Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Is Syria Going To Be Partitioned?

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian: Syria approaching de facto partition amid Assad military setbacks

Regime forces have been ceding territory to rebel fighters and Islamic State to regroup in western strongholds.

The growing anarchy and stalemate in Syria has brought the country closer to de facto partition, as the overstretched and exhausted army of the president, Bashar al-Assad, retreats in the face of a war of attrition that has sapped its manpower.

The regime’s military has sought to retain a footprint in far-flung areas of the country, from Deir Ezzor in Syria’s eastern desert to Aleppo in the north and Deraa in the south, attempting to consolidate its hold over state institutions and protect its officer corps by retreating in the face of overwhelming offensives and subjecting lost territory to relentless and indiscriminate aerial campaigns.

WNU Editor: I do not see any side strong enough to defeat the other. I see this partition as a "fait accompli" .... and unless the rebels coordinate a major offensive, these divided zones will probably remain static for the rest of the year.

Israel Is Still Reflecting A Year After It`s Military Commanders Issued `The Hannibal Directive` During The Gaza War

Washington Post: The military operation in Gaza that still haunts Israel one year later

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — It all began at a hole in the ground in a field of melons, when an Israeli reconnaissance squad surprised Hamas militiamen near a tunnel entrance. A vicious firefight erupted, just a few bursts long, but enough to leave two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian militant dead.

After a quick body count, it was discovered that a young Israeli officer was missing, dragged down the tunnel — a nightmare scenario for Israel, whose military doctrine enshrines “force protection” and vows never to leave a soldier, dead or alive, behind.

The abduction took place one year ago on a day both Palestinians and Israelis have come to call “Black Friday,” Aug. 1, 2014, when a 72-hour cease-fire in the middle of the Gaza war was shattered.

WNU Editor: "The Hannibal Directive" .... “better a dead soldier than a captured soldier.” I remember that event as the day that the Israelis decided to "take the gloves off" .... and what happened after that made everyone realized that the Israel military does have a lot of fire-power in its possession .... even more so than what we have been witnessed to in the past few conflicts.

Pentagon And The White House Are At Odds On How To Respond To China`s South China Sea Policy

Politico: Obama team, military at odds over South China Sea

Washington maintains the Navy has the right to sail or fly by the series of artificial islands that China is outfitting with military equipment.

Some U.S. naval commanders are at odds with the Obama administration over whether to sail Navy ships right into a disputed area in the South China Sea — a debate that pits some military leaders who want to exercise their freedom of navigation against administration officials and diplomats trying to manage a delicate phase in U.S.-China relations.

The Pentagon has repeatedly maintained it reserves the right to sail or fly by a series of artificial islands that China is outfitting with military equipment. The Navy won’t say what it has or hasn’t done, but military officials and congressional hawks want the U.S. to make a major demonstration by sending warships within 12 miles of the artificial islands and make clear to China that the U.S. rejects its territorial claims.

WNU Editor: The Chinese response to this U.S. debate has been to conduct naval exercises in the disputed region (see above video). My prediction .... the White House does not want to inflame U.S. - Chinese tensions right now .... I do not expect any US naval vessels to sail next to any of these disputed artificial Chinese islands in the near future.

South China Sea Boudary Disputes Are Shaping To Be The The Primary Issue At This Year`s ASEAN Conference

VOA: ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

PHNOM PENH — When the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meet in Malaysia later this week, the ministers are expected to take a strong stance on peace and stability in the South China Sea.

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer ahead of the meeting, the ministers will stand up for “the freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight.”

The ministers are also working toward a so-called “Declaration of Conduct,” that would set the stage for a code of conduct, a set of rules that would put in place mechanisms to avoid conflict in the contentious sea, according to a draft statement, which is expected to be read by the chairman at the conclusion of the Aug. 6 meeting.

WNU Editor: The Chinese are not going to listen to the other foreign ministers on what needs to be done to resolve the South China Sea boundary disputes. To the Chinese the South China Sea belongs to them .... end of discussion. My prediction ... when this conference ends, no one is going to be satisfied with the outcome.

