Video shows Saudi F-15s intercept Iranian plane en route to Yemen with aid


RSAF F-15Cs

Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s intercepted an Iranian A310 carrying aid to Yemen.

A new video, recorded with a mobile phone and released by the Iranian Press TV, shows RSAF F-15s intercepting an Iranian Mahan Air Airbus 310 on its way to deliver humanitarian aid in Yemen.

According to the Iranians, the airliner had the required diplomatic clearances to fly to Yemen via Oman’s airspace but it was intercepted and escorted by at least a couple of armed Saudi F-15s.

Photos posted by Tasnim News show that the F-15s involved in the intercept were armed with AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles (most probably four) and carried three drop tanks to extend their endurance.

Based on the reports, the RSAF F-15Cs radioed the Airbus 310 that it could not land at Sana’a International Airport and later urged the Iranian aircrew to land at another airport “belonging to Saudi Arabia.”

However the Iranian pilots ignored the warning from Saudi jets escorting the civil plane from close distance and continued to Sana’a but they were forced to turn back as the airport was hit by a Saudi air strike which made the runway unserviceable.

According to Reuters, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, the airport was bombed after the Iranian aircraft refused to coordinate with the coalition and the pilot ignored orders to turn back.

The incident comes days after another Iranian airplane reportedly carrying aid and medicine was prevented to enter the Yemeni airspace by RSAF jets in combat air patrol.

On Mar. 25, Saudi Arabia launched the first air strike on targets located in neighbouring Yemen to counter the Houthi offensive on Aden, the provisional capital town of the internationally recognized (yet domestically contested) Yemeni government.

 

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Baltic Defense & Security After Ukraine: New Challenges, New Threats


*This event will be webcast live. To view the Live Stream during the conference, please click here.

 

To commemorate 25 years of Baltic independence, The Jamestown Foundation is proud to announce that, on April 30, it will organize a conference entitled, “Baltic Defense & Security After Ukraine: New Challenges, New Threats.” The event will be the first of its kind ever to be organized in the nation’s capital dedicated solely to defense and security issues pertaining to this strategically important region. Speakers will consist of some of the leading authorities on defense and security in the United States and the Baltic region: including Michael Carpenter, Special Advisor for Europe and Eurasia in the Office of the Vice President of the United States, former US Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, Jamestown Senior Fellow Vladimir Socor, long-time Russia and Eurasia expert Paul Goble, Latvian military scholar Janis Berzins, Russian military expert Stephen Blank, and several leading defense experts from the Baltic states. Issues to be discussed will include: Russian threats to Baltic security and independence, Russia’s hybrid threat to the Letgale region and Narva, as well as the military threat posed by Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to NATO member states Lithuania, Poland and Germany.

 

Thursday, April 30, 2015
9:00 A.M.–12:45 P.M.

The University Club of Washington, D.C.
Grand Ballroom (2nd Floor)
1135 Sixteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

 

*To attend this free event, please visit our registration website by clicking here.

**On Twitter, please use the hashtag #JTFBaltSec

 

 

 

 

AGENDA

 

 

Welcome
9:00 A.M.

Glen E. Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation

*     *     *

Panel One:
The U.S. & NATO Response to Baltic Security

9:00 A.M.–10:00 A.M.

“America’s Commitment to Baltic Defense”
Michael Carpenter*
Special Advisor for Europe and Eurasia,
Office of the Vice President  of the United States

*Mr. Carpenter’s comments will be off the record.

“NATO’s Response to Baltic Security”
Kurt Volker
Executive Director, McCain Institute for International Leadership and
Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Moderator:
Glen Howard

Q & A

*     *     *

Panel Two:
Russia’s Military Threat to the  Baltic

10:00 A.M.–11:10 A.M.

“Russian Threats to Baltic Security”
Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, The American Foreign Policy Council

“Avoiding the Old Generals’ Mistake:
NATO Must Prepare to Fight a New War Not an Old One”
Paul Goble
Blogger, Window on Eurasia

“NATO & Europe’s East After Ukraine”
Vladimir Socor
Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation

Moderator:
Glen Howard

Q & A

*     *     *

Coffee Break
11:10 A.M.–11:30 A.M.

