Saturday, November 22, 2014

Will There Be An Iranian Nuclear Deal This Weekend?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks at his phone as he leaves a meeting in Vienna November 21, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

A Bad Deal Gets Worse -- Lee Smith, Weekly Standard

As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?

Read more ....

My Comment: "Trust but verified" has been the cornerstone of all international nuclear agreements .... a condition that Iran has been consistently refusing to agree to when it comes to UN inspections of it's military facilities that are suspected of conducting nuclear weapons development. As long as this position by Iran holds .... I fail to see how such an agreement can be agreed to by the Western powers .... unless Washington makes the decision to completely cave-in to Iran's demands .... and the other Western powers fall into agreement. But for the moment .... I just do not see that happening.

Update: My original prediction on what will happen this week with these talks still holds .... an announcement on Monday that great progress has been made (without providing details), and a new extension to the talks will be decided upon.

As Monday's Deadline Approaches 'Big Gaps' Remain In Iran Nuclear Talks

Iran Nuclear Talks: 'Big Gaps' Remain As Deadline Looms -- BBC

Key sticking points remain as negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme enter their final stages in Vienna, Western negotiators have said.

Both Germany and the US said the sides were working to close "big gaps" ahead of Monday's deadline for a final deal.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is to hold fresh talks on Saturday with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.

Six world powers want Iran to curb its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of United Nations sanctions.

The US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China - the so-called 5+1 group - are seeking reassurance that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapons capability.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely energy-related.

Read more ....

More News On The Iranian Nuclear Talks

West seen easing demands on Iran atom bomb 'mea culpa' in deal -- Reuters
Kerry: Big, serious gaps remain in Iran nuclear talks. Possible impasse hinted at. -- Washington post
Kerry says ‘serious gaps’ remain in Iran nuclear deal -- AP
Kerry: 'Serious Gaps' Remain as Iran Nuclear Deadline Looms -- VOA
'Big gaps' remain in Iran nuclear talks -- Al Jazeera
Time Running Out as U.S., Iran Seek to Salvage Nuclear Accord -- Bloomberg
Number of centrifuges, main contentious point in West-Iran nuclear talks -- KUNA
'Very small' chance of reaching deal with Iran, says source close to talks -- Jerusalem Post

Iraqi Forces Continue To Battle Islamic Satte Militants In Ramadi

Iraq Troops Battle Islamic State In Ramadi, Anbar Province -- BBC

Iraq's army has launched an operation to retake parts of Ramadi, a city largely controlled by Islamic State.

Saturday's fighting has focused on eastern suburbs of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, located 130km (80 miles) west of the capital Baghdad.

Iraqi officials say that during the operation, soldiers found the bodies of Sunni tribesmen killed by Islamic State for opposing the group.

IS militants - also Sunnis - have seized large areas of Iraq and Syria.

The jihadists control almost all of Anbar, despite operations by the Iraqi army backed by air strikes from the US and its allies.

Some local Sunni tribes have joined the fight against IS. Earlier this month tribal elders said hundreds of members of the Al-Bu Nimr tribe - mostly from the town of Hit - had recently been killed by IS.

Read more ....

More News On Iraq's War Against The Islamic State In Anbar Province

Battle for Ramadi: Iraq counterattacks against Islamic State -- AP
Iraqi Forces, IS Battle In Ramadi -- Radio Free Europe
Civilian deaths reported in Iraq air strikes -- Al Jazeera
Battle with IS militants continues in Iraq -- Business Standard
Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi -- Threat Matrix
ISIL in offensive against Ramadi -- Al Bawaba
Sources: ISIS kills 25 Anbar tribesmen in Iraq -- Al Arabiya

Al-Shebaab Militants Have Taken Responsibility For Today's Bus Attack That Killed 28 Kenyans

Al-Shebab Islamic Extremists Ambush Bus In Kenya And Execute 28 Non-Muslims In Revenge Attack For Police Raids On Mosques -- Daily Mail

* Gunmen ambushed bus as it headed to Nairobi from border town Mandera
* They ordered Muslims to get off bus, before trying to drive off with victims
* But when bus got stuck, militants killed prisoners and fled to Somalia
* They forced victims to read from Koran before shooting them in the head
* Shebab said 'perishing' was in retribution for last week's raids in Mombasa
* Four people were stabbed to death on Monday in another revenge attack

Islamic Shebab extremists ambushed a bus in Kenya before executing 28 non-Muslims at point-blank range in a revenge attack for police raids on mosques in the troubled city of Mombasa.

