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- 04/11/18--08:25: _Trump appears on th...
- 04/12/18--06:31: _Photo essay: 'When ...
- 04/12/18--07:47: _A Greek fighter pil...
- 04/12/18--09:09: _The Trump administr...
- 04/12/18--11:15: _Trump reportedly ha...
- 04/13/18--05:06: _Russia says US mili...
- 04/13/18--09:24: _Habits from the mil...
- 04/13/18--10:07: _'We have no fear': ...
- 04/13/18--10:58: _This surreal 1956 m...
- 04/16/18--04:43: _The US Navy appears...
- 04/17/18--03:54: _Syria claims to thw...
- 04/17/18--05:40: _North and South Kor...
- 04/17/18--07:41: _Israeli intelligenc...
- 04/18/18--01:45: _Iran parades missil...
- 04/18/18--10:11: _China may be jammin...
- 04/19/18--01:35: _Taiwan calls Chines...
- 04/19/18--04:05: _China flew nuclear-...
- 04/19/18--05:26: _Trump had some oddl...
- 04/19/18--07:17: _Trump reportedly th...
- 04/19/18--08:48: _North Korea appears...
- Yom Hashoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
- The Jewish liberators of concentration camps are often overlooked.
- Below, the author shares a story of a great-uncle who liberated a Nazi concentration camp.
- A Greek Mirage 2000-5 fighter jet crashed over the Aegean Sea on Thursday, multiple news outlets reported.
- Greece's defense minister has said the pilot is dead.
- Greek and Turkish planes often engage near their borders but are rarely armed and tend not to fire anything.
- Mike Pompeo, the head of the CIA and President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, confirmed on Thursday that the US military killed hundreds of Russians in an intense fight in Syria.
- The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
- Russian military contractors aren't official Russian troops, but volunteers to private military firms.
- Reports on the firms' communications indicate they were badly humiliated by the lopsided loss.
- President Donald Trump is said to have nailed down eight potential targets to strike in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility, according to a CNBC report.
- It's possible the locations lie far from Russian forces in the region and therefore would carry a low risk of escalating tensions with Russia — but the White House has indicated it's not afraid to target Russian assets.
- Any strike on Syria, Russia's ally, runs the risk triggering a massive Russian response that could lead to war between the world's biggest nuclear powers.
- The prospect of Western military action in Syria that could lead to confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East.
- International chemical weapons experts were traveling to Syria to investigate an alleged gas attack by government forces on the town of Douma which killed dozens of people.
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said international relations should not depend on one person's morning mood, in apparent reference to Trump's tweets.
- 04/13/18--09:24: Habits from the military that stay with you forever
- Service members find themselves acting nearly uniformly and often shared habits go beyond a person's time in the military.
- For some veterans, the main habits that stuck related to seemingly mundane activities such as making sure to stay off the grass while walking outside.
- We have shared some of the most illuminating habits below.
- A former Russian navy admiral upped the ongoing war of words between the US and Russia.
- Retired Admiral Vladimir Masorin said Russia would sink the USS Donald Cook if it fired on Syria.
- The Cook is currently in the Mediterranean.
- When President Donald Trump threatened to strike Syria, the US Navy only had one destroyer in the region — leading people to assume that it would take part in the strike.
- But when the attack occurred, that ship didn't fire anything — which may have been a distraction ploy.
- Instead, ships in the Red Sea fired a large portion of the missiles, while Syria and its Russian ally apparently failed entirely to defend it.
- Russian threats to counter-attack also ultimately came to nothing.
- A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.
- Syrian and Hezbollah media had previously said Syria had thwarted missile attacks on two airfields.
- The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.
- North and South Korea may be on the verge of announcing a peaceful end to the Korean War, which has gone on since 1950.
- A South Korean intelligence source reportedly said the upcoming meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in could result in the announcement.
- North Korea seemed destined for war with South Korea and the US just one year ago, but many significant shifts have taken place, though experts remain skeptical.
- Israeli officials cited in a Ynetnews report characterized the missile strike on Friday by the US, the UK, and France on suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria as a failure.
