Putin plays down ties with President Trump’s ex-adviser Flynn — Isis surrenders Iraqi hideout of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — CIA’s new Iran chief appointment-bad news for Iran-US ties — US Senate panel explores the EMP threat

Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, and Jill Stein attending the Russian State owned TV Gala as Putin’s guests (December 2015)

Putin plays down ties with President Trump’s ex-adviser Flynn — BBC

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he barely spoke to former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn at a dinner in Moscow in 2015.

A widely-posted photo of the event has fuelled speculation about possible links between US President Donald Trump’s administration and the Kremlin.

But Mr Putin told NBC he was only told afterwards who Mr Flynn was.

Mr Flynn was sacked in February after misleading the White House about his ties with Russia’s envoy to the US.

Mr Flynn later invoked his right against self-incrimination, declining to testify in the US Senate Intelligence Committee about his Russian ties and alleged Moscow meddling in America’s 2016 presidential elections.

 President Trump denies any collusion with Russia, describing an ongoing FBI investigation a “witch hunt” against him.

Isis surrenders Iraqi hideout of leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — Guardian

Islamic State has surrendered the key town of Baaj in north-west Iraq, a known hideout of the terrorist group’s leader which had been under Islamist militants’ control throughout 14 years of war and insurgency.

The few remaining Isis fighters fled the town on Saturday night, allowing Shia militia forces to enter unopposed.

A statement from the Popular Mobilisation Front, an umbrella organisation for pro-government paramilitaries that is dominated by Iran-backed Shia militias, announced the “total liberation” of the Baaj district and declared: “The Iraqi flag has been hoisted above its buildings.”

Throughout Sunday, the Front’s fighters raised Iraqi flags and banners where Isis flags had flown since mid-2014, securing a victory that resonates far beyond the formerly untamed corner of north-west Iraq. (…)

The withdrawal leaves just that pocket of Mosul and the border town of Bukamal as the only urban centres in Iraq with a significant Isis presence. The fight to reclaim lands seized by Isis is now expected to shift focus to Syria, where the next, and potentially final, leg of the campaign to eradicate the group’s presence is intensifying.

A Guardian source who saw Isis’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Bukamal earlier this year described him as thin and stooped. The source said Baghdadi was travelling with a small security detail in a convoy of four cars and spent only minutes in public before being escorted away.

CIA’s new Iran chief appointment-bad news for Iran-US ties — trend news agency

The appointment of Michael D’ Andrea, a professional CIA field operator, is certainly a bad news for US-Iran relations and signals a determined shift in Washington D.C. towards regime destabilization and possible change in Tehran.

US President Donald Trump himself was not originally for regime change in Iran but the team he has created in CIA, National Security Council, Pentagon, and to some extent in the State Department, is all extremely hawkish towards Iran.

Mr. Trump is now following their lead rather than leading them. The president’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel further convinced him that toughening to Iran in the region and forcing it to pull back from its involvements in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere may not be possible as long as decision makers for such involvements rule in Tehran.

Riyadh also solved the financial concern that Trump had regarding his further involvement in Iran. Now he has all the money he needs for his hawkish people and their plans to take on Iran in the region and inside the country. The Saudis were instrumental in this shift from just toughening policy to initiating field operations that will directly destabilize Iran.

The new field approach plans to organize and put in operations the Islamic Regime’s enemies outside and inside Iran at a larger scale that hitherto was in place. The emerging field front will be much tougher for Tehran to confront with means it has traditionally used to counter such threats.

Senate panel explores the EMP threat — Physics Today

The danger to the electric grid and other infrastructure from solar storms and electromagnetic-pulse weapons is real, but its magnitude is debated.

Every couple of years a congressional committee takes a look at the threat to the US posed by both naturally occurring geomagnetic disturbances (GMDs) and attacks with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a nuclear weapon. On 4 May the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources took its turn, hearing from witnesses who alternately sought to scare and reassure the lawmakers. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for one, declared an EMP attack “one of the three great threats to our survival,” on par with cyberwarfare and nuclear weapons. “Here we are gambling our civilization,” he warned. “This is vastly bigger than 9/11.”

Henry Cooper, a former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, called for the deployment of the Aegis antiballistic missile system in the Gulf of Mexico to address the threat of an EMP weapon carried aboard an orbiting satellite. He also advocated for the revival of space-based ballistic missile defenses­―such as the scheme involving a “brilliant pebbles” swarm of kinetic interceptor satellites―that were proposed during the Reagan-era Star Wars initiative.

A GMD is caused by a solar storm, such as a flare or coronal mass ejection; an EMP can be created by detonating a nuclear weapon miles above Earth’s surface. In 1989 a coronal mass ejection caused the blackout of Quebec’s grid for nine hours. A much bigger solar storm in 1859, known as the Carrington event, destroyed telegraph lines across the US and caused the aurora borealis to be visible as far south as Cuba. In 2012 NASA detected a solar storm that, had it occurred a week earlier, might have triggered a Carrington-like event.



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