NATO has no money, capability to buy out Russia-bound Mistral warships – source

RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov

RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov

NATO doesn’t have the necessary funds to meet the demands of US lawmakers and purchase French-built Mistral warships in order to prevent Russia from getting the vessels, a military source said.

“NATO’s budget is too small to not only purchase Russia-ordered Mistral helicopter carriers, but to even compensate France half of the penalties in accordance with the contract,” a military source in Brussels, Belgium told TASS news agency.

NATO’s military and civilian budget for 2014 amounts $ 1.6 billion, while the penalty for non-delivery of the two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia could reach $ 3 billion, the source explained.

“Moreover, NATO simply doesn’t have a structure that that could receive the ships. The Alliance has almost no military equipment of its own. So there would be no use in the helicopter carriers even if the money to purchase them is found,” the source said.

The idea of buying the Mistral vessels is “absurd from a military point of view” because the ships are “custom-built in accordance with Russian standards, which makes their use by NATO highly problematic and will require additional, expensive refitting,” he stressed.

The source has called the proposal by the US senators “a purely political project, in which NATO as an organization is physically unable to participate.”

“The main irony in this situation” is that even if several NATO member states will be able to allocate the necessary funds and purchase the ships – it’s not France, but Russia, which will get the money, he said.

“The contract has been paid and the redemption price will go to Moscow,” which today is “probably” more interested in money than in Mistral and “does not look too concerned” about the problem with delivery.

“The fact that this logic isn’t obvious to the US congressmen may only cause disappointment among allies and laughter among the Russians,” he concluded.

The comment comes in response to Friday news that eight US lawmakers forwarded a letter to NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, urging the Alliance to purchase the Mistral vessels.

An aerial view shows the Mistral-class helicopter carrier Vladivostok constructed for Russia at the STX Les Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard site in the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint Nazaire

Reuters/Stephane Mahe

 

“Sensitive to the financial burden that France may incur should it rightly refuse to transfer these warships to Russia, we renew our call that NATO purchase or lease the warships as a common naval asset,” the letter said as quoted by The Hill website.

“Such a decisive move by NATO isn’t without precedent and would show President Putin that our rhetorical resolve is matched by our actual resolve and that this Alliance will not tolerate or abet his dangerous actions in Europe,” it added.

NATO headquarters confirmed that it received letter, but provided no official comments on the possibility of the purchase of the ships.

Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract for building two Mistral-type ships in June 2011.

Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October this year.

However, the delivery has been postponed due the pressure on France by the US and EU, which imposed several waves of sanctions against Moscow over its accession of Crime and the crisis in Ukraine.

The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is scheduled to be handed over to Russia in 2015.

Mistral deal: France says delivery of warships to Russia still on hold

The French Navy’s Tonnere multi-purpose amphibious assault ship of the Mistral class at the Toulon seaport. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Vilf)

The French Navy’s Tonnere multi-purpose amphibious assault ship of the Mistral class at the Toulon seaport. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Vilf)

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers can accommodate up to 30 light helicopters in its hangar and on deck, although Russia plans to arm the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol with 16 heavy aircraft.

Each ship can also carry up to 450 combat troops (or 900 for short missions) in addition to the crew, complete with amphibious transports, armor and a command center.

Conditions have not yet been met for France to hand over the Mistral-class warship to Russia. According to the contract, it is due to be delivered on November 14, Paris said.

“The conditions today are not met to deliver the Mistral,”French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told RTL radio in an interview.

He added that the conditions the French government wants to see are “that in Ukraine the situation becomes more normal, and things cool down.”

The Russian agency responsible for foreign arms trade said on Thursday that France so far hasn’t sent any official notice that the Mistral contract may not be fulfilled.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said France had invited a new group of Russian Navy seamen and officers for training courses on handling Mistral-class warships, a move indicating that despite its ambivalent rhetoric France is continuing to fulfill the terms of the contract.

Launching the stern of the first Russian Mistral type dock assault helicopter carrier "Vladivostok" at the Baltic Shipyard. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

Launching the stern of the first Russian Mistral type dock assault helicopter carrier “Vladivostok” at the Baltic Shipyard. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

France may hand over the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia on November 14, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. He announced that Moscow had received an invitation to take delivery at France’s Saint-Nazaire shipyards.

“Rosoboronexport [Russia’s state owned arms exporter] has received an invitation to arrive in Saint-Nazaire on November 14, where 360 Russian sailors and 60 specialist trainers are already,” Rogozin said.

