Story 1: Turkey Votes To Change From Parliamentary to Presidential System of Government — Videos —
Where’s Turkey headed after its referendum? – Inside Story
Turkey Referendum: Erdogan’s new grip on power
Dispute over Turkey’s referendum results continues
Is Turkey Becoming a Dictatorship?: Erdogan Claims Victory in Vote to Give President Sweeping Powers
Turkey’s Choice: Nation deciding on changing political system
The Truth about Turkeys failed Coup (CIA designed Civil War)
Lionel on the Alex Jones Show: Syria False Flags, North Korea Lies, French Elections & Media Lies
The Idiot’s Guide to Turkey, Erdogan and the Phony Coup
Turkish Referendum Erdogan Wins ! | The Millennial Revolt
Published on Apr 16, 2017
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, hailing the result as an “historic decision”. The leader called on the international community to respect the result and discouraged his critics from “belittling” the outcome, saying they “shouldn’t try, it will be in vain”. The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51 per cent per cent of voters had sided with the “Yes” campaign, ushering in the most radical change to the country’s political system in modern time.
But the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would demand a recount of up to 40 per cent of the vote, saying that “illegal acts” occurred during the vote and that there were up to 2.5m “problematic ballots”. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also claimed they had information that voter fraud was implicated in up to four per cent of the ballots. Both parties said they would appeal the results. CLICK LINKS FOR SOURCES
Story 2: Coalition Against Islamic State in Syria — What is Next: Wrath of Euphrates: The Battle for Raqqa: Isolate and Assault — Take No Prisoners — Videos
US eyes assault on ISIS stronghold
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh talks to Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend near Mosul, Iraq, where coalition forces hope to make a push toward Raqqa, ISIS’ center of control in Syria.
U.S.-Led Coalition Has ‘Made Adjustments’ In Syria To Account For ‘Tensions’
Wrath of Euphrates Op: US troops spotted near Raqqa frontline (EXCLUSIVE)
400 US troops deployed outside ISIS capital Raqqa
Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS
Raqqa Battle Phase 3 outcome
Beginning of a new phase to free Raqqa
Battle for Raqqa. First phase of Wrath of Euphrates Initiative ends successfully.
Published on Nov 12, 2016
12 Nov 2016 Syria. Raqqa.
SDF, YPG, YPJ and International Brigade fighters had began to advance from Siluk and Eyn İsa southwards from two directions on November 5.
The Siluk branch has cleared an area of 30 kms and the Ayn İsa branch has cleared an area of 15 kms from ISIS gangs. Yesterday, the two branches united along the Beliz creek.
After the liberation of Xınıse and the unification of the two branches of fighters, the first phase of the initiative ended successfully.
Civilians flee Raqqa as Syrian forces advance
More U.S. Troops heading to Raqqa, Syria to fight ISIS
18 Allied Fighters Killed In US Led Syria Strike
100s killed following US-led airstrike in Syria
Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’
U.S. military says misdirected airstrike in northern Syria killed 18 allied fighters
Syria: Kurdish fighters make gains against IS behind enemy lines
Ross Kemp The Fight Against Isis
Turkey and Russia join forces against Islamic State
US Joins Ground Forces with Kurds, Syrian, & Russian Fighters Against ISIS in Syria
Targeting the High Value Terrorists
On The Road To Raqqa – Heavy Clashes Between Kurdish Forces And ISIS During The Battle Of Raqqa
US soldiers help Iraqi troops secure Mosul
Satellite Imagery: The Cutting of Mosul’s Bridges
Satellite Imagery: The Islamic State’s Mosul Defenses
Satellite Images: The Islamic State’s Scorched Earth Tactics
Why Did the Iraq War Start? The Untold Story – Seymour Hersh – Reasons, Justification (2005)
The Breathtaking Incoherence of American Foreign Policy as to North Korea and Syria
‘Defeating ISIS No.1 US goal’: Tillerson at coalition summit coinciding with London attack
Trump Gives Generals More Freedom on ISIS Fight
Pentagon brass take lead on decisions that were made by White House under Obama; ‘I authorize my military,’ Trump says
U.S. Army trainers watch as an Iraqi recruit fires at a military base in Iraq. PHOTO: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES
Dion Nissenbaum in Washington and
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut
Updated April 14, 2017 10:29 p.m. ET
U.S. military commanders are stepping up their fight against Islamist extremism as President Donald Trump’s administration urges them to make more battlefield decisions on their own.
As the White House works on a broad strategy, America’s top military commanders are implementing the vision articulated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Decimate Islamic State’s Middle East strongholds and ensure that the militants don’t establish new beachheads in places such as Afghanistan.
“There’s nothing formal, but it is beginning to take shape,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more—and so they are.”
While military commanders complained about White House micromanagement under former President Barack Obama, they are now being told they have more freedom to make decisions without consulting Mr. Trump. Military commanders around the world are being encouraged to stretch the limits of their existing authorities when needed, but to think seriously about the consequences of their decisions.
The more muscular military approach is expanding as the Trump administration debates a comprehensive new strategy to defeat Islamic State. Mr. Mattis has sketched out such a global plan, but the administration has yet to agree on it. While the political debate continues, the military is being encouraged to take more aggressive steps against Islamic extremists around the world.
The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored. Removing the carrot from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, some State Department officials warn, could hamper the pursuit of long-term strategies needed to prevent volatile conflicts from reigniting once the shooting stops.
Gen. Nicholson said Friday it was too early to say how many militants had been killed in the previous day’s bombing. The Afghan Defense Ministry retracted an earlier statement that the strike had killed 36 militants, saying it was unable to provide precise figures yet.
A military official for the coalition who viewed footage of the bombing said it was difficult to make out details of its effects beyond a “mushroom cloud” of smoke rising into the sky. He added that a second MOAB was available for use in the country, but no decision had been made on whether it should be deployed.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency posted a statement on Friday saying none of its fighters were killed or wounded in the strike, which took place in Nangarhar province, along the country’s mountainous border with Pakistan.
Gen. Nicholson indicated that he—not the White House—decided to drop the bomb. “The ammunition we used last night is designed to destroy caves and tunnels. This was the right weapon against the right target,” he told reporters Friday. “I am fortunate that my chain of command allows me the latitude to make assessments on the ground.”
A senior administration official said Mr. Trump didn’t know about the weapon’s use until it had been dropped.
Mr. Mattis “is telling them, ‘It’s not the same as it was, you don’t have to ask us before you drop a MOAB,’” the senior defense official said. “Technically there’s no piece of paper that says you have to ask the president to drop a MOAB. But last year this time, the way [things were] meant, ‘I’m going to drop a MOAB, better let the White House know.’”
Indeed, on Thursday Mr. Trump himself emphasized the free rein he gives the Pentagon. “I authorize my military,” Mr. Trump said. “We have given them total authorization.”
On Friday, the U.S. military said it has sent dozens of soldiers to Somalia, where Mr. Trump recently gave the head of the U.S. Africa Command more leeway to carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in the area.
The more aggressive military approach comes as the long slog against Islamic State is bearing fruit. The group is on the back foot in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, and is facing a hard battle to defend its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.
The U.S. has sent more forces into Iraq and Syria, stepped up support for Saudi Arabia’s fight against Houthi militants in Yemen, and dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula amid growing evidence that North Korea is preparing for a new nuclear test.
Loren DeJonge Schulman, who served as senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, said a more assertive military campaign is destined to fail unless it is part of a broader strategy against Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
“It’s crazy that the Trump administration thinks that ‘taking the gloves off’ is either a winning strategy against ISIL or a useful narrative for the White House or the military,” said Ms. Schulman, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said giving the Pentagon more freedom is one of the most significant things Mr. Trump has done.
“It’s not clear to me that he’s making any tough decisions,” said Mr. Chollet, now executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “All that he’s essentially done is ceded decision authority down to protect himself from making tough calls.”
The flip side of the Trump administration’s emphasis on a more-free-wheeling military approach to Islamic State is an apparent reduction of the use of soft-power tools—economic development, diplomacy and democracy-building—favored by the Obama White House.
Some State Department officials describe being cut out from the White House’s counterterrorism strategy in the Mideast, with efforts to nurture democratic governments and push for more secular education systems carrying less weight in the White House’s evolving approach.
“State is being systematically sidelined,” said a State Department official who has worked on counterterrorism issues in Washington and abroad.
The official said the White House strategy of prioritizing military might over diplomacy makes it hard to persuade Mideast allies to relax their grip on power. Many of Washington’s closest Arab allies are autocratic regimes guilty of human-rights abuses that critics say fuel terrorism.
“The problem there is that in many of the places where you need carrots, those carrots are often seen as threats to local governments,” the official said, referring to democracy and society-building programs the State Department funds across the Mideast.
Egypt offers a prime example of the Trump administration’s leanings. When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a military strongman, visited the White House earlier this month, Mr. Trump gave him a warm welcome. Mr. Obama had refused to meet him because of his regime’s alleged human-rights abuses.
U.S. officials in the Mideast say a counterterror approach that focuses solely on military might without programs to fight the causes that feed extremism could backfire, leading groups like Islamic State to go underground and wait for future opportunities to re-emerge. They are particularly concerned about Raqqa, where a U.S.-led military coalition is closing in around the city but post-liberation stabilization plans aren’t finalized as State Department officials wait for White House guidance.
—Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil in Kabul and Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article.
After the start of the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) in Iraq, many of the 20,000 ISIL fighters estimated to be living in the city fled to Raqqa, boosting the ISIL forces that were already present in their de facto capital city.
The SDF officially announced the start of the operation on 6 November in the village of Ayn Issa. The intention was to proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqqa and isolating the city, advancing from three fronts, then taking control of the city itself. The SDF general command called for the international coalition against ISIL to support the operation. In response, Ash Carter welcomed the announcement and emphasized the importance of capturing Raqqa and defeating ISIL, while cautioning that “there is hard work ahead”.
Phase One: Isolating Raqqa from its northern hinterland
Tal Saman, ISIL headquarters in the northern Raqqa countryside, after being captured by the SDF.
On 6 November, the SDF captured six small villages, including the villages of Wahid, Umm Safa, Wasita, Haran, al-Adriyah and Jurah south and southeast of Ayn Issa. The Islamic State detonated four car bombs on the first day of the offensive.
On 8 November, the SDF reported that they had taken control of 11 villages near Ain Issa. The SDF also claimed that ISIL used several car bombs against their forces. By 11 November, the SDF had captured over a dozen villages and the strategically significant town of Al-Hisbah, which had served as a local headquarters and command center for ISIL. On the next day, the SDF continued to advance against ISIL in the area around Tal Saman and Khnez, bringing the number of captured farms and villages to 26.
As of 14 November, the SDF reported the completion of the initial phase of the operations, stating that 500 km2has been captured: 34 villages, 31 hamlets and seven strategic hills, along with 167 Islamic State casualties.The SDF had also begun to besiege Tal Saman, the largest village and ISIL headquarters north of Raqqa, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Salok in the eastern countryside of Raqqa Governorate in order to force the SDF to split its forces and open a new front. On the next day, the SDF advanced into Tal Saman, resulting in a fierce battle with its ISIL defenders. At the same time, the SDF also captured 10 more villages and farms. By 19 November, the SDF had fully captured Tal Saman and had driven ISIL completely from the surrounding countryside. With this, the first phase of the offensive was considered completed.On 20 November 2016, 200 fighters completed training, joined the SDF, and were sent to participate in the offensive.
The second phase of the offensive aimed to enforce a full blockade of the city of Raqqa. On 21 November, the SDF captured two more villages, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Tal Saman. Over the next days, the SDF attempted to further advance, such as at al-Qalita, but was unable to break through ISIL’s defense line south of Tal Saman. On 24 November, a US serviceman died from wounds he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device near the town of Ayn Issa, to the north of Raqqa.
On 25 November, ISIL received reinforcements from Iraq, among them explosive experts and defected Iraqi Army personnel. On the next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack, retaking parts of Qaltah village and a nearby water pump station, while the SDF managed to advance in the village’s vicinity. Boubaker Al-Hakim, an ISIL commander who was linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, was reported to have been killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa on 26 November. Iraqi military however later stated in April 2017 that he might still be alive.
On 27 November, the SDF announced the offensive’s second phase was due to start, though this was then delayed. At least five SDF fighters were killed in renewed clashes north of Raqqa on 29 November. Meanwhile, ISIL suffered from the defection of two senior commanders, who fled from Raqqa to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Idlib. On 4 December, a coalition drone strike in Raqqa killed two ISIL leaders who had helped facilitate the November 2015 Paris attacks and another who was involved in a foiled suicide attack in Belgium in 2015. Three days later, co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim said that the first phase to surround Raqqa was almost over, while a new Arab brigade consisting of more than 1,000 men and women from the al-Raqqa area had joined the SDF as part of the second phase which was slated to be launched on 10 December. More than 1,500 Arab fighters who were trained and equipped by the anti-ISIL coalition joined the SDF for the second phase on its launch day.
Phase Two: Isolating Raqqa from its western countryside
SDF fighters advance northwest of Raqqa after the start of the offensive’s second phase.
The SDF launched the second phase on 10 December, with the aim of capturing the northwestern and western countrysides of al-Raqqa and ultimately reaching and securing the Tabqa Dam. The same day, it was announced that Arab SDF groups, consisting of the Elite Forces, Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa and the newly formed Deir Ezzor Military Council would be taking part. During the first day, the SDF began to advance south of the Tishrin Dam and captured al-Kiradi village. The United States announced that it would send 200 more troops to assist the SDF. The next day, the SDF captured seven more villages from ISIL. On 12 December, the SDF captured four villages as well as many hamlets south of Tishrin Dam. The SDF captured five villages during the next two days. On 15 December, the SDF captured three villages, taking the total number of villages captured by them in the second phase to 20.
Over the next four days, the SDF captured 20 more villages, while finally reaching Lake Assad‘s shore, thereby cutting off and besieging 54 ISIL-held villages to the west. In response to these territorial losses, ISIL began to carry out more suicide attacks against both the SDF as well as civilian targets within SDF-controlled areas in an attempt to hinder the offensive. On 19 December, ISIL launched a counter-attack to regain four villages in the northwestern countryside, but the attack was repelled after a few hours. The following night, ISIL forces retreated largely unopposed from the besieged 54 villages, leaving them to be captured by the SDF. The SDF declared that they had captured 97 villages overall during the second phase, and had begun to advance against Qal’at Ja’bar.
On 21 December, the SDF seized five villages near Qal’at Ja’bar, including Jabar, which served as the main weaponry storage and supply centre for ISIL in the northwestern countryside. The coalition then began to move toward Suwaydiya Saghirah and Suwaydiya Kabir, the last villages before Tabqa Dam. Even though an ISIL counter-attack managed to retake Jabar village soon after, the SDF attacked again on 23 December, and once again took control of it, while also capturing another village. This prompted ISIL to launch yet another counter-attack later that day, which was accompanied by several suicide car bombs. As a result, heavy clashes took place between them and SDF fighters in several villages along the frontline that lasted until the early morning of 24 December. The ISIL forces were eventually forced to withdraw after the SDF first shelled and then stormed their positions, whereupon the latter took control of most of Jabar as well as two more villages, though some ISIL holdouts persisted in Jabar.
ISIL was pushed out of the neighboring, strategic village of Eastern Jabar on the next day, bringing SDF within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of Tabqa Dam, and by 26 December, the SDF had finally fully secured the main Jabar village, with the last ISIL defenders being expelled after heavy fighting. An ISIL counterattack on the village later that day failed, with a US airstrike killing Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti as he commanded the assault. Al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdulmuhsin al-Zaghelan al-Tarish, was a high-ranking ISIL commander leading the defense of the whole Raqqa region against the SDF. Meanwhile, the Amaq News Agency declared that Iman Na’im Tandil (nom de guerre: Abu ‘Umar Al-Hindi), one of the few Indian ISIL fighters active in Syria, had also been killed during the fighting near Jabar. The Islamic State’s official media wing later also officially paid tribute to Iman.
Battle for Jabar’s surroundings
A YPGBMP, loaded on a truck, being transported to the frontline near Mahmudli on 4 January.
On 27 December, ISIL launched an attack on the village of Secol in the northern countryside, reportedly breaching the local SDF defences. On the next day, the SDF reportedly captured Hadaj village after two days of heavy fighting, while another ISIL counter-attack against Jabar was repelled. Mahmud al-Isawi, a senior ISIL facilitator who was a manager of instructions and finances for the group’s leaders as well as a provider of propaganda and intelligence support, was killed on 31 December in a US-led coalition airstrike on Raqqa. After three days of heavy fighting, the SDF captured all or most of Mahmudli, the largest town of the Al-Jarniyah Subdistrict, on 1 January 2017. ISIL counterattacked later in an attempt to regain the town. The SDF leadership said that in the clashes since the launch of the second phase they had captured 110 villages, killed 277 ISIL fighters, and captured 13.
Also on January 1, the SDF resumed its offensive on the northern front, reportedly advancing 6 km south of Tell Saman against ISIL positions. The SDF reportedly captured nine more villages in this area, within the next three days. Meanwhile, with the SDF edging closer to Raqqa, ISIL further restricted Internet access and increased surveillance over Internet users in Raqqa. There were harsh punishments for accessing anti-ISIL websites, with a new special unit within the ISIL’s security office searching for offenders. Several online activists in Raqqa were captured and tortured or executed. Another two villages and hamlets were captured by the SDF on 5 January.
SDF fighters examine Qal’at Ja’bar. ISIL had built tunnels and weapons depots into the medieval castle.
The SDF captured Qal’at Ja’bar (Ja’bar Castle) from ISIL on 6 January. The same day, ISIL was reported to have moved its 150 prisoners from Tabqa city due to the offensive. The SDF later captured eight villages and five hamlets at the Ayn Issa front. On 7 January, the SDF captured five villages including the strategic Suwaydiya Gharbi and Suwaydiya Saghirah, reaching the outskirts of Tabqa Dam. ISIL reportedly recaptured Suwaydiya Saghirah by the next day after a counterattack, while a local leader of the group was killed in clashes. Meanwhile, ISIL was reported to have withdrawn 150 of its fighters towards Raqqa city.
On 8 January 2017, US special forces raided the village of Al-Kubar, between Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor, killing at least 25 ISIL militants in the two-hour operation. It was believed that the goal of the US may have been to rescue hostages from an ISIL secret prison in the village. After the raid, ISIL forces cut off access to the village.
On 9 January, the SDF captured another village, along with three hamlets.
On 10 January, ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack at the Jabar frontline and reportedly recaptured several sites; with pro-Free Syrian Army sources claiming Qal’at Ja’bar and the village of Jabar were among these. ISIL consequently released photos of dead SDF fighters, while claiming that over 70 of them had been killed in the counter-attack. However, the SDF was reported to still be in control of Jabar village and Qalat Jabar a few days later.
An ISIL attack on Jib Shair village, trying to resist SDF advances from the north, was repelled on the next day, after which the SDF advanced and captured six hamlets around it. The SDF later announced that their forces advancing from the Ayn Issa front and on the Qadiriya front linked up in Kurmanju village after capturing several villages over the past few days, besieging a large pocket of about 45 villages and 20 hamlets. All of them were captured by the next day, resulting in the alliance gaining about 460 square kilometres (180 sq mi) of land. Another village was captured by the SDF on 13 January. On 15 January, the SDF progressed to Suwaydiya Kabir village, while ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack against Mahmudli and a nearby village, resulting in clashes within these settlements. The attack was repelled after several hours of fighting. The SDF captured three villages during the day, while Suwaydiya Saghirah was also reported to be under its control again. On 17 January 2017, 28 Arab tribes from Raqqa announced their support for the offensive and encouraged locals to join the SDF.
The SDF attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on the next day, leading to heavy clashes in the village. Meanwhile, it was announced that about 2,500 local fighters had joined the offensive since it began. On 19 January, ISIL launched a counter-attack against Suwaydiya Saghirah, supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, killing or wounding several YPG fighters. Despite this, the SDF made further progress on the next day, capturing a village and advancing against many other ISIL-held villages. The SDF again attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on 20 January, reaching the outskirts of the village, and captured it on 22 January after heavy clashes, with the support of U.S. special forces.
Tabqa Dam raid and further SDF advances in the north
In late January 2017, it was reported that a number of ISIL militants were hiding inside the structure of the Tabqa Dam, including senior militant leaders who used to be “very important prisoners” wanted by the US and several other countries, in order to deter a possible US-led coalition strike on them.
On 23 January, the SDF began to advance on the Tabqa Dam, spurring ISIL to open its turbines to raise the Euphrates River’s water levels. This was seen as an attempt to hinder the progress of the Kurdish-led forces and a scare tactic, and caused the water level of the Euphrates to rise to its highest level in 20 years, leading to record flooding downstream. Coinciding with this, pro-SDF sources reported that US special forces and SDF units had launched a raid against Al-Thawrah across the river. By 24 January, SDF forces had managed to capture parts of the town, and SDF forces on the dam began working towards the Tabqa Dam’s control rooms, at the southern part of the dam, in an attempt to stop the massive outflow of water released by ISIL. However, the entrance to the dam’s control rooms was too well defended, and with the continued threat of disastrous flooding downstream, SDF and the US forces withdrew from both the Tabqa Dam and the town of Al-Thawrah, after which ISIL closed the dam’s turbines again.
Over the next three days, ISIL repeatedly launched fierce counter-attacks against SDF positions in the western and northern countryside. ISIL managed to retake ground in the area around the dam, but the attack was later repelled.
Preparation for the third phase
An SDF IAG Guardian armoured personnel carrier in February 2017, one of several APCs that were supplied by the United States to the SDF.
