Saturday, September 23, 2017

Iran Tests New Missile Capable Of Reaching Israel, U.S.: Banana Republic



Defying US warnings, Iran tests new missile capable of reaching Israel



Iran said on Saturday that it had successfully tested a new medium-range missile, in defiance of warnings from Washington that it is ready to ditch a landmark nuclear deal over the issue.
State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday. It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone.

“As long as some speak in the language of threats, the strengthening of the country’s defense capabilities will continue and Iran will not seek permission from any country for producing various kinds of missile,” Defence Minister Amir Hatami said in a statement Saturday.
Revolutionary Guards aerospace chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying on Friday, when the missile was unveiled, that “the Khoramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads.”
Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry conventional warheads only and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometers, although commanders say they have the technology to go further.
That makes them only medium-range but still sufficient to reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.
Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.









According to media reports this week, the FBI did indeed “wiretap” the former head of Trump’s campaign, Paul Manafort, both before and after Trump was elected. If Trump officials — or Trump himself — communicated with Manafort during the wiretaps, they would have been recorded, too.
But we’re missing the bigger story.
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If these reports are accurate, it means U.S. intelligence agencies secretly surveilled at least a half dozen Trump associates. And those are just the ones we know about.

Besides Manafort, the officials include former Trump advisers Carter Page and Michael Flynn. Last week, we discovered multiple Trump “transition officials” were “incidentally” captured during government surveillance of a foreign official. We know this because former Obama adviser Susan Rice reportedly admitted “unmasking,” or asking to know the identities of, the officials. Spying on U.S. citizens is considered so sensitive, their names are supposed to be hidden or “masked,” even inside the government, to protect their privacy.
In May, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates acknowledged they, too, reviewed communications of political figures, secretly collected under President Obama.

Nobody wants our intel agencies to be used like the Stasi in East Germany; the secret police spying on its own citizens for political purposes. The prospect of our own NSA, CIA and FBI becoming politically weaponized has been shrouded by untruths, accusations and justifications.
You’ll recall DNI Clapper falsely assured Congress in 2013 that the NSA was not collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Intel agencies secretly monitored conversations of members of Congress while the Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal.
In 2014, the CIA got caught spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, though CIA Director John Brennan had explicitly denied that.
There were also wiretaps on then-Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in 2011 under Obama. The same happened under President George W. Bush to former Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Calif.).
Journalists have been targeted, too. This internal email, exposed by WikiLeaks, should give everyone chills. It did me.
The government subsequently got caught monitoring journalists at Fox News, The Associated Press, and, as I allege in a federal lawsuit, my computers while I worked as an investigative correspondent at CBS News. On Aug. 7, 2013, CBS News publicly announced:


… correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was hacked by ‘an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions,’ confirming Attkisson’s previous revelation of the hacking.
Then, as now, instead of getting the bigger story, some in the news media and quasi-news media published false and misleading narratives pushed by government interests. They implied the computer intrusions were the stuff of vivid imagination, conveniently dismissed forensic evidence from three independent examinations that they didn’t review. All seemed happy enough to let news of the government’s alleged unlawful behavior fade away, rather than get to the bottom of it.

 I have spent more than two years litigating against the Department of Justice for the computer intrusions. Forensics have revealed dates, times and methods of some of the illegal activities. The software used was proprietary to a federal intel agency. The intruders deployed a keystroke monitoring program, accessed the CBS News corporate computer system, listened in on my conversations by activating the computer’s microphone and used Skype to exfiltrate files.
We survived the government’s latest attempt to dismiss my lawsuit. There’s another hearing Friday. To date, the Trump Department of Justice — like the Obama Department of Justice — is fighting me in court and working to keep hidden the identities of those who accessed a government internet protocol address found in my computers.

Evidence continues to build. I recently filed new information unearthed through forensic exams. As one expert told the court, it was “not a mistake; it is not a random event; and it is not technically possible for these IP addresses to simply appear on her computer systems without activity by someone using them as part of the cyber-attack.”


