A U.S. attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 in the country’s north on Feb. 8, and the regime came roaring back with airstrikes of its own on rebel forces near Damascus.
The airstrikes from Assad killed 21 and injured 125, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Feb. 8.
The U.S. responded with artillery, tanks, and rocket fire.
In the exchange, no U.S. forces were reported hurt or killed, but 500 of Assad’s were said to be engaged, many wounded, and 100 dead.
“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
The pro-Assad forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017.”
But Syrian state media characterized the event differently, saying the U.S. had bombed “popular local forces fighting” ISIS, and that it was a U.S. “attempt to support terrorism.” The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn’t support the regime a terrorist.
Though some of the anti-Assad resistance has become entwined with Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, the U.S. vets the groups it works with and maintains that the SDF are moderate rebels who were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS.
Syria wants the U.S. out, but it won’t go without a fight
Syria’s air offensive on rebel-held areas near Damascus has been going on for days, with local reports claiming that airstrikes from the Syrian government and Russia killed scores of civilians.
Activists and first responders said that at least 55 people were killed after the airstrikes on Feb. 6.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December 2017, the recent rash of renewed strikes shows they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.
In January 2018, Syria vowed that it would eject U.S. troops from the country, but since then the U.S. announced plans to stay there long enough to counter Iran’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began a more vocal campaign of accusing Syria and Russia of using chemical weapons in the conflict.
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.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”
The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.
“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”
Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”
Review Involves Many Countries
The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”
The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.
Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country’s foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in June 2018.
Lavrov’s May 31, 2018 visit — his first to North Korea since 2009 — was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.
Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.
Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States,” Lavrov said on May 31, 2018, after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
The Russian minister called on “all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process.”
Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.
Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.
Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 2018, to discuss the matter.
Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31, 2018.
“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu,” Pompeo tweeted.
Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.
Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.
It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.
But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.
By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.
Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.
Creed Bratton is mostly known for playing a fictional version of himself on NBC’s “The Office,” but more recently he’s been getting back to his roots: Music. Bratton, whose father died during World War II, showcased his guitar playing and singing chops recently before a live veteran audience in Hollywood, California.
The private concert was a “thank you” treat for veterans who worked on public service announcements highlighting the benefits of hiring former troops — resulting in short videos covering “What to Wear,” “Morning Routine,” and “The Bank” — comprised almost entirely of veterans in the entertainment industry. These productions gained nationwide attention and were made possible by CKD and The Easter Seals in partnership with Veterans in Film and Television.
Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was wounded in action. But he never lost a love for aviation, also serving in the Air Force and as an airplane mechanic in his civilian life.
Staff Sgt. Eugene Leonard (Youtube screenshot)
So, for his 99th birthday, one friend decided to pick up the former Marine’s spirits after Leonard became a widower and moved to the Phoenix area, Fox10Phoenix.com reported.
What was selected for that task was another World War II veteran — a restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
In a day and age where we lose 492 World War II veterans a day, according to the National World War II Museum, those few remaining are a link to the heroic history of that conflict.
The same can be said for the planes. In this case, one World War II vet was able to give another one a brief pick-me up.
Here is Fox10Phoenix’s report on Staff Sgt. Leonard’s flight:
President Donald Trump took North Korea’s recent provocative statements into account when he canceled his planned summit with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. Trump believed Kim would cancel the meeting first, US officials said, according to NBC News.
“There was no hint of this yesterday,” a US official familiar with the summit preparations told NBC News on May 25, 2018.
Trump reportedly began seriously considering withdrawing from the summit on May 23, 2018, and consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, and national security adviser John Bolton. The president also spoke with defense secretary Jim Mattis on May 24, 2018.
Trump eventually released a letter addressed to Kim on May 24, 2018, citing what he described as Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in its recent public statements. North Korea sent out heated missives in response to controversial remarks from Pence and Bolton on the fate of the North Korean regime.
According to a Washington Post report, Trump was reportedly worried that North Korea would back out of the meeting first, and in an effort to prevent the US from looking desperate, he beat them to the punch.
“I was very much looking foward to being there with you,” Trump said in the letter.
Trump’s abrupt decision took lawmakers and allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, by surprise. It also contradicted a letter from the State Department on the constructive talks Pompeo was having with other Asian leaders ahead of the summit, which was sent nearly two hours before Trump’s letter to Kim.
Pompeo has taken a prime role in US-North Korean diplomatic relations, after he traveled to North Korea and helped secure the release of three Korean-American prisoners. But according to some US officials, Bolton, who is viewed as a hawkish policy advisor, clashed with some of Pompeo’s ideas and floated the notion of scuttling the Trump-Kim meeting.
Following Trump’s decision, North Korean officials released a statement saying they were still willing to meet with the US to “resolve issues anytime and in any format.”
