Sunday, May 20, 2018

Democracy Continues Its Disturbing Decline

WNU editor: This trend has unfortunately been happening for a very long time.

This Is How The U.S. Could Be Drawn Into Intervening And Stabilizing Venezuela

Opposition supporters clash with riot police during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Veron

Michael Carvelli, RCD/The Bridge: How a Venezuelan Collapse Could Draw in the United States

It appears Venezuela is heading towards a political and economic collapse. President Nicolas Maduro’s United Socialist Party lost its majority in the National Assembly during the 2015 parliamentary election. In March of this year, Venezuela’s Supreme Court announced that it was taking over the powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Maduro’s party is continuing to consolidate its domestic power. Meanwhile, the country is running out of food, hospitals are overcrowded, and electricity is not guaranteed. The results of this political and economic turmoil could plausibly create a destabilizing situation in the Western Hemisphere.

The history of Venezuela’s recent turn to turmoil is not a short tale. President Hugo Chavez’s election in 1999 marked the beginning of deep changes in the country’s ideology. His ideology, and that of his successor, President Maduro, have shifted the country’s government towards socialism, further fracturing the domestic balance of power. As perhaps the most unstable government in South America a collapse of the Venezuelan government, and the resulting uncertainty could draw the U.S. and its competitors into the crisis. The U.S. would face a complex situation if a collapse materializes.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The last thing that anyone wants to do is to send soldiers into Venezuela. When you break it you own it, and any intervention of Venezuela will not only break what little remains that functions properly .... but it will also guarantee a long term presence and the expenditure of tens of billions in aid. Unfortunately .... Venezuela is rapidly approaching that status of a failed state, and if the exodus of Venezuelans continue to grow, all bets are off. My prediction .... and it is based on what I personally experienced in the former Soviet Union before it collapsed .... is that it will take another 2 years (or more) before the people who run and manage the country say enough is enough. And when that day happens is when someone like President Nicolas Maduro will either send in the tanks and hope that most of them obey his orders, or he flees the country. My money is on him fleeing the country.

Venezuelan Soldiers Are Dissenting And Deserting

Soldiers stand in formation before the start of a ceremony to kick off the distribution of security forcers and voting materials to be used in the upcoming presidential elections, at Fort Tiuna military base in Caracas, Venezuela May 15, 2018. Pictures taken on May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Reuters: Exclusive: In run-up to Venezuelan vote, more soldiers dissent and desert

CARACAS/SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) - Arrests for rebellion and desertion are rising sharply in Venezuela’s armed forces, a mainstay of President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist government, amid discontent within the ranks at food shortages and dwindling salaries, according to documents and interviews with army personnel.

Internal military documents reviewed by Reuters showed that the number of soldiers detained for treason, rebellion and desertion rose to 172 in the first four months of the year, up three-and-a-half times on the same period of 2017.

Former military officials said the figures reflected a dramatic increase in the level of dissent within Venezuela’s once-proud armed forces. In the whole of 2017, a total of 196 soldiers were arrested on similar charges, according to the same documents.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: It seems that the state of the Venezuelan military has become a major news story for the wire services. Only yesterday the AP was reporting on this .... Venezuela's Soldiers Are Going Hungry (AP)

Iran Prepares For Economic War Against The U.S.

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi//File Photo

The Economist: Iran braces for economic war with America

Will the coming crunch destabilise the regime?

TEHRAN’S grand bazaar, a weathervane of politics, is on strike again. Shutdowns there foreshadowed Iran’s 1979 revolution. In 2012 they pushed the government into talks that eventually resulted in a deal, signed in 2015, that restricted Iran’s nuclear efforts in exchange for sanctions relief. And Donald Trump’s pull-out from that deal on May 8th drew an instant reaction from traders, who sense something ominous. “Tehran feels like it did before...1979,” says Pejman Abdolmohammadi, an Iranian lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Iran’s business world was already glum. America’s continued curbs on dollar transactions had muted the effect of the lifting of global sanctions in January 2016. But now, merchants say, America is moving from containing the regime to trying to change it. Mr Trump has told firms worldwide that they have three to six months to cut ties with Iran or face sanctions, too. Oil exports, which rose as a result of the deal, are already falling. Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, no longer takes orders for Iranian oil. South Korea has cut oil imports from Iran by 40%.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: It looks like the Iranian regime is about to get a big break .... Europe, China, Russia discussing new deal for Iran: newspaper (Reuters)

