The commander of U.S. Pacific Command said Feb. 14, 2018 he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pursuing nuclear weapons to eventually reunify the Korean Peninsula under his brutal communist regime.
The U.S. should take that long view into account when dealing with Kim’s quest for nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. cities, Adm. Harry Harris said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
“I do think that there is a prevailing view that KJU [Kim Jong Un] is doing the things that he is doing to safeguard his regime. I don’t ascribe to that view,” Harris said. “I do think that he is after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do.”
North Korea conducted ICBM and nuclear tests in 2017 and has defiantly continued to pursue the weapons despite U.S. and international condemnation and economic sanctions. Recent testing and U.S. intelligence estimates show the regime is close to completing the missiles.
“It puts him in a position to blackmail the South and other countries in the region and us,” as Kim pursues what he sees as the regime’s “natural place” controlling the entire Korean Peninsula, Harris said.
“I think we are self-limiting if we view North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as solely as a means to safeguard his regime.”
An armistice between the North and the United States has been in place since the Korean War ended in stalemate more than six decades ago. Since then, three generations of Kims have ruled the North and turned it into one of the most isolated and repressive regimes in the world.
The Trump administration is now struggling with the youngest Kim’s nuclear aspirations, which have put the regime on the verge of becoming the world’s latest nuclear power to acquire ICBMs.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House Armed Services chairman, cited an article by former Ambassador James Jeffrey and speculated that current thinking on the North may be wrong.
“The dominant view is he wants missiles and nuclear weapons in order to safeguard his regime,” Thornberry said. “To think anything else is so unpleasant that we don’t let ourselves think that maybe he wants these nuclear weapons to hold U.S. cities hostage so that he can have his way and finish what his grandfather started on the peninsula.”
But North Korea is notoriously insular and U.S. intelligence is scant on its internal workings.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, questioned whether Harris could be so certain about Kim’s motivations.
“I think the real answer is there is no way to know. We can guess what he is trying to do,” Smith said. “I think anyone who confidently asserts that all Kim Jong Un wants to do is protect his regime is just as wrong as anyone who confidently asserts that he definitely wants to unify the peninsula.”
There are certain things that some soldiers and service members may take for granted: equipment provided, a full plate of food, ammunition for their weapons. It might seem like there is a mystical force operating behind the scenes to make these resources magically appear, but it’s a result of the organized, detailed planning, and execution that is logistics.
Soldiers, sailors, and civilians with the U.S. Transportation Command helped to further advance the efficiency of military logistics by testing a high-speed vessel to transport troops and cargo across the Black Sea, Aug. 24, 2018.
“This is a great opportunity to test this vessel and the crewmembers,” said Navy Cmdr. Steven Weydert, the USNS Carson City military detachment officer in charge. “Hopefully it opens up more options for the Army and any other service to develop interoperability in this area of responsibility for multiple missions and to support our allies.”
Members of U.S. Transportation Command oversee the docking of the USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
Soldiers, Abrams Battle Tanks, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles departed the Poti Sea Port in Georgia on Aug. 22, 2018, aboard the USNS Carson City and docked at the Port of Constanta, Romania after a two-day voyage. The Carson City is the first high-speed vessel of its kind to travel the Black Sea in support of U.S. Army Europe operations.
Carson City (T-EPF 7) is a Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, a high-speed, shallow draft vessel that can hold up to 600 short tons, sail across 1,200 nautical miles (1,381 miles) at an average speed of 35 knots (40 mph). The vessel’s role is to support joint and coalition force operations for the Army and Navy by transporting troops, military vehicles, supplies, and equipment.
Sgt. Matthew Grobelch, a transportation management coordinator with the 839th Transportation Battalion, helps to load U.S. military cargo at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
“Looking forward to future exercises being planned to take place in the Balkans as well as the Black Sea region, the T-EPF is perfect for some of those smaller ports that we want to utilize but can’t get the larger ships to dock,” said Lt. Col. John Hotek, commander of the 839th Transportation Battalion. “This proved that its a very viable solution, very cost effective, [and] very economical and efficient.”
This proof-of-principle operation brought together two of three service component commands that make up USTRANSCOM: the Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.
Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment stage their Abrams Battle Tanks at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018 after downloading them from the USNS Carson City.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
“We’re trying to incorporate other services like the Navy’s MSC and see how well we can use this asset to deploy and redeploy units to various exercises and real-world missions,” said Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Elizarraras, cargo specialist with the 839th Transportation Battalion, 598th Transportation Brigade. “We’re testing the capabilities of the vessel to transport a company-size element of infantry or mechanized units in and out of port in a faster way.”
As part of the Army’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the mission of the 839th is to provide strategic transportation support to joint military forces throughout the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black Seas as well as the vast majority of the continent of Africa.
Pfc. Albert Hsieh, an armor crewman with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, inspects an Abrams Battle Tank after it is staged at the Port of Constanta, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Bonet)
Equally important, the Navy’s MSC has the responsibility for providing sealift and ocean transportation for all U.S. military services, as well as replenishments and controlling the military transport ships.
“I have a tendency sometimes to say ‘we work in the shadows,'” said Hotek. “We are that strategic link between the tactical and operational force, and the Department of Defense’s command structure that determines the movements.”
The USNS Carson City’s success in traversing the Black Sea will affect the planning of future exercises within the European training environment.
The U.S. military operation in Syria and Iraq says it is sending home more than 400 Marines and their artillery from Syria, after they accomplished their mission against the Islamic State group.
The press unit for Operation Inherent Resolve says the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment was supporting local partner forces with artillery firepower to defeat Islamic State militants in their former capital city, Raqqa.
The city fell to a mix of Kurdish, Arab, and other local forces on Oct. 20 after a 4-month assault that was backed by U.S. and international coalition airpower and artillery.
The unit announced the draw down in a statement Nov. 30: “With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off.”
The U.S. is estimated to have more than 1,500 troops posted to Syria, including special forces, forward air controllers, and at least one Marine artillery unit. They have more than a dozen bases in north Syria.
Russia’s meteorological service has indicated that it measured “extremely high” concentrations of the radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 (Ru-106) in the southern Urals in late September, but then contradicted itself and accused environmental-protection organizations of raising a false alarm in order to attract more funding.
The conflicting statements from Rosgidromet on November 21 came weeks after reports of a radioactive cloud drifting westward from Russia first appeared in Europe, a delay that government critics said was reminiscent of the Soviet government’s initial silence about the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster in 1986.
The French nuclear-safety agency said on November 9 that a cloud of radioactive pollution detected over Europe in the last week of September probably came from a facility — such as a nuclear-fuel-treatment site or center for radioactive medicine — in Russia or Kazakhstan. Neither of the two former Soviet republics has acknowledged any accident.
In one report on its website, Rosgidromet — the state agency that monitors air and water pollution — said that it measured a concentration of Ru-106 at nearly 986 times normal levels at the Argayash weather station in the Chelyabinsk region in late September and early October. A table that was part of the report referred to that as “extremely high contamination.”
At the Novogorny meteorological station, in the same region in the southern Urals, levels were 440 times those of the previous month, the report said.
A separate statement posted later, however, said that Ru-106 levels qualifying as “extremely high contamination” had not been detected.
It said, using bold type for emphasis, that concentrations of Ru-106 were “several times lower” than the “permissible” level.
It also said that the reason levels were hundreds of times higher than in the previous monitoring periods was that Ru-106 had been “absent” from the earlier findings.
Rosgidromet said that the fact that it found “even negligible concentrations of radioactive isotopes” was evidence of the “high effectiveness” of its monitoring methods.
It asserted that the “heightened attention” paid to the Ru-106 levels by “certain environmental-protection organizations” was an effort to “increase their importance in the eyes of society” at a time when “their budgets for the next year are being drafted.”
Environmental activist group Greenpeace said in a statement that it will petition the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office to open an inquiry into “possible concealment of a radiation accident” and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.
Speaking to journalists, Rosgidromet chief Maksim Yakovenko said that the levels of Ru-106 recorded in Russia posed no danger to human health as they are “hundreds of thousands of times lower than the allowed maximum.”
