Russia says terror attack foiled at WWII memorial march attended by Netanyahu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia says terror attack foiled at WWII memorial march attended by Netanyahu

Moscow official says Siberian terror groups stockpiled weapons to use at massive Victory Day event; police arrest 20 in connection to plot

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, on May 9, 2018. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

MOSCOW — Russian intelligence foiled a terror attack on this week’s massive Victory Day memorial march in Moscow, a top Russian diplomat said on Friday.

About 1 million people marched through central Moscow on Wednesday in the annual Immortal Regiment rally, carrying pictures of family members killed in World War II. President Vladimir Putin and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the march on May 9, the day when Russia marks the end of the war.

Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with the Tass news agency on Friday that several terror groups in western Siberia had stockpiled weapons for the attack. Twenty people have been detained and 17 homes were searched as part of the investigation, he said.

The announcement came as Russia is gearing up to host the World Cup next month.

Russia’s top intelligence agency last month reported the arrests of men suspected to have links to the Islamic State group in Siberia and the Moscow region. The FSB agency said four members of the suspected IS “sleeper cell” were detained in the Moscow region after they traveled from Novy Urengoi, an oil town in western Siberia. The FSB said they plotted attacks in Moscow and were receiving orders from IS members in Syria via a messaging app.

Oil and gas-rich western Siberia has for decades attracted workers from all over Russia, including the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus.

Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad since 2015, while thousands of its own citizens went off to Syria to join IS in fighting against Assad’s government.

READ MORE:

Uzbekistan: Current Day, And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Uzbekistan

Introduction Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1924. During the Soviet era, intensive production of “white gold” (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry. Independent since 1991, the country seeks to gradually lessen its dependence on agriculture while developing its mineral and petroleum reserves. Current concerns include terrorism by Islamic militants, economic stagnation, and the curtailment of human rights and democratization.
History The territory of Uzbekistan was already populated in the second millennium BC. Early human tools and monuments have been found in the Ferghana, Tashkent, Bukhara, Khorezm (Khwarezm, Chorasmia) and Samarkand regions.

Alexander the Great conquered Sogdiana and Bactria in 327 BC, marrying Roxana, daughter of a local Bactrian chieftain. The conquest was supposedly of little help to Alexander as popular resistance was fierce, causing Alexander’s army to be bogged down in the region. For many centuries the region of Uzbekistan was ruled by Iranian Empires, including the Parthian and Sassanid Empires.

In the fourteenth century AD, Timur, known in the west as Tamerlane, overpowered the Mongols and built an empire. In his military campaigns, Tamerlane reached as far as the Middle East. He defeated Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I, who was captured, and died in captivity. Tamerlane sought to build a capital for his empire in Samarkand. Today Tamerlane is considered to be one of the greatest heroes in Uzbekistan. He plays a significant role in its national identity and history. Following the fall of the Timurid Empire, Uzbek nomads conquered the region.

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand and spread into Central Asia. The “Great Game” period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a second, less intensive phase followed. At the start of the nineteenth century, there were some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia, and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union. On 27 October 1924 the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. On August 31, 1991, Uzbekistan declared independence, marking September 1 as a national holiday.

The country is now the world’s second-largest exporter of cotton, and it is developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

