Brief News International

Rising violence in Occupied Kashmir : Indian troops martyr 18 Kashmiri youths

HELD SRINAGAR:  On Saturday 15 Dec. , the Indian troops  martyred 11 innocent and unarmed youths and injured dozens of others in Pulwama district of Held Kashmir, the Kashmir Media Service reported. The fresh killings drew a strong condemnation from Pakistan. Three youths were killed during a cordon and search operation launched by troops in Kharpora Sirnoo area of the district. The killing sparked protests by residents resulting in clashes between the demonstrators and the Indian occupation forces. The India troops fired bullets, pellets and teargas shells to disperse the protesters which led to martyrdom of eight more youths.

On Saturday 22 Dec.,   Indian troops martyr 7 more youth in Occupied Kashmir. The youth were killed during a cordon and search operation jointly launched by Indian army, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force and Special Operation Group in Arampora area of the district.

The authorities suspended mobile and internet services immediately after the killings.

Pakistan strongly condemned the abhorrent and ruthless killings of innocent Kashmiri youths, including the father of a three-month baby, by direct Indian firing. “The Indian firing also left another 200 people injured,” said the Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal in a tweet. He said from blinding 18-month-old baby Hiba to murdering 14-year-old Kashmiri boys, India has made a mockery of human rights in the Held Kashmir.

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Indian ex-SC judge Markandy Katju slams Army Chief over massacre in Pulwama

SRINAGAR (Dunya News)  Indian former Supreme Court Justice, Markandey Katju, who has also been the chairman of the Press Council of India, has slammed the Indian Army Chief, for the massacre in the Pulwama region of Kashmir. Katju wrote sarcastically on twitter, “Congratulations to Gen Rawat whose soldiers killed 7 civilians in a Jallianwalabagh or My Lai type massacre in Pulwama, Kashmir. How brave of the Indian army General.” Katju wrote another tweet saying, “Three cheers for the Indian army which has now started killing civilians in Kashmir, like Gen Dyer at Jalianwala bagh, or Lt Calley at My Lai in Vietnam. All Indian army officers and soldiers should be given Bharat Ratna.”

National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah while reacting on the Pulwama civilian killings said that it is a massacre and there is no other way to describe it.

Earlier, Abdullah while reacting to the civilian killings had said that it was ‘another blood soaked weekend in Kashmir’.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti while reacting to the civilian killings has said that there would be no probe which would bring back the dead. She also asked that ‘is this what was expected from the Governor rule’? She also said that no country can win a war by killing its own people.

Peoples’ Conference chief Sajad Lone while reacting on the Pulwama civilian killings said that the administration seriously needs to evaluate the cost of such operations. He added that ‘hope the administration gives up its Rambo mindset.’

Police, in their statement said that they were ‘deeply grieved’ by the loss of civilian lives however claimed that the crowd came ‘dangerously close’ to the gunfight site.

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U.S. Plans Withdrawal of 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan

By : Anthony Capaccio

The U.S. plans to dramatically cut troop levels in Afghanistan as President Donald Trump reshapes America’s foreign commitments and fulfills long-standing promises to bring military forces home.

The Pentagon will withdraw 7,000 of about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. defense official. The decision emerged a day after Trump said he would pull U.S. forces from Syria, a move most of his national security team had opposed for months. And it comes as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced plans to resign, citing differences with Trump over the value of America’s alliances and leadership in the world.

Trump has long criticized the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, the longest military conflict in U.S. history and one that has cost about 2,300 American lives. He only reluctantly agreed to his military advisers’ request to allow about 4,000 more troops to be sent to the country last year.

Since American troops first arrived in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the U.S. has appropriated about $126 billion for relief and reconstruction, including $78 billion for security, according to a July report from a Pentagon watchdog. Yet the U.S. presence and funding couldn’t prevent conditions on the ground from deteriorating.

According to the Pentagon watchdog’s reports, the Kabul government’s grip on the country has been consistently shrinking, civilian deaths have been rising and the production of poppy used to make heroin was surging.

