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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    On Monday the Associated Press reported that as one of Barack Obama's final actions in office before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, he released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority.

    The money came from federal aid the US provides to the West Bank and Gaza, aid that totaled about $355 million in 2015. The sum released by Obama during his last hours in office had been held up by a group in Congress that included Reps. Ed Royce of California and Kay Granger of Texas.

    "The easiest way to sum it up is that Congress had been looking at various behaviors from Palestine — unilateral attempts at statehood, corruption, incitement of violence, and paying salaries to people in jail for terrorism — and that's why the hold has been there," Dr. Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Business Insider.

    Schanzer characterized the move by Obama as both shocking and "a strange message to send."

    "I was tracking President Obama's 11th-hour moves on the Palestinians, and this issue never came up once ... Most analysts and observers didn't think Obama would or could do this," Schanzer said.

    The Obama administration had been pressing for the release of the funds for some time, according to the Associated Press, which reported that a notification sent to Congress said the money came from the US Agency for International Development and was set to support humanitarian aid, political and security reforms, and "rule of law."

    The Palestinian Authority, which had been had been hurting for cash, used the money for "salaries unpaid and debts that are owed," Schanzer said.

    Schanzer, however, said the Palestinian Authority had done nothing to warrant this reversal on Obama's part, characterizing activities such as corruption and incitement of violence as "ongoing."

    mahmoud abbas yasser arafat

    Schanzer pointed to the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as an example of corruption. Abbas entered his 12th year as president this year, despite being elected to only a four-year term in 2005.

    Obama is "releasing funds to a guy that’s become an autocrat," Schanzer said.

    Obama's unilateral action came as he closed his presidency with a critical eye toward Israel. In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that Israel stop building settlements on Palestinian land. The US refused to vote on the resolution, effectively allowing it to pass.

    Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which Abbas has urged against.

    SEE ALSO: Hamas: Moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem will open 'a new chapter of conflict'

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    trump nuclear weapons illustration 3x4

    Rep. Ted W. Lieu and Sen. Edward J. Markey, both Democrats, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would forbid the president from launching a nuclear strike without first having Congress declare war.

    The bill expresses clear doubts in President Donald Trump's judgment, with the lawmakers saying in a joint release "the crucial issue of nuclear 'first use' is more urgent than ever now that President Donald Trump has the power to launch a nuclear war at a moment’s notice."

    “It is a frightening reality that the US now has a Commander-in-Chief who has demonstrated ignorance of the nuclear triad, stated his desire to be ‘unpredictable’ with nuclear weapons, and as President-elect was making sweeping statements about US nuclear policy over Twitter," the statement continues, apparently referencing a moment in a Republican primary debate in which Trump appeared not to know what the US's nuclear triad was.

    As it stands, the president has 24/7 access to a "nuclear football" and may launch nuclear weapons at any given time without approval. Meanwhile, Congress has not declared war since World War II.

    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, issued a statement praising Lieu and Markey for writing their bill, but told Business Insider it's legislation they would have supported before or after Trump's inauguration.

    "This is a message bill. It’s intended to express concern about the fact that Donald Trump of all people has access to the nuclear weapons codes that can launch up to 900 nuclear weapons in 10 minutes without any other official needing to review and approve," Kimball said.

    Minuteman III ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile

    "The fundamental purpose of US nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack," Kimball said. "They're not intended to be used in response to or preempt a conventional attack or chemical or biological weapons attack."

    The bill would only limit Trump's ability to launch a strike first. As a vital part of US nuclear deterrence, the president can authorize a strike in retaliation, or when the US receives intelligence that enemy nukes are inbound.

    "What the bill highlights is the undemocratic nature of the process by which the commander-in-chief can launch a devastating strike involving nuclear weapons and all but invite a devastating response against US forces," said Kimball. 

    SEE ALSO: Why Obama quietly sent Palestine $221 million during his last hours in office

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    NOW WATCH: There will be no one in charge of America’s nuclear arsenal when Trump takes office

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    john mccain

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has proposed boosting the Pentagon’s budget by nearly a half trillion dollars over the next five years. His plan calls for a $54 billion increase in fiscal year 2018 to $640 billion. Add to that some $60 billion for overseas contingency operations (OCO).

