Russia Promises Revenge on Bombing of Plane

The explosion of a Russian jetliner that took off from Sinai was the result of a terrorist attack according to Russia’s chief intelligence officer, Alexander Bortnikov.  The mid-air explosion of  the Russian jetliner over the Sinai desert last month  killed all 224 people on board .“Traces of foreign explosives” were found on debris from the Airbus plane, FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov told Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin vowed to step up his country’s military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria

According to Reuters, Putin ordered the Russian navy in the eastern Mediterranean to coordinate its actions on the sea and in the air with the French navy, after the Kremlin used long-range bombers and cruise missiles in Syria and announced it would expand its strike force by 37 planes.

During a Kremlin meeting broadcasted on Tuesday, Putin addressed the Russian people.  

“The murder of our people in Sinai is among the bloodiest crimes in terms of victims. We will not wipe away the tears from our soul and hearts. This will stay with us forever but will not stop us finding and punishing the criminals.”

Putin then promised, “We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them. Our air force’s military work in Syria must not simply be continued. It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable.”

The FSB security service announced a bounty of $50 million to find those responsible and said that award would be paid out for information that helps detain persons who blew up the Russian plane in Egypt.

According to several news reports, Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport, where the downed plane originated, for questioning, two security officials and an airport employee said on Tuesday.

Most of the A321 passengers on the doomed plane were Russian tourists flying home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Allegedly Behind Cyberattacks Targeting U.S.

Protesters in Iran celebrated the 36 year anniversary of the 52 Americans in the U.S. Embassy of Teyran that were took hostage for 444 days by supporters of the Iranian revolution, by chanting the familiar, “Death to America”.  The U.S. has continued to attempt proceeding towards a more constructive dialogue with Iran, only to be shown time and time again through rhetoric and violence that Iran has no intention of becoming an ally of America.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has been behind a recent wave of cyberattacks on email and social media accounts of White House personnel.

Though the White House had hoped the recent nuclear deal would further cooperation between the two nations, the cyberattacks from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has shown that Iranian headliners have not toned down their hostility.

The Washington Post, citing unnamed US officials, said people working on Iran policy appeared to be the focus of the cyber attacks, with personnel in the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs among those hacked. Other targets included journalists and academics.

The  Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)  has developed a team of hackers, trained by Russia, to focus on different Wall Street banks and Saudi oil companies, U.S. officials say, adding that Iran’s cyber attacks have regularly been a test of U.S. defenses.

Reports are that these hacking attempts have increased since the arrest of Siamak Namazi in mid-October, head of strategic planning for Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company in the United Arab Emirates and has worked for think tanks in Washington. He had been detained and interrogated regularly by the Revolutionary Guards before his arrest.

US officials believe some of the more recent attacks may be linked to reports of detained dual citizens and others,” a source told the Journal.

Turkey Warning U.S. & Russia, Do Not Back Kurds in Syria

Turkey summoned the U.S. and Russian ambassadors separately on Tuesday to convey their concerns regarding Syrian Kurdish forces fighting the ISIS terrorist group in Syria and “unacceptable military and political support by the U.S. or by Russia.”

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, said in televised comments: “We have a clear position. That position has been conveyed to the United States and the Russian Federation. Turkey cannot accept any cooperation with terrorist organisations which have waged war against it.”

Turkey has been active on its war on terror against ISIS and with the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) who has waged a bloody insurgency since 1984 into Turkey, but has so far focused almost exclusively on bombing of the Kurdish militants in northern Iraq. The Democratic Union party (PYD) is considered to be a Syrian offshoot of the PKK by Turkey and military officials there are concerned that weapon drops to Syrian rebels by the U.S. and ammunitions being supplied to Assad’s forces by Russia are being confiscated and used by the PYD.   

Involved in harsh fighting with ISIS for many months, the PYD’s Kurdish fighters control large parts of northern Syria on the Turkish border.  

“We know that some of those who fled from [Turkish] operations against the PKK in northern Iraq joined the ranks of the PYD in Syria. We have a clear stance against terrorist organisations which waged a war against Turkey. We have the same attitude against their affiliates.” said Prime Minister Davutoğlu. “Just as the United States and other friendly allies fight against al-Qaida linked groups, Turkey is determined to fight against the PKK and its affiliates.”

