Russia will build missiles if US leaves treaty, Putin warns

Politics, Power, SEcurity, Tech, War
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Nato’s accusation was a pretext for the US to leave the treaty

Russia will develop missiles banned under a Cold War agreement if the US exits the pact, President Vladimir Putin has warned.

His comments follow Nato’s accusation on Tuesday that Russia has already broken the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Signed in 1987 by the US and USSR, it banned both countries’ use of all short and medium-range missiles.

But Mr Putin says the accusation is a pretext for the US to leave the pact.

In televised comments, the Russian leader said many other countries had developed weapons banned under the INF treaty.

“Now it seems our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that [they] must also have such a weapon,” he said.

“What’s our response? It’s simple – in that case we will also do this.” 

US President Donald Trump has previously said the country would leave the treaty because of Russian actions.

Analysts say Russia sees the weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

Arriving for talks with Nato foreign ministers, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urged the two countries to save the treaty, saying it had “guaranteed peace and security in European territory for 30 years now”.

What has Nato said?

On Tuesday, the Western military alliance formally accused Russia of breaking the treaty.

“Allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security,” the Nato foreign ministers’ statement read.

The statement said the member nations “strongly support” the US claim that Russia is in breach of the pact, and called on Moscow to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance”.

A Russian missile is fired during military exercises
Image captionRussia denies building missiles that violate the accord

Speaking after the release of Nato’s statement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Russia had 60 days to return to compliance with the treaty, after which time the US would suspend its own compliance.

“During this 60 days we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied breaking the Cold War treaty.

Presentational grey line

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty?

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in 1987
Image captionSoviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty in 1987
  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe – sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed
  • Both countries were allowed to inspect the other’s installations
  • In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests
  • The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002
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ORGANISING NGOS AND FAITH-BASED ORGANISATION FOR DEVELOPMENT PURPOSES

Boko Haram, Herdsmen, Islam, law enforcement, SEcurity, Terrorism, War

Counterterrorism has to be woven into the everyday workings of every department. It should be included on the agenda of every meeting, and this new role must be imparted to officers on the street so that terrorism prevention becomes part of their everyday thinking.” Kelling, G L. & William K. B, (2006) Policing Terrorism, Civic Bulletin 43, New York: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, September 2006.

Terrorism has become a political tool in the 20th century and its spread has become so dynamic that it has now become on of the “new wars” that nations today fights. Emergency response and preventive measures have to become more flexible and adapt to the dynamism of attacks. Terrorist related incidence must be documented, researched and evaluated in line with local needs. The current randomness of terror attacks in Nigeria put all at risks and we must have a structure plans in place to restrict and mitigate these strikes.

Basic understanding of terrorism, its goals and operational method would have sufficed in allowing for designing proper response. It is a waste of resources fighting a reactive battle against terrorists. The Nigerian response to terrorism has been flawed by the lack of institutional understanding of what terrorism is all about. Proactive resources can only be deployed when we are all able to deduce the fact that terrorism is not fought using heavy machinery and standing armies but through employment of psychological warfare that is designed based on proper analysis of the terror groups operational methods, recruitment operations and goals.

Terrorism is a form of rebellion against the state. Modern terrorists have better equipment and global media as its mouthpiece. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, (START) Department of Homeland Security Think-Thank based in the University of Maryland, United State is one of the center set up by the US government to analyse and design engagement protocol for counter-terrorism in US. One of the conclusion of this center that changed the US counter-terrorism engagement was the fact that in over 1000 years of review of terrorism engagement by states globally, the use of military force eliminated the threat in only 4% of such engagements, while the use of proper local security, policing and development programmes was able to achieve end of these groups in more than 40%.

Development NGOs are committed to working towards economic, social or political development in developing countries. The Norwegian bilateral aid agency, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) defines development-oriented NGOs as organisations that “attempt to improve social, economic and productive conditions and are found both as small community-based organisations at village and district levels, and as large professional development agencies at state or national level”

Northern Nigeria economic environment has been described as backward and has continued to regress in the period after the 1970s. The average Disposable Income, access to education and basic infrastructure has equally fallen in the past decades. Lack of access to proper education has created a huge mass of unemployable youth in an environment experiencing a burgeoning youth population. Available data point at a growing youth population in an environment without corresponding growth in infrastructure and industry has led to high pressure on resources leading to perennial class conflict in the region.

Failure of government institutions to deliver on appropriate economic and infrastructural reforms has led to conflicts between state officials and citizens. Increased distrust of officials has led to several clashes and self-help actions. Uncoordinated rebellions in the past decades had eventually matured into current terror operations by the Boko Haram insurgents.

The war on terror have been severely stunted by the growing supply of radical youths from the stock of unemployable youth that littered the streets of northern Nigeria in need of sense of spiritual emancipation from years of poverty and lack. Many literatures had maintained the fact that poverty is not an impetus for rebellion acts yet it has been proven through direct observation that rebellion thrives where the state failure and poverty is evident. As a matter of fact, the basis for international humanitarian efforts in Africa has been based on prevention of high criminality that may result from unchecked growth in poverty and hunger in several failing states in the continent.

One major challenge to the provision of public infrastructure development has been in the slow bureaucratic processes and the attendant high corruption of government officials in most African countries. NGOs and Community Based Organisations has been a bridge between the people and the government in actualizing people oriented development projects.

As development actors, NGOs have become the main service providers in countries where the government is unable to fulfill its traditional role. In the education sector, many NGOs have moved beyond ‘gap- filling’ initiatives into capacity building activities. This paper seeks to address the role of NGOs in development through the lens of capacity building. Through academic articles and NGO working papers, we can determine the effect of NGOs on capacity development and their role in building capacity on all levels, using a framework based on positive hypotheses:

NGOs are increasingly involved in capacity development. As the development discourse leans towards developing skills and tools for strengthening society, NGOs have reacted accordingly. They wish first and foremost to remain important stakeholders in development and to impart their extensive knowledge in the education sector. This involvement changes the ways in which NGOs operate. Capacity-building activities complement traditional service provision, though this does not mean that all NGOs have good relations with government.

In any case, NGO activities are increasingly diverse. They have an impact on the interpretation of capacity development. NGOs are influenced by the ideology of capacity development as defined by the hegemonic development discourse, but they also influence its meaning from the outside. This modified interpretation of capacity development can weaken central government but strengthen it in the long term. NGOs have the capacity to innovate and adapt more quickly than national governments; therefore, their actions can undermine government initiatives. But if they scale up their activities and impart their knowledge and techniques at the government level, the country as a whole can benefit.

NGOs have a significant impact on the whole process but are also plagued by severe obstacles. NGOs continue to suffer from a lack of resources and from their general estrangement from the state. Unless they become partners with government, and not competitors, capacity-building initiatives will continue to be stunted.