On 31 January 2017, the SDF received a number of armoured personnel carriers supplied by the US. The SDF spokesman stated that preparations for a new phase of the operation were continuing and the operation would begin in “a few days”. Meanwhile, the leader of the SDF-aligned Syria’s Tomorrow Movement and its paramilitary wing, Ahmad Jarba, announced that 3,000 Arab fighters under his command were training with US special forces to be deployed in the battle for Raqqa against ISIL.
On the night of 2–3 February, intense CJTF–OIR airstrikes targeted several bridges in or near Raqqa city, destroying them as well as the local water pipelines, leaving the city without drinking water. Meanwhile, the SDF advanced against the village of Qaltah in the northern countryside, which the coalition had already unsuccessfully attacked in November. ISIL maintenance crews managed to fix the pipelines during 3 February, restoring Raqqa’s water supply. On 3 February, 251 Arab fighters in Hasaka completed their training and joined the SDF.
Phase Three: Isolating Raqqa from its eastern countryside
On 4 February, the SDF announced the offensive’s third phase, aiming at capturing Raqqa’s eastern countryside, and to separate Raqqa city from ISIL forces in Deir ez-Zor, though operations in the west and north would continue simultaneously. The SDF captured a village and three hamlets to the northeast of Raqqa later that day, with clashes being reported at al-Qaltah and Bir Said, while 750 Arabs completed training and joined the SDF. On the next day, the Kurdish-led forces captured another two villages along with a hamlet and two farms, and besieged Bir Said, while especially intense airstrikes hit several ISIL targets in Al-Thawrah. Bir Said, along with another village, was eventually captured by the SDF on 6 February. In addition to these villages, the SDF also captured another five villages on two fronts. The SDF made further progress, capturing three more villages on 7 February. In early February 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes destroyed much of the Deir ez-Zor-Raqqa highway, reducing it to a single-file gravel road in some spots, with the SDF patrolling other areas with minefields, in order to prevent ISIL from reinforcing Raqqa city. By this point, almost all of the five bridges leading to Raqqa had been destroyed either by the US-led coalition or by ISIL, with the only exceptions being the Tabqa Dam and the Baath Dam, both west of Raqqa city.
As these advances continued, ISIL responded by launching several unsuccessful counter-attacks against Suwaydiya Kabir and other strategic territories captured by the SDF. On 8 and 9 February, the SDF advanced at the northern and northeastern frontline, capturing several villages and besieging Mizella, a major strategic ISIL stronghold in the northern countryside. The advance put them within 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of Raqqa. The SDF captured Mizella the next day. The two fronts of the alliance converged on 11 February as it also captured two villages and wheat silos to the north of Raqqa during the day; the next day, the SDF attempted to cross the Balikh River northeast of Raqqa, leading to heavy fighting with local ISIL defenders. On 12 February, a large-scale counter-attack by ISIL reportedly succeeded in retaking Suwaydiya Kabir and four other nearby villages. However, pro-YPG sources denied these reports. Another counterattack was carried out by ISIL to the northeast of Raqqa where the SDF had advanced to, leading to heavy clashes between both sides. Clashes continued over the next few days. On 16 February, 165 more SDF fighters completed training and joined the offensive.
On 17 February 2017, the SDF announced the launch of the second stage of the third phase, aimed at capturing the eastern countryside of Raqqa near Deir ez-Zor, with the Deir Ezzor Military Council leading the operation. On the same day the SDF captured two villages from ISIL to the north of Deir ez-Zor and came within 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of the northeast of Raqqa, while the Russian Air Force conducted airstrikes on ISIL forces in Raqqa city for the second time since its entry into the war. The next day, the SDF captured another village to the southwest of the Makman front (north of Deir ez-Zor) as well as another near Raqqa. On 18 February, the SDF stormed a prison a few kilometres northeast of Raqqa, freeing some of the inmates. They later captured three villages in Deir ez-Zor’s northern countryside. On the next day, the SDF captured five villages to the east of Raqqa. On 20 February, they captured four villages on the Makmen front, including the strategic village of Sebah al-Xêr as well as a base station of Syriatel, thus cutting off the road between Makman and Raqqa and besieging three ISIL-held villages. Furthermore, the SDF took control of a significant bridge over the Balikh River on the western front.
On 21 February, the SDF captured two villages on the Makman front and another one near Raqqa. ISIL later again assaulted Suwaydiya Kabir, attacking it from three fronts, leading to heavy fighting around it. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern countryside of Raqqa on 22 February, capturing three villages, and merging the two fronts at Makman and Bir Hebe. A YPJ commander declared that the SDF had cut the road to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The SDF stated that it had entered Deir ez-Zor Governorate for the first time in the offensive. On the next day, they captured six villages and sixteen hamlets.
Opening of a new front
On 24 February, the SDF captured four villages in the Makman front and another three in a fourth front to the northeast of Deir ez-Zor. They captured the strategic Abu Khashab village later that day. On 25 February, they captured another three villages on the fourth front.
On 26 February, a US airstrike near Tabqa Dam destroyed a former government facility which was being used as a headquarters by ISIL. The airstrike’s vicinity to the dam’s structure led to fears that the dam could potentially be destabilized or destroyed during the fighting. Later that day, it was reported that the SDF had captured the village of Al-Kubar, on the northern bank of the Euphrates in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, further tightening the siege on Raqqa. On 28 February, it was reported that the US-led coalition had completely destroyed the Tabqa Airbase in an airstrike.
On 27 February, the plan that the Pentagon submitted to US President Trump to significantly speed up the fight against ISIL included a significant increase in US participation in the Raqqa campaign, with the possibility of the US increasing its ground presence on the Raqqa front to 4,000–5,000 troops.
Advance to the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway
YPG/SDF fighters on the bank of the Euphrates east of Raqqa.
The offensive resumed on 5 March, with the SDF capturing at least seven villages and 15 hamlets to the northeast of the Euphrates River, east of Raqqa. The offensive had previously been paused due to bad weather, according to the SDF. The area captured by SDF forces on that day was about 19 square kilometers, and about 32 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes. After further advances on 6 March, the SDF cut the highway between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, which was the last road out of the city, and reached the Euphrates River. The SDF captured six villages, the Al-Kubar Military Base (a former nuclear facility), and the Zalabiye Bridge, during the day. On 8 March, the SDF took control of the strategic West Menxer hill in the eastern countryside, while elements of the US 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed to northern Syria, bringing with them an artillery battery of M777 howitzers to support the attack on Raqqa. Meanwhile, about 150 ISIL militants from Hama and Deir-ez Zor managed to reinforce Raqqa, by crossing the Euphrates, despite the partial siege that had been imposed by the SDF on the city.
On 9 March, SDF captured the strategic East Menxer hill and captured three villages on two different fronts. Two villages, including Kubar, were captured on the front to the far east of Raqqa, and one near Raqqa. 244 Arab fighters from the Raqqa countryside also joined the SDF during the day, for the protection of the people in the region. On the next day, SDF forces advancing from the Abu Khashab front captured three villages, including two near Kubar. On 12 March, the SDF captured Khas Ujayl village, to the southeast of Raqqa, on the Abu Khashab front, while ISIL continued to launch repeated counterattacks in the area, in an attempt to check the SDF advances. Meanwhile, 230 ISIL fighters entered Raqqa to reinforce the city.
On 14 March, the SDF captured the Khass Hibal village, as well as the Al-Kulayb grain silos, along the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway. An SDF spokeswoman stated that Raqqa had been isolated. The advance of the SDF put them in control of the land region used by ISIL to connect to their territories in the east, stretching from al-Kubar to the northern bank of the Euphrates and measuring 30 kilometres (19 mi). The SDF captured the Hamad Asaf silos and the Al Kulayb village the next day. Hamad Assaf was also reportedly captured. On 17 March, a YPG commander stated that the SDF planned to storm Raqqa city in April 2017, and that the YPG would be participating in the attack, despite the fierce opposition from the Turkish government. However, Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis denied that any decision regarding when and how an assault on Raqqa city will be carried out. Meanwhile, clashes continued to take place around Khas Ujayl.
The town of al-Karama, after the SDF had captured it from ISIL.
Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Karama, to the east of Raqqa, on 19 March. On the next day, SDF captured al-Karama, along with Jarqa village as well as a train station and water pumping station nearby. On 21 March, it was reported again that the SDF had captured Hamad Assaf in the eastern countryside from the Abu Khashab front. Another village was captured on 22 March from the Abu Khashab front. Meanwhile, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS) stated that coalition airstrikes hit a school being used as a shelter for displaced people in a village to the west of Raqqa on 20 March. SOHR stated that 33 civilians were killed in the airstrikes while RIBSS stated that it was unknown what happened to 50 families who were there. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern Raqqa countryside on 23 March, capturing two more villages on the Abu Khashab front, allowing them to capture a small ISIL pocket.On 24 March, the SDF took control of two more villages in the eastern countryside of Raqqa.
Battle for al-Tabqa countryside and other advances
On 22 March, the SDF began an assault to capture the Tabqa Dam, al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, and its airbase. Five hundred SDF fighters and five hundred US Special Forces from CJTF–OIR were airlifted by helicopters of the United States military, across the Euphrates River and Lake Assad, and were dropped on the Shurfa Peninsula to the west of Al-Thawrah. The attack was supported by artillery support from United States Marines, as well as air support. SDF and US forces also landed on the Jazirat al-‘Ayd Island (or Peninsula) to the west of Tabqa Dam, capturing it as well. Four villages southwest of Tabqa were captured in the attack, including Abu Hurayrah, al-Mushayirafah, al-Krain, and al-Jameen. The SDF advanced towards the town of Al-Thawrah, where fliers were dropped, asking residents to stay indoors and avoid clashing against ISIL for now. These fliers were also dropped on Raqqa city. An anti-ISIL coalition spokesman announced that the advance had cut off the highway linking the Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa Governorates. He added that around 75-80% of the attacking force consisted of Arab fighters, with the rest being Kurds. The SDF stated that the advance was also meant to block any advance on Raqqa by the Syrian Arab Army from the west.
On the same day, SDF and US forces stormed the Tabqa Dam, triggering “intense” clashes with ISIL forces. US officials stated that it may take several weeks to capture Tabqa Dam, Al-Thawrah city, and the surrounding countryside from ISIL. Airstrikes by the coalition on Tabqa city were reported to have killed about 25 civilians. On 23 March, some early reports circulated that the SDF had captured Tabqa Dam from ISIL, after clashing with ISIL forces for a few hours. However, these reports were unconfirmed by other sources, with neither the SDF or CENTCOM confirming the capture of Tabqa Dam, and Rudaw reported that the SDF was still preparing to capture it. SDF spokesman Talal Silo stated during the day that they were still advancing on the dam and the city and expected to attack the dam soon. Later on the same day, it was reported that ISIL was redeploying a large number of fighters from the Deir ez-Zor Province to Al-Thawrah and Raqqa city, in order to reinforce those fronts. ISIL’s Amaq News Agency later denied later that the SDF had captured the dam.
Refugees from al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, who have fled from the fighting between the SDF and ISIL.
On 24 March, SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed announced that they had reached the Tabqa Dam, and were fighting ISIL at its entrance. The assault on the dam was spearheaded by SDF fighters who were backed by United States Special Operation Forces. According to early reports, the SDF and its allies had taken its outer perimeter, with the battle ongoing for its middle. On the same day, it was also reported that the SDF had captured 8 villages to the southwest of Al-Thawrah. On 25 March, pro-Kurdish news agency Kurdistan24 reported that the SDF had announced the capture of the Tabqa Dam. On the same day, the SDF advanced on Al-Tabqa Airbase, setting off clashes in the vicinity.Amaq meanwhile claimed SDF had withdrawn from the dam.
On 26 March, the SDF captured 2 villages to the east of Al-Thawrah. It was also reported that ISIL was shelling the surroundings of Tabqa Dam with heavy weaponry.On the same day, ISIL claimed that Tabqa Dam was on the verge of collapse and that all the floodgates were closed. The dam was reported to have become inoperable, which ISIL claimed was due to Coalition bombing and artillery strikes, though the SOHR stated that the actual reasons were unknown, adding that ISIL still held its main building and turbines.SDF however denied that it had been hit, while RIBSS (Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered) stated that ISIL was informing fleeing civilians that the dam was safe. Additionally, the US-led Coalition stated that the Tabqa Dam was structurally sound, and that the dam had not been targeted by any airstrikes. They also stated that the SDF controlled an emergency spillway at the northern part of the dam, which could be used in the event of an emergency. On the same day, SDF spokesman Talal Silo announced that SDF had stormed the Tabqa military airport, and had taken sixty to seventy percent of it. They later announced that they had completely captured the Al-Tabqa Airbase, following a 24-hour battle.ISIL forces stationed at Al-Tabqa Airbase were reported to have withdrawn northward, to Al-Thawrah city. Additionally, SDF forces captured 2 villages near the airbase during the advance.
Late on 26 March, it was reported that the SDF had taken full control of Tabqa Dam, and that repairs on the dam by Coalition engineers had begun. A day later however SDF announced they were temporarily pausing their offensive for the dam. Later in the day, a spokeswoman of the SDF announced that engineers who had been permitted to check the dam and its operations did not find it was damaged or malfunctioning. SDF also captured 2 villages to the west of Raqqa on the same day. It resumed the offensive against ISIL at the Tabqa Dam on 28 March. Syrian engineers worked on the dam during a pause in the fighting to open spillways and ease the pressure on the dam. Its southern reaches were reported to be under ISIL control. ISIL claimed that the maintenance team was killed in airstrikes by the anti-ISIL coalition while the SOHR stated that it had learned that the engineer administering the dam had been killed in airstrikes along with a technician. It also stated that the group had sent 900 fighters from Raqqa to fight against the SDF advance.
On 29 March, the SDF cut the road between Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city and Raqqa. The SDF stated that ISIL had shelled the Tabqa Dam during the day, causing repair work to be temporarily paused. On 31 March, SDF forces attacked the town of Al-Safsafah, to the east of Al-Thawrah, in an attempt to besiege the city. On the same day, the Ajeel tribe of al-Raqqa announced its support for the SDF’s Raqqa campaign and sent 150 fighters. On 1 April 2017, 200 Arab youths completed training and joined the SDF, also for the Raqqa campaign. The SDF announced during the day that over 220 new recruits had joined the offensive. Meanwhile, leaflets were dropped on the city calling on ISIL to surrender. Clashes continued in the countryside of Tabqa on next day as both sides attempted to advance.
The SDF and some activists stated on 2 April that it had repelled a major ISIL counterattack to the northeast of Tabqa city, near the Tabqa Dam and near the Tabqa airbase. They also continued to advance in villages to the east of Tabqa city. On the same day, it was reported that SDF had completely besieged Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, with Kurdish activists stating that 2 SDF units linked up to the east of the city. SOHR, however, stated that they were still trying to besiege the city. SDF fighters continued battling for Safsafah and Ibad, on the next day, to fully encircle Tabqa. On 3 April, it was reported that ISIL was possibly in the process of moving its capital from Raqqa city to Mayadin, in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. This followed months of gradual relocation of resources and senior ISIL leaders from Raqqa to Mayadin. SDF entered and besieged Safsafah on 5 April, thus also besieging Tabqa city while claiming that it had also taken control of a major part of Safsafah. The village was captured by the next day, resulting in SDF completely encircling Tabqa city.
The SDF captured Ibad village, to the east of Safsafah, on 9 April, further expanding their control in eastern countryside of Tabqa, while more than 25 ISIL fighters were killed in the clashes. ISIL also launched unsuccessful counterattacks on Safsafah, while also attacking Al-Tabqa Airbase. The SDF captured another village near Tabqa on the next day.
On 11 April, the US-led Coalition reported that the SDF had captured 60% of Tabqa Dam, and that they were “very close” to liberating the dam. On 13 April, the United States military stated that CJTF-OIR had bombed a SDF fighting position near Tabqa as it was misidentified as belonging to ISIL. It added that the airstrikes resulted in deaths of 18 SDF fighters.
Phase Four: Offensive directly north of and around Raqqa city; Assault on Tabqa city
On 13 April, the SDF announced the launch of the fourth phase of the campaign. The new phase will involve capturing the entire area directly north of Raqqa city, including the Jalab valley, as well as completing the siege of Raqqa city. The advancements may involve capturing the southern countryside of Raqqa as well, since the SDF stated that they plan to fully isolate the city before launching an attack on it. A plan to attack Raqqa city itself was also scheduled to for April 2017, but it was postponed due to the Battle of Tabqa. SDF was reported to have captured a village in the northern countryside of Raqqa on the same day.
SOHR stated early on 15 April that the SDF had advanced to the edge of Tabqa, and was within hundreds of meters of the city. Later, SDF captured the village of Ayad al-Saghir village near Tabqa and stormed the city itself, capturing the Alexandria suburb and bringing about 15% of the city under their control. They also cleared the Mushayrifah village near Tabqa, killing 27 ISIL fighters.
On 17 April, the SDF captured 3 villages in the northern countryside of Raqqa along with four hamlets.
Civil administration of captured territory
Samer Kharkhi, one of the Raqqa Civil Council’s leading members.
On 14 November, the SDF’s civilian sister institution, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), started working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. SDC co-chair Îlham Ehmed said “such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group. This accomplishment would be a major change in the overall situation in Syria, and would help the country move towards stability, democratic change. Raqqa will be an example for the whole country.”
On 8 December, Col. John Dorrian, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, stated that “a governance structure representative of the local population” similar to that in Manbij is planned for Raqqa. On 10 December, Cihan ShekhEhmed, the spokesman of the SDF-led operation, said that Raqqa would be run by a local elected civilian council after it was liberated. On 27 March 2017, Salih Muslim Muhammad, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said that as soon as the SDF had captured the city, “the people of Raqqa are the ones who [will] take the decision on everything”. If they wanted to do so, Muslim said, they could choose to join the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria. On the same day, the Raqqa Civil Council announced that it had taken over the administration of the eastern countryside.
A YPJ sniper during the offensive on 13 November 2016
A boat carrying SDF fighters cross Lake Assad on 9 April 2017
Toyota Hilux and other vehicles of the YPG and YPJ near Tabqa, 9 April 2017
Jump up^Most Leftist Western volunteers fight as part of the YPG, though some have also formed an independent unit, the Antifascist International Tabur, or joined the International Freedom Battalion. The latter is a larger unit, mostly composed of Kurdish and Turkish communists.
Jump up^1,500 volunteers from villages captured by the SDF during phase one; 1,000 volunteers from villages captured during phase two, 750 volunteers from villages captured during phase three, 200 more joined in April
Jump up^According to SOHR, 8 SDF casualties were Western volunteers; among these were 4 Americans (one of which fought for the MFS), 1 British, 1 Canadian, and 1 German.ARA News, on the other side, reported that only 5 Western volunteers had been killed.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks with a delegate during the afternoon ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, March 22, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On March 22, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On the battlefield, 23 coalition partners have over 9,000 troops in Iraq and Syria in support of the effort to defeat ISIS. The Coalition has made significant progress in denying ISIS safe haven and building the military capacity of those directly engaged in fighting ISIS.
Coalition operations have liberated 62 percent of the terrain ISIS once controlled in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria, including key cities in both countries. The number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is down by more than half since its peak in 2014.
Coalition aircraft have conducted more than 19,000 strikes on ISIS targets, removing tens of thousands of ISIS fighters from the battlefield and killing over 180 senior to mid-level ISIS leaders, including nearly all of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies, his so-called ministers of war, information, finance, oil and gas, and his chief of external operations.
The Coalition has supported its Iraqi partners to achieve significant progress in the fight to retake Mosul. Iraqi Security Forces officially liberated eastern Mosul on January 24, 2017, and now are making significant territorial gains in the western portion of the city.
To date, Coalition efforts have trained nearly 90,000 Iraqi Security Force members, including Iraqi Army soldiers, Counterterrorism Services soldiers, Kurdish Peshmerga, federal police and border security soldiers, and tribal volunteers.
With the support of the Coalition, Syrian partners have liberated over 14,000 square kilometers of terrain in Syria, including more than 7,400 square kilometers of territory since isolation operations around Raqqa began on November 5.
Coalition forces are now pressuring ISIS in Raqqa, its external operations headquarters, from where ISIS is plotting against Coalition member interests around the globe.
“Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor,” said Secretary Tillerson, “but we must increase the intensity of our efforts to solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight. Degradation of ISIS is not the end goal, we must defeat ISIS.”
The race for Raqqa: Major battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold looms after victory nears in Mosul and Palmyra… but who will lead the offensive?
Syrian soldiers, Turkish troops and US-backed Kurdish troops eyeing up Raqqa
Islamic State terrorists were driven out of Mosul and Palmyra in another victory
With liberation of the two cities drawing nearer, Raqqa will become top priority
The fall of the terror group’s de facto capital would be seen as ISIS’ biggest loss
By Gareth Davies For Mailonline
PUBLISHED: 06:48 EDT, 3 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:05 EDT, 3 March 2017
A major battle to liberate the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria is looming after victories on the battlefields of Mosul and Palmyra.
The Pentagon has drawn up a secret plan which is likely to lean on local allies with stepped-up American support, but questions still remain as to who exactly will lead the operation to kick ISIS out of its de facto capital.
Syrian government forces, Turkish troops and their Syrian militia allies, and US-backed Kurdish forces all have their eye on Raqqa.
Each vehemently rejects letting the others capture the city and would likely react in anger should the United States support the others, and it is not clear that any has the resources to take the city on its own.
The fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital and largest remaining stronghold, would be the biggest defeat for the militants in Syria since they captured the northern city on the banks of the Euphrates River in January 2014.
