. Sweden and Finland are already members of the UK Joint Expeditionary Force.
Will it undermine NATO? To a certain extent it will. Any defense group outside the alliance that acts independently weakens it. At the same time, this gives NATO an opportunity to focus on the European theater of operations without being distracted by other hot spots. Any coin has two sides. Afghanistan is an example of NATO solidarity but is also an example of how a crisis that takes place outside of the alliance’s primary area of responsibility has weakened NATO’s standing in Europe.

Europeans have participated in the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, conflicts in which they have no interest, in order to please the US. The real threat to Europe comes from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The planned creation of migrant reception centers in Africa may require military involvement. Washington views Europe’s migrant crisis as a far-flung problem that does not directly impact its own national security interests. NATO forces Europeans to focus more on the so-called Russian threat that no one takes seriously, despite the fact that defending its own borders is a pressing issue.

With the EU still unable to bring its plans to fruition, the project led by President Macron stands a very good chance of creating a European group that would become an independent global player. NATO and the EU are being torn apart by internal conflicts while the EII is not. That group will be able to stand up to real threats, not imaginary ones.

NATO and the EU defense initiatives are failing to meet the interests of European security, forcing those nations to seek other alternatives, such as the EII. The threat of the Russian bogeyman has failed to paper over those differences. The quest continues. Whatever is in store for the newborn alliance, this is very bad for NATO, as this news is coming just a couple of weeks before the summit that may break up the alliance and consign the much-vaunted concept of “Western unity” to its grave. 

IDF Sends Aid To Syrians Fleeing Daraa

IDF sends aid to Syrians fleeing Daraa in overnight `Good Neighbor` operation

Israel transferred several dozen tons of humanitarian aid to refugee encampments in southwestern Syria in an overnight operation late Thursday, as tens of thousands of Syrians are fleeing an offensive in neighboring Daraa province by Bashar Assad’s forces and the Russian military.
The IDF said it would likely continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the area, but insisted it would not allow Syrian refugees to cross the border.
“The IDF is monitoring what is going on in southern Syria and is prepared for a variety of scenarios, including continuing to provide humanitarian aid to fleeing Syrians. The IDF will not allow Syrian refugees into Israeli territory and will continue to act to protect Israel’s security interests,” the military said in a Hebrew-language statement.

The operation lasted “several hours,” the army said, and delivered some 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of medical supplies and 30 tons of clothes and shoes to the refugees.
Since the renewed attacks by pro-regime forces began earlier this month in the Daraa province, tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been streaming to the nearby Israeli and Jordanian borders, seeking refuge.
A number of camps have been set up in the area, but these generally lack access to fresh water, electricity and other basic needs. In many cases, these camps are overflowing, without sufficient shelters. Some Syrians are reportedly sleeping outside at night.
The army said it shipped the supplies to four camps simultaneously in the southern and central Syrian Golan Heights.
“In these camps, located near the border, there are several thousand Syrians living in deteriorating conditions, without access to water, electricity, food sources or basic necessities. In recent days, there’s been an increase in the number of Syrians living in these camps,” the IDF said.
The refugees along the border are fleeing an offensive by Syrian government forces seeking to reclaim the strategic region that extends along the border with Jordan and the Israeli Golan Heights, and which was until recently part of a US-backed and negotiated truce.
Airstrikes pounded rebel-held areas in southwestern Syria on Thursday, killing at least 17 civilians in an underground shelter and driving thousands more from their homes, as scores of displaced people protested near the Israeli border demanding international protection.
Signaling that the humanitarian crisis is likely to deepen, UN officials said that because of the fighting, no aid has entered from Jordan to reach the estimated 50,000 people displaced since Tuesday. Jordan, which is already hosting 660,000 registered refugees, says it cannot accept any more and has sealed its border, despite appeals from aid groups.
Near the Golan Heights, scores of the newly-displaced raised banners in protest. Thousands have fled to the area, saying they thought the proximity to Israeli forces would deter Syrian air raids. One activist said the camps are about three kilometers (two miles) from the frontier.

Israel has been providing aid to southwestern Syria since 2013, including treating chronically ill children who have no access to hospitals, building clinics in Syria, and supplying hundreds of tons of food, medicine and clothing to war-ravaged villages across the border.

