Monday, May 21, 2018

Editor's Note

Blogging will be slow today. It is a national holiday in Canada .... and it is the GF's 50th birthday. And yeah .... she is expecting me to do a lot for her today.

The U.S. Navy Wants To Protect Its Large Cargo Planes And Surveillance Aircraft From Chinese And Russian Missiles

US Navy

Zachary Keck, National Interest: The Navy Fears Russia and China Could Exploit a Dangerous Military Weakness

The U.S. Navy wants new, better ways to protect its large cargo and surveillance planes from increasingly sophisticated missiles threats from countries like China and Russia.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) began soliciting bids from defense firms for new ways to protect “wide body” planes like the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. The wide body designation would also include planes derived from civilian aircraft, such as Air Force planes like the future Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling airplane. In fact, the Request for Information—as the official solicitation is called—singles out the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 as one of the wide body planes it is interested in protecting. The Air Force is the only service that operates a plane based on the DC-10. Other planes that could fit this description include the E-6B airborne command and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: So the US Navy wants anti-anti-aircraft missiles. This is getting complicated.

Did North Korea Had A Plan Five Years Ago On How To Achieve Denuclearization?


Joel S. Wit, The Atlantic: What the North Koreans Told Me About Their Plans

I was one of a handful of former officials to meet with them when they were just developing their current strategy. Those talks offer the best information we have about how to achieve denuclearization.

What exactly do the North Koreans mean when they say they’re willing to denuclearize? And how exactly would they do so? These are the key mysteries at the heart of the upcoming Trump-Kim summit—and indeed they threatened to derail the whole thing this week when Kim Jong Un objected to National-Security Adviser John Bolton’s vision for it. In a statement attributed to Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea chastised Bolton for his invocation of the “Libya model” of unilateral denuclearization as a template, noting that the “world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable [fates].” The White House quickly walked back Bolton’s remarks.

The exchange did little to clarify how the U.S. plans to achieve denuclearization. But for a group of former U.S. government officials who have been meeting with North Korean officials over the past decade, North Korea’s own plans are anything but hidden. A series of meetings with North Korean officials in 2013, which I attended along with other former U.S. officials, holds valuable clues—and they show that the North Koreans have given a great deal of thought to denuclearization and almost certainly have a concrete plan of action for the upcoming summit, whether the White House does or not.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: What Joel S. Wit is outlining in his above post is actually old news. President Obama was also correct to say five years ago that what the North Koreans were proposing was just propaganda .... doubly so when the North Koreans later admitted that they would not permit inspections. The problem with the North Korean strategy is that they have strongly believed that having a nuclear deterrent and capability to strike U.S. targets with nuclear missiles would make the U.S. acquiesce to their demands. The opposite has occurred, and now North Korea is not only experiencing full sanctions .... but also the wrath of its neighbors. And while the above writer believes the North Koreans  have a concrete plan in their hands, I have a different take. The North Korean decision to cut ties with South Korea and break the DMZ understanding while threatening the U.S. is not a plan .... on the contrary .... it shows the North Korean regime to be erratic and untrustworthy .... and yes .... very dangerous.

Tweets For Today

Venezuelan President Maduro Wins Re-Election With A Massive Landslide

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is surrounded by supporters as he speaks during a gathering after the results of the election were released, outside of the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Reuters: Venezuela's Maduro re-elected amid outcry over vote

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro won a new six-year term on Sunday, but his main rivals disavowed the election alleging massive irregularities in a process critics decried as a farce propping up a dictatorship.

Victory for the 55-year-old former bus driver, who replaced Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer in 2013, may trigger a new round of western sanctions against the socialist government as it grapples with a ruinous economic crisis.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is threatening moves against Venezuela’s already reeling oil sector.

Venezuela’s election board, run by Maduro loyalists, said he took 5.8 million votes, versus 1.8 million for his closest challenger Henri Falcon, a former governor who broke with an opposition boycott to stand.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Yes .... I am being facetious in my headline for this post. 

Picture Of The Day

Soldiers fire an M119 105mm howitzer during a live-fire exercise at the 7th Army Training Command's Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, May 4, 2018. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger

WNU Editor: The above picture is from this photo-gallery .... Soldiers Hone Howitzer Live-Fire Skills (US Department of Defense).