Patterns
It’s difficult not to see patterns in the government’s behavior, unless you’re wearing blinders.
  • The intelligence community secretly expanded its authority in 2011 so it can monitor innocent U.S. citizens like you and me for doing nothing more than mentioning a target’s name a single time.
  • In January 2016, a top secret inspector general report found the NSA violated the very laws designed to prevent abuse.
  • In 2016, Obama officials searched through intelligence on U.S. citizens a record 30,000 times, up from 9,500 in 2013.
  • Two weeks before the election, at a secret hearing before the FISA court overseeing government surveillance, NSA officials confessed they’d violated privacy safeguards “with much greater frequency” than they’d admitted. The judge accused them of “institutional lack of candor” and said, “this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”








Mark Steyn is dead on when he calls out the feds for wiretapping Paul Manafort since 2014…3 years! Think about that!
“The ruling party is using the cover of national security rules to get the goods on their political opponents.”


Steyn calls out James Clapper for lying…It’s pretty obvious that Steyn’s on to Clapper and detests what he’s done.





New Quake Spreads Alarm In Mexico, New Quake In N Korea, When Will The Next Earthquake Hit In The U.S.?



New quake spreads alarm, sends Mexicans into streets 


A magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook southern Mexico on Saturday and was felt in the capital, where seismic alarms sounded, residents ran into the streets and rescuers briefly stopped combing the rubble left by a bigger tremor earlier this week.

The United States Geological Survey said the new quake was relatively shallow and hit near Juchitan, which is a tropical region of Oaxaca state hard hit by another major earthquake on Sept 7. 
Already shaken by the two recent earthquakes that have killed at least 380 people in Mexico this month, thousands of people ran out onto the streets again in Oaxaca and Mexico City, some in pajamas when the new tremor shortly before 8 a.m. (0900 EDT).








 The Latest on earthquakes in Mexico (all times local):
8:45 a.m.

Quake alarms sounded in Mexico City as a new quake struck, prompting people with fresh memories of this week’s devastating temblor to flee homes and hotels.

Alejandra Castellanos was on the second floor of a hotel in a central neighborhood and ran down the stairs and outside with her husband.

In her words, “I was frightened because I thought, not again!”
At the site of an office that collapsed Tuesday, street signs swayed and rescuers briefly evacuated from atop the pile of rubble before returning to work.

Nataniel Hernandez lives in Tonala, one of the cities hardest hit by an earlier, Sept. 7 quake, which struck off the coast of southern Mexico with a magnitude of 8.1.
He said by phone that it was one of the strongest movements he has felt since then. But he adds, “Since Sept. 7 it has not stopped shaking.”


8:35 a.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the new earthquake to strike Mexico had a magnitude of 6.1 and was centered in the southern state of Oaxaca. It initially calculated the magnitude as 6.2
The director of Mexico’s disaster agency says it’s an aftershock of the 8.1 quake that hit on Sept. 7 off the country’s southern coast.

The new quake also swayed buildings in Mexico City, which is trying to recover from a magnitude 7.1 temblor that struck on Thursday, killing at least 295 people.
It’s not immediately clear if the new quake caused damage or injury.
8:15 a.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the new earthquake to strike Mexico had a magnitude of 6.2 and was centered in the southern state of Oaxaca.

That’s the region most shaken by a magnitude 8.1 quake that hit on Sept. 7.
It also swayed buildings in Mexico City, which is trying to recover from a magnitude 7.1 temblor that struck on Thursday, killing at least 295 people.
It’s not immediately clear if the new quake caused damage or injury.








An earthquake struck North Korea on Saturday afternoon in the same mountainous location as the country’s sixth nuclear test earlier this month, according to earthquake monitoring agencies in China, South Korea and the U.S. 
The Chinese Earthquake Administration said the tremor, which struck at 4:29 p.m. Beijing time, was the result of a “suspected explosion.” It put the magnitude at 3.4. South Korea’s meteorological agency differed in its initial assessment, saying it believed the earthquake was natural. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the magnitude at 3.5.
All three agencies said the earthquake struck in the area in North Hamkyung Province where North Korea has conducted nuclear tests.
“We cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event,” The USGS said on its website. 
A test of what Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb on that site on Sept. 3 set off a magnitude-6.3 quake. A magnitude-4.6 quake followed a short while later, likely the result of a cave-in, Chinese authorities said.
Like both of the earlier tremors, Saturday’s earthquake struck near the surface, according to the Chinese Earthquake Administration. The South Korean agency said it couldn’t determine the depth of the tremor.