    Sen. McCain advocates including OCO funding in future defense budgets – as it should have been all along – which would top out at more than $800 billion in fiscal year 2022. As a point of reference, at the height of the Cold War during the Reagan buildup we were spending the equivalent of $600 billion in current dollars to deter and contain the Soviet Union.

    In a world without that threat or any equivalent threat, we need to ask why the more than $600 billion we’re currently spending isn’t enough and why we would need to increase that to $800 billion.

    According to Sen. McCain, “For too long, we have allowed budget constraints to drive strategy.” He is right to argue that strategy should drive budget. And that “[i]t is time to turn this around and return to the first order question: What do we need our military to do for the nation?”

    Sen. McCain argues that we need military “to deter aggression and conflict.” But this is the same sweeping neoconservative and liberal internationalist rhetoric American voters rejected in the recent election.

    Every conflict or act of aggression in the world is not a direct threat to U.S. national security. The problem with Sen. McCain’s logic is that he views every crisis as the same, and it’s not possible to distinguish between those that are true threats and those that aren’t – which is a prescription for endless military intervention.

    russian nuke nuclear weapons

    First and foremost, we need a military to deter and defend against direct threats to the United States and the American way of life. Currently, there is one such threat: Russia’s nuclear arsenal. So to the extent that we need to modernize our nuclear arsenal to ensure it is a deterrent, we need to do that. We must also maintain our ability to deter China, North Korea, or any other country that may eventually acquire nuclear weapons.

    And why should we assume that we need to spend $60 billion a year for the next five years for overseas military operations, such as Syria and Iraq? Bashar al-Assad is a thug and threat to his own people, but the regime in Damascus does not pose a threat to American security. Our involvement has predictably but unintentionally prolonged civil war and armed less-than-savory elements on various sides of this complicated tragedy.

    ISIS should be defeated, but as the Kurdish forces and other opposition rebels have shown, it’s a scourge that can be delt with by those in the region and more directly at risk of their radical ideology.. Our strategic partners in the region should do more to lead the fight against it. After all, they have more at stake and the most to lose by letting ISIS gain a stronghold. We need not risk more American lives and spend more money on these needless military interventions.

    China is a rising power seeking to assert itself in its own backyard, but not a conventional threat to the U.S. homeland. So China bears close watching, but we should not engage in actions that unnecessarily provoke Bejing. For example, unless China makes moves to close trade routes in the South China Sea, we should not risk military confrontation over artificial sandbars in the Spratlys.

    kim jong-un

    North Korea and Iran both represent potential flashpoints that the U.S. must contend with. Even a nuclear North Korea must face up to the realities of deterrence – the vastly superior U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal is capable of utter destruction of not just Pyongyang but the entire DPRK. Unless, of course, Kim Jong-un is suicidal, but – like his father before him – he seems more interested in self-preservation and self-indulgence. The same can be said for the mullahs in Tehran if Iran ever becomes a nuclear power.

    Moreover, the U.S. has rich allies that are more than capable of shouldering their share of the burden to defend against threats in their regions of the world. It is in both our and their interests that they step up to the plate. The combined economies of NATO’s European countries exceeds that of the U.S. and they outspend Russia by nearly 4-to-1 on defense.

    Japan and South Korea are two of the largest economies in the world compared to North Korea, which is one of the world’s poorest. To provide some perspective, Vermont’s economy -- which is the smallest state economy in the United States – is nearly twice as large as North Korea’s.

    Finally, how can Sen. McCain argue that we need to spend more on defense without a top-to-bottom audit of the Pentagon to know how DoD is spending more than $600 billion now? Before we decide to spend more, we need to know that what we’re spending now is being spent wisely.

    We already know it isn’t. An internal study commissioned by the Pentagon – but that they chose to ignore – discovered that DoD has something like $25 billion in annual administrative waste in its business operations.

    This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author. Charles V. Peña is a senior fellow with Defense Priorities. He has more than 25 years of experience as a policy and program analyst and senior manager, supporting both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. Peña is the former director of defense-policy studies at the Cato Institute and author of Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism. You can follow him on Twitter @gofastchuck.

    SEE ALSO: Why Obama sent the Palestinians $221 million during his last hours in office

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    Philip Bilden

    President Donald Trump says he's chosen Philip Bilden, a businessman and former military intelligence officer, to be the next Navy secretary.

    Trump calls Bilden the "right choice" to help the Navy expand and modernize its ships, submarines and aircraft, and "ensure America's naval supremacy for decades to come."

