Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war - We Are The Mighty
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Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.


“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”

Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.

The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

Additionally, Russia has moved three warships to Syria’s coast, further complicating the US’s options should it launch another strike.

US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.

Related: Islamic State terrorists launched a chemical attack in Mosul

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that the presence of Russian defenses didn’t guarantee the safety of Syria’s planes.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”

To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in January 2016. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.

In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.

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Ms. Vet Finalist Recounts Night With Justin Timberlake

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Justin Timberlake with Corporal Kelsey DeSantis at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball on Nov. 12, 2011.


Kelsey DeSantis’ accomplished much during her enlistment, including being the honor grad of her boot camp class and qualifying as one of the few female trainers at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. But in pop music circles she is perhaps best known for having Justin Timberlake as her date for the Birthday Ball in 2011.

“I didn’t do it because I used to wear N-Synch t-shirts or was a fan at all,” DeSantis told WATM while she prepped to compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America in mid-October of this year. “I did it because I was studying for the sergeants board and I had to know current events.”

“I had two female civilian roommates at the time and they were helping me study,” she explained. “One of them said, ‘Oh, look, Mila Kunis got invited to the Marine Corp Birthday Ball.'”

At the time Kunis and Timberlake were doing interviews to promote the movie “Friends and Benefits” that co-starred them. One interviewer brought up the fact that Kunis had been invited to the USMC Birthday Ball by a Marine in Afghanistan who’d posted a video on YouTube. Kunis claimed she’d never seen the video, which caused Timberlake to emphatically encourage her to attend, saying “you have to serve your country.”

Timberlake’s enthusiasm and the way he framed Kunis’ obligation to attend as a form of national service didn’t impress DeSantis. “He said it about three of four times – ‘do it for your country; serve your country – which made my blood boil,” she said. “I was like . . . really?”

So the young corporal decided to make a YouTube video of her own inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. “I wasn’t even sure where the ball was being held,” she said. “I thought it was going to be in Washington when it actually was going on in Richmond.”

DeSantis had never produced a video for YouTube, but she had a basic concept in mind: she’d address the camera with the appropriate mix of directness and sass with a line of her fellow Marines standing behind her. The next day she asked one of her senior enlisted guys if he’d be in the video, knowing that if he participated she’d also get others to join. The tactic worked, and without wasting any time the group assembled and shot the video. “We did it in one take,” DeSantis said.

“You want to call out my girl Mila?” De Santis says to Timberlake in the video. “Well, I’m going to call you out and ask you to come to the Marine Corps ball with me on November 12. If you can’t go, all I have to say is, cry me a river.”

As soon as the video hit YouTube “it blew up,” DeSantis said. Her CO called her in and ordered her to take it down. She demurred, saying that her roommates had posted the video on a special Facebook page they created to entreat Timberlake to respond and she had no control over that.

The concern of higher-ups intensified when Timberlake wound up accepting. But instead of fighting it, the Marine Corps public affairs machine decided to use the pop star’s attendance as a vehicle to promote the service in a positive light.

The night proved to be very successful from all points of view, including those of DeSantis and Timberlake. They shared one dance and a hug at the end of the evening.

“He was a complete gentlemen,” DeSantis said. “You could tell he genuinely enjoyed himself.”

For his part, the next day Timberlake posted his sentiments on his blog, describing the Marine Corps Birthday Ball as “one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Kelsey DeSantis at the Ms. Vet America event in Leesburg, Virginia in Oct. 2014. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

DeSantis’ enlistment ended the following year, and she left the Corps to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and to pursue her passion for veteran advocacy. The MMA part of the plan was interrupted earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant.

She feared her pregnancy would jeopardize her ability to be a contestant in the Ms. Vet America event to which she’d committed after being selected as a finalist, but when she informed Jas Boothe, the event founder, Boothe replied, “Are you kidding me? This is what we’re all about.”

DeSantis was eight months along during the Ms. Veteran America event, and her proud presence on the runway among her fellow contestants was evidence that this wasn’t just another beauty pageant.

See Kelsey Desantis in The Mighty TV mini doc about the Ms. Veteran America Event here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is asking its followers to take aim at this tropical destination

A recent Islamic State video calls upon would-be jihadis to join the terrorist group in the Philippines rather than the core caliphate in Syria, an NBC News analysis reveals.


