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Foreign Policy Issues
A Chronology of News Coverage

[See the Justice | Defense | DOJ and DOD Chronologies] This Page Last Updated On: August 5th

August 5: The Daily Mail: Trump could have been right, propaganda film suggests Iran
did videotape cash delivery to Iran – Cash for hostages?
Iranian state-run media in Tehran did indeed videotape the arrival of a January 17 flight carrying $400 million in cash from the United States – and the money itself – judging from a documentary that aired the following month in the Islamic republic.   Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been in a firestorm of controversy since first claiming on Wednesday to have seen 'secret' footage of money being offloaded from an aircraft.

He admitted Friday morning on Twitter what his campaign had said more than a day earlier, that he had seen ordinary archival footage of a different plane, carrying American hostages freed from Iran arriving in Geneva Switzerland after the money changed hands.  But it turns out he may have been right without knowing it.

August 2: The Wall Street Journal: The United States Sent Cash to Iran as
Americans Were Freed “No Quid Pro Quo?”

The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January  release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward.  Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane, according to these officials. The U.S. procured the money from the central banks of the Netherlands and Switzerland, they said.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

July 18: Associated Press:  Document Shows Less Limits on Iran Nuke Work:
Key restrictions on Iran's nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran's ability to build a bomb even before the end of the pact, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.  The confidential document is the only text linked to last year's deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn't been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress who expressed interest were briefed on its substance. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran's nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.  The diplomat who shared the text with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal in the form of a document submitted by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency outlining its plans to expand its uranium enrichment program after the first 10 years of the nuclear deal.

July 15: The Daily Caller28-Page Bombshell – Saudi with Terror Ties Checked Security at U.S. Border, 1999
A Saudi national who was under investigation by the FBI checked a security checkpoint on the southwest U.S. border prior to the 9/11 attacks, according to 28 pages from a 2002 joint inquiry released by the House Intelligence Community on Friday.  The report  points to a 1999 incident on board an America West flight from Phoenix to Washington D.C. that investigators came to believe was a “dry run” for the 9/11 attacks.  A terror-connected Saudi national named Mohammed al-Qudhaeein was flagged for asking a series of suspicious questions during the flight. He also attempted to enter the cockpit of the airplane. Al-Qudhaeein and an associate were headed for a party at the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C., according to the report.

July 13: Fox News: Ex-Gitmo now released detainees linked to the bombing in Turkey
A former Gitmo detainee connected to last month’s ISIS attack on the Istanbul airport that killed 45 and injured more than 230 others was officially added to the U.S. government’s list of designated terrorists Wednesday.  The State Department confirmed to Fox News that Ayrat Nasimovich Vakhitov  was at the Guantanamo detention camps from June 13, 2002 until his transfer to Russia in 2004.

July 9: The BBC: Russians Expel U.S. Diplomat
Russia has expelled two US diplomats from Moscow, after the White House said it had ordered two Russian embassy staff to leave Washington.  On Friday, the US State Department said their move came after a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.  That US diplomat has now been expelled from Moscow, along with one other embassy worker.  The Kremlin accused the men of being CIA agents.  State department spokesman John Kirby said earlier that month, a Russian policeman attacked a US diplomat near the US embassy in Moscow.  "The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee," he said. "The Russian claim that the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue."

June 28: The BBC: Bitter Exchanges in Parliament over EU Vote
A central figure in the Leave campaign, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, was booed, called a liar and accused of using "Nazi propaganda".  Mr Farage shot back that the EU itself was "in denial".  An EU official close to the talks told BBC News the mood was "very, very serious" and a question mark hung over the UK's next presidency of the EU, due to begin in the second half of next year.  "The leaders are very interested in hearing the UK's timeline but everyone knows Cameron won't trigger Article 50 [the first formal step in the withdrawal procedure]," the source added.

The announcement of Mr Cameron's replacement as leader of the Conservative Party, and thus prime minister, is not due now until 9 September, with 12:00 BST Thursday as the deadline for nominations.  European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned against delay in starting the exit process: "I don't think we should see any shadow-boxing or any cat-and-mouse games. It is clear what the British people want and we should act accordingly."

June 27: The Washington Examiner:
  Russia harasses U.S. diplomats in Moscow
with weak response from Washington.

"Over the past two years, harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly," said Elizabeth Trudeau, director of the State Department's Office of Press Relations.    The harassment, which was first reported in anonymous memos, started in 2014 after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia in response to their military intervention in Ukraine. American personnel felt intimidated and as if they were being watched even and their own homes.  According to the report, diplomats would often find their tires slashed or their homes broken into. On several occasions, diplomats would return home to find Russian agents had rearranged their furniture, or turn on all the lights and televisions before leaving. According to one diplomat, a Russian officer went so far as to defecate on his carpet.

June 27: UK’s This WeekThe Pros and Cons of the UK leaving the EU
- The Membership Fee: Leaving the EU would result in an immediate cost saving, as the country would no longer contribute to the EU budget
- Trade: 50% of the British trade with EU countries for which there is no duty charged.  But the UK, the world’s 5th largest economy, now has an opportunity to negotiate its own trade agreements.
- Investment:  The UK has been seen as the gateway to the EU which will diminish with its leaving, but it will no longer need to follow the bureaucratic EU investment rules which may overcome the downsides.
- Sovereignty:  Few would disagree that being part of the EU means giving up some a nation’s sovereignty, too much to some people’s thinking.  Leaving the EU returns full sovereignty to the UK
- Immigration:  By being part of the EU, Britain was prohibited from keeping people from other EU nations from immigrating to its shores and thereby having a direct impact on jobs and housing .  By leaving the EU, it will now have the option of picking and choosing who it will and will not allow to immigrate.

June 26: The Telegraph:  Petition for a Second Vote gets 3 million signatures
A petition calling for a second EU referendum has reached three million signatures. The author of the petition, William Oliver Healey, says the Government should re-stage the referendum because the winning vote for Leave was less than 60 per cent and was based on a turnout of less than 75 per cent.  Hackers have also added bogus signatures to the petition.  But could there be another referendum?  Professor Vernon Bogdanor, one of Britain’s foremost constitutional experts said a second referendum is “highly unlikely”.  He told The Telegraph: “I don’t think the EU will wish to bargain any further, they will take this vote as final.”  Prof Bogdanor, an expert in constitutional history at King’s College London who was David Cameron’s tutor at Oxford, warned that Governments will be “very careful” about calling for referendums in the future.  The vote turnout was over 72% with 17 million voters opting to leave the EU.  Interesting system of government where the losing party could demand another vote just because they lost!

June 24: The Daily Signal: Why Americans Should Celebrate the Britain’s Exit Vote:
The British exit campaign signals a new era of freedom for the British people.  After more than four decades of being shackled to the European Union, Great Britain has declared its independence.  Britain will no longer be subject to European legislation, with Britain’s Parliament retaking control. British judges will no longer be overruled by the European Court of Justice, and British businesses will be liberated from mountains of EU regulations, which have undermined economic liberty.  At last, Britain is free again to negotiate its own free trade deals, a huge boost to the world’s fifth largest economy.

The United States should seize upon British exit as a tremendous opportunity to sign an historic free trade agreement with the United Kingdom—a deal that would advance prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. Britain outside the EU will be a stronger ally for the United States, from confronting Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and to defeating the Islamist terror threat.

June 24: The Daily MailBritain votes to leave the European Union
[Sovereignty, jobs and immigration policies all played a part in the voting]

The developments came after the Leave campaign stacked up 52 per cent of the votes - despite massive support for Remain in Scotland and major cities including London.  The Bank of England governor Mark Carney has attempted to reassure panicking markets this morning after the Pound nose-dived to its lowest level against the US dollar for 31 years, and the FTSE slumped by 8 per cent. 

Flanked by wife Samantha in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said he had been 'proud' to serve as PM for the past six years. But he said it would not be right for him to be the 'captain of the ship' while the UK negotiated its exit from the EU.

Mr Johnson  the former mayor of London and supporter of leaving the EU said he believed the country now had a 'glorious opportunity'.    'We can pass our laws, set our taxes, entirely according to the needs of the UK economy… We can control our own borders, in a way that is not discriminatory but fair, and balanced and take the wind out of the sales of the extremists and those who would play politics of immigration… 'Above all, we can find our voice in the world again. A voice that is commensurate with the fifth biggest economy on earth – powerful, liberal, humane, an extraordinary force for good in the world…. 'And the most precious thing this country has given the continent is the idea of parliamentary democracy.”

June 24: Trump:  Statement by Donald Trump on UK EU vote:
The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.

June 23: The Telegraph:
  Leaving the UK: Contagious? 
Voters in France, Italy, and the Netherlands want a referendum too

Voters in France, Italy and the Netherlands are demanding their own votes on European Union membership and the euro, as the continent faces a “contagion” of referendums.  EU leaders fear a string of copycat polls could tear the organization apart, as leaders come under pressure to emulate David Cameron and hold votes.

It came as German business leaders handed a considerable boost to the Leave campaign by saying it would be “very, very foolish” to deny the UK a free trade deal after Brexit.  Markus Kerber, the head of the BDI, which represents German industry, said that 1970s-style trade barriers would result in job losses in Germany.  “Imposing trade barriers, imposing protectionist measures between our two countries – or between the two political centers, the European Union on the one hand and the UK on the other would be a very, very foolish thing in the 21st century.”

June 21: The Foundation for Economic Education: Good Reasons the Britain Should Leave the EU
Just as Americans wouldn’t want U.S. tax, immigration and regulatory policy to be controlled by an imaginary American Union office based in Latin America, many British don’t like their country being controlled by European Union bureaucrats in Brussels. Currently 60% of Britain’s laws come from Brussels not the UK. Instead of the Brits using the pound they are forced by the EU to use the metric system.  Workers are told by the EU how many hours they are allowed to work each week. The British are forced to live within the EU’s Emissions Trading System which drives up the cost of energy. These are just some of the reasons the British are considering leaving the European Union.

June 17: The New York Times: Iraqi Forces Enter Falluja
Iraqi forces quickly entered central areas of Falluja on Friday after weeks of battling the Islamic State and as thousands of civilians fled, overwhelming the ability of aid agencies to care for them. ISIS fighters gave little resistance as counterterrorism forces raised the Iraqi flag over the main government building in central Falluja.  Pro-government forces moved on to besiege the city’s main hospital, a key objective that in recent months has served as a headquarters complex for the Islamic State.  The rapid and unexpected gains suggested a shift in tactics by the Sunni ISIS extremists or perhaps a sign of their weakness, as they abandoned their dug-in positions and regrouped in western neighborhoods of Falluja. That allowed thousands of civilians, which aid groups had said were being held as human shields, to flee across two bridges over the Euphrates River beginning on Thursday.

June 8: The UK Daily Mail: Gunmen Dressed in Suits Kill four in Israel
Gunmen dressed in dark suits have carried out a terror attack in Tel Aviv leaving at least four people dead.  Around six other people were wounded in the shocking shooting incident, which took place at the Max Brenner restaurant in the centre of the Israeli city.  One person, believed to be a four-year-old girl, was in critical condition, with Israeli police describing the shooting as an apparent attack aimed against Israelis. 

The incident occurred in an area of trendy cafes and restaurants very close to the central military headquarters and Defense Ministry compound.  The attack was the first following in lull after almost daily street attacks by Palestinians against Israelis which began in October and lasted several months.

June 7: Yahoo News:  Migrants in Germany linked to 69,000 would-be or actual crimes
Migrants in Germany committed or tried to commit some 69,000 crimes in the first quarter of 2016, according to a police report that could raise unease, especially among anti-immigrant groups, about Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal migrant policy.  There was a record influx of more than a million migrants into Germany last year and concerns are now widespread about how Europe's largest economy will manage to integrate them and ensure security.

Absolute numbers of crimes committed by Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis - the three biggest groups of asylum seekers in Germany - were high but given the proportion of migrants that they account for, their involvement in crimes was "clearly disproportionately low", the report said.  It gave no breakdown of the number of actual crimes and of would-be crimes, nor did it state what percentage the 69,000 figure represented with respect to the total number of crimes and would-be crimes committed in the first three months of 2016.

May 12: Bloomberg News: Trump Foreign Policy Spurned by James Baker
While Donald Trump met with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday, a Senate hearing provided a forum for critics in his party to take aim at his foreign policy proposals.  Former Secretary of State James Baker said that the world “would be far less stable” if the U.S. left the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or let South Korea and Japan obtain nuclear weapons, proposals floated by Trump during the campaign that made him the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.  “We’ve got a lot of problems today, but you’d have a hell of a lot more if that were the case,” Baker, said. “NATO has been the foundation of peace and stability in Europe. The more countries that obtain nuclear weapons the more instability there will be in the world.” 

Baker, 86, is a quintessential representative of the traditional foreign policy and political establishment for which Trump has shown little regard. Before serving as secretary of state and chief of staff under the first President Bush, he had been chief of staff and Treasury secretary under President Ronald Reagan. Reportedly, Trump and Baker ended up meeting privately at a law firm later in the day.

April 24: Associated Press: White House Poised to Release Part of the 28 Secret 9/11 Pages
The Obama administration will likely soon release at least part of a 28-page secret chapter from a congressional inquiry into 9/11 that may shed light on possible Saudi connections to the attackers.  The documents contain information from the joint congressional inquiry into "specific sources of foreign support for some of the Sept. 11 hijackers while they were in the United States."

Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of that bipartisan panel, and others say the documents point suspicion at the Saudis. The former Democratic senator from Florida says an administration official told him that intelligence officials will decide in the next several weeks whether to release at least parts of the documents. The disclosure would come at a time of strained U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, a long-time American ally.

April 20: The Washington Free Beacon:  Iran Conducts Space Launch
Iran this week conducted the first launch of a new rocket that the Pentagon views as a key element of Tehran’s effort to build long-range missiles.  The launch of the Simorgh space launch vehicle on Tuesday was judged by U.S. intelligence agencies to be partly successful but did not reach orbit, said defense officials familiar with reports of the test.  “It was either an unsuccessful launch, or a test of third stage” not meant to place a satellite in orbit, said a U.S. defense official familiar with reports of the test.

April 19: Roll Call:
Rare Alliance: Obama and Ryan Oppose 9/11 bill
A Senate bill that would allow families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government has achieved a rare Washington distinction, by uniting the Obama administration and some of its fiercest GOP critics.  President Barack Obama, Speaker Paul  Ryan, (R-WI), and Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), are rallying to kill the bipartisan plan that would make it possible for American citizens to sue foreign governments believed to be linked to terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest warned the legislation could lead other countries to craft even broader versions that could do significant harm to the U.S. government.

April 17: NBC News: Did the Saudis Play a Role in the 9/11 Attack?
When the president leaves for a trip to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday an unresolved issue will go with him: did the Saudis play some role in supporting the hijackers responsible for the attacks on September 11th?   The question is being raised in the wake of a renewed push to declassify 28 pages of a 838-page congressional report on the worst terror attack on American soil.  The so-called "28 pages" are locked away in a secure basement room at the Capitol and although they can be read by members of Congress, the pages remain classified.

Former Senator Bob Graham told "60 Minutes" in an interview, "I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn't speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn't have a high school education — could've carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States."

April 15: In Cuba Today: US declares exile Cuban activist persona non grata:
Living for nearly half a century in the United States offers no guarantee that one can stay.  That is a reality now facing Cuban exile activist Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, who received a letter Thursday from the federal government ordering him to leave the country as soon as possible. The order arrived just as he planned to sail across the Florida Straits as part of a flotilla off the coast of Cuba, organized as a show of solidarity with political prisoners in Cuban jails.

Sánchez, who obtained legal entry into the U.S. in what is known as a “parole,” had applied for permanent residency in 2002.  That permanent residency request has been denied and his parole has now also expired.  All this, while others who are in the U.S. illegally are welcomed by the current administration.

April 11: FT.Com: Brussels considers end to visa free travel to EU and US visitors:
A long-simmering row between Brussels and Washington over visas is set to break into the open on Tuesday when the European Commission considers whether to force US citizens to apply for a visa before travelling to Europe.  Commissioners will meet to discuss what steps, if any, to take against the US if Washington ignores Brussels’ demand for a visa waiver to apply for all EU citizens.

April 1: MRCTV: White House Accused of Editing Our “Islamic Terrorism”  from French President’s Speech
The White House website has apparently censored a video of French Pres. Francois Hollande saying that “Islamist terrorism” is at the “roots of terrorism.”  The White House briefly pulled video of a press event on terrorism with the President and when it reappeared on the WhiteHouse.gov website the audio of Hollande’s translator goes silent, beginning with the words “Islamist terrorism,” then begins again at the end of his sentence. Even the audio of Hollande saying the words “Islamist terrorism” in French have, apparently, been edited from the video.

The audio of the text in brackets is missing from the video – the only point in the video were the audio is absent:  “But we're also well aware that the roots of terrorism, [Islamist terrorism, is in Syria and in Iraq.  We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we're doing within the framework of the coalition.]  And we note that Daesh is losing ground thanks to the strikes we've been able to launch with the coalition.”

March 27: Yahoo News: Suicide Bomber Targets Christians in Pakistan, Kills mostly Women and Children
A suicide bomber killed at least 65 people, mostly women and children, at a park in Lahore on Sunday in an attack claimed by a Pakistani Taliban faction which said it had targeted Christians.  More than 300 other people were wounded, officials said.  The explosion occurred in the parking area of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park close to children's swings. The park is a popular site for members of Lahore's Christian community, many of whom had gone there to celebrate the Easter weekend holiday.

"When the blast occurred, the flames were so high they reached above the trees and I saw bodies flying in the air," said Hasan Imran, 30, a resident who had gone to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park for a walk.  The Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack.  "The target was Christians," a spokesman for the faction said.

March 25: The New York Times Belgium Fears Nuclear Plants may be vulnerable
As a dragnet aimed at Islamic State operatives spiraled across Brussels and into at least five European countries on Friday, the authorities were also focusing on a narrower but increasingly alarming threat: the vulnerability of Belgium’s nuclear installations.

The investigation into this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels has prompted worries that the Islamic State is seeking to attack, infiltrate or sabotage nuclear installations or obtain nuclear or radioactive material. This is especially worrying in a country with a history of security lapses at its nuclear facilities, a weak intelligence apparatus and a deeply rooted terrorist network.

March 13: The Daily Mail Germany Voters punish Merkel over refuge open door policy
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party was humiliated in key regional elections on Sunday as voters delivered their verdict at the ballot box about her open-door refugee policies.  Exit poll results in three out of 16 German states foretell a wipeout in next year's general election as the hard-right capitalized on public disquiet and altered the political landscape forever.

Baden-Wuerttemberg - solidly middle class and home to blue chip companies like Porsche and Daimler - was won by the Green Party after Merkel's CDU lost nearly 11 percent support since the last vote there in 2011.

March 10: The New York Times: Former Putin Aide found dead in Washington DC:
Mikhail Y. Lesin was an advertising executive turned cabinet minister who helped carry out the state takeover of the country’s independent media.  Until late 2014 he ran the media wing of the state’s energy giant, Gazprom, before stepping down or, more likely, being forced out. He ended up in the United States, where he and his family owned properties in Los Angeles said to be worth far more than the salary of the former government minister. And then, in November, he was found in a hotel here in Washington of an apparent heart attack.

On Thursday, more than four months later, the office of the chief medical examiner in Washington announced that he had not died of a heart attack, but rather of blunt force injuries to his head. But the mystery surrounding his rise and fall only deepened.  Although the examiner and the police did not declare his death a criminal act, the authorities clearly no longer consider it to be the result of natural causes.

March 8: The Daily Caller: Russia Warns North Korea if Nuclear Rhetoric Continues
North Korea’s provocative nuclear rhetoric has gotten so bad even the Kremlin has come out against the hermit kingdom, warning continued nuclear threats could justify an invasion.  The warning was issued in the form of a written statement from the Russian foreign ministry. It follows North Korea’s threat it would engage in a “preemptive and offensive nuclear strike” in reaction to the start of joint U.S.-South Korean war games Monday.

February 6th: The New York Times North Korea Launches Missile Test
Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea on Sunday launched a space rocket in a purported satellite program widely considered to be a cover for developing intercontinental ballistic missile technologies.  The rocket blasted off from Tongchang-ri, the North’s main satellite launch site near its northwestern border with China, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, said. It is not clear that the rocket launch was successful.

January 7: Fox News: North Korea and China Testing the U.S.
The White House no longer talks about “red lines,” but it seems more are being crossed every day.  From the Middle East to Asia, U.S. adversaries are taking provocative and aggressive actions, raising concerns they are feeling emboldened – ever since President Obama backed off the threat of military action against Syria’s Bashar Assad.   North Korea has now tested a fourth nuclear device under orders from Kim Jong Un. China over the weekend brazenly landed its first aircraft on a runway built atop one of its man-made islands in the South China Sea weeks after the U.S. indicated it had no plans to send warships there, and later flew a large civilian airliner to the artificial land mass.  The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that three Chinese planes have landed on the disputed island chain in recent days.  “We can now confirm that there may have been three flights that have landed,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters. “We clearly are concerned by these flights.”

January 4: Yahoo News: Saudi Arabia recruits Sunni allies in row with Iran:
Saudi Arabia rallied Sunni allies to its side in a growing diplomatic row with Iran on Monday, deepening a sectarian split across the Middle East following the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.  Bahrain and Sudan cut all ties with Iran, following Riyadh's example the previous day. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters Riyadh would also halt air traffic and commercial relations between the rival powers.

He blamed Iran's "aggressive policies" for the diplomatic action, alluding to years of tension that spilled over on Saturday night when Iranian protesters stormed the kingdom's embassy in Tehran.  The United Arab Emirates (UAE), home to hundreds of thousands of Iranians, partially downgraded its relations but the other Gulf Arab countries - Kuwait, Qatar and Oman - stayed above the fray.

January 4: Yahoo News: Saudi-Ian Crisis a Reflection of U.S. Policy
Washington's single-minded pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal damaged its alliance with Saudi Arabia, experts say, and fed the escalating crisis in the Gulf.  The United States failed to manage its traditional Sunni Arab allies in the region while it reached out to mend ties with their bitter Shiite foes in Tehran.  As a result, experts warn, Washington has suffered a loss of influence at a time when it needs to implement the nuclear accord and work with both Tehran and Riyadh to end the Syrian war.

"I think the administration has had a one-eyed policy on this," Salman Shaikh, founder and CEO of regional consultancy the Shaikh Group, told AFP. Shaikh said he and others had warned US officials "at the highest level" that its focus on Iran had hurt its traditionally warm relationship with Riyadh.

January 1: The Hill: Iran: As Long as the U.S. Supports Israel, we will continue our missile program
Iranian leaders are defiantly vowing to expand the nation’s missile program in the face of potential new U.S. sanctions.  “As long as the United States supports Israel, we will expand our missile capabilities,” said the Revolutionary Guards' No. 2 leader, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, Reuters reports. The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday that the Obama administration is delaying its planned sanctions over Tehran's missile program. The news came amid reports of initial pushback from Iranian leaders.
The comments Friday from officials in Iran represent a fresh challenge for the Obama administration as it seeks to implement its agreement from over the summer to provide new limits on Tehran's nuclear program.  Republicans and Democrats have warned that if America does not firmly respond to Iran’s missile program, Tehran will feel empowered to ignore the nuclear deal’s limits.

December 28: Fox News: Obama may face a new Iran Sanctions battle in 2016
Despite President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran that provides a gradual easing of decades of crippling economic sanctions, senators are fighting to renew a vital law that would preserve the sanctions option should Iran renege on its end of the bargain.  There are reports that senators plan to move soon on a proposal to extend what’s known as the Iran Sanctions Act, which is set to expire next year. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, told the newspaper his colleagues have floated the possibility of tackling the issue in January or February.  But the debate could put the Obama administration in a tough spot.  Iran surely would howl at any congressional attempts to keep broad sanctions legislation in force, even if specific sanctions are being lifted. But U.S. lawmakers say it’s vital for the U.S. to retain the leverage to re-trigger those sanctions if Iran cheats – and that would mean extending the sanctions law.  

