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Russia lifting sanctions for missile deliveries to Iran, starts oil-for-goods swap

Russia lifting sanctions for  missile deliveries to Iran, starts oil-for-goods swap

BY GABRIELA BACZYNSKA

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the welcoming ceremony during a summit of Caspian Sea regional leaders in the southern city of Astrakhan, September 29, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

(Reuters) – Russia paved the way on Monday for missile system deliveries to Iran and started an oil-for-goods swap, signaling that Moscow may have a head-start in the race to benefit from an eventual lifting of sanctions on Tehran.

The moves come after world powers, including Russia, reached an interim deal with Iranthis month on curbing its nuclear program.

Russia Missile weapons rocket

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ending a self-imposed ban on delivering the S-300 anti-missile rocket system to Iran, removing a major irritant between the two after Moscow canceled a corresponding contract in 2010 under pressure from the West.

A senior government official said separately that Russia has started supplying grain, equipment and construction materials to Iran in exchange for crude oil under a barter deal.

Sources told Reuters more than a year ago that a deal worth up to $20 billion was being discussed and would involve Russia buying up to 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day.

Officials from the two countries have issued contradictory statements since then on whether a deal has been signed, but Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday one was already being implemented.

“I wanted to draw your attention to the rolling out of the oil-for-goods deal, which is on a very significant scale,” Ryabkov told a briefing with members of the upper house of parliament on the talks with Iran.

“In exchange for Iranian crude oil supplies, we are delivering certain products. This is not banned or limited under the current sanctions regime.”

He declined to give further details. Russia’s Agriculture Ministry declined comment and the Energy Ministry did not respond to request for comment. There was no comment from Iran.

Iran is the third largest buyer of Russian wheat, and Moscow and Tehran have been discussing the oil-for-goods barter deal for more than a year.

Russia hopes to reap economic and trade benefits if a final deal is concluded to build on the framework agreement reached in the Swiss city of Lausanne between Iran and six world powers – Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Germany and China.

They have until June 30 to work out a detailed technical agreement under which Iran would curb its nuclear program and allow international control in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions.

TWO TO TANGO

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the agreement in Lausanne wiped out the need for Moscow’s ban on the delivery of S-300 and that the system was defensive, hence would pose no threat to Iran’s foe, Israel.

“As a result of suspending the contract, we did not receive major sums that we were due. We see no need to continue doing this given progress in talks on Iran’s nuclear program and the absolutely legitimate nature of the forthcoming deal,” he said.

The United States and Israel had lobbied Russia to block the missile sale before it did so in 2010, saying the S-300 system could be used to shield Iran’s nuclear facilities from possible future air strikes.

Leonid Ivashov, a retired Russian general who now heads the Moscow-based Centre for Geo-Political Analysis think-tank, said the move was part of a race for future contracts inIran.

“If we now delay and leave Iran waiting, then tomorrow, when sanctions are fully lifted, Washington and its allies will get Iran’s large market,” RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

Ryabkov suggested Russia had high hopes that its steady support for Iran would pay off in energy cooperation once international sanctions against Tehran are lifted.

“It takes two to tango. We are ready to provide our services and I am sure they will be pretty advantageous compared to other countries,” he said. “We never gave up on Iran in a difficult situation… Both for oil and gas, I think the prospects for our cooperation should not be underestimated.”

He also reiterated Moscow’s view that an arms embargo on Iran should be lifted once a final nuclear deal is sealed.

Sanctions have cut Iran’s oil exports to about 1.1 million barrels per day from 2.5 million bpd in 2012. Analysts say Iran is unlikely to see a major boost in exports before next year.

One upper house lawmaker asked Ryabkov whether lifting sanctions on Tehran could undermine Russia’s position on global energy markets, including as the main gas supplier to Europe.

“I am not confident as yet that the Iranian side would be ready to carry out supplies of natural gas from its fields quickly and in large quantities to Europe. This requires infrastructure that is difficult to build,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt, Olesya Astakhova and Vladimir Soldatkin, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Angus MacSwan)

Iran attacks replica US ship in military drill

Iran attacks replica US ship in military drill

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launches a large-scale naval and air defence drill near a strategic Gulf waterway, during which a replica of a US aircraft carrier is used as a target

By , and Robert Midgley, video source APTN

Iran’s armed forces launched a speedboat attack on a giant model of a US aircraft carrier on Wednesday as the Revolutionary Guard staged military exercises in the Gulf.