More News On Today`s ASEAN Conference And The South China Sea Crisis

Southeast Asian nations back halt to land reclamation in South China Sea -- Reuters
South China Sea tensions flare at Asia security talks -- AFP
ASEAN Wants China to Stop Work in Disputed Sea: Official -- AP
Southeast Asian nations back halt to land reclamation in South China Sea -- Reuters
South China Sea tensions at ASEAN talks -- AFP
Philippines wants South China Sea talks despite China's reluctance -- Reuters
US, Philippines Urge End to Island-building in S. China Sea -- VOA

Taliban In Disarray As Another Top Official Quits

Sydney Morning Herald: New Taliban leader Mullah Mansour facing tension as top official quits

Peshawar: A top Taliban official has announced his resignation amid a growing leadership struggle in the Afghan insurgent movement after the news of the death of leader Mullah Mohammad Omar last week.

The swift announcement that Omar's long-time deputy, Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour would be the new leader has riled many senior figures angry about the implication that Mansour covered up Omar's death for more than two years.

The infighting could split the Taliban and threatens tentative peace talks with the Kabul government to end 13 years of war that began with a US-led campaign after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

WNU Editor: I expect the Taliban will resolve their differences in the near future .... but this is a serious blow, and it will impact future peace talks.

More News On The Internal Crisis In The Taliban

Taliban political chief in Qatar Tayyab Agha resigns -- BBC
New Taliban leader facing tension as top official quits -- Reuters
Key Taliban official quits over naming of new leader -- Al Jazeera
Taliban Official Resigns in Sign of Growing Internal Divide -- NYT
Head of Taliban’s Qatar Office Quits as Leadership Rift Grows -- VOA
Tensions in Taliban ranks as head of militant group's Qatar office resigns -- CNN
Afghan Taliban deny 'propaganda' about succession crisis -- Times of India
Afghan Taliban Denounce 'Propaganda' Against Their Movement -- VOA
Taliban resignation points to extent of internal divisions in leadership crisis -- The Guardian
Taliban tussle over Mullah Omar: Is a succession crisis brewing? -- Ariel Zirulnick, CSM

Yemen War News Updates -- August 4, 2015

Al Jazeera: Anti-Houthi forces recapture Yemen's largest army base

Backed by Arab coalition assault, forces fighting with loyalists of exiled President Hadi take back al-Anad in Lahej.

Forces battling Houthi fighters in Yemen say they have captured the country's largest military base following intense clashes which left dozens killed.

In a statement on Monday, the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi claimed complete control of al-Anad base in Lahej province in the country's south.

"With the help and back-up of the Arab-led coalition, this achievement was possible," the statement said.

Yemen War News Updates -- August 4, 2015

Anti-Houthi fighters score more gains in south Yemen -- Reuters
Fighting for Yemen’s Largest Air Base Rages -- WSJ
Yemen crisis: Houthi rebels 'driven from key al-Anad airbase' -- BBC
Yemen pro-government troops retake key military base from Houthi rebels -- AP
Pro-Hadi Fighters Recapture Yemen's Largest Military Base -- IBTimes
Yemeni government: Military base liberated from rebels -- Deutsche Welle
Pro-Government Forces Recapture Key Yemeni Base -- VOA
Saudi-led coalition ground forces help recapture Yemeni military base from Houthis -- RT
Pro-Hadi forces take Yemeni province of Lahij -- Al Bawaba
Saudi-Led Coalition Deploys Nearly 3,000 Troops in Yemen - Reports -- Sputnik
Nearly 2,000 civilians killed in Yemen: UN -- Al Bawaba
A leaflet dropped on Yemen’s villages is warning people to leave before coalition strikes -- Al Bawaba
Almost 100,000 flee Yemen in four months as receiving countries struggle to cope in face of funding crisis -- UNHCR
-UN envoy to Yemen says warring parties increasingly open to peace plan -- Channel News Agency/Reuters
The U.S. is enabling a terrible mistake in Yemen -- Ryan Cooper, The Week
Yemen war: Does capture of air base mark a turning point? -- Michael Stephens, BBC

World News Briefs -- August 3, 2015

Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) welcomes Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Tehran on August 4, 2015. (ISNA)

Reuters: Syria foreign minister in Tehran for talks with Iran, Russia

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for talks with Iranian and Russian officials expected to focus on efforts to end the four-year-old war in his country.

