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Homophobia is a crime, report it.The Internet Defense League

1st American soldier killed in #Iraq since war on #ISIS says #Pentagon

Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal is the Marine identified as having died on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in Baghdad from a non-combat related incident, the military said in a release.Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal is the Marine identified as having died on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in Baghdad from a non-combat related incident, the military said in a release. Image credit Facebook.

Baghdad (Iraqi News) On Saturday, U.S. Pentagon announced the first death of an American soldier in Iraq in the U.S. military campaign against the ISIS militant group.

Lance Corporal Sean P. Neal served as a Marine soldier. Neal was 19 years old from Riverside, California and was killed in Baghdad last Thursday during what the Pentagon described as a noncombat-related incident.

He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force — Crisis Response — Central Command, whose headquarters element deploys from Camp Pendleton, Calif., according to the DOD news release.

The Pentagon had announced earlier in October that Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, 21, is the first American marine to die in the war on ISIS. The soldier had died after jumping from a military plane in the waters of the Gulf.

Iraqi News.

#Putin Accuses U.S. of Trying to Build World Order Around Its Interests

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Vasily Maximov / Pool / Reuters)


Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. on Friday of endangering global security by imposing a “unilateral diktat” on the rest of the world and shifted blame for the Ukraine crisis onto the West.

In a 40-minute diatribe against the West that was reminiscent of the Cold War and underlined the depth of the rift between Moscow and the West, Putin also denied trying to rebuild the Soviet empire at the expense of Russia’s neighbors.

“We did not start this,” Putin told an informal group of experts on Russia that includes many Western specialists critical of him, warning that Washington was trying to “remake the whole world” based on its own interests.

“Statements that Russia is trying to reinstate some sort of empire, that it is encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbors, are groundless,” the former KGB agent declared in a speech delivered standing at a podium, without a smile, in a ski resort in mountains above the Black Sea city of Sochi.

Listing a series of conflicts in which he faulted U.S. actions, including Libya, Syria and Iraq, Putin asked whether Washington’s policies had strengthened peace and democracy.

“No,” he declared. “The unilateral diktat and the imposing of schemes [on others] have exactly the opposite effect.”

Putin, 62, has stepped up anti-Western rhetoric since returning to the Kremlin as president in 2012, helping push up his popularity ratings since the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Even so, the speech was one of the most hostile Putin has delivered against the West and it appeared partly intended to show Russian voters he will stand up to the rest of the world and defend their interests.

The criticisms of a world order dominated by Washington, more than two decades after the Cold War, recalled a 2007 speech in Munich in which Putin shocked the West by lambasting Washington’s “unipolar” world view. The speech prompted many Western leaders to reassess their view of Putin.

Shifting the Blame

The annual meetings of what is known as the Valdai Club have rarely featured such open, direct and tough language in their debates on Russian policy.

Critics say the meetings have become a showcase for Kremlin policy, with the session attended by Putin shown live on state television and little discussion of Russia’s record on human rights and democracy, which is criticized in the West.

Putin rejected criticism over the Ukraine crisis, in which Moscow has sided with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and threw the West’s criticisms of Moscow back in its face.

Repeating accusations that Western governments helped pro-Western groups stage a coup d’etat that ousted a pro-Moscow president in Kiev in February, Putin said: “No one wanted to listen to us, and no one wanted to talk to us.”

“Instead of a difficult but, I underline, civilized dialogue they brought about a state coup. They pushed the country into chaos, economic and social collapse, and civil war with huge losses,” he said.

Dismissing U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on Moscow as a mistake, he said: “Russia will not be posturing, get offended, ask someone for anything. Russia is self-sufficient.”

He made only passing references to the decline of Russia’s $2 trillion economy, which is in danger of sliding into recession as its currency tumbles along with the price of oil, its main export item.

But he said in a question and answer session after his speech that Russia would not burn though its gold and foreign currency reserves thoughtlessly to prop up the economy.

Putin has increasingly sought to shift blame for the economic crisis onto global problems, the sanctions and the oil price. He and other Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have also used increasingly tough language to blame the West for the Ukraine crisis.

A cease-fire has been in force in Ukraine since Sept. 5, but it has been violated daily and the West says Moscow continues to have troops and weapons in east Ukraine. Russia denies this.

The Moscow Times.

#Putin unleashes fury at #US ‘follies’

Financial Times - logo

Neil Buckley reporting,

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the US of undermining the post-Cold War world order, warning that without efforts to establish a new system of global governance the world could collapse into anarchy and chaos.

In one of his most anti-US speeches in 15 years as Russia’s most powerful politician, Mr Putin insisted allegations that its annexation of Crimea showed that it was trying to rebuild the Soviet empire were “groundless”. Russia had no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, he insisted.

