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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Shahab-3 missile Iran

    • President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would make or buy any weapons it needed to defend itself in a region beset by "invading powers."
    • Iran's military paraded missiles and soldiers in front of him on National Army Day.
    • "We are not living in a normal region, and we see invading powers have built bases around us. Disregarding the principles of international law, they intervene in regional affairs and invade other countries without U.N. permission," Iran's president said.

    LONDON (Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would make or buy any weapons it needed to defend itself in a region beset by "invading powers", as the military paraded missiles and soldiers in front of him on National Army Day.

    Fighter jets and bombers flew overhead as Rouhani told the Tehran crowd and a live TV audience on Wednesday that Iran's forces posed no threat to its neighbors.

    "We tell the world that we will produce or acquire any weapons we need, and will not wait for their approval ... We tell our neighboring countries that our weapons are not against you, it's for deterrence," Rouhani said.

    "We are not living in a normal region, and we see invading powers have built bases around us. Disregarding the principles of international law, they intervene in regional affairs and invade other countries without U.N. permission," Rouhani added.

    U.S., British and French forces pounded Iran's ally Syria with air strikes early on Saturday in retaliation for a suspected April 7 chemical weapons attack, which they blame on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

    Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, in a bid to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

    Trump has delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories to fix what he saw as the "terrible flaws" of the deal, threatening to refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.

    U.S. sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.

    SEE ALSO: Trump reportedly wants to denuclearize North Korea by 2020

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Dropbox CEO talks about how he went from rejecting Steve Jobs to an $11 billion IPO


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    EA 18G Growler

    • The US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier has reached the Philippines, and a pilot on board reported possibly having his aircraft jammed by the Chinese.
    • Beijing has built and militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea, and is extremely touchy about US Navy ships sailing around them despite their legal status as lying in international waters.
    • While jamming isn't anywhere near shooting, the provocative activity "could lead to an escalatory pattern that could be negative for both sides," and the US will "not look kindly" on the practice, according to an expert.


    The US Navy's USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier has reached the Philippines, and reports from pilots on board the ship paint a troubling picture of growing tensions with China.

    US officials told the Wall Street Journal early in April that intelligence officers detected China moving radar and communications jamming equipment to the South China Sea. 

    In addition to building and militarizing islands in the South China Sea, Beijing stands accused of encroaching on the Philippines' territorial waters, something recently exacerbated by the reported appearance of Chinese military planes on a reef near the island nation. 

    Part of the Roosevelt's mission in the Philippines was to demonstrate that if China crossed the line, the US, the Philippines' ally, would have its back. However, a troubling episode played out when the Roosevelt's pilots took off at sea.

    A pilot flying a EA-18G Growler, the US Navy's electronic attack version of the F-18 carrier-based fighter jet, noticed something funny going on with his plane while airborne in the region.

    China jamming US Navy carrier aircraft?

    South China Sea Map

    "The mere fact that some of your equipment is not working is already an indication that someone is trying to jam you. And so we have an answer to that," the pilot told GMA News Online.

    "This is not something that the US will look kindly on or think they can overlook." Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider. "The US will likely seek to counter this in some way."

    While Lamrani said that jamming "can be dangerous" if it targets navigation or communication systems, the US Navy's electronic attack aircraft can likely more than handle the challenge.

    "The Growler is a very capable machine," Lamrani said. "I doubt the Chinese can really affect that aircraft that much. This type of system will try to annoy them and interfere with them, but I don’t really think it will create a safety issues."

    But while manned aircraft can usually fight back against signal jamming, and pilots in a cockpit can always use their own judgment if communications or navigation is lost, jamming could pose a serious threat to the US Navy's drones, as there's no one in the cockpit, according to Lamrani.

    If China is jamming US Navy aircraft flying in international airspace at sea, it serve as yet another sign that Beijing may disregard international law and norms to defend its South China Sea land grab.

    According to Lamrani, while jamming isn't anywhere near shooting, the provocative activity "could lead to an escalatory pattern that could be negative for both sides."

    SEE ALSO: Trump confirms CIA head Pompeo went to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un, says it went 'very smoothly'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A neuroscientist explains why reality may just be a hallucination


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    South China Sea Helicopter

    • China has conducted live-fire military drills along its southeast coast after increasingly stern warnings by Beijing for neighboring Taiwan to toe the line, but the exercises were surprisingly low-key. 
    • State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.
    • Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said on Thursday the drills - which it described as routine and small scale - as well as the Chinese air force fly-by amounted to "military intimidation".

    BEIJING (Reuters) - China has conducted live-fire military drills along its southeast coast after increasingly stern warnings by Beijing for neighboring Taiwan to toe the line, but the exercises were more low key than had been flagged in state media.

    The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China's coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.

    Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to "provocations" by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island's formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.

    Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was taking place on China's southeast coast.

    While it did not provide an exact location, the report said the drills had attracted much attention in Taiwan and that they took place from 8 a.m. until midnight, giving the same time frame for the previously announced exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

    State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles. The widely read Global Times tabloid said last week amphibious landing operations and long-distance attacks were likely to be simulated.

    Taiwan is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.

    Taiwan's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan's northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

    Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said on Thursday the drills - which it described as routine and small scale - as well as the Chinese air force fly-by amounted to "military intimidation".