Yakovenko added that Rosgidromet did not try to find the source of the increased radiation “because in Romania the level of the wastes concentration was 1.5-2 times higher than in Russia, and in Poland and Ukraine it was the same.”
The Russian monitoring agency did not point to any specific potential source of the pollution.
The Argayash station is about 30 kilometers from the Mayak nuclear facility, which reprocesses nuclear fuel and produces radioactive material for industrial and research purposes.
The Mayak plant, which is under the umbrella of Russia’s nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, said that the contamination “has nothing to do” with its activities and that it had not produced Ru-106 for years.
In 1957, the facility was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, and nearby residents say the government is still paying little attention to their plight 60 years later.
Rosatom said there were no radiation leaks from its facilities that could increase the level of the radioactive isotope in the atmosphere.
Yevgeny Savchenko, the Chelyabinsk region’s minister of public security, said that the regional administration received no official information about dangerous levels of radiation in September.
“When the media got hysterical about some accident and cloud of ruthenium-106, we asked for explanations” from Rosgidromet and Rosatom, Savchenko wrote on Facebook.
The November 9 report from France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) said that ruthenium-106 had been detected in France between September 27 and October 13. Several other nuclear-safety institutes in Europe had measured high levels of the radioactive nuclide.
The IRSN statement said it could not accurately locate the release of Ru-106 but, based on weather patterns, it most likely originated south of the Ural Mountains, between the Urals and the Volga River.
This could indicate Russia or possibly Kazakhstan as the site of the origin of the cloud, IRSN Director Jean-Marc Peres said.
IRSN ruled out an accident in a nuclear reactor, saying it was likely a leak at a nuclear-fuel-treatment site or center for radioactive medicine.
Ruthenium-106 does not occur naturally. It is a product of splitting atoms in a reactor, and is also used in medical treatments.
In mid-October in response to the earliest European reports about the radioactive cloud, Rosatom issued a statement quoted by Russian media outlets as saying that “in samples tested from September 25 to October 7, including in the southern Urals, no trace of ruthenium-106 was found, except in St. Petersburg.”
Rosatom later said in response to the French agency’s report that “radiation around all facilities of Russian nuclear infrastructure are within the norm and are at the level of background radiation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to order nearly five times as many fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighters as originally planned to replace older fighters, strengthen Russian airpower, and give Russia a fighting chance in competition with its rivals.
“The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets,” Putin said during last week’s defense meeting before announcing that the Russian military had “agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time.”
The Russian president said a 20% reduction in cost had made the purchase of additional fifth-gen fighters possible. Improvements in the production process are also reportedly behind Putin’s decision to order more of the aircraft.
He added that a contract would be signed in the near future for the fighters, which he said would be armed with “modern weapons of destruction,” according to Russia’s state-run TASS News Agency. Such weapons could include the R-37M long-range hypersonic air-to-ar missile, an advanced standoff weapon with a range of more than 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, Russian media reported.
The new Su-57s are expected to be delivered to three aviation regiments. Those units, the Russian outlet Izvestia reported May 20, 2019, include regiments in the three main strategic regions in the northwest, southwest, and far east. The report said only the best pilots would be trained on the aircraft.
Seventy-six of these fighters is a particularly tall order for the Russian military, which has had to cut orders for various programs, such as the T-14 Armata main battle tank, over funding shortages. Right now, Russia has only 10 Su-57 prototypes, and fighter development has been moving much slower than expected.
The Su-57’s chief developer argued late last year that the Su-57 was superior to US stealth fighter jets, a claim met with skepticism by most independent experts.
Su-57 stealth fighter at the MAKS 2011 air show.
Russia’s Su-57 fighters, as they are right now, largely rely on older fourth-generation engines, and they lack the kind of low-observable stealth capabilities characteristic of true fifth-generation fighters, such as Lockheed Martin’s highly capable F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.
That is not to say the Russian fighter does not have its own advantageous features, such as the side-facing radar that gives it the ability to trick the radar on US stealth fighters. And it is possible, even likely, that the Russian military will make improvements to the aircraft going forward.
