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- 07/13/16--08:06: _These are the legal...
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- 06/20/16--09:27: ISIS is suffering a 'humiliating defeat'
- 06/21/16--07:57: These 10 world-changing invasions were planned but never happened
- First, going by the attention it has commanded in Washington, it appears that the South China Sea issue has already become the definitive point of reference of America’s Southeast Asia policy. Southeast Asian states, on the other hand, have expressed their desire precisely that the South China Sea issue should not overshadow or dominate the regional agenda. Hence, even as the United States continues to be present and engaged on South China Sea issues in the region, equal attention, if not more, should be afforded to broaden the scope of their engagement.
- Second, in pushing back Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, the United States must be careful not to inadvertently contribute to the militarization of the region. There is talk about the deployment of a second carrier group to the region, and the U.S.S. John C. Stennis and U.S.S. Ronald Reagan are already patrolling the Philippine Sea. On the one hand, this is presumed to enhance the deterrent effect of the American presence in the region. Yet on the other hand, Washington should be mindful of the fact that China’s South China Sea claim is also informed by a deep sense of vulnerability, especially to the military activities that the United States conducts in its vicinity.
- Finally, in its desire to reassure the region, the United States has sought to strengthen its relations with regional partners and allies. This is necessary, and it is welcomed. At the same time however, Washington should also ensure that this strengthening and deepening of relations is undergirded by an alignment of interests and shared outlooks. This cannot, and should not, be assumed.
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- 07/13/16--08:06: These are the legal implications of the South China Sea ruling
- Any historic rights to resources in the waters within China’s apparent claim to areas within the so-called nine-dash line were extinguished where they were incompatible with the maritime zones set out under UNCLOS.
- None of the disputed above-high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, individually or collectively, are capable of generating extended maritime claims (beyond a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea).
- China has violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration activities, constructing artificial islands, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the Philippines’ EEZ.
- China has caused severe harm to the coral reef environment and violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened or endangered species through its recent large-scale land reclamation and construction of artificial islands on seven features in the South China Sea.
- China has aggravated the dispute since the start of the arbitration process, particularly through large-scale land reclamation and artificial island construction activities, which have inflicted irreparable harm on the marine environment.
- 07/13/16--10:01: Here's what's next for China in the South China Sea
- 07/13/16--14:04: Report: China likely hacked a US banking regulator
- 07/14/16--06:32: ISIS claims that its fighters have downed a Syrian jet
Iraq’s forces reached downtown Fallujah on June 17, 2016 marking a huge victory over the Islamic State. The militants held sway over the city for more than two years, and it had always been a hotbed of anti-government sentiment in the country since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Given those two factors it appeared that Baghdad’s forces would have a tough time breaking IS’s defenses as it did in previous battles like Ramadi, although the outcome was never in doubt. What happened instead was when the tough outer shell of the insurgent’s ring around Fallujah was penetrated there was a soft inside and quick progress although fighting is still on going.
Prime Minister Haidar Abadi announced the start of the Fallujah operation on May 22, 2016. As in previous campaigns the Iraqi forces began going from the outside in working to clear the surrounding towns first. Garma for example, which had been fought over for two years was freed on May 23.
Within seven days the Golden Division was already starting its assault upon the southern section of Fallujah. Then in 17 days they were in the downtown freeing the government complex. Almost the entire northern section of the city is still under IS control, but it was a stunning advance in just under a month.
The previous effort to free Ramadi was much more of a slugfest. It started on October 2, 2015, and took more than two months to get to the downtown area. The entire city was not declared freed until the start of February 2016. There the Iraqi forces were caught up going through many of the same surrounding towns over and over before it could start attacking the major parts of the city itself.
It was expected that Fallujah would play out much the same way since IS had controlled it for so long giving them ample time to build up IED fields, bunkers, tunnels, etc. Things turned out much easier however.
Part of it was the development of the Iraqi forces and their tactics in assaulting urban centers. For instance, they have learned to shore up their flanks while moving through streets by using bulldozers to build up berms to protect against car bombs. The commanding officer General Abdul al-Saadi said that the Iraqi forces were able to flush out IS units and that exposed them to air strikes.
At the same time, it didn’t appear that the insurgents’ defenses were as strong as in previous battles. One sergeant from the Golden Division for example was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying that there weren’t as many booby-trapped homes in Fallujah as he had encountered in Ramadi. Together these two factors help explain the fast paced advance the government made through the city.
There is still plenty of fighting ahead as most of the northern half of the city is still under IS control. At the same time, the pace of the advance so far would suggest that taking the rest of Fallujah should go quickly as the first part did. This was a stunning victory for Baghdad, and a humiliating defeat for the Islamic State.
The next big issue is how to rebuild the city as the government doesn’t have any money to do anything past restore the most basic of services.
On June 20, Gen. Mark Milley, the US Army chief of staff, ranked four nations as the most dangerous to US national security: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.
Though there was no definitive ranking of these nations, he stressed that Russia was No. 1, according to Breaking Defense.
It is the only country that is "literally an existential threat," Milley said at an Association of the US Army breakfast, adding that Russia could physically destroy the US. In addition, the country has postured itself as an aggressive state over that past several years.
In a January interview with Task & Purpose, Rebecca Zimmerman, an associate policy analyst with RAND Corporation, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was doing what is referred to as "measures short of war," operating in a way that stops short of requiring US military response — but not by much.
Milley cited the country's response to Crimea, the attack on Georgia, and the increase in defense spending on modernization efforts as posturing. He also suggested that Russia was invading sovereign nations in a way that has not been seen since 1945.
Milley suggested that while Russia is aggressive, China is "assertive."
While its navy has begun exploring disputed waters, the country has made no attempts to venture into other sovereign nations. In addition, the China is not our enemy … yet.
"I would caution anyone from saying China is an 'adversary,'" he said.
The issue is the long-term potential. Its economic growth and increasing military power suggest a steady rise and may indicate a major power shift, which could be dangerous in the future.
Though Iran seems to be compliant with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, the nation still remains a question in the minds of the security community. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that old uranium particles found at a base in Iran suggested that President Hassan Rouhani was lying when he said there were no plans to acquire nuclear weapons.
Though he did not dwell on the topic, Milley said, "There's no doubt Iran is a malign actor."