    "Our determination to defend the country's sovereign dignity will never give in to any threat or inducement of force," it said.

    The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.

    China's hostility toward Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won a presidential election on the island in 2016.

    China fears she wants to push for the island's formal independence. Tsai says she is committed to peace and maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, but will defend Taiwan's security.

    Setting aside the tension with China, Tsai began a visit to the southern African nation of Swaziland on Wednesday, one of only 20 countries which maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

    SEE ALSO: China has jamming equipment in the South China Sea — and the US may 'not look kindly on it'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This incredible animation shows how humans evolved from early life


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    china H-6K

    • Chinese aircraft have again flown around self-ruled Taiwan in what China's air force on Thursday called a "sacred mission."
    • Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.
    • China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the island's "independence separatist activities" were the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

    BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - Chinese aircraft have again flown around self-ruled Taiwan in what China's air force on Thursday called a "sacred mission", as Taiwan denounced its big neighbour over what it called a policy of military intimidation.

    Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, is one of China's most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint.

    China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island.

    More recently, China has been incensed by comments by Taiwan Premier William Lai that it deemed were in support of Taiwan independence, though Taipei says Lai's position remains that the status quo between Taiwan and the mainland should be maintained.

    In a statement on its microblog, the Chinese air force said H-6K bombers had "recently" flown a patrol around Taiwan.

    "The motherland is in our hearts, and the jewelled island is in the bosom of the motherland," an H-6K captain, Zhai Peisong, was quoted as saying in the statement, using another name for Taiwan.

    "Defending the beautiful rivers and mountains of the motherland is the sacred mission of air force pilots."

    Taiwan's Defence Ministry said two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island on Wednesday afternoon, passing first through the Miyako Strait, to Taiwan's northeast, then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

    Late on Wednesday, Chinese state media said the military had also conducted live-fire military drills with helicopters along its southeast coast after increasingly stern warnings by Beijing for Taiwan to toe the line, though the exercises were more low key than had been flagged in state media.

    China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the island's "independence separatist activities" were the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

    "No force and no person should underestimate our resolute resolve and strong ability to defend the nation's sovereignty and territorial integrity," the office said.

    'Determination to defend'

    china air force plaaf

    Taiwan's China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said China's military exercise - which it described as routine and small scale - as well as the Chinese air force fly-by, amounted to "military intimidation".

    "Our determination to defend the country's sovereign dignity will never give in to any threat or inducement of force," it said.

    China had said the live-fire drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China's coast but which Taiwan has controlled since 1949, when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.

    Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to "provocations" by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves by the island to push for formal independence.

    The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against any Taiwan separatism last month.

    China's hostility towards Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won a presidential election on the island in 2016.

    China fears she wants to push for independence. Tsai says she is committed to peace and maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, but will defend Taiwan's security.

    Setting aside the tension with China, Tsai began a visit to the southern African nation of Swaziland on Wednesday, one of only 20 countries which maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

    SEE ALSO: China has jamming equipment in the South China Sea — and the US may 'not look kindly on it'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These 3D printed homes can be constructed for $4,000 — and they might change the approach to underdeveloped housing


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    trump shinzo abe

    • President Donald Trump unexpectedly spoke of his "great respect" for North Korea at a press conference.
    • They were warm words from a man who has frequently threatened war with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions.
    • Trump has frequently and harshly criticized North Korea for its nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile tests, but often mixed in some light praise. 


    President Donald Trump seemed to reassure his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, on Wednesday at a joint press conference on North Korea — but he also had some oddly kind words for Kim Jong Un.

    In speeches where Abe and Trump stressed their resolve to peacefully solve the North Korean crisis, Trump again seemed to praise Kim the dictator.

    "We have great respect for many aspects of what they’re doing," Trump said of North Korea. "But we have to get it together, we have to end nuclear weapons, ideally in all parts of the world."

    Trump has frequently and harshly criticized North Korea for its nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile tests, but often mixed in some light praise. 

    Trump previously said he'd be "honored" to talk to Kim, an honor he now looks likely to achieve.

    He's also expressed admiration for Kim's leadership of North Korea, despite the fact that the regime runs labor camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

    "Not many 27-year-old men could go in and take over a regime... Say what you want, but that's not easy — especially at that age," said Trump to ABC News before his inauguration in January 2016.

    "How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died – take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden ... he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss," said Trump. "You gotta give him credit."

    But Trump has also called Kim a madman, irrational, imbalanced, a sick puppy, and even bestowed him his own nickname of "little rocket man."

    "Trump has a pragmatic approach to the foreign-policy issues that he sees as most important," Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center previously told Business Insider

    It appears now that Trump's priority is denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and he doesn't seem afraid to sympathize with Kim if it helps getting that job done. 

    SEE ALSO: Trump confirms CIA head Pompeo went to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un, says it went 'very smoothly'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These 3D printed homes can be constructed for $4,000 — and they might change the approach to underdeveloped housing


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    Trump Kim jong un maga

    • President Donald Trump reportedly thinks he alone can bring peace to the Korean Peninsula just by talking to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
    • Trump thinks "just get me in the room with the guyand I'll figure it out,'" a source close to him told Axios.
    • But Kim, who is expected to rule his country until death, has a major advantage over Trump in that he can play the long game. 