Publicly, Trump’s national security team has said its approach was effective. During a trip to Afghanistan in July, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo insisted that Trump’s strategy to fight the Taliban was working. Those thoughts were similar to those shared by Mattis, who earlier this year called Afghanistan a “tough fight” but said the American effort “is working from our perspective.” (Source: Bloomberg Politics)

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Militants Storm Afghan Government Offices in Kabul killed 48, injured 30+

On Monday, Dec. 24, a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated near the Ministry of Public Works, located near the Abdul Haq Square. Following the blast, suspected militants attacked the building. It remains unclear who is behind the attack, although the Taliban are highly suspected. Similar attacks on security forces are to be expected in Afghanistan over the coming weeks.

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US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns after clashes with Trump

21-12-2018 | AP Associated Press

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigned after clashing with President Donald Trump over the abrupt withdrawal of US troops from Syria and after two years of deep disagreements over America’s role in the world.  He told Trump in a letter that he was leaving because “you have a right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with yours.”

There was no confrontation between the two men, the official said, and there was no one issue that caused the resignation. However, the official said, Syria likely was the last straw for Mattis. Mattis did not mention the dispute over Syria in his letter or proposed deep cuts to US forces in Afghanistan, another significant policy dispute. He noted his “core belief” that American strength is “inextricably linked” with the nation’s alliances with other countries, a position seemingly at odds with the “America First” policy of the president. The defence secretary also said China and Russia want to spread their “authoritarian model” and promote their interests at the expense of America and its allies. “That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defence,” he wrote.

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Brett McGurk, top U.S. envoy in ISIS fight, resigns

BY MARGARET BRENNAN | McGurk submitted his resignation on Friday 21 Dec. , just one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis quit his post citing fundamental disagreements with the commander-in-chief — including one over the importance of honoring U.S. Alliances. The special envoy was publicly left in the lurch by the president’s sudden declaration that he was pulling U.S. forces out of Syria, against the advice of his top national security advisers and without consulting U.S. allies.

As leader of the counter ISIS mission, McGurk had been in the region to meet with coalition partners including Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani last week when Mr. Trump made his sudden decision to pull U.S. support. According to Barzani’s office, he had raised concern about the fate of Kurds in Syria including the Kurdish-led group of fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They have been the ground troops in the fight against ISIS and receive help from U.S. advisers, weapons and air strikes.

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44 ex-senators warn U.S. is ‘entering a dangerous period’

By QUINT FORGEY : A bipartisan group of nearly four dozen former senators warned current and future members of the Senate on Monday that the United States is “entering a dangerous period,” and urged them to defend America’s democracy by serving national interests rather than political ideologies.

“We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration,” the 44 ex-lawmakers wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post. “The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.”

The senators continued: “It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate. We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.”

The senators  32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two independents  also stressed the importance of casting aside party differences in confronting impending challenges, noting that during their time in Congress, “we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies.”

“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy,” the senators wrote. “Today is once again such a time.”

Though the op-ed did not refer to President Donald Trump by name, its ominous tone and solemn appeals were reminiscent of another opinion piece that recently riled up Washington  the anonymous letter published by The New York Times in September alleging that a “quiet resistance” within Trump’s executive branch had banded together to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

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Saudi Arabia Denounces U.S. Senate’s Rebuke On Jamal Khashoggi And Yemen War

December 17, 2018  | Accusing U.S. lawmakers of interfering in its affairs, Saudi Arabia has angrily rejected newly passed U.S. Senate resolutions ending U.S. support for the war in Yemen and laying blame for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the feet of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia released a statement  in which it “denounced the US Senate’s position based on baseless allegations and accusations, its interference in Saudi domestic affairs and its distorting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s role at regional and international levels.”

The Senate adopted the two resolutions with bipartisan support, despite ongoing U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s prominent role in Yemen’s civil war  and the repeated insistence from President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there is no direct evidence connecting the crown prince to Khashoggi’s death.

