Friday, November 28, 2014

Is Current U.S. Policy On Syria And The Islamic State Eroding Its Influence In The Middle East?

Conflicting Policies On Syria And Islamic State Erode U.S. Standing In Mideast -- New York Times

BEIRUT, Lebanon — American and Syrian warplanes screamed over the Syrian city of Raqqa in separate raids this week, ostensibly against the same target, the Islamic State militants in control there.

In the first raid, on Sunday, United States warplanes hit an Islamic State building, with no report of civilian casualties. On Tuesday, Syrian jets struck 10 times, killing scores of civilians, according to residents and Islamic State videos.

The back-to-back strikes, coming just days after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria declared that the West needed to side with him in “real and sincere” cooperation to defeat the extremist group, infuriated Syrians who oppose both Mr. Assad and the Islamic State. They see American jets sharing the skies with the Syrians but doing nothing to stop them from indiscriminately bombing rebellious neighborhoods. They conclude, increasingly, that the Obama administration is siding with Mr. Assad, that by training United States firepower solely on the Islamic State it is aiding a president whose ouster is still, at least officially, an American goal.

Read more ....

My Comment: We will know what our coalition partners meet when they meet on December 3 .... Ministers from coalition against Islamic State to meet December 3 (Reuters). My prediction .... a realization that the war against the Islamic State is going to take a very long time. In the meantime .... the war continues .... Fifteen Islamic State targets hit by U.S., allies since Wednesday: U.S. (Reuters).

U.S. Deploying A-10 Warthogs And Reaper Drones To Combat The Islamic State

Deadly force: A line up of A-10s at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Planes of this type will arrive in Kuwait for combat operations next week

A-10 Warthogs And Reaper Drones Called Up To Blast ISIS From The Skies: U.S. Air Force's Most Feared Ground Attack Planes Will Strike Militant Targets Within Days -- Daily Mail

* A dozen A-10s are being moved from Afghanistan to Kuwait by next week to start patrols over Iraq and Syria
* Fearsome planes can approach targets low and slow and are protected against small arms fire and RPGs - ISIS's favored weapons
* More drones armed with missiles will patrol the skies within weeks as war on the Islamic State is stepped up
* Deployment comes after 200 commanders held talks on defeating ISIS, which is half-army, half-insurgency

A dozen of the United States Air Force’s most feared attack aircraft are to be deployed in the battle against ISIS.

Twelve A-10 ‘Warthogs’ are being moved from Afghanistan to Kuwait to carry out patrols against the Islamic State militants who have taken swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory.

The new deployment will boost the USAF’s ability to patrol the skies and take out ISIS targets.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Deploying A-10 Warthogs And Reaper Drones To Combat The Islamic State

The A-10 jet will launch airstrikes against the Islamic State -- Washington Post
A-10s deployed to take on the Islamic State -- Stars and Stripes
A-10s Return to Iraq after Air Force Tries to Retire Fleet --
Air Force to deploy A-10s to combat Islamic State -- UPI
A-10 Thunderbolt Deployed To Iraq For Fight Against The Islamic State -- IBTimes
The A-10 Warthog Is Back in Iraq — And Just in Time -- Robert Beckhusen, War Is Boring

U.S. Trainers Now Have Modest Goals In Training The Iraqi Army

Tribal fighters take part in a military training to prepare for fighting against Islamic State militants, at the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar province November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

U.S. Seeks To Build Lean Iraqi Force To Fight The Islamic State -- Washington Post

After learning hard lessons rebuilding foreign militaries over the past dozen years, the U.S. military is shifting its strategy against the Islamic State, choosing to train a smaller number of Iraqi soldiers rather than trying to stand up an entire army anew.

At their peak, Iraqi combat forces, painstakingly built and paid for by the United States during the last Iraq war, numbered about 400,000 troops. By the time the Islamist militant group launched its advance across northern Iraq in June, the Iraqi forces had shrunk by as much as half, depleted by years of corruption, absenteeism and decay.

When the Islamic State completed its seizure of the city of Mosul, four Iraqi army divisions and another from the federal police had disappeared, shrinking the original combat force to as few as 85,000 active troops, according to expert estimates.

Read more ....

Update: U.S. advisers stay out of harm's way in Iraq -- USA Today

My Comment: Trying to change a military culture takes years .... and in Iraq's case .... probably a few decades. The problem in the Iraqi has always been the same ..... its top and middle level leadership lacks experience in fighting wars .... and coupled with political interference .... a lack of will to fight and win. What is needed are U.S. combat boots on the ground to show what it takes to win .... but the White House has made it very clear that this is an option that is not going to be followed.

