Rumors of war: Iranian general threatens surprise attack on Israel

August 2014MIDDLE EAST — Iranian military leaders on Tuesday vowed that Tehran would take military action against Israel in response to an alleged Israeli drone that was shot down in Iran on Sunday. Iran “will not give a diplomatic response,” but will air its grievances with Israel on the “battlefield,” senior Iranian generals were quoted as saying on Tuesday. “Our response to this aggression will not be diplomatic, we will retaliate in the battlefield, but will not necessarily announce it,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Lieutenant Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) was quoted as saying during a ceremony on Tuesday meant to commemorate “martyred” Iranian military personnel. “The enemy will see and understand it,” Salami was quoted as saying by the semi official Fars News Agency. “We never step back (in the confrontation) against the enemy. The Islamic Republic is powerful and is capable of confronting any power at any level and we never bring down the level of our goals.” The threat of a surprise attack against Israel for its apparent attempts to send a spy drone into Tehran came just a day after Iranian government officials threatened to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court. Iranian military leaders announced over the weekend that they had used a surface-to-air missile to shoot down a drone that it claimed was an Israeli-made Hermes 450 unmanned plane. The drone was allegedly on its way to the Natanz nuclear enrichment site, which is believed to be part of Iran’s clandestine attempts to build a nuclear weapon. “This hostile action is a violation of Iran’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying Monday by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Afkham also hinted that military action is being considered by Tehran. “Iran has the right to take the necessary defensive action and pursue the case in international legal courts,” IRNA reported Afkham as saying. Other IRGC officials also have adopted the rhetoric of war and slammed Israel in vitriolic terms following the incident. “This mischievous attempt once again made the adventurous nature of the Zionist regime more evident and added another black page to the dark record of this fake and warmongering regime, which is full of crimes and wickedness,” the IRGC said in a statement reported by Al-Manar News. The IRGC claimed that it “reserves the right of response and retaliation for itself,” according to the statement. IRGC leader Salami claimed that Tehran has definitive proof the drone was made by Israel and claimed that it had not originated from the Jewish state, but another nearby country. “What some people say that the drone had started its flight from Israel is not correct and we are almost certain about its origin, yet we would like to reserve judgment at present,” Salami was quoted as saying during a press conference on Tuesday. Iranian military leaders apparently spotted the drone on its border but permitted it to “enter the country to see the intention (of the hostile forces operating it) and then we targeted and hit it at the right time,” Salami said, according to Fars. Salami further claimed that the technology in the drone is not unfamiliar to Iran, which has itself built several indigenous models of drones, some of which are believed to be based off of a downed U.S. drone reportedly captured in 2013. The U.S. State Department has remained quiet thus far when confronted with questions about the incident. –Free Beacon
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Ukraine says Russian Forces lead major new offensive in the East

August 2014NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but a wide swath of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials are calling a stealth invasion. The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. Exhausted, filthy and dismayed, Ukrainian soldiers staggering out of Novoazovsk for safer territory said Tuesday that the forces coming from Russia had treated them like cannon fodder. As they spoke, tank shells whistled in from the east and exploded nearby. Some of the retreating Ukrainian soldiers appeared unwilling to fight. The commander of their unit, part of the 9th Brigade from Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, barked at the men to turn around, to no effect. “All right,” the commander said. “Anybody who refuses to fight, sit apart from the others.” Eleven men did, while the others returned to the city.  Some troops were in a full, chaotic retreat: a city-busload of them careened past on the highway headed west, purple curtains flapping through windows shot out by gunfire. Their behavior corroborated assertions by Western and Ukrainian officials that Russia, despite its strenuous denials, is orchestrating a new counteroffensive to help the besieged separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic, who have been reeling from aggressive Ukrainian military advances in recent weeks. The Obama administration, which has placed increasingly punitive economic sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, on Tuesday asserted that the Russians had sent new columns of tanks and armor across the border. The American ambassador to Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, said a “Russian-directed counteroffensive may be underway.”
Russian forces have been trying to help the separatists break the siege of Luhansk and have been fighting to open a corridor to Donetsk from the Ukrainian-Russian border, Western officials say. To the south, Russia has been backing a separatist push toward the southern town of Mariupol, a major port on the Azov Sea, according to Western and Ukrainian officials. The Russian aim, one Western official said, is to open a new front that would divert Ukrainian forces from Donetsk and Lukhansk and to possibly seize an outlet to the sea in the event that Russia tries to establish a separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine. Some Western officials fear the move might even be a step in what they suspect is a broader Russian strategy to carve out a land link to Crimea, the strategic Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in March, setting off Moscow’s worst crisis with the West since the Cold War. The Russian military’s use of artillery from locations within Ukraine is of special concern to Western military officials, who say Russian artillery has already been used to shell Ukrainian forces near Luhansk. And along with the antiaircraft systems operated by separatists or Russian forces inside Ukraine, the artillery has the potential to alter the balance of power in the struggle for control of eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied that it has intervened militarily in Ukraine and the separatists have asserted that they are using captured Ukrainian equipment. But American officials say they are confident that the artillery in Ukraine’s Krasnodon area is Russia’s since Ukrainian forces have not penetrated that deeply into that separatist-controlled region. American officials also say the separatists have no experience in using such weaponry. “We judge that self-propelled artillery is operated by Russians rather than separatists since no separatist training on this artillery has occurred to date,” an Obama administration official said. –Telegraph UK
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Islamic State commits war crimes, Syrian government using poison gas: U.N.