In a letter earlier this month to President Obama, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) – who along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the Iran Sanctions Relief Oversight Act of 2015 -- warned that Iran will “continue to test the limits of international order.”  Their bill would extend the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 for another decade.  In the letter to Obama, Menendez said that “lending” his support to the legislation would be a “good start.”

December 28: Fox News:
Iraqi Government Forces make major gains in fight for Ramadi
Iraqi government forces scored a major victory when they took control from ISIS of the central government complex in the city of Ramadi on Monday.  But even as one Iraqi military spokesperson unequivically said earlier Monday that Ramadi had been "liberated," the head of Iraqi military operations in Anbar province cautioned against celebrating too early.  "The troops only entered the government complex," Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi said. "We can't say that Ramadi is fully liberated. There are still neighborhoods under their control and there are still pockets of resistance." 

December 27: The Washington Post: A Year of Taliban gains shows that
“we haven’t delivered” top Afghan Official says

In private, top Afghan and American officials have begun to voice increasingly grim assessments of the resurgent Taliban threat, most notably in a previously undisclosed transcript of a late-October meeting of the Afghan National Security Council.  “We have not met the people’s expectations. We haven’t delivered,” Abdullah, the country’s chief executive, told the high-level gathering. “Our forces lack discipline. They lack rotation opportunities. We haven’t taken care of our own policemen and soldiers. They continue to absorb enormous casualties.”

December 27: Fox News:  ISIS puts up heavy flight to slow Iraqi Troops Advance on Ramadi
Islamic State fighters are putting up a tough fight in the militant-held city of Ramadi, slowing down the advance of Iraqi forces, a senior Iraqi commander said Sunday.  Iraq launched the long-awaited operation to retake the Anbar provincial capital, which was captured by IS militants in May, but after an initial push across the Euphrates River, their progress stalled.  Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of the Anbar military operations, told The Associated Press that the advance was hampered by suicide bombers, snipers and booby traps.  Iraqi troops will "need days" to get to the city's central government complex, said al-Mahlawi, adding that the troops were about a half mile from the complex on Sunday.

December 26: The Daily Caller: Obama’s Former Intelligence Director: President’s Strategy Not Working
President Barack Obama’s highest-ranking military intelligence official — forced out because of excessive candor in 2014 — continued his no-holds-barred critiques in a 20-minute video interview.   Retired in 2014, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, President Obama’s former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, served in the U.S. Army for 30 years but believes the nation is being lead by an ideological allegiance that crowds out strategies and decisions based on facts on the ground.  According to Flynn, President Obama — who called ISIS a “JV team” — is downplaying the Islamic threat and overstating our readiness because of an allegiance to his ideology. The energetic general dismisses the tone-deaf Democrat or media elite’s focus on gun control or Islamaphobia after the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks. Flynn says, “It is about religion, and not about gun control.  It’s a cancerous form of radical Islamism and we cannot allow it to exist on this planet anymore,” he continues.  His strategy is just not working!

December 21: Fox News: Republicans blast Kerry for suggesting Iran could skirt new visa rules:
Republicans on Monday blasted Secretary of State John Kerry for suggesting in a letter to his Iranian counterpart that the administration could help the country get around new visa restrictions passed by Congress.  “Instead of bending over backwards to try to placate the Iranian regime, the White House needs to be holding it accountable for its recent missile tests, its continued support for terrorism, and its wrongful imprisonment of Americans,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) said. 

At issue are tightened security requirements for America’s visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without visas. Under changes in the newly signed spending bill, people from those countries who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan in the past five years must now obtain visas to enter the U.S.
Top Tehran officials, however, complained the changes violate the terms of the nuclear deal, which says the U.S. and other world powers will refrain from any policy intended to adversely affect normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.

Kerry responded to these concerns in a Dec. 19 letter to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif -- and suggested the administration could simply bypass the rules for Iran. 

December 13: RT.Com: Russian destroyer fires warning shots at Turkish fishing boat in the Aegean Sea:
An anchored Russian destroyer opened warning gun shots as a Turkish fishing vessel sailed on a collision course towards them and didn’t respond to calls from the warship, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.   Following the incident, the Russian Defense Ministry warned the Turkish military attaché about “the possible harmful consequences of the reckless actions by Ankara against the Russian military contingent, involved in tackling international terrorism in Syria."

The warning shots came from small arms and were strategically aimed to guarantee the Turkish ship was out of harm’s way, the statement stressed.The incident happened in the northern part of the Aegean Sea some 12 nautical miles from the Greek island of Lemnos, the ministry said.

December 6:  The  Hill:  Kerry angers Israel again with talk of “bi-national state”
Secretary of State John Kerry caused consternation in Israel when he said the nation threatens to implode if a two-state solution is not reached with Palestinians, drawing the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel will not be a binational state,” Netanyahu said emphatically at the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to the Times of Israel.  Kerry warned Israel that the collapse of the Palestinian Authority (PA) threatens to destabilize the nation.

“The one-state solution is no solution at all for a secure, Jewish, democratic Israel living in peace. It is simply not a viable option,” he said.  Netanyahu said the PA has been inciting violence in Israel over a sensitive holy site that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims.  He said a two-state solution is possible only if both sides want peace.  “But in order for there to be peace, the other side must decide that they also want peace, and unfortunately that is not what we are seeing,” he said on Sunday.  Near-daily attacks in Israel began in September and have shown no signs of relenting.

Crewman of Russian Ship Brandishes Rocket LauncherDecember 6: Yahoo News:  Turkey Angered by Rocket-brandishing on Russian Warship passing Istanbul
Turkey accused Russia of a "provocation" on Sunday after a serviceman on the deck of a Russian naval ship allegedly held a rocket launcher on his shoulder while the vessel passed through Istanbul.  Relations have deteriorated sharply since Turkey last week became the first NATO member in more than half a century to down a Russian plane, which it said had violated its airspace while flying sorties over Syria. The pilot was killed.  The NTV news channel broadcast photographs that it said showed a serviceman brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck of the landing ship Caesar Kunikov as it passed on Saturday through the Bosphorus Strait, which bisects the city of Istanbul. It said the ship was believed to be en route to Syria.

"For a Russian soldier to display a rocket launcher or something similar while passing on a Russian warship is a provocation," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, according to the Hurriyet news site. "If we perceive a threatening situation, we will give the necessary response."   The Bosphorus offers the only passage to the world's oceans for the Russian Black Sea fleet. A World War One-era treaty obliges Turkey to allow all ships to pass during peacetime.

November 25: CNN: Russia to Deploy Anti Aircraft Missiles to Syria;
Turkey Releases Recording of Warning to Russian Mig

Tensions in the Middle East ratcheted up dangerously Wednesday, a day after Turkey shot down a Russian mig with the Turkish President accusing Russia of deceit and Russia announcing it would deploy anti-aircraft missiles to Syria.  Russia is to deploy the S-400 defense missile systems to its air base near Latakia, on Syria's Mediterranean coast.  The missiles have a range of 155 miles while the Turkish border is less than 30 miles away.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian TV that his country has "serious doubts" that Turkey's downing of its warplane was "an unpremeditated act."  "It looks very much like a planned provocation," he said.  Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned what he said was the violation of Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes, calling the incident an infringement of his country's sovereignty. 

November 24: The UK Daily Mirror:
Russian Helicopter Shot Down by Syrian Rebels
while searching for pilots of Downed Mig

A Russian rescue helicopter has been shot down by Syrian rebels while searching for pilots missing after Turkey downed a Russian mig.  The helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in a government-held area in Syria's Latakia province.  A Syrian insurgent group, which uses U.S. Tow missiles, said its fighters hit the helicopter with an anti-tank missile.    Vladmir Putin earlier warned Turkey of "significant consequences" after the Russian plane was shot down.  The Russian President also said the action by Turkey was a "stab in the back" and said it would have serious consequences for his country’s relations with Turkey.  Meanwhile Turkey said it shot down the fighter jet after giving it repeated warnings and because it violated its airspace.

November 22: Fox News: Belgian Authorities Arrest Six in Anti-Terror Raids
Belgian authorities announced 16 more arrests as anti-terror raids continued Sunday.  Federal prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said that "no firearms or explosives were discovered," in the 22 raids — 19 in Brussels and the three in Charleroi in the country's south.  "The investigation continues," he said.  Salah Abdeslam, the only Paris terror attacker who survived, was not among the men captured. Officials believe Abdeslam drove three suicide bombers to the Stade de France for the attacks on Nov. 13 before he fled. One of Abdeslam’s brothers blew himself up as part of the coordinated massacre that killed 130 people and wounded scores of others.

October 22: United Press International: Ukraine to receive U.S. radar eqipment
The U.S. will supply Ukraine with long-range counter-battery radar stations by mid-November as the country continues to fight the Russian-backed militants.   Those stations will be located tens of kilometers from the front lines but will assist Ukraine in clearly identifying enemy’s batteries firing locations and will allow immediate counter strikes at the enemy. 

The conflict in Ukraine has drawn strong reaction from multiple world powers. The US, Britain and NATO partner countries have pledged political and material support for Ukraine's government as it moves to bolster its relationship with NATO.  Russian president Vladimir Putin has been criticized by Western governments for his support for rebels holding several key areas in eastern Ukraine.  Meanwhile the US continues to hold military training exercises aimed at improving combat readiness for local forces. Guided missile destroyer USS Porter arrived in the country in mid-October to support a NATO peace mission.

October 18: Yahoo News: Israel builds walls to protect Israeli Citizens in East Jerusalem:
Israeli police on Sunday began erecting a wall in east Jerusalem to protect a Jewish neighboorhood subject to firebomb and stone attacks launched from an adjacent Palestinian village.  The wall would effectively divide Palestinian Jabel Mukaber and Jewish Armon Hanatziv, raising criticism among the government's opposition, which considered the move a de facto division of Jerusalem. 

The municipality said the wall would eventually cover a 300-metre strip, saying it was being placed where "there is a history of stone and firebomb throwing at Jewish homes and cars".  Three residents of the village had killed three Israelis in two separate attacks in Jerusalem on Tuesday before being killed by security forces. 

October 14: Fox News: 1,500 Iranian Troops enter Syria under Russian Cover
Iran has sent around 1,500 fighters to Damascus airport Syria over the past few days, a regional official and Syrian activists claim.  The Iranian soldiers, bolstered by Russia’s airstrike campaign, are preparing for a grand offensive against militants in the northern Aleppo province, which would be announced in the coming days, the official told the AP. They’re also accompanied by a new wave of Hezbollah fighters.

"Sending more troops from Hezbollah, and Iran only increases the shelf life of the Syrian regime, which is destined to end," Maj. Jamil Saleh, the leader of Tajammu Alezzah, a CIA-backed Free Syrian Army faction, told the AP. "It will only add more destruction and displacement."

October 12: CNN News: Iran has successfully test launched a long range ballistic missile
Iran has successfully test-fired a new precision-guided, long-range missile, state-run media reported on Sunday.  The Emad (Pillar) surface-to-surface missile, designed and built by Iranian experts, is the country's first long-range missile that can be precision-guided until it reaches its target, said Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, Iran's defense minister.   "To follow our defense programs, we don't ask permission from anyone," he said, according to state-run news agency IRNA.  The new rocket is "capable of scrutinizing the targets and destroying them completely," IRNA reported. It would be Iran’s first precision guided missile with the range to reach Israel.

October 11: Yahoo News:  Islamic State Figures Killed in Air Strike
Eight senior figures from Islamic State were killed in an air strike while meeting in a town in western Iraq, but the group's reclusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi did not appear to be among them, residents of the town and hospital sources said.  Iraq said on Sunday its air force had hit the meeting and had also struck a convoy that was carrying Baghdadi to attend it.  It said Baghdadi had been driven away from the convoy in an unknown condition.

October 10: Fox News: CIA-Backed Syrians making gains before Russians Entered the Picture
CIA-trained Syrian rebels, who had started to make serious gains on President Bashar Assad’s forces, are now under Russian bombardment with little prospect of rescue by their American patrons, U.S. officials say.  Officials, who spoke to The Associated Press said Russia has directed parts of its airstrikes against U.S.-backed groups and other moderate opposition in an effort to weaken them. The White House has few options to defend those it had secretly armed and trained.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, (R-KS) who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, told the AP the Russians “know their targets, and they have a sophisticated capacity to understand the battlefield situation. They are bombing in locations that are not connected to the Islamic State group.”

October 9: United Press International: US Commandeer:
North Korea has ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads and strike US targets:

North Korea has the capacity to miniaturize nuclear warheads, send long-range ballistic missiles to the United States and has sufficient plutonium to create 22 nuclear weapons. Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said Wednesday that North Korea's nuclear missiles are capable of hitting the continental United States, but added the U.S. military can intercept a North Korean missile.  "We're ready for [Kim Jong Un], and we're ready 24 hours a day if he should be dumb enough to shoot something at us," Gortney said.  The military has also been investing in updating the current missile defense system, but also securing cost-effective missile deterrence, including new sensors and radars.

October 5: Yahoo News: Violence Intensifies After Attacks on Israelies
Security was intensified in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Sunday after Israelis were targeted in two stabbing attacks and a Palestinian was killed in a clash with Israeli troops, officials said.   A Palestinian man stabbed and wounded an Israeli teenager in Jerusalem, just hours after another knife-wielding attacker killed an off-duty Israeli soldier and a rabbi, nearby in the walled Old City, police said.  Both attackers were shot dead but the Israeli government announced it was barring Palestinians (other than those who live there) from entering the ancient district for two days.

October 5: The Washington Free Beacon: Iran: Missiles Pointed at U.S. Targets
A senior Iranian military leader warned this weekend that “all U.S. military bases in the Middle East are within the range of “Iran’s missiles and emphasized that the Islamic Republic will continue to break international bans on the construction of ballistic missiles.  Much of this missile work, like the details of Iran’s advanced arsenal, remains secret, according to Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.

October 2: Associated Press: Pentagon Considering Whether to provide protection
for U.S.-Trained Syrian Rebel forces:
The Pentagon is grappling with whether the U.S. should use military force to protect U.S. trained and equipped Syrian rebels now that they may be the targets of Russian airstrikes.  Senior military leaders and defense officials are working through the thorny legal and foreign policy issues and are weighing the risks of using force in response to a Russian attack, U.S. officials said Thursday. 
Pentagon leaders have consistently said that the U.S. must take steps to protect the American-trained rebels because it would be far more difficult to recruit fighters without those assurances. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in March that the U.S. has an obligation to support them, "And we're working through what kinds of support and under what conditions we would do so." U.S. officials later made it clear that rebels trained by the U.S. would receive air support in the event they are attacked by either Islamic State militants or Syrian government troops. Currently, that protection would apply only to about 80 U.S.-trained Syrian rebels who are back in Syria fighting with their units.

September 26: Yahoo.com:  Russia builds up Syrian airbase – Obama Suffers Foreign Policy Setback
Moscow pressed its military buildup at a new airbase in Syria Saturday, as Washington admitted rebels it trained surrendered ammunition and equipment to Al-Qaeda in a fresh US policy setback.  A decades-long backer of the Damascus regime, Moscow has steadfastly supported President Bashar al-Assad throughout four and a half years of war that has killed more than 240,000 people.  Its recent deployment of troops and warplanes to Syria, combined with new arms deliveries to Assad's forces, appears to have prompted a significant shift in international efforts to end the conflict.

September 21: Washington Post: Pope Appeases the Castros in Repressive Cuba
In his visit to the United States beginning Tuesday, Pope Francis will meet not just President Obama and Congress but also those marginalized by our society: homeless people, immigrants, refugees and even the inmates of a jail. He’s expected to raise topics that many Americans will find challenging, such as his harsh critique of capitalism. His supporters say it’s all part of the role the pope has embraced as an advocate for the powerless, one that has earned him admiration from both Catholics and some outside the church.

How, then, does this explain his behavior in Cuba?  He spent four days in that Communist country which remains unrelenting in its repression of free speech, political dissent and other human rights despite a warming of relations with the Vatican and the United States. Yet by the end of his third day, the pope had said or done absolutely nothing that might discomfit his official hosts. He failed to meet with any members of the dissident community — in or outside of prison. Those who tried to meet with the Pope were arrested by Cuban authorities. Additionally, the pope said nothing in his homily about their cause, or even political freedom more generally.

September 16: The Hill: Growing Number of House GOP Members want McConnell
to Invoke the “Nuclear Option” on the Iran Deal

Multiple House Republicans want Senate leaders to “go nuclear” over the Obama administration’s deal with Iran now that Democrats have stymied efforts to derail the accord by conventional means.  A small but growing number of GOP lawmakers say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should invoke the “nuclear option” to change Senate rules and prevent a filibuster on a resolution to kill the deal. Their angst is intensified by their belief that Democrats will likely be able to block legislation withholding federal funds from Planned Parenthood, a standoff that increases the chances of a government shutdown.

Less than two years after Republicans railed against Democrats for changing the rules to prevent filibusters on most presidential nominees, McConnell has ruled out using the nuclear strategy. But the call puts more pressure on the majority leader and illustrates Republicans’ growing frustration with their inability to score significant victories in Congress, even while controlling both chambers.  “This was something with the Iran deal, the fact that it didn’t get debated, it didn’t get voted on — there’s a lot of people that are very, very upset about this,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) in an interview on Tuesday, a day after he sent a letter asking McConnell to change the Senate’s rules. 

September 16: The Washington Free Beacon: Iran Deal allows the testing of ballistic missiles
without violating the Nuke Deal

Iran is permitted to test-fire ballistic missiles under the parameters of the recently inked nuclear accord, according to private disclosures made by Secretary of State John Kerry to a leading U.S. senator, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.  Nothing in the nuclear deal prevents Iran from testing a “conventional ballistic missile,” which could be used to carry a nuclear weapon, according to series of written answers provided by Kerry to Sen. Marco Rubio (R., FL).  The Obama administration’s failure to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program has emerged as a key criticism among critics of the deal. They argue that during the 15-year duration of the agreement, Iran will be given the opportunity to perfect its ballistic missile program, which could put it much closer to an operable nuclear weapon.

“It would not be a violation of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] if Iran tested a conventional ballistic missile,” Kerry informed Rubio, according to a copy of the 86-page document obtained by the Free Beacon.  “The issue of ballistic missiles is addressed by the provisions of the new United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR), which do not constitute provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Kerry writes, explaining that the nuclear accord does not cover such matters.

September 12: Fox News: Guess What; Iran has a Uranium Supply Previously Unknown
Iran has reportedly found an unexpectedly high reserve of uranium, following assessments that the country is running low on the nuclear raw material and just days after President Obama essentially secured an international nuclear deal with the country's leaders.  The discovery was reported first by Reuters and based on comments made by Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi to the state news agency IRNA. 

"I cannot announce (the level of) Iran's uranium mine reserves," Salehi was quoted as saying. "The important thing is that before aerial prospecting for uranium ores we were not too optimistic, but the new discoveries have made us confident about our reserves."  The international deal with Iran, largely brokered by the Obama administration, allegedly slows the country’s nuclear development for nearly a decade in exchange for the lifting of billions of dollars worth of crippling economic sanctions. 

September 12: The Hill: Russia: “Unintended Incidents” if US doesn’t cooperate on Syria:
Russia is asking for American cooperation on military efforts in Syria amid an escalating migrant crisis in order to avoid “unintended incidents,” according to Reuters.  The former Cold War enemies are both engaging in military operations against ISIS in the region, with Russia performing naval exercises off the coast of the war-torn state and the U.S. using Syrian airspaces to launch a series of strikes. But the nations take opposing stances on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly backed Assad, while the U.S. has maintained that his presence only further destabilizes the region.

U.S. officials believe around 200 Russian naval infantry are stationed at an airfield near Latakia, an Assad stronghold, with the number quickly increasing as Russia looks to establish a major air operations base.  Russia says its servicemen are only in Syria to help service equipment and supplies to Syria.  Russia is sending two SA-22 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, two Western officials told Reuters. Moscow also sent two tank landing ships and other aircraft to Syria earlier this week.

September 11: The Hill: House Rejects Iran Nuke Deal:
The House on Friday rejected a resolution to approve the Iran nuclear deal, with the vote underscoring how controversial the accord has been with President Obama’s own party. While most Democrats voted to approve the nuclear bargain, 25 voted against it, creating a wedge that Republicans hope to use to their advantage in the 2016 elections.  Every Republican voted against the resolution, with the exception of libertarian Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY.), who voted "present." The tally was 162-269.

While the failure of the resolution will not prevent the nuclear pact from taking effect, the vote serves as a rebuke of Obama, who has staked his foreign policy legacy on defusing the Iranian threat through diplomacy.  Friday’s vote fell on the anniversary as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, something Republicans were quick to highlight on the House floor as they accused Democrats of backing a “bad deal” that will jeopardize national security and Israel.
The House then passed legislation 247-186 that would prevent Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran. That measure would expire on his successor’s first full day in office in January 2017.  The day before the House votes, Senate Democrats blocked a resolution disapproving the Iran deal, leaving Republicans without a clear path forward for stopping the deal. Senate Republicans have vowed to hold more votes on Iran next week. 

September 11: Fox News: Trump says Europe/US need to support Ukraine More:
Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who is leading the Republican presidential field in the polls, told a gathering of the European elite in the Ukrainian capital that America and Europe should be doing more to support Ukraine.  In an unusual appearance Friday night by satellite feed, Trump told participants at the pro-Western Yalta European Security conference why he was seeking the GOP presidential nomination and expressed support for Ukraine. 

“My feeling toward the Ukraine and toward the entire area is very, very strong. I know many people who live in the Ukraine. They’re friends of mine. They’re fantastic people,” Trump said, noting that he had known and admired Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk for many years and had learned much from him.  Trump also suggested that President Barack Obama was partly responsible for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s aggression by paying only “lip-service” to reversing Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea over a year ago. “Our president is not strong and he’s not doing what he should be doing for the Ukraine,” Trump said. “Part of the problem that the Ukraine has with the United States is that Putin does not respect our president whatsoever,” Trump said.

September 9: The Hill: House Leadership Changes Strategy After Conservative Revolt on Iran:
House Republicans are changing course to take up a last-minute plan to oppose the Iran nuclear deal following a revolt from some of the conference’s conservative members.  Instead of a single vote to disapprove the deal, the House will now hold three separate votes on the agreement. 
- One would be a resolution to approve the deal — which is sure to fail and, in the process, force many Democrats to break with the White House.  
- The second would be to express a sense of the House that the Obama administration has not met the requirements of the Iran review legislation by failing to give lawmakers the text of separate agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those bilateral side deals, which concern the details of inspections at some Iranian sites, are at the center of the House’s uprising over the Iran pact. 
- Finally, the House would vote to prevent the U.S. from lifting sanctions on Iran as part of complying with the nuclear deal.  
The House is still expected to finish votes regarding Iran on Friday, which is the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

September 7: Yahoo News: Putin order military exercises in Central Russia to improve readiness
Russian President Putin on Monday ordered snap checks on troop combat readiness in Russia's central military district, the defense ministry said.  "According to the order, troops in the central district... are being brought into full combat” defense minister Sergei Shoigu said.  Russia has recently intensified snap checks of its military might, testing its capabilities from the Arctic to the Far East as relations with the West have plunged to a post-Cold War low over the Ukraine crisis.

The exercises, which run to September 12, also involved paratroopers and military transport aviation as well as some aircraft from other military districts. "We have to check the capabilities of paratroopers when they are deployed over large distances and their readiness to make landings on unknown aerodromes," Shoigu said.

September 2: Fox News: Obama gets enough votes to ensure the Iran Nuke Deal will get through Congress
The Obama administration now appears to have enough support in Congress to stave off Republican efforts to reject the president's controversial Iran nuclear deal, after a retiring Maryland Democratic senator came out Wednesday morning in favor of the pact. Sen. Mikulski (D-MD) announced her support for the deal as Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy and detailed address in Philadelphia defending the accord. 

Kerry disputed what he called "false information" circulating on the deal. He said, contrary to the views of many critics, that the deal provides "access" to keep Iran in check, preserves "every option" to respond if Iran balks, and has elements that will last "for the lifetime of Iran's nuclear program." 