    Bilden was a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1986-1996. He relocated to Hong Kong to set up an Asian presence for HarbourVest Partners LLC, a global private equity management firm. Bilden recently retired from HarbourVest Partners after 25 years.

    His family has a history of military service, with seven Army and Navy officers across four consecutive generations. That includes his two sons, who are in the Navy.

    Bilden's upcoming nomination requires Senate confirmation.


    SEE ALSO: Democrats introduce bill to curb Trump's ability to launch a nuclear strike

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    a-10 warthog f-35 lightning ii vs

    The future flyoff between the Cold War-era A-10 ground attack aircraft and the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter will be “very interesting,” a general said.

    The A-10 Thunderbolt II is set to go up against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a series of weapons tests as early as next year under a stipulation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy and spending bill.

    The legislation also prohibits retirement of the lumbering, low-flying, snub-nosed aircraft popularly known as the Warthog until the Air Force can prove the F-35’s ability to conduct close air support missions on the battlefield.

    “It’ll be a very interesting test,” said Pleus, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program’s integration office for the service.

    “The A-10 was built to deal with tanks in Europe,” he said. “A low, slow, big cannon on the front of it meant to destroy tanks and assist troops in contacts and do [close-air support]” a mission the aircraft has flown more recently in the Middle East against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

    Pleus added, “CAS is a mission, not an airplane.”

    RELATED: Air Force Mulls Low-Cost Fighter Experiment

    The cannon the general referred to is the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger in the nose of the Warthog. The weapon can hold as many as 1,174 rounds and is configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute.

    The F-35 also features a gatling gun, albeit a smaller and lighter one.

    The GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F-35A version of the aircraft and hold 182 rounds. It’s slated to be externally mounted on the Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier version and hold 220 rounds.

    F-35B gun pod

    RELATED: F-35 Could Carry B61 Nuclear Warhead Sooner Than Planned

    “The A-10 is a great CAS platform in a no-threat environment,” Pleus said, adding it was never meant to be a fast, high-flying aircraft that could maneuver in a contested environment — like in current parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

    The test between the A-10 and F-35 will be structured and certified by the Defense Department’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, Pleus said. “That plan is something they are still developing” for the comparison testing “to start undergoing in 2018,” he said.

    Citing his F-16 experience, Pleus said he would bet the A-10 comes out “as the better CAS platform” in a no-threat environment against the F-35, which performs similarly to the Fighting Falcon. But “as you now start to built the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles within the target.”

    a-10 warthog davis monthan

    In that case, the F-35 would be the only aircraft left flying — even against more current versions of fighters.

    Pleus said the argument isn’t over whether the A-10 has and can still perform close air support missions. The decision for Air Force leadership and lawmakers going forward, however, is how to distribute the resources to platforms that can do the mission, he said.

    “Where are you getting your bang for your buck?” he said. “A single-platform A-10 that only does CAS and can’t do anything else and it has to be in an uncontested environment is probably not a realistic place for us to be continuing funding…for the future.”

    The general continued, “If I were to develop that plan you have to show that the close air support is not just in a no-threat environment, because CAS is not always in a no-threat environment.

    Pleus said, “When we get to the actual testing I think that’s where you’re going to see the differences.”

    SEE ALSO: The real purpose behind China's mysterious J-20 combat jet

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Air Force's A-10 Warthog targets ISIS fighters with this massive gatling gun

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    China long range missile J-11b

    Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.

    As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

    Photographs posted on IHS Jane's and on Chinese media show China's J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.

    "The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough," Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.

    According to Fu, the missile would enable the People's Liberation Army Air Force to "send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the 'eyes' of enemy jets." 

    The US's airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the "eyes" Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.

    E-2 Advanced Hawkeye

    This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute's senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that "the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can't do their job ... If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren't sufficient because they can't reach their target."

    The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US's airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now. 

    In combination with China's massive, networked array of multiphase radars across artificial, militarized islands in the South China Sea, these missiles and the coming J-20 strike aircraft show that China has leveraged multiple technologies to side-step the US's emerging stealth capabilities. 

    According to Davis, the US's advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. "The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better," Davis said of China's emerging capabilities. 

    China air force j-11

    Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are "starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 ... The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?"

    As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US's qualitative edge.

    "We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft," said Davis. "The other side is not going to stand still."

