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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Retired Air Force Colonel and author of Breaking the Trust Barrier JV Venable told us the US Air Force has lost nuclear weapons.

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    Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaks before a United Nations General Assembly vote addressing the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the U.S. against Cuba at the United Nations headquarters in New York, October 27, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

    A Syrian government military offensive in Aleppo, backed by Russia and Iran, was over, Russia's U.N. envoy said on Tuesday (December 13) as the United States described the violence in the besieged city as "modern evil."

    Ambassador Vitaly Churkin initially told a heated U.N. Security Council meeting called by France and Britain the offensive was nearing an end, but he then corrected himself during the meeting that it had indeed already ended.

    "The military activities in east Aleppo have stopped," Churkin "The Syrian government has established control over east Aleppo," Churkin said.

    He said an agreement had been struck for rebels to evacuate the north-western city and he said civilians would be unharmed, despite western and U.N. accusations of the intentional killing of civilians.

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the council that the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran bore responsibility for killings of civilians in Aleppo.

    "It is your noose - three member states of the U.N. - contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead by all appearances it is emboldening you. You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child, that gets under your skin that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about or justify?" Power said.

    aleppo

    The Syrian army and its allies have driven rebels out of most of the areas of Aleppo they held for years in the space of just weeks, aided by Russian air strikes and the military support of Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah and other militias.

    Churkin brushed off Power's criticisms.

    syria map"As to arbitrary arrests or other violations of this agreement, that was concluded with the illegal armed groups, the Russian military has not reported such violations taking place. Moreover, this information can be confirmed by representatives currently placed in Aleppo of the International Red Cross as well as all UN humanitarian agencies working in Aleppo headed by the resident coordinator," Churkin said.

    Syrian rebels said a ceasefire with government forces in Aleppo, agreed after talks between insurgents and Damascus's ally Russia, was to begin late on Tuesday and would include the evacuation of combatants and civilians.

    The deal, acknowledged by Russia and Syria, signals Damascus's biggest victory over insurgents fighting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad in nearly six years of civil war, driving them from their last major urban stronghold.

    A Syrian military source said the evacuation of fighters for the rebel-controlled western Aleppocountryside would start at 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Wednesday. The source said fighters' families would also leave, but did not mention other civilian evacuations.

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    A member of the Civil Defence, also known as the 'White Helmets', who have been nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, reacts after the announcemenet of the winner, in a rebel held area of Aleppo, Syria October 7, 2016.

    A statement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, seemed to lay some blame on the international community's inaction for the "hellish suffering" now taking place in Syria's Aleppo.

    “The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction — and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict," said Zeid in the UN statement.

    "What can happen next, if the international community continues to collectively wring its hands, can be much more dangerous," he added.

    Zeid said that the dismal situation in Aleppo, where buildings full of children have reportedly been set on fire, where women are reportedly making the unfathomably grim decision to commit suicide rather than be raped by Syrian President Assad's incoming forces, could "repeat itself in Douma, in Raqqa, in Idleb, (other rebel strongholds)" should the international community fail to hold the forces on the ground accountable.

    Zeid pleaded that the international community must insist on establishing a presence in Aleppo, where Russia, Assad's ally, has unilaterally controlled access to the city via a brutal air campaign.

    aleppo syria school bombing

    "The world is watching Aleppo — and we are documenting the violations being committed against its people, with the firm conviction that one day those who are responsible will be held to account. We must ensure that this happens. The hellish suffering to which the people of Syria are being subjected must stop," said Zeid.

    SEE ALSO: Russian envoy to UN: Aleppo offensive is over

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    Russia bombing syria iran russia

    BEIRUT — A cease-fire deal between rebels and the Syrian government in the city of Aleppo effectively collapsed on Wednesday, with fighter jets resuming deadly air raids over the opposition's densely crowded enclave in the east of the city.

    The attacks threatened to scuttle plans to evacuate rebels and tens thousands of civilians out of harm's way, in what would seal the opposition's surrender of the city.

    The evacuation was supposed to begin at dawn, but shelling resumed in the morning hours and buses meant to be used in the pullout of rebels and civilians returned to their depots. Activists and fighters trapped in the opposition's last sliver of territory in Aleppo said pro-government forces had struck their district with dozens of rockets since midmorning.