The 'Militarization' Of Crimea Is Raising NATO Concerns (Updated)

NATO Commander Warns of Crimea 'Militarization' -- Voice of America

KYIV - The top U.S. general in Europe said he is alarmed at the Russian militarization of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and by provocative Russian military flights in NATO airspace.

After meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv, General Philip Breedlove, head of the U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the military buildup by Moscow includes cruise and surface-to-air missiles able to exert, as he put it, "military influence" on the region.

“We are very concerned with the militarization of Crimea. We are concerned that the capabilities in Crimea that are being installed will bring an effect on almost the entire Black Sea,” Breedlove said.

Read more ....

More News On NATO Concerns On The 'Militarization' Of Crimea

NATO concern over Russian planes in Crimea -- Euronews
Nato commander warns Russia could control whole Black Sea -- BBC
NATO concerned over Russian forces in Crimea -- Al Jazeera
NATO warns over Russian military build-up in Crimea -- AFP
Russian Air Force Sends 14 Advanced Su-27 And Su-30 Warplanes To Belbek Air Base In Crimea -- IBTimes
Advanced Russian warplanes arrive in Crimea -- UPI

Life Is Not Easy Inside Crimea

Teenagers Murdered, Women Hounded On The Street And Money So Tight Even The Strippers Can't Get Paid: Inside 'Prison Cell' Crimea After Russian Invasion -- Daily Mail

* MailOnline sees residents handcuffed in the street and harassed by police
* People are snatched from the street for political activism
* Teenagers killed by police 'just for speaking native Ukrainian'
* Russians forced to take 'fake holidays' in former tourist jewel on Black Sea
* Desperate plight of people revealed after Putin annexed Crimea in March

Murdered for speaking their mother tongue, kidnapped for their religion, harassed for daring to question Vladimir Putin - and money so tight even the strippers can't get paid: welcome to the tourist jewel of Crimea almost nine months on from Russia's military annexation.

The Black Sea peninsula has some of the most stunning mountain and sea scenery in Europe yet has suffered a catastrophic summer after the Moscow invasion in February.

MailOnline found the desperate region - formerly a bustling tourist resort - preparing for a winter of food shortages, soaring prices, and power cuts. But much more chillingly we found evidence of people being killed for speaking Ukrainian, hounded for being Muslim Tatars and fear even among the residents who support Putin.

Read more ....

Update: Eight months after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, a complicated transition -- Washington Post

My Comment: Life in Ukraine is also not a "bed of roses" .... and in eastern Ukraine it is "pure hell" right now. It is with this perspective that many who live in Crimea .... especially the Russian community .... will probably try their best to stick it out and hope for better times in a year or two. What's my prediction .... I sadly do not see any improvements for the next decade.

Global Oil Prices Collapsing. Russian Ruble Hits New Low

Oil tankers in a Russian railway siding. The sharp fall in crude prices has added downward pressure on the Russian ruble on currency markets. Reuters

Russian Ruble Falls To New Lows As Oil Prices Slide -- Wall Street Journal

Ruble Down to 49.90 Against the Dollar

MOSCOW—The Russian ruble weakened to new lows in early trading on Friday, hit by a drop in oil prices after OPEC members rejected calls for drastic action to cut their oil output.

OPEC members’ decision to keep their production ceiling unchanged sent Brent crude prices below $72 per barrel for the first time since mid-2010, threatening to put more of a brake on Russia’s economic growth. The country receives around 50% of its revenue from exporting oil and gas.

The ruble touched an all-time low of 49.90 versus the dollar in the first minutes of trading on Moscow exchange, before recovering slightly to 49.57. This takes the ruble’s year-to-date depreciation versus the greenback to 34%.

Read more ....

More News On Collapsing Oil Prices And It's Impact On The Russian Economy

Russian markets & ruble hit new lows, as OPEC oil decision weighs -- RT
Russia's Ruble Crashes to Historic Lows as OPEC Lets Oil Price Fall -- Moscow Times
Ruble Drops to Record in Worst Month in Five Years as Bonds Fall -- Bloomberg Businessweek
Russian ruble hits historic lows on OPEC decision -- AFP
Russia's Ruble Tumbles After OPEC Refuses to Cut Oil Output -- Moscow Times/Reuters
Russian Ruble Hits Historic Lows Against Dollar, Euro On OPEC Decision -- Radio Free Europe
OPEC Decision ‘A Watershed for the Oil Market’ — Street Reacts -- WSJ

My Comment: For Russia .... oil prices may have dropped, but this has been offset by the decline in the Russian ruble. Pensions and salaries are still going to be paid .... but this is not a trend that Moscow and its business elite are looking at fondly.

