Saturday, November 28, 2015

Editor's Note

Blogging will return later this evening.

The Anti-Islamic State Coalition In One Picture

For The Battle Of Ramadi The Iraq Military Outnumbers ISIS 10 To 1

A military vehicle of the Iraqi security forces is pictured near the University of Anbar, in Anbar province July 28, 2015. Reuters/Stringer

Military Times: Iraqi troops gunning for Ramadi outnumber ISIS 10 to 1

Iraqi troops closing in on Ramadi outnumber Islamic State militants by as many as 10 to one, a U.S. official told Military Times on Friday.

The offensive to wrest back control of the city involves between 8,000 and 10,000 Iraqi security forces, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition overseeing the fight against the Islamic State group.

No American military personnel are on the ground fighting alongside them, he said.

Three U.S.-trained Iraqi brigades are participating in the operation, Warren said. They face between 600 and 1,000 well-entrenched Islamic State fighters.

WNU Editor: This reminds me of one of my favourite sayings .... "there we were 3 against 10,000, and I told my men to spread out".

Iran Admits That Many Of Its Soldiers Are Dying In Syria

Washington Post: Iranian media is revealing that scores of the country’s fighters are dying in Syria

BEIRUT — An increasing number of Iranian soldiers and militiamen appear to be dying in Syria’s civil war, and observers credit media from an unexpected country for revealing the trend:


A flurry of reports in Iran’s official and semi­official news outlets about the deaths — including funerals and even a eulogy to a fallen general by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — have surprised analysts who monitor the country’s tightly controlled media. The reports, they say, indicate that at least 67 Iranians have been killed in Syria since the beginning of October.

Just a few months ago, Iranian media said little about the country’s military intervention in ­Syria to shore up the government. But as Iranian fighters participate in a new Russian-led offensive against Syrian rebels, Iran’s leaders might have a reason to offer more details of their country’s involvement, said Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the ­Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

WNU Editor: Iran has a lost a number of commanders in the Syrian conflict .... which in itself is surprising. Someone told me that the reason why so many of these commanders are being killed reflects a problem of getting troops to fight that is forcing commanders being pushed to the front in order to encourage the troops. The above video is a news story on the death of a top Iranian General in Syria last month.

It Looks Like Crimea Will Be Cut-Off From Ukrainian Electricity For A Long Time

Reuters: Ukraine leaves sabotaged power lines to Russian-annexed Crimea in mud

Five days after saboteurs blew up power lines in southern Ukraine plunging Russian-annexed Crimea into an energy crisis, all four damaged pylons are out of action and engineers say they need a political decision to restore supplies.

The stalemate has left some 2 million Crimeans reliant upon emergency generators and has caused severe disruption, exposing how dependent Crimea remains on Ukraine a year and a half after it broke away to join Russia.

Some limited repair work has taken place, say Ukrainian government and energy officials, who have spoken of how the problem could - technically - be fixed relatively swiftly.

But on Friday the damaged pylons lay flat in thick mud as the wind whipped across the flat featureless landscape.

Update #1: Still no power in Crimea as protesters block repairs to pylons (Euronews)
Update #2: Crimea waits for Russia to lay electric lifeline under sea (TASS)

WNU Editor: My advice to those who are living in Crimea is to not hope that Kiev will order and enforce repairs on the grid. There is no political will in Ukraine to do this, and even if there was, those who blew up the pylons will only blow them up again. Russia is now prioritizing laying down undersea electric cables to the peninsula, and while I know that they were hoping that the "land-bridge" between Russia and Crimea would be finished by now and that electricity will be distributed this way .... it is going to take time.

U.S. Officials: Russia Did Not Give Downed Jet's Flight Plan To U.S. As Claimed By Putin

Reuters: Russia didn't give downed jet's flight plan to U.S.: U.S. officials

Russia did not inform the U.S. military of its jet's flight plan before Turkey shot it down on Tuesday, despite assertions to the contrary by Russian President Vladimir Putin, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Putin has suggested some degree of U.S. culpability in the aftermath of the incident, even hinting that the United States might have given detailed Russian operational plans to Turkey ahead of time.

Addressing reporters in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said "we informed our American partners" about when and where Russian aircraft would be operating. It was "precisely" then that the Turkish air force shot down the Russian warplane, Putin said.

"The question arises: Why did we pass on that information to the Americans," Putin asked.