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Israel Reviews Decision to Lease Haifa Terminal to China

BY MAREX | Israel’s top-level security officials are examining an agreement with Shanghai International Port Group for the management of a container terminal in Haifa. The United States has expressed concerns about whether a Chinese presence in Haifa would be a barrier to U.S. operations in the port, including calls by American warships.

Last week, U.S. Navy spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines told the Jerusalem Post that he could not rule out changes to Navy deployments after SIPG arrives in Haifa. “For now, there are no changes to our operations in Israel [but] I can’t speculate on what might or might not occur in 2021,” he said.

According to comments recently reported by Newsweek, ex-chief of naval operations Adm. Gary Roughead (USN, ret’d) believes that a Chinese-run port in Haifa would mean that U.S. Navy ships could not regularly call at the Haifa naval base, Israel’s largest naval installation. He suggested that the likelihood of Chinese intelligence activity would present an enhanced risk to operational security.

When Israel sought to bring in a new port operator in Haifa in 2015, SIPG was the only bidder, and the two sides signed a lease to give SIPG control of a new terminal site beginning in 2021. SIPG operates the world’s busiest container port, the Port of Shanghai, along with other large terminals in China. While the firm is publicly listed, the majority of its shares are held by the government of Shanghai.

China has been rapidly expanding its network of port operations leases worldwide, in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Greece, Djibouti, Tanzania and beyond. The expansion has raised concerns among other nations about the national security implications of Chinese-operated terminals in strategic locations – and whether these facilities might serve a dual purpose. In Djibouti, China’s port facilities include an overt naval facility; in Sri Lanka, where China has taken control of the port of Hambantota in exchange for debt reduction, India is concerned that PLA Navy vessels could use the port as a naval base.’Source: The Maritime Executive)

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Turkey FM labels Netanyahu ‘A cold-blooded killer’

Turkey has hit out at Israel’s “lawless occupation” of Palestinian territory after the Israeli prime minister accused Turkey of “massacres” against Kurds in a new war of words.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu labelled Benjamin Netanyahu “a cold-blooded killer of modern times”, in a Tweet on Sunday, adding that the prime minister was “responsible for massacres of thousands of innocent Palestinians”.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have been tense this year over multiple issues including a controversial law passed by the Israeli parliament in July which defined the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “should not preach to Israel” after the Turkish leader warned young Turk on Saturday 22 Dec. “Do not kick the enemy you have brought down to the ground. You are not a Jew in Israel.”

Netanyahu said Erdogan was “the occupier of northern Cyprus, whose army massacres women and children in Kurdish villages, inside and outside Turkey” in a tweet late on Saturday 22 Dec.

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Japan to get first aircraft carriers since World War II as part of record $242bn defense plan

(18 Dec, 2018) For the first time since World War II, Japan is seeking aircraft carriers to counter what it says is a growing threat from China. Tokyo also wants to purchase over 100 F-35s as part of a staggering $242-billion defense plan. Japan will spend the hefty sum on top-notch equipment between now and 2024, according to a record five-year military budget approved on Tuesday. The spending plan includes the acquisition of two aircraft carriers capable of launching fighter jets.

The ships will not be built from scratch, and will instead be converted from a pair of flat-top Izumo-class helicopter carriers that are currently operated by the Japanese Navy. The 27,000-ton vessels, named after old Japan’s Izumo province, is the largest in the Navy’s inventory.

It has neither a ski-jump nor a catapult, but has the potential to accommodate fixed-wing aircraft that are capable of short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) operations. The F-35B is apparently the only candidate to fulfil this role, and the hefty Japanese defense budget also includes buying 42 such fighters over the coming decade. The new ships and fighter jets are set to “increase operational flexibility” for the military in terms of protecting remote Japanese islands in southern waters, a defense official told AFP. “We have a very, very small [military] footprint” in the area between Okinawa and Taiwan, he said.

However, it would be wrong to believe that the upgrades will turn the Izumo-class vessels into “full-fledged aircraft carriers,” the official said. “We are not creating carrier air wings or carrier air squadrons” like the US Navy, he explained, adding that the incoming F-35s would be stationed at existing ground facilities rather than on the ships.