Moallem will meet Mikhail Bogdanov, President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the Middle East, on Tuesday evening before holding talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday, Iranian media reported.

Iran and Russia have stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing military and financial support, during the civil war, whereas the United States and some of its Gulf Arab allies have said Assad must leave office.


U.S. expands potential targets in Syria.

Syria foreign minister in Tehran for talks with Iran, Russia.

Syrian Kurds set terms for partnership with Assad.

Three killed by PKK mine in southeast Turkey: security sources. Turkish jets hit PKK targets, soldiers killed in southeast.

Turkey, Kurd rebels gear up for return to all-out conflict.

EU, US call for Turkish restraint against Kurds.

Russia seeks coalition on Islamic State while it backs Assad.

Coalition Source: 2,800 Saudi Troops in Yemen.

Israel's Netanyahu tells cabinet to back budget or risk government collapse.

Middle East swelters in heatwave as temperatures top 50C.


Asean urged to stand up to Beijing over South China Sea. South China Sea tensions flare at Asia security talks.

Pakistani, Indian troops trade fire, killing 2 Pakistanis, 1 Indian in disputed Kashmir region.

Blast in Korean DMZ wounds two South Korean soldiers: military.

India seals peace accord to end one of its oldest insurgencies.

Crews scour Reunion coast for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 debris.

Myanmar asks for international aid to handle floods.

Earth's most powerful storm of the year roars across Pacific.


Seven killed, about 20 taken in suspected Boko Haram attack in Cameroon.

U.S. lawmakers offer Nigeria support in Boko Haram fight.

Firing of generals raises fear of return to Algerian strife.

South Sudan to unveil own plan to end conflict.

Judge throws out fraud case against South African firebrand Malema.

Assassination attempt on Burundian human rights activists causes outrage.

Zimbabwean hunter says he did nothing wrong in luring Cecil the lion to his death.


Greek stock market suffers 2nd day of losses.

Greece upbeat about bailout deal, sees one within two weeks.

Russia makes renewed bid for contentious Arctic regions.

Russia expels Swedish diplomat, says it's tit-for-tat move.

Ukraine sends new debt proposal to creditors in "decisive" week - ministry.

Jitters as Germany ponders deploying army amid migrant crisis.

€25m Picasso and superyacht collide with Spanish export ban.

Police reopen case after former British Prime Minister Edward Heath accused of pedophilia in 1990s.


Iran nuclear deal’s fate in Congress rests with undecided Democrats.

Obama administration faces criticism over human trafficking report.

For reporters in Mexico, journalist's death underscores job's growing danger.

Venezuela first lady runs for congress; spouse's foe blocked.

Rio de Janeiro police killed 1,500 in five years, says Amnesty International.

Puerto Rico defaults on $58M debt payment.

California fires: Evacuation orders given to 13,000.


ISIS or Al Qaeda? American officials split over top terror threat.

Russia calls for international cooperation to fight Islamic State.

US-led warplanes are going after ISIS' most devastating weapon.


Wall St. falls as Apple slips to six-month low.

How a deeper dive by Apple could crush this market.

Trillions of dollars needed for anti-poverty plan, says UN.

Kerry hails progress toward Pacific Trade Deal.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 3, 2015

Eder Dam on 17 May 1943. Wikipedia

New York Times: John Leslie Munro, the Last of the World War II ‘Dambuster’ Pilots, Dies at 96

LONDON — On the night of May 16, 1943, a squadron of bombers set out from Britain to conduct a series of strikes against heavily fortified dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, using bombs that bounced on the water before exploding. Of the 133 who started the mission, only 77 returned.

The last surviving pilot of those who came back was John Leslie Munro, who died on Monday at the age of 96. His death was met with tributes across the globe, including in Britain and in his native New Zealand, for his role in the daring “Dambusters” mission that struck at the industrial heartland of the Nazi war effort and lifted Allied morale.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- August 3, 2015

U.S. expands potential targets in Syria -- Defense News

US Begins Launching Armed Drones From Turkish Airbase -- Sputnik

NATO agrees plan to strengthen Iraq's army -- Reuters

UK Defense Minister Extends Anti-ISIL Campaign in Iraq to March 2017 -- Sputnik

Iran Nuclear Deal Boosts Saudi Demand for US Weapons Systems -- Sputnik

Armor: Israeli Secret Weapon Revealed -- Strategy Page

Russia threat: Putin ramps up aggression as NATO see huge surge in airspace violations -- Express

