Trump Puts 6,700 TOW MISSILES Into the Hands Of An Arab Megalomaniac


The weapons “will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country,” the State Department said.

by Alastair Jamieson

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office on Tuesday.Evan Vucci / AP

The State Department on Thursday announced the sale of 6,700 anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, hours after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.

The State Department said it had notified Congress of the proposed sale, part of a $1 billion defense deal that also includes parts and maintenance support for Saudi tanks and helicopters.

The main contractor for the missiles is Tucson, Arizona-based Raytheon.

“This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said, adding that the deal “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”


The deal comes almost three years to the day that Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., began a campaign of airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Rights group Amnesty International said Friday that arms deals were “irresponsible” because all parties to the conflict had “repeatedly violated international law.”

“There is extensive evidence that irresponsible arms flows to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have resulted in enormous harm to Yemeni civilians,” it said in a statement, “But this has not deterred the USA, the U.K. and other states, including France, Spain and Italy, from continuing transfers of billions of dollars’ worth of such arms. As well as devastating civilian lives, this makes a mockery of the global Arms Trade Treaty.”

The Senate on Tuesday voted to defeat a war powers resolution for Yemen that represented an attempt to insert congressional oversight into U.S. military operations in the deadly civil war there. The measure, which called for the end of the U.S. role in the war, was co-sponsored by three members representing the full ideological spectrum of the Senate — Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. The Senate voted to block the resolution by a vote of 55-44.

Thursday’s deal came two days after bin Salman met President Donald Trump, and hours after he held talks with Pentagon leaders including Mattis.

Asked if he would raised concerns about civilian casualties in Yemen during his meeting, Mattis told reporters: “We have been working very hard with the new U.N. envoy to end the fight in Yemen. And we believe that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution. They have stood by the United Nations recognized government. And we are going to end this war. That’s the bottom line.”

Under the proposed defense deal, Saudi Arabia will buy: 6,696 TOW 2B missiles and associated training materials worth $670 million; parts and repairs support worth $300 million for its Abrams tanks and fighting vehicles, and maintenance equipment worth $100 million for its fleet of AH-64D/E, UH-60L, Schweizer 333 and Bell 406CS helicopters.

The U.S. military drastically stepped up its air campaign in Yemen last year, conducting more than six times as many airstrikes as in 2016, according to data from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).


US General rules out hot pursuit of militants who flee to Pakistan….usually

US rules out hot pursuit of militants who flee to Pakistan

The Pentagon building in Washington, DC, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. (File photo: AFP)
The Pentagon building in Washington, DC, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. (File photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON: The US forces in Afghanistan have no plans to cross the international border to take out the Taliban and other militants who flee to Pakistan after conducting attacks inside the war-torn country, according to a top Pentagon official.

Afghanistan has witnessed some of the worst terrorist attacks killing scores of people. It has blamed Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban for these attacks.

“To be clear, US military authorities are within the borders of Afghanistan only. We have no authority to go into Pakistan. If there is a way to get that authority, but that would certainly be the exception and not the norm and would not be,” Lt Col Mike Andrews, a spokesperson of the Department of Defence, said yesterday after his return from Afghanistan where he accompanied US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“Say, for example, we have troops in contact and then the Taliban militants go across the border. They are clearly inside Pakistan then. There’s no change with regards to respecting the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan.”

He reiterated they would not be going into Pakistan. “Like I said there, there could be exceptions to that, but it is not going to be a normal day to day operational rules of engagement that our commanders on the ground know,” he added.

“If the Taliban reside in Pakistan and we are able to provide safety and support and to help secure districts and provinces within the borders of Afghanistan, I think that that is a tradeoff that we’re willing to make. Because it’s not necessarily about these people over in Pakistan, its about the Afghan people,” Andrews said.

So, looking at the provinces that the Taliban claim or that are contested with the Taliban, that’s going to be the focus of the Afghan forces this year to get them back, he said, adding that there’s enough work to be done inside of Afghanistan to reduce the Taliban’s influence, to reduce their level of control, to provide more security and stability to Afghans.

“And what happens in Pakistan, we can’t have any control on that… Now we’re going to stay focused on Afghanistan,” he said in response to a question.

It is the expectation of the United States, he said, that Pakistan takes steps to ensure that there are no sanctuaries where the Taliban or other terrorist organisations can reside and where they think that they are safe from the US.

MH17-Linked Ukrainian Pilot Shoots Himself In Ukraine–Kyiv Post

Vladyslav Voloshyn, Ukrainian pilot who fought in the Donbas war and was an acting director of Mykolaiv airport, shot himself in his apartment in Mykolaiv on March 18.

Renowned Ukrainian pilot Vladyslav Voloshyn died after shooting himself in his apartment in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on March 18. His family was at home at the time of the incident.

