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Airport bombed by Libya's Haftar not military: UNThe United Nations mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has dismissed claims by strongman Khalifa Haftar that a government-controlled airport bombed by his forces in recent days housed military infrastructure. On Thursday and Friday Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched air strikes on Zuwara airport in western Libya, targeting what it said was a hangar "which houses Turkish drones and their ammunition". UNSMIL said it dispatched a delegation to Zuwara to investigate the LNA allegations.

Gibraltar rejects US pressure to hold Iranian oil tankerAuthorities in Gibraltar say they are rejecting the United States' renewed request that the British overseas territory not release an Iranian supertanker. The vessel has been detained for over a month in Gibraltar for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria. In a statement Sunday, Gibraltar's government said the ship would be free to go, as U.S. sanctions on Iran had no equivalent in the United Kingdom or the rest of the EU.

Johnson to Raise Brexit Stakes in Visits to Germany and France(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson will travel to Germany and France this week to make clear that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.The prime minister will tell German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron that the EU must offer a new deal or face Britain leaving the bloc without one.The British Parliament “will not, and cannot, cancel the referendum,” his office said in a statement on Saturday.Johnson will visit Berlin and Paris on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 in his first overseas trip since becoming leader. The visit comes ahead of the Group of Seven summit in France.His warning comes amid a report that the government is preparing for a three-month "meltdown" at British ports, a hard Irish border and shortages of food and medicine. These represent the “most likely aftershocks" of a no-deal Brexit, according to the Sunday Times, which cited leaked government documents. Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said “Operation Yellowhammer” represented a “worst-case scenario.”Economic HitBritain is heading for a no-deal Brexit at a time when fears are mounting for the global economy amid the escalating trade clash between the U.S. and China.The pound fell to its lowest levels since the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote this month and the U.K. economy shrank for the first time in more than six years between April and June. Johnson is under growing pressure to recall Parliament from its summer recess to discuss the Brexit crisis.The EU has ruled out renegotiating the thrice-rejected deal it struck with his predecessor, Theresa May. The agreement stalled in Parliament over how to keep the Irish border open, with the EU insisting on a “backstop” that would tie Britain closely to the bloc.The standoff leaves opponents of a no-deal Brexit just weeks to find a way to stop Britain crashing out of the bloc, an event that business leaders and many economists say would trigger economic chaos.Corbyn PleaJeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, renewed his appeal to lawmakers opposed to a no-deal departure to let him head a caretaker government, a proposal that has so far failed to gain widespread support.“My message to MPs across Parliament is simple and urgent: only by working together can we stop no-deal,” Corbyn told the Observer newspaper. “Three years after the EU referendum, the country stands at a precipice. Boris Johnson has become prime minister without any popular mandate. He has no right to drive our country off a cliff and into the arms of Donald Trump with his no-deal fixation.”The Mail on Sunday meanwhile cited a leaked letter in which Johnson accused those trying to stop a no-deal Brexit of making it harder to reach a new deal with the EU.Attack on HammondJohnson said the EU "will simply not compromise as long as they believe there is the faintest possibility that Parliament can block Brexit on Oct. 31.” The comments are being seen as an attack on former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has said he is confident Parliament will come up with a way to stop a no-deal Brexit.Johnson has said Parliament could be suspended in order to deliver Brexit. But on Sunday, prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller said the government now accepts such a move would be illegal. Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday show, Miller said she will be seeking reassurance that lawmakers would be able to pass legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit.In a move designed to underscore the government’s commitment to leaving, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay on Sunday announced that he had signed an order to scrap the 1972 Brussels Act, effectively ending all EU law in the U.K. on Oct. 31.“This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back,” Barclay said in a statement.Johnson will meet world leaders at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, starting Aug. 24. His talks with Merkel and Macron are expected to revolve around foreign policy and security as well as the global economy and trade.“The EU are our closest neighbors and whatever happens we want a strong relationship after we leave,” his office said.\--With assistance from Robert Hutton and Sebastian Tong.To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Kopit at skopit@bloomberg.net, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

No-Deal Brexit document leaked by former minister - UK government sourceDocuments detailing the negative impact of a no-deal Brexit were leaked by a former minister in an attempt to try and influence the government's negotiations with the European Union, a government source said on Sunday. It has been deliberately leaked by a former minister in an attempt to influence discussions with EU leaders," said the source, who declined to be named.

Syrian troops close to western outskirts of rebel-held townSyrian state media and an opposition war monitor say government forces have gained more ground in the country's northwest, almost reaching the western outskirts of a major rebel-held town. The state SANA news agency says government troops made advances on Sunday around the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun after intense fighting with insurgents. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war, said the troops are now about 1 kilometer, or half a mile, from Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, the last major rebel-held area in Syria.

Top Iran diplomat suggests 90-year-old Kuwait ruler is illIran's foreign minister says he's praying for the "speedy recovery" of Kuwait's ruling emir, though there has been no public word on the 90-year-old ruler being ill or injured. Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comment on Sunday on Twitter as part of a visit to the small, oil-rich Mideast nation. Zarif wrote: "Praying for Emir's speedy recovery," apparently in reference to Kuwait's ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

UN blasts Libyan force's strikes on airport west of TripoliThe U.N. mission in Libya has condemned airstrikes by the self-styled Libyan National Army on a militia-run airport west of the capital, Tripoli, saying the facility had no military targets. Last week, the Libyan force under commander Khalifa Hiftar said it bombed the Zuwara airport because it allegedly housed Turkish-made drones belonging to the militias allied with the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli. The Libyan National Army has been battling Tripoli militias in an offensive launched in April to take the country's capital.

Africa development bank says risks to growth 'increasing by the day'The U.S.-China trade war and uncertainty over Brexit pose risks to Africa's economic prospects that are "increasing by the day," the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) told Reuters. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the AfDB, said the bank could review its economic growth projection for Africa - of 4% in 2019 and 4.1% in 2020 - if global external shocks accelerate.

My Childhood Rape and My Life That Might Have BeenPhoto Illustration by The Daily BeastI have become, it seems, something of a collector: old magazines filled with young starlets, Mason jars full of homemade concoctions, confidants who were once wayward lovers, and a cat who hasn’t lived with his rightful owner—my now grown middle child—for too many years. There is a row of empty ceramic planters lining my window sill, awaiting soil and seeds and a goodness that will never arrive.Then there are the scars, both physical and emotional, that I have collected—too numerous, it seems, and too painful to count. Sometimes, I run my fingers across the blemishes—the nicks and pits and disfigurements—that litter my body. There are few mirrors in my house, lest I am forced to see the fullness of their bounty. Each one whispers its own story. Each one holds its own trauma, some petty and some profound, one and all a maker of all that is me. A thin brown keloid marks the spot along my right heel, sliced open by a broken bottle in the yard some 46 years ago when we lived in a Duck Hill public housing project. There are various other cuts and burns, some abrasions from scraping concrete, hopping fences and climbing trees. They remind me of the moments when I rejected my girlness, the femininity that left me vulnerable and afraid. I rarely think about them now or even about the small rise of skin on my back, where a man who swore he loved me shoved a blade into the meat of my shoulder as I ran screaming for my life. I tell myself that, for the most part, I have let them and the circumstances that wrought them go, and that some things, like the cat at my feet, must simply be embraced. There are a few, though, that have yet to heal. Goldie Taylor—An Open Letter to the Young Woman ‘Raped at Spelman’It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen—a 24-inch orange 10-speed with a black seat and matching vinyl-wrapped handlebars. I first spotted it on the lower floor of a Northwest Plaza department store. My godfather, Thom Puckett, promised that if I helped out around his Sinclair gas station, he would “see about that bicycle.” I swept the stockroom, grabbed extra cans of motor oil for my “uncle” Frank, and washed window shields for every customer that pulled up to a full-service pump. Puckett, who would later buy and teach me to drive my first car, made good on his word. It was 1980 and I had just finished sixth grade. I had been elected student council president in an all-white school. The gravity of that missed me. They were simply my friends. Some still are. We played together in a creek awash with nuclear waste, ferried cakes to celebrate Mrs. Bateman’s birthday, and learned to swim at Tiemeyer Park. I could not know it then, but the world was changing around me as the evening news carried stories of an Olympic boycott, a child born from a test tube, a presidential election, and American hostages in Iran. I remember witnessing a solar eclipse from the back playground at Buder Elementary School, our makeshift viewfinders fashioned from shoeboxes. Even then, I was mesmerized by it all. Johnny Carson was the king of late night television. CNN aired its maiden newscast. My older sister got married and had a baby that summer.Weeks after Mt. St. Helen’s spewed its lava, smoke and ash into the sky, I pulled the bike from the side yard and left our small pale green house on St. Christopher Lane. It was morning, the sun still low but already burning away the dewy air. My legs, even with the saddle lowered flush with the frame’s top tube, were barely long enough to reach the pedals. I was headed to summer camp, a free city-run program at Schafer Park. It wasn’t far. Maybe a half mile. I proudly parked my bike alongside the gazebo and spent the day playing checkers, swatting tennis balls and stringing colorful beads.Some time that afternoon, I started the way home, pushing my way up sloping St. Williams Lane. Clumsily switching gears, I felt a tug at my bicycle seat as I hit the top up the small incline. It was a familiar face—an older boy, maybe 16 or 17, named Chris. What unfolded next left a wound so deep and abiding that, until this summer, I could not speak it aloud. I told myself that, like the stack of cookbooks I never open, this was a chapter best left closed. I told myself it did not matter. I remember being led down a path that led to Hoech Jr. High School and through the parking lot to a house on the other side of Ashby Road, just south of Tiemeyer Park. He pushed me through the door of a screened-in back porch, yanked down my blue and white basketball shorts, and raped me on the slat board flooring.I was eleven years old. I remember the long walk home, the darkening sky above and the buzzing winged insects that danced around the streetlights. Long after the last of the sun had drifted from the sky, I sat on our painted concrete porch sobbing, waiting for somebody to come home. My panties bloodied, my arms and knees scraped. The pain seemed to come from everywhere. I waited there with my cat Lucky, afraid to go inside until my mother turned into the gravel drive. I was unmoored. I had no idea what that meant then, but it seems the only fitting word writing this now. I belonged nowhere, and to no one specifically. Nobody took me to see a doctor. Not for my injuries, not for the infection that came after. Nobody went to the police or even sat me down to talk through what happened. My mother gave me two pills—antibiotics I assume—and rubbed ointment on the boil. I remember the pitying look she gave me, and the anger she seemed to have for me. I could not help but to believe that whatever happened to me, wherever I had been, had been my fault. Looking back, I can only imagine what manner of hell might have been unleashed in our predominantly white, working-class neighborhood where we were one of only three black families. I cannot imagine what might have been said to an all-white St. Ann police department, which took a particular interest in my decidedly black teenage brother. Or maybe, my mother’s response was a byproduct of the horrors she experienced as a child. I can make no excuses for the care and protection I was not given, though I can now give them some measure of context. Part of me understands or at least wants to. Part of me wants to go back, to demand more and better for myself.As I returned later to pull my bike from the opening of a tunnel along Coldwater Creek, where it had been ditched, I remember thinking, knowing that I was on my own. It was not the first time I had been molested and it would not be the last. The sexual violence that I endured during my formative years—at five when a neighbor boy in our housing project lured a group of my playmates into an upper bedroom, at 13 when an older cousin in the basement of my aunt’s house, through high school when a football coach preyed on me and my classmates. Sometime in 1981, I was sent to live with an aunt in East St. Louis, the crumbling town my mother had fought so relentlessly to leave. I slept on the living room floor for several years, often soiling myself in the night. When I wasn’t scrubbing floors, polishing furniture or lining a church pew, I immersed myself in books of every sort. The library in our bottoming-out neighborhood was my refuge, my safe harbor. I found Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin there. To them, and to an 8th grade honors English teacher, I owe my very survival. I was without my mother then, detached from all that I had known. My blackness was suddenly present and burdensome in ways I cannot number or name. The school smelled of piss, the lunches served in plastic wrappings and the texts missing full chapters. I won another race for student council president, joined the speech team—winning statewide competitions—and wrote essays that brought accolades. Anything to escape the lack and despair of the half burned-out school house. Goldie Taylor—Why I Waited Decades to Tell Anyone I Was RapedThere are no repressed memories for me, only a tucking away. Some of the marks on my psyche are indelible, I know. But nothing was so hurtful as the sense of abandonment I felt then and even now. It has marred relationships with my closest family and undermined my ability to navigate the waters of intimate relationships. I learned to fight, early on, as a means of self preservation and I rarely leave home after the street lights come on. This summer, as I began pulling together old essays and penning a spiritual memoir, these are the things I know that I cannot avoid. If I am to speak of my life, of the joys and triumphs, the vulnerabilities, ailments and healings, of the rocky road made smooth by the might of my own faith that there has and will be better, there is nothing I can leave out.I think now about the life that went unlived, the one that gathered layers of mold in the dark cabinets of desolation. I sometimes wonder what I might have been, but for the pus and scarring of sexual violence, how it formed and defined and confined me. Even so, I marvel in the journey itself, the things I learned to reject and accept, the withering of my faith and the solace I have created for myself in its absence. There is a strange peace in this, an odd sense of surety that I cannot shake. It allows me no hatred, no compulsion for retribution. The wounds are without salt. There is a comfort knowing that my tomorrows, if nothing else in this world, belong to me. What I choose to carry with me, to what extent what lay behind me colors the road ahead, is a decision that only I can make. “You wanna fly,” Toni Morrison wrote, “you gotta give up the shit that weighs you down.”At some point, I imagine I will get around to planting that herb garden. But, for now, I am content to bear witness to my own blooming. Though the scars remains, there is a life—I know—beyond them.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. 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South Korea and Japan Must Resolve Their Trade SpatSome foreign-policy disagreements are necessary and some are a matter of choice. The current low ebb of relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) is more the latter rather than the former. U.S. interests not only dictate doing more to restore allied harmony, but also advise strongly against compounding tensions.Yet President Donald Trump is demanding a rapid and steep increase in host-nation support from Japan and the ROK at a time when those Northeast Asian allies are engaged in a dangerous intra-alliance squabble. Trump is right to want prosperous allies to shoulder greater burdens. He is especially justified in desiring the redistribution of allied costs when the chief security challenge is mutual defense against the neighbors of U.S. allies.  However, just as the protection of the homeland is an overriding responsibility of the commander in chief, so, too, should national security concerns take precedence over financial ones. America can live with less than perfectly reciprocal and equitable alliances—they’ve always been that way anyway. But the United States really should not risk trying to go it alone in a dangerous world. Deterring North Korea, managing China, building a region of networked security partners to stand up to revisionist powers, and signaling the durability of U.S. leadership are all vital. They are more important than trying to extract more financial support from allied countries that host American forces at this tenuous moment. Moreover, on top of the recent sharp deterioration in relations between Tokyo and Seoul, there is already excessive doubt in the region about U.S. reliability and staying power. The Trump administration’s stated vision of a free-and-open Indo-Pacific region is rightly predicated on leveraging effective alliances. Allies and partners are critical to reinforcing Washington’s postwar system, which is under siege from rival powers. As the Department of Defense regional strategy report declares, the “U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific” and the “U.S.-ROK Alliance is the linchpin of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, as well as the Korean Peninsula.”If America’s cornerstone and linchpin are damaged, then it follows that Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy is also badly encumbered. First, the fraying ties between Seoul and Tokyo hamper America’s North Korea policy. Specifically, Washington’s diverted attention helps Kim Jong-un with his divide-and-rule tactics and could undermine deterrence in a crisis. America enjoys maximum leverage on North Korea when policies are tightly aligned among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. Washington should have learned this during the Perry process—when former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry engaged in concerted trilateral diplomacy to repair cracks in alliance solidarity—at the end of the 1990s. Certainly, the Kim regime works hard to keep all outside powers at odds, and recent missile launches are in part a test of alliance solidarity. If America’s attempt at negotiating with North Korea is to have any chance of success, then U.S. allies need to be aligned. The United States has been able to engage in experimental diplomacy for two reasons. First, Kim is boxed in because he cannot actually use his weapons without unacceptable risk. Second, he cannot develop his economy without substantive steps toward denuclearization. Whether U.S. diplomacy with North Korea ultimately succeeds or fails, and whether Washington is in need of help with North Korean infrastructure or alliance missile defenses, the ROK, the United States and Japan will all need each other.A second, related problem is that crisis among U.S. allies hinders dealing with a world in which there is resurgent major power competition. The alliance drift—suggested by a failure to stem the falling out of Japan and South Korea—impedes cooperation for managing an increasingly assertive China and a Russia desperate to remain relevant. Current alliance troubles especially play into Beijing’s unrelenting narrative that U.S. alliances are relics of the past. That propaganda line argues that the whole postwar system failed to account for PRC ambitions and the future of the “China dream.”One of the unintended effects of Japan’s recent decision to enforce tighter control over the export of chemicals critical to South Korean manufacturing of semiconductors and display panels is that Seoul could become more dependent on China for those imports. This is advantageous for Beijing because it is in the midst of pushing national champion companies beholden to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to dominate cutting-edge technologies.Although few countries are signing up to the CCP slogan of a “community of common destiny,” the pushback against U.S. leadership and power is prevalent in parts of Asia, even in some allied governments. If responding to the China challenge to rewrite the rules and dominate critical technologies that are key to commanding the twenty-first-century economy is indeed an overriding strategic objective, the United States will need to do a better job of mobilizing others, beginning with its cornerstone and linchpin allies.Finally, the dispute between Japan and South Korea perpetuates rising nationalism, protectionism, and unilateralism. The (not completely) unintended impact of an “America First” slogan is that any domestic appeal and support is more important than any overseas revulsion. But it is not enough to criticize the administration. After all, other countries in Asia put their country first, time and again. They all have national industrial policies and more closed economic systems. Even America’s closest allies enjoy an element of free riding—especially as the challenges mount and allies and partners fail to pick up the rising tab for security public goods.But these realities do not alter what is essential for U.S. national security and what is simply desirable. The Trump administration is simultaneously attempting to arrest China’s bad behavior and most-threatening power gains, while seeking a serious adjustment on power and burden-sharing with effective allies. This includes pressure to correct trade imbalances, as well as demands for the allies to shoulder greater burdens for regional security.The United States cannot afford the extravagance an unnecessary argument among its closest allies. Instead of managing a proliferating North Korea and an assertive, rising China, Washington must now manage the perception of America as a declining superpower with weakening regional security architecture. That means Trump needs to lengthen the timelines for improving burden-sharing.If peace is generally best maintained through strength defined as capability plus will, then new questions about U.S. alliances are occurring precisely at the time when solidarity among like-minded powers is needed to check revisionism and aggression.U.S. pressure and leadership are needed to help the Japanese and South Koreans find a path back to cooperation and away from hostility that puts at risk all that the United States has worked to establish in the region and internationally. But the quarrel between important allies should redouble America’ focus on why these alliances matter in the first place. The United States needs to arrest doubts about its leadership and political will, even as Washington asks its prosperous allies to shoulder greater burdens than in the past.Dr. Patrick M. Cronin is senior fellow and the Asia-Pacific Security Chair at Hudson Institute.Image: Reuters

