Washington (CNN)China is actively developing its fleet of long-range bombers and “likely” training its pilots for missions targeting the US, according to a new Pentagon report.
“Over the last three years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report said.
The “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” is a US government report mandated by Congress, whichdetails Chinese military developments over the previous year.
This year’s report also claims that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers, saying the Chinese air force “has been re-assigned a nuclear mission.”
“The deployment and integration of nuclear capable bombers would, for the first time, provide China with a nuclear ‘triad’ of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air,” the report said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to modernize China’s armed forces, including weeding out widespread corruption in the ranks and updating the country’s military hardware.
As Thursday’s report notes, the PLA is undergoing “the most comprehensive restructure in its history to become a force capable of fighting joint operations.”
The United States released a new Defense Strategy at the beginning of 2018 where it proclaimed “long-term strategic competitions with China” as one of the US military’s top challenges.
According to Thursday’s report, China is working on a “stealthy, long-range strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability that could be operational within the next 10 years,” in addition to the bombers it already operates.
In a show of the expanding reach of Beijing’s power, the Chinese military landed nuclear-capable H-6K bombers on one of their artificial islands in the South China Sea for the first time in May.
US Navy plane warned over South China Sea03:02
Cold War mentality
This year’s report comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China, amid an escalating trade war and disagreements over Beijing’s actions in Taiwan and the South China Sea.
Even before the new report’s release, Washington was feeling the full brunt of the Chinese military’s fury over a new $717 billion US defense bill which encourages closer cooperation with Taiwan to counter Beijing.
Despite Taiwan being self-governed for almost 70 years, the mainland Chinese government continues to view the island as an integral part of its territory.
The US report didn’t just highlight threats to the United States or its allies — there was also a broader discussion of the spread of Chinese influence around the world.
The document notes China has established its first overseas base in Djibouti and that it “will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries.”
China formally established its Djibouti military base in July last year, followed several months later by the country’s controversial acquisition of the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.
Around the time of the Djbouti base opening, an editorial in the state-run Global Times stressed its importance to Beijing’s plans. “Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point… This base can support Chinese Navy to go farther, so it means a lot,” said the paper.
The Pentagon report said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure policy, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), served to encourage countries to fall into line with China’s ambitions.
“China intends to use the BRI to develop strong economic ties with other countries, shape their interests to align with China’s, and deter confrontation or criticism of China’s approach to sensitive issues,” the report said.
Washington (CNN)Retired Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, issued a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan on Thursday, defending the former spy chief as “one of the finest public servants I have ever known.”
In an op-ed published by the Washington Post, McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who led US Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, not only called Brennan “a man of unparalleled integrity,” but volunteered to have his own security clearance revoked in an act of solidarity.
“Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him,” McRaven wrote.
“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” he added.
His comments come just one day after Trump announced his decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, marking an unprecedented use of a president’s authority over the classification system to strike back at one of his prominent critics.
“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” Brennan tweeted after the announcement.
McRaven, who resigned as chancellor of the University of Texas in Austin earlier this year, is widely respected among the tens of thousands of active and retired special operators and his message will likely resonate within that community.
“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven said of Trump.
“If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be,” he added.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
Above the South China Sea (CNN) High above one of the most hotly contested regions in the world, CNN was given a rare look Friday at the Chinese government’s rapidly expanding militarization of the South China Sea
Aboard a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, CNN got a view from 16,500 feet of low-lying coral reefs turned into garrisons with five-story buildings, large radar installations, power plants and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.
During the flight the crew received six separate warnings from the Chinese military, telling them they were inside Chinese territory and urging them to leave.
“Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,” a voice said.
The US Navy jet flew past four key artificialislands in the Spratly chain where China has built up fortifications: Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef and Mischief Reef.
On Subi Reef, the Poseidon’s sensors picked up 86 vessels, including Chinese coast guard ships, moored in a giant lagoon, while on Fiery Cross Reef rows of hangers stood alongside a lengthy runway.
“It was surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean,” said Lt. Lauren Callen, who was leading the air combat crew aboard the Navy flight.
Each time the aircraft was challenged by Chinese military, the US Navy crew’s response was the same.
“I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the response said.
“In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”
CNN has reached out to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.
CNN gets rare access on board a US military surveillance flight over the hotly-disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The Chinese government staunchly maintains large areas of the South China Sea have been part of the country’s territory “since ancient times.”
Beijing’s “nine-dash line” extends more than one thousand kilometers from its southernmost province, taking in more or less the entirety of the waters, through which the United Nations estimates one-third of global shipping passes.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei all claim overlapping portions of the sea which spans 3.6 million square kilometer (1.4 million square miles), but the most far-reaching claims have been made by China.
Since then, Beijing’s island building in the contested waters has moved forward at a rapid pace.
Flying over Fiery Cross Reef on Friday, a five-story building was visible, as well as a large radar installation, which looked like neatly arranged golf balls on the Navy plane’s infrared camera.
