The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”
Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.
The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.
The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.
The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.
Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.
(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.
Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”
The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”
“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.
He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.
European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.
In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”
Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”
“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.
Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”
A group of eminent scientists behind the “Doomsday Clock” symbolically moved its time forward another 30 seconds on Jan. 25, marking an alarming one-minute advancement since 2016.
“As of today, it is two minutes to midnight,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock’s time, said during a press briefing.
The clock is a symbol created at the dawn of the Cold War in 1945, and its time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group founded by researchers who helped build the first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project.
The Bulletin began publicly adjusting the clock in 1947 to reflect the state of dire threats to the world, primarily to address the tense state of U.S.-Soviet relations and the risk for global nuclear war.
But since the closing of the Cold War in 1991, the clock has come to represent other major threats, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare.
“This year, the nuclear issue took center-stage yet again,” Bronson said. “To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy.”
Why the Doomsday Clock’s time was moved forward
In January 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, to two minutes to midnight. (Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
For the 2018 time shift, members of the Doomsday Clock panel squarely took aim at the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump, who has said he is pushing for a nuclear arms race.
Bronson and the panel specifically cited a leaked draft of the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which lays out U.S. strategy surrounding its nuclear arsenal and suggests that the president intends to act on his word.
“The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense plans and lower the threshold to nuclear use,” the panel said in an 18-page statement emailed to Business Insider.
The panel also noted the worrisome state of nuclear programs and security risks in Pakistan, India, Russia, and North Korea in its decision to move the clock forward, as well as Trump’s lack of support for a deal to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. The tense situation in the South China Sea, over aggressive Chinese claims to territory, also played a role in the group’s decision, according to the statement.
The Doomsday Clock experts are also gravely concerned about the state of the warming planet, the resulting climate change, and a fractured global effort to confront and mitigate its worst threats by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The group said in its statement that it is “deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves — a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered.”
The time of two minutes “is as close as it has ever been to midnight in the 71-year history of the clock,” Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said during the briefing.
Here’s how scientists have shifted the clock’s time from its creation through 2017:
The 2018 shift is the sixth instance the time has been moved to three minutes or less until midnight — the others were in 1949, 1953, 1984, 2015, and 2017.
How to turn back the clock
The Doomsday Clock and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are not without their critics, however.
Writer Will Boisvert argued in a piece published in 2015 by The Breakthrough Institute that the symbology may be counterproductive to actually solving the problems the Bulletin hopes to spur action on:
Apocalypticism can systematically distort our understanding of risk, mesmerizing us with sensational scenarios that distract us from mundane risks that are objectively larger. Worse, it can block rather than galvanize efforts to solve global problems. By treating risks as infinite, doom-saying makes it harder to take their measure — to prioritize them, balance them against benefits, or countenance smaller ones to mitigate larger ones. The result can be paralysis.
Yet members of the Bulletin, who announced their Doomsday Clock decision at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, noted their full statement comes with multiple recommendations for turning back their clock, including:
Trump should, “refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea.”
The U.S. should open multiple lines of communication with North Korea.
Governments around the world “should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” beyond the Paris Agreement.
The international community should rein in and penalize any misuse of information technology that would “undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself.”
But Krauss said that if governments are unwilling to lead the way in fighting threats to global civilization, the people will have to step up their efforts to do so.
“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said. “Whether we do so in the future may be in your hands.”
The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.
If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.
There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.
Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.
Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”
Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.
“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.
While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.
Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
NATO troops and partner forces converged in Norway in October 2018 for Trident Juncture, the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War, taking place in and over the Nordic countries and on the Baltic and Norwegian seas.
Trident Juncture is a regularly scheduled exercise, and 2018’s version was meant to test the alliance’s ability to respond collectively to a threat — in this case an attack on Norway — and the logistical muscles needed to move some 50,000 troops, thousands of vehicles, and dozens of ships and aircraft on short notice.