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Modi’s BJP suffers heavy election defeats in Hindi heartland (INDIAN ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS 2018)

Congress wins in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and leads in Madhya Pradesh six months before national vote

The party of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has suffered heavy election defeats in two states, with another on a knife edge, in a bruising day of results that exposed the party’s vulnerability less than six months before the country goes to the polls.

The governing Bharatiya Janata party’s (BJP) vote collapsed by 17 percentage points in Rajasthan state and by at least 12 points in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, all part of the Hindi heartland where Indian governments are traditionally made or broken. Those losses, as well as the revival of a Congress party frequently written off in the past five years, had analysts revising their predictions for next year’s national polls, which Modi had been expected to win in a cakewalk.

PM Modi Accepts Defeat In Assembly Polls : Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted defeat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed a press conference today after poll trends indicated massive gains for his party in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. He thanked the workers of the party and launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP. He said PM Modi hadn’t delivered on the promises that he made before coming to power.

Seats · Projections · 90/90 seats declared

46 needed for majority

Party                                                                     Seats                     Pct.

Indian National Congress (INC)                  68                           75.6%

Bharti Janta Party (BJP)                                 15                           16.7%

Janata Congress Chhattisgarh  JCC(J)       5                              5.6%

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)                          2                              2.2%

Communist Party of India (CPI)                  0                              0%

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Pakistan Army trying to revive militancy in Punjab : Indian CM Punjab; Amarinder Singh

Amarinder was reacting to the statement by the SFJ seeking Pakistan’s help to ‘liberate’ Punjab from India. The CM said it has exposed the nefarious designs of the organisation and its nexus with the Pakistani Army and the ISI.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reiterated that Pakistan’s decision to open the Kartarpur Corridor was an “ISI game-plan to help forces inimical to India, including the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ)”.

Amarinder was reacting to the statement by the SFJ seeking Pakistan’s help to ‘liberate’ Punjab from India. The CM said it has exposed the nefarious designs of the organisation and its nexus with the Pakistani Army and the ISI. He also took exception to SFJ’s plans to hold Kartarpur Sahib Convention, 2019, coinciding with auspicious occasion of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. In a statement, Amarinder said, “It has also once again proved that the Pak government had always been, and continues to remain, a puppet regime, working at the behest of the Army there, he added. “The whole affair is a bigger conspiracy by the Pak Army, which is persistently trying to revive militancy in Punjab,” said the chief minister, reiterating his stand on the issue.

In a reaction to the statement of SFJ’s legal advisor Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, Amarinder Singh said the cat is now well and truly out of the bag, and the truth of the deep-rooted connection between SJF and Pakistani Army is out in the open.

The statement has nailed SJF’s lies that it is a peaceful movement to build momentum for a referendum on a separate state of Khalistan, said the chief minister, adding that it is more than evident now that the organisation, with the full support and backing of Pak Army and ISI, is striving to foment trouble in Indian Punjab.  “Through his statement, Pannu has made clear his intentions of going all out to force the secession of Punjab from India, with the backing of Pak Army and ISI,” said the Punjab Chief Minister. “Punjab is today much better equipped than it was in the 80s and 90s when Pak-backed terrorism had swept the state,” he said, warning Islamabad against extending any further support to SFJ or other such outfits that are bent on disturbing the state’s hard-earned peace.

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India to officially start operating Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar

TEHRAN ( 24 Dec. ) Opening an office in Iran on Monday, India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) has officially taken over the operations at phase 1 of Shahid Beheshti Port in Iran’s southeastern port city of Chabahar, IRNA reported quoting director of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) for ports and economic affairs.

According to Mohammad-Ali Hassanzadeh, under the contract between PMO and India Ports Global Limited (IPGL), India would operate phase 1 of Shahid Beheshti Port for a term of one and a half year. “The short-term lease then will be extended to a 10-year lease if the two sides agree to do so”, the official said. Hassanzadeh further noted that the short-term lease would see IPGL to conduct operations like loading and unloading, equipment supply and marketing at the mentioned port.