August 2014 SYRIA - The United Nations accused Islamic State insurgents on Wednesday of committing war crimes including amputations and public executions, sometimes in the presence of children, and said it believed Damascus had used chlorine gas in combating its enemies. The Sunni militants, who are bringing weapons from Iraq, have changed the power balance in Syria, consolidating control over large areas and establishing order by imposing harsh sharia law, the U.N. said in its latest report. “Executions in public spaces have become a common spectacle on Fridays in al Raqqa and ISIS-controlled areas of Aleppo governorate (province),” the report said. “Children have been present at the executions, which take the form of beheading or shooting in the head at close range… Bodies are placed on public display, often on crucifixes, for up to three days, serving as a warning to local residents.” The independent investigators voiced deep concern about boys forced to join the ranks of Islamic States who are being trained in camps in Syria that could be targeted by U.S. air strikes. U.S. President Barack Obama vowed “justice will be done” against the Islamic State killers of American journalist James Foley on Tuesday as the United States sought to identify targets for potential air strikes in Syria. “We are aware … of the presence of children in training camps, I think that this decision by the United States must respect the laws of war and we are concerned about the presence of these children,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. commission of inquiry, told a news briefing in Geneva. “ISIS poses a clear and present danger to civilians and particularly minorities under its control in Syria and in the region,” Pinheiro said.
Syrian government forces have dropped barrel bombs on civilian areas, a war crime under international law, including some believed to contain the poison gas chlorine in eight incidents in April, the investigators said in latest report. Previously they had only been able to conclude that the chemicals came from Syrian government stockpiles. “We’ve looked at eight instances of alleged chlorine attacks and we found specifically that according to our evidentiary test, they were dropped – the chlorine came with the barrel bombs – dropped from government helicopters particularly onto civilian areas,” said Vitit Muntarbhorn, a commissioner. The conflict, which began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, has become multi-faceted with more groups involved and many front lines, said Muntarbhorn. “It’s fragmented, it’s vicious, and there are cross-border implications,” he said. More than 191,000 people were killed in the first three years of the war, a U.N. report said last week. Syria’s military and air force continue to commit serious violations, including aerial bombardment and barrel bombing particularly of Aleppo, Deraa and Rural Damascus, Pinheiro said. “There has been also an increase in reports of enforced disappearances, sexual assaults in detention centers and the arrest of female relatives of wanted persons,” he said. –Reuters
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U.S. ongoing obsession with violence: 9-year-old girl accidentally kills gun instructor with Uzi