Though no Chinese missiles were seen on Friday’s flight over the South China Sea, Navy officers said some of the structures seen could potentially be used to house them.
Cmdr. Chris Purcell, who leads Patrol Squadron Four which undertook Friday’s mission, said the US has been doing these flights for five decades and they show US commitment to maintaining free passage in international waters.
“The reason we’re here hasn’t changed,” Purcell said. “The reason (the Chinese) are here has changed.”
Within hours of the trip, Chinese state tabloid Global Times posted a reaction to CNN’s report on its Chinese-language website. The article called for all readers to “give a thumbs-up to Chinese servicemen” for their defense of China’s territory.
China claims US sparking militarization
Beijing says its growing military presence in the South China Sea is necessary to protect its sovereignty, blaming Washington and its allies for tensions in the region.
Tensions build in the South China Sea
JANUARY 17, 2018
Destroyer USS Hopper sails near Scarborough Shoal, north of the Spratlys, provoking a harsh response from China.
Two US navy vessels sail within 12 miles of four islands in the Paracel chain, days after uninviting China from the 2018 RIMPAC naval drills.
JUNE 5, 2018
US B-52 bombers fly over the Spratlys again, as US Secretary of Defense James Mattis accuses Beijing of “intimidation and coercion”
Source: CNN reporting
Chinese military exercises in April included the largest naval parade in the country’s history, with President Xi Jinping overseeing drills that included 10,000 troops, 48 naval vessels and 76 fighter jets.
Beijing points to the regular US Navy patrols and flyovers of the South China Sea as an example of US militarization and provocations, and a justification for the increased Chinese military presence.
“By playing up the so-called China’s militarization in the South China Sea, certain people in the US are staging a farce of a thief crying “stop thief”,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in May. “It is self-evident to a keener eye that who is militarizing the South China Sea.”
In the past year, the US has stepped up freedom of navigation operations in the region, sailing US naval vessels within miles of China’s artificial islands across the South China Sea.
The exercises, which the US also conducts in other parts of the world, assert the navy’s right to travel wherever it pleases in international waters, a vital component of Washington’s naval power across the world.
Time may be running out to effectively challenge China’s claims in the South China Sea however.
It was a pitch black Saturday evening at a remote outpost in Syria last February when Sgt. Cameron Halkovich and Cpl. Kane Downey began their rounds, checking Marines on perimeter security.
As sergeant and corporal of the guard, their job was to set up the watch schedule, man the radios, and most importantly, ensure Marines on post were watching for signs of ISIS fighters, who for months had been under blistering attack from artillery at the small, Army-run base in Deir al-Zour Province. Besides an Army Special Forces team, it hosted a forward surgical team, more than dozen Marine infantrymen, and a platoon-sized element of Syrian Democratic Forces allied with the U.S.
But on that late-winter night, one of the Americans’ SDF partners would turn on them and fire two shots — marking the first known instance of an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve. And while the Pentagon often announces when service members are killed or wounded during these “insider” or “green on blue” attacks, it made no such announcement for Halkovich, a combat engineer, who was shot twice in the leg and survived.
This account of the Feb. 17 shooting of a U.S. Marine by a member of the Syrian militia he was supporting is based on interviews with multiple sources, military award documents, and scant details released by the Pentagon. It has also become an open secret among the 1,000-plus Marines and sailors of the unit Halkovich was attached to — 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, based in Twentynine Palms, California.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that a Marine gets shot and nobody hears about it,” said one source familiar with the incident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “It kind of blows my mind.”
In fact, when asked by Task & Purpose whether there had ever been an insider attack during Operation Inherent Resolve, a coalition statement flatly denied it: “We have no recorded incidents of insider attacks during OIR.”
* * *
The small contingent of Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment had a boring and often thankless job providing security at the outpost, a so-called “mission support site” which Task & Purpose has chosen not to name for operational security reasons. Though they occasionally left the wire, the Marines spent most of their time on rooftops or in the turret of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck, as Army artillerymen safely pounded ISIS positions and Special Forces soldiers trained and supported the SDF in battle.
They settled into a familiar routine after about five months in Syria: Some Marines slept or ate, while others manned a vehicle-mounted .50 caliber machine-gun or looked for infiltrators in the surrounding desert with night vision and thermal imaging devices. Meanwhile, the SDF had their own routine, manning a gate that served as the main entry point into the camp.
The Marines mostly kept to themselves, except to share an occasional cigarette with the Kurdish-dominated SDF. Sometimes the Kurds would slaughter a goat and cook it up for their American patrons. But for reasons that remain unclear, relations began to deteriorate in early February.
“There was an incident with an SDF guy racking his AK… but the Marine somehow deescalated the situation and nothing was fired,” the source said of a Kurdish soldier who chambered a round in his AK-47 rifle, threatening a Marine about a week prior to the Halkovich shooting. That SDF soldier was subsequently kicked off the base.