    SEE ALSO: The real purpose behind China's mysterious J-20 combat jet

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why everyone should be paying attention to China's ambitious space program

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    barack obama

    The State Department under President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced it would review one of Barack Obama's final acts as US president — the release of $221 million to the Palestinian Authority.

    Obama's move came as a shock to many. The funds had congressional holds on them, which don't legally bind the president but have historically been respected. 

    It appears that Trump's decision to review Obama's release of the funds comes down to his heavily  pro-Israel agenda.

    Trump, who took office just hours after Obama's decision, has taken a hard line against the Palestinians, describing their funding of terrorism and the larger situation in the West Bank and Gaza as a "deplorable, deplorable situation," in remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March.

    The $221 million released by Obama, and subsequently halted by Trump, is part of the US's regularly scheduled aid to Palestine, which totaled $557 million from all US government agencies in 2015.

    The US, and even Israel, provides funds to the Palestinian Authority because the government's stability contributes to Israel's security, Michael Koplow, a Middle East analyst at the Israel Policy Forum, told Business Insider. 

    The relative stability of the West Bank, which has not become "a haven for terrorism and a launching ground for rocket attacks," unlike Gaza, can be credited to the cooperation of the Israeli Defense Forces and the Palestinian Authority security forces, according to Koplow.

    "The IDF and the Israeli government are the biggest lobbyists of Congress in favor of continuing Palestinian aid," Koplow added. 

    According to Koplow, though the Israelis and their supporters in the US may condemn the Palestinian Authority and their actions, they continually fund and prop up the organization for a lack of a better alternative.

    west bank

    "Should the PA collapse, the scenarios range from the Israeli military having to reenter the entirety of the West Bank to a complete Hamas takeover. Both the US and Israel are willing to put up with and fund Palestinian Authority corruption, ineffective government, and incitement in order to ensure the security cooperation that safeguards Israeli security," said Koplow.

    However, a few GOP lawmakers decided to draw the line on the $221 million Obama intended to send to the PA.

    Two GOP lawmakers Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, had placed holds on the funds as the Palestinian Authority had pursued "a unilateral tract towards statehood and they were not trying to work with Israel," Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Business Insider.

    By putting the payment under review, the Trump administration seems to be siding with the GOP lawmakers, and the Israelis themselves, who recently moved to reduce their support to the Palestinian Authority.

    idf soldiers

    Indeed, the Palestinians have been making unilateral pushes for statehood, but the Israelis had also pushed forward with initiatives that troubled the Obama administration. The Obama administration made as much clear in December when the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that Israel stop building settlements on Palestinian land.

    The US refused to vote on the resolution, effectively allowing it to pass.

    Trump quickly and sharply criticized this move. "We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect," Trump tweeted. "They used to have a great friend in the US, but ... not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (UN)! Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!"

    Koplow said Obama likely felt "frustration with Israeli settlement activity despite repeated pleas from the White House and the State Department." This frustration was "compounded to an unprecedented degree by the Israeli Regulation Bill — which will legalize every unauthorized outpost and building in the West Bank that are currently illegal under Israeli law," said Koplow.

    trump netanyahuThe bill has only made it through the preliminary stages of Israel's legislature, but has upset Washington and many in the international community nonetheless.

    So while the Palestinian Authority remains corrupt, and a sponsor of terror, the decision on the Israelis part to attempt to barrel ahead with the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza likely prompted Obama's decision to try to release the funds in his final hours.

    Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which PA President Mahmoud Abbas has urged against. His administration will review the funding and possibly adjust it should it clash with his strategy in the region, the Associated Press reports.

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration has frozen Obama’s quiet attempt to send $221 million to Palestine

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    Earlier this month, Inside Defense uncovered a Pentagon report that said the US Navy's F-35C had hit a snag that could take years to fix fully, potentially pushing back the already delayed introduction of the revolutionary Joint Strike Fighter naval variant.

    The Pentagon formed a "red team" to investigate the F-35C's carrier takeoffs, where extreme movements in the cockpit during launch risked pilot health.

    Now, new footage of the F-35Cs taking off from an aircraft carrier may document the issue.

    Watch below:

    See the pilot get bucked and hit the top of the cockpit with his helmet?

    A Pentagon deficiency report in 2015 stated that extreme movements in the cockpit, possibly like the ones shown above, during launch risked pilot health. 