China's Belt and Road Plan Is Destroying the WorldChina has continually assured the world that its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a green project. At the first BRI forum in May 2017, Chinese president Xi Jinping touted BRI as a “vision of green development and a way of life and work that is green, low-carbon, circular and sustainable.” Similar promises were made at this year’s forum in April. However, China has long been the world’s largest exporter of coal power equipment, exporting twice as much as its nearest competitor. At the same time as the first forum, Chinese companies were building an estimated 140 coal plants abroad, including in countries like Egypt and Pakistan that previously burned little to no coal. At the current rate, Chinese coal plant developers will drive energy investments that make it impossible to limit global warming to safe levels. If Chinese development banks continue their current practices, then pollution will inevitably worsen around the world.The Belt and Road’s Dirty TruthsMuch of what Beijing touts as development assistance for power projects worsens pollution. Nearly 40 percent of Chinese Development Bank (CDB) and Chinese Ex-Im spending on electricity generation has gone toward coal. As a result, the amount of coal-fired generation Chinese policy banks are directly responsible for between 2013, the year that BRI was announced, and 2018 could generate enough electricity to power Norway or Poland. This surge in coal-fired generation will come with a drastic emissions increase. Chinese development finance flows between 2013 and 2018, by conservative estimates, will contribute to annual emissions equivalent to that of the Netherlands. Overall, projects backed by Chinese development banks will produce more coal-fired power globally than clean energy generation, setting the path ahead in the wrong direction. If it were not for government support, then Chinese coal power suppliers almost certainly would not be as successful and global emissions would be fewer.The CDB and Chinese Ex-Im financed power plants in thirty-eight countries since 2013, nearly half of which are fossil fuel-based. Most Chinese-financed, coal-fired power plants built overseas use low-efficiency, subcritical coal technology, which produces some of the highest emissions of any form of power generation. In more than one-third of countries, projects funded by the Chinese development banks increase national emissions intensity. That is, Chinese foreign aid makes those countries’ power sectors higher emitting than before.The picture is even worse in countries where China has concentrated efforts. In Pakistan, where Beijing has focused massive amounts of BRI spending through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, China has financed so much coal that its power investments are more than twice as emissions heavy as Pakistan’s electric grid was in 2012. Overall, as Chinese development finance in a country’s power sector increases, it becomes harder for that country to lower emissions.Beijing did not finance fossil fuel projects in more than half of the thirty-eight countries, but China’s non-fossil fuel projects constitute one-off investments over the six-year period. Moreover, nearly all those non-fossil fuel projects are not wind and solar but hydroelectric dams, which carry their own environmental damage. China’s hydroelectric projects portend ruin for millions of farmers and fishermen.Better Alliances and Best PracticesThe United States should not allow China to freely and falsely claim the mantle of global environmental and clean energy leadership. BRI marks a new era of U.S.-China global competition, in which Chinese funding for development and infrastructure projects could bring Beijing economic and strategic benefits at America’s expense. Take Southeast Asia, for example—Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam all receive Chinese development finance for power generation projects. The region is home to the Straits of Malacca, the second largest oil trade chokepoint after Hormuz, several U.S. military installations, and the world’s fastest-growing economic market.As it stands, Beijing is leveraging environmentally and socially harmful infrastructure projects for diplomatic capital that blunts America’s Indo-Pacific military presence and gives it a competitive advantage over the United States in an important emerging market. On the other side of Asia, Beijing-backed coal projects are, in part, helping the Chinese Communist Party deepen defense cooperation with Islamabad while worsening air pollution that already causes tens of thousands of premature deaths annually.The State Department should highlight these environmental and social costs and the comparative advantage of U.S. power projects under Indo-Pacific Strategy initiatives, which seek to grow the region’s energy markets while minimizing environmental impact. If the United States firmly communicates the environmental and social costs of Chinese development finance, then Beijing’s reputation should suffer accordingly amid a growing global backlash to BRI.Further, the United States should cement ongoing partnerships with Australia, India, and Japan—some of America’s strongest allies in the Indo-Pacific region—to internationalize new standards on “quality infrastructure.” Even with the creation of the new International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the United States cannot compete dollar for dollar with BRI. This burden-sharing strategy will help pool and coordinate funds competing with Beijing.The United States will find it difficult to sway countries away from Chinese development finance and China away from financing low-quality coal projects. That China has been supporting coal abroad while canceling coal projects at home is simple self-interest: Beijing sees coal equipment exports as a solution for excess industrial capacity. Beijing must keep legacy coal manufacturers afloat because the Chinese coal industry and steel industry, which depends on coal, supply roughly twelve million Chinese jobs. The United States should consider the important role that domestic concerns play in Beijing’s development assistance plans and pursue strategies that help assuage them. The Energy Department could facilitate projects to transition coal and steelworkers in both the United States and China into roles in the clean energy economy, such as the production and installation of solar panels and wind turbines.Convincing Beijing Despite repeated claims of “green development,” President Xi tacitly admitted BRI’s first phase has been an environment failure. After the second Belt and Road Forum, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a list of deliverables that include many efforts to make BRI greener. The United States can independently verify and communicate widely whether China is making progress toward these goals. Unless the United States challenges Chinese claims and competes with Chinese development projects, Beijing will continue to diplomatically benefit from asserting leadership with little cost. Chinese development finance likely has an even more harmful impact than visible, given the low quality of Chinese coal technology. More transparency would allow the United States to engage China on BRI’s true environmental and social impact. If the United States can successfully push China to become a more responsible provider of development assistance, then global prosperity would grow, emissions increases would slow, and Beijing’s ability to deploy foreign aid at America’s expense would diminish. Sagatom Saha is a research associate for energy and U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.Image: Rueters

The F-111 Aardvark: The Assassin Strike Plane Sent to Kill GaddafiDesert Storm was the Aardvark’s last hurrah. The F-111 was finally withdrawn from U.S. Air Force service in 1998. Though the Aardvark was good at its job, it had high maintenance costs, and the Air Force judged that its fleet of F-15E Strike Eagles could take care of shorter-range attack missions, while B-1 bombers could handle longer range strikes.The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark was a low-altitude strike plane born out of a shotgun wedding between competing Air Force and Navy requirements—with Defense Secretary McNamara as the minister. Despite its troubled adolescence, it grew into a capable high-tech night bomber that lasted decades in service, noted for its sleekly elegant profile.(This first appeared in 2016.)Troubled ConceptionIn the early 1960s, the Air Force came to realize that new, radar-guided surface-to-air missiles such as the Soviet SA-2 could reach its slow, high-altitude bombers. In response, it devised a new concept: a smaller long-range supersonic bomber that could skim close to the ground, below radar systems. At the same time, the U.S. Navy was looking for a fast, long-range carrier-based interceptor armed with air-to-air missiles that could take out Soviet bombers from a distance.Newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was convinced that a single aircraft could satisfy both requirements, thereby saving on development costs. The Army and Navy were less keen on compromising their visions, but were forced to cooperate on the so-called TFX program. A contract was awarded to General Dynamics in 1962. Because the design was smaller than Air Force strategic bombers, and the service eschewed the “attack” designation used by the Navy, it was designated with an “F” for fighter.Revolutionary DesignThe F-111 was built around two powerful yet fuel-efficient TF30 turbofan engines with new afterburner technology. A capacious fuselage could accommodate bomb loads of up to 31,000 pounds and fuel for missions up 2,500 miles long, with external tanks adding another 1,000 miles. The large plane weighed twenty tons empty—or more than twice that loaded.The designers of the F-111 faced a challenge: they needed a plane that could fly at very high speeds, but still take off or land on a short runway. Using smaller wings would create less drag, allowing the aircraft to fly faster—but also create less lift, requiring the aircraft achieve higher speeds before it take off, in turn necessitating a longer runway. For example, the other supersonic fighter-bomber of the era, the F-105 Thunderchief, had very small wings—and required airstrips over a mile long for takeoff, limiting which airfields it could operate from.The F-111’s designers adopted the new technology of variable-geometry, or “swing” wings. These permitted the wings to swing out during takeoff to generate maximum lift, and then would tuck inward midflight to achieve higher speeds. The F-111 was the first of several major designs that used the technology.The two-man crew sat side by side in a cockpit pod. If they needed to escape, a rocket boosted the pod upward, which then floated to the ground on a parachute, just like a space capsule.A key innovation was the F-111’s revolutionary new terrain-following radar, which mapped the ground directly in front of the plane and then automatically adjusted the flight path to avoid collision. This allowed F-111s to fly as low as two hundred feet above the surface and make precise adjustments at high speed without crashing—even when flying at night, or in bad weather conditions. The F-111’s talent for hunting in darkness, nose close to the ground, was what earned it the appellation “Aardvark.”Early F-111s did show promise, capable of flying over the speed of sound at Mach 1.2 at low-altitude, or more than double that (Mach 2.5) at high altitude—all the while requiring only a 2,000 foot runway to land. It was the first tactical aircraft to cross from the United States to Europe without mid-air refueling.However, the F-111’s design was biased in favor of the Air Force’s specifications. The carrier-based interceptor version, the F-111B, performed abominably in trials, struggling to exceed Mach 1. The expensive forced compromise that was the naval version was finally scrapped, leaving everyone millions of dollars poorer. Many of the more promising design elements of the F-111B made it over to the F-14 Tomcat, however.Deployment in AsiaThe Air Force F-111s didn’t have an auspicious debut in combat. After a detachment of six F-111As was deployed to Vietnam in 1968, three of them crashed in just fifty-five missions, all of them accidents linked to defective wing stabilizers. The Air Force was forced to withdraw the F-111 and correct the flaw at a cost of $100 million.Recommended: Why an F-22 Raptor Would Crush an F-35 in a 'Dogfight'Recommended: Air War: Stealth F-22 Raptor vs. F-14 Tomcat (That Iran Still Flies)Recommended: A New Report Reveals Why There Won't Be Any 'New' F-22 RaptorsIt wasn’t until the Linebacker raids in 1972 that the F-Aardvark finally demonstrated its potential. Skimming beneath North Vietnam’s extensive radar network at night, F-111s blasted North Vietnamese airfields and air defense batteries, weakening the resistance to incoming B-52 raids. Aardvarks didn’t require the fighter escort, electronic warfare support, or midair refueling that other bombers required, and could operate in inclement weather. Only six F-111s were lost in combat over the course 4,000 missions during the war, one of the lowest loss rates of the war.F-111s ended up participating in the last combat operation undertaken by the U.S. military in South East Asia, when the Cambodian Khmer Rouge seized the container ship S.S. Mayaguez in May 1975. Two Aardvarks diverted from a training flight were the first to locate the Mayaguez. Later, an F-111 sank a Khmer Rouge patrol boat escorting the seized ship.Variants563 F-111s of all variants were built. After the F-111A, the F-111D and E models upgraded the Aardvark’s electronics and engine inlets, and increased the thrust of the engines. Another variant, the FB-111, was designed as a strategic bomber with improved engines, stretched two feet longer to accommodate additional fuel. Seventy-five of these served in Strategic Air Command units.The F-111C was sold exclusively to Australia. It incorporated a mixture of design elements of the FB-111 and F-111E.The definitive F-111F sported engines with thirty-five percent more thrust, an upgraded radar and a Pave Tack infrared targeting pod that allowed crew to identify targets on the ground and hit them with precision-guided munitions.Starting in the mid–1970s, forty-two F-111As were converted into unarmed EF-111A Raven electronic jamming platforms at a cost $1.5 billion. The EF-111’s key system was an ALQ-99E jamming pod that emitted radiation that scrambled radars in the vicinity, permitting entire formations of aircraft to pass in its wake undetected. When active, the jammer’s current literally caused the hairs on the crew’s heads to stand as it crackled through the plane. Thus, the Raven was known as the “Spark Vark” to its pilots. The EF-111 is distinguishable by the receiver pod on the tail fin.El Dorado Canyon RaidThe F-111 would return to the stage of world history in 1986, after the bombing of the La Belle nightclub perpetrated by Libyan agents in Berlin killed two U.S. servicemen. Reagan ordered an attack on Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi’s personal compound near Tripoli codenamed Operation El Dorado Canyon. It was an early attempt to assassinate a head of state by air attack.An array of twenty-five SAM sites defended Tripoli. A squadron of eighteen F-111Fs carried out the main attack, joined by four EF-111 Ravens to electronically scramble the defense radars. A separate Navy strike hit targets near Benghazi.Because the United States couldn’t get approval from mainland European countries for the raid, the Aardvarks took off from the UK and had to circumnavigate Spain, increasing total flight time to thirteen hours. In all, they would need to be refueled six times on the roundtrip. It was the longest fighter mission in history.As a feat of logistics, the raid was impressive—but unfortunately, both F-111’s performance and the conception of the operation as a whole left something to be desired. One F-111 was shot down, probably by a SAM, and its crew was lost. Four were unable to release weapons because of avionics failures, and one F-111 had to land in Spain because of an overheating engine. Seven missed their target, with several of the bombs landing in civilian areas, nearly hitting the French embassy.Qaddafi managed to escape thanks in part due to a last-minute warning from the prime minister of Italy. Eight of his children and his wife were wounded, and his infant adopted daughter Hanna reportedly killed. (There is some controversy as to Hanna’s identity and whether she survived). Though Qaddafi was shaken, he went on to instigate further terrorist attacks, notably the hijacking of Pan Am 73 and the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.Aardvarks and Ravens Over IraqOn January 17, 1991, the opening night of Operation Desert Storm, Aardvarks zipped across the desert at a low altitude, targeting Iraqi air defenses and key military installations with laser-guided bombs. Meanwhile, EF-111 Ravens accompanied strike packages of coalition aircraft flying deep into Iraq, their jammers disabling Iraqi air-defense radars. In all, sixty-six F-111Fs and 18 F-111Es were deployed in the 1991 Iraq War, flying 5,000 missions.Contrary to popular belief, the Iraqi Air Force didn’t make things a cakewalk on the first day. Two F-111s were hit by infrared-guided R-23 missiles fired by MiG-23s. Another was struck by an R-60 missile shot by a MiG-29. In all three cases, the hardy Aardvarks made it back to base.An EF-111 was not so lucky in February. While taking evasive maneuvers after detecting an enemy plane, it crashed into the ground, losing both crew members.However, a Raven piloted by James Denton went on to score one of the most unusual aerial victories of the conflict.On the opening day of Desert Storm, Denton’s EF-111 was skimming just 400 feet above the ground in the morning darkness, leading the way for a strike package of F-15E fighter bombers with F-15C fighters for top cover. While passing the H3 airfield, an Iraqi Mirage F1 fighter fell in behind the Raven. Denton rolled sharply to the left, then to the right and pumped out chaff, evading a heat-seeking missile. As the Iraqi pilot attempted to match the Raven’s evasive maneuvers, he lost situational awareness and his jet slammed into the ground.Thus, the unarmed Raven variant scored the only aerial victory for the F-111 “fighter”.As Iraqi defenses thinned out, the Aardvarks were redirected to hit ground forces. The F-111F’s Pave Tack system proved effective at “tank plinking”—identifying Iraqi armored vehicles with its infrared scanner, and then precisely directing a laser-guided bomb on top of it. Over 1,500 Iraqi vehicles were “plinked” by F-111s.F-111s also targeted the oil manifold Saddam had sabotaged, stopping the flow of petroleum polluting the Persian Gulf.Desert Storm was the Aardvark’s last hurrah. The F-111 was finally withdrawn from U.S. Air Force service in 1998. Though the Aardvark was good at its job, it had high maintenance costs, and the Air Force judged that its fleet of F-15E Strike Eagles could take care of shorter-range attack missions, while B-1 bombers could handle longer range strikes.The EF-111, however, had no replacement in the Air Force inventory. It was left to Navy and Marine EA-6B Prowlers—and today, EA-18G Growlers—to fulfill the jamming role.Pigs of the PacificThe F-111 remained in service with the Australian Air Force until 2010, where it was affectionately known as the ‘Pig.’ Starting with a batch of 24 F-111Cs received in 1973, the Australians acquired an additional 15 FB-111s and four F-111As. Though never used in combat, the F-111s gave Australia the ability to project military force across the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean, enhancing its diplomatic clout.Pigs were the pride of Australian air shows, where they frequently performed a maneuver in which fuel was dumped and ignited with the afterburners, known as the Dump and Burn. Australia upgrades its F-111s to use anti-shipping missiles, and converted four into reconnaissance aircraft. Due to their high operating costs, however, they were finally replaced by twenty-four F-18F Super Hornets.While the F-111 has been retired, a similar aircraft remains in use today. The Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer was conceived shortly after the F-111, and is remarkably similar in appearance and role, down to the swing wings. Not quite the Aardvark’s equal in terms of range, speed or weapons load, nearly three times more Su-24s were produced and over three hundred serve on today in various world air forces. They have been actively used in combat over Syria, Chechnya, Libya, Afghanistan and Ukraine. A Russian Su-24 attacking Syrian rebels was shot down in 2015 by a Turkish F-16, causing a major diplomatic incident.Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

