Story 1: Bluff, Bombast, Bust, Bang, Boom–World War III With North Korea and Communist China? — Videos–
North Korea looking for a fight with US?
North Korea Threatens to Sink U.S. Aircraft Carrier
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U.S. aircraft carrier nears South Korea
Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson CVN 70, Submarine USS Michigan, Target North Korea
Story 2: Operation Gotham Shield 2017 — Simulation of Nuclear and EMP Attack Over New York City — Videos
April 24-26 2017 — Operation Gotham Shield 2017
4/24/17 Why Operation Gotham Shield Needs Your Attention – Alex Jones Infowars
Why Operation Gotham Shield Needs Your Attention
Operation Gotham Shield | NYC & NJ on April 24th – 26th
What is an EMP? The 60 second answer
What’s an electromagnetic pulse attack?
Prepping For An EMP
JEANINE PIRRO: “Lights Out: The Danger to US Power Grid” – The EMP Threat
Are You Prepared For An EMP Attack?
Washington D.C. To Hold Massive “Coordinated Terror Attack” Drill This Wednesday
by Tyler Durden
Apr 25, 2017 5:17 AM
April 26th is shaping up to be a busy day.
As we reported on Friday, that’s when Operation Gotham Shield, an exercise involving FEMA, Homeland Security and a myriad of law enforcement and military agencies and which simulates a nuclear bomb blast over Manhattan, is set to conclude.
Then, as we learned earlier, April 26 is also when the entire Senate will be briefed by Donald Trump and his four top defense and military officials on the situation in North Korea at the White House, an event which Reuters dubbed as “unusual.”
April 26 is also when the USS Carl Vinson is expected to finally arrive off the coast of the Korean Penninsula.
Now, in a statement from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the regional association reports that “law enforcement officials and other first responders will participate in a full-scale exercise on April 26 designed to prepare for the possibility of a complex coordinated terror attack in the National Capital Region.”
The statement adds that emergency managers who work together at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) planned the exercise to help protect residents by preparing for an attack involving multiple target locations and teams of perpetrators.
The exercise will be conducted across a widespread geographical area. According to the release, the regional exercise will be staged at six sites in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, and will involve hundreds of police, fire, and emergency medical service personnel and volunteer actors.
The locations include neighborhoods in the northeast and southeast quadrants of the District of Columbia, Prince George’s County, and Arlington and Fairfax Counties. Residents in those neighborhoods will be notified ahead of time to expect the exercise.
According to Scott Boggs, Managing Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety at COG, “Law enforcement officials practice and exercise their skills on their own regularly because that’s the best way to ensure we are always ready to respond quickly and professionally. On April 26, we’ll go one step further and stage a very realistic emergency event involving multiple sites and actors posing as the casualties. However, there is no reason for residents to be alarmed because the exercise will occur in a controlled environment.”
The is scheduled to take place near or at George Mason University, and last from 8;30am until 4:30pm.
The statement also advises that the only media availability will be in a one hour block before the exercise, from 7:30am – 8:30am on April 26.
Operation Gotham Shield: Is there a connection between massive power outages and the nuclear EMP drill?
Posted onApril 22, 2017byState of the Nation
Are Today’s Massive Power Outages Really Secretly Part of the Operation Gotham Shield Nuclear EMP Drill?
When Russia holds a massive civil defense drill for nuclear war, the government informs its people and even includes them.When the US government does it however, they do it in secret, even using natural disasters as cover, meanwhile keeping the civilian population in the dark and telling them as little as possible.
The fact that there are massive power outages today of all days in San Francisco, LA and specifically New York City — causes reportedly still unknown at this time — seems like anything but a coincidence with everything else going on right now including a massive NYC-area 10 kiloton nuclear blast and EMP drill called Operation Gotham Shield.
The first massive power outage today occurred in New York City just before 6 am after the power inexplicably went down at the 7th avenue and 53rd street subway station, causing a chain reaction through the rest of NYC’s subway system. MTA did not get the generators back up and running until around 11:30. Delays are still rampant.
A few hours later, outages began being reported around Los Angeles, including at the LA airport.
This one is reportedly the worst. Some 90,000 people are still without power all around downtown San Francisco as of 1 pm this afternoon. Businesses are shuttered, transportation systems are shut down, whole skyscrapers are dark. People are calling the whole scene “surreal”. Again, the cause of the outage still has not been explained.
Operation Gotham Shield
All of this is coinciding with the Operation Gotham Shield drill being held in the NYC area; depending on who you ask, it’s even going on right now, but again, we civilians (read: peons) are being mostly kept in the dark about the huge drill. One set of dates says the drill started on April 18th and will run through May 5th. Another set of dates say the actual nuke/EMP simulation part of the drill won’t happen until April 24th–26th.
[Gotham Shield] is a tabletop, joint agency exercise involving FEMA, Homeland Security and a myriad of law enforcement and military agencies. WMD, chemical and biological units will all be on hand as a response is tested for a “simulated” nuclear detonation over the United States’ foremost urban center, in the iconic and densely populated island of Manhattan and nearby shores of New Jersey.
On April 18th thru May 5th, 2017, state, local, and federal organizations alike are planning for Operation Gotham Shield 2017 — a major nuclear detonation drill in the New York-New Jersey area, along with the U.S.-Canadian border. During this exercise, 4 nuclear devices, 2 of which are rendered “safe” during the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Vital Archer Exercise, and one successful 10kt detonation in the NYC/NJ area, along with one smaller detonation on the U.S./Canadian border are to take place.
Among the organizations involved are:
– U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
– U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)
– U.S. Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO)
– U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
– U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
– U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM)
– State of New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
– State of New York Office of Emergency Management
– City of New York Office of Emergency Management
And many more…
So the chances that we’re suddenly having totally random “unexplained” massive power outages in major cities, starting specifically in the one where this massive nuclear war/EMP drill is currently going down and it is all simply a coincidence seem poor at best.
The potential for a more explosive false flag to spin out of control, by hijacking and ‘converting’ the simulated actions, is all too real.
This is closely related to the mechanism that many researchers believe was at work on the day of 9/11, nesting a false flag attack inside of a series of large-scale training operations which invoked emergency powers and simulated attacks in locations that were actually hit.
President Trump reportedly backed off his demand that Congress include a down payment for a wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexico border in a crucial spending bill that must pass by Friday night to keep the government funded.
Republican lawmakers have urged the president to focus on border security in general instead of the wall, which Democrats have called a poison pill that would cause them to reject the bill and shut down the government.
Trump told a group of conservative reporters he invited to the White House on Monday that he was open to getting funding for the wall in September when Congress debates the 2018 budget, the Associated Press reported. This is a sharp reversal from his position over the weekend and early Monday, when he doubled down on his demand for the wall. Trump tweeted repeatedly that the wall is necessary to stop the flow of drugs into the United States.
“If the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!” Trump exclaimed Monday, adding: “#BuildTheWall.”
On Tuesday morning, the president claimed he had not changed his position on the wall as the “fake media” was claiming, but he didn’t specify whether he still believed he would get the funds in this week’s spending bill, which increasingly looks like a political impossibility.
The president may have realized that with Democrats ready to shut down the government over the wall and many lawmakers in his own party skeptical of it, there was little chance of reaching a deal on his signature campaign promise before the Friday night deadline. Some critics noted that Trump had long promised that Mexico — and not the U.S. — would pay for the wall’s construction.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised Trump in a statement for taking the wall “off the table.” He had earlier called the demand a “monkey wrench” the president had thrown into sensitive negotiations between the parties over a series of spending bills to keep the government funded for the next five months.
But it’s possible the president will find a way to declare victory even if his call for a wall goes unanswered by Congress. Several Republican senators urged the president to think of the “big, beautiful wall” he promised on the campaign trail as symbolic of border security in general. That way, the president could declare any increase in border spending in the spending bill a victory, right as his presidency passes the symbolic 100-day mark on Friday.
“Border walls and fences are part of an overall plan, but there will never be a 2,200-mile wall built. Period,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Monday evening. “I think [the wall] has become symbolic for better border security. So it’s a code word for better border security.”
Graham said the president would still be in “good shape” if he gets funding for border security in the spending bill that’s not specifically for a wall.
Congress readies for border wall fight neither party seems to want
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., also pushed for interpreting “border wall” as border security in general. “I know it’s being generally referred to as a border wall, but I think it’s the efforts to make sure that Border Patrol can have adequate funding for the people, technology and infrastructure they think they need to secure [the border],” Tillis said. “I think we can be less prescriptive about exactly what the structure looks like and more focused on the fact that we need to secure the border.”
Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schumer have signaled openness to funding border security in the spending bill as long as it doesn’t go to construction of a wall or the “deportation force” Trump mentioned during the campaign. The Democrats could theoretically agree to funds for more surveillance technology on the border, or to hire and train more border patrol agents. But it’s harder to imagine them supporting an increase in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, since they enforce immigration laws internally in the United States and not at the borders.
Meanwhile, one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress defended the delay of the president’s campaign promise, urging Americans to be patient.
“He said we would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it, … but he never said when,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said Monday night on Fox Business. “Some things just take time and don’t occur real quick. I think that’s the way with the wall.”