On that day, Vladivostok – the first of two Mistral-class helicopter carrier ships – should be handed over to Russia. The Deputy PM also assumed the second carrier, the Sevastopol, would also be in dock.

“We act from the fact that France must protect its own reputation as a reliable partner, including on issues of military cooperation,” he said. France has always stressed that for them this would be “the litmus test of their national pride and sovereignty,” the Deputy PM added.

On Tuesday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France will decide on delivery of the Mistral-type helicopter carriers to Russia only in November.

“The French president stated earlier that if the political situation does not improve, he will not permit delivery of the helicopter carriers,” Le Drian said. “The president will make a decision by November.”

Launching the stern section of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The ship will be christened the Sevastopol. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Launching the stern section of a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The ship will be christened the Sevastopol. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Rogozin emphasized that so far everything is proceeding according to plan.

French shipbuilders in the Saint Nazaire shipyard have said, according to RIA Novosti, that the helicopter carriers are ready for delivery.

There has been no official statement from the French authorities yet.

Russia and France signed a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract for building two Mistral-type ships in June 2011.
Under the deal, Russia was supposed to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in October this year.

However, delivery has been postponed due to the conflict in Ukraine, the impetus behind the international community’s pressure on France to cancel the contract.

Western allies have been pushing Paris for months, saying that France has to make sacrifices to meet its commitment to oppose Moscow through sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, the Sevastopol, is expected to be handed over to Russia next year.

The Mistral-type helicopter carriers can accommodate up to 30 light helicopters in its hangar and on deck, although Russia plans to arm the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol with 16 heavy aircraft. The ship can also carry up to 450 combat troops (or 900 for short missions) in addition to the crew, complete with amphibious transports, armor and a command center.

European Union Lowers Growth Forecasts as Business Confidence Sags

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth. Credit

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth. Credit

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” said Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth.

The Times – 5 November 2014

BRUSSELS — European Union officials on Tuesday sharply lowered growth forecasts as member states like France, Germany and Italy showed weak economic performance, and as business confidence suffered from heightened geopolitical risks.

Growth is expected to be a meager 1.3 percent in the 28-member bloc this year, instead of the 1.6 percent predicted in the spring, said the European Commission, the union’s executive arm. And the economy is not expected to get much better in 2015, when growth in Germany, the region’s economic engine, is expected to grind down to about 1 percent.

“The economic and employment situation is not improving fast enough,” Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission vice president for jobs and growth, said in a statement accompanying the closely watched economic forecast.

The European Commission’s Report on Economic Growth [PDF]
Shipping containers in the Hamburg harbor. Gross domestic product in Germany shrank by 0.2 percent from the first quarter.
Eurozone Recovery Stalls, With Weakness in Germany and France.
Shop windows in Rome advertise sales. The latest economic news dashed hopes that Italy was emerging from a decade of stagnation.
Italy Falls Back Into Recession, Raising Concern for Eurozone Economy.
Olli Rehn, the European Union’s commissioner for economics and monetary affairs, said growth this year is expected to flatline in the 28 countries of the Union.  E.U. Predicts Anemic Growth and High Unemployment in 2014.

Unless there are additional signs of growth and job creation in the next five years, “people could despair of the European project,” Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The recovery on the Continent continues to lag those in the United States and Britain. Over the next two years, annual growth in Britain is expected to be close to 3 percent, and the unemployment rate is projected to be 5.5 percent in 2016, according to the data released Tuesday. The unemployment rate in the European Union is not expected to fall below double digits, where it has been since 2012, until 2016.

The gloomier outlook will most likely raise expectations for the European Central Bank to take additional steps to stimulate the economy, though economists said they did not expect policy makers to take action at a meeting on Thursday.

The report on Tuesday did not take into account how the European economy might get a boost from a 300 billion euro, or $375 billion, plan to invest public and private money into infrastructure projects. Jean-Claude Juncker, who took office this month as president of the European Commission, has pledged to present that package before the end of the year.

But how much of an effect that would have on lackluster growth remains to be seen. The spending program is unlikely to “change the whole world,” Mr. Katainen said, but “its contribution can be significant.”

The lower forecasts, especially in the 18-nation euro area, where the commission cut its projection for growth this year to 0.8 percent from an earlier 1.2 percent, are a measure of how quickly optimism about a recovery has dissipated. France has failed to grow as hoped, and Italy struggles to make overhauls. There are also signs that the German economy is stalling.