Gun violence
August 2014DOLAN SPRINGS, Ariz. — A 9-year-old girl accidentally killed an Arizona shooting instructor as he was showing her how to use an automatic Uzi, authorities said. Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, died Monday shortly after being airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Mohave County sheriff’s officials said Tuesday. Vacca was standing next to the girl at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range in White Hills when she pulled the trigger and the recoil sent the gun over her head, investigators said. Video released Tuesday by sheriff’s officials shows the 9-year-old, wearing a gray T-shirt and pink shorts with her hair pulled back in a long braid, holding the firearm in both hands. Vacca, standing to her left, tells her to turn her left leg forward. “All right, go ahead and give me one shot,” he tells the girl, whose back is to the camera during the entire 27-second video. He then cheers when she fires one round at the target. “All right full auto,” Vacca says. The video, which does not show the actual incident, ends with a series of shots being heard. Authorities said the girl was at the shooting range with her parents. Her name was not released.
A woman who answered the phone at the shooting range said it had no comment. She did not provide her name. It is not known if the range had an age limit on shooting or if the girl was going through a safety class. Donald Scott, a Phoenix-based firearms safety expert, said most shooting ranges have an age limit and strict safety rules when teaching children to shoot. He said instructors usually have their hands on guns when children are firing high-powered weapons. “You can’t give a 9-year-old an Uzi and expect her to control it,” Scott said. –Mercury News
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Finland sees world on the brink of Cold War ahead of Putin meeting

August 2014FINLANDFinnish President Sauli Niinistoe will meet with Russia’s Vladimir Putin today in an effort to defuse tensions he said risk dragging the world into a new cold war. The two will meet in the southern Russian town of Sochi following an invitation from Putin first made a year ago, Niinistoe told reporters in Helsinki yesterday. The encounter will mark Putin’s first bilateral talks with a European leader or head of state since he met with German ChancellorAngela Merkel in Brazil during the World Cup in July. “I have a feeling that we’re on the brink of cold war,” Niinistoe said. He plans to use the meeting with Putin to find a way “to bring this terrible spiral of mistrust to an end,” he said. Finland, which unlike its Baltic neighbors never joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has a longer border with Russia than the other 27 European Union members combined. Its economy is more exposed to the fallout of Russian tensions than that of any other euro member, trade figures show. Prime Minister Alexander Stubb has hinted at the need for economic compensation should Finland be hit disproportionately. “Finland particularly has an incentive to be active here, to promote security and stability,” Niinistoe said. The Finnish head of state, whose powers are largely ceremonial, said he’s also looking into visiting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Niinistoe “has been in contact” with “western partners” to discuss the meeting with Putin, he said.
Since Russia annexed Crimea in March, relations between Putin and his counterparts in Europe and the U.S. have steadily deteriorated. Ukraine is now trying to dislodge pro-Russian rebels from strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk in the country’s east. The death toll doubled in the past two weeks to more than 2,000, Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 13, citing United Nations data. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday he’s concerned that Putin has ambitions that go “beyond Ukraine.” “The Russian ambition is to establish a sphere of Russian influence in the near neighborhood,” he told reporters in Reykjavik. Ukraine began to send its own aid supplies to the country’s war-torn east yesterday as a Russian convoy with emergency supplies was reported to be nearing the border. Ukraine’s government said this week it would allow the humanitarian aid carried by hundreds of trucks from Russia through the frontier if officials can inspect it and the Red Cross distributes it. Stubb told reporters at parliament in Helsinki yesterday that aid trucks sent by Russia to eastern Ukraine should only proceed if Ukraine “wants the aid and accepts it.” -Bloomberg
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Handwriting on the wall: Ferguson, Missouri just one of a thousand cities around the world primed to explode in violence

August 2014 MISSOURI - President Barack Obama, seeking to calm unrest over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri, declared Thursday that there is no excuse for violence against police or for excessive force by officers against protesters. The president spoke after four nights of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of Michael Brown, 18. Police on Wednesday fired tear gas against protesters and arrested 16 people, including two reporters. Police said that rocks and a Molotov cocktail were thrown at officers. “There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” he said. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters, or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”
He also said that police should not be “bullying” or arresting journalists who are trying to do their jobs. “Now is the time for healing,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he is on vacation. “Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said that Obama had spoken to him and appealed for peace. Obama called for an “open and transparent” investigation into the police killing and said that he had ordered the FBI and Justice Department to investigate. “Of course, it’s important to remember how this started,” he said. “We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old, and his family will never hold Michael in their arms again.” –NBC News
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Global economic malaise: Eurozone recovery flatlines as Ukraine unravels