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
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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.
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By Sue-Lin Wong
PYONGYANG, April 11 (Reuters) – North Korean state media on Tuesday warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of U.S. aggression as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed towards the western Pacific.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished neighbour, said in a Tweet North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without China’s help.
Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction following its strikes last week against Syria and amid concerns the reclusive North may soon conduct a sixth nuclear test.
North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the country was prepared to respond to any aggression by the United States.
“Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theatre but also in the U.S. mainland,” it said.
South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn warned of “greater provocations” by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring and to ensure close communication with the United States.
“It is possible the North may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since former president Park Geun-hye was removed amid a graft scandal.
Trump said in a Tweet a trade deal between China and the United States would be “far better for them if they solved the North Korea problem”.
“If China decides to help, that would be great,” he said. “If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Florida last week and Trump pressed Xi to do more to rein in North Korea.
The North convened a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved. It did not immediately release details.
But South Korean officials took pains to quell talk in social media of an impending security crisis or outbreak of war.
“We’d like to ask precaution so as not to get blinded by exaggerated assessment about the security situation on the Korean peninsula,” Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-kyun said.
Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong Un.
A military parade is expected in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day. North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities in breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Men and women in colourful outfits were singing and dancing on the streets of Pyongyang, illuminated by better lighting than that seen in previous years, apparently practising for the parade planned.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a message of congratulations to mark the event, lambasting “big powers” for their “expansionist” policy.
“The friendly two countries are celebrating this anniversary and, at the same time, conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” the North’s KCNA news agency quoted the message as saying.
The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by KCNA, said the U.S. navy strike group’s approach showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.
“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” an unidentified ministry spokesman said.
North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.
“Empire” is a dirty word. Considering the behavior of many empires, that is not unreasonable. But empire is also simply a description of a condition, many times unplanned and rarely intended. It is a condition that arises from a massive imbalance of power. Indeed, the empires created on purpose, such as Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, have rarely lasted. Most empires do not plan to become one. They become one and then realize what they are. Sometimes they do not realize what they are for a long time, and that failure to see reality can have massive consequences.
World War II and the Birth of an Empire
The United States became an empire in 1945. It is true that in the Spanish-American War, the United States intentionally took control of the Philippines and Cuba. It is also true that it began thinking of itself as an empire, but it really was not. Cuba and the Philippines were the fantasy of empire, and this illusion dissolved during World War I, the subsequent period of isolationism and the Great Depression.
The genuine American empire that emerged thereafter was a byproduct of other events. There was no great conspiracy. In some ways, the circumstances of its creation made it more powerful. The dynamic of World War II led to the collapse of the European Peninsula and its occupation by the Soviets and the Americans. The same dynamic led to the occupation of Japan and its direct governance by the United States as a de facto colony, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as viceroy.
The United States found itself with an extraordinary empire, which it also intended to abandon. This was a genuine wish and not mere propaganda. First, the United States was the first anti-imperial project in modernity. It opposed empire in principle. More important, this empire was a drain on American resources and not a source of wealth. World War II had shattered both Japan and Western Europe. The United States gained little or no economic advantage in holding on to these countries. Finally, the United States ended World War II largely untouched by war and as perhaps one of the few countries that profited from it. The money was to be made in the United States, not in the empire. The troops and the generals wanted to go home.
But unlike after World War I, the Americans couldn’t let go. That earlier war ruined nearly all of the participants. No one had the energy to attempt hegemony. The United States was content to leave Europe to its own dynamics. World War II ended differently. The Soviet Union had been wrecked but nevertheless it remained powerful. It was a hegemon in the east, and absent the United States, it conceivably could dominate all of Europe. This represented a problem for Washington, since a genuinely united Europe — whether a voluntary and effective federation or dominated by a single country — had sufficient resources to challenge U.S. power.
The United States could not leave. It did not think of itself as overseeing an empire, and it certainly permitted more internal political autonomy than the Soviets did in their region. Yet, in addition to maintaining a military presence, the United States organized the European economy and created and participated in the European defense system. If the essence of sovereignty is the ability to decide whether or not to go to war, that power was not in London, Paris or Warsaw. It was in Moscow and Washington.
The organizing principle of American strategy was the idea of containment. Unable to invade the Soviet Union, Washington’s default strategy was to check it. U.S. influence spread through Europe to Iran. The Soviet strategy was to flank the containment system by supporting insurgencies and allied movements as far to the rear of the U.S. line as possible. The European empires were collapsing and fragmenting. The Soviets sought to create an alliance structure out of the remnants, and the Americans sought to counter them.
The Economics of Empire
One of the advantages of alliance with the Soviets, particularly for insurgent groups, was a generous supply of weapons. The advantage of alignment with the United States was belonging to a dynamic trade zone and having access to investment capital and technology. Some nations, such as South Korea, benefited extraordinarily from this. Others didn’t. Leaders in countries like Nicaragua felt they had more to gain from Soviet political and military support than in trade with the United States.
The United States was by far the largest economic power, with complete control of the sea, bases around the world, and a dynamic trade and investment system that benefitted countries that were strategically critical to the United States or at least able to take advantage of it. It was at this point, early in the Cold War, that the United States began behaving as an empire, even if not consciously.
The geography of the American empire was built partly on military relations but heavily on economic relations. At first these economic relations were fairly trivial to American business. But as the system matured, the value of investments soared along with the importance of imports, exports and labor markets. As in any genuinely successful empire, it did not begin with a grand design or even a dream of one. Strategic necessity created an economic reality in country after country until certain major industries became dependent on at least some countries. The obvious examples were Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, whose oil fueled American oil companies, and which therefore — quite apart from conventional strategic importance — became economically important. This eventually made them strategically important.
As an empire matures, its economic value increases, particularly when it is not coercing others. Coercion is expensive and undermines the worth of an empire. The ideal colony is one that is not at all a colony, but a nation that benefits from economic relations with both the imperial power and the rest of the empire. The primary military relationship ought to be either mutual dependence or, barring that, dependence of the vulnerable client state on the imperial power.
This is how the United States slipped into empire. First, it was overwhelmingly wealthy and powerful. Second, it faced a potential adversary capable of challenging it globally, in a large number of countries. Third, it used its economic advantage to induce at least some of these countries into economic, and therefore political and military, relationships. Fourth, these countries became significantly important to various sectors of the American economy.
Limits of the American Empire
The problem of the American Empire is the overhang of the Cold War. During this time, the United States expected to go to war with a coalition around it, but also to carry the main burden of war. When Operation Desert Storm erupted in 1991, the basic Cold War principle prevailed. There was a coalition with the United States at the center of it. After 9/11, the decision was made to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq with the core model in place. There was a coalition, but the central military force was American, and it was assumed that the economic benefits of relations with the United States would be self-evident. In many ways, the post-9/11 wars took their basic framework from World War II. Iraq War planners explicitly discussed the occupation of Germany and Japan.
No empire can endure by direct rule. The Nazis were perhaps the best example of this. They tried to govern Poland directly, captured Soviet territory, pushed aside Vichy to govern not half but all of France, and so on. The British, on the other hand, ruled India with a thin layer of officials and officers and a larger cadre of businessmen trying to make their fortunes. The British obviously did better. The Germans exhausted themselves not only by overreaching, but also by diverting troops and administrators to directly oversee some countries. The British could turn their empire into something extraordinarily important to the global system. The Germans broke themselves not only on their enemies, but on their conquests as well.
The United States emerged after 1992 as the only global balanced power. That is, it was the only nation that could deploy economic, political and military power on a global basis. The United States was and remains enormously powerful. However, this is very different from omnipotence. In hearing politicians debate Russia, Iran or Yemen, you get the sense that they feel that U.S. power has no limits. There are always limits, and empires survive by knowing and respecting them.
The primary limit of the American empire is the same as that of the British and Roman empires: demographic. In Eurasia — Asia and Europe together — the Americans are outnumbered from the moment they set foot on the ground. The U.S. military is built around force multipliers, weapons that can destroy the enemy before the enemy destroys the relatively small force deployed. Sometimes this strategy works. Over the long run, it cannot. The enemy can absorb attrition much better than the small American force can. This lesson was learned in Vietnam and reinforced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is a country of 25 million people. The Americans sent about 130,000 troops. Inevitably, the attrition rate overwhelmed the Americans. The myth that Americans have no stomach for war forgets that the United States fought in Vietnam for seven years and in Iraq for about the same length of time. The public can be quite patient. The mathematics of war is the issue. At a certain point, the rate of attrition is simply not worth the political ends.
The deployment of a main force into Eurasia is unsupportable except in specialized cases when overwhelming force can be bought to bear in a place where it is important to win. These occasions are typically few and far between. Otherwise, the only strategy is indirect warfare: shifting the burden of war to those who want to bear it or cannot avoid doing so. For the first years of World War II, indirect warfare was used to support the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union against Germany.
There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.
This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.
Building a System of Balance
We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.
This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries’ behavior. It isn’t the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.
The Responsibilities of Empire
I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its power carelessly.
