High Stakes for the US Navy as It Wages War on ISIS

During the early days of World War II, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a memorable comment about British pilots’ defense of their homeland from Nazi Germany.

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Churchill said in an August 1940 speech.

Seventy-seven years later, U.S. Navy aviators and sailors have their own singular burden to bear as they support Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

In this war, a single misstep born of a split-second decision during combat operations—both in the air and at sea—could cost hundreds of innocent lives, or perhaps even precipitate a shooting war between the U.S. and Russia.

“You’re always on guard,” Lt. Brandon Rogers, call sign “Barf,” an F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter pilot aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, told The Daily Signal.

“We train for both the predictable and unpredictable,” Rogers said. “There’s always a threat, it’s just a matter of whether it’s your time to get engaged or not. We’re engaging the enemies on the ground constantly; it’s just a matter of time before you’re next.”

The Daily Signal was aboard the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier during combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

As the Islamic State, the terrorist army also known as ISIS, loses territory, the myriad military forces arrayed against it are converging. The battle space, consequently, is increasingly crowded, and U.S. forces and the local groups partnered with them on the ground are more frequently brushing up against the Russian and Syrian regime militaries.

Meanwhile, at sea in the eastern Mediterranean, U.S. warships supporting Operation Inherent Resolve are interacting with the Russian navy in ways not seen since the Cold War.

“As the area gets more and more constricted, as Russian forces and pro-regime Syrian forces as well as U.S. forces and forces that the U.S. backs start moving tighter and tighter into other areas, then that deconfliction will have to be worked out,” Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Carrier Strike Group Two, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“There is no desire to militarily escalate the situation,” Whitesell said. “It basically comes down to our training. We trust their training, and we assume that [the Russians] trust our training, too. They are not the enemy. ISIS is the enemy.”

The air war over Syria is one of most complex that U.S. Navy aviators and sailors have ever faced. Aviators are on guard against air-to-air threats while they exercise a close air support mission honed from 16 years of post-9/11 counterinsurgency operations. While at sea, sailors dust off Cold War-era tactics to deal with increasingly bold and persistent run-ins with Russian warships.

At stake every day are U.S. strategic interests, the fate of ISIS, and the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire. Also, the durability of peace between the world’s top two nuclear powers hinges on the coolheadedness and judgment of U.S. military personnel.

“We spend about a year training before we deploy. And those trainings will go from diverse air-to-air scenarios to close air support,” Capt. James A. McCall, commander of Carrier Air Wing Eight, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

“So, I think our guys are well-postured,” McCall said. “They understand their airframe and they understand how to distill commander’s intent and mission orders into the employment of aircraft on a daily basis in a pretty complex battle space and make decisions that are really life and death, and frankly have strategic impact to our country.”

Combat

The USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier is on its third deployment, and the second in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The sailors refer to the ship as “the Bush,” although their commanders discourage that nickname.

The George H.W. Bush was commissioned on Jan. 10, 2009. It’s the 10th and last of the Nimitz-class carriers, which date back to 1975. The ship is 1,092 feet in length—about as long as the Empire State Building is tall. Two nuclear reactors with enough fuel for 20 years provide power. Despite its massive size (more than 200 feet longer than the Titanic), the carrier boasts a top speed in excess of 30 knots (about 35 miles per hour).

The carrier is a veritable city at sea. It towers 20 stories above the waterline, displaces about 97,000 tons, and the flight deck comprises 4 and a half acres. Roughly 5,000 sailors are on board, along with 80 aircraft.

Most of the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet strike fighters that launch from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush are loaded with live munitions—both air-to-air missiles and precision bombs. Almost all the jets are adorned with a few rows of small bomb symbols painted beneath the canopy rails, a testament to the combat history of each aircraft. There are also EA-18G Growlers on board, which have the same airframe as the Hornet but wield an electronic warfare suite instead of kinetic weapons.

To the uninitiated observer, flight deck operations are orchestrated chaos. It’s loud and confusing as the Hornets and Growlers advance one-by-one to the catapults. There, the planes stop, and the green shirts attach the catapult shuttle to the front landing gear.