Trident Juncture also saw the first time a US aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S. Truman, sailed above the Arctic Circle since the early 1990s. The Truman strike group was joined by the USS Iwo Jima expeditionary strike group.
German infantrymen board a MV-22B Osprey at Vaernes Air Base in Norway during Trident Juncture 18, Nov. 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
Working in the harsh conditions found in the northern latitudes in autumn was also part of the plan, said US Navy Adm. James Foggo, who commands US naval forces in Europe and Africa and was in charge of Trident Juncture.
“One of the things that we took advantage of was the opportunity to do this in October and November,” Foggo said on the most recent episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“When I was in the States [prior to the exercise], people asked me, ‘Hey, why’d you do this in October and November? It’s pretty nasty and cold in the high north at that time of year,'” Foggo said. “That’s exactly why. We wanted to stress the force, and we truly did get some lessons learned out of this.”
After nearly two decades operating in the Middle East, focusing on smaller-scale operations like counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, the US military has started to shift its focus back toward operating against sophisticated, heavily armed opponents and in harsh conditions.
US Marines fire an M240B machine gun during a live-fire range as part of exercise Arctic Edge in Alaska, March 1, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
US Marines have been in Norway conducting such training since early 2017. During exercise Arctic Edge in February and March 2018, more than 1,500 US soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines gathered in Alaska “to train … to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command said at the time.
What these troops are learning isn’t necessarily new, but it is needed, according to Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who took command of the US Navy’s 2nd Fleet in August 2018.
“I think most of what we are gathering from lessons in [Trident Juncture], I think we kind of knew, because we’re getting back into a geographic space in a time of year, and we haven’t been operating that way for a long, long time,” Lewis said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.
“We’ve been operating in the Persian Gulf, where it’s like a lake, and it’s really hot, whereas now we’re operating up off the coast of Norway, where it’s blowing a gale, the decks are moving around, the ships are getting beat up, and the people are getting beat up,” Lewis added.
“We’re not used to being out on the flight deck for long periods of time where it’s really cold,” said Lewis, a career pilot.
An aviation ordnanceman moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
Second Fleet was reactivated in May 2018, seven years after being shut down as part of a cost-saving and restructuring effort. Now back in action, the fleet will oversee ships and aircraft in the western and northern Atlantic Ocean.
Soviet and NATO forces were active in those areas during the Cold War, especially the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap, which was a chokepoint for ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.
As Lewis noted, returning to the high north didn’t go off without a hitch. Even before the live portion of the exercise began, four US soldiers were injured when their vehicles collided and one slid off a road in Norway.
Sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the fleet-replenishment oiler USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
The amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall and amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, both of which were taking US Marines to the exercise, also had to return to Iceland days before the official start because of rough seas, which damaged the Gunston Hall and injured some of its sailors.
Gunston Hall underwent repairs in Iceland and departed on Nov. 5, 2018.
Discussing the effects of rough weather on the exercise, Foggo said NATO forces would “look for operational risk management first,” and a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group told Business Insider that the group took steps to prepare for “colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas.”
US personnel will need more preparation in order to operate effectively in that part of the world, Lewis said.
“Our kids, they adapt really quickly, but not without repeat efforts,” he said. “I think most of it’s been … those kind of lessons, and I think overall we did pretty well, but we can do better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
A Wisconsin National Guard soldier was buried in his final resting place Sept. 29, 2019, in Monona more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company C, 128th Infantry Regiment, when he was killed Dec. 2, 1942, during the Battle of Buna.
Bainbridge’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family asked that he be buried at Monona’s Roselawn Memorial Park, where his sister is buried.
“It was like time stood still for one second as 77 years of waiting, hoping and wondering came to a glorious halt,” said Bainbridge’s niece, Nancy Cunningham, who was 2 years old at the time of his death.
Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was laid to rest Sept. 29, 2019 in Monona after his remains were identified more than 75 years after his death during the Battle of Buna in World War II.