It is true that the United States did not genuinely intend to be an empire. It is also true that its intentions do not matter one way or another. Circumstance, history and geopolitics have created an entity that, if it isn’t an empire, certainly looks like one. Empires can be far from oppressive. The Persians were quite liberal in their outlook. The American ideology and the American reality are not inherently incompatible. But two things must be faced: First, the United States cannot give away the power it has. There is no practical way to do that. Second, given the vastness of that power, it will be involved in conflicts whether it wants to or not. Empires are frequently feared, sometimes respected, but never loved by the rest of the world. And pretending that you aren’t an empire does not fool anyone.
The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.
Tension between the two sides continued. Kim Il-sung remained in power until his death in 1994. He developed a pervasive personality cult and steered the country on an independent course in accordance with the principle of Juche (or self-reliance). However, with natural disasters and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1991, North Korea went into a severe economic crisis. Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, succeeded him, and was in turn succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un. Amid international alarm, North Korea developed nuclear missiles.
Northern Korea before the division
From 1910 to the end of World War II, Korea was under Japanese rule. Most Koreans were peasants engaged in subsistence farming. In the 1930s, Japan developed mines, hydro-electric dams, steel mills, and manufacturing plants in northern Korea and neighboring Manchuria. The Korean industrial working class expanded rapidly, and many Koreans went to work in Manchuria. As a result, 65% of Korea’s heavy industry was located in the north, but, due to the harshness of the terrain, only 37% of its agriculture.
A Korean guerrilla movement emerged in the mountainous interior and in Manchuria, harassing the Japanese imperial authorities. One of the most prominent guerrilla leaders was the Communist Kim Il-sung.
Northern Korea had very little exposure to modern, Western ideas. One partial exception of this was the penetration of religion. Since the arrival of missionaries in the late nineteenth century, the northwest of Korea, and Pyongyang in particular, had been a stronghold of Christianity.
At the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Soviet Union promised to join its allies in the Pacific War within three months of victory in Europe. On August 8, 1945, after three months to the day, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan. Soviet troops advanced rapidly, and the US government became anxious that they would occupy the whole of Korea. On August 10, the US government decided to propose the 38th parallel as the dividing line between a Soviet occupation zone in the north and a US occupation zone in the south. The parallel was chosen as it would place the capital Seoul under American control. The division placed sixteen million Koreans in the American zone and nine million in the Soviet zone. To the surprise of the Americans, the Soviet Union immediately accepted the division. The agreement was incorporated into General Order No. 1 (approved on 17 August 1945) for the surrender of Japan.
Soviet forces began amphibious landings in Korea by August 14 and rapidly took over the north-east of the country, and on August 16 they landed at Wonsan. On August 24, the Red Army reached Pyongyang. US forces did not arrive in the south until September 8.
During August, People’s Committees sprang up across Korea, affiliated with the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence, which in September founded the People’s Republic of Korea. When Soviet troops entered Pyongyang, they found a local People’s Committee established there, led by veteran Christian nationalist Cho Man-sik. Unlike their American counterparts, the Soviet authorities recognized and worked with the People’s Committees. By some accounts, Cho Man-sik was the Soviet government’s first choice to lead North Korea.
On September 19, Kim Il-sung and 36 other Korean Red Army officers arrived in Wonsan. They had fought the Japanese in Manchuria in the 1930s but had lived in the USSR and trained in the Red Army since 1941. On October 14, Soviet authorities introduced Kim to the North Korean public as a guerrilla hero.
In December 1945, at the Moscow Conference, the Soviet Union agreed to a US proposal for a trusteeship over Korea for up to five years in the lead-up to independence. Most Koreans demanded independence immediately, but Kim and the other Communists supported the trusteeship under pressure from the Soviet government. Cho Man-sik opposed the proposal at a public meeting on January 4, 1946, and disappeared into house arrest. On February 8, 1946, the People’s Committees were reorganized as Interim People’s Committees dominated by Communists. The new regime instituted popular policies of land redistribution, industry nationalization, labor law reform, and equality for women.
Kim established the Korean People’s Army (KPA) aligned with the Communists, formed from a cadre of guerrillas and former soldiers who had gained combat experience in battles against the Japanese and later Nationalist Chinese troops. From their ranks, using Soviet advisers and equipment, Kim constructed a large army skilled in infiltration tactics and guerrilla warfare. Before the outbreak of the Korean War, Joseph Stalin equipped the KPA with modern medium tanks, trucks, artillery, and small arms. Kim also formed an air force, equipped at first with ex-Soviet propeller-driven fighter and attack aircraft. Later, North Korean pilot candidates were sent to the Soviet Union and China to train in MiG-15 jet aircraft at secret bases.
In 1946, a sweeping series of laws transformed North Korea on Stalinist lines. The “land to the tiller” reform redistributed the bulk of agricultural land to the poor and landless peasant population, effectively breaking the power of the landed class. This was followed by a “Labor Law”, a “Sexual Equality Law”, and a “Nationalisation of Industry, Transport, Communications and Banks Law”.
As negotiations with the Soviet Union on the future of Korea failed to make progress, the US took the issue to the United Nations in September 1947. In response, the UN established the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea to hold elections in Korea. The Soviet Union opposed this move. In the absence of Soviet co-operation, it was decided to hold UN-supervised elections in the south only. In April 1948, a conference of organizations from the North and the South met in Pyongyang, but conference produced no results. The southern politicians Kim Koo and Kim Kyu-sik attended the conference and boycotted the elections in the South. Both men were posthumously awarded the National Reunification Prize by North Korea. The elections were held in South Korea on May 10, 1948. On August 15, the Republic of Korea formally came into existence. A parallel process occurred in North Korea. A new Supreme People’s Assembly was elected in August 1948, and on September 3 a new constitution was promulgated. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was proclaimed on September 9, with Kim as premier. On October 12, the Soviet Union declared that Kim’s regime was the only lawful government on the peninsula. On December 12, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly accepted the report of UNTCOK and declared the Republic of Korea to be the “only lawful government in Korea”.
The consolidation of Syngman Rhee‘s government in the South with American military support and the suppression of the October 1948 insurrection ended North Korean hopes that a revolution in the South could reunify Korea, and from early 1949 Kim Il-sung sought Soviet and Chinese support for a military campaign to reunify the country by force. The withdrawal of most U.S. forces from South Korea in June 1949 left the southern government defended only by a weak and inexperienced South Korean army. The southern régime also had to deal with a citizenry of uncertain loyalty. The North Korean army, by contrast, had benefited from the Soviet Union‘s WWII-era equipment, and had a core of hardened veterans who had fought either as anti-Japanese guerrillas or alongside the Chinese Communists. In 1949 and 1950 Kim traveled to Moscow with the South Korean Communist leader Pak Hon-yong to raise support for a war of reunification.
InitiallyJoseph Stalin rejected Kim Il-sung’s requests for permission to invade the South, but in late 1949 the Communist victory in China and the development of Soviet nuclear weapons made him re-consider Kim’s proposal. In January 1950, after China’s Mao Zedong indicated that the People’s Republic of China would send troops and other support to Kim, Stalin approved an invasion. The Soviets provided limited support in the form of advisers who helped the North Koreans as they planned the operation, and Soviet military instructors to train some of the Korean units. However, from the very beginning Stalin made it clear that the Soviet Union would avoid a direct confrontation with the U.S. over Korea and would not commit ground forces even in case of major military crisis. The stage was set for a civil war between the two rival régimes on the Korean peninsula.
For over a year before the outbreak of war, the two sides had engaged in a series of bloody clashes along the 38th parallel, especially in the Ongjin area on the west coast. On June 25, 1950, claiming to be responding to a South Korean assault on Ongjin, the Northern forces launched an amphibious offensive all along the parallel. Due to a combination of surprise and military superiority, the Northern forces quickly captured the capital Seoul, forcing Syngman Rhee and his government to flee. By mid-July North Korean troops had overwhelmed the South Korean and allied American units and forced them back to a defensive line in south-east South Korea known as the Pusan Perimeter. During its brief occupation of southern Korea, the DPRK regime initiated radical social change, which included the nationalisation of industry, land reform, and the restoration of the People’s Committees.According to the captured US General William F. Dean, “the civilian attitude seemed to vary between enthusiasm and passive acceptance”.
The United Nations condemned North Korea’s actions and approved an American-led intervention force to defend South Korea. In September, UN forces landed at Inchon and retook Seoul. Under the leadership of US General Douglas Macarthur, UN forces pushed north, reaching the Chinese border. According to Bruce Cumings, the North Korean forces were not routed, but managed a strategic retreat into the mountainous interior and into neighboring Manchuria. Kim Il-sung’s government re-established itself in a stronghold in Chagang Province. In late November, Chinese forces entered the war and pushed the UN forces back, retaking Pyongyang in December 1950 and Seoul in January 1951. According to Bruce Cumings, the Korean People’s Army played an equal part in this counterattack. UN forces managed to retake Seoul for South Korea. The war essentially became a bloody stalemate for the next two years.