“Tensions were super high at this point,” the source added.
But just as one potential insider threat was removed, a new one seemed to present itself just a week later, illustrating the fragile nature of some of America’s partnerships with foreign militaries — which are increasingly being used to fight terror groups through a strategy of “advise and assist.”
It began with a radio call. Alerted to a commotion at the SDF-manned gate, Halkovich and Downey ran to check it out. When they got there, SDF soldiers told the Marines a truck outside the gate was just having car trouble.
It was a lie, one that was quickly exposed when a Syrian civilian in the vehicle held up a dead child that was “soaked in blood,” according to the source. Looking closer, the Marines saw a truck bed filled with about eight dead or wounded civilians. It was a mass-casualty incident, and they knew they had to help.
The SDF told the Marines no, in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which strictly prohibits withholding medical assistance or discriminating in providing care.
“SDF was trying to tell us that we weren’t allowed to treat them, but… we’re going to help anybody we can,” the source said, adding that the partner force “was super upset about it.”
Another source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, said the injured group, comprised mostly of women and children, was turned away by the SDF because they were not Kurdish.
The first source gave a similar account: “It was purely racial. They refused to give them an ambulance.”
Halkovich and Downey pushed the SDF soldiers out of the way and opened the gate, amid screaming from both sides in English and Arabic. They moved concertina wire aside while another Marine called in a mass casualty to the Army surgical team. Others placed victims on litters and shuffled them in.
Army medics managed to save four of the victims, according to the first source. But the SDF “was not happy,” the other source said. The Kurds even threatened to kick the Marines out of the compound for their humanitarian act.
Eventually, tensions settled and things went back to normal — until dark.
Around 9 p.m. that night, Halkovich and Downey decided to check on Lance Cpl. Jay Smith, who was stationed in the MRAP turret behind a .50 caliber machine gun.
After walking the 100 meters or so from their quarters, Halkovich stopped to urinate. Not thinking anything of it, Downey kept going. But as he crossed an intersection between buildings near the main gate, he realized something seemed strange.
At the entry control point, at least one SDF soldier normally watched the gate at all times. But nobody was there.
Neither Marine was aware that hidden in the shadows, one of the SDF soldiers had abandoned his post and was lying in wait.
Downey got to the door of the MRAP and reached for the handle. But before he opened it, he heard two gunshots, the distinctive report of an AK-47.
He turned around and saw Halkovich on the ground, his face obscured. Downey would later recount to his fellow Marines and military investigators that he saw a lone SDF soldier, standing over Halkovich with a rifle.
Downey then aimed in with his M4 rifle and dropped the attacker with a “hammer pair” — a well-aimed series of two quick shots to the chest. With the SDF soldier now dead, Downey kicked his weapon away and yelled to Smith in the turret: “Halko was shot! Halko was shot!”
Halkovich took two 7.62mm bullets to the left leg that went clean through — though, in the darkness, Downey initially thought his comrade was dead. With Downey’s red-lens headlamp shining down on his face, Halkovich looked up. Then he looked at his leg, then back at Downey, and finally, he screamed.
According to the award citation for the Joint Service Commendation Medal that Downey would receive in March for what was called a “shooting incident,” the Marine “acted decisively to eliminate the threat to his comrade” before applying a tourniquet to Halkovich’s leg and fireman-carrying him to the surgical facility. (The citation, signed by OIR Commanding General Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, however, takes pains to avoid identifying “the shooter.”)
Smith, for his part, remained at his post and called in the shooting on the radio, prompting the rest of the Marines to respond to the scene. Just as the Marines had done earlier in the day for civilians, they now watched as one of their own was brought to the Army surgeons stationed nearby.
Halkovich was medically evacuated from the post soon after, while Downey was brought back to a larger camp to explain what had happened to military investigators.
But for months afterward, the Marines continued to live side-by-side with the Syrian partners they had come to fear.
“It’s really terrifying,” the first source said. “You’re literally surrounded.”
Spokesmen for the Syrian Democratic Forces did not respond to a request for comment.
The Marines of 2/7 returned with little fanfare from their combat deployment in April. Halkovich received the Purple Heart that same month and is still recovering from his wounds at the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California. At Marine Corps Base 29 Palms in March, Downey would receive his Joint Service Commendation Medal for saving Halkovich’s life.
Meanwhile, a new group of Marines has taken 2/7’s place on the Corps’ Special Purpose MAGTF Crisis Response-Central Command, where, like their counterparts, they could potentially deploy to a theater of war where friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye.
Were they warned of the shooting in February? Told to prepare for the possibility of an insider attack by the SDF? A spokesperson for the unit did not respond to those questions.
“They said it would be on the front page of every newspaper in the country and yet no justice was ever done for my wounded brother,” the second source told me. “That is the only reason I’m telling you this because no one knows what happened out there… and nothing came of it.”