    They said aircraft resumed bombing shortly after noon.

    "They began to strike as if there's no such thing as a 'cease-fire' or 'civilian evacuation,'" media activist Mahmoud Raslan said. "They've announced they are going to kill us all."

    It was not clear whether the planes were Syrian or Russian. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported at least six people had been killed.

    A legal adviser to the rebels accused Iran of foiling the Russia- and Turkey-brokered deal by imposing new conditions on the rebels. Along with Russia, Iran backs President Bashar Assad's government and has committed advisers and elite Revolutionary Guard forces to the government's war. Turkey backs the rebels fighting to topple Assad.

    Osama Abo Zaid, the adviser, said Iran was imposing new conditions for the truce, demanding that the remains of Iranians killed in Aleppo be returned and that Iranian hostages held in rebel-controlled Idlib province be released. He said the conditions were "exclusively sectarian and crippling."

    Syria Iran

    The Syrian government, meanwhile, withdrew its green-colored buses from the evacuation point at the edge of the city of Aleppo's opposition enclave. The Lebanese al-Manar TV, the media arm of the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah fighting alongside Assad's forces, broadcast footage of the buses leaving the evacuation point empty and said government forces had resumed fighting with rebels in the city.

    Mohammed Abu Jaafar, the head of forensics in eastern Aleppo, said eastern Aleppo residents felt "duped."

    "People have left their shelters .... to be ready for the evacuation. I can't describe it," Abu Jaafar said. "Since the morning, they started to target the areas where people have gathered ... these people were walking to the crossings designated for exit."

    Activists in eastern Aleppo blamed the violence on pro-government forces, saying they shot first. Raslan said he was reporting for a Turkish agency when a rocket crashed nearby at about 10:15 a.m. He shared an audio recording of the explosion with the Associated Press. He was unharmed.

    aleppo free syrian army

    The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that the rebels "resumed the hostilities" at dawn, trying to break through Syrian government positions to the northwest.

    Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, accused the Syrian government and its allies of trying to scuttle the deal. "We see now that the regime and other groups are trying to obstruct this (deal)," he said in remarks quoted by the state-run Anadolu Agency. "This includes Russia, Iran, forces supported by Iran, and the regime."

    The surrender of Aleppo's remaining opposition-run neighborhoods to government control would be a turning point in Syria's civil war.

    The last-minute deal was mediated by Ankara and Moscow as the rebel enclave rapidly dissolved and ceded more and more territory in the face of the brutal advance by Syrian forces, backed by Russia and assisted by Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    Late on Tuesday, the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called for immediate access to the former rebel enclave to confirm the end of military operations and to oversee the safe departure of tens of thousands of civilians and opposition fighters. De Mistura was at the Security Council, where an emergency meeting for Aleppo was held.

    staffan de mistura

    Earlier Wednesday, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV broadcast footage of the government buses idling at the agreed-on evacuation point. The TV said the buses were prepared to move 5,000 fighters and their families to Atareb, an opposition-held town in the northwestern Aleppo countryside.

    Brita Haj Hassan, a Syrian opposition official living in exile, said from Luxemburg that there were 800 sick and wounded people requiring immediate medical evacuation from eastern Aleppo. He said the UN and others had informed the opposition the evacuation had been delayed until Thursday but there was no comment from the Syrian government, the United Nations, or aid groups on the ground.

    The dramatic developments surrounding Aleppo — which would restore the remainder of what was once Syria's largest city to Assad's forces after months of heavy fighting and a crippling siege — followed reports of mass killings by government forces closing in on the final few blocks still held by the rebels.

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the emergency meeting late Tuesday that he had received "credible reports" of civilians killed by pro-government forces as they swept into the last rebel areas in Aleppo.

    Bashar al-Ja'afari, Syria's UN ambassador, denied any mass killings or revenge attacks but added it was Syria's "constitutional right" to go after "terrorists," a reference to all opposition fighters.

    "Aleppo has been liberated from terrorists and those who toyed with terrorism," he said. "Aleppo has returned to the nation."