Russian President Putin Likes To Promote His Bodyguards

Reuters: Putin promotes ex-bodyguard to new cabinet

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin handed ministerial jobs to a former bodyguard and the son of an ex-intelligence chief on Friday, promoting trusted lieutenants with security ties at the start of what, under the constitution, will be his last term in office.

In a new Cabinet line-up approved by Putin, established big-hitters, such as veteran Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, kept their jobs, suggesting there would be little change of tack on policy in the new presidential term.

One new entrant to the Cabinet was Yevgeny Zinichev, 51, a former deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), who becomes head of the high-profile emergencies ministry.

A biography carried by state-run media said he was born in St Petersburg, which is also Putin’s home city. Then from 1987 to 2015 he served in the state security services, a similar career path to the one taken by Putin, himself a former KGB spy.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Another normal day in the Kremlin.

Watch This Low-Flying Saudi C-130 Buzz Right Over A Soldier On The Ground In Yemen

Warzone/The Drive: Crazy Low-Flying Saudi C-130 Buzzes Right Over A Soldier On The Ground In Yemen

When they're not hot-dogging, the planes are hauling troops, weapons, and even aid as part of Riyadh's campaign against Iranian-backed rebels.

For years now, the Royal Saudi Air Force has been heavily engaged in operations in neighboring Yemen as part of a controversial coalition effort to defeat Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and their partners. Though Riyadh's combat jets, such as its F-15S Eagles, Eurofighter Typhoons, and Panavia Tornados, have captured most of the media attention, its fleet of C-130H Hercules airlifters have been especially important for supporting operations on the ground – and the crews are apparently equally eager to show off their more extreme skills.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I've seen lower.

Tweets For Today

This Blue Angels Cockpit Video Is Amazing

We Are The Mighty: This Blue Angels cockpit video is terrifying and amazing

This cockpit video footage of Blue Angel 4 in the "slot" position shows F/A-18 Hornets flying INCHES from each other — even as they do advanced aerial acrobatics.

Oh, and it's a 360 degree video, so you can get the full picture of what these maneuvers are like (minus the 8's pulled during the demonstration).

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels showcase the pride and badassery of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Each year, they perform more than 50 flight demonstrations at more than 25 air show sites.

Read more ....

Picture Of The Day

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss on the steps of St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding. Ben Birchall/Pool via Reuters, May 19, 2018

WNU Editor: The above picture is from the following photo-gallery .... The royal wedding (Reuters).

This Map Illustrates China's Anti-Access/Area Denial Capabilities

WNU Editor: The Chinese are covering a lot of territory.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mexico Presidential Frontrunner Vows To Respond To President Trump's Tweets

Leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the front runner in Mexico's July 1 presidential election (AFP Photo/ALFREDO ESTRELLA)

AFP: Mexico presidential frontrunner vows to hit back at Trump tweets

Mexico City (AFP) - The fiery leftist leading the race for Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, vowed Friday to hit back at US President Donald Trump if he insults Mexico on Twitter.

"If he makes an offensive tweet, I'm going to take responsibility for answering him," said Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor who has a double-digit lead in most opinion polls heading into the July 1 election.

"I think (Trump) is going to understand he has to get himself under control, that he can't go around offending the Mexican people. We don't want confrontations with him, but we are going to ask him to respect us," he said at a campaign rally in the town of Huajuapan, in the southern state of Oaxaca.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: He will have bigger problems being President (if he is elected) than responding to tweets from President Trump.