In one of the more drastic downgrades for 2015, the commission lowered Germany’s forecast for growth by nearly a full percentage point to 1.1 percent.

Among the problems facing European economies like Germany is the prospect of a “new cycle of sanctions and countersanctions” related to the restrictions that the United States and the European Union imposed on Russia in retaliation for its role in the Ukraine crisis, and reciprocal moves by Moscow, European Union officials said.

Those tensions “could pose a larger roadblock to European growth prospects than currently envisaged in the forecast,” the officials said in a report accompanying the forecasts.

The tensions might also “have triggered a wait-and-see attitude among firms,” the officials wrote in a section of the report that focused on Germany.

Germany is expected to post growth of 1.3 percent this year, down from an earlier forecast of 1.8 percent. The French economy is expected to grow 0.3 percent this year, down from an earlier estimate of 1 percent.

Italy appeared to stand out as a poor performer: Its economy was predicted to shrink 0.4 percent this year compared with a forecast in May for growth of 0.6 percent.

The commission also expressed concerns about inflation, which it said would remain very low this year and would not come close to the target of just under 2 percent anytime soon. It projected an annual inflation rate of 1.6 percent in the European Union in 2016.

“With confidence indicators declining since midyear and now back to where they were at the end of 2013, and hard data pointing to very weak activity for the rest of the year, it is becoming harder to see the dent in the recovery as the result of temporary factors only,” officials wrote in their report.

The commission said it expected growth rates to improve somewhat in 2015, rising to 1.5 percent in the European Union and to 1.1 percent in the eurozone.

Even so, weaker-than-expected growth this year is likely to make it much harder for countries like France and Italy to achieve the bloc’s mandated targets to keep budget deficits and government debt in check.

France and Italy could face disciplinary action and steep fines if they fail to show that they are making sufficient effort to bring their economies in line with European budgetary rules. Mr. Katainen said those recommendations would be published by the end of this month.

Over all, the commission said, the most recent figures indicate a slow fading of the legacy of the sovereign debt crisis, with many member states still weighed down by high unemployment, high debt and low output.

That prompted Mr. Katainen, the commission vice president, to call on member states to agree on the €300 billion spending plan to bolster demand.

“Accelerating investment is the linchpin of economic recovery,” he said.

Germany also “can play a significant role stimulating the euro area and E.U. economy” by saving less and spending more, Mr. Katainen said.

German medium-size businesses are already feeling the negative impact of Western sanctions imposed against Moscow, as Russia is turning towards Asia-Pacific nations for high-tech machinery and engineering systems.

“The innovative German machinery makers and engineering companies, mostly medium and small businesses, are being hit the hardest,” Volker Treier, deputy managing director of the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK) said, as quoted by the Business Insider Tuesday.

Treier said he expects German exports to Russia to fall by about 20 percent in 2014.

“On the one hand, they are being directly hurt by the sanctions imposed by the European Union or due to lacking clarity about how they should be implemented. On the other hand Russian firms that placed the orders are facing higher financing costs due to a credit crunch and ruble’s devaluation,” Treier explained.

On Tuesday, the German-Russian Foreign Chamber of Commerce (AHK) said that, based on a new survey of German businesses operating in Russia, the so-called Mittelstand companies (small-scale businesses that form the backbone of Germany’s economy) were being hit badly by the fallout from Western sanctions, particularly in the industrial manufacturing sector.

“China is the distinct beneficiary” of Europe’s sanctions policy toward Russia, AHK President Rainer Seele said, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

French Defense Minister says decision on Russian Mistral deal due in November

mistral_class
French President François Hollande (aka General Hollande) will decide “during November” whether to deliver the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

“The president… said that if the political conditions did not change he did not envisage giving the authorization for delivery,” Le Drian told reporters.

Le Drian was referring to a statement by Hollande who had said that he would only hand over the first carrier – the Vladivostok – if there was a lasting ceasefire and a political settlement in Ukraine. Le Drian declined to say whether the conditions had now been met, Reuters said.

Surprised? Not at all. General Hollande is obeying orders from his patron, the Emperor savior of the world by way of wars. And if the Emperor says “don’t deliver the Mistrals”  the General kisses his hand and obeys.