    SEE ALSO: UN: US, others wringing their hands while 'hellish suffering' plays out in Aleppo

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    admiral harry harris

    Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command, told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday that the US was "ready to confront" China should it continue its aggressive course in the South China Sea.

    China has spent years building artificial islands to bolster its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a resource-rich area through which about $5 trillion in shipping flows each year.

    The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has recently observed, via satellite imagery, China placing radar outposts and weapons, including antiaircraft and antimissile systems, on the islands in international waters.

    In the past, China has unilaterally declared "no sail" and "no-fly zones" in the region, despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that its claims to the South China Sea, based on old maps, lacked merit.

    map south china seaChina flouting international law has strained relations with the US.

    Those ties took another big hit when President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign-policy tradition and accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later tweeted about China's "massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea."

    In response, China flew bombers along the perimeter of its contentious claims in the South China Sea in what it intended as a "message" to Trump, though it has flown the same bombers in a similar fashion before.

    Harris characterized Beijing's activity as "aggressive" and vowed to act against it if needed, Reuters reports.

    The US has repeatedly challenged China's claims in the region with freedom-of-navigation patrols, in which guided-missile destroyers sail near the disputed islands.

    In July, Chinese officials warned that these patrols could end in "disaster."

    "We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea," Harris said. "We will cooperate when we can, but we will be ready to confront when we must."

    US Navy uss lassen

    These statements coincide with Harris making public a deployment of F-22 Raptors to Australia. The F-22, a very low observable aircraft, has unique features that make it ideal for piercing through and operating inside heavily contested airspace, like the skies above China's military installations in the South China Sea.

    While Harris maintained that diplomacy was the best way to reach China, he stressed "the absolute necessity to maintain credible combat power," according to Breakingdefense.com.

    F-22 f 22 flares

    In August, the US deployed nuclear-capable bombers to Guam in an effort to deter aggression in the region and to demonstrate its commitment to stability and freedom of navigation in the Pacific.

    "The US fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation," Harris said. "This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight."

    SEE ALSO: 'The entire military is counting on it': Trump says the F-35 program is 'out of control,' but that ship has sailed

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    NATO drill

    The United States is deploying troops to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania next month as part of raising the security of the region, Polish and U.S. defense officials said Wednesday.

    Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz made the announcement following talks with the commander of U.S. land troops in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, in Zagan, western Poland. An Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado will be deployed there early next month, while another U.S. force, a battalion, will be deployed April 1 to Orzysz, in the northeast.

    Macierewicz said he was "very happy that a decision has been taken by the U.S. side for an earlier deployment."

    But the U.S. Army told The Associated Press that the deployment was not accelerated and is taking place as had always been scheduled.

    Hodges said the troops will arrive in the German port of Bremerhaven on Jan. 6 and will be immediately deployed to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania. Their transfer will be timed and treated as a test of "how fast the force can move from port to field," he said.

    "I'm confident in the very powerful signal, the message it will send (that) the United States, along with the rest of NATO, is committed to deterrence," Hodges said.

    He said the armored brigade has already moved out of its Colorado base and is loading on ships.

    "I'm excited about what my country is doing and I'm excited about continuing to work with our ally, Poland," Hodges said.

    NATO US baltic russia

    In a separate decision, the members of NATO at a July summit in Warsaw approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia. Germany will lead a multinational battalion in Lithuania, with similar battalions to be led by the United States in Poland, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia.

    Poland and the Baltic nations have been uneasy about increased Russian military operations in the region, especially after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and have requested U.S. and NATO troops on their soil as a deterrent. The alliance and the U.S. insist the troop presence is not aimed against anyone, but Russia has threatened measures in response.

    SEE ALSO: The US is 'ready to confront' China in the Pacific with the world's most lethal combat plane

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    Obama Putin

    It's not quite Cold War II, but the collapse of U.S. military relations with Russia could prove to be one of the most consequential aspects of President Barack Obama's national security legacy while presenting an early test of Donald Trump's hope for friendly ties to Moscow.