- Multiple Israeli government and military sources suggested the strike was not effective in hurting Syria's ability to conduct chemical attacks.
- These officials also criticized President Donald Trump's talking about the strike beforehand.
- The latest strike most likely didn't change anything on the battlefield in Syria, and it's hard to know how much of the chemical weapons stockpile it hit.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that US missiles are coming to strike Syria, despite Russia's threats to shoot down incoming US missiles and even the platforms that fire them.
The US has struck Syria before, using cruise missiles from two US Navy guided-missile destroyers in the Mediterranean, but experts now say the US will have to go bigger to make an impact on Syria's forces under Russian protection.
With no aircraft carriers currently in the region, a heavy Russian naval presence in the region, and only 2,000 or so US troops on the ground in Syria, it may seem like the US is outnumbered or outgunned.
In reality, the US has massive airpower in the region which far overpowers anything else nearby.
With the US Air Force presences in Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as forces on the ground, the US has a multitude of options for carrying out a strike in Syria, despite a heavy Russian presence and advanced missile defenses.
Take a look at the US's firepower in the region:
Here's the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that just left the region. It has aircraft for logistics, air-to-air, air-to-ground, intelligence and surveillance, early-warning, and antisubmarine warfare. It's one of 11 US aircraft carriers, and as it stands it could make it back to the region within one week at full steam.
Here's a loaded F/A-18E. This one has an air-to-ground heavy load out, but still carries air-to-air missiles in case an enemy aircraft attacks the US or US-backed forces, as was the case when an F/A-18E had to shoot down a Syrian Su-22.
The crew can launch one of these every two minutes or so. F/A-18Es off the US aircraft carriers can fly thousands of sorties, or missions, during a single deployment.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The bartender at the Communist-themed pub in former East Berlin scrunches up his face and readjusts his glasses. Lenin looms on the wall beside him. “This is from Berlin?” I ask him.
“No, it’s from a little town, you’ve probably never heard of it,” he says of the bottle of doppelkorn liquor he has just poured me.
“What’s it called?” I inquire, taking a tiny sip from the clear liquid.
“Nordhausen,” the barkeep replies.
“Sure, I know it.”
“You do?” he gasps, amazed an American should know of a Podunk village in Lower Thuringia.
“Sure, my great-uncle liberated a concentration camp there,” I tell him.
Silence thicker than Berlin’s humid summer air. After a clumsy moment like so many when the Holocaust is mentioned in modern Germany, he replies: “I did not know there was a concentration camp there.”
* * *
Seventy years earlier, in April of ’45, the German army was in tatters and retreating before the Allies. American troops approached the city of Weimar in central Germany on April 11 and liberated the first Nazi concentration camp: Buchenwald. Among the skeletal prisoners famously photographed in the grim barracks was future Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
But that same day, 40 miles to the north, a US Army detachment entered another, lesser-known camp outside the town of Nordhausen. The Mittelbau-Dora facility used slave labor to build V-2 rockets and worked thousands to death. Among the men of the 104th Infantry Division was a medic from Brooklyn, New York. A 21-year-old American-born son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, Jules Helfner was fluent in German, kept a pistol in his boot, and was armed with a camera.
Together with his handwritten notes, Jules’s unique photographs, published here for the first time, bring to life a Jewish foot soldier’s personal experience in the 104th. They document four months of Helfner’s service after landing in France in late 1944, chronicling the march into Germany, liberation of a Nazi labor camp, and his eventual encounter with fellow Jewish soldiers in the Red Army at the climax of World War II.
All too often, this aspect of the Holocaust story — the Jewish liberators — is overlooked in Israel.
“He went through hell and back again,” Shirley Helfner, Jules’s younger sister, now 85, said. She was a kid when Jules enlisted and was shipped off to Europe but remembers his return to Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood after the war ended. Speaking with me at her home in Phoenix, she described Jules as quiet and refined, reserved but “with good humor.”
He was brilliant, she said, a polyglot fluent in English, French, German and Yiddish, the language spoken at home.
The army wanted to send him to medical school, but, pressed for time as the Allies mobilized for Operation Overlord, the epic invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944, it drafted Jules as a field medic instead, she said.