Japan National Seismic Hazard Map: Probably Of Major Quake In Next 30 Years Has Increased Significantly

Japan national seismic hazard map: The probability of a major earthquake occurring within the next 30 years has increased significantly in northern Japan

The 2018 national seismic hazard map indicates the danger of an earthquake measuring at least lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7. A review of the scale and probability of a quake occurring in the Chishima Trench on the Pacific side of Hokkaido led to the indication of a higher danger level for eastern Hokkaido.
The probability for Kushiro in eastern Hokkaido rose 22 percentage points from the previous map to 69 per cent, while Nemuro saw its figure rise 15 points to 78 per cent. The increases are attributed to the scale and probability of an earthquake occurring in the Chishima Trench, which were revised last year.
By prefectural capitals, Chiba topped the list with 85 per cent as concerns have grown about a quake directly hitting the Tokyo metropolitan area. It was followed by Yokohama with 82 per cent and Mito with 81 per cent. The probability for Tokyo was 48 per cent, as the ground in areas near the Tokyo metropolitan government building is relatively firm.
Coastal areas saw seismic probabilities exceeding 80 per cent. Among focal areas along the Nankai Trough, the probability for Kochi rose one point from the previous map to 75 per cent. Shizuoka also rose one point to 70 per cent. Osaka, which was struck by a magnitude-6.1 quake registering a maximum of lower 6 on June 18, saw its probability remain the same as the previous map at 56 percent. The Earthquake Research Committee said Osaka is likely to continue facing a high probability.
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The government’s Earthquake Research Committee has released the map, which is based on data as of January 1 this year. Probabilities were estimated on the assumption that a magnitude-6-level quake could occur anywhere. The hazard map was created based on the history of earthquakes that have occurred on plate boundaries, such as the Nankai Trough on the Pacific side, as well as on major active fault zones and within plates. A quake measuring lower 6 is viewed as a yardstick for destroying structures such as wooden houses with low quake resistance and concrete block walls.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Iranian-Hezbollah Forces Join Syria's South Offensive: Operation Draws Closer To Golan Border

Iranian-Hizballah forces join Syria’s South offensive - contrary to Russian pledges

In breach of Russian guarantees to the US, Israel and Jordan, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Shiite and Hizballah forces are taking part in Syria’s offensive to capture Daraa and Quneitra. Video clips published on June 26 by social media depicted members of the Iraqi Shiite Liwa Zulfiqar militia in the main square of Busra al-Harir north of Daraa city celebrating their victory over Syrian rebel forces.  DEBKAfile’s military sources report that it was only a matter of time before the Russian pledges were proved hollow and pro-Iranian and Hizballah forces reached the Syrian-Jordanian and Syrian-Israeli borders. Th Liwa Zulfiqar militia, which came from Iraq, has been revamped for the operation as a mixed force including also Hizballah and Syrian fighters. They serve under the overall command of the Revolutionary Guards Regional Command Center which is based at the southern Syrian town of Izra.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is in charge of US policy for Syria, made some harsh comments to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, June 27. He admitted that president Bashar Assad had come out well from Syria’s seven years of civil war, but he also called Iran’s presence in the country “the greatest threat.” Pompeo accused Hizballah, which is totally bankrolled by Tehran, of being “active on multiple fronts and running efforts for external plotting including in the United States.”

However, the Secretary did not specify what action, if any, the US was taking to counter Iranian and Hizballah’s nefarious presence in Syria.

The Syrian operation meanwhile drew closer to Israel’s Golan border with an air strike on Wednesday night, June 27, against rebel positions around Quneitra to soften their resistance to the coming ground offensive.

More Volcano Eruptions: Sierra Negra (Galapagos Islands), Cleveland Volcano In Alaska

Eruption of Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island in the Galapagos

Following a rise in seismicity in the last months, and a major M4.6 earthquakes yesterday, the Sierra Negra volcano / Isabela Island in the Galapagos started erupting on June 26 around 1pm.
It was preceded by a seismic swarm with earthquakes characterized by a depth between 3 and 5 km below the volcano and magnitudes up to M4.6.

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Since a M4.2 at 13:38 TG, the amplitude of seismicity and infrasonic signals have greatly increased. Galapagos National Park staff report rumbles coming from the Chico volcano (the other name of Sierra Negra), suggesting the beginning of the eruption.

According to park rangers, lava flows inside the caldera and on the northern flank of the volcano towards Bahia Elizabeth.

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Isabela Island is populated. Authorities have ordered the evacuation of 50 residents. Tourist access to Sierra Negra volcano and to El Cura area hs been restricted.

