Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Denounces President Trump For His Dismissal

USA Today: In war of words with Trump, fired FBI's McCabe says he will no longer be silent

WASHINGTON — President Trump and fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe have unleashed a war of words over McCabe's abrupt dismissal, with the president calling it a "great day" and the FBI official saying he would no longer remain silent after a "unrelenting assault" by Trump and other critics on his reputation and service.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced late Friday that he fired McCabe effective immediately — barely 48 hours before his retirement benefits would have set in after 21 years of service with the FBI.

McCabe, who had announced his intention to resign in January, was fired from the agency in the midst of a review into the FBI's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I can understand the motivation for fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and his supporters to focus their ire on President Trump. The media narrative is easier to explain, and it avoids focusing on the reasons why the Inspector General and the the FBI disciplinary office wanted Andrew McCabe fired in the first place. But that is what I am focused on .... senior government officials are not fired on the eve of their retirement unless there is a damn good reason why. My guess is that they must have found something to make them demand the dismissal of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, and until those reasons are made public .... and I am sure that they will be made public soon .... the current debate will be as politicized as it has been seen the election of President Trump.

On a side note .... it is always a sight to see people who have enjoyed a certain status in government for a long time .... and whose actions deeply influenced other lives .... get treated the same way. It is never pretty. There is first shock .... then anger .... and then resignation. Fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and those who support him are now at the anger stage. They did not think this was going to happen (I also did not think Attorney General Sessions would fire him) .... but fire him he did, thereby signalling to everyone that the old rules that always accommodated the elite who run the city (and therefore  the country) no longer apply in this administration. And listening to the reaction today .... from former CIA Director Brennan, to former FBI Director Comey .... they may be convinced that they have the moral high ground .... but they are not in power, and that scares them because this is a position and status that they are not use to.

More News On Fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's Reaction To His Dismissal

Sacked FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe claims he was targeted -- ABC News Online
Andrew McCabe: Ex-FBI deputy director gave notes to Russia inquiry -- BBC
McCabe says he was fired as FBI deputy director because of what he witnessed after Trump fired Comey -- Business Insider
Mueller is in possession of Andrew McCabe's memos documenting his conversations with Trump and Comey -- Business Insider
'A political assassination': Former officials come out swinging in defense of Andrew McCabe after his firing -- Business Insider
McCabe firing roils Washington -- The Hill
What We Know, and Don’t Know, About the Firing of Andrew McCabe -- Lawfare

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Polls Are Now Opened In Russia To Elect A President

Reuters: Putin on track for commanding win as Russians head to polls

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, Russia (Reuters) - Russians began voting in a presidential election on Sunday set to give Vladimir Putin a commanding victory that could only be blemished if large numbers do not bother taking part because the result is so predictable.

On Russia’s eastern edge, in the Pacific coast city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, polling stations opened at 2000 hrs GMT, and voting across the vast country will run until polls close at the westernmost point, the Kaliningrad region, 22 hours later.

Opinion polls give Putin, the incumbent, support of around 70 percent, or nearly 10 times the backing of his nearest challenger. Another term will take him to nearly a quarter century in power — a longevity among Kremlin leaders second only to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Many voters credit Putin, a 65-year-old former KGB spy, with standing up for Russia’s interests in a hostile outside world, even though the cost is confrontation with the West.

Read more ....

More News On Russia's Presidential Vote

Polls open in Russia as Putin eyes 4th presidential term -- AP
Russia goes to the polls in presidential election -- BBC
Russia: Polls open in presidential elections -- DW
Putin, widely expected to win 4th term as Russia's president, presses for maximum votes, reports say -- FOX News
Russians vote as Vladimir Putin seeks tighter grip on power -- CNN
Russians Vote on New Putin Term as Tensions Flare With West -- Bloomberg
Russians to Vote Sunday in Presidential Election; Putin Victory Expected -- VOA
Crimea votes for first time in Russian elections -- Al Jazeera
Russian police put the squeeze on election observers before vote -- The Guardian
Russia votes: Vladimir Putin is counting on female turnout -- DW
Russia election: On a journey through real Russia, we reveal what ordinary people actually think of Putin, the election - and Theresa May -- The Independent
Russia: Navalny trying to undermine the election's legitimacy -- Al Jazeera
Russia’s election is so predictable we already know many of the numbers -- Quartz

Thousands Flee The Besieged Damascus Suburb Of Ghouta

CNN: Airstrikes hit Syrian enclave where many are fleeing, activists say

(CNN)Airstrikes rained down again Saturday in the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta, according to activist group Damascus Media Center, as swarms of civilians continued to pour out of the battered rebel-held area not far from the nation's capital.