Geography Location: Central Asia, north of Afghanistan
Geographic coordinates: 41 00 N, 64 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 447,400 sq km
land: 425,400 sq km
water: 22,000 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than California
Land boundaries: total: 6,221 km
border countries: Afghanistan 137 km, Kazakhstan 2,203 km, Kyrgyzstan 1,099 km, Tajikistan 1,161 km, Turkmenistan 1,621 km
Coastline: 0 km (doubly landlocked); note – Uzbekistan includes the southern portion of the Aral Sea with a 420 km shoreline
Maritime claims: none (doubly landlocked)
Climate: mostly midlatitude desert, long, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid grassland in east
Terrain: mostly flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along course of Amu Darya, Syr Darya (Sirdaryo), and Zarafshon; Fergana Valley in east surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; shrinking Aral Sea in west
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sariqarnish Kuli -12 m
highest point: Adelunga Toghi 4,301 m
Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, gold, uranium, silver, copper, lead and zinc, tungsten, molybdenum
Land use: arable land: 10.51%
permanent crops: 0.76%
other: 88.73% (2005)
Irrigated land: 42,810 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 72.2 cu km (2003)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 58.34 cu km/yr (5%/2%/93%)
per capita: 2,194 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: shrinkage of the Aral Sea is resulting in growing concentrations of chemical pesticides and natural salts; these substances are then blown from the increasingly exposed lake bed and contribute to desertification; water pollution from industrial wastes and the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides is the cause of many human health disorders; increasing soil salination; soil contamination from buried nuclear processing and agricultural chemicals, including DDT
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world
Politics Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for democracy. The executive holds a great deal of power, and the legislature and judiciary have little power to shape laws. Under terms of a December 27, 1995 referendum, Islam Karimov’s first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to extend the Constitutional Presidential term from 5 years to 7 years. The referendum passed, and Karimov’s term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament, consisting of a lower house (the Oliy Majlis) and an upper house (Senate). Members of the lower house are to be “full time” legislators. Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26, but no truly independent opposition candidates or parties were able to take part. The OSCE limited observation mission concluded that the elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Several political parties have been formed with government approval. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control or rarely broach political topics. Independent political parties were allowed to organize, recruit members and hold conventions and press conferences, but they have been denied registration under restrictive registration procedures. Terrorist bombings were carried out March 28, 2004 – April 1, 2004 in Tashkent and Bukhara.
People Population: 27,345,026 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29% (male 4,047,918/female 3,870,346)
15-64 years: 66% (male 8,971,017/female 9,079,170)
65 years and over: 5% (male 588,498/female 788,077) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 24.3 years
male: 23.8 years
female: 24.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.965% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 17.99 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 5.3 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -3.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 24.23 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 28.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.69 years
male: 68.69 years
female: 74.87 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.01 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 11,000 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: fewer than 500 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Uzbekistani
adjective: Uzbekistani
Ethnic groups: Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (1996 est.)
Religions: Muslim 88% (mostly Sunnis), Eastern Orthodox 9%, other 3%
Languages: Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.3%
male: 99.6%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 11 years
male: 12 years
female: 11 years (2007)
Education expenditures: 9.4% of GDP (1991)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Uzbekistan
conventional short form: Uzbekistan
local long form: Ozbekiston Respublikasi
local short form: Ozbekiston
former: Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Capital: name: Tashkent (Toshkent)
geographic coordinates: 41 20 N, 69 18 E
time difference: UTC+5 (10 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 12 provinces (viloyatlar, singular – viloyat), 1 autonomous republic* (respublika), and 1 city** (shahar); Andijon Viloyati, Buxoro Viloyati, Farg’ona Viloyati, Jizzax Viloyati, Namangan Viloyati, Navoiy Viloyati, Qashqadaryo Viloyati (Qarshi), Qoraqalpog’iston Respublikasi [Karakalpakstan]* (Nukus), Samarqand Viloyati, Sirdaryo Viloyati (Guliston), Surxondaryo Viloyati (Termiz), Toshkent Shahri**, Toshkent Viloyati, Xorazm Viloyati (Urganch)
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Independence: 1 September 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 1 September (1991)
Constitution: adopted 8 December 1992
Legal system: based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Islom KARIMOV (since 24 March 1990, when he was elected president by the then Supreme Soviet)
head of government: Prime Minister Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV (since 11 December 2003); First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam AZIMOV (since 2 January 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president with approval of the Supreme Assembly
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term; previously was a five-year term, extended by constitutional amendment in 2002); election last held 23 December 2007 (next to be held in 2014); prime minister, ministers, and deputy ministers appointed by the president
election results: Islom KARIMOV reelected president; percent of vote – Islom KARIMOV 88.1%, Asliddin RUSTAMOV 3.2%, Dilorom T0SHMUHAMEDOVA 2.9%, Akmal SAIDOV 2.6%
Legislative branch: bicameral Supreme Assembly or Oliy Majlis consists of an upper house or Senate (100 seats; 84 members are elected by regional governing councils and 16 appointed by the president; to serve five-year terms) and a lower house or Legislative Chamber (120 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 26 December 2004 and 9 January 2005 (next to be held December 2009)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – NA; Legislative Chamber – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – LDPU 41, NDP 32, Fidokorlar 17, MTP 11, Adolat 9, unaffiliated 10
note: all parties in the Supreme Assembly support President KARIMOV
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Supreme Assembly)
Political parties and leaders: Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party [Dilorom TOSHMUHAMEDOVA]; Democratic National Rebirth Party (Milliy Tiklanish) or MTP [Hurshid DOSMUHAMMEDOV]; Fidokorlar National Democratic Party (Self-Sacrificers) [Ahtam TURSUNOV]; Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan or LDPU [Adham SHADMANOV; People’s Democratic Party or NDP (formerly Communist Party) [Asliddin RUSTAMOV]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Agrarian and Entrepreneurs’ Party [Marat ZAHIDOV]; Birlik (Unity) Movement [Abdurahim POLAT, chairman]; Committee for the Protection of Human Rights [Marat ZAHIDOV]; Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party [Muhammad SOLIH, chairman] (was banned 9 December 1992); Ezgulik Human Rights Society [Vasila INOYATOVA]; Free Farmers’ Party or Ozod Dehqonlar [Nigora HIDOYATOVA]; Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan [Talib YAKUBOV, chairman]; Independent Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan [Mikhail ARDZINOV, chairman]; Mazlum; Sunshine Coalition [Sanjar UMAROV, chairman]
International organization participation: ADB, CIS, CSTO, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, SCO, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Abdulaziz KAMILOV
chancery: 1746 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 887-5300
FAX: [1] (202) 293-6804
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Richard B. NORLAND
embassy: 3 Moyqo’rq’on, 5th Block, Yunusobod District, Tashkent 100093
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [998] (71) 120-5450
FAX: [998] (71) 120-6335
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and green separated by red fimbriations with a white crescent moon and 12 white stars in the upper hoist-side quadrant
Culture Uzbekistan has a wide mix of ethnic groups and cultures, with the Uzbek being the majority group. In 1995 about 71% of Uzbekistan’s population was Uzbek. The chief minority groups were Russians (8%), Tajiks (5%), Kazaks (4%), Tatars (2.5%) and Karakalpaks (2%). It is said, however, that the number of non-Uzbek people living in Uzbekistan is decreasing as Russians and other minority groups slowly leave and Uzbeks return from other parts of the former Soviet Union.

When Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, there was concern that Muslim fundamentalism would spread across the region. The expectation was that a country long denied freedom of religious practice would undergo a very rapid increase in the expression of its dominant faith. As of 1994, well over half of Uzbekistan’s population was said to be Muslim, though in an official survey few of that number had any real knowledge of the religion or knew how to practice it. However, Islamic observance is increasing in the region.

Uzbekistan has a high literacy rate, with about 99.3% of adults above the age of 15 being able to read and write. However with only 88% of the under-15 population currently enrolled in education, this figure may drop in the future. Uzbekistan has encountered severe budgeting shortfalls in its education program. The education law of 1992 began the process of theoretical reform, but the physical base has deteriorated and curriculum revision has been slow.

Uzbekistan’s universities churn out almost 600,000 graduates annually.

Economy Economy – overview: Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country of which 11% consists of intensely cultivated, irrigated river valleys. More than 60% of its population lives in densely populated rural communities. Uzbekistan is now the world’s second-largest cotton exporter and fifth largest producer; it relies heavily on cotton production as the major source of export earnings and has come under increasing international criticism for the use of child labor in its annual cotton harvest. Other major export earners include gold, natural gas, and oil. Following independence in September 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. While aware of the need to improve the investment climate, the government still sponsors measures that often increase, not decrease, its control over business decisions. A sharp increase in the inequality of income distribution has hurt the lower ranks of society since independence. In 2003, the government accepted Article VIII obligations under the IMF, providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and tightening of borders have lessened the effects of convertibility and have also led to some shortages that have further stifled economic activity. The Central Bank often delays or restricts convertibility, especially for consumer goods. Potential investment by Russia and China in Uzbekistan’s gas and oil industry, as well as increased cooperation with South Korea in the realm of civil aviation, may boost growth prospects. In November 2005, Russian President Vladimir PUTIN and Uzbekistan President KARIMOV signed an “alliance,” which included provisions for economic and business cooperation. Russian businesses have shown increased interest in Uzbekistan, especially in mining, telecom, and oil and gas. In 2006, Uzbekistan took steps to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurASEC), which it subsequently left in 2008, both organizations dominated by Russia. Uzbek authorities have accused US and other foreign companies operating in Uzbekistan of violating Uzbek tax laws and have frozen their assets.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $72.76 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $26.62 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 8.3% (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,700 (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 28.2%
industry: 33.9%
services: 37.9% (2008 est.)
Labor force: 15.28 million (2008 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 44%
industry: 20%
services: 36% (1995)
Unemployment rate: 0.9% officially by the Ministry of Labor, plus another 20% underemployed (2008 est.)
Population below poverty line: 33% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 29.6% (2003)
Distribution of family income – Gini index: 36.8 (2003)
Budget: revenues: $8.005 billion
expenditures: $8.127 billion (2008 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Public debt: 13.6% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 13.5% officially, but 38% based on analysis of consumer prices (2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $36.89 million (2005)
Agriculture – products: cotton, vegetables, fruits, grain; livestock
Industries: textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, gold, petroleum, natural gas, chemicals
Electricity – production: 48.79 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity – consumption: 42.23 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – exports: 11.52 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – imports: 11.44 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 88.2%
hydro: 11.8%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Oil – production: 99,260 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil – consumption: 157,100 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil – exports: 11,940 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – imports: 31,440 bbl/day (2005)
Oil – proved reserves: 594 million bbl (1 January 2008 est.)
Natural gas – production: 65.19 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – consumption: 51.18 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – exports: 14.01 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas – proved reserves: 1.841 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)
Current account balance: $5.726 billion (2008 est.)
Exports: $9.96 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Exports – commodities: cotton, gold, energy products, mineral fertilizers, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, textiles, food products, machinery, automobiles
Exports – partners: Russia 22.4%, Poland 10.4%, Turkey 9.4%, Kazakhstan 6.1%, Hungary 6%, China 5.6%, Ukraine 4.8%, Bangladesh 4.3% (2007)
Imports: $6.5 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals
Imports – partners: Russia 30.1%, China 13.3%, South Korea 13%, Germany 6.3%, Kazakhstan 6.2%, Ukraine 4% (2007)
Economic aid – recipient: $172.3 million from the US (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $10.15 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt – external: $4.052 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home: $NA
Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad: $NA
Currency (code): soum (UZS)
Currency code: UZS
Exchange rates: Uzbekistani soum (UZS) per US dollar – 1,317 (2008 est.), 1,263.8 (2007), 1,219.8 (2006), 1,020 (2005), 971.265 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 1.821 million (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 10.4 million (2008)
Telephone system: general assessment: antiquated and inadequate; in serious need of modernization
domestic: the main line telecommunications system is dilapidated and telephone density is low; the state-owned telecommunications company, Uzbektelecom, is using loans from the Japanese government and the China Development Bank to improve mainline services; completion of conversion to digital exchanges planned for 2010; mobile services are growing rapidly, with the subscriber base reaching 10.4 million in 2008
international: country code – 998; linked by fiber-optic cable or microwave radio relay with CIS member states and to other countries by leased connection via the Moscow international gateway switch; after the completion of the Uzbek link to the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable, Uzbekistan plans to establish a fiber-optic connection to Afghanistan (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 12, shortwave 3 (2008)
Radios: 10.8 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 28 (includes 1 cable rebroadcaster in Tashkent and approximately 20 stations in regional capitals) (2006)
Televisions: 6.4 million (1997)
Internet country code: .uz
Internet hosts: 38,183 (2008)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 42 (2000)
Internet users: 2.1 million (2008)
Transportation Airports: 54 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 33
over 3,047 m: 6
2,438 to 3,047 m: 13
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 4 (2007)
Airports – with unpaved runways: total: 21
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
under 914 m: 19 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 9,725 km; oil 868 km (2007)
Railways: total: 3,950 km
broad gauge: 3,950 km 1.520-m gauge (620 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways: total: 86,496 km
paved: 75,511 km
unpaved: 10,985 km (2000)
Waterways: 1,100 km (2008)
Ports and terminals: Termiz (Amu Darya)
Military Military branches: Army, Air and Air Defense Forces, National Guard
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for compulsory military service; 1-year conscript service obligation; moving toward a professional military, but conscription will continue; the military cannot accommodate everyone who wishes to enlist, and competition for entrance into the military is similar to the competition for admission to universities (2007)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 7,480,484
females age 16-49: 7,542,017 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 5,684,540
females age 16-49: 6,432,976 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 324,094
female: 323,923 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures: 2% of GDP (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: prolonged drought and cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan creates water-sharing difficulties for Amu Darya river states; field demarcation of the boundaries with Kazakhstan commenced in 2004; border delimitation of 130 km of border with Kyrgyzstan is hampered by serious disputes around enclaves and other areas
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 39,202 (Tajikistan); 1,060 (Afghanistan)
IDPs: 3,400 (forced population transfers by government from villages near Tajikistan border) (2007)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Uzbekistan is a source country for women and girls trafficked to Kazakhstan, Russia, Middle East, and Asia for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; men are trafficked to Kazakhstan and Russia for purposes of forced labor in the construction, cotton, and tobacco industries; men and women are also trafficked internally for the purposes of domestic servitude, forced labor in the agricultural and construction industries, and for commercial sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Uzbekistan is on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in 2007; the government did not amend its criminal code to increase penalties for convicted traffickers; in March 2008, Uzbekistan adopted ILO Conventions on minimum age of employment and on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and is working with the ILO on implementation; the government also demonstrated its increasing commitment to combat trafficking in March 2008 by adopting a comprehensive anti-trafficking law; Uzbekistan has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008)
Illicit drugs: transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russian and, to a lesser extent, Western European markets; limited illicit cultivation of cannabis and small amounts of opium poppy for domestic consumption; poppy cultivation almost wiped out by government crop eradication program; transit point for heroin precursor chemicals bound for Afghanistan

