© U.S Government / CTBTO
As the world’s attention was on the first combat use of the conventional “Mother Of All Bombs,” the US National Nuclear Security Administration announced the successful field test of the modernized gravity nuclear bomb in Nevada.
The NNSA and the US Air Force completed the first qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, the agency announced on Thursday.
The test was intended to evaluate the weapon’s “non-nuclear functions” and the capability of the F-16 fighter to successfully deploy the bomb. An F-16 fighter from Nellis Air Force Base dropped the “non-nuclear test assembly,” the NNSA said in a statement.
“The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements,” said Brigadier General Michael Lutton, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application. The NNSA is part of the Department of Energy, which is charged with managing US nuclear weapons.
The B61-12 is a modernized version of the B61 gravity bomb, the mainstay of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal and one of the legs of the so-called nuclear triad, along with the intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed from either ground-based silos or oceangoing submarines.
President Donald Trump has endorsed an ambitious – and expensive – plan to modernize the US nuclear triad, begun under his predecessor. The B61-12 is intended to consolidate and replace all the B61 variants currently in service.
Three successful development flight tests of the B61-12 were conducted in 2015. The March test was the first in a series scheduled to span the next three years, with the final design review due in September 2018 and the first production unit scheduled for completion by March 2020.
On Thursday, the US attracted the world’s attention by dropping a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), also known as “Mother Of All Bombs,” on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. It was the first combat use of the weapon, the largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal.
Washington failed to attend the latest international conference hosted by Moscow, where 11 nations discussed ways of bringing peace to Afghanistan. The US branded it a “unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region.”
Friday’s meeting is the latest in a series of similar events in the Russian capital that have grown from trilateral consultations between Russia, China, and Pakistan held in December of last year into talks involving the majority of the Afghan region’s powers. The latest included Russia, China, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. An invitation was sent to Kabul’s patron, America, but was rejected.
“I think just to end it, we just felt that these talks – it was unclear to us what the purpose was,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday, in explaining the US’ absence.
“It seemed to be a unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region that we felt wasn’t constructive at this time,” he noted.
Moscow responded by saying it “could not comprehend” the US’ reason for snubbing the gathering.
Participants in the event reiterated their support for a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, while calling for Kabul to be supported in moving in that direction.
“A call has been sent to the Taliban movement to abandon its line for a military solution of the Afghan conflict in favor of direct talks with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the issue of national reconciliation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the conference.
The statement added that more consultations in this format will follow, while noting that Moscow has offered to host them again.
Moscow and China have separately been trying to persuade the Taliban to focus less on Kabul and more on the more imminent threat – the advances of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group.
Washington has criticized such initiatives, citing the Taliban’s record of waging guerilla warfare against the Afghan government, while downplaying the threat posed by IS in Afghanistan. The US military reported in February that the joint efforts of Afghan troops and US-led international forces have reduced IS’ presence in the country to less than 1,000 fighters, according to Voice of America.
According to Russia’s estimate, the jihadist group has at least 3,500 fighters in Afghanistan, which Moscow says Kabul and its allies are not doing enough to eradicate.
The conference in Moscow comes a day after the US dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on a suspected IS hideout in Afghanistan, marking the first time the weapon has been used in combat. It was not immediately clear whether this signified a shift in Washington’s view of the threat posed by IS affiliates in Afghanistan.
Russia considers the United States’ goal of regime change in North Korea unacceptable, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora told Sputnik.
“Another serious problem here is that Western [countries] indeed often do not hide their ultimate goal to eliminate the North Korean political system. This means to eliminate North Korean statehood,” Matsegora said.
He stressed that “such an approach is unacceptable.”
Recently, there have been a growing number of suggestions by Chinese diplomatic and military commentators that Beijing is not obliged to defend Pyongyang in the event of a military attack, an article in the South China Morning Post read.
The assumption comes as senior officials in the United States have warned of a strike against North Korea.
In particular, Washington has positioned two destroyers in the region that can deploy Tomahawk missiles, according to what intelligence officials told NBC News, along with heavy bombers stationed in Guam that could provide support should such a strike take place.
“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday.
Chinese media outlets and even some official websites have recently published articles saying that in the current situation there are fewer options to find the peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
For example, on March 22, website China Military, sponsored by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published an article commenting on a ground test by Pyongyang of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine.