    Beyond the prospect of the two militaries accidentally brushing against each other in Europe or the Middle East, there is concern that a near-complete absence of military-to-military communication could enable a miscalculation or escalation leading to a nuclear confrontation.

    The United States and Russia possess 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Some are continuously on high alert.

    While Secretary of State John Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, kept up frequent contact with their Russian counterpart on Syria, Iran and other issues, the Pentagon and the Kremlin went largely silent on topics like nuclear risk reduction.

    The Pentagon cut off most military-to-military contacts with Moscow in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea and its incursions into eastern Ukraine, and the Russians ended longstanding cooperation with the U.S. on nuclear security. That left the relationship at a low ebb that worries some experts.

    Former Sen. Sam Nunn, who heads a non-partisan group that advocates for measures to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, warns that Washington and Moscow are in a "race between cooperation and catastrophe." Cooperation, he says, is losing.

    "The dangers are growing," he said in a telephone interview. "Distrust between the U.S. and Russia, between NATO and Russia, is in a downward spiral."

    Russia Nuclear Jets Guam

    The slide has quickened, and the repair perhaps made more difficult, by allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and the Pentagon's sharp criticism of the Russian military's role in Syria. Trump has held out hope of improving relations with his future counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, whom he has praised. But it's unclear what that portends for military ties.

    Some of Trump's top administration picks, including Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, are seen as friendly toward Russia. But the president-elect's choice for defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, has expressed worry about Russia's intentions. In remarks to the Heritage Foundation in 2015, he said Russia wants to "break NATO apart."

    Mattis may face some urgency in setting a new course for military ties with Russia, but some voices in the new administration may press for other early priorities, such as advancing the anti-Islamic State fight in Iraq.

    Donald Trump James MattisThe man Mattis would replace, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is wrapping up a world tour this week, but did not visit Moscow. In fact, he has not been there during his nearly two years in office. His two immediate predecessors, Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta, never made it to Moscow, either. The last defense secretary to visit Moscow was Obama's first, Robert Gates, in 2011.

    During the Gates period, the biggest sticking point in relations with Russia was Moscow's unbending opposition to U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe, which the Russians view as provocative and a potential military threat.

    Since then, contention has grown in multiple directions, including Russian military moves in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and its military support for the Bashar Assad government in Syria.

    The U.S. also asserts that Moscow is violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile - a charge the Russians deny while making their own claims of American treaty violations. Carter has accused Russia of engaging in "nuclear saber-rattling" that he says calls into question their respect for norms against nuclear use.

    In a report released this week by Nunn's group, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the stakes are described in stark terms.

    "Russia and the West are at a dangerous crossroads," the report says. "During the past several years, we have been in a state of escalating tension, trapped in a downward spiral of antagonism and distrust."

    The report recommends steps to reduce the likelihood of accident or miscalculation leading to a nuclear exchange, which it says is "now higher than any period since the end of the Cold War" in 1991. Even during the darkest periods of the Cold War, Washington and Moscow pursued negotiations aimed at controlling nuclear risk. Today there are no active U.S.-Russia arms control talks and none are on the horizon.

    RS-28 sarmat satan 2

    The report says this "national security malpractice" must change.

    The report is based on the group's consultations with defense and security experts from the U.S., Russia and Europe, including Andrew Futter, a nuclear weapons and missile defense expert at Britain's University of Leicester, and Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow think tank. Among the recommendations:

    —Require all Russian and NATO military aircraft to fly with their transponders turned on to make it easier to identify aircraft flying over sensitive areas like the Baltic Sea and the Nordic region.

    —Restore U.S. and NATO military-to-military communication, suspended in 2014.

    —Exclude nuclear-capable forces from military exercises.

    —Issue presidential declarations in Moscow and Washington reaffirming that "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," a phrase used by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

    SEE ALSO: The US is 'ready to confront' China in the Pacific with the world's most lethal combat plane

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    john kerry climate conference

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone on Wednesday with his Russian, Turkish and Qatari counterparts, stressing the need to continue seeking a ceasefire for the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo and the resumption of political talks to end the war.

    State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry spoke to the three foreign ministers after a ceasefire brokered on Tuesday by Russia and Turkey failed to take effect and fighting resumed.