The 104th began its tour in Europe after D-Day, as the Allies pushed into the Low Countries and moved on Germany. The earliest dated photo in Helfner’s collection — which his children kept safely over the decades, and which I only saw for the first time last year — is from the Belgian city of Verviers, which served as army headquarters during the bitter winter of ’44.
As the Allies advanced into the Reich, the 104th was at the front, capturing Cologne at the beginning of March and moving east toward Berlin.
Jules posed, leaning against a truck, outside the city’s famed cathedral. (As Jules and the 104th fought through Cologne, his younger brother, Benjamin, was on the opposite side of the globe.
Serving as a sailor aboard the USS General Harry Taylor, Ben was halfway between Hawaii and Wake Island, crossing the 180th Meridian, bound for the Pacific theater. Ben was my grandfather.)
Several photos taken by Jules show him and his army friends along the way, occasionally with the rubble of ruined buildings as the backdrop.
One guy, Julian “Broncho” Nagorski from Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, is named. Nagorski received the Bronze Star for valor, moved to Montana and died in 2008.
The dates written on pictures are sometimes incorrect, suggesting he annotated them sometime after the war.
Though Jules rarely spoke of his experience, his annotations offer poignant insights. “German 88 piece,” he wrote on the back of a photo taken near Cologne. “The gun we feared most.”
But the most startlingly personal reflections were written on the photos from Nordhausen.
* * *
In mid-April, about 60 miles west of Leipzig, the unit entered the Mittelbau-Dora camp. The German military had already abandoned the facility, in which prisoners were worked to death building buzz bombs. Thousands of bodies were strewn in the open air. Several hundred starving survivors remained, and despite the medics’ best efforts, some of those liberated died in the days following.
“To see photographs is one thing,” Fred Bohm, an Austrian-born Jewish corporal technician with the 104th, recounted in a 1979 interview, “but to go in and smell and be exposed to this horror you cannot really be ready for that.”
“But what really struck me is the impact it made on the other guys,” Bohm said. “They were staggered, literally. They were sick.”
Jules spoke little about his experience in the war, let alone at Nordhausen. But the one time he related it to his younger sister he said “the guys went wild,” Shirley recalled.
“They went back to the German town [Nordhausen] and they were killing the Germans left and right,” she said he told her. “Such a horrible, horrible experience.”
His dozen or so photos from Mittelbau-Dora show rows of emaciated corpses in brutal clarity (inexplicably, they’re all dated March 27). One caption distills the outrage Jules must have felt. “Nordhausen Concentration Camp,” he wrote, before switching to capital letters: “3500 JEWS WERE SLAUGHTERED HERE.”
American officers ordered German civilians from the nearby town to bury the thousands of bodies.
“I was put in charge of the burials and I insisted that the Germans from Nordhausen come for the occasion in their Sunday best,” W. Gunther Plaut, a Jewish chaplain with the unit, recounted in an interview years later. “Of course, we did not have enough space to do the work. But in my anger, now turning toward revenge, I told the burghers to use the knives, forks and spoons from their homes. I ordered the women to come out and help wash the bodies."
A handful of pictures captured the German townsfolk carrying and burying the dead. A unique image, Judith Cohen, director of the photo archive at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, said, shows several burghers going underground into the subterranean factory.
“Two charred bodies of inmates of the Nordhausen concentration camp being lifted out of their faulty shelter by German civilians for burial,” reads the caption. One shot, taken below ground, shows the German “robot bomb” — the V-2 rockets — assembly line “worked by the inmates of the Nordhausen concentration camp,” he wrote.
* * *
In the weeks following the capture of Mittelbau-Dora, the 104th pressed eastward, eventually encountering the advancing Red Army. The two allied forces met on the Mulde River, just east of Leipzig. German forces were shattered, their vehicles destroyed and burning on the side of a road. Civilians fled and German soldiers surrendered in droves and were pressed into disposing of armaments.
“These Nazis chose to give up to the 104th US Inf. Div. rather than give up to the Russians,” reads a caption of a photo taken on the Mulde. It would be a familiar story, with millions of Germans fleeing the Soviets at the end of the war, desperate not to fall behind what Churchill would later call the Iron Curtain.