Yes, everyone knows it has a small military and a petulant leader and is a resource-depleted country. But North Korea does have nuclear capabilities. All four characteristics make for an unstable nation with very little to lose. Plus, North Korea is backed by China in most instances.
Though the threats of nuclear destruction have all proved to be empty words said by paper tigers, that doesn't mean they always will be.
"Just because it didn't happen before," Milley said, "is not a guarantee it won't happen tomorrow."
Strategists say the first casualty of war is the plan. In a few cases, the plan never reached the war stage. And if these 10 invasions had happened, the world would be a dramatically different place.
1. War Plan Red: The U.S. Invasion of Canada
In the post-WWI era, fresh from battlefield victory in Europe, the United States was building its military to compete with those of the other world powers. It was a time of global imperialism, when the aspirations of any country could end up sparking a war anywhere, with anyone. To this end, the U.S. drew up a series of “Rainbow War Plans,” filled with possible war scenarios that were coded by color. The first on the list was War Plan Red: The U.S. War with Britain.
In the age of the “Special Relationship” the U.S. enjoys with the UK, we tend to forget Anglo-American relations haven’t always been this close. Before the rise of the Soviet Union, the U.S.’ “special relationship” was more akin to its relations with Russia. Catherine the Great traded directly with the American Colonies despite the British ban on such trading and Russian ships traded with the colonies during the Revolution. The Russians kept other European powers out of the American Civil War.
War Plan Red did not involve any U.S. vs. UK action outside the Western Hemisphere. The authors believed capturing Canada would make Britain sue for peace. The first step would be an American invasion of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, followed by a move West into Quebec. Once the Province of Quebec falls, the Canadians would have been unable to move men and supplies in either direction.
This would have been followed by thrusts to capture the Great Lakes area (which is also the Canadian industrial center) to prevent attacks on the American industrial centers in the Rust Belt regions. An attack from Grand Forks, North Dakota would capture the Canadian Central Rail system in Winnipeg, and a joint blockade an amphibious invasion was called to capture British Columbia in the West.
2. The Canadian Invasion of The United States
As if the Canadians knew something was up down south, they had an invasion scheme of their own. Literally called Defence Scheme No. 1, it called for immediate action as soon as evidence of an American invasion was uncovered. The Canadians believed the U.S. would strike Montreal and the Great Lakes regions first, then Westward into the prairies and into British Columbia.
In 1930, Canadian intelligence developed its counter plan. It was designed to buy time for Canadians to mobilize for war and to receive help from Great Britain. Units designed for speed of movement would capture major cities in Washington State as others in the East would capture cities in Minnesota and the Great Plains States. French Canadian forces would move to capture Albany, New York while an amphibious assault would land in Maine.
As the Americans began to push the Canadians out, the retreating troops would destroy food and infrastructure as they went.he Royal Navy at the time considered Canada to be indefensible and would not have sent a large force to help… but the Canadians didn’t know that at the time.
3. Operation Downfall: The U.S. Invasion of Japan
Operation Downfall was the codename for the Allied invasion of Japan at the end of World War II. Japan surrendered after the United States dropped two atomic bombs and the Soviet Union entered the Pacific War, handily defeating Japanese forces on the Chinese mainland. Downfall would have been the largest amphibious operation in world history, a landing even bigger than the ones at Normandy the previous year.
The invasion was divided into two parts, Operations Olympic and Coronet. Olympic was the capture of the southern portion of the Japanese main island of Kyushu. Coronet used assets captured in Olympic to invade the main island of Honshu in the plains areas near Tokyo. The plan called for five million American troops with an additional one million British and Commonwealth forces. The Japanese are estimated to have mustered 35 million regular, reserve, and conscripted troops.
The Japanese correctly predicted the U.S. war plan and their defensive operation plan was an all-out defense of Kyushu with little left for defenses anywhere else. A study conducted for the War Department at the time estimated at least 1.7 million American casualties because the study assumed Japanese civilians would join in the island’s defense.
4. The Soviet Invasion of Western Europe
The Eastern Bloc countries maintained a defensive posture for much of the Cold War. None of the Soviets’ war plans called for nuclear weapons until after Joseph Stalin’s 1953 death. It was after 1953 that the nuclear tensions began to ratchet up on the continent. NATO countries had their own individual plans for nuclear war, as well.
The UK alone planned to drop at least 40 nuclear weapons on Eastern Europe. The American Single Integrated Operation Plan, first created in 1960, called for raining thousands of nuclear strikes on Communist countries, even if they weren’t at war with the U.S. For the West, the destruction would be so absolute, it didn’t matter what came after. For the Russians and their allies, the war didn’t stop at the nuclear exchange. Nukes only shaped the conventional battlefield.
After the exchanges, Eastern armies were to pour West, capturing cities in West Germany and pushing all the way to France. Czechoslovak armies took the middle of Europe, through to the Pyrenees while Polish and Soviet armies took the Northern parts. They planned a five-to-one advantage in troop strength and hoped to be at the Atlantic Coast within 14 days.
5. Sino-Soviet War
This one was actually a “border conflict” between the two Communist countries that almost turned into a nuclear conflict. It started over a small island on the Ussuri River, 3/4 of a mile in area. The river is the border between Russia and the People’s Republic of China.
In 1964, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ceded the island to China but rescinded the recognition after Chairman Mao threatened to claim other Russian areas for China. By 1968, the Red Army was massed on the border.
At the time, the Chinese were numerically superior but technologically inferior to the Russians. Mao’s strategy of “man over weapons” essentially meant he would throw as many Chinese troops at the Soviets as it took – and the Soviets were ready to oblige him but not really sure if they could win.
The Politburo in Moscow believed that if it came to war, the USSR would have to use nuclear weapons to win. Leonid Brezhnev even asked the U.S. to remain neutral if the Russians used nukes in the war.
6. The Soviet Invasion of Israel
The 1967 Six-Day War began with a massive Israeli pre-emptive strike against Egyptian airfields. The Israelis destroyed the Egyptian Air Forces on the ground within hours. With air superiority, Israeli forces moved into the Gaza Strip and advanced into the Sinai Peninsula inflicting heavy losses on the Egyptians while taking few of their own. In response, Egypt convinced Jordan and Syria to intervene, which resulted in the Israeli capture of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Golan Heights.