U.K Labor Finance Policy Chief John McDonnell: 'Venezuela Is Not A Socialist State'

Britain's Shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell, speaks as he sets out Labour's demands for the Spring Statement, in London, Britain, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Reuters: Socialist Britain will not be 'ripped off any more' under Labour: McDonnell

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s main opposition Labour Party wants to radically transform the economy, forming a Socialist society where “we’re not going to get ripped off any more”, its finance policy chief, John McDonnell, said on Sunday.

With Labour almost neck-and-neck in the polls with the governing Conservatives, who lost their majority in last year’s election, its leader Jeremy Corbyn and others are setting out their stall ahead of a new election not due until 2022.

McDonnell told the BBC that he had been talking to business leaders to offer them clarity on Labour’s policies.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Being one who has experienced what life is like in a socialist/communist state .... I can say unequivocally that Venezuela is the perfect socialist state .... and it will only become an even better socialist state when Venezuelan President Maduro implements his promised "revolutionary and radical" program after today's election. But where Britain's shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell gets it wrong .... and quite frankly he is not alone .... all liberals/progressives/socialists/communists/etc. make the same mistake .... is that they really do not understand how a successful country works. I have learned one undeniable truth .... the most important component of any successful country is how they treat the 1% to 2% who make everything work. And who are these people. They are the risk takers, entrepreneurs, business visionaries, professionals, managers, and business owners who wake up every morning and try their best to succeed. They are the ones who employ people, make services and goods available, introduce new products and ideas, and take the risks. Once you start messing around with this 1%-2% .... your city, state, country will decline. In the case of Venezuela the defenders of the regime (and its philosophy) are pinning the blame for its collapse on others. U.S. sanctions and Washington waging economic warfare. EU sanctions. Low oil prices. The elites in Venezuela plotting to overthrow the government. Etc. Etc. Etc.. Sighhhh .... I have heard it a hundred times .... and I know that I will be hearing it even more in the future. Four or five years ago during the height of the oil boom I predicted on this blog what was going to happen in Venezuela. That Venezuela's fate was already determined when former President Chavez went after this small group of people .... driving them out of the country while accusing them .... just like Britain's Shadow Finance Minister John McDonnell is accusing these people in the U.K. today .... of "ripping off" society and the people who live in it. But guess what .... they never deliver .... never. And in the end the big losers are always the same. The working middle class and the working poor that Marxists/socialists/progressives are always claiming that they represent and protect.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo To Announce New U.S. Strategy On Iran Monday Morning

CNN: Pompeo set to unveil US "Plan B" to confront Iran

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will unveil the administration's "Plan B" for countering Iran on Monday, an idea that some critics call a "pipe dream," while others question whether the administration is coming clean on its goals for the country.

The plan, administration officials say, is to assemble a global coalition to pressure Iran into negotiations on "a new security architecture" that goes beyond its nuclear program. Pompeo's address, his first major foreign policy speech as secretary, will take place at 9 a.m., ET, at the conservative Heritage Foundation policy group.

"We need a new framework that's going to address the totality of Iran's threats," Brian Hook, the State Department's director of policy planning told reporters Friday. "This involves a range of things around its nuclear program - missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology, its support for terrorists, and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is going to outline a plan to assemble a global coalition to pressure Iran into negotiations on "a new security architecture" that goes beyond its nuclear program. My prediction .... there is going to be no global coalition that will be assembled to pressure Iran. But there is a part of me that believes that Mike Pompeo knows that .... that this is more for show, and that his real focus will be to use the threat of U.S. penalties on companies who may decide to do business with Iran.

More News On U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo To Announce A New U.S. Strategy On Iran Monday Morning

Pompeo to lay out Plan B for Iran -- Poltiico
Mike Pompeo set to announce new U.S. strategy on Iran -- Washington Times
Pompeo Asks Allies' To Help Push Iran Back To Negotiation Table -- RFE
Pompeo to call for broad support to pressure Iran -- Reuters

Another Aghan District Under Seige By The Taliban

U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, walks with Afghan officials during an official visit in Farah province, Afghanistan May 19, 2018. REUTERS/James Mackenzie

Reuters: Afghan government under pressure as Taliban threaten new district

FARAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban fighters closed in on another district in Afghanistan on Sunday as officials sought to reassure an increasingly angry public that security would improve.

On Sunday, the insurgents were besieging the governor’s compound in Ajrestan district in Ghazni, south of the capital Kabul, although officials said reinforcements had arrived and were relieving police defending the town.