China's Military Is Ready For War: Everything You Need to Know.PLA concepts and capabilities also include military and para-military forces that operate below the threshold of war, such as increased presence in contested waters of fishing fleets and supporting maritime militia and navy vessels. These operations might spark conflict when an opposing claimant such as the Philippines, Vietnam, or Japan responds.Americans are slowly but undeniably facing a new reality in global great power relations that will define the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy for the foreseeable future. The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy mark an acknowledgment by not only the current administration but also a broad, bipartisan swath of government and private sector entities that China's increasing swagger as it emerges on the world stage warrants a more confrontational approach toward the country.Although untested in battle for four decades, China’s military is one reason for the nation’s growing confidence. The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has modernized and could become an attractive tool for Chinese leaders weighing options to solve regional disagreements. As American policymakers and legislators consider responses—and commit taxpayer resources accordingly—perhaps it’s time for Americans to raise their PLA awareness. Enter the “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” authored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and released Thursday.For nearly two decades, annual iterations of this report have served as perhaps the most essential openly accessible source for understanding the PLA. This year's version goes beyond reporting on PLA's progress to outline its role in China's effort to gain preeminence in the Indo-Pacific region—an effort encompassing a range of economic, foreign policy, and national security initiatives. A report that has primarily served as a resource for military analysts has become increasingly useful to a broader audience seeking to understand China's strategic objectives.This year’s report covers three areas that should be of interest to legislators, leaders, and laypeople concerned about the defense of American interests over the next few decades. First, the report provides strategic context, noting that the PLA is but one aspect of growing Chinese power and operates beyond China’s borders in a very limited fashion when compared with other levers of power. The report highlights global “influence operations” supported by China’s economic clout. These are Chinese efforts to develop “power brokers” or centers of influence for coercive interference in the sovereign activities of other nations, despite Beijing’s stated position of non-interference in the affairs of others. Second, the report provides details on President Xi Jinping’s military restructuring efforts and mobilization of resources across Chinese society to build a force capable of fighting regional wars. PLA capabilities increasingly align with China’s regional objectives, providing credible options for enforcing territorial claims disputed by American allies and partners on Taiwan, in the South and East China Seas, and along the Sino-Indian border. New geographic commands responsible for operations on and beyond China’s periphery provide a link between joint forces and the regional wars they may be directed to fight, shoring up decades-old weaknesses. Vast improvements in strategic support to military operations from space, counter-space, and cyber forces underpin a growing regional precision strike capability, challenging U.S. and allied forces that might respond to regional crises.PLA concepts and capabilities also include military and para-military forces that operate below the threshold of war, such as increased presence in contested waters of fishing fleets and supporting maritime militia and navy vessels. These operations might spark conflict when an opposing claimant such as the Philippines, Vietnam, or Japan responds.Third, the report provides needed insight into Chinese perspectives, sounding alarm bells without being overly alarmist. Chinese leaders fear being contained by the more competitive stance reflected in U.S. security and defense strategies, the report notes. Understanding China’s threat perceptions, while remaining clear-eyed regarding differences in objectives, is essential to developing strategies to deter conflict.The report also highlights the importance of maintaining open lines of communications between the U.S. military and the PLA, with contacts designed to "maintain a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China." While the Department of Defense doesn't want to help the PLA become more capable or lethal, its doors are open to resolve issues related to U.S. and Chinese forces operating in the Indo-Pacific and to avoid misunderstandings in the event of crisis.In rolling out the report, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver noted, that “while the National defense Strategy emphasizes competition, we certainly don’t seek conflict with China and it doesn’t preclude cooperation where our interests align.” America and the region thrive where trade, people, and ideas flow in stable fashion, and where China participates and resolves issues without resorting to military force. Americans and our allies and partners need to better understand the strategic lay of the land if we are going to mobilize resources wisely for a long-term competition with China that reinforces these interests. Cortez A. Cooper III is a senior international policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

Yemen Shiite Rebels Appoint an Ambassador to Iran for First Time(Bloomberg) -- Yemen’s Houthi rebel government appointed its first ambassador to Iran, days after a delegation met Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran, the rebel-held Saba news agency.The appointment of Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Dailami is meant to boost ties between Yemen and Iran, the rebel leader, Abdulmalik al-Houthi, said on TV. Al-Houthi said the relationship with Tehran will be better than it was in the past as it’s based on “brotherhood and mutual causes,” such as the Palestinian issue. The government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi suspended diplomatic relations with Tehran in October 2015, accusing Iran of backing the Houthi rebels. The government of the Houthis, which is not recognized by the international community, only has an ambassador in Syria.Iran’s Foreign Ministry arranged for the visiting Houthi delegation to meet the British, German, French and Italian ambassadors. To contact the reporter on this story: Mohammed Hatem in Dubai at mhatem1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Riad Hamade at rhamade@bloomberg.net, Claudia MaedlerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Constraining Iran Requires Ending its Colonization of ArabistanIran’s meddling across the Middle East is increasing. Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen seize ships, Iranian proxies fire missiles into neighboring countries, and the Islamic Republic continues to seek a land bridge to the Mediterranean. Enabling Tehran’s malign outreach is its oil wealth. Iran possesses the fourth largest known oil reserves in the world. Eighty percent of Iran’s oil is found in Khuzestan, the southwestern province at the head of the Gulf. A century ago, the region—once known as Arabistan, or “land of the Arabs”—was practically independent under Sheikh Khaz’al bin Jabir. In 1925, however, the same year the shah changed Persia’s name to Iran, the shah kidnapped him and held him under house arrest in Tehran while Iranian troops moved into Khorramshahr (then known as Mohammerah). Occupation followed. Khaz’al never returned. In 1936, assassins murdered him in his sleep.Across administrations and both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, successive U.S. administrations recognized Iranian unity and effectively blessed Iranian conquest of the Arab emirate. Had U.S. policy instead recognized that Arabistan has its own history and people distinct from Iran, then it is unlikely that the Islamic Republic of Iran could sponsor the terrorism in which it now engages.For centuries, Persians used the term “Arabistan” to refer to what is now southwestern Iran simply because they recognized that it was ethnically and linguistically distinct. With many of Persia’s largest cities in the interior of the Persian plateau, Arabistan was also secluded, separated from the rest of Iran by the Zagros Mountains. Arabistan’s tribal governance was traditionally distinct from Iran’s monarchy and bureaucracy. The leaders of Arabistan were fine with their loose arrangement with Tehran, believing the protection of the Persian shahs to be preferable to subjugation, harassment and economic exploitation by Ottoman Turks. Indeed, Iranian shahs took little interest in Arabistan until the discovery of oil there in the first decade of the twentieth century.Iranian leaders often claim to defend victims of oppression and discrimination across the region, whether they be Shia communities in other countries or the Palestinians in conflict with Israel. Despite their lofty rhetoric, they have failed to address their own oppression and discrimination against the Arabs whose oil-rich land they have exploited for decades. The discrimination is vast: Ethnic Arabs in Arabistan are not allowed to name their children Arabic names unless they were also the names of major Shia figures. Amnesty International has chronicled the disappearances and executions of ethnic Arabs across the province, as authorities in Tehran seek to complete their slow-motion ethnic cleansing.Both the United States and its regional partners appear perplexed at how to respond to increasing Iranian aggression. They have tried all the usual diplomatic and economic mechanisms of statecraft, but most do not want war with Iran. Still, despite the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign,” Iranian officials siphon off enough oil to fund and to continue their support for insurgencies and terrorism campaigns. Perhaps, then, the time is now to deny Iran the resources it wastes, restore regional stability, and right a historic wrong by setting Arabistan free.Sheikh Abdullah Al Khazaal is the grandson of Sheikh Khaz’al and a graduate of New York University Abu Dhabi.Image: Reuters.

Radioactive Tragedy: Russia's New Cruise Missile Would Be a Terror on the BattlefieldAt nine in the morning on August 8, 2019, an explosion resonated across the cold waters of the arctic White Sea. A missile had exploded lifting off from an offshore research platform near Nyonoksa, Russia.Long-range missiles had been tested at a site adjacent to the rural town since 1965, and accidents were hardly unprecedented. In 2015, debris from an errant cruise missile rained onto a residential complex with a kindergarten on its ground floor, setting the building on fire but fortunately leaving residents unscathed.Tragically, the August 8 incident proved more lethal. Initially, media reported two testers died in the blast. But subsequent reports increased the number to three, then five, then seven.Indeed, as many as fifteen may have been harmed in the accident. Locals tweeted ominous imagery of a Russian military helicopter landing and depositing Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CRBN) specialists in hazardous-material suits who evacuated injured personnel in stretchers. At least three testers were evacuated to the Moscow Federal Medical Biophysical Center, where two subsequently died from their injuries. Later, ten workers from a regional hospital involved in treating the injured were themselves reportedly flown to the Moscow center.A notice was issued to ships that they could not enter a 250-square kilometer area close to the accident. The Serebryanka—a nuclear fuel carrier likely modified to recover radioactive fragments from the ocean—remained in the area, having been present near the platform prior to the test.Not unrelatedly, twenty miles to the west, the major Russian shipyard city of Severodvinsk reported a spike in gamma radiation twenty times the norm around noon. Technically, this remained within safe limits, and by 4 p.m., radiation levels began to normalize.However, the radiation levels at Nyonoksa itself would surely have been of much higher—possibly releasing radionuclides into the atmosphere and drinking water that could increase cancer risk and cause other adverse health effects to those exposed.As reports of the accident circulated, Moscow claimed that it had been testing a “liquid fuel rocket.” Rosatom then stated it was working on an “isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system.”By then a consensus had emerged among Western experts that Russia had been testing a prototype Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which is codenamed the SSC-X-9 “Skyfall” by NATO. The weapon was one of several developed to circumvent the United States’ GMD anti-ballistic missile system, which Russia worries may undermine its nuclear deterrence despite GMD’s limited capabilities.Putin had publicly unveiled the Burevestnik (which means “Petrel,” a type of seabird)—in a video showing a successful launch in April 1, 2018, alongside several other exotic new strategic nuclear delivery systems. Theoretically, a cruise missile propelled by a nuclear-powered ramjet could travel at supersonic speeds out to practically unlimited range, skimming close to the earth and maneuvering around obstacles to evade long-range radars and air defense missiles.However, Putin’s video didn’t show numerous failed tests, or that even the successful launch in November 2017 had gone to crash in the sea after flying only twenty miles. That means Burevestnik’s development is far from complete.A companion article on the Burevestnik details more on the missile’s underlying strategic rationale, technical concept, and testing history, as well as a likely explanation for the accident on August 8.Fallout from a Failed TestUltimately the dead included five elite scientists of the Russian Rosatom nuclear energy agency and two military personnel. A special memorial service was held at Sarov, a closed city that’s central to Russian nuclear research.Supposedly, the radiological event tied to the accident had been minor, and notices posted by regional officials were scrubbed from the internet. But locals were not convinced. In Severodvinsk and Arkhangelsk, demand for potassium iodide tablets, which reduce the thyroid gland’s intake of radioactive substances, skyrocketed and several pharmacies were sold out.Then, as if the Russian state were keen to reenact historical events dramatized in the HBO series Chernobyl, four days after radiation levels were declared to have returned to normal, officials told Nyonoksa’s approximately 450 residents they would be temporarily evacuated by train for a few hours as a “routine measure.”Given that locals insisted radiation levels really were normal, this may actually have been intended to conceal the personnel, equipment and debris involved in the clean-up. But as the alarming news resounded on the internet, the government backtracked and canceled the evacuation. Despite Moscow’s habitual obfuscation of the accident, internet social media made a coverup difficult to maintain.The deadly incident near Nyonoksa is merely the latest in a string of major military accidents in Russia including a titanic explosion at an ammunition dump on August 5 that injured six, a fire onboard the Losharik nuclear-powered spy submarine that killed fourteen, and the sinking of a huge floating drydock in Severodvinsk which nearly resulted in the loss of Russia’s only aircraft carrier. As Moscow forges ahead with tests of additional experimental weapons for a looming nuclear arms race tied to the axing of key arms-control treaties, the potential for more such accidents is real.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Wikimedia