In the days of the Cold War, the Israeli-Arab conflict extended far beyond the borders of the contemporary Middle East. The Soviet Union was the patron of the Arab countries in those days, a counterweight to the U.S. support for Israel. The Soviets were not happy about the rapid Israeli advance and warned the U.S. that if they didn’t do something about it, the Soviet Union would.
The Russians prepared an amphibious invasion of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, with full air support. Strategic bombers and nuclear-armed naval forces were already en route to the Middle East when the Soviet Premiere delivered his threat to Washington.
7. The Mexican Invasion of The U.S.
In the days leading up to the U.S. entry into World War I, British intelligence intercepted a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German ambassador in Mexico. The note instructed the ambassador to offer a German-Mexican alliance in case the Americans join World War I against Germany.
The Germans would fund a Mexican invasion of territories lost during the Mexican-American war in the 1840s. Instead, the intercepted telegram was published in the U.S., causing a huge public furor and inflaming anti-German sentiment.
The plan called for an invasion and annexation of Texas, New Mexico, California, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as parts of Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma. The Germans hoped that, even if Mexico didn’t reconquer the territory, the declaration of war would keep American men and ships in the West and stem the flow of arms and supplies to the World War I allies.
8. The Kaiser’s Invasion of the U.S.
That wasn’t the first time Kaiser Wilhelm planned an attack on U.S. soil. The Kaiser disliked and distrusted Americans, believing American capitalism an immoral and corrupting practice. He also believed U.S. imperialism in the Pacific threatened German hegemony over the Samoas there.
In 1897, he ordered the German General Staff to develop an invasion of the United States to stem its growing regional and economic influence. The Imperial German Navy would never be large enough to carry out any of the plans developed.
The first draft plan called for the invasion of Hampton Roads, Virginia, in an operation that specifically targeted the U.S. Navy. After the decisive American victory in the Spanish-American War, the plan was changed to focus on invading via New York and Boston. The plan required sixty warships and 100,000 German troops. The German ships were to bombard and invade the largest cities on the Atlantic.
9. Confederate Invasion of Mexico and the Caribbean
150 years after the Civil War, it’s hard to remember that a Union victory in the Civil War wasn’t guaranteed. And in the years surrounding the war, Americans on both side of the slavery issue were anxious to expand American territory. That didn’t change just because there were now two Americas.
The Confederates never thought of their cause as lost, either. In their postwar plans, Confederate leaders made plans for expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. They even attempted to destabilize areas of Mexico so they could take their battle-hardened army right to Mexico City. They also planned to expand their slave territories to Brazil, where two Confederate explorers established colonies (New Texas and Americana) for 20,000 rebels after the South lost the war.
10. Napoleonic France Invades Australia
In 1800, L’Empereur sent a French expedition to British New Holland (now Australia) ostensibly to conduct surveys in geography and natural history. Two ships led by a Frenchman named Nicolas Baudin sailed for three years along Australia, Tasmania, and other islands in the region.
They collected natural specimens that were sent back to France and uncovered some 2500 species of plant and animal. Baudin did not survive the expedition, dying on Mauritius in 1803.
One of the explorers, Francois Peron, authored a confidential report for Napoleon that outlined what they saw as English encroachments on the territory, accusing the English of land grabs. He believed the French could use the land more effectively and Peron began to feed military and political information back to France.
Baudin himself may even have had a role in developing the invasion information, allegedly preparing a report on how to invade Sydney Cove. They believed 1,800 French troops back by Irish soldiers and convicts could topple British control of the entire area.
BEIRUT – A Hezbollah official has discussed the recent battles southwest of Aleppo, where the party in recent days reportedly suffered its worst losses since entering the conflict.
“The takfiri groups have been trying every day since three months ago to win the battle in Aleppo with US, Saudi and Turkish support and planning, but they failed to achieve their goals,” Sheikh Nabil Qaouk said Monday at a funeral for a Hezbollah fighter.
He also boasted that Hezbollah managed to “inflict a historic loss” against insurgents active in the flashpoint front, even though rebels seized the villages of Khalsah and Zitan southwest of Aleppo over the weekend amid fierce battles that left a number of Hezbollah fighters dead.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tracking developments in the war-torn country reported that Hezbollah suffered 25 casualties in the fighting; the latest clashes in the region where the Army of Conquest led by the Al-Nusra Front has pushed back the regime’s front-lines since early May.
“It's the highest toll for Hezbollah fighters in a single battle,” the NGO’s chief told AFP.
For its part, the pro-Hezbollah website SouthLebanon.org, which publicizes funerals of the militia's fighters killed in Syria, has publicized an unusually high number of death notices in recent days.
However, Qaouk did not directly bring up the startling casualty count, and instead said that “the heroes of the resistance” killed 167 rebels, referring to a report circulated in pro-Hezbollah media purporting to cite a death toll provided by the Army of Conquest.
Rebels denied that they suffered such heavy losses in the heavy Aleppo fighting.
Qaouk also said that his party has not yet dispatched its full fighting force to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The participation of Hezbollah in the Syrian battlefield is still a small fraction of its overall forces,” the deputy chief of the party’s executive council claimed.
“If the need arises to increase the scope our engagement there, we will not hesitate do so with full courage and will.”
Hezbollah’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is expected to speak on developments in Syria during a Friday night address.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China's DF-21D "carrier killer" antiship ballistic missile isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers' longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.
Therefore, on paper, the Chinese can deny aircraft carriers the luxury of wading off of their shores and forcing them to operate outside of their effective range.
But Richardson contested that notion.
"I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly," Richardson acknowledged. But "A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it's much more difficult."
China's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR), bolstered by a massive modernization push and advanced radar installations on the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, have theoretically given them the ability to project power for hundreds of miles.
"The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response," said Richardson, adding that China's extension into the Pacific created a "suite of capabilities" that were of "pressing concern."
But the US Navy won't be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.
"In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you've got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided ... You're talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge."
"Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult," he continued.
Richardson was clear that China's purported capabilities were only speculations.
"What you see often is a display of 'Here's this launcher, here's a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it's solid-color black inside' ... And that's just not the reality of the situation," he said.
"You've got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty," Richardson continued.
Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft-carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for "high-end war fighting and training," as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.
The physical and psychological rigors of combat are intense, and militaries have the challenge preparing their soldiers for the worst of what they may face on the battlefield.
The world's militaries require their personnel to go through grueling training to equip them for life in the field, and to make sure that soldiers who might not have prior combat experience are still in a state of readiness.
Here are photos from around the world of some of the toughest training imaginable.
In mainland China, paramilitary policeman face an intense regimen. Here, the policemen take part in a training session in muddy water.
Later in the training, the paramilitary police also have to crawl under fire obstacles ...
... and hone their hand-to-hand combat skills.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Japan's military was on alert for a possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, a government source said on Tuesday, with media reporting its navy and anti-missile Patriot batteries had been told to shoot down any projectile heading for Japan.
North Korea appeared to have moved an intermediate-range missile to its east coast, but there were no signs of an imminent launch, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported, citing an unnamed government source.
A South Korean Defense Ministry official said it could not confirm the Yonhap report and said the military was watching North Korea's missile activities closely.
In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said the United States continued to coordinate with its allies in the region and was watching the situation "very, very closely."
"We of course would have concerns if the North Koreans were to conduct another missile test... we certainly would urge North Korea to refrain from doing that sort of thing," Peter Cook told reporters in Washington.
Tension in the region has been high since isolated North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.
Japan has put its anti-ballistic missile forces on alert several times this year after detecting signs of missile launches.
The Japanese government source said there were again signs North Korea might be preparing a launch of the intermediate-range Musudan missile, the same missile it attempted to launch in May, prompting the order for the military to go on alert.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said if North Korea goes ahead with a launch it would again be in violation of U.N. resolutions and defying repeated warnings by the international community.
"It will further isolate the North from the international community," ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told a briefing.
The United Nations Security Council in March imposed tightened sanctions against North Korea over its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
North Korea has failed in all four attempts to launch the Musudan, which theoretically has the range to reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.
North Korea tried unsuccessfully to test-launch the Musudan three times in April, according to U.S. and South Korean officials, while a May attempt failed a day after Japan put its military on alert.
North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until this year.
A British-trained navy officer who joined Islamic State has turned supergrass after being arrested by Kuwaiti authorities, becoming one of the most senior figures to hand over intelligence on the terrorist group.
Kuwait-born Ali Omar Mohammad Alosaimi, 27, was picked up on the Iraq-Syria border on July 4, according to officials.
Alosaimi, who had three years of merchant navy officers' training at South Tyneside College’s Marine School - one of the UK’s most prestigious maritime colleges - left his home in South Shields for Syria in April 2014.
Alosaimi, who has since married a Syrian woman with whom he has a child, is now cooperating with Kuwaiti authorities, who said he has confessed to playing a senior role within Isil.
Mugshots of suspected Islamic State jihadists arrested by Kuwaiti authorities earlier this month. Ali Alosaimi (top right) is among those detainedCredit: Kuwaiti government handout
He said he was put in charge of oil fields in Islamic State-held territory around Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital in northeast Syria, where he managed exports. He said the group's leaders had chosen him for his proficiency in English, expert engineering knowledge and previous experience at a state-owned Kuwaiti oil company.
Isil seized control of the Syrian government’s most lucrative fields after capturing vast swathes of the east of the country in the summer of 2014. It appointed some of its most skilled foreign jihadists to run the oil business - the group's biggest money-maker.
Alosaimi, who used the nom de guerre Abu Turab al-Kuwaiti, revealed to interrogators how Isil smuggles oil and sells it in black market to regional buyers as well as international traders at a lower price to undercut the competition. He also handed over names of individuals involved in the trade.
He said he had a “good relationship” with President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which bought oil from the Islamist group, and claimed to have attended meetings with senior Syrian officials as well as Iranian intelligence officers.
Kuwait, a US ally, has passed the information on to the international coalition fighting Isil.
Alosaimi is one of only a very small number of captured senior Isil figures that has provided intelligence on the group and will likely prove crucial in the coalition's targeting of its oil trade.
Oil is the largest source of funding for Isil, which is thought to still make as much as $30million (£23m) a month from sales despite frequent aerial attacks by the coalition.
Alosaimi’s testimony also provides some of the most concrete evidence yet of the deals cut between the Assad regime and its enemy Isil.
According to his uncle, Ali was radicalised after his younger brother Abdullah was killed in battle in Iraq in late 2013. “He seemed a changed man after his brother’s death,” he said. “He grew a beard and did not talk to anyone like he used to. He used to call his family every fortnight but he visited at the end of 2013 and that was the last we heard from him.”
A few months later he travelled to Syria. His name appears on leaked Isil "entrance forms" seen by the Telegraph, in which he described himself as a “navy officer in Britain.”
Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said it was unusual for Western fighters to be made privy to such high-level information, and that the intelligence was a coup for the coalition.
“The capture of Alosaimi provides a valuable source of information in the war against the Islamic State,” he said. “Such information is unfortunately rare, as under the coalition's current policy of airstrikes, there is no mechanisms for the gathering of information from inside the jihadist networks.”
This article was written by Josie Ensor from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's armed forces will coordinate distribution of food and medicine as part of President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to control severe shortages of staple goods in the crisis-hit OPEC country, according to a decree published on Tuesday.
The decree creates a new body called the Supply Command that will issue new regulations governing the purchase, sale and distribution of food, medicine, personal hygiene items and home cleaning products. The body, headed by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, will oversee government agencies that had regulated such activities. It can force private businesses to sell their production to state entities.
Critics dismissed the plan as insufficient to resolve the country's economic problems including Soviet-style shortages, triple-digit inflation and heavy dependence on imports.
"(It) implies the use of the Armed Forces' operational capacity throughout the country ... in ensuring national supply of strategic products to guarantee the right of all Venezuelans to nutrition and health," the decree said.
Maduro issued the decree through economic emergency powers that allow him to pass legislation without the approval of Congress, which is controlled by the opposition following last year's sweeping victory in legislative elections.
Padrino on Tuesday appeared on state television as part of a presidential economic commission, saying the change was "a matter of discipline, not one of militarization."
"I don't like militarization, military intervention in non-military matters," he added.
A combination of low oil prices and a decaying socialist system of currency and price controls has left Venezuela with the world's highest inflation and a severe recession.
