National Security

US to send 1,800 troops, dozens of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia amid Iran tensions

Roughly 1,800 U.S. service members, as well as several dozen fighter jets and other air defense implements, will be sent to Saudi Arabia to help protect the Kingdom amid heightened tensions with Iran, the Pentagon announced Friday. Officials said the U.S. is set to ship two F-15 squadrons, two Patriot missile batteries, one anti-missile defense system known as THADD and other planes. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he informed Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman earlier Friday about the additional troops “to ensure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia.” “Saudi Arabia is a longstanding security partner in the Middle East and has asked for additional support to supplement their own defense and defend the international rules-based order,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s announcement came just hours after Iranian officials said two missiles from an undetermined source hit one of its oil tankers that was traveling through the Red Sea about 60 miles off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The explosions from the missiles damaged two storerooms aboard the oil tanker – identified as the Sibiti – and caused a brief oil leak into the Red Sea. The leak was later plugged, Iranian state television reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi described the incident as an “attack” carried out by those committing “dangerous adventurism.” He said the incident was under investigation. There has been no word from Saudi Arabia regarding the reported missile strikes. That incident comes amid fraught tensions and charges by the U.S. that Iran has attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf — something denied by Tehran. Right now, there are roughly 250 U.S. troops deployed to Saudi Arabia and more than 60,000 U.S. troops deployed throughout the Middle East, both within various countries and aboard warships. This recent deployment is part of the response to the suspected Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.

Maryland MS-13 members, illegal immigrants plead guilty to 2 grisly murders

Four MS-13 members—in the U.S. illegally—have pleaded guilty in Maryland to participating in the murders of a 21-year-old woman and a 17-year-old teenager two years ago. Police said the woman, Jennifer Rivera-Lopez, was lured to her death in June 2017 in an Anne Arundel County park where her killers, armed with knives and machetes, chopped her head off and buried her in a secret grave, the Capital Gazette reported Monday. Ronald Mendez-Sosa, 21, Brenda Argueta, 20, Ervin Arrue-Figueroa, 20, and Francisco Ramirez-Pena, 24, all of Maryland, copped to the murder last week in federal court, the paper reported. Mendez-Sosa also pleaded guilty to participating in the murder of Neri Giovani Bonilla-Palacios, the 17-year-old, who turned up dead in the woods in Annapolis in October 2017. He had been murdered two months earlier, investigators said. Court papers said he had been decapitated with a machete and his body had “at least 108 sharp and blunt force injury wounds,” the paper reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged detainers against all four after cops arrested them in October 2017. Court papers alleged that MS-13 targeted Rivera-Lopez and Bonilla-Palacios due to their association with a rival gang, the Gazette added. According to the court papers, Argueta reached out to Rivera-Lopez on social media and arranged for the two to meet, the paper reported. The court papers alleged that after using a ruse to get Rivera-Lopez into the car, Argueta used another ruse to get the car to stop “at which point several other [MS-13] members forced [Rivera-Lopez] into another vehicle and took [Rivera-Lopez] to the site of the murder,” the paper reported. The court papers for Mendez-Sosa said he did not help kill Rivera-Lopez but aided in the murder by transporting others to and from the scene, the paper reported.

And just think…  Only a couple years ago, Democrat politicians and the dominantly liberal mainstream media (especially MSNBC and CNN) were attacking President Trump for calling these MS-13 maggots “animals.”  These are not “people” as those Dems claimed.  They are vermin, and a cancer in our communities that needs to be eradicated.  What adds insult to injury is the fact that they are illegal aliens, and shouldn’t have even been in America in the first place!  Please consider this today’s painful reminder that we need to BUILD THE WALL NOW!!!!…and put U.S. Army National Guard troops physically ON the border with Mexico, where they should remain until that wall/fence is finally built above, and under ground (to prevent tunneling)…however long it takes.  At the same time, we need to be deporting illegal aliens by the hundreds of thousands (and yes, you read that correctly), paying particular attention to known gang members, convicted criminal aliens, and those already determined by an immigration court to be deported…regardless of age, gender, or family status.  And that’s just for starters, folks.  To do anything less is NOT in our country’s national security, or economic, interests.  Period.  We have over 20 MILLION illegal aliens in this country (NOT 11 Million; the same figure liberals have been using for over 2 decades..as if that number hasn’t gone up in the last 20 years), and our schools, hospitals, courts, and jails are overwhelmed by that staggering statistic.  Anyway..  If you want to see a photo of Jennifer, the poor young woman who was beheaded, or the MS-13 “animals” who plead guilty to it, click on the text above.  Awful..