August 30: Fox News: Evidence Mounts that soon-to-be Flush Iran already spurring new attacks on Israel
An unsettling surge in terrorism by Iranian proxies has many Israelis convinced the release to Tehran of tens of billions of dollars in frozen funds is already putting the Jewish state in danger.  In recent days, rockets have rained down on Israel from Gaza in the south and the Golan Heights to the north, Israeli forces foiled a bomb plot at the tomb of biblical patriarch Joseph, and Gaza-based terrorist groups that also have a presence in the West Bank have openly appealed for aid on Iranian television.

Israeli officials fear the terrorist activity is spiking as groups audition for funding from Tehran, which is set to receive the long-frozen funds as part of its deal to allow limited nuclear inspections. They say the international focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions has left its more conventional methods of attacking regional adversaries unaddressed.  Last month, National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted that some of the money due to be released as part of the deal negotiated by the U.S. “would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region.”

August 24: The Daily Caller: Israel Makes Deal with Anti-ISIS Fighers
Three-quarters of Israel’s oil imports in recent months have come from Kurdistan, the semi-independent Iraqi region at the center of that country’s Islamic State fight.  The Financial Times has reported that between May and August, Israel imported 19 million barrels of oil from Kurdistan, totaling over $1 billion in spending and about 75 percent of Israel’s total demand. The Kurds have struggled to control their own economy — and their anti-Islamic State fighters — amid what they consider weak support from the central government in Baghdad. 

Oil from Kurdistan presumably makes its way to Israel via private dealers to Turkey, at which point it is difficult to trace back to its origins. The Financial Times suggested that purchasing Kurdish oil is a way for Israel to covertly bolster Iraq’s politically isolated Kurds.  The Kurdistan Regional Government denies having sold oil to Israel “directly or indirectly.” And for its part, Israel did not provide comment to the Financial Times, since it considers the oil market a matter of national security.

August 24: Politico: Cheney to give Speech on Iran Nuke Deal:
Dick Cheney will speak out against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran during a speech next month at the American Enterprise Institute.  According to an AEI news release, the former vice president will share his concerns about the deal’s “consequences for the security and interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.”  In July, Cheney said the deal would make the use of nuclear weapons more likely.  “What Obama has done has, in effect, sanctioned the acquisition by Iran of nuclear capability. And it can be a few years down the road. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s a matter of months until we’re going to see a situation where other people feel they have to defend themselves by acquiring their own capability,” he said. “And that will, in fact, I think put us closer to use — actual use of nuclear weapons than we’ve been at any time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.”
Cheney will speak on Sept. 8 — just a week ahead of the Sept. 17 deadline for Congress to vote on the deal’s authorization.

August 15: Yahoo News: Despite Lobbying by Obama Senator Flake will Oppose the Iran Nuke Deal
Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced his opposition on Saturday to the nuclear deal with Iran despite White House lobbying to try to convince him to break from others in his party and back the accord when U.S. lawmakers vote on it.  The agreement that Iran reached with the United States and other world powers on July 14 "does contain benefits in terms of limiting Iran's ability to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon for a period of time, particularly at its known nuclear facilities," Flake said in a statement.  "But these benefits are outweighed by severe limitations the (agreement) places on Congress and future administrations in responding to Iran's non-nuclear behavior in the region," Flake added.  The White House had held out some hope that Flake, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, would buck his party and possibly bring some other Republicans with him in support of the agreement.

August 15: The Hill: North Korea Threatens to Attack the U.S. over military exercises:
North Korea is rattling its sabers over America’s role in multinational military exercises launching in South Korea next week, a according to CNN. Pyongyang is infuriated the U.S. and its allies are working with its neighboring rival in the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian event beginning next Monday.  “The further Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises are intensified, the stronger military counteraction the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will take to cope with them,” said a spokesman for North Korea’s National Defense Commission (NDC) on Saturday.  “[North Korea will] retaliate against the U.S. with tremendous muscle,” he said, if the Ulchi Freedom Guardian operations went on as planned.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a series of annual military exercises between South Korea, the U.S. and their other allies.  “[It is] to enhance … readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula,” according to a statement from the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.  North Korean leadership detests the yearly event.

August 14: Yahoo News: Cuba Won’t Move One Millimeter to Placate Enemies
Cuba's lead negotiator in talks with Washington told Reuters on Friday that the island's internal affairs would never be on the table and Havana would never move "one millimeter" to placate enemies in the United States.  "Decisions on internal matters are not negotiable and will never be put on the negotiating agenda in conversations with the United States," Josefina Vidal, director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said in an exclusive interview.  "Cuba will never do absolutely anything, not move one millimeter, to try to respond," she said after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Havana that the U.S. Congress was unlikely to ever lift a punishing economic embargo on Cuba unless the Communist government improved its human rights record.

August 14: Fox News: Rubio: Obama’s Diplomacy Threatens U.S. Security
Two historic events are in progress August 14. The first is the arrival of Secretary of State John Kerry in Cuba. The second is President Obama’s continued campaign to secure Congressional approval for his flawed nuclear deal with Iran. These represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral, and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy.

In Iran, we face radical Shia clerics who wish to one day unite the world under their version of Islam and who believe this will only happen after a cataclysmic showdown with the West. These leaders have been directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and refuse to stop financing terrorists that seek to kill Americans and wipe Israel off the map.

In Cuba, we face proudly anti-American leaders who continue to work with nations like Russia and China to spy on our people and government; who harbor fugitives from American justice; and who stand in opposition to nearly every value our nation holds dear by violating the basic human rights of their own people, preventing democratic elections, and depriving their nation’s economy of freedom and opportunity.

Parchin, possible Iranian Nuke SiteAugust 8: Reuters:
Iran Says Reports of Military Site are Lies:
Iran's foreign minister said on Saturday that accusations about activity at its Parchin military site were "lies" spread by opponents of its landmark nuclear deal with world powers clinched last month.  A U.S. think-tank on Friday questioned Tehran's explanation that activity at its Parchin military site visible in satellite imagery was related to road work, and suggested it was a clean-up operation before IAEA inspectors arrive at the site.  "We said that the activities in Parchin are related to road construction," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the IRNA state news agency.  "They (opponents of the deal) have spread these lies before. Their goal is to damage the agreement," he added.  "We are neutral," The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington said.    Parchin is a site to which the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), requested access as part of the July 14 nuclear accord between Iran and six major powers, which include the United States.

August 8: Yahoo News: Cuba Arrests 90 Dissidents in Public Rally
With tense bilateral ties recently renewed after five decades, and top US diplomat John Kerry due in Havana in days, Cuba arrested some 90 activists on Sunday.  Cuban security forces rounded up marchers -- about 50 with the Ladies in White dissident group and around 40 other activists, some wearing masks with the image of US President Barack Obama, according to an AFP reporter.  One protester slammed Obama, and said the December announcement to normalize relations between the former Cold war foes had bolstered Havana's crackdown on dissidents.  "It's his fault, what is happening," said former political prisoner Angel Moya, speaking about Obama. "The Cuban government has grown even bolder," he added before being detained.

July 29: The Weekly Standard:
Kerry: We Can’t Reveal the Contents of Secret Side Deals to the American People:

Secretary of State Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can't be made public. "I'd like to stick with you, Secretary Kerry," Cotton said. "Why can't we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It's not a sensitive U.S. government document."

"Because we respect the process of the IAEA and we don't have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement between them and another country," said Kerry.  Cotton said, "So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?"  Kerry said that members of Congress would be able to learn about it in a classified briefing. 

July 29: The Weekly Standard:
Top General: I was against lifting the ban on Weapons and Ballistic Missiles for Iran:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified on Capitol Hill today that it was his recommendation that the U.S. not lift its sanctions on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles that were part of the Iran deal.  Senator Ayotte asked, “Just to be clear, when you came before the committee then, you said under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran on those issues. So was it your military recommendation that we not agree to lifting of those sanctions?"  "Yes," said Dempsey, "and I used the phrase as long as possible and then that was the point at which the negotiation continued. But yes, that was my military advice."

July 27: News Now: National Security Experts Question
Whether the Iran Nuke Deal will have us Protecting Iran against Israel:

National security experts and now a U.S. senator have pointed out that the written language in the Iran Nuclear agreement, under a section on "Nuclear Security," seems to imply that the US. will help defend Iran, even from an attack from Israel.  The controversial section reads:
Cooperation through training or workshops to strengthen Iran's ability to protect against or respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage.

Jan Markell, founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries, says such an agreement is similar to reports made last March that President Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli fighter jets if they attempted to attack Iran.  The Washington Times reported last year that Obama made the threat when he learned that Israel was planning an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, which Israel claims are being used to produce a nuclear bomb.

July 27: The Daily Caller:
Even the DNC Chair Refuses to Back the Obama/Iran Nuke Deal:
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz decided against supporting the Iran nuclear deal Monday as President Barack Obama seeks to get Democrats on board to back the agreement.  The Florida congresswoman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that while there is some “merit” to the deal, there is also “a legitimate cause for concern” that needs to be looked at with the deal. Wasserman Schultz, who is Jewish, pointed out that she is from a “pro-Israel district” and needs to hear her constituents out before offering her support one way or another.

July 26: The Hill: The White House Forges Iran “Side Deal” Counter Attack:
The Obama administration is launching a fierce counterattack against Republican arguments that so-called “side deals” between Iran and international nuclear inspectors represent a good reason to oppose the Iranian nuclear deal.  Republicans have seized upon bilateral agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to turn public opinion against the deal.   They hope that if the public rejects the agreement, it will be harder for Democrats to back the administration on votes to unwind the deal that are expected in September.

Republicans would need two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to overcome an expected veto by President Obama. Highlighting agreements involving Iran’s past military-related nuclear activity are meant to undercut the Obama administration’s argument that the nuclear pact built on verification, not trust of Iran.  Republicans also are using the fact that the documents are being kept secret to accuse the administration of withholding information. As the “side deals” argument gained traction in GOP circles, administration officials stepped up their effort to fight back.  

July 24: The New York Times:  Clinton Emails contained Classified Information
Government investigators said Friday that they had discovered classified information on the private email account that Hillary Clinton used while secretary of state, stating unequivocally that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure government computer systems.  Clinton has said for months that she kept no classified information on the private server that she set up in her house so she would not have to carry both a personal phone and a work phone. Her campaign said Friday that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact.  But the inspectors general of the State Department and the nation’s intelligence agencies said the information they found was classified when it was sent and remains so now. Information is considered classified if its disclosure would likely harm national security, and such information can be sent or stored only on computer networks with special safeguards.

July 23: The New York Times: Criminal inquiry sought in Clinton use of personal email account
Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.   The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Clinton's private account contained "hundreds of potentially classified emails." The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.  It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Clinton sent or received them.   But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.

July 22: The Hill: Susan Rice Acknowledges Side Deals with Iran
National Security Adviser Susan Rice – you remember her, she is the one who told us the attack on Benghazi was over a video --  on Wednesday acknowledged the existence of so-called “side” agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Rice said the deals involve Iran accounting for past military uses of its nuclear program, but rejected GOP assertions that this represented “secret” side deals to the Iranian nuclear agreement.  Rice said the documents between Iran and the IAEA are not public, but the administration has been informed on their contents and will share details with members of Congress in a classified briefing on Capitol Hill. Republicans have been demanding to see the Iran-IAEA agreements and have criticized the administration for not yet making the public.  “That we are only now discovering that parts of this dangerous agreement are being kept secret begs the question of what other elements may also be secret and entirely free from public scrutiny,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said in a statement. 

July 21: Fox News: Pakistani Father of Nuclear Bomb says Iran Deal may have Saved Iran from Disaster:
Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and a widely suspected supplier of nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, told Fox News Tuesday that the Islamic republic’s recent nuclear deal with the United States and its negotiating partners may have saved Iran from disaster, either in the form of an internal coup or external attack.  In an email to FOX News, the Pakistani scientist said the Iranian leadership has “very wisely and pragmatically saved their country from a very bad situation --- call it a disaster, if you like.”  Khan said that if Iran had not agreed to the deal, “ongoing chaos would have left the field open to a military coup sponsored by the West, just as has happened in Egypt.”

July 20: The Daily Signal: The Iran Deal, the United Nations, and Reasons for Rejection of both!
The United Nations Security Council voted Monday morning to support the Iran nuclear deal.   Against strong bipartisan Congressional opposition, Obama urged and supported approval by the U.N.  Reports indicate that the President plans to use the UN vote to pressure Congress into agreeing with the arrangement and lifting the current economic sanctions on Iran.  Secretary John Kerry has said, “If Congress were to veto the deal, Congress —the United States of America— would be in noncompliance with this agreement and contrary to all of the other countries in the world.”  But Congress should dismiss this pressure for several important reasons:

  • Congress has the say over whether U.S. economic sanctions remain in force.
  • Congress, not the UN, is responsible for the review and determination whether the United States will lift the sanctions
  • The UN Security Council resolution does not require the removal of U.S. sanctions
  • The agreement remains a bad deal for the U.S. and Israel and does not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure
  • In 10-15 years the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment will expire and they will then have a clear road to continue their goal of becoming a nuclear power
  • This agreement has already, and will continue, to start a nuclear arms race among Middle Eastern countries.
  • The financial benefits to Iran are enormous (over $100 billion in frozen Iranian assets will become available) and some of those funds will most certainly flow to terrorism activities and actions against U.S. interests.
  •  And, no deal remains better than a bad deal!

CBS Newsman Major GarrettJuly 16: The Daily Caller: Ridiculed White House Correspondent Clearly Struck a Nerve
After being scolded by President Obama for asking a question critical of the Iran nuclear deal, CBS’ Major Garrett said that intentionally provoked the president.  In “returning fire” to the President’s rebuke, Garrett said:   Politicians, especially those elected president of the Unite States, are very adept at creating “Straw Men,” taking something that they feel rhetorically works towards their advantage and using it. That’s exactly what the president did. My question did not suggest that he was content with the captivity of those four Americans. My question was about the contempt or the satisfaction or the realization that it was necessary within the context of this [Iran Nuclear] deal to leave them unaccounted for. That was the essence of the question. Clearly it struck a nerve.

That was my intention because everyone who works for the president and the families of those four Americans have heard the president say that he is not content, and that they will work overtime to win their eventual release. That does not appear to me to be a side-line issue in the whole context of the conversation about this Iran nuclear deal. Was it provocative? Yes. Was it intended to be as such? Absolutely.

July 16: The Hill: Obama Putting Cart Before the Horse: Iran Nuke Deal and Sanctions:
President Obama should not go to the United Nations with a proposal to lift sanctions on Iran before Congress acts, said Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Cardin said the administration should not move forward with a proposal to draft a new U.N. resolution affecting international sanctions until lawmakers have a chance to review the nuclear deal, which was unveiled this week.  “Acting on it at this stage is a confusing message to an independent review by Congress over these next 60 days. So I think it would be far better to have that vote after the 60-day review, assuming that the agreement is not effectively rejected by Congress,” Cardin told reporters after meeting with Vice President Biden Thursday.  “If the United States is signing onto the United Nations program and later on we’re not part of it, what we’ll do is inconsistent with the U.N. resolution, so it would be better not to have action on the U.N. resolution,” he said.

July 16: The Free Beacon: Iran Bans U.S. Inspectors from all Nuclear Sites:
U.S. and Iranian officials confirmed Thursday that no American nuclear inspectors will be permitted to enter the country’s contested nuclear site under the parameters of a deal reached with world powers this week, according to multiple statements by American and Iranian officials.  Under the tenants of the final nuclear deal reached this week in Vienna, only countries with normal diplomatic relations with Iran will be permitted to participate in inspections teams organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The revelation of this caveat has attracted concern from some analysts who maintain that only American experts can be trusted to verify that Iran is not cheating on the deal and operating clandestine nuclear facilities.  The admission is the latest in a series of apparent concessions made by the United States to Iran under the deal. Other portions of the agreement include a promise by the United States to help Iran combat nuclear sabotage and threats to its nuclear program. 

July 14: The Washington Post: Israel blasts Iran Deal as one of the darkest days in history
Israeli leaders across the political spectrum condemned in stark apocalyptic language the Iranian nuclear pact announced by the United States and world powers Tuesday, calling it a historic mistake that frees Iran to sponsor global terror while assembling the expertise to build a nuclear bomb.  “Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted.”   With the lifting of economic sanctions, Netanyahu warned, “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror.”  Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition partner, Education Minister Naftali Bennett added: “Today a terrorist nuclear superpower is born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history.”

July 14: CBS News: Nuke Deal Not Based on Trust
In a message to Congress, Obama said that he will “veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.”  “I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement,” Obama said. “But I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends.”  Obama said that the deal “is not built on trust, it is built on verification.”

July 12: Fox News: Capitol Hill/Presidential Candidates: Bipartisan Concerns over Pending Iran Nuke Deal
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday led a chorus of bipartisan concern from congressional leaders and 2016 presidential candidates about an Iran nuclear deal, amid reports that negotiators are expected to reach a provisional agreement.  "This is going to be a very hard sell for the administration," the Kentucky Republican said on "Fox News Sunday," when asked about the likelihood of Congress signing off on a deal.  He spoke minutes after diplomats said that negotiators are expected to announce a deal Monday to curb Iran’s atomic program in return for tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

McConnell suggested that President Obama will ultimately win final approval for the deal, considering he would need only 34 Senate votes to veto the likely passage of “resolution of disapproval” by the GOP-led chamber.  However, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, also continued to raise skepticism about any deal, which suggests that getting 34 Democratic Senate votes might be a challenge.

July 10: The Weekly Standard:
Iran made Illegal Purchases of Nuclear Technology Last Month:
The question is not whether Iran can be trusted to uphold the nuclear deal now being negotiated in Vienna (it can’t), but whether the Obama administration and its P5+1 partners can be trusted to punish Iran when it violates the agreement?   Experience shows that unless Iran violates the deal egregiously, the temptation will be to ignore it. For instance, Iran got away with selling more oil than it should have under the interim agreement. More ominously, Tehran repeatedly pushed the envelope on technical aspects of the agreement—such as caps on its uranium stockpile—and got away with it. The Obama administration and other Western powers have so much invested in their diplomatic efforts that they’ll deny such violations ever occurred. 
More evidence of Iranian violations has now surfaced. Two reports -- (1) and (2) [in German] -- regarding Iran's attempts to illicitly and clandestinely procure technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs have recently been published. They show that Iran's procurement continues, if not faster than before the Joint Plan of Action was signed in November 2013. But fear of potentially embarrassing negotiators and derailing negotiations has made some states reluctant to report Tehran’s illegal efforts. If these countries have hesitated to expose Iran during the negotiations, it is more likely they will refrain from reporting after a deal is struck.   Iran's cheating should give Western negotiators additional resolve to impose ironclad guarantees in the agreement. They should compel Iran to reveal its past activities, including its post-JPOA procurement efforts, and impose tough, intrusive, "anytime, anywhere" inspections before sanctions are suspended, let alone lifted.

Russian SubmarineJuly 10: Fox News: Russia bringing back the cold war:
Mini-subs are virtually undetectable

Russia is reportedly bringing back a fleet of Cold War-era mini-submarines, a move that could ramp up tensions with the West.  Moscow is set to bring back the Cold War-era Piranha-class midget subs as part of a $350 million military spending spree, according to the U.K.’s Daily Express. An unnamed source told the newspaper that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is “breathing life into many old programs and thinks subs are an effective way of getting what he wants militarily.”  Relations between Russia and the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support for a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

Amid these simmering tensions, Russian submarine activities are under close scrutiny, particularly in the Baltic. Last year the Swedish military launched a major hunt for a suspected underwater intruder in the Stockholm archipelago, its largest anti-sub operation since the end of the Cold War. Defense experts cited Russia as the likely culprit, although Moscow denied its involvement. The incident nonetheless prompted speculation that a Russian Piranha sub was involved.

July 10: The Houston Chronicle:
When U.S. Military arrives next week Texans will be watching, carefully! Operation Counter Jade Helm:

When the troops land in Texas for Operation Jade Helm next week, someone will be waiting for them.  Hundreds of people have organized a "Counter Jade Helm" surveillance operation across the Southwestern states and in an effort to keep an eye on the contentious military drill that's sparked many suspicious of Uncle Sam's intentions.  Eric Johnston, a 51-year-old retired firefighter and sheriff's deputy who lives in Kerrville, is a surveillance team leader in Texas. He'll coordinate three groups of volunteers, about 20 folks in total, who hope to monitor the SEALs, Green Berets and Air Force Special Ops in Bastrop, Big Spring and Junction when Jade Helm kicks off on July 15. With media prohibited at the drills, the volunteers could be a main source of information for the highly-anticipate seven-state exercise.

"If a team member sees two Humvees full of soldiers driving through town, they're going to follow them," Johnston said. "And they're going to radio back their ultimate location."  They aren't worried about martial law, he said, but feel like they can't trust the government, and want to make sure the Military isn't under orders to pull anything funny.  He said the volunteer force includes about 200 people, with the largest group in Arizona. Many former military and law enforcement, as well as lifelong civilians have joined the cause.

July 6: The Hill: Department of State: No Guarantee there will be an Iranian Nuke Deal
There's no guarantee that nuclear talks with Iran will end with a deal this week, the State Department said Monday. While Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to secure a deal by tomorrow’s deadline, a spokesman on Monday said "very difficult decisions" have yet to be made.  “I think Secretary Kerry was very clear yesterday that they're going to keep working very, very hard here, certainly this week,” department spokesman John Kirby said. “And if hard choices get made, if they can meet agreement on some of these key issues, we could have an agreement this week. But there's no guarantee of that.”

Negotiators set a July 7 deadline after missing a previous June 30 deadline.  The administration hopes to submit text of a deal to Congress by July 9. That will trigger a 30-day period for Congress to review the deal.  If the text is submitted after July 9, Congress will have 60 days to review the text.

July 5: The Hill: The Democrat Senators to Watch on Iran Nuke Deal
If President Obama can secure a final nuclear deal with Iran next week, attention will immediately turn to Congress — which can vote to disapprove of the agreement. But the upper hand still remains with the President who can veto any bill to disapprove a Nuke Deal.  The White House conceded to legislation earlier this year that gives Congress the power to review any deal with Iran. Lawmakers will have 30 days to carry it out if an agreement is sent to Capitol Hill by July 9. If it’s later, the review timeframe will double.  Obama agreed to the review, which has no teeth in it, under pressure from Democrats, who have been torn during the Iran talks between the White House and Israel, which strongly opposes the negotiations.  A measure disapproving the deal could torpedo the pact.  There may be enough votes in the Senate to override such a veto, but in the House, that’s a very different story.

Senate Democrat opposition to the deal would be politically troublesome for the White House.  On the list to watch would be Bob Mendendez (NJ), Charles Schumer (NY), Peters (MI), Richard Blumenthal (CO), Joe Manchin (WVA), Joe Donnellly (IN), Bob Casey (PA), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Ben Cardin (MD), Chris Coons (DE), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Michael Bennnet (CO).

July 1: The Daily Caller: Juicy Nuggets from Hillary Clinton’s latest-released emails:
A bold-faced political hatchet job, a mysterious memo, a bad pun and a predictable dig at Fox News. Those are just some of the enlightening tidbits contained in the 3,000 pages of Hillary Clinton emails released late Tuesday.  The exchanges, which span the period between March 2009 and December 2009, show that Clinton maintained a relatively tight-knit circle of State Department aides who worked to plan schedules, arrange secure phone calls and draft speeches. They also show that Clinton corresponded more frequently than previously known with her longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal.

Also reported in The Daily Caller: Hillary’s emails mocked Anti-Castro Cubans: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton mocked the anti-Castro sentiment of Miami Cubans and their influence on the political process, according to newly released State Department emails.

June 19: Fox News: Billions already spent in war on ISIS despite Strategy Concerns:
Despite mounting concerns in Congress over the Obama administration's strategy for defeating the Islamic State, the U.S. already has spent billions on the war -- with recent Pentagon figures showing just how costly and complicated the operation has become.   A Pentagon breakdown shows the military has spent more than $2.74 billion on the fight against ISIS, amounting to about $9.1 million a day, from August 2014 through early June 2015. The  breakdown of the costs is only part of the picture. Pentagon officials testified to Congress earlier this week that the military's training and airstrike missions make up just two planks of the administration's nine-point strategy for confronting ISIS -- a strategy that involves several other departments.   But, even as lawmakers continue to debate the legality and funding for the war, the billions already spent may be just a drop in the bucket. Administration officials acknowledge a years-long effort ahead. "Nobody said this is going to be easy," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters this week. "We've long said three-to-five years, and I think we still hold to that." 

