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'Horrific for all': Pentagon intelligence chief says Iran does not want war

'Horrific for all': Pentagon intelligence chief says Iran does not want warA U.S. Marines helicopter takes off from the flight deck of the USS Boxer during its transit through Strait of Hormuz. ASPEN, Colo. — As tensions in the Persian Gulf continued to ramp up on Friday afternoon amid news that Iran had seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, concluded that Iran does not want to start a war with the U.S. or its allies. Answering a question posed by CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto in Aspen, Colo., about the latest incident, Ashley declined to give a specific response to the news, but later said that none of the United States’ major adversaries or competitors, including Iran, China and Russia, wants to start a war.

POSTED JULY 19, 2019 7:19 PM

Alleged American ISIS Sniper Brought Home by the Defense Department to Face Charges

Alleged American ISIS Sniper Brought Home by the Defense Department to Face ChargesAn American citizen who allegedly served as a sniper for ISIS and became a leader for the terrorist group is expected to appear in federal court on Friday after being returned to the United States by the Defense Department, officials said.Ruslan Maratovich Asainov, who was born in Kazakhstan and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, is charged with providing and attempting to provide material support to ISIS, the Justice Department announced on Friday.A U.S. official confirmed to Task & Purpose that the Defense Department had transported Asainov from Syria to the United States. Asainov had been in the custody of Syrian Democratic Forces.No further information about the military's role in transporting Asainov, to the United States was immediately available.Asainov is accused of leaving Brooklyn in December 2013 to fight for ISIS in Syria, a Justice Department news release says. After becoming an ISIS sniper, he was promoted to become an "emir" in charge of training fighters how to use weapons and also tried to recruit someone else to leave the United States and become an ISIS fighter.Prosecutors claim Asainov tried to buy a scope for his rile by paying roughly $2,800 to a confidential informant, the news release says."Asainov subsequently sent the confidential informant two photographs depicting the defendant holding an assault rifle fitted with a scope," the news release says. "He messaged one associate exclaiming, in reference to ISIS, 'We are the worst terrorist organization in the world that has ever existed' and stating that he wished to die on the battlefield."

POSTED JULY 20, 2019 8:52 AM

3 sentenced for violence at Virginia white nationalist rally

3 sentenced for violence at Virginia white nationalist rallyThree members of a white supremacist group were sentenced Friday to between two and three years in prison for punching, kicking and choking anti-racism protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia and political rallies in California. Members of the now-defunct Rise Above Movement were caught on camera assaulting counterprotesters before a planned "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. Benjamin Daley, Michael Miselis and Thomas Gillen each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to riot.

POSTED JULY 19, 2019 6:19 PM

Redesigned airplane seats could mean more space for middle seat

Redesigned airplane seats could mean more space for middle seatThe new design would stagger and lower the middle seats slightly, creating a larger seat and more space on the armrest.

POSTED JULY 19, 2019 12:30 PM

Vatican opens burial chambers in hunt for princesses and missing teen

Vatican opens burial chambers in hunt for princesses and missing teenThe Vatican on Saturday opened two burial chambers discovered under a trapdoor as it attempts to get to the bottom of a riddle involving two 19th-century princesses and a teenager who went missing 36 years ago. The ossuaries were found last week under the floor of the Pontifical Teutonic College after the shock discovery earlier this month that the bones of the princesses had disappeared from tombs in the Teutonic Cemetery. The graves of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe and Princess Charlotte Federica of Mecklenburg, who died in 1836 and 1840, were exhumed after an anonymous tip-off that they may hold the remains of a missing Italian youngster.

POSTED JULY 20, 2019 1:29 PM

Kentucky host Matt Jones yanked amid speculation he'll challenge Mitch McConnell

Kentucky host Matt Jones yanked amid speculation he'll challenge Mitch McConnellSports radio host Matt Jones is being pulled from his "Hey Kentucky!" anchor job until he makes a decision on running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