To Defeat Russia, Ukraine Creates Muslim Military Unit Made Up Of Crimean Tatars -- IBTimes

Electronic Warfare: What US Army Can Learn From Ukraine -- Defense News

World’s fastest interceptors perform unique nonstop night flight across Russia -- RT

Russia just folded several branches of its military into a new 'Aerospace Force' -- AP

Russian Airborne Troops chief says paratroopers ready to help Syria in combating terrorism -- ITAR-TASS

Paratroopers from Russia, China and other nations compete in military games -- US News and World Report

China and Russia to hold military exercise in the Sea of Japan -- UPI

China Builds World's Largest Aircraft Carrier Dock in South China Sea -- National Interest

China’s Science of Military Strategy -- FAS

Japan eyeing 5 trillion yen defense budget -- Asia Times

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announces 'historic' Navy ship build for South Australia; submarines remain uncertain -- ABC News (Australia)

Venezuela, Russia Continue Military Cooperation As Caracas Copies Tank Biathlon Course From International Army Games -- IBTimes

Fiji Military Boss Says Sudden Resignation No Sign of Instability -- Defense News/AFP

US Legislator: Nigeria's Military Needs Training, Not Arms -- AP

Turkey To Buy Reconnaissance Aircraft -- Defense News

Global Five Eyes Spy System 'Bigger Than Ever' -- Sputnik

US Agrees To Speed Arms Sales to Gulf States: Kerry -- Defense News/AFP

US Military Tests Ballistic Missile Interceptor off Hawaii -- AP

Communications satellite system ready for military use -- UPI

Armor: Where The Hummer Still Gets Respect -- Strategy Page

Lockheed Martin's Littoral Combat Ship Is Finally Making Headway -- but Is It Too Late? -- Katie Spence, Motley Fool

Official: Not Ruling Out Charging Navy Officer Who Fired on Shooter -- Military.com

Official: Armed sentries to guard Navy support centers -- Navy Times

A Coming War in Space? -- Defense Tech

Lindsey Graham’s Curious Military Career -- New York Times editorial

What the Army needs to do to win -- Michael Jacobson, War On The Rocks

A Major Geo-Political Realignment Is Now Occurring In Asia

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s new helicopter destroyer DDH183 Izumo is seen before its launching ceremony in Yokohama, south of Tokyo August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Peter Apps, Reuters: As U.S. influence in Asia falters, allies increasingly look to themselves

Three years after the Obama administration announced its “pivot to Asia,” American allies in the region are looking somewhat unconvinced.

While no one disputes that managing China and its multiple neighborhood conflicts remains on Washington’s radar, this effort is often overshadowed by other priorities. In particular, the Middle East and confrontation with Russia — both historic preoccupations that had been expected to subside — keep on emerging at the top of the agenda.

The result is relatively simple. Those countries in Asia most worried by China — Japan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia and others — are increasingly banding together. They worry they may need to be capable of taking matters into their own hands regardless of what the United States might do.

WNU Editor: Just as there is now a new realignment occurring in the Middle East as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, new realignments are now occurring in Asia with the rise of China and the decline of the U.S. .... specifically with those nations that are on the front line with China

The Bloodiest Wars In Asia

Chinese Civil War. Clockwise from the top: Communist troops at the Battle of Siping, Muslim soldiers of the NRA, Mao Zedong in the 1930s, Chiang Kai-shek inspecting soldiers, CCP general Su Yu investigating the front field shortly before the Menglianggu Campaign. Wikipedia

Kyle Mizokami, National Interest.: Asia's 5 Most Lethal Wars of All Time

"Today, Asia is in one of its most peaceful periods in modern history...It hasn’t always been this way."

Today, Asia is in one of its most peaceful periods in modern history. All current political posturing aside, Asia today is a peaceful place where economic growth continues at a largely brisk pace. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in the last four decades, and in China alone, the new middle class is larger than the entire population of the United States.

It hasn’t always been this way. As late as the 1970s, war raged across Southeast Asia, and virtually every country in the region has been touched by war since 1945.