An Iraqi Army officer (right) uses his mobile phone to film a rocket launched towards Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul,Iraq
Iraqi family displaced due to fighting between the Iraqi army and ISIS, waiting at a temporary shelter to be sent to a refugee camp in Hamam Ali town, southern Mosul
Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirt of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq
Smoke billows as Iraqi forces hold a position on a street in Mosul on March 1, 2017, during an offensive by security forces to retake the western parts of the city from Islamic State
Since October, US-backed coalition forces have been advancing on Mosul in an attempt to re-capture it from the terror group’s control.
Civilians have been evacuated and ISIS have been driven out of the city one village and area at a time.
This morning, an Iraqi military commander says forces have taken control of another neighborhood in western Mosul.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Military Operations Command said despite bad weather, Iraqi special operations forces have completely retaken the Wadi Hajjar area from militants.
However, commanders on the ground say that clearing operations are still continuing.
Wadi Hajjar lies just northwest of the city’s international airport.
Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack on the western part of Mosul nearly two weeks ago to dislodge the extremists.
Since the offensive began, more than 28,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.
Across the border in Syria, army units were clearing land mines and explosives left behind by ISIS in the historic town of Palmyra on Friday, a day after government troops and allied militiamen recaptured it from the extremists.
The military expects the process to be long and difficult due to the large number of mines planted by the terror group.
Syrian troops fully recaptured Palmyra on Thursday after a push that saw the militants’ defenses crumble and ISIS fighters flee in the face of artillery fire and intense Russia-backed airstrikes.
The Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in the ancient city of Palmyra is blown up in conflict
Fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State, now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria, where attention will now turn
Now, all eyes turn to Raqqa.
Faysal Itani, an analyst at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said: ‘Raqqa is more of an abstract goal: everyone wants it in principle, but no one is willing to commit the resources and bear the risks necessary.’
Turkey rules out a US compromise in Syria
Turkey is ruling out compromise with the United States over the involvement of Kurdish militia fighters in an assault in Syria, an obstacle for Washington’s plan to deploy its strongest allies on the ground in a decisive showdown with Islamic State.
Donald Trump has made defeating ISIS one of the key goals of his presidency, and his new administration received a draft Pentagon plan on Monday to accelerate the campaign.
Raqqa in Syria, one of Islamic State’s two de facto capitals along with Mosul in Iraq, is expected to be the scene of the final battle to crush the jihadists’ self-proclaimed Caliphate sometime this year, after a US-backed Iraqi government assault on Mosul already under way since October.
But putting together a united ground force to take Raqqa has so far proven a confounding task in Syria, where the United States, Turkey, Russia, Iran and Arab states have all backed local forces in a multi-sided civil war since 2011. All the foreign powers oppose Islamic State, but their Syrian proxies have mainly fought against one another.
Turkey, with the second largest army in NATO, is adamant that Washington should switch support for the planned Raqqa offensive from the Kurdish YPG militia to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against Islamic State for the past year.
President Donald Trump has vowed to ‘obliterate’ the group.
‘We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet,’ he told Congress on Tuesday.
The top US commander in the campaign against IS, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes Raqqa and Mosul will be taken within six months.
So far, the offensive on Mosul has been underway four months, with only half the city captured from the militants in ferocious street-to-street urban combat.
And that is using a relatively intensively trained and united military, backed by heavy U.S. firepower and commandos on the ground – a contrast to the comparatively undisciplined and fragmented forces the US has to choose from as allies in Syria.
Raqqa is a smaller city than Mosul, but the militants are believed to have dug in with powerful fortifications there.
In Syria, US-backed predominantly Kurdish fighters known as the Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, remain Trump’s best bet.
Aided by US-led coalition airstrikes and some 500 US special forces troops deployed in an advisory role, the force has been marching toward Raqqa since November.
Closing in on the city from different directions, it is now stationed some eight kilometers (five miles) north of the city.
The US military recently provided a small number of armored vehicles to the US-backed force to give better protection from small arms fire and roadside bombs as they get closer to Raqqa.
Further aid to the rag-tag group, however, raises sensitive questions over how to deal with Turkey, a NATO ally with much at stake in Syria.
Turkey considers the main Kurdish militia in Syria – known as the YPG, and an affiliate of the US-backed SDF – a terrorist organization, and has vowed to work with Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.
In a dramatic reversal of years of the Obama administration’s calls for the ouster of President Bashar Assad, Trump has hinted he might be willing to work with Assad’s army and Russia, whose year-and-a-half military intervention has propped up Assad’s government.
Assad’s forces are preoccupied with other battles, however, and would likely need significant US military involvement to take on Raqqa.
On Wednesday, the Syrian military recaptured the central town of Palmyra, a city located in the desert south of Raqqa that has gone back and forth between control of the military and the extremists several times.
The government forces have also clashed with the Turkish-backed Syrian fighters, who block their path to Raqqa.
Iraqi security forces inspect a recently discovered tunnel that had been used by Islamic State militants as a training camp, in western Mosul, Iraq on Wednesday, March 1. 2017
Syrians are sharply divided over who should enter Raqqa.
Many opposition supporters consider the SDF, which maintains a tacit non-aggression pact with Assad’s forces, to be a hostile group.
There are also fears of tensions if Raqqa, home to a nearly 200,000 mainly Arab population, is taken by the SDF, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters.
‘Let us be frank that any force that will liberate Raqqa, other than the Free Syrian Army, is going to be a new occupation force with different flags and banners,’ said Mohammed Khodor of Sound and Picture Organization, which tracks atrocities by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was even more blunt, warning that if the SDF enters Raqqa, it will hurt relations between Ankara and Washington.
Since the Mosul offensive began, more than 28,000 people like these have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN
‘We have said that a terror organization cannot be used against another terror organization,’ the Turkish leader told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Kurds reject that notion and insist that only forces fighting under the SDF banner will liberate Raqqa.
‘Turkey is an occupation force and has no legitimate right to enter Raqqa,’ said SDF spokeswoman Cihan Sheikh Ehmed.
In a text message exchange from northern Syria, she said the SDF has the experience in fighting IS to finish the operation.
Battlefield victories by the SDF against the Islamic State group have brought growing Western support.
Asked if adding more US troops or better arming Syria’s Kurds were options, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will ‘accommodate any request’ from his field commanders.
In Mosul, the US-led coalition is playing a greater role than ever before in the fight against IS and coalition forces have moved closer to front-line fighting.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian says the increased support is an effort to ‘accelerate the campaign’ against the Islamic State group, noting that launching simultaneous operations in both Mosul and Raqqa ‘puts further strain on the enemy’s command and control.’
‘It is a complicating factor when you don’t have a partner government to work with,’ conceded Dorrian, adding that whoever the coalition partners with in the fight for Raqqa is ‘a subject of ongoing discussions.’
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Middle East analyst at the Jamestown Foundation who closely follows Kurdish affairs, says the US-led coalition wants to have a quick end to IS in Raqqa, from which external operations against the West are planned.
That means it would prefer to work with the Kurdish-led SDF forces ‘since they are able to mobilize manpower unlike the Turks,’ he said.
An ISIS flag flies in the city of Palmyra – but not for long as victory nears in the city
Allied forces stand on the rubble of the Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in Palmyra
An Iraqi soldier inspects a recently-discovered train tunnel, adorned with an Islamic State group flag
In any case, the battle for Raqqa is sure to be a long and deadly one. It took the SDF nearly 10 weeks to capture the northern Syrian town of Manbij from IS last year.
It took Turkish forces and allied groups more than three months to retake the town of al-Bab, a costly battle that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers and many civilians.
Raqqa is much larger than either Manbij or al-Bab.
Some Syrian opposition activists say the extremists dug a trench around it to make it difficult for attackers to storm it.
‘It would be difficult for any troops,’ said Itani of the Atlantic Council.
‘Witness the slow and ugly progress in Mosul as well. Raqqa would be tough,’ he said.
The Trump foreign policy team has been all over the map on what to do next in Syria — topple the regime, intensify aid to rebels, respond to any new attacks on innocent civilians. But when pressed, there is one idea everyone on the team seems to agree on: “The defeat of ISIS,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it.
Well, let me add to their confusion by asking just one question: Why?
Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria? Of course, ISIS is detestable and needs to be eradicated. But is it really in our interest to be focusing solely on defeating ISIS in Syria right now?
Let’s go through the logic: There are actually two ISIS manifestations.
One is “virtual ISIS.” It is satanic, cruel and amorphous; it disseminates its ideology through the internet. It has adherents across Europe and the Muslim world. In my opinion, that ISIS is the primary threat to us, because it has found ways to deftly pump out Sunni jihadist ideology that inspires and gives permission to those Muslims on the fringes of society who feel humiliated — from London to Paris to Cairo — to recover their dignity via headline-grabbing murders of innocents.
The other incarnation is “territorial ISIS.” It still controls pockets in western Iraq and larger sectors of Syria. Its goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria — plus its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies — and to defeat the pro-Iranian Shiite regime in Iraq, replacing both with a caliphate.
Challenge No. 1: Not only will virtual ISIS, which has nodes all over the world, not go away even if territorial ISIS is defeated, I believe virtual ISIS will become yet more virulent to disguise the fact that it has lost the territorial caliphate to its archenemies: Shiite Iran, Hezbollah, pro-Shiite militias in Iraq, the pro-Shiite Assad regime in Damascus and Russia, not to mention America.
Challenge No. 2: America’s goal in Syria is to create enough pressure on Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah so they will negotiate a power-sharing accord with moderate Sunni Muslims that would also ease Assad out of power. One way to do that would be for NATO to create a no-fly safe zone around Idlib Province, where many of the anti-Assad rebels have gathered and where Assad recently dropped his poison gas on civilians. But Congress and the U.S. public are clearly wary of that.
So what else could we do? We could dramatically increase our military aid to anti-Assad rebels, giving them sufficient anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles to threaten Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian helicopters and fighter jets and make them bleed, maybe enough to want to open negotiations. Fine with me.
What else? We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war — the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other. If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.
I don’t get it. President Trump is offering to defeat ISIS in Syria for free — and then pivot to strengthening the moderate anti-Assad rebels. Why? When was the last time Trump did anything for free? When was the last real estate deal Trump did where he volunteered to clean up a toxic waste dump — for free — before he negotiated with the owner on the price of the golf course next door?
This is a time for Trump to be Trump — utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias — because ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that plays as dirty as Iran and Russia.
Trump should want to defeat ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria? Not for free, not now. In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.
Yes, in the long run we want to crush ISIS everywhere, but the only way to crush ISIS and keep it crushed on the ground is if we have moderate Sunnis in Syria and Iraq able and willing to replace it. And those will only emerge if there are real power-sharing deals in Syria and Iraq — and that will only happen if Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah feel pressured to share power.
And while I am at it, where is Trump’s Twitter feed when we need it? He should be tweeting every day this message: “Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have become the protectors of a Syrian regime that uses poison gas on babies! Babies! Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad — poison gas enablers. Sad.”
Do not let them off the hook! We need to make them own what they’ve become — enablers of a Syria that uses poison gas on children. Believe it or not, they won’t like being labeled that way. Trump needs to use his global Twitter feed strategically. Barack Obama never played this card. Trump needs to slam it down every day. It creates leverage.
Syria is not a knitting circle. Everyone there plays dirty, deviously and without mercy. Where’s that Trump when we need him?
Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government, and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005. There is a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran; it is not self-ruled. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of northern Syria as government forces, loyal to Bashar al-Assad, withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government, they called for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.
The Kingdom of Corduene, which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384 as vassals of the vying Parthian and Roman Empire. At its zenith, the Roman Empire ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. After 66 BC, it passed another 5 times between Rome and Persia. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, that is, to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey.
Some historians have correlated a connection between Corduene with the modern names of Kurds and Kurdistan;T. A. Sinclair dismissed this identification as false, while a common association is asserted in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names:
19th-century map showing the location of the Kingdom of Corduene in 60 B.C
One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds is found in an Assyrian Christian document of late antiquity, describing the stories of Assyrian saints of the Middle East, such as Abdisho. When the SasanianMarzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraq-Turkey border, while Hazza is 12 km southwest of modern Erbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of the Khabur River is also identified as land of the Kurds. According to Al-Muqaddasi and Yaqut al-Hamawi, Tamanon was located on the south-western or southern slopes of Mount Judi and south of Cizre.
Map by Mahmud al-Kashgari (1074), showing Arḍ al-Akrād Arabic for land of Kurds located between Arḍ al-Šām (Syria), and Arḍ al-ʿIrāqayn (Iraq Arabi and Iraq Ajami).
Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was a collection of semi-independent and independent states called emirates. It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the text of Sharafnama, written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in the south; Bakran, Bohtan (or Botan) and Badlis in the north, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in the east.
In the 16th century, after prolonged wars, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires. A major division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, and was formalized in the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. From then until the aftermath of World War I, Kurdish areas (including most of Mesopotamia, eastern Anatolia, and traditionally Kurdish northeastern Syria) were generally under Ottoman rule, apart from the century-long, intermittent Iranian occupation in the early modern to modern period, and the later reconquest and vast expansion by the Iranian military leader Nader Shah in the first half of the 18th century. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies contrived to split Kurdistan (as detailed in the ultimately unratified Treaty of Sèvres) among several countries, including Kurdistan, Armenia and others. However, the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Kemal Atatürk (and other pressing issues) caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne and the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey, leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria.
At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament.
A 2010 US report, written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that “Kurdistan may exist by 2030”. The weakening of the Iraqi state following the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also presented an opportunity for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, augmented by Turkey’s move towards acceptance of such a state although it opposes moves toward Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and Syria.
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions, including the Koçgiri rebellion of 1920 under the Ottomans, then successive insurrection under the Turkish state – including the 1924 Sheikh Said rebellion, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the 1937 Dersim rebellion. All were forcefully put down by the authorities. The region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.
In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as “Mountain Turks” until 1991. The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan”, or “Kurdish” were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned.
In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separatist organization, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A guerrilla war took place through the 1980s and 1990s in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed, and numerous extrajudicial summary executions were carried out by both sides. Many villages were reportedly set on fire or destroyed. Food embargoes were placed on Kurdish populated villages and towns. More than 20,000 Kurds were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes.
Turkey has historically feared that a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would encourage and support Kurdish separatists in the adjacent Turkish provinces, and have therefore historically strongly opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq. However, following the chaos in Iraq after the US invasion, Turkey has increasingly worked with the de facto autonomous Kurds in Iraq.
The successful 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the resultant weakening of the ability of the Iraqi state to project power, also presented a “golden opportunity” for the Kurds to increase their independence and possibly declare an independent Kurdish state. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who took more than 80 Turkish persons captive in Mosul during their offensive, is an enemy of Turkey, making Kurdistan useful for Turkey as a buffer state. On 28 June 2014 Hüseyin Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling AK party, made comments to the Financial Times indicating Turkey’s readiness to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Various sources have reported that Al-Nusra has issued a fatwā calling for Kurdish women and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Iraq’s Kurdistan region. As of 2015, Turkey is actively supporting the Al-Nusra.
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:
Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia.
The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are referred to as upper Kurdistan, and includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia.
The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil.
Much of the region is typified by an extreme continental climate – hot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has historically exported grain and livestock. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateau between mountain chains. The climate is dominated by mountains in the zone along the border with Iran and Turkey, with dry summers and cold, snowy winters or wet springs, while to the south, it progressively transitions towards semi-arid and desert zones. The northern mountainous regions along the border with Iran and Turkey receive heavy snowfall.
Kurdistan is one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a cold climate receiving annual precipitation adequate to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains harbor pastures and forested valleys, totaling approximately 16 million hectares (160,000 km²), including firs and countryside is mostly oaks, conifers, platanus, willow, poplar and olive. Also the Mediterranean region known as west Kurdistan has olive trees. Kurdistan’s climatic conditions are due to the northern mountainous topography producing the steppe and forest vegetation in the area. The region north of the mountainous region on the border with Iran and Turkey features meadow grasses and such wild trees as poplar, willow and oak, hawthorn, Cherry plum, rose hips, mountain apple, pear, mountain ash, and olive. The desert in the south, by contrast, has such species as palm trees and date palm.
The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rain and snow fall, act as a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East, forming the source of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as other numerous smaller rivers, such as the Little Khabur, Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil. Among rivers of historical importance to Kurds are the Murat (Arasān) and Buhtān rivers in Turkey; the Peshkhābur, the Little Zab, the Great Zab, and the Diyala in Iraq; and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tātā’u (Siminarud), the Zohāb (Zahāb), and the Gāmāsiyāb in Iran.
These rivers, which flow from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are significant both as water sources and for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria dammed many of these rivers and their tributaries, and Turkey has an extensive dam system under construction as part of the GAP (Southeast Anatolia Project); though incomplete, the GAP already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey’s electrical energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites.
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; the only lake in the Middle East with a larger surface is Lake Urmia – though not nearly as deep as Lake Van, which has a much larger volume. Urmia, Van, as well as Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, and Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are frequented by tourists.
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of oil, making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
Al-Hasakah province, also known as Jazira region, has geopolitical importance of oil and is suitable for agricultural lands.
In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government’s authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field. This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon’s contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d). Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 2,800 km3 (100×1012 cu ft). Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, and zinc. The world’s largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewlêr).
In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.
Story 1: Made In America Terrorist Tested In Afghanistan — Mother of All Bombs — Who is Next? North Korea, Syria, Iran — Videos —
OFFICIAL M.O.A.B FOOTAGE RELEASED (Afghans React to M.O.A.B Bomb) *Compilation 2017 HD*
OFFICIAL M.O.A.B FOOTAGE RELEASED (Afghans React to M.O.A.B Bomb) *Compilation 2017 HD*
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Breaking! U.S. Drops Largest Non-Nuclear Bomb on Afghanistan! “Mother of All Bombs”!
Trump Drops the ”Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan
WORLDS LARGEST Non-Nuclear Bomb GBU-43 B Massive Ordnance Air Blast
Published on Apr 13, 2017
Mother of all bombs GBU-43 B Massive Ordnance Air Blast.
U.S. on 04.11.2017 dropped the most powerful conventional bomb in its arsenal on Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
The bomb, known in military ranks as “MOAB,” or the “mother of all bombs,” was used Thursday for the first time in combat, though it was developed in the early 2000s.
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Children of Mother of All Bomb
Boeing Delivers Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) 37,000 LB Bombs To The USAF – GBU-57
PUBLISHED: 12:52 EDT, 13 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:50 EDT, 13 April 2017
The United States has dropped its largest non-nuclear weapon after it targeted ISIS a network of caves and tunnels in eastern Afghanistan.
U.S. forces used a GPS-guided GBU-43 bomb, which is 30 feet long and weighs a staggering 21,600 pounds.
It is known as the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ – a play on ‘MOAB,’ an acronym that stands for ‘Massive Ordnance Air Burst.’
A crater left by the blast is believed to be more than 300 meters wide after it exploded six feet above the ground. Anyone at the blast site was vaporized.
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that he was ‘very, very proud’ and called the operation ‘really another successful job. We’re very, very proud of our military.’
The Pentagon is denying that the attack was a revenge strike despite the fact that it came in the same area of Afghanistan where a Green Beret soldier was killed on Saturday.
Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, of 7th Special Forces Group, was cut down by enemy small arms fire while his unit was conducting counter-ISIS operations.
The military used a GBU-43 (pictured), which weighs a staggering 21,600 pounds, and has earned the moniker ‘Mother Of All Bombs
That MOAB’s first practical test was carried out on March 11, 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that he had authorized his military commanders to take actions like the one put into play on Thursday
Trump suggested he had not personally ordered the bomb strike but delegated authority to commanders in the field.
‘Everybody knows exactly what happened. So, what I do is I authorize my military … We have given them total authorization,’ he said.
The move marks the fulfilment of a 17-month-old campaign promise Trump delivered in Iowa, when he scoffed at ISIS terror forces and said he ‘would bomb the s**t out of them’ if he became president.
It also comes at a moment in the young Trump presidency when tensions are rising with Russia over its role in Syria, where ISIS has its headquarters.
Huge: The MOAB test fired in 2003 shortly before final preparations for it to be loaded onto an MC-130 attack aircraft
Then-candidate Donald Trump told an Iowa audience in November 2015 that he would fight ISIS from the air as president: ‘I would bomb the s**t out of them’
The explosion will also send a saber-rattling message to North Korea and Iran that rogue states’ nuclear-weapons ambitions could be met with brute force.
Trump said of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un: ‘I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not.’
‘North Korea’s a problem. The problem will be taken care of.’
The Department of Defense is denying that Thursday’s attack was revenge for Saturday’s death of Green Beret sergeant Mark De Alencar in the same region of Afghanistan
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that MOAB is ‘a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon’ whose use was intended to collapse underground spaces used by ISIS terrorists to move freely and attack U.S. and allied troops.
‘The United States takes the fight against ISIS seriously, and in order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space – which we did,’ Spicer said.
He referred reporters’ questions to the Pentagon and ignored a shouted question about whether Trump had been aware the bomb was dropped before or during the military operation.
Trump said during a November 2015 campaign rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa that ISIS was ‘making a tremendous amount of money’ because of ‘certain areas of oil that they took away’ after the Obama administration withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘They have some in Syria, some in Iraq. I would bomb the s**t out of them,’ he said to wild cheers. ‘I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. … I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left.’