The aim of the drill was to practise how to sink an American carrier, at least two of which patrol the Gulf at any given time.

A helicopter and speed boat circle a damaged replica of a US aircraft carrier.

Exercise “Great Prophet Nine” showed how the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard would launch a “swarm” attack, seeking to overwhelm the carrier’s defences by dispatching numerous speedboats to converge on the vessel from all directions.

“American aircraft carriers are very big ammunition depots housing a lot of missiles, rockets, torpedoes and everything else,” said Admiral Ali Fadavi, the naval commander of the Revolutionary Guard. He told state television that hitting a carrier with just one missile could trigger a “large secondary explosion”.

The exercise was carried out near the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway at the entrance to the Gulf. The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in the nearby kingdom of Bahrain.

However, American forces believe they have little to fear from the Revolutionary Guard. The US deploys 10 nuclear-powered carriers, each one of which can embark about 80 aircraft with more striking power than the entire Iranian air force.

Commander Kevin Stephens, the spokesman for the Fifth Fleet, said the exercise had not disrupted maritime traffic. “We’re quite confident of our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves,” he told Associated Press news agency. “It seems they’ve attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set.”

Pakistan officials: U.S. missile strikes kill 7 militants

Pakistan officials: U.S. missile strikes kill 7 militants

Predator Reaper UAV drone
Predator Reaper UAV (drone)

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) — A suspected U.S. drone fired missiles at two compounds in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region Friday, killing at least seven alleged militants, while security forces killed the alleged planner of the deadly recent attack on a school, Pakistani officials said.

Four intelligence officials said the early morning strikes hit the compounds of the Punjabi Taliban and a group of Uzbek militants in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.

Two missiles struck the compound of the Punjabi Taliban in the village of Kund, killing four militants, the officials said. They said the compound was being used as a training facility by the group’s commander, Qari Imran, but it was unclear whether Imran himself was present at the time of attack. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Minutes later, another drone-launched missile struck the compound of a group of Uzbek militants in the village of Mangrotai, killing three alleged militants, the officials said.

Drone strikes are largely unpopular in Pakistan where many consider them a violation of the country’s sovereignty and resent the collateral damage caused to Pakistani civilians. But the U.S. insists these attacks are effective to eliminate militants in areas inaccessible to the Pakistani military.

Meanwhile, a top government official in the Khyber tribal region said security forces have killed the alleged planner of the recent school attack in the city of Peshawar. Security troops, acting on intelligence information, conducted a raid in the Bara area late Thursday night, where they fought a gunbattle with the militant commander known as Saddam and his accomplices, said Shahab Ali Shah, head of police administration in Khyber.

Shah said that Saddam was killed in the hour-long shootout, while his six accomplices were injured and arrested. He said Saddam helped plan the Peshawar school attack and was also involved in attacks on health workers giving polio vaccinations in the Peshawar valley.

On Dec. 16, militants strapped with explosives broke into a military-run school in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and killed 148 people — most of them children.

Ukrainian Combat Jet Returned Without Missiles After MH17 Crash

Ukrainian Combat Jet Returned Without Missiles After MH17 Crash

A Ukrainian jet took off carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day MH17 crashed

Ukrainian Combat Jet Returned Without Missiles After MH17 Crash: Reports

A Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet took off from an airbase in eastern Dnipropetrovsk carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing an airbase employee.

The employee, who claims to be an eyewitness, said on July 17 that three Ukrainian combat jets took off, and that one of them, an Su-25, was carrying air-to-air missiles.

“After a while only one jet [of the three] returned, which had had those missiles… It returned without the missiles. The pilot was very frightened,” the man said. The employee stressed that only the returned Su-25 had been equipped with air-to-air missiles, and said he was sure it was not air-to-ground missiles.
The airbase worker said he remembered the pilot saying “the wrong plane” and “the plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time” after he returned from the flight.

The newspaper interviewee did not exclude the possibility that an Su-25 pilot could confuse a Boeing passenger airliner with a military jet.

“This could be. There was quite a long distance, he could have failed to see what exactly that plane was,” the man said.

The missiles carried by the Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) are capable of targeting an object at a 3-5-kilometer (1-3 mile) distance, and to an altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet), the source stressed.