The blast deflectors are raised. A few checks, some hand signals. The green shirt runs away from beneath the landing gear to get clear and then gives a thumbs up. Now, the engines spool up to full power. The pilot scans the flight instruments and engine readings. All good. The afterburners crackle and roar. The aircraft settles into its landing gear struts against the shackled thrust of the engines. The pilot salutes, then braces for the squeezing G-forces of launch.

The yellow shirted “shooter” lunges like an attacking fencer, the signal for launch. One second, maybe two later, the warplane lurches forward with the initial kick of the catapult and then accelerates straight and smooth from zero to 184 miles per hour in just two seconds before rocketing off the edge of the flight deck. The airborne jet slides straight away, maintaining the level of the deck for a beat before it climbs, the afterburners’ fire glowing behind.

Then, the whole process repeats itself, again and again, until the catapults clear out and it’s time for the landings. The planes come in at a steady rhythm. Once they hit the deck, the drooping tail hook catches the arresting wire. The deceleration from an approach speed of 155 miles per hour to a full stop happens in about 320 feet.

Amid the awesome spectacle of carrier flight deck operations, there are subtle clues that this is a ship at war. The bomb symbols painted on the sides of the jets, for example. Or, the fact that some of those Navy warplanes coming back to land on the George H.W. Bush are missing a bomb or two from their wing pylons. A quiet reminder that many of the ship’s daily launches and landings are not for training—they are for combat. Each day, in fact, the ship averages between 16 and 24 combat sorties.

These pilots and the warplanes they wield are the leading edge of America’s ongoing air war against ISIS—and they kill the enemy every day.

“We’re rooting out an enemy that needs to go away, and I think the administration’s been very clear that our job is to annihilate them, and that’s why we’re here and why we’re doing it,” McCall, the Carrier Air Wing Eight commander said.

After nearly three years, U.S. military pilots such as those operating off the George H.W. Bush continue to wage a relentless air war against ISIS from over the skies of Syria and Iraq. The terrorist army is on its heels. Its stronghold of Mosul is lost. And Raqqa, its de facto capital, is under siege.

ISIS has largely lost freedom of movement in the open, exposed expanses of Syria and Iraq where its fighters are easy prey for U.S. and coalition warplanes and the “unblinking eye” of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.

U.S. pilots say the coalition has the battlefield momentum and ISIS is in its death throes—but the war is not over.

“They’ve been resilient from the beginning, and they just find new ways to stay resilient,” Rogers, the F/A-18 pilot, told The Daily Signal. “So it’s taken a concerted effort, both by the guys on the ground as in the air to make sure that the right targets are being hit.”

As ISIS is squeezed out of Raqqa, its leadership is moving south down the Euphrates River valley to re-establish its forces in the Deir ez-Zor and the Tal Afar areas.

After three years under pressure from the U.S.-led air campaign, the terror group has lost more than two-thirds of the territory it held in 2014, when Operation Inherent Resolve began. And, according to U.S. officials, more than 60,000 ISIS fighters have died in combat since 2014.

In the summer of 2015, the war against ISIS was at a macabre equilibrium. The U.S.-led coalition was killing about 300 ISIS fighters a week, roughly the same rate at which the terrorist army was able to recruit new fighters. Now, recruitment has slowed as the militants’ losses continue to mount.

“When you start seeing people going back to their homes, when we see cities being liberated, that’s success,” a Navy F/A-18 Hornet pilot who goes by the call sign “Bacon” told The Daily Signal in an interview. The pilot, a lieutenant, agreed to be photographed, but asked that his full name not be used due to security concerns.

“We’re in the driver’s seat, we’ve got them on their heels,” Bacon said.

Battle-Tested

Operation Inherent Resolve uniquely fuses in a single mission the lessons learned from the Cold War with the past 16 years of post-9/11 counterinsurgency warfare.

The battle space in which the U.S. military operates to fight ISIS, over the skies of Iraq and Syria and in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is as eclectic and challenging as any in U.S. military history. There, U.S. personnel face myriad threats and fulfill multiple combat roles on every sortie.

“We train to all these mission sets, we just haven’t put it all together in one mission before,” Bacon said. “If you’re not learning, you’re wrong. There’s nothing comfortable or routine about what we’re doing.”