Trump said in 2015 that he would ‘Bomb the sh*t out of ISIS’
Preparations: This was the scene as the only other MOAB to be exploded was readied for action in 2003 in Florida. The tail rotor is part of the guidance system for it to exploded over a specified target
Mushroom cloud: This was the aftermath of the test explosion seen outside Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida
The MOAB was pushed out the back door of a giant cargo plane on Thursday, flying to its target with GPS guidance. A MOAB has only been exploded once before – in a 2003 test
A specialized MC-130 ‘Hercules’ cargo aircraft released the weapon at 7:00 p.m. local time.
It was too big to drop from a traditional bomb-bay door or release from an aircraft wing, so ‘we kicked it out the back door,’ a U.S. official told Fox News.
The weapon’s sheer power produces a blast that can be felt miles away, largely because of its construction.
Engineers used an unusually thin aluminum skin to encase MOAB’s payload, in order to avoid a thicker steel frame interfering with the impact on a target.
The U.S. fast-tracked the MOAB in 2003 for use in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the Defense Department later decided that the enemy provided too little resistance to justify its deployment.
It was available to the Obama administration throughout the former president’s entire two terms, but he never deployed it in combat.
Its first practical test was carried out on March 11, 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Sean Spicer announces dropping of GBU-43 bomb in Afghanistan
HOW ‘MOAB’ WORKS
Known as the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’
The U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear weapon
Each bomb costs around $16 million (£12.8 million)
Its explosion is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT and the blast radius is a mile wide
First tested by US forces in 2003
It is designed to destroy heavily reinforced targets or to shatter ground forces and armour across a large area
30 feet (9 meters) long and 40 inches (1 meter) wide
Weighs 21,000lbs (9,500kg) – heavier than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb
Leaves no lasting radiation effect
How it’s deployed:
The bomb has ‘grid’ fins that fold into the body and then open up in flight to help control its descent
It can only be deployed out of the back of a large cargo plane due to its size
The bomb rides on a pallet, a parachute pulls the pallet and bomb out of the plane
The pallet then separates so that the bomb can fall to its target
It accelerates rapidly to its terminal velocity and is partially guided to its target via satellite
It explodes six feet (1.8 meters) above the ground
The idea behind this ‘airburst’ mechanism is to spread its destructive range
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the explosive colossus was dropped in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, making it the first time America’s largest non-nuclear weapon has been used in a combat situation.
Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said it was the first ever combat use of the bomb, which contains 11 tons of explosives.
Stump said the bomb was dropped on a cave complex believed to be used by ISIS fighters in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, very close to the border with Pakistan.
Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement about ISIS that ‘as ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense.’
‘This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against [ISIS-K].’
News reports suggest Nicholson made the decision to drop it from the sky.
He added that ‘[t]he strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities.’
The ISIS faction in Afghanistan is known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khorasan province, or ISIS-K.
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Rex Tillerson holds joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister after meeting Vladimir Putin…
Sec. Tillerson, Russian Minister Lavrov. News conference in Moscow. Syria. April 12. 2017
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BREAKING NEWS TRUMP 04/13/17: FOX NEWS SHOW THURSDAY
Story 4: Trump Will Not Name Communist China As Currency Manipulator –United States Is A Currency Manipulator — Video —
A New Approach to Currency Manipulation?
How China’s devaluation impacts the U.S.
How Does China Manipulate Its Currency?
China’s Currency Manipulation
Donald Trump Economic Speech | Calls China as a Currency Manipulator | Monessen, PA | Mango News
Trump Tv | Japanese reporter asks Trump about China currency Manipulation | February 10 2017
Why Trump Should Stop Accusing China of Yuan Manipulation
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China’s Upward Currency Manipulation Might Have To End – FX Reserves Are Falling
Tim Worstall , CONTRIBUTOR
It is a standard belief of many in the US, including the new President, Donald Trump, that China is a currency manipulator. This is true, China has indeed been manipulating the value of the yuan. However, contrary to popular belief it has, at least recently, been manipulating that value up against the American dollar, not down. This of course makes Chinese exports to America more expensive and reduces the trade deficit between the two countries. Not that simple facts tend to change many peoples’ beliefs about the economy of course.
However, this all might come to an end soon enough because China’s foreign currency reserves are falling as a result of their interventions. In fact, that those reserves are falling is the very evidence we need to show that they are intervening up, not down:
China’s foreign exchange reserves unexpectedly fell below the closely watched $3 trillion level in January for the first time in nearly six years, though tighter regulatory controls appeared to making some progress in slowing capital outflows. China has taken a raft of steps in recent months to make it harder to move money out of the country and to reassert a grip on its faltering currency, even as U.S. President Donald Trump steps up accusations that Beijing is keeping the yuan too cheap.
As we can see the general assumption in the financial markets, and the correct assumption too, is that China has been intervening to keep the value of the yuan up, not down. The major way it has been doing this being by limiting the amount that Chinese citizens can move out of the country:
Further erosion of the world’s largest stockpile may prompt policy makers again to tighten measures for controlling outflows and on companies transferring money to other countries. Authorities recently rolled out stricter requirements for citizens converting yuan into foreign currencies as the annual $50,000 foreign exchange quota for individuals reset Jan. 1.
For a capital outflow does indeed reduce the value of a currency:
China’s foreign exchange reserves fell below the $3 trillion mark for the first time in almost six years as capital continued to flow out of the world’s second-largest economy, data from the People’s Bank of China showed Tuesday.
The reserves fell by $12.31 billion from the previous month to $2.998 trillion, following a drop of $41.08 billion in December. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had expected a $1 billion decrease in January.
The reason a capital outflow does this should be obvious. Yuan work only in China. Thus, to take money out of China you must sell yuan and buy some other form of money. That sale reduces the value of the yuan (more of something for sale does usually mean a price fall) against those other currencies. And thus the truth of those accusations of currency manipulation. As we can see the Chinese government is placing restrictions on peoples’ ability to sell yuan. This is thus manipulation which keeps the value up, not such that pushes it down.
All of which leaves us with an interesting point. The general demand is that China stop manipulating the value of its currency. OK, so, let’s insist upon that. The value of the yuan will fall, Chinese exports to America will be cheaper and we might well then see an increase in the US trade deficit. Which isn’t really what the people complaining about manipulation want, is it? But it may well be what they’re about to get.
Trump says he will not label China currency manipulator, reversing campaign promise
By Ana Swanson and Damian PalettaApril 12
During his presidential campaign Trump talked tough on China, accusing them of undervaluing the yuan. The International Monetary Fund has said that Chinese currency is “no longer undervalued”. Does China still deserve to be called a “currency manipulator”?(Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
President Trump on Wednesday said he would not label China a currency manipulator, contradicting one of the biggest economic promises he made on the campaign trail.
Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he had changed his mind because China is not currently manipulating its currency, adding that he hoped to enlist China’s help on containing the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Trump also indicated that he might be open to keeping Janet L. Yellen as Federal Reserve chair after her term expires. “I like her, I respect her. … It’s very early,” he said when asking about her reappointment.
Trump was highly critical of Yellen during the campaign. He accused her of keeping interest rates low to benefit the Obama administration and said she should be ashamed of herself. But Yellen has a reputation for being slow to raise interest rates, and Trump had also professed his preference for low interest rates in the past.
“I do like a low-interest rate policy, I must be honest with you,” he told the Journal, when asked about Yellen.
The president is also “very close” to naming a vice chair and filling another open seat that governs community banking on the Federal Reserve Board, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during the interview.
In the interview, Trump also inveighed against the strong U.S. dollar, saying that the strength of the currency stemmed partially from people’s confidence in him, but that it was also hurting the economy.
“It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency,” he said.
Eswar Prasad, a professor of international trade at Cornell University, said it was striking that a sitting president would comment so directly on the value of the dollar.
“It could also be taken as an implicit threat to other countries that if the dollar stays strong and if U.S. bilateral trade imbalances with its major trading partners stay high or continue to expand, that he will take some sort of action,” Prasad said.
The judgment on currency manipulation was scheduled to be released in a semiannual report from the Treasury Department that is due this week.
China defies international trade rules in some respects, economists say, but devaluing its currency is not currently one of them. While China suppressed the value of its currency for years to make its products cheaper abroad and boost its exports, for the past several years it has been intervening in currency markets to prop the yuan up, which actually benefits American exporters.
Your daily policy cheat sheet from Wonkblog.
“Certainly for the past six months, which is the period notionally covered by the April 15 report, China has been intervening to raise the value of its currency, not to suppress it,” said Matthew Goodman, a former Treasury official who helped to label China a currency manipulator during the Clinton administration.
China was a favored target of Trump’s on the campaign trail. He often said the world’s second-largest economy was taking advantage of the U.S., and that he would respond on his first day in office by labeling China a currency manipulator. He has also said he would impose tariffs of up to 45 percent on China if the country does not negotiate better trade terms with the United States.
Labeling a country a currency manipulator triggers an investigation and can eventually lead to tariffs or other economically punitive measures.
But when Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago last week, the conversation was much more genial. The outcome of the talks was a 100-day plan to reevaluate the countries’ trading relationship, including trying to boost American exports to China.
President Trump met with China’s president on April 6, after months of criticizing China and promising big trade changes. From blasting China for currency manipulation to accusing them of “raping our economy,” here are some of his biggest blusters from the campaign trail. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
President Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week. Mr. Trump has promised to take action on Chinese trade and currency issues.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times
Has the United States mismanaged the ascent of China?
By April 15, the Treasury Department is required to present to Congress a report on the exchange rate policies of the country’s major trading partners, intended to identify manipulators that cheapen their currency to make their exports more attractive and gain market share in the United States, a designation that could eventually lead to retaliation.
It would be hard, these days, to find an economist who feels China fits the bill. Under a trade law passed in 2015, a country must meet three criteria: It would have to have a “material” trade surplus with the rest of the world, have a “significant” surplus with the United States, and intervene persistently in foreign exchange markets to push its currency in one direction.
While China’s surplus with the United States is pretty big — almost $350 billion — its global surplus is modest, at 2.4 percent of its gross domestic product last year. Most significant, it has been pushing its currency up, not down. Since the middle of 2014 it has sold over $1 trillion from its reserves to prop up the renminbi, under pressure from capital flight by Chinese companies and savers.
Even President Trump — who as a candidate promised to label China a currency manipulator on Day 1 and put a 45 percent tariff on imports of Chinese goods — seems to be backing away from broad, immediate retaliation.
And yet the temptation remains. “When you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations,” the Chinese “are world champions,” Mr. Trump told The Financial Times, ahead of the state visit of the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, to the United States last week.
For all Mr. Trump’s random impulsiveness and bluster — and despite his lack of a coherent strategy to engage with what is likely soon to become the world’s biggest economy — he is not entirely alone with his views.
Many learned economists and policy experts ruefully acknowledge that the president’s intuition is broadly right: While labeling China a currency manipulator now would look ridiculous, the United States should have done it a long time ago.
“With the benefit of hindsight, China should have been named,” said Brad Setser, an expert on international economics and finance who worked in the Obama administration and is now at the Council on Foreign Relations.
There were reasonable arguments against putting China on the spot and starting a process that could eventually lead to American retaliation.
Yet by not pushing back against China’s currency manipulation, and allowing China to deploy an arsenal of trade tactics of dubious legality to increase exports to the United States, successive administrations — Republican and Democratic — arguably contributed to the economic dislocations that pummeled so many American workers over more than a decade. Those dislocations helped propel Mr. Trump to power.
From 2000 to 2014 China definitely suppressed the rise of the renminbi to maintain a competitive advantage for its exports, buying dollars hand over fist and adding $4 trillion to its foreign reserves over the period. Until 2005, the Chinese government kept the renminbi pegged to the dollar, following it down as the greenback slid against other major currencies starting in 2003.
American multinationals were flocking into China, taking advantage of its entry into the World Trade Organization in December 2001, which guaranteed access to the American and other world markets for its exports. By 2007, China’s broad trade surplus hit 10 percent of its gross domestic product — an unheard-of imbalance for an economy this large. And its surplus with the United States amounted to a full third of the American deficit with the world.
Though the requirement that the Treasury identify currency manipulators “gaining unfair competitive advantage in international trade” dates back to the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, China was never called out.
There were good reasons. Or at least they seemed so at the time. For one, China hands in the administration of George W. Bush argued that putting China on the spot would make negotiations more difficult, because even Chinese leaders who understood the need to allow their currency to rise could not be seen to bow to American pressure.
Labeling China a manipulator could have severely hindered progress in other areas of a complex bilateral economic relationship. And the United States had bigger fish to fry.
“There were other dimensions of China’s economic policies that were seen as more important to U.S. economic and business interests,” Eswar Prasad, who headed the China desk at the International Monetary Fund and is now a professor at Cornell, told me. These included “greater market access, better intellectual property rights protection, easier access to investment opportunities, etc.”
At the end of the day, economists argued at the time, Chinese exchange rate policies didn’t cost the United States much. After all, in 2007 the United States was operating at full employment. The trade deficit was because of Americans’ dismal savings rate and supercharged consumption, not a cheap renminbi. After all, if Americans wanted to consume more than they created, they had to get it somewhere.
And the United States had a stake in China’s rise. A crucial strategic goal of American foreign policy since Mao’s death had been how to peacefully incorporate China into the existing order of free-market economies, bound by international law into the fabric of the postwar multilateral institutions.
And the strategy even worked — a little bit. China did allow its currency to rise a little from 2005 to 2008. And when the financial crisis hit, it took the foot off the export pedal and deployed a giant fiscal stimulus, which bolstered internal demand.
Yet though these arguments may all be true, they omitted an important consideration: The overhaul of the world economy imposed by China’s global rise also created losers.
In a set of influential papers that have come to inform the thinking about the United States’ relations with China, David Autor, Daron Acemoglu and Brendan Price from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Gordon Hanson from the University of California, San Diego; and David Dorn from the University of Zurich concluded that lots of American workers, in many communities, suffered a blow from which they never recovered.
Rising Chinese imports from 1999 to 2011 cost up to 2.4 million American jobs, one paper estimated. Another found that sagging wages in local labor markets exposed to Chinese competition reduced earnings by $213 per adult per year.
Economic theory posited that a developed country like the United States would adjust to import competition by moving workers into more advanced industries that competed successfully in global markets. In the real world of American workers exposed to the rush of imports after China erupted onto world markets, the adjustment didn’t happen.
If mediocre job prospects and low wages didn’t stop American families from consuming, it was because the American financial system was flush with Chinese cash and willing to lend, financing their homes and refinancing them to buy the furniture. But that equilibrium didn’t end well either, did it?
What it left was a lot of betrayed anger floating around among many Americans on the wrong end of these dynamics. “By not following the law, the administration sent a political signal that the U.S. wouldn’t stand up to Chinese cheating,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “As we can see now, that hurt in terms of maintaining political support for open trade.”
If there was a winner from this dynamic, it was Mr. Trump.
Will Mr. Trump really go after China? In addition to an expected executive order to retaliate against the dumping of Chinese steel, he has promised more. He could tinker with the definitions of “material” and “significant” trade surpluses to justify a manipulation charge.
And yet a charge of manipulation would add irony upon irony. “It would be incredibly ironic not to have named China a manipulator when it was manipulating, and name it when it is not,” Mr. Setser told me. And Mr. Trump would be retaliating against the economic dynamic that handed him the presidency.
China is No Longer Manipulating its Currency
C. Fred Bergsten (PIIE)
November 18, 2016 9:45 AM
US President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to instruct his Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, just as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney did in 2012. He would then presumably seek to negotiate with the Chinese to reduce their large trade surplus, which equals roughly half the total US trade deficit of about $500 billion, under the threat of limiting imports unilaterally if they failed to cooperate (and risking retaliation against US exports). A declining US trade deficit, if it could be achieved, would increase US economic growth. But China has not manipulated its currency, the renminbi, for the past two years, and even an erroneous designation would not enable the new president to take any retaliatory trade actions.
China was the champion currency manipulator of all time from 2003 through 2014. During this “decade of manipulation,” China bought more than $300 billion annually to resist upward movement of its currency by artificially keeping the exchange rate of the dollar strong and the renminbi’s exchange rate weak. China’s competitive position was thus strengthened by as much as 30 to 40 percent at the peak of the intervention. Currency manipulation explained most of China’s large trade surpluses, which reached a staggering 10 percent of its entire GDP in 2007.
China was not the only manipulator. A number of other Asian economies, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, also intervened regularly to keep from losing their competitive position to China (and thus to the United States as well). A few others, including Japan and Korea, intervened occasionally as well.
Naming a country a manipulator, however, has no significant operational consequences (which is one of the reasons it has not been done in recent years). The relevant US law, dating from 1988, requires only that the Secretary of the Treasury launch a negotiation with the indicted countries in an effort to rectify the situation. Trump and his advisors have suggested they would use a designation to impose new import restrictions against China, up to the level of the renminbi undervaluation that resulted, but they would have to invoke other US statutes to justify such action. (Regardless of manipulation, the administration might authorize the Commerce Department to apply countervailing duties against imports that were subsidized by undervalued exchange rates in China and elsewhere; this would probably run afoul of US obligations in the World Trade Organization, however, and might also be challenged domestically unless Congress explicitly authorized such treatment.)
I was among the first to call attention to the manipulation by the Chinese and others and to advocate strong action to counter it, but it must be recognized that the situation has changed dramatically over the past two years. China has experienced large outflows of private capital that have driven its exchange rate down and indeed sparked market fears of disorderly renminbi devaluations. To their credit, the Chinese have intervened heavily on the opposite side of the market: Instead of buying dollars to keep the renminbi weak, they have sold large amounts of dollars to prevent it from sliding further. Their recent intervention has promoted US competitiveness rather than undermined it. Manipulation (including by other countries) has passed largely into remission.
It would thus be factually incorrect, as well as ineffectual, for the new Trump administration to label China a currency manipulator (and the Chinese might well refuse to negotiate under such circumstances). Indeed, the White House would be running counter to the thrust of the new US currency law (although it could still label a country as a “manipulator,” even if it did not meet the terms of that law). The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 spells out three criteria for identifying a country for currency misbehavior:
a large bilateral trade surplus with the United States, which China has;
a material global current account surplus, which the Treasury Department interprets as meaning more than 3 percent of a country’s GDP, a bit more than China is now running; and
“persistent one-sided intervention” in the currency markets, to keep its exchange rate from rising, which China is clearly not conducting.
These tests would have caught China for eight consecutive years, from 2003 through 2010, but Treasury currently has placed China only on a “monitoring list” along with five others that meet at least two of the criteria or have met them in the recent past. There is always a possibility that China (and others) could resume the competitive nonappreciation of the earlier period if market pressure again pushed the renminbi upward, especially if China’s economic reforms faltered and its growth rate sank below the new target of 7 percent. So we cannot be confident that the problem has been definitively resolved.
Indeed, it would be desirable for the Trump administration to add a new tool to the US policy arsenal, to ensure the problem will not resurface, by announcing that the United States will counter any future manipulation by others with offsetting intervention of its own. If China buys $1 billion in an effort to keep the dollar artificially strong, the United States could buy $1 billion worth of renminbi to neutralize any impact of the Chinese action on the exchange rate between the two currencies. The Chinese currency and bond markets are now large enough to permit any foreseeable level of US intervention that might be needed. But simply the announcement of a policy of such “countervailing currency intervention” would almost surely deter future manipulation efforts, requiring very little if any actual activity. It should thus prolong the current remission of manipulation indefinitely. The Senate passed a bill authorizing “remedial currency intervention” in 2011, but the policy could be adopted under current law.
Trump’s economic team may decide to address a number of Chinese policies that support its exports and impede its imports, in an effort to reduce the Chinese surplus and the US deficit, as its predecessors have done for many years. There are several US statutes that provide a basis for doing so. Currency manipulation is not one of these, however, especially at the present time. The new administration should look for alternative paths to any immediate action while shoring up the country’s defenses against possible recrudescence of currency aggression in the future.
C. Fred Bergsten is senior fellow and director emeritus of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He was the founding director of the Institute from 1981 through 2012. He was previously assistant secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs and is coauthor, with Joseph E. Gagnon, of the forthcoming Institute book Currency Conflict and Trade Policy: A New Strategy for the United States.
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Trump’s base turns on him
Steve Bannon’s downgrade is just one of many complaints. ‘We expect him to keep his word, and right now he’s not keeping his word,’ says one campaign supporter.
Donald Trump’s true believers are losing the faith.
As Trump struggles to keep his campaign promises and flirts with political moderation, his most steadfast supporters — from veteran advisers to anti-immigration activists to the volunteers who dropped their jobs to help elect him — are increasingly dismayed by the direction of his presidency.
Their complaints range from Trump’s embrace of an interventionist foreign policy to his less hawkish tone on China to, most recently, his marginalization of his nationalist chief strategist, Steve Bannon. But the crux of their disillusionment, interviews with nearly two dozen Trump loyalists reveal, is a belief that Trump the candidate bears little resemblance to Trump the president. He’s failing, in their view, to deliver on his promise of a transformative “America First” agenda driven by hard-edged populism.
“Donald Trump dropped an emotional anchor. He captured how Americans feel,” said Tania Vojvodic, a fervent Trump supporter who founded one of his first campaign volunteer networks. “We expect him to keep his word, and right now he’s not keeping his word.”
Earlier this week, Vojvodic launched a Facebook group called, “The concerned support base of President Trump,” which quickly drew several dozen sign-ups. She also changed the banner on her Facebook page to a picture of Bannon accompanied by the declaration: “Mr. President: I stand with Steve Bannon.”
“I’m not so infatuated with Trump that I can’t see the facts,” she said. “People’s belief, their trust in him, it’s declining.”
The swiftness and abruptness of Trump’s shift from bomb-throwing populist outsider to a more mainstream brand of Republican has taken the president’s stalwarts by surprise.