(Courtesy of Nancy Cunningham)
Born in 1919 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bainbridge grew up in Sheboygan before graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He worked as a store clerk when he enlisted as a cook in the Wisconsin National Guard with Sheboygan’s Service Battery, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit left Sheboygan Oct. 17, 1940, for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.
Bainbridge trained with the 120th in Louisiana and was discharged in November 1941 due to family hardship. But the Army rescinded his discharge after the U.S. declared war on Japan and he rejoined the 32nd Infantry Division in time for its deployment to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to technician 5th grade and assigned to Company C, 128th Infantry. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.
Natives unload new white crosses from trailer to be used in the cemetery for American Forces at New Guinea, May 11, 1943.
(Pvt. Paul Shrock)
His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a Buna cemetery. Bainbridge’s remains were designated “Unknown X-135” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery.
Bainbridge’s remains were exhumed Feb. 22, 2017, and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out Cunningham and other relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.
Bainbridge’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented the U.S. flag to Cunningham on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.
The Dec 29, 1942 issue of the Sheboygan Press reported the death of Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge at the Battle of Buna in New Guinea.
“Every time I present a flag, I am full of emotion, but this one seemed different not only because of the soldier’s incredible service and sacrifice but because the family had been waiting so long for positive identification,” Mathews said. “What made it even more special was that he was a Wisconsin National Guard and 32nd Division soldier.”
Bainbridge’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917, for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1943, and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most of any American division during the war.
The Air Force initially halted deliveries of the Boeing 767 airliner-based tanker planes for two weeks in early March 2019. At the time, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Will Roper, told reporters that debris such as tools was left in parts of the plane that could be a potential safety hazard, Defense News reported.
According to Reuters, the Air Force decided to halt deliveries again on March 23, 2019.
“The Air Force again halted acceptance of new KC-46 tanker aircraft as we continue to work with Boeing to ensure that every aircraft delivered meets the highest quality and safety standards,” a USAF spokesperson told the Air Force Times in an emailed statement. “This week our inspectors identified additional foreign object debris and areas where Boeing did not meet quality standards.”
A KC-46 Pegasus flies over the flightline of the 97th Air Mobility Wing.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)
“Resolving this issue is a company and program priority — Boeing is committed to delivering FOD-free aircraft to the Air Force,” Boeing told Business Insider in a statement. “Although we’ve made improvements to date, we can do better.”
“We are currently conducting additional company and customer inspections of the jets and have implemented preventative action plans,” the Boeing statement went on to say. “We have also incorporated additional training, more rigorous clean-as-you-go practices and FOD awareness days across the company to stress the importance and urgency of this issue. Safety and quality are our highest priority.”
Boeing commenced deliveries of the KC-46 tanker in January 2019. The plane was originally slated for delivery to the Air Force in 2017. However, development delays pushed the plane’s entry into service back.
The KC-46 is expected to replace the USAF’s aging fleet of Boeing 707-based KC-135 tankers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Eleven militants were reportedly killed and no coalition forces were killed or wounded, according to US Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho. She added that two of the militants were wearing suicide vests.
“The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region,” Reho said in The Times. “There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred.”
But according to an anonymous military official familiar with the incident, the mission was to sweep through a potentially dangerous area so that Nigerien troops would be able to build an outpost.
Though Reho did not disclose why the Defense Department did not notify others of the incident, a House Republican aide told The Times that other lawmakers were notified of the December 2017 attack after it occurred.
Lawmakers previously pressured the White House and Pentagon for more information on the circumstances surrounding the ambush in October 2017, after military officials appeared to leave several congressional leaders in the dark.
“That’s not how the system works,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said to CNN in October 2017. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
The firefight was initially referenced in an unclassified report given to lawmakers this week as part of a broader report on the legality of using military force, according to The Times. The report notes that US-Nigerien troops were attacked “by elements assessed to be part of ISIS,” and that coalition forces “responded with armed force in self-defense.”
US Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, the former commander of US Special Operations in Africa, said that US troops and local training partners were attacked around 10 times from 2015 to 2017, The Times reported. Though enemy combatants were killed in these attacks, no US troops were reportedly killed.