June 18: The Daily Caller: Senate Kills Amendment to Directly Arm the Anti-ISIS force:
As the Senate nears passing the annual defense policy bill, a key amendment was struck down on Tuesday.   The amendment to  directly arm Iraqi-Kurdish forces against the Islamic State and reform the military justice system failed to pass.  Sponsored by Barbara Boxer [D-CA] and Republican Joni Ernst, the amendment to arm Kurdish forces fell six votes short, amid criticisms from the White House and Iraqi government.  “The Administration is not required to act, but the amendment provides the President authorization to do so if he feels the situation warrants it to respond to ISIS, who is gaining momentum on the battlefield,” said Ernst, in a statement.

June 18: The Daily Caller: Former Ambassador:
Obama Acted Delibertly to Undermine U.S.-Israeli Shared Goals

Michael B. Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, did not mince words Tuesday calling out President Barack Obama for how he’s handled relations with Israel.  Oren saw huge mistakes from both Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, through the years. The difference, however, is while Netanyahu made missteps, Obama seemed to have purposely made his mistakes in a calculated move to undermine the shared goals of both nations.   “Yet many of Israel’s bungles were not committed by Mr. Netanyahu personally,” Oren noted. “From the moment he entered office, Mr. Obama promoted an agenda of championing the Palestinian cause and achieving a nuclear accord with Iran.”

June 15: CNN News: Ambassador Power Slams Russian Aggression in Ukraine
Ukraine: 10,000 Russian Boots in our Country:

A senior U.S. diplomat, on a visit Thursday to Ukraine, has slammed what she called Russian "aggression" in the country.  Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, pledged support to Ukraine and delivered a pep talk of sorts that encouraged Ukrainians to "demand change."    "America is clear-eyed when it comes to seeing the truth about Russia's destabilizing" actions in Ukraine, she said, adding that U.S. support for Ukrainians is "unwavering."

If Russia "continues to violate the rules upon which international peace and security" stands," Power said, then the United States will "raise the costs on Russia" and "rally other countries to do the same."  "Their silence in the face of Russian aggression will not placate Moscow," she said. "It will only embolden it."

German Leopard Tank on ManeauversJune 14: The Sunday Times of London:
German Tanks roll back into Poland

The tiny Polish town of Swietoszow did not officially exist during the Cold War; as home to a massive but secret Soviet tank force ready to strike at the West, it was removed from all public maps and records.   Last week NATO used the base for the first big deployment of a new special force to defend eastern Europe from an increasingly expansionist Russia.  American Black Hawk helicopters thundered in the skies as German tanks rolled from across the nearby border, along with troops and hardware from seven other nations that make up NATO’s Spearhead Force, which was set up last year in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.   Operation Noble Jump, involving more than 2,000 troops from nine countries that will engage in live artillery fire, F-16 fighter jet aerial bombing, special forces combat and helicopter assaults.  [This site requires a subscription to read the rest of this story.]

June 12: The Hill: Senate Iran Hardliners look to place sanctions bill on NDAA legislation
A pair of senators is looking to tie an annual defense policy bill to the administration's nuclear negotiations with Iran ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline.   Sens. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are hoping to include a 10-year extension of Iranian sanctions legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).   “No agreement is better than a bad agreement, and that is what my concern is ... that we are headed for a bad deal,” Menendez said Thursday, adding that the United States “can’t trust Iran to abide by its agreements.”

The two senators, who have been at the forefront of a congressional push to increase sanctions against the Iranian government, want to extend the Iranian Sanctions Act of 1996 beyond its current expiration date at the end of 2016 through 2026.   Another amendment to the annual defense bill from Kirk, who faces a potentially tough reelection next year, would require Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to report on how the Iranian government uses money received through sanctions relief. That would include any funding that goes toward terrorist organizations, the creation nuclear weapons or into the personal bank accounts of Iranian officials.   Sen. Jeff Sessions also wants to include a provision in the defense bill that would lay out what Congress should accept as part of any final deal.

Mark Dice circulates bogus petition calling for support for the President to launch a nuclear strike against RussiaJune 10: RT.com:
- Mark Dice gets Obama Supporters to Sign Fake Petition to Nuke Russia
- Dice on International Incident he provoked

US journalist Mark Dice has asked the people of San Diego, CA to sign a petition -- supporting a fabricated (spoofed) plan -- that the President wants to nuke Russia in order to “maintain America’s superiority.” Apparently the majority of beachgoers didn’t appear to get the joke, and signed the fake petition -- maybe they had been in the sun too long. The “experiment” was recorded on video, which Dice then shared on YouTube and social media. Subsequently an international incident emerged where people in Russia believed the petition was for real and that the U.S. was seeking support for such a nuclear strike.

June 9: Fox News: TSA Whistleblowers describe security concerns, culture of “Fear and distrust”
Whistleblowers on Tuesday portrayed the beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as an agency mired in a culture of “fear and distrust” while raising security concerns over several programs -- including TSA PreCheck, in which passes for expedited screening allegedly are passed out “like Halloween candy.”  The TSA employees leveled their criticism during a Senate hearing that follows recent bombshell inspector general reports showing undercover agents were able to sneak fake explosives and banned weapons through airport checkpoints about 96% of the time.  The findings led to the acting TSA secretary being reassigned last week. A second report released Monday showed the agency failed to flag 73 commercial airport workers "linked to terrorism." 

Former U.S. Embassy in Havana, CubaJune 3: McClathchy DC: Embassy in Havana?  House panel says No!
The White House may be moving quickly to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, but House Republicans are trying to put on the brakes as a key panel voted Wednesday to prohibit funding for a U.S. embassy in Havana.  The vote by the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the State Department and foreign operations does not prevent the department from designating an embassy in Havana, but it makes it more difficult.

The U.S. already has a building on Havana’s Malecon waterfront that was the embassy until President Dwight D. Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations in 1961.  It is now the home of the U.S. government’s outpost in the communist nation, the Cuban Interests Section. But the building is badly dilapidated, and the State Department told Congress last month that it needs $6.6 million to make improvements for it to function as an embassy. Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives, among them several Cuban-Americans, fiercely oppose the White House rapprochement with Cuba that began last year and are behind the efforts to block the embassy and appointment of an ambassador.

May 30: The Hill:  President has one month as the clock ticks down on the Iran Nuke Deal
The Obama administration is one month away from the deadline for striking a final nuclear deal with Iran.  The lack of progress on a nuclear accord has sparked speculation that no deal will emerge. But it is clear that the White House wants to reach a compromise with Iran by the June 30 deadline, in part, because it would become the President’s legacy of his second-term. Yet, the negotiations are facing deep skepticism in Congress and from allies such as Israel who are wary of a "bad deal" that empowers the Iranian regime.  The Iranians, meanwhile, are under pressure from hardliners to insist on a swift, immediate removal of sanctions that the United States has repeatedly rejected.  With just a few weeks left to go in the talks, it's up to Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior administration officials to try and nail down the hard details of an accord that is intended to dismantle Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.

One hurdle the administration faces is a possible vote of disapproval by Congress. Over the recess, the president signed into law a bill that gives Congress 30 days to disapprove the deal, during which he could not lift congressional sanctions on Iran. But if Congress passed such a measure and Obama Vetoed it, it is highly unlikely the Congress could garner enough votes to overcome such a veto.

May 30: Fox News: U.S.SECDEF Carter: U.S.  to Step Up operations in the South China Sea:
SECDEF Ash Carter on Saturday urged China to stop trying to convert artificial reefs in the South China Sea into a military airfield but also made clear the U.S. has no intentions of ending air-and-sea operation in that region.  The Defense Secretary made his comment at an international security conference filled with Asia-Pacific leaders and also said the United States has been flying and operating ships in the region for decades and opposes “any further militarization” of the disputed lands.  He also said the reclamation project is out of step with international rules and that turning underwater land into airfields won’t expand Beijing’s sovereignty.  A Chinese military officer in the crowd immediately slammed Carter’s comments as “groundless and not constructive.”  Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who also is attending the Singapore conference, said he agreed with Carter's assertion that America will continue flights and operations near the building projects, but "now we want to see it translated into action."

May 25: The Wall Street Journal: Islamic State’s Gains Reveal New Prowess on the Battlefield
In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.  Three weeks later, the jihadist group seized the capital of Anbar province after relentless waves of suicide bombings.  U.S. defense chief Ash Carter has blamed Ramadi’s fall mainly on Iraqi forces’ lack of will to fight. But Islamic State’s battlefield performance suggests the terrorist group’s tactical sophistication is growing—a development the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition have so far failed to counter, said Iraqi officials, former U.S. officials and military analysts studying the organization.

May 24: The Hill: Hawaii Democrat Pushes Back Against Obama “ISIS Plan”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) said Sunday that she disagrees with President Obama’s assessment that the United States-led coalition is not losing to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East.  “Clearly ISIS has gained momentum, in particular over the last week, as we’ve seen the ground that they gained both in Iraq and Syria,” Gabbard said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.  ISIS captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi last week and later pushed into the Syrian city Palmyra. Obama told The Atlantic last Tuesday, after Ramadi fell, that “No, I don’t think we’re losing. … There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback.”

Gabbard, a combat veteran, said the U.S. coalition and the Iraqi government should look to arm new potential fighters in Iraq to push back against ISIS.  “You have the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribesmen who are literally begging, for arms, heavy weapons, ammunition, to be able to fight against ISIS to protect their families and their tribal lands, their territories,” she said. “But to this point both the U.S. and the central Iraqi government have failed to provide that, and therefore ISIS continues to be able to grow.”

May 20: The Weekly Standard:  Susan Rice: We have ended two wars responsibly:
“Now that we have ended two wars responsibly, and brought home hundreds of American troops, we salute this new generation of veterans …”  Rice also heralded the sacrifices that American troops (hundreds of thousands who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, not hundreds) have made since 9/11. “They all made us proud,” she said. That left some wondering if she would still include soldiers like Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is facing a court-martial for deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009, but was feted in absentia in the White House Rose Garden in May 2014 after the Obama administration secured his release from the Taliban in a prisoner exchange for five detainees who had been held at Guantanamo Bay.

May 20: Yahoo News: China Army Announces the Internet means War:
In a chilling memo released on Wednesday, the People's Liberation Army, or PLA, informed the world that, at least on the internet, China is at war. The memo says "The internet has become the main battlefront for struggle in the ideological area.  With the existence of the network, the ideological front has been completely thrown open ... National security has become an important component part of our country’s overall security 'chessboard.' It may be said that without cybersecurity, there is no national security."  So what, exactly, does that mean?  It means there are enemies everywhere, and they come from Westerners creeping across borders through the net, polluting China with threatening ideas.

May 20: Newsweek:  Raising a Rebel Army to Overthrow Putin?
Andrei Kuznetsov a 32-year-old Russian exile said “Much of Russia is being led like cattle. But we call ourselves ‘Different Russians.’” he goes on. “Russia needs a real, tough force that can be an opposition to the Putin regime.
There are people who support an opposition movement in Russia, but there is no leader to unite them.”   Kuznetsov, who has been living in Kiev for more than nine months, has set out to create what he calls a “Russian rebel army.” He hopes to sidestep the Kremlin’s seemingly invulnerable crackdown on domestic dissent by uniting Russian dissidents living in Ukraine and across Eastern Europe, ultimately paving the way for a legitimate opposition movement to return one day to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin.  “We want to unite with opposition movements in other countries to create something like a Russian government in exile,” he says. “But we can’t organize inside of Russia. It is way too dangerous to organize inside of Russia. We have no choice but to radicalize.”

May 20: Fox News: Another Syrian City Reportedly in ISIS Hands
Islamic State militants reportedly captured the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra Wednesday as Syrian officials evacuated citizens and scrambled to keep priceless antiquities from falling into terrorist hands.  The Syrian Observatory for human rights told The Associated Press that government forces collapsed in the face of ISIS attacks and withdrew from the town late Wednesday.  The Wall Street Journal reported that before fleeing, the National Defense Forces evacuated civilians as militants took control of residential areas and established themselves in the city’s nearby ruins.

It was not immediately clear how close to Palmyra’s famed archeological site ISIS forces had come, but Syrian activists said that Syrian soldiers were seen fleeing the area.  Hundreds of statues have been moved from Palmyra to safe locations, Syria's antiquities chief told Reuters.  "Hundreds and hundreds of statues we were worried would be smashed and sold are all now in safe places," Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters, but voiced his concern about Palmyra’s museum and large monuments that cannot be moved. "This is the entire world's battle,” he added. 

May 20: The Weekly Standard:  Cotton: Obama is not providing necessary resources to defeat ISIS
Republican senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said President Obama is "not providing the resources" to defeat the Islamic State in and that United States ought to send "a few thousand more" troops into Iraq to combat the terrorist group in that country.  "That's really a question, though, for our commanders to provide their best military judgment to the president to make a decision about the number and the types of troops that we need," he said. Cotton, who served in the Iraq War as an Army captain, added that there's "no doubt" the military needs more "specialized assets" in Iraq. "Whether they're special operations forces or intelligence experts to help defeat the Islamic State. That's the president's stated goal. He's not providing the resources to achieve it."

May 16: Breitbart NewsOusted Egyptian President (Morsi) Sentenced to Death
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death over his part in a mass prison  break that took place during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.  As is customary in passing capital punishment, Judge Shaaban el-Shami referred his death sentence on Morsi and others to the nation’s top Muslim theologian, or mufti, for his non-binding opinion.  He set June 2 for the next hearing.   Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was ousted by the military inn July 2013 following days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies.

King of BahrainMay 15: Breitbart News: Bahrain King Snubs Obama to Meet Queen of England, Attends UK Horse Show:
Instead of participating in a Camp David summit of Gulf leaders – which was organized by President Obama to garner support from Gulf Arab leaders – the King of Bahrain decided to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show, where he met on Friday with Queen Elizabeth II and other Brit royalty.  Bahraini King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa decided instead – like Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who also ditched Obama’s summit – to send his crown prince to the United States. 

The Bahrain royal court said that the king left for England on Thursday, accepting Queen Elizabeth’s invitation to witness “the joint yearly celebration at Windsor.”  “His Majesty the King and Queen Elizabeth II will hold a meeting to review the longstanding mutual ties between both royal families in addition to the progress and development of bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields,” the statement added.  Some have interpreted the Bahraini King’s refusal to attend Obama’s summit as a snub meant to show dissatisfaction with the President’s ongoing negotiations with Iran. President Obama’s two-day summit was primarily focused on “reassuring Arab leaders who are skeptical of his outreach to Iran,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

May 13: Sky News: Gulf Leaders Unimpressed with Obama’s Middle East Gamble
Snubbed?  The Leader of the Free World, snubbed by Arabian monarchs who have depended on America for decades.  That's how it looks at first - Saudi Arabia's new King Salman, the emirs of Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have opted not to turn up for Barack Obama's two-day session in Washington and Camp David.  The White House had intended the summit to be an opportunity for the US president to make the case for a deal with Iran that would stop its nuclear weapons program for a decade and ease sanctions against Tehran.  But Saudi Arabia and others in the region think this is just naive.

But for the first time they are prepared to make military and major diplomatic moves without reference to Washington, and no longer appear in lock step with the Pentagon.  As far as they are concerned, the US is paving the way for a renewal of the Persian Empire, fuelled with $150bn (£96bn) of unfrozen assets, renewed oil exports and a general economic bonanza. 

May 11: Fox News: Most of Gulf Nations to miss U.S. Summit; Administration spin denies “snub”
The White House was scrambling Monday to put a positive face on an upcoming summit of Persian Gulf states after learning leaders from four of the six invited nations are expected to skip.   While those nations are still sending representatives to the summit being hosted by President Obama later this week at Camp David, the absence of crucial heads of state -- notably, Saudi Arabia's new king -- could present an awkward situation for the administration. But State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected the notion this was a "snub," and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest likewise said the administration is "confident" that Saudi Arabia and other nations will be "ably represented" at the summit. 

Earnest confirmed Monday that Saudi King Salman would no longer attend, noting the king originally had accepted the invitation. But Earnest stressed that Saudi Arabia did not express any concerns to the U.S. before or after the Saudi king's change in travel plans.   Earnest said the feedback the U.S. has had from Saudi Arabia has been "positive," and as for speculation that Riyadh might have been trying to send a message to the Obama administration with the change, Earnest said: "If so, that message is not received."   Obama had apparently planned to meet Saudi Arabia's King Salman one-on-one a day before the gathering of leaders at the presidential retreat. The White House, though, did not present his decision to skip the summit as a sign of any substantial disagreement with the U.S.

May 11: Fox News: Will Putin give Kerry the “cold shoulder?”
Kremlin not confirming one-on-one meeting in Russia:

The prospect of Vladimir Putin giving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the cold shoulder looms over an official visit to Russia on Tuesday, with the Kremlin not yet confirming Obama administration claims that the two will meet.  The confusion comes on the heels of Saudi King Salman pulling out of a planned Camp David summit with other Gulf leaders, sending a representative instead. While the administration on Monday denied the change of plans was a snub, the State Department apparently has no intention of being stood up by Putin, as Kerry heads to Russia for his first visit there since relations between Washington and Moscow plummeted amid disagreements over Ukraine and Syria.
The State Department said Kerry would in fact meet Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.  "This trip is part of our ongoing effort to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. But in a sign of the considerable strains, the Kremlin said Putin's attendance has yet to be confirmed.  The Russian-government backed Sputnik news agency reported that a Kremlin spokesman said a final decision has not been made. 

May 10: Fox News: Merkel to Russia: Put pressure on Ukrainian Rebels to Abide by Cease Fire
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called during a visit to Moscow for Russia to do more to persuade separatists in eastern Ukraine to abide by a cease-fire that has been strained in recent weeks.  Speaking alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference, Merkel said the past week's creation of groups to negotiate a lasting settlement of the dispute provided a "glimmer of hope" but that progress was lacking elsewhere.  Ukraine says more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict that began in April 2014. Merkel was the only prominent European leader to visit Russia over the weekend to mark the 70th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany. On Sunday, she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the unknown.

May 7: Times of Israel: Iran General: War with the U.S. is no big deal
Two top Iranian generals on Thursday tried to taunt the United States, saying the much-discussed military option to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities is “ridiculous,” that Washington knows it can’t be done, and that their country “welcomes war with the US.”  The saber rattling came as Western powers prepared to sit down for another round of negotiations with Iran to reach an agreement on putting curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. 

May 6: The New York Daily News: ISIS threatens blogger Pam Geller in message
boasting 71 trained soldiers in 15 different states
ISIS appears to declare war on controversial blogger Pamela Geller on Tuesday in an ominous online message claiming it has fighters across America ready to attack "any target we desire."  The threat, posted on an anonymous message board, singles out Geller, who helped plan a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that was attacked by two gunmen in Garland, Texas, over the weekend. ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting early Tuesday, marking the first time the terror group called an American attack one of its own, though lawmakers believe the two men were influenced by the group, not guided directly by it.

"This is the textbook case of what we're most concerned about," Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press.  Both the FBI and DHS were aware the contest was a potential terror target and issued a joint bulletin on April 20. Organizers, including Geller knew they'd be targeted but refused to back down.  The chilling Tuesday post also boasts of ISIS having "71 trained soldiers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack." It specifically names Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan and California.

May 6: The Hill: Iran’s Supreme Leader Threatens to Walk out of Nuclear Talks
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, vowed on Wednesday that his nation would leave nuclear negotiations if it feels threatened by America’s armed forces.  “Recently U.S. officials threatened to take military action against #Iran,” Khamenei tweeted.  He said Tehran does not need the economic relief the U.S. is offering in a potential deal over its nuclear arms research.  The pact would lift sanctions on Iran in return for greater restrictions on its nuclear programs.  “Many foreign officials said if sanctions against Iran were put on other countries, they would’ve been destroyed but they didn’t undermine Iran,” Khamenei tweeted.

May 6: The Washington Free Beacon: Report: Iranian navy chases after U.S. Warships near Yemen
An Iranian naval fleet chased a U.S. warship and military planes through the waters off the southern coast of Yemen late Monday in yet another provocative encounter between the two nations, according to Iranian state media reports.  A U.S. warship and several planes reportedly “changed their direction” on Monday after encountering an Iranian naval fleet during a patrol in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen, Iranian state media revealed.  The run-in between the United States and Iranian militaries is just the latest in several tense confrontations between the countries near Yemen, where Iran is believed to be smuggling weapons to opposition forces.  The United States moved military assets in the region in a bid to stop Iran from moving weapons into Yemen. Iranian war fleets have been patrolling international waters around Yemen in recent weeks.

May 6: Fox News: Senate Test Vote on Iran Deal Set for this Week:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a test vote for Thursday on stalled bipartisan legislation to let Congress review and possibly reject any agreement the Obama administration makes to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions on nuclear research and development.  The bill has been on the Senate floor off and on for more than two weeks.  It has been stalled since Rez     publican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tom Cotton of Arkansas proposed politically attractive changes that drew the objections of Democrats as well as some Republicans who want the bill kept free of controversial provisions that could prompt the White House to withdraw its support.

A 60-vote majority on Thursday's test vote would likely jettison both proposals, and greatly improve the bill's chances of passage.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set a test vote for Thursday on stalled bipartisan legislation to let Congress review and possibly reject any agreement the Obama administration makes to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for concessions on nuclear research and development.  The bill has been on the Senate floor off and on for more than two weeks.

May 2: The Hill: McConnell faces tough choice on Iran Bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a tough choice this week on how to move forward with a controversial bill that would allow Congress to review and vote on a nuclear deal with Iran.  The Kentucky Republican promised that when his party took over the Senate, it would change the way the chamber did business and senators would be allowed to offer amendments.  But the filing of a controversial measure from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — which caught McConnell off guard — is putting his promise to the test.  Rubio’s measure would make Iran’s recognition of Israel a part of the nuclear deal between Tehran and the United States. If it becomes a part of the Iran review bill, it would likely torpedo a carefully negotiated agreement between Republicans and Democrats.  McConnell could choose to file cloture on the underlying legislation, which would prevent a vote on the Rubio-Cotton measure by ending debate. Sixty votes would be necessary to do so.  The move would save the Iran bill, but likely generate criticism from conservatives that McConnell is not allowing votes on GOP amendments.

April 30: Fox News: ISIS Training Camp in Afghanistan
New photos purport to show ISIS fighters training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, in what may be yet another sign of the black-clad jihadist army's expanding reach.  The pictures, obtained by a Pakistani journalist earlier this month and published by the military blog The Long War Journal, show apparent ISIS radicals training, marching in formation and brandishing heavy artillery.  Pakistani journalist Saleem Mehsud originally tweeted out the photos on his Twitter page on April 18, but would not divulge details about their origin. Two of the three images show more than a dozen ISIS fighters standing in formation with assault rifles in front of armored SUVs draped in the extremist group’s “black standard” flag. A third image shows a pickup truck with a heavy machine gun turret mounted in the bed.

U.S. Navy ships monitor shipping in the gulfApril 30: Fox News: U.S. Navy to Escort U.S. Flag Ships in the Persian Gulf
U.S. Navy ships will begin to accompany U.S. flagged commercial ships as they travel the Strait of Hormuz, a defense official confirmed to Fox News, on the heels of Iran seizing a cargo ship.   The Obama administration is closely monitoring Iran's takeover of the ship, as it involved a Marshall Islands-flagged vessel. The Marshall Islands and the U.S. have a longstanding security agreement, and officials said Thursday the two nations are in contact.   But, in a clear response to that incident, a defense official said the U.S. Navy will now accompany all U.S.-flagged ships going through the area. The move is the latest development in a high-stakes chess match in the region, with the Iran nuclear talks continuing to play out in the background. 

The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them. Officials told the AP the Navy won't technically escort these ships but will let them know in advance that they will monitor the situation as they transit the narrow Strait from the Persian Gulf toward the Arabian Sea. The Navy already has dispatched a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Farragut, to the region.  Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday the destroyer is "keeping an eye on things," and in close enough proximity to the seized ship that they "will be able to respond if a response is required." 