“It was like, here’s the chance to do something different. And that’s why people’s hopes are dashed,” said Lee Stranahan, who, as a former writer at Breitbart News, once worked with Bannon. “There was always the question of, ‘Did he really believe this stuff?’ Apparently, the answer is, ‘Not as much as you’d like.’”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The deflation of Trump’s base threatens to further weaken a president who’s already seen his public support drop to historic lows. Frustration among the president’s allies has intensified in recent days, with many expressing worry that Bannon, the intellectual pillar of the nationalist movement that catapulted Trump to the presidency, is being pushed out.
As Bannon’s influence wanes, on the rise is a small group of Wall Street-connected advisers whose politically moderate and globalist views are anathema to the populist cause.
The palace intrigue intensified this week after Trump refused to say he still had confidence in Bannon and downplayed the former Breitbart chairman’s role in his campaign victory. And it’s feeding suspicions that the president is changing his priorities.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the president’s most vocal backers on Capitol Hill, said he’s been disheartened by the chief strategist’s isolation.
“A lot of us look at Steve Bannon as the voice of conservatism in the White House,” said King, who has known Bannon for years.
The displeasure over Bannon’s reduced status has trickled down to Trump’s grass-roots army of volunteers. Among those unsettled is Shane Bouvet, a 24-year-old campaign volunteer and blue-collar single father from Illinois who became something of a hero in the Trump movement. On the eve of the inauguration, Trump, who had read about how Bouvet trekked across the country by car so he could watch the swearing-in, gave him a check for $10,000.
Bouvet later said the gift saved the life of his father, who was battling cancer and needed the money to cover medical costs.
That day, Bouvet also was introduced to Bannon. The two spoke briefly, and Bouvet came to identify with the adviser who, like him, represented a “forgotten America” that Trump had appealed to with his blue-collar pitch. He said in an interview that he still supports the president, but is troubled by reports that Bannon is on the outs and that senior adviser Jared Kushner, a New York City real estate scion, is accumulating influence.
“I see a lot of people upset about his role,” Bouvet said of Bannon.
“I love our president,” he added. “I would tell him, follow his heart instead of whispers in his ears.”
On his South Florida-based radio show, Trump backer John Cardillo has begun to hear from listeners who are disillusioned with the rising influence of moderate staffers like Kushner and Gary Cohn, the Goldman Sachs executive-turned-Trump economic adviser.
For Cardillo, too, it’s been a letdown. During the 2016 Republican primary, he was attracted to Trump because of his insurgent streak. As a former New York City police officer, Cardillo identified with the candidate’s blue-collar style. He fell hard and got aboard the Trump train early, backing the insurgent candidate over home-state favorite Marco Rubio.
Trump voters “felt like they were voting for an anti-establishment candidate — and they’re terrified, they’re losing faith,” Cardillo said. “They’re saying, ‘Why does he have these people around him?’”
The gripes go beyond Bannon’s apparent downgrade. Many of Trump’s most stalwart supporters, including radio show hosts Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham, called last week’s bombing of Syria a betrayal of Trump’s pledge to be an “America First” commander in chief who would avoid unnecessary conflicts overseas.
Concerns about Trump’s foreign policy approach intensified on Wednesday when he backed away from his oft-repeated campaign line that NATO is “obsolete.” Instead, during an appearance with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump called the organization a “great alliance.”
Howie Carr, an influential Boston radio show host and a vocal Trump backer, said he’s been mostly satisfied with the president’s tenure so far. But he said he and his listeners weren’t on board with the Syria bombing and warned against a U.S.-led push to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“People are concerned because it’s such a morass over there,” Carr said. “I don’t think any of my listeners have any great stomach for overthrowing Assad, as odious as he is.”
Other Trump boosters worry that he’s ditching his economic agenda. They wonder why he backed off his vow to label
China a currency manipulator, and are chagrined by his reversal on his position to eliminate the Export-Import Bank.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer took issue with the premise that Trump’s switch on labeling China a currency manipulator amounted to abandoning a campaign promise.
“The president’s tough talk … on a variety of subjects was to get results for the American people. That’s what he has pledged to do, to get more jobs here, to grow more manufacturing, to keep our country safe,” Spicer told reporters. “At the end of the day, this is always about developing a better situation for the American people, and I think he’s done that.”
Still others are concerned about Trump’s lack of progress on reforming the tax code.
Larry Kudlow, a veteran economist who advised Trump’s campaign, expressed dismay that the president hadn’t yet released a tax plan. He said he was beginning to wonder whether the president is about to walk back his pledge to cut taxes.
“What is their product?” Kudlow asked. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m not giving up hope. But it’s looking very shaky to me.”
Conservative economist Stephen Moore, who also advised the Trump campaign, said he’s reached out to the White House about the lack of a tax package.
“They’re all over the map,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re listening or not.”
Then there’s immigration, the issue that catapulted Trump to front-runner status. Activists are increasingly alarmed that the president has yet to follow through on his pledge to rescind protections for undocumented parents and children put in place under former President Barack Obama.
Brenda Sparks, an “angel mom” whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant, appeared onstage with Trump at an August campaign event in Phoenix. She said he promised her that he would overturn the program known Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in short order.
While Sparks said she didn’t think it would be done immediately, “I had expected it before now.”
“I still support Trump, but I’m going to hold his feet to the fire,” she said. “He has not lived up to that promise.”
Michelle Dallacroce, an anti-immigration activist, is more pointed. Immigration is “why we voted for Donald Trump,” she said. “This could be the most elaborate reality show. I’m wondering, was this all an illusion for us, using our movement so he could get in there?”
Trump is hardly the first president to get crosswise with his supporters. After running on a promise to infuse Washington with change, Barack Obama faced sharp accusations from backers that he was moving too slowly to change the culture of the capitol. Governing, Obama learned, is a lot different than campaigning.
Not all of the president’s backers are disappointed. They point to his successful nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and his rollback of environmental regulations as early wins.
“There’s always going to be things that aren’t perfect, but it’s exciting,” said Ed Martin, a conservative leader in Missouri.
But as Trump evolves, some of his loyalists are beginning to compare him to another Republican who lost the support of the party’s base: Arnold Schwarzenegger. After being elected California governor in 2003, the former movie star took on entrenched Democratic interests, lost badly, then tacked sharply to the left.
This week, some Trump die-hards passed around a column by conservative commentator Kurt Schlichter headlined: “Trump Can’t Let His Real or His Fake Friends Turn Him into Schwarzenegger Part 2.”
Schlichter, in an interview, said conservatives are fundamentally distrustful of Republican politicians who had often misled them. He urged the president to take some immediate actions, however small, to put his supporters at ease.
“You’ve got to understand the base. It’s like dating a girl whose father cheated on her mother. She’s always going to be suspicious,” he said. “He’s got to constantly provide wins because he’s got an emotionally damaged base that’s been abused.”
Within Trump’s inner circle, a moderate voice captures the president’s ear
Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, has found an edge within the Trump administration by hiring two dozen policy experts, most with government experience. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
As power struggles and ideological battles engulfed the White House, an unlikely player is exercising new influence on the direction of President Trump’s administration.Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs president, is capitalizing on his new position as director of Trump’s National Economic Council to push a centrist vision and court bipartisan support on some of Trump’s top agenda items such as tax reform and a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded moderates was on display this week as Trump reversed himself on several high-profile issues — including a less confrontational approach to China, an endorsement of government subsidies for exports and the current leadership of the Federal Reserve. The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of Cohn and others on Wall Street, not to mention mainstream Republicans and Democrats.It was the clearest sign yet that an alliance of moderates in the White House — including Cohn; senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and another influential Goldman Sachs alumna, Dina Powell — is racking up successes in a battle over ideology and control with hardcore conservatives led by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who held sway at the start of the administration.In a White House short on experienced personnel, Cohn has found an edge by hiring two dozen policy experts, most with government experience. His team produced detailed proposals on overhauling the tax code, rebuilding infrastructure, cutting back financial regulations and restructuring international trade deals. He is widely considered a future candidate to be chief of staff.
From left, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Dan Scavino, assistant to the president and director of White House social media, listen during a news conference this week at the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
“Cohn might be a newbie to policy and Washington, but you have to give him credit for one thing,” said Gene Sperling, who held Cohn’s job during the Obama administration. “While others seemed engaged in ideological and ‘House of Cards’-like staff warfare, he quietly and quickly focused on the first rule of governing: He hired some competent, professional staff at the NEC, and it has paid off for him.”
Cohn now finds himself in the awkward — and politically risky — position of being praised by Democrats but shunned by conservative allies of Trump who see the former Goldman Sachs executive as anathema to the values that got Trump elected.
“From a pure political perspective, I do not know if the White House appreciates how Gary Cohn is a liability with the Republican and conservative base, as well as the Republican Congress,” said Sam Nunberg, a strategist on Trump’s 2016 campaign. “The Trump White House will always be held in suspicion when you have someone who’s consolidated full economic power in the White House who is also a liberal, New York Democrat.”
Cohn has been getting flak in the conservative media as he has risen in profile. Rush Limbaugh last week called him “a very ideological liberal Democrat” and a “trader at Goldman Sachs.” He expressed concern that Cohn and his allies in the White House “are starting to have sway” at Bannon’s expense.
Cohn, who declined to comment for this article, has given thousands of dollars to candidates from both parties, including President Barack Obama and former candidate Hillary Clinton.
White House aides say Cohn has done well because Trump sees him, more than anything else, as a dealmaker. Cohn represents a bloc of White House officials who are working harder than before to court Democratic support for key parts of Trump’s agenda, having seen the Republican Party splinter during the health-care debate.
“I’m not a Democrat, and I’m not a Republican,” Cohn often says in meetings with business executives, according to two people familiar with his exchanges. “I just want to get things done.”
People who have met with Cohn in his new role said they weren’t aware of what his ideology was. He just seemed driven to forge agreements.
That philosophy has led Cohn to show enthusiasm for ideas such as a new tax on carbon — a Democrat-friendly idea which would raise revenue to ease tax reform, a top presidential priority, while also helping to curb carbon emissions. The idea is ridiculed by many conservatives on Capitol Hill, and the White House rapidly distanced itself last week after word leaked that senior officials were studying the concept.
“I think the National Economic Council has done a terrible job,” said Larry Kudlow, who was one of Trump’s top economic advisers during the campaign. “It’s the NEC’s job to put a plan together and show the president options and make decisions. So far, I would say they are way behind the eight ball.”
But even as the legislative agenda struggles to gain momentum, Cohn and his allies are having a clear impact on the president’s thinking. In the past week, Trump reversed his earlier statements and said he supported the Export-Import Bank, would not declare China a “currency manipulator” and said flattering things about Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen.
Conservatives took aim at the Ex-Im Bank and the Fed throughout much of Obama’s term, while Trump, as part of his tough trade rhetoric, promised to go after China’s currency practices on Day One of his administration.
Cohn’s stature among the top advisers is notable because he is one of the few who played no role in the campaign. Cohn, who grew up in a middle-class family and struggled in a number of schools because of dyslexia, graduated from American University and took a job with U.S. Steel in Ohio. During a trip to New York, he coaxed a well-dressed senior Wall Street executive into sharing a cab with him to the airport, acting as if he knew financial markets (he knew virtually nothing), according to an interview he gave author Malcolm Gladwell. Cohn schmoozed his way into his first Wall Street job and then climbed the ranks, eventually becoming Goldman’s president and chief operating officer.
While friends say he loves his new job, they say Cohn also holds the traditions of Washington in low regard.
At a recent dinner with friends in New York, he called Washington a “s—show,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
Cohn has not tried to shirk his past at Goldman Sachs or hide his lavish lifestyle. He recently had drinks at the Four Seasons with Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, and shortly after the failure of the House GOP health-care legislation, he went on vacation in the Bahamas.
If he is able to deflect the growing criticism from hardcore conservatives, White House officials say Cohn will have a strong future as a Trump adviser given his experience and the deep bench of experts he has established.
This includes DJ Gribbin, an infrastructure expert, and Shahira Knight, a former congressional aide on tax policy who joined the White House from Fidelity Investments.
Other top members of the team include Kenneth Juster, who is slated to play a top White House role in international negotiations; Jeremy Katz, a former White House official in the George W. Bush administration; and Ray Starling, who works on agriculture issues and was formerly the general counsel for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
While Cohn has met with lawmakers from both parties and executives from numerous companies in his role, he rarely telegraphs what the White House plans to do.
One exception came last week, when — during a gathering of chief executives — he went into great detail about how the U.S. air-traffic-control system needed to be reworked.
He quickly moved through a technical discussion on why the United States should scrap its land-based radar system and adopt a global-positioning system, suggesting he had already devoted time to the topic. He said their approach would save 25 percent of the jet fuel consumed each year.
“We are going to cut flight times down fairly dramatically,” he told the executives. “We are going to cut the experience down. We are going to cut tarmac time down.”
His penchant for dealmaking has even attracted the admiration of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, a tough fiscal conservative and longtime critic of government spending. Cohn, working to fulfill Trump’s pledge to spend billions to rebuild infrastructure, has toyed with an idea that would pair $200 billion in taxpayer money with $800 billion in additional funds, mostly from private investors.
“You’ve got to give these Goldman Sachs guys credit,” Mulvaney said this week on CNBC about Cohn’s plan. “They know how to lever up.”
Bannon was previously a US Navy officer, a Goldman Sachs banker, a radio host, a research director, a film producer and then a media executive. He was an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving on the destroyerUSS Paul F. Foster as well as at the Pentagon. After his military service, he worked at Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. When he left the company, Bannon held the position of vice president. In 1993, he was made acting director of the Earth-science research project Biosphere 2. In the 1990s, he became an executive producer in the Hollywood film and media industry and has produced 18 films since 1991.
In 1990, Bannon and several colleagues from Goldman Sachs launched Bannon & Co., a boutique investment bank specializing in media. In one of Bannon & Co.’s transactions, the firm represented Westinghouse Electric which wanted to sell Castle Rock Entertainment. Bannon negotiated a sale of Castle Rock to CNN, which was owned by Ted Turner at the time.Instead of a full adviser’s fee, Bannon & Co. accepted a financial stake in five television shows, including Seinfeld, which was in its third season. Bannon still receives cash residuals each time Seinfeld is aired.Société Générale purchased Bannon & Co. in 1998.
In 1993, while still managing Bannon & Co., Bannon was made acting director of the Earth-science research project Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona. Under Bannon, the closed-system experiment project shifted emphasis from researching human space exploration and colonization toward the scientific study of earth’s environment, pollution and climate change. He left the project in 1995.
Bannon persuaded Goldman Sachs to invest, in 2006, in a company known as Internet Gaming Entertainment. Following a lawsuit, the company rebranded as Affinity Media and Bannon took over as CEO. From 2007 through 2011, Bannon was the chair and CEO of Affinity Media.
Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has “pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right“.
In March 2012, after founder Andrew Breitbart‘s death, Bannon became executive chair of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of Breitbart News. Under his leadership, Breitbart took a more alt-right and nationalistic approach toward its agenda. Bannon declared the website “the platform for the alt-right” in 2016. Bannon identifies as a conservative. Speaking about his role at Breitbart, Bannon said: “We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment, particularly ‘anti-‘ the permanent political class.”
In 2016, Ronald Radosh claimed in The Daily Beast that Bannon had told him earlier, in a book party on November 12, 2013, that he was a Leninist, in that “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment”. While Snopes considers this claim unproven, other media such as Time magazine and The Guardian have reported or discussed it.
In a 2014 speech to a Vatican conference, Bannon made a passing reference to Julius Evola, a twentieth-century, Nazi-linked Italian writer who influenced Mussolini‘s Italian Fascism and promoted the Traditionalist School, described by a New York Times writer as “a worldview popular in far-right and alternative religious circles that believes progress and equality are poisonous illusions.” In referring to the associated views of Vladimir Putin, who is influenced by Evola follower Aleksandr Dugin, Bannon stated “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as Traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.” He has likewise quoted French anti-Enlightenment writer Charles Maurras approvingly to a French diplomat.
On November 15, 2016, U.S. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island released a letter to Trump signed by 169 Democratic House Representatives urging him to rescind his appointment of Bannon. The letter stated that appointing Bannon “sends a disturbing message about what kind of president Donald Trump wants to be”, because his “ties to the White Nationalist movement have been well documented”; it went on to present several examples of Breitbart News’ alleged xenophobia. Bannon denied being a white nationalist and claimed, rather, that he is an “economic nationalist.”
On November 18, during his first interview not conducted by Breitbart Media since the 2016 presidential election, Bannon remarked on some criticisms made about him stating that “Darkness is good: Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.” The quote was published widely in the media.
Trump responded to the ongoing controversy over Bannon’s appointment in an interview with The New York Times by saying “I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”
Bannon and other advisors watching Trump sign an executive order.
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon shake hands with WH Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at 2017 CPAC
Several days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Bannon told an American newspaper, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this: the media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
At the end of January 2017, in a departure from the previous format of the National Security Council (NSC), the holder of Bannon’s position, along with that of the Chief of Staff, were designated by presidential memorandum as regular attendees to the NSC’s Principals Committee, a Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering national security issues. The enacted arrangement was criticised by several members of previous administrations and was called “stone cold crazy” by Susan E. Rice, Barack Obama’s last national security adviser. In response, White House spokesman Sean Spicer pointed to Bannon’s seven years experience as a Navy officer in justifying his presence on the Committee.
In February 2017, Bannon appeared on the cover of Time, on which he was labeled “the Great Manipulator”. The headline used for the associated article was “Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?”, alluding to Bannon’s perceived influence in the White House. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in the aftermath of the 2016 election, Bannon analogized his influence to that of “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors“.
Bannon was removed from his NSC role in early April 2017 in a reorganization by National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, who Bannon had helped select. Some White House officials said Bannon’s main purpose of serving on the committee was as a check against former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, who had resigned in February 2017 for misleading the vice president about a conversation with the Russian operatives. Hence, with Flynn gone, Bannon was no longer needed. Bannon reportedly opposed his removal from the council and threatened to quit if president Trump went forward with it, although Republican megadonor Rebekah Mercer urged him to stay. The White House said Bannon had not attempted to leave, and Bannon said any indication that he threatened resignation was “total nonsense”. Bannon had only attended one NSC meeting.
Bannon has been married and divorced three times. He has three adult daughters.
His first marriage was to Cathleen Suzanne Houff. Bannon and Houff had a daughter, Maureen, in 1988 and subsequently divorced.
Bannon’s second marriage was to Mary Louise Piccard, a former investment banker, in April 1995. Their twin daughters were born three days after the wedding. Piccard filed for dissolution of their marriage in 1997.
Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness in early January 1996 after Piccard accused Bannon of domestic abuse. The charges were later dropped when his now ex-wife did not appear in court. In an article in The New York Times Piccard stated her absence was due to threats made to her by Bannon and his lawyer:
Mr. Bannon, she said, told her that “if I went to court he and his attorney would make sure that I would be the one who was guilty” … Mr. Bannon’s lawyer, she said, “threatened me,” telling her that if Mr. Bannon went to jail, she “would have no money and no way to support the children.” … Mr. Bannon’s lawyer … denied pressuring her not to testify.
Piccard and Bannon divorced in 1997. During the divorce proceedings, Piccard alleged that Bannon had made antisemitic remarks about choice of schools, saying that he did not want to send his children to The Archer School for Girls because there were too many Jews at the school and Jews raise their children to be “whiny brats”. Bannon’s spokesperson denied the accusation noting that he had chosen to send both his children to the Archer School.
Bannon’s third marriage was to Diane Clohesy; they divorced in 2009.
Jared Corey Kushner (born January 10, 1981) is an American real estate investor and developer, publisher, and senior advisor to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. Together with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon he formed Trump’s leadership team. Kushner is said to be President Trump’s most trusted advisor, showing “unwavering loyalty” to his father-in-law.
He was principal owner of the real estate holding and development company Kushner Companies and of Observer Media, publisher of the weekly, on-line New York Observer. On January 9, 2017, Kushner was named to be a Senior White House Adviser to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump. As a result, Kushner resigned as CEO of his family’s real estate company and as publisher of the Observer. He also divested “substantial assets”.
Kushner was raised in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey. He graduated from the Frisch School, a private, coed yeshiva high school, in 1999. According to a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, he was an honors student and a member of the debate, hockey, and basketball teams while at Frisch.
According to Forbes, in 2017 Jared Kushner and his parents had a personal fortune of around $1.8 billion. Kushner is a real estate investor, and has increased the Kushner Companies’ presence in the New York City real estate market as a principal in his family’s real estate company. His father, Charles Kushner, was arrested on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign donations, and witness tampering in 2004, and was eventually convicted on all charges (by the then U.S. Attorney Chris Christie) and sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Kushner Companies purchased the office building at 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007, for a then-record price of $1.8 billion, most of it borrowed. However, following the property crash in 2008, the cash flow generated by the property was insufficient to cover its debt service, and the Kushners were forced to sell the retail portion in the building to Stanley Chera for more than $1 billion and bring in Vornado Realty Trust as a 50% equity partner in the ownership of the building.
In 2015, Kushner scored spot No. 25 on Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list ranking the most influential young people in business.
At age 25, Kushner purchased the New York Observer, a weekly New York City newspaper, for $10 million, using money he says he earned during his college years by closing deals on residential buildings in Somerville, Massachusetts, with family members providing the backing for his investments.
