[PHOTO] Iran-Iraq Border: Iranian Female Students Play Around an Abandoned Tank in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran

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‘There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank [in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran]. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open.’ (Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest)

See more here

Source: Winners of 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest


[VIDEO] Fistfight! Ukrainian Parliament 

Brawl erupted in Ukraine’s upper house of parliament when a member of the legislature attempted to drag prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk from the floor’s podium.

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From The Daily Beast:

The Ukrainian parliament on Friday broke out into a brawl after one member approached Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, handed him a bouquet of roses, and then forcefully picked him up by the crotch, and removed him from the podium. Mayhem ensued, with members rushing toward the two men. The prime minister had been defending his embattled government.


OH YES HE DID: Putin Raises Possibility of Using Nuclear Weapons Against Terrorists 

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But hopes they ‘will never need’ them

Serina Sandhu reports: Vladimir Putin has said he hopes nuclear warheads will not be needed to deal with terrorists, after Russia launched cruise missiles from its submarine at Syria.

“With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

— Vladimir Putin

During a meeting in the Kremlin, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the President that Kalibr cruise missiles had been fired by the submerged Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.

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He said TU-22 bombers also took part in the latest raids and that “significant damage” had been done to a munitions depot, a factory manufacturing mortar rounds and oil facilities. Two major targets in Raqqa, the defacto capital of Isis, had been hit, said Mr Shoigu.

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them.

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He said: “With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the [Kalibr] missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.”

President Putin said the new cruise missiles could also be equipped with nuclear warheads – but that he hoped they would never need them. Read the rest of this entry »


France Shuts Down 3 Mosques During Crackdown On Terrorists 

PARIS (AP) — The latest on the recovery from and investigation into the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. All times local: 2:35 p.m.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says three mosques have been shut down in France since the Paris attacks as part of a crackdown on extremist activities.

Cazeneuve told reporters it was the first time mosques are being closed in France “on grounds of radicalization.”

One of the mosques, 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Paris in Lagny-sur-Marne, was targeted by raids early Wednesday, with police seizing a 9mm revolver, a computer hard disc and jihadist propaganda. Cazeneuve said the mosque also had a non-authorized Quranic school….(read more)

Source: Weasel Zippers


[VIDEO] Russian SU-24 Jet Shot down by Turkish F-16 Warplanes Over Syria

A Russian jet has been shot down by Turkish warplanes this morning, near the border with Syria.

Russia’s defence ministry claims the aircraft at no point strayed into Turkish airspace, with authorities insisting it remained in Syria “at all times”, according to Interfax.

However, a Turkish military official told Reuters that the Nato member country’s F-16s had fired on the then-unidentified aircraft only after warning it was violating Turkey’s airspace.

“It was downed in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement after violating Ankara‘s airspace,” the wire reports. President Tayyip Erdogan has been briefed.

A statement issued by Turkish military added that the plane had been warned “10 times in five minutes” Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Gets Really Angry — at Americans

He could have acknowledged people’s qualms as legitimate and argued at greater length…But that would have meant not taking cheap shots against the political opposition at home — the people who really make him angry.

Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president express heartfelt anger, which he did in his press conference in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of the G-20 Conference. And they did hear him describe the Islamic State as “this barbaric terrorist organization” and acknowledge that “the terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback.”

“What really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq.”

[Read the full text Michael Barone’s article here, at Washington Examiner]

But what really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq. As well as critics of his decision to allow 10,000 Syrians into the United States.

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“The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction.”

The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction. The Islamic State “controls less territory than it did before,” he stated — but not much less, and is still holding Iraq’s second largest city and a huge swath of Iraqi and Syrian desert. Our bombs did pulverize the British-born Islamic State beheader. “We’ve obama-incandescentbeen coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities.

“Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.”

Our military could dislodge them, he admitted, but explained that then we’d have to occupy and administer the places we capture. In other words, we’d be facing the kind of messy situations we faced, until the surge strategy he opposed, in Iraq.

But in his self-described goal, “to degrade and ultimately destroy,” the word “ultimately” looms uncomfortable large. Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.