The video specifically instructs any would-be travelers in the Asia-Pacific region to go to the Philippines instead of trying to travel to the core caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah. Come forth to … Marawi,” a militant instructs in the video.

ISIS fighters remain besieged in the Filipino city of Marawi, where it has mounted a months-long surprisingly robust insurgency. The battle for Marawai has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorist group frequently uses the holy month as an excuse to mount some of its deadliest operations. Dozens of Filipino soldiers have been killed in the ensuing siege.

The group’s loss of territory has caused a concerted change in the terrorist organization’s propaganda efforts, which now tell fighters to either carry out attacks in their home countries or travel to one of the group’s affiliate chapters.

ISIS also has active affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya, each of which command the loyalty of hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters. Many of its affiliates have been linked to high-profile attacks in their host countries and even plots against the West.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens next in the North Korea missile situation

Experts may debate trajectories, payload weights, and re-entry shields, but North Korea’s claim that the entire United States is within range of its rapidly improving missiles just got a lot more credible.


The Nov. 29 launch of what the North called the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a greater range than other missiles it’s tested and showcased several capabilities the North must master if it were ever to actually try to unleash them at the United States.

Here is a quick look at the advancements made, the developments still to come, and the implications for the United States and its Asian allies:

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The Hwasong-14 missile, the predecessor to the missile launched on Nov. 29, rockets into the sky. (Photo from KCNA)

The missile itself

According to North Korea’s announcements about the launch, the Hwasong-15 can be tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and is capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. mainland. The North claims it reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 950 kilometers (600 miles) from its launch site just outside of Pyongyang. It was airborne for 53 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.

The launch data coincides with what foreign experts observed. U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, estimates the Hwasong-15 has an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory — putting it within reach of Washington, D.C.

Pyongyang claims the missile has significant tactical and technical improvements from the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested in July and is the North’s “most powerful” to date. KCNA also said Kim Jong Un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
(Photo from KCNA)

The repeated claim in the announcement that North Korea has now completed its “rocket weaponry system development” is new and important. It could be bluster, but might also suggest a shift away from tests — at least of these kinds of missiles — toward production and deployment.

The North’s arsenal is still a far cry from the quality and quantity of what the United States can field. The Air Force’s development of the Minuteman ICBM goes back to the late 1950s. It now has about 400 of the latest version, the Minuteman III, which also has a maximum range of about 13,000 kilometers.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

How it was launched

The timing and location are important. It was launched in the dead of night, most likely from a mobile launcher, near the capital. That indicates the North was trying to show it can launch whenever and wherever it pleases — a capability that makes it more difficult to take pre-emptive action. It’s impossible to blow up a North Korean missile on the launch pad if the missile can be moved and there isn’t any launch pad at all.

Interestingly, however, Japanese media reported on Nov. 28 their government had intercepted radio signals from the North suggesting a launch was imminent. It’s not clear if that was a first, since details on such intelligence are normally not made public. But it does suggest the North’s neighbors are having some success with surveillance efforts.

The trajectory of the launch is also significant. The missile was “lofted” at an extremely sharp angle and reached an altitude more than twice as high as satellites in low Earth orbit.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The ballistic missile, launched from Sain Ni, near Pyongsong, North Korea, was launched at an angle so as to arch sharply and fall into the Sea of Japan, avoiding crossing over enemy countries. (Image Google Earth and We Are the Mighty)

North Korea needs to launch toward the Pacific because it would otherwise be shooting its missiles at Russia or China — a very unwise proposition. And lofting avoids flying over Japan, which could prompt Tokyo or Japan-based U.S. missile-defense facilities to attempt an intercept, and hits open seas instead of other nations.

But lofting doesn’t closely simulate conditions of a real launch. Experts can roughly gauge the range of the missile from its lofted performance, but a missile on an attack trajectory would fly a lower, flatter pattern that presents some different challenges, particularly in the crucial re-entry stage of the nuclear payload.

So what now?