The IPGL office is opened concurrent with the first meeting of Chabahar Agreement Committee’s parties to monitor the implementation of the trilateral agreement. Delegations from India, Afghanistan and Iran visited various parts of Shahid Beheshti Port to assess the infrastructure and investment opportunities as well as commercial and transit facilities of Chabahar Port.

Chinese Submarine Tracked in the Indian Ocean in October – Indian Navy Chief

China has maintained that its deployment of warships in the Indian Ocean is primarily to support anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. However, ever since October, when a Chinese submarine was spotted for the first time since the Doklam stand-off last year, India has chosen to view its activity with caution. In October, the Indian Navy tracked a Chinese submarine that ventured into the Indian Ocean for a month, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said. Admiral Lanba further added that there are about six to eight Chinese PLA Navy ships in the Indian Ocean at any given time.  “India had tracked a conventional Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean region; it stayed for a month and has now gone back,” Admiral Sunil Lanba said while addressing a press conference on Monday in New Delhi.

Chinese authorities haven’t responded to the Indian Navy Chief’s statement.

It is believed that China deployed a Type 039A Yuan-class submarine in the Indian Ocean for the first time since the Doklam incident last year, when Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a bitter standoff at the disputed tri-junction of India, Bhutan, and China after a Chinese road construction company alleged conducted a survey of the area.

Though the present number of Chinese warships in the region is about half of the 14 which were present during the Doklam stand-off last year, 50 Indian Navy ships have remained on alert to secure the safety of India’s maritime domain, as part of the country’s mission-based deployment. The Indian Navy has a dominant position in the Indian Ocean region, Admiral Lanba told the media.

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Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd  (BHEL) despatches 40th Nuclear Steam Generator to NPCIL

New Delhi: Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), the country’s largest power equipment manufacturer, said it has dispatched its 40th Nuclear Steam Generator to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). The steam generator, to be installed in NPCIL’s Rajasthan Atomic Power Project, was flagged off from BHEL’s Trichy plant in Tamil Nadu, the firm said. BHEL has been catering to the nation’s nuclear programme since 1976 by way of design, manufacture, testing, and supply of critical nuclear components such as reactor headers, steam generators, other heat exchangers and pressure vessels.

The first stage of the indigenous nuclear power programme of the country has attained maturity with 18 operating pressurised heavy-water reactors (PHWRs). Twelve PHWRs accounting for 74 per cent of the nuclear power capacity are equipped with BHEL-supplied steam turbine generator sets — 10 units of 220 Megawatt (MW) each and two units of 540 MW.

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ISRO’S GSAT-7A TO GIVE INDIAN MILITARY, DRONES MORE STING

DEC 17, 2018| The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch’s newest military satellite, GSAT-7A, into orbit on 19 December. The satellite will be carried by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F11 (GSLV-F11) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The GSLV-F-11/GSAT-7A mission marks ISRO’s 35th communication satellite and the 13th flight of the GSLV rocket to orbit.

GSAT-7A satellite:

GSAT-7A is ISRO’s 35th communications satellite built exclusively for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army. The satellite will expand the communication capabilities of the IAF in different ways. First, GSAT-7A will allow cross-connectivity between different ground radar stations, airbases and Airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft like the Beriev A-50 Phalcon and DRDO AEW&CS.

The satellite will also boost the air force’s network-dependent warfare capabilities, enhancing its abilities to operate globally.

It is also expected to give a big push to drone operations in the Indian military by helping the Navy reduce its reliance on ground-based control stations and switch to satellite-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), that offer better range and endurance, industry experts told Business Standard.

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Indonesia tsunami kills 429, more than 1500 Injured , 218 missing (updated by 31 Dec.)

“This number is predicted to increase because not all victims have been successfully evacuated, not all health centres have reported victims and not all locations have got complete data.”

The tsunami hit both sides of Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, sending a wall of water crashing about 20 metres inland and sweeping away hundreds of homes and hotels, officials and witnesses have said. Scientists from Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency, also known as BMKG, said it could have been caused by undersea landslides from the eruption of Anak Krakatau, a volcanic island formed over years from the nearby Krakatau volcano. They also cited tidal waves caused by the full moon.