Back in July, it was that other great egaliatarian president, Barack Obama, who urged Americans to tear free from the shackles of cynicism and to unleash some more of that hopium that got Obama elected in the first place. Now it is the turn of that other just as impressive socialist, France’s own General Francois Hollande, who just like Obama has seen his popularity rating crumble to unprecedented levels, come up with his own prescription for how to fix the troubles that ail France. In short: “less lamenting and disparaging, more confidence.”

From Reuters:

In the television interview to mark Bastille Day, when a crowd stormed a Paris prison on July 14, 1789, at the outset of the French Revolution, Hollande said his compatriots were more inclined than some others to put their country down.

“We are very proud but, at the same time, I would say there is a sort of sickness, which is not serious but which can be contagious, whereby we are always lamenting and disparaging,” he said.

“Speak well of your country because, when I’m abroad, people do speak well of France, of what it’s doing in the international arena, in the diplomatic sphere, on defense, the “operations” we have carried out for peace, but also innovation, companies.”

The president also cited entrepreneurs, major companies with significant exports, the tourist industry and agriculture.

“We have to fight but, most importantly, we have to have confidence in ourselves,” he said.

Bottom line: watch your president and government lie every day while pandering and preaching, working solely on behalf of the rich, while you rot away in your part-time jobs or worse, unemployed, surviving day to day on the measly pittance the government hands you to make you a docile little handout addicted serf, and at the end of the day, whatever you do, don’t become a jaded, cynical lamenter and disparager, but have “hope and confidence.” Truly the road to socialist utopia is paved with best intentions.

Things got much worse for Francois Hollande: The economy is lagging; his government is under fire; and his private life was exposed in a ravaging book by the former first lady.

The developments have helped push Hollande’s popularity to new record lows. Three polls released in recent days show that he has lower approval ratings than every other French president in modern times.

Going back to the Mistrals, Russia and France, via French ship builder DCNS, signed in 2011 a contract for the construction Mistral-class ships, a warship that can carry helicopters. The deal was worth 1.2 billion euro. The Vladivostok, the first carried, was expected to be in Russia’s hands by the end of 2014, while the second ship, the Sevastopol, is expected in 2015.

The sanctions against Russia imposed by the U.S. and its European puppets, including France, have added factor to the delays, which ultimately irked Russia. But DCNS told the Western nations their sanctions cannot prohibit the construction and transfer of Mistral ships to the country. Yep, breach of contract by France.

Russia will soon be building its own warships, Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Rear Admiral Victor Bursuk said over the weekend. Admiral made the announcement on Russia’s frustrations over France, which is said to be delaying the turnover of its Mistral-class ships.

Bursuk told Echo of Moscow radio over the weekend the deal of the Mistral helicopter carriers was executed because “it was one of military-technical cooperation contracts.” He went on to say that future construction of ships of this kind will be built at Russian enterprises.

French President Francois Hollande in September had said he will disapprove the transfer of the Vladivostok vessel unless Ukraine situation improves. He explained the conditions surrounding the delivery of the ship is a political statement to the conflict.

Sergei Ivanov, Kremlin chief of staff, said on Thursday Russia will not have second thoughts and will sue France if the latter fails to honor the Mistral contract. “We will file a lawsuit and demand compensation [if the contract is not fulfilled], as it’s commonly done in a civilized world,” Ivanov told reporters.

The Vladivostok has finished a series of tests in September. It took off from the Saint-Nazaire French port for sea trials.

Russian news agency TASS, quoting an unidentified source from the French Defence Ministry, said that “despite France’s hesitations,” the first Mistral helicopter carrier will be delivered to Russia “by mid-November.” The carrier can carry 16 helicopters. It has a displacement of 21 tonnes, maximum body length of 210 metres, speed of 18 knots and a range of up to 20,000 miles. It can also carry several dozen armoured vehicles.

So, if you choose to keep the Emperor happy, Mr. Hollande, and not to deliver the Mistrals, you can shove them where the sun doesn’t shine.

France sets new budget, rejecting German austerity plan – Revolt in the Eurozone

 French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (Reuters / Philippe Wojazer)


French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (Reuters / Philippe Wojazer)

RT News

France’s new budget plan brings the deficit to below the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP by 2017, defying Germany’s austerity program.

Adoption of the document comes as there is new evidence of the country’s disagreement over the austerity policy led by Europe’s strongest economy, Germany.

Paris has taken the decision “to adapt the pace of deficit reduction to the economic situation of the country,” Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters on Wednesday.

