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Monday, September 7, 2020

What's Going On In The World Today 200907



USAF Errantly Reveals Research On ICBM-Range Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

The U.S. Air Force agency that manages the service’s nuclear arsenal has started research on enabling technology for an intercontinental-range hypersonic glide vehicle, according to a document that was briefly published in error on a public website.

Although the document shows that a U.S. nuclear weapons agency is researching hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) technology, senior Defense Department officials say there has been no change to a policy that “strictly” limits the emerging class of hypersonic gliders and cruise missiles to non-nuclear warheads.

The Pentagon remains committed to non-nuclear role for hypersonics

The Air Force removed the document from a public website

A request for information (RFI) published on Aug. 12 by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center asks companies to submit ideas across seven categories of potential upgrades for ICBMs designed with a “modular open architecture.” The Air Force often describes the future Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) ICBM as featuring a “modular systems architecture,” in contrast with the aging Minuteman III, which does not.

Among the seven items on the upgrade list, the Air Force called for a new “thermal protection system that can support [a] hypersonic glide to ICBM ranges,” according to the RFI, which is no longer publicly available on the government’s procurement website...


Oops Sec. Photo captions posted on the Defense Department’s online content hub are shedding new light on how secretive U.S. counter-terrorism forces in Somalia operate, according to ace national security reporters Wesley Morgan and Chad Garland. The article posted late last week by the Pentagon’s top task force in the Horn of Africa reveals more clearly the structure of American forces in the war-torn country than previously known. The United States is using a military assistance group, office of security cooperation, and joint special operations task force that likely oversees the bulk of the Navy SEAL team operating there, Morgan said. The Pentagon statement indicated that the military assistance group works with United Nations-backed military forces in Somalia to develop their “capability to conduct combined operations.” (But as VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports this week, a new Pentagon watchdog assessment found that terrorist groups are gaining ground in Africa despite U.S. and international counter-terrorism efforts.)


Extinction Rebellion Is Back to Shut Down Central London

After a lockdown-enforced protest hiatus, the radical environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion is back at it again. Today, over 1,000 XR activists marched through central London towards Parliament Square, as the group begins another ten days of demonstrations aimed at forcing the British government to do something – anything – about the climate crisis. After four protest marches converged on Westminster, a number of activists sat in the middle of the road outside Parliament, blocking traffic, on the day MPs returned to work after a summer recess. At least five were arrested, with police taking them to nearby vans as crowds of people – the vast majority of whom were wearing face masks – cheered and chanted...

India To Hold Naval Drills With Russia After Pulling-Out From Kavkaz 2020 Military Exercise

India will be hosting a bilateral naval exercise with the Russian Navy, in which at least three of its warships are expected to participate. The exercise will take place on 4-5 September at the Andaman Islands.... India, mindful that pulling out of Kavkaz would be upsetting for the Russians, has welcomed the Russian Navy for a maritime exercise in the Andaman Sea, near the Straits of Malacca. The exercise will interestingly take place in the same waters in which India will be hosting the Malabar -2020 Naval Exercise later this year....


Mexican Army Finds Unfinished Tunnel Under Rio Grande River

The Mexican army said Thursday that soldiers patrolling along the Rio Grande river have found an unfinished tunnel that was apparently dug under the river bed in a bid to reach U.S. territory. Predictably, the tunnel flooded and was found partly full of water. The army said a small pump was found at the mouth of the structure and was apparently used to clear water from it. Photos distributed by the army showed the builders had tried to shore up the walls of the shaft with timbers that appeared to be buckling. The army said the tunnel was found earlier this week near the city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The tunnel was apparently used for illegal activities...


Defying Peace Deal, Freed Taliban Return to Battlefield

A new confidential report concludes that a majority of fighters are resuming their “jihad” to overthrow the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Taliban prisoners released by the Afghan government as part of a deal brokered by the United States aimed at ending almost 20 years of war are returning to the battlefield as commanders and fighters, in direct contravention of pledges made by the insurgents to the White House.