The incident highlights some of the danger in conducting military operations in West Africa, just as military officials aim to curb the number of riskier missions. US Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson were killed in October 2017 after they were ambushed by ISIS-affiliated militants.
A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.
Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.
The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.
Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:
Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»
Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”
“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”
“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.
Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”
“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”
The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.
Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.
“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”
Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.
China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.
Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“The secretary is also receiving reports throughout the day on actions the military services are taking to protect the safety and well-being of the military community, and ensure the readiness of DoD installations in the region affected by Hurricane Florence,” Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, said at a Pentagon news conference.
Outer bands of the storm have already started hitting the coast and officials said there are already winds exceeding 100 mph in some areas. The storm surge has hit in North and South Carolina and the storm is expected to slow down and deposit huge amounts of rain.
Kenneth P. Rapuano, left, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, and Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, brief reporters at the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2018, on Defense Department preparations for Hurricane Florence.
(DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
DoD is already working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pre-position helicopters, vehicles, and supplies. The department is prepared to assist FEMA and our other federal partners in supporting the affected regions, Rapuano said.
O’Shaughnessy said DoD assets have virtually surrounded the area where the storm is expected to make landfall.
“We are proactively positioning forces now to respond from the north, from the south, from the east, and from the west, across the full spectrum of DoD capabilities at every level — by air, by sea and by land,” the general said.
Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Joint Base Bragg, North Carolina; North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina; and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama are staging areas for FEMA.
About 80 light/medium tactical vehicles are staged at Fort Stewart, Georgia, set to respond quickly once Florence passes through the area. These trucks are high-water-clearance vehicles which can carry supplies or first responders. These vehicles proved their worth in this type of situation last year during Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
At Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, there are 35 helicopters available for search-and-rescue operations. A similar unit is at Fort Bliss, Texas, ready to move forward.
At Fort Bragg, there are 40 high-wheel vehicles for rescue and transportation, as well as seven helicopters staged for use in search and rescue and recovery missions, the general said.
Army Spc. Benjamin Holybee, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief assigned to Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard, conducts preflight checks in Lexington, Okla., Sept. 13, 2018.
(Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Schroeder)
The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship and the USS Arlington amphibious transport dock ship are following behind Florence. These vessels have Navy and Marine personnel, 16 helicopters, and six MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the Air Force has six HH-60 helicopters, two HC-30 aircraft and four pararescue teams at the ready.
At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, 1st Air Force will provide robust command-and-control, air operations support to the DoD effort. This will include airborne command-and-control assets.
‘Ready to respond’
“North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia are all home to well-known military bases and installations, and the secretary of defense is given authority for life-saving and life-sustaining actions in order to make DoD capabilities immediately available, and local commanders are proactively positioning forces and equipment to be ready,” O’Shaughnessy said. “At the state level, National Guard units, whether Army or Air, under the authority of their governors, are ready to respond to the individual and oftentimes neighboring states’ needs.”
Mattis has activated dual-status commanders in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to provide seamless command and control over assigned active duty and National Guard forces.
Rapuano said U.S. Transportation Command is staging and prepositioning FEMA resources. “The Defense Logistics Agency is directly supporting FEMA logistics with the procurement and distribution of relief commodities, including food, fuel and water,” he said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also directly supporting FEMA and is poised to support flood mitigation, temporary emergency power, temporary roofing, and debris removal, Rapuano said.
“You should be on alert to suspicious people around you and avoid going out alone at night,” the notice also said.
China has issued warnings against the high rate of gun violence in the US in the past.
In 2017, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles published a guide for citizens on how to respond to an active-shooter situation. And in April, 2018, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued an advisory on popular messaging platform WeChat urging citizens to “be careful and prepare for the possibility that gun crimes may occur at workplaces, schools, at home and at tourist sites,” the New York Times reported.