“German prisoners of war crossing the Mulde River on an improvised pontoon bridge. These Nazis chose to give up to the 104th US Inf. Div. rather than give up to the Russians.” April 1945, near Bitterfeld, Germany. (Jules Helfner)
Possibly the most improbable images are those in the final days of the war in Europe. The American and Soviet armies stood on opposite banks of the Mulde, and men from either side met in the city of Wurzen. In a brief moment of comradely warmth before the Cold War set in, Russian and American soldiers stood arm in arm in the conquered town square.
“Red Army soldiers names Ivan + Aleksis with a GI from the 104th,” scrawled Jules. “These Red Army soldiers were Jewish.”
On what may have been the same day in Wurzen, the beaming smiles of 16 women, the only ones in any of Jules’s photographs, radiate in the spring sun.
“A group of Jewish girls liberated by the 104th Inf. Div. at Wurzen, Germany. The entire group numbered 1000, most of them were Hungarians, Romanians, Polish, Russian + Austrian.”
Jules and the men of the 104th returned to the US and were decommissioned in the fall of 1945. He returned to New York.
His mother Ruth and and sister Shirley both would tell that Jules returned a changed man, quiet and reserved but retaining the sense of humor he shared with his brother, Ben.
“When he returned,” Shirley said, drawing on 70-year-old snippets of memories, “he gambled away all his back pay of $500.” Jules and his friends got together and got drunk, she recalled; one buddy passed out wasted, so they put him in the bathtub.
His daughter, Lisa Becker, who lives in Western Massachusetts, said he never really mentioned his wartime experience to her.
“The photos were kept in my dad’s desk drawer, not under lock and key, but as kids we never had any occasion to be looking around because we simply thought only office supplies, house bills and other related info must be in there,” she told me.
Despite Jules’s aspirations to go to medical school, the GI bill would only cover four years of it. Instead he worked as an engineer for Grumman. He died in 1978, seven years before I was born, of complications of a heart attack and stroke.
“It was not until his death in 1978 when my mother was clearing out his desk that she came across the envelope that contained the pictures. By that time my siblings and I were adults,” Becker said, “and my mother finally shared them with us.”
The Greek newspaper Kathimerini cited a source as saying the Mirage had been returning from a mission to intercept Turkish jets.
Both Turkish and Greek news outlets reported that a search-and-rescue operation by Greece's navy had been underway.
"An M2000-5, 9 nautical miles of Iskiri (Skiros) Island disappeared in the northeast"Turkey's Milliyet newspaper reported, quoting a statement from Greece's air force.
According to the Milliyet report, Turkey's military said its jets were nowhere near the scene of the crash at the time.
Greece and Turkey frequently engage jets in dogfights over the Aegean Sea, but the planes are often unarmed and rarely fire missiles.
The Mirage is a single-engine multirole aircraft from the 1970s employed by air forces across Europe.
Mike Pompeo, the head of President Donald Trump's CIA and his nominee for secretary of state, just confirmed that the US killed hundreds of Russians in an intense battle in Syria in February.
Asked about what steps Pompeo would take as secretary of state to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 US election, he said that more work was to be done on sanctions to send Russian President Vladimir Putin a message. But, he said, Putin may have gotten another, clearer message already.
"In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match," said Pompeo. "A couple hundred Russians were killed."
The US had previously only confirmed killing 100 or so pro-Syrian regime forces, but multiple outlets reported the number was as high as 300 and that the soldiers were Russian military contractors.
Russia has used military contractors, or unofficial forces, in military operations before as a possible means of concealing the true cost of fighting abroad in places like Ukraine and Syria.
The February battle was reportedly incredibly one-sided, as a massive column of mostly-Russian pro-Syrian regime forces approached an established US position in Syria and fired on the location.
The US responded with a massive wave of airstrikes that crippled the force before it could retreat, and then cleaned up the remaining combatants with strafing runs from Apache helicopters.