Should Russia follow through in purchasing 76 Su-57s, its military would still trail far behind those of the US and its partners with respect to fifth-generation airpower. As of February 2019, there were 360 F-35s operating from 16 bases in 10 countries, according to Bloomberg. The US also possesses 187 F-22s, arguably the best aircraft in the world.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A female Marine graduated from the Corps’ grueling Infantry Officer Course Monday, marking a historic feat as the first woman to earn the 0302 infantry officer military occupational specialty.
The woman, who has asked to keep her identity private, will now be assigned to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, the service said in a release.
“I am proud of this officer and those in her class who have earned the infantry officer MOS,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement.
Infantry Officer Course is one of the Corps’ toughest schools, where officers learn combat skills, patrolling, and leadership over 13 weeks of training. Just 88 Marines graduated from the latest class, which started with 131 students.
IOC was first opened to women in 2012 so that Marine leaders could research the feasibility of integrating all-male infantry units. Eventually, the Pentagon removed all restrictions on women in 2015.
Since the course opened up, more than 30 female officers have attempted it and failed. Meanwhile, a handful of enlisted female Marines have been able to graduate from the Corps’ Infantry Training Battalion.
“This is such a huge deal,” Kate Germano, a retired lieutenant colonel who previously commanded the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion, wrote on Twitter.
The Corps released a short video with clips of the female lieutenant during the course:
The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.
Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.
But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.
“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”
On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.
Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.
About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.
Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.
Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.
While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.
Tan Son Nhut
One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.
After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.
As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.
Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.
Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.
When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.
As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.
“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.
A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.
Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.
“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.
His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.
Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.
“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”
Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.
Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.
“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”
He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.
After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.
With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.
There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.
As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.
“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.
Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.
Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.
“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”
Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.
Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.
“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.
Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.
Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.
He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.
“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”
Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.
Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.
They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.
Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.
“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”
Photo credit: Hinterland Co. Learn more about CBD by visiting: https://hinterlandco.com.au/.
CBD is an emerging drug derived from the cannabis plant for its ability to reduce anxiety without “getting you high.” As federal restrictions relax, scientists continue to study CBD for its medicinal properties and companies continue to find great ways to administer it.
But does it actually work?
The short answer is: it sure seems to.
A recent preclinical study strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies are limited due to past federal restrictions, but so far the anecdotal evidence looks convincing.
What is CBD?
Cannabis (most commonly known as marijuana) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. The two major components of marijuana cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC has a psychoactive effect, doctors and scientists have been able to procure CBD by itself, which is non-psychoactive (in other words, it won’t get you “high”) and has many promising medicinal properties that treat symptoms of chronic pain or anxiety.
In a survey conducted in 2017, 40% of cannabis users reportedly found CBD to be more effective than prescribed anti-anxiety medications. It should be noted that CBD can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but like any medication, it should be used along with practical methods to treat the sources of anxiety (such as therapy, wellness and fitness programs).
How to use CBD
There are many ways to enjoy CBD — and many different doses. Because it does not produce a psychoactive effect, you may be able to use a small dose of a tincture under your tongue for quick relief without compromising your concentration or if you have work you want to accomplish.
Maybe it’s the end of the work day and you want to relax for the evening. A CBD bath bomb can give you a larger dose absorbed by the skin at a slower rate for a dreamy evening. A CBD lotion can be part of your morning routine to calm your muscles and start your day off right.
CBD is an emerging medicinal offering with many different possible applications: liquids, capsules, edibles and topicals. Each one will result in a different experience. Furthermore, the strength of the dose is measured by miligrams and should be experimented with slowly (for example, I enjoy beverages with 10-25mg of CBD, but my evening bath bomb might have 100-200mg).
Overall, if you are seeking a way to help manage anxiety, talk with your health care provider about whether it’s safe to try CBD (remember, it is a drug — it can affect other medications you are taking), and then begin to experiment with different applications and doses slowly.
A 19-year-old participant in Iran’s recent street protests says that while the wave of public demonstrations has subsided, the antiestablishment unrest in December and early January opened many Iranians’ eyes and the underlying anger remains.
“Nothing [the authorities] do will decrease people’s anger and frustration,” Hadi, the son of a working-class family in the northwestern city of Tabriz, told RFE/RL.