“With jet’s raised nose, it is not a problem to fix a target and launch a missile. The flying range of this missile is over 10 kilometers,” according to the man.

He further said that the missile is capable of hitting a plane fuselage, whether directly or from a distance of 500 meters.

The density of the objects which hit the MH17 was very high, and these findings did not exclude the downing of the plane by a missile.

“There is such a missile. It explodes and its shrapnel punctures [the plane]. And after that, the missile warhead strikes it,” the man said.

The MH17 passenger Boeing of Malaysian Airlines crashed on July 17 in the Donetsk region, as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board died.

The incident is being investigated by an international group headed by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), its final report is expected to be released in 2015. According to the preliminary information of the DSB, the Boeing was hit by “a large number of high-energy objects” penetrating the aircraft from outside, but the source of the objects was not found.

Kiev has accused independence supporters in Ukraine’s southeast of shooting the plane down, but provided no evidence confirming the claim. The independence supporters say they do not have weapons which could down a plane flying at such a high altitude.

Iran Unveils Advanced Military Hardware After Nuke Talks Fail

Iran Unveils Advanced Military Hardware After Nuke Talks Fail

New cruise missiles, torpedoes, warships, combat helicopters unveiled

missiles rockets

Iran on Monday unveiled new missiles, torpedoes, and warships just a week after nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the West broke apart with little headway made between the sides.

The new military hardware was widely publicized by Iranian military leaders following an order by Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei urging the country’s armed forces to step up their combat readiness despite an extension in nuclear talks with the West.

The Iranian Navy displayed a crop of new vessels equipped with cruise missiles and other rockets. Also unveiled were new attack helicopters “equipped with Iran’s latest home-grown torpedoes,” according to Iranian military leaders quoted by the country’s state-controlled press.

The show of force is likely meant to send a message to the United States and other Western nations following another failed round of talks over Iran’s contested nuclear weapons program.

Iran is pushing for the West to formally recognize its right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, while Western powers are seeking to limit the scope and secrecy of the program.

The tough rhetoric from Tehran is being backed up by a show of military force focusing on Iran’s ability to domestically produce a range of advanced weaponry, including cruise missiles.

“10 Navy vessels have or are being armed with missile systems,” Rear Admiral Abbas Zamini, the Iranian Navy’s technical affairs chief, announced during a military ceremony on Monday, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency.

“These missiles include Nasr, Nour, and Qader cruise missiles,” Zamini was quoted as saying.

Iranian Army Commander, Major General Ataollah Salehi, additionally bragged that Iran’s “missiles, rockets, and artilleries” are “the best” during the ceremony.

“Today all our units, including subsurface, vessel, and air units are equipped with the best missiles, rockets and artilleries,” he was quoted as saying.

The new missile-armed warships will be deployed to southern Iran and include “Sirik-class and Kalat-class warships, as well as 4 Fajr, Shams, Fath, and Nour vessels,” according to Fars.

“All these vessels which were used in logistical and sea patrolling missions before have been equipped with surface-to-surface cruise missiles now,” Fars reported military leaders as saying.

The Navy also unveiled two new anti-subsurface helicopters, along with new hovercrafts, anti-surface helicopters, and a sea patrol aircraft “equipped with Iran’s latest home-grown torpedoes,” according to Fars.

These torpedoes are diverse and can also be fired from submarines or surface vessels.

Iran announced last week that it is using several new combat and radar systems.

As the new hardware was displayed, Iranian military leaders stepped up their rhetoric, stating that Iran will do what it pleases in international waters.

“The countries which are deployed in the Gulf of Aden region are members of a military pact but we act (in that region) independent from others and are after the establishment of peace and friendship,” Salehi was quoted as saying on Monday.

Khamenei said over the weekend during a televised speech that the negotiations provide Iran time to “build up on preemptive capacities.”

“Peacetime offers great opportunities for our armed forces to … build up on preemptive capacities,” Khamenei reportedly said.

“Given our vast maritime borders and the enemy’s huge investments in this area, our armed forces should continuously improve their [combat] readiness, irrespective of political calculations,” the supreme leader added.