The embassy notice issued on June 30, 2018, also discussed US border policy, and notified tourists that border patrol have the right to inspect travelers and to check their nationality and purpose of entry without a search warrant. But it also advised citizens to be vigilant.
“If the parties involved believe that the law enforcement officers have engaged in improper law enforcement or discriminatory practices, please keep the relevant evidence and ask to make a complaint to their superiors in person,” it said. “Sparking controversy with on-site law enforcement personnel is not helpful for resolving the obstruction of entry, and may even lead to a deterioration of the situation.”
The US has come under international scrutiny over the Trump administration’s tightened border security measures, including its “zero-tolerance” policy, which has seen more than 2,300 migrant families separated. Several videos have also surfaced showing border agents patrolling bus stations and asking travelers for identification.
In 2017, the US saw a drop in foreign tourism, which some dubbed the “Trump Slump.” According to Travel + Leisure, the US welcomed 72.9 million foreign visitors in 2017, down from the previous year’s 75.9 million, though the decline was only about 4%.
Under the Obama administration, the US saw record high numbers in 2015 with 77.5 million foreign visitors, Travel + Leisure added.
In 2016, nearly 3 million Chinese tourists visited the US and spent $33 billion, more than tourists from any other country.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Duke Robotics, a Florida-based defense contractor, developed the TIKAD sniper drone, and recently sold some to the Israeli military.
They’re also pitching it to the Pentagon.
The drone is capable of being fitted with a sniper rifle, grenade launcher, a machine gun, or a variety of other weapons, Defense One and Popular Mechanics reported.
It was used successfully by the Israelis but it only stayed airborne for about five minutes due to weight problems, Defense One reported. The TIKAD drone, however, has overcome previous weight and recoil issues.
The co-founder of Duke Robotics, Israeli military veteran Lt. Col. Raziel “Razi” Atuar, said the drone — which is flown and shot by an operator at a distance — will save civilian and soldier lives because it is more precise, as opposed to Reaper, Predator or Switchblade drones that fire missiles.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in. Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt. The operational challenge, it bothered us,” Atuar told Defense One.
“Big military drones traditionally have to fly thousands of feet overhead to get to targets, but these smaller drones could easily fly down the street to apply violent force,” University of Sheffield Professor Noel Sharkey told the BBC.
“This is my biggest worry since there have been many legal cases of human-rights violations using the large fixed-wing drones, and these could potentially result in many more,” Sharkey said.
Mary Wareham, of Human Rights Watch, also voiced similar concerns.
Sharkey also told the BBC that he worries about the TIKAD drone, which private citizens can purchase from Duke Robotics, being copied by terrorist groups like ISIS.
“It won’t be long before everyone has copies,” Sharkey told Popular Mechanics. “Some of these will be a lot less stable and less precise. We have already seen ISIS employ small commercial drones for strikes with explosives.”
ISIS has been known to use drones for surveillance, guidance and even for dropping bombs.
Joseph V. Micallef is a best-selling military history and world affairs author, and keynote speaker. Follow him on Twitter @JosephVMicallef.
Of all the world’s commodities, petroleum best epitomizes the geopolitical consequences of natural resources. Countries that were fortunate to possess large reserves of hydrocarbons found themselves with incredible wealth and in control of a powerful driver of economic development. Countries that were unable to produce enough oil and gas for their needs found themselves vulnerable to supply disruptions and at a major geopolitical disadvantage.
The oil and gas industry had a significant Achilles heel, however. Oil and gas development had significant up-front development costs but, in many cases, relatively low operating costs. Once a well was brought into production, the cost of keeping it operating was relatively low, even if the revenue was insufficient to amortize the development cost. The result was that, historically, the oil and gas industry has been subject to volatile swings in pricing.
In 1919, the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) was charged with setting production levels among Texas oil producers in order to control the supply and stabilize prices. From 1930 through 1960, the TRC was largely responsible for setting the price of oil worldwide.