WNU Editor: In sheer numbers .... the wars in Asia have taken an incredible number of lives. Quoting General Douglas MacArthur and later US Defense Secretary Gates .... “Any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia (including Africa and the Middle East) should 'have his head examined'.


7 POWs And Their Incredible Stories

American prisoners captured in Ardennes in December 1944. Wikipedia

David Nye, Real Clear Defense/We Are The Mighty: 7 POWs Who Were Total Badasses after Being Taken Captive

War prisoners are expected to just survive day-to-day. But some prisoners say screw that and find ways to make the prison easier for their peers and more frustrating for their enemies.

1. A Navy officer saves his camp from both Japanese and U.S. attacks.

Japanese in World War II considered surrender dishonorable and expected Americans to fight to the death. So, when they started taking American prisoners, they were exceptionally cruel. Cmdr. Richard Antrim was in a prison camp when a guard began savagely beating a prisoner. Antrim tried to convince the guards to discuss the man’s case, but they couldn’t understand one another.

The camp commander ordered 50 lashes for the offending prisoner. When the prisoner collapsed only partway into the lashing, Antrim asked that he be allowed to take the rest of the punishment. The camp commander ceased the punishment instead and gained respect for the naval officer.

WNU Editor: Reading these stories .... I am always humbled.

Why Deployed Soldiers Feel Like The `Walking Dead`


My birthday is today, and it hurts. I’m a deployed Army officer, living a half marathon distance from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and 6,000 miles from home (which may as well read “1,000,000”). Service is a privilege; deployed service is a painful privilege that grinds at the soldier’s soul like cancer corrodes the body.

It’s the little things that wear you down, like the videophone calls that go wrong. We thought it would be nice to set up a “goodnight” for our 4-year-old daughter, and it was, right up until she asked, “Daddy, will you be home tomorrow?” It stunned me, and tears dripped down my face before I could form words. If I were a traveling salesman, my response might have been an excited “yes.” But I’m not; our family is still inside of the first month of a yearlong separation.

WNU Editor: At least we have the internet today .... making communications and contact a bit more realistic and regular than just sending a letter.

Can The U.S. Build An Opposition Army In Syria?

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Matt Schiavenza, The Atlantic: Why the U.S. Can't Build an Opposition Army in Syria

An attack on an American-funded military group epitomizes the Obama administration’s logistical and strategic failures in the war-torn country.

Last week, the U.S. finally received some good news in Syria: After months of prevarication, Turkey announced that the American military could launch airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria from its base in Incirlik. The development signaled that Turkey, a regional power, had at last agreed to join the fight against ISIS.

The announcement provided a dose of optimism in a conflict that has, in the last four years, killed over 200,000 and displaced millions more. Days later, however, the positive momentum screeched to a halt. Earlier this week, fighters from the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group aligned with al-Qaeda, reportedly captured the commander of Division 30, a Syrian militia that receives U.S. funding and logistical support, in the countryside north of Aleppo. On Friday, the offensive escalated: Al-Nusra fighters attacked Division 30 headquarters, killing five and capturing others. According to Agence France Presse, the purpose of the attack was to obtain sophisticated weapons provided by the Americans.

WNU Editor: There are many reasons why the U.S. cannot build an effective opposition army in Syria .... the biggest one being limited U.S. public support and a lack of political will in Washington to get involved on a massive scale in another Middle Eastern war.

How The U.S. Military Shaped America`s Food And Eating Habits

NPR: Cheetos, Canned Foods, Deli Meat: How The U.S. Army Shapes Our Diet

Many of the foods that we chow down on every day were invented not for us, but for soldiers.

Energy bars, canned goods, deli meats — all have military origins. Same goes for ready-to-eat guacamole and goldfish crackers.

According to the new book, Combat-Ready Kitchen: How The U.S. Military Shapes The Way You Eat, many of the packaged, processed foods we find in today's supermarkets started out as science experiments in an Army laboratory. The foodstuffs themselves, or the processes that went into making them, were originally intended to serve as combat rations for soldiers out in the battlefield.

Indeed, military needs have driven food-preservation experiments for centuries.

WNU Editor: As one who loves to cook (and eat), this is a fascinating story.

How Many Ballistic Missile Submarines Are Necessary For U.S. Defense?

PBS Newshour: How many ballistic missile submarines does the U.S. really need?