Phone calls intercepted by a US-funded news organization allegedly captured Russian military contractors detailing the humiliating defeat. "We got our f--- asses beat rough, my men called me ... They're there drinking now ... many have gone missing ... it's a total f--- up," one Russian paramilitary chief said, according to Polygraph.info, the US-funded fact-checking website.
France 24 published an interview in February with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who said more Russians were volunteering to fight in Syria for revenge after the embarrassing loss.
As President Donald Trump has cryptically hinted at looming action on Syria, a new report says he may have nailed down eight potential locations to strike.
Citing an unnamed source, CNBC reported on Thursday that the US had selected eight possible targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research facility, and a chemical weapons facility.
Such a strike would amount to punitive action against Syria for what the US and its allies consider a blatant use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. But it would still carry the risk of sparking a war with Russia.
Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that though Syria's chemical weapons facilities lay under the umbrella of Russia's air defenses, they were not actually close enough that a strike on the facilities would endanger Russian troops.
Russia has threatened to use its air defenses against US missile strikes, and Russian officials have threatened to counterattack if US missiles fly over Syria, potentially by attacking US Navy ships or submarines.
Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, told Business Insider that Russia had flown aircraft specializing in anti-submarine warfare to Syria. Russia has also moved its warships out of a naval base in Syria out of concern for their safety after Trump threatened strikes.
Russia operates out of airfields in Syria, but it's unclear whether the US would target those. Syria has moved most of its jets to bases with Russian protection for fear of a strike, the CNBC report said.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, indicated on Wednesday that the US wasn't afraid to target Russian assets in a strike on Syria. But a Russian newspaper reported that the US had been coordinating with Russia to avoid hitting its troops and would provide a list of targets before a strike to avoid escalating conflict between the world's two largest nuclear powers.
Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, urged the US on Thursday to avoid military action, saying the "immediate priority is to avert the danger of war."
Asked whether he was referring to a war between the US and Russia, Nebenzia said: "We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw messages that are coming from Washington — they were very bellicose. They know we are there. I wish there was dialect through the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments."
He added: "The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our military are there ... So the situation is very dangerous."
Trump is trying to punish Syria, not start World War 3
Several experts have told Business Insider that despite Russia's tough talk, Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want a war with the US.
"Putin is not interested in a shooting war with the West," Gorenburg said.
Gorenburg said that because a war could escalate into a nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, and because "the Russian conventional forces just aren't as strong as the US forces," such a fight "would not be a good outcome for Russia."
So far, Trump has played coy about the timing of a strike on Syria.
"We're looking very, very seriously, very closely at that whole situation, and we'll see what happens, folks," he said Thursday, adding that a strike could happen "fairly soon."
Meanwhile, France and the UK have been openly considering participating in a strike and sending forces to the region.
The US, with or without allies, has enough military presence across the Middle East to crush Russian forces in Syria — but a direct attack on Russian forces carries a risk of escalating a conflict into nuclear war.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The prospect of Western military action in Syria that could lead to confrontation with Russia hung over the Middle East on Friday but there was no clear sign that a U.S.-led attack was imminent.
International chemical weapons experts were traveling to Syria to investigate an alleged gas attack by government forces on the town of Douma which killed dozens of people. Two days ago U.S. President Donald Trump warned that missiles "will be coming" in response to that attack.
The allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were eager on Friday to lay blame for the crisis not with him but with Trump.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said international relations should not depend on one person's morning mood, in apparent reference to Trump's tweets.
"We cannot depend on what someone on the other side of the ocean takes into his head in the morning. We cannot take such risks," said Dvorkovich, speaking at a forum.
Russia has warned the West against attacking Assad, who is also supported by Iran, and says there is no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, a town near Damascus which had been held by rebels until this month.
Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations, said he "cannot exclude" war between the United States and Russia.
"The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war," he told reporters. "We hope there will be no point of no return."
Sheikh Naim Qassem, deputy leader of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, told Lebanese daily al-Joumhouria: "The conditions do not point to a total war happening...unless Trump and (Israeli leader Benjamin) Netanyahu completely lose their minds."
U.S. allies have offered strong words of support for Washington but no clear military plans have yet emerged.