Selfie Showdown: A Russian Pilot Filmed His Su-27 Overtaking a P-8A Poseidon PlaneMoscow claims 26 foreign surveillance aircraft have been spotted by its forces near its airspace over the past seven days.​Russia says it scrambled a Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jet to intercept a US Navy P-8A Poseidon that was flying close to the annexed territory of Crimea.As the videos in this post show the Flanker pilot used his mobile phone to record footage of the latest close encounter between US and Russia aircraft.(This first appeared earlier in 2019 and is being republished due to reader interest.)The Su-27 pilot is seen holding his phone in a reflection as he films the P-8 flying above his Flanker and then pans down to show land and water below.Russia’s defense ministry said that the Poseidon changed course when it was intercepted by the Flanker.The US military has not yet commented on the claims.The Russian defense ministry said: “An Su-27 fighter jet as part of the Southern Military District’s air defenses was scrambled to intercept the target.“The crew flew the aircraft at a safe distance to the aerial target and identified it as a US P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance jet.”The statement added that the US plane “immediately changed the direction of its flight to fly away from the Russian state border”.Currently, US forces are participating in NATO’s Sea Breeze naval drills in the Black Sea.The Russian Navy has its own “combat training” exercises in the Black Sea, reported Moscow media.As reported by Mirror, the Russian military newspaper Red Star claims Kremlin warplanes have been scrambled three times in the past week “to block foreign aircraft from illegally entering Russian airspace”.Moscow claims 26 foreign surveillance aircraft have been spotted by its forces near its airspace over the past seven days.In mid-June, Su-27 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52strategic bombers approaching the Baltic and Black seas, claimed Moscow.Crimea is a disputed territory after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 during the crisis in the former Soviet republic.Russia’s control of Crimea, where its Black Sea Fleet is based, means it is able to control shipping flows through the Kerch Strait.In May last year, Putin opened a bridge between the Russian mainland and Crimea, tightening Moscow’s hold over the territory.Moscow has backed a pro-Russia insurgency in eastern Ukraine in an armed conflict that has killed thousands.The UK Foreign Office warns holidaymakers on its website: “Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea.“Following an illegal referendum on 16 March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March 2014 and tensions remain high.”Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises against all travel to Crimea, in addition to Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast, where fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists has raged since April 2014.This first appeared in Aviation Geek Club here. Image: Creative Commons.

Here’s How Germany Could Boost Its Economy, If It Wants to Act(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Germany’s economy is in trouble and the government is dithering over whether to provide support in the form of fiscal stimulus.The administration is under increasing pressure now that it’s clear the economy shrank in the second quarter and the recession risk is growing. But politicians are opting to wait, given that the downside forces are largely external and it’s not clear how deep the slump will be.“If the manufacturing sector is in free-fall because your main trading partners are duking it out in a trade war, then obviously there is nothing you can do,” said Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “You can help to make sure that your domestic economy stays strong, but it’s not a clear story.”The government has run a budget surplus for the past five years and cut its debt burden to the lowest since before the financial crisis, giving it room to spend. The administration is ready to run a deficit should the economy collapse, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.If Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to break some taboos though, she could really loosen the purse strings, with consequences beyond the nation’s borders.Controversy Without RewardUnless the economic situation becomes dire, the government has to play by its fiscal rules. Even if it scraps a commitment to keep the budget balanced, a constitutional debt brake limits the fiscal bang to 10 billion euros ($11 billion) at most, says Oliver Rakau at Oxford Economics.Suspending the law would allow the government to run a deficit of about 1.5% of gross domestic product before it violates European Union rules limiting public debt to 60% of GDP, according to ING economist Carsten Brzeski.In the PipelineFor the time being, Berlin’s plans are staying put. The draft budget approved earlier this week doesn’t foresee any new debt through at least 2021.At the same time, the government has already set aside more than 150 billion euros for infrastructure, education, housing and digital technology over the next four years. That provides Europe’s largest economy with a boost of 0.4% of GDP and should be enough for now, reckons Berenberg economist Florian Hense.“Obviously they have to be very careful as to how much external headwinds are spreading into the domestic economy,” Hense said. “If unemployment is picking up then we might have an issue.”Build BiggerWith its infrastructure in poor shape, Germany could think big and commit to higher investment for the next 15 to 20 years, according Christian Odendahl, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform in Berlin. Germany is ranked highly in the overall global competitiveness index, but falls short in areas like road quality and internet connectivity.Such investment programs take longer to implement, but can have a bigger impact. They’d also give companies a reason to buy machinery and expand their capacity at a time when Germany is trying to transform itself in areas such as clean technology.Tax CutsChristian Schulz, an economist at Citigroup, says Germany could follow the U.K.’s example of 2008 and temporarily cut its sales tax to give consumption a boost. That could act as a “circuit-breaker” to prevent a deeper downturn.Or it could reduce social-security contributions for the poor. Income tax cuts -- the typical prescription advice Germany gets -- would backfire, Odendahl says, by depriving local governments of their lifeblood for investment.Cash for ClunkersFor a car-loving nation, the government could revisit its 2009 program of rebates for replacing older cars with more fuel-efficient models. As well as aiding a key industry -- one whacked by a diesel scandal and trade tensions -- the initiative would dovetail with the country’s drive to accelerate the switch to more environmentally friendly energy sources.BlackoutThe government’s “black zero” -- or balanced budget -- looks at risk. The hurdle for more aggressive spending is high though, and likely to remain so.“There is a good chance that the black zero will be gone next year because growth assumptions for the budget are too optimistic,” said Schulz at Citigroup. “Probably there will be a stimulus, but I’m skeptical on large numbers.”To contact the reporter on this story: Piotr Skolimowski in Frankfurt at pskolimowski@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Gordon at pgordon6@bloomberg.net, Fergal O'Brien, Jana RandowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

A Cyberattack Could Wreak Destruction Comparable to a Nuclear WeaponPeople around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork.With the U.S. and Russia pulling out of a key nuclear weapons pact – and beginning to develop new nuclear weapons – plus Iran tensions and North Korea again test-launching missiles, the global threat to civilizationis high. Some fear a new nuclear arms race.That threat is serious – but another could be as serious, and is less visible to the public. So far, most of the well-known hacking incidents, even those with foreign government backing, have done little more than steal data. Unfortunately, there are signs that hackers have placed malicious software inside U.S. power and water systems, where it’s lying in wait, ready to be triggered. The U.S. military has also reportedly penetrated the computers that control Russian electrical systems.Many intrusions alreadyAs someone who studies cybersecurity and information warfare, I’m concerned that a cyberattack with widespread impact, an intrusion in one area that spreads to others or a combination of lots of smaller attacks, could cause significant damage, including mass injury and death rivaling the death toll of a nuclear weapon.Unlike a nuclear weapon, which would vaporize people within 100 feet and kill almost everyone within a half-mile, the death toll from most cyberattacks would be slower. People might die from a lack of food, power or gas for heat or from car crashes resulting from a corrupted traffic light system. This could happen over a wide area, resulting in mass injury and even deaths.This might sound alarmist, but look at what has been happening in recent years, in the U.S. and around the world.In early 2016, hackers took control of a U.S. treatment plant for drinking water, and changed the chemical mixture used to purify the water. If changes had been made – and gone unnoticed – this could have led to poisonings, an unusable water supply and a lack of water.In 2016 and 2017, hackers shut down major sections of the power grid in Ukraine. This attack was milder than it could have been, as no equipment was destroyed during it, despite the ability to do so. Officials think it was designed to send a message. In 2018, unknown cybercriminals gained access throughout the United Kingdom’s electricity system; in 2019 a similar incursion may have penetrated the U.S. grid.In August 2017, a Saudi Arabian petrochemical plant was hit by hackers who tried to blow up equipment by taking control of the same types of electronics used in industrial facilities of all kinds throughout the world. Just a few months later, hackers shut down monitoring systems for oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. This primarily caused logistical problems – but it showed how an insecure contractor’s systems could potentially cause problems for primary ones.The FBI has even warned that hackers are targeting nuclear facilities. A compromised nuclear facility could result in the discharge of radioactive material, chemicals or even possibly a reactor meltdown. A cyberattack could cause an event similar to the incident in Chernobyl. That explosion, caused by inadvertent error, resulted in 50 deaths and evacuation of 120,000 and has left parts of the region uninhabitable for thousands of years into the future.Mutual assured destructionMy concern is not intended to downplay the devastating and immediate effects of a nuclear attack. Rather, it’s to point out that some of the international protections against nuclear conflicts don’t exist for cyberattacks. For instance, the idea of “mutual assured destruction” suggests that no country should launch a nuclear weapon at another nuclear-armed nation: The launch would likely be detected, and the target nation would launch its own weapons in response, destroying both nations.Cyberattackers have fewer inhibitions. For one thing, it’s much easier to disguise the source of a digital incursion than it is to hide where a missile blasted off from. Further, cyberwarfare can start small, targeting even a single phone or laptop. Larger attacks might target businesses, such as banks or hotels, or a government agency. But those aren’t enough to escalate a conflict to the nuclear scale.Nuclear grade cyberattacksThere are three basic scenarios for how a nuclear grade cyberattack might develop. It could start modestly, with one country’s intelligence service stealing, deleting or compromising another nation’s military data. Successive rounds of retaliation could expand the scope of the attacks and the severity of the damage to civilian life.In another situation, a nation or a terrorist organization could unleash a massively destructive cyberattack – targeting several electricity utilities, water treatment facilities or industrial plants at once, or in combination with each other to compound the damage.Perhaps the most concerning possibility, though, is that it might happen by mistake. On several occasions, human and mechanical errors very nearly destroyed the world during the Cold War; something analogous could happen in the software and hardware of the digital realm.A cyberattack wouldn’t be launched from a nuclear operator’s console, like the one shown here from the decommissioned Oscar Zero site, but rather through cyberspace. A human might not even be required. Jeremy StraubDefending against disasterJust as there is no way to completely protect against a nuclear attack, there are only ways to make devastating cyberattacks less likely.The first is that governments, businesses and regular people need to secure their systems to prevent outside intruders from finding their way in, and then exploiting their connections and access to dive deeper.Critical systems, like those at public utilities, transportation companies and firms that use hazardous chemicals, need to be much more secure. One analysis found that only about one-fifth of companies that use computers to control industrial machinery in the U.S. even monitor their equipment to detect potential attacks – and that in 40% of the attacks they did catch, the intruder had been accessing the system for more than a year. Another survey found that nearly three-quarters of energy companies had experienced some sort of network intrusion in the previous year.But all those systems can’t be protected without skilled cybersecurity staffs to handle the work. At present, nearly a quarter of all cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are vacant, with more positions opening up than there are people to fill them. One recruiter has expressed concern that even some of the jobs that are filled are held by people who aren’t qualified to do them. The solution is more training and education, to teach people the skills they need to do cybersecurity work, and to keep existing workers up to date on the latest threats and defense strategies.If the world is to hold off major cyberattacks – including some with the potential to be as damaging as a nuclear strike – it will be up to each person, each company, each government agency to work on its own and together to secure the vital systems on which people’s lives depend.This article by Jeremy Straub originally appeared at The Conversation in 2019.Jeremy Straub is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at North Dakota State University.Image: Wikipedia.

Top Chinese, North Korean generals meet in BeijingTop military leaders from North Korea and China have recommitted themselves to strengthened exchanges between their armed forces during a meeting in Beijing. The meeting Saturday came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of an unspecified new weapon, seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over nuclear negotiations and joint military exercises. The official Xinhua News agency says Zhang Youxia, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, met Kim Su Kil, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army.