2012 rehearsal in Pyongyang for Victory Day, marking the end of the war
American bombing included the use of napalm against populated areas and the destruction of dams and dykes, which caused devastating floods. China and North Korea also alleged the US was deploying biological weapons. As a result of the bombing, almost every substantial building and much of the infrastructure in North Korea was destroyed. The North Koreans responded by building homes, schools, hospitals, and factories underground. Economic output in 1953 had fallen by 75-90% compared with 1949.
While the bombing continued, armistice negotiations, that had commenced in July 1951, wore on. North Korea’s lead negotiator was General Nam Il. The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. A ceasefire followed, but there was no peace treaty, and hostilities continued at a lower intensity.
Despite the failure of his attempt at unifying the nation under his rule, Kim Il-sung considered the war a victory in the sense that he remained in power. As a result, the North Korean media made the most of it by focusing entirely on the defeats suffered by the US and UN forces during the failed invasion of North Korea in late 1950. The armistice was celebrated in Pyongyang with a military parade in which Kim declared: “Despite their best efforts, the imperialist invaders were defeated with great loss in men and material.”
Kim began gradually consolidating his power. Up to this time, North Korean politics were represented by four factions: the Yan’an faction, made up of returnees from China; the “Soviet Koreans” who were ethnic Koreans from the USSR; native Korean communists led by Pak Hon-yong; and Kim’s Kapsan group who had fought guerrilla actions against Japan in the 1930s.
When the Worker’s Party Central Committee plenum opened on 30 August 1953 Choe Chang-ik made a speech attacking Kim for concentrating the power of the party and the state in his own hands as well as criticising the party line on industrialisation which ignored widespread starvation among the North Korean people. However, Kim neutralised the attack on him by promising to moderate the regime, promises which were never kept. The majority in the Central Committee voted to support Kim and also voted in favour of expelling Choe and Pak Hon-yong from the Central Committee. Eleven of Kim’s opponents were convicted in a show trial. It is believed that all were executed. A major purge of the KWP followed, with members originating from South Korea being expelled.
Pak Hon-yong, party vice chairman and Foreign Minister of the DPRK, was blamed for the failure of the southern population to support North Korea during the war, was dismissed from his positions in 1953, and was executed after a show-trial in 1955. Most of the South Korean leftists and communist sympathizers who defected to the North in 1945–1953 were also accused of espionage and other crimes, and subsequently killed, imprisoned, or exiled to remote agricultural and mining villages. Potential rivals from other groups such as Kim Tu-bong were also purged.
The Party Congress in 1956 indicated the transformation that the party had undergone. Most members of other factions had lost their positions of influence. More than half the delegates had joined after 1950, most were under 40 years old, and most had limited formal education.
In February 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made a sweeping denunciation of Stalin, which sent shock waves throughout the Communist world. Encouraged by this, members of the party leadership in North Korea began to criticize Kim’s dictatorial leadership, personality cult, and Stalinist economic policies. They were defeated by Kim at the August Plenum of the party. By 1960, 70 per cent of the members of the 1956 Central Committee were no longer in politics.
Kim Il-sung had initially been criticized by the Soviets during a previous 1955 visit to Moscow for practicing Stalinism and a cult of personality, which was already growing enormous. The Korean ambassador to the USSR, Li Sangjo, a member of the Yan’an faction, reported that it had become a criminal offense to so much as write on Kim’s picture in a newspaper and that he had been elevated to the status of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Stalin in the communist pantheon. He also charged Kim with rewriting history to appear as if his guerrilla faction had single-handedly liberated Korea from the Japanese, completely ignoring the assistance of the Chinese Communist Party. In addition, Li stated that in the process of agricultural collectivization, grain was being forcibly confiscated from the peasants, leading to “at least 300 suicides” and that Kim made nearly all major policy decisions and appointments himself. Li reported that over 30,000 people were in prison for completely unjust and arbitrary reasons as trivial as not printing Kim Il-sung’s portrait on sufficient quality paper or using newspapers with his picture to wrap parcels. Grain confiscation and tax collection were also conducted forcibly with violence, beatings, and imprisonment. During Kim Il-sung’s Moscow visit, the Soviets recommended that he discard the personality cult, adhere to the ideas of collective leadership, remove falsified history accounts from textbooks, and work towards improving the living standards of the Korean people, which remained poor and below prewar standards. Foodstuffs during the initial postwar period were rationed and extremely expensive, as were consumer items. By comparison, South Korea, which had less of an industrial base than the DPRK, had a better food supply and was also flooded with American goods although it should be noted that the overall destruction there during the war was smaller.
In late 1968, known military opponents of North Korea’s Juche ideology such as Kim Chang-bong (minister of National Security), Huh Bong-hak (chief of the Division for Southern Intelligence) and Lee Young-ho(commander in chief of the DPRK Navy) were purged as anti-party/counter-revolutionary elements, despite their credentials as anti-Japanese guerrilla fighters in the past.
Kim’s personality cult was modeled on Stalinism and his regime originally acknowledged Stalin as the supreme leader. After Stalin’s death in 1953, however, Kim was described as the “Great Leader” or “Suryong”. As his personality cult grew, the doctrine of Juche (or self-reliance) began to displace Marxism–Leninism. At the same time the cult extended beyond Kim himself to include his family in a revolutionary blood line. In 1972, to celebrate Kim Il-sung’s birthday, the Mansu Hill Grand Monument was unveiled, including a 22-meter bronze statue of him.
Like Mao in China, Kim Il-sung refused to accept Nikita Khrushchev‘s denunciation of Stalin and continued to model his regime on Stalinist norms. At the same time, he increasingly stressed Korean independence, as embodied in the concept of Juche. Kim told Alexei Kosygin in 1965 that he was not anyone’s puppet and “We…implement the purest Marxism and condemn as false both the Chinese admixtures and the errors of the CPSU”.
Relations with China had worsened during the war. Mao Zedong criticized Kim for having started the whole “idiotic war” and for being an incompetent military commander who should have been removed from power. PLA commander Peng Dehuai was equally contemptuous of Kim’s skills at waging war.
By some analysis, Kim Il-sung remained in power partially because the Soviets turned their attention to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that fall. The Soviets and Chinese were unable to stop the inevitable purge of Kim’s domestic opponents or his move towards a one-man Stalinist autocracy and relations with both countries deteriorated in the former’s case because of the elimination of the pro-Soviet Koreans and the latter because of the regime’s refusal to acknowledge Chinese assistance in either liberation from the Japanese or the war in 1950-53.
Stalin continued to be honored in North Korea long after his death in 1953, and a street in Pyongyang bore his name until 1980. By contrast, neighboring Chinese leader Mao Zedong was mostly ignored and Kim Il-sung rejected most of his policies such as the Hundred Flowers Campaign and (later) the Cultural Revolution.
The captured USS Pueblo being visited by tourists in Pyongyang
Tensions between North and South escalated in the late 1960s with a series of low-level armed clashes known as the Korean DMZ Conflict. In 1966, Kim declared “liberation of the south” to be a “national duty”. In 1968, North Korean commandos launched the Blue House Raid, an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the South Korean President Park Chung-hee. Shortly after, the US spy ship Pueblo was captured by the North Korean navy. The crew were held captive throughout the year despite American protests that the vessel was in international waters and finally released in December after a formal US apology was issued. In April 1969 North Korea shot down an EC-121 aircraft, killing everyone on board. The Nixon administration found itself unable to react at all, since the US was heavily committed in Vietnam and had no troops to spare if the situation in Korea escalated. However, the Pueblo capture and EC-121 shootdown did not find approval in Moscow, as the Soviet Union did not want a second major war to erupt in Asia. China’s response to the USS Pueblo crisis is less clear.
After Khrushchev was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet Leader in 1964, and with the incentive of Soviet aid, North Korea strengthened its ties with the USSR. Kim condemned China’s Cultural Revolution as “unbelievable idiocy”. In turn, China’s Red Guards labelled him a “fat revisionist”. But by 1970, most of the storm clouds of the Cultural Revolution had blown away and relations with China quickly returned to normal. Chinese premier Zhou Enlai visited Pyongyang that year and apologized for the attacks made on Kim by the Red Guards. At the same time, the Soviets were again criticized by both Chinese and North Korean officials for being too soft on the United States. The Cultural Revolution was now viewed in North Korea as an excellent idea and “completely correct”.
In 1972, the first formal summit meeting between Pyongyang and Seoul was held, but the cautious talks did not lead to a lasting change in the relationship.
With the fall of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975, Kim Il-sung began to feel that the US had shown its weakness and that reunification of Korea under his regime was finally possible. Kim visited Beijing in May 1975 in the hope of gaining political and military support for this plan to invade South Korea again, but Mao Zedong refused. Despite public proclamations of support, Mao privately told Kim that China would be unable to assist North Korea this time because of the lingering after-effects of the Cultural Revolution throughout China, and also because Mao had recently decided to restore diplomatic relations with the US. Afterwards, Kim went home empty-handed.
Reconstruction of the country after the war proceeded with extensive Chinese and Soviet assistance. Koreans with experience in Japanese industries also played a significant part.Land was collectivized between 1953 and 1958. Resistance appears to have been minimal as landlords had been eliminated by the earlier reforms or during the war.