    President Donald Trump has made no secret of his cautious optimism leading up to his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but he reportedly thinks he alone can get the job done just by talking to Kim.

    Sources close to Trump told the news website Axios that Trump wants his name writ large in history books as a peacemaker, and ending the 68-year-long North Korean crisis presents him an opportunity for just that.

    Trump thinks "just get me in the room with the guy [Kim Jong Un] and I'll figure it out,'" the source told Axios.

    Trump has had success in uniting the world to put pressure on North Korea, something which South Korea credited Kim's new willingness to talk about denuclearization to, and prides himself on his skills as a dealmaker.

    He recently said he'd walk out of the talks if they weren't going well, or cancel them if North Korea seemed unwilling to make real concessions, but his position as US president gives him a distinct disadvantage to Kim.

    Kim does not hold power temporarily or democratically. His will essentially becomes law in North Korea's authoritarian society, and as it stands he's expected to rule until the time of his death. At just 34 years old, that could likely be decades away.

    Meanwhile, Trump will face reelection in 2020, and if he wins that, he can serve until January 2025 at a maximum, meaning Trump has just a few short years to make concrete progress on North Korea. 

    North Korea, under different leaders, has entered into and exited out of these type of denuclearization deals three times in the past, each time frustrating the US after getting some sanctions relief. 

    But Trump remains hopeful, and at a press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, he said "we will not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations."

    SEE ALSO: Trump had some oddly kind words for Kim Jong Un at a press conference with Japan's PM

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 3 reasons why North and South Korean reunification is unlikely


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    Kim Jong Un

    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
    • Kim caving in to US desires could be the result of Trump rallying the world to put pressure on North Korea, or it could be a trick, as North Korea has tricked the US into allowing it sanctions relief before.
    • News of Kim caving to US desires doesn't actually come from Kim, but from Moon, who may have an interest in softening North Korea's rhetoric.
    • Trump may have actually nailed it and has Kim backed into a corner with sanctions and military pressure.


    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to be making huge concessions before meeting with President Donald Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

    Moon said on Thursday, after South Korean diplomats held a series of meetings with Kim and his inner circle, that North Korea essentially wants nothing in return for complete denuclearization.

    Moon said North Korea wants "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula, something experts usually take to mean a removal of US forces from South Korea in addition to removing North Korea's nuclear weapons.

    But Moon said that's not the case.

    "I don't think denuclearization has different meanings for South and North Korea. The North is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization," Moon said during a lunch with chief executives of Korean media companies, according to Reuters.

    Even more shocking, North Korea won't ask the US to do much in return for its denuclearization.

    "They have not attached any conditions that the US cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea," Moon said. "All they are talking about is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security."

    Essentially, according to Moon, all North Korea wants is the US to promise it will not attack it and end the sanctions and other forms of overt pressure.

    Why that might be too good to be true

    Kim Jong-un North Korea nuclear bomb

    For North Korea, these statements represent an absolute about-face. North Korea has for decades defended its pursuit of nuclear weapons as a means to deter the US from invasion, or even to destroy it.

    North Korea has spent decades criticizing the US for its military presence in South Korea, and routinely complains about military exercises it holds with South Korea, sometimes launching missiles during the events.

    Additionally, North Korea has entered into and exited out of denuclearization and peace talks several times in the past, each time leaving the US frustrated after gaining much-needed cash in the form of sanctions relief. None of the many experts contacted by Business Insider doubt that stalling for sanctions relief may be Kim's game this time around, too.

    Consider the messenger

    Donald Trump Moon Jae inSouth Korea's President Moon is not an impartial messenger when communicating North Korea's stance to the world. Moon won office on a progressive platform that promoted talks and engagement with North Korea.

    With many Korean families divided by the war and the armistice, Moon also faces pressure to reunite both Koreas.

    Seoul, South Korea's capital of some 25 million people, also stands to be the hardest-hit city if war struck between the US and North Korea.

    While the Trump and Moon maintain their alliance is ironclad and they're committed to peace, Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, has argued extensively in favor of bombing North Korea, and rarely mentions how many South Koreans could die in that attack.

    Maybe Trump really did nail it

    donald trump

    Although talks with North Korea have failed before, a few things are different this time. North Korea recently announced it had completed its nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile program, which experts assess it can use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. With all tests completed and what North Korea believes is a working missile that can hit the US with a nuclear payload, Kim may now be motivated to talk.

    Kim is also younger than his father was when he entered talks with the US, and possibly more open to changing his country. He's already allowed markets and capitalism to creep into the country, and recently allowed South Korean pop bands to play a show, which he reportedly loved.

    Today, North Korea is under greater sanctions pressure than ever before. Andrea Berger, an expert on North Korean sanctions at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies told Business Insider that it's now virtually impossible to do any business with North Korea that doesn't violate international sanctions. Fuel prices are way up in the country, and reports of the people becoming disenchanted with their strict leadership roll in frequently.

    Perhaps above all, North Korea has never faced a US president that spoke so candidly, and so often, about bombing it. In a way none of his predecessors before him have done, Trump has made North Korea a top priority and portrayed a leader willing to go to the insane length of nuclear war to disarm it.