Instead, the Russian leader blamed the US for triggering both Crimea’s breakaway from Ukraine and thousands of deaths in the war in the east of the country, by backing what Mr Putin called an armed coup against former president Viktor Yanukovich in February.

“We didn’t start this,” Mr Putin said. Citing a string of US-led military interventions from Kosovo to Libya, he insisted the US had declared itself victor when the Cold War ended and “decided to … reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests”.

“This is the way the nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune – in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely … I think they have committed many follies,” he told a conference of foreign academics and journalists at an Olympic ski venue near Sochi.

The speech was one of Mr Putin’s most important foreign policy statements since he surprised the west in Munich in 2007 by accusing the US of “overstepping its boundaries in every way” and creating new dividing lines in Europe.

Some commentators speculated that it reflected Moscow’s fury after US President Barack Obama recently ranked Russia alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, and the Ebola virus among the top three global threats. But his tone surprised even supporters.

“Very tough about the US, first time so [tough],” tweeted Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the ardently pro-Kremlin RT television channel. “Our answer to B Obama.”

Mr Putin signalled he believed the US and Russia should draw a line under recent events and sit down with other big economies to redesign the system of global governance along “multipolar” lines.

While he conceded this could be a lengthy and gruelling task, Mr Putin warned the alternative could be serious conflicts involving major countries. He also evoked the danger of a new Cold War-type stand-off, saying existing arms control treaties risked being violated.

Any effort to bring the two countries together for talks, however, could be complicated by the west’s insistence that Russia’s annexation of Crimea is an illegal occupation, and by Moscow’s anger over resulting EU and US sanctions.

Mr Putin said the sanctions undermined world trade rules and globalisation, but said Russia was a strong country that could weather the measures, and would not “beg” to get them lifted.

The Russian president suggested the UN could be “adapted to new realities”, while regional “pillars” of a new system, such as Russia’s own planned Eurasian Union of ex-Soviet states, could help enhance security.

But he insisted such moves were only necessary since the US had ridden roughshod over existing rules – for example when it invaded Iraq without UN Security Council backing.

“If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances … got in the way of [US] aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition,” he said.

The strength of Mr Putin’s language also took US listeners aback. Addressing a question to the president after his speech, Toby Gati, a former White House official under President Bill Clinton, said she “did not recognise” as her own country the one the Russian president claimed to be describing.

Financial Times.

War with #ISIS: #US and #Iraq draw up plan for ground force attack on Islamist militants

While Syrian Kurds are politically at odds with their Iraqi brethren, they have agreed to accept an influx of peshmerga fighters as part of any offensive.

People watch an explosion after an apparent US-led coalition airstrike on Kobani, SyriaPeople watch an explosion after an apparent US-led coalition airstrike on Kobani, Syria

Karen Deyoung | WASHINGTON

The United States and Iraq are drawing up a campaign plan for offensive operations by Iraqi ground forces to gradually reclaim towns and cities that have been occupied by Isis, according to a senior US official.

The plan, described as methodical and time-consuming, will not begin in earnest for several months and is designed to ensure that Iraqi forces do not over-extend themselves before they are capable of taking and holding territory controlled by the militants.

It may also include American advisers in the field with the Iraqis, should that be recommended by American military commanders, said the official, who updated reporters on administration strategy on the condition of anonymity. The advisers, the official said, would not participate in combat. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that no US ground forces would be deployed to Iraq.

With few exceptions, the Iraqi army has concentrated largely on defence and efforts to prevent Isis from claiming more territory since early June when the militant group took over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and began moving south.

Despite some government gains, aided since early August by US air strikes, the militants control about one-third of Iraq, stretching from near Baghdad to the northwest, and across western Anbar province to the Syrian border.

In August, Mr Obama also authorised air strikes against Isis targets in western and northern Syria. Over the past few weeks, world attention has focused on the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border, where Isis forces have threatened to overrun besieged Syrian Kurdish fighters.

President Obama has insisted that the US would not deploy ground forces to Iraq (Getty)President Obama has insisted that the US would not deploy ground forces to Iraq (Getty)

Following a US military airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Syrian Kurds on Sunday, Iraqi Kurdish fighters, called the peshmerga, are expected to come to their assistance.

The administration official said that the Syrian Kurds, while politically at odds with their Iraqi brethren, have agreed to accept an influx of peshmerga fighters. Details of the size and composition of the Iraqi Kurdish force, which is expected to cross into Kobani from Turkey, are to be finalised in the next few days.

