Saturday, March 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

Russian Exiles In The U.K. Want Better Security

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

BBC: Russian exiles contacted over safety after tycoon murder

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

More News On Russia Expelling 23 British Diplomats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some of them are there for combat.

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

A pair of AT-6 Wolverine demonstrators. Textron

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

This Is Why China Will Not Dominate The World Economy


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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more ....

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

Venezuela's Power Grid Is Breaking Down

Reuters: Venezuela begins power rationing as drought causes severe outages

SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela imposed electricity rationing this week in six western states, as the crisis-hit country’s creaky power grid suffered from a drought that has reduced water levels in key reservoirs needed to run hydroelectric power generators.

The four-hour formal outages began on Thursday. But many residents scoffed at the announcement, wryly noting that they have been suffering far more extended blackouts during the last week.

“We have spent 14 hours without electricity today. And yesterday electricity came and went: for six hours we had no power,” said Ligthia Marrero, 50, in the western state of San Cristobal, noting that her fridge had been damaged by the frequent interruptions.

Crumbling infrastructure and lack of investments have hit Venezuela’s power supply for years. Now, the situation has been exacerbated by dwindling rains.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Venezuela's power grid had problems long before this drought hit .... The roots of Venezuela's appalling electricity crisis (VOX).

This Former Soviet-Era Spokesman Says Russia's Involvement In Ex-Spy Poisoning 'Makes No Sense'

ABC News Online: Soviet Union-era spokesman Vladimir Pozner says Russia's link to ex-spy poisoning 'makes no sense'

Soviet Union-era spokesman and journalist Vladimir Pozner says he doubts Russia is behind the poisoning of a former spy because "it makes no sense".

This comes as leaders from the United States, France and Germany have backed British Prime Minister Theresa May in accusing Russia for the nerve agent attack in the southern English city of Salisbury.

Russia has denied any involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been in critical condition in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4.

Mr Pozner said there had been no proof the Russians were responsible, and that Ms May came to the conclusion they were after Moscow failed to meet her ultimatum and explain how the toxin came to be used on British soil.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The following remark by Vladimir Pozner also sums up how I feel about the claims that Russia is behind the poisoning of its former spy ....

.... "To do this, just before the presidential elections in Russia, to do this with the World Cup coming up, it just makes no sense really, it's not a mistake — it's worse, it's stupid, if they did it," he told the ABC.

The sad part is that I have met a lot of these "stupid people" in my life .... and I would not be surprised one bit if a department in the Russian government that is linked to the intelligence community made the decision that by murdering Sergei Skripal, they would be rewarded and praised by Russian President Putin (at least privately). And the facts are the facts. Russian defector. Known Russian nerve agent. A history of Russian defectors being murdered. In short ... if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck .... it is a duck.

As to the above post .... Vladimir Pozner's view on what is the future of Russia is a must read.

10 Greatest Military Operation Names

Israeli troops on a 1976 rescue raid in "7 Days in Entebbe" (Focus Features) 10 Greatest Military Operation Names

"7 Days in Entebbe" (now in theaters) tells the story of Operation Thunderbolt, the daring 1976 rescue of 94 Israeli passengers and 12 crew members from an Air France grounded in Uganda after a hijacking by German PLO sympathizers. Inspired by the movie, we've got a list of the ten greatest operation names in military history.

The Entebbe raid was an enormous story back in 1976, so big that is wasn't totally overshadowed by the fact that the raid took place on the American Bicentennial on July 4, 1976. The popular fascination with the successful raid inspired two better-than-average, all-star TV movies that fall: "Victory at Entebbe" (starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Dreyfuss, Kirk Douglas, Helen Hayes, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Hopkins and Linda Blair) and "Raid on Entebbe" (starring Charles Bronson, Peter Finch, Jack Warden, James Woods, Sylvia Sidney and Martin Balsam. Plus Irvin Kershner of "The Empire Strikes Back" directed).

Read more ....