The environment in Northeastern Nigeria remains inundated by high-level insecurity that makes development programme seem essentially impossible. While most stakeholders abstained from the area due to high risk factor and the ongoing sate of emergency has further negated the infrastructural capacity of these three states under the military onslaught on the insurgents. The apparent lack of trust for state institutions in these areas will make the use of conventional government MDA approach to development clearly unwelcome. Locally based NGOs, CBOs and FBOs can easily breach this gap and stand in as the only way to reach out and provide succor to non-combatants and civilians in these areas. Government should provide funds for locally established and managed Community Based and Faith Based Organisations to drive development agendas in the tri-violent states of Yobe, Bauchi and Borno to kick start development in these areas.

The advantage of using locally based organisations in handling the development programmes in these areas are two pronged:

1. Train employable locally Based service delivery experts: One of the problems with the region remains in the increasing number of unemployable youth, given low economic activities in the areas. Inflow of fresh funds may increase economic activities and create expansion of local industry to support the increase in demand for resources in the area. The use of locally based personnel should avail the growth of necessary local experts needed for the entrenchment and maintenance of programme. The failure of most INGOs has been traced to the lack of proper local supports for their programme.
2. Increase trust in the process: Most locals may become part of the process since it is being handled through local personnel known to them. Trust in the process may enhance collaboration and could boost the programme at all level.

Recommendations:

Civil societies or NGOs in Nigeria has had a cheered history, from a vibrant, uncompromising and result focus pre-independence era, through a government hampered and corrupt operation before mid-1990s to a strong indivisible front during the democratic struggles of the late eighties and this era of political activism, corrupt leadership and weaken structure.

Regrettably, there cannot be a sustainable reform without the supports and inputs of the civil societies. Civil societies are needed to act as middlemen between the policy makers and their communities. Hence the role of these groups in reforms may includes:

• Raising public awareness on issues and reasons for reforms: There is a need for proper information, direct and people oriented to educate the public. These should not be media driven but generated and managed by the people. The CS could be empowered through seminars and workshops to educate the public on the needs for direct engagement in programmes and their roles in reforms in Nigeria.
• Promoting debates and talks on issues, practices, challenges and reforms required:
Policies can only succeed when the public opinion form its bedrock. The NGO programme should be directed to organize formal public debates and hearings on important policy and inform the state of their reports.
• Spreading Reform Information:
Organizing and maintaining civil societies in areas where there is no awareness and education level is low. Thereby reaching out to lower cadres of the society with proper information on reforms.
• Monitoring and Evaluating the Reform Processes: Exposing and reporting to appropriate authorities’ misconducts, demanding transparency and accountability from all security organization through a nationwide monitoring system. Reporting and writing articles on reform issues to educate the public and the police officers alike.
Creating framework and opportunities for future reforms through the setting-up of bodies to monitor and collate data on PSC operatives and organizations and the police operations in all areas of the country.
• Partnering:
Organizing local and international workshops, talks and town hall meetings to share, discuss, teach and compare feedbacks on policing issues from different unit of the society and publishing their memorandum in national press.
• Act as links between the public and police:
Encouraging and involving community groups in policing, creating neighborhoods watch and vigilante groups -under proper legislations- to guard and secure their environment.

Don Michael Adeniji, MA, pnm
Director, Security Policy Analysis.
African Initiative for Peace and Human Development

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

international News, Islam, Middle East, Military, SYRIA, War

Syria says false alarm set off its air defenses

A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra, in Syria's central province of Homs.© DOMINIQUE DERDA/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken from a helicopter during a press tour provided by the Russian Armed Forces on September 15, 2017 shows an aerial view of the modern city of Palmyra…AMMAN, April 17 (Reuters) – A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.

Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defenses had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.

The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.

Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying a number of air defense missiles had been fired but no foreign attack had taken place.

Separately, a commander in the regional military alliance backing the government attributed the malfunction to “a joint electronic attack” by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.

The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, said the commander, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

State television had showed pictures of a missile it said was shot in the air above the air base.

A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time. Asked about reports of the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We don’t comment on such reports.”

Saturday’s strikes by the U.S., Britain and France were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian military in eastern Ghouta. Both Damascus and its ally Russia have denied using any such weapons.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Damascus and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdullah in Cairo, Yara Bayoumy in Washington and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

National Dialogue and Peace in Africa

Africa, Politics, Power, Terrorism, War

africa.png

We Feel safe If we trust our institutions, and we trust our institutions if we see them acting effectively in crises’ (Mary Kaldor Old War, New Wars: organized Violence in a Globalized Era” 1998).

Generally, we all feel safe when threats are alleviated from our cherished values, which if left unmanaged threaten our survival or that of a referent object in the near future. Security is important and forms the basis of our existence and expression in society. Imagine what life will be without any form of threat, where security is normal, passive and not priorities and politically demanding issues? Absence of threat to a certain level is a prerequisite for growth and development of any society. Increase threats level drive down local production and inflow of foreign investments.

Security matters and absence of threats in our society remained a major illusion in our highly politicized society. Globalization and advent of technological development has continued to expose our societies to different forms of threats. Politics has continued to be instrumental to endangering security. While positive political environment allows for integration and development of peaceful co-existence, several political actors privy to command resources for eliminating threats have resolved to make politics a major issue in threat escalation.

Political nature of security has made the definition of the term security an object of argument based on the perspective of analysts and writers on the topic. Traditional understanding of security emphasizes the physical accumulation of military power to defend the state from external and internal aggression. African states at independence were incorporated into the geopolitical East – West polarization. The need for expression of influence by super powers was reflected in the strength of allied states armies.  Big armies were used to prop up and maintain loyal stooges as powerful rulers in states without proper understanding of principle and operation of statehood.

The period between 1956 and 1989 when the Cold War ended, dictators like Idi Ami in Uganda (1971 -79), Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt (1954-1970), Ahmed Sekou Toure in Guinea (1958-84) and Mengitsu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia (1974-1991) ruled with iron fists in defense of their countries territorial integrity and redefined state security as security for the few ruling elites at the expense of the masses. The states employed the “Kill and go” mentality in elite securitization to defend their territory and unleash terror on dissenting public. The armies and the police in African states now become instrument of public oppressions, as there were no external aggressions to address.

The end of the Cold War brought new realities in international relations understanding of security. Emergence of “new wars” –intra-state wars– in Africa and Eastern Europe led to new thinking about the effects of globalization on security planning. Buzan Barry in 1983 introduced the theory of a shift from physical or critical security thinking towards a focus on human security. Mary Kaldor also emphasized the need for new directions for security in her work “Old War, New Wars: organized Violence in a Globalized Era” (1998). They both postulated the need for newer roles for states armies as numbers of inter-states wars have continued to reduce in the world while organized violence from non-state actors emerged as new threats to developing states in Africa and Europe at the turn of the century.

Emergence of organized insurgent groups and terrorists that targets civilians and non-combatants has been blamed on the lack of a shift in the roles of states security operations from elite centered towards public supports. The need to defend states sovereignty with the security forces at the expense of securing the people while crime and threats to lives grow due to lack of resources to achieve basic human development have ennobled the need for the shift of focus of citizens security to Private Security Companies (PSC) and ethnic militias in most areas of Africa.   Initial goals of the public supports for these militias; remain in achieving security towards protection of cherished values in most states.

Regrettably, lack of states’ control and management of the growth and development of militia groups, expanding influence of militias has resulted in abuse of power and such influences. Most militia has turned from their roles as defenders of the people to direct anti-state organisation. Thereby increasing people’s exposure to more threats.