    One hundred and five pilots completing catapult launches rated their level of pain or discomfort on a scale of one to five. Of the 105, 74 pilots reported "moderate" pain or a 3, 18 pilots reported "severe" pain or a 4, and one pilot reported "severe pain that persists" after launching from an aircraft carrier.

    "The oscillations shake the pilot's head sufficiently to impair their ability to consistently read flight critical data, which poses a safety of flight risk," reads the report cited by Inside Defense.

    This pain, more than a mere inconvenience, threatens the ability of pilots to read flight-critical data as they perform the complicated task of launching from a moving platform at sea. Exacerbating the problem, some pilots locked down their harnesses to avoid jostling around during the launch, but this makes it more difficult for the pilot to eject, should they need to.

    Watch an F-18 launch for comparison:

    The F-18 has been a mainstay of carrier air wings for decades, with thousands and thousands of successful launches to their credit — and even they rock a little bit when the aircraft carrier's catapult engages.

    However, in the case of the F-18, the pilot isn't wearing a $400,000 helmet displaying flight-critical information. 

    When Business Insider contacted Lockheed about this story earlier this month, they said that all their carrier launches had been successful. But as this footage shows, it's still rough on the pilot.


    SEE ALSO: The real purpose behind China's mysterious J-20 combat jet

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    An armed man loyal to the Houthi movement holds his weapon as he gathers to protest against the Saudi-backed exiled government deciding to cut off the Yemeni central bank from the outside world, in the capital Sanaa, Yemen August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

    A US service member was killed and three were wounded in a raid on al Qaeda headquarters in Yemen on Saturday, the Pentagon said.

    It said 14 members of the militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula died in the raid, which netted "information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots," the US military said in a statement on Sunday.

    "We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite service members," said General Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command.

    “The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”

    SEE ALSO: Trump's 'extreme vetting' order may violate the Constitution

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    john mccain

    U.S. Senator John McCain said on Sunday that President Donald Trump's order targeting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries has been "confusing" and raised a number of questions.

    "It's been a very confusing process," McCain, a Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CBS' 'Face the Nation.' McCain said the effect of Trump's immigration order "will probably, in some areas, give ISIS (Islamic State) some more propaganda," and asked why the countries targeted by the order included Iraq, where U.S. forces are fighting alongside Iraqi forces against Islamic State.

    McCain said he was "worried" about the addition of Trump's chief strategist and former campaign chief Steve Bannon to the U.S. National Security Council. McCain said this was "a radical departure from any national security council in history."

    SEE ALSO: 'You don't stop talking, Chuck': Chuck Todd grills Trump chief of staff over immigration executive order

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    NOW WATCH: A Harvard psychologist reveals the best way to fake it till you make it

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    Rodrigo Duterte

    The Philippines police will disband anti-drugs units following the killing of a South Korean businessmen by rogue officers, but the country's president vowed on Sunday to forge ahead with his war on drugs until the last day of his term.

    President Rodrigo Duterte said he was embarrassed that anti-drugs officers had abused their power to engage in kidnapping, leading to the death by strangulation of Jee Ick-joo, on the grounds of the national police headquarters.

    Duterte said other suspects were still at large and gave them 48 hours to turn themselves in, or have a dead-or-alive bounty on their heads of 5 million pesos ($100,000), for which he would prefer them dead.

    His police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, said the breakup of anti-drugs units was necessary to rebuild them, but it could disrupt the progress of the campaign.

    "We will dissolve all anti-drugs units in the police," he told a joint news conference with Duterte, when asked if he would overhaul the police.

    "I will do my job to the best of my ability I hope I will not fail the president and the Filipino people."

    More than 7,000 people have been killed since Duterte, nicknamed "the punisher", unleashed his bloody crackdown seven months ago, some 2,250 in police operations and the rest still mostly under investigation.

    His six-year term ends in 2022.

    Police say many of those so far unsolved could be the work of vigilantes or inter-gang drugs violence.

    Philippine drug

    The campaign has caused alarm in the West and rights groups accuse Duterte of turning a blind eye to a wave of extrajudicial killings by police, mostly of low-level peddlers. Police deny that and say the killings are in self-defence.

    Duterte said police who had been subject of internal investigations should be reassigned to work in conflict zones.

    Fighting drugs and crime was the key platform of Duterte's election campaign, during which he promised to eradicate illicit drugs within six months.