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syria blames Israel for missile strike near Damascus

Screenshot from Syrian state TV apparently the downing of Israeli missiles near DamascusImage copyrightAFP
Image captionSyrian state TV broadcast footage it said showed the downing of Israeli missiles near Damascus

Israel is reported to have carried out a missile strike on a military outpost south of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Syria’s state news agency Sana said two missiles were shot down in the Kiswah area on Tuesday night, and that two civilians were killed in an explosion.

But a monitoring group said the missiles hit an Iranian weapons depot, killing 15 pro-government fighters.

Israel declined to comment. But the reports came after it noted “irregular activity” by Iranian forces in Syria.

The Israeli military placed its troops in the occupied Golan Heights on high alert and urged civilians to prepare bomb shelters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile flew to Moscow to discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the Syrian government.

Syrian state television broadcast video footage overnight which it said showed air defences intercepting two missiles fired towards Kiswah, about 10km (6 miles) south-west of Damascus.

Sana reported that a man and his wife were killed by an explosion resulting from the interceptions as they drove along the Damascus-Deraa motorway.

A commander in a regional military alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters news agency that the missiles targeted a Syrian army base.

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that the missiles struck weapons depots and missile launchers belonging to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards force.

Eight members of the Revolutionary Guards and several other non-Syrian nationals were among at least 15 pro-government fighters who were killed, it said.

Presentational grey line

‘Deepening sense of crisis’

By Jonathan Marcus, defence correspondent, BBC News

Israel’s reported pre-emptive strike on an Iranian missile battery in Syria last night underscores the deepening sense of crisis in the region.

These are the opening skirmishes in what could develop into a brutal war that may sweep across Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Both the US and Russia (which the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting on Wednesday) have a crucial role in determining both the context and scope of any conflict; of determining whether it will be more or less likely. US President Donald Trump is likely to embolden Iran’s hardliners with his decision to pull out of the nuclear deal.

Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and its relationship with Tehran present worrying possibilities for Israel. If it wanted, Moscow could significantly limit the Israeli Air Force’s freedom of action, either by supplying advanced air defences to Syria or by using its own assets already located in the country.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Putin have a lot to talk about.

Presentational grey line

Last year, a Western intelligence source told the BBC that the Iranian military had established a compound near Kiswah. It was subsequently targeted in a missile strike attributed to Israel.

Iran is an ally of Mr Assad and has deployed hundreds of troops to Syria. Thousands of militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran – mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – have also been fighting alongside the Syrian army.

Israel has not commented on the reports, but its government has vowed to stop what it considers Iran’s military “entrenchment” in Syria.

On 8 April, Israeli missiles are alleged to have hit an airbase in Homs province – reportedly serving as an Iranian drone command centre and containing an advanced Iranian air defence system – killing seven Iranian personnel.

And on 29 April, a suspected Israeli missile strike on an Iranian missile depot near the city of Hama reportedly killed a number of pro-government fighters.