[Read the full text Michael Barone’s article here, at Washington Examiner]

Such action, Obama suggested, might be bad public relations. The Islamic State has “a twisted ideology,” and we play into its “narrative” by treating it as a state and using “routine military tactics.” Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES HE DID: John Kerry: ‘There Was … a Rationale’ For the Charlie Hebdo Terror Attack’

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John Nolte writes:

In Tuesday remarks to the staff and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested there was a “rationale” for the January Islamic terror attacks against the journalists/cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France, that resulted in the murder of 12 people.

“There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.”

“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry told the group.  “There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.” Read the rest of this entry »


Mark Krikorian: Why Refugee Resettlement Is Immoral

“Each refugee we bring to the United States means that eleven others are not being helped with that money.”

Mark Krikorian writes:

…Sure, welcoming refugees here makes us feel good. Newspapers run heart-warming stories of overcoming adversity; churches embrace the objects of their charity; politicians can wax nostalgic about their grandparents.

“it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in a neighboring country in the Middle East.”

But the goal of refugee assistance is not to make us feel good. It is to assist as many people as possible with the resources available. And resettling a relative handful of them here to help us bask in our own righteousness means we are sacrificing the much larger number who could have been helped with the same resources.

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“The five-year cost to American taxpayers of resettling a single Middle Eastern refugee in the United States is conservatively estimated to be more than $64,000, compared with U.N. figures that indicate it costs about $5,300 to provide for that same refugee for five years in his native region.”

[Read the full text here, at National Review Online]

The difference in cost is enormous. The Center for Immigration Studies, which I head, recently calculated that it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in a neighboring country in the Middle East.

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“The goal of refugee assistance is not to make us feel good. It is to assist as many people as possible with the resources available. And resettling a relative handful of them here to help us bask in our own righteousness means we are sacrificing the much larger number who could have been helped with the same resources.”

The five-year cost to American taxpayers of resettling a single Middle Eastern refugee in the United States is conservatively estimated to be more than $64,000, compared with U.N. figures that indicate it costs about $5,300 to provide for that same refugee for five years in his native region.

Obama-Not-Interested-America-Winning

[Obama On ISIS: I’m Not Interested In ‘America Winning’]

In other words, each refugee we bring to the United States means that eleven others are not being helped with that money. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Russia Confirms That Explosive Downed Plane over Sinai 

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‘We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act’

MOSCOW – The Kremlin said for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.

“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance.” 

Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.

[Read the full text here, at Jerusalem Post]

But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

“We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”

— Vladimir Putin

“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance,” said Bortnikov. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] No Arrests in Siege of Belgian Extremist Hub as Suspected ‘Mastermind’ of Paris Attacks Identified 

TOPSHOTS Police officers stand guard as an operation takes place in the Molenbeek district of Brussels on November 16, 2015. Belgian police launched a major new operation in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, where several suspects in the Paris attacks had previously lived, AFP journalists said. Armed police stood in front of a police van blocking a street in the run-down area of the capital while Belgian media said officers had surrounded a house. Belgian prosecutors had no immediate comment. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

Belgian believed to be behind Paris attacks

DEVELOPING — Explosions rang out Monday during a massive police operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek as investigators searched for a suspect in the Paris massacre, but they said they failed to make any arrests.

Police were seeking the suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam, 26, and any possible associates. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way. Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the operation ended after more than three hours.

One of the suspect’s brothers, Brahim Abdeslam, killed himself in Friday’s string of attacks. Another brother, Mohammad, was released after being detained over the weekend, according to his attorney. She told the RTL network her client “hadn’t made the same life choices.”

In all, five of the seven people who were detained over the weekend because of possible links to the massacre have been released, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office. Two others have been charged with being part of a terror group and links to a terror attack, the office said in a statement.

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The U.S. and Russia were among the nations rushing to France’s aid. French president Francois Hollande announced Monday that he would soon speak with Presidents Barack Obama and mastermind-sqVladimir Putin to discuss pooling their efforts to destroy ISIS. He also urged his parliament to extend France’s state of emergency for three months.

Investigators identified a Belgian jihadist believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria as the suspected mastermind behind Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 people.

