The USS Illinois (SSN 786) was commissioned Oct. 29 in a ceremony at Groton, Connecticut.
The Virginia-class fast attack submarine can carry 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike at targets on enemy shores, or it can switch some of its missiles out with other payloads to deliver special operators or mines to contested areas around the world.
Conventional periscopes don’t exist on the Illinois or other Virginia-class submarines. Instead, they feature photonic masts that send video and other image data to screens throughout the ship.
The Illinois is a Block III-version of the Virginia class, and features a horseshoe-shaped sonar instead of the older, spherical sonars. And, instead of packing 12 vertical missile tubes, Block III subs carry two sets of six missiles in Virginia Payload Tubes. If the Navy adopts a new missile in the future, the VPTs allow the Illinois to more easily switch to the new weapon.
The boat carries an S9G pressurized water reactor. The nuclear reactor powers the vessel for its entire lifecycle without ever needing refueling. The pump-jet propulsors push the boat forward are quieter than a traditional propeller.
Missions on the Illinois can go on for three months or longer, and the crew can spend nearly the entire time submerged.
To learn more about Virginia-class submarines, check out the Navy infographic below.
Navy Veteran Angela Walker is competing in the National Veterans Golden Age Games for the third time. She’s in five activities in the ongoing VA sports event in Anchorage, Alaska.
At the same time, Walker admits that participating in the Golden Age Games isn’t easy. She’s been in a wheelchair for six years and has chronic pain throughout her body. Even a sport like archery, where one has to pull the bow and hold the arrow, triggers pain from her naval down, she says.
Yet, she perseveres, knowing there’s a therapeutic component to the games. One of the best things about the games is that “you learn how to turn off the pain a little bit and dial it down while you’re competing,” as she put it.
“I’m never without pain,” Walker says. “I can’t remember the last time I haven’t had pain all day. (It) makes it really challenging to play. But you have to push through in order to play. You might see the tears coming down. But I don’t like to quit unless I absolutely have to. It happens with every sport. So it’s kind of like, should I go to the games or not go to the games? I want to win, and I want to play, and I don’t want to quit.”
Angela Walker competes in horseshoes at the 2019 National Golden Age Games.
She finds it encouraging and inspiring to be among other veterans who are in wheelchairs. She’s competing in the wheelchair division of air rifle, horseshoes, boccia, bowling and shuffleboard.
“I’m motivated because everybody is doing their best using whatever skills and strength they have to win and to have a good time,” she says. “We’re all aware of what’s going on with our bodies. But doing my first Golden Age Games [in 2017] just let me know that, `Hey, you don’t have to just sit at home. You can do other things.’ So I’m taking my body to the limit in trying to do all of these different sports.”
Her determination is paying off. Competing in the 60 to 64 age category at this year’s games, she’s thus far won gold medals in boccia and horseshoes. She also earned three medals at both the 2017 Golden Age Games in Biloxi, Mississippi, and at the 2018 Golden Age Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Walker’s success at the 2018 games qualified her for the National Senior Games in Albuquerque from June 14 to June 25. The foundation for the games selected her to receive the Hurford Memorial Award that provides some financial assistance to attend. In the nationwide event, she’ll test her skills in the wheelchair division of bowling and horseshoes.
If not for a chance encounter with another veteran who competes in wheelchair sports, Marine Corps Veteran Johnny Baylark, Walker may not be competing. The two met several years ago at Naval Station Great Lakes outside of Chicago. Baylark encouraged Walker to come out for the VA sports event.
“I was looking for a parking space, I thought he was getting out, and I was going to take his space,” Walker remembers. “We both left our vehicles. He approached me and said, `Hey, you’re in a wheelchair. You should do bowling.’ I was like, `Bowling, I don’t know about bowling.’ But it made me think. So I talked to my doctor and he agreed that I should get involved.”
Walker has since tried to influence other veterans to take part in the National Veterans Golden Age Games. She volunteers as a motivational speaker and sings regularly at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in Illinois and at veterans’ organizations, such as the American Legion. An accomplished singer, Walker has won gold medals at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Competition, another VA-sponsored event.