“Our economic policy is not changing, but the deficit will be reduced more slowly than planned due to economic circumstances – very weak growth and very weak inflation,” he said.

Under the new budget plan, the public deficit is set to fall from 4.4 percent of output this year to 4.3 percent next year, 3.8 percent in 2016 and 2.8 percent in 2017.

The new budget plan still runs counter to earlier promises by Paris to lower the deficit to less than 3 percent by the second deadline set for next year. The first deadline was previously set for 2013, but extended.

“No further effort will be demanded of the French, because the government – while taking the fiscal responsibility needed to put the country on the right track – rejects austerity,” the budget statement made by Paris read.

However, Paris has committed to government cuts of public spending 21 billion euro by next year and 50 billion euro by 2017 on Wednesday. Still, Sapin said that France will not further extend the cuts as it would badly hit the economy.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged at a media conference in Berlin “everyone to fulfill their commitments and obligations in a credible way,” saying that Europe is still “not at the point where we can say the crisis is fully behind us.”

While Merkel did not particularly point at Paris, Germany’s main exporters’ association, the BGA, accused France of putting the European economy at risk.

“If that country doesn’t figure a way out of the downward spiral, the euro and therefore Europe are at risk,” BGA president Anton Boerner said, according to his statement cited by Reuters.

In August, Hollande asked French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ to form a new government following tensions within his cabinet over the country’s economic policy.

The decision came after strong criticism of the country’s economic direction which, according to former Economics Minister Arnaud Montebourg, has hindered France’s development.

He frontally attacked Merkel for imposing “austerity policy” across Europe calling for a “major shift.”

“My responsibility as economy minister is to tell the truth, and observe…that not only are these austerity policies not working but they are also unfair,” Montebourg said in a statement at a media conference on August 25.

Germany’s attempts to resurrect the EU’s economy after the 2008 financial crisis have been marked by cutbacks and taxation. The austerity plan has proven to be severely unpopular in the eurozone, still struggling with economic weakness.

Massacre: Syrian Children killed in Homs double blasts

Residents and police gathered at the site of the blast [EPA/SANA]

Residents and police gathered at the site of the blast [EPA/SANA]

Attack outside primary school in central Syrian city kills at least 22 people, including 10 children

Aljazeera – Oct 1, 2014
 
 

At least 10 children are among 22 people killed in a twin bombings outside a primary school in the government-controlled city of Homs in central Syria.

A Syrian pro-government channel broadcast on Wednesday brief footage of the aftermath, showing parents looking for their children and schoolbags and bloodstains on the ground. Flames rose from a car nearby.

Homs governor Talal Barazzi described the attack as a “terrorist act and a desperate attempt that targeted school children”.

The blasts happened as children were leaving the Ekremah al-Makhzoumi primary school, said an official with the Homs governorate who refused to be named.

The first explosion was from a car bomb parked and detonated in front of the school, followed minutes later by a suicide bomber who drove by and detonated his explosives-laden car, said the anonymous official.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in Homs in months. At least 56 more people were wounded in the incident, the official said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, but Syrian rebels fighting to oust Assad have carried out such bombings during the country’s civil war.

There have been horrific attacks against civilians by all sides throughout the brutal conflict, now in its fourth year, but rarely have children appeared to be the direct target.

In May, Syrian government forces dropped a bomb in the northern city of Aleppo, hitting a complex that held a school alongside a rebel compound.

At least 19 people, including 10 children were killed in that attack.

No data on ISIS plots against US – Obama

US President Barack Obama (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

US President Barack Obama (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

 

RT news

US intelligence failed to find any specific Islamic State plots against America, President Barack Obama said in an opinion piece. Despite the lack of direct threats, Obama promised not to leave the group unchecked, vowing to ultimately destroy it.

New intelligence has emerged warning Washington that its upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State may leave it blind to a more sinister and direct threat from a much lesser known terrorist group that has arisen from the ashes of the Syrian war.

Very little information is being released at the moment by anyone within American intelligence circles, but the group calling itself Khorasan is said by officials to have concrete plans for striking targets in the United States and Europe as a chosen modus operandi – more so than the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS.

The first ever mention of the group occurred on Thursday at an intelligence gathering in Washington DC, when National Intelligence Director James Clapper admitted that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

According to the New York Times, some US officials have gone as far as saying that, while the Islamic State is undoubtedly more prominent in its show of force in the Middle East, it is Khorasan who’s intent on oversees campaigns in a way Al Qaeda usually is.

