Posts Tagged ‘intelligence’

Philippine defense chief says China sea dispute still a challenge

March 26, 2018

This aerial photo shows a Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea. (AFP)
MANILA: The territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea remained a security challenge despite an improvement in bilateral ties, the Philippine defense chief said on Monday as he accepted three maritime surveillance planes from Japan.
Delfin Lorenzana, in a speech at a naval base south of the capital Manila, said the three Japanese donated second-hand TC90 planes will definitely boost the navy’s capability to gather intelligence in the disputed South China Sea.
“We must admit that much still has to be done to boost our military capability equipment in order to meet a number of persistent maritime security challenges,” Lorenzana said, identifying territorial disputes with China, and other countries, over resource-rich areas in the South China Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the strategic waterway.

Photo shows the China Coast Guard vessel, which has been anchored in Gugusan Beting Patinggi Ali for about two years.

Photo shows the China Coast Guard vessel

Tensions between the Philippines and China over the disputed sea have eased since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in July 2016 and improved relations with Beijing via Chinese trade and investments.
Lorenzana said the Philippines was also concerned with piracy and the movement of armed insurgents in the Sulu Sea and other transnational crimes, including smuggling of illegal drugs and poaching into rich fishing grounds in territorial waters.
Japan planned to lease five surveillance planes but decided last year to transfer without cost the aircraft after changes were made in Tokyo’s self-defense forces law allowing donation of excess defense and military equipment to partner countries.
Japan’s vice minister for defense, Tatsuo Fukuda, said Tokyo was willing to help its allies improve its capabilities help secure the safety of international sea lanes and benefit not only the Philippines but the entire region.
During the handover ceremony, Lorenzana and Fukuda watched the planes land at a naval base guarding the mouth of Manila Bay, hundreds of miles southeast of the disputed Scarborough Shoal now patrolled by Chinese coast guard ships.
The navy said the surveillance planes have a range of 300 km (186 miles), twice the capability of its existing aircraft and could patrol into China’s seven artificial islands in the Spratly, which had been converted into military bases.
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Above: Location of seven Chinese military bases in international waters or Philippine territorial waters — all near the Philippines.
The navy said it has a budget of nearly 6 billion peso ($114.65 million) to acquire two brand new long-range maritime patrol aircraft to enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability. ($1 = 52.3310 Philippine pesos)



 (USS Mustin passage — Freedom of Navigation)

  (Xi Jinping’s first public address as “Ruler for Life”)


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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines



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Chinese H-6 bomber at Scarborough Shoal last year



We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)




Israeli Army Sets Up ‘Consciousness Ops’ Unit to Influence Enemy Armies, Foreign Media and Public Opinion

March 9, 2018


With eye on hearts and minds, Israeli army sets up a new ‘soft power’ psychological warfare unit

A woman sits near a sign at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/ Ammar Awad     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A woman sits near a sign at Mount Bental, an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that overlooks the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, Israel February 10, 2018. REUTERS/ Ammar Aw\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

As the new year began, the operations branch at Israel Defense Forces Central Command cut the ribbon on a new department, called the Center for Consciousness Operations. It is a reincarnation of another division that had engaged mainly in international legitimization and legal aspects of Israeli military activity, and had been subordinate to the Planning Branch.

The structural reform was the recommendation of Brig .Col. K, until recently a senior intelligence officer, who was appointed to study the issue. The idea was to concentrate planning all “soft” activity – with foreign armies, diplomats, the foreign press and public opinion – under one military roof. This was done as part of Israel’s effort to influence the enemy and Western opinion over Israel’s military moves on the northern front and in the territories.

At the height of the second intifada, the chief of staff at the time, Moshe Yaalon, was asked how we’d know that Israel had vanquished Palestinian suicide bombings. Yaalon answered that victory would be achieved through “cognitive etching” – Palestinian acknowledgement that the terror attacks wouldn’t drive Israel to capitulation.