August 2014BELGIUM – A glut of euro zone GDP data is landing confirming a markedly poor second quarter for the currency area. The mighty German economy has shrunk by 0.2 percent on the quarter, undercutting the Bundesbank’s forecast of stagnation. Foreign trade and investment were notable weak spots and the signs are they may not improve soon. France has fared little better, flatlining again in the second quarter. That has forced the French government to confront reality, saying it would miss its deficit target again this year and cutting its 2014 forecast for 1 percent growth in half. There was no mention of the 2015 goal when France’s public deficit is due to come into line with the EU’s 3 percent of GDP cap, but Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Paris would cut its deficit “at an appropriate pace.” We already know that Italy – the euro zone’s No. 3 economy – has slunk back into recession for the third time since 2008. Spain is the outlier, having reported healthy 0.6 percent quarterly growth. It’s unlikely any of its peers are going to better that. The GDP figure for the whole of the euro zone is due later and forecast to show barely any growth, up just 0.1 percent. Given the way the national figures are coming in, even that looks over-optimistic. So what to do? Italy and France have led a drive to focus EU policy more on jobs and growth creation rather than cutting debt. Germany and others have shown they will only tolerate that debate up to a point.
Paris has also called on the European Central Bank to act more forcefully and weaken the euro. But the ECB’s June measures – including a new package of cheap money for banks to lend – haven’t even kicked in yet so it is highly unlikely to consider the nuclear option of QE until late in the year at the earliest. And even so, given the political and philosophical objections, it remains anything but a certainty. However, if the ECB’s next round of forecasts, due in September, are further downgraded from the roughly 1.0 percent 2014 growth that was penciled in last time – which they now must be – speculation about the central bank finally conceding that it has to print money is sure to grow. There had been signs of things picking up in Q3 though inflation appears to be inching inexorably towards zero. But tough EU sanctions on Russia and an unexpectedly stiff Russian response to Western sanctions has thrown a new spanner into the works by banning imports of most food from the West. The latest survey evidence points to a sharp drop in investor morale and any choking off of investment will inevitably inflict more pain. The UK RICS housing survey, out overnight, showed momentum behind London’s property boom appears to be fading with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ monthly national house price balance easing in July to its weakest since February. It now seems that wage growth – or lack of it – is the key pivot for monetary policy. Average earnings actually fell year-on-year in the second quarter, the first time the reading had turned negative in four years. The Bank of England’s quarterly inflation report cut its forecast for wage growth this year in half to 1.25 percent before picking up more strongly in 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit annexed Crimea and address the local parliament. That feels like a moment where he might say something decisive. One way or another, with Ukrainian government forces encircling the main pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, matters are coming to a head. Putin must decide whether to up his support for the separatists in east Ukraine or back off. Kiev described Russia’s dispatch of an aid convoy advancing towards its border as a cynical act designed to fan a pro-Russian rebellion and said it would not be allowed to pass. However, a presidential spokesman later suggested a compromise might be found, bringing it under the control of the International Committee of the Red Cross. An increasingly isolated Nuri al-Maliki continues to protest his removal as Iraqi prime minister. His own party and his former sponsor in Iran publicly endorsed his successor on whom hopes are pinned to create a united government and halt advancing Sunni militants who have grabbed swathes territory in the region and are pressuring Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. France announced it was joining the United States in urgently supplying what it called “sophisticated arms” to the Kurds and EU foreign ministers agreed to break summer holidays to discuss the crisis on Friday. A U.S. official said talks were also under way with Arab countries to supply munitions. –Reuters
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Mad Max: Suddenly the world is on the verge of collapse again – and the mad will rise to the occasion