Russia Moving Missiles, Rockets Toward Eastern Ukraine

Russia Moving Missiles, Rockets Toward Eastern Ukraine

NATO commander: Deployment of western “rotational forces” needed in Poland, Romania, the Baltics

Russia military parade / AP

BY:

Russia is sending additional military forces toward the border with eastern Ukraine, including units equipped with ballistic missiles, as part of Moscow’s ongoing destabilization effort in support of pro-Russian rebels.

U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports said one Russian military unit equipped with short-range ballistic missiles was detected this week near eastern Ukraine, where Russia has launched a destabilization program following its military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March.

The military movements coincided with the an unusual number of flights last week by Russian strategic nuclear bombers and aircraft along Europe’s northern coasts in a what NATO’s military commander called strategic “messaging” toward the West.

“My opinion is that they’re messaging us,” Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the commander, told reporters at the Pentagon this week. “They’re messaging us that they are a great power and that they have the ability to exert these kinds of influences in our thinking.”

The bomber flights included three days of paired Tu-95 bomber flights that were to have circumnavigated Europe from the north but instead were halted near Portugal.

U.S. officials said Russia deployed several Il-78 refueling tankers in Egypt that were to resupply the bombers during flights over the Mediterranean, but those flights were scrapped for unknown reasons.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed concerns about Russian military moves in Ukraine during remarks to reporters Tuesday in Brussels.

“Recently we are also seeing Russian troops moving closer to the border with Ukraine, and Russia continues to support the separatists by training them, by providing equipment, and supporting them also by having special forces, Russian special forces, inside the eastern parts of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

Other officials said both intelligence and social media reports in recent days revealed an increase in Russian deployments.

The missile systems being deployed were described as conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, and BM-21 Grad multiple rocker launchers.

Additionally, Russian military forces are moving towed artillery pieces closer to the border.

One official said the display of military power is part of Moscow’s effort to reinforce “separatists” seeking to carve out a pro-Russian enclave in Eastern Ukraine.

The Russian “Spetsnaz” or special forces commandos are already inside the country, but the ground forces as of Wednesday appeared to be staging at the border.

Russian military forces in Ukraine number around 300 commandos. “These are not fighting formations. These are formations and specialists that are in there doing training and equipping of the separatist forces,” Breedlove said.

The buildup is either part of a plan for military escalation, or a coordinated pressure tactic by Moscow to force Ukraine to make concessions to the rebels, officials said.

Rebel groups in the region have made repeated threats to take control of the key southeastern Ukrainian port of Mariupol and other territory unless the Ukrainian government agrees to make changes in the current separation line.

“The build up may just be a pressure tactic to force such concessions, or it may presage further escalation,” one official said.

Rebels in eastern Ukraine recently held elections that Ukraine and NATO dismissed as illegal. New charges were raised in Kiev Wednesday about violations of a peace agreement reached in Belarus in September.

Breedlove said Monday there was no “huge change” in Russian deployments. Currently about seven battalion task groups are stationed near the border with Ukraine.

“Some of those formations have moved closer to the border,” he said. “We believe that was probably to bring some pressure on and make sure that the elections went according to the separatist plans; we’ll look now to see if they pull back from the border into their previous border locations.”

“We have now realistically entered the phase of a ‘frozen conflict,’” Yury Yakimenko, a political analyst at Ukraine’s Razumkov political research center told Reuters. The term frozen conflict has been applied to other former Soviet Republics where separatists are being backed by Russian forces.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is part of a program by Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain control or hegemony over former Soviet bloc states described as the “near abroad.”

Putin is seeking to restore Russian power with territorial seizures, along with a large-scale nuclear and conventional forces buildup.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez said Russian forces and equipment remain on Ukraine’s border and on Ukrainian territory in violation of international law. “We again call on Russian authorities and the separatists they back to abide by their commitments under the Sept. 5 ceasefire agreement and the Sept. 19 implementing agreement,” she said.

Breedlove said the Russians in the past have conducted small-scale bomber flights.

“And what you saw this past week was a larger, more complex formation of aircraft carrying out a little deeper and, I would say, a little bit more provocative flight path,” he said. “And so it is a concern.”

The flights are destabilizing and “problematic,” Breedlove said.

Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, also voiced concerns about the Russian bomber flights.

“When it comes to the increased Russian military activity, both in the air but also along the borders of Ukraine, I think that what we see is, especially when it comes to increased air activity of Russian planes, is that they are showing strength, and what we are doing is what we are supposed to do: we are intercepting the Russian planes, whether it is in the Atlantic Sea or the Baltic Sea or in the Black Sea,” he said.