“We believe that warfare is just a matter of time if DPRK continues its nuclear and missile program. […] Under no condition will the international community accept DPRK’s legal possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. As Pyongyang continues with its nuclear programs, international sanctions will get tighter, and it will eventually be isolated from the rest of the world for a long time,” the article read.
It is not in Pyongyang’s interests to go against international community’s stance on nuclear weapons. In a situation when the US, Russia and China share views of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions Pyongyang has almost no room for maneuvering. On the other hand, Pyongyang’s decision to give up its nuclear ambitions would satisfy the interests of the North Korean political elite, without posing a threat to the country’s existence.
This assumption was made before President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Florida, which proves that Beijing toughened rhetoric towards Pyongyang not under the influence by Washington.
In formal terms, China is North Korea’s only military ally, according to the 1961 Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. At the same time, many Chinese experts say that de-facto those obligations do not exist anymore. The reason is that Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have formed an epicenter of tensions near China’s border.
“Despite China’s support for North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War, in the current environment, Beijing will prioritize national security over ideology,” Andrei Karneyev, deputy director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, told Sputnik China.
According to the expert, this change of heart is not related to any pressure from Washington, but is dictated by security needs. However, the question remains: what would China do in the event of a military confrontation against North Korea?
Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong told the South China Morning Post that Beijing would need to provide military assistance to its neighbor if US troops invaded, but Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty was a “strong reason” for China not to help.
According to Zhan Debin, an expert from the Shanghai University of Foreign Trade, there is little chance of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
“The US is unlikely to attack North Korea on its own initiative. It would be possible if Pyongyang endangered the key security interests of Washington and Seoul. This would be an adequate reason for the US,” he told Sputnik China.
The expert pointed out that the US military force redeployed to the Korean Peninsula is rather a warning for Pyongyang.
He added that the probability of minor conflicts between the US and North Korea is very low because any minor conflict will turn into a large-scale confrontation.
“We can’t say that the US recklessly wants to start a war. Of course, South Korea doesn’t want war. If a conflict broke out South Korea would be hit the most,” Zhan Debin said. Commenting on China’s actions during the hypothetical confrontation, the expert noted that Beijing may not get involved if Pyongyang provoked a conflict, but at the same time China cannot turn a blind eye to instability in the region.
“Of course, Beijing will try to prevent a conflict from turning into war. China will not supply weapons and provide military and combat assistance,” he said.
The expert continued: “It is not correct to speculate on the matter. This makes no sense. What we should do is to have a backup plan of actions. Of course, China would act [in the event of a confrontation], but there should be a reason for actions. On the whole, China’s goal is to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
North Korea won’t hesitate to go to war if provoked, its vice foreign minister said in an interview, adding that the North has “a powerful nuclear deterrent” and “certainly will not keep arms crossed” if facing a pre-emptive strike from Washington.
“If the US comes with reckless military maneuvers, then we will confront it with the DPRK’s [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] pre-emptive strike,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol told AP.
He added that Pyongyang possesses “a powerful nuclear deterrent” and the North “certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US pre-emptive strike.’’
“We will go to war if they choose,” he stated.
On Thursday, US intelligence officials told NBC News that the US has positioned two destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles some 480 kilometers from North Korea’s nuclear test site.
Washington intends to act preemptively if it becomes “convinced” that a nuclear detonation is imminent.
Han criticized current US administration, noting that Washington’s attitude towards Pyongyang is “becoming more vicious and more aggressive.”
“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han said, stressing “it’s not the DPRK but the US and Trump that makes trouble.”
“Whatever comes from US politicians, if their words are designed to overthrow the DPRK system and government, we will categorically reject them,” he said.
Han also dismissed the comment Trump made just after being elected suggesting that he could patch things up with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over “a hamburger on a conference table” in the White House.
“I think that was nothing more than lip service during the campaign to make himself more popular,” Han said.
The North Korean official also slammed the joint military exercises that the US and South Korea are conducting on the peninsula.
“As long as the nuclear threats and blackmail go on with the military exercises, we will carry forward with our national defense buildup, the core of which is the nuclear arms buildup,” Han said, adding “whatever comes from the US, we will cope with it. We are fully prepared to handle it.”
Seoul and Washington are currently holding their annual Foal Eagle exercise, in which 30,000 US troops are participating. The drills, which began in early March, will last until April 30.