Confidential research obtained by Foreign Policy shows that the majority of Taliban prisoners released under an agreement signed by insurgent leaders and the United States are taking up arms to fight Afghan forces and continue their “jihad” to overthrow the U.S.-backed Afghan government and replace it with an Islamic emirate.

In an unreleased paper written for the Afghan Peace Dialogue Project at Queen’s University in Belfast, Norther Ireland, the Taliban experts Michael Semple and Felix Kuehn found that former Taliban prisoners were “participating in combat, being killed fighting, being taken prisoner and one case of an ex-prisoner being involved with revenge assassinations.”

A majority, 68 percent, of the 108 former Taliban prisoners profiled for the research “have already been re-integrated into the Taliban and have resumed active roles in the conflict, or are in Taliban groups intent on resuming fighting, or are occupying military or political positions which are fundamentally linked to the Taliban war effort,” Semple and Kuehn write...

PERSONAL COMMENT: Not surprised.

3 Afghans accused of links to insider attacks that killed U.S. troops ... to be released

Three Afghans accused of involvement in the deaths of U.S. troops in so-called insider attacks are among more than 300 high-value Taliban prisoners that the Afghan government is set to release to facilitate direct talks with the militant group, according to a senior Afghan official and a Kabul-based diplomat briefed on the matter. The United States has not publicly objected to the expected release of the three prisoners; instead, negotiators are exploring other options, including temporarily placing the inmates under house arrest, the two officials said, both speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Taliban Violated Afghan Deal With Shelling of American Bases, U.S. Officials Say

Rockets launched at a U.S. military base and a joint U.S.-Afghan airfield in southern Afghanistan in recent weeks are believed to have been fired by the Taliban, according to three American military officials, in what would amount to a clear breach of the peace agreement between the United States and the insurgent group. Roughly a dozen rockets struck in late July around Camp Bastion, a sprawling air base used by Afghan and American forces in the southern province of Helmand. And several rockets were fired within the last week or so at Camp Dwyer, a large U.S. military base about 50 miles south of Bastion. A Taliban commander familiar with the region denied that the group had carried out any strikes on American bases in Helmand and said that the group would investigate. The rocket strikes may also have been carried out by a Taliban faction that is against the agreement, according to one military official who was briefed on the matter.


US: China fires 4 missiles toward South China Sea

US military authorities say China launched four ballistic missiles toward the South China Sea on Wednesday. They say the missiles fell between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands. The types of the missiles have not yet been determined. The test-launch comes one day after China denounced the United States for sending a surveillance aircraft over a no-fly zone the Chinese military set up for live-fire drills. China's defense ministry said in a statement that the U- 2 plane trespassed into the zone without notice on Tuesday...

Destroyer Conducts South China Sea FONOP Day After Chinese ‘Carrier Killer’ Missile Tests

A guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea past the Paracel Island chain on Thursday, one day after China launched missile tests in the South China Sea, U.S. 7th Fleet announced on Thursday. USS Mustin (DDG-89) operated past the islands that are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. “This freedom of navigation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging the unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and also by challenging China’s claim to straight baselines enclosing the Paracel Islands,” Cmdr. Reann Mommsen told USNI News...

China’s growing military might. China plans to transform its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a force that rivals the U.S. military within 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s new annual report on China’s military and security developments. Not only have China’s navy, ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, and air defense systems recently surpassed those of the United States, but the country has also entirely restructured the PLA, forged closer ties to foreign militaries, and expanded its presence overseas. The modernization of the PLA is part of the government’s plans for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, and its ambitions are far from symbolic: The government’s goal, according to the report, is to use the PLA as a tool in its statecraft to bolster China’s place in the international order and help the country “lead the reform of the global governance system.”