A French official told The Associated Press that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old from Molenbeek, was also believed to have ties to the thwarted attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train this past August, as well as a failed plot to attack a Paris-area church. He is reportedly the child of Moroccan immigrants.

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The Daily Telegraph reported that Abaaoud was the head of a terror cell based in Verviers, Belgium that was broken up by police this past January. However, he appears to have escaped the clutches of the authorities and made his way to Syria.

Salah Abdeslam had been stopped at the French border with Belgium early Saturday, hours after the attacks, The Associated Press reported. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Russia Today’ Co-Founder Mikhail Lesin Reportedly Found Dead In D.C. Hotel

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Russian President Vladimir Putin with former Mass Media Minister Mikhail Lesin in Vladivostok, Russia on August 24, 2002. ITAR-TASS / Reuters

WASHINGTON —  reports: A Russian media mogul who helped found the Kremlin-run news channel RT was found dead in his hotel in Washington, D.C., according to reports.

“The Embassy does not have any further comment on the demise of Mr. Lesin out of respect to his privacy. Please refer to the family members or the law enforcement officials.”

— Russian Embassy spokesperson Yury Melnik told BuzzFeed News.

Mikhail Lesin, who was formerly the top media affairs minister for the Russian government, died of a “heart stroke,” a family member reportedly told RIA Novosti.

“Our consular officials had an opportunity to confirm that the Russian national who passed away in DC is indeed Mikhail Lesin. Out of respect to the privacy and sensitivity of the matter we are not at liberty to disclose any other information, and would ask you to refer all further requests to his family and the law enforcement officials.”

— Russian embassy spokesperson, to Sputnik, a Russian state media outlet.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Officer Sean Hickman told BuzzFeed News that there had been a death Thursday on the 1500 block of New Hampshire Avenue, where the Dupont Circle Hotel is located. An ABC News article on Lesin’s death reported that the location had been the “Hotel Dupont,” though a hotel by that exact name doesn’t exist in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Crew Celebrating the International Space Station’s 15th Anniversary

In recognition of the 15th anniversary of the arrival of the first Expedition crew to the International Space Station, the six crewmembers currently serving aboard the orbital outpost talked to the media about the fifteen uninterrupted years of human presence aboard the station. Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) participated in the news conference.


Victor Davis Hanson: Is Trump Our Napoleon? 

Doesn’t America already have one Napoleon already? (Actual Newsweek cover from November of 2012 on left.)

What are Trump’s politics? Like Napoleon’s, no one quite knows, beyond an equally burning desire to make his nation ‘great again.’

victor-davis-HVictor Davis Hanson writes: Comparing great things to smaller ones, is Donald Trump, in spirit, becoming our version of Napoleon Bonaparte?

For a decade and a half Napoleon wrecked Europe. He hijacked the platitudes of the French Revolution to mask his own dictatorship at home and imperialism abroad. Yet today, two centuries after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he remains an icon for many in, and a few outside, France. Why? How could geniuses like the novelists Victor Hugo and Stendhal acknowledge Napoleon’s pathologies and the damage that he did to the early 19th century European world, and yet enthuse that he made the French feel both politically and morally “great”? Most French even today believe that he did.

“Donald Trump is not going to invade Russia, but he is starting to sound a lot like Bonaparte, well aside from a similarly narcissistic convergence of America’s future with his own Napoleonic persona.”

Of course, for a while at least, Napoleon really did “make France great again,” at least in terms of territory and power.  At its pinnacle between 1806-11, Imperial France ruled the continent in a way not seen again until the Third Reich’s briefer rule between 1940 and 1942 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Volga River. It threatened to do away with the incompetent and reactionary regimes in every European country and replace them with a supposedly meritocratic class of social reformers, beholden to a natural Napoleonic hierarchy.