High alert

Tensions in the region escalated on Tuesday when the Israeli military said it had detected “irregular Iranian activity” by Iranian forces in Syria and placed troops on “high alert for an attack”.

The military said it was “prepared for various scenarios” and warned Iran and its proxies that “any aggression against Israel will be met with a severe response”.

Local media said it was the first time there had been an order for local authorities in the Golan to prepare shelters in the occupied area since the Syrian civil war began.

Israeli outlets also reported that the military was calling up a number of reservists.

It came as President Donald Trump said the US would quit the Iran nuclear deal.

Going against advice from European allies, he said he would reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted when the deal was signed in 2015.

Israel’s prime minister said he fully supported Mr Trump’s decision, asserting that the deal had “dramatically increased” Iranian “aggression” across the Middle East.

Map of Golan Heights

Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

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Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”

Records Show Trump Lied To FBI About Spending Nights In Moscow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Flight Records Disprove Trump’s Claim About ‘Pee Tape’ Weekend Whereabouts

The president insisted he didn’t spend a night in Moscow. Records show he did.

President Donald Trump reportedly told former FBI Director James Comey — twice — that he didn’t spend a single night in Moscow when the infamous “pee tape” was allegedly made.

But Bloomberg and Politico have obtained flight records for Trump’s jet that indicate he actually spent two nights in the Russian capital when he traveled there for the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013.

A dossier of information about Trump collected by former British agent Christopher Steele claims that Russian agents secretly filmed Trump at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton that weekend as he instructed prostitutes to urinate on a bed that then-President Barack Obama had slept in.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump traveled to Moscow on a plane owned by casino mogul Phil Ruffin. Bloomberg and Politico obtained flight records for a Bombardier Global Express jet owned by Ruffin Development Expositions that left the U.S. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 and landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport the following day. The jet left the city early Sunday at 3:58 a.m. after Trump attended the pageant.

Ruffin’s spokeswoman Michelle Knoll confirmed to Politico that Trump used the aircraft for his trip.

It’s not known which night the tape was allegedly recorded, but Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller testified last year that he turned down an offer from an unknown Russian to send five sex workers to Trump’s Moscow hotel room at some point that weekend, sources told NBC. Schiller said he kept an eye on Trump’s hotel room for a while, then went to bed himself.

Trump’s own social media accounts seem to support the argument that he was in Russia at least overnight. In one Facebook post, Trump poses in a photo outside Nobu Moscow on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. The pageant was held on Saturday. On Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that he’d “just got back from Russia.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.

 

After Trump became president, Comey said he warned him about Steele’s dossier, which had been turned over to the FBI. Trump denied spending a single night in Moscow. Comey told ABC this month that Trump responded by asking, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” (Comey added: “I assumed he was asking that rhetorically.”)

Trump also said he’d “spoken to people who had been on … the trip … and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia,” Comey recalled in a memo. Trump insisted again later in the Oval Office that he “hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip,” Comey wrote.

In addition, Trump told his FBI director that he could never go for the “golden showers thing” because “I’m … a germaphobe,” Comey wrote in his memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

If Trump deliberately lied to Comey, it could indicate “consciousness of guilt” and could bolster a case against him by special counsel Robert Mueller, former federal prosecutor Pete Zeidenberg told Politico.

Trump’s Miss Universe pageant has posed multiple problems for the president. The New Yorker reported earlier this year that Trump has used the pageant to cultivate potential business partners, including in Russia, where he hoped to build a Trump tower. In 2013, he cemented an alliance with father and singer son Aras and Emin Agalarov, who hosted the pageant in Moscow.

In the summer of 2016, a publicist for Emin Agalarov emailed Donald Trump Jr. offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Donald Jr. replied: “I love it” — and later attended a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, among others.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

The People Of Russia, China And U.S. Aren’t Enemy’s: Only Our Leaders Are That Stupid

The People Of Russia, China And U.S. Aren’t Enemy’s: Only Our Leaders Are That Stupid

The people of the great country’s of Russia and America have no interest in killing each other. Both of our nations people want the same things, peace, prosperity and security for ourselves and our families. We the people of almost all nations do not want warfare, only Generals, people in the ‘security agencies’, and people who make the war machines want armed conflicts with each other. It is only they and a few ignorant morons in the Kremlin and in the West Wing at the White House who would ever wish such ignorance to exist. The people of Russia and the people of the United States know that there is over a billion people on this planet who hate all of us, but it is not each other! The average citizen of both country’s want a good roof over their heads, enough food for our families, transportation, heat and air conditioning, lights, and the trash to get picked up off our streets at least once a week. It is the job of our governments to provide these things in exchange for their salaries and benefit packages. It is not their jobs to try to cause wars with other nations people for the end results of such stupidity is always the same, a lot of dead innocent civilians.

 

I knew that from the time the Berlin wall fell in November of 1989 up until the time that President Putin first took office in 1999 that the American politicians and Hollywood movies painting all of Russia, their leaders, and their military as a bunch of incompetent clowns, that they were making a huge mistake. Russia’s former Communist military leaders, and KGB leaders did what all such people do, they threw incompetence and graft destroy their own country’s and imprison their own people. Those who dare disagree with them or point their evil out to the public or their shortfalls end up dead or in prison. Hollywood, our political leaders, and our military leaders just kept stepping all over the pride of the people of the great country of Russia and quite frankly they were doing this same thing toward China. These idiots kept saying that America was the ‘ last remaining super power’ while stomping all over the national pride of these great nations.

