Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dozens of ISIS Leaders Escape from Iraq to Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

Erbil – Several ISIS commanders and their families are escaping from Mosul through Tal Afar and al-Baaj to Syria after managing to break the siege imposed by militias of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) around Tal Afar.
Sheikh of al-Shammar Tribe had confirmed that ISIS caliphate Abu Baker al-Baghdadi was injured after the coalition’s raid on Tal Afar while he was still inside the town.
Media Official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Mosul, Ghyath al-Surji told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS militants launched an extensive attack on PMF front lines to the west of Tal Afar. Using armored vehicles, tanks, and bombed cars, and after six continuous hours of battling, ISIS was able to break siege and open a passage towards Baaj.
According to Surji, during the night, dozens of cars carrying ISIS leaders and their families escaped on the road dug by the militants from Tal Afar to Syria, through Baaj.
Sheikh Thair Abdul Karim Watban al-Jarba, of the Arab Tribe Shammar in west Mosul, said that about 50 cars carrying militants of ISIS’ special forces coming from Syria tried to enter Tal Afar a few days ago.
The convoy was led by Iraqi national Abu Jannat, Baghdadi’s deputy, and was on a mission to accompany Baghdadi himself and several leaders and their families. Yet, Iraqi Air Force attacked them near al-Houl area where all but two cars were completely destroyed.
Jarba told Asharq Al-Awsat that during the air strike, Abu Jannat was killed along with head of security in Tal Afar, Zeid al-Afari.
According to information retrieved by the sheikh, Afari was one of the most prominent militants in ISIS and he was buried in Baaj, a day after the air strike.
Jarba confirmed that Baghdadi was injured during a coalition air raid in Tal Afar, almost ten days ago, and that was why he hadn’t been able to leave the city....

http://english.aawsat.com/2017/02/article55367563/dozens-isis-leaders-escape-iraq-syria

bth: So we are seeing similar patterns to other locations ISIS has evacuated. Burning of town  records, holding of hostages, a large-scale convoy heading through Baaj to Syria. In this case we have actually as rescue convoy trying to get in and then the convoys of families trying to get out. There is reference to a dug road but no other explanation and a 6 hour battle, one wonders where the air support was.  Also this story seems to confirm that Baghdadi was wounded in a prior attack. There has been much speculation about this.

Indonesian woman ‘tricked’ into killing North Korean leader’s brother -AP

The Indonesian woman arrested for suspected involvement in the killing of the North Korean leader's half brother in Malaysia was duped into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank, Indonesia's national police chief said Friday, citing information received from Malaysian authorities.
Tito Karnavian told reporters in Indonesia's Aceh province that Siti Aisyah, 25, was paid to be involved in "Just For Laughs" style pranks, a reference to a popular hidden camera show.
He said she and another woman performed stunts which involved convincing men to close their eyes and then spraying them with water.
"Such an action was done three or four times and they were given a few dollars for it, and with the last target, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly there were dangerous materials in the sprayer," Karnavian said.
"She was not aware that it was an assassination attempt by alleged foreign agents," he said.
Karnavian's comments come after a male relative of Aisyah said in an Indonesian television interview that she had been hired to perform in a short comedy movie and traveled to China as part of this work. Indonesian Immigration has said Aisyah traveled to Malaysia and other countries, which it did not specify...

bth: this is something right out of a movie.,

Daily Kos on Russian attempts to discredit western democracy

....
While Vladimir Putin is smart enough to understand that he could never succeed at a blacking mailing the U.S. government into consistently taking actions antithetical to U.S. interests, he could use whatever information he has – whether it is mundane but embarrassing conversations or salacious video tapes – to undermine faith in the American government and thus render the U.S. incapable of taking decisive action on the world stage.  This undermining of American citizens’ – and the world’s – faith in U.S. democracy is the true “Holy Grail” of Russian intelligence operations.  My sad (to again quote President Trump) conclusion is that Putin is succeeding.  If you doubt that assertion, just ask yourself what being a “patriot” means in today’s political environment.  Somehow, “patriot” has become the term applied to people who question American democracy, support armed insurrection and long for an American leader who is more like Putin (or Kim Jong Un or another dictator).
It is hard to doubt the depressing realization that Putin’s carefully orchestrated manipulation of the U.S. election and his careful nurturing of right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists have already taken their toll on faith in American democracy.  Over the coming months, we’ll all be witnesses as Putin continues his crusade by artfully doling out whatever “Kompromat” he has on President Trump and his inner circle to further undermine faith in a system of government that has endured for over 240 years.
So, where do we go from here?....
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/15/1634271/-Russia-and-American-Elections-Where-do-we-go-from-here

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Draft maritime law revisions say China may bar foreign ships from passing through its waters - Global Times China