In 1960, a group of oil-producing countries, led by Saudi Arabia, adopted the TRC model and formed the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate oil production and stabilize prices. OPEC did not eliminate oil price volatility, but its willingness to regulate its production levels helped moderate some of the pricing instability. Between 2000 and 2020, average yearly oil prices varied from a low of .99 per barrel in 2001, to a high of 2.58 per barrel in 2011. The average price in 2019 was .92 per barrel. Currently, average oil prices are approximately per barrel.
Canada, Russia, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, all significant oil producers, were among the oil-producing countries that did not join OPEC. The U.S., a major producer, began to import oil in 1959. Although the U.S. still imports oil, it has been a net exporter of both refined petroleum products and crude oil since November 2019.
OPEC’s share of the global oil market peaked at slightly more than 50% in 1973. In 2019, it was approximately 30%. Energy conservation; new discoveries; improvements in drilling and production technology; and, most significantly, the development of horizontal drilling to open “tight” oil- and gas-bearing formations and the development of the Canadian tar sands, have all cut into OPEC’s market share. In addition, Asia, principally China, India and Japan, have now become the main market for OPEC’s exports.
In 2017, Russia, along with 10 other non-OPEC oil-producing countries, agreed to coordinate production cuts with the group in order to stabilize prices. The countries were referred to as the “Vienna Group” and the arrangement as OPEC+. The agreement represented a strategic alignment of Saudi Arabia and Russia to rationalize prices. It lasted through March 2020.
One of the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic was a sharp drop of approximately one to two million barrels per day (BOPD) in world demand for petroleum. In early March, OPEC agreed to extend its current cutbacks of 2.1 million BOPD and to reduce production by an additional 1.5 BOPD to a total of 3.6 million BOPD.
OPEC requested that Russia and the other 10 oil-producing countries in the OPEC+ group decrease their production by an additional 500,000 BOPD. Russia refused to accept the additional production cuts, arguing that any production cutbacks would simply be made up by American shale oil producers.
In retaliation, Saudi Arabia declared that it would flood world oil markets in a quest to regain lost market share and indirectly punish Russia for its unwillingness to cooperate.
Within a matter of days, world oil prices cratered by approximately 60%. The collapse of oil prices, coupled with rising anxiety over the economic consequences of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, triggered widespread economic turmoil and a marked decline in financial markets.
U.S. Strategic Interests and OPEC
The governments of both Russia and Saudi Arabia are heavily dependent on petroleum exports to fund the bulk of their expenditures. In Riyadh’s case, oil exports supply 70% of its revenues; in Moscow’s case, the number is approximately 46%. Both countries have sovereign funds designed to cover shortfalls in government revenues from falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund had 0 billion in assets, while Russia’s National Wealth Fund had approximately 4 billion at the end of 2019.
The Trump administration was quick to characterize the Saudi and Russian decisions to increase oil production as a thinly veiled attack on American shale oil producers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that 7.7 million BOPD, or about 2.81 billion barrels, of crude oil were produced from tight oil formations in the United States in 2019. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production last year.
This was not the first time that Saudi Arabia had tried to use low prices to force the producers of the more expensive shale oil out of the market. In response, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would buy up to 77 million barrels of oil from American producers for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Funding for these purchases was not, however, included in the recently passed 2020 Cares Act. In the meantime, the TRC announced that it would consider limiting Texas oil production to stabilize prices. Texas represents 40% of U.S. oil production.
Pundits were quick to take positions on which country, Saudi Arabia or Russia, would be able to hold out the longest in the ensuing price war. Meanwhile, television commentators pointed out that lower gasoline prices represented a boon for American consumers.
The more germane questions, however, are where does the U.S. interest lie? Is the U.S. better off from lower or higher petroleum prices? What are the consequences of lower oil prices on America’s strategic interests around the world?
From the 1960s through 2013, the U.S. was the largest net importer of petroleum in the world. Lower petroleum prices were in America’s interest as they decreased the balance of payments deficit created by oil imports and represented savings to American households. Today, gasoline costs represent around 2% of average household income. So even significant reductions in gasoline prices are not going to represent a major change in a family’s income — certainly not in respect to the current economic turmoil.