April 25: The New York Times: Russians read President Obama’s Emails
Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.  The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.  But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.  White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information.

April 25: CNN News: FBI: There may be an ISIS-inspired Threat in the U.S.
The FBI is investigating a possible ISIS-inspired terrorist threat in the United States, law enforcement officials said Saturday.  The investigation originated from intercepted chatter and other intelligence information that led officials to believe a possible plot could be in the works, the officials said.  No arrests have been made. It's not clear whether the threat is real or “aspirational.”  The exact nature of the threat couldn't be learned. One official said it focused on parts of California where officials stepped up security, a U.S. official said. The TSA alerted local law enforcement agencies that are responsible for external security around airports, but officials said the possible threat is not necessarily aviation-related. Some cities around the United States have increased their security as a precaution.  A DHS spokesperson declined Saturday to talk about specifics, but spoke about security measures in general.   In February, a more visible law enforcement presence was put in place at federal facilities, a DHS spokesman said.

April 19: The Hill: Former Governor Chafee: “I won’t let Hillary forget Iraq!”
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee is aiming to take down Hillary Clinton over her controversial 2002 vote to support the Iraq war.  The Republican-turned Independent-turned Democrat surprised many last week when he announced he was weighing a long shot White House bid. His way of making a name for himself against his newly adopted party’s frontrunner is to hit the former secretary of State particularly hard on the issue that was a liability in her failed 2008 run.

“She needs to be asked hard questions about her Iraq war vote and her tenure as Secretary of State and where she wants to take this country,” he told The Hill in an interview. “I think she’s tone deaf on some of these issues.”  Clinton and Chafee both served in the Senate during the run-up to the war, but while Clinton ultimately cast her vote in favor of authorizing troops, Chafee voted no.  Since he announced last Thursday he would start an exploratory committee, he’s kept Clinton — who made her own bid official on Sunday — squarely in his sights, criticizing her record in a number of media appearances.

April 19: Fox News:
Three Democrat Contenders Say Hillary Can Be Beat in Race for Nomination
Three potential candidates considered among the most likely to challenge Hillary Clinton’s juggernaut campaign to become the Democratic Party’s 2016 nominee for president expressed confidence Sunday about defeating her, each outlining potential paths to victory.  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont, questioned whether Clinton or any 2016 GOP presidential candidate would challenge Wall Street for the middle class.    Former Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb also challenged Clinton, a former first lady and secretary of state, saying voters want new leadership.  And also on Sunday, former Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, considered perhaps the mostly likely to challenge Clinton, continued to argue that his two terms running the state would qualified him to run the country, if he gets into the race.  And like Sanders, he suggested that improving the economy, particularly middle class wages, would be a top priority.   Right now, Clinton is running uncontested for the party nomination. However, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said recently that she’s planning for a series of sanctioned primary debates. “I expect the voters who believe we should have a Democratic primary will get their wish,” she told C-SPAN.

April 19: The Hill: Senator Graham: There’s Not a Snowball’s Chance in Hell the
Iran Nuke Deal will get Congressional approval

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday said President Obama’s tentative nuclear agreement with Iran would not survive its review by Congress.  “I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell this framework will get approved by Congress after review,” Graham told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”  “It is so weak in a time we need to be strong,” the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate added of the draft agreement’s details.  “I don’t think any Republican or Democrat is going to allow that to become final,” he concluded.  Graham said Obama’s potential accord lacked the necessary safeguards for preventing a Tehran with nuclear arms.

April 16: ABC News/Associated Press:
Saudi-Iran Rivalry Over Yemen Deepens the Mideast Sectarianism
Saudi Arabia's government insists it is not at war with Iran despite its three-week air campaign against Tehran-backed rebels in Yemen, but the kingdom's powerful clerics, and its regional rival's theocratic government, are increasingly presenting the conflict as part of a region-wide battle for the soul of Islam.  The toxic rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran is playing out on the battlefields of Yemen and Syria, and in the dysfunctional politics of Iraq and Lebanon, with each side resorting to sectarian rhetoric. Iran and its allies refer to all of their opponents as terrorists and extremists, while Saudi Arabian clerics speak of a regional Persian menace.

The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran does not date back to Islam's 7th century schism, but to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which toppled a U.S.-backed and Saudi-allied monarchy and recast alliances across the region. The standoff worsened after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled a Sunni-led dictatorship that had long been seen as a bulwark against Iran's efforts to export its revolution.  But even if today's power struggle has more to do with politics than religion, the unleashing of increasingly sectarian rhetoric on both sides has empowered extremists and made the region's multiplying conflicts even more intractable.

April 15: The Washington Free Beacon:  North Korea Transfers Missile Goods to Iran During Nuclear Talks
North Korea supplied several shipments of missile components to Iran during recent nuclear talks and the transfers appear to violate United Nations sanctions on both countries, according to U.S. intelligence officials.  Since September more than two shipments of missile parts have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies as they transited from North Korea to Iran, said officials familiar with intelligence reports who spoke on condition of anonymity.  Details of the arms shipments were included in President Obama’s daily intelligence briefings and officials suggested information about the transfers was kept secret from the United Nations, which is in charge of monitoring sanctions violations.

Critics of the U.S.-led nuclear framework agreement reached in Switzerland earlier this month have said one major deficiency of the accord is its failure to address Iran’s missile program, considered a key nuclear delivery system for the Islamist regime.  Officials said the transfers included goods covered by the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary agreement among 34 nations that limits transfers of missiles and components of systems with ranges of greater than 186 miles.  One official said the transfers between North Korea and Iran included large diameter engines, which could be used for a future Iranian long-range missile system. 

The United Nations Security Council in June 2010 imposed sanctions on Iran for its illegal uranium enrichment program. The sanctions prohibit Iran from purchasing ballistic missile goods and are aimed at blocking Iran from acquiring “technology related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

April 11: Reuters: Iranians caught red handed: Two Iranian Officers Caught in Yemen Assisting the Rebels
Local militiamen in the Yemeni city of Aden said they captured two Iranian military officers advising Houthi rebels during fighting on Friday evening.  Tehran has denied providing military support for Houthi fighters, whose advances have drawn air strikes by a regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic's main rival for influence in the Gulf. 

If confirmed, the presence of two Iranian officers, who the local militiamen said were from an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, would further worsen relations between Tehran and Riyadh who are vying for dominance in the region.  Three sources in the southern port city's anti-Houthi militias said the Iranians, identified as a colonel and a captain, were seized in two separate districts that have been rocked by heavy gun battles. "The initial investigation revealed that they are from the Quds Force and are working as advisors to the Houthi militia," one of the sources told Reuters. "They have been put in a safe place and we will turn them over to (the Saudi-led coalition) Decisive Storm to deal with them."

April 10: The Washington Free Beacon: Russian Fighter Jet Nearly Collides with U.S.
Intelligence Gathering Aircraft Over International Waters

A Russia Su-27 jet fighter flew dangerously close and nearly collided with a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft this week in the latest aerial provocation by Moscow, defense officials revealed to the Washington Free Beacon.  The Su-27 conducted the close-in intercept of an RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, said officials. The incident prompted a diplomatic protest.  “On the morning of April 7th, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 Flanker in an unsafe and unprofessional manner,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez.“The United States is raising this incident with Russia in the appropriate diplomatic and official channels,” she said in a statement.

A defense official said the Russian fighter jet flew within 20 feet of the unarmed reconnaissance jet in what the official called a “reckless” encounter that endangered the lives of the RC-135 crew.  No details were available regarding the mission of the RC-135, which was in a position to monitor Russian military activities in western Russia and Kaliningrad.  In Moscow, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed the incident.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman, said the intercept was carried out after the aircraft was detected by Russian radar.

April 9: CNN News: Senate Nears Veto Proof Support to Rebuke Administration’s Iran Deal      
Senate backers of a bill the White House fears could dismantle a potential nuclear deal with Iran are closing in on a veto-proof threshold of support.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve the bill next Tuesday and hold a full Senate vote soon after. The measure provides a skeptical Congress with the opportunity to review the deal and prevents the president from waiving congressional sanctions on Iran during the review period.  The White House has engaged in an extensive lobbying campaign on the Hill and with constituent groups concerned about Iran ever since a framework agreement was announced on April 2.

The U.S. and the other world powers negotiating with Tehran have until June 30 to hammer out the final details to seal a deal.  But so far, the administration hasn't been able to win over all the Senate Democrats, many of whom believe strongly that Congress has a constitutional obligation to weigh in on a major nuclear agreement with a long-time enemy of the United States.   The bill already has nine Democratic co-sponsors and a handful of other Democrats have either expressed support or remain open to backing the bill. When combined with the Senate Republicans and one independent who support the legislation, that leaves backers just four shy of the 67 needed to sustain the veto that Obama has promised.

April 9: The Hill: Iran Hostage Victims Demand Compensation be part of the Nuke Deal
Americans who were held hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981 are pushing the Obama administration to demand that they be compensated as part of any nuclear deal.  Dozens of the hostages and their families will meet with lawmakers' staffs early next week to reiterate their call for compensation from Iran, which has gone unanswered in the 35 years since they were held prisoner.

Sen. Isakson (R-GA) has filed two amendments to Iran legislation that would "ensure that resolving the issue of compensation for hostages is considered" prior to any nuclear agreement, a source familiar with the amendments told The Hill.  The amendments are to legislation introduced by Sens. Corker (R-TN) and Menendez (D-NJ) that would require congressional review of any deal the administration brokers with Tehran. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to move forward with the legislation on Tuesday.   A State Department official noted that the administration has in the past backed Isakson's bipartisan efforts on compensating the hostages, but suggested the issue would not be part of the nuclear talks.

Map of the Baltic RegionApril 9: Yahoo News: U.S./Russian War Games
Rekindle Cold War Tensions

Russia is so close that the F-16 fighter pilots can see it on the horizon as they swoop down over a training range in Estonia [yellow on the map] in the biggest ever show of U.S. air power in the Baltic countries.  The simulated bombs release smoke on impact, but the M-61 cannon fires live ammunition, rattling the aircraft with a deafening tremor and shattering targets on the ground.  The four-week drill is part of a string of non-stop exercises by U.S. land, sea and air forces in Europe — from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south — scaled up since last year to reassure nervous NATO allies after Russia's military intervention in Ukraine. U.S. and Russian forces are now essentially back in a Cold War-style standoff, flexing their muscles along NATO's eastern flank.

The saber-rattling raises the specter that either side could misinterpret a move by the other, triggering a conflict between two powers with major nuclear arsenals despite a sharp reduction from the Cold War era.  With memories of five decades of Soviet occupation still fresh, many in the Baltic countries find the presence of U.S. forces a comfort rather than a risk.

April 9: Washington Free Beacon: Iran: Nuke Deal is not acceptable
[Framework collapses days after historic announcement]
Iran has described an agreement to curb its nuclear program as “not acceptable” days after the United States hailed the new framework deal.  Following the announcement of a framework accord that the United States described as a major step in rolling back Iran’s nuclear work, leaders in Tehran began to accuse the Obama administration of lying about the deal’s parameters.  The disagreement revolves around a White House fact sheet that outlined concessions Tehran agreed to after negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week.

On Wednesday, Iran rejected most of the concessions it reportedly agreed to undertake.  Top Iranian leaders are describing the framework as a “lie” and announced that international nuclear inspectors will not be permitted to enter any of its contested military sites.  Iran also maintains that all of the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear work will continue under any deal—a claim that runs counter to White House claims.

April 6: Yahoo News: U.S.—Cuba “Warming” Held Up by Listing as a Country Supporting Terrorism
The Administration’s hope of opening an embassy in Havana before presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro meet at a regional summit this week have been snarled in disputes about Cuba's presence on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror and U.S. diplomats' freedom to travel and talk to ordinary Cubans without restriction, officials say.  The Summit of the Americas will be the scene of the presidents' first face-to-face meeting since they announced Dec. 17th that they will re-establish diplomatic relations after a half-century of hostility.

The Obama Administration wanted the embassies reopened before the summit starts in Panama on Friday, boosting a new American policy motivated partly by a sense that isolating Cuba was causing friction with other countries in the region.  Arriving at the summit with a deal to reopen embassies in Washington and Havana would create goodwill for the U.S., particularly after it issued new sanctions on selected Venezuelan officials last month that prompted protests from left-leaning countries around the hemisphere.

April 6: The Daily Caller:  Obama’s Statement on Massacre Fails to Mention they are Christians
Once again, President Barack Obama has released a statement denouncing a mass terror attack on persecuted Christians, without mentioning the fact that they were killed for their faith.  When 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS in February, the president’s statement condemning their deaths did not mention they were killed for their faith. Later, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he “[couldn’t] account for” the omission. When nearly 150 students at a Kenyan university were massacred on Friday, the Islamist terrorists affiliated with al-Shabaab separated the Christians from the Muslims, killing only the Christians. But in Obama’s statement condemning the slaughter, once again there was no mention of the fact that the students were killed for their faith.

Tin City USAF Radar FacilityApril 6: The Los Angeles Times: The Intent of Russian Flights
Near the U.S. Airspace Remains Unclear:

The air is frigid and the wind is howling as Air Force Col. Frank Flores lifts a pair of foot-long binoculars and studies a hazy dot about 50 miles west across the Bering Strait.  "That's the mainland there," he shouts above the gusts.  It's Siberia, part of Russia, on the Asian mainland.  Named for an old mining camp, Tin City is a tiny Air Force installation atop an ice-shrouded coastal mountain 50 miles below the Arctic Circle, far from any road or even trees. The Pentagon took over the remote site decades ago and built a long-range radar station to help detect a surprise attack from the Soviet Union.  At least from this frozen perch, America's closest point to Vladimir Putin's Russia, the Cold War is turning warm again.

U.S. F-22 fighter jets scrambled about 10 times last year — twice as often as in 2013 — to monitor and photograph Russian Tu-95 "Bear" bombers and MiG-31 fighter jets that flew over the Bering Sea without communicating with U.S. air controllers or turning on radio transponders, which emit identifying signals.  The Russian flights are in international airspace, and it's unclear whether they are testing U.S. defenses, patrolling the area or simply projecting a newly assertive Moscow's global power.  U.S. officials view the bombers as deliberately provocative. They are a sign of the deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March of last year and its military intervention to support separatists in eastern Ukraine.

April 6: Fox News: Eastern European Civilians Under Go Military Training in the Face of Russian Threats
NATO aircraft scream across eastern European skies and American armored vehicles rumble near the border with Russia on a mission to reassure citizens that they're safe from Russian aggression.  But these days, ordinary people aren't taking any chances.  In Poland, doctors, shopkeepers, lawmakers and others are heeding a call to receive military training in case of an invasion. Neighboring Lithuania is restoring the draft and teaching citizens what to do in case of war. Nearby Latvia has plans to give university students military training next year.

The drive to teach ordinary people how to use weapons and take cover under fire reflects soaring anxiety among people in a region where memories of Moscow's domination — which ended only in the 1990s — remain raw. People worry that their security and hard-won independence are threatened as saber-rattling intensifies between the West and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have died.  In Poland, the oldest generation remembers the Soviet Army's invasion in 1939, at the start of World War II. Younger people remain traumatized by the repression of the communist regime that lasted more than four decades.

April 6: Associated Press: Poland to Build Watch Towers Along its Border with Russia
A Polish news agency is reporting that the country plans to build six watchtowers along its border with Kaliningrad, a move that comes after Moscow said it will place state-of-the-art Iskander missiles in the Russia exclave.  The Polish news agency PAP on Monday cited a spokeswoman for border guards, Miroslawa Aleksandrowicz, as saying that six such towers would be built along the 125-mile border between Poland and Kaliningrad.  The move comes amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.  Aleksandrowicz said that the cost of constructing the towers in Poland, which is on the European Union's eastern flank, would be at least $3.8 million. Most of that is to come from EU funds.

April 4: The Hill: Hezbollah: Iran in the Nuclear Club after the deal
A Hezbollah leader Friday hailed this week’s tentative framework for Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a major win for the Islamic republic. Hezbollah MP Nawar Sahli praised the agreement as an Iranian “victory” in his remarks, the Lebanon Daily Star reported Saturday. Hezbollah is a Shia Islamist group in Lebanon closely linked with Tehran and its clerics of the same faith.

“There is a global recognition of Iran as a member of the nuclear club,” Sahli said of the deal’s implications.   “We hope the agreement will have positive repercussions on security and stability in the region, even though Iran had said the nuclear issue was separate from regional conflicts,” he added.  President Obama announced the landmark accord Thursday in Washington, D.C.  He called it a “historic” moment after months of negotiations in a Rose Garden address that same evening.

April 3: The New York Post: The Iran Nuke Deal: Another Obama Bungle
Boy do I have a deal for you. Give me enough money to build a fancy new house, and I promise I won’t try to blow up yours.  You can even check my basement to make sure I’m not stockpiling dynamite. Oh, and I promise I won’t try to buy any explosives from those shady characters I hang out with or hide what I already have in a storage unit somewhere else!  Sound like a good bargain? Well, in simple terms, it pretty much describes the framework the Obama administration has signed on to in order to persuade Iran to give up its quest to build nuclear weapons.

The United States and our allies agree to lift economic sanctions, which have crippled the Iranian economy, in return for Iran agreeing to hold back on making nuclear weapons for a while.  They promise to convert facilities we know they have been using to enrich uranium and plutonium. They will even let us inspect some sites, though we know they have violated all previous agreements for open inspections. And we’ll continue to turn a blind eye toward the mullahs’ pervasive violations of human rights, especially those of women.

President Obama seems to regard as a major achievement an agreement to reach an agreement, which is all this week’s deal is — a formal agreement won’t happen until June, if at all.  Was ever an American president so deluded as to his accomplishments?  His administration has so far botched everything it has touched when it comes to foreign affairs. Obama came into office promising to restore America’s reputation.  Instead, he’s damaged it, perhaps irreparably for the ­near ­future.

April 3: The Hill: Obama Administration puts on a Full Court Press to Keep Congress
from moving forward on Iran Sanctions

The Obama administration has launched an aggressive sales pitch aimed at convincing Congress to hold its fire on Iran in the wake of a framework nuclear agreement.  President Obama, Vice President Biden, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, “and a whole host of other White House and senior administration officials” have been making calls to lawmakers, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday.  The administration wants lawmakers to suspend legislation related to Iran until after June 30, the deadline for negotiators to finalize a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.  Though Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that reaches his desk before the mid-year deadline, administration officials have also indicated they want to work with lawmakers to ensure they have input in the process.

Norway Air Command Facility UndergroundApril 1: The New York Times: Norway Reverts to Cold War Mode
as Russia becomes more assertive in the Air

From his command post burrowed deep into a mountain of quartz and slate north of the Arctic Circle, the 54-year-old commander of the Norwegian military’s operations headquarters watches time flowing backward, pushed into reverse by surging Russian military activity redolent of East-West sparring during the Cold War.  “I am what you could call a seasoned Cold Warrior,” the commander, Lt. Gen. Morten Haga Lunde, said, speaking in an underground complex built to withstand a nuclear blast. As a result, he added, he is not too alarmed by increased Russian military activity along NATO’s’s northern flank. “It is more or less the same as when I started,” the General said, who began his career tracking Soviet warplanes as a Norwegian Air Force navigator in the early 1980s.

Last year, Norway intercepted 74 Russian warplanes off its coast, 27 percent more than in 2013, scrambling F-16 fighters from a military air base in Bodo to monitor and photograph them. This is far fewer than the hundreds of Soviet planes Norway tracked off its coast at the height of the Cold War. However, last year’s total was a drastic increase from the 11 Russian warplanes Norway spotted 10 years earlier.

March 29: Yahoo News: Israel PM Says Nuke Deal is Bad for Humanity
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a dire warning Sunday about a possible nuclear accord with Iran as talks in Switzerland towards the outline of a deal intensified days before a deadline.  "The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse," Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on public radio.  He said the "Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis" was "dangerous for all of humanity" and that combined with Tehran's regional influence, a nuclear deal could allow Iran to "conquer" the Middle East.

Israel, widely assumed to have nuclear weapons itself, is concerned that a deal that six powers are trying to agree the contours of by midnight on March 31 will fail to stop Iran from getting the bomb.  Iran, hit hard by international sanctions, denies wanting nuclear weapons and insists that its atomic program is purely for peaceful purposes. Israel, not Iran, is the real regional danger, Tehran says.

March 28: The Weekly Standard: Iranian Defector:  “U.S. Negotiators There Mainly to Speak on Iran’s Behalf
An Iranian journalist writing about the nuclear negotiations between the United States and Iran has defected. In an interview Amir Hossein Motaghi, has some harsh words for his native Iran. He also has a damning indictment of America's role in the nuclear negotiations.“The U.S. negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal," Motaghi told a TV station after just defecting from the Iranian delegation while abroad for the nuclear talks. The P 5 + 1 is made up of United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, plus Germany.

March 26: Washington Free Beacon: U.S. Caves to Key Issues in Iran Nuke Deal – A Deal At Any Price?
The Obama administration is giving in to Iranian demands about the scope of its nuclear program as negotiators work to finalize a framework agreement in the coming days, according to sources familiar with the administration’s position in the negotiations.  U.S. negotiators are said to have given up ground on demands that Iran be forced to disclose the full range of its nuclear activities at the outset of a nuclear deal, a concession experts say would gut the verification the Obama administration has vowed would stand as the crux of a deal with Iran.  Until recently, the Obama administration had maintained that it would guarantee oversight on Tehran’s program well into the future, and that it would take the necessary steps to ensure that oversight would be effective. The issue has now emerged as a key sticking point in the talks.

If true this concession would allow Iran to continue work related to its nuclear weapons program, even under the eye of international inspectors. If Iran removes inspectors—as it has in the past—it would be left with a nuclear infrastructure immune from a strike by Western forces.  “Once again, in the face of Iran’s intransigence, the U.S. is leading an effort to cave even more toward Iran—this time by whitewashing Tehran’s decades of lying about nuclear weapons work and current lack of cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” said one Western source briefed on the talks but who was not permitted to speak on record.

March 26: Fox News: Hamas Accused of War Crime while the Media Blamed Israel at the time:
A horrific missile attack that killed 11 children in Gaza during last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, for which Israel was broadly condemned at the time, was actually caused by a Palestinian missile misfiring and killing its own people, Amnesty International charged in a report released Thursday.  “In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian armed group during the conflict, 13 Palestinian civilians – 11 of them children – were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on 28 July 2014, the first day of Eid al-Fitr,” Amnesty's report said. “The children had been playing in the street and buying crisps and soft drinks in the supermarket at the time of the attack.”

“Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert, who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International, concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.”  The report highlights the fact that the blast could not have been caused by a drone attack or as the result of Israeli shelling. The crater was too shallow, it said, while “its circumference was too wide to have been caused by a tank shell.”

March 26: The Daily Caller: MSNBC to Press Secretary: Is Yemen Still a Success Story?
A cadre of MSNBC personalities challenged White House press secretary Josh Earnest Thursday morning over the administration’s refusal to dial back its propping up of Yemen as a counterterrorism “success story.”  Appearing on “Morning Joe,” Earnest tried pushing back against host Mika Brzezinski and White House correspondent Chris Jansing, telling them the U.S. still has “resources in the broader region” to carry out their counterterrorism operations even though Yemen isn’t a stable state anymore. 

“Should we dial back on the words that it is a success story, when you have the president fleeing on a boat?” asked Brzezinski, who asked if the state is a success multiple times.  “The fact is that even though U.S. personnel is no longer in Yemen, the United States continues to have the capacity and resources and reach to be able to take strikes when necessary against extremists operating there,” Earnest said.

“How, Josh? How, when you have the embassy closed, Americans have left, you have the parliament that has been dissolved, you have the president fleeing on a boat, maybe towards Djibouti?” asked Jansing. “You have so many less possibilities for intelligence on the ground. How can you say that we are still in a counter-terror situation there?”

The March 23: Politico: Obama Administration says Israeli “Occupation” must End:
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough made clear in a speech to a left-leaning Israel advocacy group that President Barack Obama isn’t letting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu off the hook for his dismissal of a two-state solution.  That stance, as well as Netanyahu’s suggestion also made in the closing days before last week’s Israeli elections that he’d approved settlements in contested territory in Jerusalem for the strategic purpose of changing the borders are “so very troubling,” McDonough told J Street’s annual conference in Washington. He called the pro-Israel group, which opposes some of Netanyahu’s policies, “our partner.”