NATO Will Defend Turkey As Russian Military Escalation Continues in Syria

On Thursday, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO is ready to deploy forces in order to defend alliance member Turkey.

The statement comes days after Turkey reported that Russia had violated its airspace twice and approximately a week since Russia began airstrikes in Syria. NATO defense ministers are planning to meet in Brussels today regarding Russia’s military escalation in Syria.

“Nato is ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey against any threats,” Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general, told reporters before the Brussels meeting.

“In Syria, we have seen a troubling escalation of Russian military activities. We will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the alliance. This is particularly relevant in view of the recent violations of Nato’s airspace by Russian aircraft.

“Nato has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces including to the south, including in Turkey.”

Stoltenberg also announced that NATO has already taken steps in order to defend Turkey if needed. The NATO Response Force has been doubled to 40,000, and NATO is reviewing its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian forces already have a small naval flotilla off the Syrian coast.

Moscow continues to deny Western accusations that their military presence in Syria is to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia insists their presence in Syria is to only fight the Islamic State. However, Russian airstrikes have mostly targeted areas that are controlled by Syrian rebels, not ISIS.

Russia Violated Turkish Airspace Again, Also Sends Ground Troops into Syria

NATO’s secretary confirmed on Tuesday that Russian planes had violated Turkish airspace a second time and that Russian ground troops were in Syria.

Officials reported that the first violation took place on Saturday, and the second violation took place on Sunday. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also confirmed the latest updates.

“We also have seen two of them, two violations of Turkish airspace,” he said. “Intelligence that we have received provides me with reason to say it doesn’t look like an accident.”

Turkey’s air force also issued a statement that said an MiG-29 fighter jet of unknown nationality interfered with eight Turkish F-16s on the Turkey-Syria border on Monday. The Turkish planes were also under a radar lock for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia that the situation could escalate quickly if their actions continued. Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, and alliance rules state that any attack on one of the 28 member states would be treated as an attack on all.

“Any attack on Turkey is an attack on NATO,” Erdogan said. “If Russia loses a friend like Turkey with whom it has cooperated on many issues, it will lose a lot.”

Russia continues to claim that the airspace violations were mistakes and that their intentions in Syria is to take down the Islamic terrorist organization, ISIS also known as ISIL. U.S. officials question Russia’s motives as the Kremlin continues to target places in Syria where ISIS has not been active. They believe that Russia’s intentions are to bolster the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that within the last 24 hours, Russia has launched at least 34 airstrikes in areas controlled by ISIS, killing at least 38 members of ISIS and destroying an arms depot.

NATO defense ministers will meet on Thursday to discuss the actions of the Russian military in Syria.

Nepal Suffering from Supply Shortage; Tensions Rise between Nepal and India

Nepal is low on gasoline and medical supplies due to an unofficial economic blockade imposed by the neighboring country where they get most of their supplies, India.

Many Nepalese believe that the blockade is a way of retaliating against the Nepalese government after they approved a new constitution that New Delhi believed to be discriminatory to an Indian community living in Nepal’s border districts., the Madhesi.

Violent protests by the Mahesis that killed at least 45 people have taken place for months while Nepalese lawmakers debated the constitution. The violence escalated after the constitution was made official.

Shortly after, Indian trucks stopped crossing the border. Only about 100 or so have crossed the border since Wednesday, but more than 1,000 are sitting at the border with medicine, gasoline, produce, and cooking fuel. Currently, fuel is being rationed in Nepal, and is no longer being sold for the use of private vehicles for the next three days.

“Why is India imposing a blockade against us? Don’t we have the right to draft our constitution?” asked Nirmala Rai, a school teacher who participated in a demonstration near the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu on Monday.

India has stated that there is no blockade against Nepal. They blame protesters for blocking the roads and scaring their truck drivers.

Officials on both sides announced that they are working on the situation and that supplies will resume soon, but neither side had a time estimate for when the trucks will cross the border again.

