On Dec. 7, the Israeli air force carried out a series of surgical air strikes inside Syria. Two formations of F-15s entered Syrian airspace at 1600 local time from the direction of Lebanon, heading from west to east toward Damascus at high altitude and high speed.
Their targets were something—perhaps shipments of weapons bound for Hezbollah—at an airstrip near Damascus and at the city’s international airport.
A Buk air-defense missile system fired two rockets. As reporters filmed from below, the F-15s dodged and fired Popeye guided missiles. A Syrian SA-3 missile knocked down one of the Popeyes, but the others struck their targets.
“The raid was a success for Israel, but it was also risky,” Jassem Al Salami wrote. “An ambush by a lone missile site near the border or a few short-range missiles or guns could have turned the Israeli victory into a defeat.”
In western Iraq on Dec. 5, U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flew into action near the Haditha Dam, where Iraqi troops are barely hanging on against relentless assault by Islamic State fighters.
A dozen A-10s had deployed to Kuwait in late November, despite the Air Force’s ongoing attempt to retire all 280 of the tough, twin-engine planes. Congress recently voted to keep 250 of the jets flying through 2015.
In an amateur video from near Haditha, at least one A-10 can be heard firing its powerful 30-millimeter cannon at militant fighters.
Meanwhile over in Central Africa, the French military was trying to ship a pair of Gazelle helicopters between its army contingents in Central African Republic and Chad. The Antonov cargo jet that Paris had chartered got as far as N’Djamena in Chad, but couldn’t land because the airport was too crowded.
So the Antonov diverted to Nigeria, where local authorities inspected the cargo, and discovering weaponry, promptly impounded the plane and arrested the crew.
“Instantly, the Nigerian rumor mill fired up,” Peter Dörrie reported. “People suggested that the plane was part of a Chadian or French scheme to support the Boko Haram insurgency.”
“The Nigerian public is extremely distrustful of outside intervention in the long, bloody conflict,” Dörrie pointed out. The Nigerians finally released the plane and crew on Dec. 8.
In an early December interview, a former officer of the Chinese strategic missile force surprised foreign observers with the news that Beijing has banned exports of its new J-20 stealth fighter.
“The export of advanced Chinese military technology is prohibited,” Song said. “This is in order to keep J-20’s fifth-generation technology out of hostile hands.” That’s the same rationale the U.S. Congress cited when it outlawed sales of the F-22 stealth fighter in the mid-2000s.
What’s ironic about China’s J-20 sales-restriction is that many observers strongly suspect Beijing’s engineers derived the plane’s design in part from data that Chinese hackers have stolen from the American-led F-35 stealth fighter program, which Lockheed Martin designed as a less sophisticated, exportable alternative to the F-22.
In any event, China is also developing the smaller FC-31 stealth fighter strictly for export. The J-20 could enter service in 2017.
An Iranian fighter named Sayyed Hassan Entezari, who was injured and paralyzed fighting in Syria on behalf of Bashar Al Assad’s government, recently sat for an interview with Mashregh News, a Website run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The interview, part of Tehran’s propaganda campaign in support of the Syrian regime, offered rare insight into the proxy fighters’ beliefs and motives.
“Another activity of the Islamic Republic there [in Syria] is forming Basij circles,” Entezari said. “The Syrian army couldn’t handle this three-year crisis, because any army would be fatigued [after that long]. Iran came and said why don’t you form popular support for yourself and ask your people for help. Trust your people same as we trusted our people in war.”
“This was how the National Defense Force was formed,” Entezari continued. “The NDF boys would have 45-days assignments to encounter terrorists. Of course, some of them get martyred and some return to their birthplaces.”
On Dec. 9, the U.S. Senate finally defied years of CIA resistance and released a summary of its investigation into the intelligence agency’s torture of terror suspects in the period immediately following 9/11.
The report describes CIA operatives holding prisoners in dungeons and dragging the men through corridors while beating them.
The spies also subjected their captives to “rectal feeding”—injecting hydrating fluids through prisoners’ rectums, Robert Beckhusen reported. They kept prisoners awake for more than week at a time. Some detainees went mad and mutilated themselves.
The report details the CIA’s use of torture in a worldwide network of secret prisons, or “black sites.” In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA built a network of prison camps with the involvement of 54 countries, out of the sight of the public and even many within the United States government.
The Agency sent many detainees to allied countries, whose own intelligence agencies tortured them, thus obviating the need for Americans to do so themselves.
The CIA’s torture methods are similar to those of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But those countries didn’t try to glean actual intelligence from their abuse of prisoners—because torture doesn’t produce useful intel. “History’s great agents of pain knew what the CIA pretends not to,” Matthew Gault wrote. “Torture is a terrorist act.”
It instills fear. And that’s all it does. Torture is America’s great shame.
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