Israel Strikes Gaza Strip After Militants Fire Rockets

The Israeli military says it struck militant targets in Gaza, including a weapons manufacturing site, after six rockets were fired from the territory early Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage on either side. But the U.N.'s Mideast envoy warned that the situation was “rapidly deteriorating" and that life inside the blockaded Palestinian territory had become “unbearable.”


IAEA concerned about N.Korea's nuclear activities

The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed strong concern about North Korea in its latest report on the country's nuclear program.... The report says vehicle movements were detected at a uranium enrichment facility at the North's Nyongbyon nuclear complex. It says internal construction is likely continuing at an experimental light water reactor there. It says in Kangson, near Pyongyang, a group of buildings under observation appear to be a uranium enrichment facility. It says regular vehicle movements at the site suggest that activities are ongoing...

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Center: Significant Flooding of the Kuryong River

Commercial satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center from August 6 reveals significant flooding along the Kuryong River, perhaps the worst in the past several years. Despite ongoing efforts to improve the embankment along the river against annual flooding, they failed to meet the challenge of this year’s rising waters, which reached the pump houses. More importantly, the flooding exposed how vulnerable the nuclear reactors’ cooling systems are to extreme weather events, in this case, for the potential for damage to the pumps and their power systems, or for clogging of piping systems that draw water from the river. Although the 5 MWe Reactor does not appear to have been operating for quite some time and the Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) has yet to come online, both would need consistent water flow to operate. Therefore, if or when either of the reactors is operating, clogged intakes and/or broken or damaged pumps would necessitate a shutdown.

Partial coverage of the area from August 8 and 11 shows the waters have retreated, suggesting that the major facilities within the complex, such as the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), have been spared...


2 Russian aircraft make 'unsafe' intercept of US Air Force B-52 bomber

Two Russian aircraft made an "unsafe, unprofessional" intercept of a US Air Force B-52 bomber on Friday over the Black Sea and in international waters, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs. The Russia pilots crossed within 100 feet of the nose of the B-52 multiple times and also caused turbulence to the B-52 restricting its ability to maneuver, according to the statement. Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary, and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, in the statement. "While the Russian aircraft were operating in international airspace, they jeopardized the safety of flight of the aircraft involved. We expect them to operate within international standards set to ensure safety and prevent accidents," he said...

Russian navy conducts major maneuvers near Alaska

The Russian navy conducted major war games near Alaska involving dozens of ships and aircraft, the military said Friday, the biggest such drills in the area since Soviet times. Russia's navy chief, Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov, said that more than 50 warships and about 40 aircraft were taking part in the exercise in the Bering Sea, which involved multiple practice missile launches. “We are holding such massive drills there for the first time ever,” Yevmenov said in a statement released by the Russian Defense Ministry. It wasn't immediately clear when the exercises began or if they had finished...

Russia, China: Gazprom Begins Design of Power of Siberia 2 Pipeline

What Happened: Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller announced that the company has initiated the design phase of the future Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which will provide an additional route for Russian natural gas exports to China, Vedomosti reported Sept. 3. The pipeline is expected to run through Mongolia into China.

Why It Matters: Russia began deliveries of natural gas to China via the first Power of Siberia pipeline in December 2019, and the announcement of progress on Power of Siberia 2 highlights Beijing and Moscow’s continued desire to expand their energy trade.

Background: The latest statements on the pipeline design follow last week’s agreement between Gazprom and the government of Mongolia to establish a joint venture that will conduct feasibility studies for a transit pipeline.


Multiple US troops injured in collision with a Russian military convoy in Syria

Multiple US troops were injured in a collision with a Russian military convoy in eastern Syria Tuesday, several US officials tell CNN. The official said that the injuries occurred when one of the Russian vehicles apparently deliberately collided with the American vehicle causing the crew to suffer "concussion-like injuries." Initial reports indicate as many as four Americans may have been injured. The officials said a Russian military helicopter flew low and fast over the area in a tactic that is often used by military forces to try to disperse personnel on the ground...