 

Russia, America, and China all have one common enemy and only fools pit us against each other when we all have an enemy that wants everyone in all three of these nations to die as quickly as possible. What appears obvious to me is that none of our top leaders seem to understand the level of the danger they are putting their own people in by dividing their attention away from our real enemy. All three of these nations leaders are making huge mistakes by working against each other when we should all be striving to be working on economic and security partnerships. This common enemy of all the nations on Earth is the religion of Islam. China, Russia, and the United States have all lost thousands of our innocent men, women and children to this religion that is based in pure hate. The President of the great people of China, Mr. XI seems far more interested in expanding his military reach to the east and south when he should know damn well that their real enemy lies at their west and southwest.

 

This article today though is mostly about the leaders of Russia and America. I am directly speaking about President Putin and President Trump. This paragraph is going to be about President Trump thus saving the end of the article to talk to President Putin. Those of you who follow this blog know that I have followed the career of Mr. Trump since he became the face of greed and hypocrisy. As I have stated several times the opinion that I formed of him ten years or more ago has not changed in that everything he has done as the President has only strengthened that opinion of him. This opinion is that he is and has always been a person of no faith system as his religion, what he worships is himself and he is no friend to any of our three nations. The world suffered through eight years of the war criminal George W Bush now we get a President who is nothing short of a traitor (my opinion/belief).

 

I would like to finish this article talking about President Putin of Russia. When President Putin first took office in 1999 I understood the Russian people voting in “a strong man”, a man of guts and a strong will. President Putin was able to help the nation to regain its pride and swagger and that is a very good thing but his efforts to spread his ‘military wings’ has been at the expense of the lives and lively hood of the Russian people. If Mr. Putin had retired after those first ten years in office his people would be in much better shape financially than they are today. From the outside looking in it appears that Mr. Putin has been doing his best to revert the country back to having a Communist Dictator, himself. President Putin, just like President Trump, have been working with and cutting deals in the Middle-East. President Putin seems set on backing the Countries of Shiite Islamic Nations and kicking sand in the face of the Sunni Nations. President Trump on the other hand seems to have aligned our policies with the Sunni Islamic Nations. The people of these Islamic believing nations hate the guts of all the Russian and American people. There is no such thing as having any of them as ‘a friend or ally’. I totally understood President Putin’s stance on backing President al-Assad of Syria (Shiite) being that he allowed Russia to have a Naval Base located there. It obviously didn’t hurt that Syria for an Islamic country was quite secular in its makeup. But now that Syria is in this horrible civil war President Putin has become cozier with the Shiite governments of Iraq and of Iran which makes all the Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia very upset.

 

The leaders of these big three nations had better wake up very soon and decide to come together to combat the terminal cancer which is Islam itself. If the leaders of Russia, China, and America do not wise up and stop trying to show each other who has the biggest cannon they will all three drown in the blood of their own people. The people of Russia, China, and America are not each others enemy, we have no interest in these ‘military games’. From this side of the ocean it appears that President Putin has gone rogue on his own people and is steeling all of Russia’s wealth for himself and his associates. That sounds just like the Republicans and the Democrats here in America. These three leaders, these three governments must work together as trading partners and friends otherwise it is the people of the world, not just our three country’s that will go up in black flag induced smoke.

The Prime Minister Of Armenia Has Resigned

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, has stepped down following days of mass demonstrations in the streets of the capital Yerevan over what was seen as an unconstitutional power grab by the former president.

Sargsyan previously served two, five-year terms as president of the former Soviet Republic. First elected in 2008, he served as the country’s head of state until he was appointed prime minister earlier this month.
Armenian policemen detain an opposition supporter during a rally in central Yerevan on April 21, 2018, held to protest former president Serzh Sargsyan's election as prime minister.

Over the weekend Nikol Pashinyan, an opposition MP and leader of the protests, was arrested but was released Monday shortly before the announcement.
“Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was wrong,” Sargsyan said in a statement published on the state-owned Armenpress website.
“The situation has several solutions, but I will not take any of them. That is not mine. I am leaving office of the country’s leader, of Prime Minister. The street movement is against my tenure. I am fulfilling your demand. Peace, harmony and reasoning for our country,” he said.
Sargsyan took office as Prime Minister after being elected by parliament on April 17, eight days after his presidency ended.
His handpicked successor, Armen Sargsyan, no relation, was sworn in as President on April 9.
Under constitutional changes promoted by Serzh Sargsyan in 2015, the office of prime minister in Armenia became more powerful than that of president leading to concern of authoritarian rule descending on the country.
Sargsyan had previously said he would not try to become prime minster.
Reports and video posted on social media showed scenes of jubilation in the capital Yerevan.
Sargsyan, 63, was a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Armenia Thrown into More Turmoil as Soldiers Join Protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Armenia Thrown into More Turmoil as Soldiers Join Protests

Monday, 23 April, 2018 – 09:00
Law enforcement officers disperse protesters at a rally against the appointment of ex-president Serzh Sarkisian as the new premier in Yerevan, Armenia. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A group of Armenian soldiers joined on Monday anti-government protests that have swept the capital Yerevan and other cities for almost two weeks.

Images of hundreds of men wearing military uniforms marching with protesters had earlier appeared on a live stream of the demonstrations being broadcast on the Internet.

