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US officials confirm Israeli strike in Iraq

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US officials confirm Israeli strike in Iraq

Editor’s Note: This story from the Associated Press does not necessarily reflect the opinions of this publication. It contains news that was deemed important. Rather than rewrite fresh content on a story that has already been appropriately covered, we know our audience is capable of seeing through any bias often associated with left leaning news outlets like the AP.

JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. officials have confirmed that Israel was responsible for the bombing of an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq last month, an attack that would mark a significant escalation in Israel’s years-long campaign against Iranian military entrenchment across the region.

The confirmation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is strongly hinting that his country is behind recent airstrikes that have hit bases and munitions depot belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces operating in Iraq.

The mystery attacks have not been claimed by any side and have left Iraqi officials scrambling for a response, amid strong speculation that Israel may have been behind them. Earlier this week, the deputy head of the Iraqi Shiite militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, openly accused Israeli drones of carrying out the attacks, but ultimately blamed Washington and threatened strong retaliation for any future attack.

Such attacks are potentially destabilizing for Iraq and its fragile government, which has struggled to remain neutral amid growing tensions between the United States and Iran.

There have been at least three explosions at Iraqi Shiite militia bases in the past month. American officials now confirm Israel was responsible for at least one of them.

Two American officials said Israel carried out an attack on an Iranian weapons depot in July that killed two Iranian military commanders. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The July 19 attack struck a militia base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province, causing a huge explosion and fire. A senior official with the Shiite militias at the time told The Associated Press that the base hit housed advisers from Iran and Lebanon — a reference to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group. He said the attack targeted the headquarters of the advisers and a weapons depot.

On August 12, a massive explosion at the al-Saqr military base near Baghdad shook the capital, killing one civilian and wounding 28 others. The base housed a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the PMF. The most recent of the explosions came Tuesday night, at a munitions depot north of Baghdad.

There have been weeks of speculation in Israel that the army is attacking targets in Iraq.

In an interview with a Russian-language TV station on Thursday, Netanyahu indicated the speculation is true.

“I don’t give Iran immunity anywhere,” he said, accusing the Iranians of trying to establish bases “against us everywhere,” including Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

Asked whether that means Israel is operating in Iraq, Netanyahu said: “We act in many arenas against a country that desires to annihilate us. Of course I gave the security forces a free hand and the instruction to do what is needed to thwart these plans of Iran.”

Early Friday, the New York Times, citing Israeli and U.S. officials, reported that Israel bombed an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq last month.

It would be the first known Israeli airstrike in Iraq since 1981, when Israeli warplanes destroyed a nuclear reactor being built by Saddam Hussein. It also steps up Israel’s campaign against Iranian military involvement across the region.

Israel has previously acknowledged hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian targets in neighboring Syria, primarily arms shipments believed to be destined for Iran’s Hezbollah allies.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest enemy and has repeatedly vowed that it will not allow the Iranians, who are supporting the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

Striking Iraq would be far more complicated than reaching neighboring Syria.

The Israeli warplanes would likely have to travel through Turkey, a former ally that now has cool relations with Israel, or through Saudi Arabia, to carry out strikes on Iraq.

Israel and the Saudis do not have formal diplomatic relations, but are believed to have established a behind-the-scenes alliance based on their shared hostility toward Iran.

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Baldor reported from Washington.

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This story has been corrected to show that the last known Israeli airstrike in Iraq was in 1981, not 1980.

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Foreign Affairs

Red line in the Pacific

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Red line in the Pacific

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?

China is catering to Taiwan’s former clients in the Pacific Basin and Beijing is bringing its own chopsticks. This is far more than just the CCP’s One China Policy. This is a military maneuver to directly threaten America’s maritime superiority.

But, small island nations do not switch allegiances based upon military considerations. After all, they were just caught in the middle between two major powers during World War II. Now it’s a matter of whether the United States will supply their needs or if China will pander to them better.