    SEE ALSO: Trump delivered Japan a huge win on one part of the US's coming talks with North Korea

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This incredible animation shows how humans evolved from early life


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    Royal Saudi Air force Eurofighter Typhoon

    • Air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition killed at least 20 people attending a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen late on Sunday, residents and medical sources said.
    • The head of Al Jumhouri hospital in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies, most of them torn to pieces, and that 46 people had been injured, including 30 children in airstrikes that hit a wedding gathering.
    • The coalition says it does not target civilians and has set up an investigation committee into alleged mass casualty air strikes which have mostly cleared the coalition of any blame.
    • The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine, according to the United Nations.

    DUBAI (Reuters) - Air strikes by a Saudi-led military coalition killed at least 20 people attending a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen late on Sunday, residents and medical sources said.

    The head of Al Jumhouri hospital in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies, most of them torn to pieces, and that 46 people had been injured, including 30 children, in air strikes that hit a wedding gathering.

    Residents and medics told Reuters that 20 people attending the celebration were killed and at least 30 injured.

    A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

    The Western-backed alliance has been fighting a war for three years against the armed Houthi movement which controls the area and much of northern Yemen.

    It has launched thousands of air strikes in a campaign to restore the internationally recognized government. Errant strikes have killed hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.

    Al-Masirah, the TV station of the armed Houthi movement which controls the area and much of northern Yemen, said on its Twitter account that 33 people had been killed and 55 wounded.

    The coalition says it does not target civilians and has set up an investigation committee into alleged mass casualty air strikes which have mostly cleared the coalition of any blame.

    The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of famine, according to the United Nations.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    f 22 arctic badass

    • Lockheed Martin proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force. 
    • The F-22 is unmatched as a stealth fighter airframe, but the F-35 benefits from newer technology and components.
    • Combining the two could create a fantastic airplane unlike anything else in the world, but it would be Japan's — not the US's.
    • The new fighter could force the US into a tough decision about the future of the F-35. 


    Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on Friday for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force. 

    Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force's F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won't sell it.

    While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.

    Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.

    "The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed," Bronk said. 

    But because Russian and Chinese jets constantly pester Japan's airspace, Tokyo wants a more air-dominance focused jet.

    The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can't touch those numbers.

    "Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks," Bronk said of the F-22. "The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for."

    He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.

    Beast of both worlds

    F-35 and F-22

    That's where Lockheed's hybrid proposal enters into the equation. 

    President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22's restart.

    Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were "not trivial," and even if Japan offered to pay, "a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore." The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.

    "If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics," Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, "it starts to look like a new fighter program," Bronk said. 

    This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force

    F-35

    In the end, Lockheed's proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either. 

    "If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying," Bronk explained.

    In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn't come up with.

    SEE ALSO: These are all the fighter jets in the US Air Force

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Google, Apple, and Amazon are in a war that no one will win


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    kim jong un north korea chinese embassy crash

    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang on Monday to express "deep sympathy" over a bus accident that killed 32 Chinese tourists and critically injured two.
    • The accident occurred on Sunday when a bus crashed off a bridge in North Hwanghae Province. Four North Koreans had also been killed in the accident.
    • The North Korean leader was cited as saying the North's party and government would take follow-up measures to the accident "with utmost sincerity in a mind to alleviate the pain of the bereaved families even a bit."

    SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang on Monday to express "deep sympathy" over a bus accident that killed 32 Chinese tourists and critically injured two, the North's state media said on Tuesday.

    "He said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn't control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives," the North's central news agency said.

    The accident occurred on Sunday when a bus crashed off a bridge in North Hwanghae Province. Four North Koreans had also been killed in the accident.

    China is North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic backer, although Beijing has been angered by Pyongyang's numerous missile and nuclear tests.

    Chinese Ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun said Chinese President Xi Jinping and the families of the crash victims would be notified of Kim's visit, while promising close cooperation with North Korean officials regarding the accident, the central news agency reported.

    Kim also visited the hospital where the injured were being treated, the report said, adding that he "personally learned about the treatment of the wounded."

    The North Korean leader was cited as saying the North's party and government would take follow-up measures to the accident "with utmost sincerity in a mind to alleviate the pain of the bereaved families even a bit."

    Chinese tourists make up about 80 percent of all foreign visitors to North Korea, says a South Korean think-tank, the Korea Maritime Institute, which estimates that tourism generates annual revenue of about $44 million for the isolated country.

    Bilateral ties between the North and China showed signs of warming after Kim Jong Un made a surprise visit to Beijing in March, where he met with Xi Jinping and pledged to work toward denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

     

    SEE ALSO: Kim Jong Un's latest play for peace was actually a declaration that it's ready for nuclear war — and it just may get it

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A neuroscientist explains why reality may just be a hallucination


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    kim jong un

    • Kim Jong Un has signaled that he's eager to talk about denuclearizing, but because North Korea's nuclear weapons are so secretive, it will be hard to know if he reports them all.
    • This could lead to loose nuclear weapons in North Korea unaccounted for, and could also put thousands of scientists and engineers who can build nuclear weapons out of work.
    • The risk of loose nukes and nuclear proliferation from rogue scientists is huge, but has been faced down in the past. 


    North Korea's Kim Jong Un has bought his way in to talks with China's President Xi Jinping, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, and US President Donald Trump with a commitment to denuclearize his country — but doing so could open up the world to the tremendous risk of loose nukes and loose nuclear scientists.