Russia's Nuclear-Powered ‘Skyfall’ Missile with Unlimited Range: A Doomsday Weapon?An explosion during a missile test on Russia’s White Sea on August 8 that killed seven nuclear scientists and caused radiation levels to briefly spike in the region has drawn new attention to Moscow’s development of exotic new weapons designed to deliver long-range strategic nuclear strikes.As reports of the accident circulated, Moscow claimed that it had been testing a “liquid fuel rocket.” Rosatom, the state nuclear energy agency, then stated it was working on an “isotope power source in a liquid propulsion system.”Convincing evidence has led to a consensus among foreign experts that missile being tested was likely a 9M730 Burevestnik (“Petrel,” a seabird)—a prototype of a nuclear-powered cruise missile. Such a missile—if it can be made to work—would be powered by a very small nuclear reactor, allowing it to fly practically unlimited distances at very high speeds.Burevestnik’s existence is no secret. In March 1 2018, Putin revealed as one of six new weapons under development by Russia—also including hypersonic missiles and intercontinental-range nuclear drone torpedoes.While a companion piece details the fallout from the deadly testing accident, this piece will seek to answer a simple question: why on earth is Russia seeking to develop such a peculiar and complicated weapon in the first place?Cruise Missiles to Fly Under an Anti-Ballistic Missile ShieldQuite simply, the pursuit of unconventional weapons like the Burevestnik stems from Russian fears that America’s new anti-ballistic missile systems put Moscow’s nuclear deterrence at risk. Intercontinental ballistic missiles fly extremely high and fast—but they are also highly visible to sensors and generally fly in a predictable trajectory. Using advanced sensors, the United States can potentially detect and shoot down a small number of ICBMs with the few dozen interceptors it has deployed. That’s far too few interceptors to stop Moscow’s hundreds of ballistic missiles, but Moscow is paranoid American defense will continue to improve.Unlike ballistic missiles, cruise missiles skim close to surface, allowing them to hug terrain and maneuver around obstacles. These characteristics mean ground-based radars may only have a detection angle on cruise missiles when they’re only a few dozen miles away. While defenses do exist that can potentially shootdown cruise missiles, the short detection range and interception windows would mean that it wouldn’t be practical to create a huge defensive umbrellas like those provided by anti-ballistic systems.However, most cruise missiles simply can’t pack enough fuel to fly thousands of miles on intercontinental attacks—and usually can’t sustain speeds much faster than an airliner when traveling longer distances. A nuclear-powered cruise missile could—theoretically—have practically unlimited range, and sustain supersonic speeds, making it hard to intercept, and allowing it to circumnavigate bubbles of radar coverages and leverage terrain to minimize the chance of interception.The Russian claim that a “liquid-fuel” booster was being tested may not in fact be inaccurate. The most likely scheme for a nuclear-powered missile involves a ramjet engine, in which the reactor would heat onrushing air at speeds exceeding twice the speed of sound. This expanding heated air would be squeezed out the engine’s rear nozzle, resulting in sustainable supersonic propulsion.However, conventional booster would be required for the missile to move fast enough for the ramjet to work. Therefore, The Drive’s Joe Trevithick argues it’s possible scientists were testing the robustness of the missile’s reactor when exposed to the heat and physical stress caused by the rocket boosters—with explosive results.Another issue is that the Burevestnik’s unshielded reactor core could potentially leave behind a trail of radioactive emissions and contaminants over everything it overflies. In fact, in the early 1960s, the United States’ Project Pluto developed a nuclear ramjet-powered missile that was canceled in part due to concerns over its extreme radioactive pollution—though not before its designers considered whether its extreme radioactive emissions could be weaponized! The problem remained that the trail of sickness-inducing radiation would begin over friendly territory.Failed TestsWestern intelligence had already been keeping tabs on Skyfall prior to Putin’s speech. Around a dozen tests have been held since 2016, first at Kapustin Yar (near Volgograd), then the Pan’kovo test site on Yuzhny island. Only two were successful. However, Pentagon snooping of the latter by WC-135 weather reconnaissance planes used to measure radiation may have led to the program’s relocation to Nyonoksa, which is distant from international airspace.In the most successful test in November 2017, which can be seen in a video released by Putin, the Skyfall missile flew little more than twenty miles before crashing into the sea. The nuclear refueling ship Serebryanka, which was also present at the accident in August 8, was dispatched to recover the possibly irradiated debris. These results suggest the program is far from mature. Thus, Pranay Vaddi argues in a piece on Lawfare that Burevestnik should not have any impact on renewal of the New START Treaty regulating deployed strategic nuclear weapons, as it is unlikely to enter service in the next decade.Clearly, Russia is still far from solving the daunting challenges of developing a practical and functional nuclear-powered missile. Even if the Skyfall is eventually developed into an operational system, deploying dozens of strategic missiles each with their own miniature nuclear reactors would be extremely expensive and pose costly political, safety and security risks—as was amply demonstrated by the tragic incident on August 8.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Flickr

British MPs press Johnson to recall parliament over BrexitBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under pressure Sunday to immediately recall lawmakers from their summer holiday so parliament can debate Brexit. More than 100 MPs have written to Johnson to urge him to reconvene and let them sit permanently until October 31 -- the date Britain is due to leave the European Union. "Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt Britain's departure from the EU.

UK's Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthroughBritain's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership. Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months. Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

U.K. Faces Fuel, Food Shortages, Port Delays Post-Brexit(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. will grapple with a shortage of fuel, food and medicine as well as job losses and a disruption at its ports of as long as three months with a no-deal Brexit, the Sunday Times reported, citing leaked government documents.The dossier called “Operation Yellowhammer,” prepared by the cabinet office, also warned that the supply of fresh food could be reduced, it said. Critical elements of the supply chain, including ingredients, chemicals and packaging, may be affected, the paper added.The newspaper said the document had been compiled this month to set out the “most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than worst-case scenarios.“A no-deal exit from the European Union may also result in the return of a hard border in Ireland, which may trigger protests and road blockages, the document said.Petrol import tariffs will lead to the closure of two oil refineries, the loss of 2,000 jobs, strikes and disruptions, the document said.To contact the reporter on this story: Sebastian Tong in San Francisco at stong41@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Kopit at skopit@bloomberg.net, Linus ChuaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

UPDATE 4-UK faces food, fuel and drug shortages, says contested leaked documentBritain will face shortages of fuel, food and medicine if it leaves the European Union without a transition deal, according to leaked official documents reported by the Sunday Times, but whose interpretation was contested by ministers. Setting out a vision of jammed ports, public protests and widespread disruption, the Times said the forecasts compiled by the Cabinet Office set out the most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than the worst case scenarios.

UPDATE 1-UK parliament cannot stop Brexit, Johnson to tell Macron and MerkelPrime Minister Boris Johnson will tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one. The United Kingdom is heading towards a constitutional crisis at home and a showdown with the EU as Johnson has repeatedly vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the Brexit divorce.

Senegalese ex-UN food agency chief Jacques Diouf diesSenegalese Jacques Diouf who headed the UN food agency for 18 years has died at the age of 81, President Macky Sall said on Saturday, describing him "as one of Senegal's most valiant sons". Diouf, a former Senegalese ambassador to the United Nations, died in France following a long illness, his family said quoted by Senegal media. "Senegal has lost one of its most valiant sons with the death of our compatriot Jacques Diouf," Sall said on Twitter.

Sudanese protesters sign final power-sharing deal with armySudan's pro-democracy movement and ruling military council signed a final power-sharing agreement Saturday at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum, after weeks of tortuous negotiations. The historic deal paves the way for a transition to a civilian-led government after the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir months ago and the more recent deadly suppression of protests. Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and amid growing concerns that the political crisis that followed al-Bashir's ouster could ignite civil war.

White House to Proceed With Ending Some Foreign Aid Payments(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration will move forward within days with a plan to cancel certain foreign aid payments authorized by Congress, setting up a fight with lawmakers opposed to the move.A senior administration official confirmed that the so-called rescissions package would be announced early next week.Some of the funding being zeroed out was for projects like installing solar panels in the Caribbean and creating safe spaces in Ireland for people upset about Brexit, said the administration official, who declined to be identified discussing plans not yet made public. Unspent funds for certain climate-related projects in Asia and Africa are also being targeted for elimination. CNN reported Saturday that the move would take aim at funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the United Nations for certain peace-keeping operations in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.The official said that Congress during the Trump administration has funded State and USAID at about $12 billion above the president’s budget requests, and that the rescission package would return some of that excess back to the budget.Republican lawmakers who are typically Trump allies, notably Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, this week urged the president to reconsider “in the strongest possible terms” after word of the possible rescissions was reported.“We share your concern about our mounting national debt, which in itself creates security risks to the country,” Graham and Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky said in a letter to Trump. “However, it has been reported that this proposal makes sweeping and indiscriminate cuts without regard to national security impacts.”(Updates throughout with detail.)\--With assistance from Jordan Fabian.To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Steve GeimannFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Kim expresses 'great satisfaction' over NKorea weapons testsNorth Korea said Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of an unspecified new weapon, seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over slow nuclear negotiations and their joint military exercises. Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said that following Friday's launches, Kim expressed "great satisfaction" over his military's "mysterious and amazing success rates" in recent testing activity and vowed to build up "invincible military capabilities no one dare provoke." The report did not mention any specific comment about the United States or South Korea.

UPDATE 1-Several injured in Kashmir in clashes with Indian policeIndian security forces injured at least six people on Saturday in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, as several protests broke out against New Delhi's revocation of the region's autonomy last week. In New York, the U.N. Security Council held its first meeting in almost 50 years on Kashmir, a majority Muslim region claimed by both India and Pakistan - which controls its western third.

Airstrikes on Syrian rebel stronghold kill family of 7Government and Russian airstrikes pounded the southern edge of a rebel stronghold in Syria's northwest on Saturday, killing at least seven members of one family, activists and a war monitor reported. The intense airstrikes were coupled with fierce ground clashes as the government, backed by Russia, pushed ahead with a months-old offensive seeking to chip away at territory on the periphery of the rebel enclave. Idlib and surrounding areas are home to 3 million civilians and is dominated by Islamist insurgents.

EU Chief Juncker to Undergo Emergency Gallbladder Surgery(Bloomberg) -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to undergo emergency surgery to have his gallbladder removed.The EU leader was vacationing in Austria when he was taken back to Luxembourg for the operation, the EU said in a statement on Saturday. Juncker, 64, is set to leave his post when his term ends this fall. The former prime minister of Luxembourg has previously faced questions about his health. At a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit last year, Juncker was filmed struggling to keep his balance, which the commission later said was the result of a painful sciatica attack.Gallbladder removal surgery is a common procedure, according to the U.K.’s NHS website, which says an operation to take it out is often recommended if any problems with it develop. While such procedures are uncomplicated, it can sometimes take weeks before people return to normal activities.Juncker is scheduled to attend the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, next weekend, though the emergency procedure means the EU chief may not be in a position to participate. The leaders are expected to discuss global challenges in the economy and the environment as well as relations with Iran, Russia and North Korea.The gallbladder surgery comes as the EU leader is set to hand over the presidency of the European Commission to Ursula von der Leyen in October. Following her confirmation by the European Parliament last month, the former German defense minister is accepting nominations from EU member states for the team of senior officials who will be in charge of the bloc’s executive body for the next five years.The commission has in recent years had to grapple with complex challenges, including difficult negotiations with the U.K. as it plans to leave the bloc as well as simmering tensions with the U.S. over trade.(Updates with more background from fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Chad Thomas, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Iranian tanker to leave Gibraltar soon despite US pressureThe shipping agent for an Iranian supertanker caught in a diplomatic standoff says the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar on Sunday or Monday, as the U.S. made a last-minute effort to seize it again. The head of the company sorting paperwork and procuring for the Grace 1 oil tanker in the British overseas territory said the vessel could be sailing away in the next "24 to 48 hours," once new crews dispatched to the territory take over command of the ship. "The vessel is ongoing some logistical changes and requirements that have delayed the departure," Astralship managing director Richard De la Rosa told The Associated Press.

Iran tanker in limbo off Gibraltar as US issues warrantA last-minute US warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker preparing to leave Gibraltar after weeks of detention cast doubt over its departure on Saturday, prolonging a diplomatic spat between Tehran, London and Washington. The US Justice Department alleged the ship was part of a scheme "to unlawfully access the US financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," which Washington has designated a foreign terrorist organisation. There was no comment from Britain or Gibraltar, its overseas territory.

The Latest: Sudan army, protesters ink final transition dealSudan's army and the country's pro-democracy movement have signed a final power-sharing deal at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum. Saturday's agreement paves the way for a transition to civilian rule following the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests. The agreement would also establish a Cabinet appointed by the activists and a legislative body.

Did Russia’s Bizarre Nuclear-Powered Missile Just Blow Up?Did Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile just blow up? Or was it something else that spewed a radioactive cloud and triggered radiation alarms?  An accident at a military test site in northern Russia has sparked speculation of a mishap with the 9M730 Burevestnik ("Petrel"), an intercontinental cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor.  Russia has confirmed an explosion during an August 8 test at Nyonoksa, a military testing base on the White Sea. The explosion killed employees of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation. “Five Rosatom staff members died and a further three people were injured in a tragic accident that took place during tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes at a military facility in Arkhangelsk region,” stated a brief Rosatom announcement.   After Russian media reports that radiation in the area had spiked to 200 times normal background levels, Russian news agency TASS hastened to claim that the dose was less than that of a medical X-ray—though the village near the explosion has been ordered to evacuate, raising memories of the Chernobyl incident.  The fact that the accident involved rocket propulsion and radioactive isotopes immediately led to speculation that the Burevestnik (NATO code name SSC-X-9 Skyfall) was involved. In fact, President Donald Trump went on Twitter to announce that “we have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”  But Edward Geist, an expert on Russian nuclear history at the RAND Corp. think tank, cautioned that it is premature to assume that the Petrel was the culprit.  “The case that this may be associated with the nuclear cruise missile is pretty circumstantial,” Geist told The National Interest. For example, the site of the accident is a closed Russian military town that is “associated with the testing of all kinds of missiles.”   Perhaps there was an accident involving Petrel. Or, perhaps there was an accident involving another weapon that damaged a Petrel. Or, maybe Russia was testing some other system: among Putin’s much-touted wonder weapons is the nuclear-powered Poseidon robotic torpedo.  In other words, something happened, and that something involved fatalities and release of radiation. But we can’t be sure, and the Russian government isn’t likely to tell us.  Nonetheless, Geist suspects that Russia is expanding on Cold War-era Soviet research into nuclear aircraft propulsion. During that era, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union explored nuclear-powered manned aircraft. They also explored nuclear-powered missiles, such as the notorious 1950s U.S. Project Pluto, a nuclear-powered, low-altitude, supersonic ramjet missile that would have dropped atomic bombs over the Soviet Union—and poisoned the Russian countryside with radioactive exhaust from its reactor.   While the United States abandoned those projects by the 1960s, Soviet research continued into the 1970s, according to Guest. It is more than possible that Petrel is based on those old nuclear ramjet designs.  The problem isn’t with nuclear power per se. NASA uses Radioisotope Power Systems—fueled by plutonium—for its spacecraft exploring Mars, Saturn, Pluto and the Voyager probes that have journeyed beyond our solar system. Operating so far from the Sun, solar power isn’t an option. Despite some public fears about launching a plutonium device through the atmosphere aboard a rocket, the system has so far worked safely.  But these spacecraft spend almost all of their lives far, far from Earth. Not only are there technical challenges to powering a missile or aircraft with a nuclear reactor (especially if the aircraft is manned), but the Petrel will fly inside the atmosphere.  Nor is it clear why Russia needs a nuclear-powered cruise missile in the first place. Russia claims that because such a weapon has unlimited range, it can evade U.S. missile defenses designed to stop ballistic missiles descending from space rather than low-flying cruise missiles. Yet even if the Petrel was hard to detect and intercept, it would be too slow as a first-strike weapon.   It would be more useful as a retaliatory weapon. But as always with the nuclear Balance of Terror, it would be simpler to just build more ICBMs, armed with multiple warheads, to overwhelm anti-missile defenses. An ICBM can also reach its target within 30 minutes, compared to a cruise missile that would take hours.   Unlike an ICBM, a nuclear-powered cruise missile could potentially stay aloft indefinitely. But over whose territory would the radiation-spewing missile orbit? For how long? And why would anyone want a nuclear missile orbiting over their heads 24/7?  Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Image: Reuters