The Defense Ministry condemned the soldiers who took part in the illegal protests, vowing that “harsh legal measures” will be taken against them.

Earlier opposition supporters staged more protests in the capital, a day after protest leader and lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan was detained by authorities.

On the eleventh day of the protests, hundreds of students, some medical students in white coats, marched arm-in-arm through the streets, holding Armenian flags.

Young men in small groups briefly blocked roads and shouted slogans such as “Join us!” and “Victory” and Pashinyan’s name as drivers beeped their horns in support.

The demonstrations, which drew tens of thousands in Yerevan over the weekend, are protesting the rule of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the country’s former president.

The whereabouts of Pashinyan, the leader of the Civil Contract Party, were unclear after he was detained. As a lawmaker, Pashinyan is protected by parliamentary immunity and cannot be arrested without the approval of fellow MPs.

His lawyer Rustam Badasyan wrote on Facebook: “There is no answer to the question where he is.”

The speaker of the country’s parliament, the National Assembly, met Pashinyan and the other detained politicians overnight, however, the parliament’s spokesman told AFP, without giving details.

The speaker Ara Babloyan was quoted as saying that he urged Pashinyan and the others “to take part in real talks.”

Pashinyan and two other opposition politicians “were detained as they were committing socially dangerous acts”, the prosecutor general’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

Sarkisian earlier on Sunday stormed out of tense televised talks with Pashinyan, accusing him of “blackmail.”

“I am telling you: you have no understanding of the situation in the country. The situation is different to the one you knew 15-20 days ago,” he told Sarkisian.

“The situation in Armenia has changed, you don’t have the power of which you are told. In Armenia, the power has passed to the people,” he said.

Pashinyan last week announced the “start of a peaceful velvet revolution” in the landlocked country of 2.9 million people.

Nearly 200 people were detained at protest rallies held across Yerevan on Sunday, while on Monday the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said that 26 had been detained on suspicion of “hooliganism” and use of violence against police.

In a statement, the European Union’s foreign policy arm called for more dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

“All those who have been detained while exercising their fundamental right of assembly in accordance with the law must be released immediately,” it said.

“It is of utmost importance that all parties involved show restraint and act responsibly.”

Sarkisian was elected prime minister by lawmakers last week under a new parliamentary system of government that transfers power from the presidency to the premier, while the president becomes largely a ceremonial role.

Sarkisian, a shrewd former military officer, was first elected as president of the impoverished Moscow-allied country in 2008.

After that poll, 10 people died in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

He was reelected in 2013, with his second and final term ending April 9.

The protests, though peaceful so far, threaten to destabilize a key Russian ally in a volatile region riven by a long low level conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and would, if successful, be a rare example of people power delivering reform in the former Soviet Union.

Critics accuse Sarkisian of ruling the South Caucasus nation for too long, of being too close to Russia which has military bases inside Armenia, and of doing too little to root out corruption.

Sarkisian says his country needs him and that his party enjoys large-scale popular support.

Should The Public Be Told If Our Lives Are In Danger?

Should The Public Be Told If Our Lives Are In Danger?

What is your first response to this question, is it something like “well of course we want to know”? But if we take a moment to analyze the breath of that question, would we? How much information is enough information for a government to issue warnings or for them to shut down a transportation grid? Then again, how does a law enforcement agency decide which warning signs to pay attention to or even which people to believe when they get a tip? If every law enforcement agency in the country submitted every single threat they receive to their superiors (government politicians) there would never be enough well-trained investigators to follow-up on them all. If you had the option to look back throughout your life and see and to be told every time that you were in some serious bodily danger but had skated on by without noticing it, would you really have wanted to know ahead of time of that danger? If so, what if you had then acted differently thus causing you and or others physical harm or even your lives?

 

As most everyone in the wired world knows by now a Russian Commercial airplane was blown out of the sky by an ISIS bomb over northern Egypt two years ago this month. This act of murder and yes this act of war by the ISIS State killed 224 people of which 219 were Russian citizens. I have read articles where other travelers had said they had seen an increase in security at this same airport (Sharm el-Sheikh airport) where this flight, #9268 had just left. These people tell us that a surface to air missile was fired at another commercial airline jet in late August of this year in this same area. So the question comes to bear, how many of these now dead people would have taken the chance of taking their family vacations there if they had known about the missile attack? How many would have said no, no I will not take that chance with the lives of my family? Another question, if everyone knew everything about everything, would anything ever go forward and be accomplished? As a society would most folks cower in a corner crying and peeing in their boots if they knew of all of the threats to their lives everyday? How much information is enough information and whom is it that is to decide that issue for us before we ever become aware that it is an issue? Could it be that this is one of those questions that either has no answer at all, or about seven billion of them?

Iran Is Going To Strike Israel The Only Question Is How And When

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

Will Iran attack Israel over the Syrian conflict? It’s only a matter of time

Dror Michman and Yael Mizrahi-Arnaud

As the dust settles following last weekend’s U.S.-French-British attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, the countdown to the next round of military conflict between Israel and Iran has begun. Last week, Israel once again targeted the T-4 (Tiyas) base in Syria, which houses Iranian drone forces, killing 7 Iranians and apparently destroying a drone infrastructure project. This is the same base from which an Iranian drone was launched in February, which the Israeli air force intercepted. Israel then hit the T-4 base and an Israeli aircraft downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.