    Though Kim has repeatedly vowed to rid his country of nuclear weapons, the promises remain totally one-sided as no one knows how many, or where, North Korea's nuclear arsenal is.

    Kim reportedly sent a message to Trump saying he'd accept denuclearization verification and intensive inspection by international inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the same agency that supervises the Iran deal

    But to do that, Kim would have to provide a list of nuclear sites to the inspectors. It will be a major challenge for the outside world to take his word for it when he announces the sites, or to scour the country for additional sites.

    In the past, North Korea has agreed to international inspections, but backed out when it came time to actually scrutinize the programs.

    As a result of North Korea's secretiveness, it may have unaccounted for nuclear weapons floating around even after work towards denuclearization begins.

    Furthermore, former US Senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar, who served a pivotal role in securing the loose nuclear weapons after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, write in the Washington Post that "thousands of North Korean scientists and engineers" are "now employed in making weapons of mass destruction."

    If North Korea's weapons program ends, the scientists with highly sought-after skills would "risk of proliferation of their deadly knowledge to other states or terrorists," according to the senators.

    North Korea already stands accused of helping Syria develop a chemical weapons program and conducting spy work around the world to improve their knowledge at home. 

    But the senators say the problem can be managed, as it was in the 1990s. Looking to the success of the post Cold War-era, when the world dismantled 90% of its nuclear weapons, Nunn and Lugar maintain that safe denuclearization can be achieved with proper planning.

    Where nuclear missile silos once stood in Ukraine, US officials visited and — together with Russians — destroyed the facilities. Today, on those same fields, crops grow. 

    Russian ss 18 satan ukraine

    SEE ALSO: Kim Jong Un's dinner with South Korea's president has a special menu with hidden symbols — here's what they all mean

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    Donald Trump Kim Jong Un

    • President Donald Trump on Tuesday again praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, describing Kim as "very honorable" and "very open."
    • Trump has in the past mixed praise of Kim with threats, but he has leaned toward praise in recent days.
    • Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader.
    • Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands already, but experts are skeptical.

    President Donald Trump on Tuesday again praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying Kim was "very honorable" and "very open" ahead of a planned meeting between the two leaders that could come as soon as next month.

    "Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing,"Trump told reporters amid a White House visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the North Koreans wanted such a meeting "as soon as possible."

    Trump has signaled an eagerness to meet and conduct diplomacy with Kim, despite spending much of last year threatening to annihilate North Korea in response to Pyongyang's nuclear provocations.

    Since the Winter Olympics earlier this year in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and sweeping rounds of US-led sanctions after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim has also apparently opened up to diplomacy.

    Kim unexpectedly went to Beijing last month to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in later this week.

    Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim — announced in March by South Korean officials visiting the US — though it appears he did so without first consulting his secretary of state at the time, Rex Tillerson.

    Trump said last year that he'd be "honored" to talk to Kim — something he now looks likely to achieve.

    Trump has also expressed admiration for Kim's leadership of North Korea, though human-rights groups have accused the government of numerous violations, including running prison camps that have been likened to Auschwitz in Nazi-controlled Europe.

    Trump said of Kim in January 2016: "You've got to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden ... he goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss."

    In an interview with Reuters last year, Trump again noted Kim's youth when he became leader.

    "Say what you want, but that is not easy, especially at that age," Trump said.

    Trump is set to become the first sitting US president to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader. Meanwhile, Kim has appeared to make a set of stunning concessions and cave to US demands of denuclearization already.

    But experts Business Insider has talked to have noted that North Korea has previously entered into and backed out of talks with the US and said it now may be working to gain relief from sanctions as its economy falters.

    SEE ALSO: Trump had some oddly kind words for Kim Jong Un at a press conference with Japan's PM

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    china military flag

    • China is reviewing a draft law to protect the reputation and honor of "heroes and martyrs" and punish those who "glorify wars of invasion" after some Chinese dressed up in Japanese army uniforms.
    • Japan brutally invaded China before and during World War II and has left behind a painful history. 
    • "The legislation aims to promote patriotism and socialist core values," Chinese media said. 

    BEIJING (Reuters) - China is reviewing a draft law to protect the reputation and honor of "heroes and martyrs" and punish those who "glorify wars of invasion", state media said on Wednesday, amid public anger at people dressing up in Japanese army uniforms.

    China unveiled the law to protect heroes and martyrs in December, and it is likely to be passed by the largely rubber-stamp parliament on Friday.

    Xi Jinping has ushered in new legislation aimed at securing China from threats both within and outside its borders since taking over as president in 2013, as well as presiding over a sweeping crackdown on dissent and free speech.

    China amended its criminal in November to extend punishments for publicly desecrating the national flag and emblem to include disrespecting the national anthem. Punishments include jail terms of up to three years.

    The latest proposed legislation is aimed at protecting the reputation of martyrs - those who have given their lives for China or the Communist Party - and who are already publicly lauded in the country.

    The official Xinhua news agency said that the second draft of the law mandates punishment for "people who profane the deeds and spirit of the heroes and martyrs and those who glorify wars or acts of invasion".

    It did not say what punishment they might receive.

    The news agency said the wording was added following recent incidents where Chinese people had dressed in Japanese World War Two army uniforms and spread the pictures online "to glorify the war of invasion", igniting widespread outrage in China.