Security is a relative and controversial term which relevance can only be surmised by the presence of object for security. People was traditionally ascribed the object of security in developing world however within international relation, the UN and other developed nations states empanelled the state as reverent object of all security discourse before the turn of the millennium.

The United Nations through the UNDP at the end of the Cold War, introduced in 1993 “Human Security” as the main focus of state security. The UN maintained that states duties to their citizens should include the assurance of their survival and securing their access to humane living conditions. States have to provide all basic amenities to secure citizens needs and aspirations. Human Security Index was introduced as the measure of legitimacy of states.

herdsmenAfrican states that have hitherto experienced patronage from international superpowers to maintain strong armed forces and equipment based on mere east/west alignments at the end of the cold war were unceremoniously left to dry. Low revenue for most states led to high inflation, unemployment, poverty and low capital formation. With huge and unmanageable security bills to supports and growing hunger, many states fell under the gun to coups and counter coups by the same armies that had helped in wasting the national fund.

The harsh military rules of the late eighties and nineties in Africa helped in building a new form of public resistance and anti-state movements. The growing need for re-organisation of condition for statehood in most states was blocked under the need to defend states’ territorial integrity. This challenge continued to form basis for ethnic strengthening instead of nation building. Challenging the traditional roles of states as sole controller of violence became more rampant as ethic armies demands emancipation and control of their territories in several states like Somalia, Nigeria, Chad, Mali, Niger and Sudan from the late eighties.

Lack of trust in weakening states institutions due to years of oppressions and high level of official corruption continued to contribute to stress of the political landscape. The failure of states to empanel proper conflict management and internal law enforcement mechanism to ensure justice, accountability and equity, finally sounded the knell on the popularity of the states in Africa. Public supports for the institutions of states waned and growth of radical thought escalated unbridled.

The growth of terror organisation in Africa becomes inevitable as poverty expanded. Lack of proper planning and finance for states’ internal security and inequalities in the sharing of resources of state has made radicals out of the youth with low life expectancy. Growth of illicit economies with huge rewards for participants in an environment with high incidence of poverty, have resulted in the development of a new class of African youth; ready to make it by every means necessary.

The Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, MEND, OPC, Bakassi Boys, MAJOC, AQIM, and others are the products of a system of elite security that have complete answer to all issues. The apparent lack of dialogue in African state is so appalling.  The states are being run by an elites who are used to decrees and pronouncement without consultations. The elites have shown the public that security can only be achieved through the use of violence. State policies in most African states have always favoured ex-militants and violent individuals. The youth in Nigeria look at ex-Niger Delta militants that have become leaders in political discussions and businesses and choses their heroes and Kenyan youths’ hero is President Kenyatta himself, the President with cases of human rights abuse in the ICC.

There is urgent need for complete reformation of the African state focus of security; the people should be the focus of national security while the people in turn through their trust in national institutions, support and uphold the sovereignty of the state. How we lose our African heritage of love, peace, equity and justice to these common criminals remain an issue. If we don’t address the issues of leadership and equity in Africa, there will always be another violent struggle to further endanger the peace of the people.

Putin declares US-led Syria strike an ‘act of aggression’

Politics, Power, War

Putin declares US-led Syria strike an ‘act of aggression’

Russian officials warned of “consequences” after President Donald Trump announced his approval of U.S.-led military strikes in Syria against the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Early Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement saying the Western coalition’s “act of aggression” would only exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

Putin called the strike a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations” and said Moscow would call for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. To match Special Report RUSSIA-FLIGHTS/ Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/ via REUTERS/File Photo  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC1DE7734AA0

Russian President Vladimir Putin alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a visit the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province, Syria on Dec. 11, 2017.  (Reuters)

Immediately following Trump’s televised address Friday night, announcing the U.S.-led strikes, loud explosions and thick smoke were reported in the Syrian capital city, Damascus.

Syrian air defense units shot down 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the U.S., Britain and France, the Russian military claimed Saturday.

Russia’s Defense Ministry had earlier asserted that none of the missiles launched by the U.S. and its allies entered areas protected by Russia’s missile defense.

Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi attends a news briefing in Moscow, Russia, September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin - D1BEUCEWLEAA

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff.  (Reuters)

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said Saturday that the Syrian military used a Soviet-made missile defense system to shoot down all the missiles targeting four key Syrian air bases. He added that there were no casualties from the strike and its targets suffered only minor damage.

Rudskoi said Russian air defense assets in Syria monitored the strike, but didn’t engage. He also noted that while Russia had refrained from supplying Syria with its state-of-the-art S-300 air defense missile systems, that could be reconsidered now.

Prior to Putin’s statement, other Russian officials issued grim reactions to the Western military effort.

“The worst apprehensions have come true,” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., tweeted Friday. “Our warnings have been left unheard.

ant99

Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.  (Reuters)

“A pre-designed scenario is being implemented,” Antonov said. “Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible,” he said. “The U.S.—the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons—has no moral right to blame other countries.”

“Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible. The U.S. — the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons — has no moral right to blame other countries.”

– Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, denounced the U.S. in a Facebook post Friday for the strikes on Syria — a country that, she wrote, “for many years has been trying to survive terrorist aggression.”

zak99

Maria Zakharov, spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry.  (Reuters)

“The White House stated that its assuredness of the chemical attack from Damascus was based on ‘mass media, reports of symptoms, video, photos as well as credible information,’” she wrote. “After this statement the American and other Western mass media should understand their responsibility in what is happening.”

Russia and the U.S. had disagreed over a proper response in Syria after a suspected chemical attack by the regime last weekend in rebel-held Douma, a town about 10 miles east of Damascus, killed at least 40 people and injured more than 500, mostly women and children. The attack occurred amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce.

Earlier Friday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told reporters in Moscow that the claims of the suspected gas attack were a fabrication.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov listens for a question during a shared news conference with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini following their talks n Moscow, Russia, Monday, April 24, 2017. Lavrov has vowed to use Moscow's influence to get Ukraine's separatist rebels to comply with a cease-fire deal. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov  (Associated Press)

“Intelligence agencies of a state that is now striving to spearhead a Russo-phobic campaign were involved in that fabrication,” Lavrov said, without elaborating or naming the state.

A Russian lawmaker claimed the strikes were aimed at disrupting the work of international investigators looking into whether Syria used chemical weapons in the town of Douma.

“The airstrikes were carried out by the U.S.-led coalition consciously to spoil the investigation,” Russian parliament member Dmitry Sablin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom hit the Syrian capital in response to the use of chemical weapons; Jennifer Griffin shares latest details.

Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma’s defense committee, likened Trump to Adolf Hitler, and considered the strikes to be a move against Russia.

Trump “can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time — because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union,” state news agency RIA-Novosti quoted Sherin as saying.

The strike came hours after Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that “the United States estimates that Assad has used chemical weapons in the Syrian war at least 50 times.”

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says she is proud of President Trump's response to the chemical attack in Syria.