On each mission, U.S. pilots face legitimate air-to-air and surface-to-air threats—threats that were virtually nonexistent to supersonic fighters during the majority of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We certainly have to honor the capabilities of any asset out there that’s not U.S.-flagged,” McCall, commander of Carrier Air Wing Eight, told The Daily Signal. “But we’re not here to fight the Syrian regime, we’re not here to fight the Russians. We’re here to fight ISIS.”

Once on station, the U.S. warplanes and their aircrews face the more familiar role of providing close air support and aerial surveillance to ground units. But there’s a twist—coalition partner ground forces operate with only a shadow U.S. ground presence, often removed from the front lines against ISIS.

Therefore, without reliable direct communications with the ground units they’re supporting, U.S. pilots commonly rely on airborne ISR sensor feeds from manned and unmanned aircraft to search for their targets and keep an eye out for civilians. It’s a challenging task, in which the U.S. military leans on battlefield experience and technology advancements born from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our situational awareness, which then leads to precision targeting, is completely different than when I was a part of Desert Storm and Desert Shield,” Whitesell, the Carrier Strike Group Two commander, said.

For 16 years, U.S. military personnel have observed the ground-level behavior of insurgent groups from the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to that education, U.S. tactics and technology are now able to prosecute a counterinsurgency campaign almost exclusively from the air, clearing the way for foreign ground forces to advance with a minimum U.S. ground footprint.

“It’s mentally tough,” Lt. Cmdr. Scott Welles, an F/A-18 pilot who goes by the call sign “Butters,” told The Daily Signal. “The most effective approach we can have is definitely being concerned with more than just the actual execution of a specific task. We strive to have the full understanding of what we’re being asked to do, where it is, what the impacts could be. It’s very much a two-way back and forth with whomever we’re talking with on the ground.”

U.S. pilots decide when to drop bombs based on pattern of life observations. That’s to say, by observing, over a period of time, the behavior and movements of individuals on the ground who appear only as black and white images on a small screen in the pilot’s cramped fighter jet cockpit.

Command and control staff at ground operations centers analyze those images and approve airstrikes, but it ultimately falls on the pilot or airborne weapons system operator to make the final call before releasing weapons. It’s his or her hand on the button, and if something doesn’t look or even feel right, it’s their prerogative to abort.

“From the air, nobody’s wearing, ‘Hey, I’m the bad guy’ clothes,” Whitesell said.

He continued:

One of our pinnacle moments was when we were cleared to do a strike into one of the areas. And the pilot was able to look and see, look through his device, and what he saw was a group of people coming out of a house, and they just kept coming out of a building … and they started walking along a street. And that pattern of life did not equate to what ISIS would [do]. Even though he was cleared for that strike, he decided to abort … and then relay back to command and control organizations that it looks like we’ve got refugees in this town moving out of this building… you just don’t drive in if you’re approved for the strike.

That kind of judgment and clear thinking under pressure comes from years of combat experience distilled into effective training programs.

When you have seconds to decide whether a group of people walking toward friendly forces is a unit of ISIS fighters or a gaggle of refugees, there is no black and white set of criteria upon which to rely. It’s more akin to an art than a reproducible, workmanlike checklist. And the consequences for making the wrong decision are catastrophic.

“As long as we’re operating within those rules of engagement that the commanders have given us, we’ll operate to the fullest extent,” Rogers, the F/A-18 pilot, said. “And a lot of that is focused on not having any civilian casualties; to do everything we can to make sure the enemy is being engaged and that every single effort is done to minimize civilian casualties.”

U.S. military operators perform their jobs according to their commanders’ stated intents and clearly prescribed rules of engagement. But no commander’s guidance or rule of engagement is ever perfectly crafted to cover every possible situation. It takes judgment and training to properly apply the spirit of those decision-making templates to the reality of the battlefield as it is.

“So, is it a bellwether for things to come? I have no idea,” McCall said. “What I can tell you is I believe the United States is going to be relentless in pursuing ISIS around the globe. And if they try to run somewhere, we’re gonna follow them.”

Multiple Hats

U.S. Navy aviators say they frequently encounter Russian warplanes over Syria. There is a direct phone line set up between American and Russian three-star generals in their respective operations centers to deconflict air operations, and Whitesell said it’s used several times every day.