North Korea claimed, as it always does, that the test is part of its overall strategy to defend itself against Washington’s “nuclear blackmail” and that its development of missiles and nuclear weapons does not pose a threat to any country “as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon.” DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Related: The US can survive a nuclear North Korea — but a first strike could start World War III

In an equally familiar manner, the move was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by Tokyo and Seoul. President Donald Trump said Washington “will handle it,” while giving no indication of how or what handling it actually would mean.

Clearly, however, the problem isn’t going away.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea participate in joint statements on Friday, June 30, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The launch broke a two-month lull in what has been a record pace of tests for the North. While some claimed that was the result of pressure from the United States and its allies, it’s common for the North to re-focus its energies to farming activities during the harvest season and for its military to shift into a lower-profile mode for its winter training cycle.

North Korea still needs to conduct further missile tests, particularly of its submarine-launched missile systems, to improve its overall arsenal. But having now demonstrated what it claims to be the primary missile it needs to deter attack from the United States, Pyongyang may turn to more testing of its nuclear weapons.

So far, five of its six nuclear tests have been conducted in a series of tunnels under Mount Mantap, a 2,205 meter (7,200 foot) tall granite peak in the northeast part of the country. But Pyongyang has hinted it might attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific Ocean.

That would be a far more provocative move than the Nov. 29 missile test and might prompt a military response.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what it’s like to live in an ISIS-controlled Hellhole

RAND Corporation senior policy researcher Shelly Culbertson is an expert on the Middle East. Her new report, “Making Victory Count After Defeating ISIS” details the steps Iraq and its international allies must take to rebuild in ISIS’ wake.


She revealed to Business Insider what life was like for the civilian population in Mosul, when the second largest Iraqi city was under ISIS control. Following is a transcript of the video.

Shelly Culbertson: ISIS took over the entire city government when they came to Mosul. So, they took over leadership of all of the ministries, they took over property management, utilities management, and so forth.

The economy didn’t entirely shut down under ISIS, actually, satellite photos can show truck transportation in and out of the city showing fairly robust trade during that time.

But nonetheless, there were a lot of challenges and changes under ISIS.

Religious mores became much stricter, social controls and so forth. But many aspects of city life continued on, even though they were continuing in a much more minimal state.

There was a lot of significant damage, in particular in the beginning, in power, water, schools, hospitals.

Just taking the case of education — when ISIS came in, they instantly closed all of the schools, and then they reopened them shortly thereafter, but with a new ISIS curriculum.

And the curriculum that they introduced was pretty indoctrinating. It was very much intolerant of minorities, it taught jihad education at age 6, it taught math problems, word problems for elementary school students, through calculating numbers of people you could kill with explosives.

That became very harsh over time. A lot of parents took their children out of school. And families fled.

So, over time, about a million kids studied this indoctrinating ISIS curriculum, and that is going to be one of the biggest challenges going forward, and rebuilding and repairing Iraq.

A million kids studied this, and getting them back into school with a healthier, much more tolerant curriculum will be an important step.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump signs bill authorizing Alwyn Cashe to receive Medal of Honor

On December 4, 2020, President Trump signed a bill that waives a federal law requiring that requires a Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the actions for which the award is recommended. The bill, H.R. 8276, was introduced by Representatives Michael Waltz (R-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). By signing the bipartisan bill into law, President Trump has authorized U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

On October 17, 2005, Sfc. Cashe was part of a route clearance mission in Daliaya, Iraq. He served as the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Previously, the experienced NCO infantryman served in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. During the route clearance, Cashe was in the lead M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle when it struck an IED.

The explosion ruptured the vehicle’s fuel cell which covered Cashe in fuel, and caused the vehicle to burst into flames. Initially slightly injured, Cashe exited the Bradley, helped the driver out, and extinguished the flames on his clothes. Six of Cashe’s soldiers and their interpreter remained in the Bradley which had been consumed by the flames. Cashe moved the the rear of the vehicle and reached through the flames to rescue his men, his fuel-soaked uniform burning. He rescued six soldiers and refused medical attention until the others were evacuated. Sadly, the interpreter was killed in action. 10 soldiers from the Bradley were wounded, 7 of them severely. Cashe suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body. He succumbed to his wounds on November 8, 2005.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
An undated photo of Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe (U.S. Army)

For his heroic actions, Cashe was awarded the Silver Star. Since then, Cashe’s family has led the effort to upgrade his award to the medal of honor. Recently, however, Cashe’s valor and his family’s campaign have gained public attention. Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander at the time, said that he was not aware of the extent of Cashe’s injuries when he nominated Cashe for the Silver Star. The general since has submitted additional statements to the Army to justify upgrading Cashe’s Silver Star to the Medal of Honor.