Voloshyn’s wife who heard the shot called the ambulance. Voloshyn, 29, was still alive when the medics arrived, but died later in hospital.

According to the police, Voloshyn shot himself with a Makarov semi-automatic pistol with no license number. The pistol was seized and sent for examination. He leaves a wife and two children.

Voloshyn, a native of Luhansk Oblast, graduated from Kharkiv Aviation Institute and had been serving in the 299th Tactical Aviation Brigade, a formation of the Ukrainian Air Force based at Kulbakino, Mykolaiv Oblast. In summer 2014, Voloshyn took part in Ilovaisk battle when his low-flying Su-25 ground attack jet was hit near the village of Starobesheve on August 29, 2014.

In late 2014, Voloshyn was the victim of false accusations spread by Kremlin propaganda media that he had shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014. Dutch investigators have found that the airliner, which had 298 people on board, all of whom were killed, was in fact shot down by a BUK anti-aircraft missile.

Voloshyn flew more than 30 combat sorties until he resigned from the armed forces in 2017. In December, he was appointed the acting director of Mykolaiv airport.

The investigation by a local journalist Andriy Lokhmatov published in late January shows that Voloshyn was pressured by the local administration into unlawfully signing documentation regarding procurement tenders at Mykolaiv Airport. Initially, he refused to agree but ended up signing the documents after being appointed an acting head of the airport.

Lokhmatov also published the screenshots of Voloshyn’s correspondence with a friend, in which the former pilot said he wanted to resign because he understood he had broken the law and felt “suicidal.” Relatives claimed he had looked depressed prior to the incident.

In the meantime, one of the deputy heads of Mykolaiv administration Valentyn Gaidardzhy said in a statement on March 18, that he was “sorry to see that some people have started to use this tragic event in their vile manipulations, instead of simply expressing their condolences.”

Mykolaiv city police have launched a homicide probe into Voloshyn’s death.

The Kyiv Post met with Voloshyn in Mykolaiv, a city with almost 495,000 residents, late on Feb. 27. He arrived after a day of work at the airport, slightly overwhelmed but energetic. He did not complain about his work at the airport, saying merely that it was quite different from army service. He also said he hoped that the airport would soon open its doors to visitors after the renovation is completed.

Voloshyn mainly told the Kyiv Post about his part in Ilovaisk operation, when the Ukrainian military had to use aviation to help encircled soldiers break out of the besieged town of Ilovaisk in the two military columns. He was on a combat sortie of two Su-25s. Voloshyn and the pilot of the other plane had just destroyed Russian-led forces heavy armor and a couple of military trucks near Starobeshevo in Donetsk Oblast when he was nearly blinded by a flash of light in his cockpit. In a moment, Voloshyn understood that his aircraft had been hit as the plane turned over in the air and started losing the altitude with every second.

Voloshyn managed to eject and spent two days in a private house on the northern outskirts of Starobesheve village. On Sept. 1, 2014 he escaped from the village disguised as a civilian and successfully got through Russian-led forces’ checkpoints on his way to the village of Rozdolne where there was a front-line hospital of the Ukrainian army.

“I wasn’t scared (when it had happened). A person who had almost accepted his death on Aug. 29 couldn’t be scared anymore,” Voloshyn said during the interview. “However, from that moment, I felt that a piece of me had died there… I was ready to die when my plane turned 180 degrees in the air. But if I survived back then, it means that I’m needed in this life for something.”

Read the full story of the Ukrainian pilot Vladyslav Voloshyn in a Kyiv Post series about 2014 Ilovaisk battle this April.

Putin’s diplomacy in the Middle East, ‘a winning strategy’

Putin’s diplomacy in the Middle East, ‘a winning strategy’

© Mikhail Klimentyev, POOL, AFP | Russia’s Vladimir Putin (centre) and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (left), and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) in Latakia, Syria, on December 11, 2017


Text by Marc DAOU

Russia’s Vladimir Putin, set to be re-elected for yet another presidential term on Sunday, has spent much of his latest six-year mandate trying to increase Moscow’s influence in the Middle East. Experts call it a winning diplomatic strategy.

Immensely popular at home, Putin is all but guaranteed victory in the Russian presidential election on March 18, a victory which would hand him a fourth term as the country’s most powerful man.

On the international stage, however, perceptions of the Russian leader are mixed. While the West views Putin with rising suspicion, not least because of Moscow’s recent annexation of Crimea in Ukraine and its staunch support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he now counts a growing number of Middle Eastern nations among his allies, including Egypt, Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

FRANCE 24 spoke to Arnaud Dubien, associate professor at The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), about Russia’s diplomatic strategy in the Middle East.

FRANCE 24: What are your thoughts on Putin’s policies on the Middle East, where Russia is now a key player?