“If we see something in the air that we don’t understand we call back to the command and control organization and they get the message back to the CAOC [Combined Air Operations Center] and someone gets on the phone and talks to the Russians immediately so that we can resolve any misunderstanding that we’ve got over any of these areas,” Whitesell said.

“There is open communication between the Russians and our military,” McCall said.

“That allows us to enjoy some perspective on what their operations are and what our objectives are … it does allow for some deconfliction of airspace and roles within the skies. And that allows an overall de-escalation of potential tension.”

At sea, the USS George H.W. Bush carrier strike group has frequent run-ins with a gamut of Russian naval vessels. Unlike in the air, however, there is no unique agreement moderating U.S.-Russian naval interactions in this theater. Instead, the two navies rely on a Cold War-era agreement called “Incidents at Sea.” They use their bridge-to-bridge radios over a common frequency, communicating with each other through a series of codes hashed out in 1972.

“The funny thing about that is when I first came in the Navy quite some time ago that was something we trained on quite a bit because it was the end of the Cold War,” Capt. Benjamin Nicholson, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 22, told The Daily Signal, referring to the Incidents at Sea agreement.

Nicholson continued:

And as we went into a time post-Cold War, we really didn’t have these interactions with the Russians … Well, the publication and the agreement is still on the books, and it’s something that over the last several years has been coming back quite a bit … to communicate with the Russians to ensure that there is no misinterpretation of what the other one is doing … We talk to the Russian ships that are here and tell them what we’re doing so we can position ourselves and not have something be mistaken for something threatening.

Going to School

American military personnel mostly shrug off brushes with Russian naval vessels and warplanes as part of their daily routine, whereas civilian media and political leaders typically characterize the encounters as a much bigger deal.

“Not to dampen the excitement, but frankly they’ve been fairly routine,” McCall said, referring to encounters with Russian warplanes over Syria.

Ultimately, it’s the mutually shared overtures of professionalism between Russian and U.S. military personnel that prevent interactions at sea or in the air from escalating into a conflict.

“We operate in close proximity to the Russian forces out here, and you can do that, you can operate close to each other if you’re a professional force, a professional military,” Whitesell, the Carrier Strike Group Two commander, said. “And it’s been safe and professional up until now with these guys. And I don’t think it’s going to change at all.”

“There’s always the standard thing of poking a bear that doesn’t need to be poked, right?” Rogers, the F/A-18 pilot, said. “So, in that respect, we’ll fly nice and professional profiles. And they as well, fly safe and professional profiles. So, as a pilot that’s my primary deconfliction means, and anything else I kind of leave over to people with more rank on their shoulders than me. The best I can do is be safe and professional in my operating environment. And as long as they do the same, then we’re deconflicted.”

U.S. military personnel look at these encounters as a valuable chance to get real-world experience interacting with Russian forces, which U.S. forces usually have to simulate in training.

“It’s like going to school,” McCall said. “We can do a lot of training at home, a lot of that is academic, but getting the opportunity to go out and interact with essentially a near peer I think is something that is beneficial to our aircrews. I think it’s something that will stick with them for a long time. But again, because those interactions have been what I would deem professional, I don’t think any of our aircrew are overanxious about them or [it’s] something that really gets the blood pumping too much.”

Personnel aboard the George H.W. Bush said the Russians have not hindered or interfered with U.S. combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve on their current deployment. But the Americans clearly don’t want to give the Russians any advantages. The two sides tolerate each other, but also watch each other closely.

“We’ve had a number of different Russian ships that transit through the area, but notably, we’ve had a couple of their top-line frigates that have been with us consistently for a period of time,” Nicholson told The Daily Signal.

“In addition to those frigates, they’ve had one of their top-line diesel submarines that’s been operating in the area,” Nicholson said. “And then they have had a couple of, at various times, some of their intelligence collection ships in the area as well, too. Sometimes, these ships just transit through. Sometimes, we find that those ships will gravitate toward where the carrier strike group is and stay with us over time.”

It is, in many ways, a return to a Cold War back and forth between U.S. and Russian forces, in which both sides know the limits of what their counterparts will tolerate. A shared understanding that with military forces operating in such close vicinity to each other, interactions are unavoidable—as is the temptation to snoop on how the other side does business.