The heavily-armed gunmen ambushed the bus early this morning as it headed for Nairobi from Mandera, a town that lies on the border with Somalia.

The extremists reportedly separated the Muslims from the 28 victims by forcing them to read versus from the Koran. Those that failed were shot in the head at point-blank range.

Read more

More News On Today's Al-Shebaab Attack In Kenya

Kenya bus killings claimed by Somali group al-Shabab -- BBC
Somalia's Al-Shabab Kills 28 Non-Muslims in Kenya -- ABC News/AP
Kenyan bus attack kills 28; Islamists claim responsibility -- Reuters
Kenya bus attack: 'non-Muslims singled out and shot' -- Channel 4 News
Kenyan Bus Attack by al-Qaeda Militants Kills 28 People -- Bloomberg Businessweek

Is The U.S. Seeking 'Regime Change' In Russia?

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Saud al-Faisal in Moscow, November 21, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev

Lavrov Accuses West Of Seeking 'Regime Change' In Russia -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West on Saturday of trying to use sanctions imposed on Moscow in the Ukraine crisis to seek "regime change" in Russia.

His comments stepped up Moscow's war of words with the United States and the European Union in their worst diplomatic standoff since the Cold War ended.

"As for the concept behind to the use of coercive measures, the West is making clear it does not want to force Russia to change policy but wants to secure regime change," Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as telling a meeting of the advisory Foreign and Defense Policy Council in Moscow.

Read more ....

Update #1: Ukraine crisis: Lavrov warns over Russia 'regime change' goal -- BBC
Update #2: Claims about Russia’s isolation are not worth even discussions - Lavrov -- ITAR-TASS
Update #3: Lavrov: West seeking regime change in Moscow -- Al Jazeera

My Comment: It is no secret that U.S. - Russian relations are now at a low point .... and it is no secret that the relationship between Presidents Obama and Putin is non-existent .... and while the U.S. government may prefer someone else running Russia .... it is not going to happen. Unfortunately .... I do expect the U.S. to pursue policies that will try to isolate Russia even further .... and I do expect Russia to respond.

Update #4: Here is an interesting and speculative essay on U.S. - Russian relations, and why some in the U.S. see Russia as the long term strategic threat (not China) .... Breakfast With A Lord Of War (Zero Hedge).

U.S. Congressional Panel: China's Policies Are Fueling Tensions With The US

U.S. Congressional Panel Warns Of China's Military Buildup -- Kyodo News

A U.S. congressional panel warned Thursday of China's increasing military buildup, especially in nuclear capability and naval forces, saying the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region appears to be shifting to China.

"China's nuclear forces over the next three to five years will expand considerably," the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in its annual report.

The enlargement of China's nuclear force will potentially weaken U.S. extended deterrence, "particularly with respect to Japan," it said.

Read more ....

More News ON A Congressional Panels Warning That China's Policies Are Fueling Tensions With The US

Ascendant China Cited by U.S. Panel as Pentagon Pivots to Asia -- Bloomberg
Panel predicts China will keep confronting US -- FOX News/AP
China policies fuel tensions with US: US commission -- Channel News Asia/AFP
US Congress report warns American interests at risk in China's military rise -- South China Morning Post

My Comment: If this is going to be the U.S. response to China .... U.S. Congress urged to consider sanctions on Chinese cyber-spies (Reuters) .... I can guarantee you this .... the Chinese are going to have a good laugh.

Why Are China's Military Leaders Committing Suicide?