Is Gold Facing A 6,000 Year Bubble?

Swiss Set For Gold Vote Amid '6,000-Year Bubble' Warning -- CNBC

With Switzerland edging toward an important referendum on its gold holdings, high-profile critics and advocates have added their voices to the argument. Meanwhile, the country's citizens have been quietly increasing their own personal reserves.

On Sunday, voters in the European country will head to the polls to decide whether the Swiss National Bank (SNB) should refrain from selling any more of its gold and instead boost its gold holdings from 7 to 20 percent.

The initiative is being proposed by the ultra-conservative Swiss People's party with the intention of boosting the security and independence of Switzerland. However, the idea has one very notable critic in Willem Buiter, the chief economist at the U.S. investment bank Citi, who has deemed the commodity to be in a 6,000-year bubble.

Read more ....

My Comment: A 6,000 year bubble .... I doubt it .... and no surprise .... the trend continues to grow of countries demanding their gold holdings be transferred from the U.S. back to their own country's vaults .... Swiss, French call to bring home gold reserves as Dutch move 122 tons out of US (RT).

Update: This is priceless .... Kyle Bass Un-Edited: "Buying Gold Is Just Buying A Put Against The Idiocy Of The Political Cycle. It's That Simple!" (Zero Hedge).

Heavy Fighting Reported In Iraq's Anbar Province

A member of the Iraqi security forces mans a gun during an intensive security deployment after taking control of Saadiya in Diyala province from Islamist State militants, November 24, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

Fierce Fighting Rages In Iraq's Anbar -- Al Jazeera

Army says assault by ISIL on provincial capital Ramadi fended off amid plan to triple defence budget to fund war effort.

The Iraqi army says it has held off a fierce assault by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on the city of Ramadi.

The claim comes amid an announcement by the Iraqi government that it will triple its defence budget in an effort to defeat the group.

Ramadi is one of the last major urban areas in the crucial Anbar province under Baghdad's control.

Iraqi security forces, backed by tribesmen, managed to defend a government complex in the city on Thursday, in the latest in a series of drives which have seen the return of some territory lost to ISIL, army officials said.

Read more ....

More News On Heavy Fighting Being Reported In Iraq's Anbar Province

Iraqi Forces In Ramadi Repel 'Fiercest, Most Violent Attack Yet' From IS -- Radio Free Europe
Iraqi forces hold off jihadist attack on Ramadi -- AFP
Iraqi forces hold off jihadist attack -- SKY News
Islamic State releases images from recent fighting in Ramadi -- Threat Matrix
Iraqi forces, tribal fighters advance against ISIS in Anbar -- Asharq Al-Awsat

Russian Warships In The English Channel

Severomorsk anti-submarine ship. Photo:

Russia Conducts Naval Drills In English Channel: Navy -- Sputnik

The Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet is holding drills in the English Channel, the Fleet’s Western Military Region’s press service announced Friday.

MOSCOW, November 28 (Sputnik) – A squadron of ships from the Russian Navy's Northern Fleet is holding drills in the English Channel, the Western Military District's press service said Friday in a statement.

"Today, a squadron of ships and support vessels from the Northern Fleet … have passed the narrowest part of the English Channel in the Strait of Dover and have entered a bay near the mouth of the River Seine," the press service said.

Because of poor weather conditions, the ships decided to wait out a storm in the neutral waters off the bay.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That Russia Is Conducting Naval Drills In The English Channel

Russian warships enter English Channel for drills: RIA -- Reuters
Russian warships pass through Channel, reports say -- The Guardian
Russian warships in English Channel --
Russian Navy Holds Exercises In The Channel -- SKY News
Russian Warships Wait out Storm in English Channel -- AP
Russian Navy Ships Conduct Drills In English Channel -- Novinite
Russian Warships Enter English Channel for 'Military Exercises' -- IBTimes

St Louis' Gateway Arch Bomb Plot Foiled

Ferguson Plotters Planned To Bomb St Louis' Gateway Arch, Kill Prosecutor And Police Chief: Report -- IBTimes

Two members of the New Black Panther Party who were arrested last week on federal weapons charges are alleged to have had plans to bomb St Louis' iconic Gateway Arch, and kill a prosecutor and police chief involved in the Michael Brown shooting case, according to reports.

The men planned to kill St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch and Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson, according to sources cited by the St Louis Post-Dispatch. The report added that the pair aimed to plant an explosive device on the observation deck of the Gateway Arch. Law enforcement sources told the paper they were unsure whether the two men had the capability to carry out the attacks, and smuggle bombs past the Gateway Arch's airport-style security.

Read more ....