Argentina Teeters, Protests Rage, Glaciers Melt: Weekend Reads(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Argentina is teetering on the edge of an economic abyss while its neighbor Chile is watching its glaciers melt at an alarming rate, and China is massing its troops on the border with Hong Kong.Dive into these and other stories that chronicle the week’s major political events with the latest edition of Weekend Reads. What Life at Center of Chaos Looks Like for Argentine BusinessesAfter two sovereign defaults this century, small business owners in Argentina are well versed in navigating times of crisis. But even they were left floundering by the latest rout. With presidential elections still 10 weeks away, they were left wondering how much worse it can get. Jonathan Gilbert, Jorgelina do Rosario and Patrick Gillespie report.Macron’s Quiet Summer May Turn to Anger as Voters Return to WorkPresident Emmanuel Macron has spent three weeks in the Cote d’Azur, south of France, alternating between the beach and preparing for a delicate G-7 summit on Aug. 24. While Macron himself doesn’t face voters until 2022, Gregory Viscusi reports any turbulence would be an unwelcome backdrop for local elections that are essential for developing his three-year-old party.Xi’s Dilemma: Send Forces Into Hong Kong, or Wait Out ProtestersThere’s signs China is preparing to mobilize mainland forces to quell the weeks-long uprising in Hong Kong. The question now is whether President Xi Jinping will actually do it. The protesters, meanwhile, have raised the stakes with actions to inflict economic pain as they push for leader Carrie Lam’s resignation and other demands to loosen Beijing’s grip on the city.Hong Kong’s Massive Protests Raise Ominous Questions About 2047When the U.K. agreed to return Hong Kong to China, “One country, two systems,” was shorthand for Beijing’s pledge to maintain the city’s character for 50 years — and the possibility that by the time 2047 rolled around, the systems would have converged. But as Matthew Campbell reports, that’s now unlikely.It’s Democracy vs. the Hackers as the 2020 Election ApproachesThe front line to protect the integrity of the U.S. presidential election is in a Springfield strip mall, next to a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. As Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius report, it’s there that a couple dozen bureaucrats, programmers, and security experts are working to prevent a replay of 2016, when Russian hackers breached voter registration rolls.Protests Pop Up Across Russia as Putin’s Popularity, Economy DipYevgeny Dubinin had never been to a demonstration before. But he was so angry authorities had refused to register opposition candidates in Moscow’s city council election that he couldn’t sit at home. The protest-arrest cycle represents the biggest public challenge to Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule since in 2012, Irina Reznik and Ilya Arkhipov write..Where America Flirted With Its Own ChernobylThe Three Mile Island accident four decades ago turned the U.S. against nuclear energy. Now the complex is closing just as some say it still has a role to play, writes Will Wade. Today, nuclear energy is at the center of a complicated debate — while cheap gas has upended the economics of operating reactors, questions about whether to shut one down involve more than the bottom line.Gaza Needs Cement to Rebuild, But Israel Dominates the MarketGaza needs concrete, and lots of it. In the 2014 war, some 11,000 housing units were destroyed, and an additional 160,000 sustained damage — affecting more than a quarter of the families in the territory. As David Rocks and Yaacov Benmeleh write, Israeli-Palestinian politics have hampered the pace of recovery.The Walls Are Closing In on Cyril RamaphosaWhen Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president, he promised a “new dawn” after nine years of misrule that hobbled the economy. But as Michael Cohen reports, 18 months later, hopes have dissipated that the former labor union leader can orchestrate a turnaround.Modi Has Limited Options to Boost Economy in Locked Down KashmirPrime Minister Narendra Modi says his move to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy is about boosting its economy. But as Archana Chaudhary and Bibhudatta Pradhan report, observers say it will take more than rhetoric to bring investments to a state that’s lost more than 42,000 lives to conflict in the last three decades.And finally … Chile has one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water outside the north and south poles. But its abundant glaciers are melting fast, with the ice mass now retreating one meter per year, Laura Millan Lombrana reports. The formations also happen to cover some of the massive copper deposits that make Chile the world’s largest producer of the metal — and uncovering those minerals also threatens to hasten the glaciers’ demise. To contact the author of this story: Ruth Pollard in New Delhi at rpollard2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Kathleen Hunter at khunter9@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Before Buying Russia's S-400, Turkey Made Sure to Have Spare F-16 Parts On HandThe U.S. has threatened to end Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program by July 31 if Ankara doesn’t scrap the S-400 deal.A Bloomberg report says Turkey has been stockpiling parts for F-16s and other military equipment in anticipation of a U.S. sanction for acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system.Two anonymous officials from Turkey who spoke to the news outlet refused to clarify on what types of spares were accumulated, how much was acquired and how long they can last.Relations between the two countries deteriorated over the course of the Syrian civil war, when the U.S. armed a Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan that his government blames on a Turkish imam residing in the U.S.NATO member Turkey is determined to acquire ballistic missile technology, and aims to co-produce the next generation of the S-400, the officials added, citing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan said his country will take delivery of the S-400 within days.“The first batch of S-400s will be delivered in a week or 10 days,” Haberturk newspaper cited him as saying in a report Monday. “I’ve clearly told this to Trump, Mr. Putin also said it.”The U.S. argues that the pivot to Moscow could allow Russia to collect critical intelligence that would weaken NATO and compromise the American F-35 stealth fighter, which Turkish companies are helping to build. Yet while Congress is drawing up potential sanctions plans that at their harshest would cripple the Turkish economy, U.S. President Donald Trump has cast Turkey as a victim in the saga.At the Group of 20 nations meeting in Japan on Saturday, the U.S. president said Erdogan was treated unfairly by the Obama administration when he sought to buy the U.S. built Patriot air-defense system. While the S-400 deal is “a problem,” the U.S. is “looking at different solutions,” he said.Turkey in fact turned to Russia to address weaknesses in its air defense after failing to persuade the U.S. to share technology from its Patriot air-defense system as part of any acquisition deal.A resolution submitted to the House of Representatives seeking sanctions against Turkey may hold a clue to the focus of Turkey’s parts-buying spree.“In addition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Turkish defense acquisition programs that could be affected by sanctions include the Patriot air and missile defense system, CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter and F-16s,” the resolution says.The U.S. has threatened to end Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program by July 31 if Ankara doesn’t scrap the S-400 deal.If Turkey is excluded from the F-35 program, it will look for alternatives, including Russian Su-57 jets, while trying to develop its own warplanes and ballistic missiles for domestic use and export, the Turkish officials said.If Turkey had to buy the Su-57 it would be the first country (outside Russia) to buy the first Russian stealth fighter after India dropped out of Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), known in India as the Perspective Multirole Fighter (PMF), which actually was a derivative project of the Sukhoi Su-57.The Sukhoi Su-57 is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation fighter aircraft designed for air superiority and attack roles. The aircraft is the product of the PAK FA (literally “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”) program. Sukhoi’s internal designation for the aircraft is T-50.In fact, Russian state media claimed that the Su-57 will feature a maximum speed of 1,600 mph, slightly more than that of the F-22 Raptor, and that its missile range, based on the information available, also exceeds that of the F-22.This first appeared in Aviation Geek Club here. Image: Creative Commons. (This first appeared earlier in July 2019.)

The U.S. Navy Let Me Come Aboard Their Deadliest Aircraft Carrier EverIf all goes well, the ship should be operational by 2020. If the current schedule holds, Ford should be able to work up with an air wing and deploy in 2021 or 2022.The United States Navy will commission the first of a new generation of aircraft carriers into service today.The future USS Gerald R. Ford ​(CVN-78) will represent the future of naval aviation and will be the most advanced and capable aircraft carrier ever built.(This first appeared several years ago.)With Ford’s imminent commissioning ceremony coming up later this month, the Navy invited The National Interest to preview the mighty warship and see the new vessel’s technology firsthand on July 10.Recommended: How North Korea Could Start a WarRecommended: This Is What Happens if America Nuked North KoreaRecommended: The Colt Python: The Best Revolver Ever Made?Even at first glance, PCU Gerald R. Ford is an impressive sight even as she was moored pierside at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia next to older Nimitz-class carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)—one of America’s oldest flattops, USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).Immediately noticeable is that Gerald R. Ford’s island is not only smaller than that of the Nimitz-class carriers, but that the structure is set further astern by about 140ft and slightly further starboard. Moreover, unlike regular fleet carriers, the brand-new Ford is still in pristine condition and sports a gold-painted anchor—a badge of honor noting that she has an exceptionally high crew retention rate.Entering the massive vessel via one of her three aircraft elevators—Nimitz-class ships have four—into her cavernous hangar bay, Ford’s interior looks similar to that of other carriers. However, whereas the Nimitz-class has three partitions in their hangar bays, the new CVN-78-class has only two in order to simplify maintenance.As we walked into the interior to climb up to the bridge, the air conditioning is immediately noticeable. Ford is able to produce 9,900 tons of air conditioning—which not only makes for a more productive crew but should reduce maintenance requirements for new vessels because of reduced humidity. Indeed, the key tenant of the entire CVN-78-class is improved maintainability and efficiency. Unlike previous carriers, Ford is projected to enter drydock only once every 12 years.Climbing up into Ford’s bridge, the systems are far more advanced than anything else in the Navy’s fleet other than the new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers. All of the controls and navigational systems are completely digital and use touch-screen interfaces. The only concession to the past is a metal wheel connected to an electronic steering and transmission system—though the ship does have backup systems.The entire ship features far greater automation—with far greater reliance on electrical and electronic systems—than any other carrier in the fleet. To power her systems and to meet future growth requirements, Ford’s twin nuclear reactors are almost three times more powerful than the ones onboard the Nimitz-class—generating 250 percent more electricity. Indeed, sister PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN-79)—currently under construction—will adopt electrically-powered elevators, further reducing the need for hydraulic systems.Primary flight control—which is a few more decks up on the island—is similarly high-tech, but aside from a few modifications to the firefighting system—the setup is very similar to the Nimitz-class according to Lt. Commander Jon Biehl, Ford’s mini-boss (deputy air boss) and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot. Biehl said he is very confident in the new carrier’s systems though the ship has yet to be tested in launching and recovering real aircraft.“Very confident, it’s proven to be successful,” Biehl said.Several decks down in Flight-deck Control, I was surprised to see a traditional “Ouija board,” which visually indicates the position and status of aircraft on the ship’s flight deck using scaled aircraft templates and various pins and washers. Ford has automated systems that track the location and status of the ship’s aircraft, but the crew setup the Ouija board as a manual backup—and for the sake of tradition.“We kept the Ouija board for guys just like you that come into flight deck control and it’s just not flight deck control if the Ouija board is not here,” Lt. Commander Jamie Roman, Ford’s aircraft handling officer told me.“This was not part of the ship’s design, this was taken out because we have a system that will track the aircraft called ADMACS [Aviation Data Management and Control System.”   Our next stop was the flight-deck, which we reached via the hangar bay via one of Ford’s three aircraft elevators. Ford’s rearranged and reconfigured flight deck—which is 1,106ft long and somewhat wider than the Nimitz-class’—visibly looks and feels considerably larger than that of previous generation aircraft carriers.Underneath, the massive steel deck, Ford is equipped with four Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and an Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) which are replacing their steam and hydraulically driven equivalents onboard the Nimitz-class (and which allows for unrestricted operation of the 4 catapult). The ship also features 40 refueling stations and a revised configuration for her weapons elevators. The ship could achieve between 25 and 33 percent greater sortie generation rates than her predecessors once she has been fully tested according to Navy projections.Capt. Brent Gaut, Ford’s executive officer, said that the next steps for the ship and her crew after commissioning will be to move into the test and evaluation phase. By the end of July, the ship is expected to set sail for a 10 to 12-day shakedown period where the crew will begin to test all of Ford’s systems including the EMALS and AAG. If all goes well, the ship will be certified to launch and recover aircraft by the end of September or early October.“The systems I think, in theory, are just phenomenal and designed to perform a certain way,” Gault said.“And now the challenge is to be able to go out and make sure they are able to meet the mark and they allow us to do what we need to do, which is put the ship in harm’s way and go out and fight the fight. So we need to make sure we get there first.”Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, said that the ship has already tested the EMALS and AAG with dead loads, and as such, he is very confident that the systems will work as advertised. Indeed, both systems have proven themselves in testing, but the Navy has to be certain that they meet operational standards at sea.“I’m very very confident that the EMALS will do everything we need it to,” McCormack said.“But bottom line, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to test and evaluate these systems.”As McCormack explained, the Navy will use the post-commissioning shakedown to test all of the new systems onboard Ford to identify any deficiencies or fixes that might need to be made. Ford will then move into a post-shakedown availability where the shipyard will make any needed corrections and install certain critical components onboard the ship that have yet to be installed. One such system is Ford’s Dual Band Radar, McCormack said, where there is still ongoing work that must be completed.Subsequently, the ship will then go out to sea for another shakedown cruise to ensure that all of the corrections and new systems work properly, McCormack said. If all goes well, the ship should be operational by 2020. If the current schedule holds, Ford should be able to work up with an air wing and deploy in 2021 or 2022.“All this stuff takes time, so in an ideal world—where everything works right the first time—we go out there and everything works great, you’re on timeline,” McCormack said.“If you go out there, and it doesn’t work quite right and you have to redesign—or there’s something they can do so that it works a little better—that takes time.”Early signs are promising.Ford seems to be delivering on the promise of a more efficient carrier that will take naval aviation into the future. Ford—which is based on the Nimitz-class hull form—restores weight and stability margins by reconfiguring the ship’s interior, though she displaces roughly 100,000-tons just like the CVN-68 class (Indeed, one officer noted that while a sea, Ford is much more sporty than the Nimitz thanks to her prodigious horsepower and reconfigured interiors). But more importantly, Ford adds improved survivability measures while reducing manning and maintenance requirements. If all of Navy’s projections are realized, the service will save $4 billion in total ownership costs over the life of the ship.For operators like McCormack—a career Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot—they just want to take the ship out and launch jets. Indeed, McCormack said that he wants to be among the first aviators to “trap” onboard Ford.“As an operator, I just want to go to sea,” McCormack said.“I want to launch airplanes and catch them and hopefully get a launch and an arrestment myself in a Super Hornet.”