“We’re not at hostilities with the Russians right now, so it is open free water,” Nicholson said. “I think that any time ships are out amongst each other you obviously do observations of the ones you wanna do some sort of collection on, whether it’s visual, electronic, or what not. We maneuver, they maneuver. We try to stay out of each other’s way as best we can.”

Line in the Sand

On June 18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 that was attacking Syrian Democratic Forces troops, a U.S. partner force on the ground. It was the first U.S. military air-to-air kill in 18 years.

“There’s a heightened sense of awareness now,” Bacon said, referring to how the shootdown affected U.S. Navy combat operations over Syria. “We re-evaluated our tactics and how we are operating. We’ve got our line in the sand, and we stick to it.”

On April 6, the U.S. military launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. The facility, jointly used by Russian forces, was the launch point for a chemical weapons attack on April 4 that killed about 80 people, including children, U.S. officials said. The U.S. has since vowed to strike the Syrian regime if it uses chemical weapons again.

Navy commanders aboard the USS George H.W. Bush are confident the carrier strike group could rebuff any retaliatory strike by the Syrian regime. Syria has coastal defense missiles, but they can be avoided by staying outside their range, or with countermeasures, the commanders said.

“If we’re inside of a particular weapon’s range, we have to be on a little bit more of an alert. But we’re prepared for all of those threats,” Nicholson, the Destroyer Squadron 22 commodore, said. “We’ll operate where we need to operate. It doesn’t matter if there’s a particular threat or not. We can handle those threats.” (For more from the author of “High Stakes for the US Navy as It Wages War on ISIS” please click HERE)

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Russian Leader: US Isn’t Strong Enough to Be Perceived as a Threat to Russia

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, gave a rare interview to a US outlet that aired [this week]. In speaking to HBO’s “Real Sports,” he denied that gay people are humans, that they exist in his region, and that his government regularly detains or tortures them, despite ample reports to the contrary. . .

Kadyrov, known for his forceful style of speaking, said: “America is not really a strong enough state for us to regard it as an enemy of Russia. We have a strong government and are a nuclear state.

“Even if our government was completely destroyed, our nuclear missiles would be automatically deployed. We will put the whole world on its knees and screw it from behind.”

The New York Times points out that Russia built a system in the 1980s that could do what Kadyrov described, known as the Perimeter System. Essentially, if there were a nuclear attack to destroy the government of Russia — or anything a 1980s-era system would perceive as an attack — an automated system would empty Russia’s missile silos in a counterattack.

Bruce Blair, the former US nuclear officer who broke the story of the Perimeter System for The Times in 1993, told Business Insider that the system works when it detects nuclear explosions. Only a small crew, deep in a bunker, has a hand in the otherwise automated system, according to Blair. (Read more from “Russian Leader: US Isn’t Strong Enough to Be Perceived as a Threat to Russia” HERE)

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Plot to Replace Europeans With Refugees Exposed

Millions of migrants mostly from Africa and the Middle East have swarmed Europe in the last three years – the result of what has been explained by world leaders as a war-driven “refugee” crisis.

Yet, a United Nations document, prepared in the year 2000 and rediscovered by WND, reveals the U.N. was already promoting the notion of “replacement migration” in Europe with the support of open-borders non-governmental organizations and “progressive” politicians.

The document – “Replacement Migration: Is It a Solution to Declining and Aging Populations?” – details the plunging birthrates across Europe and identifies a solution: mass immigration.

The 17-year-old document contended mass immigration was necessary to replace the aging populations of developed countries. Without the migration of populations from the developing world, it reasons, economies will suffer because of labor shortages and falling tax revenues . . .

The report specifically targets the U.S., Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Russia as prime candidates for replacement migration. It is not an obscure study, written and then ignored, but a founding piece of the pro-migration agenda pushed by the United Nations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and open-borders advocates. (Read more from “Plot to Replace Europeans With Refugees Exposed” HERE)

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German Media Failed to Report Refugee Crisis Honestly

An influential German institute has studied thousands of article published by daily newspapers during the refugee crisis. Their conclusion: journalists lost their objectivity and drove a wedge through society.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees arrived in Germany in 2015 and early 2016, daily newspapers took on the role of “public educators” rather than objective critics of public policy, a team of researchers at the Otto Brenner Institute conclude, according to a report in Die Zeit this week.