Addressing one the most hotly discussed topics – a possible 6th nuclear test – Han remained ambiguous.
“That is something that our headquarters decides,” Han said, adding that “at a time and at a place where the headquarters deems necessary, it will take place.”
The escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula comes as North Korea is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader. The event is a state holiday called ‘Day of the Sun’. Rumors of a possible nuclear test were fueled after officials from the North told foreign journalists to prepare for a “big and important event.”
In April of 2016, on the occasion of Kim Il-sung’s 104th birthday, Pyongyang test fired its Musudan intermediate-range missile.
On Thursday, the secretive “big event” turned out to be the opening ceremony of a new skyscraper-lined street in Pyongyang, but speculation continues that the North has scheduled more “events” for the weekend.
The US has no convincing evidence that the Syrian government was behind the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, denying a CNN report claiming the US had intercepted Syrian military communications proving this.
“If the US intelligence services choose to keep their alleged evidence of crimes against humanity secret, there can only be one possible explanation – they simply have no irrefutable evidence,” the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said on Friday, according to TASS.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said the CNN report was based on “pseudo-evidence” that the US media often uses to support Washington’s objectives.
“In line with a long-standing tradition, the Pentagon always mentions some ‘irrefutable’ evidence of atrocities in an attempt to justify every US violation of international law and, particularly, US military aggression against sovereign states. And the more contrived this pseudo-evidence is, the more secretive it is,” the spokesman added.
Last Friday, the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea targeting the Syrian military’s Shayrat Airbase. The strike was ordered by US President Donald Trump in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4.
Russia has demanded that the US produce the evidence with which it allegedly established that chemical weapons were, indeed, flown out of an airfield in Homs province and used by the Syrian military.
Though the Pentagon has yet to offer any tangible proof, on Wednesday, CNN ran a report based on an ‘anonymous source’ claiming that the US military had intercepted communications between the Syrian military and chemical experts in which preparations for last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack were discussed.
Foreign Ministers, Sergei Lavrov (C) of Russia, Walid al-Muallem (L) of Syria and Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran attend a news conference in Moscow © Grigory Sisoev / Sputnik
The US cruise missile attack on Syria was an act of international aggression, Russia, Syria and Iran have stated after a meeting of their foreign ministers in Moscow.
“We have reiterated our position and were united in stating that the attack was an act of aggression, which blatantly violated the principles of international law and the UN Charter,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
“We call on the US and its allies to respect Syria’s sovereignty and refrain from actions similar to what happened on April 7, and which have serious ramification not only for regional, but also global security,” he added.
Lavrov was referring to the Tomahawk missile barrage fired by the US Navy at a Syrian airbase in Homs province. Washington ordered the attack after accusing Damascus of launching a chemical weapons attack at a rebel-held town in Idlib province from that airbase. Russia condemned the move, saying the US hadn’t offered any proof to pin the alleged chemical weapons incident on the Syrian Army.
Meeting with his Iranian and Syrian counterparts, Javad Zarif and Walid Muallem, on Friday, Lavrov pledged to continue Russia’s support of Damascus in fighting terrorism and restoring peace in Syria.
He added that Moscow suspects that the Idlib incident was a provocative act aimed at derailing negotiations between the Syrian government and so-called moderate rebel groups on a political transition in the country. Lavrov said the perpetrators of the deadly release of toxins must be found.
“We insist on a thorough, objective and unbiased investigation of the circumstance of the use of chemical substances in Khan Shaykhun on April 4,” he said, adding that the investigating team must include inspectors chosen from nations from different parts of the world to ensure its objectivity.
Muallem pledged full cooperation of Damascus in carrying out such a probe.
The Russian minister added that Moscow doubts the objectivity of the current mechanisms for investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, considering the difference in how the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) handles reports by Damascus and by other parties.
“When accusations come against the Syrian government, the OPCW reacts in a matter of days and voices its concern. But they never go on the sites of incidents located in the regions controlled by the armed opposition, citing security issues,” he said. “We consider such analysis from a distance unacceptable.”
Lavrov also accused the US of reviving the Obama administration goal of toppling the Syrian government instead of seeking a political solution, citing the Tomahawk missile attack.