A Closer Look At North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un's Security Detail

Task & Purpose: What Kim Jong Un’s Crazy Elite Bodyguards Teach Us About Threat Deterrence

The recent diplomatic talks between North and South Korea, in advance of an historic Singapore summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, gave us a unique opportunity to observe Kim’s security detail. According to this article on Yahoo, the North Korean leader “was escorted by a phalanx of bodyguards carefully chosen for their fitness, marksmanship, martial arts skills and even looks.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: During the DMZ talks I noticed that the North Korean security detail were only focused on two people .... Kim Jong-un, and his sister, Kim Yo-jong.

North Korea Issues New Demands

North Korean soldiers chat as they walk on the banks of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, June 1, 2014. REUTERS/Jacky Chen

Yonhap News Agency: N. Korea demands return of defectors from S. Korea

SEOUL, May 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Saturday called for the release of North Korean defectors that it claims have been lured and kidnapped by South Korea, offering a possible reason for its recent suspension of dialogue with Seoul.

In a report by the country's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unidentified spokesman for North Korea's Red Cross Society insisted that it has been proven that the North Koreans were "forcibly abducted," citing a recent report by a South Korean broadcaster that suggested the former employees of a North Korean restaurant in China may have in fact been lured into defecting from their communist homeland.

Read more ....

Update: North Korea demands South Korea send back restaurant workers (AP)

WNU Editor: Repatriating these defectors would mean prison ... and all of this is happening on the day that two soldiers were successful in defecting from North Korea .... 2 North Koreans, including a military officer, reportedly defect to South Korea (Reuters). As I had mentioned in a commentary earlier today, it would be best to suspend the Singapore Summit until more progress is made .... because right now there is nothing to talk about.

U.S. Ends Aid For Northwestern Syria

US forces, accompanied by YPG militants, drive their armored vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey on April 28, 2017. (AFP Photo)

CBS: Trump administration ends aid for northwestern Syria

The Trump administration has withdrawn all assistance from Northwest Syria, according to administration officials. This is the newest demonstration of the administration's intent to briskly exit the country once ISIS is fully defeated.

The decision, made through an inter-agency process over the last few weeks, will mean that tens of millions of dollars will be cut off from previous U.S.-backed efforts to strengthen and stabilize the local society. Projects included countering violent extremism, supporting independent society and independent media, strengthening education, and advocating for community policing. The region will become the first area of the country where, other than humanitarian aid, the U.S. is officially disengaging.

Read more ....

More News On The U.S. Ending Aid For Northwestern Syria

U.S. to withdraw assistance from northwest Syria: U.S. officials -- Reuters
US withdrawing aid from northwest Syria -- CNN
US ends aid for northwest Syria: report -- The Hill
Trump cuts assistance to US-backed forces in northern Syria -- New Arab
Trump pulling assistance from northwest Syria to focus on supporting SDF in northeast: report -- Daily Sabah
Washington Halts Financial Assistance in Northwest Syria – Reports -- Sputnik
US withdrawing assistance from northwest Syria: Reports -- Middle East Eye
General Joe Votel, head of US Central Command

AFP: US-Iraq military relations not impacted by election: US general

Washington (AFP) - The US military's relationship with Iraq's security forces will not be impacted by the election win of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose followers fought US troops in past years, a top general said Friday.

General Joe Votel, who heads the US military's Central Command, which oversees forces in the Middle East, told AFP he had confidence in the positive dynamic built up while the Iraqis fought the Islamic State jihadist group for three years.

"They are very focused on continuing to provide protection for their people and increasing the capabilities and professionalism of their force, so I think we have a very good relationship and their military -- much like our military -- is very apolitical," Votel said in a phone interview.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I disagree with General Votel's assessment. If there is one thing that the Iraqi election has taught us is that many voters want change .... and that that includes the county's relationship with the US.

Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Coalition Has Won Iraq's Parliamentary Elections

BBC: Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr's bloc wins Iraq elections

An alliance headed by a former Shia militia chief who led two uprisings against the US-led invasion of Iraq has won the parliamentary elections.

But Moqtada Sadr, who is also staunchly opposed to Iranian involvement in the country, cannot become prime minister as he did not stand as a candidate.