“Did a chemical weapons attack happen? Yes,” Haley told reporters before the meeting. “The U.S. has analyzed, yes, it has happened. The U.K. has analyzed, yes, it has happened. France analyzed, yes, it has happened. Three separate analysis all coming back with same thing. There is proof that this happened.”

Haley said during the meeting that should the U.S. and its allies decide to act in Syria, it would in the defense of “a bedrock international norm that benefits all nations” from the use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s military on Friday again refuted the claim that chemical weapons had been used in Douma, citing a lack of evidence.

En esta imagen cortesía de los Cascos Blancos de la Defensa Civil Siria, cuyos contenidos han sido autenticados por AP, se muestran las columna de humo después de un ataque aéreo de las fuerzas del gobierno sirio en la localidad de Duma, en la región de Ghouta oriental, al este de Damasco, Siria el sábado 7 de abril de 2018. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Smoke rising after Syrian government airstrikes hit in the town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus, Syria, on Saturday, April 7, 2018.  (Associated Press)

“According to the results of a survey of witnesses, studying samples and investigating locations undertaken by Russian specialists and medical personnel in the city of Douma, where chemical weapons purportedly were used, the use of poisonous substances was not shown,” said Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, head of the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria.

Yevtushenko also said the Russian military would supply security for investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as they worked to determine whether chemical weapons had been used.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier Thursday that Douma was under the control of Syrian forces and that some 1,500 fighters of the Army of Islam group had left the city.

Yevtushenko said that the action was to “prevent provocations, guarantee security, for the support of law and order and organize aid for the local population.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Britain says we had to attack Syria, strikes were highly successful – Reuter

Politics, SYRIA, War
Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman visitsLONDON (Reuters) – British had no alternative but to take military action to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Saturday after ordering air-launched cruise missile strikes along with the United States and France.

Four Royal Air Force Tornado jets from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus fired Storm Shadow missiles at a military facility near Homs where it was assessed that Syria had stockpiled chemicals, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

May cast the strike as “limited and targeted” and came after intelligence indicated Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for an attack using chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago.

May said the missile strike, designed to minimise civilian casualties, was aimed at deterring further use of chemical weapons and was not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.

“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change,” May said in statement made from her country residence at Chequers just minutes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the strikes from the White House.

may 2Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the mission had been highly successful and implied that no further action was imminent.

“We don’t expect that we’ll be a position where we’re having to make further strikes,” he told LBC radio. “We believe that the strikes we have taken last night had a significant impact in terms of what the Syrian regime can do in the future.”

By launching strikes without prior approval from parliament, May dispensed with a non-binding constitutional convention dating back to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She said speed was essential and that military action was in the national interest.

May, whose government is propped up by a small Northern Irish party, said Britain and the West had an obligation to deter both Assad and others from using chemical weapons after the poison gas attack in Douma near Damascus killed up to 75 people, including children, last Saturday.

However, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a fervent anti-war campaigner, called the strikes “legally questionable” and said May should have recalled parliament from a holiday and “not trailed after Donald Trump”.

“Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace,” he said in a statement. “Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.”

Britain has accused Russia of being behind last month’s nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, southern England – a charge Moscow has denied.

“While this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity,” May said.

“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world.”

May said Britain and its allies had sought to use every diplomatic means to stop the use of chemical weapons, but had been repeatedly thwarted, citing a Russian veto of an independent investigation into the Douma attack at the U.N. Security Council this week.

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” she said.

The Western missile strikes demonstrate the volatile nature of the Syrian civil war, which started in March 2011 as an anti-Assad uprising but is now a proxy conflict involving a number of world and regional powers and a myriad of insurgent groups.

Trump said he was prepared to sustain the response until the Assad government stopped its use of chemical weapons.

Russia, which intervened in the war in 2015 to back Assad, has denied there was a chemical attack and has accused Britain of helping to stage the Douma incident to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

“TARGETED STRIKES”

Britain’s defence ministry said “very careful scientific analysis” had been applied to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals while minimising any risk of contamination to surrounding areas.

Many politicians in Britain, including some in May’s own Conservative Party, had called for parliament to be recalled to give authority to any military strike.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Former Prime Minister David Cameron lost a parliamentary vote on air strikes against Assad’s forces in 2013 when 30 Conservative lawmakers voted against action, with many Britons wary of entering another conflict after intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya failed to bring stability to the region.

A YouGov poll for The Times newspaper this week indicated that only a fifth of voters believed that Britain should launch attacks on Syrian military targets and more than two-fifths opposed action.

Williamson said Britain had had to act swiftly and added May would update parliament when lawmakers returned on Monday.

Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill and William James; Writing by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Angus MacSwan and Peter Graff

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U.S., France, U.K. Launch Strikes on Syria After Chemical Attack

Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA, War

U.S. launches missile strikes in Syria

usaa

In Moves that could lead to the beginning of the Third World War, President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

In a speech monitored from the White House and following the path of the United States’  political undertones in recent days, the President maintained that the strike was against areas where supposed chemical agents were manufactured and the US does not seek any permanent engagement in Syria.

The coordinated strike marked the second time in a little over a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

Trump, speaking from the White House late Friday, said the attack last weekend was “a significant escalation” of Assad’s use of chemical weapons and warranted a stepped-up international response. Russia, the Syrian regime’s most powerful ally, harshly criticized the airstrikes but did not respond militarily.

The alleged chemical weapons use was not the work of “a man,” Trump said. It was “the crimes of a monster instead.”

Trump said the mandate for an allied attack was open-ended, but Pentagon chiefs later said the strikes Friday would be repeated only if Assad took further action that warranted a response.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military, in conjunction with British and French forces, struck three sites — a scientific research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a storage facility and command post also near Homs.

Dunford said that unlike the unilateral U.S. strike in Syria last year, in which only one site was attacked, the United States worked with two allies and hit the three sites in an operation that he said would result in the long-term degradation of Syria’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons.

The attack involved munitions fired from aircraft and naval vessels, including about 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. The Pentagon also employed the B-1 strategic bomber.

The assault came despite the lack of a definitive independent finding that chemical weapons were used or who had deployed them. An initial team of inspectors had only arrived in Syria on Friday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declined to say whether he thought the attack would prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again.

“Nothing is certain in these kinds of matters. However, we used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year,” he said. “It was done on targets that we believed were selected to hurt the chemical weapons program. We confined it to the chemical weapons-type targets.”

Mattis said that to his knowledge there were no U.S. or allied losses from the strikes Friday.

Dunford said that the only communications that took place between the United States and Russia before the operation were “the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our operations in Syria.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting and condemned the U.S.-led strike as an act of aggression that would “have a destructive effect on the entire system of international relations.”

“The staged use of poisonous substances against civilians was used as a pretext” for the missile strike, Putin said in a statement. “With its actions, the United States further intensifies the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, causes suffering for civilians, in essence indulges the terrorists who for seven years have bedeviled the Syrian people, and provokes a new wave of refugees from this country and the region as a whole.”

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the airstrikes represented the latest blow to the Syrian people “from those who claim to have moral leadership in this world.”