After purchasing the Observer, Kushner published it in tabloid format. Since then, he has been credited with increasing the Observer‘s online presence and expanding the Observer Media Group. With no substantial experience in journalism, Kushner could not establish a good relationship with the newspaper’s veteran editor-in-chief, Peter W. Kaplan. “This guy doesn’t know what he doesn’t know,” Kaplan remarked about Kushner, to colleagues, at the time.  As a result of his differences with Kushner, Kaplan quit his position. Kaplan was followed by a series of short-lived successors until Kushner hired Elizabeth Spiers in 2011. In December 2011, the New York Post reported that the Observer expected to become profitable for the first time. Spiers left the newspaper in 2012. In January 2013, Kushner hired a new editor-in-chief, Ken Kurson. Kurson had been a consultant to Republican political candidates in New Jersey and one-time member of Rudy Giuliani‘s unsuccessful 2008 presidential primary campaign.
According to Vanity Fair, under Kushner, the “Observer has lost virtually all of its cultural currency among New York’s elite, but the paper is now profitable and reporting traffic growth … [it] boasts 6 million unique visitors per month, up from 1.3 million in January 2013″. In April 2016, the New York Observer became one of only a handful of newspapers to officially endorse United States presidential candidate Donald Trump in the Republican primary, but the paper ended the campaign period by choosing not to back any presidential candidate at all.
Kushner stepped down from his newspaper role in January 2017 to pursue a role in President Donald Trump’s administration. He was replaced by his brother-in-law, Joseph Meyer.
Jared Kushner had been a life-long Democrat and had made major donations to its candidates for years before reportedly undergoing an “ideological conversion” and supporting the 2015–16 Trump campaign. Kushner has had no prior involvement in campaign politics or in government before his father-in-law, Trump’s, campaign.
Trump presidential campaign
From the outset of the presidential campaign of his father-in-law Donald Trump, Kushner was the architect of Trump’s digital, online and social media campaigns, enlisting talent from Silicon Valley to run a 100-person social-media team dubbed “Project Alamo”. Kushner has also helped as a speechwriter and was tasked with working to establish a plan for Trump’s White House transition team should he be elected. He was for a time seen as Trump’s de factocampaign manager, succeeding Corey Lewandowski, who was fired in part on Kushner’s recommendation in June 2016. He has been intimately involved with campaign strategy, coordinating Trump’s visit in late August to Mexico and he was believed to be responsible for the choice of Mike Pence as Trump’s running mate. Kushner’s “sprawling digital fundraising database and social media campaign” has been described as “the locus of his father-in-law’s presidential bid”.
According to Eric Schmidt, “Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election, Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources.” Eric Schmidt said, “Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn’t. He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That’s a big deal. Remember all those articles about how they had no money, no people, organizational structure? Well, they won, and Jared ran it.”Peter Thiel said “If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer.”
On July 5, 2016, Kushner wrote an open letter in the New York Observer addressing the controversy around a tweet from the Trump campaign containing allegedly antisemitic imagery. He was responding to his own paper’s editorial by Dana Schwartz criticizing Kushner’s involvement with the Trump campaign. In the letter, Kushner wrote, “In my opinion, accusations like “racist” and “anti-Semite” are being thrown around with a carelessness that risks rendering these words meaningless.”
The Washington Post, New York Times and numerous other national news authorities explain Kushner was an influential factor behind the firing of New Jersey governor Chris Christie as head of the transition team, as well as the dismissal from the Donald Trump transition team of anyone connected to Christie. A source familiar with the Trump campaign explained that “Jared doesn’t like Christie. He’s always held [the prosecution of his father, Charles Kushner] against Christie.” Kushner told Forbes that the reports that he was involved in Christie’s dismissal were false: “Six months ago Governor Christie and I decided this election was much bigger than any differences we may have had in the past, and we worked very well together. The media has speculated on a lot of different things, and since I don’t talk to the press, they go as they go, but I was not behind pushing out him or his people.”
Senior Advisor to President Trump
Japanese PM Shinzō Abe, Jared Kushner, Ivanka, and President Trump, November 17, 2016
Trump put Kushner in charge of brokering peace in Israeli–Palestinian conflict as well as making deals with foreign countries, although in what way he is in charge is unclear. Furthermore, after Donald Trump became President-elect, Kushner and his wife met with Japanese Prime Minister and other Japanese officials while his wife was conducting a licensing deal between her namesake clothing brand and a Japanese government-owned company. His wife sat in on a meeting between her father, then President-elect Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In February 2017, his wife Ivanka Trump was a surprise attendee at the Chinese Embassy’s New Year’s party. In late March 2017 he was also given the new role of leading the “White House Office of American Innovation”.
On January 20, 2017 Cohn took office as Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) in President Donald Trump‘s administration, a position which did not require Congressional confirmation. By February 11, 2017, The Wall Street Journal described Cohn as an “economic-policy powerhouse” and The New York Times called him Trump’s “go-to figure on matters related to jobs, business and growth”. With the confirmation of Trump’s December 12, 2016 nominee for Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, being held back by Congressional hearings, Cohn filled in the “personnel vacuum” and pushed “ahead on taxes, infrastructure, financial regulation and replacing health-care law”. Had Cohn stayed at Goldman Sachs, some believed he would have become CEO when Lloyd Blankfein vacated that office. His severance package at Goldman Sachs amounted to $285 million. Additionally, Cohn sold a stake valued at $16 million in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank as of 2017.
Cohn supports reinstating the Glass-Steagall legislation, which would separate commercial and investment banking.
Cohn started his career at the U.S. Steel home products division in Cleveland, Ohio. After a few months, he left U.S. Steel and started his career as an options dealer in the New York Mercantile Exchange. He taught himself the basics of options by reading about it in the days between meeting the hiring manager and joining the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Cohn was recruited by Goldman Sachs in 1990. In 1996, he was named head of the commodities department and in 2002, he was named the head of the entire Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Division (FICC) division. In 2003, he was named co-head of Equities and in January 2004, Cohn was named the co-head of global securities businesses . He became President and Co-Chief Operating Officer and director in June 2006.
In late 2009, Cohn led a delegation from Goldman Sachs to meetings with the government of Greece, which included proposals (that were not adopted) to push debt-due dates far into the future, “much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.” Goldman Sachs had been scrutinized for creating or pitching products used by Greece to “obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels”.
In 2010, Cohn testified to Congress on the role of Goldman Sachs in the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Cohn testified: “During the two years of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs lost $1.2 billion in its residential mortgage-related business. We did not ‘bet against our clients,’ and the numbers underscore this fact.”
In February 2015, Cohn hosted the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. As host, Cohn asked questions of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., while Cook was on stage.
Cohn’s salary at Goldman Sachs was US$22 million in 2014. He received $21 million in 2015.
He received a severance package worth around $285 million – mostly in stock – from Goldman Sachs upon leaving to join the administration of Donald Trump.
Personality and work style
Critics of Cohn attribute to him an arrogant, aggressive, abrasive and risk-prone work style. They see his “6-foot 3-inch & 220lbs” as intimidating, as he might “sometimes hike up one leg, plant his foot on a trader’s desk, his thigh close to the employee’s face and ask how markets were doing” According to former Bear Stearns Asset Management CEO Richard Marin, Cohn’s arrogance is at the root of the problem.
When you become arrogant, in a trading sense, you begin to think that everybody’s a counterparty, not a customer, not a client.
“He’s a trader. He has that whole feel in his body and brain and fingertips.”
Ovitz sees Cohn’s toughness as a “positive” value, explaining that a high ranking executive can’t be “all peaches and cream.”
Donna Redel, who was Chairman of the Board of the New York Mercantile Exchange when Cohn worked there as a silver trader, remembers Cohn as “firm,” “strategic” and “driven.” Martin Greenberg, her predecessor, said Cohn “was tough,” and added that “Gary got in with the right people, worked his ass off and used his head.”
In 2009, the Hillel International building at Kent State University was named the Cohn Jewish Student Center in recognition of a gift from Cohn and his wife. It is the first Hillel building built directly on the campus of a state university.
Cohn has been a supporter of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and has supported Harlem RBI since 2011. At that time, Harlem RBI was given the chance to build its own charter school. Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and Harlem RBI director Rich Berlin asked Cohn if he could help them raise the capital they needed to build the school.
In December 2012, Cohn attended the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief which raised money for the Robin Hood Relief fund to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
On June 17, 2013, Cohn was honored at the annual “Bid for Kids” gala in order to raise funds for Harlem RBI and the DREAM charter school. Cohn said in an interview that Harlem RBI is a project that is “very near and dear to his heart.”
Cohn has written editorials in prestigious journals and newspapers. In March 2014, he wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, discussing “The Responsible Way to Rein in Super-Fast Trading.”
Story 1: President Trump Honors U.S. Navy SEAL Killed in a Weekend Raid in al Qaeda Camp near al Bayda in south central Yemen — Videos —
PRESIDENT TRUMP MAKES UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO HONOR SLAIN NAVY SEAL
President Trump departs for Dover Air Force Base
FOX NEWS ALERT , SOON: President Trump at dover air force base to honor fallen seal killed in yemen
News Wrap: Trump makes surprise visit to honor Navy SEAL killed in Yemen
Navy SEAL Team 6 carries out daring raid in Yemen
Trump Releases Statement About SEAL Team Six Warrior Killed in Yemen Raid
U.S. Special Forces launch Raid against Al-Qaeda in Yemen
Raid in Yemen results in first U.S. combat death under Trump administration
Trump Leaves D.C. to Honor Fallen U.S. Navy Seal
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AP) — Assuming the somber duties of commander in chief, President Donald Trump made an unannounced trip Wednesday to honor the returning remains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in a weekend raid in Yemen.
Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, was the first known U.S. combat casualty since Trump took office less than two weeks ago. More than half a dozen militant suspects were also killed in the raid on an al-Qaida compound and three other U.S. service members were wounded.
More than a dozen civilians were also killed in the operation, including the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric and U.S. citizen who was targeted and killed by a drone strike in 2011.
Trump’s trip to Delaware’s Dover Air Base was shrouded in secrecy. The president and his daughter, Ivanka, departed the White House in the presidential helicopter with their destination unannounced. A small group of journalists traveled with Trump on the condition that the visit was not reported until his arrival.
Marine One landed at Dover shortly before a C-17 believed to be carrying Owens’ remains touched down. The president met with Owens’ family during a two-hour visit to the base. The sailor’s family had requested that Trump’s visit and the return of Owens’ remains be private.
Former President Barack Obama lifted a ban on media coverage of the casualty returns, though families may still request privacy. A spokeswoman at Dover said about half of families choose to allow media coverage.
Owens joined the Navy in 1998 and was the recipient of two Bronze stars, a Joint Service Commendation and an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, among other honors. In a statement following his death, the Navy Special Command called Owens a “devoted father, a true professional and a wonderful husband.”
His death underscores the human costs of the military campaigns Trump now oversees. Far fewer troops are serving in combat now than in the wars Trump’s predecessors led in Afghanistan and Iraq, but thousands of Americans remain in hotspots around the world.
In Afghanistan, where America’s longest war continues, about 8,400 U.S. troops are training and advising local forces. More than U.S. 5,100 troops in Iraq and about 500 in Syria are involved in the campaign against the Islamic State group. The U.S. also engages in counterterrorism operations – mainly drone strikes – in Yemen, where Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has exploited the chaos of the country’s civil war.
Sunday’s pre-dawn raid – which a defense official said was planned by the Obama administration but authorized by Trump – could signal a new escalation against extremist groups in Yemen.
As a candidate, Trump said he would be willing to “take out” the families of terrorists in order to root out extremism. On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said no Americans “will ever be targeted” in raids against terror suspects.
The president’s trip to Dover comes as he begins weighing whether to reshape U.S. military activities around the world. As a candidate, he vowed to be tougher on the Islamic State and at one point said he would be willing to send up to 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the extremist group in Iraq and Syria. Last week, Trump gave the Pentagon and other agencies 30 days to submit a plan for defeating the Islamic State.
Trump has said little about his approach to Afghanistan. Obama had pledged to end the war there on his watch, but continuing security concerns prompted him to extend the U.S. military campaign, handing the war off to a third American president.
Trump, who never served in the armed forces and received student and medical deferments during the Vietnam War, had an uneven relationship with the military community during the presidential campaign.
About 60 percent of voters who served in the military supported Trump in the presidential election, compared with 34 percent who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. But Trump was also criticized by military groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, for his feud with the Khan family, whose Muslim-American son was killed while serving in Iraq.
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor and AP Polling Director Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
President Trump honors first military casualty of his presidency by meeting fallen SEAL’s coffin – and takes Ivanka with him
The body of fallen SEAL Team 6 member Officer William Owens arrived Tuesday afternoon at Dover Air Force Base
President Donald Trump and daughter Ivanka flew to Delaware to meet him
Officials said that in the President’s first strike ‘almost everything went wrong’
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer got emotional on Wednesday as he talked about the raid, which he admitted was not a ‘100% successs’
Nawar al-Awlaki, 8, was among several non-combatants killed in Trump’s first raid; she was the daughter of the American al Qaeda leader killed in a 2011 raid
By Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent and Abigail Miller For Dailymail.com
PUBLISHED: 15:39 EST, 1 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:46 EST, 1 February 2017
Chief Petty Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens, a 36-year-old from Illinois, was killed in Sunday’s botched raid
President Donald Trump is mourning the death of a SEAL Team Six member killed in hisfirst military raid as president.
Trump and his eldest daughter, Ivanka, arrived at Dover Air Force Base this afternoon, after making the short flight to Delaware from Washington in Marine One, to receive the body of Chief Special Warfare Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens.
They touched down at Dover AFB at 3:51 pm.
The president and first daughter were accompanied by Delaware Sen. Chris Coons at the private return ceremony that Owens’ family also attended.
He is survived by his wife, Karen, and their three children. They are believed to have arrived after the president and his daughtr in a Air Force C-17 transport.
Owens was killed in a pre-dawn raid, in which officials have said ‘almost everything went wrong,’ on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula last Sunday.
It was Trump’s first clandestine strike, and it was not one that had previously been ordered by former President Barack Obama.
Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki, known as Nora, was also among the non-combats killed in the raid, which resulted in the death of several Yemeni women.
Owens was a 36-year-old from Illinois.
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President Donald Trump is mourning the death of a SEAL Team Six member killed in his first military raid as president
Trump and his eldest daughter, Ivanka, arrived at Dover Air Force Base this afternoon, after making the short flight to Delaware from Washington, to receive the body of Chief Petty Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens
Today’s journey is Ivanka’s first trip on Marine One
The pair exited the Oval Office to make the journey
President Trump salutes a marine as he boards Marine One Wednesday afternoon from the South Lawn of the White House
Marine One flew with a decoy and support helicopters to Dover Air Force
Ivanka Trump leaves her home in Washington D.C. on Wednesday lunchtime
She met her father at the White House and they rode together on Marine One to Dover
SEAL Team 6 is the US Navy’s special forces team that gained worldwide fame for killing Osama bin Laden.
Dover AFB is traditionally the arrival point for service members killed in action.
Obama’s first trip to Dover was on Oct. 29, 2009, nine months into his administration.
He received 18 American soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. He reflected several hours later, in Oval Office remarks on the toll of war. ‘It is something that I think about each and every day,’ he stated.
The U.S. president was back at Dover again two years later, in 2011, to receive the remains of 30 soldiers who died in Extortion 17, a helicopter mission in Afghanistan that resulted in the most American military casualties in a single day since the beginning of the war on terror.
The Sunday raid that resulted in the death of Owens involved ‘boots on the ground’ at an AQAP near al Bayda in south central Yemen, officials confirmed in a statement to NBC news.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was visibly affected by the tragedy as he addressed it in his daily briefing with reporters before Trump’s trip to Dover.
The president’s spokesman admitted that the raid was not a ‘100 percent success.’
‘I think it’s hard to ever say something was successful when you lose a life,’ Spicer said.
The White House official said Owens deployed 12 times ‘because he loved his country and he believed in the mission.’
Spicer said that 14 AQAP members were killed and U.S. forces gained ‘an unbelievable amount of intelligence’ in the raid ‘that will prevent potential deaths or attacks on American soil.’
‘You never want to call something a success 100 percent when someone is hurt or killed and that was the case here. But I think when you recognize that an individual like this loved this country so much and deployed over and over again because he knew the mission that he was conducting was so important to our protection, our freedom, our safety.’
Ivanka has been filling in for some traditionally first lady roles with Melania in New York
The First Lady is in New York until at least June, leaving Ivanka to fill the role
Marine One with US President Donald Trump and Ivanka on board, just before it lands at Dover Air Force Base
Ivanka’s husband, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Vice President Mike Pence watched from the Rose Garden as they left
An eight-year-old, Nora, killed in the raid was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki (pictured), an American al Qaeda leader, born in New Mexico, who was killed in a US strike ordered by President Obama five years ago
Anwar al-Awlaki’s daughter killed in first Trump sanctioned raid
Owens’ wife, Karen, stressed in her conversation with the president that while it is ‘an unbelievably sad and emotional time for her and her family that he loved doing this.’
‘And so again, I don’t think you ever call anything 100 percent success, but what he did for this nation and what we got out of that mission, I think, I truly believe and I know the president believes is going to save American lives.’
The eight-year-old who was killed in the raid, Nora, was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born al Qaeda leader, born in New Mexico, who was killed in a U.S. strike Obama ordered five years ago.
Al-Awlaki was killed by a drone on September 30, 2011 after the Justice Department approved the strike in a memorandum that was not disclosed until 2014.
The memo said: ‘We do not believe that al-Awlaki’s US citizenship imposes constitutional limitations that would preclude the contemplated lethal action.’
United States intelligence officiers believed that al-Awaki was a potential successor to Osama Bin Laden.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said of Owens in a statement, ‘Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service.’
This was the president’s first clandestine strike, and not one that was originally ordered by former President Obama. It involved ‘boots on the ground’ at an al Qaeda Camp near al Bayda in south central Yemen (pictured)
Nora’s grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, is Yemen’s former agriculture minister. He told NBC news, ‘My granddaughter was staying for a while with her mother, so when the attack came, they were sitting in the house, and a bullet struck her in the neck at 2:30 past midnight. Other children in the same house were killed.’
He said she died two hours after being shot.
Mr. al-Awlaki said hte SEALS ‘entered another house and killed everybody in it, including all the women. They burned the house. There is an assumption there was a woman from Saudi Arabia who was with al Qaeda. All we know is that she was a children’s teacher.’
Nawar al-Awlaki, also known as Nora, was among the non-combatants killed in the raid, which also resulted in the death of several Yemeni women
The girl’s mother survived, NBC says, and sustained a minor wound. Al-Awlaki’s brother-in-law, however, was killed in the raid.
An official told NBC that the raid was directed from a U.S. base in Djibouti. Officially, it was to search for ‘information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terrorist plots’.
After American service members landed on the ground, a two-hour gun battle ensued. Some al Qaeda fighters were women, and they were among the casualties, reported the San Diego Union Tribune.
Al Qaeda has claimed that 30 civilians have died, and the Tribune reported that four other Americans were wounded in the raid and complications in the aircraft landing.
National security experts believe that the death of the girl will be used as a part of al Qaeda propaganda methods.
Trump said in December of 2015 that he wouldn’t fight a ‘politically correct war’ against ISIS. In a interivew on Fox & Friends, Trump said, ‘The other thing with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.
‘They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But when they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families,’ he said.
The Geneva Conventions, of which the United States is a signatory, bars the killing of civillians.
Trump, then a GOP candidate for president, reversed his position in March, saying in a statement, ‘I will use every legal power that I have to stop these terrorist enemies.
‘I do, however, understand that the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.’
After Nora al-Awaki was killed in Sunday’s raid, the White House went a step further on Tuesday and Spicer unoquicivocally stated: ‘No American citizen will ever be targeted.’
One of Spicer’s deputies walked back her boss’ claim later that day. She said in a statement that the Trump administration would abide by the legal standard adopted by the Obama administration.
‘U.S. policy regarding the possible targeting of American citizens has not changed,’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that was reported on by Bloomberg.
Pictured: The rubble of a building destroyed by a US drone air strike that targeted suspected al Qaeda militants. The strike killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, son of Anwar and brother of Nora. National security experts believe that the death of the girl will be used as a part of al Qaeda propaganda methods
One US service member killed, 3 injured in raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen
Published on Jan 29, 2017
DEVELOPING: One U.S. service member was killed and three wounded in a raid against a group of senior Al Qaeda leaders in central Yemen, officials said.
The U.S. Central Command said in a statement Sunday that another service member was injured in a “hard landing” in a nearby location.
The aircraft used in the landing unable to fly afterward and “was then intentionally destroyed in place.”
A total of 14 fighters from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed in the assault, and U.S. service members captured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots,” according to the military.
Yemeni security and tribal officials said the assault in central Bayda province killed three senior Al Qaeda leaders.
The surprise dawn attack killed Abdul-Raouf al-Dhahab, Sultan al-Dhahab, and Seif al-Nims, Yemeni officials said. The al-Dhahab family is considered an ally of Al Qaeda, which security forces say is concentrated in Bayda province. A third family member, Tarek al-Dhahab, was killed in a previous U.S. drone strike years ago. It was not immediately clear whether the family members were actual members of Al Qaeda.
Just over a week ago, suspected U.S. drone strikes killed three other alleged Al Qaeda operatives in Bayda province in what was the first-such killings reported in the country since Donald Trump assumed the U.S. presidency.
The tribal officials said the Americans were looking for Al Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi, adding that they captured and departed with at least two unidentified individuals.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long seen by Washington as among the most dangerous branches of the global terror network, has exploited the chaos of Yemen’s civil war, seizing territory in the south and east.
The war began in 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led military coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels for nearly two years.