“Such acts of aggression are obviously meant to derail the peace process, which was endorsed in a unanimously adopted resolution of the UN Security Council and implies that the fate of Syria would be decided only by the Syrian people,” he said. “The action was obviously deviating from this basic concept and find new protects to aim for regime change.”
Lavrov said there is an increasing amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that the chemical incident in Idlib province was staged to set up the Syrian government.
“Publications by professional experts, including some in the US and Britain, say there are too many inconsistencies and gaps in the version of events presented to justify the [US] aggression,” he said.
Zarif accused “certain countries” of hypocrisy, citing Iran’s history of suffering from chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the 1980s war. Declassified CIA files showed that the US was well aware that Saddam was using CWs against Iranians, but didn’t oppose it and even provided intelligence for such attacks.
By now, you’ve probably heard about what’s going on in Venezuela.
Right-wing opposition demonstrators are leading daily protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro and supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution. As of Thursday, five people have tragically been reported dead: Jairo Ortiz, Ricarda Lourdes, Daniel Queliz, Miguel Colmenares and Brayan Principal.
In line with mainstream media, Venezuelan opposition leaders allege that Maduro’s administration is responsible for all of these deaths. Hasler Iglesias, for example, a youth organizer for the right-wing Popular Will party, claims police killed all five people.
“These are assassinations of the dictatorship,” Iglesias posted on Twitter Wednesday.
Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina echoed these allegations, adding that “police are terrorizing our communities.”
There’s no denying that people have died as a result of ongoing protests. What the opposition fails to mention, however, is why and how these people died and who is responsible for their deaths.
Venezuelan police are responsible for two of the five deaths attributed to Maduro’s government by the opposition, Question Digital reports. Two others died from direct and indirect actions by opposition supporters, with the last person dying in the crossfire of conflict between both sides.
Here’s a quick rundown.
Ortiz was murdered on April 7 in Miranda by transit police officer Rohenluis Leonel Mata. The police officer believed Ortiz was one of many opposition protesters inciting violence against the socialist government.
After carefully investigating the case, however, the Venezuelan government discovered that Ortiz was not involved in any public demonstration or act of violence. Upon proving Ortiz’s innocence, the government immediately detained Mata, who is set to face criminal charges.
Lourdes, an 83-year-old woman, died at her home in Caracas on April 10 from hydrocephalus. When her symptoms began flaring earlier that day, she was unable to be transported to a nearby hospital because opposition protesters blocked all of the neighborhood’s roads, preventing ambulances from picking her up.
Queliz, a 20-year-old opposition protester, also died on April 10 in the Venezuelan state of Carabobo after police reportedly shot him in self-defense. He was among a group of protesters attacking police with rocks and sticks. The police officer connected with his killing was arrested on Wednesday, Question Digital also reports.
Colmenares was killed on April 11 in the department of Lara state while caught in the crossfire of conflict between opposition protesters and police.
Principal, a 13-year-old resident of the Ali Primera Socialist City, was shot and killed by opposition protesters after they toppled the main gate of the commune. The city was established by the Bolivarian Revolution in 2014 for low-income citizens.
A closer look into these deaths reveal that the nature of these killings are not as clear cut as the right-wing opposition portrays them to be.
Tehran says Washington is in no position to comment on the issue of human rights after the US imposed sanctions on an Iranian individual and an organization for what it called their “rights abuses.”
The United States on Thursday added Sohrab Soleimani, the supervisor of Security and Law Enforcement Deputyship at Iran’s Prisons Organization, and the Tehran Prisons Organization to its “human rights-related” sanctions list.
“The US government, due to its failed domestic and international record, is not in a position to comment or act on the human rights situation in other countries,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Friday.
“Nor has any international authority trusted such responsibility with the US administration to assess on its own the human rights situation in other countries and to make decisions for them,” he added.
Sohrab Soleimani is the younger brother of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps whose occasional sojourn among the Iraqi forces on the anti-Daesh battleground has drawn international attention.
Baghdad has hailed Soleimani as being among the “trustworthy” commanders for the Iraqi government.
This is the second time since US President Donald Trump’s January inauguration that Washington targets Iranian individuals and institutions with sanctions.
Qassemi said “unilateral and coercive sanctions” by the US are an “illegitimate measure which has negative effects on the enjoyment of human rights of individuals.”