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This is the second eruption in the Galapagos islands in 10 days after the nearby La Cumbre volcano / Fernandina Island erupted on June 16, 2018.

Eruption of Cleveland volcano in Alaska

Unrest continues at Cleveland Volcano and a lava flow about 80 meters (260 feet) in diameter on the floor of the summit crater was observed in satellite data on June 25, 2018.
A possible steam emission was observed in satellite data at 0:48 UTC, June 26, 2018 that may be related to the effusion of lava in the crater.
No other activity was observed in mostly cloudy satellite images over the past day. AVO is experiencing problems with data transmission from the volcano and seismic and infrasound data are temporarily unavailable.

The presence of a lava flow over the active vent increases the possibility of an explosion over the coming days to weeks and thus AVO raised the Aviation Color Code and Volcano Alert Level to ORANGE/WATCH earlier today. 
Cleveland volcano is monitored by only two seismic stations, which restricts AVO’s ability to detect precursory unrest that may lead to an explosive eruption. Rapid detection of an ash-producing eruption may be possible using a combination of seismic, infrasound, lightning, and satellite data.
The AVO has raised volcanic alert levels to Watch, and the aviation code to Orange.

The day started with weak but steady steam/smoke coming out of the crater. This increased in strength later in the day, and remains pretty much continuous. 57 blowing tremors were recorded between 06:00 and 18:00. After sunset, a steady glow can be observed in the crater, indicating a flow of fresh lava up into the crater. There are reports of sand and stones starting to fall outside the confines of the crater.

PVMBG issued a summary press release this evening that describes the current situation very well. The key conclusion is that at long as we have continuous emission of gases and steam/smoke, any eruption is likely to be effusive – that’s good. If the glow and steam/smoke stops, that would indicate the pipes leading to the crater have become plugged, and the risk of an explosive eruption start increasing. The status of Gunung Agung remains at Level III (Siaga), with a 4 km exclusion zone around the crater.

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U.S. To Build Billion Dollar Missile-Defense Radar In Hawaii

US To Build Billion Dollar Missile-Defense Radar In Hawaii

A billion dollar anti-ballistic missile radar system is being planned for development in Hawaii in order to counter nuclear ICBM threats from somewhere. Even though, at the present moment, there aren’t any threatening postures from nations with ICBM tech, the need to spend 1$ billion on detecting and combating those ICBMs is apparently greater than ever before, at least according to some congressmen.

RT reports
The flat-face surface radar would “counter evolving missile threats in the Pacific Region”, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) says. Although the timing of the radar’s construction seems curious given current efforts at rapprochement with North Korea, plans for the military installation actually predate the Trump administration. The radar system was mandated by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law by Barack Obama in December 2016.
The system would be able to differentiate warheads from decoys on the potential incoming missiles launched towards the US before relaying the trajectory to interceptors in Alaska to take them out. The proposed radar would help identify long-range ballistic missile threats mid-way through flight.
Currently, the MDA is surveying two sites on the island of Oahu as the possible resting place of the radar that would be about 9 to 15 meters wide and 18 to 24 meters high, AP reported.
So far lawmakers have secured $61 million in funding for the planning stage of the project but have yet to appropriate funds to construct the $1 billion system, Democratic Senator Brian Schatz told AP.
The senator from Hawaii said that his state already boasts “robust capabilities” but aims to have “the most powerful combination of missile interceptors and radar systems anywhere.”
While the MDA is reportedly collecting public comments about the installation sites through July 16, it remains questionable whether the expansive project will materialize, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump made history at a top-level summit in Singapore earlier this month, paving the way for reconciliation and denuclearization of the Peninsula.

Countries Exploring Alternatives To U.S. World Order

More Countries Start Exploring Alternatives To The US World Order

There are two countries that more than others show how the Western world order is undergoing a profound change. Japan and Turkey occupy two distinct and diverse geographical areas, yet they share many of the same strategic choices about their future. Their geopolitical trajectory is increasingly drifting away from Washington and moving closer to China, Russia, India and Iran.

Both Japan and Turkey are two important states in the US’s strategy for controlling the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Both countries have economies that are competitive in comparison to their neighbors, and both often conveniently find themselves allied to countries within Washington’s orbit. Japan has a good relationship with South Korea, and Turkey (until a few years ago) had a privileged relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Keeping in mind that the US aims to prolong and consolidate its regional dominance, Washington has always tried to have excellent relations with these two countries as a way of ensuring its constant presence in regional affairs.