Arnaud Dubien: Putin’s diplomacy is particularly successful in the Middle East, where Russia has many economic, energy and military interests. Today, Moscow plays a key role in the biggest foreign policy quagmire of our time: The Syrian crisis. The Russians are perceived by all regional and extra-regional players – friends and foes alike – as a key player in this issue, a role which Russia hasn’t held for decades.

In the past few years, Russia has significantly strengthened its influence and its positions in the region, from the east to the west, and from the north to the south. It’s important to note, for example, the dramatic improvement of its relations with Turkey, a NATO member to whom it sells arms, its [diplomatic] return to Egypt – an historic gateway to the region for the former USSR – and the Russian-Iranian rapprochement which doesn’t prevent Moscow from developing lucrative relations with Saudi Arabia.

How is this possible, given how complex and fragile the region is?

There are several factors behind this success. First of all, you have to give credit where credit is due, because Putin didn’t start from scratch in the region. The seeds for his success had been sown by former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, one of the country’s biggest Arabists. Since the mid-1990s, Primakov, while serving as foreign minister, managed to maintain and develop contacts in the region. Putin has enjoyed the fruits of his work, accomplished at a time when Russia was very weak internationally. He also relies on his diplomats’ very rare skills and knowledge of the region. But above all, Putin talks with everyone — it’s the main feature of his diplomacy in the Middle East. Russia can discuss anything, openly, with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, while still maintaining very good relations with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

Are there other factors that have helped Putin?

The Russians have benefitted from the US’s indecision and its extremely stark choices [in the Middle East] which have alienated it from other important countries in the region. Putin, who willingly presents himself as a protector of Christians in the Middle East, has not made the choice to bet on Shiites against Sunnis, or vice versa. It’s clever, but it can have its disadvantages too. If you look at what’s going on in Syria different regional actors are now making Russia face up to its contradictions.

Does Putin have the necessary resources for his ambitions in the region?

The political gains are very lucrative from an economic point of view for Russia, compared with the money and resources it has invested in the region. Although the costs for Syria haven’t been made public, they are estimated at €3-5 million per day. Moscow can cover these costs, and it’s far less than the Americans spent in Afghanistan for example. Whether it’s signing nuclear plant construction deals in Turkey and Egypt, or various arms and agriculture contracts, its a very attractive investment opportunity for Russia. Financially, nothing is preventing it from continuing in this way. It’s a calculated, winning strategy, where its great challenge will be to consolidate its achievements and stay [in the region].

How is Russia’s Syria policy, which is seen as uncompromising by the West, perceived by Russians?

The ordinary Russian is more interested in the situation in Ukraine, rather than the far-away conflicts in the Middle East. It should also be noted that Putin is known, even by his detractors, to be very constant and faithful in his alliances. He has been unwavering in his support for Assad, unlike the Americans who rightly or wrongly relinquished support for Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 – one of Russia’s few faithful allies in the region at the time. Russia has never been able to fully accept the ouster of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, a former USSR ally, and it remains a key event in Russian diplomacy today. It’s impossible to comprehend Putin’s uncompromising and rigid stance on Syria if we don’t also keep this event in mind. The regime change in Tripoli has impacted how Moscow perceives the West, and in particular how it views the US — as a destabilising factor in the Middle East.

This piece was translated from the original in French

Turkey Just Kicked Obama’s/Trump’s Terrorists Out of Afrin

Syria war: Turkey-backed forces oust Kurds from heart of Afrin

18 March 2018

Kurdish statue pulled down in Afrin on 18 March 2018Image copyright Reuters

Turkish-backed forces have taken full control of the centre of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Afrin.

Fighters waved flags and tore down the statue of a legendary Kurdish figure after claiming the city centre on Sunday.

The two-month Turkish-led operation aimed to rid the border region of a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.

Activists say 280 civilians have died, although this is denied by Ankara.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that “units of the Free Syrian Army… took control of the centre of Afrin this morning”.

Operations continued on Sunday to clear mines and remaining Kurdish resistance elsewhere in Afrin.

“Most of the terrorists have already fled with tails between their legs,” the Turkish president said.

“In the centre of Afrin, symbols of trust and stability are waving instead of rags of terrorists.”

Pictures and video footage emerged of forces tearing down a Kurdish statue with a bulldozer.

The monument depicted the blacksmith Kawa, a legendary figure for Kurds.

A statement on a Whatsapp group for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces called it the “first blatant violation of Kurdish people’s culture and history since the takeover of Afrin”.

A Turkish armed forces Twitter page posted a video of troops displaying the nation’s flag in Afrin’s centre.

Mohammad al-Hamadeen, spokesman for the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), said they met no resistance as they entered Afrin on three fronts.

“Maybe it will be cleared by the end of the day – it is empty of [YPG] fighters, they cleared out,” he said.

However, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish and FSA fighters controlled around half of the city, with clashes continuing in some areas on Sunday morning.