China's Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman Hu Jintao (6th L, front), CMC Vice Chairman Xi Jinping (6th R, front) and other senior military officers pose with newly-promoted generals for a group photo in Beijing, capital of China, July 23, 2011. CMC conferred the rank of general on six senior military officers on Saturday, including deputy chiefs of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Sun Jianguo and Hou Shusen, deputy chief of the PLA General Political Department Jia Ting'an, the Navy's political commissar Liu Xiaojiang, commander of the Shenyang Military Area Command Zhang Youxia, and political commissar of the Lanzhou Military Area Command Li Changcai. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

Chinese Leaders Committing Suicide In Droves -- Washington Times

As Supreme Leader Xi Jinping’s anti-graft crusade penetrates the inner circles of the People’s Liberation Army, signs of internal tension and disorder among senior military leaders are becoming evident, with reliable sources reporting that a growing number of leaders have committed suicide.

On Nov. 13, Vice Admiral Ma Faxiang jumped to his demise from a 15th floor window in the PLA Navy’s Beijing headquarters.

Days earlier, Maj. Gen. Song Yuwen, deputy commissar of Jilin military district, reportedly hanged himself. He was among eight flag officers who recently had been arrested on corruption charges.

On Sept. 2, Rear Admiral Jiang Zhonghua jumped to his death from a high-rise building on a naval base in Zhejiang province.

The PLA is the world’s largest armed force and has been a pillar of the communist government. Its members enjoy enormous privileges, wealth and political clout, which has bred corruption and immunity from punishment. No communist leader in the past several decades had been able to stem military corruption until Mr. Xi last year began to go after top leaders.

Read more ....

Update: China’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: Cleaning Up the PLA’s House -- Zi Yang, The Diplomat

My Comment: Losing face is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and behavior .... for these senior Generals .... by being charged for corruption and stripped of their titles and positions .... and in such a public and shameful manner .... is equivalent to being killed. For some of these former generals suicide becomes the only option .... and they do it to not only redeem their face but to protect their families in the hope that they are gone, any investigation of their family wealth will then stop.

The Rise And Fall Of China's Top General

China's then-Central Military Commission Vice Chairman General Xu Caihou salutes as he listens to national anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington on Oct 27, 2009. Photo: REUTERS

1 Ton In Banknotes Found In Ex-Chinese Military Leader's Home -- Want China Times

Chinese investigators have found one metric ton of Chinese yuan and foreign currencies during a search of the home of Xu Caihou, former vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, amid an investigation of corruption, according to a report by Hong Kong's Phoenix Weekly.

When investigators opened the basement of Xu's 2,000-square meter luxury residency in Beijing, they found one ton of bills, including US dollars and euros, in addition of piles of valuable jades, emeralds, ancient paintings and calligraphy works, the report said.

The historic art was said to date as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907CE).

Read more ....

More News On The Rise And Fall of Chinese General Xu Caihou

It Took 12 Trucks to Haul Away All the Cash This Corrupt Chinese General Hid in His Home -- Slate
Former top China military officer Xu Caihou hoarded cash, jade in basement -- Strait Times
Ex-Chinese military leader found with 1 ton of Chinese, foreign money -- Focus Taiwan
Xu Caihou has Only Been Charged with the Lightest of Crimes -- NTD
China's biggest 'military tiger' Xu Caihou confesses to taking bribes -- CNN
China to put decorated general on trial over corruption -- The Guardian
Xu Caihou’s Vast Network Of Relationships May Cause Big Cleansing In Military -- NTD

My Comment: It took 12 trucks to haul away the cash .... 12 trucks!!!! Unbelievable. Corruption in China is part of the culture .... so this is why I never thought that a top military leader would be targeted and removed for doing what everyone else in his position has been doing for years. But Chinese President Xi is clearly intent and determined to stamp out corruption at the top, and he has succeeded beyond his expectations because the fall of this top General is sending a chill throughout the Chinese military hierarchy.

Update #1: No kidding .... Xi Urges Serious Reflection on Xu Caihou’s Case -- CRIEnglish

Update #2: The list of charges that former General Xu Caihou's faces makes even my jaw drop .... Xu Caihou has Only Been Charged with the Lightest of Crimes (NTD).