Breedlove said he has discussed with U.S. military chiefs the idea of moving additional troops and supplies closer to Russia as a result of “increased pressure that we feel in Eastern Europe now and because of the assurance measures that we are taking in the Baltics, in Poland, in Romania.”

“I believe there is a requirement for rotational forces in the future until we see the current situation begin to normalize,” he said.

Breedlove said the halt in the conflict in Ukraine has been “pretty much a cease-fire in name only.”

“There continue to be sporadic engagements in and around the cease-fire zone,” he said. “And the second thing that I would say that has changed is we have seen a general trend towards a hardening of this line of demarcation and much more softening of the actual Ukraine-Russia border.”

Russia’s border with Ukraine in the east is open and completely porous. As a result, Russian military equipment is flowing back and forth the border

“Russia continues to resupply the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine,” Breedlove said.

ISIS’s Chinese Missiles Can Shoot Down US Aircraft Out Of The Skies

ISIS’s Chinese Missiles Can Shoot Down US Aircraft Out Of The Skies

China’s top-notch FN-6 missile possible game changer

by KURT NIMMO | INFOWARS.COM

ISIS Chinese missile Islamic State surface rocket
ISIS Chinese missile launcher

According to The New York Times and the Saudi owned pan-Arab news networkal-Arabiya, the Islamic State has added Chinese Manpads to its growing arsenal of sophisticated weapons.

During a battle near the northern Iraq city of Baiji an IS fighter used a Chinese-made FN6 surface-to-air missile to shoot down an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter. Images purportedly released by IS show “a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road,” the Times reported earlier this week.

According to the Times, the Pentagon has no conclusive evidence the Islamic State has such advanced weaponry in its possession. However, as reported by Infowars.com in April, al-Nusra, now affiliated with the Islamic State, receives arms via Jamal Maarouf and the Syrian Revolutionary Front. Maarouf told The Independent if “the people who support us [U.S., Saudis, Qataris] tell us to send weapons to another group, we send them.”

In February the Wall Street Journal reported Russian-made antitank guided missiles and Chinese man-portable air-defense systems were “up for grabs, already waiting in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.”

The weapons now flow across the border from Turkey and are delivered to the “rebels” who are largely jihadists collaborating with the Islamic State. “The moderates, often underfunded, fragmented and chaotic, appear no match for Islamist units, which include fighters from organizations designated ‘terrorist’ by the United States,” Reuters reported last June. Since that time, the majority of the “moderate” rebels have defected to al-Nusra and IS.

“Another opposition figure involved in supplying the rebels [now affiliated with jihadist groups] said there had been a noticeable relaxation in recent days of the strict restrictions the US and Turkey had put on arms flows over the Turkish border,” The Guardian reported in March.

It not rational to assume the Pentagon is clueless about the transfer of sophisticated weapons to intermediaries working with the Islamic State. As revelations about the CIA’s Benghazi arms “rat line” operation demonstrated, the U.S. government has worked with Libyan Islamists to transfer a huge stockpile of surface-to-air missiles to the Syrian rebels who are primarily al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and IS.

Last August, we reported:

In fact, the State Department, under the guidance of ambassador Stevens, was moving to round up the missiles and send them to al-Qaeda in Syria. Prior to this, in December, 2011, the U.S. claimed to have secured 5,000 surface-to-air missiles and destroyed them outside of the village of Sidi Bin Nur in Libya. Doubtless, instead, they became part of the CIA’s cache destined for Syria.

The influx of sophisticated Chinese Manpads will certainly up the ante in Syria and Iraq as the United States and its partners stage a largely theatrical effort to rollback IS. Airstrikes against the terrorist army – now providing to be fruitless as it makes gains in Kobani and elsewhere in Syria and Iraq – will become virtually impossible with the threat of missiles taking U.S. aircraft out of the picture.

This may in fact be part of the plan to incrementally increase U.S. re-involvement in Iraq and a full-blown “boots on the ground” invasion of Syria. Captured U.S. airmen losing their heads on Youtube to IS butchers will provide a wealth of propaganda that can be exploited to further agitate the American public and provide the consensus necessary to jump start a flagging forever war in the Middle East.