On October 17, 2019, 14 years after Cashe rescued his men from the burning Bradley, Reps. Waltz, Murphy, and Crenshaw wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy formally requesting Cashe’s award be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On August 24, 2020, Secretary Esper agreed that Cashe’s actions merited the upgrade. The following month, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 8276 to waive the five-year statute of limitations. The same month, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, brought public attention to the campaign by taping Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet.

On November 10, 2020, the Senate also unanimously passed the bill and cleared the way for Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. With President Trump’s signing of the bill, the last hurdle to recognize Cashe with the nation’s highest military honor is cleared. “I applaud President Trump for signing our bill into law, recognizing Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his bravery in risking his own life to save his fellow soldiers,” said Crenshaw. “He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and now he is finally receiving proper recognition for his bravery and sacrifice.”

Once the President receives endorsement from the new acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, he will be able to award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. This would make Cashe the first African-American to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. On July 23, 2020, Cashe’s son, Andrew, followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Pfc. Andrew Cashe (left) and his father, Alwyn Cashe (right), as a Staff Sgt. (U.S. Army)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

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‘The War Comes Home: The New Battlefront’ profiles new ways to treat PTS

Did you know that every 65 minutes a veteran takes their own life? Or that over 30 percent of all veterans have considered suicide?  And that more US personnel have died by suicide since the war in Afghanistan began than have died fighting there?


One week changes everything.  Save A Warrior (SAW) is the original warrior-led conversation that provides a well-grounded and commonsense week-long healing experience for active duty military, veterans, and first responders who are struggling with post-traumatic stress (PTS).  On Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00 pm, a nationwide screening of award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien’s acclaimed documentary “The War Comes Home: The New Battlefront” will be shown in movie theaters around the country.  

This moving film follows the journeys of Delon Beckett and Garrett Combs, two young men who came home from war, and their personal battles of the wars that came home with them.  For both veterans, within months of returning, their relationships were crumbling, their children were frightened of their rages, and suicide became a choice they both thought could be a solution for their anguish.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

These two men are not alone. One in five veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, or severe depression, cited in a Rand Corporation study.  Post-traumatic stress is a significant predictor of suicide among all veterans. Almost 8,000 veterans of all U.S. wars commit suicide each year, and more than 22 veterans take their own lives each day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The film chronicles their experiences and powerful transformations as they make their way through the Save A Warrior program (www.saveawarrior.org).  SAW is an innovative program founded and led by Jake Clark, a U.S. Army veteran, and former Secret Service, LAPD, and FBI.  The intensive week-long residential program includes equine therapy, training in Warrior Meditation, and physically and emotionally demanding trust exercises. Warriors access their own internal adaptive mechanisms and experience profound life-changing transformations.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Two months following their participation in SAW, both men appear remarkably changed as they describe the progress they have made.  Combs speaks optimistically about pursuing his career dreams and becoming a better father; Beckett talks about reconnecting with his children and pours the alcohol down the drain that he had grown dependent upon to medicate his pain.

“The War Comes Home: The New Battleground” is produced by Soledad O’Brien‘s Starfish Media Group.  The nationwide Fathom Event will be shown only on Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00pm at nearly 300 theaters across the country.  For tickets visit FathomEvents.com.

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Here are 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

The incoming Commander-in-Chief already has a handful of issues waiting for him or her on January 20th and surely doesn’t need any more foreign policy headaches. Unfortunately, the job is “Leader of the Free World” and not “Autopilot of the Worldwide Ramones/P-Funk Block Party.”


Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
If only the UN were led by GEORGE Clinton and run by Parliament.

Inevitably, things go awry. Reactions have unintended consequences. If you don’t believe in unintended consequences, imagine landing on an aircraft carrier emblazoned with a big “Mission Accomplished” banner. By the middle of your replacement’s second term, al-Qaeda in Iraq is now ISIS and the guy who starred on Celebrity Apprentice is almost in charge of deciding how to handle it.