Update #3:
It should be noted that there is also another (possible) reason for the removal of General Xu Caihou and others like him .... there has been a history of disputes over policy between Chinese President Xi and some in the military for a long time (something that I pointed out last year).... Tensions Between China`s Generals And The Civilian Leadership? .... and this is an extremely effective way for President Xi to now get rid of his "opponents" and to assert civilian control.

4 Scenarios On What Happens Next In The South China Sea

What's Next In South China Sea? 4 Scenarios Simulated -- Camille Diola, PhilStar

MANILA, Philippines — More than 70 analysts from various countries held debates in a bid to simulate the future of the disputed South China Sea.

In a statement earlier this week, consultancy firm Wikistrat examined "key factors" driving instability in the waters claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan to come up with "master narratives" or possible scenarios that may affect the region's future.

The factors identified are the increase and interaction of nationalistic sentiment among rival claimants, the course of international diplomacy and ability of negotiators, the desire to control offshore resources and the ongoing buildup of military assets seen in growing defense budgets.

"Examining these four factors, analysts predicted four scenarios for stability and instability in the contested waters," the agency said.

Read more ....

Update: Why China's South China Sea Diplomacy Will Frustrate Claimants -- Robert Farley, The Diplomat

My Comment: My money is on China asserting control. The only country that will probably dispute these Chinese territorial claims is Vietnam .... but their military (especially their navy) is not capable of standing up to the Chinese. Maybe in some future date the Vietnamese will be in a position to confront these Chinese claims .... but not for now.

China Is Building An Island Big Enough To Have An Airstrip In The Middle Of The South China Sea

Chinese land reclamation operations at Fiery Cross reef in the South China Sea. Photo: CNES 2014, Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image/IHS

China Building South China Sea Island Big Enough For Airstrip: Report -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Satellite images show China is building an island on a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands large enough to accommodate what could be its first offshore airstrip in the South China Sea, a leading defense publication said on Friday.

The construction has stoked concern that China may be converting disputed territory in the mineral-rich archipelago into military installations, adding to tensions waters also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei.

IHS Jane's said images it had obtained showed the Chinese-built island on the Fiery Cross Reef to be at least 3,000 meters (1.9 miles) long and 200-300 meters (660-980 ft) wide, which it noted is "large enough to construct a runway and apron."

Read more ....

More News On China Building An Island Big Enough To Have An Airstrip In The Middle Of The South China Sea

China building airstrip-capable island on Fiery Cross Reef -- IHS Janes 360
China building South China Sea island big enough for airstrip -- The Telegraph
China building massive island in South China Sea that could host airfield, says US -- Straits Times/AFP
China building island in South China Sea big enough for military installations -- The Guardian
China building South China Sea island big enough for airstrip, says IHS Jane's -- The Age
China building possible airfield in South China Sea: US -- Channel News Asia
China building island in Spratlys, possibly for airstrip: report -- Kyodo News

My Comment: It is moments like this one that I always wonder where are the environmentalist/Green peace/etc. protestors who always show up when massive environmental damage is being done .... but for some reason leave out China. I guess they do not want to end up in a Chinese jail for a certain period of time.

China's Defense Minister Pledges More Dialogue To Address Regional Issues. Brushes Off Fears Of China's Military Growth

China's Defence Minister Chang Wanquan gestures after he delivered a speech during a security forum attended by senior officials and academics from Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific, in Beijing, November 21, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

China’s Military To Focus On More Int’l Cooperation, Crisis Management -- CCTV

China’s military will strengthen its crisis management procedures and expand regional cooperation, said Chinese Defense Minister and State Councilor Chang Wanquan at an international forum on defense and security. CCTV America’s Han Bin reported this story from Beijing.

The forum serves as a platform for scholars and decision makers to better understand People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) strategy. China has has recent disputes with some nations in the Asia-Pacific region and the PLA is stressing controlling potential crises through improved management and compromise through dialogue and cooperation.

Read more ....