The worst affected area was the Pandeglang region of Banten province in Java, which encompasses the Ujung Kulon National Park and popular beaches, the disaster agency said.  Alif, a resident in Pandeglang district, said the tsunami reached about three metres high. He told MetroTV station that many people were still searching for missing relatives. TV footage showed roads blocked by debris from damaged houses, overturned cars and fallen trees. The water washed away an outdoor stage where a local rock band was performing, killing at least one musician. Others were missing.

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Russia must scrap or alter missiles U.S. says violate arms treaty

Jonathan La Arshad Mohammed | Reuter (6 Dec. )

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia must scrap its 9M729 nuclear-capable cruise missiles and launchers or modify the weapons’ range to return to compliance with a key Cold War-era arms control treaty and avert a U.S. pullout from the pact, a senior U.S. official said. “Either you rid the system, rid the launcher or change the system where it doesn’t exceed the range” in a verifiable manner, said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson.

On Tuesday, the United States announced it was giving Russia 60 days to end what Washington charges is the missiles’ violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or it would begin to withdraw from the pact. The possibility that the treaty might unravel alarms Washington’s European allies, who fear its collapse would trigger a new U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons race with the danger that Europe itself could become a nuclear battleground. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who briefed reporters with Thompson, said that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty “does not mean we are walking away from arms control.”

“We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating,” Huntsman said. Sounding a similar theme on Thursday at a Washington Post event, the top U.S. military commander warned that Russia’s continued breach of the INF pact could hamper extending the New START treaty, which limits U.S. and Russian offensive nuclear weapons deployments, beyond its Feb. 5, 2021, expiration.

The United States and its European allies charge that what Moscow calls the 9M729 Novator cruise missile – designated the SSC-8 by the NATO Western security alliance – breaches the treaty’s range limit of 500 to 5,000 km (310 to 3,420 miles).

The treaty also bans the production and testing of missiles with such ranges and their launchers.

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Russia Can Easily Make Intermediate Missiles If U.S. Quits Nuclear Treaty

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia could easily make and deploy land-based intermediate-range missiles if the United States made good on a threat to quit a landmark nuclear arms control treaty. The United States has accused Russia of flouting the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Washington and Moscow during the Cold War and has said it will quit it unless Russia comes back into compliance. Putin on Tuesday denied his country was in violation of the agreement, but said it had developed powerful airborne and sea-based cruise missiles and could easily roll out land-based missiles if Washington walked away from the pact.

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Russia’s ‘invulnerable’ nuclear missile ready to deploy

Tass: Wed. 26 Dec. | Russia’s new hypersonic missile system, which President Vladimir Putin claims is “invulnerable” to US defenses, will enter service in 2019, the Russian leader said after a test of the missile . “Russia is the first in the world to receive a new type of strategic weapon and this will reliably ensure the security of our state and of our people for decades to come,” Putin said, according to the state-run Tass news service.

“This is a wonderful, excellent gift for the country for the New Year,” Tass quotes Putin as saying. The Avangard hypersonic system was tested from the Dombarovsky military airbase in southwest Russia, according to Tass.

Earlier reports say the Avangard has intercontinental range and the ability to fly as fast as Mach 20, more than 15,000 miles per hour.

As it closes in on its target, the missile with a maneuverable gliding warhead can adjust both altitude and direction to avoid defenses and fly low enough to avoid most interceptors, Tass has reported. “It will be practically invulnerable,” Putin said when he boasted of the Avangard during a March address to the Russian Parliament.

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Trump Makes Surprise Visit to American Troops in Iraq

President Trump visited American military forces on Wednesday in Iraq, making his first trip to troops stationed in a combat zone only days after announcing his intention to withdraw the United States from foreign wars in Syria and Afghanistan.

The trip, shrouded in secrecy, came during a partial government shutdown and less than a week after Mr. Trump disrupted the military status quo and infuriated even some of his political allies by announcing plans to withdraw all troops from Syria and about half from Afghanistan. Speaking to troops at Al Asad Air Base, Mr. Trump defended his move in Syria. “We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” the president said, adding, “Our presence in Syria was not open-ended, and it was never intended to be permanent. Eight years ago, we went there for three months, and we never left.”