Moreover, given that the U.S. is now a net exporter of oil and natural gas, lower prices reduce its export earnings. Additionally, over the last two decades, the U.S. shale oil industry has emerged as an important driver of economic development and a source of high-paying blue-collar jobs. On balance, the U.S. economy would be better off if prices returned to their -to- pre-crash levels than if they continue at their current depressed levels.
From Washington’s standpoint, the strategic implications of low oil prices around the world are mixed. On the one hand, low oil prices are a significant constraint on the Russian government and on the Kremlin’s ability to fund the expansion and modernization of Russian military forces. Russia needs oil prices at around a barrel or higher to balance its budget, and closer to to finance the more ambitious social and military programs that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to implement.
On the other hand, low oil prices threaten to destabilize countries that are American allies and to create new areas of regional instability or aggravate existing ones. This is particularly true of the Gulf region, but also of countries such as Nigeria and Mexico. Roughly one-third of Mexico’s federal budget comes from oil exports.
The average cost of producing a barrel of oil in the world is around . It’s a difficult number to pin down because operating costs are typically in local currency and are affected by exchange rates, as well as each country’s relative market share. Costs per country, however, can vary dramatically.
The U.K., whose North Sea oil fields are mature and declining, has a production cost of per barrel. Norway, whose oil fields are in a similar position, has an operating cost of .10 per barrel. On average, the amortization of capital costs typically represents about 50% of operating costs. Direct production, overhead, taxes and transportation costs represent the other half.
The U.S., where oil shale production represents two-thirds of output, has an equally high cost at .20. Brazil and Canada, whose new oil production is particularly capital intensive, have costs of .80 per barrel and per barrel, respectively. Russia’s average production cost is around .20, although the cost of new production, especially in its Arctic oil fields, is much higher.
At the other extreme, Saudi Arabia has a production cost of .90 per barrel, while Kuwait has the lowest production cost at .50. Across OPEC, the average production cost is probably between and per barrel. That means, at current prices, most OPEC producers’ costs exceed revenues after they factor in capital costs.
Only Iraq, Iran and the UAE have costs comparable to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. In short, current oil prices are unsustainable long term. Even those countries that can produce oil profitably at these levels cannot produce enough to make up in volume the revenues they need to fund government expenditures. In the short term, prices may drop even lower but, in the long term, low prices are both unsustainable and extremely destabilizing politically.
The trends that produced the current instability in petroleum markets are not new. They have been in process for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated those trends and brought them to a culmination faster and more dramatically than would otherwise have been the case. Ironically, instead of dealing with the consequence of “peak oil” and skyrocketing prices, today we are dealing with too much production capacity and insufficient demand.
For much of its existence, OPEC has been an American nemesis, a position underscored in 1973 when the Arab members of OPEC (OAPEC) embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. in response to American aid to Israel. Historically, as a net consumer of oil, the U.S. wanted lower prices, while producers wanted higher prices. Today, however, it’s a different world, one in which the interests of OPEC and the U.S. are more closely aligned.
Prices in the to range are sufficient to keep the U.S. shale oil industry economic and afford OPEC members a basis of financial stability. It’s also in Russia’s interest, as it stabilizes the Kremlin’s finances, even if it falls short of Moscow’s more ambitious goals. In the meantime, the U.S. petroleum industry will continue to innovate and to bring down its shale oil production costs, while continuing to expand its liquefied natural gas export capability. Moreover, the U.S. would likely get Canada, Brazil, the U.K. and Norway to participate, even if unofficially, in such an arrangement. The Alberta provincial government is already limiting oil production.
In light of the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. and the global economy, stabilizing the oil market and a key American industrial sector would be a first step in repairing the economic damage. It’s time for Washington to make a deal with OPEC and Russia to stabilize the oil market, even if that means the U.S. must agree to some production cuts or export curtailment to ensure price stability.