More News On China's Defense Minister Pledge To Have More Dialogue To Address Regional Issues

Chinese defense minister pledges more dialogue to manage territorial conflicts -- AP
China's defense minister calls for improved crisis management -- Reuters
China calls for enhanced dialogue to resolve conflicts -- BBC
Defense minister calls for mutual security in Asia -- Global Times
China Needs to Improve its Crisis Management, States Defence Chief -- IBTimes
China defence minister brushes off fears over military growth -- Channel News Asia
China defence minister Chang Wanquan brushes off fears over military growth -- Straits Times
China forces ‘want peace’ but won’t forget past -- Scotsman

U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel: The Islamic State Is 'An Incredibly Dangerous New Threat'

Hagel Notes Progress Against ISIL as World Grows More Dangerous -- US Department of Defense

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2014 – The U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is showing good signs of progress, and the first of 1,500 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Iraq should begin arriving there in the next few weeks, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a PBS interview broadcast last night.

“Overall, we are seeing good progress,” Hagel told Charlie Rose in a wide-ranging interview conducted at the Pentagon yesterday in describing the three months of airstrikes and Iraqi and Kurdish attacks against ISIL. “We’re not where we need to be yet, but this is a longer-term, difficult, challenging mission.”

Read more ....

Update #1: Hagel: Islamic State presents new challenge to US -- FOX News/AP
Update #2: 'Islamic State is most serious security threat US is facing' -- Israel Hayom

My Comment: Unfortunately he has no quick solutions, and his predictions for the future are sobering .... Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel: Get Used to Endless War (The Atlantic)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: U.S. Military Capability Is Being Threatened

HAGEL: The World Is 'Damn Dangerous' And Our Army Is Not Ready -- Business Insider

In an exclusive interview with Charlie Rose at the Pentagon yesterday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned of the unprecedented challenges facing the United States military role on the global stage.

"The world is dangerous. It is damn dangerous," Hagel said.

Earlier on, Hagel conceded to an array of US foreign policy failures read aloud by Rose from the op-ed pages of The New York Times, adding they came in response to an unprecedented and uniquely volatile global environment.

Read more ....

Update: Hagel: ‘U.S. Military Capability is Being Threatened’ -- Washington Free Beacon

My Comment: He is right that the world is dangerous and that U.S. military capability is being threatened .... but he is the one who presiding over some the steepest cuts in the U.S. military since the Second World War .... and he seems to be incapable/unable/unwilling to stop it.

How The Islamic State Is Avoiding U.S. Surveillance

ISIS Is Getting Smarter About Avoiding U.S. Surveillance -- Daily Signal

Social media can be a double-edged sword for terrorists groups such as ISIS, a fact that its leadership appears to be aware of.

According to recent reports, the group’s top cadre has curtailed electronic communications, hoping to shrink its footprint and exposure to western intelligence agencies. A terrorist group of the 21st century, ISIS is adept at the use of social media, producing “cruelly effective” propaganda, as retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen has put it. Yet, that same propaganda also has provided a wealth of information for the U.S. and other governments.

As reported by The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris, who cited U.S. intelligence sources, ISIS is changing its “communications strategy.” It is encrypting its electronic communications, limiting its online presence and using services that delete messages as soon as they are sent. Its top cadre uses couriers rather than electronic devices to deliver orders, making them elusive in the U.S.-led surveillance campaign. As human intelligence is hardly available on the ground, especially in Syria, and the number of unmanned drones is limited, cyber surveillance has been a key tool in the fight against ISIS.

Read more ....

My Comment: The Islamic State is lucky that the U.S. does not have intelligence assets on the ground .... but I am sure that this is going to change with time. As to using couriers .... this method of communications can only go so far.

As Oil Prices Continue To Decline, Who Are The 'Losers And Winners'

‘Astonishing’ Shale Growth Bolsters US Power -- Financial Review/Bloomberg

A new age of abundant and cheap energy supplies is redrawing the world's geopolitical landscape, weakening and potentially threatening the legitimacy of some governments while enhancing the power of others.

Some changes already are evident. Surging US oil production enabled America and its allies to impose tough sanctions on Iran without having to worry much about the loss of imports from the Middle Eastern nation. Russia faces what President Vladimir Putin calls a possibly "catastrophic" slump in prices for its oil as its economy is battered by US and European sanctions over its role in Ukraine.