The My Lai Massacre Happened 50 Years Ago

Daily Mail: Vietnam marks 50 years since My Lai massacre: More than 1,000 gather to mark one of the most notorious episodes in U.S. military history where 504 unarmed civilians were gunned down by troops

* Some 504 unarmed civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers on March 16, 1968 in Son My, Quang Ngai Province
* Among those slaughtered in the attack were 182 women - 17 of whom were pregnant - and 173 children
* More than 1,000 people remembered victims of the most notorious episode in modern U.S. military history

Vietnam has marked 50 years since the horrific My Lai massacre in a memorial ceremony at the site of the killings.

On Friday more than 1,000 people gathered to remember the victims of the most notorious episode in modern U.S. military history.

Some 504 unarmed civilians were butchered by American soldiers on March 16, 1968 in Son My, Quang Ngai Province, making it one of the worst recorded U.S. war crimes committed in the 20th century.

Among them were 182 women - 17 of whom were pregnant - and 173 children.

Read more ....

More News On The My Lai Massacre

Vietnam commemorates 50th anniversary of My Lai massacre -- AP
50 years ago, US troops massacred more than 500 civilians in Vietnam during the My Lai massacre -- Business Insider/Reuters
My Lai Massacre Of 1968 Continues To Resonate In America -- NPR
Lessons for the US from My Lai, 50 years after the massacre -- Clare Richardson, DW
‘It was a Rampage’: My Lai Massacre 50 Years Later -- Sputnik
The My Lai Massacre -- Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker

Wang Qishan Is Now China's Second Most Powerful Man

China's Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Qishan, the head of China's anti-corruption watchdog, attends the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Reuters: Xi's trusted 'firefighter' lieutenant becomes China's vice president

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament chose former top graft-buster Wang Qishan, a key ally of President Xi Jinping, as vice president on Saturday, a widely-expected move that nonetheless breaks with convention and underlines Xi’s dominant authority.

Xi was also re-elected president by parliament, with no votes cast against him. The body is packed with party loyalists and there was no chance he would not win the vote.

Wang bowed twice and then walked over to Xi to shake his hand after the vote was announced inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Only one person voted against Wang out of the 2,970 votes cast.

Read more ....

Update: Xi gets second term with powerful ally as VP (AFP)

WNU Editor:  So after almost six months of speculation, it is now official .... China's Second Most Powerful Man Is Not Retiring (Updated) (January 30, 2018)

Tweets For Today

China Tells President Trump To Not 'Push It' On Trade, While The EU Prepares To Retailiate Against The U.S. If Tariffs Are Imposed

SCMP: Don’t push us, China says to Trump’s demand for US$100 billion cut in the Sino-US trade gap

More talks behind the scenes expected as Beijing and Washington seek to avoid a trade war.

Beijing underscored its determination to protect its interests after Washington demanded a US$100 billion cut in China’s trade surplus with the United States.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Thursday that the two countries should resolve their disputes through talks, since a trade war would not benefit either country.

China would protect its legitimate rights if “something happens we don’t want to see”, he said.

Read more ....

Update: EU starts retaliation process against U.S. tariffs (Reuters).

WNU Editor: Both China and the EU enjoy trade surpluses with the U.S., but they are employing different tactics to counter any possible imposition of U.S. tariffs. The Chinese are employing the tactic of delay in the hope that with time the momentum to implement tariffs will die down .... but I do not think this will succeed. President Trump clearly wants a change, and he wants it soon. As for the EU .... they are employing the tactic of threats .... but I do not think the White House is impressed, especially since the EU has some of the most rigid tariffs and import controls in the world.

Picture Of The Day

US President Donald Trump tosses a hat into the crowd as he arrives to speak at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. March 13. © REUTERS/ Kevin Lamarque

WNU Editor: The above picture is form this photo-gallery .... This Week in Pictures: March 10-16 (Sputnik).

Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Has Been Fired Effective Immediately By The Attorney General

Politico: Sessions fires former FBI deputy director McCabe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday, dismissing the longtime bureau veteran who became a frequent target of criticism from President Donald Trump just days before he was set to retire Sunday.