POSTED JULY 20, 2019 11:27 AM

Ex-NRA Ad Firm: Um, Wayne LaPierre is Lying

Ex-NRA Ad Firm: Um, Wayne LaPierre is LyingLucas Jackson/ReutersIn a new filing against the National Rifle Association, lawyers for ad agency Ackerman McQueen suggest that longtime NRA executive Wayne LaPierre is lying about a critical moment in the gun rights group’s recent leadership shake up. At issue is multi-million-dollar litigation between the NRA and its ex-ad firm. In court filings of its own, the NRA has alleged that Oliver North, the groups's former president, was ousted in part because he withheld information from the NRA about payments he took from Ackerman McQueen, which had served as the gun rights group’s primary ad contractor until just months ago. The NRA claims North kept the nature of his deal with Ackerman McQueen a secret from LaPierre and the gun group’s leadership. But in a July 16 filing that was reviewed by The Daily Beast, Ackerman McQueen alleges that LaPierre himself helped negotiate the deal between their firm and North. And they hint that they have documentation to prove it. In a statement, the NRA denied the suggestions. “The facts are clear – Mr. LaPierre and the NRA had no idea that Col. North was negotiating to become an employee of Ackerman McQueen,” said Andrew Arulanandam, managing director of NRA Public Affairs. “And to the extent Col. North was pushing a contrived narrative about Mr. LaPierre and the NRA, he was conflicted. He was an employee of Ackerman at the time he was allegedly scheming with the agency to unseat Mr. LaPierre.”  It’s a messy new chapter in the months-long legal battle between the NRA and the ad firm it used for more than three decades. And it comes as the gun group has jettisoned senior staff and faced revolts from grassroots activists and donors. “LaPierre negotiated the terms of the North Contract directly with Lt. Col. North and a detailed term sheet was sent to AMc [Ackerman McQueen] for completion of the formal agreement,” the filing reads. The NRA’s then-treasurer, Wilson “Woody” Phillips, also reviewed and approved North’s contract with the firm, according to the filing, and the NRA board’s audit committee green-lit the contract as well. “On at least two occasions, counsel for the NRA has reviewed the North Contract,” the filing adds. NRA Pulls the Plug on NRATVAckerman McQueen’s insistence that NRA officials were aware of the contract with North is directly at odds with the contention the NRA made in a suit it filed against the ad agency in April. North was ousted from the NRA that month during the group’s annual meeting and has since accused LaPierre of gross mismanagement and making highly questionable expenditures. The NRA, meanwhile, has alleged that North tried to oust LaPierre in a coup. And in a separate suit in May, it accused Ackerman McQueen of breach of contract by leaking information about both LaPierre and the NRA’s finances. Ackerman McQueen had been a central force behind the NRA’s evolution from a gun rights group to a conservative cultural institution. As part of that mission, the ad firm helped launch and manage NRATV, the NRA’s recently shuttered internet-video arm. The NRA has alleged in court that Ackerman McQueen had refused to share its analytics with the gun group. But In its July 16 filing, Ackerman McQueen claims that the opposite is true. “Two days before the lawsuit was filed, LaPierre was in AMc’s office and was in attendance for the presentation of the NRATV analytics,” it reads. “LaPierre walked out of the meeting.” A spokesperson for the NRA’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The filing indicates that the fight between the NRA and Ackerman shows no signs of losing steam. Earlier this week, longtime NRA director of public affairs Jennifer Baker left the group. And a month ago, the group parted ways with its longtime top lobbyist, Chris Cox. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

POSTED JULY 19, 2019 1:46 PM

Japan undecided on response to U.S. plan for Mideast maritime coalition -PM Abe

Japan undecided on response to U.S. plan for Mideast maritime coalition -PM AbeJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday he had not yet decided on how to respond to an expected U.S. request to send its navy to join a military coalition to safeguard strategic waters off Iran and Yemen. "We've started to hear the United States' thinking on this and we want to keep listening carefully," he said on national television as votes were being counted for the upper house election. "At the same time, Japan also has friendly ties with Iran," Abe added.

POSTED JULY 21, 2019 10:17 AM

A Passenger Was Fined $105,000 and Banned for Life for 'Extremely Disruptive Behavior' on an Airplane

A Passenger Was Fined $105,000 and Banned for Life for 'Extremely Disruptive Behavior' on an AirplaneShe was also banned for life by British budget carrier Jet2