Trump’s victory, the decline of the unipolar world order, and a series of sensible strategic choices by Iran, Russia and China, have served to usher in a process of transformation in these two regions. The manner in which this transformation is occurring differs significantly. In the Middle East, the forces supporting Damascus are ending the conflict and moving Turkey away from the aggressor camp. 

Ankara has chosen to keep one foot in each camp, and even though Moscow is perfectly aware of this, it is still better than Turkey being one step away from declaring war with Russia. In the same way, the failed coup in Turkey, which Ankara attributes to Gulen and the CIA (mistakenly, in my view, about which I wrote at the time), has had as an immediate effect of moving Tehran and Ankara closer together, in spite of their differences over the situation in Syria and Iraq. Other factors that have served to bring Turkey closer to the Sino-Russo-Iranian axis concern the rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council, with the commercial and industrial blockade against Qatar, an ally of Turkey, conducted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and enjoying Trump’s blessing.

This change is already happening in the Middle East, with Turkey, Iran and Russia in Astana trying to pacify Syria without the involvement of the United States. It would represent a major loss of US influence in the region were Tokyo to begin an important trade cooperation with ASEAN, an energetic one with Russia, and participate in an infrastructure project like the BRI with Beijing.

These processes require significant changes that will not happen overnight. An economic indicator that suggests Japan and Turkey could be moving away from the US dollar system is the entering into bilateral agreements that are not denominated in the dollars. This is precisely what Turkey is doing with Iran, as reported by Press TV. A general moving away from a dependence on the US dollar as the world reserve currency is explained by the Strategic Culture Foundation:
Moscow, Beijing and Teheran will have to offer to Japan and Turkey peace, development and mutual gain in order to accelerate the replacement of the United States as a central player in the international relations of these two countries. It will not be easy, given the nature of Abe and Erdogan, but Xi Jinping and Putin have shown themselves to be masters of cleverly combining the commercial, economic, military and diplomatic skills of China, Russia and Iran.

Israel Fears Flood Of Syrian Refugees, Security Cabinet Prepares For Possibility Of Escalation On Northern Front

Amid fierce fighting, Israel fears flood of Syrian refugees converging on border

Israel is preparing for the possibility that an onslaught by the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad could see tens of thousands of Syrian refugees heading for the Israel border. The IDF is gearing up to prevent a mass breach of the frontier, but also to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced, military sources said Thursday.
With Russia’s help, Assad’s army has battered the south for more than a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs, forcing more than 50,000 people to flee in search of safety. Many of them have fled toward the border with Israel, saying it was the safest since the regime wouldn’t dare strike in that area to avoid angering Jerusalem.

The UN has warned that more than 750,000 lives are at risk in the south, which is meant to be protected by a ceasefire put in place last year by Russia, Jordan and the United States.

Most of the 50,000-plus people who already fled have headed to the sealed Jordanian border. Officials in Nawa, a rebel-held town heavily hit in strikes on Thursday, issued a statement asking Jordan to take in refugees.
But Amman has said the border will remain closed. The kingdom already hosts more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees and estimates the actual number is closer to 1.3 million.
With Jordan closed, Jerusalem fears they could head to the Israeli border.
While only several dozen refugees had set up tent camps near the Israeli frontier in the town of Quneitra as of Thursday, Israel was preparing for a range of scenarios, the sources said.
One possible development feared by Israel was masses of refugees banding together to try and break through the border fence, Hadashot news reported. Security officials feared that in such a scenario, terrorists could also try to sneak among them into the country.
“No Syrian refugee will enter Israel, but we will help where we can on the humanitarian level,” a senior official was quoted as saying by Channel 10 news.
The nature of that aid was not clear yet, but along with medical and food help, a possibility cited by Channel 10 was Jerusalem being in contact with Moscow to have Russian forces prevent Assad’s troops from massacring civilians.
In recent years, Israel has given extensive humanitarian support to civilians on the Syrian side of the border, who mostly side with the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Israel has provided food and medicine, and thousands of wounded Syrians have entered Israel for life-saving medical treatment.
Israel was also worried that as the fighting gets closer to the border, there could be more mortar shells and other errant fire spilling over into the country, the report said.
The report added that the potential flareup in the north was one of the many reasons Israel was particularly anxious to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gaza Strip at this time.
On Sunday, the security cabinet will hold a discussion on home front preparedness for the possibility of escalation on the northern front, Channel 10 said. It added that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wants his ministry to receive an additional several billion shekels to prepare the home front for war.