Communists Rally in Moscow as Opposition Takes Weekend Off(Bloomberg) -- The Russian Communist Party held a rally in central Moscow calling for honest and fair city council elections as the newly energized opposition planned to skip mass protests this weekend for the first time in five weeks.The rally started at noon Moscow time at Sakharov Avenue, the traditional spot for demonstrations, and senior party officials, politicians and State Duma members were scheduled to take part. About 4,000 people gathered during the first hour, according to Moscow police.This weekend marks a lull in protests over the refusal to put opposition candidates on the ballot for city council elections, which sparked the biggest wave of unrest in the capital since 2011-2012. Last Saturday, as many as 60,000 people attended a demonstration in central Moscow to demand the excluded politicians be allowed to run, while over 2,000 people have been detained by riot police in recent weeks for participating in unsanctioned gatherings.Attempts to get a permit to hold an opposition demonstration this Saturday were denied by city authorities, Andrei Morev, a local politician and member of the liberal Yabloko party, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He called instead for a series of individual street protests, a form of opposition that is legal.The opposition plans to return to the streets next week en masse. While the city denied a permit for a rally in the center on Aug. 24, it authorized a meeting at the edge of Moscow in a working class neighborhood filled with Soviet-era residential towers. The protests have continued despite the arrests of many of the opposition politicians on charges of organizing unsanctioned protests. Opposition leader Alexey Navalny is serving 30 days in prison for urging supporters to join an unauthorized action last month.The Communists are one of four parties in Russia’s lower house of parliament but have seen their power wane since President Vladimir Putin was first elected in 2000. They currently hold less than 10% of seats in the chamber.Just 11% of Russians said they would vote for the Communists in parliamentary elections, according to a recent survey by the Levada Center. The low level of support comes despite the ruling United Russia party losing popularity after it pushed through unpopular pension reforms last year, according to a July 18-24 survey of 1,605 people.To contact the reporters on this story: Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at jrudnitsky@bloomberg.net;Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at yfedorinova@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at tclark8@bloomberg.net, Guy CollinsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Meet the Journalist Who Exposed the Jeffrey Epsteins of Victorian LondonWealthy men soliciting underage girls for sex. Girls lured to expensive homes by promises of good-paying jobs. Captains of commerce and heads of state reveling in debauchery. Officials looking the other way.A newspaper exposé written by British journalist W.T. Stead, “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” sounds just like the sordid sex ring of Jeffrey Epstein, who died of an apparent suicide in prison on Aug. 10.The difference is that Stead’s account appeared over a century ago, in London’s Pall Mall Gazette in the summer of 1885.In the four-part series, investigative journalist W.T. Stead graphically detailed the ways that wealthy Victorian men procured young girls for sex. Ironically, Stead was the only one who ended up in jail.Lured by the Promise of a Better LifeOn July 6, 1885, the first article in Stead’s exposé was published. Stead revealed how thousands of girls, most of whom were between 13 and 15 years old, were bought for sex by prominent London men, including a “well-known member of Parliament,” a cabinet minister, a doctor and a clergyman who obtained a 12-year old virgin for £20.As soon as it hit London’s newsstands, the story went viral. Stead already had a reputation as a fearless editor who advocated “Governmentby Journalism” and didn’t shy from sensationalism. The Gazette’s reporting was front-page news in the U.S., with The New York Times covering the scandal and the reaction by Englishauthorities.Instead of working to swiftly shut down the illicit sex trade and identify those involved, London’s city solicitor ordered police to seize copies of the Gazette and to arrest vendors for selling copies of the paper. Despite – or because of – the attempted censorship, copies sold well above their cover price. Thousands waited outside newspaper offices for their chance to buy each new installment.Those who could get their hands on a copy learned about how women recruited young girls, and how the authorities who knew about it failed to intervene.Stead interviewed women who explained how they enticed girls to enter the homes of wealthy men with promises of meals, money and jobs. Looking out for “pretty girls who are poor,” brothel keepers and professional procurers recruited orphans, shop girls, servants and nursemaids to “visit” gentlemen.“The police knew all about them long ago,” Stead added, noting that officers were discouraged from pursuing leads, while prosecutors intimidated potential witnesses.Stead interviewed some of the men who paid for the girls. They assured him that the maidens willingly – sometimes eagerly – consented. As the member of Parliament told Stead, “I doubt the unwillingness of these virgins … it is nonsense to say it is rape.”The victimized girls told a different story: They were lured with the promise of a better life. They had no idea that the employment agencies they used were actually fronts for prostitution.Once the girls consented to go into the gentleman’s house, there was no going back. According to Stead, those who resisted were told that they could choose either to be raped and paid, or raped “and then turned into the streets without a penny.”Powerful Predators Remain in the ShadowsThe “maiden tribute” in the series’ title was a reference to the Greek myth in which virgins were sacrificed to theminotaur of Crete, the half-man, half-bull so brutal that a labyrinth was built to contain him. But Stead points out that, unlike the mythic narrative, which required the sacrifice of seven virgins every nine years, modern London was witnessing an exponential number of girls being sacrificed each day.The abuse wouldn’t stop, Stead insisted, until people started believing the girls.“When a woman is outraged,” he wrote, “her sworn testimony weighs nothing against the lightest word of the man who perpetrated the crime.”The Victorian men in Stead’s account were never publicly named. Nor did they ever face criminal prosecution. As a journalist, Stead refused to reveal his sources. And once public attention waned, officials declined to pursue Stead’s leads.In an ironic twist, Stead himself served three months in prison for abduction. In order to prove how easy it was, he had a procurer deliver a 13-year-old girl named Eliza Armstrong to him. Even though it was done for the sake of his reporting, the authorities pounced.Stead’s reporting did have one desired effect: It mobilized support for a parliamentary bill that raised the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16. But none of the women who recruited the girls and none of the men who sexually molested them were held accountable.Different Century, Same Story?In some ways, the parallels between the men of Victorian London and Epstein are striking.Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s one-time girlfriend, allegedly acted as Epstein’s procurer. According to The New York Times, one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, fingered Maxwell as the one who approached her and invited her to Epstein’s home, promising that she could learn how to give massages and “earn a lot of money.” Maxwell has also settled several civil suits with Epstein accusers who named her as his accomplice. Too often, it seems the law serves the interests of powerful men. We saw this in Epstein’s 2007 non-prosecution agreement proffered byAlexander Acosta, who was, at the time, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.As the Sentencing Project noted in a 2018 report submitted to the United Nations, “The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color.” Epstein emerged relatively unscathed during his first brush with the law. Rarely do the authorities haul the same powerful men before the courts a second time, as they did with Epstein.We can thank the dogged reporting of journalists, who, over the past few years, have been exposing patterns of male sexual abuse, making sure to keep the story in the public eye until justice is served. Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker articles exposing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predation and his articles detailing Les Moonves’ sexual harrassment played a big role in holding both powerful men to account.Julie Brown and Emily Michot of the Miami Herald revealed the secret Acosta deal and uncovered more than 80 of Epstein’s alleged victims. Due in part to their reporting, Epstein was indicted in July.With the continued persistence of journalists, victims and the public, perhaps the labyrinths that shield the other minotaurs in our midst will be permanently razed.This story first appeared in The Conversation on August 12.Image: Reuters

US issues warrant to seize Iranian tanker in last-ditch effort to stop supertanker leaving GibraltarThe United States has issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West in a last ditch effort to prevent the vessel from leaving Gibraltar. The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria. Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday after the British territory's chief minister said he had secured written assurances from Tehran that the cargo would not go to Syria. But with the vessel and its 2.1 million barrels of oil free to leave, the United States launched a separate legal appeal to impound the ship on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organization. A federal court in Washington issued a warrant to seize the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million. "A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release. "The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1." The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the warrant, which was addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer," may be enforced. The Pentagon declined to comment, as did the British Foreign Office. Asked on Friday about the U.S. intervention, Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said that would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court. "It could go back to the court absolutely." The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported that the vessel was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive. The Grace 1 had its name erased and it was no longer flying a Panama flag. Iranian state television had quoted Jalil Eslami, deputy head of the country's Ports and Maritime Organisation, as saying the tanker would depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Iranian flag and renamed Adrian Darya.

North Korea vs. America's Mach 3 SR-71 Spy Plane (Who Wins?)No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action. The aircraft was extremely difficult for enemy radars to find. Featuring the original stealth technology, the SR-71’s leading edges and vertical rudders were composite construction. Being made from a mixture of asbestos and epoxy provided high temperature resistance and radar absorbent characteristics to reduce the radar cross section (RCS).​The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” was a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.Its incredible speed enabled it to gather intelligence in a matter of a few seconds while streaking across unfriendly skies. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action. The aircraft was extremely difficult for enemy radars to find. Featuring the original stealth technology, the SR-71’s leading edges and vertical rudders were composite construction. Being made from a mixture of asbestos and epoxy provided high temperature resistance and radar absorbent characteristics to reduce the radar cross section (RCS).As former Blackbird driver Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (Ret.), explains in his book The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird: The Illustrated Profile of Every Aircraft, Crew, and Breakthrough of the World’s Fastest Stealth Jet, an antiradar coating with iron ferrites was also used on the leading edges as well, lowering the RCS further. In effect, the SR-71 became the first stealth airplane. Ben Rich, head of the Lockheed Skunk Works from 1975-1991, says in his book Skunk Works that the shape of the SR-71 reduces the RCS by 65 percent, and the iron ferrite radar absorbing coating reduced it by a further 35 percent. At cruise speed and altitude, the RCS of the SR-71 represented a target of less than ten square meters. For comparison purposes, the RCS of an F-15 fighter is somewhere around one hundred square meters. Even if the SR-71 could be found on radar, its detection was so late that there was simply not enough time for a missile to lock onto it for a successful kill.The only published and U.S. government-acknowledged missile firing at an SR-71 occurred on Wednesday Aug. 26, 1981. SR-71 pilot Maj. Maury Rosenberg and Reconnaissance System Officer (RSO) Maj. E. D. McKim were making their final pass on the DMZ, heading southwest, when North Korea fired two Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at their aircraft. Major McKim was the first to notice anything out of the ordinary by his DEF system [the Defensive Electronic systems that were designed to jam or spoof any radar or SAM system as necessary and were carried in SR-71’s chine bays] automatically jamming the missile’s guidance system and lighting up his cockpit displays. After he informed Major Rosenberg of his DEF indications, he looked out to the right just in time to see the missiles scream by. The incident caused quite an uproar in the press, and crews became much more cautious in future passes through the Korean DMZ.At the time North Korea denied American charges that its forces fired SAMs at the SR-71.As Henry Scott Stokes reported for the New York Times on Aug. 29, 1981 “North Korea said nothing about whether such an attack had been made in what it defines as its own airspace. Issuing its first direct statement on the incident, the official North Korean press agency charged that the SR-71 had violated ‘the territorial air of the northern half of our republic,’ meaning North Korea […].“Since 1977, however, North Korea has maintained that its military borders extend 50 miles to sea from its eastern and western coasts. It describes its territorial limit as 12 miles from shore. The United States officially recognizes a limit of only 3 miles.“The North Korean statement charged that the SR-71 mission was part of ‘maneuvers to aggravate tension and start a new war in Korea.’ It accused the United States of fabricating a story about a missile attack and of ‘groundlessly slandering’ North Korea.Stokes continues: “North Korea’s denial came in sentence in which the Pentagon’s term ‘international airspace’ was rendered as ‘above high seas.’ ‘According to foreign reports,’ the statement said, ‘the U.S. Defense Department announced on Aug. 26 that the high-altitude reconnaissance plane of the U.S. Air Force, SR-71, seemed to be attacked by a North Korean missile above high seas, groundlessly slandering us.’ ”“The Pentagon announcement on Wednesday did not directly accuse the North Koreans of shooting at the plane as it flew in ‘South Korean and international airspace.’ It said, ‘If a missile was launched, it could have originated from any one of a number of missile sites in North Korea.’“But Dean Fischer, the State Department spokesman, said yesterday that the United States had been able to confirm that North Korean forces ‘fired a missile at a U.S. Air Force plane flying in South Korean and international airspace’ in a routine mission similar to those conducted in the region for years.“On Aug. 14, North Korea complained that SR-71’s had intruded into North Korean airspace eight times this month. ‘The flight patterns are only over South Korea and international airspace,’ an American military official said at the time. ‘They don’t go over North Korea.’“A United States military spokesman said in Seoul today that North Korea had objected to an American proposal for a special meeting of the Korean Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom tomorrow to discuss the plane incident. He said North Korea had proposed that it be held Sept. 5.”Stokes concludes: “The incident came a week after two American F-14’s shot down two Soviet-built Libyan Su-22’s during maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra off Libya. That case also involved disputed territorial limits.”Noteworthy there haven been reports of more than one thousand SAMs fired at the SR-71, but in his book, Rich says the number is closer to one hundred. According Graham this number is more accurate.This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.Image: DVIDS.This was first published last month.

Huawei denies helping governments of Uganda and Zambia spy on political opponentsHuawei Technologies sent a letter to The Wall Street Journal on Friday, refuting the publication's bombshell report describing how China's tech giant allegedly helped the governments of two African nations spy on their political opponents.Uganda and Zambia, the two governments mentioned in the article, also denied that Huawei employees had helped them conduct espionage.The Journal's article on Wednesday said that Huawei employees in the two African countries were involved with government cybersecurity forces in helping intercept communications and tracking opponents' social media activity and physical movements.In the letter, Huawei lawyer Steven Friedman said "the article is neither a fair nor a responsible representation of Huawei's legitimate business activities in these countries.""The publication of these false statements has and will continue to damage Huawei's reputation and business interests across the globe," he wrote.The Journal also reported that Huawei technicians helped Zambian authorities spy on opposition bloggers running a news site critical of President Edgar Lungu.Dora Siliya, a Zambian government spokeswoman, criticised the news report in a tweet on Friday."The WSJ article on government spying on political opponents is malicious, we refute it with the contempt it deserves," she wrote.Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, on July 24. Photo: Reuters alt=Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, on July 24. Photo: ReutersUganda also denied the allegations, other news outlets reported on Friday. According to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei employees helped Ugandan authorities use spyware to disrupt the concerts of Bobi Wine, a popular musician who is now a member of parliament.Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is preparing for a presidential run in 2021 to challenge President Yoweri Museveni."It is totally false to claim Huawei helped African governments among them Uganda spy on its political opponents," Ugandan presidential spokesman Don Wanyama told Agence France-Presse. "Why spy on Bobi Wine?"Huawei, the world's second-largest smartphone maker and a leading 5G technology developer, has been in the spotlight since the US-China trade war began more than a year ago.The company's development of next-generation wireless communications has made it a crucial player in China as the country attempts to achieve global dominance in critical technologies.Huawei is caught in the cross hairs as the Trump administration pressures China to rein in forced technology transfers and what the US considers intellectual property theft.In May, Huawei was put on US government's Entity List, effectively prohibiting US tech companies from selling it components. A temporary export license that allows legacy sales to Huawei expires on Monday, by which time the White House will have to announce a new rule that will either extend or suspend sales.The US fears that Huawei can be compelled by Beijing to hand over critical technologies and information that would harm American tech leadership and threaten national security.Huawei is also accused of defrauding HSBC and other banks by misrepresenting its relationship with a suspected front company, Skycom Tech, in Iran.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Senior UK Conservative lawmaker says he could not back Corbyn-led governmentA Conservative lawmaker at the centre of efforts to block a no-deal Brexit said on Saturday he was pessimistic about his chances because he and other party colleagues could not support a caretaker government led by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by Oct. 31, anti-Brexit politicians from all sides have been trying, and so far failing, to agree on a plan to stop it from happening. Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, wants a caretaker government with himself as head, and then an election.

US issues warrant to seize Iranian oil tankerThe US justice department has issued a warrant for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, a day after a Gibraltar judge allowed the release of the detained vessel.The Grace 1 supertanker was held by British Royal Marines in July on suspicion of illegally transporting oil to Syria.Authorities in the US claim they can seize the ship and the 2.1m barrels of oil it is carrying over alleged violations of terrorism statutes and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. But officials in Gibraltar have already allowed the Grace 1 to leave.Two weeks after the vessel was detained, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz in apparent retaliation.A last-minute legal attempt by the US to keep the Grace 1 detained was rejected by Gibraltar on Thursday.The following day, the US federal court issued a warrant calling for the tanker and oil on board to be seized.The warrant was issued by the US district court for the District of Columbia and addressed to “the United States Marshal’s Service and/or any other duly authorised law enforcement officer”.It has also ordered the seizure of $995,000 from an account at an unnamed US bank linked to Paradise Global Trading LLC, an Iranian company."A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," federal prosecutor Jessie Liu said in a statement.She added the parties involved were linked with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US regards as a foreign terrorist organisation.Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said the warrant would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court.The Grace 1 shifted its position on Friday, but its anchor was still down and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail soon. The ship had its name removed and was no longer flying a Panama flag.The Gibraltar Chronicle reported that the Grace 1 was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive.It is to be renamed and will fly an Iranian flag for its onward journey, the deputy head of Iran’s ports and maritime organisation, Jalil Eslami, told Iranian state television on Friday.Additional reporting by agencies