POSTED JULY 19, 2019 4:09 PM

Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards

Iran crisis: How a British oil tanker was seized by Iran's balaclava-clad Revolutionary Guards“Allahu akbar”, or God is great, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard marine was heard shouting off camera as the group took control of the British-flagged Stena Impero. Scaling down ropes onto its bow, the balaclava-wearing hijackers made a daring - and seemingly well-rehearsed - raid of the oil tanker, as seen in alleged footage released by Fars news agency last night.  The wind was choppy, the skies overcast. With no navy escort, the Stena stood little chance. Minutes later, at 4.19pm on Friday afternoon, the Stena Impero would “go dark” - not something normally done by commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The first clue as it what happened was its abrupt change of course, which was picked up by marine tracking services. Its destination was a port in Saudi Arabia, but it had taken a sharp turn and was heading into Iranian waters. Minutes earlier it had been boarded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who had hijacked the vessel using speedboats and a helicopter and turned off its communication systems. Approximately 40 minutes later, a British-owned, Liberian-flagged ship Mesdar also went dark. The trackers picked it up following the same route as the Stena Impero. The crew onboard was questioned for an hour before the vessel was released, unlike the Stena which was escorted on to the coast of Bander Abbas in southern Iran. British authorities were alerted back home and quickly called a meeting of Cobra to figure out their response. This image grab taken from a video provided by Iran's Revolutionary Guard official website via SEPAH News The capture of one of their ships was something they had been dreading,though not something that had come entirely as a surprise. Tensions have been heating up in recent weeks in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil chokepoint. At the start of the month, Gibraltar authorities - aided by a detachment of Royal Marines - detained a tanker which was suspected to be carrying Iranian oil destined for a refinery in Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. "If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities' duty to seize a British oil tanker," an Iranian official tweeted on July 5, the following next day, in response to the news. Revolutionary Guards issued similarly direct threats. Fearing they would make good on them, the Navy sent Type-23 frigate HMS Montrose to shadow its tankers through the strait and dispatched another, HMS Duncan, for support. The Montrose sped to help Stena from Omani waters on Friday, but was an hour too late. Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, had tried to defuse the situation last weekend by suggesting the UK was willing to release the supertanker, but a court in Gibraltar on Friday ruled to hold it for another 30 days. The decision would have further angered Tehran, which has denied the oil was bound for Syria and accused the UK of acting in bad faith. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran The legality of Britain’s impounding of the Grace 1 has been questioned, however sanctions lawyers say that as it had been travelling through British overseas territory it was subject to EU laws. Revolutionary Guards yesterday tried to justify their seizure of the Stena with alternating claims, including that it had “violated maritime law”, had been driving on the wrong side of the water, risking an accident, and had in fact collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. No such distress call was picked up by any other ship in the area. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman of Iran's Guardian Council, which rarely comments on state matters, said they did not need an excuse to take the Stena and spelled out that it had been a tit-for-tat response. "The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law and Iran's moves to confront the illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers is an instance of this rule and is based on international rights," he said. There is now something of a Mexican stand-off in the Gulf, with both countries seemingly unwilling to hand over the other’s ship. “Iran has responded in a way that presents the UK with a problem,” Michael Stephens, Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in London, told the Sunday Telegraph. “The ball is now in our court. “The UK could choose to detain more Iranian ships, or look to gather a group of states around the table, such as France, Germany and the US, to see how, and in what ways, more pressure can be placed on Iran both economically and strategically,” he said. However, he believed no major decision would be agreed on until Prime Minister Theresa May’s handover to Boris Johnson later this week. The Foreign Office has stressed it is keeping separate the issues of Iranian threats in Gulf waters, EU sanctions policy on Syria, and the nuclear deal. But inevitably they have all become intertwined. The latest Iranian aggressions can be tracked back to last year, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions. The Islamic Republic has legitimate frustrations over the American withdrawal to the deal - which it had been adhering to - that was supposed to swap limiting its nuclear programme for an end to sanctions crippling its economy. At the same time as ratcheting up tensions, however, Mr Trump has made it clear he wants to avoid all-out war with Iran, as has the UK. Iran tensions | Read more Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, on Thursday offered an olive branch to Mr Trump - a deal which would see Tehran accept enhanced inspections of its nuclear programme in return for the permanent lifting of sanctions. Mr Trump has sent Senator Rand Paul, rather than John Bolton, his hawkish anti-Iran national security adviser, for meetings with Mr Zarif, who is in New York on United Nations business. Neither has publicly responded to Mr Zarif's proposal. However, hardliners and the Revolutionary Guard back home want out of the deal, saying the US’s pullout only proved what they always knew - that it cannot be trusted.   "I suspect Stena is a bargaining chip,” Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Iran, told the Telegraph. “It came only days after Zarif showed some willingness to open negotiations, which may have led some hardliners to want to disrupt things a little.  “I still don’t think any side is looking for a conflict,” said Mr Hollis, who is now managing director of risk management company Falanx Assynt. “The fact that there are some people on both sides were seeking a deescalation means there may be a deal to be found.” He warned however, that Friday’s incident showed the margins for manoeuvre are “shrinking” and “the risks of unintended consequences growing.”

POSTED JULY 20, 2019 3:14 PM

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