In this sense, the US air strike campaign and the coming actions by the anti-IS coalition might just be what coaxes the IS into larger-scale attacks on American and European soil – what Khorasan is essentially all about.

This brings up another issue seen in the current Western stance on terrorism: it is so focused on the terror spread by the IS that it’s beginning to forget that the destruction and mayhem of civil war across the Middle East is spawning a number of hard-to-track terrorist factions with distinct missions.

“What you have is a growing body of extremists from around the world who are coming in and taking advantage of the ungoverned areas and creating informal ad hoc groups that are not directly aligned with ISIS or Nusra,” a senior law enforcement official told the NY Times on condition of anonymity.

The CIA and the White House declined to give comment.

Al-Qaeda fighter (AFP Photo)

Al-Qaeda fighter (AFP Photo)

“Our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against America. But its leaders have repeatedly threatened America and our allies, and if left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States,” Obama wrote in the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday.

The US president’s comments follow the emergence of new intelligence warning that Washington’s upcoming confrontation with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) may leave it blind to a more sinister and direct threat from a much lesser known terrorist group – Khorasan.

Obama reminded the public of his recent fierce efforts to battle the Islamic State, with the final goal of destroying the group.

“That is why, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL. Since then, our brave pilots and crews have conducted more than 170 airstrikes against these terrorists,” he said.

“Going forward, as I announced earlier this month, we will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy. Whether in Iraq or in Syria, these terrorists will learn what the leaders of al-Qaida already know: We mean what we say, our reach is long, and if you threaten America you will find no safe haven,” Obama stressed.

He further underscored that US forces will only support Iraqi soldiers, who will be fighting their own fight.

Obama also focused on overall international involvement in the fight against the Islamic State. “This is not and will not be America’s fight alone. That’s why we continue to build a broad international coalition. France and the UK are flying with us over Iraq, others have committed to join this effort, and France has joined us in conducting strikes against ISIL in Iraq. Overall, more than 40 countries – including Arab nations – have offered assistance as part of this coalition.”

Meanwhile, Islamic State fighters have made their way to Jordan, as it was revealed that 11 Islamic State jihadists were arrested in the country, and have confessed to planning terrorists attacks, AFP cited a security official as saying on Sunday.

The detained individuals “admitted their links to the leadership of the Daesh organization in Syria and that they were charged with carrying out terrorist operations in Jordan targeting a number of vital interests,” the official said, using IS’s Arabic acronym.

News of the arrests comes after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Jordan on September 10 to discuss the creation of US-Arab coalition against the Islamic State with King Abdullah.

During the meeting, Kerry and Abdullah discussed the option of establishing the coalition’s base in Jordan.

Fight with ISIS spreads across globe: How are roles distributed in that battle?

AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye

AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye

“This can’t be America’s fight alone,” US President Barack Obama stressed in his ISIS speech. Indeed, about 40 countries have joined the battle with the radical group that’s left scores dead in Iraq. But who does what on that battlefield?

The main role is still with the US, which has already carried out over 150 airstrikes against the Islamic State (also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS/ISIL).

At the same time, the US is keeping relatively quiet about which countries are taking part in the fight and what they do exactly. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS that nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight, but “it’s not appropriate to start announcing” what roles each will play.

However, an international conference on the IS situation is taking place in Paris on Monday, with world leaders set to debate the anti-ISIS coalition. The meeting includes representatives of some 30 countries, but excludes Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Iran. And the roles of the countries and their contributions are already starting to show.

Britain became the first country to officially join the military operation. UK Prime Minister David Cameron called IS “the embodiment of evil” on Sunday, following the group’s beheading of its third Western hostage, this time British citizen David Haines. Earlier, IS killed two US journalists in the same manner.

According to government sources, the Al-Qaeda offshoot group is led by a former senior operative – 33-year-old Muhsin al-Fadhli, reportedly so close to Bin Laden’s inner circle he was one of the few who knew of the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks in advance.

He had reportedly fled to Iran during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s story goes hazy after the campaign: many operatives are said to have traveled to Pakistan, Syria, Iran and other countries, forming splinter groups.

In 2012, al-Fadhli was identified by the State Department as leading the Iranian branch of Al-Qaeda, controlling “the movement of funds and operatives” in the region and working closely with wealthy “jihadist donors” in his native Kuwait to raise money for the Syrian terrorist resistance.