In a statement, Sessions said that the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility reviewed an inspector general's report about McCabe "and underlying documents and issued a disciplinary proposal recommending the dismissal of Mr. McCabe."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I did not think Attorney General Sessions had the courage to do it .... even though the Inspector General was blunt in his report that the former Deputy Director had lied to FBI officials, and the FBI disciplinary office had strongly recommended his firing. As to what will come next .... the Inspector General will soon be releasing his report on how the FBI handled a number of critical and sensitive investigations since 2016 .... if this firing of the Deputy Director is any indication, I will not be surprised if we see more firings in the future, and maybe even the appointment of a Special Counsel. On a side note .... FBI Director Christopher A. Wray has been completely silent on this story .... no defense of his Deputy Director .... no comments to the press .... nothing. I guess he knew what was (and is) coming down.

Update: Former FBI Director McCabe has condemned his firing, saying that he had not lied to investigators, and that his firing was politically motivated because he supported former FBI Director Comey's claim that President Trump tried to obstruct the Russian investigation.

Update #2: And just when you think the night is over, there is this bombshell report .... Strzok-Page texts reveal personal relationship between FBI official and judge recused from Flynn case (FOX News).

More News On Former FBI Deputy Director McCabe Being Fired Effective Immediately By The Attorney General

Sessions fires former FBI Deputy Director McCabe -- AP
Attorney General Sessions fires former FBI no. 2 McCabe -- Reuters
Andrew McCabe, a Target of Trump's FBI Scorn, Is Fired Over Candor Questions -- New York Times
FBI's Andrew McCabe is fired a little more than 24 hours before he could retire -- Washington Post
Sessions fires McCabe from FBI -- The Hill
Former FBI deputy director fired just days before retirement to kick in -- ABC News
Sessions fires McCabe before he can retire -- NBC
US Attorney General: Mccabe Firing From FBI Is 'Effective Immediately' -- Sputnik

Friday, March 16, 2018

Is China Planning To Take Taiwan By Force?

Minnie Chan, SCMP: Is Beijing planning to take Taiwan back ... by force?

The mainland is refining the tactics that could pave the way for a forcible seizure of the self-ruled island, according to a senior adviser.

Beijing is mapping out specific tactics to lure Taiwan into its orbit and possibly pave the way for forcible seizure of the self-ruled island, although there is no timetable for such a drastic move, according to a senior mainland Taiwan affairs adviser.

Li Yihu, dean of Peking University’s Taiwan Studies Institute, said Beijing was reinforcing its “carrot and stick” approach to dealing with Taiwan’s independence forces after passing historic constitutional amendments on Sunday to remove presidential term limits on the mainland.

Beijing has been using economic sweeteners or “carrots” such as offers of better paying jobs, access to bigger markets and equal treatment to lure Taiwanese to the mainland.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China is playing the long game with Taiwan .... and their goal of re-integrating Taiwan back into China has remained the same. Of course .... Taiwan has a different opinion, and are trying their best to make sure that in the event China decides to pursue a more aggressive policy, it would be an expensive one .... Taiwan Wants U.S. F-35 Jets To Defend Against Chinese Invasion (Newsweek).

Over Chinese Warnings, President Trump Signs U.S.-Taiwan Travel Bill

Reuters: Trump signs U.S.-Taiwan travel bill; China 'strongly dissatisfied'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation that encourages the United States to send senior officials to Taiwan to meet Taiwanese counterparts and vice versa, angering China, which views Taiwan as a wayward province.

The bill, which is non-binding, would have gone into effect on Saturday morning, even if Trump had not signed it, said the White House.

The move adds to strains between the two countries over trade, as Trump has enacted tariffs and called for China to reduce its huge trade imbalance with the United States, even while Washington has leaned on Beijing to help resolve tensions with North Korea.

Earlier on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated that Beijing was opposed to the legislation and urged the United States to abide by the “one China” policy and cease official exchanges with Taiwan.

Read more ....