    He said he underestimated the depth of problem, and on Sunday promised the crackdown would continue to the end of his six-year presidency, and criticism would not stop him.

    "I do not give a s---, I have a duty to do, and I will do it," he said.

    ($1 = 49.7700 Philippine pesos)


    (Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Martin Petty; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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    NOW WATCH: NASA just released over 100 images of Pluto — and the footage is breathtaking

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    Tensions between China and the US are nearing the brink, as the Trump administration signals a tougher stance on trade and the South China Sea. In response, Chinese media has signaled a willingness to fight for Beijing's claims in the much-disputed region.

    While Trump plans to oversee a massive military buildup of US forces, especially in the navy, China has been pushing an aggressive and far-reaching modernization of its military forces.

    Additionally, China has built a series of artificial islands on the South China Sea and militarized them with the apparent intention of countering even the most advanced US platforms.

    The infographic below shows the range of different Chinese missile platforms. Ones to note are the DF-21 "carrier killer," specifically designed to take out US aircraft carriers at long range, and the DF-41, a nuclear-capable missile that can reach anywhere in the US in 30 minutes. 

    china missiles csis

    SEE ALSO: China tests new extremely long-range missile that could muscle the US out of the South China Sea

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    NOW WATCH: 'I don't like tweeting': Trump addresses his Twitter use amid tweetstorm aimed at NBC

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    operation inherent resolve

    The Pentagon is creating a list of Iraqi's who have worked alongside the United States which will be passed to agencies responsible for implementing President Trump's executive order which restricts entry for people from Iraq and six other Muslim-majority countries, a spokesman said on Monday.

    "We have been provided the opportunity by the White House to submit names and we are working forward to do that," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.

    Trump's order suspending travel, which he signed on Friday, has prompted angry reactions in Iraq, where more than 5,000 U.S. troops are deployed to help Iraqi and regional Kurdish forces in the war against Islamic State.


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    NOW WATCH: Watch President Obama tear up while addressing Michelle in his farewell speech

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    saudi ship houthi yemen

    On Monday footage surfaced appearing to show an anti-ship missile hitting a ship.

    Iranian state-media claimed the attack was carried out by Houthi militants in Yemen against a Saudi Arabian navy vessel. The media cites a source as saying the vessel had 176 sailors and officers, as well as a combat helicopter, on board at the time of the attack.

    Yemen's Houthi militants are known to receive support from Iran.

    In October, the same Houthi militants successfully struck a United Arab Emirates ship in the waters off Yemen's western coast, where Iranian media claims this strike took place.

    Later that month, when US ships entered the waters off Yemen's coast, Houthi militants shot additional missiles at US ships, which the US intercepted before firing a salvo that destroyed the radar sites that had been used to launch the attacks.

    At the time, a US general warned that the US should brace for more attacks.

    Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Arab Gulf states that currently back the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi against the Houthi uprising.

    The US carried out a raid on al Qaeda operatives on Sunday that left 18 al Qaeda militants dead, as well as one US serviceman. Additionally, three US troops were wounded, and a helicopter was damaged and intentionally destroyed by US forces.

    SEE ALSO: How Iran made the US look weak with a tiny, outdated navy and some old ballistic missiles

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    mlrs rocket launcher

    A building in southern Saudi Arabia used by United Nations staff to monitor ceasefire violations in Yemen was damaged by rocket fire on Monday.

    Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV reported that the entrance of the building in Dhahran al-Janoub province, near the Yemeni border, had been hit by Katyusha rockets launched by the Iranian-allied Houthi group who control Yemen's capital, Sanaa.

    United Nations special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed did not attribute blame but said it was "especially tragic that this attack took place at a point in time where we are calling for a restoration of the Cessation of Hostilities".

    Neither Ould Cheikh Ahmed nor Al-Arabiya made any mention of casualties.

    Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies have carried out thousands of bombing raids in Yemen since March 2015 in a campaign to try to restore the ousted internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

    A 48-hour truce declared by Saudi Arabia in November failed to halt fighting, and a plan to end the war put forward by Ould Cheikh Ahmed was rejected by Hadi's exiled administration.

    In his statement, Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged both parties in the conflict to commit to resuming a ceasefire that he said would open space for renewed dialogue.