Trump, who visited the air base with his wife, Melania, said he had rejected requests from military commanders to remain in Syria for another six months.

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Iraqi lawmakers demand US withdrawal after Trump visit

BAGHDAD (AP)  Iraqi lawmakers Thursday demanded U.S. forces leave the country following a surprise visit by President Donald Trump that politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of national sovereignty.

Trump’s trip to U.S. servicemen and women at al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq on Wednesday was unannounced and the subject of extreme security, which is routine for presidential visits to conflict regions. But it came at a time when containing foreign influence has become a hot-button issue in Iraqi politics, and it provoked vociferous backlash.

Iraqi lawmakers were smarting after the U.S. president left three hours after he arrived without meeting any officials, drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

“Trump needs to know his limits. The American occupation of Iraq is over,” said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in Iraq’s parliament.

Trump, al-Saidi added, had slipped into Iraq, “as though Iraq is a state of the United States.”

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German F.M. doesn’t want American Nukes in his country

26 Dec, 2018 |German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas says American nuclear missiles must not be stationed in Germany, or anywhere in Europe, in Washington’s arms control debate with Moscow. “The deployment of new medium-range missiles would meet with widespread resistance in Germany,” Maas said in an interview with German news agency . The US is set to quit the 30-year-old INF treaty with Russia, which has been preventing Washington from stationing such missiles in Europe. Both countries accuse each other of violating the treaty, and both deny any wrongdoing on their own part.

“By no means should Europe become the scene of a debate on weapons build-up,” Maas said. Deploying nuclear weapons in response to supposed treaty violations is Cold War-era logic, the German diplomat believes.

“Nuclear armament is certainly the wrong answer,” he said. “The policy of the 80s does not help to answer the questions of today.”

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Syrian Kurds throw Americans under the Bus

The Syrian government forces have entered the northern town of Manbij on the Turkish border earlier today. The Syrian military command announced in Damascus that the operation stemmed from the commitment to “impose sovereignty to each inch of Syrian territories and in response to calls of locals of Manbij city.”

The Syrian government forces have entered the northern town of Manbij on the Turkish border earlier today. The Syrian military command announced in Damascus that the operation stemmed from the commitment to “impose sovereignty to each inch of Syrian territories and in response to calls of locals of Manbij city.”

The announcement reiterated Damascus’ twin objective of “smashing terrorism and expelling the invaders and occupiers out of Syrian soil.” The government troops have hoisted the Syrian Arab flag in Manbij.

In a highly significant move, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov promptly welcomed the development. “No doubt, this is a positive step towards stabilizing the situation,” the spokesman said. He added that the expansion of the zone of the Syrian government troops’ control “is a positive trend.”

The fact of the matter is that while Russia welcomes Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and regards it as “important in that it can promote a comprehensive settlement of the situation” Moscow remains extremely wary of what it entails. So far, even after a week of Trump’s announcement, Washington has not contacted Moscow to explain its decision.

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Turkish media reveals half of French bases in Syria

 to get gaps in defenses once US troops withdraw

(30 Dec, 2018) US troops pulling out of Syria have been manning several of France’s bases there, Turkish state media reported, while exposing locations of 9 French-occupied sites. It implied that Paris soon won’t be able to defend Syrian Kurds.

There are at least nine French bases scattered across northern Syria, according to the investigation carried out by Anadolu Agency. France apparently expanded its presence since March, when the media counted only five French military facilities. At least four of the French bases in northern Syria are also manned by the withdrawing US troops, the report says. The other five would also be left more vulnerable since France can only “ensure their continued mobility by relying on” US troops or YPG militia for support.

“Under current circumstances, France does not seem to be able to provide a similar level of support to the YPG / PKK by filling the gap that will arise from the withdrawal of the US from Syria,” it adds.

