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Ed Webb

New Putin Doctrine Says U.S. Pressure 'Undermining' Global Stability - 1 views

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    UK and Netherlands no longer considered important in Russian strategy. Harsher language on US policy as threat to global security.
Ed Webb

Hitting the Reset Button on the International Order | Foreign Policy - 0 views

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    Good, if gloomy, discussion on prospects for the U.S.-led international order under the Trump administration.
Ed Webb

US buys ads on Facebook to fight militants - 0 views

  • the US has found this year that online ads on social media websites like Facebook, rather than posts, are a cost-effective way to fight the propaganda of the Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups
  • Facebook's detailed metrics for advertisers helps the government campaign reach its targets - people who might be groomed online by militants.

    "Using Facebook ads, I can go within Facebook, I can grab an audience. I can pick country X, I need age group 13 to 34, I need people who liked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or any other set, and I can shoot and hit them directly with messages," he said.

    "In some places in the world, it's literally pennies a click to do it," he said.  

  • Facebook, he noted, offers the government access to affordable amassed and collated user data for singling out target groups and individuals for anti-militant ads the US government runs.

    "The best I can do right now is to have access to big data and to use the analytics tools on the social media platforms, the Facebooks and the others,"

Ed Webb

Russia may sell Iran $10 billion worth of tanks and jets in new arms deal - 0 views

  • further cement an alliance between Moscow and Tehran that is likely to prove a major stumbling block for any rapprochement between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, who has vowed to rip up a nuclear agreement with Iran that the Kremlin supports.
  • until 2020 deliveries of conventional weapons must be approved by the United Nations Security Council
  • Sergey Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister, said on Monday that Russia’s support for the Iran deal “has not changed,” indicating that it would oppose any attempt to re-negotiate it.

    Russia has increased arms sales in recent years as it seeks to earn foreign currency and support potential allies in its confrontation with the West. 

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  • a $2 billion contract to deliver 24 advanced SU-35 jets to China, ending a decade-long unofficial moratorium on sales of hi-tech weaponry to Beijing because of fears over technology piracy.
  • Iran and China announced an agreement to hold joint military drills and cooperate in fighting terrorism
Ed Webb

Europeans agree defense plan after campaign swipes by Trump | Reuters - 0 views

  • The European Union on Monday agreed a defense plan that could see it sending rapid response forces abroad for the first time, as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's criticism of allies appeared to galvanize Europe into revamping its strategy.
  • "Europe needs to be able to act for its own security," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.

    "This will allow Europe to take a step towards its strategic autonomy,"

  • The election of a Russia-friendly political novice as president in Bulgaria - a member of both the EU and NATO - has given further impetus to French and German efforts to improve common defense operations.
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  • The EU has 17 military and civilian missions underway - many of them out of the classic European theater, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the Mediterranean where it is seeking to stem migrant flows from Libya and uphold a U.N. arms embargo.
  • "Rather than dreaming of a European army, the best approach to the Trump presidency is for European countries to step up their own defense spending," Fallon told reporters in the margins of the meeting.

    The EU's Mogherini, who chaired the gathering, went out of her way to say there were no plans to form a European army and countries would retain control over their militaries.

  • Some eastern and Baltic EU nations worry stronger European defense coordination could duplicate or undermine NATO, while Ireland, Sweden and Austria are more generally cautious.
Ed Webb

Adviser says Trump won't rip up Iran deal, signals he may not move embassy | The Times ... - 0 views

  • adviser to President-elect Donald Trump said the new US leader will “review” the Iran nuclear agreement, but will stop short of ripping up the landmark international pact.
  • signaled that Trump might not move the US Embassy to Jerusalem immediately and indicated he would make negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority right off the bat.
  • appeared to represent a break with some comments made by other Trump advisers and the president-elect himself, and highlighted persisting confusion over what the contours of a Trump administration’s foreign policy may look like
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  • Phares also told the BBC that while Trump was committed to moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as other presidential candidates have vowed, he would not do so unilaterally.

    “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do that, and he said as well that he will do that, but he will do it under consensus,”

  • State Department spokesman Mark Toner warned that nothing was stopping Trump from tearing up the agreement, rebuffing comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that the pact was enshrined by the United Nations Security Council and could therefore not be canceled by one party
  • Toner said if Trump pulls out of the agreement, it could fall apart and lead to Iran restarting work toward a bomb
  • “He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore a few issues or change a few issues, and there will be a discussion,” Phares added. “It could be a tense discussion but the agreement as is right now — $750 billion to the Iranian regime without receiving much in return and increasing intervention in four countries — that is not going to be accepted by the Trump administration.”
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      Note that it is a multilateral deal, so five other powers would also have to agree, as well as Iran itself.
  • Phares did not elaborate on what consensus would be sought for such a move, which would break with decades of precedent and put Washington at odds with nearly all United Nations member states.
  • Earlier Thursday, Trump Israel adviser Jason Dov Greenblatt told Israel’s Army Radio that the president-elect would make good on his promise.

    “I think if he said it, he’s going to do it,” Greenblatt said. “He is different for Israel than any recent president there has been, and I think he’s a man who keeps his word.

  • Phares also indicated efforts for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be a top agenda item for Trump, casting doubt on a claim by Greenblatt that Trump would not necessarily prioritize trying to push the Israelis and Palestinians into peace negotiations.
  • “He will make it a priority if the Israelis and Palestinians want to make it a priority,” Greenblatt said. “He’s not going to force peace upon them, it will have to come from them.”
  • The gap in signals coming out of Trump’s camp is consistent with frustration some have pointed to in trying to demystify what Trump’s foreign policy will be.

  • Tzachi Hanegbi, a minister-without-portfolio who is a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Thursday that the Iran nuclear deal and construction over the Green Line — the two most contentious topics between the Obama administration and Netanyahu — will no longer be a source of tension between Israel and the United States under a Trump presidency.
Ed Webb

Senior Saudi prince says Trump shouldn't scrap Iran deal | Reuters - 0 views

  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump should not scrap a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers but should take the nation to task for its "destabilizing activities" in the Middle East, said a former senior Saudi official.
  • "I don't think he should scrap it. It's been worked on for many years and the general consensus in the world, not just the United States, is that it has achieved an objective, which is a 15-year hiatus in the program that Iran embarked on to develop nuclear weapons," Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to Washington and London said on Thursday.
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      Turki is a very powerful member of the Saudi royal family and widely listened to on security issues
  • would like to see if the deal could become a "stepping stone" to a more permanent program "to prevent proliferation through the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East."
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      A long-term goal on which Saudi and Egypt agree, and they don't agree on much. Of course, a major target of this would be Israel.
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  • His views are described by insiders as often reflecting those of the kingdom's top princes and as influential in Riyadh foreign policy circles.
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq.

    Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.

  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.”

  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
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