But the US administration has said repeatedly that Iraq remains its main concern. Mr Obama said last month that in addition to the air strikes, his strategy includes trainers and advisers for the Iraqi military, which largely fled from advancing Isis forces in Mosul, and the installation of a more inclusive Iraqi government under which the country’s principal Muslim sects could unite.

© The Washington Post

The Independent.

Turkish Kurds gather to support anti-Isis fighters just inside Syria | #ISIS #US

Isis now controls a third of Kobani after tough close-quarter fighting, while US official admits that air strikes cannot save town.

Turkish tanks hold their position on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc on the Turkey-Syria border, following an air strike in Kobani.Turkish tanks hold their position on a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc on the Turkey-Syria border, following an airstrike in Kobani. Photograph: Stringer/Getty images

Emma Graham-Harrison in Mursitpinar

A huge blast, a column of dust and smoke, and then a round of cheering from Kurds gathered on a hilltop near Kobani, watching a rare American intervention in the bitter battle for their home.

Within minutes though, gunfire had started up again, a reminder that while air strikes serve as a dramatic morale boost to spectators and anti-Isis forces inside the Syrian border town, they have done little to turn the tide of a ruthless campaign.

Crowds who were gathered on hilltops just a few hundred metres inside Turkey – near enough to hear the gun battles, but distant enough to feel safe – said they had watched the fight drift westwards over several days as militants took street after street.

“I just watch the fighting and feel pain,” said Ismail Usdamir, a 47-year-old farmer, as ambulances raced down the main road from the border, taking wounded fighters for treatment, and the unclaimed dead for burial in the nearby cemetery.

Black Isis flags can be seen from Turkey, flying over a strategic hill and on at least one building. The hardline group now controls more than a third of Kobani, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, but commanders have reportedly rushed in extra troops, suggesting the strength of resistance had surprised them.

Isis had pledged to hold prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid in the town’s mosques, but its fighters are still tied down in slow fighting through tightly packed homes and apartment buildings. “The clashes are ongoing – street battles,” militia chief Esmat al-Sheikh told Reuters by telephone from inside the city. He estimated that around a quarter of the town was now controlled by Isis.

They cannot be taken out by air strikes now though, because they are fighting at such close quarters. The town’s fate will be decided on the ground.

“Air strikes alone are not going to do this … they’re not going to save the town of Kobani,” Pentagon press secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, admitted in a news briefing. “We all need to prepare ourselves for the reality that other towns and villages, and perhaps Kobani, will be taken.”

The main group fighting Isis, the Kurdish YPG militia, are far less well armed and running low on supplies of ammunition, but are well trained and determined to hold on to the last Kurdish enclave on a long stretch of the border with Turkey.

“My children will stay there until the fighting ends. If they opened the border I would go and bomb them myself,” said 48-year-old Bediar Gulkus, standing within sight of the town where she believed her son and daughter were battling Isis. She had come to feel close to them – not to try and get them back, she added. “We would fight even if we have nothing left but stones. But we are asking the international community for help.”

That assistance is unlikely to come soon, say western leaders, who have pledged to keep their soldiers’ boots off Syrian soil.

“As horrific as it is to watch in real time what’s happening in Kobani, it’s also important to remember that you have to step back and understand the strategic objective and where we have begun over the course of the last weeks,” the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said in a briefing.

Instead, the US has been leading a diplomatic push to win more Turkish support for the men and women defending Kobani. Retired US general John Allen, special envoy for the international coalition fighting Isis, arrived in Turkey on Thursday for talks.

Ankara wants a broader strategy aimed at toppling the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, while Washington is focused on Isis. Turkish leaders are also suspicious of links between the Syrian Kurds defending Kobani and Kurdish separatist groups fighting the Turkish state.

Turkish tanks are lined up along the border, and there is a heavy police and military presence, but for now most of it is directed at keeping Kurds who want to join the battle away from crossings, and others from gathering to watch or protest.

Even after stray mortar shells and bullets flew over the fence, not a shot has been fired into Syria. Instead, civilians on the Turkish side have been regularly teargassed and hit by water cannon, and one group of refugees even taken into detention.

For Kurds across the region, the fight for Kobani has become more than a battle for a town. They have come from towns around Turkey to join the militias fighting inside, or to protest against the Turkish government’s inaction, and demand more help.

“The fence is just a geographic obstacle, they can’t put a fence in my heart,” said Leila Salman, a 31-year-old who is running a protest camp just near the border where hundreds of Kurds have gathered from around Turkey in a show of solidarity with the besieged town.

“What is happening in Kobani is the most important thing in our life,” she said. “When it comes to the Kurds, everyone in the world just closes their eyes, but Kurds are not blind.”

The Guardian.


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