New nuclear weapons needed, experts say, pointing to aged arsenal


Warheads in the nation’s stockpile are an average of 27 years old, which raises serious concerns about their reliability.


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David’s Sling air defense system to deploy for trial period



The new defense system, built to intercept short-range to medium-range rockets and missiles, has three times the coverage range of the Iron Dome.


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America's Next Big Challenge: Countering China’s Diplomatic Blitzkrieg


Richard Javad Heydarian

Foreign Policy, Military Strategy, China, United States

It is clear that China has combined proactive diplomacy with large-scale economic incentives to quell any regional backlash against its maritime assertiveness across the Western Pacific. What will Washington do?

Much to the delight of China, recent weeks have witnessed a dramatic reorientation in the Asian strategic landscape. Demonstrating sophisticated statecraft, Chinese president Xi Jinping astutely utilized the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to emphasize Beijing’s centrality to regional prosperity and stability. Xi rekindled communication channels with estranged neighbors such as Japan and Vietnam, exploring various mechanisms to de-escalate territorial tensions in the Western Pacific. The summit featured icy bilateral meetings between the Chinese leader (with a poker face) and his Japanese and Vietnamese counterparts, namely Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Truong Tan Sang. The meetings came on the heels of weeks of preparation by special envoys to facilitate a formal meeting between their respective heads of states. There was also an informal talk between Xi and his Filipino counterpart, Benigno Aquino, who welcomed his first direct contact with the Chinese president.

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Activists: ISIS launches attack on Kobani from Turkey


ISIS “used to attack the town from three sides. Today, they are attacking from four sides,” Kurdish official says; Turkey denies claim


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In France, former president Sarkozy wins party leadership vote with shift to the right


BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT, France — Two years after losing the Élysée Palace to the Socialists, Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping to stage a historic comeback by swinging further to the political right.

In the United States, the tea party revolution may be cooling. But in Europe, Sarkozy’s shift is a sign of the times. He and other European conservatives have found themselves caught in a political no man’s land, between their traditional opponents on the left and the rising fortunes of the far right.

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Tradition Saves Camels’ Spot in Jordan’s Desert Forces


Jordan’s Royal Desert Forces, descended from a camel corps, still rely on the animals for work like catching smugglers and recovering stolen cars on rough terrain.




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For Obama and the Pentagon, an uneasy relationship


WASHINGTON — On a trip to Afghanistan during President Barack Obama’s first term, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was stunned to find a telephone line at the military’s special operations headquarters that linked directly back to a top White House national security official.

“I had them tear it out while I was standing there,” Gates said earlier this month as he recounted his discovery. “I told the commanders, `If you get a call from the White House, you tell them to go to hell and call me.’”

To Gates, the phone in Kabul came to symbolize Obama’s efforts to micromanage the Pentagon and centralize decision-making in the White House. That criticism later would be echoed publicly and pointedly by Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta.

The president’s third Pentagon chief, Chuck Hagel, was picked partly because he was thought to be more deferential to Obama’s close circle of White House advisers. But over time, Hagel also grew frustrated with what he saw as the West Wing’s insularity.

There have been similar gripes from other Cabinet officials, but the friction between the White House and the Pentagon has been particularly pronounced during Obama’s six years in office. That dynamic already appears to be affecting the president’s ability to find a replacement for Hagel, who resigned Monday under pressure from Obama.

Within hours, former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy called Obama to take herself out of consideration, even though she was widely seen as his top choice and would have been the first woman to hold the post.

Flournoy officially cited family concerns, but people close to her say she also had reservations about being restrained like Hagel and would perhaps wait to see if she could get the job if another Democrat – namely Hillary Rodham Clinton – won the presidency in 2016.

Obama’s eventual nominee will join a national security team that is under intense criticism for its response to the rise of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. The president has authorized airstrikes in both countries and sent about 3,000 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces.

He has resisted sending American troops into ground combat and has insisted the military campaign is not designed to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose 3 1/2 year assault on civilians helped create the chaos that allowed the Islamic State to thrive.

The foreign policy landscape looks far different from what Obama envisioned when he ran for the White House and pledged to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama has been seen in the Pentagon as being overly suspicious of the military and its inclination to use force to address problems. To some in the Pentagon, the president’s approach to the military seems particularly cool and detached when compared with that of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who was more eager to embrace the military and accept its judgments.

Stephen Biddle, an occasional adviser to U.S. combat commanders, said the White House has fallen victim to “group think” and is distrustful of advice or perspectives that challenge its own.

“That’s a bad policy development design,” said Biddle, a political science professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Several White House, defense and other administration officials discussed the relationship between the president and the Pentagon on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly.

On foreign policy decision-making, Obama relies in particular on national security adviser Susan Rice and chief of staff Denis McDonough. Secretary of State John Kerry has managed to carve out some areas of influence, particularly on Iranian nuclear negotiations. Some Pentagon officials say they have seen an increasingly close relationship between Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But at the Pentagon, senior officials say there is growing frustration with a lack of policy direction and clarity from the White House that has hampered the military’s ability to quickly respond to fast-moving events around the world. Policy recommendations from the Pentagon are often discussed exhaustively in White House meetings that can bog down, delaying decisions and sometimes resulting in conclusions that remain vague.