More News On The St Louis' Gateway Arch Bomb Plot Being Foiled By Police

Alleged plot included bombing Arch, killing St. Louis County prosecutor, Ferguson chief -- St' Louis Dispatch
2 men plotted to bomb St. Louis Arch, sources say -- USA Today
Men allegedly plotted to bomb Gateway Arch, kill Ferguson officials, report says -- FOX News
Ferguson plotters 'planned to assassinate city's police chief and prosecuting attorney before bombing St. Louis' -- Daily Mail
Gateway Arch ‘bomb plot’ foiled in St Louis -- New York Post
Gateway Arch in St Louis was target of Ferguson-related terror plot, say police --
Two Men Caught Allegedly Planning Bomb Attack on St. Louis Arch -- Sputnik
Two Black Panther Members Unable To Buy Bombs Because EBT Card Didn’t Have Enough Money -- Daily Caller

EU Chief: Decentralization And Federalization Of Ukraine Will Solve The Current Crisis

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (R) welcomes Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L).(Reuters / Eric Vidal)

EU Chief Calls For Decentralization And Federalization Of Ukraine -- RT

To solve the current crisis in Ukraine, the country should become decentralized and federalized, Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, announced in his political anniversary speech in Paris this week.

Quoting "1,000 deaths" in the country since the cease-fire agreement was reached in Minsk on September 5, Van Rompuy said he could no longer call the situation a cease-fire. And a new cessation of conflict, if controlled by the same players, would have the identical outcome, the politician said in his speech, marking his five years presidency of the European Council.

Read more ....

My Comment: The EU chief is a year late .... but it is good to know that he is now realizing what is necessary to end the crisis in Ukraine. Unfortunately .... Kiev is not listening .... Ukraine's Poroshenko says country opposes federalization (Reuters).

Did Russian President Putin Threaten Ukrainian President Poroshenko In Their Last Phone Conversation?

Vladimir Putin talking on the phone (archive) © ITAR-TASS/Alexey Druzhinin

Kremlin Confirms Putin-Poroshenko Phone Conversation, Denies Alleged Threats -- ITAR-TASS

The two presidents discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the south-east of Ukraine.

MOSCOW, November 26. /TASS/. The Kremlin has confirmed the instance of a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko but dismissed as fiction the rumours of alleged threats by Russia.

“It is true that Putin and Poroshenko talked by telephone on Wednesday evening at Ukraine’s initiative,” Russian presidential press-secretary Dmitry Peskov told TASS.

“Bilateral relations and the situation in the south-east of Ukraine were discussed,” he added.

“Various reports by a number of mass media, in the first place, Ukrainian, regarding the content of the conversation are fiction and have nothing to do with the reality,” Peskov said.

Read more ....

More News On Wednesday's Phone Conversation Between Russian President Putin And Ukrainian President Poroshenko

Putin, Poroshenko speak on phone about southeast Ukraine: Kremlin -- Reuters
Putin and Poroshenko discuss bilateral ties, situation in southeast Ukraine over phone on Nov 26 -- Russia Beyond The Headlines
Putin menaced Poroshenko with a new attack -- Chapter 97
Kremlin confirms Putin-Poroshenko phone conversation, denies alleged threats: TASS -- iFocus
Kremlin: Putin did not threaten Poroshenko -- Pravda
Kremlin says what Putin and Poroshenko talked about -- Chapter 97

My Comment: What we now know is the following .... there was a Wednesday's phone conversation between Russian President Putin And Ukrainian President Poroshenko .... and someone in the Ukrainian government is leaking a story to the Ukrainian press that threats were issued .... threats that Russia is denying. Beyond that .... everything else is pure speculation. So .... if I may speculate .... Russian President Putin despises Ukrainian President Poroshenko .... and with the humanitarian crisis escalating to a disastrous situation in eastern Ukraine that is impacting millions of people on both sides of the border, my guess is that Putin issued some blunt warnings.

A Look At How The Political Elites In Ukraine, Russia, And In The EU Ignored The Warning Signs That Brought Us The Crisis To Where We Are Today

When Russia realized that Yanukovych was considering signing the association agreement with Brussels, President Vladimir Putin made sure to make it clear what Moscow's reaction would be. Putin's gambit ultimately worked and Yanukovych backed away from the deal. DPA/ RIA Novosti

Summit of Failure: How The EU Lost Russia Over Ukraine -- Spiegel Online

One year ago, negotations over a Ukraine association agreement with the European Union collapsed. The result has been a standoff with Russia and war in the Donbass. It was an historical failure, and one that German Chancellor Angela Merkel contributed to.

Only six meters separated German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as they sat across from each other in the festively adorned knight's hall of the former Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. In truth, though, they were worlds apart.