>> Collision course in the north between Israel and Iran | Analysis <<

Yaalon was roundly mocked in the press but in retrospect, he was right. The terror attacks subsided mainly because both halves of the Palestinian leadership, in the Palestinian Authority and finally in Hamas, too, reached the conclusion that the price Israel was exacting from Palestinian public in response to terrorism was too high.

The incumbent chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot, also has keen interest in the battle over consciousness. It’s even mentioned in the latest IDF strategy paper. His close friend, Col. Gabi Siboni, recently published an article about the cognitive shaping drive, through INSS. Siboni and another researcher, Gal Perl Finkel, wrote that the “IDF has intensified its cognitive-related activity recently, significantly building up process in this area and developing technological tools. Technological development enables a wide range of focused means of influence vis-à-vis various target audiences, and in effect creates another combat arena beyond the classic kinetic combat arenas,” they wrote.

“Armies and states have to contend with the enemy’s attempts to gain influence using technology and social media” rather than traditional war. Armies and states must work defensively, countering enemy efforts proactively and on the offensive plane, “in order to achieve objectives by influencing enemy target audiences, including decision makers, commanders, combatants, and domestic and world public opinion.”

The army could stand to learn from civilian PR campaigns for selling things from products to politicians, they suggest.

Of course, it’s a slippery slope, one the army already went down, and not well, under the days of Miri Regev as IDF spokeswoman. But their conclusion, that technological changes and social media require the army to contend there too, is hard to contest. The broad coverage of the recent moves in the Arab press – from IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis’ article warning Hezbollah and Iran on Arab websites, to intelligence widely disseminated in Western media – indicate that this is just the beginning.

South China Sea turning into signals hub for Chinese military

February 21, 2018

Throughout the ages, wars have been waged over territory. From nation states and warring factions, to gangs and real estate developers everyone knows location is key.  The more land you control, the more territory you lord over – the more power you wield.

Generally the acreage and borders  in question are based on the land as nature intended it to be. But what if your strategic interests required creating land out of thin air, or in this case, deep blue ocean?  Enter the People’s Republic of China and their man-made islands in the Spratly island chain, in the hotly disputed South China Sea.

The United States and its allies have been watching the construction of these man made islands for some time. China began the projects under the auspices of navigational necessity but analysis of their chosen locations quickly revealed there was another strategic motivation at work. In fact, they were building new military bases.

In early 2017 the DC based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)released a report– having analyzed recent satellite photos –and concluded that runways, aircraft hangers, radar sites and hardened surface-to-air missile shelters had either been finished or were nearing completion.

The report also stated that the satellite images appeared to be the most conclusive indication yet that China is using its island-building project to bolster its claim over almost the entire South China Sea and its islands and reefs–bases that will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with efficiency across the disputed region.

The U.S. and its allies raised ref flags and held press conferences to express disapproval but effectively the Chinese continued their projects unabated.

Fast forward to February 2018, when new satellite imagery shows China’s new military lily pads in the South China Sea may have an even more nefarious purpose in the form of full on intelligence communications nodes. On Saturday CSIS released another report, this time comparing its own satellite images and aerial photos released by the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this month.

CSIS says the photos add more detail than previously available but do not show new capabilities so much as reinforcing their earlier point that “these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.”

The report finds the northeastern corner of Fiery Cross Reef is now equipped with a communications or sensor array bigger than those found on other artificial islands in the Spratlys. Fiery Cross is one of the seven reefs Beijing turned into islands in the Spratlys. It is the smallest and the southermost of the “Big Three”, which also includes Subi, or Zhubi in Chinese, and Mischief, or Meiji.