The president, a former bus driver, insists his government is the victim of an "economic war" led by political adversaries with the help of the United States.
Maduro's opponents, who are seeking to use broad popular outrage over the crisis to seek a recall referendum on his rule, say that the only way to revert the crisis is to scrap the system of socialist controls.
"The official announcements to address the economic crisis and supply only deepen the causes of the problem," said economist and pollster Luis Vicente Leon via Twitter.
"If we assume that the cause of the crisis is the economic war and not the primitive model of intervention and control, everything else will be useless."
(Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Richard Chang)
The much-awaited rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague—in response to the Philippines’ 2013 submission over the maritime entitlements and status of features encompassed in China’s expansive South China Sea claims—were released this morning. Taken together, the rulings were clear, crisp, comprehensive, and nothing short of a categorical rejection of Chinese claims.
Among other things, the court ruled China’s nine-dash line claim to the South China Sea invalid because of Beijing’s earlier ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
In a move that surprised many observers, the court also ventured a ruling on the status of every feature in the Spratly Islands, clarifying that none of them were islands and hence do not generate an exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Significantly, it ruled that Mischief Reef, which China has occupied since 1995, and Second Thomas Shoal, where China has blockaded Philippine marines garrisoned on an old vessel that was deliberately run aground there, to be within the EEZ of the Philippines.
In the neighborhood
Now that the rulings have been made, what are the implications and way forward for concerned states?
For the Philippines, the legal victory presents a paradoxical challenge for the new government. Prior to the ruling, newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte indicated on several occasions that he was prepared to depart from his predecessor’s more hardline position on the South China Sea to engage Beijing in dialogue and possibly even joint development.
He even hinted that he would tone down Manila’s claim in exchange for infrastructure investment. Given that the ruling decisively turns things in Manila’s favor, it remains to be seen whether the populist Duterte administration would be able to sell the idea of joint development of what are effectively Philippine resources without risking a popular backlash.
This will be difficult but not necessarily impossible, given that the Philippines would likely still require logistical and infrastructural support of some form or other for such development projects.
Since the submission of the Philippine case in 2013, China has taken the position of “no recognition, no participation, no acceptance, and no execution,” as described by Chinese professor Shen Dingli.
Beijing continues to adhere to this position, and is likely to dig in its heels given the comprehensive nature of the court’s rejection of China’s claims. This, in turn, will feed the conspiracy theories swirling around Beijing that the court is nothing but a conspiracy against China.
Not surprisingly, in defiance of the ruling, China continues to insist on straight baselines and EEZs in the Spratlys. Away from the glare of the media however, the rulings are likely to occasion intense internal discussions and debates within the Chinese leadership as to how best to proceed.
Many analysts have the not-unfounded concern that hawkish perspectives will prevail in this debate, at least in the short term—fed by the deep sensibilities to issues of security and sovereignty, and a (misplaced) sense of injustice. This would doubtless put regional stability at risk.
Instead, China should do its part to bring the Code of Conduct it has been discussing with ASEAN to a conclusion as a demonstration of its commitment to regional order and stability, and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Beijing should also continue to engage concerned states in dialogue, but these dialogues cannot be conducted on the premise of Chinese “unalienable ownership” of and “legitimate entitlements” in the South China Sea.
ASEAN will be hosting several ministerial meetings later this month, and the ruling will doubtless be raised in some form or other, certainly in closed-door discussions.
For ASEAN, the key question is whether the organization can and will cobble together a coherent, consensus position in response to the ruling, and how substantive the response will be (they should at least make mention of the importance of international law to which all ASEAN states subscribe). For now though, it is too early to tell.
As an Asia-Pacific country, the United States has set great stock in the principle of freedom of navigation, and has articulated this as a national interest with regards to the South China Sea. There are however, three challenges for the United States as it proceeds to refine its policy in the region:
It's summer and it seems like the perfect season for nations to begin training their troops with major operations. Australia is no exception as it launches its annual Army training, Exercise Hamel.
Named after The Battle of Hamel at France in 1918, the exercise takes its roots from its successful attack on German positions by Australian forces in conjunction with American units — paving the way for an allied victory of World War I.
Keeping up with this spirit, the Australians will host over 8,000 troops during its trilateral exercise in South Australia — including US Marines and soldiers, and the New Zealand Army.
Check out the photos of what went down down-under.
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia.
An Australian Army soldier moves across the mock battlefield in the early hours of the morning.
A platoon sergeant looks at a map of Cultana Training Area in order to complete his objective.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
A couple of weeks ago, Saab unveiled its next-generation fighter. Dubbed 'The Smart Fighter," it is aimed at markets not yet cleared to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as reported by the Daily Mail.
With its fly-by-wire avionics and distinctive delta wing design, the Gripen E is similar to its predecessors. The difference is in its increased fuel capacity, 20% more thrust, extra pylons for carrying more weapons, and advanced electronics that feed tactical information to the pilot and coop forces at all times.
It is also designed for quick and efficient maintenance; Saab says the turnaround time between missions is 10 minutes and the entire engine can be replaced in an hour.
At $85 million apiece, the Gripen E is significantly cheaper than the F-35, making it an attractive alternative.
Some other Saab Gripen E features:
The fighter's Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA, antennas — called elements — work together or independently to track different targets.
Its Infrared Search and Track, or IRST, system looks for heat emissions from other aircraft and from objects on the ground and sea surface without giving its position away.
Its Electronic Warfare system alerts the pilot when the plane has been detected by radar, warns for incoming missiles, and is used for electronic attacks.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
By the power of the Constitution, American presidents are the ultimate link between the people and the military. As commanders-in-chief, presidents are responsible for committing the nation to war — a very tall order.
Here are 4 presidents that navigated the vagaries of public sentiment better than most:
1. Polk told Americans that Mexico 'shed American blood on American soil!'
President James K. Polk was an expansionist and wanted land from Mexico so that the U.S. would stretch from sea to shining sea.
There is a dispute among historians on whether Polk wanted a war or was just willing to accept one, but he sent 4,000 troops under general and future president Zachary Taylor to a portion of land claimed by both Texas and Mexico.
Ten months later on May 8, 1846, Mexican troops attacked what they perceived to be American troops on Mexican land.