British Prime Minister Theresa May won backing from her senior ministers on Thursday to take unspecified action with the United States and France to deter further use of chemical weapons by Syria.
Trump was also expected to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said on Thursday France had proof the Syrian government carried out the Douma attack and would decide whether to strike back when all necessary information had been gathered.
Assad tightens grip
Trump himself appeared on Thursday to cast doubt on at least the timing of any U.S.-led military action, tweeting: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!"
He met his national security team on the situation in Syria later in the day and "no final decision has been made," the White House said in a statement.
"We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies," it said.
A team of experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was traveling to Syria and will start its investigations into the Douma incident on Saturday, the Netherlands-based agency said.
The capture of Douma has clinched a major victory for Assad, crushing what was once a center of the insurgency near Damascus, and underlines his unassailable position in the war.
He has cemented his control over most of the western, more heavily populated, part of the country, with rebels and jihadist insurgents largely contained to two areas on Syria's northern and southern borders.
They still control the northwestern province of Idlib, near Turkey, and a southern region around Deraa, on the border with Jordan. Turkish forces and rebel allies control territory in northern Syria, while U.S.-backed Kurdish forces hold wide areas of the northeast, and pockets of Islamic State fighters remain.
But none of those any longer directly threaten Assad's grip on power, which has been reinforced by Russian air power and Iran-backed fighters on the ground.
Serving in the military can be a life-changing experience.
New habits and ways of life are quickly adopted, and service members find themselves acting nearly uniformly.
And these shared habits go beyond a person's time in the military.
Responding to the question "To ex-military: What habit lasted the most?" on Reddit, several veterans shared routines and customs they had adopted in the military that continued to stick with them years into civilian life.
We have shared some of the most illuminating habits below.
For some veterans, the main habits that stuck related to seemingly mundane activities such as making sure to stay off the grass while walking outside. One Army veteran said, "I've been out nearly fifteen years, and I'm still very wary of walking on the grass."
His experience was echoed by numerous other Army veterans. Another veteran shared, in response, how he first learned to avoid the grass at all costs:
First week in the big green army. I didn't know shit about shit, just got my TA-50 from CIF and was returning to the barracks. I was walking past battalion when someone yelled at me, something like "Hey, Dick, stop right there!"
Dropped my duffel bag, "Y-yes, Sergeant!!"
"What does that sign say right there?"
I look around frantically, what [f---ing] sign? Oh, like two feet to my front right. "Keep off grass, Sergeant!"
That [f---er] had me low crawling across the grass with all of my TA-50 for like 2-3 hours. Just dragging my rucksack and duffel bag back and forth.
Many years later, his retirement was announced on Facebook. I commented with that story. His response was, "I bet you stayed off the grass after that."
Veteran "68w"noted that his time in the military drilled into him a host of other habits that were impossible to exorcise without extreme care and attention.
"I'm still 15 min prior to everything. I have even infected my coworkers with this. I still take my hat off indoors," 68w writes. "I have to purposely slow my eating. I still have an incredibly vulgar mouth. With this comes a proficiency with shit talking that gets me in trouble, as I do not know when to stop."
Of course, some habits acquired in the military do have real practical worth that proves to be extremely useful in civilian life — even if a little strange for those who have never been exposed to the rationale behind the behavior.
Army veteran "airborneAnDrowdy"notes that he still has to pack for trips in a certain way: "Been out 5 years. Socks man. Still in balls."
Others in the Reddit thread quickly agreed, noting that the habit of packing all clothes in zip-close bags to ensure they wouldn't get wet also stuck. And airborneAnDrowdy concurred, saying that he only stopped packing in such a way in response to "the wife's 'recommendation.'"
But not all habits learned in the military are necessarily perfect for civilian life.
An Air Force veteran shared, to the near unanimous approval from the Reddit military community, his hardest habit to kick was, "Extreme vulgarity, sadly."
Jeremy Bender contributed to an earlier version of this story.
A former Russian navy admiral upped the ongoing war of words between the US and Russia on Friday by saying the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the region, if it carries out a strike on Syria.