The Ultimate Iran Nightmare: Not a War with America, But a Civil WarLess than a month later, Iranian security forces suffered another devastating attack at the Mirjaveh border post, the main border crossing between Iran and Pakistan. In that attack, insurgents or terrorists somehow surprised and kidnapped a dozen Iranian servicemen inside an Iranian base. On November 22, 2018, Pakistani forces returned five of the hostages, but the fate of the others remains unknown. The Iranian investigation suggests that the attack on the Mirjaveh post was, in part, an inside job. Clearly, security around the periphery of Iran is beginning to fray.It was an unseasonably warm morning, in northwestern Iran, although a fresh snow blanketed the mountains. Civil unrest had persisted in the area for years amidst the backdrop of war and regional unrest. Crowds gathered in the Mahabad town square. They did not have to wait long. Qazi Muhammad, the founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, ascended a platform and delivered a fifteen-minute speech declaring the Kurds a people apart and sharing the right to self-determination with other nations. When he concluded, 300 supporters each fired five rounds into the air to mark the occasion. On that day, the Iranian central government was nowhere to be seen. Its problems were vast, and its army was riven by defection. At any rate, the Iranian leadership was far more concerned about preserving security and stability in Tehran and defending against external threats than sending its forces to restore order in the countryside.The anecdote above, of course, refers to the January 22, 1946 declaration of the Mahabad Republic, an entity that continued for nearly a year before the Iranian Army was able to restore Tehran’s control over the region. But, in Iran’s recent history, it is a story that repeated a half dozen times in the twentieth century. And, such separatist outbursts and insurgencies are a scenario that will likely repeat in the aftermath of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s eventual demise.A History of Unrest:But back to the history: In the first decade of the twentieth century, Edward Granville Browne, a British scholar of the Middle East and freelance correspondent for British newspapers, chronicled the uprisings against the Iranian monarchy’s autocratic excesses in The Persian Revolution. In that episode, Tabriz—at the time, Iran’s second largest city—became the epicenter for the revolutionary movement. The shah in Tehran effectively lost control over the city and unsuccessfully sought to starve it into submission.Then, in 1920, after five years of intermittent insurgency that was born of widespread dissatisfaction with Iran’s still corrupt, dictatorial and arbitrary leadership, for example, Mirza Kuchek Khan declared the Soviet Republic of Gilan along the Western portion of Iran’s Caspian coast.Four years later—and one year before the ultimate collapse of the Qajar dynasty—it was Khuzistan, a predominantly Arab province inside Iran, which became the scene of separatist rebellion against the central state. Sheikh Khazal of Muhammarah—a city known today as Khorramshahr—rose up in defiance of the Iranian monarchy. His rebellion lasted two months before the Iranian state could put it down. Khazal’s grandson today lives in the United Arab Emirates and remains committed to his grandfather’s goals and legacy.Against the backdrop of the chaos of World War II and its aftermath, not only the Kurds rose up, but so too did some Iranian Azerbaijanis (who, like the Kurds, received Soviet support). At the time of the Islamic Revolution, the Kurds again rose up against the central government; that low-key rebellion was put down brutally. Iran’s southeastern Baluchistan region, too, has been the scene not only of a low-level insurgency for decades, but also rampant criminality brought on by the Afghan drug trade. That the Islamic Republic discriminates against the native Baluch not only in terms of their ethnicity but also because they are Sunni in a sectarian Shia state adds fuel to the fire. So too does Baluchistan’s brief flirtation with independence.Iranian Border Security is Collapsing:Simply put, in Iran, the past is prologue. When the state is weak or governments collapse, restive minorities along the periphery rebel. There are ample signs that Iranian security forces are beginning to lose their grip. Not only do the economic protests which began nearly a year ago continue sporadically, but in recent months, terrorists and insurgents have grown increasingly bold along Iran’s periphery.Consider Ahvaz, the largest city in the oil-rich Khuzistan province, and Iran’s eighth-largest city overall. On September 22, 2018, gunmen attacked a military parade, killing twenty-five. It was the deadliest attack inside Iran since terrorists a Shia procession in the southern city of Chabahar in 2010, killing more than thirty. The subsequent Iranian investigation blamed a cell of forty terrorists, twenty-two of whom have reportedly already been executed. Iranian authorities might pat themselves for quick justice, but they might instead consider how it was that such a large cell could operate undetected for so long and how multiple gunmen could infiltrate a high-security area and kill so effectively. While some killed at the parade were innocent bystanders, if the soldiers and Revolutionary Guardsmen slaughtered were unarmed, then that would indicate how little trust Iran’s regime has in the loyalty of its forces.Less than a month later, Iranian security forces suffered another devastating attack at the Mirjaveh border post, the main border crossing between Iran and Pakistan. In that attack, insurgents or terrorists somehow surprised and kidnapped a dozen Iranian servicemen inside an Iranian base. On November 22, 2018, Pakistani forces returned five of the hostages, but the fate of the others remains unknown. The Iranian investigation suggests that the attack on the Mirjaveh post was, in part, an inside job. Clearly, security around the periphery of Iran is beginning to fray.Meanwhile, Iranian Kurdistan remains the site of continued insurgency and unrest. This summer, ten Revolutionary Guardsmen succumbed in a single attack. Clashes in the region are frequent, and only regime repression keeps the region from outright rebellion. That the Iranian government has been forced to report on such incidents rather than bury them is a testament to the fact that the challenge can no longer be denied, even in Tehran.Those new to Iran policy who look at its demography and see its sheer ethnic diversity often propose playing “the ethnic card” to support some of these separatist movements. This would be a huge mistake. The sense of Iran as a nation predates the notion of states organized around ethnicity. When, in the past, foreigners have sought to incite ethnic unrest, they only caused Iranians of all types to rally around the flag, no matter how odious the government. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran probably saved the Islamic Revolution which was already starting to spin out of control. Fortunately—and despite Iranian propaganda to the contrary—neither the United States nor any other power has supported separatist movements in Iran in the post-revolutionary-era.Post-Khamenei Security Challenges:But, as Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s health waivers and he approaches his final months or years, the central government’s control over the periphery appears increasingly weak. The vacuum which will follow his death will likely mean a number of simultaneous and indigenous uprisings. And, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will remain on paper a formidable force, with the regime’s leadership vacant and its commander-in-chief functions absent, it will likely be faced with simultaneous indigenous uprisings and insurgencies in Khuzistan, Kurdistan and Baluchistan. It is unclear, however, how effective the IRGC could be.The U.S. intelligence community has two major blind spots with regard to the IRGC. The first is its factional divisions. While all acknowledge the IRGC is not homogenous—some men only join for the privileges—there is little understanding about who or how many within the organization represent the true ideologues. The second concerns individual units. In 2007, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the current head of the IRGC, reorganized the Guards to put a single unit in each province (and two in Tehran) with the aim of keeping order. It is unknown, however, whether each provincial IRGC unit is composed of men native to the province in which they serve. The answer to that question would indicate whether ideology trumps loyalty when servicemen are given the order to fire into a crowd which might include family, friends or schoolmates. When Khamenei dies, it is likely that those whose hearts are not in the regime’s revolutionary ideology will just go home, moves which will only further encourage Kurdish, Baluchi and, perhaps, Arab insurgency. Even if the IRGC remains largely loyal, its hands will be full securing Iran’s major cities—Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tabriz—as well as Iran’s oil infrastructure. Insurgents and local councils will fill the vacuum. Some may declare independence; others will likely cloak their movements in talk of federalism.In the 1920s, mid-1940s and at the time of the Islamic Revolution, it took the Iranian regime months and, in some cases, years to restore order to the periphery. And it took officers willing to shed previous constraints and precedents to pacify the countryside. It was Reza Khan, a Cossack officer, for example, whose success putting down rebellions catapulted him first into a military hero and then, in 1925, the shah. Unclear is whether any Iranian leader in lies in wait among the middle-ranks of the Iranian Army or IRGC or, if not, what the response in Tehran, the region and the broader world would be to state collapse and fracturing. If history is any guide, the world may not have to wait too long to find out.Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Why the Air Force Gave Up on the SR-71 (The Fastest Plane Ever)Said the former astronaut, “The termination of the SR-71 was a grave mistake and could place our nation at a serious disadvantage in the event of a future crisis. Yesterday’s historic transcontinental flight was a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”​The SR-71, unofficially known as the Blackbird, was a long-range, advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action: in fact its incredible speed enabled it to gather intelligence in a matter of a few seconds while streaking across unfriendly skies. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.Despite the aircraft’s incredible flight characteristics, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) retired its fleet of SR-71s on Jan. 26, 1990, because of a decreasing defense budget, high costs of operation and availability of sophisticated spy satellites.“General Larry Welch, the Air Force chief of staff, staged a one-man campaign on Capitol  Hill to kill the program entirely,” Ben Rich wrote in his book Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed. “General Welch thought sophisticated spy satellites made the SR-71 a disposable luxury. Welch had headed the Strategic Air Command and was partial to its priorities. He wanted to use SR-71 refurbishment funding for development of the B-2 bomber. He was quoted by columnist Rowland Evans as saying, ‘The Blackbird can’t fire a gun and doesn’t carry a bomb, and I don’t want it.’ Then the general went on the Hill and claimed to certain powerful committee chairmen that he could operate a wing of fifteen to twenty [F-15E] fighter-bombers with what it cost him to fly a single SR-71.That claim was bogus. So were claims by SAC generals that the SR-71 cost $400 million annually to run. The actual cost was about $260 million.”Both Welch and SAC commander General John Chain testified before Congress that the SR-71 should go, and so it did.As Rich so aptly reflected, “a general would always prefer commanding a large fleet of conventional fighters or bombers that provides high visibility and glory. By contrast, buying into Blackbird would mean deep secrecy, small numbers, and no limelight.”Blackbird operations, except training flights, were officially terminated in November 1989, having been eliminated from the FY1990 Defense Department budget.On Mar. 6, 1990, one Blackbird famously set a series of world speed records on its ‘retirement flight.’ The SR-71 with tail number 64-17972 was flown from California to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM) Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, where it would eventually go on display. In the process, it set the official National Aeronautic Association coast-to-coast speed record of 2,086 miles in one hour and seven minutes, averaging 2,124.5 mph. It made the 311-mile St. Louis-to-Cincinnati leg in less than nine minutes, averaging 2,176.08 mph.As told by Bill Yenne in his book Area 51 Black Jets, within a few months of this much-publicized flight, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army had occupied Kuwait and the U.S. was involved in the Desert Shield buildup that culminated in Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991. During that conflict, many operational commanders, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, lamented the absence of expedited reconnaissance that the SR-71 might have contributed.Mounting concerns about the situations in world trouble spots from the Middle East to North Korea led Congress to reconsider the reactivation of the SR-71. In 1993, Admiral Richard Macke, director of the joint staff for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that “from the operator’s perspective, what I need is something that will not give me just a spot in time but will give me a track of what is happening. When we are trying to find out if the Serbs are taking arms, moving tanks or artillery into Bosnia, we can get a picture of them stacked up on the Serbian side of the bridge. We do not know whether they then went on to move across that bridge. We need the [reconnaissance information] that a tactical, an SR-71, a U-2, or an unmanned vehicle of some sort, will give us, in addition to, not in replacement of, the ability of the satellites to go around and check not only that spot but a lot of other spots around the world for us. It is the integration of strategic and tactical.”In its FY1994 appropriations, Congress authorized a reinstatement of funding to permit a revival of part of the SR-71 fleet. By that time, many of the twenty surviving SR-71s were being prepped for museum displays, but at least a half dozen were in storage at Palmdale or flying research missions with NASA.The USAF moved too slowly on the path to SR-71 reactivation, and in October 1997, using a line-item veto, President Bill Clinton deleted the funding. The Blackbird was permanently grounded by the US Air Force in 1998, leaving just two at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB.One of the last NASA missions for the SR-71 was the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE) series conducted in 1997 and 1998. The object was to study aerodynamic performance of lifting bodies combined with aerospike engines such as would have been used in the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works X-33, the demonstrator for the conceptual VentureStar single-stage-to-orbit reusable spaceplane. The latter program was abandoned by NASA in 2001 but pursued by Lockheed Martin thereafter.In signing off any discussion of the Blackbird’s demise, Americans are left with the words that Senator John Glenn spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the day after the 1990 “retirement flight.”Said the former astronaut, “The termination of the SR-71 was a grave mistake and could place our nation at a serious disadvantage in the event of a future crisis. Yesterday’s historic transcontinental flight was a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.Image: DVIDS.This article first appeared last month and is being republished due to reader interest.

Satellites Could Help Solve Our Planet From the Climate CrisisToday, more than 700 million people around the world drink water from unsafe or untreated sources, such as wells, springs and surface water.About half of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, in more than 30 African countries, fewer than 20% of the people have access to safe drinking water.Climate change is likely to worsen the situation by making water less available in some locations and by changing the amounts and timing when water is available.Determining whether a region has sufficient water to satisfy the needs of people who live there is a complicated and imperfect process. Our research team has developed a new approach to measure water scarcityby using satellites hundreds of miles in space.How to measure water scarcityTo estimate water scarcity, hydrologists, the people who study the science of water, build what they call a “water budget.”They estimate all of the water entering the country – from rivers, rainfall, groundwater and man-made sources – and then subtract all of the water exiting the country. This produces an estimate of the available water in the country or region.By dividing the available water by the population in the region, hydrologists can tell whether there is sufficient water to meet people’s needs.Generally, in the U.S., the average person uses between 300 and 400 liters of water per day for basic needs – like drinking, sanitation, bathing and food preparation.Globally, a country is said to experience a serious water scarcity problem if it has less than 500,000 liters of water per person per year, to meet both their daily needs and agricultural needs.This water budget process works if accurate data are available for each source of water. However, in many developing regions, such as Africa, the data required to calculate water budgets are not available.Yet Africa critically needs accurate information on its water scarcity status. As the second most populated continent, Africa is projected to have a population of 2.4 billion by 2050, approximately double the current estimated population. Such rapid population growth will exert considerable stress on the continent’s available water resources, worsening the already acute water scarcity situation.So, assessing the potentially available water resources is essential for the future.Look to the skiesOur study takes a new approach to assessing water scarcity.We used data from two satellite systems. The first is called the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, operated since 1997 by the U.S. and Japan. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission uses several instruments – including a precipitation radar, microwave imager, visible and infrared scanner – to estimate rainfall. Getting the rainfall estimate right is critical, because this is the most important source of water for human use.The second type of satellite data is from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, a joint mission between the U.S. and Germany. First launched in 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a twin satellite mission that uses the changes in the Earth’s gravitational fields to infer changes in the global water resources, from the Earth’s surface to the deepest groundwater aquifers.We combined data from these two satellite systems to calculate the monthly potential available water from all sources of water for each country in Africa from 2002 to 2016. By dividing this value by the population in each country, we obtained a new measurement of available water storage per capita.Because the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite data also estimates water in deep groundwater aquifers, which may not be accessible due to technical or economic limitations, we refer to this new estimate as potential available water storage.Measuring water, fasterWe compared our results with the data currently used by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Their method relies on conventional water budget accounting to estimate the total renewable water resources in a country. It then classifies each country into one of four categories: water-sufficient, vulnerable, water-stressed or water-scarce.Of the 48 African countries studied, our method classified 26 in the same category as the U.N.‘s method; 12 were classified as having more water than indicated and 10 as less.These differences are not surprising. Our estimate includes also water in aquifers deep underground that the U.N.’s method does not account for. Their method likely underestimates the total available water for countries that have substantial groundwater reserves.On the other hand, the accuracy of our method can be affected by the size of a country. Countries smaller than the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment footprint – the approximately 200,000 square kilometer blocks that the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment estimates can be made with confidence – are much more likely to be in error.By 2050, assuming no change in available water resources, we project that 19 countries in Africa will face water scarcity and another nine countries will be water-stressed. However, if climate change were to cause Africa’s water resources to decrease by 10%, which is within the range of several climate projections for some African countries, then approximately 85% of Africa’s population will experience a dangerous water scarcity situation.In general, we think that our method has several advantages over existing methods. It circumvents many of the limitations related to data unavailability and reliability in Africa. The data are more temporally and spatially continuous, as well as easier for researchers to access. As a result, estimates of water scarcity can be carried out much more rapidly for the entire continent.Satellites will gather new data in the coming years. We plan to take advantage of such data improvements as they become available to refine our method in terms of accuracy and water scarcity assessment at the sub-country level, not only in Africa but globally.This article by Emad Hasan and Aondover Tarhule originally appeared at The Conversation.Emad Hasan is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Geography at Binghamton University, State University of New York.Aondover Tarhule is Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School at Binghamton University, State University of New York.Image: Reuters.

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