*     *     *
 
Panel Three:
Regional Perspectives on the Growing Russian Threat

11:30 A.M.–12:45 P.M.

“The Russian Threat to Latvia”
Janis Berzins
Director, Center for Security & Strategic Research,
National Defense Academy of Latvia

“Estonian Perspective on the New Security Situation”
Indrek Sirp
Defense Counselor and Representative of the Ministry of Defense,
Embassy of Estonia in Washington, DC

“The Impact of the Kaliningrad Region on Regional Security”
Liudas Zdanavicius
Lecturer, The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania

Moderator:
Keith C. Smith
Distinguished Resident Fellow, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

Q & A

*     *     *

Conclusion
12:45 P.M.

 

 

 

BIOGRAPHIES

Dr. Janis Berzins

Dr. Janis Berzins is the director of the Center for Security and Strategic Research (CSSR) at the National Defense Academy of Latvia. His research interests are Russian military thought, defense economics, international economics, and economic security and development. He has written more than 60 publications and lectured in Brazil and Latvia. He has worked as researcher at the Institute of Economics of the Latvian Academy of Sciences and at the Department of Political Sciences at the University Stradins of Riga, until he joined the CSSR in 2012. He is currently developing research on Russian military thought and asymmetric warfare, and the implications of financial instability for transatlantic security.

 

Stephen Blank

Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. From 1989–2013 he was a Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Dr. Blank has been Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute since 1989. In 1998–2001 he was Douglas MacArthur Professor of Research at the War College.

He has published over 900 articles and monographs on Soviet/Russian, U.S., Asian, and European military and foreign policies, testified frequently before Congress on Russia, China, and Central Asia, consulted for the CIA, major think tanks and foundations, chaired major international conferences in the USA and abroad In Florence, Prague, and London, and has been a commentator on foreign affairs in the media in the United States and abroad. He has also advised major corporations on investing in Russia and is a consultant for the Gerson Lehrmann Group.

He has published or edited 15 books focusing on Russian foreign, energy, and military policies and on International Security in Eurasia. His most recent book is Russo-Chinese Energy Relations: Politics in Command, London: Global Markets Briefing, 2006. He has also published Natural Allies?: Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2005.

Dr. Blank is also the author of a study of the Soviet Commissariat of Nationalities, The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 and the co-editor of The Soviet Military and the Future, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992.

Prior to this appointment Dr. Blank was Associate Professor for Soviet Studies at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education of Air University at Maxwell AFB. He also held the position of 1980–86: Assistant Professor of Russian History, University of Texas, San Antonio, 1980–86, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian history, University of California, Riverside, 1979–80.

Dr. Blank’s M.A. and Ph.D. are in Russian History from the University of Chicago. His B.A is in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

   

Michael Carpenter

Dr. Michael Carpenter serves as the Vice President’s Special Advisor for Europe and Eurasia. Prior to his current assignment, Dr. Carpenter served as Director for Russia at the National Security Council. Previously, he spent 12 years with the Department of State, serving as Deputy Director of the Office of Russian Affairs, speechwriter for then Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, and advisor on the South Caucasus, among other assignments. Dr. Carpenter holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University. He has twice been a Fulbright Scholar at the Polish Academy of Sciences and has received fellowships from the IREX and MacArthur Foundations for his academic work.

   

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. While there, he launched the “Window on Eurasia” series. Prior to joining the faculty there in 2004, he served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He writes frequently on ethnic and religious issues and has edited five volumes on ethnicity and religion in the former Soviet space. Trained at Miami University in Ohio and the University of Chicago, he has been decorated by the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for his work in promoting Baltic independence and the withdrawal of Russian forces from those formerly occupied lands.