    "In all of these conversations, the secretary has stressed the need to continue to try to stop the bloodshed and violence with a meaningful ceasefire," Kirby told a briefing, adding that "whatever was announced yesterday obviously didn't survive very long due to the regime."

    SEE ALSO: Experts: US-Russian relations in a 'downward spiral' that could lead to nuclear catastrophe

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    aleppo syria

    Syrian rebels: Deal to evacuate fighters, civilians from eastern Aleppo is back on, implementation to begin within hours.

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    Donald Trump

    A defense policy bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law this month will give President-elect Donald Trump greater influence over U.S. foreign broadcasting entities.

    The National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress last week includes a provision abolishing the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent body that oversees government-backed media outlets such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and replaces it with a chief executive nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

    The election victory of Republican businessman Trump, who has had a stormy relationship with some media outlets he accuses of being biased against him, has raised concerns among some officials about whether the media outlets can maintain their editorial independence under a Trump-appointed CEO.

    It is not clear, however, if the change is intended to give the president greater influence over news, information and fact-checking that U.S. government-supported broadcasters send to Russia, Cuba, China and other authoritarian states, or whether it is simply an effort to make those efforts more effective.

    There has been support from both Republicans and Democrats for reorganizing the broadcasting operation to reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency.

    A senior U.S. official familiar with the broadcasting agencies said he was not aware of the the Trump transtion team making contact with the Board of Broadcasting governors and associated agencies.

    "We have no (concrete) indication that anything bad's going to happen," the official continued.

    Congressional aides familiar with the issue said they thought such concerns were overblown, noting that the chief executive must be confirmed by the Senate and that the organization's basic structure would remain in place, minus the nine-member board.

    radio free europe/radio liberty

    They said the reorganization plan was developed with input from members of both parties in Congress, as well as Democratic officials from the Obama White House.

    However, some officials in the State Department and the U.S. intelligence community have said they are worried that Trump is not wary enough of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who considers Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's efforts "to promote democratic values" an attempt to undermine his government.

    The board of governors would first be transitioned into an "International Broadcasting Advisory Board" to advise the new CEO, but that also would be phased out.

    SEE ALSO: UN: US, others wringing their hands while 'hellish suffering' plays out in Aleppo

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    F-35

    On Dec. 12, whilst several Israeli and international media outlets focused on the delivery of the first F-35I “Adir” to Nevatim airbase (delayed by some 6 hours because of fog) highlighting how Israel had just become “the first country after the US” to get the new plane, far from the spotlight, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II, becoming the very first country to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.

    Noteworthy, the delivery flight was carried out by two Italian military pilots (the Israeli planes were flown by Lockheed Martin pilots) who flew their two JSFs (Joint Strike Fighters) to Amendola, where the aircraft landed in the early afternoon on Monday.

    Indeed, whereas the arrival of the first Israeli or Dutch F-35s got a significant media coverage (with constant updates, live streaming on social media, etc.), the Italian Air Force has kept a very “low profile” about its achievements with the F-35 so far.

    However, Italy has made some significant work on the Lightning II: on Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy. That aircraft was also the first assembledand delivered outside the U.S.

    italy f 35Then, on Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. To prepare for the 7-hour transoceanic flight the Italian Air Force conducted tanker trials in the U.S. (in July 2015) with its KC-767A, that became the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with an F-35.

    Three Italian F-35s are currently deployed at Luke’s multinational F-35 pilot training centre.

    And, as explained mentioned, on Dec. 12, the first two aircraft (reportedly AL-5 and AL-6) arrived at their operational base in southeastern Italy.

    The F-35 is for sure the most famous (and controversial) defense program in Italy.

    For the moment, Rome’s plan is to procure 90 F-35 to replace the ItAF’s ageing AMX and Tornado and the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

    SEE ALSO: Former US Navy commander: Here's what the US should have built instead of the F-35

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    russian special forces

    The elite Russian special forces who took over Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 are now doing the same thing in Aleppo, Syria.