Yanukovych had just spoken. In meandering sentences, he tried to explain why the European Union's Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius was more useful than it might have appeared at that moment, why it made sense to continue negotiating and how he would remain engaged in efforts towards a common future, just as he had previously been. "We need several billion euros in aid very quickly," Yanukovych said.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is an excellent summary of events prior to the revolution that brought Ukraine and EU - Russian relations to where we are today. For those who are following the Ukrainian civil war, this is a must read.

The paragraph in this post that caught my eye on why we have the crisis that we have today is the following ....

.... Russia and Europe talked past each other and misunderstood one another. It was a clash of two different foreign policy cultures: A Western approach that focused on treaties and the precise wording of the paragraphs therein; and the Eastern approach in which status and symbols are more important.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ukraine's President Says Country Opposes Federalization. Most Russians Believe Their Soldiers Are Not Fighting In Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists pose at a checkpoint near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine November 20, 2014. Reuters

Ukraine Conflict Update: Ukrainians Oppose Federalization While Russians Support Kremlin -- IBTimes

Authorities in Kiev said Thursday a federal state is not an option, just as opinion polls in Russia indicated most citizens believe Kremlin statements Russia is not involved in the Ukraine conflict -- but would support the decision if it did happen.

The news comes on the same day Ukraine's lawmakers voted to keep pro-Western Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in place, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said 100 percent of Ukrainians opposed the idea of federalization, fighting against advice Ukraine adopt a federal form of government that would give its individual regions more authority. Ukrainian officials say it’s merely a method of making its eastern regions more vulnerable to Russian influence.

Read more ....

My Comment: In regards to the Russian poll on most Russians believing that their soldiers are not fighting in Ukraine .... among my family, friends, people I use to work with, associates, and friends of friends .... for a total of a few hundred .... everyone knows that there are Russian soldiers in Ukraine. So this claim that most do not believe that Russian soldiers are fighting .... I am skeptical.

It is unfortunate that Ukrainian President Poroshenko is saying that 100 percent of Ukrainians opposed the idea of federalization .... because again .... among my family, friends, people I use to work with, associates, and friends of friends .... on this issue it is split. It is also split along sectarian lines .... many Russian Ukrainians want a federal system and it is a proposal  that I have been pushing for a long time(I live in Canada now and so it is a Canadian federal system that I am proposing) , and among my Ukrainian nationalist friends .... most are lukewarm but there is a growing acceptance that the current political system is not sustainable, especially if one wants to bring peace to the east.

Why The U.S. Plan To Save Iraq Is Doomed To Fail

Iraqi security forces march on the outskirts of Najaf, south of Baghdad Nov. 19, 2014. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Sunni vs. Shi’ite: Why The U.S. Plan To Save Iraq Is Doomed To Fail -- Peter Van Buren, Reuters

If the United States was looking for the surest way to lose Iraq War 3.0, it might start by retraining the failed Iraqi Army to send north — alongside ruthless Shi’ite militias — into Sunni-majority territory and hope that the Sunnis will welcome them with open arms, throwing out the evil Islamic State.

Maybe it’s time for a better plan.

And the way to find one is by understanding how we lost Iraq War 2.0. We need a plan to create a stable, tri-state solution to the Sunni-Shi’ite-Kurd divide, or the current war will fail as surely as the previous one.

A critical first step is, of course, to remove Islamic State from the equation, but not how the Obama administration envisions. The way to drive Islamic State out of Iraq is to remove the reason Islamic State has been able to remain in Iraq: as a protector of the Sunnis. In Iraq War 2.0, the Iraqi Sunnis never melded politically with al Qaeda; they allied out of expediency, against the Shi’ite militias and the Shi’ite central government. The same situation applies to Islamic State, the new al Qaeda in Iraq.

Read more ....

My Comment: A depressing read .... and the proposals that Peter Van Buren is proposing in the above commentary .... a proposed federal partition of Iraq along the Bosnian model in a manner that 2006 then-Senator Joe Biden had suggested .... is simply not going to happen. What can change the dynamics of Iraq is a massive U.S. military presence .... but that is also something that is definitely not going to happen.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- November 27, 2014

The Geopolitical Impact of Cheap Oil -- Martin Feldstein, Project Syndicate

CAMBRIDGE – The price of oil has fallen more than 25% in the past five months, to less than $80 a barrel. If the price remains at this level, it will have important implications – some good, some bad – for many countries around the world. If it falls further, as seems likely, the geopolitical consequences on some oil-producing countries could be dramatic.

