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May 16, 2015

With swoop on Islamic State compound, U.S. commandos seek to disrupt financing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After weeks of planning and surveillance focused on a compound near the oilfields of eastern Syria, elite American commandos were finally given the green light to swoop in on their target – an Islamic State commander considered to have acted as the group’s “chief financial officer.”

Mounting a rare raid in a war-ravaged country where U.S. President Barack Obama has long been reluctant to commit “boots on the ground,” the Delta Force unit flew in from Iraq under cover of darkness in the early hours of Saturday on Black Hawk helicopters and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

May 15, 2015

Iran navy fires shots at tanker as tensions rise in Gulf

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – Iranian naval vessels fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker in the Gulf on Thursday, in what appeared to be Iran’s latest attempt to settle a legal dispute by force with passing commercial vessels, U.S. officials said.

The incident unnerved the shipping industry just as President Barack Obama met with Gulf allies to try to allay their concerns that Iran would be empowered by a deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the West lifting sanctions.

May 14, 2015

Iranian ships fire warning shots at Singapore-flagged vessel -U.S. officials

WASHINGTON, May 14 (Reuters) – Iranian naval vessels fired
what appeared to be warning shots over a Singapore-flagged ship
in international waters in the Gulf on Thursday, prompting it to
flee to United Arab Emirates waters, U.S. officials said.

The Alpine Eternity, a 29,130 gross tonnes oil products
tanker, has safely reached the UAE port of Jebel Ali after
coming under attack in the Gulf, its manager said.

May 13, 2015

Pentagon mulls sending planes, ships near disputed South China Sea islands

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending U.S. military ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the disputed Spratly Islands, the official said.

May 12, 2015

U.S. calls on Iran to redirect Yemen-bound cargo ship

WASHINGTON/DUBAI, May 12 (Reuters) – The United States
called on Iran on Tuesday to send humanitarian relief for Yemen
to a U.N. distribution center in Djibouti and criticized plans,
reported by Iranian state media, for Iranian warships to escort
a cargo vessel directly to Yemen.

The Pentagon said it was watching the ship, the Iran Shahed,
which Tehran says is carrying humanitarian supplies.

May 12, 2015

U.S. Marine helicopter with eight aboard missing in Nepal quake zone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter was declared missing on Tuesday with six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers aboard as it was ferrying rice and tarps to earthquake victims in rugged terrain in Nepal, near a town hard hit by the latest deadly aftershocks.

Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said reports from the field indicated the helicopter’s crew was overheard talking about fuel problems before U.S. military officials lost contact with the light attack helicopter.

May 8, 2015

U.S. military starts training Syrian fighters to combat Islamic State

WASHINGTON/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The United States has begun a long-awaited program to train Syrian fighters to go into combat against Islamic State, the Pentagon said on Thursday, deepening America’s role in Syria’s civil war after eight months of airstrikes against the Sunni militants.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the military was starting small, training a first group of just 90 Syrians, who would be paid a stipend and could expect some still-undefined support once they return to the battlefield.

May 7, 2015

U.S. military starts training Syria fighters to combat Islamic State: sources

ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military has started training Syrian fighters to combat Islamic State militants, U.S. and Middle East sources told Reuters on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding the program had begun in Jordan and would soon launch in Turkey.

The U.S. plan to train and arm a force that is expected to eventually total more than 15,000 troops is a major test of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Syria, which critics say is too limited to steer events.

May 6, 2015

Pentagon chief calls for new multi-year defense spending deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Calling Republican defense spending plans a “road to nowhere,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter appealed on Wednesday for lawmakers to work with him toward a new bipartisan budget deal to provide stable funding for a U.S. military hurt by years of steep cuts.

Carter told a Senate appropriations panel that Republican efforts to try to meet President Barack Obama’s defense funding request were well-intentioned but would not give the Pentagon the flexibility it needed and ultimately would lock in budget cuts Obama has threatened to veto.

Apr 30, 2015

U.S. Navy starts to accompany U.S. ships passing through Strait of Hormuz

WASHINGTON/COPENHAGEN, April 30 (Reuters) – U.S. Navy ships
started accompanying U.S.-flagged commercial vessels passing
through the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, seeking to ensure
freedom of navigation two days after Iran seized a cargo ship,
U.S. defense officials said.

The officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of
anonymity, described the decision as incremental, saying it was
a precautionary move expected to be for a limited time involving
Navy ships already deployed to the area.

    • About Phil

      "Phil Stewart has worked for Reuters since 1998 and reported from more than 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt. Before becoming a Washington D.C.-based military affairs and intelligence reporter, Phil covered terrorism, foreign affairs and the Vatican from Rome from 2004 until mid-2009. He has also previously been based in Colombia and Brazil as a foreign correspondent. Before joining Reuters, Phil covered U.S. politics out of Washington D.C. for States News Service. He earned his BS in international relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. ..."
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