Construction on Fiery Cross Reef:

Image courtesy of CSIS/Philippine Inquirer

Specific construction on Fiery Cross according the CSIS:

  1. The northern end of the base’s 3,000-meter runway, which was completed in late 2015.
  2. Hangars to accommodate four combat aircraft. Hangar space for another 20 combat aircraft and four larger hangars, capable of housing bombers, refueling tankers, and large transport aircraft, have been built farther south along the runway. All the hangars were completed in early 2017.
  3. A tall tower housing a sensor/communications facility topped by a radome, completed in late 2016.
  4. A field of upright poles erected in 2017. The original notations on the aerial photos identify this only as a communication facility, but it is most likely a high frequency radar array like the one built on Cuarteron Reef two years earlier.
  5. One of the four point defense facilities built around the base in 2016. Similar point defenses exist on all of China’s artificial islands, sporting a combination of large guns (identified in one of the aerial photos of Johnson Reef as having 100-mm barrels) and probable close-in weapons systems (CIWS) emplacements.
  6. A large communications/sensor array completed during 2017. None of the other bases in the Spratlys so far has a comparable array, though smaller ones have been built on Subi and Mischief, suggesting that Fiery Cross might be serving as a signals intelligence/communications hub for Chinese forces in the area.
  7. Three towers housing sensor/communications facilities topped by radomes, completed in 2017.

Additional Construction of Concern

Subi Reef, just 12 nautical miles from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island: China has built a large lighthouse, a 3,000-metre airstrip, a high-frequency radar array and underground storage tunnels that could be used for ammunition.


Mischief Reef: Three towers housing sensor or communications facilities topped by a dome to protect radar equipment were completed in 2017.

Gaven Reef: a solar panel array was built in 2015, along with other facilities such as wind turbines, a tall tower housing a communications facility and an administrative center.

Fiery Cross was the site of the most construction in 2017 with work on buildings covering an estimated 100,000 square metres (27 acres).

What Say you China?

Beijing has been accused of militarizing the South China Sea, which is also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam but has repeatedly rejected those accusations. Their actions continue to say otherwise.

In order to wield power over this region–to create a sphere of influence–China needs to dissuade all others concerned from any further resistance. Strategic locations like Fiery Cross have been talked about as potential command and control centers for Chinese activity in the Spratlys since the early 1980’s – it appears once again that while the world was involved in other things, the Chinese made their plans into reality.


Theresa May wants new security treaty with EU next year

February 17, 2018

British PM seeks treaty on post-Brexit military, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation

Theresa May delivers her speech at the 2018 Munich Security Conference.
 Theresa May delivers her speech at the 2018 Munich security conference. Photograph: Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images

Theresa May has called for a new security treaty with the European Union that should be up and running next year to ensure military, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation after London leaves the bloc.

“The key aspects of our future partnership in this area will already be effective from 2019,” the British prime minister told top European and US officials at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“The partnership that we need to create is one that offers UK and EU way to combine our efforts to greatest effect where this is in our shared interest,” May said.

She called on her country’s European Union partners not to let “rigid institutional restrictions” get in the way of a wide-ranging post-Brexit security partnership and warned that there will be “damaging real-world consequences” if none is agreed.

May told the conference that “the UK is just as committed to Europe’s security in the future as we have been in the past”.

May said the challenge is to put together a “deep and special partnership” with the EU to retain cooperation. She said: “This cannot be a time when any of us allow competition between partners, rigid institutional restrictions or deep-seated ideology to inhibit our cooperation and jeopardise the security of our citizens.”

May ruled out a second vote on the country’s membership of the European Union, saying there was no going back on the result of the June 2016 vote.

“We are leaving the EU and there is no question of a second referendum or going back and I think that’s important,” May said.

“People in the UK feel very strongly that if we take a decision, then governments should turn not round and say: no, you got that wrong,” she said when asked if Britain would consider a second referendum.

Ahead of Saturday’s speech, May appeared at a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Berlin at which the two leaders spoke in conciliatory terms about the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, with Merkel saying that she was “curious” but “not frustrated” with the British government’s slow progress in outlining its plan.

May’s critics will argue one key problem is her rigid adherence to a red line in the Brexit negotiations of leaving the jurisdiction of the European court of justice, which has made continued cooperation more difficult.


Qatar Airways to comply with TSA’s tougher cargo screening

January 24, 2018

A Qatar Airways cargo plane waits to be loaded. (AFP)

DUBAI: Qatar Airways said on Wednesday it is in talks with the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to comply with their request for their cargo to undergo enhanced screening.