The researchers, led by former Die Zeit editor Michael Haller, studied thousands of articles published between February 2015 and March 2016 by leading daily newspapers, including Bild, Die Welt, the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The report, which will be published on Monday, criticizes “the so-called mainstream media” for lining up behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policies, and for uncritically taking on “the slogans of the political elite.” (Read more from “German Media Failed to Report Refugee Crisis Honestly” HERE)

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Government Demands ‘Queer Theology’ in Seminaries

An executive agency of the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued a report demanding that seminaries include “queer theology” in their courses for students and confirming even Sunday schools must have “teaching of LGBTI beliefs.”

The stunning document was released by Wilton Park, which is part of the Foreign Office structure, and it also demands that the Bible be reinterpreted “to make it compatible with LGBTI ideology.”

Officials at the Barnabas Fund, which is a Christian organization that works in support of persecuted Christians around the globe, were surprised . . .

“The recommendations, if implemented, would massively reverse freedom of religion across the globe,” they wrote.

“Once it is accepted that any ideology can be imposed on those who hold conscientious disagreement with it, a very significant backward step has been taken both in relation to i) Freedom of Religion or Belief and ii) human rights generally.” (Read more from “Government Demands ‘Queer Theology’ in Seminaries” HERE)

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State Dept Blames Israel for Causing Palestinian Violence

Rex Tillerson’s State Department added blistering anti-Israel language to this year’s “Country Reports on Terrorism,” adopting a tone not seen even during the hostile Obama era.

On Wednesday, Tillerson submitted the annual report to Congress. This year’s report may come as a shock to the overwhelmingly pro-Israel majority that elected Donald Trump president.

The report appears to blame Israel for the lack of peace between the two sides, pointing to a “lack of hope” as a “driver” for Palestinian violence.

Tillerson’s State Department concluded that Palestinian terrorism is motivated by “Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive.”

Continuing its pro-Palestinian posture, the next paragraph of the State Department memo commends the Palestinian Authority chairman for condemning acts of violence.

“Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it,” the memo states.

The aforementioned statement is simply not true. Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party have a long history of promoting violence against Israel, and using inciting language to fan the flames of terror against its Jewish population.

In fact, organizations like Palestinian Media Watch and the Middle East Media Research Institute find almost daily examples of Palestinian state media waging incitement campaigns.

The State Department report does label Israel a “committed counterterrorism partner.” However, the sometimes-positive language toward America’s closest Middle East ally does not excuse the morally reprehensible act of sanctioning Palestinian violence against innocents.

By excusing Palestinian terrorism as motivated by a “lack of hope,” the State Department is helping to create a morally paradoxical environment in which the Israeli victim becomes the perpetrator and the Palestinian perpetrator becomes the victim.

Conservative Review looked through the Obama-era State Department country reports on terrorism and found that the Tillerson-led assessment added the aforementioned anti-Israel language.

Last year’s report under Obama said the Palestinians argued that terrorism is sometimes caused by frustration over “occupation.” But that report was much less accusatory because it makes clear that the position is reflecting the views of Palestinian officials, and not the U.S. government.

Tillerson continues to shock supporters of Israel with his pro-Palestinian policy promotion.

In May, the embattled secretary of state blackmailed Israel, using the debate over its embassy move as a bargaining chip for Palestinian statehood. That same month, he described Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, as the “home of Judaism.”

Unlike U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Tillerson refuses to recognize that the Western Wall is in Israel. Moreover, his State Department continues to reject Israeli claims over the city of Jerusalem. (For more from the author of “State Dept Blames Israel for Causing Palestinian Violence” please click HERE)

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Pro-Rape Books at U.K.’s 1st State-Funded Muslim School

England’s first state-funded Muslim secondary schools – that segregated boys and girls and had books promoting domestic violence and marital rape – is to be taken over by the Government.

The Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham, which became state-funded in 2001, was put into special measures last summer after the pro-rape texts were found in the institution’s library and a child died from an allergic reaction.

In a report published in May, the inspector Ofsted also identified bullying, said the playground was chaotic, teaching was poor, pupils were not safe and some staff did not know what to do in medical emergencies. The school was given an “inadequate” judgment, the lowest ranking.

The damning report also criticised the school’s policy of segregating boys and girls, sparking a lengthy legal battle, which is still ongoing. The school attempted to suppress the report’s findings with funding from Birmingham city council.