[Read the full story here, at Works and Days]

Moreover, Napoleon’s own political agenda was a mishmash of conservative authoritarianism and populist social justice. So effective was the strange brew that even to this day scholars fight over whether Napoleon was a proto-Hitler whose unhinged ambitions led to millions of innocent European, Russian, Caribbean and North Africa dead, or a loyal defender of the French Revolution, whose eleventh-hour iron hand alone kept alive the threatened ideals of fraternity and egalitarianism. Read the rest of this entry »


‘New Cult of Stalin’: Soviet Nostalgia, Stalin Portraits in Ukraine’s Rebel Regions 

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The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Nicolas Miletitch reports: Three portraits of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are on display in the centre of Donetsk, the rebel capital of eastern Ukraine, as the separatist authorities fuel a mood of Soviet nostalgia.

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services.”

The portraits, adorning a main square, seem to go down well with one young woman walking past.

“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed,” said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.

The previously taboo display comes as the rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule — while glossing over Stalin’s atrocities.

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“I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed.”

The Stalin portraits feature a quote from the wartime leader: “Our cause is just. The enemy will be routed. We will claim victory.”

The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.

The Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko told AFP how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.

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“Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.”

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,” said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear.

“Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”

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New cult of Stalin 

Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.

The Donetsk rebels’ deputy defence minister Eduard Basurin wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.

This new cult of Stalin revives the memories in Donetsk, a coal-mining city that was formerly known as Stalino.

It was renamed in the early 1960s after Nikita Khrushchev, who emerged as Soviet leader in the power struggle that followed Stalin’s death, condemned his predecessor’s cult of personality. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hillary Clinton’s Big Lie About Edward Snowden & Whistleblowers

What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?

That NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have gone through official channels.

“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”

Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of ExposeFacts.org, begs to differ. “For the people out there shouting that Edward Snowden should have gone through proper channels,” she tells Reason TV, “there are not that many channels for national security and intelligence whistleblowers. They are excluded from most avenues available to other whistleblowers.”

More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.
“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis DID go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “ALL of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.” Read the rest of this entry »


Russia Steps Up Bombing Campaign in Syria 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin defends decision to send warplanes as aimed at political solution.

MOSCOW— Thomas Grove reports: Russia stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria over the weekend, more than doubling the rate of strikes seen at the beginning of the operation.

“The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday its jet fighters had carried out 55 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Raqqa. The daily number had been around two dozen last week.

“U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.”

Russian warplanes are backing an offensive launched last week by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian military said Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 fighters hit Islamic State field headquarters, training camps and weapons arsenals in the latest bombing runs.

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“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise. We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”

— Vladimir Putin

The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The Russian government depicts Islamic State as a direct threat to its citizens. On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service told the state news agency Interfax that law-enforcement officials had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on public transportation in Moscow—and that some of the individuals arrested in the case had trained at Islamic State camps in Syria.

In an interview aired Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to send warplanes to Syria, saying the air war was aimed at spurring a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet The Loneliest Man In The World

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Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.

Amir Taheri writes: Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the Oct. 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he says he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation,” fixed for Dec. 15.

“The Iranians have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has not even been discussed at the Islamic Republic’s Council of Ministers.”

But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.

“Nor has the Tehran government bothered to even provide an official Persian translation of the 159-page text.”

The Iranians have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has not even been discussed at the Islamic Republic’s Council of Ministers. Nor has the Tehran government bothered to even provide an official Persian translation of the 159-page text.

[Read the full story here, at the York Post]

The Islamic Majlis, the ersatz parliament, is examining an unofficial text and is due to express its views at an unspecified date in a document “running into more than 1,000 pages,” according to Mohsen Zakani, who heads the “examining committee.”

“The changes we seek would require substantial rewriting of the text,” he adds enigmatically.

Nor have Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia, who were involved in the so-called P5+1 talks that produced the JCPOA, deemed it necessary to provide the Obama “deal” with any legal basis of their own. Obama’s partners have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else.

So they have started doing just that without bothering about JCPOA’s other provisions. Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies blacklisted because of alleged involvement in deals linked to the nuclear issue.

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“Nor have Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia, who were involved in the so-called P5+1 talks that produced the JCPOA, deemed it necessary to provide the Obama ‘deal’ with any legal basis of their own.”

German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, making it the Islamic Republic’s third-largest partner after China.

China has signed preliminary accords to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors. Russia has started delivering S300 anti-aircraft missile systems and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.

“Obama’s partners have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else.”