Tabriz is one of more than 90 cities and towns where protests were unleashed after a Dec. 28 demonstration in Mashhad, the country’s second-largest city, over rising prices and other grievances.
At least 22 people are thought to have been killed in the unrest, which targeted government policies but also featured chants against Iran’s clerically dominated system and attacks on police and other official institutions.
The demonstrations have tapered off in the past week amid a pushback by authorities that included harsh warnings and a conspicuous show of force by security troops, the blocking of Internet access and social media, and reports of three deaths in custody and thousands of arrests.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have blamed the flare-up on foreign “enemies.”
But President Hassan Rohani took a different tack, leaving open the possibility of foreign influence but adding, “We can’t say that whoever who has taken to the street has orders from other countries.” Rohani acknowledged that “people had economic, political, and social demands” and said Iranians “have a legitimate right to demand that we see and hear them and look into their demands.”
Iranian officials were said to have eased some of the price increases stoking some of the protests.
Won’t get ‘fooled’ again
Hadi, who asked RFE/RL not to publish his last name, dismissed that and other steps as mere attempts to ward off public anger in the short term and said he thought such tactics have lost their effectiveness.
“They may decrease the price of eggs, thinking that they can fool people. But people are now very much aware,” Hadi said.
Hadi talked of his own frustration at being accepted into Iran’s Islamic Azad University but being unable to afford the school’s fees.
“My father says [Islamic Republic of Iran founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] promised that we won’t even pay for water, [that revolutionaries] said they would give everyone free housing,” he said, adding that four decades later many Iranians struggle to make ends meet.
Hadi said he and dozens of others took to the streets of Tabriz to complain of high prices, poverty, and repression in a country where he says authorities “bully” citizens.
The protests, Iran’s largest since a disputed election sent millions into the streets in 2009, were initially fueled by economic grievances and mostly young citizens frustrated by an ailing economy and a potentially bleak future.
Some Iranians envisaged rising prosperity two years after an international deal traded sanctions relief for checks on Tehran’s nuclear program, and Rohani campaigned for election in 2013 and reelection last year pledging mild reforms and more jobs.
Angry young men
A journalist in Tehran who did not want to be named attributed the protests to “angry young men” disappointed by reformists and conservatives, with no hope in the future.
“They have nothing to lose,” said the reporter, who had witnessed several protests in the Iranian capital.
The demonstrations morphed quickly into protests against the clerical establishment and the country’s leaders. Protesters called for an “Iranian republic” instead of an “Islamic republic,” while some complained that the clerics who have been ruling Iran since the 1979 revolution should “get lost.”
Many demonstrators also complained of Iran’s actions in the Middle East, including its military and other support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and aid to militants in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. They said Tehran should instead focus its resources on Iranians.
“Where in the world does a government spend its money on another country?” Hadi said. “[Assad] supports Iran because he is investing Iran’s money in his country.”
Hadi said he was frustrated at Rohani for abandoning social and economic promises: “He should take action, not just talk. He made many promises four years ago, but he hasn’t achieved them.”
But Hadi primarily blamed Khamenei — who, as supreme leader, holds the final word on religious and political affairs in Iran — for the state of affairs in the country, including the ailing economy and corruption.
“He is the main culprit, and his establishment,” Hadi said, adding that Iranian leaders “don’t know how to rule.”
Khamenei was the target of some of the chants, with protesters shouting, “Death to the Dictator!” and, “Death to Khamenei!” in many places.
Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said last week that the people and security forces had ended the unrest, which it said was fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies.
Former student leader Ali Afshari, who has been tortured in an Iranian jail for protesting against the establishment, also warned that there could be more unrest in Iran’s future.
“The forces that took part in these protests are different than those behind other demonstrations we’ve seen in past years,” said Afshari, who now lives in the United States. “They came out because of their basic needs; and since the establishment has serious problems on the economic front, it doesn’t have the ability to respond to these needs.”
Afshari predicted the latest wave of protests would mark a “turning point” in Iran’s modern political history.