China is to revise its 1984 Maritime Traffic Safety Law, which would allow the relevant authorities to bar some foreign ships from passing through Chinese territorial waters.
The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council announced Tuesday it is soliciting public opinions on the revisions.
The draft would empower maritime authorities to prevent foreign ships from entering Chinese waters if it is decided that the ships may harm traffic safety and order.
The draft revisions stipulate that authorities will be able to designate specific areas and temporarily bar foreign ships from passing through those areas according to their own assessment of maritime traffic safety.
The revisions are based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and Chinese laws on the sea, adjacent areas and exclusive economic zones, the office said....
http://en.people.cn/n3/2017/0216/c90000-9178826.html

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The strongman of Poland’s ruling national-conservative party has stoked a debate that was previously held in only a very limited capacity. In an interview with the daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Europe should be a superpowerwith a nuclear arsenal to rival that of Russia. He conceded that such a program would, however, be very costly and that he did not anticipate such investment. That aside, Kaczynski has broached a taboo subject typically only embraced by individual voices. One example is German parliamentarian Roderich Kiesewetter, of the conservative Christian Democrats, who recently told Reuters news agency that "Europe needs nuclear protection as a deterrent" if the United States were no longer to extend its protection. But how realistic are such ideas? - DW

In a newspaper interview, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), has called for a European nuclear superpower. Is this a debate we really need to have?
http://www.dw.com/en/poland-wants-nuclear-weapons-for-europe/a-37449773
The strongman of Poland’s ruling national-conservative party has stoked a debate that was previously held in only a very limited capacity. In an interview with the daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Europe should be a superpowerwith a nuclear arsenal to rival that of Russia. He conceded that such a program would, however, be very costly and that he did not anticipate such investment.
That aside, Kaczynski has broached a taboo subject typically only embraced by individual voices. One example is German parliamentarian Roderich Kiesewetter, of the conservative Christian Democrats, who recently told Reuters news agency that "Europe needs nuclear protection as a deterrent" if the United States were no longer to extend its protection. But how realistic are such ideas?.....

bth: If the US starts pulling back from NATO then nuclear proliferation is the natural consequence. The same can be said in Asia particularly with South Korea and Japan.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

India Announces Marginal Increase in Defense Budget for Next Fiscal - Sputnik

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Presenting fourth consecutive annual budget for the nation, India's Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley has allocated an overall $40.31 Billion for the defense service, a marginal increase of 5.7% from previous year. "Marginal increase in defense budget is barely adequate to allow for domestic inflation. It is insufficient to cater for the increase in pay and allowances due to the implementation of the award of the Seventh Pay Commission," says Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Senior Fellow at Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA).... https://sputniknews.com/asia/201702011050237535-budget-india-defense-spendings/

-bth: for all the talk about an expanding Indian defense program, the fact is that it isn't keeping up with inflation or foreign currency rates. It is stagnant at best and a fraction of the Chinese budget. One wonders if it is even adding to its artillery and ammunition reserves. It is certainly not keeping up with aircraft attrition.

Some 2016 Presidential election facts - Brilliant Maps

A few other 2016 election facts for you:
  • As a percentage of eligible voters, Clinton received 28.43% (65,845,063) of all votes compared to Trump’s 27.20% (62,980,160) and Did Not Vote’s 44.37% (102,731,399).
  • Total voter turnout was estimated to be 55.3% of the voting age population and 59.0% of the voting eligible population.
  • It is the 5th election since 1820 when the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency (the others being 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000)
  • Donald Trump received 2,046,656 more votes than Romney did in 2012, but Hilary Clinton received 70,732 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012.
  • Neither Candidate even won a majority of votes cast, Clinton got 48.0% vs Trump’s 45.9%.
  • As a percentage of the entire US population (including those too young or other ineligible to vote) Clinton got votes from 20.30% of the population and Trump got votes from 19.41% of people.
  • Washington DC is the only area in the country where a majority of all eligible voters (whether they voted or not) voted for Clinton (90% of voters, voted for Clinton on a 55.7% turnout). In the other 6 states listed above, victories were simple pluralities.

US-backed Syrian forces launch new offensive on Raqqa - al Jazeera

....According to Kurdish media, SDF spokesperson Jihan Sheikh Ahmed said they started a new phase to liberate the villages in the east part of Raqqa, with the support of civilians from the region.
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the Turkish city of Gaziantep along the Syrian border, said that the offensive was initially launched in November last year and was being conducted in phases.
"The first phase was pushing from the north. Second one was pushing from the west. And now, in the third phase, the forces are trying to push from the east," she said.
"There is also heavy fighting that has been going on north of Raqqa city, where the SDF are backed by coalition air strikes.
"Also overnight, the coalition forces took out the last bridge crossing the Euphrates. There were five bridges and all of them were taken out."...

-bth separate said the destruction of the two bridges over the Euphrates also cut off the water supply to at least part of the city. Essentially the city is being encircled for siege.