In front of a waving Red, White, and Blue, she gracefully sang the “The Star Spangled Banner” before the start of June 7, 2019’s horseshoe event. At one point, Daniel Dela Cruz, coordinator of the horseshoe competition, remarked to Walker that “this is harder than it looks. It’s not easy.”
Walker knows all about that. But it seems that nothing will derail her drive to compete.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Michael Hayden, who previously served as CIA director and National Security Agency director, was hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his home late November 2018.
Hayden, 73, is “receiving expert medical care,” and his family has requested privacy, according to a Nov. 23, 2018 statement from the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University.
“The General and his family greatly appreciate the warm wishes and prayers of his friends, colleagues, and supporters,” the Hayden Center said.
Hayden achieved the rank of a four-star general in the US Air Force and went on to lead the NSA from 1999 to 2005 for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; he led the CIA from 2006 to 2009.
National security experts offered their messages of support.
“Michael Hayden is one of this country’s noblest patriots, dedicating his life to America’s national security,” former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter. “A man of tremendous integrity, intellect, decency, he has been a role model for countless intelligence professionals over several decades. Speedy recovery, Mike.”
“On behalf of the men women of CIA, I want to wish Gen. Hayden a speedy recovery,” CIA director Gina Haspel said in a statement. “Mike’s long career of public service commitment to national security continue to be an inspiration to all intelligence officers. Our thoughts are with Mike, Jeanine, their family.”
Hayden, who regularly appears on CNN as a national security analyst, has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s administration. In August 2018, Trump was reportedly weighing the possibility of revoking Hayden’s security clearance in addition to other former White House and Justice Department senior officials who publicly criticized his policies.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Afghan Taliban representatives say they have called off two days of peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar, just hours after they had announced the talks would take place without any delegates from Afghanistan’s government.
A Taliban representative in Afghanistan had told Reuters early on Jan. 8, 2019, that the talks would begin in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Jan. 9, 2019.
That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called “puppet” Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings.
But a Taliban representative in Doha told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan later on Jan. 8, 2019, that the militant Islamic group had “postponed” the talks “until further consultations” could resolve an “agenda disagreement.”
Another Taliban source told Reuters the disagreement focused on Washington’s insistence that Afghan government officials must be involved in the talks.
He said there also was disagreement on a possible cease-fire deal and a proposed prisoner exchange.
Afghan Peace Talks Off Called Off By Taliban, Citing ‘Puppet Officials’ Asked To Attend
“The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a cease-fire in 2019,” he said. “Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”
The Taliban has consistently rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in peace talks, insisting that the United States is its main adversary in Afghanistan.
The talks in Doha in early January 2019 would have been the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Taliban also called off a meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia early January 2019 because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the negotiating table.
Former Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, a senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was traveling to Pakistan on Jan. 8, 2019, for expected talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi about the peace process.
Chinese citizens are furious after the death of Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who was censored for warning about the beginning of the coronavirus, and his mother said she wasn’t able to say goodbye.
“During the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak, Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at our hospital, was infected. Efforts to save him were ineffective. He died at 2:58 a.m. on Feb. 7. We deeply regret and mourn his death,” the post said.
Li had warned some of his medical-school colleagues about the virus on December 30, about three weeks after the outbreak started but shortly before the government officially acknowledged it. The virus has now killed more than 630 people, mostly in China, and spread to more than 20 countries.
Li had said that some patients at his hospital were quarantined with a respiratory illness that seemed like SARS. But he was reprimanded and silenced by the police in Wuhan, made to sign a letter that said he was “making false comments.”
Li is now being hailed as a hero in China, with posts seeking justice for him and calling for freedom of speech trending on Weibo. Many were removed from the site, which often complies with government demands to censor politically sensitive content.
The top two trending hashtags on Weibo on Friday were “Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology” and “We want freedom of speech,” the BBC reported. It said that hours later those hashtags had been removed and “hundreds of thousands of comments had been wiped.”
According to the BBC, one comment on Weibo said: “This is not the death of a whistleblower. This is the death of a hero.”
Li’s death was the most-read topic on Weibo on Friday, with more than 1.5 billion views, The Guardian reported.
Li’s death was also widely discussed in private messaging groups on WeChat, the instant-messaging sister app to Weibo, The Guardian said.
One image shared on Weibo showed that someone had carved “farewell Li Wenliang” into the snow in Beijing.