Although developmental debates took place within the Workers’ Party of Korea in the 1950s, North Korea, like all the postwar communist states, undertook massive state investment in heavy industry, state infrastructure and military strength, neglecting the production of consumer goods.
The first Three Year Plan (1954–1956) introduced the concept of Juche or self-reliance. The first Five Year Plan (1957-1961) consolidated the collectivization of agriculture and initiated mass mobilizations campaigns: the Chollima Movement, the Chongsan-ni system in agriculture and the Taean Work System in industry. The Chollima Movement was influenced by China’s Great Leap Forward, but did not have its disastrous results.Industry was fully nationalized by 1959. Taxation on agricultural income was abolished in 1966.
North Korea was placed on a semi-war footing, with equal emphasis being given to the civilian and military economies. This was expressed in the 1962 Party Plenum by the slogan, “Arms in one hand and a hammer and sickle in the other!” At a special party conference in 1966, members of the leadership who opposed the military build-up were removed.
On the ruins left by the war, North Korea had built an industrialized command economy. Che Guevara, then a Cuban government minister, visited North Korea in 1960, and proclaimed it a model for Cuba to follow. In 1965, the British economist Joan Robinson described North Korea’s economic development as a “miracle”. As late as the 1970s, its GDP per capita was estimated to be equivalent to South Korea’s. By 1968, all homes had electricity, though the supply was unreliable. By 1972, all children from age 5 to 16 were enrolled in school, and over 200 universities and specialized colleges had been established. By the early 1980s, 60–70% of the population was urbanized.
Decline and crisis
North Korean village in the Yalu River delta
In the 1970s, expansion of North Korea’s economy, with the accompanying rise in living standards, came to an end. Compounding this was a decision to borrow foreign capital and invest heavily in military industries. North Korea’s desire to lessen its dependence on aid from China and the Soviet Union prompted the expansion of its military power, which had begun in the second half of the 1960s. The government believed such expenditures could be covered by foreign borrowing and increased sales of its mineral wealth in the international market. North Korea invested heavily in its mining industries and purchased a large quantity of mineral extraction infrastructure from abroad. It also purchased entire petrochemical, textile, concrete, steel, pulp and paper manufacturing plants from the developed capitalist world. This included a Japanese-Danish venture that provided North Korea with the largest cement factory in the world. However, following the world 1973 oil crisis, international prices for many of North Korea’s native minerals fell, leaving the country with large debts and an inability to pay them off and still provide a high level of social welfare to its people. North Korea began to default in 1974 and halted almost all repayments in 1985. As a result, it was unable to pay for Western technology.
Worsening this already poor situation, the centrally planned economy, which emphasized heavy industry had reached the limits of its productive potential in North Korea. Juche’s repeated demands that North Koreans learn to build and innovate domestically had run its course as had the ability of North Koreans to keep technological pace with other industrialized nations. By the mid to late-1970s some parts of the capitalist world, including South Korea, were creating new industries based around computers, electronics, and other advanced technology in contrast to North Korea’s Stalinist economy of mining and steel production. Migration to urban areas stalled.
Despite the emerging economic problems, the regime invested heavily on prestigious projects, such as the Juche Tower, the Nampo Dam, and the Ryugyong Hotel. In 1989, as a response to the 1988 Seoul Olympics it held the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students in Pyongyang. In fact, the grandiosity associated with the regime and its personality cult, as expressed in monuments, museums, and events, has been identified as a factor in the economic decline.
In 1984 Kim visited Moscow during a grand tour of the USSR where he met Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko. Kim also made public visits to East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. Soviet involvement in the North Korean economy increased, until 1988 when bilateral trade peaked at US$2.8 billion. In 1986, Kim met the incoming Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and received a pledge of support.
However, Gorbachev’s reforms and diplomatic initiatives, the Chinese economic reforms starting in 1979, and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc from 1989 to 1991 increased North Korea’s isolation. The leadership in Pyongyang responded by proclaiming that the collapse of the Eastern Bloc demonstrated the correctness of the policy of Juche.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 deprived North Korea of its main source of economic aid, leaving China as the isolated regime’s only major ally. Without Soviet aid, North Korea’s economy went into a free-fall. By this time in the early 1990s, Kim Jong-il was already conducting most of the day-to-day activities of running of the state. Meanwhile, international tensions were rising over North Korean’s quest for nuclear weapons. Former US president Jimmy Carter made a visit to Pyongyang in June 1994 in which he met with Kim and returned proclaiming that he had resolved the crisis.
Succession by Kim Jong-il
Portraits of Kim Il-sung and his son and successor Kim Jong-il
Kim Il-sung died from a sudden heart attack on July 8, 1994, three weeks after the Carter visit. His son, Kim Jong-il, who had already assumed key positions in the government, succeeded as General-Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party. At that time, North Korea had no secretary-general in the party nor a president. Minimal legal procedure that had been established was summarily ignored. Although a new constitution appeared to end the war-time political system, it did not completely terminate the transitional military rule. Rather it legitimized and institutionalized military rule by making the National Defense Commission (NDC) the most important state organization and its chairman the highest authority. After three years of consolidating his power, Kim Jong-il became Chairman of the NDC on October 8, 1997, a position described by the NDC as the nation’s “highest administrative authority,” and thus North Korea’s de facto head of state. His succession had been foreshadowed in 1980, when he was introduced to the public at the Sixth Party Congress. In 1982, Kim Jong-il had established himself as a leading theoretician with the publication of On the Juche Idea. In 1984, he had been officially confirmed as his father’s successor.
Meanwhile, the economy was in steep decline. In 1990-1995, foreign trade was cut in half, with the loss of subsidized Soviet oil being particularly keenly felt. The crisis came to a head in 1995 with widespread flooding that destroyed crops and infrastructure, leading to a famine that lasted till 1998. At the same time, there appeared to be little significant internal opposition to the regime. Indeed, a great many of the North Koreans fleeing to China because of famine still showed significant support for the government as well as pride in their homeland. Many of these people reportedly returned to North Korea after earning sufficient money.
In 1998 the government announced a new policy called “Songun“, or “Military First”. This suggested that the Korean People’s Army was now more powerful than the Korean Workers’ Party.
President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea actively attempted to reduce tensions between the two Koreas under the Sunshine Policy, but this produced few immediate results. Since the election of George W. Bush as the President of the United States in 2000, North Korea has faced renewed external pressure over its nuclear program, reducing the prospect of international economic assistance.
In 2002, Kim Jong-il declared that “money should be capable of measuring the worth of all commodities”, followed by some small market-oriented measures, and the creation of the Kaesong Industrial Region with transport links to South Korea was announced. Experiments are under way to allow factory managers to fire underperforming workers and give bonuses. China’s investments increased to $200 million in 2004.
On October 9, 2006, North Korea has announced that it had successfully detonated a nuclear device underground at 10:36 am local time without any radiation leak. An official at South Korea’s seismic monitoring center confirmed a magnitude-3.6 tremor felt at the time North Korea said it conducted the test was not a natural occurrence.
Additionally, North Korea was running a missile development program. In 1998, North Korea tested a Taepondong-1 Space Launch Vehicle, which successfully launched but failed to reach orbit. On July 5, 2006, they tested a Taepodong-2 ICBM that reportedly could reach the west coast of the U.S. in the 2-stage version, or the entire U.S. with a third stage. However, the missile failed shortly after launch, so it is unknown what its exact capabilities are or how close North Korea is to perfecting the technology.
North Korea’s advancements in weapons technology appear to give them leverage in ongoing negotiations with the United Nations and other countries. On February 13, 2007, North Korea signed an agreement with South Korea, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan, which stipulated North Korea would shut down itsYongbyon nuclear reactor in exchange for economic and energy assistance. However, in 2009 the North continued its nuclear test program.
Kim Jong-Il died on December 17, 2011 and was quickly succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-un. Tensions between North Korea and other countries increased due to its rocket launches and nuclear bomb testing, and UN sanctions have been tightened.
In 2015, North Korea adopted Pyongyang Standard Time (UTC+08.30), reversing the change to Japan Standard Time (UTC+9.00) which had been imposed by the Japanese Empire. As a result, North Korea was in a different time zone from South Korea.
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North Korean Threat U.S. Pentagon Beefing Up Missile Defense in Response – Kim Jong-un
Published on Mar 16, 2013
The Pentagon is beefing up the nation’s missile defense in the wake of provocative nuclear threats from North Korea and is set to deploy 14 additional ground-based interceptors at missile silos in Alaska and California, congressional and U.S. officials tell Fox News.
The extra interceptors on the West Coast, designed to counter attacks from an intercontinental ballistic missile, would bring the total number of interceptors to 44, a plan originally proposed by the Bush administration. President Obama stopped the deployment of the additional interceptors when he took office in 2009, leaving the total number at 30.
Congressional sources claim that by stalling the original plan and forcing the military to bring back on line silos that otherwise would have been operational, the Obama administration has effectively wasted millions in taxpayer’s dollars.
It’s a sentiment that is not likely to sit well with conservative lawmakers when the plan is announced on Monday, particularly as they seek new austerity measures.
A senior Pentagon official hinted at the decision Tuesday in a speech to the Atlantic Council in Washington just days after Pyongyang threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike on the United States.