Officials with different groups have placed widely varying figures of the number of refugees who are leaving Eastern Ghouta. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says more 12,000 people have fled in the past few days. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations says it is more than 40,000.

Read more ....

More News On The Battle For The Besieged Damascus Suburb Of Ghouta

Advancing Syrian troops pile pressure on rebels in Ghouta -- AP
Thousands more flee eastern Ghouta, Russian official says -- Press Association
Syria's eastern Ghouta exodus a 'tableau of desperation' -- ITV
Pleas for safe passage for civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta -- The Guardian
Over 30,000 leave militant-controlled E. Ghouta as people continue to flee for safety -- RT

Turkey's Afrin Offensive Has Displaced More Than 200,000 Civilians In Three days

BBC: Syria war: 'Civilians killed' as thousands flee Turkish air strikes

A number of civilians have been killed by Turkish shelling and air strikes while trying to flee the embattled Syrian city of Afrin, reports say.

Kurdish media spoke of dozens killed and wounded on Friday night alone while a UK-based monitoring group reported further deaths on Saturday.

A resident told the BBC that shells on Friday had hit cars packed with people and air strikes had hit a hospital.

At least 150,000 people have reportedly fled the Kurdish-majority city.

Turkey denies targeting civilians. It launched its military operation to clear the Afrin region, in northern Syria, of a US-backed Kurdish militia it considers a terrorist organisation.

Read more ....

More News On Turkey's Military Offensive On The Syrian Enclave Of Afrin

Turkey's Afrin offensive in Syria has displaced 150,000, Kurdish official says -- CBC/Reuters
More than 200,000 civilians flee Syria's Afrin in three days: monitor -- AFP
Syria’s new exiles: Kurds flee Afrin after Turkish assault -- The Guardian
Turkish military denies it hit Syrian hospital -- Reuters
UN 'deeply alarmed' about civilians deaths in besieged Afrin -- Al Jazeera

What Would Work In Afghanistan. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” or Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War”?

U.S. Army 1st Lt. David T. Broyles watches as his men leave Observation Post Rocky with Afghan National Army Soldiers in Kunar province, Afghanistan, July 19, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte

Shazar Shafqat, The Hill: 6,000 days into Afghanistan, US needs a lesson from Sun Tzu

On Monday, the war in Afghanistan marked its 6,000th day. Ending violence in Afghanistan appears, at times, to be a forlorn dream, but the recent developments suggest the U.S. policymakers might actually get the job of striking the perfect balance between military strikes with comprehensive intelligence-based operations done.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Kabul this week, and stated that certain segments of Taliban want to pursue peace, and, for that, the door for talks needs to be kept “open.” Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Afghanistan also insisted that the peace prospects in Afghanistan should not be ignored.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The ebook for Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" can be downloaded from here. Carl von Clausewitz’s “On War” can be downloaded from here.

Afghan Refugess Are Returning Home To Rebuild

An aerial view of Kabul, Afghanistan January 1, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The Guardian: Pressure builds in 'powderkeg' Kabul as refugees return home

As Pakistan deports thousands of Afghans, informal settlements are adding to the intense strain on Kabul’s resources – with potentially disastrous results

Racing against the setting sun to wind up the day’s labour, Shukour takes a few steps back and surveys his construction site. As the dust from the drilling settles back on the 50 square metres of rock that will become the foundations of his new house in Kabul, he stops work and talks about the home he fled as an eight-year-old.

“Our Panjshir is as beautiful as India’s Kashmir,” he says, framed against a rash of grey matchbox huts vying for very available inch before the hillside falls steeply away. “It was God’s own valley until the reign of fire.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Kabul has certainly changed since 9/11 .... Kabul – the fifth fastest growing city in the world – is bursting at the seams (The Guardian).

Opium Production In Afghanistan Reaches Record High

WNU editor: When the war in Afghanistan ends one day .... and it will end one day. The number one social/medical crisis that Afghanistan will need to face is the problem of opium production and addiction.