The TSA announced on Monday it would require six Middle East airlines, including Qatar Airways, to toughen cargo security at their hub airports in the region.
“Qatar Airways is aware of the new Air Cargo Advance Screening requirements and is liaising with TSA and … regulators to ensure regulatory compliance,” an airline spokeswoman said in an email.
The carriers and airports are Qatar Airways operating out of Doha’s Hamad International Airport, Emirates operating out of Dubai International Airport, Etihad Airways out of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Saudia operating out of Jeddah’s King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, EgyptAir operating out of Cairo International Airport, and Royal Jordanian operating out of Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport.
All cargo originating from those airports will have to be screened and secured under Air Cargo Advance Screening protocols. The TSA said most of the requirements were already being voluntarily applied by airlines around the world.

Philippines: Huge Pay Raise for Killer Cops

January 13, 2018
 / 05:18 AM January 13, 2018

Beginning this month, the chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, will enjoy a 79-percent increase in his basic monthly pay—from P67,500 to P121,143. That’s the combined result of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that reduces personal income tax rates and Joint Resolution No. 1 that mandates a hike in the salaries of uniformed personnel. Both laws were signed by President Duterte this January.

Dela Rosa’s increase is only the third highest in the PNP ranks under the new scheme; police officers 1 will enjoy a 100-percent salary hike, from P14,834 to P29,668, while police officers 2 will get an 82-percent increase, from P16,934 to P30,867. All other police personnel will also see their pay increase by an average increase of 58.70 percent beginning Jan. 15, the PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, announced in a press briefing.

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Philippine National Police Director  Director General Ronald dela Rosa

A similar 100-percent increase in salaries will apply to military personnel, with new monthly rates now ranging “from P18,587 for candidate soldier and P29,668 for private or police officer 1 to P34,761 for chief master sergeant or senior police officer 3,” as this paper has reported. For higher-ranked personnel: “The rates range from P35,456 for first chief master sergeant or senior police officer 4 to P121,143 for a general or police director general starting Jan. 1. Their pay will be adjusted upward to the range of P38,366 to P149,785 starting Jan. 1, 2019.

The hefty increases amount to a significant change in the compensation structure of police and military personnel, who, for far too long, have lived with meager pay, substandard materiel, lack of provisions, and many other privations. There is no question that soldiers who have performed heroically in Marawi City and elsewhere deserve to be compensated fairly and provided robust support.

And the PNP? Under Dela Rosa’s watch, the country’s civilian national police force has swiftly been degraded into an organization whose name has come to be associated with the routine abuse and killing of suspects; the perversion of the government’s war on drugs (such as the abduction and murder by cops of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo on the pretext of a drug raid); and widespread public doubt on its methods and motives, as borne out by surveys. As it is, dismayed observers note, Dela Rosa’s 79-percent increase in pay amounts to an undeserved reward for continually botching his job.

And as entry-level police personnel are now about to receive P30,000 in monthly pay, the basic salary of a  teacher 1 is only P21,000. The hefty pay increases for uniformed personnel inevitably raise questions about distortions in the government’s compensation structure. A recent Senate resolution specifically calls on the Department of Budget and Management to look at likewise readjusting the basic salaries of civilian personnel to ensure that, as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon points out, if a rookie policeman receives P40,000, an entry-level teacher, a lawyer at the Department of Justice, and a health worker should also be entitled to the same pay.

President Duterte is committed to and has “ordered everyone to study how to increase the salary of teachers,” his spokesperson Harry Roque said last Thursday. But a day earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno swatted down the idea, flatly saying it is “not our priority at this time.” The administration’s priority, according to Diokno, is its “build, build, build” program, the expenditures for which are projected to amount to P9 trillion until 2022. Doubling the salaries for some 600,000 public schoolteachers nationwide would mean shelling out an additional half a trillion pesos, Diokno said.

But against the huge outlays so far for infrastructure, intelligence and pay increases for favored sectors, is not improving the welfare of teachers, who bear the awesome responsibility of educating the hope of the motherland, as urgent as that of cops and soldiers?