Although the first public mention of the group was only this Thursday, American intelligence is said to have been tracking it for over a decade. Former President George W. Bush once mentioned the name of its leader in 2005 in connection with a French oil tanker bombing in 2002 off the coast of Yemen.

Khorasan itself is shrouded in mystery. Little is known publicly apart from its being composed of former Al-Qaeda operatives from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The group is said to favor concealed explosives as a terror method.

Like many other groups taking up the power vacuum in war-torn Syria, Khorasan has on occasion shifted its alliances.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri at one point ordered the former ISIS to fight only in Iraq, but cut all ties with it when it disobeyed and branched out. The result was that the Nusra Front became Al-Qaeda’s official branch in Syria. It’s said that Khorasan is to Al Nusra Front what the latter was to Al-Qaeda.

When The Daily Signal spoke to James Phillips, a Middle East expert at The Heritage Foundation, he outlined some American intelligence views on the group: they see their mission in “[recruiting] European and American Muslim militants who have traveled to Syria to fight alongside Islamist extremist groups that form part of the rebel coalition fighting Syria’s Assad regime.”

“The Khorasan group hopes to train and deploy these recruits, who hold American and European passports, for attacks against Western targets,” he said.

He believes Khorasan to be Al-Qaeda’s new arm in attacking America, its “far enemy.” While they are Al Nusra’s allies in Syria, their role is believed to be to carry out terrorist attacks outside the country.

The group reportedly uses the services of a very prominent Al-Qaeda bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, whose devices previously ended up on three US-bound planes. He is known to be a true pioneer of hard-to-detect bombs.

Phillips believes that the next step is taking those bombs and pairing them with US-born and other foreign jihadists returning home.

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province (Reuters)

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria’s northern Raqqa province (Reuters)

In this respect, Phillips views the Khorasan threat to the US to be much more direct compared to the Islamic State’s more regional ambitions. And since President Obama’s upcoming anti-IS strategy reportedly does not include Al Nusra, this potentially frees Khorasan’s hands.

What sets Al Nusra apart from the many other groups is that it’s now the only faction with active branches throughout Syria.

Syria analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, Jennifer Cafarella, told the NY Times “there is definitely a threat that, if not conducted as a component of a properly tailored strategy within Syria, the American strikes would allow the Nusra Front to fill a vacuum in eastern Syria.”

IRAQ-UNREST-ARMY

Because of al-Zawahiri’s current weakened position in terrorist cricles, both Al Nusra and Khorasan by extension are less prominent than the IS. But these things have a way of changing unpredictably, and because the plans of these more traditional terrorist groups in Syria aren’t yet clear, a danger arises.

The volatile conflict zone that is Syria, with its lax borders and an increasing number of distinct, armed Islamist groups, the US may be surprised by how difficult it soon may be to pinpoint the origin of the next threat.

 

Iran refuses to help ‘self-serving’ US fight ISIS

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul, June 23, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

Iran has refused an offer from the United States to join a global alliance preparing to combat Islamic State militants, according to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei said Monday that the US offered to discuss a coordinated effort with Iran against Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), a common foe in the region, in the midst of an escalating campaign of violence that continues to claim lives across Iraq in Syria.

“The American ambassador in Iraq asked our ambassador (in Iraq) for a session to discuss coordinating a fight against Daesh (Islamic State),” said Khamenei, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, according to Reuters.

“Our ambassador in Iraq reflected this to us, which was welcomed by some (Iranian) officials, but I was opposed. I saw no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions murky.”

According to the Washington Post, Khamenei took issue with what he referred to as Washington’s “evil intentions.”

Khamenei said his rejection came prior to Washington’s public exclusion of Iran in Monday’s conference of foreign ministers in Paris, where a coalition of international diplomats have congregated to discuss possible strategies against the jihadist group. Host nation France had wanted to invite Iran, the Post reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Iran’s presence in Paris would not occur based on the Islamic Republic’s support of its ally Syria in the nation’s civil war against Western-backed rebels. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated that Washington was opposed to any military partnership with Iran.

“Now they (the US) are lying, in saying that it is them who excluded us from their coalition, while it was Iran that refused to participate in this collation to begin with,” said Khamenei, who on Monday had just left a hospital following prostate surgery.