Trump names Robert O’Brien, hostage negotiator, as national security adviser

President Trump named his chief hostage negotiator as his national security adviser Wednesday, filling the role for a fourth time as he plots a stern response to Iran’s suspected role in attacking Saudi oil fields last weekend. Robert C. O’Brien will replace John R. Bolton, who was ousted last week amid clashes with key White House aides and Mr. Trump on topics such as Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. As the U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, Mr. O’Brien endeared himself to Mr. Trump by working to secure the release of pastor Andrew Brunson from Turkey and Americans held in Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen. He also spoke to Sweden about rapper A$AP Rocky’s legal troubles after an incident in Stockholm. “He did a tremendous job on hostage negotiations. Really tremendous, like unparalleled. We’ve had tremendous success in that regard,” Mr. Trump told White House reporters traveling with him in California. “I think we have a very good chemistry together, and I think we’re going to have a great relationship. He is a very talented man.” Mr. O’Brien, who accompanied Mr. Trump, called it a privilege to serve with the president. “We’ve got a number of challenges,” he said, “but there’s a great team in place.” The president is promoting Mr. O’Brien as he weighs a response to Iran’s suspected role in drone attacks Saturday that temporarily shut down half of the Saudi oil production. “We’ll see what happens. We have many options that we’re considering. There are many options,” Mr. Trump said. Mr. Trump heads to New York for the U.N. General Assembly session next week, meaning Mr. O’Brien could have an immediate impact. The national security adviser does not have to be confirmed by the Senate. “Robert’s a very experienced foreign policy figure with deep knowledge of United Nations, international organizations,” said Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at The Heritage Foundation. He worked alongside Mr. O’Brien on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. “He’s a safe pair of hands,” Mr. Gardiner said. “He’s somebody who I think has very good instincts, a very good understanding of the challenges facing the United States as leader of the free world.” Mr. O’Brien worked under President George W. Bush as a representative to the U.N., continuing in Mr. Bolton’s footsteps as a Trump official with connections to the last Republican administration. Mr. Trump has grown tired of Bush veterans. Besides Mr. Bolton, his aides included Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who sparred with Mr. Trump over immigration before her ouster. Mr. Bolton fought with top administration officials, but Mr. O’Brien is viewed as a team player. Mr. Trump, who bills himself as a deal-maker, was impressed by his track record as a negotiator. Mr. O’Brien has been “incredibly effective as the ambassador for these hostage negotiations,” said Kenneth R. Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute. “He’s someone who has gone in, under the radar, and handles sensitive negotiations in a low-key manner.” Mr. Trump hailed Mr. O’Brien from the Oval Office in March during a welcome-home ceremony for Danny Burch, an oil worker held in Yemen for 18 months. In turn, Mr. O’Brien praised Mr. Trump for working to bring home Americans through “force of will,” without concessions or payments. Mr. O’Brien wrote a book in 2016, “While America Slept,” that was critical of President Obama’s 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and compared it to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who wants a muscular approach to Iran, said Mr. O’Brien is a good choice who will keep Mr. Trump on the right path. “He understands the world for the dangerous place it is. He’s got great negotiating skills as our hostage negotiator,” Mr. Graham said. “I think he will be a very sound policy adviser to the president of the United States.” Mr. O’Brien will be the president’s fourth national security adviser in less than three years.

While Mr. O’Brien’s credentials as a hostage negotiator, and accomplished attorney, are very solid, we do have some reservations about him taking on this new role as the President’s National Security Adviser.  Mr. O’Brien’s only military background was in the Army Reserves as a JAG officer (military lawyer).  So, not exactly much in the way of a national security background.  Raised Catholic, he converted to Mormonism in his twenties, and with this new appointment is the highest ranking Later Day Saint in our federal government.  We wish Mr. O’Brien all the best in this extremely important role.