Russia seemed keen, however, to keep military tensions from escalating further. The Defense Ministry said that Russian air defense systems were not used to ward off the strike because the attacking cruise missiles did not enter the Russian systems’ “zone of responsibility” in the skies above Syria. The Russian Embassy in Damascus said it was not aware of any Russian casualties, Interfax reported.

It was not immediately clear how the Syrian military responded to the attack. Russia said that Soviet-made Syrian air defenses succeeded in shooting down a significant number of cruise missiles. Dunford said that Syrian forces fired surface-to-air missiles but that he did not have a full picture of the response. He said the Pentagon would provide more details Saturday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement saying the attacks were a response to “circumstances of pure horror.”

In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “Our response has been limited to the Syrian regimes facilities enabling the production and deployment of chemical weapons.”

The European Union voiced support for the allies. European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted, “The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.”

Vice President Pence left the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, to place calls to all four congressional leaders in advance of the airstrikes, speaking directly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he was also notified just prior to Trump’s statement.

The assault followed repeated threats of military action from Trump, who has been moved by civilian suffering to set aside his concerns about foreign military conflicts, since the reported chemical attack that killed civilians in a rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend.

The operation capped nearly a week of debate in which Pentagon leaders voiced concerns that an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia — without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

Both Syria and Russia have denied involvement in the attack, which Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov alleged had been staged.

The episode is the latest illustration of the hazards arising from a conflict that has killed an estimated half-million people and drawn in world powers since it began as peaceful protests in 2011.

The attack raised the possibility of retaliation by Russia or Iran, which also provides military support to Assad, threatening in particular to increase the risks facing a force of 2,000 Americans in Syria as part of the battle against the Islamic State. While the United States has not been at war with the Syrian government, U.S. troops often operate in proximity to Iranian- or Russian-backed groups.

In the wake of last weekend’s gruesome attack, some U.S. officials advocated a larger, and therefore riskier, strike than the limited action Trump ordered in April 2017, also in response to suspected chemical weapons use.

That attack involved 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea. It fulfilled Trump’s vow that chemical weapons are a “red line” that he, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, would not allow Assad to cross. But the airfield targeted by the Pentagon resumed operations shortly after the attack and, according to Western intelligence assessments, chemical attacks resumed.

Assad’s defiance presented Trump with a choice of whether to make a larger statement and incur a larger risk this time. Planning for these strikes focused on ways to curb Assad’s ability to use such weapons again.

Risks of the renewed attack include the possibility of a dangerous escalation with Russia, whose decision to send its military to Syria in 2015 reversed the course of the war in Assad’s favor. Since then, Russia has used Syria as a testing ground for some of its most sophisticated weaponry.

Since last year’s strike, multiple chemical attacks have been reported in opposition areas, most of them involving chlorine rather than the nerve agent sarin, as was used in 2017, suggesting the government may have adjusted its tactics.

Earlier Friday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, accused Russia of lying and covering up for the Assad government, which had used chemical weapons at least 50 times in the past seven years of warfare, Haley claimed.

“Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its coverups,” she said. “Russia was supposed to guarantee Assad would not use chemical weapons, and Russia did the opposite.”

Russia had called for the emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria as military action seemed likely.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, had accused the United States, France and Britain of saber-rattling.

“Why are you seeking to plunge the Middle East into such difficulties, provoking one conflict after another, pitting one state against another?” he said at the United Nations in New York on Friday, claiming that anti-government militias had received “instructions” to begin an offensive as soon as an act of force begins. “Is the latest wave of chaos being unleashed only for the sake of that?”

Russia has deployed thousands of troops and military advisers, as well as air defense systems, in Syria.

Russia’s military threatened to shoot down any U.S. missiles that put Russian lives at risk. Russia could also fire at the launch platforms used — potentially U.S. planes or ships. Russian officials had said U.S. and Russian military staffs remained in contact regarding Syria, even as Russian media carried stories in recent days about the potential outbreak of “World War III” as a consequence of a U.S. airstrike against Assad.

Putin warned Macron in a phone call Friday that the situation remained tense, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“Most important, it is imperative to avoid badly planned and dangerous actions that would be crude violations of the U.N. Charter and would have unpredictable consequences,” the Kremlin said. “Both leaders directed the ministers of defense and foreign affairs to maintain close contact with the goal of de-escalating the situation.”

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres told the Security Council that he feared events could escalate rapidly into a regional and even global conflict, and he urged all states “to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.”

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Karen Pierce, noted that May’s cabinet had “agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.”

Announcement of that approval Thursday did not specify that the response should be military, although that was the expectation.

The Washington Post.

Thousands of Palestinians protest at Gaza-Israel border, one dead

international News, Politics, Power, Terrorism, War
 Thousands of Palestinians protest at Gaza-Israel border, one dead
GAZA BORDER (Reuters) – A Palestinian was killed and more than 200 others wounded during clashes with Israeli troops as thousands gathered in protest along the Gaza-Israel border on Friday, Gaza officials said.Palestinians hurled stones and burning tyres near the frontier fence, where Israeli army sharpshooters are deployed. Some in the crowd threw firebombs and an explosive device and tried cross into Israel, according to the Israeli military.

Palestinian medical officials said Israeli troops opened fire on the demonstrators, killing one and wounding 220.

An Israeli military spokesman said troops were being confronted by rioters and responded “with riot dispersal means while also firing in accordance with the rules of engagement”.

Palestinians had arrived en masse at tented camps near the frontier as a protest dubbed “The Great March of Return” – evoking a longtime call for refugees to regain ancestral homes in what is now Israel – moved into its third week.

Israeli troops have shot dead 31 Gaza Palestinians and wounded hundreds since the protests began, drawing international criticism of the lethal tactics used against them.

On Friday, groups of youths waved Palestinian flags and burnt hundreds of tyres and Israeli flags near the fenced-off border after Friday prayers. At one camp east of Gaza City, youths carried on their shoulders a coffin wrapped in an Israeli flag bearing the words “The End of Israel”.

Israel has declared a no-go zone close to the Gaza border fence.

No Israelis have been killed during the demonstrations, and human rights groups say the Israeli military has used live fire against demonstrators who pose no immediate threat to life.

Israel says it is doing what it must to defend its border, and to stop any of the protesters getting across the fence.

The planned six-week protest has revived a longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created 70 years ago.

The protest began on March 30, and is expected to culminate on May 15.

“CATASTROPHE” OF 1948

That is the day Palestinians will mark the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced amid violence culminating in war between newly created Israel and its Arab neighbours in May 1948.

Successive Israeli governments have ruled out any right of return, fearing the country would lose its Jewish majority.

“Some people believe we are idiots to think the Israelis will allow us in, they may not, but we will not stop trying to return,” said a protester, 37-year-old civil servant Ahmed, as he stood on a hilltop overlooking the Israeli fence.

Like most of the 2 million Palestinians packed into the tiny, impoverished Gaza Strip, Ahmed is a descendant of refugees from Jaffa, a coastal town in Israel just south of Tel Aviv.

“No peace, no jobs, no unity and no future, so what difference would death make? If we are going to die, then let it not be in vain,” said Ahmed, who refused to give his full name, fearing Israeli reprisals.