Authors

An Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel is likely in the works. Where and how Tehran chooses to carry out its attack is still unclear, but for reasons that we describe below, it is most likely to be a rocket or missile attack launched from Syria. The choice will define what to expect for the future of Iranian and Israeli confrontations.

THE “WHY” QUESTION

There are very clear signals that this time Iran would indeed retaliate. Iranian media gave extensive coverage to the Israeli attack on T-4 last week. Iranian leaders, most noticeably Ali Akbar Velayati, the top advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, issued direct threats of retaliation. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, also warned Israel that this time there would be a steep price to pay; the highly publicized funerals of Quds forces personnel was the latest such indication. Iran is now both deeply and publicly committed to retaliate. The stage is set.

Iran is determined to cash in on its huge investment in Syria, by improving its military presence and the means with which to pressure Israel. Ultimately, its aim is to firmly establish itself as a regional power. Meanwhile, Israel is determined not to repeat the mistake it made in Lebanon—watching from the sidelines as the Iranian threat from Hezbollah intensified. Israel has made clear its intention to combat the threat from the start, while it remains manageable.

In Israel’s view, the time to act is ripe due to both geopolitical and strategic factors. First, Russia’s desire to keep the situation in Syria relatively stable puts Israel in the unique position of acting as a potential disrupter. Israel thus has leverage over the larger, and more powerful Russian state. Second, Israel’s freedom to operate in Syria’s skies may be limited in the future by improved Iranian or Syrian anti-aircraft capabilities, or by an international accord.

THE “HOW” QUESTION

While the intentions are clear, there remains considerable debate over what form the retaliation would take. In the Middle East, these nuances matter. There are several possibilities and each carries a different prospect for an Israeli counter-response.

A missile salvo appears to be the most appropriate Iranian response, both in terms of capabilities and risk calculation (and mirroring the Israeli missiles launched at T-4). However, the more crucial question is what target they will choose.

A military target appears to be the more appropriate response. A quid-pro-quo attack, aiming to deal a lethal blow to the Israel Defense Force’s reputation—or even better, the Israeli air force, since an F-16 fighter-jet (an emblem of Israel’s prowess), was downed in February. But a more effective deterrent may lie in targeting a big city—thereby eliciting a panic effect, even if it is intercepted by Israeli defense systems. The goal from the Iranian perspective may be to create public pressure that in turn would work to alter Israel’s risk calculation in Syria. On the down side, civilian centers are a less legitimate target, and might put Iran in an uncomfortable position internationally, when such a spotlight is the last thing Iran needs as worldwide concern over Iran’s intervention in the region crescendos.

The second dilemma facing the Iranians is from where to launch the missiles, the options being Iran, Syria, or Lebanon.

Launching from Iran will naturally send a strong message to Israel, both in terms of capabilities and determination. The clear disadvantage of this choice would be the legitimization of an Israeli counter-response in Iran, and yet another unnecessary escalation, for the time being, from the Iranian perspective.

Lebanon is well equipped with a variety of missiles, in both range and size, and therefore a convenient location for the Iranians. However, an escalation in Lebanon is far more damaging for all parties involved. It has the possibility to ignite a war between Israel and Hezbollah, and to harm crucial Hezbollah arsenals and infrastructure, serving neither Iranian nor Hezbollah’s interests.

Hezbollah is not interested in war at the moment, as its leaders are preoccupied with solidifying its image as the “protector” ahead of Lebanon’s parliamentary elections in May. The numerous casualties in Syria, and the fact the group still has close to 7,000 troops on the ground there, complicate this picture.

The most sensible option remains Syria, the arena with the least risk for the Iranians, and the relevant stage of the recent skirmishes. Yet, there are two main challenges that remain to be mitigated: the delicate relationship with the Russians and the risk of further damaging Iranians assets and capabilities in Syria, in case Israel will be forced to respond.

In order to avoid putting stress on the Russians, the Iranians would retaliate in a fashion the Russians would find tolerable and containable. Russia expressed its anger after the last Israeli attack, and therefore will most likely tolerate some sort of measured Iranian response. The question is: What does Russia consider measured? Possibly anything that doesn’t pose a substantial threat to stability in Syria and wouldn’t provoke an Israeli escalated response.

This appears to be an impossible equation to solve. Iran wants to buttress its deterrence capability after Israel proved willing to pay a steep price in order to prevent Iran from establishing another front in Syria (from where they could threaten Israeli security, as they have done in Lebanon with Hezbollah in the past).

After outlining the possible scenarios, an Iranian strike will most likely be a missile strike from Syria, aimed at a significant Israeli military target. In order to hit the target, it will have to be substantial in size. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the target is hit and Israel’s response will be contained, unless the damage—both in lives and in capabilities—is negligible.

Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink.

Predicting the long-term prospects and evolution of this conflict is more difficult, since both parties are willing to pay a high price for their strategic interests.

An Israeli response to an Iranian retaliation depends on the extent of the damage; nonetheless, Israel understands that it can’t afford to blink. The determination and willingness to take risks has been clearly demonstrated—both by statements by senior officials and by attacks in recent months. For the time being, Israel will push back against Iran, at any cost, until either significant international pressure or diplomatic efforts work to inhibit Iranian strength in Syria. The Russians serve as a partial restrainer, but have limited motivation, and even more limited capabilities to actually enforce a solution on either party. Even if there were a simple solution, in light of Israeli and Iranian determination to inflict damage on each other, even at a high cost, Russian efforts would most likely prove unsuccessful.