Update: Trump approves official travel to Taiwan (AFP)

WNU Editor: Even though this is a non-binding resolution, this is a signal to China that the "One China" policy that the U.S. has been following for years may be heading for a change.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma To Face Corruption Trial

The Guardian: South Africa reinstates corruption charges against Jacob Zuma

Chief prosecutor says ex-president will face prosecution on charges that dogged him in office

South Africa’s chief prosecutor has said the former president Jacob Zuma will face prosecution on corruption charges that haunted much of his term in office.

Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) last month, will be prosecuted for corruption relating to a 30bn-rand (£1.8bn) arms deal in the late 1990s, Shaun Abrahams told a media conference on Friday.

Read more ....

More News On Former South African President Jacob Zuma To Face Corruption Trial

Jacob Zuma: Former South African president faces corruption trial -- BBC
S.Africa ex-president Zuma to face graft prosecution -- AFP
South Africa hits fallen Zuma with arms deal corruption charges -- Reuters
Ex-South Africa president faces 16 counts of corruption -- UPI
South Africa to prosecute ex-President Jacob Zuma on corruption charges -- DW
Ex-South Africa leader Jacob Zuma to face corruption charges -- Al Jazeera
Zuma's five biggest career scandals -- AFP
How S.Africa's Zuma dodged arms deal bribery charges -- AFP

Tonight's Movie Is 'Waterloo' (1970)

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 16, 2018

Sarah Bradbury, DW: UK-Russia relations: Crisis or melodrama?

Ever since Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the UK city of Salisbury on March 4, thought to be poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, very public political posturing and inflammatory exchanges between Westminster and the Kremlin have played out like the opening scenes of a mediocre Cold War-era espionage movie.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials -- March 16, 2018

A U.S. Containment Strategy for Syria: To Beat the Russians, Let Them Win -- Aaron Stein, Foreign Policy

As fighting rages, can Russia forge a peace in Syria? -- AFP

The path to a nuclear-free Middle East -- Akiva Eldar, Middle East Monitor

Beware of Kim Jong Un's Diplomatic Tricks -- Francis Grice, National Interest

India and Pakistan: Inching Toward Their Final War? -- Mohammed Ayoob, National Interest

ASEAN: Has the Association of South-East Asian Nations outlived its usefulness? -- Stan Grant, ABC News Online

Indian Army says its equipment is obsolete and not ready for war -- Saikat Datta, Asia Times

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

The EU's Trade Hypocrisy -- John Redwood, The Commentator

The Key to Making Peace in Africa -- George Clooney & John Prendergast, Foreign Affairs

It’s all Putin’s fault… but still he wins -- Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

Vladimir Putin’s politics of eternity -- Timothy Snyder, The Guardian

Putin’s election: little chance of long-term economic growth -- Anna Scherbakova, Asia Times

Why Cuba's Regime Will Survive the Castros -- Katarina Hall, RCW

World News Briefs -- March 16, 2018

Al Jazeera: Syrian civilians flee embattled Eastern Ghouta and Afrin

Death toll jumps as Assad's troops in besieged Eastern Ghouta and Turkish forces in Afrin intensify military operations.

Civilians continue to flee Syria's Eastern Ghouta and Afrin in record numbers as Syrian and Turkish military operations continue against their respective foes.

Roughly 50,000 people have fled the two areas - 20,000 from Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, and 30,000 from Afrin, in Syria's Kurdish-dominated northeast - according to some counts.

Read more ....


Syria war: Thousands flee offensives in Afrin and Ghouta. Civilians flee as two big Syria battles enter decisive phases.

Death and exodus as two Syria assaults escalate.

At least 78 killed in day of violence as eastern Ghouta exodus continues. Syria: 40 civilians killed in airstrikes as thousands flee Eastern Ghouta.

Turkey claims to have encircled Afrin, besieging up to 200,000.

Thirty years on, Kurds remember 5,000 gassed at Halabja.

US seeking 'supplemental' Iran deal with European powers.

Two Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank attack.