The price of oil at any time depends on market participants’ expectations about future supply and demand. The role of expectations makes the oil market very different from most others. In the market for fresh vegetables, for example, prices must balance the supply and demand for the current harvest. By contrast, oil producers and others in the industry can keep supply off the market if they think that its price will rise later, or they can put extra supply on the market if they think the price will fall.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- November 27, 2014

Why OPEC Will Keep Oil Flowing -- Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

Why Russia Said 'No Deal' to OPEC on Cutting Oil Production -- Carol Matlack, Bloomberg Businessweek

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East -- George Friedman, Stratfor

Khamenei 'Does Not Disagree' With Extending Nuclear Talks -- Allen McDuffee, The Atlantic

At an impasse with Iran -- David Ignatius, Washington Post

Will Afghanistan fail as a state after 2014? -- The Telegraph

Berlin And Washington: The Political Battles That Could Decide Ukraine's Fate -- Paul Roderick Gregory, Forbes

Should Putin fear the man who ‘pulled the trigger of war’ in Ukraine? -- Lucian Kim, Reuters

Seven reasons behind the Putin popularity cult -- Tom Parfitt, The Telegraph

Why Israel was Chuck Hagel's biggest fan -- Zack Beauchamp, VOX

Dysfunction Washington can agree on: Firing Hagel won’t fix Obama’s foreign policy team. -- Michael Crowley, Politico

OPEC is a ‘struggling dinosaur’ in age of shale – analyst to RT -- RT

World News Briefs -- November 27, 2014

OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri waits for the start of a meeting of OPEC oil ministers at OPEC's headquarters in Vienna November 27, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Oil Prices Plunge After Opec Meeting -- BBC

The price of oil slumped after the Opec oil producers' cartel decided not to cut output at its meeting in Vienna.

Opec's secretary general Abdallah Salem el-Badri said they would not try to shore up prices by reducing production.

"There's a price decline. That does not mean that we should really rush and do something," he said.

Following the announcement Brent crude fell below $72 a barrel, hitting lows previously seen in August 2010.

The 12 Opec members decided to maintain production at 30 million barrels per day as first agreed in December 2011.

Read more ....


Mosul residents: IS group cuts phones in Iraq city.

In Syria, desperate residents see little hope in U.N. Aleppo truce plan.

Syrian troops kill 30 rebels near Damascus. Report: Syria army kills dozens of rebels.

Number of Syrians in need of urgent humanitarian aid exceeds 12 million — UN.

Turkey's Erdogan attacks US 'impertinence' on Syria.

Yemen raid: Rescuers missed Western hostages.

Army splits that let Yemen's capital fall augur new risks.

Israel says Hamas attack plot foiled.


More explosions heard across Kabul after embassy attack. Explosion, gunfire heard in diplomatic quarter of Afghan capital.

British embassy vehicle hit in Kabul attack. Suicide bomber attacks British embassy vehicle in Afghan capital.

10 killed in militant attack on Indian base in Kashmir region.

South Asia summit salvaged after handshake by leaders of India, Pakistan.

The military vows to rule Thailand until 2016 and ramps up political purges.

Russia’s Defense Ministry concerned by ‘unstable’ Asia-Pacific region.

Kim Jong-un hands high ranking Pyongyang position to his younger sister.


Ebola virus death toll rises to 5,689 people.

'Scores killed' in northeast Nigeria blast. Nigeria bus station blast kills 40 people, including five soldiers: witnesses.

At least 133 killed in tribal clashes in Sudan: tribe leader.

Extremists terrorizing civilians in eastern Libya: Human Rights Watch.

Islamic State has toehold in lawless Libya, experts say.

Tanzania PM sidesteps calls to quit over graft claims.

Robert Mugabe's party in turmoil as vice-president is ejected.

France warns African leaders against trying to keep power.


Putin, Poroshenko speak on phone about southeast Ukraine: Kremlin.

Ukrainian parliament coalition nominates Yatsenyuk for Prime Minister. Ukraine puts on parliamentary show of unity in message to Russia.

Pensioners storm banks, sue president as economic blockade enforced on E.Ukraine.

EU adds 13 Ukrainians, 5 groups to sanctions list.

German-Russian relations said headed for long impasse over Ukraine.

Merkel: More sanctions on Russia 'unavoidable'.

Denmark to Russia: We won't be intimidated.

NATO wrestles with new fast-reaction force prompted by Ukraine crisis.

Greece paralyzed by major strike, flights canceled.

EU will survive without Britain, but would be dead without France: EU chief.

Spanish PM Rajoy: Most politicians not corrupt.


US celebrates Thanksgiving with parades, Turkey.

Ferguson shooting: Calm returns on snowy Thanksgiving. Calm comes to troubled Ferguson, mass arrests at California rallies.