Here's what retired Admiral Vladimir Masorin told Russian television:
"It is unlikely that we will have to sink the Donald Cook. Yet, a torpedo is a very effective weapon that causes considerable damage to a vessel. Clearly, we are going to deal with a lot of pressure, but war is a dangerous thing for the Americans in the first place. They live in a completely different world over there, but we have no fear, we are fed up with the Americans, they are like a burr in the saddle."
Similarly, Syria reportedly promised to defend itself if attacked, though it's unclear what that means, as they have little capability to wage war against the US.
But Russia actually has the means to sink the Cook, as it has a considerable naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, which includes submarines with torpedoes.
However, the assumption that the Cook would strike Syria rather than a US submarine firing Tomahawk missiles from a submerged position, can't be realistically relied upon.
Experts who spoke to Business Insider about the recent military tensions between the US and Syria over Russia have unanimously said that Russia is bluffing, and that they don't want a conventional war with the US, as they would quickly and soundly lose.
US Navy destroyers have already attacked Syria in April 2017 with 59 cruise missiles destroying a handful of Syrian planes. Though Russia protested the strike and made overtures about possible aggressive responses, the strike went largely unpunished.
In many ways, it was surprisingly accurate.
The author, Lt. Col. Robert R. Rigg, prophesized that these advancements — from night vision goggles, to helicopter warfare, to drone strikes — would come after 1974. While he was technically correct, many came later than he foresaw.
Here are 10 pieces of gear the "soldier of the future" has — right now.
Radios that offer constant communication with fellow soldiers.
"The FutureArmy soldier ... will gain independence and action from an ultra-small radio transmitter and receiver," Rigg wrote. "This transceiver will ... place the individual soldier in communication with all other members of his fighting team."
Most radios aren't built into helmets, but many soldiers are in constant communication with their squad mates through the use of intra-squad radios. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, are typically carrying around small, lightweight radios that offer secure communications.
Some, like special operations forces, use throat microphones (as the magazine also predicted) that transmit when the operator speaks.
Night vision goggles that help troops own the night.
"The soldier will be able to ... change darkness into day with one flick of a wrist on the infrared dial and switch."
Night vision was developed in the 1940s, but was not fielded in goggle form until 1977.
Night optical/observation devices, or NODs as soldiers call them, are standard issue for most troops in the field these days. However, even Rigg couldn't predict the rise of even better gear, such as thermal devices that can pick up on the human body's heat signature.
Automatic carbine rifles to give troops more firepower against the AK-47.
"The individual weapon of the Futurarmy soldier will be an automatic carbine which will replace at least four of today's weapons: the M1 rifle, the carbine, the AR, and the submachine gun."
The automatic carbine, known as the M16, was first put into service in 1964, and was standard issue by 1969 — five years before Rigg predicted. Though the M16A1 gave soldiers in Vietnam plenty of problems, it's been continuously updated and improved.
Many soldiers and Marines carry the M4 carbine — a shorter and lighter version of the M-16 — though most are no longer fully-automatic.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia's promises to counter-attack — all eyes turned towards the US Navy's sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.
Pundits openly scoffed at Trump's announcement of the strike days in advance, especially considering his criticism of Barack Obama for similar talk, but the actual strike appeared to go down well.
In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to suspected gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.
But this time, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.
Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired the missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere in the sea, a French navy frigate let off three missiles.
But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely — the Red Sea.
Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer shot 7, accounting for about a third of the total 105 missiles fired.
Combined with a trilateral air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different than last year's punitive strike.
Photos from the night of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they were simply blind fired, and did not target or intercept incoming missiles.
“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on Saturday, calling the strike "precise, overwhelming and effective."
Syria said it shot down 71 of the missiles fired, but no evidence has yet surfaced to vindicate that claim. During the last strike, the US admitted when one of its Tomahawks failed to reach its target due to an error with the missile.
AMMAN (Reuters) - A false alarm led to Syrian air defense missiles being fired overnight and no new attack on Syria took place, Syrian state media and a military commander said on Tuesday.