A New Brand of Nationalism Takes Root in the Middle East

Once the salve for crushed Middle Eastern empires, Pan-Islamism and its vision of a singular caliphate are now increasingly seen as a threat to stability in the region, with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia turning toward nationalism to instead define their policies and behavior. Indeed, even the countries that still claim to embody the movement’s ideals, such as Qatar and Turkey, are only doing so as a means to a nationalist end, exploiting its preachings of Islamic unity to project their government’s strength at home and abroad. This trend has most recently been illuminated by the UAE-Israel normalization pact by dealing yet another blow to the idea that a global Muslim community, despite its many differences, could at the very least agree on issues such as the Palestinian question.

The Birth of a Movement

Pan-Islamism emerged after World War I as an ideological counter to the encroachment of the European ideals. As European imperialism shattered the Ottoman Empire and colonized the Muslim world, Muslim leaders sought new modes of political thought to turn back the tide of Western power. Some embraced the nation-state model of their colonizers; Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1923-1938) famously abolished the Sunni caliphate in his bid to transform the ashes of the Ottoman state into a modern, competitive Turkey. Beyond Turkey, some attempted Pan-Arabism, embodied by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954-1970), who sought a politically unified Arab world. But after Egypt suffered repeated military defeats against Israel in 1967 and 1973, followed by Nasser’s death in 1970, pan-Arabism rapidly waned. This gave space for those who sought to update Islamist governance, borrowing aspects of the Western nation-state while not fully embracing Europe’s secular and often divisive brand of nationalism...


Global internet cables threatened.

Global internet traffic largely depends upon high-speed undersea cables, especially between continents. The U.S. Clean Network Initiative, launched by Pompeo, includes a Clean Cables section, amid fears that Chinese ownership or investment in those cables could be used for sabotage or espionage. The move has caused Google and Facebook to abandon major Asia-North America cable projects due to the involvement of Chinese investors.


Is Seoul Prepared to Join a Five Eyes Plus Framework?

Recently, there have been increased talks about expanding the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence-sharing alliance between the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, to include Japan, Germany, France and South Korea. While Seoul is yet to officially commit to this “FVEY Plus” arrangement, this development is largely a welcome development, as it aims to track activities in North Korea and China.

Seoul’s participation in the FVEY January 2020 talks confirms its willingness to increase intelligence collaboration with this group. However, that may require South Korea to end its bilateral intelligence-sharing arrangement with Japan, which is set to expire on August 24. With the likelihood high that Seoul may terminate this pact, it is vital to look at the feasibility of Seoul’s inclusion in the FVEY Plus framework and its regional implications...


Spy games in East Africa.
From the Daily Maverick, a must-read piece of investigative reporting that details the CIA and MI6’s secret counter-terrorism wars in Kenya.


FBI: Ring Smart Doorbells Could Sabotage Cops

The FBI is worried that Ring doorbell owners can use footage collected from their smart devices to keep tabs on police, newly uncovered documents show. The documents – a 2019 Technical Analysis Bulletin from the FBI – was spotted by The Intercept in the BlueLeaks database.... The FBI document outlines how Ring surveillance footage could present new “challenges” for law enforcement. Ring owners can get an early alert if police officers are approaching their house, for instance, or the footage could give away officer locations in a standoff...

You down with I-C-C? (Not U.S.G.)

On Wednesday, the Trump administration announced sanctions on top International Criminal Court officials who investigate or prosecute American service members and personnel without the consent of the U.S. government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said U.S. sanctions first unveiled in June will be slapped on ICC’s top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and its head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko, freezing their American assets and hitting them with harsh travel restrictions typically reserved for war criminals. One of just a few nations that have not signed up to the court, U.S. grievances against the Hague-based body come as it is investigating whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Tour the Pentagon’s nuke museum. Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, you can now tour the Pentagon’s own museum of nuclear weapons dating back to the Manhattan Project. Some of the highlights: rarely seen pictures of scuttled Cold War-era nukes and the Defense Department’s very own collection of Soviet missiles.

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