Venezuela to charge opposition leader over alleged plot to kill President Maduro.

Mexican president Pena Nieto to overhaul police.

Burned bodies found in southern Mexico.

Colombia land return program could fail thousands: Amnesty.

Colombia: Farc rebels release two soldiers.

Uruguay's Vazquez set to extend leftist coalition's run in power.

Soccer icon Pele moved to special care unit at Brazil hospital.


U.N. says Islamic State got up to $45 million in ransoms.

Our flag shall fly over Jerusalem, Islamic State says.

ISIS drug transit from Afghanistan To Europe confirmed by Russia: Money goes into terror funding and in new recruitments.


Oil prices falling ahead of OPEC meeting.

EU piling pressure on Google to change ways. Google should be broken up, say European MPs.

Hedge fund couple agree Britain's most expensive divorce.

Military And Intellgience News Briefs -- November 27, 2014

Soldiers prepare turkeys for a Thanksgiving Day meal in the dining facility on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 23, 2014. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak

U.S. Bases Around The World Gear Up To Support Thanksgiving For Troops -- Stars and Stripes

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Thanksgiving is not a holiday for cooks, professional or amateur, on or off base.

At Aviano Air Base, Mary Ann Lauro, the executive chef of La Bella Vista Club, and a handful of helpers on Wednesday were preparing Thanksgiving lunch for more than 200 people expected to fill the dining room on Thursday. There’s seating for 220 and 215 reservations had been made through early Wednesday afternoon.

“But if someone shows up, we’ll try to feed them,” Lauro said.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- November 27, 2014

A look at US military action across the Middle East amid fight against the Islamic State group -- FOX News/AP

Anti-ISIS coalition to meet next week -- The Hill

Appropriations Chairs Still 'Working on the Numbers' to Fund Islamic State Fight -- Defense News

France To Send 6 Mirage Jets To Jordan Against Islamic State -- AFP

US Plans to Deploy 150 Tanks in Eastern Europe -- Sputnik

US Army to add 100 fighting vehicles in Europe -- The Hill

Pentagon: No arms for Ukraine’s military -- The Hill

Ukraine's NATO Hopes Still a Long Way Off -- Defense News/AFP

NATO 'Very Concerned' By Russian Military Build-Up in Crimea -- Defense News

NATO chief: Russian troops are ‘backbone’ of separatist forces -- The Hill

PHOTO: Russian Airbase in Crimea Reinforced by New Fighter Jets -- Sputnik

US Pushed Ukraine to Edge of Civil War: Russian Defense Ministry -- Sputnik

iPhone ban during Russian military service claim false - Defense Ministry -- RT

Another Look At The Military Base China Is Building On A Disputed Reef -- Business Insider/Vice News

China Negotiating to Buy Russian S-400 Anti-Aircraft Missile Systems -- Moscow Times

PLA's nuclear arsenal slowly eroding US Pacific defenses -- Want China Times

Exclusive - Japan eyes military aid to spur defense exports, build security ties: sources -- Reuters

The Rise of Arab Air Power -- ISN

IDF official: 3 months after Gaza war Hamas still rehabilitating military hierarchy -- Jerusalem Post

No settlement in Middle East, Central Asia without Afghan drug-making curbed -- ITAR-TASS

Sierra Leone seeks U.S. military help to fight Ebola -- Reuters

Ebola Is Changing Course In Liberia. Will The U.S. Military Adapt? -- Kelly McEvers, NPR

Indian Air Force loses 30 aircraft in crashes in four years -- ITAR-TASS

US Army Struggles With War-Zone Inventory -- Defense News

Pentagon developing hibernation technology to treat battlefield injuries -- Washington Times

Pentagon imposes strict standards on private security firms -- Stars and Stripes/Washington Post

Navy Nominates Replacement for Hamstrung 3-Star Intel Boss -- Defense News

Military reviewing Bergdahl report including recommendations on whether punishment applies -- FOX News

The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault -- NYT

US military urged to allow transgender troops to serve openly -- The Hill

How the Obama administration gives away military-grade weapons to local police -- Max Ehrenfreund, Washington Post

Obama's war Cabinet problem -- Brent Budowsky, The Hill

The Still Nearly Impossible Job of Secretary of Defense -- Charles Stevenson, War On the Rocks

What Scares China's Military: The 1991 Gulf War -- Robert Farley, National Interest

To My American Readers .... Happy Thanksgiving

How The Civil War Created Thanksgiving -- Kenneth C. Davis, New York Times

Of all the bedtime-story versions of American history we teach, the tidy Thanksgiving pageant may be the one stuffed with the heaviest serving of myth. This iconic tale is the main course in our nation’s foundation legend, complete with cardboard cutouts of bow-carrying Native American cherubs and pint-size Pilgrims in black hats with buckles. And legend it largely is.