The appeal court judges were asked last week to make a definitive ruling in the case. If Ofsted wins, up to 20 faith schools that teach boys and girls separately will be reinspected and may have to change their arrangements. (Read more from “Pro-Rape Books at U.K.’s 1st State-Funded Muslim School” HERE)

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Glacier in Swiss Alps Melts, Revealing Couple Who Disappeared 70 Years Ago

More than 70 years ago, a couple left their home in the Swiss Alps to milk their cows. They were never seen again.

Last week, a melting glacier led to the discovery of two bodies near a ski lift on the Tsanfleuron glacier, by a worker for a resort company.

“The bodies were lying near each other. It was a man and a woman wearing clothing dating from the period of World War II,” Glacier 3000 director Bernhard Tschannen told local media, according to Reuters. “They were perfectly preserved in the glacier and their belongings were intact.”

Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin left their home in Switzerland’s Valais canton on Aug. 15, 1942, according to Reuters. They were heading to their cows on a meadow above, but never returned home. (Read more from “Glacier in Swiss Alps Melts, Revealing Couple Who Disappeared 70 Years Ago” HERE)

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He’s Alive? Kurds Say ISIS ‘Caliph’ Not Dead, Contrary to Claims

A top Kurdish official believes with 99 percent certainty that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive and well, following another round of reports from around the world claiming the demise of the terrorist “caliph.”

“Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive,” Kurdish counterterror official Lahur Talabany told Reuters Monday.

The Kurdish official said that Baghdadi is an expert at absconding from the reach of advanced intelligence services.

“Don’t forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq,” Talabany explained. “He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing.”

Talabany added that reports about the Islamic State’s demise were also greatly exaggerated. The Kurdish official argued that ISIS does not need to hold masses of territory to be successful. He predicted that it would take three or four years to eliminate the global jihadist entity. Even after defeat, the group could morph into an al-Qaida on “steroids,” he explained.

The ISIS leader’s whereabouts remain a complete mystery. But Talabany guessed that Baghdadi remained somewhere in the eastern part of Raqqa, Syria.

Countless past reports claiming Baghdadi’s death have not turned up any verifiable proof. In June, Russia claimed with a “high degree of certainty” that Baghdadi was killed in a late May air strike. Following the claim, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights supposedly “confirmed information” that Baghdadi was killed.

Baghdadi last released an audio recording on November 3, 2016, asking members of ISIS to continue to fight for the city of Mosul, Iraq, which was recently liberated from the grip of ISIS by U.S. and coalition forces.

Baghdadi was arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004 but later released as a “low-level prisoner.” He declared himself the “caliph” of ISIS. In 2010, he became the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI). Then in 2013, he announced the formation of what is now known as the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, IS, or DAESH. In 2014, Baghdadi declared the establishment of an Islamic State, with himself as the “caliph” of the group.

The U.S. government continues to offer a $25 million reward for information that brings Baghdadi to justice. (For more from the author of “He’s Alive? Kurds Say ISIS ‘Caliph’ Not Dead, Contrary to Claims” please click HERE)

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Russia and China Declare All out War on US Petrodollar — Prepare for Exclusive Trade in Gold

The formation of a BRICS gold marketplace, which could bypass the U.S. Petrodollar in bilateral trade, continues to take shape as Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, announced this week that its Swiss subsidiary had begun trading in gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that they plan to conduct transactions with China using gold as a means of marginalizing the power of the dollar in bilateral trade between the geopolitically powerful nations. This latest movement is quite simply the manifestation of a larger geopolitical game afoot between great powers.

According to a report published by Reuters:

Sberbank was granted international membership of the Shanghai exchange in September last year and in July completed a pilot transaction with 200 kg of gold kilobars sold to local financial institutions, the bank said.

Sberbank plans to expand its presence on the Chinese precious metals market and anticipates total delivery of 5-6 tonnes of gold to China in the remaining months of 2017.

Gold bars will be delivered directly to the official importers in China as well as through the exchange, Sberbank said.

Russia’s second-largest bank VTB is also a member of the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

To be clear, there is a revolutionary transformation of the entire global monetary system currently underway, being driven by an almost perfect storm. The implications of this transformation are extremely profound for U.S. policy in the Middle East, which for nearly the past half century has been underpinned by its strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia.