“North Korea’s shrill public pronouncements underscore the need for the U.S. to continue to take prudent steps to defeat any future North Korean ICBM,” James Miller, undersecretary of Defense for policy, said.
Upon completion of Missile Field Number One at Fort Greely, Alaska, Miller said, “we have the ability to swiftly deploy up to 14 additional ground-based interceptors if needed.” In addition to Fort Greely, current interceptors are set up at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Missile Field Number One was one of the areas where the Obama administration stopped construction in 2009. Congressional sources say it will cost at least $205 million to bring that missile field up to speed, more than it would have cost four years ago. These officials say the price of the missiles themselves also has increased.
An Obama administration official tells Fox News that the increase in interceptors is a logical response to an evolving threat from North Korea and that “anyone who suggests we should have stayed the course” with the Bush administration’s plan is engaging in “Monday morning quarterbacking.”
This official says the North Korean threat is much different from what it was in 2009. Along with the continued testing of nuclear weapons and longer-range delivery systems, the North Koreans have advanced their mobile missile capability, even within the last six to eight months.
“What we were defending against (from North Korea) four years ago was a single rogue missile, now with the mobile missile developing you have got to be able to counter multiple missile threats … so you have to expand your capability.”
Whether intentional or not, the announcement also coincides with 30th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative speech. The nation’s first ground-based interceptors were set up in 2002 under President George W. Bush.
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ALERT: Kim Jong Un Orders Nukes to be Readied for Use After UN Toughest Sanctions on North Korea
Published on Mar 3, 2016
North Korean state media is reporting that Kim Jong Un has ordered nuclear weapons to be readied for use “at any time.” Leader reportedly tells military to adopt ‘pre-emptive’ posture after imposition of toughest UN sanctions to date
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, has ordered his country to be ready to use nuclear weapons “at any time” in the face of a growing threat from enemies, according to official media.
Kim also said the North should turn its military posture to a “pre-emptive basis” because enemies were threatening the state’s survival, the regime’s KCNA news agency announced on Friday.
According to the agency, Kim made his comments while monitoring the test firing of a new large-calibre multiple rocket launcher on Thursday, just hours after the UN security council unanimously adopted a resolution penalising the North for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the North fired half a dozen rockets about 100-150km (60-90 miles) into the sea off its eastern coast on Thursday.
In a clear threat to neighbouring South Korea, Kim said the new rocket launcher should be “promptly deployed” along with other newly developed weaponry.
“At an extreme time when the Americans … are urging war and disaster on other countries and people, the only way to defend our sovereignty and right to live is to bolster our nuclear capability,” Kim said.
The US-drafted UN resolution adopted by the security council late on Wednesday laid out the toughest sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to date over its nuclear weapons programme and will, if implemented effectively, apply significant economic pressure to Kim’s regime.
North Korea’s Nuclear Threat: VICE News Interviews Victor Cha
Published on Mar 9, 2016
Victor Cha was President George W. Bush’s top advisor on North Korea and participated in the Six-Party Talks, in which the US, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea tried to negotiate with the regime of late leader Kim Jong-il to halt North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks were unsuccessful, and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have never been greater.
In January, North Korea conducted a nuclear test for the fourth time since 2009, successfully detonating what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. A month later, North Korea launched a satellite into orbit, violating an international ban on ballistic missile testing. The UN Security Council recently voted to enact harsh new sanctions, which prompted young leader Kim Jong-un to publicly order his military to ready their nukes for use at any time.
VICE News sat down with Cha, now a senior adviser and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to talk about North Korea’s nuclear threats, Pyongyang’s uneasy alliance with China, and the state of the Kim regime.
North Korea’s Nuclear Blasts Keep Getting Stronger
By MICHAEL FORSYTHE SEPT. 9, 2016
Researchers at the Earthquake and Volcano Monitoring Division, in Seoul, the South Korean capital, checking the seismic waves that were measured on Friday.CreditWoohae Cho/Getty Images
The device detonated on Friday looks to have had a force equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT, according to the South’s Defense Ministry. In contrast, the last device tested by the North, in January, had a force equivalent of six kilotons of TNT, the South’s intelligence agency said. The aboveground Trinity Test in New Mexico in July 1945, which ushered in the nuclear age, had a yield of 20 kilotons.
But power is not the only measure of a device’s lethality. The weapon must also have a way to be delivered. South Korean, American and Japanese officials want to determine whether the North Koreans are capable of building a miniaturized nuclear device that can be mounted on a ballistic missile and successfully detonated at a target hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the launch site. In the past decade, South Korean and American experts have said that the North appears to be closer to achieving that goal.
Here is a timeline of how North Korea built up the capability of its nuclear weapons. The earthquake magnitudes are from the United States Geological Survey, which differ from those measured by the South Korean authorities. They may also be slightly revised from numbers reported immediately after the events.
Oct. 8, 2006: 9:35 p.m. E.T.
Magnitude of Earthquake: 4.3
Device: United States officials said at the time that the weapon usedplutonium and had a yield of less than one kiloton.
Missiles: Three months before the nuclear test, North Korea fired a barrage of missiles into the Sea of Japan, including a Taepodong 2 intercontinental missile designed to be capable of reaching Alaska. The Taepodong 2 test was a failure, with the missile falling into the sea before its first stage burned out.
May 24, 2009: 8:54 p.m. E.T.
Magnitude of Earthquake: 4.7
Device: Chinese scientists estimated that this bomb had a yield of 2.35 kilotons.
Missiles: A failed satellite launch using a Taepodong 2 missile in April 2009 sent its payload into the Pacific Ocean. On July 4, 2009, North Korea launched three missiles into the sea, with none apparently flying more than 300 miles.
Feb 12, 2013: 9:57 p.m. E.T.
Magnitude of Earthquake: 5.1
Device: North Korea said this bomb, stronger than the first two tests, was miniaturized. After the launch, the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agencyestimated with “moderate confidence” that North Korea had learned how to make a miniaturized nuclear weapon capable of being delivered by a ballistic missile. But the report said the weapon’s “reliability will be low.” Military officials in the United States and South Korea publicly expressed doubt that North Korea had actually developed such a warhead.
Device: North Korea claimed this device was a hydrogen bomb. In May, American and South Korean intelligence officials concluded that North Korea was now able to mount nuclear warheads on short- and medium-range missiles that would be capable of hitting Japan and South Korea.
Device: South Korean officials said this was North Korea’s most powerful device to date.
Missiles: In June, North Korea successfully launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile into high altitude after five consecutive failures. The missile may be capable of reaching American forces based on Guam, in the Pacific Ocean.
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NEW YORK — With Election Day less than two months away, Democrats are increasingly worried that Hillary Clinton has not built a formidable lead against Donald Trump despite his historic weaknesses as a national party candidate.
Even the Democratic nominee’s advisers acknowledge that she must make changes, and quickly. Clinton leads Trump by three percentage points, having fallen from her high of nine points in August, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. That tightening has frustrated many Clinton allies and operatives, who are astonished that she isn’t running away with this race, given Trump’s deep unpopularity and his continuing stream of controversial comments.
“Generally, I’m concerned, frankly,” said former Democratic Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). “It still looks positive, and I think if you look at the swing states and where she is right now, she’s got a lead. But it’s certainly not in the bag. We have two months to go, and I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way through. I would say she’s got at least a 60 percent chance of winning.”
At the same time, Daschle said, “all the things that Trump has done, the numbers should be far more explicitly in her favor, but they’re not.”
Among Democrats’ concerns is the fact that Clinton spent a great deal of time over the summer raising millions of dollars in private fundraisers while Trump was devoting much of his schedule to rallies, speeches and TV appearances — although many of those didn’t go as well as his campaign may have hoped.
Clinton has focused more heavily on fundraising than Democratic strategists had hoped would be necessary at this stage, partly to help Democrats running for Congress and state offices who would be useful to Clinton if she is president and partly to hold off further erosion in the polls.
One new goal for Clinton now, aides said, is to spend more time trying to connect directly with voters by sharing a more personal side of herself — and by telling them where she wants to take the country.
Trump closes in on Clinton’s projected electoral lead: Reuters/Ipsos Poll
By Chris Kahn
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump appears to have carved out a wider path to the White House as a number of states including Florida and Ohio are no longer considered likely wins for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project released on Saturday.
The project, which combines opinion polls with an analysis of voting patterns under different election scenarios, still shows Clinton would have the best chance of winning the presidency if the Nov. 8 election were held today. Yet Trump has caught up to her level of support in several states.
Clinton now has an 83 percent chance of winning the election by an average of 47 votes in the Electoral College, the body that ultimately selects the president. In late August, the States of the Nation estimated that Clinton had a 95 percent chance of winning by an average of 108 electoral votes.
Over the past few weeks, Clinton’s lead in the national polls has slipped considerably. Polls tend to narrow as Election Day nears, and the Clinton campaign has struggled to overcome controversy about how she handled classified information while serving assecretary of state.
A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters showed an 8-point lead for Clinton has vanished since the last week of August.