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
The Mongols gained fame in the 13th century when under Chinggis KHAN they conquered a huge Eurasian empire. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule. Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing. A Communist regime was installed in 1924. Following a peaceful democratic revolution, the ex-Communist Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won elections in 1990 and 1992, but was defeated by the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) in the 1996 parliamentary election. Since then, parliamentary elections returned the MPRP overwhelmingly to power in 2000, but 2004 elections reduced MPRP representation and, therefore, its authority.
Mongolia since prehistoric times has been inhabited by nomads who, from time to time, formed great confederations that rose to prominence. The first of these, the Xiongnu, were brought together to form a confederation by Modu Shanyu Mete Khan in 209 BC. Soon they emerged as the greatest threat of the Qin Dynasty forcing the latter to construct the Great Wall of China, itself being guarded by up to almost 300,000 soldiers during marshal’s Meng Tian tenure, as a mean of defense against the destructive Xiongnu raids. After the decline of the Xiongnu, the Rouran, a close relative of the Mongols, came to power before being defeated by the Göktürks, who then dominated Mongolia for centuries. During the seventh and eighth centuries, they were succeeded by Uyghurs and then by the Khitans and Jurchens. By the tenth century, the country was divided into numerous tribes linked through transient alliances and involved in the old patterns of internal strife.
In the chaos of the late twelfth century, a chieftain named Temüjin finally succeeded in uniting the Mongol tribes between Manchuria and the Altai Mountains. In 1206, he took the title Genghis Khan, and waged a series of military campaigns – renowned for their brutality and ferocity till today – sweeping through much of Asia, and forming the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Under his successors it stretched from present-day Poland in the west to Korea in the east, and from Siberia in the north to the Gulf of Oman and Vietnam in the south, covering some 33,000,000 km² (12,741,000 sq mi), (22% of Earth’s total land area) and having a population of over 100 million people.
After Genghis Khan’s death, the empire had been subdivided into four kingdoms or Khanates which eventually split-up after Möngke’s death in 1259. One of the khanates, the “Great Khanate”, consisting of the Mongol homeland and China, became the Yuan Dynasty under Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. He set up his capital in present day Beijing but after more than a century of power, the Yuan was replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368, with the Mongol court fleeing to the north. As the Ming armies pursued the Mongols into their homeland, they successfully sacked and destroyed the Mongol capital Karakorum among other cities, wiping out the cultural progress that was achieved during the imperial period and thus throwing Mongolia back to anarchy.
The next centuries were marked by violent power struggles between various factions, notably the Genghisids and the non-Genghisid Oirads and numerous Chinese invasions (like the five expeditions led by the Yongle Emperor). In the early 15th century, the Oirads under Esen Tayisi gained the upper hand, and even raided China in 1449 in a conflict over Esen’s right to pay tribute, capturing the Chinese emperor in the process. However, Esen was murdered in 1454, and the Genghisids recovered. In the mid-16th century, Altan Khan of the Tümed, a grandson of Batumöngke – but no legitimate Khan himself – became powerful. He founded Hohhot in 1557 and his meeting with the Dalai Lama in 1578 sparked the second introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia. Abtai Khan of the Khalkha converted to buddhism in 1585 and founded the Erdene Zuu monastery in 1586. His grandson Zanabazar became the first Jebtsundamba Khutughtu in 1640.
The last Mongol Khan was Ligden Khan in the early 17th century. He got into conflicts with the Manchu over the looting of Chinese cities, and managed to alienate most Mongol tribes. He died in 1634 on his way to Tibet, in an attempt to evade the Manchu and destroy the Yellow Church. By 1636, most Inner Mongolian tribes had submitted to the Manchu. The Khalkha eventually submitted to the Qing in 1691, thus bringing all but the west of today’s Mongolia under Beijing’s rule. After several wars, the Dzungars were virtually annihilated in 1757. Until 1911, the Manchu maintained control of Mongolia with a series of alliances and intermarriages, as well as military and economic measures. Ambans, Manchu “high officials”, were installed in Khüree, Uliastai, and Khovd, and the country was subdivided into ever more feudal and ecclesiastical fiefdoms. Over the course of the 19th century, the feudal lords attached more importance to representation and less importance to the responsibilities towards their subjects. In addition the usurous practices of the Chinese traders, along with the collection of imperial taxes in silver instead of animals, resulted in poverty becoming rampant.
With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia declared independence in 1911. The new country’s territory was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia. To no avail the 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the nascent state. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied the capital but their dominance was short-lived. The notorious Russian adventurer “Bloody” Baron Ungern who had fought with the “Whites” against the Red Army in Siberia, led his troops into Mongolia, triumphing over Chinese in Niislel Khüree. He ruled briefly, under the blessing of religious leader Bogd Khan before he was captured and executed by the Red Army assisted by Mongolian units led by Damdin Sükhbaatar. These events led to abolition of the feudal system and ensured the country’s political alignment with Bolshevik Russia.