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The grandmother of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, Violeta, cries beside his casket yesterday in Caloocan City. Relatives and concerned neighbors of the teenager slain by police are calling for justice. MICHAEL VARCAS

U.S. Turns Military Focus to Afghanistan as ISIS Battles Ebb

January 11, 2018

Pentagon plans to dedicate new combat advisers, drones and other hardware in 2018

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is planning to double down on the Trump administration’s new approach in Afghanistan by reallocating drones and other hardware while sending in approximately 1,000 new combat advisers, according to U.S. and military officials.

The idea is to bulk up the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by the time the traditional fighting season begins in the spring. The military will send a larger number of drones, both armed and unarmed, to Afghanistan for air support as well as for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Pentagon also plans to bolster capabilities such as helicopters, ground vehicles, artillery and related materiel, according to U.S. officials, moves made possible by a reduction of combat operations in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State extremist group.

Adding to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, the administration will deploy as soon as next month members of an Army security-force assistance brigade from Fort Benning, Ga., to work as combat advisers to Afghan National Security Forces, expanding the U.S. training commitment, the officials said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, right, is briefed by U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, in Doha, Qatar, in April 2017. Photo: BRIGITTE N. BRANTLEY/PLANET PIX/ZUMA PRESS

These moves all accelerate President Donald Trump’s decision last August to approve some 4,000 additional troops in Afghanistan, bringing the number of American personnel to about 14,000. The additional security-force assistance units could push that number higher, although other forces could be withdrawn at the same time.

The emphasis on Afghanistan is part of a broader shift that ultimately is expected to shrink America’s military footprint in the Middle East as it refocuses its capabilities in East Asia.

That shift grew out of a request by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Army Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, recommend ways to rethink the military capabilities those countries will require over time.

Mr. Mattis, in a video teleconference late last year, asked Gen. Votel to consider how to use military resources for Afghanistan and to counter Iran, while also giving up military capabilities in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where the U.S. faces North Korean hostility and Chinese assertiveness.

The collapse of territory controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria led to calls to shift some of the resources dedicated to that war. But past lessons loom large, and U.S. military planners have said they don’t want to remove troops helping to fight Islamic State and risk allowing an insurgency.

How Islamic State’s Caliphate Crumbled Maps tell the story of the terror group’s violent rise and fall in Syria and Iraq—and show where the homecoming of ISIS foreign recruits poses the next challenge.

One military official described the dilemma by noting how the Pentagon expends massive resources to eliminate tactical threats—say two suspected terrorists riding a motorcycle inside Iraq or Syria—while lagging in some aspects of competition with China.

Mr. Mattis didn’t put a deadline on drawing down resources from Central Command, the military official said. His direction was premised on the need to allocate resources elsewhere around the globe, including the Pacific Rim.

The Pentagon is preparing to release a national defense strategy Jan. 19, building on the White House’s own national security strategy released last month.

Top military leaders publicly hinted at the shift toward Afghanistan late last year. “As assets free up from Iraq and Syria and the successful fight against [Islamic State] in that theater, we expect to see more assets come to Afghanistan,” Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Nov. 28.

U.S. military planners hope to reduce the number of ground troops in Iraq and Syria over the next year, as local forces increasingly take the lead, U.S. military and defense officials said.

The remaining U.S. forces would focus on counterterrorism operations and security for diplomats and contractors, another U.S. military official said. There now are more than 5,000 American troops in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.

A U.S. Marine looks on as Afghan National Army soldiers raise the Afghan National flag on an armed vehicle during a training exercise at the Shorab Military Camp in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, in August 2017.Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In Brussels, allied officials said they have sensed a shift in U.S. priorities as well, with less pressure from the Americans for contributions to the coalition fight against Islamic State in the Middle East. Instead, the officials said, there is more of a focus by the U.S. on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization effort in Afghanistan. Allied diplomats say that reflects the gains the coalition has made in retaking territory from Islamic State, and the new troop requirements necessitated by the administration’s strategy for Afghanistan.