  

Indrek Sirp

Indrek Sirp is Defense Counselor and Representative of the Ministry of Defense at the Embassy of Estonia in Washington, DC. Prior to taking up this post, Mr. Sirp worked, in 2013–2014, as Project Manager for Rail Baltic at the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications overseeing a multi-billion-euro railway project connecting the Baltic countries with Central and Western Europe. However, his primary career has been with the Estonian Ministry of Defense, where he has worked since 2001. From 2001 to 2008, he served in different posts in the International Cooperation Department, a unit responsible for bilateral and regional defense cooperation. From 2010 to 2013, Mr. Sirp worked as Director of the International Cooperation Department. He was in charge of policy formulation for and implementation of bilateral and regional defense cooperation with allied and partner nations of Estonia. In his capacity as Director of the International Cooperation Department, he was also the Estonian representative to the NATO Collective Cyber Defense Center of Excellence Steering Committee in 2012–2013.

Indrek Sirp holds a B.A. in History from the University of Tartu, Estonia, and an M.A. in International History from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
 
 
Keith C. Smith

Ambassador Keith Smith is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Ambassador Smith was previously a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He retired from the U.S. Department of State in 2000, where his career focused primarily on European affairs. From 1997 to 2000, he was U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania, with additional posts in Europe, including Hungary, Norway and Estonia. In addition to several other State Department assignments, he most recently served as Director of Policy for Europe and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State regarding U.S. assistance programs in Eastern Europe. Since 2000, Smith has been a consultant to several energy companies and has lectured on Russian-European energy issues in the United States, Poland, Belgium, Norway, United Kingdom, Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Lithuania. He is the author of numerous articles on international energy issues that have appeared in over 30 newspapers around the world, including the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune. Smith’s most recent publications include “Unconventional Gas and European Security: Politics and Foreign Policy of Fracking in Europe,” “Managing the Challenge of Russian Energy Policies,” and “Lack of Transparency in Russian Energy Trade.”

  

Vladimir Socor

Vladimir Socor is a Senior Fellow of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation and its flagship publication, Eurasia Daily Monitor (1995 to present), where he writes analytical articles on a daily basis. An internationally recognized expert on former Soviet-ruled countries in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, he covers Russian and Western policies there, focusing on energy policies, regional security issues, secessionist conflicts, and NATO policies and programs.

Mr. Socor is a frequent speaker at U.S. and European policy conferences and think-tank institutions. He is a regular guest lecturer at the NATO Defense College and at Harvard University’s National Security Program’s Black Sea Program (Kennedy School of Government). He is also a frequent contributor to edited volumes. Mr. Socor was previously an analyst with the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute (1983–1994). He is a Romanian-born citizen of the United States based in Munich, Germany.

   

Kurt Volker

Kurt Volker is Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, part of Arizona State University. He served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO in 2008–2009. Since leaving government, he has been involved with a variety of think tank and business consulting activities. He remains active as a Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Council, and a Senior Fellow with the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He has previously served as Managing Director–International for BGR Group and Senior Advisor at McLarty Associates. Ambassador Volker is on the Board of the Wall Street Fund, and is a Trustee of the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Ambassador Volker contributes regularly to public policy debates, with frequent appearances on BBC, Al Jazeera English, CNN, Fox News, and with articles in such publications as La Stampa, the Christian Science Monitor, Handelsblatt, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, Policy Review, the Washington Times, and Europe’s World.

Ambassador Volker was a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, with over 23 years of experience working on European policy under five U.S. Administrations. He served as Ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from July 2, 2008 until May 17, 2009—straddling the transition from the Bush to the Obama Administrations. His tenure at NATO saw Russia’s invasion of Georgia, the ramp up of military efforts in Afghanistan, the return of France to NATO’s military structure, the enlargement of NATO to 28 members, and NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit in Strasbourg, France. From July 2005 until June 2008, Ambassador Volker served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Working with Europe to address the common challenges faced by the transatlantic community’s democratic societies in the 21st century, he was responsible for U.S. policy on U.S.–European Union relations, NATO, the OSCE, and Washington’s numerous bilateral relationships. He oversaw strategic planning and congressional relations, and was responsible for management of roughly 78 overseas posts, 300 domestic employees, and a budget of $400 million. Ambassador Volker previously served as Acting Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC). He served at the NSC for four years, where, as Director for NATO and West Europe, he oversaw preparations for the Prague (2002) and Istanbul (2004) NATO Summits. From 1999 to 2001, Ambassador Volker was Deputy Director of the Private Office of then-NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. As a State Department Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 1998, Ambassador Volker worked on foreign policy matters for Senator John McCain. His prior Foreign Service assignments include Brussels, Budapest, London, and several positions in the U.S. Department of State.