    The number of Russian special ops troops in Syria is likely in the "low hundreds," but they are the eyes and ears on the ground to carry out precision airstrikes, and have been used to directly target rebel leaders, according to experts who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

    Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has been the site of a bitter battle for control between pro-government forces and rebels since the war broke out in 2011. Meanwhile, millions of innocent civilians have been caught in the middle, recently cut off from receiving aid such as food, water, and medicine, as Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies besieged the city.

    There are also anywhere from 100 to 300 US special operations forces operating in Syria and Iraq, though they are focused on advising Iraqi army forces in Mosul, and targeting ISIS leadership.

    According to the Journal, Russian military chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov visited the headquarters of US Special Operations Command in 2012 for a meeting, intent on learning how Russia could build a special operations force similar to the United States'.

    Makarov previously signed a framework of understanding with then-Navy Adm. Mike Mullen in 2009 that offered military-to-military exchanges and operational events, orientation at the West Point military academy for Russian cadets, and sharing of ideas among both countries' combined arms academies.

    Syria Army Soldiers Flag Aleppo Mosque

    At the time, US military officials were hopeful for the reestablishment of military-to-military bonds with Russia. Four years later, however, that framework and sharing of information may come back to haunt them.

    “From the helmets to the kit," the Russian special forces "look almost identical" to their US counterparts, a US military official told the Journal.

    In early 2014, Russian special forces infiltrated Ukraine's Crimea region and seized control after the pro-Russian government was ousted from power in Kiev. The heavily-armed men — which some nicknamed "little green men"— wore no identifying insignia and denied that they were Russian.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin later acknowledged he had deployed the Russian soldiers, and Russia instituted a national holiday called "Special Forces Day" to commemorate the invasion the following year.

    Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal >

    SEE ALSO: Trump's defense secretary presided over investigation into his national security adviser for disclosing classified secrets

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    AMMAN (Reuters) - Unidentified armed gunmen fired at several police patrols in drive by shootings in the southern Jordanian city of Karak with reports of several casualties, security sources said.

    They said the attackers were being pursued in an area surrounding an ancient castle in the mountainous city where police sealed off the main roads and dispatched elite special forces to hunt the attackers.

    A militant attack was not ruled out, the sources said. There was no immediate comment from the authorities.

     

    (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Keith Weir)

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    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano prepares for a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria June 6, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

    DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has shown commitment to the deal on its nuclear program agreed with world powers, the head of the United Nations atomic energy watchdog said on Sunday, following complaints by Tehran over what it calls a U.S. violation of the accord.

    The White House said on Thursday that a bill extending U.S. sanctions against Iran for 10 years would become law without President Barack Obama's signature, adding this would not affect overall implementation of the nuclear agreement.

    "We are satisfied with the implementation of the (agreement) and hope that this process will continue," IAEA director general Yukiya Amano was quoted as telling reporters in Tehran by the IRNA news agency.

    "Iran has been committed to its engagement so far and this is important," Amano was quoted as saying after meeting Iran's nuclear energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi.

    Under the 2015 deal, Iran curbed its nuclear fuel production activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

    In response to the U.S. sanctions move, Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels.

    That action is expected to worsen tensions with Washington, already heightened by a promise by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's to scrap the deal.

    Iran on Saturday also requested a meeting of a commission comprising representatives of signatories to the accord that is overseeing its implementation.

    Iran nuclear

    "At the meeting, we brought up some of our complaints, and clarified some matters," said Salehi, quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

    "As we have repeatedly said, we will not violate the agreement, unless the other party does that."

     

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    aden suicide bombing

    A suicide bomber killed at least 49 soldiers gathered to receive their monthly pay in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on Sunday, officials said, as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Officials said at least 60 other troops were wounded in the attack, which occurred near al-Sawlaban military base in Aden's Khor Maksar district, where another Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up a week ago killing 50 soldiers.

    Aden is the temporary capital of Yemen's internationally recognized government in exile in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. It has been battling the armed Iran-aligned Houthi movement since 2014.

    Al Qaeda and Islamic State have exploited the war to carry out assassinations and bombings, mostly in lawless southern Yemeni areas nominally controlled by the government.

    In a statement posted via its Amaq news agency, IS said Sunday's attacker, who it identified as Abu Hashem al-Radfani, detonated an explosive vest amid a crowd of soldiers.