US struck Iranian military computers this week

U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday. Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. The cyberattacks — a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions — disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said. Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps computer system, were provided as options after Iranian forces blew up two oil tankers earlier this month. The IRGC, which was designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration earlier this year, is a branch of the Iranian military. The action by U.S. Cyber Command was a demonstration of the U.S.’s increasingly mature cyber military capabilities and its more aggressive cyber strategy under the Trump administration. Over the last year U.S. officials have focused on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations. There was no immediate reaction Sunday morning in Iran to the U.S. claims. Iran has hardened and disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint U.S.-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the late 2000s. Tensions have escalated between the two countries ever since the U.S. withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone — an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening. The cyberattacks are the latest chapter in the U.S. and Iran’s ongoing cyber operations targeting the other. Yahoo News first reported the cyber strike. In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted U.S. government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including finance, oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which regularly track such activity. This new campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month. It was not known if any of the hackers managed to gain access to the targeted networks with the emails, which typically mimic legitimate emails but contain malicious software.

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Poland agrees to house 1,000 U.S. troops on its soil amid Russian mischief

President Trump on Wednesday said Poland has agreed to base about 1,000 U.S. troops on its soil, further solidifying the American-Polish relationship in the face of Russian mischief in Eastern Europe. Polish President Andrzej Duda said the final number of U.S. troops in his country will be decided by Mr. Trump, who earlier suggested up to 2,000. American taxpayers will not pay a dime for the infrastructure needed to house and support the soldiers, Mr. Trump said. “The Polish government will pay for this,” he said in a joint press conference with Mr. Duda in the White House Rose Garden. Mr. Trump suggested that the troops would be transferred from foreign bases such as those in Germany rather than from the U.S. The president said he was not trying to punish Germany, though he chided its leaders for purchasing natural gas from Poland’s neighbor, Russia. “I just will tell you, very strongly, I think Germany is making a tremendous mistake by relying so heavily on the pipeline,” Mr. Trump said. The troop transfer follows similar actions to beef up NATO defenses against Russia, which has alarmed the West with its forays into Ukraine and saber-rattling in Eastern Europe. “Increasing U.S. forces in Poland is a strong deterrent against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” said Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican. Despite frictions, Mr. Trump said he is hopeful that Poland and the U.S. can develop a fruitful relationship with Russia. Mr. Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting this month in Osaka, Japan.

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Pentagon eyes expanding DARPA future warfare research office

The U.S. Department of Defense is close to expanding its legendary future warfare and technology agency DARPA by combining it with the Pentagon office in charge of adapting existing weapons to new uses, people familiar with the plans said. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would absorb the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and centralize more research units under the Pentagon’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Griffin. The combination would end an experiment with SCO that began as an attempt to adapt to future threats quickly and with less bureaucracy. SCO reported directly to the defense secretary, removing it from traditional bureaucratic channels at the Pentagon. If all of SCO’s $1.3 billion 2020 budget request were transferred to DARPA, DARPA would gain control over 37 percent more funding on top of its 2020 funding request of $3.5 billion. The SCO is charged with developing unexpected and game-changing capabilities to counter emerging threats. The SCO has looked into projects like swarming small drones and transforming the Raytheon Co-made Standard Missile 6, a defensive weapon, into an offensive weapon. Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, initiatives including hypersonic weapons, lasers and space-based projects. Last year, Congress asked the Pentagon to explore how it could shut down the SCO or transfer its functions to another entity. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee rolled out its proposals for a $750 billion 2020 defense budget.

Trump OKs 1,500 more U.S. troops to Middle East amid Iranian tensions

President Trump has ordered the deployment of another 1,500 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. “We want to have protection,” Mr. Trump confirmed Friday to reporters at the White House. “We’ll be sending a relatively small number of troops. It’ll be about 1,500 people.” Mr. Trump has given his approval to acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to deploy the additional troops to the Persian Gulf region to deter Iranian threats, after meeting with his military chiefs Thursday evening. But the number approved was smaller than the up to 10,000 troops previously reported, and — with some of the new troops already in the region — the net increase amounted to just 900. “Today, I informed Congress that I approved [U.S. Central Command’s] request for the deployment of additional resources and capabilities to the Middle East to improve our force protection and safeguard U.S. forces,” in the wake of Iranian threats, Mr. Shanahansaid in a statement Friday. The deployment represents “a prudent defensive measure and intended to reduce the possibility of future hostilities,” with Tehran and its regional allies, he added. The new tranche of American forces heading into the Middle East will include a military engineering unit, as well as Air Force fighter squadron, drone units and additional aerial intelligence aircraft, Joint Staff Director Vice Adm. Mike Gilday told reporters at the Pentagon. In addition, Pentagon leaders have extended the deployment of a 600-strong Army Patriot missile defense battalion, which had been sent into the Middle East earlier this month.

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