    Yemen map

    SEE ALSO: Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen claim to have hit a Saudi navy ship with an anti-ship missile

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    NOW WATCH: The US struck radar sites in Yemen after rebels tried to attack a Navy ship with missiles

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    Shahab-3 missile Iran

    Iran on Sunday carried out a test launch of a medium-range ballistic missile that exploded after 630 miles, a U.S. official said on Monday.

    The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the test was carried out from a site near Semnan, which is east of Tehran. The official added that the last time this type of missile was test launched was in July 2016.

    The White House said it was aware that Iran had tested a missile.

    "We're looking into that. We're aware that Iran fired that missile. We're looking into the exact nature of it, and I'll try to have more for you later," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said during a press briefing.

    It was not immediately clear whether the test launch violated a United Nations Security Council resolution.

    According to U.N. Security Council resolution 1929: "Iran is prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and States are required to take all necessary measure to prevent the transfer of related technology or technical assistance."

    News of the latest test comes as French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in the Iranian capital for a two-day visit.

    Iran missile

    Ayrault vowed that France would act as defender of Iran's nuclear deal, saying it was in the "common interest" that the 2015 accord was obeyed. Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for lifted sanctions.

    He said that while Iran had "largely" honored the deal's terms, it had tested the spirit of the accord over the past year by carrying out several ballistic missile tests.

    SEE ALSO: Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen claim to have hit a Saudi navy ship with an anti-ship missile

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    NOW WATCH: Obama said the White House previously announced the $400 million payment to Iran — here's the footage

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    operation atlantic resolve m1a2 abrams

    In January, a US Army brigade of nearly 3,500 troops and 2,700 pieces of heavy equipment arrived in Poland in the largest deployments of US troops and armor to that country.

    The brigade came with a simple mission — integrate with the Polish army and deter Russia on all fronts.

    "Russian aggression takes many forms," Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army in Europe, told NBC News.

    "Cyber, misinformation, threatening other countries, Russian snap exercises. We're serious — this is not just a training exercise. It's to demonstrate a strategic message that you cannot violate the sovereignty of members of NATO ... Moscow will get the message — I'm confident of it. "

    The combine US and Polish forces immediately started training with tanks, artillery, and helicopters in an overt show of force.

    Meanwhile, US soldiers in Lithuania had just finished a similar exercise. Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary will all also see US troops deployed on a rotational basis.

    But the US assurance to vulnerable NATO states in the Baltics comes after a years-long Russian military buildup. Current and former US generals have expressed doubts about NATO's ability to deter or stop an outright attack from Russia, and a report from the think tank RAND Corp predicts that Russia could seize control of the Baltic States within 36 hours of a blitz-like invasion. 

    However, experts around the world have noted Russian aggression via softer hybrid means like cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns could also be used against NATO nations in Eastern Europe.

    Additionally, Donald Trump has criticized NATO as being ineffectual and obsolete, sowing doubts among European leaders of whether or not the US would come to the aid of embattled European allies.

    For now, US forces will train, eat, and sleep alongside their European allies, meaning that a Russian attack of any sort on the Baltics will draw an immediate reaction from the US.

    Watch footage of the training exercises below:

    SEE ALSO: Two dead after Houthi militant suicide attack against Saudi Arabian ship near Yemen

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    NOW WATCH: How Russia's most advanced military equipment stacks up against NATO hardware

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    Boneyard Air Force

    At the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, also known as the "Boneyard," US military planes from all services go to die.

    Single seat jets, large transport planes, helicopters, and even expire mental projects lay across a vast expanse of desert.

    Some have been picked apart as the US Air Force and other branches of the military scramble to keep planes flying. Some have been resurrected, like a 55 year-old B-52H that the Air Force put back into service.

    But the wide majority just sit under the rising and setting sun in a scene that fans of US military aviation and former pilots themselves consistently find a kind of eerie beauty in.

    Perhaps nothing has captured that beauty as well as the following time lapse footage of America's "Boneyard."


    SEE ALSO: ‘Moscow will get the message’: US flexes muscles with largest ever deployment to Poland

    SEE ALSO: Welcome to the boneyard, where US Air Force birds go to die

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    NOW WATCH: These are the secretive 18-wheelers the US government uses to transport nukes on America's roads

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    A member of the Ukraine and Russia blamed each other on Tuesday for a surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine in recent days that has led to the highest casualty toll in weeks and cut off power and water to thousands of civilians on the front line.