Polk acted quickly when he got word of the fighting. On May 11 he asked Congress for a declaration of war with the cry that Mexico had “shed American blood on American soil!”
While a very few anti-expansionist Whigs – including then-Senator Abraham Lincoln – protested the fact that it was technically not “American soil,” the rest of the Whigs and the majority of Congress voted for war.
2. Lincoln rode on the coattails of his generals
President Abraham Lincoln, one of the most popular and well-respected leaders in American history, was not always popular in his time. Indeed, during the road to the 1864 election with the war going badly.
Even Lincoln expected a crushing defeat in his re-election bid. When the Democrats nominated Gen. George B. McClellan on a platform of peace with the breakaway Confederacy, all seemed lost.
But Lincoln had pushed hard for aggressive generals during the war, and two of them saved him in the final months before the election. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had been handpicked by Lincoln for the top job, and Grant’s favored subordinate, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, delivered Atlanta to the president on Sep. 3, 1864.
The victory in Atlanta was soon followed by Grant’s wins in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. With the war suddenly going well, Lincoln was able to rally the North to keep going and win the war.
Lincoln still nearly lost the election. But, despite how closely contested each state was (he won nearly all of them by narrow margins), he achieved an electoral college landslide of 212 to 21. He saved the Union but doomed himself to an assassin’s bullet on Apr. 14, 1865, less than six weeks after his second inauguration.
3. Wilson leaked the “Zimmerman Telegram” to the press
President Woodrow Wilson was notoriously reluctant to join World War I despite Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare which killed hundreds of Americans and sank prized ships.
One of the tipping points for Wilson was when Britain revealed the “Zimmerman Telegram” to him.
The Zimmerman Telegram was a secret proposal from Germany to Mexico. Germany promised to give Mexico Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico — if Mexico entered World War I as a German ally against the US.
Wilson authorized the Navy to begin arming civilian vessels and leaked the telegram to the public. Once the American public was in a fury, he went to Congress and asked for a declaration of war.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The ruling in the case brought by the Philippines against China’s activities in the South China Sea is significant – not just because it involves China, but because it tackles key ambiguities and uncertainties in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Both China and the Philippines are parties to UNCLOS. As it arose from the convention, the tribunal that heard the case could not resolve the core sovereignty issues at stake – that is, who owns which feature.
The key findings can be summarised as follows:
Reinforcing the rule of law at sea
By tackling key “unfinished business” in the Law of the Sea, especially countering apparently historically inspired unilateral claims to maritime spaces, as well as clarifying the status of insular features and their capacity to generate broad maritime claims, the decision is hugely significant for the Law of the Sea’s development and international law generally.
UNCLOS is a remarkable treaty. Almost all countries subscribe to it. While it is notable that the United States is not a party, the US nonetheless conducts its maritime claims and policies in line with the convention’s terms.
A key achievement of the convention was agreement on an overarching spatial framework of maritime claims. This includes a territorial sea out to 12 nautical miles and an EEZ out to a 200-nautical-mile limit. These expansions of maritime claims offshore are balanced by the rights of other states in these zones – for example, by guaranteeing freedom of navigation.
Exceptions to the rule threaten this structure. Some countries sign up to the convention’s terms but still try to maintain more expansive unilateral claims, often justified on hazy historical grounds.
This ruling arguably closes loopholes and counters temptations to engage in exceptionalism on the part of some countries.
Does it matter?
The decision undoubtedly represents a sweeping victory for the Philippines. It is, however, unenforceable. And from the outset China has refused to recognise the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
China’s reaction to the verdict was swift and uncompromising. A Foreign Ministry statement declared the decision was “null and void with no binding force”.
Nonetheless, the tribunal did evaluate whether it had the jurisdiction to hear the case. For the most part, it determined it did on questions related to the Law of the Sea. As far as the tribunal is concerned, the award is legally binding on China as a party to UNCLOS.
China appears highly likely to simply ignore the ruling, at least in the near term. Its vigorous opposition to the decision may also lead to escalation – for instance, an intensification of China’s island-building campaign in new locations and an increase in enforcement actions within the nine-dash line. This may lead to a proliferation of incidents with other South China Sea countries and a distinct rise in regional tensions.
The decision’s longer-term value may be profound, however. It fundamentally undermines key aspects of China’s position in the South China Sea. This will undoubtedly inform future interactions between China and its neighbours.
The guardedly good news is China has already indicated it will seek to “maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea” in accordance with international law.
This indicates it is unlikely to disrupt freedom of navigation and trade through a water body that carries US$5 trillion per year in trade. That includes almost one-third of the global oil trade, over half of global liquefied natural gas exports and more than half of Australia’s international trade by value.
Implications beyond the South China Sea
The ruling has the potential to reach far beyond the South China Sea and transform the international maritime map.
It indicates historic claims cannot be readily sustained. This undermines the unilateral claims of certain countries – such as Canada’s historical claims related to its Arctic archipelago.
Even though the ruling is technically only binding on China and the Philippines, it carries considerable legal weight as an authoritative and unanimous ruling by an international judicial body. As a result of uncertainties over which insular features can generate what maritime zones, many countries have advanced expansive maritime claims from small islands. These claims are now in jeopardy.
For example, the US claims 200-nautical-mile EEZs from several remote Pacific island territories that appear remarkably similar to some of the South China Sea features that the tribunal found could not generate extended maritime claims. The US welcomed the ruling, but it will be intriguing to see whether the US and other countries modify their practices in light of it.
The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has ruled on the case that the Philippines brought in 2013, challenging China's claims and behavior in the South China Sea. International lawyers and the policy commentariat has judged the ruling as a sweeping victory for the Philippines and a significant loss for China, which refused to acknowledge the tribunal's jurisdiction or to take part in the proceedings.
The question going forward is how China will respond. Will it double down on the aggressive and coercive activities of the past six years, behavior that has put most of its East Asian neighbors on guard?
Will it continue to interpret the Law of the Sea in self-serving ways that very few countries accept? Or, might China recognize that its South China Sea strategy has been an utter failure and that its best response is to take a more restrained and neighborly approach?
What got us here?
Critical as the next weeks and months will be, it is also useful to take a look back and examine recent events in the broad context of Chinese foreign and security policy over the last four decades.