    "The legislation aims to promote patriotism and socialist core values," Xinhua said.

    Party history is a sensitive subject because so much of the party's legitimacy rests on its position as claiming great historical achievements, such as leading China to victory over Japan during World War Two.

    China and Japan have sparred frequently about their painful history, with Beijing often accusing Tokyo of not properly atoning for Japan's invasion of China before and during the war.

    SEE ALSO: China has jamming equipment in the South China Sea — and the US may 'not look kindly on it'

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    USS Michigan loading Tomahawk

    • Russia claimed Syria captured a US Tomahawk cruise missile from the strike that took place on April 14, but it's unclear how they would have or why it's mentioning it now.
    • Russia says it will study the missile to advance their own munitions, but an expert says it's unlikely Russia can learn anything from whatever it found.
    • Instead, the expert says Russia's claim is likely an effort to "embarrass" the US.


    Russian state media said on Wednesday that Syria had "captured" a US Tomahawk cruise missile from the strike on suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites on April 14 — and they will study it to advance their own missiles.

    The Russian claim comes after Syria said it knocked down 71 out of 105 US, UK, and French missiles fired in the strike — a claim that no solid evidence has backed up yet.

    In fact, photos from the strike show Syrian air defenses likely fired blindly, at nothing. The Pentagon maintains that no Syrian missiles intercepted any US or allied missiles, and that most of Syria's air defenses fired after the strike took place.

    Also, the Pentagon says Syria fired 40 interceptors, meaning it's virtually impossible 71 missiles were downed, as it takes at least one interceptor to down a missile. 

    syria missile strike

    Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that Russia and Syria likely only have fragments of detonated Tomahawks, and that they wouldn't be much use.

    "I don’t know whether Russia or Syria have 'captured' at Tomahawk although I’m sure they have plenty of fragments to study from weapons which hit their targets," Bronk told Business Insider.

    Unlike other areas of technology where Russia lags far behind the US, Russia's cruise missiles are actually pretty capable, according to Bronk. Russia has used cruise missiles fired from navy ships and submarines to strike targets in Syria before, and they displayed a similar range and ability in doing so.

    Cruise missiles are "not exactly an area where Moscow desperately needs access to Western technology," said Bronk, though Russia would "would love to examine an intact Block 4 Tomahawk to have a look at the sensor and guidance package nonetheless."

    Russia navy submarine cruise missile Syria

    Overall, if Russia or Syria had actually found an intact Tomahawk missile, that flew at hundreds of miles an hour armed with a large explosive and yet somehow managed to land on the ground without breaking up, they could have shown it off by now to back up their claims that the US strike partly failed.

    Bronk concluded that Russia's claim was "probably just posturing in this case to try and embarrass the US."

    SEE ALSO: Russia is reportedly close to giving Syria a new missile defense system — and Israel just vowed to destroy it if attacked

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    Syria Air Strike Damascus

    • A Russian general said that only 22 of 105 missiles fired in a US-led attack in Syria earlier this month successfully hit targets and that Syria shot down the rest with old air defenses.
    • He also claimed that US missiles were captured and sent to Moscow so Russia could improve its weapons systems.
    • The Pentagon forcefully pushed back on those claims, pointing to a lack of evidence on Russia's side.

    Russian Gen. Sergei Rudskoi on Wednesday made numerous bold claims about the US-led strike earlier this month on suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites, essentially saying the attack was all but thwarted by Syrian defenses.

    Rudskoi claimed that two missiles, including a Tomahawk, the US Navy's cruise missile of choice, failed to reach their targets and had been sent to Moscow to help the Russians improve their weapons, according to NPR's Moscow correspondent, Lucian Kim.

    He went on to revise Russia's initial claim that 71 of 105 missiles fired were blocked in the strike, saying instead that 83 missiles went down, with only 22 hitting their targets.

    Finally, he said Russia would send S-300 missile defenses into Syria in the "near future."

    In response, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the Pentagon told Business Insider that Russia "should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry."

    The US, together with the UK and France, had bombed Syria on April 14 as retaliation for a suspected chemical attack blamed on the Syrian government. The Pentagon has denied that US missiles failed in the strike or that downed missiles were captured, with the Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon telling Business Insider "both claims are completely and totally untrue."

    Pahon said Russia had yet to produce credible photographic evidence of downed Tomahawk missiles in Syria.

    Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical consulting company Stratfor, told Business Insider that he had seen "no evidence whatsoever that those missiles were shot down" or captured.

    Photos from the strike suggest Syrian air defenses most likely fired blindly. The Pentagon maintains that no Syrian missiles intercepted any US or allied missiles and that most of Syria's air defenses fired after the strike took place.

    Also, the Pentagon says Syria fired 40 interceptors, a number virtually incapable of downing 71 missiles, as it takes at least one interceptor to down a missile.

    Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, expressed doubt over Russia's claims and said the remarks were "probably just posturing in this case to try and embarrass the US."

    SEE ALSO: Russia says Syria 'captured' a US missile from the strike — and it could be trying to 'embarrass' the US

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    Angry Putin

    • Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response. 
    • A spokesman for the Pentagon's CENTCOM said Russia "should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry."
    • Russia stands accused of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns. 

    Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response. 

    Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military's Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia "should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry."

    Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike earlier this month.

    "This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime's atrocities," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens. 

    Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down "any" US missile. 

    Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria's ally, has provided air support and training for Assad's military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians. 

    SEE ALSO: Russia says Syria 'captured' a US missile from the strike — and it could be trying to 'embarrass' the US

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    special forces

    They're one of the most elite fighting groups in the world. They silently slip into hostile countries to train and lead guerilla forces. 

    The US Army's Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.

    They work in 12-man teams, known as an "A-Team," with each member having a specific job. 

    The ranking officer is the team leader, the weapons sergeant knows just about every weapon in the world, the communications sergeant tees up ordnance or extract, and the medics can take lives as quickly as saving them.

    Here's what they do:

    SEE ALSO: I took portraits of combat-tested soldiers at Fort Bliss — and they told me their incredible stories

    The US Army Special Forces are known for their exceptional skill and professionalism in modern war.



    Alongside the CIA, they were the first Americans on the ground in Afghanistan only one month after 9/11.



    There they linked up with the Northern Alliance and brought Hamid Karzai into Kabul.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    hama syria iran israeli maybe strike

    • The Syrian army said on Sunday that rockets had struck several military bases in the Hama and Aleppo countryside in what it said was new "aggression" by its enemies.
    • Israel has previously hit Iranian-backed militia outposts in Syria, mainly targeting arms convoys of the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah.
    • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,said Sunday's attack had targeted a warehouse for rockets and killed 26 people, mostly Iranians and Iraqis.

    AMMAN (Reuters) - The Syrian army said on Sunday that rockets had struck several military bases in the Hama and Aleppo countryside in what it said was new "aggression" by its enemies, state television said.

    In a news flash, state television said the missile attacks took place at 10:30 p.m. (2030 GMT)

    "Syria is being exposed to a new aggression with some military bases in rural Hama and Aleppo hit with enemy rockets," an army source was quoted as saying without elaborating.

    Israel has previously hit Iranian-backed militia outposts in Syria, mainly targeting arms convoys of the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah. Israel regards the group, which is fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad, as the biggest threat on its borders.

    "We don't comment on foreign reports and we have no information at this time," Israel's military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

    A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Sunday's attack had targeted a warehouse for rockets and killed 26 people, mostly Iranians and Iraqis.

    An opposition source said one of the locations hit was an army base known as Brigade 47 near Hama city, widely known as a recruitment centre for Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias who fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

    An intelligence source who closely follows Syria said it appeared that multiple missile strikes hit several command centres for Iranian-backed militias and there were dozens of injuries and deaths.

    The strikes hit weapons warehouses, and further explosions were heard, the source who requested anonymity said.

    Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the allegations.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month his country will continue "to move against Iran in Syria."

    Earlier this month, the New York Times, quoting an unnamed Israeli military source, reported that Israel struck a Syrian air base that Tehran used. Iran's Tansim news agency said seven Iranian personnel were killed in the attack.

    The strike on an air base brought warnings from Tehran it would retaliate.

    Israel has said Iran was expanding its influence in a belt of territory that stretches from the Iraqi border to the Lebanese border, where Israel says Iran supplies Hezbollah with arms.

    Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias have a large military presence in Syria and are well entrenched in central and eastern areas near the Iraqi border.

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    Kim Jong Un

    • President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said in an interview with CBS over the weekend that he favored a "Libya model" when dealing with North Korea.
    • The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction in the early 2000s but fell from power when the US and others backed an uprising against him and was violently killed in 2011.
    • At the time, North Korea argued that Libya's disarmament and the subsequent military involvement by the US showed why Pyongyang should keep its weapons.
    • Bolton could have picked other analogies to talk about denuclearizing North Korea, but he seems to have selected Libya on purpose, knowing the implications.

    President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, suggested on Sunday that the US could use Libya as a model for North Korean denuclearization — but his comment may have been a dark, even threatening message to North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un.

    Kim has displayed an about-face since he and Trump traded nuclear threats across the Pacific last year, now appearing to pursue peace and diplomacy broadly and willingly — though there has been little follow-through on several promises from the North Korean leader.

    So far, Kim has agreed to denuclearize and seek a peace treaty with South Korea, but he has not taken verifiable steps toward disarming. Though North Korea announced it would invite the US and South Korea to watch the dismantling of its nuclear test site, it has taken similar steps before only to back out of deals later.

    Other steps Kim has taken, like scrapping North Korea's special time zone, have been unilateral and unsubstantial but enough to warrant news coverage.

    The horror of Gaddafi's fate, and how Kim could meet the same

    Muammar Gaddafi

    Bolton, a noted North Korea hawk who has vocally pushed for war with the country, made an unsavory comparison in an interview with CBS's "Face the Nation" that Kim is likely to have picked up on.

    Of plans to denuclearize North Korea, Bolton said, "I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004."

    Bolton added: "In the case of Libya, for example, and it's a different situation in some respects ... One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites."

    Shortly after the US invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi agreed to have international inspectors visit his country to certify that his nuclear and chemical weapons programs had halted.

    In 2011, a popular uprising in Libya got backing from the US and some NATO countries, and a salvo of cruise missile strikes pummeled the Libyan government. Within months, Gaddafi was filmed being dragged out into the streets by rebels who then violently killed him.