Saturday’s earthquake came less than 12 hours after China said it was cutting oil exports to North Korea in accordance with new United Nations sanctions imposed in response to this month’s nuclear test. It also follows a round of name-calling between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.










Earthquakes happen every day in the United States. Usually, they’re small—sometimes unnoticeable. One such magnitude 5.8 earthquake happened on Friday off the coast of Northern California. Early reports indicate that there is only a small chance of any fatalities or damage. But there will always be another earthquake in the United States. And eventually, there will be one that causes damage.
Though it's not possible to say exactly where the next big earthquake will happen, scientists at the United States Geological Survey do try to figure out where one could happen. 
"Given the current level of the science, we can't make predictions about specific earthquakes," USGS seismologist Chuck Mueller told Newsweek. However, Mueller and his colleagues can look at the patterns of past earthquakes and the Earth's fault lines to get a sense of what to expect in the future. 


Cities around Monterey Bay in California, which include Santa Cruz and Salinas, have some of the highest chances of seeing damage from an earthquake in 2017, according to recent USGS estimates. (If this year doesn’t bring a major earthquake to the region, people living in San Francisco are still very likely to experience one sometime before 2032.)
But north of Oklahoma City is also another hotspot, possibly due to wastewater fluids being injected back into the ground at local fracking operations.


USGS map






Friday, September 22, 2017

With Rising N Korea Tensions, Russia Urges Calm, Russia Warns U.S. In Unprecedented 'Secret' Face To Face Meeting




U.S. challenged by rising North Korea tensions, Russia urges calm




 Russia urged “hot heads” to calm down on Friday as the United States admitted it felt “challenged” by North Korea’s warning that it could test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific and President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un traded more insults.

Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” on Friday, a day after Kim dubbed him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” who would face the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” in retaliation for Trump saying the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the U.S. or its allies. 
"We have to calm down the hot heads,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at the United Nations, where world leaders gathered this week for the annual U.N. General Assembly. “We continue to strive for the reasonable and not the emotional approach...of the kindergarten fight between children.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed hope in an interview with ABC that sanctions and “voices from every corner of the world” could lead North Korea back to talks, but admitted intensifying rhetoric had left Washington “quite challenged.”

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, warned on Thursday that Kim could consider a hydrogen bomb test of an unprecedented scale over the Pacific. Ri, who is due to speak to the United Nations on Saturday, added that he did not know Kim’s exact thoughts.

In response, Tillerson said U.S. diplomatic efforts would continue but all military options were still on the table.

North Korea’s six nuclear tests to date have all been underground, and experts say an atmospheric test, which would be the first since one by China in 1980, would be proof of the success of its weapons program.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington was taking Kim’s threat seriously and added that any atmospheric test would be a “game-changer.”








The moment the first Russian jet landed in Syria at the invitation of the Assad government in 2015, Putin placed himself in the driver's seat concerning the international proxy war in the Levant...And though US relations with Russia became more belligerent and tense partly as a result of that intervention, it meant that Russia would set the terms of how the war would ultimately wind down.
Russia's diplomatic and strategic victory in the Middle East was made clear this week as news broke of "secret" and unprecedented US-Russia face to face talks on Syria. The Russians reportedly issued a stern warning to the US military, saying that it will respond in force should the Syrian Army or Russian assets come under fire by US proxies. 

The AP reports that senior military officials from both countries met in an undisclosed location "somewhere in the Middle East" in order to discuss spheres of operation in Syria and how to avoid the potential for a direct clash of forces. 
Tensions have escalated in the past two weeks as the Syrian Army in tandem with Russian special forces are now set to fully liberate Deir Ezzor city, while at the same time the US-backed SDF (the Arab-Kurdish coalition, "Syrian Democratic Forces") - advised by American special forces - is advancing on the other side of the Euphrates. 

As we've explained before, the US is not fundamentally motivated in its "race for Deir Ezzor province" by defeat of ISIS terrorism, but in truth by control of the eastern province's oil fields. Whatever oil fields the SDF can gain control of in the wake of Islamic State's retreat will then used as powerful bargaining leverage in negotiating a post-ISIS Syria. The Kurdish and Arab coalition just this week captured Tabiyeh and al-Isba oil and gas fields northeast of Deir Ezzor city.