U.S. Central Command has enjoyed the lion’s share of Pentagon resources as it has fought wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but officials there recognize many of those resources may need to go elsewhere.

“We are going to use them as long as we have them,” one defense official said. “The clock could be ticking. We don’t know.”

Mr. Mattis’s Pentagon, however, is aware that drastic troop reductions in Iraq and Syria could allow militants to return.

“The real caution, the thing that’s being discussed, is that we cannot make the mistake of taking our eye off ISIS too quickly,” a military official said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “We don’t want to make the same mistake we’ve made before, we don’t want to allow that to happen.”

—Julian E. Barnes in Brussels contributed to this article.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at and Gordon Lubold at

Shin Bet Warns Israel’s Ministers: Death Penalty for Terrorists Will Lead to Kidnappings of Jews Worldwide

January 3, 2018

Despite the warning, Netanyahu backed the bill in a preliminary Knesset vote: ‘A person who slaughters and laughs should be put to death’

Chaim Levinson Jan 03, 2018 5:12 PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, October 24, 2017.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset, October 24, 2017. Olivier Fitouss

UPDATE: Knesset gives preliminary backing to death penalty for terrorists bill

The Shin Bet security service has voiced its objections to the death penalty bill, which it suspects will trigger a wave of kidnappings of Jews around the world to use them in negotiations.

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman has shared his negative opinion of the bill with the inner security cabinet. The security service will be presenting its opinion to the cabinet when it convenes to discuss the bill, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would.

The bill received preliminary backing from the Knesset on Wednesday and still needs to pass three rounds of voting in order to become a law. Despite the warning, Netanyahu backed the bill and, in unusual remarks ahead of the vote, said that, “a person who slaughters and laughs should not spend his life behind bars but be put to death.”

The Shin Bet is predicting abductions of Jews not only in Muslim countries, but in the West as well. It also has other objections to the bill. In 2011, when some – including Central Command General Avi Mizrahi – were advocating the death penalty for Amjad Awad for murders of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, the Shin Bet objected and the idea fell through.

Ahead of the bill’s preliminary reading, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said in a private conversation that he is not bound by the cabinet’s position – and that is just one of many considerations. Mendelblit had also opposed the death penalty as chief military prosecutor, and his position has not changed.

Present military law allows the death penalty to be handed down for murder committed as part of a terror act, but it is conditional on the unanimous support of the sentence by the judges. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who sponsored the bill, proposes that an ordinary majority of judges should suffice to sentence a terrorist to death. The bill also bans leniency after a final death sentence has been handed down.

Chaim Levinson
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China, Russia slam US and Donald Trump’s ‘imperialist’ and ‘Cold War mentality’

December 19, 2017


© AFP / by Ryan MCMORROW with Maria PANINA in MOSCOW | US President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy says China and Russia are ‘attempting to erode American security and prosperity’


China and Russia on Tuesday decried President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy — which pilloried both nations as challengers to US power — as a “Cold War mentality” with an “imperialist character”.

The two global powerhouses hit back hours after the Trump administration unveiled its approach to the world with biting language framing Beijing and Moscow as global competitors.

“We urge the United States to stop intentionally distorting China’s strategic intentions and to abandon outdated notions such as the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, otherwise it will only harm itself or others,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Moscow issued its own denunciation moments later.

“The imperialist character of this document is obvious, as is the refusal to renounce a unipolar world, an insistent refusal,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The report’s tough tone contrasts sharply with Trump’s friendlier face-to-face encounters with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity,” the document says.

– ‘Malicious slander’ –

Accusing China of seeking “to displace the United States” in Asia, the 68-page strategy is a litany of US grievances, from the Chinese stealing data to spreading “features of its authoritarian system.”

“Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others,” it says.

Beijing launched a vigorous defence of its “peaceful development”, saying any report “which distorts the facts, or maliciously slanders will only do so in vain”.

“China will never pursue its own development at the expense of other countries’ interests,” Hua told a regular news briefing.

“At the same time we will never give up our legitimate rights and interests.”

Trump received a lavish welcome during his first state visit to Beijing in November and was full of praise for Xi.