France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate big business deals, including projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports.

[Read the full text here, at the York Post]

Other nations have also interpreted JCPOA as a green light for dropping sanctions. Indian trade with Iran has risen by 17 percent, and New Delhi is negotiating massive investment in a rail-and-sea hub in the Iranian port of Chah-Bahar on the Gulf of Oman. With help from Austrian, Turkish and United Arab Emirates banks, the many b Read the rest of this entry »


Cyberwar Ignites a New Arms Race 

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Dozens of countries amass cyberweapons, reconfigure militaries to meet threat.

Damian Paletta, Danny Yadron and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries report: Countries toiled for years and spent billions of dollars to build elaborate facilities that would allow them to join the exclusive club of nations that possessed nuclear weapons.

“The acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy. Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”

–Matthijs Veenendaal, a researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a research group in Estonia. “

Getting into the cyberweapon club is easier, cheaper and available to almost anyone with cash and a computer.

A series of successful computer attacks carried out by the U.S. and others has kicked off a frantic and destabilizing digital arms race, with dozens of countries amassing stockpiles of malicious code. The programs range from the most elementary, such as typo-ridden emails asking for a password, to software that takes orders from a rotating list of Twitter handles.

The proliferation of these weapons has spread so widely that the U.S. and China—longtime cyber adversaries—brokered a limited agreement last month not to conduct certain types of cyberattacks against each other, such as intrusions that steal corporate information and then pass it along to domestic companies. Cyberattacks that steal government secrets, however, remain fair game.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

This comes after other countries have begun to amass cyberweaponry on an unprecedented scale. Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed rivals, regularly hack each other’s companies and governments, security researchers said. Estonia and Belarus are racing to build defensive shields to counter Russia. Denmark and the Netherlands have begun programs to develop offensive computer weapons, as have Argentina and France.

[Also see – Cybersecurity Expert Confirms Pundit Planet’s Full-Scale Non-Stop Global Panic Warnings]

In total, at least 29 countries have formal military or intelligence units dedicated to offensive hacking efforts, according to a Wall Street Journal compilation of government records and interviews with U.S. and foreign officials. Some 50 countries have bought off-the-shelf hacking software that can be used for domestic and international surveillance. The U.S. has among the most-advanced operations.

In the nuclear arms race, “the acronym was MAD—mutually assured destruction—which kept everything nice and tidy,” said Matthijs Veenendaal, a researcher at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a research group in Estonia. “Here you have the same acronym, but it’s ‘mutually assured doubt,’ because you can never be sure what the attack will be.”

Governments have used computer attacks to mine and steal information, erase computers, disable bank networks and—in one extreme case—destroy nuclear centrifuges.

Nation states have also looked into using cyberweapons to knock out electrical grids, disable domestic airline networks, jam Internet connectivity, erase money from bank accounts and confuse radar systems, experts believe.

Large conventional militaries and nuclear forces are ill-suited to this new kind of warfare, which evens the playing field between big and small countries. Cyberattacks are hard to stop and sometimes impossible to trace. The West, as a result, has been forced to start reconfiguring its militaries to better meet the threat.

Adm. Michael Rogers, center, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, confers with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work ahead of testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September.

Adm. Michael Rogers, center, director of the National Security Agency and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, confers with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work ahead of testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in September. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

“With some countries, we’re comfortable with knowing what their capabilities are, but with other countries we’re still lost. We don’t have the visibility into their toolset.”

— Andre McGregor, a former cyber special agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and now the director of security at Tanium Inc.

Access to cyberweapons, according to U.S. and foreign officials and security researchers, is far more widespread than access to nuclear weapons was at the height of the nuclear arms race, a result of inexpensive technology and the power of distributed computing.

“It’s not like developing an air force…You don’t need to have your own cyberforce to have a very robust and very scary offensive capability.”

— Michael Schmitt, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and part of an international group studying how international law relates to cyberwarfare.

More than two dozen countries have accumulated advanced cyberweapons in the past decade. Some Defense Department officials compare the current moment to the lull between the World Wars when militaries realized the potential of armed planes. Read the rest of this entry »


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