The premise of that reform policy, initiated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was that a weak China could best ensure its security by engaging and accommodating the international community, in order to gradually build up all aspects of its national power.
The most clear-cut feature of this strategy was to join the global economy: China accepted the leadership of the IMF and World Bank; opened the Chinese economy to international trade and investment; carved out critical roles in global supply chains; accepted the liberalization disciplines of the World Trade Organization; and, more recently, began to provide public goods to other developing economies.
Not everyone has benefited from China's economic engagement, but on balance it has been a signal success.
China's reformist leaders also recognized the value of taking an accommodating stance toward its East Asian neighborhood, of which the United States is a part. One side of accommodation was to execute a skillful diplomacy designed to reduce tensions and avoid conflict unless Beijing's fundamental interests were under threat.
Accommodation's other side was to delay the modernization of the Chinese military and exercise restraint in the use of those capabilities that it did create. This made sense because China both lacked the power to challenge the United States and Japan militarily and needed the help of those and other countries to grow economically.
That approach changed in the early 2000s, when Beijing judged that it would only be secure if it expanded its eastern and southern strategic perimeters into the East and South China Seas. That judgment had its own logic, which maritime territorial disputes and reports of maritime energy and mineral resources only intensified.
Thus began a program to build the capabilities to project power into the maritime domain and then use them to press its claims. That campaign created frictions with its neighbors. An increasingly overbearing diplomacy didn't help China's reputation either.
It’s your move, China
Another part of China's grand strategy has been to integrate itself in the system of international institutions, law, norms, and regimes—both global and regional. This step did not signify a fundamental acceptance of the international order that had emerged and evolved after World War II.
Rather, it reflected a belief that China could and should use institutions, law, norms, and regimes to protect China's interests against hegemonic behavior by others, particularly the United States. (Conversely, the "West" believed that binding Beijing to "its" order would restrain Chinese bad behavior.)
The tribunal’s decision on the Philippines case was a clear blow to China's long-standing strategy to use international law to advance or protect its interests, prompting feelings of buyer's remorse. The hardy perennial that China has been the victim of humiliation at the hands of Western countries will only add to the resentful reaction.
Of course, China rejects the widely-held view that it is bound by the ruling even though it did not participate in the case. Also, this is a court with no enforcement powers, so Beijing could simply ignore the ruling and use its military and law enforcement assets to continue its past pattern of aggressive and coercive actions—essentially increasing the salience of its military power.
That course of action would only further push the test of wills between it and Washington, even though neither benefits from a downward spiral of increased competition and conflict.
China could go even further than simply doubling down. Contrary to the tribunal's ruling, it could treat the Spratly Islands as islands under international law; define them as a single unit for purposes of defining maritime boundaries; accordingly draw straight baselines around them; then declare for itself an exclusive economic zone that covered most of the waters of the South China Sea; and finally, over time, challenge the rights of other countries to freedom of navigation and the exploitation of natural resources.
For the lay-reader, what is important here is that none of these actions would accord with the widely accepted principles of the Law of the Sea. (Ultimately, China might someday insist to the countries of East Asia that it will no longer tolerate their relying on China for economic prosperity and depending on the United States for security.)
On the other hand, China could conduct a serious assessment of how it has exercised its diplomatic, coercive, and legal power over the last half-decade. Is China really more secure after alienating its East Asian neighbors through heavy-handed diplomacy, stimulating a very public coercive counter-response from the United States (too public in my view), and suffered a significant defeat in the international court of law?
Might a tactical retreat at this stage, including a recommitment to international law and institutions, better serve China's strategic interests than more domineering behavior?
A key principle of Chinese diplomatic statecraft beginning in the 1980s was taoguang yanghui, a phrase that basically means to exercise restraint as one steadily builds one's power. The Chinese national security establishment has forgotten that principle as it conducted its recent policy towards the South China Sea.
It would do well to revive it.
WASHINGTON— The South Korean defense ministry revealed that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile-defense system will be deployed to Seongju, in the southeastern part of the country.
The ministry said in a statement:
"By operating the US THAAD battery in Seongju, we will be able to better protect one half to two-thirds of our citizens from North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
"It will dramatically strengthen the military capabilities and readiness to defend critical national infrastructure such as nuclear power plants and oil storage facilities, as well as the military forces of the South Korea-US alliance."
Meanwhile, North Korea's military threatened to retaliate with a "physical response" once the location of THAAD was decided.
South Korea's defense ministry, in conjunction with the US, plans to have the unique air-defense system operational by the end of 2017. Earlier this month, the Pentagon agreed to equip South Korea with the advanced missile system.
"Oh, it's going to happen. It's a necessary thing," US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in April. "We need to defend our own people. We need to defend our own allies. And we're going to do that."
There are five THAAD batteries — each of about 100 soldiers — assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. One of those batteries was deployed to Guam in April 2013 in order to deter North Korean provocations and further defend the Pacific region.
It still might be more cramped than an apartment in New York, but navies across the world have developed their submarines with both upgraded safety measures and creature comforts for the modern-day sailor.
Life on a submarine, which now sometimes has designated areas for maintaining fitness and even for playing video games, doesn't necessarily mean you'll be miserable several hundred meters below the sea.
Here are several photos that depict the life of a sailor inside a modern submarine:
The Royal navy Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant returning home after an extended deployment. The Vigilant is one of four UK Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines carrying the Trident nuclear missile system.
Royal navy security personnel stood guard on the Vigilant at Her Majesty's Naval Base, Clyde on January 20 in Rhu, Scotland.
Royal navy personnel executing their duties inside the control room on the Vigilant.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
On Wednesday, an ISIS news agency reported that Abu Omar al-Shishani, the terror group's "minister of war," was killed.
The death report has yet to be independently verified, and rumors of Shishani's death should be taken with a grain of salt. The Pentagon previously believed that it had killed Shishani in an airstrike in Syria in March.
However, if true, it would be a major blow to ISIS. Shishani's death would seriously hinder ISIS' tactical abilities on the ground as well as the group's ability to recruit foreign fighters from the Caucasus region.
Aside from ISIS' "caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Georgian ex-commando Shishani was the most recognizable and popular of the terrorist group's leaders. And Baghdadi, according to Reuters, "relied heavily on Shishani."