Read more ....

My Comment: U.s. and China are the big winners .... Venezuela, Iran, and Russia are probably the big losers, with Venezuela being the most vulnerable.

An SR-71 Pilot Explains How The Cockpit Works

Watch An SR-71 Pilot Explain How The Cockpit Works -- Popular Mechanics

An SR-71's exterior is all smooth, swooping surfaces. The Blackbird's interior, however, is a cramped assemblage of dials and switches need to keep the supersonic spy plane aloft.

Don't be intimidated, would-be pilots. In this video, longtime SR-71 pilot Richard Graham walks you through the bevy of controls and explains what each one tells you.

For something cool and also kind of terrifying, skip to about 14:18, at which point you can see Graham showing off the back of the plane where the navigator sat. As he explains, it was critical that the pilot and navigator were both in perfect health before each flight, because neither could fly the plane properly if the other were to be incapacitated.

Read more ....

My Comment: This was once classified ultra-top secret .... today it is on YouTube.

A Russia - China Political, Economic, And Military Alliance?

Russia, China Plan War Games, Arms Sales. Could Alliance Be In The Cards? -- Fred Weir, CSM

With Russia alienated by the West and China eager to buy high-end weaponry, a joint military pact – though still a long way off – looks increasingly seductive to both.

Moscow — Russia and China are planning to hold large-scale joint naval drills in the Mediterranean and Pacific next year, as deepening economic and political cooperation appear to be driving the two giants to at least discuss the idea of forming a military bloc.

Both countries are rapidly jacking up their military spending and modernizing their forces. China is set to spend an unprecedented $132 billion of defense this year. Meanwhile, Russia is in the midst of a sweeping five-year $700-billion rearmament program, and has lately begun restoring Soviet-era bomber patrols across much of the West's airspace. Russian officials say the upcoming naval drills are designed to demonstrate that Russian and Chinese fleets can operate together in bodies of water half a world apart.

Read more ....

My Comment: There are differences .... culture being the biggest one. But there are economic and national security interests that are now complementing each country's long term goals and policies, and I do expect this relationship to not only grow but to prosper in the coming years.

U.S. Aircraft Carriers Are Becoming More Expensive To Build

Guests attend the christening ceremony of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at the Huntington-Ingalls Industries Newport News shipyard in Virginia, the United States, Nov. 9, 2013. U.S. Navy on Saturday christened aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first ship in a new class of super carrier. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

U.S. Aircraft Carrier’s Cost Likely to Rise Again, GAO Says -- Bloomberg

The cost of the U.S. Navy’s new aircraft carrier is likely to keep rising from the $12.9 billion now estimated, with the final price masked by deferring some work until after the ship is delivered, the Government Accountability Office said.

In the latest in a series of reports offering political ammunition to critics of the Navy’s most expensive warship, the GAO yesterday reaffirmed its earlier concerns that the Ford-class carrier being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII) will cost more and take longer to complete than advertised.

“With the shipbuilder embarking on one of the most complex phases of construction with the greatest likelihood for cost growth, cost increases beyond the current $12.9 billion cost cap appear likely,” the watchdog agency said.

To stay within the cost cap, the Navy is deferring some work, including installing satellite communications equipment and correcting defects, until after the ship is delivered, to create a funding reserve, according to the report.

Read more ....

More News On The Cost Overruns Of The US Navy's Newest Aircraft Carrier

GAO: Navy carrier will be incomplete, cost more at delivery -- Stars and Stripes
$13B Navy carrier to be delivered late, incomplete and at higher cost -- Washington Post
Costs for carrier Ford to keep rising, auditors predict -- Pilot Online
GAO: First Ford class carrier headed for cost overruns -- Marine Log
GAO: Revise Cost Cap Legislation for New Aircraft Carrier -- Maritime Executive

Update: This is an interesting read .... The Large-Deck Carrier: The Finale (Information Dissemination).