Mongolian People’s Republic
In 1924, after the death of the religious leader and king Bogd Khan, a Mongolian People’s Republic was proclaimed with support from the Soviets.
In 1928, Khorloogiin Choibalsan rose to power. He instituted collectivisation of livestock, the destruction of Buddhist monasteries and the Mongolia’s enemies of the people persecution resulting in the murder of monks and other people. The Stalinist purges beginning in 1937, affected the Republic as it left more than 30,000 people dead. Japanese imperialism became even more alarming after the invasion of neighboring Manchuria in 1931. During the Soviet-Japanese Border War of 1939, the USSR successfully defended Mongolia against Japanese expansionism. In August 1945 Mongolian forces also took part in the Soviet offensive in Inner Mongolia . The Soviet threat of seizing parts of Inner Mongolia induced the Republic of China to recognize Outer Mongolia’s independence, provided that a referendum was held. The referendum took place on October 20, 1945, with (according to official numbers) 100% of the electorate voting for independence. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, both countries recognized each other again on October 6, 1949.
In January 26, 1952, Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal took power. In 1956 and again in 1962, Choibalsan’s personality cult was condemned. Mongolia continued to align itself closely with the Soviet Union, especially after the Sino-Soviet split of the late 1950s. While Tsedenbal was visiting Moscow in August 1984, his severe illness prompted the parliament to announce his retirement and replace him with Jambyn Batmönkh.
The introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR by Mikhail Gorbachev strongly influenced Mongolian politics leading to the peaceful Democratic Revolution of 1990. This, in turn, allowed the country to begin engaging in economic and diplomatic relations with the Western world. The nation finished its transition from a communist state to a multi-party capitalist democracy with the ratification of a new constitution in 1992.
Location: Northern Asia, between China and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 46 00 N, 105 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 1,564,116 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Alaska
Land boundaries: total: 8,220 km
border countries: China 4,677 km, Russia 3,543 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: desert; continental (large daily and seasonal temperature ranges)
Terrain: vast semidesert and desert plains, grassy steppe, mountains in west and southwest; Gobi Desert in south-central
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Hoh Nuur 518 m
highest point: Nayramadlin Orgil (Huyten Orgil) 4,374 m
Natural resources: oil, coal, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron
Land use: arable land: 0.76%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.24% (2005)
Irrigated land: 840 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 34.8 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.44 cu km/yr (20%/27%/52%)
per capita: 166 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: dust storms, grassland and forest fires, drought, and “zud,” which is harsh winter conditions
Environment – current issues: limited natural fresh water resources in some areas; the policies of former Communist regimes promoted rapid urbanization and industrial growth that had negative effects on the environment; the burning of soft coal in power plants and the lack of enforcement of environmental laws severely polluted the air in Ulaanbaatar; deforestation, overgrazing, and the converting of virgin land to agricultural production increased soil erosion from wind and rain; desertification and mining activities had a deleterious effect on the environment
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia
Mongolia is a parliamentary republic. The parliament is elected by the people and in turn elects the government. The president is elected directly. Mongolia’s constitution guarantees full freedom of expression, religion, and others. Mongolia has a number of political parties, the biggest ones being the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) and the Democratic Party (DP).
The MPRP formed the government of the country from 1921 to 1996 (until 1990 in a one-party system) and from 2000 to 2004. From 2004 to 2006, it was part of a coalition with the DP and two other parties, and since 2006 it has been the dominant party in two other coalitions. Both changes of government after 2004 were initiated by the MPRP. The DP was the dominant force in the ruling coalition between 1996 and 2000, and also an approximately equal partner with the MPRP in the 2004-2006 coalition. The next parliamentary elections are set for June 2008.
Population: 2,996,081 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.4% (male 433,835/female 416,549)
15-64 years: 67.7% (male 1,013,215/female 1,015,221)
65 years and over: 3.9% (male 51,093/female 66,168) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.9 years
male: 24.6 years
female: 25.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.493% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 21.09 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.16 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 41.24 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 44.41 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.92 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 67.32 years
male: 64.92 years
female: 69.84 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.24 children born/woman (2008 est.)
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
North Korean officials insist that the country is committed to the Singapore agreement, which expressed a need for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
A confidential United Nations report argues that North Korea “has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs” and continues to engage in illicit activities in violation of UN sanctions resolutions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remains optimistic but notes that North Korea’s behavior is “inconsistent” with the pledge North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made to US President Donald Trump at their summit in Singapore.
North Korean officials insist the country is committed to upholding the provisions of the Singapore agreement signed by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, but a confidential United Nations report reveals that North Korea “has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs.”