Trump, Moon discuss plan to meet North Korean leader: White House.

North Korea diplomats in Beijing, Stockholm ahead of U.S. summit. North Korean minister's Swedish visit fuels Trump-Kim expectations.

Top officials scramble to make Trump-Kim summit a reality.

S. Korea to push for summit preparation talks with N. Korea late this month.

Xi set for second term with enhanced power.

Xi could rule China for decades, says US Pacific commander.

Pakistan-India diplomatic spat worsens as envoy summoned.

Philippines gives official notice of International Criminal Court withdrawal.

Australian killed at Cambodian gun range was tourist, not military as local 'cover-up' suggests.

Vietnam commemorates 50th anniversary of My Lai massacre.


Polls open in Egyptian presidential elections for voters abroad.

12 dead in central Somalia as villagers resist Al-Shabab taxes.

EU aims to step up help to Libya coastguards on migrant patrols.

Ex-South Africa president faces 16 counts of corruption.

African, EU states focus anti-trafficking efforts at source.

Zimbabwe doctors' strike enters second week.

African leaders call on EU to shut ivory trade.

Botswana's Ian Khama: Trump encouraging elephant poaching.


Spy poisoning: Putin most likely behind attack - Johnson.

‘Unforgivable’: Kremlin blasts Boris Johnson for blaming Putin for Skripal poisoning.

Russia will expel British diplomats in tit-for-tat move: Lavrov. Russia to expel UK diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens.

Police launch murder inquiry over death of Nikolai Glushkov. UK opens murder probe into death of Russian Nikolai Glushkov.

Slovakia protests: 65,000 join Bratislava anti-government protests. Slovakia: Nationwide protests call for snap polls.

Russian nationals will not be able to cast votes at March 18 presidential polls in Ukraine.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer: 'Islam doesn't belong to Germany'.

Gibraltar warns it could rescind citizens rights if Spain uses veto on Brexit deal.

Riots hit Madrid amid outrage over death of African street vendor.


Trump approves official travel to Taiwan.

Trump chief of staff calls meeting to insist no one is about to be fired.

US accuses Russian government of hacking infrastructure.

U.S. hints at shift on Russia with sanctions and condemnation..

London court rules UK spy behind Trump dossier must give evidence in U.S. libel trial.

Peru's congress approves impeachment debate.

UN accuses Mexico's police of torture.

Mexican election front-runner offers referendums, could end term early.

Venezuela begins power rationing as drought causes severe outages.

Brazil: Big rallies held after Rio politician is shot dead.

Missing Argentinian submarine: Families demand answers.

Two convicted 'honour' killers to be deported from Canada.


The US could finish off ISIS if Turkey would stop fighting the Kurds, Pentagon says.

Pakistan doing 'bare minimum' to help US: official.

Iraqi man convicted of 2017 London train bombing.


US, European stocks rise on data, quieter politics.

EU lists American exports it could target in response Trump's proposed tariffs. EU starts retaliation process against U.S. tariffs.

EU prepares revenue-based tax on US tech giants.

Billionaire tycoon Li Ka-shing retires, hands control of empire to son Victor.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 16, 2018

NBC: U.S. troops who repelled Russian mercenaries prepare for more attacks

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria — Standing on a windswept mound, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga pointed to the spot just a mile away from where Russian mercenaries and fighters loyal to the Syrian government fired at his soldiers.

"Those artillery rounds could have landed and killed Americans, and that's why we continue to prepare our defenses," said Braga, the director of operations for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- March 16, 2018

Report: North Korea rocket engine includes Ukrainian technology -- UPI

South Korea may buy more Apache helicopters to lead the fight across DMZ -- Defense News

Army Has Spent 18 Months Preparing for War in Korea: Milley -- DoD Buzz/

Future Force? Chinese Shipmaker Leaks Aircraft Carrier, Nuclear Sub Plans -- Sputnik

Chinese hackers accused of targeting US defence firms linked to South China Sea -- SCMP

Japan Wants to Develop Military Potential to Counterattack Enemy Bases - LPD -- Sputnik