Think about that . . .

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Here are ten imminent wars the incoming Chief Executive will have to keep the U.S. out of… or prevent entirely.

Check out the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the incoming Commander-in-Chief’s war challenges come January 20th.

1. China vs. Everyone in the Pacific

In 2013, China declared the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands, depending on which side of the issue you’re on) to be part of its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. Since then, Chinese and Japanese air and naval assets have taken many opportunities to troll each other. The Chinese people see these provocations as violations of their sovereignty and anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted in China. World War II memories die hard.

The islands themselves are just an excuse. The prominent ideology espoused by Chinese President Xi Jinping is that of the “Chinese Dream,” one that recaptures lost Chinese greatness and prestige. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is a hardline nationalist, is unlikely to bow to Beijing just because of a military buildup. On the contrary, Japan’s legislature just changed the constitution to allow Japanese troops to engage in combat outside of a defensive posture for the first time since WWII.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Don’t mind us.

Elsewhere, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam are all vying for control of the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys are a small, seemingly unimportant set of “maritime features” in the South China Sea that would extend each country’s maritime boundary significantly. They sit on trade routes. Oh, and there are oil and natural gas reserves there. China started building artificial islands and military bases in the Spratlys, which is interesting because the U.S. now has mutual defense treaties with Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan. So the next U.S. President will also have to be prepared for…

2. China vs. The United States

The term “peaceful rise” isn’t thrown around quite as much as it used to be. That was Chinese President Hu Jintao’s official ideology, but he left power in 2012. China under Xi Jinping is much more aggressive in its rise. Chinese hackers stole blueprints for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter just before China’s military revealed a homegrown design, which looked a lot like the F-35. The People’s Republic also finished a Russian-designed aircraft carrier, its first ever. It now has a second, entirely Chinese one under construction.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The Russians wish they had a ship like this.

Related: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

The Chinese specially developed the DF-21D Anti-Ship missile for use against carriers and other advanced ships of the U.S. Navy. The ballistic missile looks a lot like nuclear missiles and can carry a nuclear payload. Once a Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile sinks its first U.S. carrier, there’s no going back – a downed carrier would kill 6,000 sailors. This is why China develops weapons to deny the U.S. sea superiority and deter American aggression in their backyard before a war begins.

3. Russia vs. NATO

The expansion of NATO as a bulwark against Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe is a challenge to the status quo of the last thirty years. While the end of the Cold War should have changed the way the Russians and the West interact, Russian influence is still aggressive. Russia does not take kindly to the idea of NATO’s expansion into former Eastern Bloc countries like Ukraine, which resulted in the 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
A map from 1900 – some things never change.

Now the Alliance is deploying thousands of troops to Poland and the Baltic countries as a counter to Russian aggression. Threats made by Russian President Vladimir Putin are always serious. He didn’t just annex Crimea. In 2008, he invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia to “protect Russian-speaking minorities” in the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin claims the right of Russia to protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities abroad and uses military force to do so.

4. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

The Sunni-Shia religious civil war rages on by proxy all over the Middle East. In Yemen, Iranian-backed Houthi tribes ousted the Saudi-backed government of Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. The Houthis are still fighting for deposed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose regime was a victim of the 2012 Arab Spring.  Saudi Arabia intervened shortly after with a coalition of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. The war in Yemen now includes al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned the sudden uptick in sectarian violence may spill over into the greater Middle East.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Wargasm?

The proxy war is already in Iraq. The Iraqi government is using a makeshift alliance of Americans, Shia militias, and Iranian advisors to retake territory captured by ISIS in 2014. In Syria, forces loyal to al-Qaeda are funded by Sunni proxies while the Asad regime and Hezbollah fighters are supported by Iran and Russia (meanwhile, everyone is fighting ISIS). At the same time, both Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to stockpile weapons and develop new weapon systems. There may come a time when the two decide they’ve had enough of proxy wars and just decide to duke it out for keeps. In the meantime, the two keep battlefields in the countries between them to avoid fighting at home.