The fighting in Ghazni, which has long had a heavy Taliban presence, follows several days of fighting in Farah province, on the other side of Afghanistan on the border with Iran where the insurgents came close to overrunning the provincial capital.

General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan visited Farah on Saturday with the ministers of the interior and defense and the head of the NDS intelligence service.

Read more ....

More News On The War In Afghanistan

Afghan-US forces respond Taliban attack in Ghazni with heavy airstrikes -- KHAAMA Press
AAF, Commandos, Police Special Forces To Double Operations -- TOLO News
Eight killed in bomb attack on cricket match in Afghanistan -- The Guardian
Several Afghan security force members killed in clashes with Taliban -- TRT
The Taliban promises amnesty to Afghan security forces — with conditions -- SOFREP
Why is the Taliban so strong? -- Michael Kugelman, Arab News

President Trump And South Korean President Moon Discuss Kim Jong-un Threats

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool

Reuters: South Korea, U.S. to work closely on summit after Pyongyang's about-face

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump held discussions on Sunday to ensure that the North Korea-U.S. summit remains on track after North Korea threatened to pull out of the high-level talks.

Moon and Trump spoke over the phone for about 20 minutes, and exchanged their views on North Korea’s recent reactions, South Korea’s presidential office said without elaborating.

“The two leaders will work closely and unwaveringly for the successful hosting of the North Korea- U.S. summit set on June 12, including the upcoming South Korea-U.S. summit,” the presidential official said.

Moon and Trump are set to meet on Tuesday in Washington before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Trump on June 12 in Singapore.

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  I think they are both realizing that North Korea's expectations have changed in the past few weeks.

More News On President Trump And South Korean President Moon Discussing Kim Jong-un Threats

South Korea: Trump, Moon will work 'closely and unwaveringly' for North Korea summit -- The Hill
Trump, South Korean leader commiserate over upcoming summit -- Washington Post
Trump, Moon Discuss NKorea's Threat to Scrap Summit -- Newsmax/AP

How Fragile Is The Iranian Regime?

Brave protesters overcoming fears and standing up to regime's security forces.

Richard C. Baffa, The Hill: Regime appears fragile as Iranians turn much of their ire inward

Mounting economic hardship is fueling persistent unrest in Iran, now characterized by labor strikes across the country and anti-regime sentiment. New sanctions stemming from President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal may well exacerbate already difficult economic conditions.

Now may be the right time to exert maximum pressure on the regime in an effort to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table.

Last December and January, demonstrations flared across Iran. It began in Mashhad over rising prices and the overall poor state of the economy, but quickly spread across the country with demonstrators increasingly focusing their wrath on the clerical regime.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The religious authorities that rule Iran and the Revolutionary Guards who provide the military muscle to protect the regime are not going to give up power anytime soon. But it is true that in the past year a wave of major strikes have hit Iran. And the weakening of the economy .... because of corruption, poor policies, a horrible banking system, and now sanctions .... can only further weaken the legitimacy of the regime. University students protesting is something that the Iranian government can handle .... but when your core supporters n critical industries are striking because they cannot make ends meet .... that becomes a different story. This reminds me of the first strikes that hit the Soviet Union in the mid 1980s. They first started in the Donbas region among the coal miners (yes .... where the Ukraine war is now being fought), and the Kremlin's response was to send in KGB thugs .... but they failed. After that .... strikes started to spread and a few years later the Soviet Union disbanded. I can easily see the same thing happening in Iran. Not a disintegration of the country, but reforms that would lessen the power and influence of the clergy .... and this will happen with or without sanctions. Unfortunately for the Iranian people .... this will also take time.

Iran's Zarif Says EU Efforts To Save Nuke Deal 'Not Sufficient'

Reuters: Iran says Europe's support for nuclear deal not enough

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The European Union is not doing enough to preserve the benefits for Iran from the 2015 international nuclear pact following the withdrawal of the United States, Iran’s foreign minister told the EU’s energy chief on Sunday.

Miguel Arias Canete, European Commissioner for energy and climate, said Tehran wanted the 28-nation bloc to act fast to preserve its oil trade with Iran, and to consider making direct euro-denominated payments for Iranian oil to Iran’s central bank, bypassing the U.S. financial system.