Taiwan renews interest in F-35 to counter Chinese first strike -- Defense News

Russian Jets Scrambled 7 Times to Chase Away Spy Planes – Defense Ministry -- Sputnik

How Russia's diplomatic and military tactics are shaping course of war in Syria's Ghouta -- ABC News

Russia’s advanced Avangard hypersonic missile system to enter service by 2019 — source -- TASS

Russian submarine activity at post-Cold War high -- Stars and Stripes

Combat robots for Russian troops to go into serial production this year — defense minister -- TASS

Russia to cut defense spending, capital construction outlays, vows presidential aide -- TASS

UAE to train Somaliland forces under military base deal -- Africa News

Raytheon to support Qatar patriot missile system -- UPI

Measly defense budget has severely undermined India’s military -- Asia Times

Results are in: Here's how much NATO allies spent on defense in 2017 -- Defense News

EUCOM head: Alleged Russian chemical attack shows ‘what they’re willing to do’ -- Defense News

Air Force ups support for allies in Europe, keeps close eye on Russia -- Air Force Times

Inside the US nuclear sub challenging Russia in the Arctic -- CNN

Navy's new attack submarine named Colorado to join the fleet -- Navy Times/AP

General Dynamics to repair USS Mesa Verde -- UPI

Inside the USS Zumwalt, a Stealth Destroyer That May Be the Most Advanced Warship Ever Built -- Cheat Sheet

Navy awards Lockheed $481M for F-35 spare parts -- UPI

Army Chief: Hypersonic Weapons 'Possible' But Early in Development -- DoD Buzz

Cold War: US Arctic Drills Prep For Frigid Fight -- Sputnik

Milley: Army is pushing to get two-thirds of its brigades ready to deploy at any minute -- Army Times

Lockheed awarded $3.5B contract from Army for training -- UPI

Pentagon Wants Armed Robot Combat Vehicles by 2020 -- Sputnik

Is Boeing working on a second MQ-25 drone prototype? -- Defense News

‘Fat Leonard’ admiral keeps high-level security clearance -- Navy Times

After New Ambush in Niger, Pentagon Defends Withholding News of Attack --

Russia Boasts That Its Nuclear Subs Were Able To Creep Up To The U.S. Coast Completely Undetected

The crew of Russia's Akula-class, nuclear-powered attack submarine Samara lines up on its deck during a naval parade rehearsal in Vladivostok, Russia, on July 23, 2010. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev

RT: Russian nuclear subs quietly reached US coast & left undetected – Navy officer

Russian nuclear-powered submarines conducted an exercise near American military bases with the objective of avoiding detection as they came close to the US coast, a submarine squadron commander told a Russian military TV channel.

The stunning revelation was made in a military TV series set to air on Zvezda (‘Star’), the Russian Defense Ministry’s official broadcaster. The episode focuses on Akula-class Shchuka-B nuclear-powered attack submarines.

According to a submarine officer filmed in the show, the Navy command ordered to take position in the vicinity of US military bases during exercises.

Read more ....

Update: Russian Nuclear Submarine Commander Says His Vessels Sailed Near Navy Base on U.S. Coast—But Pentagon Doesn't Seem Concerned (Newsweek)

WNU Editor: Another Russian naval officer is boasting that they were able to track undetected a NATO sub under the Arctic .... Russian submarine in Arctic tracked ‘enemy’ sub undetected for days (Asia Times).

Russia To Expel British Diplomats And Blacklist U.S. Citizens In Reply To Latest Expulsions And Sanctions

The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Moscow © Maksim Blinov / Sputnik

Reuters: Russia to expel UK diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens

STANA/LONDON (Reuters) - Russia is set to expel British diplomats in retaliation for Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to kick out 23 Russians as relations with London crashed to a post-Cold War low over an attack involving a military-grade nerve agent on English soil.

After the first known offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two, Britain has pointed the finger at President Vladimir Putin and on Thursday May gave the 23 Russians who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover at London’s embassy a week to leave.