“The geographical scope of these protests were unprecedented in Iran’s recent history. Within a week, protests were held spontaneously in 82 cities across Iran.”
Meanwhile in Tabriz, Hadi insisted that the rage that sent him and others into to the streets won’t go away.
“This regime has to go, that’s what I want,” he said. “In Tabriz, we say that now the regime is even afraid or our silence.”
Accounts are just starting to emerge of detainees locked up in connection with the protests, and Iranian officials continue to block many social-media networks and other sources of information, including Western radio and television.
“Even if there are no more protests [right now], it will explode one day,” Hadi said. “This is not the end.”
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Dec. 28 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to pay their respects to the victims and honor the survivors of the attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War II.
Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, President Barack Obama reflects on how war tests people’s most enduring values, Dec. 27, 2016.
“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” Obama said. “How even as Japanese-Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and its 100th Infantry Battalion, the Japanese-American Nisei.”
“America’s first battle of the Second World War roused a nation,” Obama said. “Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans — including my grandparents, that greatest generation — they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it.”
On the front lines and in factories, Americans did their part to win that war, Obama said. To the World War II veterans in his audience, he declared, “A grateful nation thanks you.”
The meeting of the two leaders, the president said, was intended to “send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”
“Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost,” Obama said. “And we give thanks for all that our two nations have won, together, as friends.”
At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.
Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.
Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.
Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.
U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.
Assistance from U.S., coalition forces
U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.
Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.
Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.
The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”
Putin turned toward offensive nuclear-capable systems near the end of his annual, wide-ranging state of the nation address in Moscow, in which he also said Russia needed to spend heavily on improving conditions for average Russians.
Putin described at least five new weapons systems, emphasizing how each could defeat US missile defenses and characterizing nearly all of them as nuclear-capable.
But in typical fashion, Putin’s descriptions contained wild, scientifically unimaginable claims about how great the weapons were.
A computer-generated animation accompanied each weapon announcement, perhaps illustrating that they exist mainly in a conceptual state.
First, Putin mentioned a new intercontinental ballistic, which he claimed had unlimited range and could get past all US missile defenses.
An animation showed the missile taking two trajectories toward the West. Without showing much real video of the product, Putin said, “our defense companies have launched mass production of this new system.”
Here is your Russian NPR, delivered by Putin https://t.co/LQJgyzm85a. Very interesting, although I would note that there is a lot of animation there
Next, Putin announced what he called a “global cruise missile,” which he claimed had unlimited range and was nuclear-propelled.
An animation showed the missile fired from Russia’s north, flying north of Europe into the Atlantic, weaving through US air-defense zones, and then inexplicably traveling south the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean before wrapping around Argentina and ending up near Chile.
The doomsday device
Then, Putin seemed to confirm a long-feared “doomsday” weapon: an unmanned, undersea vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear weapon across oceans at high speeds.
Previous reports of the weapon have stated it may be a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon with additional metal in its core to keep radiation in the atmosphere for years.
The undersea weapon’s concept has been mocked as an over-the-top system with little purpose other than destroying massive swaths of human life.
Russia may have intentionally leaked images of it in 2015, because it’s suspected that a major purpose of this weapon would be to deter attacks on Russia. The animation of the system showed it striking both US Navy formations and a coastal city.
Putin said the undersea weapon was successfully tested in December 2016, and the US intelligence community seems to have been aware of it, as such a weapon was mentioned in President Donald Trump’s recent review of US nuclear policy.
Other crazy weapons
Putin then discussed a hypersonic plane-launched, nuclear-capable missile and showed it hitting US Navy ships.
The US, Russia, China, and others are working on hypersonic weapons designed to defeat today’s defenses by flying at many times the speed of sound.
Finally, Putin talked up Russian laser weapons, showing a brief video of an electronic system with lenses pivoting on the back of a truck. He provided little detail about the system.
For many of the systems, Putin asked Russian citizens to send in suggestions for their names. He used the opportunity to stoke Russian pride by saying the systems were not reworkings of Soviet designs but had been developed in the past few years.
“They kept ignoring us,” Putin said of the West, to a standing ovation. “Nobody wanted to listen to us, so listen to us now.”