Ambassador Volker has a B.A. from Temple University and an M.A. in International Relations from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He has studied in Sweden and France and speaks Hungarian, Swedish and French. He is married and has two daughters.

  

Liudas Zdanavicius

Liudas Zdanavicius is a lecturer at The General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania. He is also a researcher at the Center for Security and Strategic Studies at the National Defence Academy of Latvia. He holds a M.A. in international relations and Diplomacy from the Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science and is currently writing his Ph.D. dissertation on Russian foreign policy. Liudas Zdanavicius was author and co-author of many books, scientific studies, articles and papers about Russian internal and foreign policy, defense industry, development of Kaliningrad region, security of the Baltic Sea region and other topics. His research interests focus on the national security and foreign policy of the Russian Federation and other post-Soviet countries.

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Shinzo Abe offers condolences for U.S. soldiers killed in World War II


WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered condolences Wednesday for Americans killed in World War II in the first address by a Japanese leader to a joint meeting of Congress, but stopped short of apologizing for wartime atrocities.

Abe came to Capitol Hill after a morning visit to a Washington memorial to more than 400,000 American service members who died in the conflict. His remarks to a packed chamber a day after meeting President Barack Obama were warmly received by lawmakers.

“My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II,” he said, prompting his audience to rise in applause.

But he skirted another issue that some U.S. lawmakers had also been urging him to address in what is the 70th anniversary year of the end of war – the sexual slavery of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan’s military, which remains a sore point with another staunch U.S. ally, South Korea. One of the few dozen surviving Korean victims, Yong Soo-lee, 87, was in the gallery to watch Abe’s address, seated in a wheelchair.

Instead, the Japanese prime minister expressed “feelings of deep remorse over the war.” He acknowledged that “our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries, we must not avert our eyes from that.” That won’t satisfy his critics, who want Abe to do more than “uphold” the apologies for wartime abuses made by his predecessors.

Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, who invited Yong to attend, said it was “shocking and shameful” that Abe was evading his government’s responsibility over atrocities committed by the Imperial Army against so-called “comfort” women.

Since winning election in December 2012, Abe has been strong advocate of closer ties with the U.S., a message he hammered home Wednesday. He vowed to enact legislation by this summer to facilitate closer cooperation with the U.S. military, in support of new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines endorsed by the two leaders on Tuesday.

Abe said the U.S. and Japan “must take the lead” in completing a 12-nation trans-Pacific trade pact. That got a lukewarm response from Democrats but warm applause from Republicans – reflecting the division in Congress on the issue.

Abe has arrived amid a bruising battle in Washington over legislation that would give Obama the authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a cornerstone of his second-term agenda. In a reversal of politics-as-usual, it’s Obama’s own Democratic base that opposes him, and Republicans who support the deal.

“The TPP goes far beyond just economic benefits. It is also about our security. Long-term, its strategic value is awesome. We should never forget that,” Abe said.

The Japanese leader is a firm supporter of a stronger U.S. presence in the region, both militarily and economically, as China, which in recent years has eclipsed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy, asserts itself as a global power.

He’s taken some political hits at home for pushing the trade pact and for loosening the restrictions of Japan’s pacifist constitution to open the way for Japan’s military to take a more active supporting role to the United States, which has nearly 50,000 troops based there.

Dozens of Japanese leaders have visited the U.S. since the war, but Abe’s invitation to speak to Congress sets him apart from his predecessors. While past Japanese prime ministers – including Abe’s own grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, in 1957 – have addressed the House, it was the first time for a leader of the East Asian nation to speak to both chambers.

Republican Sen. John McCain said the speech was “a historic recognition of two peoples reconciled with their shared history.” He expressed gratitude for Abe’s recognition of American sacrifices in World War II.

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She said it was “deeply disturbing” that Abe had offered sympathy to victims of a war that Japan started, but did not acknowledge responsibility. Noting that Abe told lawmakers that “history is harsh,” she said she agreed, but added: “history is ultimately harsher on those that deny it.”

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