While the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria has been relying on Kurdish militias on the ground, Ankara sees the YPG, or People’s Protection Units, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which it considers terrorist and blames for attacks at home.

France has been secretive on its operations in Syria, saying only that about 1,100 soldiers serve in the Middle East. The exact numbers of troops in Syria haven’t been revealed, even since the Operation Chammal started in Syria back in September 2015.  On December 19 US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US troops  some 2,000  from Syria, citing the “defeat” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The withdrawal is reportedly to take between two and three months. So far the US troops abandoned only one base in north-eastern Syria, according to Turkish media.

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The events that shook the Palestinian territories in 2018

With little reason for optimism for 2019, here are the main events that rocked the West Bank, Gaza and Israel this year.

Over the past year, Palestinians have experienced no respite from the Israeli occupation, let alone a breakthrough of ending it. Although no full-scale war broke out in 2018, as some had expected, it did bring a grim year of deadly violence, illegal settlement expansion and home demolitions.

At least 289 Palestinians – men, women and children – were killed throughout 2018, while thousands of others were wounded, including many who were maimed for life by Israeli gunfire. According to the Defense for Children organization, the death toll includes 56 Palestinian children – an average of more than one child every week.  At least 538 housing units and facilities were demolished in the occupied West Bank, resulting in 1,300 Palestinians losing their homes, a report by the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Centre for Studies and Documentation said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza is still ongoing, which the United Nations has repeatedly warned is having a devastating effect on the strip’s two million population.

A number of jarring decisions made by the United States, such as moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, finally convinced the Palestinian leadership of the US’ bias in the conflict. President Donald Trump has also declared an end to the funding of the main UN refugee agency for Palestinians, putting five million refugees in the occupied territories and neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, at risk of not receiving food aid, education, vocational training, jobs and much more.  ‘Courtesy Al Jazeera News’

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Sheikh Hasina ruling party  wins third term in Bangladesh elections marred by deadly violence

(Bangladesh : Dec. 30) Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party won a landslide of 288 votes out of a possible 300, according to the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi, with just one seat left to be declared. The opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) took seven seats. The opposition Jatiya Oikya Front has rejected the vote and demanded a fresh election, accusing the AL of stuffing ballot boxes.

Her government has also been accused of human rights abuses during the election. At least 15 people were killed in election-related violence when clashes broke out between ruling party supporters and the opposition. The military was deployed across the country to try to prevent the violence seen during recent polls, which were tarnished by a low turnout and boycotted by the largest opposition group and its allies. But nine people were killed in Chittagong division alone on Sunday, police official said.

The Bangladesh Awami League, led by 71-year-old Hasina, has been in power since 2009 and won the last election in January 2014 with a resounding majority amid a boycott. But Hasina has since been accused of authoritarianism and harassment of the media and opposition figures, even as she presides over strong economic growth.

Concerns over transparency: Human rights groups and opposition figures had warned that Sunday’s election could be rigged despite promises of transparency from the authorities.

The deadly violence and bitter rivalry that marred the election campaign spilled over into voting day, even as authorities imposed tight security with 600,000 troops, police and other security forces deployed across the country.

Bangladesh’s Telecoms regulator has ordered mobile operators to shut down high-speed mobile internet services until midnight Sunday, the day of a national election.

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Belgium New Men’s World Cup Hockey Champion 2018   (28 Nov – 16 Dec)

Belgium beat Netherlands in shootout to win Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018

Australia crushed England 8-1 to win Bronze medal

(Kalinga Stadium | Odisha capital of  Bhubaneswar, India) Belgium achieved their dream as they lift their first World Cup title. They are the sixth country to lift the World Cup. A gritty Belgium defeated former champions the Netherlands in sudden death in a thrilling summit clash to win their maiden men’s hockey World Cup title at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Olympic silver medallist Belgium created history by eking out a 3-2 win in the penalty shoot-out after the final match of the game’s showpiece event ended in a goalless draw. It was a great day for Belgium hockey as the country registered its second biggest international title after the Olympics silver in Rio in 2016. In the last edition of the World Cup at The Hague in Netherlands, Belgium had finished fifth.

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