    Yemen map

    It posted what it said were pictures of the attack, one showing young man wearing a white vest as he stood next to the black and white Islamic State flag.

    The jihadist group put the death toll at more than 70.

    Saudi Arabia and its allies in a mostly Gulf Arab military coalition have been bombing the Houthi movement in parts of the country under its control since it drove the government from power in March 2015. They have failed to dislodge the group from the capital, Sanaa.

    SEE ALSO: Busses en route to evacuate Syrians in besieged villages reportedly attacked and burned

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    Rodrigo Duterte

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The United States said Sunday that it would work with the Philippine president to address any concerns after he threatened to terminate a pact that allows U.S. troops to visit the Philippines.

    President Rodrigo Duterte was enraged after a U.S. government aid agency deferred a vote on a renewal of a major development assistance package for the Philippines over concerns about extrajudicial killings in Duterte's war on illegal drugs, which has left thousands dead.

    Although no decision on the aid package has been taken, Duterte on Saturday launched an expletives-laden tirade, telling the U.S. to "prepare to leave the Philippines, prepare for the eventual repeal or the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement."

    He was referring to a 1998 accord that governs American forces visiting the Philippines for joint combat exercises. The pact has helped the Philippines contain a violent Muslim insurgency in the south and train and equip Filipino forces facing an assertive China in disputed South China Sea waters.

    "You know, tit for tat ... if you can do this, so (can) we. It ain't a one-way traffic," Duterte said, adding tauntingly, "Bye-bye America."

    The U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a statement that Washington would work closely with the Duterte administration to address any concerns it may have. It did not elaborate.

    The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Josh Earnest has said previously that the White House would not react publicly each time Duterte made an offhand remark.

    The 71-year-old Duterte, who describes himself as a left-wing politician, has made similar threats before and after taking office in June, but he and his officials have walked back on many of his public statements, causing confusion.

    While calling Americans "sons of bitches" and "hypocrites," Duterte on Saturday praised China as having "the kindest soul of all" for offering what he said was significant financial assistance. "So what do I need America for?" he asked.

    Xi Jinping Rodrigo Duterte

    He also said Russia can be a very important ally. "They do not insult people, they do not interfere," he said.

    The Philippines had been slated for another aid package after its previous five-year, $434 million poverty reduction program was successfully completed in May under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.

    A spokeswoman for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Laura Allen, said Thursday that it would continue to monitor events in the Philippines before the next board review in March 2017.

    The U.S. decision is among the first signs of how concerns about the rule of law and human rights under Duterte could entail economic costs.

    The U.S. government, along with European Union and U.N. officials, has raised concerns about Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left more than 2,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead in purported gunbattles with police. More than 3,000 other deaths are being investigated to determine if they were linked to illegal drugs.

    At a news conference in his southern hometown of Davao, Duterte was asked Saturday how many crime suspects he killed while he was a crime-busting city mayor. The former government prosecutor again gave contrasting replies.

    "Maybe one, two three ... I'm saying, maybe my bullets hit them, maybe not, but after the burumbumbumbum, they're all dead," Duterte said.

    Philippines Manila drug war violence killing crime

    Replying to another question, he said that he indeed has killed, but did not provide details and tried to justify his act. "When I tell you now that I killed, do not term them as suspects because all of them died while they were fighting government people," he said.

    He asked God for forgiveness in advance, saying he may not have time to pray if he's assassinated. "God, forgive me for killing these idiots," Duterte said, before blaming God for the presence of criminals. "You create a human monster, so if you are God, why do you have to create these idiots? That's why they die."

    SEE ALSO: The strange way one of Latin America's largest street gangs got its name

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    vincent viola virtu

    President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate the founder of the high-speed trading firm Virtu Financial, Vincent Viola, as secretary of the Army, the Trump transition team said on Monday.

    "Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge," Trump was quoted as saying in a statement.

    Viola, now estimated to be worth $1.8 billion, was born to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn and is "living proof of the American dream," said a statement from the Trump team.

    "It is an honor to be nominated to serve our country as President-elect Trump's secretary of the Army," Viola said in the statement. "A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America's soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict."