People’s Daily wrote on Friday: “At present, China has entered a critical stage of epidemic prevention and control work. The country needs solidarity more than ever to jointly win a battle that it cannot lose, so that its people can be protected against disaster and patients around the country can return to health.
“No one can make an accurate prediction about when the battle will end, but everyone knows that only with sufficient confidence can the people win the battle against the novel coronavirus.”
Often as the direct memories of events fade, our ability to place them into context and understand their meaning only increases. It only makes sense, then, that some of the best writing about the Civil War, the World Wars, and Vietnam is happening now.
As you prepare your reading lists for holiday travel or look for items to give to family and friends, we present our choices for this year’s best books on Military History.
5. Grant By Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow is an exceptional writer. Among his achievements have been an exceptional biography of Alexander Hamilton that served as the foundation of the Broadway show. His portrait of the Ohio general is equally beautiful. Chernow delves into the relationships and temperament that made Grant a terrific leader as well as his lifelong belief in emancipation.
Grant was a quiet, even shy man, who had concern even for animals, yet was called a “butcher” during the War. It was tacitly assumed that Robert E. Lee was the great General of the Civil War for years and that Grant was merely lucky to have been on the right side of history. The facts do not perfectly align with that viewpoint. Lee may have been a very good strategist, but several skilled men before Grant tried and failed to do what he did. Chernow’s biography gives wonderful insights into what made Grant different.
4. Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
In the early part of 1968, the 400,000 strong armies of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong launched a general offensive against South Vietnamese and American troops, which, at the time, numbered 1.3 million. The American strategy had been to win a war of attrition in which the enemy reached a point where the number of soldiers being killed exceeded the number of new recruits, making clear the hopelessness of continuing the struggle. With that mindset, the American military elite, politicians, and journalists were shocked by the aggressiveness of the offensive. After the initial shock, the South and the United States regained control of the situation and 60,000 Communist troops died by the end of the year.
Of all the targets of the Tet offensive, the assault on the city of Hue was the most consequential. Hue was the third largest city in Vietnam and at a key logistical point in the country. While the fighting that began with the Tet offensive was generally over within a week, the battle for Hue lasted six weeks and the urban bloodbath changed the war.
Bowden does a wonderful job telling this story from the perspective of the ordinary soldier who fought for his life while being burdened with poor leadership.
3. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin
A brilliant recounting of the disastrous period of 1929 and 1941 in the Soviet Union, in which Stalin maintained his absolute grip on power, but whose purging of the military and terrible economic policies almost cost the Soviet Union the war with Germany that started in 1941. What is remarkable is how Kotkin is able to tell the tale from the viewpoint of a monster like Stalin and never loses his readers’ attention.
2. Alone by Michael Korda
Alone follows one of the heroes of history, Winston Churchill, as he rallies a country and averts disaster at Dunkirk before getting help from the previously neutral countries of the Soviet Union and the United States.
1. Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson
An incredible story that few had heard before its recounting by Bruce Henderson, author of And the Sea Will Tell. After escaping Hitler’s clutch, about 2,000 Jews trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland were deployed in Europe as a key intelligence asset during the War. This is their story.
When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.
That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”
“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”
Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”
Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.
Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.
Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.
“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”
The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.
Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.
“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”
The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.
“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”
According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.
“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”
It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…
“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
George Lucas Hartsuff served as a Union general during the Civil War, but his first brushes with death happened years before he faced off against the Grey. On December 20, 1855, then-Lieutenant Hartsuff and a ten-man detachment of soldiers rose at daybreak and prepared to return to Fort Myers, Florida, after a routine survey mission. As Hartsuff and his soldiers made ready to break camp when a party of forty hostile Seminole Indians ambushed the camp. Four died in the initial exchange and two were wounded, including Hartsuff – a musket ball passed through his left arm and lodged in his chest. As his arm dangled at his side, Hartsuff took cover behind one of the mule-drawn wagons with three of his men.
One of the wounded soldiers loaded and handled muskets for Hartsuff to return fire with his one good arm. Another musket ball suddenly slammed into Hartsuff’s left side. He grasped his side to pinpoint the entry wound but discovered his leather holster and revolver stopped the bullet from piercing his thigh. Short on ammunition, Hartsuff ordered his men to disperse into the swamp and escape.