Clinton is still favored to win 17 states, including many with large, urban populations such as New York, New Jersey and California that heavily influence the outcome of the election. Trump would likely win 23 states, many of them with smaller populations.
The number of states projected for Clinton has dropped over the past few weeks. Two of those states, Ohio and Florida, were considered likely wins for Clinton in late August. Now the candidates are about even in support. Five more states, including Michigan and North Carolina are also up for grabs.
The sample size was insufficient to determine the outcome in Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and the District of Columbia, though Alaska usually votes Republican and Washington D.C. for the Democratic Party candidate.
The Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project is driven by an online survey that gathers responses from about 15,000 people per week. Their responses are weighted according to the latest population estimates, and each respondent is ranked according to their likelihood to vote.
Once the poll is complete, the project tallies the levels of support and estimated error for both candidates, and then runs multiple election simulations given their respective support.
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Iran troops to join Syria war, Russia bombs group trained by CIA
By By Laila Bassam and Andrew Osborn
Hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria to join a major ground offensive in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Lebanese sources said on Thursday, a further sign of the rapid internationalization of a civil war in which every major country in the region has a stake.
Russian warplanes, in a second day of strikes, bombed a camp run by rebels trained by the CIA, the group’s commander said, putting Moscow and Washington on opposing sides in a Middle East conflict for the first time since the Cold War.
The U.S. and Russian militaries were due to hold talks via video link to seek ways to keep their militaries apart as they wage parallel campaigns of air strikes in Syria, a U.S. defense official said.
Russian jets struck targets near the cities of Hama and Homs in western Syria on the second day of their air campaign.
Moscow said it had hit Islamic State positions, but the areas it struck are mostly held by a rival insurgent alliance, which unlike Islamic State is supported by U.S. allies including Arab states and Turkey.
Hassan Haj Ali, head of the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal rebel group which is part of the Free Syrian Army, told Reuters one of the targets was his group’s base in Idlib province, struck by around 20 missiles in two separate raids. His fighters had been trained by the CIA in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, part of a program Washington says is aimed at supporting groups that oppose both Islamic State and Assad.
“Russia is challenging everyone and saying there is no alternative to Bashar,” Haj Ali said. He said the Russian jets had been identified by members of his group who once served as Syrian air force pilots.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later that Moscow was targeting Islamic State and did not consider the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army a terrorist group, adding that they should be part of a political solution in Syria.
The aim is to help the Syrian armed forces “in their weak spots”, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Two Lebanese sources told Reuters hundreds of Iranian troops had reached Syria in the past 10 days with weapons to mount a major ground offensive. They would also be backed by Assad’s Lebanese Hezbollah allies and by Shi’ite militia fighters from Iraq, while the Russia would provide air support.
“The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria: soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisers … we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more,” one of the sources said.
So far, direct Iranian military support for Assad has come mostly in the form of military advisers. Iran has also mobilized Shi’ite militia fighters, including Iraqis and some Afghans, to fight alongside Syrian government forces.
SAME ENEMIES, DIFFERENT FRIENDS
Russia’s decision to join the war with air strikes on behalf of Assad, as well as the increased military involvement of Iran, could mark a turning point in a conflict that has drawn in most of the world’s military powers.
With the United States leading an alliance waging its own air war against Islamic State, the Cold War superpower foes, Washington and Moscow, are now engaged in combat over the same country for the first time since World War Two.
They say they have the same enemies – the Islamic State group of Sunni Muslim militants who have proclaimed a caliphate across eastern Syria and northern Iraq.
But they also have very different friends, and sharply opposing views of how to resolve the 4-year-old Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million from their homes.
Washington and its allies oppose both Islamic State and Assad, believing he must leave power in any peace settlement.
Washington says a central part of its strategy is building “moderate” insurgents to fight against both Assad and Islamic State, although so far it has struggled to find many fighters to accept its training.
Moscow supports the Syrian president and believes his government should be the centerpiece of international efforts to fight extremist groups.
It appears to be using the common campaign against Islamic State as a pretext to strike against groups supported by Washington and its allies, as a way of defending a Damascus government with which Moscow has been allied since the Cold War.
The Russian strikes represent a bold move by President Vladimir Putin to assert influence beyond his own neighborhood: it is the first time Moscow has ordered its forces into combat outside the frontiers of the former Soviet Union since its disastrous Afghanistan campaign in the 1980s.
In the second day of strikes, Russia said it launched eight sorties with Sukhoi warplanes overnight, hitting an ammunition depot near Idlib, a three-storey Islamic State command center near Hama and a car bomb factory in the north of Homs. None of those areas has a large presence of Islamic State.
Al-Mayadeen, a pro-Damascus television channel based in Lebanon, said the jets carried out at least 30 strikes against an insurgent alliance known as the Army of Conquest. The alliance includes the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, but not Islamic State.
The station later said Russian forces had also struck Islamic State positions in Raqqa province in the east. This could not be immediately confirmed.
The Russian and Iranian intervention in support of Assad comes at a time when momentum in the conflict had swung against his government and seem aimed at reversing insurgent gains.
“The Russian strikes are a game changer. Damascus is off the hook,” a diplomat tracking Syria said.
The Army of Conquest in particular has been advancing against government forces in northwestern Syria, supported by regional countries that oppose both Assad and Islamic State.
Russia says its air strikes, unlike Washington’s, are legitimate because they have Assad’s blessing, and more effective because they can coordinate with government forces to find targets.
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi of neighboring Iraq, where Washington is also leading an air war against Islamic State while Iran aids government forces on the ground, said he would be open to Russian strikes as well.
In Syria, insurgent-held Idlib province is of particular strategic importance to the government because it is close to Assad’s heartland on the Mediterranean coast, where Russia also has its only Mediterranean naval base.
A Syrian military source said on Thursday that Russian military support would bring a “big change” in the course of the conflict, particularly through advanced surveillance capabilities that could pinpoint insurgent targets.
Putin’s gamble of going to war in Syria comes a year after he defied the West to annex Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, drawing U.S. and EU economic sanctions while igniting a wave of popular nationalist support at home.
He appears to be betting that decisive action to aid Assad will improve Russia’s position at future talks on a political settlement, safeguard its control of the naval base and limit the influence of regional rivals like NATO member Turkey. It could also help his image at home as a strong leader willing to challenge global rivals, first and foremost the United States.
US, Russia hold military talks to avoid mishaps over Syria
The Pentagon held talks with Moscow officials Thursday to try to avoid mishaps between the two military powers, though it wasn’t clear how fruitful the effort was amid a second day of Russian bombing in Syria.
US military officials were furious Wednesday after Russia only gave them an hour’s vague “heads-up” it was about to begin bombing. The warning didn’t specify when or where the strikes would occur, only that coalition planes should avoid the area.
With a US-led coalition carrying out near-daily plane and drone strikes in Syria, the new reality of Russia flying sorties in the same air space has left the Pentagon worried about planes crossing paths and sparking a major international incident.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Defense Department officials spoke with Russian counterparts for about an hour via video in what he said was a “cordial and professional” exchange.
He gave few details but said officials discussed which international frequencies could be used if a pilot was in distress and what language aircrews should communicate with each other in.
“We made crystal clear that at a minimum the priority here should be the safe operation of the aircrews over Syria,” Cook said. No follow-up calls had been scheduled yet, he added.
The United States has repeatedly stressed the urgent need for Russia to communicate with it about when and where it plans to fly its fighter jets and bombers. In military jargon, such discussions are known as “deconfliction.”
Russia on Wednesday launched its first air strikes in Syria, marking its explosive arrival in the 4.5-year-old conflict that has claimed some 250,000 lives.
Strikes continued Thursday with Russian warplanes hitting opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Russians currently have at least 32 warplanes deployed in Syria, US officials say.
Putin just deployed an array of jets and missiles to the Middle East. But they’re not the kind of weapons he’d need to fight ISIS. They’re built for countering another major power.
On September 30, Russian lawmakers unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s plan to begin combat operations in Syria—and hours later Moscow’s warplanes in the region began attacking what the Russians said were ISIS militants.Right before the bombs rained down, a Russian general arrived in Baghdad warned the U.S. military planners to keep America’s own warplanes out of the way. U.S. officials said they would not alter their flight plans.This is the beginning of a dangerous new phase of the international intervention in the Syrian civil war. Not only has Russia tried to order U.S. forces to step aside, it actually has the firepower to back up its demands. Some of the 35 warplanes Russia has deployed to Syria are specifically designed for fighting foes like the United States, not ISIS.Seemingly out of nowhere on September 21, they appeared at an air base in Latakia, a regime stronghold in western Syria—28 of the Russian air force’s best warplanes, including four Su-30 fighters and a number of Su-25 attack planes and Su-24 bombers.Soon six more Su-34 bombers and at least one Il-20 spy plane followed, part of a contingent of Russia forces reportedly including some 500 troops plus armored vehicles and SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles.For U.S. and allied officials observing the deployment, there has been plenty of cause for confusion…and alarm. It’s not just that, more than four years into Syria’s bloody civil war, Russia has decided to jump in and make things more complicated.No, it’s what kinds of weapons—planes and missiles, especially—Moscow decided to send, and what those weapons say about the Kremlin’s ultimate plan in Syria. Many of them don’t seem to bewell-suited to fighting ISIS. They’re built to battle adversaries like the United States.To be clear, 35 warplanes and a few surface-to-air missiles aren’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. There’s no shortage of military aircraft flying over Syria five years into the country’s bloody civil war.Every day some of Syria’s aging Soviet-made planes—from the 300 or so that have survived four years of combat—take off from regime airfields to bomb ISIS militants and secular rebels slowly advancing on Syria’s main population centers.Meanwhile hundreds of jets from the American-led international coalition have been waging, since the fall of 2014, an intensive air campaign against ISIS and al Qaeda targeting just the militants.What’s weird and alarming about the Russian contingent is that it’s not really optimal for attacking lightly armed insurgent fighters. Surface-to-air missiles areonly good for destroying enemy aircraft, which Syrian rebels do not possess. And the Su-30s are best suited for tangling with other high-tech forces.Who in region possesses these high-tech forces? The United States, for one. Israel, too. Why, the United States, of course. Russia’s warplanes and missiles in Syria could pose a threat to America’s own aircraft flying over the country—all in order to carve out and preserve a portion of Syria that the United States can’t touch.