March 21: The Washington Free Beacon: New Russian Cruise Missile Could Threaten the U.S.
Russia is developing a long-range cruise missile that poses a new threat to the United States, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command warned this week.  “Russia is progressing toward its goal of deploying long-range, conventionally-armed cruise missiles with ever increasing stand-off launch distances on its heavy bombers, submarines, and surface combatants, augmenting the Kremlin’s toolkit of flexible deterrent options short of the nuclear threshold,” Adm. William Gortney, Northcom chief who heads the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said Thursday.  “Should these trends continue, over time NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian cruise missile threats,” he said in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

Denmark F-16 Scrambling to intercept Russian Bear Aircraft approaching Denmark Soverign TerritoryMarch 21: The Telegraph: Russia Warns Denmark Not to Join NATO’s Missile Defense Shield or it will become a Nuclear Target!
The Danish military scrambled fighter aircraft over 58 times in 2014 to head off Russian Aircraft Intrusions.  Now Russia has gone on the offensive in the Baltic, warning Denmark that if it joins Nato’s missile defense shield, its navy will be a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear attack.   “I don’t think that Danes fully understand the consequence if Denmark joins the American-led missile defence shield. If they do, then Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles,” said Mikhail Vanin, the Russian ambassador to Denmark, to the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.  

"Denmark would be part of the threat against Russia. It would be less peaceful and relations with Russia will suffer. It is, of course, your own decision - I just want to remind you that your finances and security will suffer. At the same time Russia has missiles that certainly can penetrate the future global missile defense system,” Mr Vanin said. Denmark’s Foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, reacted strongly to the comments, calling the ambassador’s statement “unacceptable”.   “If that is what he has said, then it is unacceptable. Russia knows full well that Nato’s missile defense is defensive and not targeted at (Russia).

March 18: The Daily Caller: Netanyahu Beats Obama!
The nationalist coalition led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has snagged at least 54 seats in the country’s March 17 elections, while the leftist coalition backed by President Barack Obama’s allies has won less than 44 seats, according to Israeli media reports.  That’s a defeat for the U.S. president, whose DC-based allies funneled support to Netanyahu’s Israeli rival, Isaac Herzog.  “They’ve done everything they can to shape a Netanyahu defeat,” former U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told Fox News.  “That’s something I think Congress should definitely look into.”

Obama and his deputies want Israel’s government to support or allow a landmark strategic deal with Iran that, broadly speaking, would reduce economic sanctions in exchange for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program. Netanyahu has refused to make that deal, and Obama has repeatedly criticized and sidelined Netanyahu.  But Netanyahu’s own party seems to have won 30 votes in the 120-seat parliament. He’s also backed by several nationalist parties, who will give him at least 54 seats as he begins negotiations with several small swing-voting parties to get the needed parliamentary majority.

March 18: Fox News: New Rift between Obama and Netanyahu after latter wins big!
After staying mum on Israeli issues in the run-up to the election, the White House on Wednesday broke its silence -- answering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's victory with fresh criticism and making clear that a new rift has opened between U.S. and Israeli leaders, this time over Palestinian statehood.   In its first public response to Netanyahu's election triumph, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama still believes in a two-state solution. This was after Netanyahu, shortly before the vote, reversed his stance and stated he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state. 

Earnest acknowledged Wednesday that the U.S. would have to "re-evaluate" its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of those comments. But he stressed that Obama believes a two-state solution is best. And State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki clarified that the administration "absolutely" will continue to push for this.   Further, Earnest chided Netanyahu's Likud Party on Wednesday, saying the White House was "deeply concerned" about divisive language emanating from Likud. He said the party had sought to marginalize Israel's minority Arabs, an apparent reference to social media posts the Likud distributed that warned Israelis about the danger of high turnout by Arab voters. 

March 18: Myway.com: Netanyahu Scores Resounding Victory
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party scored a resounding victory in Israel's election, final results showed Wednesday, a stunning turnaround after a tight race that had put his lengthy rule in jeopardy.  Netanyahu surged ahead after a last-minute lurch to the right in which he opposed Palestinian statehood and vowed continued settlement construction, setting the stage for fresh confrontations with the White House just weeks after criticizing U.S. talks with Iran in a divisive address to Congress.  With nearly all votes counted, Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of parliament's 120 seats and was in a position to build with relative ease a coalition government with its nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.  On Wednesday, Netanyahu visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, a remnant of the biblical Jewish Temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray. "I'm touched by the weight of the responsibility that the people of Israel have put on my shoulders. I wish to say that I will do anything in my power to ensure the well-being and security of all the citizens of Israel," he said.

March 12: Fox News: Russia setting dangerous precedent in Ukraine conflict
As Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels try to hold together a shaky cease-fire, there are growing concerns Moscow is looking to further test Kiev’s capabilities.  Regional analysts Dr. Stephen Blank and Job Henning told Fox News’ the situation between Ukraine and Russia is getting worse.  “This is the great threat to international security today – because it is the first aggression of its kind since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait 25 years ago … it is a very dangerous precedent for Russia,” Blank, a senior fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council, said.  A Russian Foreign Ministry official raised eyebrows Wednesday when suggesting his country has the right to deploy nuclear arms in the disputed Crimea territory, yet adding he knew of no plans to do so.

“It’s really indicative of a lot of loose talk on both sides … from the Russian side you see some really offhanded ways talking about nuclear capabilities that are very different than anything we saw during the Cold War. I think that is precisely that drifting into a strategic confrontation … makes it a truly dangerous situation,” said Henning, a fellow with the national security think-tank Truman National Security Project.

March 12: Defensone.comU.S. Military Concerned returning ISIS fighters could reach the U.S. Southern Border:
The war in Syria has attracted roughly100 foreign fighters from the Caribbean who could easily make their way to the United States, said the top U.S. military commander for the southern hemisphere.  With little ability to track and monitor foreign fighters when they return, it would be relatively easy for those fighters to “walk” north to the U.S. border along the same networks used to traffic drugs and humans, according to Gen. John Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command.  “They don’t have that ability to track these folks,” Kelly said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.

Kelly said he worries whomever is radicalized enough to leave for Syria would return with greater terrorism skills and motivations.  “I would suspect they’ll get good at, while they’re in Syria, get good at killing and pick up some real job skills in terms of explosives and beheadings and things like that. And everyone’s concerned, of course, if they come home. Because if they went over radicalized one would suspect they’ll come home at least that radicalized.”

March 8: Fox News: GOP Battles for Veto on Iran Nuke Deal
Democrats and Republicans sparred Sunday over congressional involvement in the Iran nuclear agreement, as President Obama attempted to assure critics that the U.S. won’t accept a bad deal.  The debate intensified as the United States and five other world powers are set to resume negotiations next week with Iran. Obama said that the U.S. would "walk away" from nuclear talks with Iran if there's no acceptable deal and that any agreement must allow Western powers to verify that Tehran isn't going to obtain an atomic weapon.  "If we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it," he said.

The GOP-led Congress wants to be able to vote on a final deal before it’s accepted, with Senate leaders trying to figure out whether they can pass legislation on the issue with enough votes to override a presidential veto.  “The Iranian parliament will get to say yes or no on this deal,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.   “I think the United States Congress should have that exact same input into the process.”  The Senate is scheduled to begin work this coming week on a bill introduced by Senators Johnson, Kirk (R-IL), and Menendez (D-NJ). 

March 8: The Guardian: EU Commission President: Calls for a European Army
The European Union needs its own army to help address the problem that it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force, the president of the European commission has said.  Jean-Claude Juncker said such a move would help the EU to persuade Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the threat posed by Moscow.  However, his proposal was immediately rejected by the British government, which said that there was “no prospect” of the UK agreeing to the creation of an EU army. 

March 4: Fox News: If you cross Putin you end up dead?
Enemies of Vladimir Putin have a way of winding up dead!  Whether they are poisoned, gunned down on the streets of Moscow or blown to bits in their homes, people who have crossed or merely criticized the Russian president have turned up dead around the world. Putin political adversary Boris Nemtsov, who was shot and killed near the Kremlin last week, is only the latest in a long line that includes hundreds of journalists, human rights activists and businessmen.  “I believe Vladimir Putin is a stone-cold killer,” said Bill Browder, author of “Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice.” “Anyone who gets in the way seems to be arrested, exiled or killed.”

Browder, a Russia-based investor in the 1990s, recounts in his book details of the consequences he and his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, suffered at the hands of the Putin regime. Magnitsky was murdered in prison in 2009, after being arrested for exposing a $230 million tax fraud scheme involving law enforcement and government officials.   Like many others whose murders have been blamed on Putin, had other enemies who may have been capable of killing. The Russian president, a former KGB agent, has vowed to bring Nemtsov’s killer to justice and implied that the hit may have been aimed at destabilizing his cash-strapped regime by framing it.  But critics within Russia and the international community say too many of Putin’s enemies have been killed for the 62-year-old, who has run the country through the posts of either prime minister or president since 1999, to claim his hands are clean. 
[See some of the more notable cases]

March 3: Fox News: Netanyahu Addresses House and Senate on Iran Nuclear Weapons Program (Transcript)
Before lifting sanctions Prime Minister Netanyahu said “the world should demand that Iran do three things. First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world. And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel, the one and only Jewish state.”

“My friends, what about the argument that there's no alternative to this deal, that Iran's nuclear know-how cannot be erased, that its nuclear program is so advanced that the best we can do is delay the inevitable, which is essentially what the proposed deal seeks to do? Well, nuclear know-how without nuclear infrastructure doesn't get you very much. A racecar driver without a car can't drive. A pilot without a plan can't fly. Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can't make nuclear weapons.  Iran's nuclear program can be rolled back well-beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil.  Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table -- and this often happens in a Persian bazaar -- call their bluff. They'll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.”

Continuing the Prime Minister said, “We (the Jewish people) are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.  This is why -- this is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand. But I know that Israel does not stand alone. I know that America stands with Israel. I know that you stand with Israel. You stand with Israel, because you know that the story of Israel is not only the story of the Jewish people but of the human spirit that refuses again and again to succumb to history's horrors.”

Israeli Military Jet Taking OffMarch 1: Arutz Sheva (Israel National News.com): REPORT:
Obama Threatened to Shoot Down Israel Air Force Jets in 2014:
Related Report: The Daily Caller

Kuwaiti paper claims unnamed Israeli minister with good ties with the US administration 'revealed the attack plan to John Kerry.'  The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that President Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.  Following Obama's threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.  According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel's back.

According to the report, “Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army's chief of staff, Benny Gantz, to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran's nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel's security.”  The sources added that Gantz and his commanders prepared the requested plan and that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks in order to make sure the plans would work successfully. Israeli fighter jets reportedly even carried out experimental flights in Iran's airspace after they managed to break through radars.

February 23: Yahoo News:  Obama-Kerry Iran Deal may give them the bomb!
Edging toward a historic compromise, the U.S. and Iran reported progress Monday on a deal that would clamp down on Tehran's nuclear activities for at 10 years but then slowly ease restrictions on programs that could be used to make atomic bombs.   Officials said there were still obstacles to overcome before a March 31 deadline, and any deal will face harsh opposition in both countries,  not to mention U.S. ally Israel. It also would be sure to further strain already-tense U.S.-Israeli relations.   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to strongly criticize the deal in an address before Congress next week.

February 23: The Washington Post: Give us your fingerprint or we’ll cut off your cell phone service:
Cell phones didn’t just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days. In one of the world’s largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cell phone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don’t, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cell phone usage here.  Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan’s efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cell phones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.

At the start of this year, there were 103 million SIM cards in Pakistan that officials were not sure were valid or properly registered. Mobile companies have until April 15 to verify the owners of all of the SIMs cards.   In the past six weeks, 53 million SIMs belonging to 38 million residents have been verified through biometric screening, officials said.

February 21: Associated Press: White House “Unwelcome Mat” for Israeli Prime Minster
In what is becoming an increasingly nasty grudge match, the White House is mulling ways to undercut Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to Washington and blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.   There are limits. Administration officials have discarded the idea of President Barack Obama himself giving an Iran-related address to rebut the two speeches Netanyahu is to deliver during his early March visit. But other options remain on the table.  Among them:
- a presidential interview with a prominent journalist known for coverage of the rift between Obama and Netanyahu
- multiple Sunday show television appearances by senior national security aides and
- a pointed snub of America's leading pro-Israel lobby, which is holding its annual meeting while Netanyahu is in Washington, according to the officials.

The administration has already ruled out meetings between Netanyahu and Obama.  But the White House is now doubling down on a cold-shoulder strategy, including dispatching Cabinet members out of the country and sending a lower-ranking official than normal to represent the administration at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the officials said.  [See related story: Rudy Giuliani Video on ISIS]

February 20: Reuters/Yahoo News: Putin: No Military Force has the strength of the Russian Military
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday other countries should not have the illusion that they can attain military superiority over Russia, Interfax reported.  "No one should have the illusion that they can gain military superiority over Russia, put any kind of pressure on it. We will always have an adequate answer for any such adventures," he was quoted as saying in an address dedicated to the Defenders' of the Fatherland Day holiday next week.

February 20: The New York Times: Caracas (Venezuela) Mayor Arrested, county in turmoil
The abrupt arrest of the mayor of Caracas on accusations that he had plotted an American-backed overthrow of the government threatened to plunge Venezuela into new political convulsions on Friday, as his supporters rallied in the capital and pockets of protest erupted elsewhere.  The arrest of the mayor, Antonio Ledezma, on Thursday evening by intelligence agents who fired weapons in the air, was viewed by the opposition as the kidnapping of a political rival to President Nicolás Maduro.  Mr. Ledezma’s backers called it another assault on democracy in Venezuela, the oil-endowed nation that has been reeling from a severe economic decline under the watch of an increasingly unpopular president.  Many opposition figures said Mr. Maduro, desperate to divert attention from Venezuela’s internal ills and his own disapproval ratings, concocted Mr. Ledezma’s arrest.

Mr. Maduro, the protégé of Venezuela’s longtime leader Hugo Chávez, often castigates the United States, accusing it of trying to topple his government. He promised, in a nearly three-hour speech soon after the mayor’s arrest, to release evidence to demonstrate what he called the secret American plot to topple him.
[Related Story Above]

February 19: Fox News:
Guiliani speaks frankly about President, Terrorism, and Iran (Video)
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani blasted President Barack Obama, saying in a recent speech that Israeli Prime Minster Bejamin Netanyahu is a “a man who fights for his people, unlike our president.”  Guiliani’s comments came during a Feb. 13 speech on countering Islamic extremism.

February 19: The Hill: White House Summit a “Slap in the Face” to Israel:
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a former Navy SEAL Team Six commander and freshman in Congress, is slamming the Obama administration’s conference intended to counter violent extremism.  “I think it's a slap in the face to Israel,” Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday during an interview on FOX News’s “On the Record.”  Zinke also accused the administration of inviting “a terrorist sympathizer” to speak at the conference, referring to Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who said after 9/11 that Israel should be on the "suspect list" for the destruction of the World Trade Center.  He contrasted the invitation from the administration with House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) request that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address Congress.  “I think the contrast is clear. Israel has been our partner in the war on terrorism,” Zinke said. “And certainly, this is why our allies don't trust us, and our enemies no longer fear us.”

February 18: Fox News: Ukraine Troops in Retreat from Railway Hub
Ukrainian separatists dubbed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as "yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers" drove Ukraine's army from a key rail hub in the eastern part of the country in what was branded a "crushing defeat" just days after a short-lived cease-fire agreement.  Fierce fighting around the town of Debaltseve, through which railroads linking the two major separatist cities of Donetsk and Luhansk pass, had been raging for days despite a cease-fire deal brokered by European leaders and signed by Putin to take effect Sunday. The past was supposed to be followed by the withdrawal of heavy weaponry beginning Tuesday, but the fighting barely paused.  On Wednesday, multiple sources told Fox News that the pro-Russian rebels were holding 300 Ukrainian troops prisoner, but officials in Kiev insist that the number is lower. Russian state-owned television on Wednesday showed images of several dozen Ukrainian troops being escorted along a village road by the rebels.

February 17: Fox News: State Department Spoke Person: What is really needed to fight ISIS is a jobs program:
What the West really needs to take on the Islamic State is ... a jobs program!  That's what a top State Department spokeswoman suggested when asked in a TV interview Monday night about what the U.S.-led coalition is doing to stop the slaughter of civilians by Islamic State militants across the region.   "We're killing a lot of them, and we're going to keep killing more of them. ... But we cannot win this war by killing them," department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on MSNBC's "Hardball." "We need ... to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it's lack of opportunity for jobs, whether --"   At that point, Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, "There's always going to be poor people. There's always going to be poor Muslims."   Harf continued to argue that the U.S. should work with other countries to "help improve their governance" and "help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people." 

February 16: The Jerusalem Post:  Netanyahu: If the Deal with Iran is so good, why hide it?
The Israeli Prime Minster says while he can't guarantee his address to Congress will prevent world powers from signing a bad nuclear deal with Iran, it is his obligation to go make Israel's case.  Israeli-US public sparring over the Iranian issue continued Monday, with Netanyahu asking, if the emerging agreement with Tehran is a good one, why hide the details?  Netanyahu’s comments at the annual meeting in Jerusalem of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations came the same day that The Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported that the US had decided to “reduce the exchange of sensitive information about the Iran talks,” because of a concern that Netanyahu’s office had leaked “sensitive details” of the US position.

Just as Iran knows what agreement it is being offered, it is only natural that Israel should know as well, since it is the most threatened by a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu said; adding that Israel’s consistent position is that the proposed accords are a danger to Israel’s security.  The recent tension over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress, and – more significantly – fundamental differences in the Israeli and US positions on Iran, has led officials from both sides to indicate that the exchange of information and intelligence might not be as free as it was in the past in order to prevent one side or the other from using that information to further its Iranian agenda.  For instance, the concern has been that the US might not share information with Israel that it feels Netanyahu might use in arguing against a deal, and Israel might not share with the US intelligence that it feels Washington might use to strengthen its argument that a deal is advantageous.

February 14: Fox News:  Both Sides Claim Violations Hours into the Ceasefire in Ukraine
A cease-fire was declared in east Ukraine at a minute after midnight Sunday, kindling slender hopes of a reprieve from a conflict that has claimed more than 5,300 lives.  But within two hours of the cease-fire's scheduled start, the warring sides were already trading accusations of fresh attacks.  International attention will be focused in the coming days on the strategic railway hub of Debaltseve, where Ukrainian government forces have for weeks been fending off severe onslaughts from pro-Russian and Russian-backed separatists.  The U.S. State Department said images from eastern Ukraine offer "credible pieces of evidence" that the Russian military has deployed larger amounts of artillery and multiple rocket launchers around Debaltseve to shell Ukrainian forces.  "We are confident that these are Russian military, not separatist systems," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Saturday.

February 14: Reuters:
Shelling in Ukraine Stops under Ceasefire: Germany: High Price to pay for violators
Shelling suddenly stopped at midnight in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after President Petro Poroshenko gave the order to government forces to halt firing in line with a ceasefire agreement reached last Thursday.  Poroshenko said in a televised address that there was still "alarm" over the situation around Debaltseve, a key transport hub, where government forces are hard pressed by encircling Russian-backed separatists.  And he warned that Ukraine, if it was slapped once, would not offer the other cheek.  The ceasefire, negotiated in four-power talks in Belarus last Thursday, foresees creation of a neutral "buffer zone" and withdrawal of heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 deaths in a conflict that has caused the worst crisis in Russia-West relations since the Cold War a generation ago.

A-10 Tankbuster Thunderbolt AircraftFebruary 12: United Press International: Pentagon Sending 12 A-10 Warthogs to Europe because of Ukraine Conflict
The U.S. Air Force has announced it is sending 12 A-10 Thunderbolts, also known as Warthogs, to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a response to Russia's actions in Ukraine.  The A-10s will be sent to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and deployed to partner nations in Eastern Europe – not the Ukraine.  "The Air Force is increasing rotational presence in Europe to reassure our allies and partner nations that our commitment to European security is a priority," Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, vice commander of U.S. air forces in Europe, said in a statement.   

The 1970s-era aircraft was designed for close-air support for ground troops, a function at the center of Congressional debate over the Air Force's decision to retire the aging jets in the coming years as they phase in the troubled F-35 fighters built by Lockheed Martin. Called "tankbusters" for their iconic nose-mounted Gatling guns, capable of quickly dispatching enemy tanks, the A-10s can carry a variety of munitions.   At the annual Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exhibition in Orlando, FL this week, Air Force officials were sensitive to the controversy surrounding the A-10's upcoming retirement, with Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle making sure to say what a "fantastic" plane the A-10 is.

February 11: Reuters: President asks for Congress to Authorize War on Islamic State
The President asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years.  Republicans, who control Congress, put up swift resistance to the proposal. They say Obama's foreign policy is too passive and want stronger measures against the militants, also known as ISIS.  With Obama's fellow Democrats wary of another Middle East war, it could be difficult for the White House to win enough support to pass the bill, even though six months have passed since the military campaign began.  Some lawmakers predicted a vote as soon as March but others anticipated debate could last for months.

The proposed resolution says Islamic State "has committed despicable acts of violence and mass execution." Its militants have killed thousands of civilians while seizing territory in Iraq and Syria in an attempt to establish a hub of jihadism in the heart of the Arab world.  They have also generated international outrage by beheading several western journalists and aid workers and burning to death a Jordanian pilot.  Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives must approve Obama's plan. Lawmakers said they would begin hearings quickly. Senate Republicans were to meet later on Wednesday.  Republicans criticized Obama's proposal, particularly the limits it sets on using ground troops.  The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, told reporters the plan would face hearings and debate "and I'm sure changes," adding: "I'm not sure the strategy that has been outlined will accomplish the mission the president says he wants to accomplish."

February 10: USNI News: NORAD Head: Russians are Increasing their arctic long range air patrols
While Russian military aircraft have stepped up their activity everywhere from the North Sea to the Baltic to the Black Sea in the last year they have also been spotted more frequently closer to the U.S. territory in the Arctic, the head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said on Tuesday.  In particular – flights of Tupolev Tu-95 Bear ‘H’ Bombers have increased recently NORTHCOM’s Adm. Bill Gortney said.  “They’ve been very aggressive for us in the Arctic…  in the amount of flights we are seeing, not aggressive in how they fly,” he said.   Since the March seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by Russian forces Moscow has significantly stepped up air patrols in Europe, Asia and near the Americas.  The flights extend as far North as the edge of American air space near Alaska and as far South as U.S. holdings in Guam.  In December, two Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets intercepted a two Bears near the Beaufort Sea entering a U.S. and Canadian Air Defense Identification Zone. 

February 8: The Daily Caller: Obama Former Intel Chief: Terrorism Strategy Clearly Not Working”
President Obama’s former Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn came out against the current U.S. strategy against terrorism across the board, saying it is “clearly not working,” adding that the U.S. needs a “much broader” strategy to combat the threat.  He told Fox News’ Chris Wallace this administration seems unable to define the enemy and “…you can’t defeat an enemy that you don’t admit exists.”

February 8: Fox News:  Biden: Ukraine has a right to defend itself – Nothing about weapons
Vice President Joe Biden, was in Germany this weekend to help reach a diplomatic solution to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Biden said the Ukrainians “have a right to defend themselves" but did not address the possibility of the United States sending anti-tank, anti-motar, or other desperately needed systems/weapons to them.  Biden said he and other U.S. leaders think they should “attempt an honorable peace."   He suggested that the impact of economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its actions will get worse if leaders refuses to accept a peaceful resolution and continue to escalate the conflict, the White House said Saturday. Meanwhile Russia has said any attempts to provide arms to the Ukrainians would be viewed as a threat to Russian national security!
Russian military forces started taking control of parts of eastern Ukraine in late-February 2014, after protesters and other Ukrainian residents helped oust Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. And within weeks, Russian began its ultimately successful effort to annex the eastern Ukraine region of Crimea.