The Israeli government accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that has ruled Gaza largely since Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, of having instigated the protests and of using them as cover to launch attacks.

“Israel will continue to defend its borders and its citizens. Your country would do the same,” an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said on Twitter.

The Israeli military has displayed video footage in which the frontier fence is seen being cut and breached during the recent clashes, with, Israel says, explosives planted there to target its troops.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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A look at the region’s firepower shows who would win if the US and allies fought Russia and Syria today

international News, Politics, SYRIA, War

Business Insider reviewed an Institute of International Strategic Studies report on the military balance in Syria to give a breakdown of who has the edge.

The US, France, and the UK, appear on the verge of combat with Syria, and possibly its ally Russia, over suspected chemical weapons use against civilians — and it could easily spiral into one of the most complicated, advanced military skirmishes of all time.

But the US has a ton of firepower in the Middle East, though the stock has been depleted since ISIS’s all but total defeat caused the US to send some assets home, and some assets elsewhere.

Business Insider reviewed an Institute of International Strategic Studies report on the military balance in Syria to give a breakdown of what countries have what assets in striking range of Syria.

Find out how the forces stack up, and who has what below:

planes

The US has the air superiority fighters in place and ready to go. (US Air Force)

The US has the air superiority fighters in place and ready to go.

The US has a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagles in Jordan and a half-strength squadron of F-22 Raptor fighter jets in the United Arab Emirates for air supremacy.

In Qatar, the US has B-1B Lancers replacing the old deployment of B-52 Stratofortresses, and B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are never far away, thanks to refueling and bases around the world.

Elsewhere in the region, the US has A-10s and nine US Marine Corps F/A-18A+ Hornets.

Source: IISS

 

The US two destroyers in the region and tons of power under the waves.

The USS Florida.playThe USS Florida.

(Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lynn Friant)

At sea, the US has two Arleigh-Berke class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook and the USS Winston S. Churchill, which hold up to 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the very same type the US used in its last strike on Syria in April 2017.

But underwater, the IISS estimates the US has one fast-attack nuclear submarine with up to 40 Tomahawks, and possibly another former nuclear-missile submarine converted to carry 154 Tomahawks, greatly upping the ante.

Source: IISS

 

US ground forces also can’t be underestimated.

US ground forces also can't be underestimated.playUS ground forces also can’t be underestimated.

(Wikimedia Commons)

The US has ground-launched missiles that could riddle Syrian or Russian defenses, but would carry a high risk of counter attack as they’re less mobile.

Source: IISS

 

France has jets and a ship already sailing with the US.

A Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of Aero India 2013 at Yelahanka air force station near Bangalore, February 6, 2013.playA Dassault Rafale combat aircraft performs during the inauguration ceremony of Aero India 2013 at Yelahanka air force station near Bangalore, February 6, 2013.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

France, whose President Emmanuel Macron has been coordinating a response with Trump for the better part of a week, has 10 Rafale multirole fighters in the region, as well as a navy destroyer deployed alongside the USS Donald Cook.

The French destroyer, the Aquitaine, is equipped with new Missile De Croisière Naval cruise missiles.

Source: IISS

 

The UK has jets nearby and a ship capable of air defense for the allied fleet.

ts and ground crew prepare combat aircraft Panavia Tornados at RAF Marham on December 2, 2015 at RAF Marham, United Kingdom.playts and ground crew prepare combat aircraft Panavia Tornados at RAF Marham on December 2, 2015 at RAF Marham, United Kingdom.

(Getty)

The UK, which has also decided to participate in the strike, has the HMS Duncan in Eastern Mediterranean as the flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, though it does not have any land-attack capacity, and can only contribute to air defenses.

In the air, the UK has a mix of Tornado and Typhoon jet fighters in Cyprus.

Source: IISS

 

UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria.

Two French F-2 Rafales aircraft fly over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Jan. 8, 2016. US Air Force.playTwo French F-2 Rafales aircraft fly over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Jan. 8, 2016. US Air Force.

(Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

The UK and French jets can conduct standoff attacks on Syria from outside its airspace with Storm Shadow and Scalp EG cruise missiles.

Source: IISS
Russian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.

Russian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.playRussian and Syrian air defenses offer stiff resistance.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

On the side of the Russia and Syria, sophisticated air defenses would keep US and allied forces on their toes.

Russian-made Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E operated by Syria pose a threat, and batteries of S-400 and S-300V4 long-range surface-to-air missiles protecting Russian air and naval bases haveconsistently given NATO planners pause.

Source: IISS

Russia’s air force in Syria is no joke.

Russia's air force in Syria is no joke.playRussia’s air force in Syria is no joke.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russian fighter aircraft in Syria, like Su-34s and Su-30SMs, can pose a real threat to allied aircraft, but the F-22, the world’s most deadly combat plane with a combination of stealth and dogfighting ability, could likely run cover for US air operations.

Source: IISS
So who would win?

A US soldier in the town of Darbasiya, Syria in 2017.playA US soldier in the town of Darbasiya, Syria in 2017.

(Rodi Said/Reuters)

Since Trump announced that US missiles would soon hit Syria, Business Insider spoke to several experts in different fields who all unanimously responded that Russia’s military in Syria would lose a conventional fight to the US forces in the region alone.

For that reason, they all said it’s unlikely Russia actually wants a fight with the US, and may simply be blustering with some of its more direct threats.

While the US regards Russia’s air defenses as potent, and experts say even F-22 stealth jets wouldn’t have an easy time taking them out, the US can just overwhelm any defenses with a massive volley of cruise missiles.

Source: IISS

 

UAE condemns Somalia over seizing cash ‘sent to army’

Africa, Boko Haram, Corruption, international News, Military, Terrorism, War

Somali soldiers

Somalia said on Sunday it had seized almost $10m from a Royal Jet aeroplane that arrived at Mogadishu airport.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denounced the seizure of what it described as a civilian aircraft carrying nearly $10m by Somali authorities at Mogadishu airport.

The government of Somalia said on Sunday it had seized several bags of money containing $9.6m in cash from a plane arriving from the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

According to a statement carried on Tuesday by WAM, the UAE state news agency, the sum was intended to support the Somali military and trainees.

“Money allocated to support the Somali army and trainees was seized at gunpoint by Somali security personnel, who disrespected some members of the UAE forces,” it said.

The money was found in three unmarked bags on a Royal Jet plane, according to the Somali interior ministry, and its seizure resulted in an hours-long standoff between airport officials and UAE embassy staff in Mogadishu.

Royal Jet is an airline based in Abu Dhabi, servicing the luxury market between the UAE and Europe.

“The seized money is worth $9.6m. Security agencies are currently investigating where the money came from, where it was going, the individuals involved and the reason for bringing money worth this amount into the country,” Somalia’s interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE have been frosty since June last year.

Mogadishu resisted Emirati and Saudi pressure to cut ties with Qatar following a dispute between the Gulf neighbours. Somalia said it was neutral in the Gulf diplomatic rift.

Last month, Abu Dhabi agreed to train security forces in Somaliland – a region in northern Somalia seeking to secede from the country. The UAE has also signed with Somaliland a 30-year concession to manage Berbera Port in the semi-autonomous region. It has also started building a military base in the port city.