Sporting a recognizable red beard and happy to pose for photos, Shishani has acted as a public face for some of ISIS' most notorious successes.
It was Shishani who posed with the stolen US Humvees that ISIS had seized from Mosul and brought back into Syria.
And it was Shishani who led successful ISIS military campaigns throughout Syria as well as a blitz through western Iraq that put the group within 100 miles of Baghdad.
These military successes are not simply the result of innate military capabilities. Instead, Shishani spent years conducting military campaigns against the Russians, first as a Chechen rebel and then as a soldier in the Georgian military. During Shishani's four years in the military, from 2006 to 2010, his unit received some degree of training from American special-forces units.
"He was a perfect soldier from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star," a former comrade still active in the Georgian military told McClatchy DC. "We were well trained by American special forces units, and he was the star pupil."
"We trained him well, and we had lots of help from America," another Georgian defense official told McClatchy about Shishani. "In fact, the only reason he didn't go to Iraq to fight alongside America was that we needed his skills here in Georgia."
In 2008, when Russia and Georgia briefly went to war over the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, Shishani reportedly was a star soldier. Although Russia quickly won the war, Shishani and his special-forces unit caused damage to the invading Russian forces, including wounding the Russian commander of the 58th army.
Shishani ultimately fell out of favor with the Georgian military and was arrested and imprisoned for 15 months for illegally harboring weapons. In 2012, after serving his sentence, Shishani fled Georgia and went to Syria from Turkey.
But his history of asymmetrical fighting against the Russians in the Caucasus, before and after receiving American training, has played a key role in defining Shishani's military and command style.
"Shishani is somewhat unique among ISIS' commanders. Shishani is fighting like an insurgent," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Musings on Iraq in October 2014, at the height of ISIS' military advances. "He's using a complex style in Anbar [a province in western Iraq], relying on a very small force ... Shishani's forces emphasize speed and agility.
"They'll hit multiple targets on the same day, and engage in harassing attacks to try to draw out the enemy, the Iraqi Security Forces or the Sahwa [Sunni tribes aligned against ISIS in Iraq]. Then he loves trapping the people he's able to draw out that are in pursuit of him."
This map shows ISIS' extent at the height of Shishani's push into Anbar:
Shishani's death comes at a particular nadir for ISIS. The terror group has been suffering a series of military defeats across Iraq and Syria.
On June 26, Iraq announced that it had liberated the entire city of Fallujah from ISIS. Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS and was seen as a deep bastion of support for the group. The loss of the city comes amid a string of defeats for the terror group throughout the country — and as Iraqi forces are preparing for an assault on Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and the crown jewel of ISIS' territory in the country.
In Syria, ISIS' fortunes are also fading. US-backed forces have been reclaiming land along the group's last shared border with Turkey, which would further isolate the group internationally.
Shishani's training and specialization in insurgent warfare would have made him even more useful to the terror group as it continues to lose ground. According to Reuters, Shishani was killed in the Iraqi city of Shirqat, south of Mosul.
Currently, US-backed Iraqi, Kurdish, and militia forces are encircling Mosul, the largest city that ISIS controls.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Chinese government likely hacked computers at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and employees at the US banking regulator covered up the intrusions, according to a congressional report on Wednesday.
"Even the former Chairwoman's computer had been hacked by a foreign government, likely the Chinese," staff at the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology said in the report.
The report was the latest example of how deeply Washington believes that Beijing has penetrated US government computers. But while making the allegation that China was the culprit, the report does not provide specific evidence to support that conclusion.
China's embassy in Washington did not have immediate comment on the allegations. The FDIC, one of the United States' principal banking regulators that keeps confidential data on the biggest banks, did not have immediate comment.
The compromise of the FDIC computers had been previously reported in May and some lawmakers had mentioned China as a possible suspect, but the investigation for the first time cites an internal FDIC probe as pointing toward China.
It is often difficult to determine the identity of a malicious actor in cyberspace, although China is believed to have been behind a number of intrusions at other federal agencies in recent years.
The report follows accusations by the United States that China stole more than 21 million background check records from the federal Office of Personnel Management beginning in 2014.
China has long been a hacking adversary for the United States, although intelligence officials believe Beijing has decreased its hacking activity since signing a pledge with Washington last September to refrain from breaking into computer systems for the purposes of commercial espionage.
A source familiar with the FDIC's internal investigation said the areas of the regulator's network that were hacked suggested the intruders were seeking "economic intelligence."
The congressional staff report accused the FDIC of trying to cover up the hacks so as not to endanger the congressional approval of the regulator's chairman, Martin Gruenberg, who was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate in November 2012. Gruenberg's predecessor, Sheila Bair, served in the post for five years until July 2011.
A witness interviewed by the staff said the FDIC's former chief information officer instructed employees not to disclose information about the foreign government's hack, the report said.
The witness said the hush order was to "avoid effecting the outcome of Chairman Gruenberg's confirmation by the US Senate," according to the report. The report also provided details of data breaches in which FDIC employees leaving the regulator took sensitive documents with them.
The report said current officials at the FDIC have purposely concealed information about breaches that had been requested by Congress.
"The committee's interim report sheds light on the FDIC’s lax cyber security efforts," said Lamar Smith, a Republican representative from Texas who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. "The FDIC's intent to evade congressional oversight is a serious offense."
Gruenberg is scheduled to testify on Thursday before the committee on the banking regulator's cyber security practices.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and Dustin Volz; editing by Grant McCool)
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters brought down a Syrian jet near the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Thursday, a monitoring group and an agency linked to the radical militant group said.
Amaq agency released video footage showing the flaming wreckage of a plane scattered across a stretch of barren rocky ground, as well as parts of a corpse in military uniform and a white helmet, hung out for display on a street. It said the body was that of the pilot.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organization which monitors Syria's war through a network of sources inside the country, said Islamic State had targeted and brought down the plane in the Thardah hills, about 3 miles (5 km) southwest of Deir al-Zor military airport.
Islamic State controls most of the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, though forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad hold the airport and part of Deir al-Zor city on the Euphrates river.
It was not immediately clear how the militants downed the jet, which the Observatory said was the second jet to be brought down over Islamic State territory since April. It said Islamic State had also brought down two helicopters in recent months.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; Editing by Toby Chopra)