Though US officials disclosed few elements of this week's unusual meeting, the US side did confirm Russia's threat of returning fire should Syrian soldiers come under attack

Russian Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement,“A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down.” He added that, “Fire points in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.” 

Russia has further openly accused the US of violating previously agreed to 'de-escalation' zones in Idlib (as part of Astana talks) using al-Qaeda proxies to engaged the Syrian Army in Idlib.

Though the US endgame is the ultimate million dollar question in all of this, it appears at least for now that this endgame has something to do with the Pentagon forcing itself into a place of affecting the Syrian war's outcome and final apportionment of power: the best case scenario being permanent US bases under a Syrian Kurdish federated zone with favored access to Syrian oil doled out by Kurdish partners. 





Moscow: U.S.-Backed SDF Faces 'Destruction', Pro-Iranian Iraqi Force Crosses Into Syria




Moscow: US-backed SDF faces “destruction.” Pro-Iranian Iraqi force crosses into Syria




Israel’s strategic situation took several steps back in the first week of the New Year, chiefly: The US pulled back from E. Syria under Russian threat, allowing Iran to move in.

In just one week, the dire perils, which many military and political experts warned against for years, are suddenly looming on Israel’s northern border.

  1. From Sept.15-17, Syrian and Hizballah forces crossed the Euphrates to the eastern bank on pontoon bridges provided by Russia.
  2. Last Saturday, Sept. 16, Russian jets bombed the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) in the Deir ez-Zour region, as a warning against their obstructing the eastward impetus of those Syrian and Hizballah units.
  3. On Monday, Sept. 18, US Marines began blowing up buildings at the Zaqaf military base in eastern Syria and then retreating to the Jordanian border. The US set up Zaqaf early this year in the Syrian Desert as a barrier against this very Syrian/Hizballah crossing to impede their advance to the Syrian-Iraqi border.
  4. The following day, on the heels of the US withdrawal, Hizballah troops took charge of the Zaqaf base.
  5. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Iraqi Hashd Al-Sha’abi (Popular Mobilization Units – PMU) crossed into Syria and linked up with the Syrian-Hizballah force. The PMU is under the direct command of Gen. Qassam Soleimani, head of Iranian military operations in Syria and Iraq.
  6. Iran, through its Iraqi, Lebanese and other foreign Shiite pawns, is now in control of 230km of the Syrian border, from Abu Kamal (still held by ISIS) in the north, to Al Tanf in the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle in the south – where, too, US and coalition special forces have begun packing up ready to exit. Iran in recent years imported some 20,000 Afghan and Pakistani Shiite fighters to reinforce the Syrian army and Hizballah in their battles for Bashar Assad. The new Iraq arrivals boost that figure by tens of thousands and more are coming in all the time.
  7. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the growing disconnect between Moscow and Washington over Syria suddenly erupted into an open breach with a crude threat from the Kremlin: “Russia has officially informed the United States via a special communications channel that Russian forces will strike immediately US-backed forces if they attack or shell Syrian or Russian task forces operating near the Deir Ez-Zour city. Any attempts at shelling from the areas where the militants of the Syrian Democratic Forces are based will be immediately curbed. Russian forces will suppress firing points in these areas using all means of destruction.”

A threat of this degree of ruthlessness has not been encountered in the Middle East for decades, it may recall Moscow’s threat to Israel in 1956 to end its invasion of the Sinai without delay or else…
Where do these menacing steps leave Israel?

  • The US has washed its hands of central and southeastern Syria.
  • Russia is wholly, unreservedly and openly in lockstep with the Syrian army, Iran and Hizballah in all their objectives in the war-torn country, and moreover, willing to threaten any pro-American entity with total military punishment. Is this an indirect message to Israel too?
    Iraqi Shiite forces are surging into Syria; they have given Tehran the gift of control of a 230km segment of the border.
And what does the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott have to say about all this?  In an interview to Israeli media as recently as Wednesday, Sept. 19, when it was all happening, he said: “If Iran  does entrench itself in Syria, that will be bad news for the entire region, including the moderate Sunni camp, and even more for the countries of Europe.”

He went on to explain: “That is why we have given the Iranian threat and halting its expanding influence very high priority as an issue to be dealt with.”

Gen. Eisenkott underlined the IDF’s focus as being to prevent [Israel’s foes] from obtaining weaponry, i.e. missiles – of high targeting precision.