WNU Editor: Who to believe .... Russian President Putin or some anonymous U.S. officials. In the past I would have easily given the benefit of the doubt to the U.S. officials, but this conflict has morphed into something else, and who is right or wrong can no longer be guaranteed. Case in point .... even this retired top U.S. air force General has doubts ..... Top U.S. Air Defense Commander: Turkey’s Shootdown of Russian Jet “Had to Be PRE-PLANNED” (Zero Hedge).

Houston Texans Cheerleaders Salute The Military (Photo Gallery)

Houston Texans cheerleaders perform before the Texans play the New York Jets on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Houston Chronicle: Texans cheerleaders salute the military

Sunday's win over the New York Jets was the Houston Texans' annual Salute to Service game. Each year, the Texans have a game where they host hundreds of service members.

The Texans cheerleaders celebrated the occasion by dressing up in pseudo-military uniforms on the sidelines.

WNU Editor: No comment necessary.

Is Low Oil Prices Aggravating Internal Conflicts And Civil Wars?

Soldiers guard an oil installation in South Sudan. Africa Arguments

Ryan Opsal, Will Low Oil Prices Increase Internal Instability In Conflict Countries?

With over 1.6 million internally displaced in South Sudan, and another 600,000 refugees in neighboring countries, are oil price declines exacerbating humanitarian crises in oil-producing African countries, and can we expect further deterioration as a result of the recent price depression?

This is a worthwhile issue to explore given South Sudan’s overwhelming reliance on oil revenues to fill government coffers; a similar situation that can be duplicated throughout Africa with not only oil, but other commodities exports as well. But, do price changes really exacerbate these conflicts? The answer is: it depends.

WNU Editor: The position that the author in the above post is advocating is that declining oil prices will not impact the civil wars that are happening today in places like South Sudan. That may be the case, but I have to wonder if oil prices were indeed higher, would it make these civil wars worse, or would it force the leaders of these conflicts to come to an agreement.

This Is What An $8 Billion Nuclear Bomb Upgrade Looks Like

B61 Thermonuclear Bomb. The B61 nuclear bomb is designed for carriage by aircraft at supersonic flight speeds and is the primary thermonuclear weapon in the U.S. stockpile since the end of the Cold War. The weapon was designed and built by the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico beginning in 1961 and has been produced in several versions. Wikipedia

PBS: Photos: What an $8B nuclear bomb upgrade looks like

Designing and building nuclear bombs is one of the U.S. government’s most secretive activities. But the PBS NewsHour recently was granted unprecedented access to a number of highly classified facilities, where the world’s most destructive weapons are now being updated and rebuilt.

The Department of Energy — which is responsible for maintaining the atomic stockpile — plans to spend $100 billion over the next decade rebuilding its production facilities and refitting nuclear weapons with modernized parts. Department officials say their goal is to replace the components in nuclear weapons that have aged, improve their safety, and streamline the stockpile by reducing the number of different bomb models in inventory.

WNU Editor: I always find it incredible that something that is this small can ... when used .... essentially vaporize an entire city.

The Four Levels Of War

U.S. Navy and Chilean Air Force aircraft participate in a fly-by adjacent to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during Exercise UNITAS 2105 in the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 20, 2015. UNITAS 2015 is the U.S. Navy's longest running annual multinational maritime exercise, and is part of Southern Seas 2015. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. David Babka

Robert Bateman, Esquire: Understanding Military Strategy and the Four Levels of War

When "strategy" gets thrown around by politicians and the media, you can bet it's being misused.

In my sustained effort to help others understand the news, there is one important area that really must be addressed, both because this is an election period and because some of these words are so widely confused and conflated in modern journalistic usage they now have little to no meaning. Specifically, I am referring to what we know as the "Levels of War," and the way that terms like "tactics" and "strategy" and "campaign" (and several other related concepts) are thrown around as though they are synonyms. They are not; and how they are used, both by reporters and the candidates themselves, appears to be a reliable way to separate the wheat from the chafe.

But why does this matter in reporting on—or in speaking/proclaiming about—news coming from the Middle East or any other conflict zone you might want to know about?

WNU editor: This reporter is critical on how Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have used the word 'strategy' in their stump speeches .... but the best line from a politician who used the word strategy has to be from both Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney when they said (at different times) that .... "hope is not a strategy".

Archers Of Old Were Deadly Warriors

WNU Editor: I am impressed.

Hat Tip: Theo Spark for this link.

Air-To-Air Refueling Of The Tu-160 Over Caspian Sea

Hat Tip: Alert 5

Civilian Contractors Are Now being Hired By The Pentagon To Fly Drones For Combat Patrols

A Predator drone flies a training mission over Victorville last year. The robotic plane was controlled by a pilot on the ground at the U.S. Air Force 163d Reconnaissance Wing of the California National Guard at Southern California Logistics Airport. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

L.A. Times: Air Force hires civilian drone pilots for combat patrols; critics question legality

The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions.