He tore through the dense foliage of the Everglades as his left arm dangled, limp at his side. He dripped with blood and the discomfort of his chest wound radiated with each step. Hartsuff suddenly fell into a deep lily pond concealed in tall grass. He stayed there, too exhausted to extract himself from the murky water sitting level with his neck. He remained still as one of the Seminole attackers called out in broken English, “Come out, come out.”
He stayed in the pond for three hours until alligators attracted by his blood forced him out. He stumbled toward a grove of palmettos 200 yards away and dropped there from sheer exhaustion. Hartsuff remained there until nightfall, then traveled a half a mile further under the cover of darkness, dragging his body along, too exhausted to stand upright.
Fort Myers was still fifty miles away and he was growing weaker with each passing hour. Hartsuff constructed a makeshift tourniquet to stop the bleeding and prevent an infection. He tore a page from his pocketbook and wrote his name and a brief account of the disaster on it by dipping his finger in his own blood. He pinned the piece of paper on his pant leg, and lay down, too weak to go on.
A detachment under Major Lewis Golding Arnold stumbled upon the unconscious soldier who refused to die. Arnold’s surgeon probed for the ball lodged in Hartsuff’s chest but decided that it would be best to leave the bullet. Hartsuff recovered by February of 1856 and was soon back in an active field command.
From September of 1856 to June of 1859, Hartsuff served a quiet position at the United States Military Academy. He requested to rejoin his company stationed at Fort Mackinac, Michigan, uninterested with the monotony of academia. Hartsuff left Chicago via Lake Michigan on September 7, 1860, aboard the wooden side-wheeler Lady Elgin.
The Lady Elgin held 300-400 passengers that included members of a militia unit accompanied by their wives, children, and friends. Also crammed on the vessel were fifty head of cattle stored below deck. Hartsuff was awakened by a large boom around 2:00 a.m. The 350-ton schooner Augusta, blinded in the heavy rain and shadow of the night, rammed into the side of the Lady Elgin. The bow of the Augusta penetrated the hull of the Lady Elgin below the water line. Hartsuff ran to the deck and began to pass life preservers down to the panicked passengers one-by-one.
Within fifteen or twenty minutes, the damaged ship began to break apart. Rather than go down with the ship, Hartsuff grabbed hold of a six-foot-long board and plunged into the frigid water. He paddled with all of his strength to escape being pulled under with the wreckage as so many others failed to do. Flashes of lightning revealed hundreds struggling to hold anything that could float. Hartsuff floated along until morning with the other survivors. He kept from succumbing to hypothermia by “thrashing my arms upon my breast” and by “keeping my body and limbs continually in motion.” All around him, other passengers floated on fragments of the vessel, furniture, and bloated carcasses of the cattle thrown overboard.
He paddled toward a fragment of the hurricane deck from the Lady Elgin the next morning. As it washed up aside him, he climbed onto it with four other male survivors. Hartsuff assumed a commanding role and gave specific orders to the survivors: “To avoid the similar capsizing of our frail bark, I instructed the men with me so to sit on it as to keep the edges under water; this enabled us to float faster with the tide, we passing many of the other rafts.”
Hartsuff and the others remained on the large piece of debris until it was within a half mile of the shore. The sight of land gave them a false sense of security. A wave crashed into the makeshift craft, throwing two of the survivors to their deaths. A moment later, the raft overturned. Hartsuff grabbed hold of a plank but when close to the shore, he crashed into the bluffs and was thrown into the water by the surf. He struggled to keep his head above water and was buried under the waves. Although the water was no more than three or four feet deep, after ten hours, he was so exhausted he was tossed around in the sand before he could gain his footing. Fewer than 250 passengers survived the wreck.
Hartsuff’s grit allowed him to overcome both encounters with death. He later saw extensive service as a Union general during the Civil War. In May of 1874, he contracted pneumonia, which surfaced in the scar tissue of his old wound to his chest. On May 16, 1874, Hartsuff’s providence finally ran out and he died at the age of 44. He is buried at West Point Cemetery.
Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.
The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.
A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.
The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.
After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.
A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.
Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.
“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.
‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’
The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.
Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)
Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.
“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”
The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.
The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.