ISIS encroaches on ultimate prize in Iraq: The Airport

ISIS encroaches on ultimate prize in Iraq: The Airport

ISIS purports to show one of the group’s militants firing a MANPAD rocket at an Iraqi aircraft in the city of Baiji.

BAGHDAD — Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have infiltrated one of Baghdad’s outer suburbs, Abu Ghraib which is only eight miles from the runway perimeter of Baghdad’s international airport.

It’s cause for serious concern now that the Iraqi Defense Ministry has confirmed ISIS has MANPADs, shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles.

The Iraqi army is still patrolling Abu Ghraib, but they play cat and mouse with the ISIS fighters who stage hit and run attacks on security forces.

isis missile terrorist rocket
ISIS terrorists parading a missile through the streets

It’s a mixed picture around the city. ISIS took over the city of Fallujah — only about 40 miles west of Baghdad — in January, and the Iraqi security forces have fought in vain for a year to force them out.

Instead, and in spite of weeks of U.S.-led airstrikes, ISIS has gradually extended its reach. The extremist group is now either present or in control of a huge swath of countryside, forming a 180-degree arc around the Iraqi capital from due north around to the west, and all the way to the south.

Around this zone there have been skirmishes, and occasionally heavy fighting, with Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias battling ISIS.

American jets have carried out more than two dozen airstrikes in the area, mainly near Fallujah and the city of Ramadi, further to the west.

Ukraine plane shot down

Inside Baghdad itself, there are ISIS sleeper cells that carry out almost daily bombings and assassinations.

An Iraqi officer told CBS News that the airstrikes are helping to clear an ISIS-free buffer zone around the city, where there are Iraqi boots on the ground. In fact, there are 60,000 men assigned to defend the capital, but it’s not clear they are disciplined enough to put up a sufficient fight if ISIS launches a major offensive.

As at least three major Iraqi military debacles have shown over the past five months — the most stunning being the quick fall of Mosul in the north — the army is plagued with problems of poor leadership and endemic corruption that undermine their effectiveness as a fighting force.

As CBS News correspondent David Martin reported from the Pentagon on Thursday, due to the relatively poor performance of the Iraqi troops west of Baghdad, the airstrikes are having a limited impact.

In a clear indication of both the urgency of stopping any advance on Baghdad from the West, and in the need for precision strikes around the densely populated city, the U.S. used Apache attack helicopters — for the first time in the fight against ISIS — in Anbar province on Sunday.

The militants largely control the main highway between Baghdad and the border with Jordan, to the west, and the desert surrounding it.

Military Leaders Warn of Tomahawk Missile Shortage; A Missile Obama Cancelled In March

Military Leaders Warn of Tomahawk Missile Shortage; A Missile Obama Cancelled In March

Military could run out of key weapon in fight against ISIL

BY:

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea launches a Tomahawk cruise missile at Islamic State group positions in Syria
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea launches a Tomahawk cruise missile at Islamic State group positions in Syria / AP

As the United States steps up its battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), defense leaders on Capitol Hill are raising concerns about a looming shortage in the Tomahawk missile supply, a key offensive weapon that the Navy has deployed against militant strongholds in Syria and elsewhere.

See: Obama Announced In March He Was Killing Tomawawk and Hellfire Missile Programs: Our Top Two Missile Systems

The U.S. Navy’s current reliance on the Tomahawk, known as “the world’s most advanced cruise missile,” comes just months after the Obama administration attempted to significantly cut funding for the weapon and then eliminate it completely it in 2016, a move that drew heavy criticism from defense experts and lawmakers.

With the military relying on the weapons in its strikes against ISIL targets in Syria, defense leaders have begun to warn that the Pentagon could quickly run through its Tomahawk stockpiles, a problem exacerbated by defense budget cuts known as sequestration, defense sources say.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) is now expressing concern that the Pentagon has “insufficient weapons inventories” and that the Obama administration’s proposed termination of the Tomahawk missile program in fiscal year 2016 would worsen “a deficient inventory problem,” according to defense insiders and sources close to the committee.

The U.S. Navy deployed 47 Tomahawks last week during its strikes in Syria, which amounts to 47 percent of its planned purchases of the weapon in 2015, according to the American Thinker. There are currently enough Tomahawks left “for roughly 85 days of a campaign, at the current rate of use,” the report states.