Friday, November 21, 2014

In A Secret Order President Obama Has Expanded The U.S. Combat Role in Afghanistan For Another Year

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In Secret, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama signed a secret order in recent weeks authorizing a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.
Continue reading the main story
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In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

Read more ....

My Comment: The collapse of the Iraq state in the face of a Sunni insurgency is probably the single most important event to have changed President Obama's mind on what to do in Afghanistan. The fact that former Afghan President Karzai is now gone has also probably it easier for President Obama to make the decision to expand the U.S. mission, and to work more closely with the new Afghan government.

Tunnel Warfare Comes To Syria

At least 20 government fighters and militia have been killed in an apparent attack by Syrian rebels after a tunnel bomb was exploded near the historic old city of Aleppo. Daily Mail

Syrian Rebels, Increasingly Desperate, Turn To Tunnel Warfare -- L.A. Times

For three days, Syrian rebels dug through a wall of a library that housed a trove of historical religious texts, and underneath an adjacent road.

When they were done with the 50-foot-long tunnel, they waited at one end of it for a tank to drive by, and blew it up.

The explosion cut off the road, a crucial supply route for government soldiers stationed at the nearby 13th century citadel, but it also destroyed what was left of the Waqifiyya Library, already damaged during months of clashes.

Rebel commander Iyad Saqaan, who in 2006 had helped furnish the library with woodwork from his studio, had also overseen the digging of the tunnel. Sitting on a mound of rubble, skipping rocks as if perched on the edge of a lake, Saqaan pursed his lips, shook his head and said, "What alternative do we have?"

Read more ....

My Comment: After years of conflict all sides are becoming desperate to break the stalemate.

These Are The Weapons That The U.S. Wants To Give To Iraq's Army And Kurdish Fighters

Kurdish peshmerga fighters take part in weapons training in the grounds of their camp in Irbil, Iraq, on Nov. 3. The Pentagon wants $1.6 billion to train and equip Iraqi forces, including the peshmerga, in fiscal 2015, according to a new Defense Department report. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)

A Breakdown Of All The Weapons The U.S. Wants To Give Iraq To Fight Militants -- Washington Post

Top U.S. officials said earlier this month that they would ask Congress to spend $1.6 billion in fiscal 2015 to help equip security forces across Iraq, as the country continues to grapple with how to expel Islamic State militants from cities and towns in controls. A new Defense Department document outlines what that money will go toward — and underscores just how much firepower Washington wants to send Baghdad in its bid to help.

The details are in a 16-page justification for an amendment to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget sent to Congress. It calls for $1.24 billion to be spent on weapons for the Iraqi military, $354.8 million to be spent on arms for Kurdish peshmerga troops, and $24.1 million for an arsenal sent to tribal security forces in western Anbar province. Bloomberg News reported on the document Friday.

Read more ....

Update: Colt M4 Carbines Top U.S. Arms List for Iraqi, Kurdish Forces -- Bloomberg

My Comment: Let's hope that these new weapons do not end up in the Islamic State's hands as these weapons did .... Iraq Needs Weapons But Can It Keep Them? (Foreign Policy).

U.S. Airstrikes Are Having A Minimal Impact On The Islamic State's Military Capabilities

Months Of Bombing Makes Small Impact On ISIS' Military Capabilities -- Robert Windrem and Jim Miklaszewski, NBC

After more than three months of air attacks against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, U.S. intelligence and defense officials say minimal progress has been made toward President Barack Obama’s stated goal to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic terror group.

Intelligence gathered over the past several weeks, which was being presented at a classified briefing for senators on Wednesday, indicates that while airstrikes have stalled offensives by ISIS forces in some areas, in at least one aspect, ISIS appears to be growing stronger despite the bombing.

“The trajectory of foreign fighters is ticking up,” said one U.S. intelligence official, who like the others spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity. The official cautioned that the figures U.S. intelligence has compiled are estimates and that analysts have “limited insight” into the number of foreign fighters arriving from the West.

Read more ....

Update: Airstrikes Fail to Slow ISIS' Iraq Killing Spree, Database Suggests -- NBC

My Comment: More evidence that maybe ground troops will be necessary.