Small countries of Oceania understand they have no military leverage of their own. Their value to the superpowers on the world stage is strictly a function of their strategic locations.

How many Americans today remember the heroics of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and PT-109 in the Solomon Islands? How many of us are familiar with the furious battles at Guadalcanal or at Tarawa?

In fact, where are those places? Guadalcanal is in the Solomon Islands. Tarawa is in the current day nation of Kiribati.

Both nations have just abandoned Taipei and staked their future on the Chinese dragon from the mainland of Asia. But why?

MILITARY?

No, these small Islands in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia have no pretensions to being players on the world stage when it comes to military confrontations. They realize they are just going to be the battlegrounds where wars are waged by the megapowers.

IDEOLOGY?

So, then do you suppose it’s about capitalism vs communism? Are they siding with socialism over free market principles? This consideration, frankly, doesn’t even have a role in the recent decisions to align with China over Taiwan.

MONEY?

Bingo! That’s it! China basically just offered more stuff and more big bucks than their small island nemesis of Taiwan did or could. China not only has endless streams of funds but they have no democratic process for distributing it. Xi Jinping can give it to whomever he wishes and nobody who hopes to have a future dares say otherwise.

WHY KIRIBATI IS A RED LINE

Perhaps it’s a bit easier logistically to draw a line in the sand with your foot than it is to put a marker on the deep blue sea. But China absolutely must not be allowed to re-establish their satellite tracking station on Tarawa which was dismantled after Kiribati went with Taiwan in 2003.

Look for China to begin construction before politicians in Washington, DC even have time to realize what has happened. Ergo, this article to try to help us get out ahead of the game.

Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is only 617 miles from Tarawa. In fact, RMI is one of the few remaining Taiwan partners at this time and they cannot be snatched away on our watch.

Taiwan still has relations with Tuvalu, Nauru and Palau. Each is important strategically in its own way. But right now the United States needs to concentrate its resources on a potential crisis in Kiribati.

Kiribati straddles both the equator and the International Date Line. Therefore, it is the only country in the world that is in all four hemispheres. Kiritimati Island is due south of Honolulu. Because of the International Date Line, it is exactly 24 hours time difference.

Probably 99% of Americans have never heard of Kiribati. The voice recognition software I’m using cannot even recognize that if I enunciate it properly. The country is pronounced as Kiribas. The island South of Hawaii is Christmas Island. The national capital of Betio sounds like Beso.

SO WHO NEEDS TO DO WHAT NOW?

Unfortunately, the US of A is typically at least a day late and a dollar short. China has poached a very strategic island nation away from our allies in Taiwan, which was only willing to sell them a Boeing 737 which China donated outright.

My compliments to Dr. Rieko Hayakawa, an expert in Pacific geopolitics with a long history of providing substantive assistance to small island nations. She is ensuring that the government of Japan is fully aware of the ramifications of this Chinese power play in the Pacific.

It would help if U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would get his pompous a** and over-inflated ego on the next flight to the overcrowded little tropical island of Tarawa. Indo-Pacific Command plus the U.S. Coast Guard could also make some site visits there with infrastructure enhancement propositions in their pockets or briefcases.

Like I said earlier, the question is what have you done for me lately?

In the meantime, relations with the Marshall Islands need to be kept on a solid basis because we absolutely cannot afford their defection to China. Whatever we can do to bolster Taiwan’s relationship around the world will also be in our own self-interest as it counters Chinese hegemony.

JFK & DJT

Besides being a war hero in the Solomon Islands, our 35th president stared down Russian Dictator Nikita Khrushchev to keep missiles out of Cuba. Now our 45th president may get the chance to do something likewise with Chinese Dictator Xi Jinping to prevent their People’s Liberation Army from militarizing our Pacific neighborhood.

It’s not a matter of putting the pedal to the metal. It’s all about the mettle in the man in the White House. Sorry you don’t still have John Bolton there to give you expert advice but this will be a make-or-break for your next National Security Advisor and possibly for your own administration.