The Navy's formidable fleet of nuclear-armed submarines is approaching the end of its lifespan, and there’s growing debate over how many are needed and how to pay for them. Jamie McIntyre, national security correspondent for Al Jazeera America on special assignment for the NewsHour, got a rare behind-the-scenes look at one of the most powerful weapons ever built.

WNU Editor: Does the U.S. have the money ($100 billion) to build 12 replacements for the Ohio submarine fleet .... and are these submarines really necessary ....  the debate is starting.

Warfighting Gear Has Dramatically Improved Over The Past 15 Years

Task & Purpose: 8 Big Changes That Have Improved Load-Bearing Combat Gear

Warfighting gear has dramatically improved over the past 15 years.

It goes by many names: Deuce gear, TA-50, or 782 gear. Whatever the nickname, load-bearing equipment is some of the most important kit carried by infantry, special operations, and anyone else whose job is to fight on foot. Since the advent of modular lightweight load-carrying equipment and the accompanying pouch attachment ladder system in the late 1990s, the commercial and government gear market has rapidly grown, particularly since the onset of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Tactical nylon” companies are not just producing innovations in load-bearing gear, but uniforms and footwear as well. Here’s a few areas where troop gear has gotten better.

WNU Editor: Since 9/11 there has been a revolution in war-fighting gear .... and the innovations are still coming.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why Watches Are Important In Russia

Dmitry Peskov, left, and the Richard Mille RM 52-01

Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg: Where Did Putin's Spokesman Get a $620,000 Watch?

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russia's president, is known for a level of cynicism that sometimes surpasses even that of his boss, Vladimir Putin. Last weekend, though, Peskov inspired more soap opera than fear or loathing, as attention focused on his $600,000 watch and lavish wedding to a champion figure skater.

Presidential press secretaries are celebrities regardless of the country whose leader they serve: "You're mentioned in talk shows and written about in books," New York Times columnist William Safire was once quoted as saying. "Before long some start to feel as if they actually are a little president."

Update #1: Vladimir Putin's spokesman in luxury watch scandal (The Telegraph).
Update #2: Anger in Russia over Vladimir Putin’s aide seen wearing a watch worth £397,000 – four times his official salary – in wedding photos with new glamorous ice skater wife (Daily Mail)

WNU Editor: That is not my style of watch .... $600,000 .... you gotta be kidding me. Not to be undone .... Russian President Putin also has a serious the watch collection .... Putin's Extravagant $700,000 Watch Collection (AP). As for my watches .... old Russian GF gave me a Patek Philippe (to have an impression when I was working in the FO .... which it did) .... and my current GF gave me a Rolex .... in both cases it was a gift for my birthday. Sighhh ..... my wish for a new Callaway set of golf clubs (in both cases) did not impress them .... and the sad part is that I am always using my smart phone to check up on the time.

The Balance Of Power Is Shifting In The Middle East

Peter Van Buren, Real Clear World/Tom Dispatch: The Balance of Power in the Middle East Just Changed

Don't sweat the details of the July nuclear accord between the United States and Iran. What matters is that the calculus of power in the Middle East just changed in significant ways.

Washington and Tehran announced their nuclear agreement on July 14th and yes, some of the details are still classified. Of course the Obama administration negotiated alongside China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany, which means Iran and five other governments must approve the detailed 159-page "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action." The U.N., which also had to sign off on the deal, has already agreed to measures to end its sanctions against Iran.

WNU Editor: A lot of ifs and maybes in this analysis .... but he is right about the money and why everyone in the West and in Iran are happy that sanctions are now ending..

Is Jordan Next For The Islamic State?

Kevin Sullivan, the Compass/Real Clear World: The Caliphate Inches Closer to Jordan

Rumors have been circulating in recent days that the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade -- a Syrian rebel group that gained notoriety in March 2013 when it kidnapped, and subsequently released, 21 Filipino UN workers -- is readying to declare its own emirate, or wilayat, in the Syrian city of Daraa, one of the group's strongholds.