THE RISE & FALL OF THE PETRODOLLAR

The dollar was established as the global reserve currency in 1944 with the Bretton Woods agreement, commonly referred to as the gold standard. The U.S. leveraged itself into this power position by holding the largest reserve of gold in the world. The dollar was pegged at $35 an ounce — and freely exchangeable into gold.

By the 1960s, a surplus of U.S. dollars caused by foreign aid, military spending, and foreign investment threatened this system, as the U.S. did not have enough gold to cover the volume of dollars in worldwide circulation at the rate of $35 per ounce; as a result, the dollar was overvalued.

America temporarily embraced a new paradigm in 1971, as the dollar became a pure fiat currency (decoupled from any physical store of value), until the petrodollar agreement was concluded by President Nixon in 1973.

The quid pro quo was that Saudi Arabia would denominate all oil trades in U.S. dollars, and in return, the U.S. would agree to sell Saudi Arabia military hardware and guarantee the defense of the Kingdom.

A report by the Centre for Research on Globalization clarifies the implications of these most recent moves by the Russians and the Chinese in an ongoing drive to replace the US petrodollar as the global reserve currency:

Fast forward to March 2017; the Russian Central Bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing as an early step in phasing in a gold-backed standard of trade. This would be done by finalizing the issuance of the first federal loan bonds denominated in Chinese yuan and to allow gold imports from Russia.

The Chinese government wishes to internationalize the yuan, and conduct trade in yuan as it has been doing, and is beginning to increase trade with Russia. They’ve been taking these steps with bilateral trading, native trading systems and so on. However, when Russia and China agreed on their bilateral US$400 billion pipeline deal, China wished to, and did, pay for the pipeline with yuan treasury bonds, and then later for Russian oil in yuan.

This evasion of, and unprecedented breakaway from, the reign of the US dollar monetary system is taking many forms, but one of the most threatening is the Russians trading Chinese yuan for gold. The Russians are already taking Chinese yuan, made from the sales of their oil to China, back to the Shanghai Gold Exchange to then buy gold with yuan-denominated gold futures contracts – basically a barter system or trade.

The Chinese are hoping that by starting to assimilate the yuan futures contract for oil, facilitating the payment of oil in yuan, the hedging of which will be done in Shanghai, it will allow the yuan to be perceived as a primary currency for trading oil. The world’s top importer (China) and exporter (Russia) are taking steps to convert payments into gold. This is known. So, who would be the greatest asset to lure into trading oil for yuan? The Saudis, of course.

All the Chinese need is for the Saudis to sell China oil in exchange for yuan. If the House of Saud decides to pursue that exchange, the Gulf petro-monarchies will follow suit, and then Nigeria, and so on. This will fundamentally threaten the petrodollar.

According to a report by the Russian government media, significant progress has been made in promoting bilateral trade in yuan, between the two nations, as the first step towards an even more ambitious plan—using gold to make transactions:

One measure under consideration is the joint organization of trade in gold. In recent years, China and Russia have been the world’s most active buyers of the precious metal.

On a visit to China last year, deputy head of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov said that the two countries want to facilitate more transactions in gold between the two countries.

In April, Sberbank expressed interest in financing the direct import of gold to India—also a BRICS member. Make no mistake that a BRICS gold marketplace could be used to bypass the dollar in bilateral trade, and undermine the hegemonic control enjoyed by the US petrodollar as the global reserve currency.

“In 2014 Russia and China signed two mammoth 30-year contracts for Russian gas to China. The contracts specified that the exchange would be done in Renminbi [yuan] and Russian rubles, not in dollars. That was the beginning of an accelerating process of de-dollarization that is underway today,” according to strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl.

Russia and China are now creating a new paradigm for the world economy and paving the way for a global de-dollarization.

“A Russian-Chinese alternative to the dollar in the form of a gold-backed ruble and gold-backed Renminbi or yuan, could start a snowball exit from the US dollar, and with it, a severe decline in America’s ability to use the reserve dollar role to finance her wars with other peoples’ money,” Engdahl concludes. (For more from the author of “Russia and China Declare All out War on US Petrodollar — Prepare for Exclusive Trade in Gold” please click HERE)

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