Here Are Some New Russian Battlefield Tactics

National Interest: Russia's Devious New Battlefield Tactic: Use Tanks as Decoys to Kill Enemy Artillery

Russia has unveiled a devious new battlefield tactic: use tanks as decoys in order to hunt down enemy artillery batteries.

It's a bait-and-switch con job that relies on relies on Russian tanks, drones, artillery—and an opponent that is just a tad gullible.

The technique works like this, according to Russia's Sputnik News: When facing an enemy that has artillery, Russia will attempt to locate the enemy batteries and destroy them through counterbattery fire. The problem, which dates back to the eighteenth century, is that the enemy batteries will attempt to remain concealed.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Sputnik article that discusses these new tactics is here .... Tank Tag: New Russian Battle Tactics Revealed (VIDEO) (Sputnik).

Iran Fails In Breaking Away From The U.S. Dollar

A money changer counts out US dollars for a customer, Tehran, Iran, Jan. 20, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Maziar Motamedi, Al-Monitor: Iran's break with dollar easier said than done

A little over two weeks ago, Iran eliminated another function of the US dollar in its internal workings in a move positioned amid yearslong plans to reduce dependency on the greenback. The consequences will be manifold and interconnected, but there are discrepancies in views concerning what will happen as a result among experts and officials.

On Feb. 28, the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade announced by way of a directive that all traders are henceforth barred from registering their import orders in US dollars. The abrupt directive that is effective immediately was put into motion per a government request conveyed through a letter penned by Central Bank of Iran (CBI) head Valiollah Seif.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Smuggling is big business in Iran .... being responsible for 50% of imports (if the above article is correct). I doubt that smugglers are interested in being paid in Iranian rials for their goods.

Russian Exiles In The U.K. Want Better Security

Yulia, 33, and Sergei Skripal, 66, are both fighting for their lives following the poison plot and it has sparked panic among wealthy Russians in Britain

BBC: Russian exiles contacted over safety after tycoon murder

UK police have begun to contact a number of Russian exiles to discuss their safety as they investigate the murder of businessman Nikolai Glushkov.

The 68-year-old's body was discovered at his south-London home on 12 March. A post-mortem examination has found he died from "compression to the neck".

The UK granted Mr Glushkov political asylum in 2010 after he fled Moscow.

The BBC has been told police and the security services have reassessed their view that other exiles are at low risk.

Police say there is no evidence at this stage linking Mr Glushkov's death to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on 4 March.

Read more ....

Update: Russian exiles are contacted by police to discuss their safety after demanding 'nuclear bunker-style' security and bodyguards at their homes after spy poisoning (Daily Mail)

WNU Editor: For the average Russian immigrant in the U.K. .... they are not worried. For those who have a certain "past in Russia" .... no question about it in my mind .... they are all nervous.

Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats And Has Closed The Consulate General In St. Petersburg

TASS: Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate general in St. Petersburg

Twenty three diplomats of the British Embassy in Moscow have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week’s time

MOSCOW, March 17. /TASS/. Twenty three British diplomats have been declared personae non gratae and will be expelled within a week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

"On March 17, British Ambassador to Moscow Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry where he was handed a note saying that in response to provocative actions of the British side and evidence-free accusations against the Russian Federation over the incident in the city of Salisbury on March 4 this year, the Russian side has taken the following retaliatory measures.

Read more ....

More News On Russia Expelling 23 British Diplomats

Moscow expels 23 UK diplomats & shuts British Council in response to ‘provocative moves’ -- RT
Skripal Case: Moscow to Expel 23 UK Diplomats, London Reiterates Accusations -- Sputnik
Russia spy poisoning: 23 UK diplomats expelled from Moscow -- BBC
Russia boots 23 UK diplomats in spy-poisoning tit for tat -- AP
Russia expels 23 British diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens -- Reuters
Russia to expel 23 British diplomats, close consulate in escalating row over poisoned ex-spy -- Washington Post
Sergei Skripal: Russia expels 23 UK diplomats as row deepens -- The Guardian
Russia to expel 23 British diplomats in spy-poisoning row -- DW
May says Britain will 'consider our next steps' after Putin's expulsion of 23 UK diplomats from Moscow adding that 'we will never tolerate threat to life on British soil' as tit-for-tat spy poisoning row deepens -- Daily Mail
Russia spy poisoning: What happens when you expel a diplomat? -- BBC