The diplomats are due to leave London on March 20, RIA news agency quoted Russia’s ambassador to Britain as saying.

Separately on Friday, police in London launched a murder investigation into the death this week of a Russian associate of late tycoon Boris Berezovsky, but said nothing at this stage suggested a link to the attempted murders of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4.

Read more ....

Update #1: Russia to blacklist more US citizens in reply to latest sanctions – senior diplomat (RT)

WNU Editor: Some commentators are saying that we should not worry .... I Knew the Cold War. This Is No Cold War. (Stephen Walt, Foreign Policy). But I say we should be worried .... tensions are not decreasing, and there are now to many flashpoints around the world where something can easily go wrong and escalate into something else entirely.

Britain, France, Germany Propose New Sanctions On Iran

A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Picture taken September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS

Reuters: Exclusive: Britain, France, Germany propose new sanctions on Iran - document

BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) - Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

The joint paper, seen by Reuters, was sent to European Union capitals on Friday, said two people familiar with the matter, to sound out support for such sanctions as they would need the support of all 28 EU member governments.

The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord signed by world powers that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing U.S. President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad.

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  The proposed extra sanctions will be targeting Iranian officials. But my gut is telling me that the the Trump administration wants more.

South Korea Is Pushing For High-Level Talks With North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech during a ceremony celebrating the 99th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule, at Seodaemun Prison History Hall in Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Reuters: South Korea aims for high-level talks about talks with North

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will seek high-level talks with North Korea this month as preparations for a summit began on Friday, the presidential chief of staff said, while officials in the South expressed interest in a separate summit with the United States.

If North Korea agrees to the talks, they would be the first North-South contact since a South Korean delegation returned from a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month and a chance for North Korea to break its silence on promised engagements with the South and the United States.

The talks about talks come after the head of the U.S. Pacific Command said the United States could not be overly optimistic about the outcome of any summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, aimed at ending the North’s nuclear and missile programs, and must go into it with “eyes wide open”.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: It looks like the South Koreans are becoming nervous that North Korea ... because they have now gone silent on having talks .... may be having second thoughts on what should be discussed.

South Korean Ex-Diplomat: North Korea ‘Surprised’ By Trump’s Sudden Decision To Talk

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses for photographs with the South Korean delegation led by Chung Eui-yong, head of the presidential National Security Office, in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 6, 2018. (Reuters)

Daily Caller: North Korea ‘Surprised’ By Trump’s Sudden Decision To Talk, Ex-Diplomat Suggests

The man who, until recently, was America’s top negotiator on North Korea revealed Pyongyang was caught off guard by President Donald Trump’s shocking decision to meet Kim Jong Un.

A South Korean official told reporters outside the White House on March 8 that not only had Kim expressed a desire to meet Trump, but the president had agreed to the unprecedented meeting. Oddly, North Korea has yet to publicly comment on the summit.

“To be frank with you, I think they were a little bit surprised that Washington, President Trump readily accepted,” former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun, who retired unexpectedly last month, told CNN Friday. “They thought it would take a little time.”

Read more ....

WNU Editor:  I have a different point of view. I think the North Koreans knew before they made their invitation on what the answer was going to be .... and that understanding was reached when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong was in Seoul during the Olympics at the same time that Vice President Pence and his entourage were there. And what clinched the deal was when the South Koreans went to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and he communicated that invitation to them officially.

North Korean Foreign Minister In Surprise Sweden Visit

BBC News: US-North Korea meeting: N Korean Minister in surprise Sweden visit

North Korea's foreign minister has attended talks in Stockholm with Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, ahead of a possible meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang said Ri Yong-ho's trip was for "bilateral relations and issues of mutual concern".

Sweden has a long history of mediating between Washington and Pyongyang.

Mr Ri had already met his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom late on Thursday and early on Friday.