Over the past year, officials said the Pentagon leadership was particularly baffled by the White House’s slow deliberations on Russia’s moves against Ukraine and the rise of Islamic State militants.

Earlier this fall, officials said, Hagel sent Rice a memo on Syria reflecting the views of military commanders who feel Obama’s strategy lacks cohesion and has included too many one-off decisions, such as resupplying Kurdish forces fighting the militants in the Syrian town of Kobani. Hagel and military commanders were particularly concerned about a lack of clarity over Obama’s position toward Assad.

On Ukraine, officials say Hagel pressed the White House to speed up the protracted debate over providing even nonlethal assistance to Ukrainian forces and to look for new options when the support the administration did provide proved ineffective in stopping Russian-backed rebels.

Obama’s advisers deny Hagel was ousted because he challenged the president. They cast the former Republican senator as the wrong fit for a job in which he never appeared comfortable. The aides also defended the White House’s lengthy internal deliberations, saying Obama’s decision-making process reflects the complexity of the problems.

Hagel’s ouster has spurred a flurry of suggestions from foreign policy experts for how Obama can repair his relationship with the Pentagon, from ousting his West Wing aides to revamping the White House’s National Security Council, which has ballooned from a few dozen staffers in the 1970s to more than 400.

But Gates, the former Pentagon chief who voiced his frustrations during a forum this month at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California, suggested the real issue rested with the president himself.

“When a president wants highly centralized control in the White House at the degree of micromanagement that I’m describing, that’s not bureaucratic, that’s political,” he said.


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Here are the 17 books Obama bought with his kids today


President Obama and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, visited a well-known independent bookstore named Politics and Prose in Washington on Saturday. The visit was meant to show support for small businesses and to mark a day sometimes known as “small business Saturday,” when consumers are encouraged to follow-up the big-chain purchases of black Friday by patronizing small businesses.

The visit is perhaps of most interest, though, for the books that Obama picked up with his daughters. It’s hard to imagine the purchases were entirely spontaneous — the White House knows presidential reading gets a lot of scrutiny — but it’s still interesting to see. The two that most stand out to me are Evan Osnos’s book on life in contemporary China — China is a major and quietly successful foreign policy issue for Obama — and Heart of Darkness. I would be very curious to know who in the Obama White House has taken an interest in reading about colonial depravation and horror in 19th-century sub-Saharan Africa.

Here are the books, largely a mix of young adult fiction (Sasha and Malia are 13 and 16), kids’ books (probably a gift), and contemporary non-fiction.

Grown-up books

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande (non-fiction, about aging, death, and end-of-life care)

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune Truth and Faith in The New China, by Evan Osnos (non-fiction, a National Book Award-winner about life in today’s China, by the former New Yorker correspondent there, who now covers DC politics)

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson (fiction, a National Book Award-winner about growing up black in 1960s and ’70s America)

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan (fiction, a Mann Booker Prize-winner about an Australian surgeon held in a WW2 Japanese POW camp)

The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson (fiction, about two illicit businessmen in Sierra Leone and Uganda)

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (fiction, about a blind French girl and German orphan boy in Nazi-occupied France)

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (fiction, the classic 1899 Polish novel about a European steamboater finding madness and brutality in colonial Congo)

Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin (fiction, about a widowed young mother struggling in Ireland)

Young adult books

Redwall, by Brian Jacques

Mossflower (#2 in the Redwall series), by Brian Jacques

Mattimeo (#3 in the Redwall series), by Brian Jacques

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell

Nuts To You, by Lynn Rae Perkins

Childrens’ books

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, by Barbara Park

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, by Barbara Park

A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo, and More, by Doreen Cronin

I Spy Sticker Book and Picture Riddles, by Jean Morzollo


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These Are Some Of The Most Spectacular Israeli Air Force F-15 Jets Photographs Ever


F-15 take off

Israeli Air Force F-15 “Baz” and “Ra’am” as you have never seen them before.

The Heyl Ha’avir (Israeli Air Force) operates a fleet of about 70 F-15 Eagle jets in the A/B/C/D and I variants.

Besides the F-15I “Ra’am” (Thunder in Hebrew), which is a version of the F-15E Strike Eagle developed especially for Israel, the other types of F-15s in service with the Israeli Air Force have been improved through a series of upgrades and custom modifications which have made the “Baz” (Falcon), some of the most advanced and famous Eagles in service all around the world.

F-15I take off smoke

The Israeli F-15s, performing in the air superiority as well as in the air-to-ground role have taken part in all the regional wars, special operations and air strikes Israel has fought since the first Eagles were delivered in 1976.

F-15 Baz take off
The first ever kill by an F-15 was scored by an Israeli Eagle in 1979 over Lebanon, followed, two years later by the first worldwide kill of a Mig-25 Foxbat. Since then, Israeli F-15s were credited with 60 air-to-air victories mainly against Syrian Mig-21, Mig-25 and Mig-23 jets.

F-15 exhaust close up

The photographs in this post show the Israeli combat-proven F-15s at work.

They were taken by renowned aviation photographer Nir Ben-Yosef who has been documenting the IAF’s people, aircraft and operations for well over a decade.

F-15 take off afterburner

F-15I night takeoff

Image credit Nir Ben-Yosef (xnir.com)

 

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Will there be a ‘third intifada’? If so, what would cause it?



Will Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel lead it?


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