In fact, what had been a New England seasonal holiday became more of a “national” celebration only during the Civil War, with Lincoln’s proclamation calling for “a day of thanksgiving” in 1863.

That fall, Lincoln had precious little to be thankful for. The Union victory at Gettysburg the previous July had come at a dreadful cost – a combined 51,000 estimated casualties, with nearly 8,000 dead. Enraged by draft laws and emancipation, rioters in Northern cities like New York went on bloody rampages. And the president and his wife, Mary, were still mourning the loss of their 11-year-old son, Willie, who had died the year before.

Read more ....

Update: A Wartime Proclamation of Thanksgiving -- Abraham Lincoln

WNU Editor: To my American readers .... Happy Thanksgiving
Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his China's counterpart Xi Jinping (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Klimentiev)

No, Russia and China Aren’t Teaming Up Against America -- Kyle Mizokami, War Is Boring

The odd couple of totalitarian regimes is less powerful than you think.

In mid-November, Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu flew to Beijing for high-level military talks. Shoigu was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Defense Minister Chang Wanquan to discuss “current issues of international and regional security and bilateral military and military-technical cooperation,” according to the Russian Tass news agency.

The prospect of a Russian-Chinese axis might sound scary to Westerners. But it’s not, really. Russia and China are both weaker than they appear. And they have as many reasons to compete as they do to cooperate.

And even if they do get along, the combined military power of Russia and China combined is only slightly more formidable than either country going to war separately.

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My Comment: In my opinion .... there is zero chance of a Russian - Chinese military alliance. Both countries may be in the process of expanding and modernizing their military .... but their national defense policies are focused more on their own regional/border problems and issues rather than on the West. If there will be an alliance against the West .... it will primarily on political and economic issues .... specifically on diminishing the role that Western financial institutions (WTO, IMF, World Bank, etc.) have on influencing broader global economic policies that may at times come in conflict with what China and Russia may want.

The MIlitary - Arms Race Continues In The Pacific

The Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning with support ship. IMINT

Pacific Militaries Rising -- Michael Auslin, Wall Street Journal

While the growing weapons capabilities of Asian nations make the threat of war more serious, they may also encourage diplomacy.

The Royal Australian Navy this week commissioned its newest and largest warship, joining Japan and China in the aircraft-carrier club. It’s a reminder that Asia is set to see increasingly capable navies and air forces operating in its regional waters and skies. While this development raises the potential for international conflict, it might also serve as a balancing mechanism to preserve stability. Now is the time for the region’s politics to catch up to its military development.

Much attention has been paid to China’s single ex-Soviet carrier, the Liaoning, even though it will years before the ship is fully operational. A 300-meter ship displacing more than 50,000 tons, it recently conducted its first flight landings. But it has also suffered countless refitting delays and accidents during sea trials. Nonetheless, the Liaoning has become one of the most visible symbols of Chinese power. It represents a true power-projection capability through congested and contested waters. One day it will allow Beijing to cover vital oceanic passageways like the Strait of Malacca or disputed island groups like the Senkakus, with a standoff capability unmatched by any other regional military. Only the U.S. has the ability to range farther and with more power.

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My Comment: While parity between the Chinese and U.S. military is still years (if not decades) away, if current trends continue U.S. allies in the region will probably be dealing with Chinese superiority much sooner ... hence the defense buildup

For The First Time Since The End Of The Second World War There Will Be No U.S. Aircraft Carriers In East Asian Waters (For About 4 Months)

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan travels through the Pacific Ocean with other ships assigned to the Rim of the Pacific 2010 exercise, north of Hawaii, July 24, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dylan McCord

East Asian Waters To Be US Aircraft Carrier-Free For A Time -- Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO -- Defense policymakers in Japan and the U.S. are privately voicing concern about the total absence of U.S. aircraft carriers from East Asian waters for four months next year.

Budget constraints at home, combined with the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East, are limiting the American fleet's ability to operate in Asia. Temporarily at least, not a single aircraft carrier will be deployed in East Asia.

Japanese and U.S. officials fear having no U.S. carriers, which have long been the bedrock of the region's stability, could tempt North Korea and China to take advantage of the power vacuum to initiate a military adventure.

Read more ....

My Comment: The wrong message to send to countries like North Korea, China, etc.. But here is an easy prediction .... this four-month absence of U.S. aircraft carriers will probably prompt Japan to start developing its own fleet of aircraft carriers .... and fast.