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones.

WNU Editor: Cannot say that I am surprised. There are not enough drone pilots .... and the demand keeps growing.

This Former Guantanamo Inmate Now Leads The Fight Against The Taliban And The Islamic State

Hajji Ghalib, the governor of Achin District in the province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, was once imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Photo Credit Andrew Quilty for The New York Times

New York Times: Once in Guantánamo, Afghan Now Leads War Against Taliban and ISIS

KABUL, Afghanistan — Hajji Ghalib did just what the American military feared he would after his release from the Guantánamo Bay prison camp: He returned to the Afghan battlefield.

But rather than worrying about Mr. Ghalib, the Americans might have considered encouraging him. Lean and weather-beaten, he is now leading the fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State across a stretch of eastern Afghanistan.

His effectiveness has led to appointments as the Afghan government’s senior representative in some of the country’s most war-ravaged districts. Afghan and American officials alike describe him as a fiercely effective fighter against the insurgency, and the American military sometimes supports his men with airstrikes — although Mr. Ghalib complains that there are too few bombers and drones for his taste.

WNU Editor: This is a fascinating story. After being released from Guantanamo prison he just wanted to be left alone .... a common sentiment among people who have experienced warfare for much of their life. But the murder of his family by the Taliban changed that .... and now he is getting his revenge.

Picture Of The Day

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group steams in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships during a photo exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 23, 2015. The ships were participating in an annual training exercise aimed at increasing interoperability between Japanese and American forces. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

The 50 Most Powerful People In The World

Business Insider: The 50 most powerful people in the world

It isn't just wealth. And it isn't just control over people or resources. No, true power is a potent combination of money and influence that enables people to help shape the world. But only a select group of people really possess the economic and political clout to effect global change. For better or worse, their decisions affect millions, shake industries, and change nations.

Business Insider has compiled the following list of the world's most powerful people — heads of state, billionaires, CEOs, and entertainers. To determine the ranking, we considered more than 100 of the most influential players in business, politics, and entertainment, and we evaluated their influence by using metrics in four major areas: economic power, command, newsworthiness, and impact — a subjective measure that captures how important they are in their respective spheres.

WNU editor: How times have changed. In the past I would always put the U.S. President on top of the list .... this year .... for the first time ever .... I am questioning myself if he belongs there.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Photo Gallery Of President Obama's Past Seven Years

White House

Business Insider: 44 iconic images of Barack Obama's tenure as president

On November 4, 2008, more than 69.4 million Americans voted for then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) to become the 44th president of the United States — and the first African-American to hold the position.

Obama, then 47, earned 365 electoral votes and nearly 53% of the popular vote in a wider-than-expected margin of victory. His Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), captured 173 electoral votes and a little more than 45% of the popular vote.

In honor of the seventh anniversary of Obama's ascension to office, here are 44 images of his time as America's commander in chief.

Has The Russian Deployment Of The S-400 Air Defense System Stopped U.S.-Led Coalition Strikes In Syria?

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Sputnik: Lack of US-Led Coalition Strikes in Syria 'Unrelated' to S-400 Deployment

The absence of US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria is not related to Russia’s deployment of an advanced S-400 Triumf air defense system.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The absence of US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria is not related to Russia’s deployment of an advanced S-400 Triumf air defense system at the Hmeimim airbase, a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) spokesperson told Sputnik on Friday.

“The lack of Coalition strikes has nothing to do with the S400 deployment,” the spokesperson said. “The fluctuation or absence of strikes in Syria reflects the ebb and flow of battle.”

CJTF-OIR reported earlier on Friday that the US-led coalition carried out no airstrikes in Syria against ISIL targets on Thursday, while conducted 18 airstrikes against ISIL terrorist positions in Iraq.

WNU Editor: Turkey has suspended its flights over Syria .... Turkish Press: Turkey's Military Has Suspended Flights Over Syria Because Of The Crisis With Russia, even hinting that using the S-400 against Turkey may bring war .... Erdogan: Downing of Turkish Jet with S-400 Missile Would Mean Aggression (Chapter 97). The U.S. is only saying that this deployment "complicates things" .... Air Force commander: Russian S-400 missiles 'complicate' Syria airstrikes (Air Force Times) .... complicate enough to not have launched any air strikes into Syria since Wednesday.

Update: Click on the above image to enlarge it for a more detailed look at the capabilities of the S-400.