5. Civil War in Iraq

It’s great to form an unlikely alliance against a joint enemy, especially when the enemy is ISIS. Once the terror group is gone the Sunnis in Anbar will demand equal treatment under the law, only now they’ll be surrounded by Shia militias and Iranian arms and money. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Sunnis in Anbar seek autonomy like the Kurdish regions enjoy in Northern Iraq, except Anbar doesn’t have the resources for independence like the Kurds seek. Speaking of which…

6. Kurdistan Independence War

The Kurds in Iraq and Syria bore the brunt of rescuing minorities in Iraq and Syria from the atrocities of the Islamic State. They also were the workhorse behind turning the tide of the ISIS advance and putting the terror group on the defensive. They shifted the momentum against ISIS at places like Sinjar and Kobane and the terror group has never recovered. ISIS is slowly collapsing as the Kurdish YPG in Syria approach the ISIS capital at Raqqa. The Kurdish people will feel they’ve earned an independent Kurdistan for doing the region a solid, especially if the YPG capture Raqqa before the Syrian government.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

An independent Kurdistan would carve out parts of Iraq, Syria, and maybe even Southern Turkey. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been an active terrorist organization in Turkey for decades. The Turks, a NATO ally, see the Syrian Kurdish YPG (People’ Protection Units) as an extension of the PKK – in their eyes, a terrorist army. In Iraq, the Kurdish Autonomous Regions are rich in oil and are unlikely to be given away by the government in Baghdad. The Kurds will have to fight all three governments and will come to the U.S. for help.

7. Israel vs. Hezbollah

For those out of the know, Israel takes its security seriously. When Hezbollah fighters switched their focus to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt any Hezbollah supply line that might be used against the Jewish state. Many high-profile Hezbollah figures have died in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011 – including Mustafa Badreddine, the military commander of the militia in Syria.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Israeli soldiers return from southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah isn’t a country. The group’s power base is in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, which is far from Lebanon’s border with Israel. When the fighting in Syria stops, Hezbollah will not forget its age-old enemy and is likely to retaliate. The Israel Defence Force has never hesitated to invade Lebanon with the aim of taking out Hezbollah fighters. The last time was in 2006 and Israel is already planning for the next one.

8. Civil War in Turkey

The Turkish people are facing an identity crisis. The current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has slowly brought the Turkish economy to a more modern, robust level. The cost was a turn away from the secular democracy that defined the Turkish government.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Turkish women protesting the AKP government in Istanbul.

Turkey’s military has traditionally been the guarantor of its democracy, overthrowing the government whenever it felt a slide toward religiosity, as it did in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. In 2012, Erdoğan purged the military, jailing dozens of officers to prevent a coup. As he and his ruling AKP become increasingly authoritarian and insufficiently responsive to terror attacks from ISIS, rumors of such a coup will only start to spread.

9. Civil War in Afghanistan

The U.S. and NATO allies can’t stay in Afghanistan forever. The Taliban doesn’t face the same opposition from Western troops they once faced before the drawdown in 2014 and the citizens of those countries aren’t interested in sending their troops back. In 2014, the Pakistani military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb in its Waziristan tribal regions unseated thousands of fighters who likely found their way back to Afghanistan, ready to start again. The Afghan security forces are unlikely to be able to stand up to these battle-hardened jihadists without U.S. support.

10. China vs. India

China and India went to war in 1962 because Chairman Mao thought India was against its takeover of Tibet (Indians granted asylum to the Dalai Lama). The war lasted all of a month and only resulted in slight boundary changes which have never been fully addressed. The coming war may be nominally over the Himalayan boundaries between the two countries, but in reality, it will be about water. The two countries both want the hydropower and water from the Yarlung Tsangpo–Brahmaputra River. The river starts in Tibet then flows into India and Bangladesh. In 2008, a Chinese dam project on the Yarlung–Tsangpo worried the Indians about the diversion of the water and the use of water as a weapon and is now a major issue in bilateral talks.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

In the event of a war with China, their perpetual enemy, Pakistan would likely join in on the Chinese side. The Chinese are heavily invested in Pakistan, especially in the disputed area of Kashmir. This investment allows the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to project power well into Central Asia and keep jihadists away from its borders. Individually, India can beat Pakistan and make a stand against China, but is unlikely to win against both.