August 2014CIVILIZATION – Dystopian world – the collapse of civilization, the theme of the End of the World is suddenly popular again, as a growing list of insurmountable problems across the globe are beginning to stage themselves for the ultimate global 1-2-3 catastrophic punch. This time it’s a much different dilemma than any 1980s science fiction cinematic scenarios about a world-end event. It’s real, and all the marbles in the game are at stake. Seven billion human lives are suspended in the balances awaiting the outcome for a list of present-day threats to subside. Russia is breathing down the neck of Ukraine, threatening an invasion that could ignite a new cold war. China is growing increasingly restless in Asia, and is beginning to torment its neighbors for new territory. The Arab Spring has dethroned many monarchies in the Middle East – leaving radical new regimes in their wake that have sworn to destroy America and Israel. Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq are unraveling. ISIS is threatened to destroy Israel, and set up an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq. The U.S. has responded with air-strikes and another military advisory deployment. Iran is going nuclear. Saudi Arabia says it wants nukes and is willing to pay whatever price it takes to obtain them. Pakistan is becoming a boiling pot of Islamic extremism. Did I mention it has the largest nuclear arsenal in the East? God forbid that country should collapse and nuclear weapons fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. Argentina has already collapsed on its sovereign debt – a host of other Latin American countries could follow its lead. The list of troubled banks is increasing across Europe. Financial experts warn another global financial panic is just around the corner, as stock markets reenact the glee ride of the 1920s before the Market Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression. MERS, Ebola, H7N9, Bubonic Plague, and the Hantavirus are revived, stronger than ever, and are on a rampage in many parts of the world.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the fourth movie in the franchise. Shot without Mel Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road looks like a cross between a reboot and (possibly) a sequel in some way. Mad Max (1979), Mad Max II/Mad Max: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) brought the post apocalyptic universe to millions and catapulted Mel Gibson into super-stardom.  -Alvin Conway (c) 2014
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Age of Skynet: Snowden says NSA can start a cyberwar anywhere in the world at anytime

Sky NetAugust 2014 WASHINGTON – In a blockbuster interview with WIRED, Edward Snowden says that the National Security Agency has a secret, autonomous program called “Monstermind” that can conduct and respond to cyberattacks without human intervention. The program also launches its attacks through third-party computers in foreign countries, which is dangerous for U.S. diplomatic efforts says Snowden. “These attacks can be spoofed,” Snowden said. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?” Snowden also says he has not even read all of the documents he took from the NSA, so there will be more revelations. He also says he volunteered for prison, that the NSA has not cleaned up its act, and that an accident knocked Syria off the Internet. –Daily Beast
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Time of Trouble: U.S. Defense Secretary: ‘The world is exploding all over’

August 2014WASHINGTON - Fresh off a trip to India and Australia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed a group of Marines in San Diego, California Tuesday, and may have delivered a line that will show up in Republican campaign ads this election cycle. After updating the troops on some issues in the Pacific region and the Middle East, Hagel took questions from some of the Marines and gave a stark assessment of the global security situation: “The world is exploding all over.” The remark came in response to a question about the Obama administration’s realignment of the military towards the Asia-Pacific Theater:  Good afternoon, sir. My question is that, given that the administration’s primary focus is on the Pacific theater, how has all of the issues popping up in the world today, Russia, Iraq, Africa, the rest of the theaters pretty much affected that current mission? And how do you foresee that affecting the mission in the future? SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. That’s a — go ahead, sit down — that’s a question I got often when I was in India and Australia. And the trip I just came from was my sixth trip to the Asia Pacific area in the last year-and-a-half. I’ve got four planned this calendar year. And so I get that question all the time. It’s a legitimate question for the very reasons you asked. The world is exploding all over. And so is the United States going to continue to have the resources, the capabilities, the leadership, the bandwidth to continue with the rebalance toward the Asia Pacific? And the answer is yes.
Hagel went on say that, despite the rebalancing towards the Pacific, the US will not be “retreating” from any threats elsewhere in the world. Now, that said, as I’ve said, with that rebalance, which will continue, and we are committed to do that, we’re not retreating from any other part of the world. Great powers can’t pick and choose which challenges and threats they’re going to deal with. There is no power on Earth like the United States of America. No country is great enough, powerful enough to deal with all these threats and challenges alone in the world today. They’re too big, too complex. The world is too complicated. Whether they’re cyber threats, which are relatively new, but are just as real and deadly and lethal as anything we’ve ever dealt with, obviously, what’s going on in North Korea, China’s behavior in the South China Sea, East China Sea, you mentioned Russia’s actions in Ukraine, North Africa, the Middle East today, every part of that world is troubled under great stress. Hagel noted in his talk with the Marines, “We’re in more countries, involved in more operations with more partners all over the world than we’ve ever been in.” Hagel has faced criticism from Republicans for cutting the military budget and specific programs while at the same time expanding the overall mission of U.S. forces. The Obama administration has increasingly come under fire lately for weakness in foreign policy, even from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though Clinton seemed to subsequently walk back her criticism. –The Weekly Standard
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