The word emirate evokes all kinds of images and assumptions, but the motivations behind Yarmouk's potential push for autonomy may be rooted in very terrestrial and parochial interests. Although the Yarmouk Brigade has been rumored as having ties with the Islamic State group, the militant separatists have repeatedly denied such charges. Compounding the confusion is the fact that these accusations have been levied by Jaish al-Fatah, a Syrian rebel alliance with ties to al-Qaeda. The two factions have fought each other on the field of battle and in the court of law, and their disagreements are largely over matters of jurisprudence, affiliation, and religious interpretation.

WNU Editor: I suspect that most Jordanians do not want to be living through the carnage that is happening right now in Syria and Iraq .... and on those grounds alone the Islamic State will probably have trouble penetrating Jordanian society. But ISIS does have supporters in Jordan just as they do in other Muslim states, and it is a problem that I suspect will be persistent (and dangerous) for Jordan and for of these other countries in the years to come.

Taliban Fighters Are In Disarray With The Death Of Their Leader

Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wall Street Journal: Taliban Leadership Rift Seeps Down to Fighters

Power struggle sows confusion in the field, raises concerns about potential defections to Islamic State

KABUL—A power struggle has emerged within Afghanistan’s Taliban following the death of their supreme commander, causing confusion among foot soldiers and sowing fears that some might defect to Islamic State.

Just a few people within the Taliban knew of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death until it was revealed with certainty last week, first by the Afghan government, which said it occurred in April 2013, and a day later by the Taliban. For years, the movement’s leadership continued to issue orders and statements in the name of their deceased founder.

Now the costs of that coverup are starting to become clear.

“Most ordinary Taliban feel like they’ve been deceived by their leaders,” said a Taliban commander in the eastern Afghan province of Khost. “We were kept in dark, and now we don’t know who to follow.”

The commander added that “disagreements between senior leaders are further discouraging fighters,” many of whom say they are tired of war after 14 years.

Update #1: Will Mullah Omar's Death Change the Taliban? -- Sanjay Kumar, The Diplomat
Update #2: Former Afghan warlord says Taliban weaker amid infighting -- AP

WNU Editor: The death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar is a game changer. He was more than just a man who lead a movement .... he was also for many Taliban fighters a legacy whose position demanded (and got) unquestionable loyalty. But he is now gone, and his replacement (s) do not match that legacy. I do expect more fissures and disagreements to occur within the Taliban, the question that needs to be answered is how will the Afghan government take advantage of this opportunity, and will the Islamic State be the eventual winner in the event that the Taliban does break-up.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 3, 2015

A man holds up a sign as he and several thousand other protesters demonstrate during a rally apposing the nuclear deal with Iran in Times Square, July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Robert Morgenthau, Reuters: Forgotten flaw in Iran nuclear deal: It lets killers go free

President Barack Obama has in good faith negotiated an agreement with Iran that would end a broad range of economic sanctions on Iran, in return for Iran’s promise to scale back its efforts to build a nuclear bomb. I believe that Congress’s support of the agreement would be a very serious mistake.

I find persuasive the arguments of many analysts that the proposal fails because it lifts sanctions before Iran has over time proven that it is committed to abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- August 3, 2015

Syrian war: As neighbors seek border enclaves, a de facto partition? -- Nicholas Blanford, CSM

The Company Getting Rich Off the ISIS War -- Kate Brannen, Daily Beast

This map shows the simple 20 million state solution in Yemen we’ve been missing all along -- Al Bawaba

Asia’s New Geopolitics Takes Shape Around India, Japan, and Australia -- Harsh V. Pant, The Diplomat

China's military wants more teeth to counter India, US, Japan -- Economic Times

At long last, the U.S. understands Vietnam -- Gregory Clark, Japan Times

Why human rights abuses may not top the secretary of state’s agenda in Egypt -- Carol Morello, Washington Post

The big Polish-German chill -- Michal Szuldrzynski, Politico

Greece Is Still Doomed Without Debt Relief -- Bloomberg editorial

IMF Gets Smart About Greece -- Mohamed A. El-Erian, Bloomberg

The Eurozone's Death by a Thousand Bailouts -- Adam Lebor, Newsweek

As Talks Progress, Optimism Grows for Elusive Cyprus Peace -- Maria Save, WPR

Is Europe losing Ukraine? -- Gustav Gressel, European Council on Foreign Relations

What's at stake in Venezuela's legislative elections? -- Daniel Zovatto, Brookings

How Cecil the Lion Is Making Airlines Change Their Ways -- Krishnadev Calamur, The Atlantic

World News Briefs -- August 3, 2015 (Evening Edition)

Reuters: Special Report: State Department watered down human trafficking report

In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.