Bonus: North Korea vs. Anyone

If anyone was going to invade North Korea, they would have done it by now. Seriously, what does this country have to do to get its government ousted?

MIGHTY MONEY

How people hide money from their spouse during a divorce

An unraveling marriage is not unlike a sinking ship. Everyone is scrambling, trying to salvage whatever they can while, in the wheelhouse, everyone is pointing fingers and figuring out who’s to blame. And, just like on a sinking ship, there are always a few people who set aside their scruples in favor of saving their own skins. This usually means hiding money in hopes that, when the dust settles, they’ll have a little nest egg for themselves.

Ask any divorce lawyer and they’ll tell you that hiding money is never, ever, the right move. “It is always a bad idea to hide money or assets,” says Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers, who says that, in California, where his practice is located, ” if you are caught committing fraud in failing to disclose an asset, the court has the ability to award 100 percent of the asset to the other party as a sanction.”


Consequences aside, it’s also just a really shady thing to do. Nevertheless, people still try and keep their assets under wraps in all sorts of ways, ranging from the mundane to the totally outrageous.

Christina Previte, a divorce lawyer and the CEO of NJ Divorce Solutions has seen quite a lot of money-hiding schemes in her 15 years of experience. Some of the more pedestrian ones include making regular ATM withdrawals that aren’t large enough to draw attention but frequent enough that the cash is likely being pocketed rather than spent, or earning cash from a cash-heavy business and then neglecting to report or deposit the funds.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
(Photo by CafeCredit)

Previte also said that she’s encountered those who’ve planned out their cash-stashing well in advance and taken withdrawals from various assets either holding them as cash or putting the withdrawals in someone else’s name. This way, when the discovery process begins, she explains, the withdrawals don’t show up as being recent transactions.

“One egregious but very clever one I heard from an accountant once,” she says, “was overpaying on the credit card accounts so that the bank issues a refund in the form of a check, which the spouse then cashes and pockets.”

Another shocker Previte also recalled was one partner forming a limited liability corporation and then funneling all of her earnings through the LLC. “That was particularly egregious and required a tremendous amount of trust in the other party holding the LLC,” she says.

Then there are the really crazy stories, the ones that sound like they were penned by a script writer.

“The craziest one I’ve had was an opposing party who hid diamonds in his father’s prosthetic leg,” says Valencia. “He then sent his father to Israel to sell them so wife could not track them. His father was detained at the airport when the diamonds were detected and we found out.” The wife, Valencia says, was awarded all of the diamonds as a sanction against the husband for his fraudulent conduct.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
(Photo by www.tradingacademy.com)

Valencia also recounted a story in which a husband hid a $350,000 recreational vehicle in a hangar in Arizona.

“We only knew it was in Arizona because we saw an invoice for a gas purchase in Arizona accidentally produced in discovery,” he says. “At trial he was ordered to disclose where the RV was hidden and refused. The judge charged him with 150 percent of the value (there was money owed on it) as a sanction against his interest in the family residence.”

Previte, too, has seen more than her share of oddball schemes. One guy, she says, siphoned off millions of dollars over a five-year period from various assets. “He gave them to his foreign escort who was apparently part of a drug cartel and absconded with the money.”

As long as there is divorce, there are going to be people thinking that they can put one over on either the spouse, the courts or both. However, both Valencia and Previte advise strongly against it. “I hope you are not planning on using these in your own divorce,” Previte cautions. For one, it’s a morally objectionable — and illegal practice. For another, she says, you’ll almost never get away with them.

“These are almost all discoverable in some way if you have a clever attorney.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

On Nov. 17, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.


At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting, they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.

Related: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on the afternoon of Nov. 17, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

Rawah, 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
The city of Rawah, Iraq. (Photo from Flickr user Jayel Aheram)

U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes, and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

IS blitzed across Iraq’s north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year, the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

Also Read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

All that now remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.

IS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.