“Such repetitive measures in line with specific political objectives of the American government, declaring unilateral sanctions under baseless allegation of human rights violations against individuals or entities of independent states, breach the tenets of international law and international human rights law and are illegitimate and illegal,” he said.
In March, the US State Department said Washington had sanctioned 30 foreign companies or individuals for transferring sensitive technology to Iran for its missile program or violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria.
The move prompted Iran to announce retaliatory sanctions on 15 American companies over their support for Israeli crimes and terrorism.
“The American government’s interventionist measures, more than anything, are aimed at covering up the problems of human rights in that country and diverting world opinion from its crimes and its support for systematic and gross violations of human rights by some of its allies in the region, in particular the Zionist regime, which have dark human rights records,” Qassemi said on Friday.
April 13, 2017
Welcome to New World Next Week – the video series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in open source intelligence news. This week:
Story #1: Slavery Returns To Africa As Migrants Sold At Open Markets In Libya
Story #2: Sessions Orders DOJ To End Forensic Science Commission, Suspend Review Policy
NWNW Flashback: FBI Crime Lab Unit Rife With Flawed Forensics (Jul. 31, 2014)
NWNW Flashback: Man Wrongly Convicted With Bite Mark Evidence Confronts Bite Mark Analysts (Feb. 23, 2017)
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst on the FBI Crime Lab
4 Ways The Crime Lab Can Frame You
Trump Flips On Five Key Campaign Promises In Under 24 Hours
Story #3: Daily Mail Deletes 2013 Article About Plan To Blame Syrian Gas Attack On Assad
Daily Mail in £100,000-Plus Payout Over Syrian Chemical Weapons Story
The Leaked Britam Defence Emails Are Fake – Don’t Fall for It!
Syria, Chemical Weapons And The Britam Defence Emails
PolitiFact Retracts ‘Mostly True’ Ruling That U.S. Removed ‘100 Percent’ of Syria’s Chemical Weapons
Google Adds “Fact Check” Flag To Search Results
#GoodNewsNextWeek: West Virginia Weed For The Win + Glyphosate-Free Lemonade & More
Mexican journalist and columnist for the El Financiero newspaper Fernando Garcia Ramirez has accused Russia of meddling in Mexican politics. According to him, “the dark hand” of Russian President Vladimir Putin has already reached Mexico, with Moscow trying to influence the presidential election in the country that is to take place next year.
In his article titled “The Russian Threat to Mexico” (“La amenaza rusa en México”), the journalist accused the Kremlin of allegedly attempting “to appoint its man” as the head of the country, referring to the opposition leader Andres Manuel López Obrador whom he called “an authoritarian populist.”
According to the journalist, Moscow’s ability to “influence” politics in any corner of the planet has been demonstrated many times. The examples, according to Ramirez, are the victory of Donald Trump in the United States, Brexit in Britain, and the recent defeat of former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a referendum on constitutional reform.
Explaining the reasons why it might be beneficial for Russia to influence the election in Mexico, the newspaper columnist wrote that it would be “convenient” for Moscow to have an “anti-American” politician on this post.
The journalist also believes that the Kremlin will use the RT TV channel as “its favorite weapon” as well as “a key instrument of Russian propaganda.” According to him, the media source already has its agent in Mexico, referring to Mexican analyst John Ackerman, who published several critical articles about the Mexican authorities on the RT website.
Meanwhile, the article caused a wave of ridicule in social networks.”I have not seen such a frightening title and such an empty content for long time,” a man named Hugo Ortega Romero wrote.
“Ha-ha-ha, of course, Russia is to blame for absolutely everything,” Leonardo Guzmán Vázquez continued.
Mexican journalist Gabriel Infante Carrillo confessed in an interview with Sputnik Mundo that he also “almost died of laughter” when he read the article.
According to him, the article is part of a slander campaign against Lopez Obrador, leader of the left opposition, whose support in the country is growing. However, this has nothing to do with “external factors” and Russian media, Carillo argued.
“The article in the El Financiero is directed not so much against Russia but rather against the opposition leader Lopez Obrador, a leftist candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The fact is that his popularity has been growing, which is why the probability that he will win is quite high. That is why the media supporting the authorities do everything to discredit him. And thus, they decided to follow the example of their American colleagues, who never stop talking about the alleged Russian contribution to the victory of Donald Trump. Thus, we see another example of how artificial anti-Russian hysteria has been used for political purposes,” the journalist stated.