“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”
Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.
“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Islamic Republic of Iran was America’s original nemesis in the Middle East before Saddam’s Iraq stole the spotlight from 1990-2003. (Saddam and the Iranians, by the way, fought a bloody 8-year war against each other in the 1980s.) A casual observer might assume that the Islamic Republic of Iran must be best buddies with the infamous Islamic State (ISIS)…but no, they share a mutual hatred of each other.
Yeah, it’s all a bit complicated and messy, so strap in, and we’ll clear things up a bit.
Iran is a theocracy, meaning the country is governed by religious law. Rather than a single strongman dictator, Iran is ruled by a group of religious clerics who control the country’s “elected” leaders like former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 after religious fundamentalists overthrew the secular government of Shah Reza Pahlevi.
The Shah was a dictator, albeit one less brutal than the current regime, who came to power in 1954 with the help of the American CIA. It was a bad look for Uncle Sam, and many Iranians never forgot it.
American hostages in Iran following the Islamist takeover of 1979.
(Source: Associated Press)
The Iranians are not Arabs like their neighbors to the west. Rather, they are Persians. Instead of Arabic, they speak a dialect of Persian called Farsi. The Iranians are predominantly Shia Muslims, whereas most Arabs are Sunni Muslims.
Theologically, Shias and Sunnis are akin to Protestants and Catholics in the Western world. 85-90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni and, while the world’s Shia are concentrated in Iran, there are Shia minorities throughout the Arab world. Iraq is unique because it has both an Arab majority and a Shia majority, giving Iran a prime opportunity for heavy influence there (check the news…)
Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni jihadist groups, whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and many of the large militias in Iraq are Shia.
(Source: Pew Research Center)
So the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs, and their leaders are fundamentalist Muslims but from the opposite branch of Islam than bin Laden and the Islamic State.
So what’s Iran’s game plan? In a nutshell, Iran wants to preserve and spread its “Islamic revolution” by boxing out the Sunni Arabs and supporting Shia groups across the Middle East (they also work with certain Sunni groups like Hamas.)
To dominate the Middle East, Iran’s leaders want to exploit the “Shia Crescent,” a network of Shia populations stretching from the Persian Gulf to Lebanon. Iran’s message to these Shia populations is “Big Brother Iran is here to save you from the Sunnis, the Israelis, and the Americans.”
(Source: Geographic Intelligence Services)
You can think of the fight against ISIS as World War II, with ISIS filling the role of Nazi Germany. During WWII, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union set aside their rivalries to defeat a common threat. The Defeat-ISIS campaign was similar in that Iran’s Shia coalition shared a mutual enemy with the American/Sunni alliance, even though the two sides weren’t officially partners.
But now, like in 1945, the old rivalries are back in play once again. On one side, Iran leads Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and other Shia factions in the region. Opposing them are the Sunni Arab countries aligned with the United States.
Fear and mistrust of Iran runs deep in countries like Saudi Arabia- so deep, in fact, that Saudi Arabia has reportedly made secret arrangements with Israel to counter the Iranian threat (that’s, uh, a plot twist…to put it mildly.) Iraq, with its Shia majority but close and complicated relationship with the United States, remains stuck in a tug-of-war between the rival coalitions.
Alleged secret plan for Israeli aircraft to use Saudi airspace to strike Iran. Saudi Arabia publicly denies this.
(Source: Rick Francona)
Iran was once the great ancient empire of Persia, and there is more to modern Iran than its leaders’ ambitions. Iran has a population of over 80 million, and resentment toward the regime is widespread. Strict religious tyranny and a weak economy cause frequent protests which the Iranian regime suppresses with ruthless violence. It’s unclear if this unrest will eventually put the regime’s power in serious jeopardy.
Iran’s economic problems are driven in part by economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe. These sanctions, in turn, are imposed partly as a result of Iran’s nuclear program- a program which, the regime insists, is strictly for domestic energy production. Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons is concerning because an atomic Iran could lead its Sunni rivals to pursue their own nuclear weapons.
Iranian protesters in 2009.
(Source: Getty Images)
Further Iranian vs. American bloodshed seems to have been averted in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but violence between the two countries is nothing new.