An 8-year-old American girl was killed during the SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen
Nawar Anwar al-Awlaki, known as Nora, was shot during the raid carried out by the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 against an Al Qaeda camp,according to NBC News.
“She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours,” her grandfather Nasser al-Awlaki told Reuters. “Why kill children? This is the new administration. It’s very sad — a big crime.”
SEAL Chief Petty Officer William (Ryan) Owens was also killed during the hourlong gun battle, and three other American commandos were injured. An MV-22 helicopter that crash-landed had to be destroyed before the SEALs left.
“Almost everything went wrong,” a senior US military official told NBC News of the operation, which was the first clandestine strike approved by President Donald Trump.
Born in New Mexico, Anwar al-Awlaki spoke at the Capitol and the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks but eventually left the US in 2002. The process of his radicalization accelerated after he was imprisoned in Yemen — with US encouragement — and he became a top recruiter and mentor to several Al Qaeda operatives, including Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 people during the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bring down an American airliner in 2009 with explosives hidden in his underwear.
Awlaki was killed in a CIA Predator drone strike in 2011, the first time an American citizen was targeted and killed in such a way. Another US citizen, Samir Khan, who published the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire, was also killed in the strike.
About two weeks later, a US drone strike killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman. US officials denied he was their target.
Anwar al-Awlaki’s fiery online video sermons have continued to inspire militants in the years since his death.
His daughter’s death will likely be used in militant propaganda efforts, especially since she is the second of Anwar al-Awlaki’s children killed by the US. It was not immediately clear where she was born, but having an American father would have given her automatic dual citizenship in the US and the country of her birth.
“The perception will be that it’s not enough to kill al-Awlaki — that the US had to kill the entire family,” Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham University’s Center on National Security, told NBC.
According to Middle East Monitor, the US is already being accused on social media of “assassinating children.”
US servicemember killed in raid on al Qaeda in Yemen
By Ryan Browne, CNN
Updated 2:18 PM ET, Tue January 31, 2017
US service member killed in raid01:13
(CNN)A US Navy Seal died of wounds suffered during a raid in Yemen against al Qaeda — the first American combat death under President Donald Trump, US Central Command said Sunday.
Six other servicemembers also were wounded, all non-life threatening.
On Monday, the Pentagon identified the service member who was killed as Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday callled Owens’ family, the White House said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer described the call as a “very somber and lengthy conversation” with Owens’ wife, father and children.
“Ryan gave his full measure for our nation, and in performing his duty, he upheld the noblest standard of military service,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said.
“In a successful raid against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquarters, brave US forces were instrumental in killing an estimated 14 AQAP members and capturing important intelligence that will assist the US in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world,” Trump said in a statement Sunday.
“Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism,” he added. “My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member. I also pray for a quick and complete recovery for the brave service members who sustained injuries.”
A US military official said the raid was not directed against specific individuals, but aimed at “site exploitation,” a military term to describe intelligence-gathering actions.
Sources in Yemen told CNN that three senior al Qaeda leaders were among those killed. That was later confirmed by a US official.
Donald Trump’s Middle East challenges03:06
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite servicemembers,” Commander of US Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel said. “The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”
Ongoing civil war
Central Command said an aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing, resulting in three US troops being injured. That aircraft, which a US defense official said was a V-22 Osprey, was unable to fly after the landing and was then intentionally destroyed in place.
The US operation resulted in an estimated total of 14 members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) being killed and the capture of information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.
A US defense official said the operation was authorized by Trump. The military said there were no civilian casualties as a result of the raid.
American military raids in Yemen are rare. The US did conduct several drone strikes on AQAP targets there last week.
The starving victims of Yemen’s civil war02:18
Yemeni officials told CNN that the raid took place in the Gaifa region in Yemen’s northern Baitha province.
US military officials believe AQAP is exploiting the ongoing civil war in Yemen to solidify its presence there.
Yemen is currently beset by a conflict between Houthi rebels, a minority Shia group from the north of the country, and the internationally recognized government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Saudi Arabia is leading a military intervention against the Houthis in support of the government.
CNN’s Hakim Al-Masmari and Tim Lister contributed to this report.
Story 2: Trump Administration Condemns Iran for Provacative Guided Ballistic Missile Launch and Violates United Nations Resolution — Officially Putting Iran on Notice’ — Videos
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: ‘As of Today, We Are Officially Putting Iran on Notice’
UN To Hold Emergency Meeting Over Iran’s Missile Tests
Netanyahu Iran missile test must not go unanswered
Alleged missile test strains Iran nuclear deal
Iran tests medium-range ballistic missile
Iran Test-Fire Of Medium-Range Missile Ends In Failure
Published on Jan 31, 2017
According to two U.S. defense officials, Iran has test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile, the first launch of its kind since President Donald Trump took office.
According to the officials who spoke to NBC News on Monday, the United States deemed the launch to be a failure, after the missile flew more than 500 miles before crashing. The official spoke on Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the press.
The test-fire poses a challenge for Trump’s fledgling administration. During the campaign, he took several stances on the Iran nuclear deal signed by Barack Obama and other world powers in 2015. He vowed to strictly police the agreement or renegotiate it entirely.
Trump White House Puts Iran ‘On Notice’ After Missile Launch
Security adviser condemns Iran, but doesn’t specify action
U.S. national security adviser Mike Flynn speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
By CAROL E. LEE and MICHAEL C. BENDER
Feb. 1, 2017 3:09 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—The White House on Wednesday sharply condemned Iran’s recent ballistic missile test launch and accused Tehran of threatening the U.S. allies in the region, and warned of unspecified consequences.
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” national security adviser Michael Flynn told reporters during a daily press briefing.
Mr. Flynn said the latest missile test was a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. He said similar actions by Iran in the past six months weren’t met with a sufficiently stern U.S. response and that President Donald Trump’s administration would take a tougher approach to blunt Tehran’s “destabilizing influence.”
“Iran is now feeling emboldened,” Mr. Flynn said.
White House officials declined to elaborate on what Mr. Flynn meant by his warning to Iran, but Mr. Trump has a number of options, including new sanctions. There is bipartisan support in Congress for additional sanctions, some of which were opposed by former President Barack Obama because he said they would violate the 2015 international deal with Iran to restrain its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Mr. Flynn’s declaration came as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis heads to Asia for his first overseas trip and on the day Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has been confirmed.
The test launch was the first Iran has conducted since Mr. Trump took office almost two weeks ago, and the White House’s rhetoric suggested the two countries are headed for an early confrontation.
Mr. Trump staked out an antagonistic stance toward Tehran during the presidential campaign, and Iran was among seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens he barred from the U.S. in an executive order Friday, calling it a needed move to keep terrorists from entering the country.
Khamenei ally says useless for U.S. to threaten Iran over missile test: Fars
By Parisa Hafezi
Reuters February 2, 2017
ANKARA (Reuters) – A top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday Iran will not yield to “useless” U.S. threats from “an inexperienced person” over its ballistic missile program.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, said on Wednesday the United States was putting Iran on notice over its “destabilizing activity” after it test-fired a ballistic missile.
Trump echoed that language on Thursday, saying in a tweet “Iran has been formally put on notice” after his administration said it was reviewing how to respond to the launch that Iran said was solely for defensive purposes.
Iran said on Wednesday it had tested the new ballistic missile but said it did not breach a nuclear deal reached with six major powers in 2015 or a U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the accord.
“This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran … the American government will understand that threatening Iran is useless,” Ali Akbar Velayati said, without identifying any U.S. official specifically in his comments.
“Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. Khamenei is the country’s most powerful figure.
A U.S. official said Iran had test-launched the medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday and it exploded after traveling 630 miles (1,010 km). Iran said it had been a successful launch.
A series of tests conducted by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in 2016 caused international concern, with some powers saying any launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles would violate U.N. Security Council resolution 2231.
The IRGC maintains an arsenal of dozens of short and medium-range ballistic missiles – the largest in the Middle East, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Under the nuclear agreement, most U.N. sanctions were lifted a year ago. But Iran is still subject to an U.N. arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the deal.
Trump has frequently criticized the Iran nuclear deal, which restricts Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions, calling the agreement weak and ineffective. He tweeted on Thursday that Iran “should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them”.
Iran’s Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan told the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Thursday: “The missile test on Sunday was successful … the test was not a violation of a nuclear deal with world powers or any U.N. resolution.”
German newspaper Die Welt, citing unspecified intelligence sources, reported on Thursday that Iran had tested a home-made cruise missile called “Sumar” that is capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Tasnim news agency two years ago published pictures of the Sumar missile, reporting that it was successfully test-fired.
While Iran says its missile program is aimed at displaying the country’s “deterrent power and its ability to confront any threat”, some IRGC commanders have said that Iran’s medium-range ballistic missiles were designed to be able to hit Israel.
Story 3: Yemen Houthis Rebels Destroy Saudi Missile Frigate — Videos
Houthis Destroy Saudi Navy War Ship
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YEMEN UPDATE 30 01 2017 RISKING FAMINE!
When Houthis attack | January 2017 | Yemen – Saudi Arabia
EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon believes attack on Saudi frigate meant for US warship
By Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin
Published January 31, 2017
Suicide bomb attack may have been meant for American warship
The Iranian-backed suicide attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials told Fox News.
The incident in question occurred in the southern Red Sea and was carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Two Saudi sailors were killed and three were wounded. At first the ship was thought to have been struck by a missile.
U.S. defense analysts believe those behind the attack either thought the bomber was striking an American warship or that this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the USS Cole, according to one official.
The attack, near the Bab al Mandab Strait connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, occurred in the same area where U.S. Navy warships came under missile attack in October.
An American destroyer shot down those incoming missiles — the first successful engagement in combat using an American SM-2 missile.
USS Nitze, an American destroyer, retaliated soon after, launching Tomahawk missiles on October 13 at multiple Houthi radar sites in Yemen.
This latest incident came a day after President Trump spoke by phone with the Saudi King to discuss setting up safe zones for refugees in Syria and Yemen. Senior U.S. defense officials who spoke with Fox News say they’re concerned by this latest incident, but are confident American warships can defend themselves.
The United States has supported a Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews
Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.
Warships have been deployed in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden as part of what the coalition says is an operation to stop the Houthis receiving weapons from Iran, which backs the rebels but denies providing military support.
“A Saudi frigate came under a terrorist attack by three suicide boats belonging to the Houthi militias while on patrol west of the port of Hudaydah,” the official Saudi Press Agency quoted the coalition statement as saying.
“The Saudi ship dealt with the boats as necessary. However, one of the boats collided with the rear of the vessel, resulting in the explosion of the boat and a fire at the rear of the ship. The crew extinguished the fire,” it added.
“Two members of the ship crew fell as martyrs and three others were injured.”
The Houthi-controlled Saba news agency cited a military source as confirming a warship had been targeted off western Yemen on Monday. But the source said the vessel had been hit by a guided missile as it tried to approach the coast.
Image captionThe Houthi rebel movement said its fighters had fired a guided missile at the warship
“The targeting of this warship comes within the framework of the legal right of Yemen to defend the homeland and its sovereignty,” the source added.
Coalition and pro-government forces are also currently attempting to advance up the west coast in an attempt to drive the rebels out of Hudaydah and other ports.
The coalition warned that the Houthis’ use of Hudaydah “as a launching pad for terrorist operations is a serious development that would affect the international navigation and the flow of humanitarian and medical assistance into the port”.
The coalition’s naval blockade and the wider conflict have caused a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, leaving more than seven million people severely food insecure.
The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيون al-Ḥūthiyyūn IPA: [ħuːθijuːn]), officially called Ansar Allah (anṣārallāhأنصار الله “Supporters of God”), is a Zaidi Shia-led religious-political movement that emerged from Sa’dah, northern Yemen in the 1990s and has fought against the government of the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh on and off since 2004. In late 2014, Houthis fixed their relationship with the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and with his help, Houthis took control of the capital and much of the north.
Like many of Iranian-backed military militia such as Hezbollah, the Houthi movement attracts its Zaidi-Shia followers in Yemen by promoting regional political-religious issues in its media, including the overarching US-Israeli conspiracy and Arab “collusion”. In 2003, the Houthi’s slogan “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam”, became the group’s trademark. Beside, the movement claims that it has some local-political agenda such as ending the economic under-development, political marginalization in Yemen, as well as seeking autonomy in only the areas where they are predominant not all of Yemen. Tension between the Houthis and the central government steadily grew in the 1990s, with war breaking out in 2004 with the group’s founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, leading a rebellion against then President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The group is now led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, brother of the first leader, who was reportedly killed by Saleh’s Yemeni army forces in 2004.
The Houthis had some role in the 2011 Yemeni Revolution, participating in the street protests and coordinating with other opposition groups. Houthis also had joined National Dialogue Conference in Yemen which is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative. However, after they took over the government with the help from the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, they announced their rejection of the provisions of the November 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council deal, claiming that it did not fundamentally reform governance and describe it as “a conspiracy” against them. In addition, they have also some other claims such as that it will transform the country into a federation of six regions, arguing that “it divided Yemen into poor and wealthy regions” and saw it as a blatant attempt to weaken them by dividing areas under their control between separate regions.
Current territorial situation in Yemen. Houthi forces are shown in green.
The Houthis belong to the Shia tribesmen of North Yemen who are renowned among Yemeni tribes for their ruggedness, sharpshooting abilities, honour, and bravery in combat. This is while they are also disregarded as being ignorant or backward, by more metropolitan Yemenis, such as Sana’anis or Adenites. They have been known for being very moderate and are the closest to Sunni Islam of all the Shi’a sects.
According to Ahmed Addaghashi, a professor at Sanaa University, the Houthis began as a moderate theological movement that preached tolerance and held a broad-minded view of Yemeni people. Their first organization, “the Believing Youth” (BY), was founded in 1992 in Saada Governorate:1008 by either Mohammed al-Houthi,:98 or his brother Hussein al-Houthi.
The Believing Youth established school clubs and summer camps:98 in order to “promote a Zaidi revival” in Saada. By 1994–1995, 15–20,000 students had attended BY summer camps. The religious material included lectures by Mohammed Hussein Fadhlallah (a Lebanese Shiite scholar) and Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah Party) “:99
The formation of the Houthi organisations have been described by Adam Baron of the European Council on Foreign Relations as a reaction to foreign intervention: shoring up Zaidi support against the perceived threat of Saudi-influenced ideologies in Yemen and a general condemnation of the former Yemeni government’s alliance with the United States, which, along with complaints regarding the government’s corruption and the marginalisation of much of the Houthis’ home areas in Saada constituted the group’s key grievances.
Although Hussein al-Houthi, who was killed in 2004, had no official relation with Believing Youth, according to Zaid, he contributed to the radicalisation of some Zaydis after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. BY-affiliated youth adopted anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans which they chanted in the Saleh Mosque in Sana’a after Friday prayers. According to Zaid, the followers of Houthi’s insistence on chanting the slogans attracted the authorities’ attention, further increasing government worries over the extent of the al-Houthi movement’s influence. “The security authorities thought that if today the Houthis chanted `Death to America’, tomorrow they could be chanting `Death to the president [of Yemen]”. 800 BY supporters were arrested in Sana’a in 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh then invited Hussein al-Houthi to a meeting in Sana’a, but Hussein declined. On 18 June 2004 Saleh sent government forces to arrest Hussein. Hussein responded by launching an insurgency against the government but was killed on 10 September 2004. The insurgency continued intermittently until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2010.
As the revolution went on, Houthis gained control of greater territory. By 9 November 2011, Houthis were said to be in control of two Yemeni governorates (Saada and Al Jawf) and close to taking over their third governorate (Hajjah), which would enable them to launch a direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana’a. In May 2012, it was reported that the Houthis controlled a majority of Saada, Al Jawf, and Hajjah governorates; they had also gained access to the Red Sea and started erecting barricades north of the capital Sana’a in preparation for more conflict.
By 21 September 2014, Houthis were said to control parts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, including government buildings and a radio station.While control of the capital expanded to the rest of Sana’a, as well as other towns such as Rada’, control was strongly challenged by Al-Qaeda. It was believed by the Gulf States that the Houthis had accepted aid from Iran while Saudi Arabia was aiding their Yemeni rivals.
In a televised speech on 22 March, Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi accused the US and Israel of supporting the terrorists attacks. He blamed regional Arab states for financing terrorist groups operating inside Yemen. On 27 March 2015, in response to perceived Houthi threats to Sunni factions in the region, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike in Yemen. The military coalition includes the United States which is helping with the planning of air strikes, as well as logistical and intelligence support.
According to a 2015 September report by Esquire magazine, the Houthis, once the outliers, are now one of the most stable and organised social and political movements in Yemen. The power vacuum created by Yemen’s uncertain transitional period has drawn more supporters to the Houthis. Many of the formerly powerful parties, now disorganised with an unclear vision, have fallen out of favour with the public, making the Houthis — under their newly branded Ansar Allah name — all the more attractive.
The Houthis avoid assuming a singular tribal identity. Instead, the group strategically draws support from tribes of the northern Bakil federation, rival to the Hashid federation which had been a traditional ally of the ousted central government. The Houthis’ lack of centralised command structure allows them to generate immense support, as Yemenis from diverse backgrounds have joined their cause.
Membership of the group had between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters as of 2005 and between 2,000 and 10,000 fighters as of 2009. In 2010, the Yemen Post claimed that they had over 100,000 fighters. According to Houthi expert Ahmed Al-Bahri the Houthis had a total of 100,000-120,000 followers, including both armed fighters and unarmed loyalists.
As of 2015, the group is reported to have managed to pick up swaths of new supporters outside their traditional demographics. On 5 February 2016, Iranian TV named PressTV reported that Men of Hamdan, one of Yemen’s most powerful tribes, rallied to the north of the capital, Sana’a, vowing to provide support in the form of potential mobilisation for the country’s fighters resisting the current elected Yemeni government. In a gathering held in the capital, hundreds of tribesmen from the southern parts pledged union against what they described as a U.S.-Israeli initiative targeting the country, which was being implemented by Saudi Arabia.
Houthis belong to the Zaidi branch of Islam, also known as Fivers, a sect of Islam almost exclusively present in Yemen.
Zaydis make up about 45 percent of the population, Sunnis make up 53 percent, and there are also tiny minorities of Muslims who are members of other Shia sects — the Ismaili and Twelver communities. Al-Houthi Zaydis are estimated to make up about 30 percent of the population, according to Hassan Zaid, secretary-general of the al-Haq opposition party. The Zaydis ruled Yemen for 1,000 years up until 1962. During this time they ferociously defended their independence and fought off foreign powers (Egypt, the Ottomans) who controlled lower Yemen and tried to extend their rule to the north.
Similar to Shia Muslims in matters of religious law and rulings, the Houthi belief in the concept of an Imamate as being essential to their religion makes them distinct from Sunnis. As of 2014 it has been observed that “The Houthi group’s approach is in many ways similar to that of Hizbollah in Lebanon. Similarly religiously based and Iran-backed, both groups follow the same military doctrine and glorify the Khomeini revolution in Iran”.
As a consequence, the Houthis have regularly been accused, even by many fellow Zaidis, of secretly being converts or followers of the Twelver sect, which is the official religion of their ally and backer Iran.
Ethnoreligious groups in 2002. ZaidiShia followers make up over 42% of Muslims in Yemen.
The Houthis have asserted that their actions are to fight against the expansion of Salafism in Yemen, and for the defence of their community from discrimination, whereas the Yemeni government has in turn accused the insurgents of intending to overthrow the regime out of a desire to institute Zaidi religious law, destabilising the government and stirring anti-American sentiment. The Yemeni government has also accused the Houthis of having ties to external backers, in particular the Iranian government. In turn, the Houthis have countered with allegations that the Yemeni government is being backed by al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, The discord has led some publishers to fear that further confrontations may lead to an all-out Sunni-Shiite war.
Some Houthi supporters stress that their ire for the U.S. and Israel is directed toward the governments of America and Israel. Ali al-Bukhayti, the spokesperson and official media face of the Houthis, tried to reject the literal interpretation of the slogan by stating that in one of his interview “We do not really want death to anyone. The slogan is simply against the interference of those governments [i.e. U.S. and Israel]”. However, in the Arabic Houthi-affiliated TV and radio stations they use religious connotations associated with jihad against Israel and the US. They also call Saudi Arabia a U.S. puppet state.
Charges of harassment against Jews
The Houthis have been accused of expelling or restricting some members of the ancient and impoverished rural Jews of Yemen. There have been also reports about supporters of the Houthis bullying or attacking the members of the Yemeni Jewish community. Houthi officials, however, have denied any involvement in the harassment, asserting that under Houthi control Jews in Yemen would be able to live and operate freely as any other Yemeni citizen. “Our problems are with Zionism and the occupation of Palestine, but Jews here have nothing to fear,” said Fadl Abu Taleb, a spokesman for the Houthis. But despite insistence by Houthi leaders that the movement is not sectarian, a Yemeni Jewish rabbi has reportedly said that many Jews remain terrified by the movement’s slogan. As a result, Yemeni Jews reportedly retain a negative sentiment towards the Houthis, who committed persecutions against them. According to Ayoub Kara, Houthi militants had given an ultimatum telling Jews to “convert to Islam or leave Yemen”.
Fares Mana’a – Houthi-appointed governor of Sa’dah and former head of Saleh’s Presidential committee
Motives and objectives
When armed conflict for the first time erupted back in 2004 between the Yemeni government and Houthis, the then-Yemeni President accused Houthis and other Islamic opposition parties of trying to overthrow the government and the republican system. However Houthi leaders for their part rejected the accusation by saying that they had never rejected the president or the republican system but were only defending themselves against government attacks on their community.Zaidi Shi’ites compose one-third of the population of Yemen and Houthis have often voiced the grievances of the Zaidi population.
