Tuesday, January 14, 2020

" Tic Tac" UFO files could cause "grave damage" to U.S. national security if released, Navy says




CBS NEWS :In November 2004, several U.S. Navy pilots stationed aboard the USS Nimitz encountered a Tic-Tac-shaped UFO darting and dashing over the Pacific Ocean in apparent defiance of the laws of physics. Navy officials dubbed the strange craft an "unidentified aerial phenomenon," but they have remained mum on what, exactly, that phenomenon could've been. Now, unsurprisingly to anyone who's ever considered making a hat out of tinfoil, the military has confirmed they know more than they're letting on.

In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, a spokesperson from the Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) confirmed that the agency possesses several top-secret documents and at least one classified video pertaining to the 2004 UFO encounter, Vice reported.

According to the ONI spokesperson, these documents were either labeled "SECRET" or "TOP SECRET" by the agencies that provided them, and that sharing the information with the public "would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States."

These top-secret files included several "briefing slides" about the incident, provided to the ONI by an unnamed agency. (Because ONI officials did not classify the slides personally, they are unable to declassify them, the spokesperson added).

The ONI also admitted to possessing at least one video of unknown length, classified as "secret" by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). ONI didn't reveal whether this footage is the same 1-minute video that was leaked online in 2007 and widely released by The New York Times in 2017. However, in November 2019, several naval officers who witnessed the incident aboard the Nimitz told Popular Mechanics that they had seen a much longer video of the encounter that was between 8 and 10 minutes long. These original recordings were promptly collected and erased by "unknown individuals" who arrived on the ship by helicopter shortly after the incident, one officer said.

Luis Elizondo, a former Pentagon staffer who helped make the Navy video public, told Vice that "people should not be surprised by the revelation that other videos exist and at greater length."

The FOIA request, submitted in October 2019 by an independent researcher, asked for access to any nonclassified records or portions of records regarding the 2004 UFO encounter. No additional documents were mentioned in the ONI's response besides the classified briefing and video.

Originally published on Live Science.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Inside the plot by Iran’s Soleimani to attack U.S. forces in Iraq



REUTERS

(Reuters) - In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad.

The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters.

The strategy session, which has not been previously reported, came as mass protests against Iran’s growing influence in Iraq were gaining momentum, putting the Islamic Republic in an unwelcome spotlight. Soleimani’s plans to attack U.S. forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect that rising anger toward the United States, according to the sources briefed on the gathering, Iraqi Shi’ite politicians and government officials close to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Soleimani’s efforts ended up provoking the U.S. attack on Friday that killed him and Muhandis, marking a major escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran. The two men died in air strikes on their convoy at a Baghdad airport as they headed to the capital, dealing a major blow to the Islamic Republic and the Iraqi paramilitary groups it supports.

Interviews with the Iraqi security sources and Shi’ite militia commanders offer a rare glimpse of how Soleimani operated in Iraq, which he once told a Reuters reporter he knew like the back of his hand.

Two weeks before the October meeting, Soleimani ordered Iranian Revolutionary Guards to move more sophisticated weapons - such as Katyusha rockets and shoulder-fired missiles that could bring down helicopters - to Iraq through two border crossings, the militia commanders and Iraqi security sources told Reuters.

At the Baghdad villa, Soleimani told the assembled commanders to form a new militia group of low-profile paramilitaries - unknown to the United States - who could carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases. He ordered Kataib Hezbollah - a force founded by Muhandis and trained in Iran - to direct the new plan, said the militia sources briefed on the meetings.

Soleimani told them such a group “would be difficult to detect by the Americans,” one of the militia sources told Reuters.

Before the attacks, the U.S. intelligence community had reason to believe that Soleimani was involved in “late stage” planning to strike Americans in multiple countries, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, U.S. officials told Reuters Friday on condition of anonymity. One senior U.S. official said Soleimani had supplied advanced weaponry to Kataib Hezbollah.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters on Friday that Soleimani had just come from Damascus, “where he was planning attacks on American soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and against our diplomats.”

An official at the headquarters of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry was not available for comment.
PICKING U.S. TARGETS WITH DRONES

The United States has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s influence over the ruling elite in Iraq, which has been beset for months by protesters who accuse the government of enriching itself and serving the interests of foreign powers, especially Iran, as Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs or basic services.

Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was instrumental in expanding Iran’s military influence in the Middle East as the operative who handles clandestine operations outside Iran. The 62-year-old general was regarded as the second-most powerful figure in Iran after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Muhandis, a former Iraqi lawmaker, oversaw Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella grouping of paramilitary forces mostly consisting of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias that was formally integrated into Iraq’s armed forces.

Muhandis, like Soleimani, had long been on the radar of the United States, which had declared Muhandis a terrorist. In 2007, a Kuwaiti court sentenced him to death in absentia for his involvement in the 1983 U.S. and French embassy bombings in Kuwait.

Soleimani picked Kataib Hezbollah to lead the attacks on U.S. forces in the region because it had the capability to use drones to scout targets for Katyusha rocket attacks, one of the militia commanders told Reuters. Among the weapons that Soleimani’s forces supplied to its Iraqi militia allies last fall was a drone Iran had developed that could elude radar systems, the militia commanders said.

Kataib Hezbollah used the drones to gather aerial footage of locations where U.S. troops were deployed, according to two Iraqi security officials who monitor the movements of militias.