Somalia dismissed the agreement between Abu Dhabi and the northern Somali region as “non-existent, null and void” and called on the United Nations to take action.

Speaking at the UN Security Council last month, Abukar Osman, Somalia’s ambassador to the UN, said the agreement between Somaliland and the UAE to establish the base in Berbera is a “clear violation of international law”.

Osman called on the Security Council to “take the necessary steps” to “put an end to these actions”.

“The Federal Government of Somalia strongly condemns these blatant violations, and reaffirms that it will take the necessary measures deriving from its primary responsibility to defend the inviolability of the sovereignty and the unity of Somalia,” he said.

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Somalia disbands UAE programme to pay and train soldiers

Africa, Boko Haram, Military, War

Somalia said it seized several bags of money containing $9.6m in cash from a plane arriving from the UAE.

Somalia has disbanded a United Arab Emirates programme to train some of its troops in a new sign of rising tensions in bilateral relations.

The Somali government announced on Wednesday that it will take over paying and training the soldiers in the programme, Defence Minister Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman told Somalia’s state news agency Sonna.

“Somalia will fully take over [its troops] trained by the UAE… Those forces will be added to the various battalions of the Somalia National Army,” Abdirahman said, adding the soldiers would be integrated into other units on Thursday.

The UAE has trained hundreds of troops since 2014 as part of an effort boosted by an African Union military mission to defeat an al-Shabab uprising and secure the country for the government, which is backed by Western nations, Turkey and the United Nations.

There was no immediate comment from the UAE government.

Rising tensions

The move came after the government of Somalia said on Sunday it had seized several bags of money containing $9.6m in cash from a plane arriving from the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

On Tuesday, the UAE denounced the seizure of the money, which it said was destined to pay the soldiers.

“Money allocated to support the Somali army and trainees was seized at gunpoint by Somali security personnel, who disrespected some members of the UAE forces,” it said.

The money was found in three unmarked bags on a Royal Jet plane, according to the Somali interior ministry, and its seizure resulted in an hours-long standoff between airport officials and UAE embassy staff in Mogadishu.

Royal Jet is an airline based in Abu Dhabi, servicing the luxury market between the UAE and Europe.

“The seized money is worth $9.6m. Security agencies are currently investigating where the money came from, where it was going, the individuals involved and the reason for bringing money worth this amount into the country,” Somalia’s interior ministry said in a statement late on Sunday.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE have been frosty since June last year.

Mogadishu resisted Emirati and Saudi pressure to cut ties with Qatar following a dispute between the Gulf neighbours. Somalia said it was neutral in the Gulf diplomatic rift.

Last month, Abu Dhabi agreed to train security forces in Somaliland – a region in northern Somalia seeking to secede from the country. The UAE has also signed with Somaliland a 30-year concession to manage Berbera Port in the semi-autonomous region. It has also started building a military base in the port city.

Somalia dismissed the agreement between Abu Dhabi and the northern Somali region as “non-existent, null and void” and called on the UN to take action.

Speaking at the UN Security Council last month, Abukar Osman, Somalia’s ambassador to the UN, said the agreement between Somaliland and the UAE to establish the base in Berbera is a “clear violation of international law”.

Osman called on the Security Council to “take the necessary steps” to “put an end to these actions”.

“The federal government of Somalia strongly condemns these blatant violations, and reaffirms that it will take the necessary measures deriving from its primary responsibility to defend the inviolability of the sovereignty and the unity of Somalia,” he said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Bomb kills five football-watching spectators

Africa, Terrorism, War

Agency Report

Somalia – A bomb killed five spectators at a football match in southern Somalia, police and a lawmaker said on Friday, the first time an explosion has targeted a stadium.

The blast went off in the port town of Barawe, in the Lower Shabelle region, when residents were watching a football match on Thursday afternoon, police said, adding that al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab could be behind the attack.

Police said it appeared to have been detonated by remote control.

“The bomb killed five people and injured a dozen others in the football field.

“All the casualties were from the onlookers,” Mahad Dhoore, a lawmaker for South West state told Reuters.

Police officer Mohamed Aden said al Shabaab group was suspected of being behind the attack and put the number of dead at four and wounded at 12.

“We believe al Shabaab was behind (it) and that the target was officials who were not seated there at the
time of the match.

“The bomb looked like a remotely controlled one that was planted there,” Mr Aden told Reuters from Barawe.

Al Shabaab are fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and establish their own rule based on their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group frequently carries out bombings and gun attacks in the capital Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia.

“Al Shabaab carried out an explosion that killed teenagers who were just playing football in Barawe town.

“Al Shabaab is the only enemy we have,” President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said during a farewell party for Somalia’s outgoing parliament speaker.

(Reuters/NAN)

Nigeria’s oil production Dips again; Lowest Production recorded in six months

2019 Elections, Africa, economy, Oil, Petroleum Products, PMB, War, World Bank

Nigeria’s oil production dropped by more than 82,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 2.022 million b/d in March 2018 — compared to the output in the preceding month, according to estimates released by the ministry of petroleum resources.

The ministry figures showed that oil production, including condensates, averaged 2,022,716 bpd in March, down from a high of 2,105,656 bpd in February. It was the lowest oil production by the country in the last six months.

The ministry provided no reason for the decline.

Sabotage attacks on oil production and exports facilities had seen Nigeria not able to produce up to its maximum capacity of around 3.2 million bpd. In 2016, oil production dropped significantly to 1.4 million bpd, and the Nigerian economy slipped into recession.

On Monday, Shell said operations at Forcados terminal, one of Nigeria’s main oil export routes, were ramping up after a momentary shutdown at the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP).

Forcados terminal exports an average of 262,000 bpd, according to loading schedule.

The terminal experienced low injection of crude around March 27, following a shutdown of the TFP, a Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) spokesman told TheCable Petrobarometer.

According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), about 300,000 bpd of oil were shut in at Forcados terminal alone in 2016, following the declaration of the force majeure that year.

US army trains Nigerian troops on fighting Boko Haram

Boko Haram, Nigerian Army, Politics, Terrorism, War

boko-haram

Boko Haram: Terrorists flee back to Nigeria after hitting military base in Diffa – Daily Post Nigeria

US soldiers, not less than 12, have trained Nigerian troops on a six-week advice-and-assist mission in Jaji, Kaduna State, Pentagon has said.

The US department of defence said Nigerian army’s 26th infantry battalion might be the next to deploy to north-east to confront Boko Haram.

The department, while documenting some accounts of the US soldiers during the training, said it was important to prepare the Nigerian troops for the threats they faced from the terrorists.

Nigerian-Army-TrainingSaul Rodriguez, the most experienced of the 12 US soldiers, said: “Even in triple-digit heat and with AK-47 automatic rifles in hand, it’s easy to forget these soldiers are likely headed into imminent danger.

“My job is to train you as much as I can. Your job is to fight the bad guys out of your country.”

According to NAN, Kevin Martin of the 10th mountain division Fort Drum, New York, said the troops needed the skills as they faced real threats.

He said: “Yes. We are hard on them. We have to be. Their life depends on it. They might need these skills one day.

