U.S. pulls nonessential staffers from Iraq amid Mideast tensions linked to Iran

The Japan Times

BAGHDAD - The U.S. on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, and Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programs in the country in the latest sign of tensions sweeping the Persian Gulf region over still-unspecified threats that the Trump administration says are linked to Iran. Recent days have seen allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and the dispatch of U.S. warships and bombers to the region. At the root of this appears to be President Donald Trump's decision a year ago to pull the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran. In response, Iran's supreme leader issued a veiled threat Tuesday, saying it wouldn't be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels. The movement of diplomatic personnel is often done in times of conflict, but what is driving the decisions from the White House remains unclear.

BAE Systems unveils its 'Black Night' tank to upgrade the Challenger 2

Daily Mail

A design has been unveiled for an upgraded British Army tank with a laser warning system, automatic AI-powered targeting and'Planet Earth II style' thermal imaging. The latest design by BAE Systems is a proposed upgrade for the Challenger 2, a tank which has served in Iraq and Bosnia and which defence chiefs are planning to extend until 2035. The firm - which released a Hollywood-style trailer for the vehicle - is one of two bidders, along with German-based defence contractor Rheinmetall, who are competing for the contract to prolong the Challenger's life. The Challenger 2 has been in service since 1998 - the successor to the Challenger 1 which was used during the first Gulf War - and served during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The'Black Night' vehicle would have two independent night vision systems allowing a gunner to focus on one target while a commander identifies others simultaneously The Challenger 2 has been in service since 1998 and defence chiefs are intending to keep it going until 2035.

Experts Say Drones Pose a National Security Threat -- and We Aren't Ready


Last fourth of July, as fireworks burst across the night sky near the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C., convicted kidnapper Jimmy Causey tucked a lifelike dummy into his bed, sneaked out of his prison cell and completed a daring escape. It wasn't until three days later, when Texas Rangers found Causey holed up 1,200 miles away, that authorities offered an explanation for how he had obtained the equipment for the breakout, including a pair of wire cutters used to snip through four fences that encircle the maximum security prison. "We believe a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape," Bryan Stirling, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, told reporters at a news conference. A lengthy investigation confirmed that an accessory role was played by a small, off-the-shelf drone. And with that, law-enforcement and national security officials added "prison breaks" to the potential ill uses lurking in a technology widely available at retailers including Amazon and Walmart.

Architect designs reconstruction model for Mosul

Daily Mail

An architect hoping to rebuild war-torn Mosul, Iraq, has proposed a series of stunning 3D-printed bridges that would transform city using its own building debris into construction materials. Architect Vincent Callebaut is the brainchild behind'The 5 Farming Bridges', which features 3D-printed housing units in the form of articulated spiders over the Tigris River. Five 3D printers could construct 30 houses per day, or nearly 55,000 housing units in five years spread over the five bridges. The concept was a winning project of the Rifat Chadirji Prize Competition, 'Rebuilding Iraq's Liberated Areas: Mosul's Housing'. Architect Vincent Callebaut is the brainchild behind'The 5 Farming Bridges', which features 3D-printed housing units in the form of articulated spiders over the Tigris River in Mosul, Iraq The concept was a winning project of the Rifat Chadirji Prize Competition, 'Rebuilding Iraq's Liberated Areas: Mosul's Housing' Mosul, Iraq's second city, was retaken from IS in July after a massive months-long offensive that left the majority of the city destroyed and hundreds of thousands left without a place to live.

Almost all American ISIS fighters unaccounted for, sparking fears they could slip through cracks and return

FOX News

'White Widow' Sally Jones reportedly killed in U.S. drone strike; Trace Gallagher reports from Los Angeles. When it came to recruiting foreigners to flee the comforts of home for the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, ISIS succeeded like no other -- encouraging more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries to travel to the fighting fray both before and after the declaration of the "caliphate" in June 2014.

Fall of Raqqa no end game for U.S. as Islamic State, other extremist threats persist, spread

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The imminent fall of the Islamic State's de facto capital leaves America a multitude of tasks to restore stability in the Middle East, starting with pockets of remaining IS resistance in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State's deadly drone operation is faltering, but U.S. commanders see broader danger ahead

Los Angeles Times

U.S. airstrikes across eastern Syria have hobbled Islamic State's deadly drone program, U.S. officials say, but commanders warn that proliferation of the inexpensive technology may allow terrorist groups to launch other aerial attacks around the globe. U.S.-backed fighters have reported small drones flown by the militants seven times this month in Iraq and Syria as Islamic State struggles to maintain the crumbling borders of its self-declared caliphate, according to the U.S. military task force in Baghdad. That's down from more than 60 drone sightings earlier this year, especially during the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul, which was liberated in early July. Dozens of Iraqis were killed or wounded by 40-millimeter grenades and light explosives dropped from remote-controlled devices that one U.S. commander likened to killer bees. The use of camera-equipped quadcopters and model-plane-sized drones, sometimes flying in swarms, had become a signature tactic of Islamic State, much as the growing U.S. fleet of large missile firing Predator and Reaper drones have changed the face of modern warfare.

Lost city of Alexander the Great is found in Iraq

Daily Mail

Alexander the Great's'lost city' was a magical place where people drank wine and naked philosophers imparted wisdom, ancient accounts claim. Now, nearly 2,000 years after the great warrior's death, archaeologists believe this illusive city may have finally been discovered in Iraq. Experts first noticed apparently ancient remains in the Iraqi settlement, known as Qalatga Darband after looking at declassified American spy footage from the 1960s. The images were made public in 1996 but, due to political instability, archaeologists were not able to explore the site properly for years. Using more recent drone footage, experts have now established there was a city during the first and second centuries BC which had strong Greek and Roman influences.

Pentagon Tests Lasers and Nets to Combat a Vexing Foe: ISIS Drones

NYT > Middle East

At the vast, windswept White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico earlier this year, nearly a dozen military contractors armed with laser guns, high-tech nets and other experimental systems met to tackle one of the Pentagon's most vexing counterterrorism conundrums: how to destroy the Islamic State's increasingly lethal fleet of drones. The militant group has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for more than two years. One important piece of that effort was the contest in New Mexico. It amounted to a Pentagon counter-drone bake-off, called the Hard Kill Challenge, to see which new classified technologies and tactics proved most promising. The results were decidedly mixed, and underscore the long-term problem confronting the Pentagon and its allies as it combats the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in a growing number of hot spots around the world beyond Iraq and Syria, including Yemen and Libya.

Military drone pilots could get medals - Michael Fallon

BBC News

Military drone pilots fighting so-called Islamic State could be awarded medals, the defence secretary has said. Sir Michael Fallon confirmed there would be a review of how servicemen and women were recognised for their contribution to UK operations. Medals are currently awarded on the basis of rigour and risk, and being physically exposed to danger. Sir Michael said a rethink may be needed as the UK increasingly deploys unmanned aircraft on operations. Speaking on a visit to British troops in Iraq, he said: "The changing character of warfare provides new challenges; not just about how we fight but also how we recognise and support those who serve.