    "That the Libyan people rose up against Gaddafi had its roots in his brutality, corruption, and incompetence, not the fact that he had come to agreement years earlier with Washington or that the US had somehow double-crossed him," Fred Hof, a Middle East expert at the Atlantic Council who served as a US ambassador to Syria, told Business Insider.

    "The same could hold true for a denuclearized North Korea."

    Kim knows what Libya means

    libya

    Disarmament bought Gaddafi a few years in the world's good graces, as well as increased trade and investment for Libya.

    In 2009, Gaddafi gave a broad speech at the UN on his ideas for how the world should work — a remarkable comeback from being an international pariah years earlier.

    But the images of Gaddafi's brutal death in October 2011 have no doubt reached North Korea.

    In March of that year, a few months before Kim took power, North Korea said it was a mistake for Libya to disarm, arguing that the arms-control deal with the West was "an invasion tactic to disarm the country."

    In his CBS interview, Bolton acknowledged that Libya is different from North Korea.

    In fact, the two countries, leaders, and situations are so different that Bolton didn't have to bring up Libya at all.

    Bolton, who has signaled that he does not trust Kim, is sensitive to perceptions that the US wasting time with unproductive diplomacy. But Bolton invoked Libya almost certainly knowing the historical linkages with North Korea.

    And Kim is likely to pick up on the talk of Libya, where a once powerful leader was violently killed after giving up his nuclear and chemical weapons.

    SEE ALSO: Trump says Kim Jong Un wants to meet 'as soon as possible' and calls him 'very honorable'

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    Benjamin Netanyahu Iran Lied

    • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israeli intelligence had obtained a trove of "secret" documents outlining a clandestine Iranian nuclear program, and he accused Tehran of cheating on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
    • Experts say a strike in Syria on Sunday that is believed to have killed Iranians was most likely carried out by Israel in a marked escalation of military conflict.
    • Israel appears to have been punishing Iran and walking all over Syria as the US expresses support for Jerusalem.
    • The result, experts say, could be a massive war breaking out across a region already ravaged by conflict.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israeli intelligence had obtained a trove of "secret" documents outlining a clandestine nuclear program in Iran.

    On Sunday, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians. Experts say the strike was most likely carried out by Israel.

    Though Tehran has denied that Iranians died in the strike, a more aggressive posture toward Iran by Israel could bring about a major clash that experts say might lead to the biggest war the Middle East has ever seen.

    The perpetrator of Sunday's attack hasn't been confirmed. Israel rarely takes credit for strikes within Syria, though it maintains that it will strike at any Iranian activity there that it deems a threat.

    With an estimated 20,000 to 70,000 Shiite Iranian-aligned fighters and tens of thousands of rockets in Syria, that's a lot of activity for Israel to monitor.

    Israel's air force appears to be repeatedly battering Iran and Syria

    Two F 15I israel air force f 15

    Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Iran and Syria at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Israel is picking up the pace of strikes and moves against Iran — and staring down the barrel of a massive confrontation.

    "For some time, it really did look like the Israelis were holding back," Schanzer told Business Insider. "They seemed reticent to engage. They didn't want to expose themselves in the skies over Syria."

    But after an air battle in February among Israeli, Syrian, and Iranian forces — in which Israel said it downed an Iranian drone and much of Syria's air defenses but lost an F-16 fighter jet— Israel appears to be going much harder.

    Israeli forces "appear to have broken a seal of sorts," Schanzer said, adding that Israel may see a "window" as Syria's air defenses are vulnerable.

    Both Iranian and Israeli sources cited in recent news reports have predicted retaliation to the strike on Sunday.

    But before any such answer could be made, Israel dropped what it characterized as a massive cache of dirt on Iran.

    'A psychological operation'

    Netanyahu said at a press conference on Monday that Israeli intelligence had about 100,000 documents, videos, and photographs showing that Iran had lied about its nuclear ambitions, and he accused it of cheating on the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

    Schanzer said: "Spies steal documents all the time, but this was a huge cache. And usually, spy agencies keep it quiet after the intelligence is lifted. Not so with the Israelis — they are broadcasting this, making it as much a psychological operation as a revelation about Iran's nuclear mendacity."

    Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has signaled the US is revisiting the Iran nuclear deal.

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that Trump would withdraw from the 2015 deal "if we can't fix it" and assured Netanyahu that the US was "deeply concerned about Iran's dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region and Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East."

    "The United States is with Israel in this fight, and we strongly support Israel's sovereign right to defend itself," Pompeo added.

    Iran's ability to retaliate against Israel is limited.

    Diplomatically, Iran doesn't have much leverage. Though Iran is allied with Russia, Russian air defenses in Syria seem uninterested in protecting Iranian targets from suspected Israeli strikes.

    Iran's main leverage over Israel is its influence with Hamas, a Palestinian group active in the already boiling Gaza Strip on Israel's border, and its nearby fighters and rocket stockpiles.

    "There are things that Iran can do very quickly to make things miserable for the Israelis," Schanzer said.

    With Israel on the sidelines of the civil war in Syria, where over 70 countries have bombed or contributed to bombing efforts, the feud heating up between Jerusalem and Tehran could erupt into a fight that could rock the Middle East.

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration just sent a dark, threatening message to Kim Jong Un

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