Even Though U.S. Forces In Africa Are Not Seeking Combat, The Combat Seems To Seek Them

A US Special Forces soldier demonstrates how to detain a suspect during Flintlock 2014, a US-led international training mission for African militaries in Diffa, Niger. (Reuters / Joe Penney)

Task & Purpose: US Troops In Africa Aren’t Seeking Combat, But They Keep Finding It Anyway

U.S. troops in Africa may be killing bad guys – and getting shot at in the process – but most of them are not there on a combat mission, Department of Defense officials insist.

In December, a combined force of U.S. and Nigerien troops killed 11 Islamic State fighters during a mission in Niger – just two months after four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush by Islamic State fighters elsewhere in the country.

Between 2015 and 2017, U.S. troops have been involved in 11 firefights in West Africa, the New York Times reported on March 14.

Despite these repeated clashes, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said on Thursday the majority of U.S. troops in Africa are taking part in “train and advise” missions.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some of them are there for combat.

There Is No U.S. Plan To Buy Light Attack Aircraft

A pair of AT-6 Wolverine demonstrators. Textron

The War Zone/The Drive: USAF Says It Could Speed Up Buying Light Attack Aircraft, But Doesn't Have an Actual Plan

Senior officials explain ways they could begin buying the planes before 2020, but still have yet to firm up any actual requirements.

As the U.S. Air Force plods along with its light attack aircraft experiment, commonly known as OA-X, the service is reportedly looking for ways to speed up the process and begin buying actual airplanes. At the same time, senior officials have given somewhat contradictory descriptions of the project’s present status and, more importantly, have indicated that there are still no formal requirements in place for this type of aircraft.

On March 14, 2018, during a hearing before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told members of Congress that it might be possible to reprogram funds in order to speed up purchases of light attack aircraft. The month before, she had revealed plans to set aside $2.4 billion in spending over the next five years for the program, but this wouldn’t begin until at least the 2020 fiscal year.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: They U.S. Air Force makes no secret that thy have lots of plans on what to do with the F-35, F-22, a new bomber, drones, a futue sixth-generation fighter, and nuclear missiles .... all projects that involve tens of billions of dollars. But when it comes to smaller projects that involve small budgets and less glamorous planes .... but planes that actually win the war on the ground. The Pentagon is awol. On a positive note .... at least the US Air Force is admitting that they do not have a plan.

This Is Why China Will Not Dominate The World Economy


Milton Ezrati, National Interest: The Fatal Flaw in China's Plan for Dominating the World Economy

Dependence is baked into China's industrial plans—and will likely fail.

Chinese premier Li Keqiang recently delivered a remarkably revealing speech. Addressing the National People’s Congress for two full hours early in March, he stressed the county’s determination to rely on broad industrial policies as a means to development. The objective, to use Li’s words, is to “speed up work to build China into a leader in manufacturing.” Li doubtless wanted his audience and the world to hear his remarks as a challenge to Western economic power. Many no doubt did. What Li failed to note, and assuredly does not realize, is how his blueprint for progress, rather than ensure Chinese dominance, will instead keep that country indefinitely dependent on the West, doom it to repeat its already well-established pattern of wasteful overbuilding, and ensure that its economy will always remain just a bit behind the West technologically.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I concur with Milton Ezrati's analysis. The Chinese government is depending on an environment where China will continue to export products abroad, enjoy huge trade surpluses, and reinvest these earning to build-up China. But this export-driven policy does have one fundamental flaw .... countries with huge trade deficits will falter and will no longer be capable (or able) to buy the products that China needs to sell in order to continue growing. What happens then .... and specifically .... what happens when countries like the U.S. start to consider imposing tariffs to protect their own industrial base. Telling the U.S. to "take a hike" is not going to cut it .... Don’t push us, China says to Trump’s demand for US$100 billion cut in the Sino-US trade gap (SCMP).

Former General/CIA Director Petraeus Is Asked Whether The Iraq War Was Really Worth It

Gen. David H. Petraeus explains security improvements in Sadr City while giving an aerial tour of Baghdad Monday to Sen.'s Barack Obama, Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel. 21 July 2008 (Wikipedia).