However, he is expected to play a major role in forming the new government.

The party of outgoing PM Haider al-Abadi was pushed into third place, behind a pro-Iranian alliance.

Mr Sadr's win represents a remarkable comeback for the cleric after he was sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: To begin .... this election did not face the violence of past years .... and this is an incredible accomplishment. As for the election .... there were 329 seats up for grabs, and the breakdown on who won what is this .... Sadr's Saeroun bloc won 54 seats of the 329 seats in the parliament, the most of any coalition. The pro-Iranian Fatah Alliance, led by Hadi al-Amiri, took 48 seats, while the Victory Alliance, led by Washington's preferred candidate, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, won 42 seats. Bottom line .... a coalition government needs to be formed. This is probably going to take some time, and what is not helping the situation is that before the election Iran publicly stated that it would not allow al-Sadr's bloc to govern. And speaking of Iran .... according to Al Jazeera .... Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and a highly influential figure in Iraq, has been holding talks with politicians in Baghdad to promote the formation of a new cabinet that would have Iran's approval.

More News On Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Coalition Wins The Most Seats In Iraq's Parliamentary Election

Militant-turned-populist cleric Sadr wins Iraqi election -- AP
Cleric Sadr wins Iraq poll but forming government far off -- AFP
Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc wins Iraq election -- Reuters
Populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's coalition wins Iraq's election -- CNN
Al Sadr's bloc confirmed as winner of Iraq election -- The National
Iraq elections final results: Sadr's bloc wins parliamentary poll -- Al Jazeera
After election victory, Sadr tweets to Iraqis ‘we will not let you down’ -- Al Arabiya
Analysis: Political earthquake in Iraq threatens to thwart Iran's plans -- Arutz Sheva
Sadr’s bloc wins Iraq election but forming government far off -- Middle East Eye
New Iraqi Government Unlikely to Cozy up to Iran -- Stratfor

Here Are The 4 Helicopters That The US Army Flies On Top-Secret Missions

MARSOC personnel fast rope from an MH-60L Black Hawk
(US Marine Corps)

We Are The Mighty: These are the aircraft used by the Army's premier special ops aviation unit

Some know them as Task Force Brown, others fear them as thunderous ghosts who approach in the darkest hours of the night. To the public, they're the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), but to the US Army and the special operations community, they're known only as the legendary Night Stalkers.

Their motto, "Death Waits in The Dark," tells you all you need to know. The Night Stalkers operate after sunset, flying through the blackness in some of the craziest scenarios and environments known to man. These are the best and most highly trained pilots the Army has to offer, undergoing months upon months of rigorous training until they are fully mission-qualified.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Speaking of helicopters, the U.S. Army wants a future attack-recon helicopter .... US Army starts work on future attack-recon helicopter (Fox News/Warrior Maven).

The Entire U.S. Army's Apache Helicopter Fleet Is Being Inspected For A Criticial Defect

US soldiers do in-depth maintenance on an AH-64D Apache helicopter at Fort Bliss, March 1, 2018. US Army

Task & Purpose: The Army Is Inspecting Its Entire Apache Helicopter Fleet For A Critical Defect

The Army has ordered aviation techs to widen their search for a broken part that can send Apache helicopter rotors catastrophically ripping loose mid-flight, according to documents obtained by Task & Purpose, a terrifying defect that has resulted in recent deadly Apache mishaps.

In April, Defense News reported the Pentagon ceased accepting deliveries of the AH-64E ‘Echo’ Apache months earlier due to a “critical” safety issue over the copter’s strap pack nut, the component that keeps the rotor blades from separating from the airframe. But a February Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) guidance goes even further by explicitly expanding new inspections from Army aircraft flown in “severe coastal” areas to include “all AH-64 aircraft, regardless of location.”

Read more ....

Update:The U.S. Army Is Inspecting Its Entire Fleet of Apache Helicopters for a Critical Flaw​​ (Popular Mechanics)

WNU editor: Here is the Defense News article that red-flagged this problem .... US Army stops accepting AH-64E helos from Boeing due to safety concerns (Defense News).