Sweden's foreign ministry said their discussions would focus on tensions between the two Koreas, and Sweden's diplomatic work on behalf of the US in North Korea.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Sweden has an embassy in North Korea, and North Korea has an embassy in Sweden. Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven met President Trump at the White /House almost two weeks ago. From my point of view, Sweden is being used as a back-channel for both the U.S. and North Korea.

More News (And Speculation) On The North Korean Minister's Surprise Visit To Sweden

North Korean Minister in 'Constructive' Talks in Sweden -- US News and World Report/AP
N. Korea's top diplomat meets Swedish leaders -- Digital Journal/AFP
North Korea diplomats in Beijing, Stockholm ahead of US summit -- UPI
North Korean minister's Swedish visit fuels Trump-Kim expectations -- The Guardian
N. Korean Top Diplomat's Sweden Talks Could Pave Way for Trump-Kim Summit -- VOA
North Korean Official's Trip to Sweden Could Be Prelude to US Talks -- Wall Street Journal
Sweden happy to host US-North Korea talks -- Politico
Sweden pledges to support historic US-North Korea dialogue -- CNN

Seven U.S. Service Members Killed In Iraq Helicopter Crash (Updated)

NBC: Seven U.S. service members killed in Iraq helicopter crash

All seven service members aboard an American military helicopter that crashed in western Iraq late Thursday were killed, according to two U.S. military officials.

The crash of the U.S. HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter does not appear to be a result of enemy activity and the incident is under investigation, U.S. Central Command and military officials said.

"All personnel aboard were killed in the crash," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, the director of operations for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Read more ....

More News On Seven U.S. Service Members Killed In Iraq Helicopter Crash

US military helicopter crash in western Iraq kills all aboard -- Long War Journal
All 7 US Troops Aboard Helicopter Killed in Crash in Iraq -- New York Times
U.S. military copter crashes, killing all on board -- CBS
7 US service members killed in helicopter crash in western Iraq -- Washington Post
All 7 troops in Iraq helicopter crash killed -- The Hill
7 US service members killed in Iraq helicopter crash -- CNN
7 US airmen die in helicopter crash in Iraq after hitting power line -- ABC News
US military helicopter crashes in western Iraq, with 7 on board -- International Business Times

CIA Nominee Gina Haspel DID NOT Supervise The Waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah As Every Media Organization Is Claiming

CIA deputy director Gina Haspel, who was responsible for some but not all dubious interrogations at a “black site” in Thailand. Photo: CIA

ProPublica: Correction: Trump’s Pick to Head CIA Did Not Oversee Waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah

ProPublica erred when it reported in 2017 that Gina Haspel was in charge of a secret prison in Thailand during the infamous interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect.

On Feb. 22, 2017, ProPublica published a story that inaccurately described Gina Haspel’s role in the treatment of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader who was imprisoned by the CIA at a secret “black site” in Thailand in 2002.

The story said that Haspel, a career CIA officer who President Trump has nominated to be the next director of central intelligence, oversaw the clandestine base where Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding and other coercive interrogation methods that are widely seen as torture. The story also said she mocked the prisoner’s suffering in a private conversation. Neither of these assertions is correct and we retract them. It is now clear that Haspel did not take charge of the base until after the interrogation of Zubaydah ended.

Read more ....

Update: CIA Nominee Gina Haspel Actually Did Not Supervise the Agency’s Most Notorious Use of Waterboarding (NYMag).

WNU Editor: Regular reader Robert gave me a heads-up on this story this morning. ProPublica made the claim last year that Gina Haspel was the CIA officer responsible for the CIA torture of Abu Zubaydah and one other detainee in Thailand. When she was nominated to be the next CIA Director by President Trump ..... every news organization used ProPublica's report from last year detailing this claim. Last night ProPublica came out and posted a retraction of their 2017 story .... labeling it as false. But if you do a Google search right now .... every major news organization .... AP, Reuters, New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC, CBC, etc. .... they are still covering the story that she oversaw the CIA's torture program in Thailand. Even posting stories after ProPublica's retraction repeating the claim .... a claim that I must repeat again is completely false. Fake news .... you betcha.