The infamous 1983 Beirut bombing, which killed 241 U.S. servicemen, was perpetrated by an Iranian suicide bomber and 1988’s “Operation Praying Mantis” pitted the U.S. Navy against the Iranian Navy in the largest American naval combat operation since WWII. The whole region remains a Game of Thrones-tier snake pit of conflicting loyalties, religious conflict, and political scheming.
Hopefully now, however, you better understand what led to the U.S. government ordering a drone strike on that guy who looked like Sean Connery.
Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told lawmakers that the United States intends to impose sanctions on firms that continue to help Russia build a natural-gas pipeline to Europe as he sought to dispel concerns about Washington’s commitment to halt the controversial project.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that that pipeline doesn’t threaten Europe,” Pompeo told a senate hearing on July 30, adding: “We want Europe to have real, secure, stable, safe energy resources that cannot be turned off in the event Russia wants to.”
Pompeo told the panel that the United States has already been in touch with some companies working on Nord Stream 2 about the risks they face if they don’t halt their activities.
The State Department and Treasury Department “have made very clear in our conversations with those who have equipment there the expressed threat that is posed to them for continuing to work on completion of the pipeline,” he said.
The United States opposes the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would run under the Baltic Sea and double Russia’s direct natural gas exports to Germany while bypassing Ukraine.
Washington claims the pipeline would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas while also hurting Ukraine, which stands to lose billions of dollars in gas-transit fees.
‘Frustrations’ With Germany
Work on the nearly billion project, which is more than 90 percent complete, was halted in December after the United States passed a law that imposed sanctions on vessels laying the pipeline, forcing Swiss-based AllSeas to pull out.
Russian vessels are now seeking to finish the project, but they require help from international companies such as insurers and ports, which Pompeo has now threatened to sanction.
Pompeo earlier in the month announced that he was removing guidelines from a 2017 Congressional bill that exempted the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from sanctions amid signs that Russia was taking steps to complete the project.
During the July 30 hearing, Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) said he had discussed Nord Stream 2 in “considerable depth” with President Donald Trump a day earlier during their trip to Western Texas, a major energy producing region.
Texas potentially benefits from the continued delay of Nord Stream 2 as it opens the possibility of more U.S. liquefied-natural-gas exports to Europe. Russia has accused the United States of using energy sanctions as a “weapon” to open up new markets for its oil and gas industry.
Cruz said Trump expressed “frustrations” with the leadership of Germany, which continues to support the Nord Stream 2 project.
U.S.-German relations have suffered under Trump, who recently announced he would be pulling about 12,500 troops from the country.
As government and health officials scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, events around the country are being shut down or modified. Officials, after seeing the spike in cases (and fatalities) in Italy and the subsequent shutdown, are now implementing the same measures to major events in the U.S., whether it be canceling, postponing or barring fans.
This is major news in that sports, entertainment and travel are very important keys to the national economy. The loss of revenue to the teams, leagues, television partners and corporate partners will be big but there are many others too that will have a rough couple of months.
Hotels, airlines, arena workers, concession workers, arena security , front office employees, merchandise vendors, food and beverage companies, Uber and Lyft drivers and local establishments all canceled events….The list goes on.
We Are The Mighty will continue to update this list, but here are major national (and some international for fans) events that so far have been affected by the coronavirus.
A full list of all sports events that have been canceled can be found here. This list is mostly international but gives an idea of the scope of event cancellations.
A coronavirus conference in New York was canceled because of the coronavirus.
MLB operations suspended indefinitely
NHL season suspended
NBA season suspended
MLS season suspended
NCAA Tournament canceled
NCAA Women’s Tournament canceled
Big Ten Tournament
Pac 12 Tournament
Big 12 Tournament
Conference USA Tournament
American Conference Tournament
UEFA Champions League (Tuesday matches postponed)
Serie A (Italian soccer)
La Liga (Spanish soccer)
Formula 1 has had the McLaren team withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix this week. Next week the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to be raced with no fans.
U.S. Women’s and Men’s friendly matches canceled
Coachella postponed until October
Stagecoach postponed until October
E3 video game concert
Pearl Jam tour postponed
Adam Sandler tour postponed
Indian Wells 2020
Universities have been either moving classes online, telling students to move out of dormitories and postponing spring classes and canceling classes outright in some instances.