Can we learn from history?  Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Britain who is perhaps best known for his appeasement in foreign policy and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German-populated area of Czechoslovakia to Germany.  And we all know how that turned out in 1939 as Hitler continued his aggressive policies.  Compare that to President Reagan’s Peace through Strength foreign policy and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Then compare the current Administrations approach to foreign policy (e.g., ISIS, Ukraine, increased Russian military aircraft flying close to US, Canadian, and British air space) to that of Chamberlain and Reagan.  Do you see any similarities or differences?  Draw your own conclusions.

February 7: The Daily Caller: Obama’s National Security?  Well at least we are not in fear of being nuked?
The Russia bear is eating Ukraine, the Middle East’s jihadis are role-playing Mohammad’s own wars, China’s wealthy nerds are tunneling through the Internet to steal anything they can find, unskilled Latin-American migrants are rushing the border and young Americans can’t get decent jobs, but President Obama’s national security adviser says Americans shouldn’t worry.

“What’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective,” Susan Rice said at a Feb. 6 briefing intended to explain her boss’ national security strategy.  “Yes, there’s a lot going on,” but it’s not as threatening as during the Cold War when the nation faced the prospect of utter nuclear annihilation, she said.  “While the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or the Cold War,” she contended. She echoed that don’t-worry-be-calm explanation in a Feb. 6 op-ed, saying “the challenges we face require strategic patience and persistence.”

February 6: Yahoo News: Israeli Official: Netanyahu may have been misled by House Speaker
A senior Israeli official suggested on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been misled into thinking an invitation to address the U.S. Congress on Iran next month was fully supported by the Democrats.  He was invited by Speaker Boehner to address the House on March 3rd. The move angered the White House, which is upset about the event coming two weeks before Israeli elections and that Netanyahu, who has a testy relationship with Democratic President Obama, is expected to be critical of U.S. policy on Iran.  "It appears that the speaker of Congress made a move, in which we trusted, but which it ultimately became clear was a one sided move and not a move by both sides," Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told a local Tel Aviv Radio station on Friday.

February 5: The Washington Post:
President’s Comments about Christians vs. ISIS and Muslims Offensive to many Christians
Some Republicans are outraged. “The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,” said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore. “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.”  The President’s remarks  spoke to his unsparing, sometimes controversial, view of the United States — where triumphalism is often overshadowed by a harsh assessment of where Americans must try harder to live up to their own self-image. Only by admitting these shortcomings, he has argued, can we fix problems and move beyond them.  “There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency, that can pervert and distort our faith,” the President said at the breakfast.

February 5: Fox News: Obama: Christians have done wrong things too!
The President called on people of faith to reject those who use religion to justify evil – and in doing so – reminded people about the terrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ.  He told a gathering Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast that we have seen “professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good but twisted in the name of evil.” “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith – their faith – profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it,” he said.  As has been his practice the President never mentioned radical Islam or jihadists or Islamic extremists. He did, however, call ISIS a “brutal, vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism.”

The president also issued a word of warning to Christians.  “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” the president said.  He also chided the United States, “our home country.”  “Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” he added.

February 5: Fox News:  Shocked Jordanians Rally Behind King to Fight ISIS
The shocking images of a Jordanian Air Force pilot being burned alive in an outdoor cage by ISIS terrorists have galvanized the country, once seen as possible fertile recruitment ground for the group, behind King Abdullah II's calls for a stepped-up military campaign.  Jordan's monarch has vowed to wage a "harsh" war against ISIS after consulting with his military chiefs Wednesday. Abdullah cut short his scheduled trip to the U.S. after the video showing the killing of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh was released Tuesday.   In a statement, the king said Jordan is waging a war of principles against the militants. He said that Jordan's response to the killing of the pilot "will be harsh because this terrorist organization is not only fighting us, but also fighting Islam and its pure values."

Abdullah pledged to hit the militants "hard in the very center of their strongholds."  Jordanian officials have not presented details of their response, but said they would be working closely with their allies in the anti-IS coalition.  The NY Times reported the king was greeted warmly upon his return Wednesday by thousands of people who lined the main roads to and from the airport. The paper reported that many waved flags and displayed pictures of both the king and the pilot.

January 31: Jerusalem Post:
Obama has agreed to 80% of Iran’s Nuclear Talk Demands, Israeli Officials Claim:

Israeli officials told Israeli media on Friday that they are convinced the Obama Administration has already agreed to most of Iran’s demands in the P5+1 negotiations over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.  According to unnamed officials, Washington “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want” out of the negotiations, local media reports.  Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the United States will soon strike a deal with the Iranian regime that will leave it with a “breakout point” of months before it can gallop toward the bomb.  Meanwhile an Obama Administration official dismissed the claims as “complete nonsense.”  But then again these are the same people who brought you if you like your doctor you and keep him and if you like you plan you can keep it!

January 30: The Washington Post: The CIA/Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing:
On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.  As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.  The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

January 29: Sky News: UK Summons Ambassador over Russian Bomber Overflights
Two Civilian Aircraft needed to be Diverted as Russian Bomber flew over the English Channel.  Britain has summoned Russia's ambassador after RAF Typhoons were scrambled when two Russian bombers flew over the English Channel.  The British fighter jets were scrambled on Wednesday when the Russian TU-95 'Bear' long-range bombers flew near UK airspace.  A Foreign Office spokesperson said while the planes stopped short of entering British airspace, the incident was part of an "increasing pattern of out of area operations by Russian aircraft".  A spokesperson said: "While the Russian planes did not enter sovereign UK airspace and were escorted by RAF Typhoons throughout the time they were in the UK area of interest, the Russian planes caused disruption to civil aviation.  "That is why we summoned the Russian Ambassador today to account for the incident."

January 29: Fox News:
DOD opened back channel with Qaddafi to keep U.S. & Clinton from getting involved with Libyan Civil War:
Pentagon officials were so concerned with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's push in 2011 to back Libyan rebels against Muammar Qaddafi that they opened their own back-channels with Qaddafi to try and prevent the U.S. from entering the civil war, according to a report that cited newly uncovered audio tapes. According to a report Thursday in The Washington Times, Pentagon officials used an intelligence "liaison" to communicate with Qaddafi's son and a top Libyan leader outside of White House or State Department knowledge. A senior Democratic congressman also reportedly was involved. 

The recorded conversations show an unnamed intermediary, who is referred to as an intelligence "asset" working for the Pentagon, not only conducted the conversations with Qaddafi's son, but reportedly shared his concern that Clinton was unnecessarily hyping the danger of a potential genocide by the regime as a way to drag Congress into and shift public opinion in favor of an invasion. "You should see these internal State Department reports that are produced in the State Department that go out to the Congress. They're just full of stupid, stupid facts," the U.S. intermediary reportedly told the Qaddafi regime in 2011. The paper said the liaison was "specifically dispatched by the Joint Chiefs of Staff." 

Armed with a United Nations resolution, the U.S. led international bombing raids against the Qaddafi regime in March 2011, eventually aiding the rebels in ousting the longtime dictator, whom they killed. Since the fall of the regime, insurgencies have beleaguered the struggling new government there. Weapons sent by the U.S. to the opposition have fallen into the hands of Islamist fighters, some who later helped engineer the coup in Mali. On Sept. 11, 2012, terrorists then attacked the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. Congressional inquiries are ongoing into whether the State Department could have prevented the attacks and how it responded during and after the event. The Washington Times story suggests that the Obama Administration's efforts, led by Clinton, were focused on regime change, not a negotiated settlement, during the lead-up to the war. 

January 29: The Weekly Standard:  White House Netanyahu Ratchets Up Rhetoric
The Obama Administration is angry with Israel. Here's the administration's friendly media, the New York Times’ report:   “The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.”  The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.

The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named... Of course, the official who last summer called Prime Minister Netanyahu a "coward" and a "chickens--t" would not be named either. But there is no reason to think those unnamed angry officials do not speak for an angry president.  The Obama White House usually prides itself on not getting angry. Its self-image is that it's cool, calm, and collected. And it doesn't get angry at, for example, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Obama White House understands and appreciates the complexities of the Islamic Republic's politics and history. It seems it is only with respect to the Jewish state that the Obama White House is impatient, peremptory, and angry.

January 29: Fox News:  Iran calls for Assassination of Netanyahu’s Children
Iran is encouraging its terror allies to pursue the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s children by publishing personal information about them, including photographs of the kids lined up in crosshairs, and declaring, “We must await the hunt of Hezbollah.”  The publication of the personal information and biographies of Netanyahu’s children follows an Israeli airstrike last week that killed several key Hezbollah leaders and an Iranian commander affiliated with the country’s hardline Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  Iranian military leaders affiliated with the IRGC threatened in recent days harsh retaliation for the strike and promised to ramp up support for Hezbollah as well as Palestinian terrorist organizations.  The information was originally published in Farsi by an Iranian website affiliated with the IRGC and quickly republished by Iran’s state-controlled Fara News Agency.  In addition to biographical details and pictures of Netanyahu’s children, the Iranians provided details about the families of former Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon.

Israeli Defense Forces Tank Crew Member on top of his tankJanuary 28: Jerusalem Post: IDF strikes Syrian army targets following Golan rocket attacks:
The Israel Air Force (IAF) struck Syrian army artillery targets late on Tuesday night in response to an earlier rocket attack carried out on the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.  "The IDF views the Syrian regime as responsible for what occurs in its territory, and will act at any time and any way it sees fit to protect the citizens of Israel," the IDF said. The targets were accurately struck, the IDF added.

Two rockets launched from Syrian territory exploded in open territory, failing to cause injuries or damages. The IDF quickly returned fire, directing artillery fire at the sources of rocket fire in Syria.  A security source later said Hezbollah was behind Tuesday's rocket attacks.  The source added that the IDF continues to be in a high preparation mode for potential further events. "We will see how further events unfold," the source said.  A second source added that there are no planned school cancellations or special security instructions for residents of the north at this time. The source said the Home Front Command would notify civilians if changes occur. The Hermon site remained closed.  The rocket attacks come nine days after a strike on a Hezbollah convoy in Syria which has been widely attributed to Israel.

January 27: Yahoo News: Arabs in Israel banding together to try and defeat Netanyahu
Israel's Arab political parties are banding together under one ticket for the first time ever ahead of national elections in March, hoping to boost turnout and help unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  The result is an awkward political marriage of communists, Palestinian nationalists, religious Muslims, feminists and even one Jew. But Arab politicians say it will improve chronically low Arab voter turnout and help block Netanyahu from forming the next government.  "We will be a central player in politics like never before," said Ayman Odeh, a first-time parliamentary candidate and the leader of the combined Arab list.

January 27: Washington Free BeaconPhotos Show China Military Base Near disputed Japanese Island:
Recent satellite photos of an island off the coast of China confirm Beijing’s buildup of military forces within attack range of Japan’s Senkaku islands. Construction of a helicopter base on Nanji Island was observed by a commercial spy satellite in October. The island is off the coast of Zhejiang province—some 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus, a group of resource-rich islets China calls the Diaoyu Islands. The imagery, obtained from the Airbus Defense and Space-owned Pleaides satellite, reveals China is constructing an airfield with 10 landing pads for helicopters on Nanji Island. Military analysts said the new military base appears to be preparation by the Chinese PLA for an attack or seizure of the Senkakus.   “China’s new heli-base on Nanji Island demonstrates that the PLA is preparing for an offensive military operation against the Senkaku/Daiyoutai Islands,” said Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “If you want to rate the level of tension, this is the PLA reaching for its holster. When forces start deploying to Nanji Island, that means the hammer is cocked.”

January 25: Reuters: Aggression in Ukraine Continues – Obama Promises Steps Against Russian-backed Rebels but Taking Military Option Off the Table:
Pro-Moscow rebels, backed by what NATO says is the open participation of Russian troops, pressed on with their offensive on Sunday after restarting the war in eastern Ukraine with the first all-out assault since a truce five months ago.  President  Obama said Washington was considering all options short of military action to isolate Russia.

The European Union called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers of its 28 member states.  "We are deeply concerned about the latest break in the ceasefire and the aggression that these separatists -- with Russian backing, Russian equipment, Russian financing, Russian training and Russian troops -- are conducting," Obama told a news conference during a visit to India.  "I will look at all additional options that are available to us short of military confrontation and try to address this issue. And we will be in close consultation with our international partners, particularly European partners."

January 25: The Daily Caller: George Will: Obama goes out of his way to show disdain for Congress:
When asked about President Barack Obama’s refusal to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his trip to Washington to address Congress, syndicated columnist George Will said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama often goes out of his way to “show disdain” for Congress and Netanyahu.

HOST CHRIS WALLACE: George, was Boehner wrong to invite Netanyahu to Congress without consulting the White House? Was Netanyahu wrong to accept the invitation?

WILL: Neither were wrong. Congress is a collegial branch of government, with many responsibilities in foreign policy. Second, the president has gone out of his way to show disdain for both Congress in foreign and domestic policy, and for Mr. Netanyahu in particular. Steve Hayes makes the point in the Weekly Standard today, it is by no means good protocol to have the prime minister of another country, [UK Prime Minister David] Cameron, lobby our Congress about policy he favors.

January 24: The Times of Israel: Iran Vows to Attack Israel from the West Bank
Iran has threatened to attack Israel from the West Bank, in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday that left 12 Iranian and Hezbollah operatives dead. The airstrike has been attributed to Israel and though Jerusalem has not officially confirmed it, anonymous government sources have admitted as much.   Deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Lt.-Gen. Hossein Salami vowed Saturday to “open new fronts [against Israel] and change the balance of power.” In an excerpt of an interview with Salami, the IRGC’s number two said that Iran and Hezbollah would provide a “special reprisal” to the strike, according to the Tasnim News Agency, adding that opening a new front in the West Bank was in the works.

January 24: The Telegraph:  The EU Dream is Dying one State at a Time:
Europe is being swept by a wave of popular disenchantment and revolt against mainstream political parties and the European Union.  In 2007, a majority of Europeans - 52 per cent - trusted the EU. That level of trust has now fallen to a third.  Once, Britain's Euro-skepticism was the exception, and was seen as the biggest threat to the future of the EU.  Now, other countries pose a far bigger danger thanks to the political discontents unleashed by the euro. In Greece, a far-Left Socialist party candidate, Syriza, is poised to win elections with a political program that would overturn eurozone policies.  Many believe the Greek revolt against the loss of their economic sovereignty by eurozone dictated from Brussels or Frankfurt is only the beginning.  In France, Italy and Spain, voters are kicking against mainstream parties that they see as upholding EU institutions such as the euro while failing to represent their own people, the voters. Even in Germany the cracks in the European political order are beginning to show.

January 22: Associated Press: President passes on meeting with Netanyahu:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned trip to Washington in March is kicking up a diplomatic dust storm in the nation's capital.  On Thursday, the White House said President Barack Obama would not meet the prime minister when he comes to the U.S. to address a joint session of Congress. The official White House explanation was that Netanyahu's visit fell too close to the Israeli election and the Obama administration wanted to avoid the appearance of taking sides.

But the timing of Netanyahu's visit also gave the White House a convenient means of retaliating against the prime minister for his decision to accept an invitation from Republican leaders to address Congress. GOP lawmakers and Netanyahu worked out the arrangement without consulting with the White House or State Department, only alerting the Obama administration a few hours before the Israeli leader's trip was made public.  The White House appeared stunned by what it saw as a breach of diplomatic decorum by Netanyahu, a leader with whom Obama has a history of tension.

January 22: Israel National News: Fury in Israel over Obama’s Mossad Lies:
Senior Israeli says 'friends don't act like this' after Mossad Head denies US claim that he opposed Iran sanctions in talk with senators.  A senior Israeli official delivered an uncommonly harsh attack on US President Barack Obama's administration Thursday evening, following the American report that alleged that Mossad Head Tamir Pardo had warned US senators against further Iran sanctions, in contradiction of Israel's official stance.   Israeli government officials said they had gone over the minutes of the meeting between Pardo and the delegation of senators, and that Pardo had not said what was attributed to him.

Russian Spy Ship in HavannaJanuary 20: Yahoo News:
Russian Spy ship docks in Havana Days before U.S. Cuba talks  begin
A Russian intelligence warship docked in Havana on Tuesday, a day before the start of historic US-Cuba talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations.  There was nothing stealthy about the arrival of the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, which was moored to a pier in Old Havana where cruise ships often dock. But the visit was not officially announced by Cuban authorities.  US officials in Washington played down the presence of the Russian vessel, saying it was perfectly legal and not at all out of the ordinary.  "It's not unprecedented. It's not unusual. It's not alarming," a defense official told AFP.

The Vishnya or Meridian-class intelligence ship, which has a crew of around 200, went into service in the Black Sea in 1988 before it was transferred seven years later to the northern fleet, according to Russian media. The vessel previously docked in Havana in February and March last year, staying there for a few days. Those visits were also unannounced.

January 19: United Press International:Kurdish forces take control of strategic hill near Kobane
Kurdish militia have taken control of a strategic hilltop that overlooks the city of Kobane, Syria, as the fight for the city rages on.   The capture of Mishtenur hill now puts Islamic State resupply routes within the line of fire of Kurdish troops. "The military operation led to the deaths of at least 11 Islamic State fighters, and the seizure of large quantities of weapons and ammunition," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.   In Kobane, hundreds have died and more than 200,000 have fled to Turkey.  Kurdish troops have been advancing to take control of Kobane with the support of air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State.

January 19:  Reuters: Separatists renew attacks on Airport as Russia and Ukraine bicker
Pro-Russian separatists renewed attacks on Ukrainian forces at an airport complex in the east on Monday after Kiev launched a mass operation to reclaim lost ground there that Russia called a "strategic mistake".  Ukrainian officials said three soldiers had been killed and 66 wounded over the past 24 hours, during which they said they had returned battle lines at the airport outside Donetsk to the status quo under a much violated international peace plan.  Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Ukrainian intelligence had confirmed Russian cross-border arms deliveries to the separatists were continuing.

January 18: Yahoo News: Netanyahu shifts focus to Asian markets as European Cities become anti-Israel:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday a wave of anti-Semitism and what he called "Islamisation" in Western Europe are factors in a Jewish state push to expand trade with Asia. Europe is Israel's biggest trading partner, but deepening diplomatic disputes over policy toward the Palestinians and anti-Jewish incidents such as a Jan. 9 attack by an Islamist gunman on a Paris kosher deli have triggered Israeli worries. Netanyahu, who is also finance minister and a free-market champion, cast his courting of China, India and Japan over the past two years as a partial response to European developments.

He was due to host a Japanese government and business delegation led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday.  "I put emphasis on markets to the East not because we want to give up on other markets. But we definitely want to reduce our dependence on certain markets in western Europe," Netanyahu told his cabinet in remarks at which reporters were present, without naming specific countries.  "Western Europe is undergoing a wave of Islamisation, of anti-Semitism, and of anti-Zionism. It is awash in such waves, and we want to ensure that for years to come the State of Israel will have diverse markets all over the world."

January 13: The Daily Caller:  White House: Obama will fight media to stop anti-jihad articles
The White House Press Secretary said yesterday that President Obama has a moral responsibility to push back on the nation’s journalism community when it is planning to publish anti-jihadi articles that might cause a jihadi attack against the nation’s defenses forces.  Presidential spokesman Josh Earnest’s disclosure during the regular White House morning briefing was an unprecedented reversal of Americans’ civil-military relations, and of the president’s duty to protect the First Amendment.  Earnest tried to excuse the administration’s opposition in 2012 to the publication of anti-jihadi cartoons by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

January 13: The Daily Caller:   Former Secret Service Agent:
Obama a Petulant Child, Blaming Secret Service for Skipping Paris Trip:
Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino blasted the President’s decision to blame security concerns for his decision not to attend an anti-terrorism rally in Paris.  The White House blamed security concerns for Obama’s decision not to attend the “March Of Unity” in Paris after a deadly Islamic terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The Secret Service said that it was never asked to prepare for a presidential visit to Paris.

Bongino, who served in the Secret Service under presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama before galvanizing conservative voters with recent Maryland Senate and congressional runs, said the President blamed the Service because he knew they couldn’t fight back against him in the press.  “He knows there’s nothing the Secret Service can say. They don’t want to hurt the relationship so as a matter of decorum they can’t say anything,” Bongino said. “I imagine what they’re really thinking is, ‘Is this guy serious?’ It’s not an easy job. After the fence-jumper, morale’s not great over there now, but he still says something that is so obviously not true.”  “Just look at the Mandela funeral which was geometrically worse when it comes to threat and he went to that because he wanted to go. If the president wants to go he goes. The Secret Service doesn’t tell him he can’t go. That’s only in movies.”

January 11: The Hill: White House in Trouble over only sending Ambassador to Paris Unity Rally:
The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week.  Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.

The absence of top American leaders was felt as countries from around the world sent their own premiers. In addition to French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all took part in the rally.  The Obama administration emphasized that the U.S. government has been supporting the French this week on a "minute-by-minute basis."   "Attorney General Holder — a Cabinet level official — is representing the United States at the security meetings in Paris today. He is joined by the DHS Deputy Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas. The United States is represented at the March by Ambassador Hartley," a senior administration official told CNN.

January 11: Fox News: Four Million March for Unity in France following Terrorist Attack
At least 3.7 million people including more than 40 world leaders are marching throughout France on Sunday in a rally of national unity to honor the 17 victims of a three-day terror spree that took place around the French capital.  Missing was a high ranking representative from United States.  The French Interior Ministry said the rally for unity against terrorism is the largest demonstration in France's history, more than the numbers who took to Paris streets when the Allies liberated the city from the Nazis in World War II.

The ministry said between 1.2 million and 1.6 million marched the Paris streets. But it said a precise account is impossible given the enormity of the turnout in the capital.  The aftermath of the attacks remained raw, with video emerging of one of the gunmen killed during police raids pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and detailing how the attacks were going to unfold. Also, a new shooting was linked to that gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed Friday along with the brothers behind a massacre at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in nearly simultaneous raids by security forces.

January 11: Fox News: Dempsey things more can be done to combat terrorism; But Backs Closing of GITMO
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested Sunday that the United States could do more to fight terrorism but predicted eventual defeat for the new-but-extremely-violent Islamic State group.  Dempsey said that defeating terrorism will require an increased group effort that includes the U.S. military and intelligence community.  Meanwhile others have made the observation that instead of killing militant leaders and the information they have with them, that it might be more productive to capture leaders and put them in GITMO where we can learn more future attacks and methods.  But Dempsey disagrees, giving his support for the closing the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying the facility, opened in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, is a “psychological scar” on the American psyche.  “It’s in the national interest to close Guantanamo,” he said.  President Obama vowed during his first presidential campaign, in 2008, to close the facility. He continues to release detainees to the point where the facility has only a few dozen people left. Nearly 800 have passed through Guantanamo since it opened in 2002.

December 31: Fox News: Admin releases five more GITMO prisoners, sent to Kazakhstan
The Defense Department announced Wednesday that five more prisoners will be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay to another nation, in the latest step by the Obama administration to whittle down the prisoner population in pursuit of ultimately closing the camp.   The five men will be transferred to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the U.S. government announced.   The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen -- who have been at the camp for a dozen years -- had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands. The U.S. has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to third countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.   Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo to 127, according to a Pentagon statement on Tuesday.
December 30: The Guardian: Cuban dissidents arrested before free-speech demonstration in Havana
Cuban police have detained at least three leading dissidents ahead of a planned free-speech demonstration in the Plaza de la Revolución.  The arrests of Antonio Rodiles, Eliezer Avila and Reinaldo Escobar look set to be the biggest test yet of diplomatic relations with the US since they were restored earlier this month after 53 years of tension.  The crackdown came around lunchtime on Tuesday, just hours before local performance artist Tania Bruguera was due to stage an open-microphone event in Havana’s most politically sensitive square.  Police had denied Bruguera a permit for the “Yo tambien exijo,” [I also demand]” demonstration and warned activists not to participate, but several had indicated their willingness to participate in this test case for public dissent.  The authorities did not give them a chance.

December 30: The Daily Mail:
Queen’s Guard falls back behind gates in face of mounting fears of new ‘lone wolfs”
Security chiefs have taken the dramatic step of withdrawing Royal Guards from their high-profile posts outside palaces and placing them in more secure locations amid mounting fears of ‘lone wolf’ Islamic terrorist attacks.  For the first time since the height of the IRA’s terror campaign, the soldiers are also no longer allowed on sentry duty alone, and are now accompanied by armed police.  The move Benghazi to more secure positions behind gates or railings is a direct response to attacks such as the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby and the killing of a sentry by a lone gunman at the Canadian Parliament two months ago.