The group has also exploited the popular discontent over corruption and reduction of government subsidies. According to a February 2015 Newsweek report, Houthis are fighting “for things that all Yemenis crave: government accountability, the end to corruption, regular utilities, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis and the end of Western influence”.
Hassan al-Homran, a former spokesperson for Ansar Allah, has said that “Ansar Allah supports the establishment of a civil state in Yemen. We want to build a striving modern democracy. Our goals are to fulfil our people’s democratic aspirations in keeping with the Arab Spring movement.” In an interview with Yemen Times, Hussein al-Bukhari, a Houthi insider, said that Houthis’ preferable political system is a republic with elections where women can also hold political positions, and that they do not seek to form a cleric-led government after the model of Islamic Republic of Iran for “we cannot apply this system in Yemen because the followers of the Shafi (Sunni) doctrine are bigger in number than the Zaydis.”
Ali Akbar Velayati, International Affairs Advisor to Supreme Iranian Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, stated in October 2014 that “We are hopeful that Ansar-Allah has the same role in Yemen as Hezbollah has in eradicating the terrorists in Lebanon”.
Activism and tactics
During their campaigns against the ousted Hadi government, Houthis used civil disobedience. Following the Yemeni government’s decision in 13 July 2014 to increase fuel prices, Houthi leaders succeeded in organising massive rallies in the capital Sana’a to protest the decision and to demand resignation of the incumbent government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for “state-corruption”. These protests developed into the 2014-2015 phase of the insurgency. Similarly, following 2015 Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthis which claimed civilians lives, Yemenis responded to the Abdul-Malik al-Houthi‘s call and took to streets of the capital, Sana’a, in tens of thousands to voice their anger at the Saudi invasion.
The Houthis have also held a number of mass gatherings since the revolution. On 24 January 2013, thousands gathered in Dahiyan, Sa’dah and Heziez, just outside Sana’a, to celebrate Mawlid al-Nabi, the birth of Mohammed. A similar event took place on 13 January 2014, but this time at the main sports stadium in Sana’a. On this occasion, men and women were completely segregated: men filled the open-air stadium and football field in the centre, guided by appointed Houthi safety officials wearing bright vests and matching hats; women poured into the adjacent indoor stadium, led inside by security women distinguishable only by their purple sashes and matching hats. The indoor stadium held at least five thousand women — ten times as many attendees as the 2013 gathering.
Combat and military
In 2009, US Embassy sources have reported that Houthis used increasingly more sophisticated tactics and strategies in their conflict with the government as they gained more experience, and that they fought with religious fervor and courage.
Situation in March 2012
Saudi and former Yemeni officials have claimed that the Houthis have received significant support from Iran in the form of weapons, money and training since 2004, while Houthi leadership denies having received weapons or financial support from Iran. Also, Tehran denied the allegation of Houthis arm support by Iran. A December 2009 cable between Sanaa and various intelligence agencies disseminated by WikiLeaks states that US State Dept. analysts believed the Houthis obtained weapons from the Yemeni black market and corrupt members of the Republican Guard. On the edition of 8 April 2015 of PBS Newshour, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the US knew Iran was providing military support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, adding that Washington “is not going to stand by while the region is destabilised”.
Despite being less in numbers and equipment than the Saudi-led coalition, Ansar Allah managed to inflict heavy losses and destroy dozens of invading vehicles in the city of Ma’rib on 14 September 2015. In addition, Ansar Allah managed to capture a Saudi soldier, Ibrahim Araj Mohammad Hakami whose confession was broadcast on Ansar Allah news channel Al-Masirah TV. Recently on late 2015, Houthis announced the local production of short range ballistic missile Qaher-1 on Al-Masirah TV.
Allegations of Iran’s support
Phillip Smyth of the Washington Institute on Near East Policy told Business Insider that Iran views Shia groups in the Middle East as “integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).” Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen. According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy. For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis,” Iran’s regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.
In 2013, photographs released by the Yemeni government show the United States Navy and Yemen’s security forces seized a class of shoulderfired antiaircraft missiles not publicly known to have been out of state control.
According to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, Fars News Agency, which is the official news agency of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has admitted to arming Houthis with missiles and training. The agency quoted “a prominent analyst” Seyed Sadeq al-Sharafi as saying that militias “are developing their missile power to target Riyadh and Dubai in the future, after they increased their missile and military capabilities and expanded the range of their military operations against the enemies”
In April 2016, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. Navy ship stopped a massive Iranian arms shipment dead in its tracks, seizing thousands of weapons, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers that likely were headed to Yemen.
Also, the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in conflicts with them for 2 decades and currently allied with them, has accused Iran of supporting the Houthi many times. Saleh stated in a New York Times’ interview that “The real reason they received unofficial support from Iran was because they repeat same slogan that is raised by Iran death to America, death to Israel”. He also said “The Iranian media repeats statements of support for these Houthi elements. They are all trying to take revenge against the USA on Yemeni territories”.
Allegations of human rights violations
Houthis have been accused of violations of international humanitarian law such as using child soldiers, shelling civilian areas, forced evacuations, executions and human shielding. According to the Human Right Watch, Houthis have inclined up their recruitment of children in 2015. The UNICEF mentioned that children with the Houthis and other armed groups in Yemen comprise up to a third of all fighters in Yemen. Human Rights Watch has further accused Houthi forces of using landmines in Yemen’s third-largest city of Taizz which has caused many civilian casualties and prevent the return of families displaced by the fighting. HRW has also accused the Houthis of interfering with the work of Yemen’s human rights advocates and organizations.
The Yemen Times reported that most children working for the Houthis are not combatants.
An HRW researcher, quoted in 2009 US embassy report, has downplayed the repeated allegations by the former government of Yemen accusing the Houthis of using civilians as human shields, by saying that they did not have enough evidence to conclude that the Houthis have been intentionally using civilians as human shields.
According to the 2009 US Embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks, Houthis have reportedly established courts and prisons in areas they control. They impose their own laws on local residents, demand protection money, and dispense rough justice by ordering executions. AP‘s reporter, Ahmad al-Haj argued that the Houthis were winning hearts and minds by providing security in areas long neglected by the Yemeni government (currently ousted) while limiting the arbitrary and abusive power of influential sheikhs. According to the Civic Democratic Foundation, Houthis help resolve conflicts between tribes and reduce the number of revenge killings in areas they control. The US ambassador believed that the reports that explain Houthi role as arbitrating local disputes were more likely than the sinister[unbalanced opinion] suggestions.
Areas under administration
Map last updated 30 January 2015
The Houthis exert de facto authority over the bulk of North Yemen. North Yemen was united with South Yemen in 1990; the Yemen government has repeatedly suppressed separatist protests by force. The Houthis’ direct administration includes the following territories:
Story 1: When Will Obama and Kerry Walk Like Men Out Of Negotiations With The World Leading Terrorist Nation The Islamic Republic of Iran? Never! — Yakety Yak– Where Is The Written Signed Agreement/Treaty Stopping Iran From Having Nuclear Weapons President Obama? — Time To Release Some Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) — Bunker Busters on Iran’s Nuclear Bomb Factories — Bombs Away — Videos
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July 2015 Breaking News USA ready to attack Iranian nuclear facilities with awe-inspiring plan B
30,000 Pound Bunker Buster Bomb designed to detour Iran Nuclear Threat
As negotiations with Iran continue towards a nuclear arms agreement, the United States still holds a trump card. The 30,000 Pound Boeing GBU-57 Bunker Buster bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in U.S. inventory, designed to destroy nuclear weapons bunkers in Iran and North Korea. The bunker buster, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), is 30,000 pounds (13,608 kg.) and has been improved with “adjusted fuses to maximize its burrowing power, upgraded guidance systems to improve its precision and hi-tech equipment intended to allow it to evade Iranian air defenses in order to reach and destroy the Fordow nuclear enrichment complex.”
“Hopefully we never have to use it, but if we had to, it would work.”
The existence of a bomb that has the capability of destroying the underground facility from the air could also give the West extra bargaining power in nuclear negotiations with the Iran.
US officials believe the improved MOP will serve to convince Israel to hold off on unilaterally attacking Iran and give Washington more time to diplomatically neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat.
US military chiefs openly admitted the weapon was built to attack the fortified nuclear facilities of “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea. Although the Pentagon insists that it is not aimed at a specific threat, unnamed officials within the ministry have repeatedly claimed the bomb is being tailor-made to disable Iranian nuclear facilities at Fordo.
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Bunkers & Bunker Busting Bombs
MOP Massive Ordnance Penetrator GBU-57A-B Penetrator bunker buster bomb Iran United States
World War 3 Pentagon unveils 30,000 pound M O P Bunker Buster Bomb against Iran May 03, 2013
Israeli Air force NASTY SURPRISE for Iran military
World War 3 Pentagon unveils 30,000 pound M O P Bunker Buster Bomb against Iran May 03, 2013
Boeing Delivers Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) 37,000 LB Bombs To The USAF – GBU-57
ONE BOMB KILLS 40 TANKS us air force CBU 105 cluster bomb
Israel Air Force Refuels Mid-air
Only on AP: US Tankers Refuel for IS Fight
WATCH OUT IRAN Israeli Air Force unveils Refueling aircraft for possible Airstrike
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News Wrap: As deadline looms, Kerry says Iran nuclear talks not ‘open-ended’
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Where Have all the Flowers Gone: Eve of Destruction
Iran Made Illegal Purchases of Nuclear Weapons Technology Last Month
The question is not whether Iran can be trusted to uphold the nuclear deal now being negotiated in Vienna (it can’t), but whether the Obama administration and its P5+1 partners can be trusted to punish Iran when it violates the agreement?
Experience shows that unless Iran violates the deal egregiously, the temptation will be to ignore it. For instance, Iran got away with selling more oil than it should have under the interim agreement. More ominously, Tehran repeatedly pushed the envelope on technical aspects of the agreement—such as caps on its uranium stockpile—and got away with it. The Obama administration and other Western powers have so much invested in their diplomatic efforts that they’ll deny such violations ever occurred.
More evidence of Iranian violations has now surfaced. Two reports regarding Iran’s attempts to illicitly and clandestinely procure technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs have recently been published. They show that Iran’s procurement continues apace, if not faster than before the Joint Plan of Action was signed in November 2013. But fear of potentially embarrassing negotiators and derailing negotiations has made some states reluctant to report Tehran’s illegal efforts. If these countries have hesitated to expose Iran during the negotiations, it is more likely they will refrain from reporting after a deal is struck.
The first report was released last month by the U.N. panel of experts in charge of reporting compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding Iran. The panel noted that U.N. member states had not reported significant violations of U.N. sanctions and speculated as to why: either Iran was complying, or countries did not wish to interfere with negotiations.
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The second report, released last week by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, is less ambiguous. The agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, confirmed to us that Iran continues to seek illicit technology for its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.
Iran has had a long history of trying to obtain nuclear technology from German companies, particularly by seeking ways to transport merchandise in circumvention of international sanctions. Since November 2013, Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program. It appears that Iran’s readiness to negotiate does not reflect any substantive policy change. Rather, it is a diplomatic tactic retreat forced by economic distress, not a strategic rethinking of its priorities.
Iran’s cheating should give Western negotiators additional resolve to impose ironclad guarantees in the agreement. They should compel Iran to reveal its past activities, including its post-JPOA procurement efforts, and impose tough, intrusive, “anytime, anywhere” inspections before sanctions are suspended, let alone lifted.
Instead, the lack of reporting to the U.N. despite evidence of cheating suggests a lack of resolve on the part of Western nations, and their willingness to downplay all but the most egregious violations. This does not bode well for the future. If Western powers are reluctant to penalize Iran for trying to evade sanctions because they’re afraid of spoiling the negotiations, what will happen in the future when Western powers have even more invested in preserving an agreement?
Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow.
In 2002, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin were working on the development of a 30,000-lb (13,600 kg) earth-penetrating weapon, said to be known as “Big BLU“. But funding and technical difficulties resulted in the development work being abandoned. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, analysis of sites that had been attacked with bunker-buster bombs revealed poor penetration and inadequate levels of destruction.This renewed interest in the development of a super-large bunker-buster, and the MOP project was initiated by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to fulfill a long-standing Air Force requirement.
The U.S. Air Force has not officially recognized specific military requirement for an ultra-large bomb, but it does have a concept for a collection of massively sized penetrator and blast weapons, the so-called “Big BLU” collection, which includes the MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Burst) bomb. Development of the MOP was performed at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Munitions Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida with design and testing work performed by Boeing. It is intended that the bomb will be deployed on the B-2 bomber, and will be guided by the use of GPS.
Northrop Grumman announced a $2.5-million stealth-bomber refit contract on 19 July 2007. Each of the U.S. Air Force’s B-2s is to be able to carry two 14-ton MOPs.
On 6 October 2009, ABC News reported that the Pentagon had requested and obtained permission from the U.S. Congress to shift funding in order to accelerate the project. It was later announced by the U.S. military that “funding delays and enhancements to the planned test schedule” meant the bomb would not be deployable until December 2010, six months later than the original availability date.
The project has had at least one successful Flight Test MOP launch. The final testing will be completed in 2012.
The Air Force took delivery of 20 bombs, designed to be delivered by the B-2 bomber, in September 2011. In February 2012, Congress approved $81.6 million to further develop and improve the weapon.
On 7 April 2011, the USAF ordered eight MOPs plus supporting equipment for $28 million.
On 14 November 2011, Bloomberg reported that the Air Force Global Strike Command started receiving the Massive Ordnance Penetrator and that the deliveries “will meet requirements for the current operational need”. The Air Force now has received delivery of 16 MOPs as of November 2011. And as of March 2012, there is an “operational stockpile” at Whiteman Air Force Base.
In 2012, the Pentagon requested $82 million to develop greater penetration power for the existing weapon. A 2013 report stated that the development had been a success, and B-2 integration testing began that year.
MOP being offloaded in preparation for its first explosive test, 2007.
Mock up of MOP inside a bomb bay of a B-2 simulator, 2007.
B-52 releases a MOP during a weapons test, 2009.
Next-generation Penetrator Munition
On 25 June 2010, USAF Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove said that the Next-generation Penetrator Munition should be about a third the size of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator so it could be carried by affordable aircraft. In December 2010, the USAF had a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Next Generation Penetrator (NGP).
Global Strike Command has indicated that one of the objectives for the Next-Generation Bomber is for it to carry a weapon with the effects of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. This would either be with the same weapon or a smaller weapon that uses rocket power to reach sufficient speed to match the penetrating power of the larger weapon.
One of the current limitations of the MOP is that it lacks a void-sensing fuze and will therefore detonate after it has come to a stop, even if it passed by the target area.
Whether Iran is racing toward nuclear weapon capabilities is one of the most contentious issues challenging the West, including the United States and Israel, which has been involved in a shadow war with the country.
April 2, 2015
April 2, 2015
Iran Agrees to Nuclear Limits, But Key Issues Are Unresolved
Iran and European nations say they have reached an understanding about next steps, but key issues need to be resolved before a final agreement by June 30.
According to European officials, roughly 5,000 centrifuges will remain spinning enriched uranium at Natanz, about half the number currently running. The underground enrichment site at Fordo — which Israeli and some American officials fear is impervious to bombing — will be partly converted to advanced nuclear research and the production of medical isotopes.
A major reactor at Arak, which officials fear could produce plutonium, will operate on a limited basis that will not provide enough fuel for a bomb.
In return the European Union and the United States will begin to lift sanctions, as Iran complies.
Kerry Announces Extension to Iran Talks Video by Reuters/ Photo by Roland Schlager/European Pressphoto Agency
U.S. and Allies Extend Iran Nuclear Talks by 7 Months
A yearlong effort to reach an enduring accord with Iran to dismantle large parts of its nuclear infrastructure fell short, forcing the United States and its allies to declare a seven-month extension, but with no clear indication of how they plan to bridge fundamental differences.
The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, Catherine Ashton, who is representing the European Union, and Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna. Leonhard Foeger/Reuters
Negotiators Scrambling as Deadline Looms in Nuclear Talks
As six world powers and Iran race to meet a Monday deadline for an agreement that would constrain Iran’s nuclear program, the United States stakes out an ambitious goal for what an accord should accomplish.
American officials say the agreement should slow the Iranian nuclear program enough that it would take Iran at least a year to make enough material for a nuclear bomb if it decided to ignore the accord.
It has become increasingly unlikely that any accord announced on Monday would be a complete one. And whatever deal is reached, it may not matter if Iranian hard-liners have their way. In Iran, the final decision on a nuclear deal lies with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.
Under a proposed deal, Russia will convert uranium into specialized fuel rods for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant.Majid Asgaripour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Role for Russia Gives Iran Talks a Possible Boost
Iran tentatively agrees to ship much of its huge stockpile of uranium to Russia for conversion into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial reactor. The agreement is potentially a major breakthrough in talks that have until now been deadlocked.
A key question remains about the negotiations that American officials have been loath to discuss in public: In a final deal, would Iran be required to publicly admit its past activities, or merely provide a mechanism for monitoring its actions in the future?
Iran’s nuclear reactor in Arak, about 150 miles southwest of Tehran, is being redesigned.Hamid Foroutan/Iranian Students News Agency, via Associated Press
Iran Altering Arak Reactor in Bid for Nuclear Deal
Atomic power engineers in Iran start redesigning a partly constructed reactor in Arak to limit the amount of plutonium it produces, Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, says, expressing hope that the change will help alleviate Western objections that the plutonium can be used in weapons.
Iran, the United States and the five other countries agree to a four-month extension of the negotiations, giving them more time to try to bridge a major difference over whether the country will be forced to dismantle parts of its nuclear infrastructure, according to senior Western diplomats involved in the talks.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, accuses the West of trying to sabotage a reactor being built near Arak.Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Iran Outlines Nuclear Deal; Accepts Limit
As the deadline for the talks approaches on Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, says the country could accept a freeze on its capacity to produce nuclear fuel at current levels for several years, provided it could eventually produce fuel unhindered.
The proposal will effectively extend a limited series of concessions Iran made last November as part of a temporary deal to get negotiations started on a permanent accord. In return, Iran wants step-by-step relief from sanctions that have substantially weakened its economy.
Iran Is Providing Information on Its Detonators, Report Says
The I.A.E.A. releases a report stating that Iran is beginning to turn over information related to its nuclear detonators. The agency says that Iran has provided “additional information and explanations,” including documents, to substantiate its claim that it had tested the detonators for “a civilian application.”
From left, Foreign Ministers Laurent Fabius of France and William Hague of Britain, and Secretary of State John Kerry with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan, in Paris. Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images
Negotiators Put Final Touches on Iran Accord
Iran and a group of six world powers complete a deal that will temporarily freeze much of Tehran’s nuclear program starting Jan. 20, in exchange for limited relief from Western economic sanctions.
The agreement faced opposition from Iranian hard-liners and Israeli leaders, as well as heavy criticism from some American lawmakers, who have threatened to approve further sanctions despite President Obama’s promise of a veto.
The negotiators in Geneva early Sunday morning. President Obama hailed the agreement. Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Deal With Iran Halts Nuclear Program
The United States and five other world powers announce a landmark accord that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement.
The aim of the accord, which is to last six months, is to give international negotiators time to pursue a more comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could only be used for peaceful purposes.
Iran is in a much different position now to negotiate on its nuclear program than it was four years ago when President Obama first broached the subject.
Iran Says It Agrees to ‘Road Map’ With U.N. on Nuclear Inspections
The I.A.E.A. says that Iran has agreed to resolve all outstanding issues with the agency, and will permit “managed access” by international inspectors to two key nuclear facilities. But the promise does not extend to the Parchin military site, which inspectors have been trying to see for months.
Marathon talks between major powers and Iran fail to ease sanctions on the country and produce a deal to freeze its nuclear program.
Iran and a group of six world powers say that they have engaged in “substantive” and “forward-looking” discussions on the disputed Iranian nuclear program and that they will reconvene on November 7.
The account of the two days of talks in Geneva came in a rare joint statement from Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, who is the lead negotiator with Iran.
President Obama says he has spoken by phone with President Hassan Rouhani, the first direct contact between the leaders of Iran and the United States since 1979. Mr. Obama, speaking in the White House briefing room, said the two leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear program and said he was persuaded there was a basis for an agreement.
Moments before Mr. Obama’s announcement, Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account posted this now-deleted message: “In a phone conversation b/w #Iranian & #US Presidents just now: @HassanRouhani: “Have a Nice Day!” @BarackObama: “Thank you. Khodahafez.”
Rouhani, Blunt and Charming, Pitches a Moderate Iran in First U.N. Appearance
Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, turns himself into a high-speed salesman offering a flurry of speeches, tweets, televised interviews and carefully curated private meetings, intended to end Iran’s economic isolation.
At the United Nations General Assembly, he preaches tolerance and understanding, decries as a form of violence the Western sanctions imposed on his country and says nuclear weapons have no place in its future. He takes aim at Israel’s nuclear arsenal in a public – while the country’s leaders caution over what they deem as an empty charm offensive.
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new leader, received a private letter from President Obama about easing tensions between the countries.Vahid Salemi/Associated Press
Iran Said to Seek a Nuclear Accord to End Sanctions
Seizing on a perceived flexibility in a letter from President Obama to President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s leaders are focused on getting quick relief from crippling sanctions, a top adviser to the Iranian leadership says.
The adviser says that Mr. Obama’s letter, delivered about three weeks ago, promised relief from sanctions if Tehran demonstrated a willingness to “cooperate with the international community, keep your commitments and remove ambiguities.”