On December 11, a senior U.S. military official said attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting U.S. forces in Iraq were increasing and becoming more sophisticated, pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.

His warning came two days after four Katyusha rockets struck a base near Baghdad international airport, wounding five members of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service. No group claimed responsibility for the attack but a U.S. military official said intelligence and forensic analyses of the rockets and launchers pointed to Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia groups, notably Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

On Dec. 27 more than 30 rockets were fired at an Iraqi military base near the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk. The attack killed a U.S. civilian contractor and wounded four American and two Iraq servicemen.

Washington accused Kataib Hezbollah of carrying out the attack, an allegation it denied. The United States then launched air strikes two days later against the militia, killing at least 25 militia fighters and wounding 55.

The attacks sparked two days of violent protests by supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups who stormed the U.S. Embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks, prompting Washington to dispatch extra troops to the region and threaten reprisals against Tehran.


On Thursday – the day before the attack that killed Soleimani - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that the United States might have to take preemptive action to protect American lives from expected attacks by Iran-backed militias.

“The game has changed,” he said.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

General Qasem Soleimani killed by US forces in Iraq.

General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force, has been killed by US forces in Iraq.
The Pentagon confirmed he was killed "at the direction of the president".
It comes after reports of a strike at Baghdad's international airport, which is said to have killed a number of people.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards also confirmed Gen Soleimani was dead, blaming an attack by US helicopters.
They also said Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis had been killed.
"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani," a Pentagon statement said.
"This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world."
Reports also suggest that a number of Iraq militia heads have been detained by US forces in Baghdad, although this is unconfirmed.
The strike comes days after protesters surrounded the US embassy in Baghdad, clashing with US forces at the scene.
US defence secretary Mark Esper said late on Thursday that the US would not accept attacks against its personnel in the region, blaming Iran for the violence at the embassy.
"Attacks against us will be met with responses in the time, manner, and place of our choosing," a statement read. "We urge the Iranian regime to end their malign activities." 

Who was Qasem Soleimani?

Since 1998, Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani has led Iran's Quds Force - an elite unit in Iran's Revolutionary Guards which handles clandestine operations abroad.
In that position Gen Soleimani played a key role bolstering Bashar al-Assad's Iranian-supported government in the Syrian Civil War, and in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq.
Gen Soleimani was a hugely significant figure in the Iranian regime. His Quds Force reported directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He first came to prominence in his country serving in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

Breaking: Explosions near Baghdad airport may be US Drone Strike.









MORE DETAILS SOON 

Attack on US Embassy exposes widening US-Iraq divide on Iran

WASHINGTON (AP) — The New Year’s Eve attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad has exposed a deepening divide between the United States and Iraq over Iran’s role there, even as the Pentagon embarks on a more aggressive mission to counter Iranian influence across the Mideast.
“The game has changed,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq — including a rocket attack on Dec. 27 that killed one American — will be met with U.S. military force. The U.S. had retaliated by launching air strikes that killed 25 fighters of an Iran-back militia.
In a reflection of that tougher stance, upwards of 700 U.S. Army paratroopers arrived in Kuwait on Wednesday from their base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Esper said they are “defensive support” that can be used if there is more trouble in Baghdad or elsewhere in the region. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said additional forces are on alert to deploy, although he said no decision has been made yet to augment the battalion of paratroopers.
Milley, who has combat experience in Iraq, said Iraqi security forces are capable of preventing Iran-backed groups from threatening U.S. interests in Iraq.
“It’s a question of political will,” he said, alluding to the central issue of whether Iraq will choose to sustain its U.S. partnership, which many Iraqis see as an infringement on their sovereignty.
Parts of Iraqi society, on the other hand, detest Iran’s influence, including the role of Iran-backed militias in the Popular Mobilization Forces, which are an auxiliary of the Iraqi security forces and nominally under Iraqi government control. The political influence of the Popular Mobilization Forces has risen in recent years, and their allies dominate the parliament and government. That has made them the target of anti-government protesters, who have attacked Iranian diplomatic missions and the local headquarters of parties affiliated with the militias across southern Iraq.
The U.S.-Iraq relationship, shaped in large part by the 2003 U.S. invasion to topple President Saddam Hussein, has been shaky for years. The invasion unleashed Sunni insurgent violence that had abated by 2011 but was followed in 2014 by the rise of the Islamic State extremist group, which swept across the Syrian border to capture wide swaths of Iraqi territory. U.S. forces returned to help Iraq regain control, but Iranian influence since has grown more overt.
The tensions in Iraq are amplified by the Trump administration’s campaign to squeeze Iran. In 2018 it withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed economic sanctions, hoping to compel Tehran to negotiate a new and broader nuclear agreement. Iran in response has targeted military, diplomatic and economic interests of the United States and its Gulf allies through proxy forces like the group that attacked the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.
The U.S. has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train and advise Iraqi security forces fighting Islamic State remnants. Esper said the Pentagon has been studying a possible scaling down of that force, but he stressed that this is distinct from determining the type and number of combat forces that are needed to deal with Iran-related attacks like Tuesday’s. The U.S. has thousands of forces elsewhere in the Gulf, including in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
In his remarks at the Pentagon, Esper said the Iraqi government has fallen short of its obligation to defend its American partner. While saying the government’s effort has “greatly improved” since Tuesday’s storming of the U.S. Embassy compound by members of Kataeb Hezbollah, or KH, an Iran-supported militia proxy, Esper made clear his disappointment.

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