But the measures have been described as a ‘retreat’ for the Guards, known the world over for their bearskin caps.  Retired officer Major Iain Dalzel-Job of the Scots Guards told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I think this is a big shame. The reason people know we’re around is because they can see us. But I suppose the changes are necessary as there is a significant threat.’  This newspaper has confirmed the changes to the Guards’ security at sites including Clarence House, St James’s Palace, Windsor Castle and Horse Guards Parade.

December 29: The Daily Mail: Cuba-US detane upend life for Cuba dissidents:
President Barack Obama told the world this month that engaging Cuba is the best way to strengthen people pushing for greater freedom on the island.  Less than two weeks after it was announced, the U.S.-Cuba detente is upending the civil society Obama hopes to strengthen. The prospect of engagement between the two Cold War antagonists seems to be undercutting the island's hard-line dissidents while boosting more moderate reformers who want to push President Raul Castro gradually toward granting citizens more liberties.  The traditional dissidents say they feel betrayed by a new U.S. policy of negotiation with a government that Washington and the U.S.-backed opponents worked for decades to undermine. They say they fear that detente serves the Castro administration's aspiration of following China and Vietnam by improving the economy without conceding citizens significantly greater freedoms.

Moderates say the new balance of power inside the small, fractious world of Cuba's opposition will produce political change by offering Castro a type of engagement that's harder to reject: a negotiated, more controlled opening meant to avoid the sort of disorderly transition that scarred the former Soviet Union and, more recently, the countries of the Arab Spring.   What's unknown is whether the Cuban government will engage with the newly energized, more moderate members of civil society, or continue to sharply limit free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association as threats to the country's single-party system. However Raul Castro told Cuba's National Assembly Dec. 20 that warmer relations with the U.S. would not change the system.

A major test will come during April's Summit of the Americas in Panama, a gathering of Western Hemispheric leaders where Obama and Raul Castro are expected to meet. A forum including figures from civil society inside Cuba is to be organized on the sidelines, and seems likely to spawn debate between the U.S. and Cuba, and among reformers from the island.

December 29: The Daily Caller: Obama’s See-no-Islam Policy Forces U.S. Military Rethink Strategy:
President Barack Obama’s top special-forces general in the Middle East is quietly trying to look beyond the president’s insistence that Islamic terrorism isn’t Islamic.  The reexamination is camouflaged by the general’s use of a panel of outside experts to help develop a military and ideological strategy against the jihadi group, which blitzed through western Iraq in the summer of 2014.  “We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, the special forces commander in the Middle East, told the group of outside experts, according to a friendly article in the New York Times.

 “We have not defeated the [jihadis'] idea. We do not even understand the idea,” he said, according to the article, which does not mention Islam as a motivating force, nor the White House’s fatwa against any mention of Islam.  But Nagata’s statements repeatedly hint that the Islamic State’s power is based on its Islamic authenticity. “What makes ISIS. so magnetic, inspirational?…There is a magnetic attraction to ISIS that is bringing in resources, talent, weapons, etc., to thicken, harden, embolden ISIS. in ways that are very alarming,” he wrote.  The general also used a religious term when he commented about the persuasive power of America’s Muslim allies in the region, who are regarded as traitors to Islam by the Islamic State’s jihadis. The Islamic State’s supporters “revel in being called murderers when the words are coming from an apostate,” said Nagata.  An apostate is a religious term used to describe a person who has quit a particular faith. In numerous Islam countries, and in the Islamic State, apostates are deemed to be traitors who deserve the death penalty, and criticism from apostates is a sign of fidelity to Islam.

December 28: Yahoo News(Reuters):  Cuban Prisoner Release: Who they are Remains a Mystery
Cuba's most prominent dissidents say they have been kept in the dark by U.S. officials over a list of 53 political prisoners who will be released from jail as part of a deal to end decades of hostility between the United States and Cuba.   For years, dissident leaders have told the United States which opponents of Cuba's communist government were being jailed or harassed, but they say they were not consulted when the list of prisoners to be freed was drawn up or even told who is on it.  The lack of information has stoked concern and frustration among the dissidents, who worry that the secret list is flawed and that genuine political prisoners who should be on it will be left to languish. 

"We're concerned because we don't agree with the silence, because we have a right to know who they are. Who are they?" said Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, which marches in Havana on Sundays to demand the release of prisoners.  "There are not just 53 political prisoners, there are more, and we are concerned that the U.S. list might have common criminals on it," she told Reuters in Havana.

There are somewhere between 80 and 140 according to the dissident Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which keeps track of activists in the different opposition groups.  U.S. officials have so far been tight-lipped about how the list of 53 was assembled and who was consulted inside Cuba. It also is not clear if some prisoners were kept off the list because the Cuban government refused to release them.   A U.S. official said on Saturday that Washington had asked Cuba to release a specific group of people jailed on charges related to their political activities, but declined to answer further questions.

December 26: Associated Press:
Father & Son Risk Lives on Raft to escape Cuba: Treated as Celebrities and Welcomed to Freedom:

Ten days at sea, out of gas but full of hope for freedom, they finally made it to a sandy beach in Miami in their rickety raft made of wood, metal and intertubes.   They jumped out and ran barefoot to a metal gate. A guard opened the door.  "Welcome to the land of liberty!" he said.  A month later they were on their way to Portland, OR where a church group had provided housing, a job, and education.  Why did they leave?  A quest for freedom and relief from Cuban wages that averaged $20 per month.

Three months after the men's arrival, Obama surprisingly announced efforts to restore ties with the island they left behind.  The news came as a relief: Perhaps they would not have to wait years to see their families.  Had they known relations between the U.S. and Cuba were about to improve, Cardenas said he would have risked the journey anyway. "I'm not looking back," he said.  Even with improved relations, freedom for the Cuban people is not assured.

December 26: Associated Press: New Russian Military Doctrine: NATO is Top Threat
President Vladimir Putin has signed a new military doctrine that describes NATO's military buildup near the Russian borders as the top military threat amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine.  The document released by the Kremlin on Friday maintains the provisions of the previous, 2010 edition of the military doctrine regarding the use of nuclear weapons. It says Russia could use nuclear weapons in retaliation to the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against it or its allies, and also in case of aggression involving conventional weapons that "threatens the very existence" of the Russian state.  For the first time, the new doctrine says that Russia could use precision weapons "as part of strategic deterrent measures." The document doesn't spell out conditions for their use.

December 26: World Bulletin: Russia Test Ten Next Generation Nuclear tipped ICBM
Russian Defense Ministry announced the successful test of the RS-24 "Yars" ballistic missile on Friday. Test warheads hit their targets in the Kura testing range on the Kamchatka peninsula with pinpoint accuracy," said Col. Igor Yegorov a spokesman for the ministry.  The missile was launched at 11:02 Moscow time on Friday, Yegorov said.  "The adoption of the RS-24 ICBM with multiple re-entry warheads has increased the combat capabilities of the Strategic Missile Forces assault group to overcome missile defense systems, thus strengthening the nuclear deterrent of Russian strategic nuclear forces," Col. Yegorov said. The RS-24 carries up to ten independently targetable warheads.  Russia's strategic nuclear forces are actively rearming with the new RS-24 "Yars" missile, which replaces two older models that have been in use for more than 50 years.   The ballistic missile uses solid fuel and has a range of 7,500 miles. It can be launched either from a silo or from a road-mobile launcher.

December 23: Yahoo News: Russia and four former USSR nation states form fragile alliance:
Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations on Tuesday completed the creation of a new economic alliance intended to bolster their integration, but the ambitious grouping immediately showed signs of fracture as the leader of Belarus sharply criticized Moscow.  The Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, comes to existence on Jan. 1. In addition to free trade, it's to coordinate the members' financial systems and regulate their industrial and agricultural policies along with labor markets and transportation networks.  Russia had tried to encourage Ukraine to join, but its former pro-Moscow president was ousted in February following months of protests. Russia then annexed Ukraine's Black Sea Crimean Peninsula, and a pro-Russia mutiny has engulfed eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the new union will have a combined economic output of $4.5 trillion and bring together 170 million people.  But Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko cracked the ceremonial veneer of the meeting by launching a harsh attack on Moscow for damaging Belarus' economic interests with moves to restrict its exports to Russia.  Belarus, sandwiched between Russia and European Union members Poland and Lithuania, has profited handsomely from Moscow's ban on imports of EU food in retaliation to Western sanctions against Russia by boosting imports of food from the EU nations and reselling it to Russia.  The Russian authorities have retaliated by halting imports of Belarus' own milk and meat, citing alleged sanitary reasons, and banning transit of Belarusian food bound for Kazakhstan through its territory on suspicion that much of it ended up in Russia.

December 23: The Daily Beast: Bin Laden Shooter under investigation for disclosing classified information
The former Navy SEAL who ignited a controversy when he publicly claimed credit for killing Osama bin Laden is under investigation for possibly leaking official secrets, The Daily Beast has learned.  When reached for comment, Ed Buice, NCIS Public Affairs Officer confirmed “The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is in receipt of an allegation that Mr. O’Neill may have revealed classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information. In response, NCIS has initiated an investigation to determine the merit of the allegations.”  It wasn’t clear to whom specifically O’Neill is alleged to have disclosed classified information, or what that information was.  O'Neill contends that the non-disclosure agreements he signed while in the military didn't cover aspects of the raid that he discussed with journalists, according to people familiar with the matter.

December 22: Reuters: From Baltic to Asia: East-West confrontations in the sky heat up
From the skies of the Baltic to the South China Sea, a new era of confrontation with Russia and China is pitting U.S. and allied pilots against their counterparts on a scale not seen since the Cold War era. It’s current and former officials say a major shift for air crews who by and large have spent more than a decade flying largely uncontested missions over Afghanistan and Iraq.   Lying behind the aerial sabre-rattling are high tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow's role in Ukraine's separatist conflict and China’s efforts to build up its military while being more assertive over its claimed maritime boundaries.   

Sweden has complained that a Russian military aircraft nearly hit a civilian airliner.  In August, a U.S. reconnaissance plane and Chinese fighter jet had a near miss over the South China Sea, while Chinese and Japanese fighter pilots increasingly spar over disputed islands.   Experts contend that these incidents are happening on a scale we have not seen in 25 years.  The shooting down of a Malaysia Airline flight last July over eastern Ukraine was a vivid reminder of the dangers to civil aircraft flying over contested air space. Meanwhile NATO reported earlier this month that its jets had scrambled more than 400 times this year as Russian air force jets approached its air space, twice the level from 2013.

December 21: IJ Review: Rubio: President’s Policy does nothing to further freedom of the Cuban people
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) made the Sunday talk show rounds to weigh in on the President’s decision last week to normalize relations with Cuba. Rubio is strongly opposed to Obama’s actions. Meet the Press host Chuck Todd went after Rubio right out of the box, asking, “What was working with the old policy?” as if to suggest that those opposed to Obama’s executive action on Cuba are wrong. But the senator, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 1956, was ready:

That’s not the question. The question is, what new policy can we put in place that will actually achieve our goal? Our goal for Cuba is freedom and liberty for the Cuban people.  And my opposition to what the president has done is it won’t do anything to further that cause.  On the contrary, just yesterday, Raúl Castro gave a speech where he made very clear there will be no political change on the island. Nor did the president ask for any.  So, if you’re going to make concessions to Cuba, if you’re going to recognize them diplomatically, if you’re going to have more commerce with them, there has to be some reciprocal opening on their part towards democracy. There was none.”

December 21: Fox News: Cuban exiles protest normalizing relations with Cuba:
Cuban opposition leaders from the island joined Cuban American politicians and activists on Saturday, pledging to oppose the Presiden's plan to normalize relations with the communist nation and disputing the notion that their community is split by a generational divide.  "The opposition will continue fighting, with or without Barack Obama," Cuban activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez said to cheers.  The gathering at a Little Havana park drew more than 200 people, largely older Cuban exiles who chanted "Obama, traitor!" and waved U.S. and Cuban flags. "The mentality is, 'Hey, we're going to be able to buy Cuban cigars and rum.' Well, it's not a happy thing for us," said Armando Merino, 68, who came to the U.S. at age 14. "I'm here because for the Cuban people, my family in Cuba, they are not able to protest."

The protest featured two high-profile Cuban dissidents: Garcia Perez, who spent 17 years in jail for his activities and has gone on hunger strikes to protest the treatment of political prisoners, and Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the island-based Ladies in White, a group of Cuban mothers and wives of dissidents arrested in the 2003 government crackdown there.  Soler said a normalized relationship between Cuba and the U.S. would "perfect the repressive mechanism of the Cuban government."  "Cuba needs freedom, and that freedom depends on the Cubans," she said. Those protesting argued that Obama's gestures would do nothing to improve the prospects of a democratic Cuba.  "The worst infamy is the pretext he used: He says it's to help the Cuban people," said one speaker, when the opposite is the truth.

December 20: The New York Times: Raul Castro: Thanks USA, but we will remain communists!
President Raul Castro declared victory for the Cuban Revolution on Saturday in a wide-ranging speech, thanking President Obama for “a new chapter” while also reaffirming that restored relations with the U.S. did not mean the end of Communist rule in Cuba.  In a televised speech before Parliament and a group of favored guests  Castro alternated between conciliatory and combative statements directed at the United States.  He stoked the flames of Cuban nationalism, declaring near the end of his statement, “We won the war.” But he also praised  Obama for starting the biggest change in United States-Cuban policy in more than 50 years.  “The Cuban people are grateful,” he said, for Obama’s decision “to remove the obstacles to our relations.”  He added that all issues and disputes between  Cuba and the United States would be on the table in coming discussions about re-establishing formal diplomatic ties between the two countries. But he offered no immediate concessions to demands for improvement in Cuba’s human rights record.

December 19: The Daily Mail: U.S. troops take on ISIS at Iraqi base
A number of militants have been killed in Islamic State's very first battle with U.S. ground troops after the extremists attempted to overrun an Iraqi military base.  The militants attacked Ein al-Asad military base on Sunday where more than 100 U.S. military support troops are based.  Despite launching the surprise attack just after midnight, ISIS's offensive was swiftly repelled when U.S. troops and F18 jets joined in the skirmish in support of the Iraqi Army.  Facing both Iraqi and US troops supported by F18 jets, an unknown number of ISIS attackers were killed during the two hour firefight before being forced to retreat.  Ein al-Asad came under repeated attack by ISIS troops in October, however, now bolstered by the U.S. assistance, it poses a much more formidable target.

December 19: Bloomberg: Obama takes credit for Hillary’s policy push for Cuba normalization
Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House.  From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials.

Clinton played down her own role in the issue, which will surely become important if she decides to run for president. Top prospective Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and  Marco Rubio have all come out against the president’s policy shift.  Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of opening a new relationship with Cuba began almost as soon as she came into office. Obama had campaigned on a promise to engage enemies, but the White House initially was slow to make good on that pledge, and on the Cuba front enacted only a modest relaxation of travel rules. From the start, Clinton pushed to hold Obama to his promise with regard to Cuba.

December 18: The New York Times: It’s all about money: Businesses start scouting Cuba for opportunities
PepsiCo wants in. So do Caterpillar and Marriott International.  Within hours of President Obama’s historic move to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba, companies in the United States were already developing strategies to introduce their products and services to a market they have not been in for the better part of 50 years — if ever.  “Cuba is a potential market for John Deere products and services,” Ken Golden, a spokesman for Deere & Company, a leading maker of farm and construction equipment based in Illinois, said by email. But while there may be robust opportunities for some companies, especially those selling products or goods that could be viewed as enhancing Cuba’s own domestic production or helping to develop its underused resources, other companies could get the cold shoulder.  “For a company like McDonald’s, the Cuban government is going to ask, ‘How does McDonald’s coming in and selling hamburgers help the economy of Cuba?’ ” said Kirby Jones, founder of Alamar Associates, which has advised companies on doing business in Cuba since 1974. “It’s just not going to be like other regions where you see a McDonald’s on every corner.”

December 17: Fox News: Obama hands Cuba’s Castros a major victory, but Congress can still stop it
Establishing ties with Cuba has been on President Obama’s bucket list for some time.  And the president will go on picking off the next items on the bucket list for the next two years of his term unless Congress decides to stop him. So what can Congress do?  Right off the bat, Congress must make it crystal clear to President Obama that he lacks the authority to lift the embargo on Cuba, allow trade to take place between the two nations, let tourists to go to Cuba to bail out the regime or give Cuba have access to capital markets. U.S. law—the Helms-Burton Act of 1996—gives the Congress power to override any action taken by the executive to lift the embargo.

In order to lift the embargo, the Cuban government would have to give the Cuban people a number of rights—of association, speech, political activity, etc.— that was not part of the agreement between the President Cuban dictator Raul Castro.   Congress can also make clear that there are statutory criteria that must be met before the Administration can take Cuba off the State Department list of terrorism sponsors. He must inform Congress that there has been a change of leadership and policies by the Cuban government and that Castro has given assurances that Cuba will no longer support terrorist acts – actions that have not taken place. In addition, the new Senate can make it clear that they will put on hold any nomination of an ambassador to Cuba that the President nominates unless he can guarantee that the Cuban government is no longer a threat to the United States and has decided to grant freedom to people in Cuba. Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL] has already said he plans to do just that.

Finally, Congress can look into the possibility of using policy riders in the upcoming DHS appropriations debate in February and the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations process to deny the president funds for setting up relations.  Congress needs to  act because President Obama has gotten nothing worthwhile in exchange for many substantial concessions made to the Communist regime. After five years of “negotiations” President Obama ended exactly where  Raul Castro’s demands began five years ago. As Senator Marco Rubio said, President “Obama is the worst negotiator since Carter.”

December 17: The New York Times: Obama Announces normalizing relations with Cuba
The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.  In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast. 

Mr. Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with the island nation, an aspiration that remained untenable as long as Cuba held 65-year old Alan P. Gross, an American contractor whose  “crime” was to bring computers to Jews on the island   The advantage in the deal is for Cuba that is seeing its patron (Russia) facing an economic downturn.  The deal will bring hard currency to the Island nation which Cuba can use to fund its military and, according to some, to continue to oppress its citizens.

December 17: CBS Miami: Little Havana erupts in protests about Obama Cuba Policy
News of an American’s release and the administration’s change to U.S. policy toward Cuba has swept through the streets of Little Havana in Miami.  Cuban-Americans have flocked Cafe Versailles, a political hotspot to trade opinions on the news. CBS4’s Natalia Zea spoke with several hard line Cuban-Americans at the Little Havana cafeteria. “It’s a good thing that they freed Alan Gross. He is a patriot,” said Cuban-American Gonzalvo Lopez. But the Cuban-Americans gathered at the restaurant, some with angry signs, seem to agree the U.S. government should not have released three Cuban spies detained by the U.S. 

Edwin Gonzalez and his father-in-law are furious about the Obama Administration’s announcement that it will restore diplomatic relations with Havana by opening up travel, trade and information between the two countries.  “I personally feel it would be a betrayal of him and what he left Cuba for,” said Gonzalez.  President Obama’s position is that isolating Cuba hasn’t worked. Most at the café still don’t want to see this change in policy.

December 17: Fox News: Obama hands Cuba’s Castros a major victory, but Congress can still stop it
Establishing ties with Cuba has been on President Obama’s bucket list for some time. Health care -- done. Amnesty for illegal immigrants -- done. Cuba -- next. This last one also has the added bonus point that it puts him right with the international left, which lionizes Castro.  And the president will go on picking off the next items on the bucket list for the next two years of his term unless Congress decides to stop him. So what can Congress do? 
- Right off the bat, Congress must make it crystal clear to President Obama that he lacks the authority to lift the embargo on Cuba, allow trade to take place between the two nations, let tourists to go to Cuba to bail out the regime or give Cuba have access to capital markets. U.S. law—the Helms-Burton Act of 1996—gives the Congress power to override any action taken by the executive to lift the embargo.
- In order to lift the embargo, the Cuban government would have to give the Cuban people a number of rights—of association, speech, political activity, etc.—that President Obama obviously failed to secure in his 45-minute conversation with Cuban dictator Raul Castro Tuesday. 
- Congress can also make clear to the president that there are statutory criteria that must be met before his administration can take Cuba off the State Department list of terrorism sponsors. The president must inform Congress that there has been a change of leadership and policies of the Cuban government and that Castro has given assurances that Cuba will no longer support terrorist acts. Can President Obama do any of that?
- In addition, Senators should also make clear that they will put a hold on any ambassador that Mr. Obama nominates to serve in Cuba unless he can guarantee that the Cuban government is no longer a threat to the United States and has decided to grant freedom to people in Cuba. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has already said he plans to do that.
- Finally, Congress can look into the possibility of using policy riders in the upcoming DHS appropriations debate in February and the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations process to deny the president funds for setting up relations. 

Congress needs to  act because President Obama has gotten nothing worthwhile in exchange for many substantial concessions made to the Communist regime. After five years of “negotiations” President Obama ended exactly where  Raul Castro’s demands began five years ago. As Senator Marco Rubio said, President “Obama is the worst negotiator since Carter.”

December 8: The U.K. Independent: The Risk of Nuclear War Increases
with Tensions and Insecure Stockpiles:

Urgent action is needed to minimize the risk of a nuclear war, more than 120 senior military, political and diplomatic figures from across the world have warned.  Ahead of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which starts today, the experts wrote in a letter that the danger of such a conflict was “underestimated or insufficiently understood” by world leaders.

December 8: Ynet News: Iran is Playing with Fire:
The strikes in Syria on Sunday afternoon, which have been attributed to the Israeli Air Force, were likely intended to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard continues to play with fire by equipping Hezbollah with arms that have the capability to cause widespread losses and destruction in Israel. he appraisal is based on the fact that the targets were in two distant areas – one near the international airport in Damascus and the other in Dimas, west of the capital, mere miles from the border with Lebanon.

 It is widely believed that shipments of missiles and other arms destined for Hezbollah land in Iranian cargo jets at the airport in Damascus, then transferred to a Syrian military storage site, until they are sent to over the border to Lebanon.  It is reasonable to assume that Sunday's strike, if it actually was undertaken by the IAF through Lebanese airspace, was launched based on precise intelligence and after all operational and strategic aspects were considered.

December 7: McClathchy News: Israel May Have Taken Out Russian Anti-Aircraft System in Syria
Suspected Israeli aircraft bombed a military complex on the outskirts of Damascus’ international airport Sunday in what Syrian state television said was an attack on warehouses housing an advance Russian-made anti-aircraft system.  The attack would be consistent with repeated Israeli pledges that it would not allow Syria to deploy the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system and raised the question of whether Russia had sent new components of the system to Syria, perhaps in violation of an August pledge not to complete delivery under terms of a United Nations arms embargo.  The Israeli military offered no comment on the report.

The Russian sale of the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria has long been controversial. Israel first objected to the sale when it was agreed to in 2007, fearing that the system, with a range of nearly 50 miles, would allow the Syrians to down Israeli aircraft while still in Israeli airspace. Considered one of the most sophisticated anti-aircraft defense systems in the world, it is said to be able to track as many as 100 targets simultaneously.  An agreement to sell the system to Iran collapsed under international pressure in 2010.

December 3: The Daily Caller:
Netanyahu Fires Two Cabinet Ministers and Calls for New Elections in March
Israel’s Knesset voted Wednesday to dissolve, kickstarting a period of likely uncertainty and infighting, culminating in elections slated for March 17. The vote was triggered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu firing two prominent cabinet members on Tuesday and calling for elections. Both deposed ministers are heads of other parties, which constituted the ruling Likud party’s inter-party coalition: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of the Hatnuah party, and Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid. In a speech following the firings, Netanyahu accused them of “opposition from within the government.”

“I don’t think Netanyahu would have called elections unless he was betting on himself,” Danielle Pletka, a top Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. But, Pletka insisted, “the Israeli public is notoriously fickle,” and there may be surprising changes before the elections in March.  The Guardian reported Tuesday that a flash poll predicted top results for Netanyahu’s Likud, together with Jewish Home, which advocates the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian-held West Bank.


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