    After graduating from West Point in 1977, he trained as an airborne ranger infantry officer and served in the 101st Airborne Division.

    Viola started his career in finance on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange, eventually becoming chairman for a three-year period in the early 2000s.

    A graduate of New York Law School, Viola helped fund the creation of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in 2003.

    Businessman Vincent Viola enters Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 16, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

    Viola founded Virtu Financial in 2008, taking it public in 2015. Forbes ranks Viola No. 374 on its list of the 400 wealthiest people in the US.

    Viola bought the Florida Panthers NHL team for about $250 million in 2013, The Associated Press reports.

    Matt Turner contributed to this report.

    SEE ALSO: How the NSA tells the president what foreign governments are going to do before they do it

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    Huge advances have been made in aerial technology over just the last couple of decades. Planes can now fly farther, faster, and in some cases, without a pilot. Here are 11 game-changing military planes introduced in the 21st century. 

    Alex Kuzoian contributed reporting on a previous version of this article.

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    aircraft carriers

    The US Navy's new Force Structure Assessment states that the "potential adversaries" have developed advanced capabilities that could "undermine" or "erode" the US military's edge in conventional warfare at sea.

    The Navy's answer to the rising challenge is more ships. To be precise, 83 more of them.

    The Navy requested the biggest increases in large surface combat ships, attack submarines, amphibious warfare ships, and an additional Ford-class aircraft carrier.

    "A minimum of 12 Aircraft Carriers are required to meet the increased warfighting response requirements," read the Navy's assessment. 

    The US Navy operates more aircraft carriers (full on carriers or "helicopter carriers") than all the world's navies combined, but 2016 has seen threats rising to US forces around the globe.

    For perhaps the first time ever, US Navy guided-missile destroyers had to fire interceptor missiles when Houthi militants in Yemen targeted them with anti-ship cruise missiles. Iran has also shown increasing hostility to US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. 

    In the Pacific, China has continued to develop military installations on artificial islands in the South China Sea. While incoming President Trump has promised to shake up relations with Beijing, China has responded angrily by flying bombers in the South China Sea and by seizing an unmanned US Navy drone from international waters near the Philippines. 

    aircraft carrier

    Meanwhile Russia has used the conflict in Syria to show off its naval might, by sending the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group to the Mediterranean, where reportedly one of its submarines stalked a US carrier group.

    DefenseNews.com notes that the Navy would have to come up with another carrier wing to support the additional carrier, and cites sources as saying today's Navy of nearly 324,000 uniformed personnel would have to grow to about 340,000 to 350,000. 

    Interestingly, the assessment calls for 355 ships, when earlier, hawkish observers, like Trump's supposed favorite for secretary of the Navy, Randy Forbes, had been calling for just 350. Today the Navy stands at 272 ships. 

    But the assessment is only that — an assessment. The Navy will have to get its budget approved by the legislature, and it's unclear so far if the Trump administration will support the 355 figure.

    F 35C Zumwalt navy

    “As we evaluate the options presented in these studies and move to include them in our plans for tomorrow’s Navy,” current Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said to DefenseNews, “this FSA will need to be updated to reflect those changes that are determined to be most beneficial to meeting the Navy’s missions of the future.”

    However, even the bullish 355 ships assessment wouldn't meet all of the security goals the Navy's combat commanders put forth, with Mabus saying doing so would require the US “to double its current annual budget, which is essentially unrealistic in both current and expected future fiscal environments.” 

    SEE ALSO: Trump nominates Wall Street billionaire and Florida Panthers owner as Army secretary

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    A view through a construction fence shows the Kremlin towers and St. Basil's Cathedral on a hot summer day in central Moscow, Russia, July 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/File Photo

    Moscow talks about the future of Syria involving Russia, Iran and Turkey will go ahead on Tuesday despite the murder of the Russian ambassador to Ankara, the Interfax news agency cited Leonid Slutsky, a senior parliamentarian, as saying.

    The foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey are due to discuss the future of Syria in Moscow on Tuesday. Slutsky is chairman of the State Duma or lower house of parliament's international affairs committee.

    SEE ALSO: Russia's ambassador to Turkey assassinated in Ankara

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