But the two countries have been locked in an increasingly acrimonious battle over trade issues, with Washington taking unprecedented steps to investigate and add tariffs to Chinese-made goods.

There are also lingering US concerns over China’s military activities in the disputed South China Sea, while Washington has angered Beijing with its arms sales to self-ruled Taiwan.

– Softer on Russia –

Speaking on Monday after the report’s release, Trump took a strikingly softer tone on Russia, lauding the benefits of counterterror cooperation with Moscow.

Trump claimed that a recent CIA tip-off about a terror attack on a cathedral in Putin’s home town of Saint Petersburg had prevented deaths “in the thousands”.

“They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event with no loss of life and that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work,” Trump said, offering the prospect of better ties.

Trump’s presidential campaign is being investigated for possible collusion with Russia in the run-up to his shock 2016 election win — allegations the 45th president has dubbed “fake news”.

His security strategy warns that Russian nuclear weapons are “the most significant existential threat to the United States”.

It also describes the Kremlin as a power that “seeks to restore its great power status and establish spheres of influence near its borders”.

“Russia aims to weaken US influence in the world and divide us from our allies and partners,” it warns.

The Kremlin’s Peskov responded that Russia “cannot accept” being described as a threat to US security.

But Peskov praised “modest” positive features in the report, pointing to what he said was Washington’s readiness to cooperate with Russia in areas such as an exchange of security information.

– ‘Two administrations’ –

The national security document — 11 months in the making — is required by law and is designed to form a framework for how America approaches the world.

Previous national security strategies have been released without much fanfare and served as guideposts, rather than doctrinal commandments.

But in this unorthodox administration, the document had taken on extra significance.

Foreign officials in Washington often complain that there are effectively “two administrations” — one that they hear from day-to-day in contacts with the State Department and Pentagon and another coming from Trump, often via Twitter in 280 characters or fewer.

Trump and his advisors often publicly differ starkly on fundamental security issues from the Middle East to talks with North Korea.

But allies looking for clarity about the intentions of the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power are likely to be confused by Trump’s mixed messages.

Where the strategy warns Russia is using “subversive measures” to undermine “transatlantic unity,” Trump again claimed that European allies were “delinquent” in paying for security “while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them”.

Where the strategy warned of Moscow’s “destabilizing cyber capabilities” and interference in domestic political affairs, Trump made no such reference.

by Ryan MCMORROW with Maria PANINA in MOSCOW

Trump officially removes climate change from list of global threats — Lists China and Russia as competitors

December 19, 2017

‘America is in the game, and America is going to win’

By Alexandra Wilts Washington DC
The Independent

In another departure from his predecessor Barack Obama, President Donald Trump has removed climate change as a global threat in his new national security strategy – a plan that prioritises economic and military might and paints China and Russia as competitors that want to shape global events to match their interests.

Echoing his 2016 presidential campaign message, the President declared in a speech introducing his strategy: “America is in the game, and America is going to win.”

The remarks at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington were largely another reiteration of his “America First” doctrine, which emphasises national sovereignty and the economic implications of global participation. Officials have said the core principles of the strategy have already been put into practice.

While discussing his strategy, Mr Trump seemed to envision nations in constant competition and brushed aside Obama-era warnings on climate change. The President also stressed that the US would defend its sovereignty at all costs, even if that meant ripping up existing agreements.

The strategy focuses on four main themes: protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity, demonstrating peace through strength and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.

Along with listing off the threat of rogue regimes like North Korea, Mr Trump said, “We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth.”

“We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest,” he added.

He then noted how Russian President Vladimir Putin had called him the previous day to thank America for intelligence the CIA had provided regarding a planned terror attack in St Petersburg.

“Many people, perhaps in the thousands, could have been killed,” Mr Trump said. “They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life. And that’s a great thing, and the way it’s supposed to work. That is the way it’s supposed to work.”

He continued: “But while we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before.”