U.S. Warns North Korea on Nuclear Threat

United States officials have issued a stern warning to North Korea because of their threats to the U.S. and the world over their nuclear capabilities.

The day after North Korea said they have turned up their nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to full production, U.S. officials said the North Korean government should focus on “fulfilling its international obligations.”

“We will work with our partners in the context of the six-party talks to try to return North Korea to a posture of fulfilling those commitments that they have made,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“We will repeat our call that North Korea should refrain from the irresponsible provocations that aggravate regional tension and should focus instead on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments.”

Earnest added that the world will not allow North Korea to become a nuclear state.

Analysts say that it’s likely Kim Jong-Un is looking at the way Iran was able to parlay their nuclear program into a financial windfall and removal of sanctions and is trying to position his nation to gain a similar bonus.

Iran Rejects Further U.S. Involvement in Region

Iran’s supreme leader has said that he is done speaking with the United States.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted statements on his website calling for the downfall of Israel and stated that he is finished talking with the United States because his nation cannot allow American views to “penetrate” Iran.

“Some are insisting in presenting this Great Satan as an angel of salvation,” Khamenei said in reference to the United States. “When the Iranian nation kicked this Satan out of the door, we should not allow it to return from the window and gather influence.”

Khamenei also reiterated that the “Zionist regime” will be gone within 25 years.

“After negotiations, in Zionist regime they said they had no more concern about Iran for next 25 years; I’d say: You will not see the next 25 years, God willing there will be nothing as Zionist Regime by next 25 years,” Khamenei stated on Twitter in reference to Israel.

Analysts say the announcements from Khamenei were intended more to appease internal critics rather than upset foreign governments.

Russia Sends Troops to Syria

Russian troops have begun a major military deployment to Syria.

The Russian government has been denying the moves, but the American government sent a terse warning to Russia about escalating the conflict.  Russian officials claim they are just helping the fight against terrorism.

“We have always supplied equipment to them for their struggle against terrorists,” Maria V. Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in an interview with the New York Times. “We are supporting them, we were supporting them and we will be supporting them.”

The US has gone as far as to ask nations such as Greece to deny use of their airspace to Russian aircraft transporting troops and weapons to Syria.

Analysts say that it’s likely Russia is using the fact the US has not really attempted to put a force into Syria to their advantage.

“It is basically a chance to play on Obama’s checkerboard,” said Konstantin Von Eggert, an independent political analyst, told the Times, stating it’s as if Russian President Putin is saying: “You want to fight the Islamic State. I am there. I am ready. Ah, sorry, you don’t really want to fight.”

Russia has a key naval base in Syria.

China Showing Off Military Might

China is making a demonstration of its military might both through ocean maneuvers and a parade of new technology.

The first major flexing of China’s military muscle came during the incident of ships off the coast of Alaska during a visit by President Obama.  The ships entered US territorial waters for the first time, passing within 12 nautical miles of the Alaskan coast.

US military officials say the ships complied with international law despite their proximity to Alaska.

“They already had one of their icebreakers up in that area, and they weren’t that far away with an exercise, and they’ve already started their return transit,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the military used the anniversary of the ending of World War II to display in a parade a missile that’s designed to take out an aircraft carrier.

The missile, called the Dongfeng DF-21D, is designed to enter space like an intercontinental ballistic missile but the warhead will detach and use radar to target a ship.

“The significance of that weapon is that its warhead, once it detaches from the launching vehicle, is able to slow its descent, turn on a radar seeker, and maneuver to engage a moving ship if it is in the radar “footprint” of the seeker,” Michael McDevitt, a retired United States rear admiral and analyst at CNA Strategic Studies, told the New York Times.

“This is unusual because normally ballistic, by definition, means that once fired, a weapon goes straight to where it was aimed. Heretofore, a ballistic missile with a conventional warhead would not be effective against a moving target because during the time of flight of the missile the target would have moved. The maneuvering warhead is Cold War technology, first introduced as I understand it with the Pershing II land-based missiles Reagan stationed in Europe.”

The missiles have a range of about 900 miles, meaning China could use them to keep American naval vessels out of the South China Sea in the event China attacks Taiwan.