Task & Purpose: We Asked Gen. Petraeus Whether The Iraq War Was Really Worth It. Here’s What He Said.

Fifteen years of war have turned Iraqi cities such as Ramadi, Fallujah, and Mosul into ruins. Iraq remains as divided as ever along sectarian lines, despite the deaths of more than 4,500 U.S. troops and untold numbers of Iraqis.

U.S. troops remain in Iraq to help advise and assist Iraqi forces as they try to prevent ISIS from launching yet another insurgency. Meanwhile, Iran has flooded the country with thousands of proxy fighters, giving it a large say in what the government of Iraq does post-ISIS.

This wasn’t the Iraq that was supposed to emerge when U.S. troops crossed the berm from Kuwait to Iraq in March 2003. Nor is this the Iraq that troops who trounced al Qaeda during the surge bled for. There are few tangible signs of success, and Iraq’s future is still unclear.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: With hindsight the answer to the above question is an easy one .... the answer is no. But apparently some .... like former General Petraeus .... believe it was worth it.

A Fifth Of The Current F-35 Fleet Are Grounded Because Of A Lack Of Spare Parts

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Caleb Worpel

Popular Mechanics: Lack of Spare Parts Is Keeping F-35s on the Ground

Many of the high-tech fighters are grounded by a lack of new parts, or delays in repairing broken ones.

The logistics system designed to keep the F-35 fleet flying often doesn’t, with more than a fifth of grounded planes sitting idle waiting for spare parts. The result is fewer airplanes available for training—and increasingly, combat—as the system struggles to keep an ever-growing number of jets flying.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that parts shortages and bureaucracy are hampering efforts to keep the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the air. In particular,it includes an anecdote about an Air Force major whose helmet had a broken plastic clip, a problem that would have grounded him for two weeks as he waited for a replacement. It was only when the issue was escalated to the Joint Program Office, which runs the F-35 program, that rules were bent to fix the problem.

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  It looks like the US Navy is trying to address the problem .... Navy awards Lockheed $481M for F-35 spare parts (UPI).

U.S. General In Syria Confirms US Forces Killed Hundreds Of Russians In A Battle Last Month's In Eastern Syria

The War Zone/The Drive: American General In Syria Confirms US Forces Killed Hundreds Of Russians In Massive Battle

US Army Brigadier General Jonathan Braga also said he was 'absolutely worried' the situation could have escalated in a bigger conflict.

A senior U.S. general appears to have confirmed that hundreds of Russians fought – and died – in a major battle against American forces and their local counterparts in Syria. More importantly, U.S. Army Brigadier General Jonathan Braga, director of operations for the main U.S. military task force in charge of operations in Iraq and Syria, said he feared the situation could have escalated into an all-out conflict with Russia, something we at The War Zone have warned repeatedly is becoming a worryingly realistic possibility.

Braga gave the surprisingly candid account of what had happened to NBC's Richard Engel, who traveled with the general to visit the exact site of the incident in Syria and to see what the U.S. military was doing to improve its defensive posture.

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  U.S. Army Brigadier General Jonathan Braga's concerns that this could have easily escalated into an all-out conflict with Russia are valid .... and what is worrisome is that tensions since the battle have now decreased at all.

Don't Expect A Cliffhanger In Russia's Presidential Election

Winemaker Andrey Kulichkov of Sober Bash Winery said he won't be voting in Russia's presidential election, because he believes it is a foregone conclusion. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

CBC: 'Mr. Putin will be president without my vote': The role of apathy in the Russian election

Don't expect a cliffhanger in Russia's presidential election

With all the accusations and retributions Vladimir Putin has had to deflect from Britain this week over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, one thing the Russian president hasn't had to fret about is his re-election.

The vote, which has seemed like a footnote compared to the espionage-related events of recent days, will happen on Sunday, when approximately 115 million Russians get to cast a ballot in the presidential election.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I have seen more than my share of Russian elections .... but this one is generating zero enthusiasm .... even among the pro-Putin crowd (of which they are many). The only question that remains unanswered is what will be the voter turn-out .... my prediction is around 65% to 70% .... and they will achieve this number because older Russians (the above 50 crowd) believe it is their duty to vote even if none of the candidates appeal to them.