“I want to conclude that President Trump’s stance on the North-US summit does not meet the world’s desire for peace and stability both in the world and on the Korean Peninsula,” a North Korean official said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British Army has laid to rest three soldiers killed in World War I 100 years after their deaths fighting Imperial German troops in France at the Battle of Cambrai. The human remains were discovered in 2016, and the British government has worked for three years to identify the remains using a combination of archival research and DNA identification.
British soldiers with the 23rd Battalion present folded flags to the families of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead.
The three men were recovered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 2016. But the only identifying artifact found with them was a single shoulder title for the 23rd Battalion based out of the Country of London. The Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre went to work narrowing down the possible identities of the unknown soldiers.
Historical research gave them a short list of nine names and they conducted DNA testing of both the recovered remains and of descendants and family members of nine lost soldiers. That research identified privates Henry Wallington and Frank Mead, but did not identify the third set of remains. Wallington and Mead were killed Dec. 3, 1917.
So the JCCC organized a funeral for the men at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery near Cambrai, France, just a few miles from where the remains were originally found at Anneux, France. The ceremony was held with full military honors provided by the 23rd Battalion, London Regiment. The deceased soldiers had served in an earlier version of the London Regiment that was disbanded in 1938.
Family members of Pvts. Paul Mead and Chris Mead lay flowers on their family members’ graves during a ceremony in France in June 2019.
Three family members attended the ceremony and were surprised at the modern soldiers’ support for comrades killed over a century ago.
“We have never been to a military funeral before,” said Margot Bains, Wallington’s niece. “It was beautifully done with military precision and it was so moving and to see the French people here too.”
“I am absolutely amazed the time and the trouble the [Ministry of Defence] JCCC, the soldiers, everybody involved have gone to has been fantastic,” Chris Mead, great nephew of Pvt. Meade, said. “We couldn’t have asked for any more. It has been emotional.”
The JCCC has said that it will continue to pursue identification of the third deceased soldier.
France continues to host the remains of many Allied troops killed in World War I and World War II. The U.S. is currently celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day along with its French and British allies from World War II.
The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.
Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.
According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.
Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.
There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.
The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.
According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
John Hetlinger left the Navy pilot ranks for aerospace engineering. He succeeded in that field, working for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA before retiring in his late 60s.
That’s when he got into karaoke, singing at karaoke bars in pleated shorts and pants and nice polo shirts. He’s apparently got a thing for polos with toucans, which is kind of sweet.
Oh, but the songs he sings are heavy metal, and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” appears to be one of his favorites to perform:
That’s Hetlinger on his recently aired episode of “America’s Got Talent” where he wowed the judges with his performance. You can see Hetlinger perform a longer version of the song, where he includes some profanity, in this 2014 show from when he was a spry 80 years old.
The formation of a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces for a space domain is all but official now. After months of floating the idea through Washington, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to begin the process of creating what will be called, in his words, the “Space Force.”
With all due respect — and believe me when I say I am in support of this endeavor — it should be called the “Space Corps,” as was proposed by the House Armed Services Committee almost a year ago. This is entirely because of how the proposed branch will be structured.
The “Space Force” is said to fall underneath the Air Force as a subdivision. Its Pentagon-level leadership and funding will come directly from the Air Force until both the need and ability to put large amount of troops into the stars arises. The soon-to-be mission statement of the space branch will be to observe the satellites in orbit, unlike the hopes and dreams of many would-be enlisted astronauts. Essentially, this new branch will take over the things currently done by the Air Force Space Command.
Who already have the whole “giving recruits’ false hopes of going into space” thing covered.
(Graphic by Senior Airman Laura Turner)
This would put them on the same footing as the Marine Corps, who receive their Pentagon-level leadership, funding, and directives from the Navy. The word “corps” comes from the Old French and Latin words cors and corpus, which mean body. In this context, it means it’s a subdivision.
Corps is also found in the names of many of the Army’s own branches, like the Signal Corps, the Medical Corps, and the Corps of Engineers. The most famous of these corps was the once Army Air Corps, which later became today’s Air Force.
They earned the term “Force” — it wasn’t just given to them because it sounds cool.
At the very start of World War I, when aviation was just a few years old, all things airborne were handled by the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. It was soon changed to the “Army Air Service” when it was able to stand on its own. It was again changed to the “Army Air Corps” between the World Wars.
When it blossomed into its own on the 20th of June, 1941, its name was changed to Army Air Forces — informally known as just the Air Force. The name stuck permanently when it became so far removed from the day-to-day operations of the Army that it needed to become an entirely new and completely distinct branch of the Armed Forces.
Many years down the road, such a “Space Force” may earn its name. Until it is no longer a subdivision of the Air Force, the name is etymologically incorrect.
Let’s just say that the benchmark should be when they can actually reach space without the aid of the Air Force.