Syrian state TV reported overnight that anti-aircraft defenses had shot down missiles fired at an air base in the Homs area, and a media unit run by the Lebanese group Hezbollah said missiles had also targeted an air base near Damascus.
The incident underscored fears of a further escalation in the Syrian conflict after a U.S., British and French attack on Syrian targets on Saturday and an air strike on an air base the previous week that Damascus blamed on Israel.
Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying a number of air defense missiles had been fired but no foreign attack had taken place.
Separately, a commander in the regional military alliance backing the government attributed the malfunction to "a joint electronic attack" by Israel and the United States targeting the Syrian radar system.
The issue had been dealt with by Russian experts, said the commander, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
State television had showed pictures of a missile it said was shot in the air above the air base.
A Pentagon spokesman said there was no U.S. military activity in that area at this time. Asked about reports of the missile attack, an Israeli military spokesman said: "We don't comment on such reports."
Saturday's strikes by the U.S., Britain and France were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian military in eastern Ghouta. Both Damascus and its ally Russia have denied using any such weapons.
The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.
Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.
The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.
Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.
North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from "comrade" to "revered first lady" in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since last year.
Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.
But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.
In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since last year when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear "fire and fury" and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.
The strike by the US, the UK, and France in Syria on Friday involved 105 missiles fired from air and sea to rain down thousands of pounds of explosives on three targets suspected of being chemical weapons facilities— but Israeli officials cited in a recent news report characterized it as a failure.
"If President Trump had ordered the strike only to show that the US responded to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's use of chemical weapons, then that goal has been achieved,"Israel's Ynetnews quoted a senior defense official as saying. "But if there was another objective — such as paralyzing the ability to launch chemical weapons or deterring Assad from using it again — it's doubtful any of these objectives have been met."
An intelligence official who talked to Ynetnews wasn't as forgiving.
"The statement of 'Mission Accomplished' and (the assertion) that Assad's ability to use chemical weapons has been fatally hit has no basis," the official said, most likely referring to a recent tweet from President Donald Trump.
Unlike the US's strike in April 2017, the latest one did not target Syrian jets or airfields — though the earlier attack apparently had little impact, as Syrian jets took off from the damaged airfield within 24 hours and reports of chemical warfare persisted.
Israel is apparently not impressed with Trump's tough talk
The Israeli officials seemed to take issue with Trump's talking about plans to strike before doing so.
Israel is suspected of carrying out a silent but lethal air war against Iranian-aligned militias in Syria, though Israel seldom comments on whether it took part in specific strikes, and if it does, it's always after the fact.
"If you want to shoot — shoot, don't talk," Ynetnews quoted an Israeli diplomatic source as saying. "In the American case, this is mostly talk. They themselves show actions are not going to follow."
After Trump tweeted a warning last week to "get ready" for incoming missiles, it appears Russia and Syria moved assets to more protected locations in an attempt to limit the available targets for a strike.
Nobody knows how many chemical weapons Assad has left
The US said the strikes hit the "heart" of Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure but acknowledged that some "residual" capabilities remained. The strike did not deal any damage to Syria's air force, which the US suspects of deploying the weapons.
While Ynetnews' sources estimated that the strikes didn't take out the bulk of Syria's chemical weapons, it's hard to know the extent of its current stockpile or exactly where all the stores could be.
International inspectors certified in 2013 that Syria had destroyed its chemical weapons facilities as a result of a deal brokered by Russia. But reports of chemical attacks have surfaced regularly since then, and Islamist rebels fighting in the town of Douma — the site of the suspected chemical attack earlier this month that sparked the US and allies' strike on Friday — say Assad is using the terrifying weapons to win on the battlefield.
"They bombed and bombed, and we weren't defeated by conventional weapons, so they found the only way was to use chemical [weapons],"an official in the rebel group Jaysh Al Islam told Reuters.
Despite the US and allies' latest missile strike, the Syrian government has strengthened and fortified its position by clearing out more rebel strongholds.
The UK has acknowledged that the intention of the strikes was not to turn the overall tide in the war and was essentially meant as a punitive action to compel Assad not to use chemical weapons.
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.
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?
"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."
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.
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'
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.
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.
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."
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
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
South 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
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.