“They face a very real and lethal threat. We aren’t going to slow down; we are going to pack as much training in as possible.”

Stephen Gouthro said the life-altering responsibility to prepare Nigerian soldiers was not lost on him, adding one of the best parts of the mission was the lack of micromanagement.

Gouthro said: “What better way to demonstrate mission command. This mission isn’t only about the tactical.

“Everything our team does could have diplomatic effects. Out here, the team has to be professional, mature and disciplined. And we are.”

Source: The cableNg

Israel’s Violent Response to Nonviolent Protests

international News, Military, Terrorism, War

israel1Israel’s Violent Response to Nonviolent Protests

Yasser Murtaja was a self-taught photojournalist who reported on his community and had the distinction of doing camerawork for a documentary by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident and artist.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a life-threatening career. But Mr. Murtaja, 30 years old and the father of a 15-month-old son, lived in Gaza, the enclave of nearly two million Palestinians ruled by ruthless Hamas militants that has been devastated by an 11-year blockade by Israel and Egypt and three wars between Israel and Hamas that have killed thousands of Palestinians and about 100 Israelis.

On Friday, Mr. Murtaja was shot and killed by Israeli security forces whilecovering protests that over the past two weeks have drawn tens of thousands of Palestinians to Gaza’s border with Israel, demanding to return to lands their families lost in the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s founding.

At times, some of the younger protesters have moved close to the border’s no-go zone, burning tires and throwing rocks at the fence. Israel has said some Gazans have tried to toss crude explosives, shoot weapons and breach the barrier.

But in general, the protests have been peaceful, with many demonstrators staying far back from the heavily fortified fence to picnic and hold a tent camp sit-in. There has been no apparent reason for Israel to use live ammunition.

The government claims that the protests are a cover for a more violent Hamas agenda, including encouraging Gazans to penetrate the fence and push into Israel. Israel has a right to defend its border, but in the face of unarmed civilians it could do so with nonlethal tactics common to law enforcement, such as the use of high-powered fire hoses.

Since the protests began, Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,000. On the day Mr. Murtaja died, eight other Palestinians were killed and five other journalists were among a thousand injured. There have been no known Israeli casualties.

The fact that Mr. Murtaja and the wounded journalists wore protective vests with signs proclaiming “PRESS” on the front has prompted suspicion that Israel deliberately targeted the journalists, as Reporters Without Borders, an activist group, and Rushdi Al Sarraj, Mr. Murtaja’s friend and sometime collaborator, have alleged. In an interview with TheNew Yorker, Mr. Al Sarraj recalled how the Israeli Army had earlier boasted that its soldiers were so precise and competent they “know where they put every bullet and where every bullet landed.”

The Israeli military has said its forces did not intentionally shoot journalists. But that assertion was undercut by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli defense minister, who said on Tuesday that Mr. Murtaja was a Hamas captain who had used a drone to collect intelligence on Israeli forces. That volatile charge is at odds with independent news reporting and, if it is false, could put other journalists at grave risk. Mr. Lieberman provided no proof for the claim and further demonstrated his disdain for justice, rule of law and the role of a free press by arguing on Sunday that there are “no innocent people” in Hamas-run Gaza.

An independent investigation into the killings is needed. But on March 31, after the first deaths, the United States, in support of Israel, blocked a proposed United Nations Security Council statement condemning the Israeli response, urging a transparent inquiry and affirming the right of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully.

Such ideas should not be controversial. But ordinary Palestinians have few defenders, and much of the world has been shockingly mute about what’s happening in Gaza. Journalists have a right to work, and people have a right to demonstrate peacefully — and to assume that responsible authorities will ensure that they can do so without being shot.

Israel, a democracy with its own vigorous press and engaged citizenry, should understand that better than most.

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By The Editorial Board  of The New York Times The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Russia vetoes US resolution on Syria gas attack

international News, SYRIA, Terrorism, War

SyraRussia vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution at the United Nations Tuesday that would have condemned a suspected poison gas attack by the Syrian regime on a Damascus suburb.

The vote in the 15-member U.N. Security Council was 12 in favor, with Russia and Bolivia opposing and China abstaining. It was the 12th time Russia has vetoed a resolution concerning Syria and sixth veto related to chemical weapons.

The resolution would have also established a new body to determine responsibility for chemical weapons attacks during Syria’s ongoing civil war. The Security Council voted down a rival Russian resolution moments later.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.S. “went the extra mile” to get Russian support for the resolution to ensure that the proposed investigative body would be impartial, independent and professional. By contrast, Haley said the Russian resolution would allow Moscow to veto investigators and staff for the new body — and to block its findings.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of wanting the resolution to fail “to justify the use of force against Syria.”

He added that the resolution was trying to recreate the old expert body, whose extension Moscow blocked in November. He called that body “a puppet in the hands of anti-Damascus forces.”

Earlier Tuesday, the international chemical weapons watchdog said it was sending a fact-finding mission to the town of Douma, where the suspected chemical weapons attack took place, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

Syrian leaders are continuing to deny responsibility for the chemical attack. Conor Powell has the reaction from the region.

It was not immediately clear whether the announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would delay or prevent a U.S. strike in Syria. President Donald Trump has vowed to respond “forcefully” to Saturday’s attack and warned that Russia — or any other nation found to share responsibility — will “pay a price.”

The incident has sparked international outrage and ratcheted up tensions in the already volatile Mideast, raising the specter of possible imminent American retaliation amid Russia’s warnings against any such action, and denials that any chemical weapons attack took place.

Adding to the tensions, Iran, a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, threatened to respond to an airstrike on a Syrian military base on Monday that the Syrian government, Russia and Iran have blamed on Israel.

Seven Iranians were among the estimated 14 people killed in the missile strike, and a senior Iranian official visiting Damascus said the attack “will not remain unanswered.” Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader, spoke upon arrival in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.

The Syrian air base was struck by missiles a little more than 24 hours after the alleged chemical attack. Israel does not typically comment on its operations in Syria, and it is unclear whether the missile attack was linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Iran is one of Assad’s strongest backers and has sent thousands of troops and allied militiamen to support his forces.

On 'America's Newsroom,' Republican congressman from Illinois says he would love to see Assad as a target.

Chemical weapons attacks have killed hundreds of people since the start of Syria’s conflict, with the U.N. blaming four attacks on the Syrian government and a fifth on the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

The OPCW, in its statement, said its technical Secretariat has asked the Syrian government to make the necessary arrangements for the deployment of a fact-finding mission. The group is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, which has been signed by 192 member states.

Syria became a member in 2013 as part of a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia after a chemical attack in eastern Ghouta killed hundreds of people. That attack was widely blamed on government forces, who denied responsibility.

Syrian opposition activists and paramedics said more than 40 people were killed in last weekend’s suspected chemical attack and blamed the government. The Syrian government and its Russian backers strongly deny the allegations, and questioned whether a chemical weapons attack even took place.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday he was outraged by the reported attack, and that the use of chemical weapons would be a violation of international law. He also reaffirmed his support for an OPCW investigation.

Fox News’ Ben Evansky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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