Khamenei pointed to previous US-led military incursions in the Middle East as reason to believe the US is only looking out for its own interests.

“American officials’ comments on forming an anti-Islamic State (alliance) are blank, hollow and self-serving, and contradictions in their behaviors and statements attest to this fact,” said Khamenei.

“The Americans should keep in mind that if they go ahead with such a thing, then the same problems that they faced in Iraq in the past 10 years will come back.”

He added that Washington wants in Iraq what it had in Pakistan, “a playground where they can enter freely and bomb at will.”

Despite the public denunciations from both sides, State Dept. spokeswoman Psaki did not rule out a potential partnership with Iran at a later date.

“We will be continuing those talks on the nuclear issue later this week in New York,” Psaki said, according to the Post. “There may be another opportunity on the margins in the future to discuss Iraq.”

The ongoing, US-dominated negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program were the pretext last year for the first conversation between a US president and Iranian leadership in 30 years. US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed “our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama said following the phone conversation.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Arab, European, and other diplomats began talks about supporting the new Iraqi government and slowing momentum of Islamic State.

“Islamic State’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us,” Iraqi President Fouad Massoum told representatives of 30 countries attending the Paris conference. “It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification.”

The conference comes after Sec. Kerry’s week-long tour of Arab allies and Turkey where he attempted to recruit diplomatic and military support for campaign against IS.

Persian Gulf states Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have reportedly volunteered to conduct airstrikes alongside US forces. The Saudis have also pressured the US to give Syrian rebels surface-to-air antiaircraft weapons, but the Obama administration has thus far refused.

Islamic State militants currently controls large swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq. Formerly affiliated with Al-Qaeda, IS is one of many opposition groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces – and each other – in Syria.

So-called moderate rebels fighting in Syria have a problematic track record despite the US government’s ongoing reliance on their efforts. The United States has supported these rebels with both lethal and non-lethal aid, lending to fears that arms sent with the help of the Gulf states were channeled to the likes of IS.

A study released last week found that Islamic State fighters are using captured US weapons given to moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia, a longstanding enemy of Assad’s Syria and his ally Iran.

US allies in the Gulf region have fostered groups like IS in Syria’s civil war, as elite donors from the likes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have pumped money into destabilizing foes in the region.

President Obama has pledged to use airstrikes against IS strongholds in the region. He emphasized Wednesday that the US will not hesitate to take direct military action against terrorists in Syria and Iraq to “degrade ISIL’s leadership, logistically and operational capability, and deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks.” Obama’s plan will be scrutinized on Capitol Hill in Washington this week.

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during a daily briefing that the Obama administration is “gratified” by what he said was significant bipartisan support so far from Congress for the president’s plan against IS. However, Earnest added that the US would not be coordinating any military action with Iran.

“The thing that we have been really clear about is the US does not coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran, and we don’t have any plans to do so,” Earnest said, while at the same time acknowledging that representatives from both countries may indeed have had conversations on the sidelines concerning the Islamic State militants.

 

 

Hollande: Ceasefire Should Be Reached In Ukraine For France to Deliver Mistral to Russia

French President Francois Hollande says that his conditions were a ceasefire and a political settlement in Ukraine to continue Mistral delivery to Russia.

French President Francois Hollande says that his conditions were a ceasefire and a political settlement in Ukraine to continue Mistral delivery to Russia.

Topic: Sanctions Against Russia

 

MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti) – French President Francois Hollande set terms for Mistral delivery to Russia, saying that his conditions were a ceasefire and a political settlement in Ukraine, Reuters reported Thursday.

«What are the conditions? A ceasefire and a political settlement… Today these conditions are not in place,” Hollande said as quoted by Reuters.

On the sidelines of a NATO summit currently held in Wales, Hollande told reporters that the contract for two Mistral-class helicopters carriers was neither cancelled, nor suspended, but mentioned that the above conditions must be met in order for the ships to be delivered to Russia.

Recently, France has come under strong pressure from the United States and its European partners to suspend the deal.

Russia and France signed a $1.6 billion deal for two Mistral-class ships in June 2011. The first carrier, the Vladivostok, was expected in Russia by the end of 2014. The second ship, the Sevastopol, was supposed to arrive in 2015.

However, the completion of the deal has been at risk since Western countries imposed sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it is not involved in the Ukrainian crisis, referred to the language of sanctions “counterproductive,” and said that such measures “threaten international peace and stability.”