Both the U.S. and Russia have embedded special forces with their respective partners and are supporting their advances with airstrikes. Russia backs Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The last urban areas controlled by the militants in Syria are parts of the border town of Boukamal and a patch of territory near the capital, Damascus, and in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian troops and Iranian-backed militias, originally pushed IS out of Boukamal earlier this month, but the militants retook a large part of the town, mostly its northern neighborhoods days later. Since then, IS has repelled government forces trying to push back into the town.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

Despite IS’ significant territorial losses, the group’s media arm remains intact, allowing it to still recruit supporters and inspire new attacks. Iraqi and American officials say IS militants are expected to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

MIGHTY TRENDING

1 in 10 homeless adults are veterans – here’s how to help during polar vortex

The polar vortex that’s brought blistering temperatures to many parts of the US, especially states in the Midwest, has already claimed at least 11 lives.

This weather event is life-threatening, especially to folks without proper shelter.

There are a little less than 553,000 homeless people in the US, according to a December 2018 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and roughly 224 million people nationwide have been hit with below-freezing temperatures.


Chicago, Illinois, alone has a homeless population of roughly 80,000. Temperatures in Chicago dipped to 21 degrees below zero on Jan. 31, 2019.

Veterans account for a disproportionate number of adult homeless people in the US. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, roughly 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Deadly polar vortex delivers third day of sub-zero cold

www.youtube.com

As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.

Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams

Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.

Dialing 211 can also help link people with community services. This service is available to roughly 270 million people, or about 90% of the US population, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters

Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.

Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.

Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.

A homeless veteran in New York.

There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to

Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, which is available 24/7 and is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans can also help you locate local services for veterans. Click here to find an organization in your area.

Donate money to a charity

If you’re able to donate money to a charity for the homeless, a little can go a long way.

Below are over a dozen organizations that were given four out of four stars by Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability.

Here are links to their websites:

Avenues for Homeless Youth

Coalition for the Homeless

Healthcare for the Homeless

Homeless Connections

Homeless Empowerment Program

Homeless Prenatal Program

Homeless Solutions, Inc.

Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless

The Homeless Families Foundation

Transitions Homeless Recovery Center

Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless

Union Station Homeless Services

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Army museum is shaping up to be an amazing tribute to all soldiers

Museums aren’t just buildings constructed to hold relics of a bygone era so that bored school kids can sleepily shuffle around them. They’re rich representations of lives once lived; they’re a way to reflect on those who came before us so that we can learn the history of the men and women who shaped the world we all live in today.

This is what the National Museum of the United States Army, currently under construction at Fort Belvoir, VA, will offer once it’s opened to the public in 2020. As a living museum, it will encompass the full military history of the United States Army, from its humble beginnings as ragtag colonial militiamen in 1636 to the elite fighting force it is today — all to inspire the soldiers of tomorrow.


Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the kid’s learning center probably won’t include a “shark attack” as the very first attraction.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Casey Holley)

The construction of an Army museum has been a long time coming. Before ground was broken in September, 2016, the Army was the only branch of the Department of Defense without a standing national museum. It’s got a lofty price-tag of 0 million, but it’s actually paid for mostly through donors. Over 700,000 individuals and many corporations have given to museum.

The 84-acre site, where the installation’s golf course used to be, sits just thirty minutes from Arlington National Cemetery and will be open to the public. The 185,000 square-foot exterior of the building is already completed, but the interior is still under construction. The museum also has four of largest artifacts in place as the building needed to be constructed around them. It also has the potential to hold countless other artifacts, documents, and images, along with many pieces of artwork made by soldiers and veterans, or for the soldiers and veterans, on display.

Along with the historical exhibits will house the “Experiential Learning Center” for the kids. The area surrounding the museum will include an amphitheater, memorial garden, parade ground, and a trail to give the patrons a taste of life in the Army in both a fun and informative way.

This is amazing for many different reasons. First and foremost, it’s something that everyone should learn about. Every generation of soldier will have their own dedicated area of the museum and through a vast collection of artifacts, you’ll be able to see the evolution of our country’s defenders. Over 30 million men and women have served, and through the museum, all of them, across the nearly 250 years of history, will be represented on some manner.

It’ll also give veterans a place to take their kids of grandkids and say, “this is where we fought. This is why we fought. And this is how we did it.”

The museum seems to be striking the perfect balance between being light enough to keep children entertained while also being perfectly honoring all who have served in the Army.