“With the withdrawal of America .... the European political support for the accord is not sufficient,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told Arias Canete in Tehran, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

Since President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that he would pull the United States out of the deal, the U.S. Treasury said Washington would reimpose a wide array of Iran-related sanctions after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil sector and transactions with its central bank.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The EU is quickly pouring water on this trail balloon .... EU sources deny report of proposed new nuclear deal with financial aid for Iran (Reuters). But they are still trying .... Germany to meet with France, Britain, Russia and China to save Iran nuclear deal: report (DW).

More News On Efforts To Save The Iranian Nuclear Deal

Iran says EU political support not enough, urges investment -- AP
Iran's Zarif says EU efforts to save nuke deal 'not sufficient' -- AFP
Iran: EU support for nuclear deal after US withdrawal ‘not sufficient’ -- The Hill
EU companies may withdraw from Iran, words of support for nuclear deal not enough – FM Zarif -- RT

What Happened To The 'Resistance' In Venezuela?

Reuters: Venezuela's decimated 'Resistance' protesters stay off streets for election

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) - Activists in Venezuela's western state of Tachira have for years been at the forefront of demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro and helped lead violent protests during an election last year to create an all-powerful legislature.

But youth demonstrators dubbed "The Resistance" don't plan to be on the streets on Sunday, when Maduro stands for re-election in a vote that the opposition has called a fraud.

Most won't even be in the country.

Their ranks have been decimated by emigration as a police crackdown has left many in jail or seeking to avoid it, and a hyperinflationary economic crisis has led many to seek reprieve in neighboring Latin American nations.

"I had to leave my country because of the persecution of my companions and family members, and because of the lack of jobs and terrible economy," William Quintero, 32, an activist who this month moved to Colombia, said via text message.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The leaders are all in jail or dead. The families are being deprived of jobs/food/health care/etc.. The Maduro government is doing the exact same thing that the Castros have applied to Cuba for decades. Crack down on the opposition, punish the families .... but leave the door open for opponents of the regime to leave. But Venezuela is not Cuba. And while millions have fled Cuba over the decades because of the Castros, Venezuela's neighbors are not ready (or willing) to take the millions from Venezuela who are now looking for a way out. Another difference is that Cuba was lucky to receive aid from the Soviets for years .... but Venezuela has already burned its debt/financial bridges to countries like Russia and China, and no one is going to give them a helping hand right now.Venezuela is a country that is rushing to become a failed state .... it is just going to take some time.

No One Is Showing Up At The Polls In Venezuela

Venezuelan citizens wait to cast their votes at a polling station during the presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Reuters: Maduro set for victory amid tepid turnout in condemned Venezuela vote

CARACAS/BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was seeking a six-year term on Sunday in an apparently poorly attended vote condemned by foes as the “coronation” of a dictator and likely to bring fresh foreign sanctions.

With the mainstream opposition boycotting the election, two of his most popular rivals barred from standing and state institutions in loyalists’ hands, the 55-year-old former bus driver is expected to win despite his unpopularity.

That could trigger oil sanctions from Washington, and more censure from the European Union and Latin America.

The self-described “son” of Hugo Chavez says he is battling an “imperialist” plot to crush socialism and take over the OPEC member’s oil wealth. But opponents say the leftist leader has destroyed Venezuela’s once-wealthy economy and ruthlessly crushed dissent.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: My friends who live in neighboring Guyana and who are monitoring the situation in Venezuela are telling me that no one is showing up to vote. A reader of this blog from Venezuela who has sent me over the past two years his version on what is happening in his country is telling me the same thing .... no one is at the polls .... just soldiers and a few government workers. My other readers in other neighboring countries are also verifying these accounts. Unfortunately .... it is not going to make a difference. The electoral commission is run by supporters of Maduro .... they are going to certify a massive turnout, and an overwhelming victory for President Maduro. And I am still sticking to my earlier prediction that they will announce either tonight or tomorrow he won with almost 60% of the vote.

US, China Put Trade War 'On Hold'

CNN: US and China call a ceasefire in trade dispute

After weeks of tensions, China and the United States have reached a ceasefire.

Both sides this weekend said they had agreed to not impose new tariffs on one another while talks continue, after reaching an initial agreement on trade.

In a joint statement on Saturday, the countries said China would "significantly increase" purchases of US goods and services to reduce their trade imbalance. This was a top demand of the Trump administration during two days of trade talks in Washington with Chinese officials.