The trouble is that, while the IDF focuses on this objective, commendable in itself, Russia and Iran are focusing and in full flight on a far wider-ranging goal, the precise and systematic deepening of Iran’s military presence in Syria. Iran and Hizballah have already established military commands at Arnaba just 6 km from Israel’s Golan border.

Yet the IDF chief is still talking about this as an untoward event that may – or may not – come some time in the future.










Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to defy Western pressure and boost the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile capabilities on Friday, making the comments the same day the country demonstrated their newest missile during a military parade.
"Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities, which are necessary for deterrence," Rouhani said in his televised speech. "We will strengthen not only our missiles but also our air, land and sea forces … When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission."
The same day as Rouhani's speech, Tehran unveiled their new ballistic missile at a military parade commemorating the 37-year anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq War that left hundreds of thousands dead. The missile is named Khorramshahr after the Iranian city where the first major engagement of the war occurred.
"The Khorramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads," said Iranian Revolutionary Guard aerospace chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh to the state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency. 



Tillerson also referred to the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, as well as the ongoing tensions between Israel and Palestine. Iran has made its presence known in all three conflicts.
During his speech, Rouhani ruled out any change in foreign policy. "Whether you like it or not, we are going to defend the oppressed peoples of Yemen, Palestine and Syria," he said.




















Israeli Jets Strike Weapons Depot Near Damascus




Israeli jets reportedly strike weapons depot outside Damascus



Israeli warplanes early on Friday morning struck a Hezbollah weapons depot outside Damascus, Arabic-language media outlets reported.
According to reports and a monitoring group, the three separate strikes were carried out near the Damascus International Airport, an area known to be a stronghold of the Iranian-backed terrorist group.
“Israeli warplanes targeted with rocket fire a weapons depot belonging to Hezbollah near the airport,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There were no reports of casualties or damage.
Images of the alleged Israeli strike uploaded to social media showed a smoke and large ball of fire from the area near the airport.
There was no immediate comment from Israel, Syria or Hezbollah on any of the reports.
Video uploaded to social media was said to show the Syrian military firing an anti-aircraft missile in response to the strike.
Israel has for years has been widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as Hezbollah positions, but it rarely confirms such operations on an individual basis.
Earlier this month, Israel allegedly struck a facility in northwestern Syria, where the regime was said to have stockpiled chemical weapons and missiles, killing two people.
Jerusalem fears that the Iranian presence in southern Syria, near the Golan Heights, would serve as a springboard for terrorist groups to attack Israel in the future.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Air Force shot down an Iranian-built drone launched by Hezbollah with a Patriot missile after it attempted to cross into Israeli airspace.
The military also scrambled fighter jets to the area, but ultimately did not need to use them as the interceptor missile was able to destroy the target.








President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Friday that Iran would boost its ballistic missile capabilities despite criticism from the United States and also France.
His comments came as Iran displayed a new missile at a military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
“Whether you like it or not, we are going to strengthen our military capabilities which are necessary for deterrence,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
“We will strengthen not only our missiles but also our air, land and sea forces… When it comes to defending our country, we will ask nobody for their permission.”
Criticism by the Donald Trump administration of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, including the United States, has focused heavily on Tehran’s continuing missile program.
Tehran says that the missiles are entirely legitimate under the terms of the deal as they are not designed to carry a nuclear warhead.
But Washington says they breach the spirit of the agreement as they have the potential to carry a nuclear warhead and has imposed new sanctions over Tehran’s continuing launches and tests.
There has been some sympathy for the US position from France, whose President Emmanuel Macron said the deal could be expanded to ban missile tests and cut a sunset clause in the nuclear agreement that would see Iran resume some uranium enrichment from 2025.
But even he insisted that the core deal not be dumped.
Iran showed off a new missile, named Khoramshahr after a southwestern city, at an anniversary military parade in the capital.
“The Khoramshahr missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) and can carry multiple warheads,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Revolutionary Guards aerospace chief General Amir Ali Hajizadeh as saying.
Iran says all of its missiles are designed to carry conventional warheads only and has limited their range to a maximum of 2,000 kilometers, although commanders say they have the technology to go further.
That makes them only medium-range but still sufficient to reach Israel or US bases in the Gulf.