Even many of the Democrats don’t want to go soft on China. This is really not the time or place for political posturing by anyone. From Arctic to Antarctic, from Pacific to Atlantic, China poses an existential threat.

What you either do or fail to do on Tarawa will send a message straight to Beijing. There will be no satellite tracking station permitted in Kiribati to spy on us at Kwajalein. Period. End of statement.

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Foreign Affairs

President Trump tells blunt truth about Iran

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President Trump tells blunt truth about Iran

Following another level of sanctions, the highest ever slapped on a nation by the United States, President Trump lamented about the current state of Iran. The Islamic regime has driven a nation that should be rich and prosperous into the depths of terrorism, military proxies, and now a dying economy. All they need to do is play nicely with the rest of the world. Instead, they choose violence over civility, terrorism over diplomacy.

And they’re paying the price.

President Trump spoke to the press about the latest round of sanctions and made a blunt statement about their current state.

“It’s too bad what’s happening with Iran. It’s going to hell.”

His words may be more ironic and truthful than President Trump even knows.

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Foreign Affairs

US to send troops to Saudi Arabia, hold off on striking Iran

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US to send troops to Saudi Arabia hold off on striking Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Friday announced it will deploy additional U.S. troops and missile defense equipment to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as President Donald Trump has at least for now put off any immediate military strike on Iran in response to the attack on the Saudi oil industry.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters this is a first step to beef up security and he would not rule out additional moves down the road. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more details about the deployment will be determined in the coming days, but it would not involve thousands of U.S. troops.

Other officials said the U.S. deployment would likely be in the hundreds and the defensive equipment heading to the Middle East would probably include Patriot missile batteries and possibly enhanced radars.

The announcement reflected Trump’s comments earlier in the day when he told reporters that showing restraint “shows far more strength” than launching military strikes and he wanted to avoid an all-out war with Iran.

Instead, he laid out new sanctions on the Iranian central bank and said the easiest thing to do would be to launch military strikes.

“I think the strong person’s approach and the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Much easier to do it the other way, and Iran knows that if they misbehave, they are on borrowed time.”

Dunford told reporters the extra equipment and troops would give the Saudis a better chance of defending against unconventional aerial attacks.

“No single system is going to be able to defend against a threat like that,” he said, “but a layered system of defensive capabilities would mitigate the risk of swarms of drones or other attacks that may come from Iran.”

The U.S. has not provided any hard evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, while insisting the investigation continues, but Esper on Friday said the drones and cruise missiles used in the attack were produced by Iran.

“The attack on Sept. 14 against Saudi Arabian oil facilities represents a dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression,” Esper said, adding that the U.S. has thus far shown “great restraint.”

In deciding against an immediate U.S. strike, Trump for the second time in recent months pulled back from a major military action against Iran that many Pentagon and other advisers fear could trigger a new Middle East war. In June, after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, Trump initially endorsed a retaliatory military strike then abruptly called it off because he said it would have killed dozens of Iranians.

On Friday, he left the door open a bit for a later military response, saying people thought he’d attack Iran “within two seconds,” but he has “plenty of time.”

Trump spoke just before he gathered his national security team at the White House to consider a broad range of military, economic and diplomatic options in response to what administration officials say was an unprecedented Iranian attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Iran has denied involvement and warned the U.S. that any attack will spark an “all-out war” with immediate retaliation from Tehran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have condemned the attack on Saudi oil facilities as “an act of war.”

Esper and Dunford declined to discuss any potential ship movements to the region, although a number of U.S. Navy vessels are nearby.

The additional air and missile defense equipment for Saudi Arabia would be designed to bolster its defenses in the north, since most of its defenses have focused on threats from Houthis in Yemen to the south.

A forensic team from U.S. Central Command is pouring over evidence from cruise missile and drone debris, but the Pentagon said the assessment is not finished. Officials are trying to determine if they can get navigational information from the debris that could provide hard evidence that the strikes came from Iran.

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