U.S., allies stage 29 air strikes against Islamic State: statement.

US begins armed drone flights from Turkey.

First U.S.-trained Syria rebel believed killed in fighting: sources.

Syrian rebels backed by the U.S. will have air cover, source says. U.S. to defend Syrian rebels with airpower, including from Assad.

At least 31 people dead, dozens injured after a Syrian fighter jet crashes into Ariha marketplace: monitor.

Iran-Saudi Arabia relations: Diplomatic ties could resume despite Yemen conflict, Iranian official says.

Yemen conflict: President Hadi loyalists storm key air base. Pro-Hadi fighters, Houthis battle over Yemen's largest military base.

Sauid-led coalition deploys 3,000 troops in Yemen, sources say.

Iran nuclear deal: John Kerry tries to ease Gulf concerns. Gulf allies 'back Iran nuclear deal' after US security guarantees. We want Iran cooperation, not meddling, Gulf Arabs tell Kerry.

Iran bans newspaper of nuclear deal critic, warns others.

Turkey vows 'whatever necessary' in fight against militants.

Turkey's main opposition accuses Erdogan of blocking coalition efforts.

Israel vows to fight Jewish terrorism as 16yo girl stabbed at pride parade dies.

Russia's Lavrov meets Hamas chief, invites him to Moscow: official.


US-China nuclear agreement passes congressional review.

US ‘softly’ says no to Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

No-shows likely for China’s World War II parade amid rising tensions with West, neighbors.

China wants no talk of South China Sea at upcoming ASEAN meeting.

MH370 investigators to meet in France ahead of debris analysis. Barnacles on debris could provide clues to missing MH370: experts.

Massive strike hits Aussie airports as Abbott plans pay cuts for customs, immigration staff.

India orders clampdown on Internet porn, sparks censorship debate.

Floods, landslides kill 75, displace thousands in eastern India.


Ethiopia jails 18 Muslims over alleged terror.

Sudan says Bashir plans to speak at U.N. summit in New York.

10 soldiers killed in attack on Mali camp: military.

Nigerian troops rescue 178 people from Boko Haram.

Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza warns against vengeance.

Egypt prolongs role in Saudi-led Yemen coalition.

South Sudan to unveil own plan to end conflict.

Libya probing guards seen in video beating jailed Gaddafi son.

Zimbabwe authorities seek another American in lion hunt.


Catalonia to hold Sept 27 elections in fresh independence challenge.

Greek shares plunge as market reopens.

Four killed as new Ukraine peace talks fall apart. Ukraine rebels kill four troops in heavier shelling. Ukrainian casualties reported before peace talks.

Nato reports surge in jet interceptions as Russia tensions increase.

Russia says security forces kill 14 Islamist militants.

Soldiers in Hungary begin building fence to stop migrants.

Calais crisis: '1,700 intrusions' at Eurotunnel terminal.

Migrant flow to Europe is result of US, EU military ops in Middle East – Czech president.

Immigrants in Germany swell to record high 11 million.


Venezuela prevents opposition leader from running.

Brazil police arrest Lula minister in bribery scandal.

Canada PM calls Oct. 19 election, focus on sluggish economy.

New Clinton e-mails released with redactions for now-classified items.

Six 'highly dangerous' gang members escape from El Salvador jail.

Brazil police 'killed hundreds' in Rio - Amnesty.

Colombia to buy land for poor in post-war period.

Chile poll: Bachelet's approval rating at new low.

Obama set to announce steeper emissions cuts from US power plants.

Obama charm offensive targets Venezuela after Iranians, Cubans.

Puerto Rico agency poised to default on $58 million payment.


Islamic State claims camp in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Bad chemical plant info leaves U.S. vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Islamic State's newest concern: Internet security.

Life through the Islamic State's Twitter lens.


Oil prices slide as worries about global supply glut mount.

Weak oil prices, China worries drag Wall Street lower.

Global investors shrug off slump in Greek market.

UN States set goal to end poverty, hunger in next 15 years.

Former bank trader convicted in Libor scandal.