    The Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists accuse each other of launching offensives in the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka and firing heavy artillery in defiance of the two-year-old Minsk ceasefire deal.

    Eight Ukrainian troops have been killed and 26 wounded since fighting intensified on Sunday - the heaviest losses for the military since mid-December, according to government figures.

    "The current escalation in Donbass is a clear indication of Russia's continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreements with a view of preventing the stabilization of the situation," Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement.

    The peace deal was agreed in February 2015, but international security monitors report ceasefire violations on a daily basis, including regular gun and mortar fire.

    The latest clashes mark the first significant escalation in Ukraine since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose call for better relations with Moscow has alarmed Kiev while the conflict remains unresolved.

    Ukrainian authorities said they were prepared for a possible evacuation of Avdiyivka's 16,000 residents, many of whom have little or no access to utilities after shelling hit supply infrastructure.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross's Ukraine delegation tweeted that there was no water, electricity or heating in the town and the temperature was -18 degrees Centigrade (0 Fahrenheit). "Hostilities continue and people start to lose hope," it added.

    afp ukraine says five troops killed in worst clash in months

    Meanwhile Russia's Foreign Ministry said Ukrainian government troops had launched deadly offensives on rebel positions and warned that the region was "on the verge of humanitarian and ecological catastrophe".

    Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the Ukrainian authorities of organizing the attacks as a ruse to try to distract attention from domestic and other problems.

    Close to 10,000 people have been killed since fighting between Ukrainian troops and rebels seeking independence from Kiev erupted in April 2014.


    Ukraine and NATO accuse the Kremlin of supporting the rebels with troops and weapons. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict, as well as for its annexation of Crimea.

    SEE ALSO: ‘Moscow will get the message’: US flexes muscles with largest ever deployment to Poland

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    NOW WATCH: Watch 2 Ukrainian politicians brawl after one is accused of working with Russia

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    saudi arabai navy houthi yemen strike

    On Monday, suspicious footage emerged appearing to show an explosion of some sort rocking a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen.

    Initially, Iranian media reported that the Saudi frigate had been hit by an anti-ship missile, much like the kind Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen had fired in October at an Emirati ship and several US Navy vessels.

    Later, Saudi media reported the incident as a terrorist attack carried out by "suicide boats," or small craft laden with bombs, which left two Saudi sailors dead.

    The statement said that the Saudi ship continued on with its patrol as the Saudi Air Force chased down the remaining militants "to deal with them."

    According to Behnam Ben Taleblu, an expert on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reports from Iran, who provides military support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as Saudi Arabia, Iran's bitter rival, should be taken with a grain of salt.

    "Iran definitely wants to play up Houthi military capabilities," said Taleblu in an interview with Business Insider. In October, the Houthis surprised many observers with their advanced capabilities in a successful missile launch against an Emirati ship with an anti-ship missile.

    The October strike represented a PR coup for the Houthis and their Iranian backers, something which they may have looked to replicate with the latest attack. "They don’t mind having it resonate in their media," Taleblu said of the idea that the Houthis have significant anti-ship capabilities.

    iran irgc navy fast attack craft

    The Saudis have reason to try to spin the encounter as well. "Normally the Saudis would want to ascribe all of the Houthi military capabilities to Iran," said Taleblu.

    In this case, by claiming that the Houthis used suicide vessels instead of missiles, the Saudis actually downplay the militants' capabilities.

    Suicide boats, or fast attack craft with a human pilot and explosives, can achieve a similar effect as sophisticated anti-ship missiles, but they're considerably more primitive and unimpressive. A fast attack craft moving at full speed pales in comparison to the full speed of a large military ship like the Saudi frigates.

    "If they sent a suicide boat, it removes any kind of military prowess," said Taleblu.

    Houthi girl

    The poor, questionable quality of the video released furthers the discrepancy between the Iranian and Saudi media reports.

    In conclusion, Taleblu says the story told by the Saudis seems more likely. "I’d be more inclined to go with the Saudis ... Iran has significant incentive to misrepresent Houthi capabilities," concluded Taleblu. 

    SEE ALSO: Two dead after Houthi militant suicide attack against Saudi Arabian ship near Yemen

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    NOW WATCH: A Norwegian mass killer is suing over prison conditions — here's a tour of a luxurious maximum-security prison in Norway

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