"We're putting the trade war on hold," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told "Fox News Sunday. "We have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to execute the framework."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China has a long history of making trade promises .... and then breaking them and/or avoiding them a few months down the road. The U.S. will need to be vigilant on this issue.

Update: I concur .... Trump beware -- China lies and cheats on trade deals and will likely do so again (Steven W. Mosher, Fox News)

Update #2: What do they mean by later? .... U.S. and China Tout Trade Talks as Success, but Leave the Details for Later (The New York Times)

More News On Reports That The US, China Have Agreed To Put The Trade War 'On Hold'

U.S., China putting trade war on hold, Treasury's Mnuchin says -- Reuters
US, China putting trade war on hold after progress in talks -- AP
US, China agree to abandon trade war: Beijing -- AFP
Mnuchin: Trade war with China is ‘on hold’ -- The Hill
China agrees to "significantly increase" imports - but details to come -- CBS
China to buy more American goods, but not as much as Trump wants -- RT

Palestinain President Mahmoud Abbas Is In Hospital For A Third Time This Week

Al Jazeera: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas admitted to hospital

President Mahmoud Abbas is in hospital for a third time this week, according to Palestinian media.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been admitted to hospital in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian official said, providing no further details on his condition.

It was the third time Abbas, 82, had been admitted in a week.

He underwent minor ear surgery on Tuesday and was released a few hours later and admitted to hospital briefly again on Friday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Read more ....

(Update): Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hospitalized with fever (FOX News/AP)

WNU Editor: This is the third time in one week .... Abbas taken to hospital for the third time in a week (Times Of Israel). And yes .... there are conflicting accounts .... Palestinian officials give conflicting accounts on new Abbas hospitalization (The Hill)

Does Russian President Putin Want Iran To Leave Syria?

Zero Hedge: Did Putin Just Ask For Iran's Exit From Syria In Meeting With Assad?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid an unannounced visit to Vladimir Putin on Thursday evening at the Russian president's summer home in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi where the two leaders discussed the process for winding down the war in Syria, and notably the reduction of foreign troop presence in the country.

This marks the third such known meeting inside Russia between Assad and President Putin since 2015, and the first since two major instances of external airstrikes on the Syrian government dramatically escalated the prospect for broader war. The first was the April 13th US-led coalition attack involving over one hundred missiles on sites in and around Damascus; and the second was the May 10 Israeli attack on dozens of targets inside Syria in what was the biggest military escalation between the two countries in decades.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Putin is focused on Turkish and American forces leaving .... not Iran. With the Syrian Army a shadow of it's former self, the Syrian government still needs troops on the ground to do the heavy fighting. Iran and Hezbollah have contributed a number of soldiers, and with preparations now underway for an assault on the rebel stronghold at Idlib province .... even more foot soldiers will be needed. Russia is not going to provide ground troops .... so that leaves Syria/Iran/and Hezbollah to do the ground work.

ISIS Fighters Are Leaving Their Last Damascus Enclave

Soldiers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad forces are deployed at al-Qadam area near Yarmouk Palestinian camp in Damascus, Syria April 29, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI)

BBC: Syria war: IS militants 'leave Damascus suburbs'

Militants from the Islamic State (IS) group have been evacuated from an enclave in the southern suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus, activists say.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a temporary ceasefire had come into effect following heavy bombardment by the Syrian military.

But Syrian officials denied there was any ceasefire, and have made no mention of the reported evacuation.

The area includes the once-thriving Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.

The SOHR said buses had entered the enclave, centred around the al-Hajar al-Aswad district, after midnight local time and left towards Badia, a thinly populated area east of Damascus where IS still holds some territory.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Syrian government is denying reports of a deal that will permit ISIS fighters to leave .... Syria seeks to crush insurgent pocket, denies evacuation deal (Reuters).

More News On Reports That ISIS Fighters Are Leaving Their Last Damascus Enclave

Reports: IS fighters vacating outskirts of Syria’s capital -- AP
First ISIS fighters evacuate south Damascus around Yarmouk Camp -- Al Arabiya/AFP
Syria claims victory in the war on ISIS: Terrorist fighters flee their last besieged enclave near Damascus -- Daily Mail
Islamic State fighters 'evacuate Damascus enclave' as Bashar Assad moves to reclaim western Syria -- The Telegraph
Syrian Army Holds No Talks With Daesh Militants in Southern Damascus - Source -- Sputnik