“The [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-US Joint Statement in a responsible and good-faith manner,” North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said Saturday, arguing that North Korea has demonstrated its goodwill through the moratorium on weapons testing and the dismantling of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
North Korea has also released American hostages and began dismantling parts of the Sohae Satellite Launch Station, a facility believed to have played a prominent role in the engine development for one of the new intercontinental ballistic missiles tested for the first time last year. But while Pyongyang has taken certain presumably positive steps, it remains a good distance from reaching the Trump administration’s desired outcome — denuclearization and disarmament. In fact, evidence suggests that North Korea may be moving in the other direction.
A 149-page report analyzing the implementation of United Nations sanctions over a six-month period was submitted to the United Nations Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee late Friday. North Korea “has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” the document put together by a team of independent experts stated, according to Reuters.
In recent weeks, North Korea has been spotted engaging in activities that cast doubt on its commitment to denuclearize. They include producing possible liquid-fueled ICBMs at a location in Sanum-dong,increasing nuclear fuel production at secret enrichment sites like Kangson, making key infrastructure improvements at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, and expanding an important facility in Hamhung dedicated to the development of solid-fueled ballistic missiles.
It is not just the weapons programs that are troubling, though. The United Nations report notes that not only has North Korea been collaborating with Syria’s military and attempting to sell weapons to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, but illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum have “increased in scope, scale and sophistication.”
North Korean vessels were involved in at least 89 illegal ship-to-ship transfers between January 1 and May 30, which resulted in the country importing as much as three times the amount permitted by the United Nations, NK News reported , citing US data.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Friday that North Korea’s behavior is inconsistent with Kim Jong Un’s promise to the president.
“Chairman Kim made a commitment to denuclearize,” Pompeo said , “The world demanded that they do so in the UN Security Council resolutions. To the extent they are behaving in a manner inconsistent with that, they are a) in violation of one or both the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and
b) we can see we still have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate outcome we’re looking for.”
Speaking at the Asian Regional Forum Retreat Session in Singapore Saturday, Pompeo urged Southeast Asian nations to maintain the pressure on North Korea by fully implementing sanctions. At the same event, the North Korean foreign minister said Pyongyang is alarmed by US attitudes.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.
Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.
Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.
Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.
For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.
“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.
“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.
“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen assailants.
“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”
The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.
Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.
“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”
Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.
In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.
The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.
Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.
The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which began in 2007 and could double the Canal’s capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
Christopher Columbus arrives in Panama on his fourth travel, which started in Nicaragua and ended in Panama. It is in this trip he discovers the Chagres river, which in the XX Century it would be the main resource to build the Panama Canal. He arrived to the Caribbean coast where he baptized the area with the name of Portobelo (in English, Beautiful Port). Columbus then explored Veraguas and founded Santa Maria de Belen, which would be the first Spanish settlement on the continent, leaving Bartolome, his brother, in charge.
Eventually, this settlement was destroyed by the local native population and the few surviving members returned to Spain.
Founding of Panama La Vieja
It wasn´t until 1519 when the Spanish decided to settle the new city. This time they chose a site in the Pacific ocean, which was discovered six years before by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. The new city, today known as Panama La Vieja, was founded in August 15th, 1519 by orders of governor Pedrarias Davila and became an important port during the Spanish gold trade from Peru to the Caribbean islands and finally to Europe. The merchandise from all over South America would come into Panama and travel to Portobelo using the Camino de Cruces (old stone road) crossing the jungle and navigating the Chagres river. From Portobelo it would distribute to the islands and then to Spain.
Because of its importance and its location the city was an easy target for pirates. However, protection from pirates was only one of its many problems, as it was settled in a site composed mainly by mangrove land, diseases and fires weakened their position, until it was finally destroyed by pirate Henry Morgan in 1671.
Founding of Casco Antiguo
In 1673 a new city of Panama was founded. This time, a rocky peninsula was chosen, still on the Pacific side. A healthier site with crossed winds and easier to defend from both land and ocean attacks. Called interchangeably Casco Viejo, San Felipe, Catedral or Casco Antiguo, it is from here where Panama would declare independece from Spain and later join and separate from Colombia. It will see the boom and bust of the Gold Rush, the French attempt to build a Canal and later its completion by the United States.
After about 320 years under the rule of the Spanish Empire, on 10 November 1821, independence from Spain was declared in the small town of La Villa, today known as La Heroica. On 28 November, presided by Colonel Jose de Fabrega, a National Assembly was convened and it officially declared the independence of the isthmus of Panama from Spain and its decision to join New Granada, Ecuador and Venezuela in Bolivar’s recently founded Republic of Colombia.
In 1830, Venezuela, Ecuador and other territories left the Gran Colombia, but Panama remained as a province of this country, until July 1831 when the isthmus reiterated its independence, now under General Juan Eligio Alzuru as supreme military commander. In August, military forces under the command of Colonel Tomás Herrera defeated and executed Alzuru and reestablished ties with New Granada.