Both China and Russia have sought to “change the status quo”, according to Trump administration officials, in a manner the US opposes and could challenge American interests. As examples, an official cited Chinese military expansion and island-building in the South China Sea and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Mr Trump also made the decision to exclude climate change from a list of global threats in his strategy. The Obama administration had first included the phenomenon, said to be a major cause of the recent massive wildfires in California, in its own national strategy in 2015.

The strategy sets a goal of being an “energy-dominant nation” but does say the US “recognises the importance of environmental stewardship”.

In his speech, the closest Mr Trump came to mentioning the topic of climate change was in his reference to his decision to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord, which was aimed at fighting global warming.

The move was criticised by world leaders, but the US President maintains that the agreement is “very expensive and unfair” for the US. Opponents of Mr Trump’s decision have said the President is forsaking America’s role as a global leader by withdrawing from the deal.

But Mr Trump on Monday faulted previous US leaders for failing to look out for the nation’s citizens.

Mr Trump stressed his “serious plan to defend our homeland”, again calling for the construction of a border wall with Mexico and pledging to end “chain migration” of immigrants’ relatives and to close “loopholes that undermine enforcement” of immigration restrictions.

He also said that for the first time, American strategy recognises that economic security is national security. This calls for cutting taxes and rolling back unnecessary regulations, he said.



Donald Trump frames Russia and China as ‘competitors’ in new America First security strategy

Donald Trump has outlined a new Cold War-style approach to US foreign policy by framing Russia and China as competitors and stressing the importance of nuclear weapons.

The US president’s first national security strategy, published on Monday, chastised previous administrations for their “complacency” since the Soviet Union’s fall.

It said American nuclear weapons were “the foundation of our strategy to preserve peace and stability” and called for new “significant investment”.

The strategy document said Russia and China were trying to “challenge American power, influence and interests” and “erode American security and prosperity”.

And it warned against “engagement” with rivals, saying the belief they could be turned into “benign actors and trustworthy partners” had been proved wrong.

Climate change was also dropped as a national security concern – a change from Barack Obama’s presidency.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, left, and Donald Trump, the US president
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, left, and Donald Trump CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN VUCCI

Mr Trump said: “With the strategy I’m announcing today, we’re declaring that America is in the game and America is going to win.”

The 56-page document – an attempt to gather Mr Trump’s campaign promises and policy beliefs into a coherent strategy – has been a year in the making.

It is the first time the strategy, which every president is bound by law to produce, has been published within the first 12 months  of a new administration.

At times, lines in the strategy clashed with Mr Trump’s own behaviour in office, leaving it unclear how closely the strategy will be followed.

Russia is said to be “using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies” – an assessment which Mr Trump has often hesitated from repeating.

It also states that “the rule of law is the shield that protects the individual from government corruption and abuse of power”, yet Mr Trump has been criticised for seeking to influence judicial decisions.

Speaking about the strategy, Mr Trump said that “for years Washington politicians presided over one disappointment after another”.

The US president criticised both Mr Obama and Republican president George W Bush as he attacked “disastrous” trade deals and the “short-changing” of US soldiers.

He pointed to early foreign policy wins including battlefield victories against Isil, stronger sanctions on North Korea and more defence spending amount Nato allies as proof that things were changing.


“The entire world has heard the news and already seen the signs: America is coming back strong,” Mr Trump said.

The document outlined four “pillars” of security: Protect the American people; promote American prosperity; preserve peace through strength; advance American influence.

The strategy read: “Following the remarkable victory of free nations in the Cold War, America emerged as the lone superpower with enormous advantages and momentum in the world.

“Success, however, bred complacency. A belief emerged, among many, that American power would be unchallenged and self– sustaining.

“The United States began to drift. We experienced a crisis of confidence and surrendered our advantages in key areas.

“As we took our political, economic, and military advantages for granted, other actors steadily implemented their long-term plans to challenge America and to advance agendas opposed to the United States, our allies, and our partners.”

On rival countries, it read: “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

One section read: “Nuclear weapons have served a vital purpose in America’s National Security Strategy for the past 70 years. They are the foundation of our strategy to preserve peace and stability by deterring aggression against the United States, our allies, and our partners.”