With a stockpile of about 4,000 Tomahawks—and the administration still contending that cuts are needed despite its reliance on the missile—defense insiders warn that the inventory could quickly run low as the military campaign against ISIL continues in Syria and Iraq.

“You could see that if you’re starting to really ramp up [use] and be more aggressive, it wouldn’t take you too long to expend a significant portion of that [inventory],” one defense insider told theWashington Free Beacon. “If you’re firing 600 to 800 during a campaign … it starts to chip away at it pretty fast.”

About 200 Tomahawks were used in the brief 2011 military campaign in Libya; 2,000 have been deployed since the program’s inception.

The low stockpile of Tomahawks has highlighted how deepening defense cuts are impacting on-the-ground realities, according to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.), HASC’s chairman.

“As we saw in this week’s airstrikes against ISIL, Tomahawk missiles are among the most valuable and precise tools in our military arsenal,” McKeon said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. “They provide unmanned, all-weather, deep-strike attack capability against both fixed and mobile targets which makes them particularly useful against terrorist groups like ISIL that transcend nations and borders.”

McKeon and his colleagues have fought against the Obama administration’s cuts to the Tomahawk and have attempted to restore funding in part.

“I was deeply troubled that in this year’s budget request, DoD called for significantly reducing the number of Tomahawks in the arsenal and even recommended suspending their entire production line beginning in 2016,” McKeon said. “That is why all four House national security committees, including the Armed Services Committee, rebuffed the administration’s request and restored the Tomahawks.”

“Unfortunately,” McKeon added, “this a prime example of the types of dangerous cuts our military leaders are being forced to consider under the new sequestration budget regime. It is my hope that the next Congress will reverse sequestration and ensure that vital national security programs like the Tomahawk system are adequately funded.”

Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, also expressed concern about limiting production of the Tomahawk missiles in the face of new military campaigns.

“All four of Congress’ defense committees have rejected the administration’s reckless plan to suspend the Tomahawk production line beginning in 2016 and have moved to add additional missiles to the budget,” Forbes told the Free Beacon in a statement.

“As recent operations in the Middle East show, it is essential that the United States have the sophisticated land-attack capability contained in the Tomahawk missile, especially for striking high-value targets in areas that have advanced air-defense systems,” he said. “Even more alarming, because a replacement for the Tomahawk is still years away, it would be a foolish decision to shut down the Tomahawk industrial base and leave the nation without a hot production line.”

The administration originally sought to cut the Tomahawk missile program by $128 million under its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. It also aimed to fully eliminate production of the missile by year 2016, according to budget documents released by the Navy.

Additionally, the Obama administration sought to reduce the actual number of Tomahawk missiles acquired by the United States in 2015 from 196 last to just 100, a proposal that all four congressional defense committees rebuffed in a notable show of solidarity.

The procurement of Tomahawks was slated to drop to zero in 2016 under the president’s original budget proposal.

Now the administration is relying heavily on the very same missile it had sought to eliminate.

“Ninety-five percent of the munitions that we dropped were precision-guided munitions. And that includes the Tomahawk missiles, which are very precise,” a senior Obama administration official said on background during a conference call last week with reporters on the strikes in Syria against ISIL.

Between Iraq and Syria, the use of Tomahawks could be significant in the coming months and years, insiders say.

“It’s difficult for anyone to say how much is enough,” said the defense insider. “How can you know for certain? God forbid you end up fighting a two front war.”

The other concern is that as the administration seeks to ramp down procurement of the Tomahawk, a working replacement for the missile is still years off. And once production of the Tomahawk is ended, it becomes much more difficult to restart the program if more missiles are needed.

“Without a suitable replacement it would be unwise to shut off that production line,” said the defense source. “It’s not like flipping a switch to reactivate suppliers who have been turned off.”

Mackenzie Eaglen, a former Defense Department official, explained that while the stockpile should be adequate into the near future, replenishments will be needed during the next year.

“Given the fact that most military officials are predicting a years-long campaign against ISIL, there is little doubt that some replenishment will be required over the next 12 months,” said Eaglen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). “If and when that happens, it will call into question the Navy plan to shut down this production line.”

“Congress was already moving in that direction to reverse Navy plans regarding Tomahawk, but this air war is sure to solidify them,” she explained.

A Defense Department official did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the issue.