Ten years later, on November 1840, during a civil war that had begun as a religious conflict, the isthmus declared its independence under the leadership of the now General Tomás Herrera and became the ‘Estado Libre del Istmo’, or the Free State of the Isthmus. The new state established external political and economic ties and drew up a constitution which included the possibility for Panama to rejoin New Granada, but only as a federal district. On June 1841 Tomás Herrera became the President of the Estado Libre del Istmo. But the civil conflict ended and the government of New Granada and the government of the Isthmus negotiated the reincorporation of Panamá to Colombia on December 31, 1841.
In the end, the union between Panama and the Republic of Colombia was made possible by the active participation of the US under the 1846 Bidlack Mallarino Treaty, which lasted until 1903. The treaty granted the US rights to build railroads through Panama and to intervene militarily against revolt to guarantee New Granadine control of Panama. There were at least three attempts by Panamanian Liberals to seize control of Panama and potentially achieve full autonomy, including one led by Liberal guerrillas like Belisario Porras and Victoriano Lorenzo, each of which was suppressed by a collaboration of Conservative Colombian and US forces under the Bidlack Mallarino Treaty.
In 1902 US President Theodore Roosevelt decided to take on the abandoned works of the Panama Canal by the French but the Colombian government in Bogotá balked at the prospect of a US controlled canal under the terms that Roosevelt’s administration was offering. Roosevelt was unwilling to alter its terms and quickly changed tactics, encouraging a minority of Conservative Panamanian landholding families to demand independence, offering military support. On November 3, 1903 Panama finally separated and Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero, a prominent member of the Conservative political party, became the first constitutional President of the Republic of Panama.
In November 1903, Phillipe Bunau-Varilla—a French citizen who was not authorized to sign any treaties on behalf of Panama without the review of the Panamanians—unilaterally signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty which granted rights to the US to build and administer indefinitely the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. This treaty became a contentious diplomatic issue between the two countries, reaching a boiling point on Martyr’s Day (9 January 1964). The issues were resolved with the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties in 1977 returning the former Canal Zone territories to Panama.
The second intent of the founding fathers was to bring peace and harmony between the two major political parties (Conservatives and Liberals). The Panamanian government went through periods of political instability and corruption, however, and at various times in its history, the mandate of an elected president terminated prematurely. In 1968, a coup toppled the government of the recently elected President Arnulfo Arias Madrid.
While never holding the position of President himself, General Omar Torrijos eventually became the de facto leader of Panama. As a military dictator, he was the leading power in the governing military junta and later became an autocratic strong man. Torrijos maintained his position of power until his death in an airplane accident in 1981.
After Torrijos’s death, several military strong men followed him as Panama’s leader. Commander Florencio Flores Aguilar followed Torrijos. Colonel Rubén Darío Paredes followed Aguilar. Eventually, by 1983, power was concentrated in the hands of General Manuel Antonio Noriega.
Manuel Noriega came up through the ranks after serving in the Chiriquí province and in the city of Puerto Armuelles for a time. He was a former head of Panama’s secret police and was an ex-informant of the CIA. But Noriega’s implication in drug trafficking by the United States resulted in difficult relations by the end of the 1980s.
United States invasion of Panama
On 20 December 1989, 27,000 U.S. personnel invaded Panama in order to remove Manuel Noriega. A few hours before the invasion, in a ceremony that took place inside a U.S. military base in the former Panama Canal Zone, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as the new President of Panama. The invasion occurred ten years before the Panama Canal administration was to be turned over to Panamanian authorities, according to the timetable set up by the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. During the fighting, between two hundred   and four thousand Panamanians, mostly civilians, were killed.
Noriega surrendered to the American military shortly after, and was taken to Florida to be formally extradited and charged by U.S. federal authorities on drug and racketeering charges. He became eligible for parole on September 9, 2007, but remained in custody while his lawyers fought an extradition request from France. Critics have pointed out that many of Noriega’s former allies remain in power in Panama.
Under the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, the United States turned over all canal-related lands to Panama on 31 December 1999. Panama also gained control of canal-related buildings and infrastructure as well as full administration of the canal.
The people of Panama have already approved the widening of the canal which, after completion, will allow for post-Panamax vessels to travel through it, increasing the number of ships that currently use the canal.
Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica
Geographic coordinates: 9 00 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 78,200 sq km
land: 75,990 sq km
water: 2,210 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km
Coastline: 2,490 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm or edge of continental margin
Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)
Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Volcan Baru 3,475 m
Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 7.26%
permanent crops: 1.95%
other: 90.79% (2005)
Irrigated land: 430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 148 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.82 cu km/yr (67%/5%/28%)
per capita: 254 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area
Environment – current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography – note: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Politics of Panama takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The branches are according to Panama’s Political Constitution of 1972, reformed by the Actos Reformatorios of 1978, and by the Acto Constitucional in 1983, united in cooperation and limited through the classic system of checks and balances. Three independent organizations with clearly defined responsibilities are found in the Political Constitution. Thus, the Comptroller General of the Republic has the responsibility to manage public funds. There also exists the Electoral Tribunal, which has the responsibility to guarantee liberty, transparency, and the efficacy of the popular vote; and, finally, the Ministry of the Public exists to oversee interests of State and of the municipalities.