Officially, Russia has deployed its forces to Syria to reinforce embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and help defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
“There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism,” President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with American news networks ahead of his September 28 meeting with President Obama at the United Nations in New York City.
“There are more than 2,000 militants in Syria from the former Soviet Union,” Putin said. “Instead of waiting for them to return home we should help President al-Assad fight them there, in Syria.”
Sure enough, Su-25s, Su-24s, and Su-34s are capable ground-attack planes, roughly equivalent to U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets and F-15E fighter-bombers.
But that’s only a portion of the Russian air arsenal. The problem is, the Su-30s are next to useless for fighting ISIS. The Sukhoi fighters are primarily air-to-air fighters—and some of the best in the world. Besides Russia, China also flies versions of the twin-engine, supersonic Su-30 and has even begun outfitting them with new air-to-air missiles that U.S. Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle has repeatedly described as one of his biggest worries.
In a series of aerial war games in the last decade, India’s own Su-30s have tangled with—and reportedly defeated—American and British fighters in mock combat, sparking minor controversies in both countries as their respective air forcesscrambled to explain why the Russian-made planes weren’t necessarily superior to U.S. F-15s and British Typhoon jets.
It’s obvious why Russia, China, and India, among other countries, would deploy Su-30s to counter heavily armed enemies possessing high-tech fighters of their own. But that doesn’t explain the Russian Su-30s in Syria. “I have not seen [ISIS] flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the military head of NATO, told an audience in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 28.
Moreover, Breedlove said Russia didn’t need to deploy the SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles to Syria if its mission is to help Assad beat ISIS. “I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s,” he said, using one of several acronyms for the militant group.
Breedlove said he suspects Russia is trying to set up what the military calls a “anti-access, area-denial,” or A2AD, zone in western Syria. Moscow has recently established these zones in the Baltic region and in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. “We are a little worried about another A2AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean,” Breedlove said.
The point of these zones is to give Russia exclusive access to strategic regions, Breedlove claimed. In the case of western Syria, an A2AD zone helps to ensure that Moscow can send forces into the eastern Mediterranean, which NATO has dominated since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
Russian access to the Mediterranean via Syria requires that Assad’s regime survives, however. In that sense, Moscow’s strategic aims dovetail with the Syrian regime’s goals. Thus the Su-25s, Su-24s, and Su-34s very well could end up joining Damascus’s air war on the rebels and militants. The Su-30s, however, will probably be guarding against a very different enemy.
Of course, high-end warplanes can be repurposed to fight lower-tech foes—the U.S. has done just that, in its decade and a half bombing Afghanistan and Iraq. And many militaries deploy air-to-air fighters merely as precautions. A small contingent of U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters, which can carry bombs but are best at aerial fights, plays a leading role in the coalition air campaign targeting ISIS.
The F-22s act as “quarterbacks,” according to Carlisle, using their sophisticated sensors to spot targets for other planes and also protecting those planes against Syrian fighters and missiles. To date, the Syrian regime has not attempted to interfere with the U.S.-led bombing runs, but the F-22s keep flying.
But neither has the coalition tried to interfere with the Syrian air force’s attacks on opposition fighters—yet. U.S. Army Special Forces have been training, at great expense, a small number of Syria rebels the Pentagon had hoped could form the core of a reinvigorated, secular rebel force that can knock back ISIS.
The problem is, many rebel trainees in the American program have made it clearthey prefer to fight the regime first. Many have dropped out of the program in the face of Washington’s demands, compelling the Pentagon to remove them from the training effort. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Congress, using the administration’s preferred acronym for ISIS, that he wants recruits “to have the right mindset and ideology, not be aligned with groups like ISIL…[and] to fight ISIL.”
“It turns out to be very hard to identify people who meet both of those criteria,” Carter added.
Worse, once the recruits complete their training and go to fight ISIS, the U.S. military will have “some obligations” to protect them, Carter said. If U.S.-trained rebels turn their weapons against the Syrian regime and Russian warplanes bomb them, would that compel American F-22s to attack the Russians—and then force the Russian Su-30s to intervene?
It’s not hard to see how Russia’s support of Assad could run afoul of America’s support for secular Syrian rebels—and how Moscow’s effort to establish an aerial foothold in Syria could draw U.S. and Russian jet fighters into battle with each other.
Don’t pretend for a moment that that terrifying notion hasn’t crossed the minds of generals and politicians in both Moscow and Washington.
Russia has sent over 50 military aircraft to Syria: ministry
Russia has sent more than 50 military aircraft as well as marines, paratroopers and special forces into Syria, where it has launched air strikes against Islamic State militants, the defence ministry said on Thursday.
“More than 50 warplanes and helicopters are part of the Russian airforce striking Islamic State targets in Syria,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the Interfax news agency.
Russia on Wednesday waded into the multi-front conflict, launching air strikes against what Moscow said were IS militants battling its Soviet-era ally Syria.
In the run-up to the strikes, Russia had expanded its naval facility in the port city of Tartus and established a military base in Latakia, the stronghold of the beleaguered regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Konashenkov said marines, paratroopers and special force units would be mobilised to protect Russia’s military assets.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a broad UN-backed coalition to fight IS jihadists as he addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time in a decade.
Moscow has been pushing for a broader coalition to fight the Islamic State group to include allies of the Assad regime, an idea that the West has rejected.
Putin’s proposal is seen as a direct challenge to US President Barack Obama who has vowed to crush IS and called on countries to join the United States in its campaign.
Moscow has ruled out joining the US-led coalition.
“Theoretically, it would look nice (to join the US-led coalition) from a political point of view, but I think that we have difficulty understanding the principles on which the coalition is acting,” foreign ministry official Ilya Rogachyov said.
“On the basis that the coalition currently exists, we are unlikely to join,” he told the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Russia has appointed Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko to represent Russia at the Baghdad-based intelligence task force Moscow is setting up with Iran, Iraq and Syria, a defence ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
Here’s how the Russian Air Force moved 28 aircraft to Syria (almost) undetected
David Cenciotti, The AviationistSatellite imagery released in the last couple of days has exposed the presence of 28 Russian aircraft at al-Assad airfield, near Latakia, in western Syria.The photographs taken from space gave us the possibility to identify the combat planes as 4x Su-30SMs, 12x Su-25s (based on their color scheme, these are Su-25SMs belonging to the 368th Assault Aviation Regiment from Budyonnovsk) and 12 Su-24M2s along with about a dozen helicopters, including 10 Mi-24PN, Mi-35M and a couple of Mi-8AMTSh choppers, from the 387th Army Aviation Air Base Budyonnovsk.One of our sources with IMINT Imagery Intel experience, who has had access to the imagery in the public domain, noticed something interesting on one of the Su-30SM: the first on the left (the one closer to the runway threshold) should be equipped with a KNIRTI SPS-171 / L005S Sorbtsiya-S mid/high band defensive jammer (ECM) at the wing tips. To be honest this is almost impossible to verify unless more high-resolution images become available.
Whilst satellite shots provided much details about the deployed assets, they obviously didn’t help answer the basic question: how did they manage to reach Syria undetected?
There is someone who believes that during their ferry flight, some if not all the formation (each made of a cargo plane and four accompanying fast jets), may have made a stopover in Iran before flying the last leg to Latakia. This would also explain why some Il-76s (with an endurance that would allow a non-stop fly from Russia to Latakia) were observed stopping at Hamadan on Sept. 18-19, just before the Sukhois started appearing on the tarmac at Latakia.
Also interesting is the activity of several Israeli aircraft, including a G550 “Nachshon Aitam,” a sort of mini-AWACS equipped with 2 L-band antennas, on both sides of the fuselage, and 2 S-band antennas, on the nose and tail of the aircraft.
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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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
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World War 3 Pentagon unveils 30,000 pound M O P Bunker Buster Bomb against Iran May 03, 2013
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ONE BOMB KILLS 40 TANKS us air force CBU 105 cluster bomb
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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.