Population: 3,309,679 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.6% (male 499,254/female 479,242)
15-64 years: 63.8% (male 1,066,915/female 1,043,499)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 102,937/female 117,832) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 26.7 years
male: 26.3 years
female: 27.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.544% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 20.68 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.71 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.53 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 1.02 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 13.4 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.35 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 76.88 years
male: 74.08 years
female: 79.81 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.57 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.9% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 16,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Panamanian(s)
Ethnic groups: mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Amerindian 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%
Languages: Spanish (official), English 14%; note – many Panamanians bilingual
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 91.9%
female: 91.2% (2000 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2004)
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Israel Retaliates to Syrian Drone Incursion by Hitting Regime Positions near Golan
Thursday, 12 July, 2018 – 09:00
Israeli soldiers stand on tanks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)
Israeli forces carried strikes against Syrian regime positions near the Golan Heights on Thursday in retaliation to a Syrian drone incursion a day earlier.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it hit three targets in retaliation for the incursion by a Syrian drone, which was shot down over northern Israel.
“We are still looking into why it crossed – whether it was on a military mission and crossed on purpose, or it strayed,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman. He said a stray drone was “not common”.
Israeli-issued black-and-white surveillance footage showed missiles hitting what appeared to be a hut, a two-storey structure and a five-storey structure amid hilly terrain.
The Israeli army “holds the Syrian regime accountable for the actions carried out in its territory and warns it from further action against Israeli forces,” the Israeli statement said after the strikes.
Syrian regime media said the positions were near Hader village in Quneitra province, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Israel has grown deeply alarmed by the expanding clout of Iran during the seven-year war in Syria.
Its air force has struck scores of Iranian deployments or arms transfers to Lebanon’s Iran-backed “Hezbollah”.
In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Vladimir Putin, the regime’s key ally, to encourage Iranian forces to quit Syria, a senior Israeli official said.
David Keyes, a Netanyahu spokesman, said: “We don’t get involved in the civil war. We will act against anyone who acts against us.”
The Israeli official who requested anonymity said Russia was working to distance Iranian forces from the Golan and had proposed that they be kept 80 km (50 miles) away but that this fell short of Israel’s demand for their full exit along with that of Tehran-sponsored militias.
Russian officials had no immediate comment on the meeting.
Israel has been on high alert as regime forces advance on opposition factions in the vicinity of the Golan, which Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel worries the regime could allow its Iranian allies to entrench near its lines.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.
(CNN)Never shy about taking credit, President Donald Trump twice recently claimed to have solved a problem that turned out to still be a problem.
He wanted the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be solved after his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last month, and he wanted the problem of children separated by the US government from their parents to be solved with the swipe of his pen on an executive order.
But weeks later, the North Korean nuclear threat still very much exists, and the problem of children separated from their parents has worsened as the US government clearly does not know exactly how many children it has or how to get them back to their parents.
These are unrelated stories, obviously, but they share what’s become a truism of White House — which is that Trump likes to take credit for things he hasn’t quite accomplished. The details will come later.
Trump touts North Korea denuclearization
It’s not unlike the famous old quote attributed to Vermont Sen. George Aitken, a Republican, who put forward a plan for the US in Vietnam in 1966. The United States should declare victory and get out, he’s been quoted as saying. Whether Aitken said it that way or not and what exactly he meant has been debated.
Trump actually did sort of declare victory on North Korea immediately upon touching down on US soil after the summit in June with Kim.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump was basking in success of his trip at the time and clearly wanted it to seem as historic as possible.
But his declaration was premature. The agreement he signed in North Korea was more of an entree into figuring out the details. And his administration, since his tweet, has reaffirmed that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea. Obviously. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shuttles back and forth to hammer out the hard details. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear program continues.
Trump has not been chastened, however. Most recently, he’s sought credit for not being in the middle of a nuclear war.
“Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!”
OK! (Set aside that Trump was the one tempting nuclear war with his previous taunting of Kim. He’s asking for credit for avoiding a war he was inching toward.)
On the subject of the immigrant children, the administration was slow to realize its moral mistake in separating the children from parents at the border. The resulting chaos is just becoming clear.
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
“So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said. And then, just before he signed the executive order, he added, “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”
He hasn’t said much at all about the issue since then.
But problems became apparent immediately. The executive order sought to detain undocumented families together and it ran afoul of a law that mandated children not be detained indefinitely. And while the stated purpose was to reunite families, it’s not clear that’s happened much at all. In fact, the government this week made clear it had separated even more children than previously thought.
But these new examples are something else. They’re Trump taking credit for the efforts of his own administration before his own policies can be enacted, which is why they feel so premature. He’s trying to take credit for things where no credit is yet deserved.
Like this post? Spread the word and share it on social media.